I have had the privilege of visiting, on a number of occasions, the Yad Vashem in Israel and The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Every time I walk through these buildings, look at the exhibits, and revisit that horrible period in human history, I am amazed at the wicked depravity that humanity is capable of. And it was not all that long ago that these things took place.
It causes one to wonder how it could be possible that humanity is inherently good, as we have been taught to believe — at least in secular society. The belief that humanity is basically good has been reinforced by psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and even some religious leaders. The problem is that we have this pesky thing called guilt that constantly bothers us.
The Bible says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19 nkjv).
The reason we experience this pesky thing called guilt, the Bible tells us, is because we are guilty. The whole world is guilty before God.
We can pretend it is not there. We can find someone else to blame for our problem. But the only real and effective way to remove guilt is to get to the root of the problem, which plainly is sin.
The truth is that humanity is not basically good. Humanity is basically sinful. Humanity is basically corrupt. That is God’s assessment of humankind. And it is confirmed by the way that we live and what we do.
We see it in the acts of terrorists who heartlessly murder people with no apparent pangs of conscience whatsoever. We see it every day in our own nation in the crimes that are committed, especially against children.
The Bible tells us that this is because people have no fear of God in their lives: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:28 nkjv). And Romans 3:11 says, “There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (nkjv).
You see, the motive for humanity’s sinfulness is built in godlessness. This is the only explanation for the things that people are capable of.
This is why the fear of God is so important in the believer’s life. Proverbs 16:6 tells us, “By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil” (nlt).
One of the best definitions I have heard for the fear of God is “a wholesome dread of displeasing Him.” It is not a fear of righteous retribution. Rather, it is a sense of wanting to do what God wants you to do.
It is not about being frightened by God or afraid of what He will do to you. Rather, it is a love and a respect for Him to the extent that you want to honor Him and don’t want to do anything that would dishonor or displease Him.
Solomon, after his binge into every kind of sin imaginable, came to this conclusion: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 nkjv).
He was essentially saying, “Listen, here is what I have learned from life. After doing everything that God told me I should not do, I have discovered that God knew what He was talking about.” We would do well to reverence God and to honor Him.
Along with the fear of God, we need to have love for God. As the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:9 nkjv). So we are to reverence God.But Paul also said, “For the love of Christ compels us...” (verse 14). This means that we are to love God so much that we want to do what would honor Him. But at the same time, we fear and reverence God so much that we would never want to do those things that would dishonor Him.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!