God's Rights vs Man's Rights
Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say,
it is truth. Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God. Yea, before the day was, I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?
The Declaration of Independence declares that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Unalienable rights are those that cannot be taken away. As human beings, our existence in this world, that God created and put us in, comes with rights that enable us to live in harmony with one another. They are rights that apply to this world only. The Constitution of the United States guarantees each of us, as American citizens, rights that protect us and promote our happiness in this world. In that respect, rights are due to anyone by legal guarantee or moral principle. Living in a free country, we have those rights that are legally given to us by the founders of our government.
You can search the Constitution and you’ll find a number of rights afforded to American citizens. But if you search the Bible, you will not find the word “rights” a single time. The Bible does not enumerate a single right of the child of God. It tells us a lot about what we do not have the right to do, but the Bible does not assign rights to human beings. You won’t even find the word “privilege” in the Bible. The laws of our land extend privileges to its citizens, but the Bible does not mention anything about God’s children having privileges. Instead of rights and privileges, the Bible talks about blessings. Blessings are favors or gifts bestowed by God, but nowhere in the Bible do you find that humans have a right to receive blessings. Blessings are bestowed by God of His own determination, not by human merit or right.
Rights are entitlements. In this country, if you are charged with a crime, you are entitled to a fair trial. It is your right. In God’s kingdom, you are guilty as charged by virtue of your fallen human nature. You do not have the right to have a lawyer represent you. It wouldn’t do any good. There is no excuse that you can give that will pardon you of your sin. We are all condemned for all have sinned. We cannot plead insanity. There is no alibi that will acquit us. We have no rights to a trial. We have been found guilty by virtue of our relationship to our first father Adam.
Today, man tries to explain that there are rights that God has and rights that man has, and even though man’s rights come from God, some men proclaim that God cannot violate man’s rights. Most people don’t realize that the rights that God has given man pertain only to the world man lives in—a finite world where man experiences a physical birth, lives a temporary period of time, and then dies a physical death. Man has the right to live his life in harmony in the confines of his own space. When he invades someone else’s space, he must respect their rights as human beings. We’ve all heard the saying, “My rights end where yours begin.”
The problem with man’s understanding of rights is that he doesn’t seem to realize that he cannot invade God’s space and assume God’s rights or God’s power as Creator. As creator of the universe, God has the right to assign laws that his creatures must obey. What people don’t realize is that God’s laws are for the good of the creature and the glory of the Creator. God’s laws are perfect. If a society followed God’s laws, it would need no other laws. The first four of the Ten Commandments concern God’s right to be worshipped and reverenced as God: Thou shalt have no other gods before me, thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, and remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. It is God’s right to be served as the only God of the universe because He is the one and only God. God said in Isaiah 46:9-10, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” God declares his sovereignty in these commandments—He is the only God and has the right to be worshipped as such. Man is commanded to worship no other gods. All other gods are man-made. Man creates for himself idols to worship as the children of Israel did in the wilderness when they molded the golden calf. The Israelites also worshipped Baal, the god of the pagan nations they encountered in Canaan. But these false gods are no match for the one true God as Elijah established on Mount Carmel in a contest between God and Baal. When God demonstrated His power and the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried, “The Lord, He is the God.” And the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal were slain.
Today, man doesn’t mold calves out of gold to worship; today, man worships the idols of self: self-satisfaction, self-gratification, and self-glorification. Man exalts himself in his attempt to satisfy his every desire. Man desires self-fulfillment. His attitude is “I should have what I want, when I want it.” Man seeks self-gratification. He is pleasure-seeking; he desires the lusts of the flesh. He seeks self-glorification. He desires glory and praise for his accomplishments. He will not by nature give glory to God. It is God’s right to be worshipped and served by His creation.
The remaining six commandments, if obeyed, make it possible for man to live in peace and harmony in his family and in his society. Commandment five says, “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Honor means "to give high regard, respect and esteem to. This commandment governs families and comes with a promise or consequence (whichever way you want to look at it. Honor thy father and mother that thy days may be long. Consider the promise that goes with honoring your father and mother or the consequence of not honoring your father and mother. Why does God want us to honor our parents? The family is the basic building block or unit of society, thus the stability of the community depends on the stability of the families that comprise it. A person's response to government derives from the parent-child relationship. The lessons and principles learned from honoring, respecting and obeying parents will result in a society that honors, respects, and obeys the laws of society. The next five laws must be kept if man is to live in a society with others in peace and harmony. Thou shalt not kill, steal, commit adultery, bear false witness, or covet. These commandments protect the rights of individuals in a society.
God’s laws, the Ten Commandments, are perfect and they are for the good of all people who live in society. God knows man better than man knows himself. Man’s choices are based on imperfect knowledge. Man doesn’t know what is good for him. He doesn’t see the long-term consequences of his choices. God created laws that protect man from himself. Because man is his own worst enemy, he makes choice based on his own wants and desires—self-satisfaction, self-gratification, and self-glorification—the lusts of the flesh. Like Eve, he sees the fruit, he notices it is pleasant to the eye, and he desires it. So he listens to the Devil’s sweet talk, “You won’t really die. God lied. God knows if you do what he has told you not to do, you will be like God. You’ll be your own boss—able to make up your own mind. You have the freedom to do as you please. God can’t tell you what to do, so exercise your freedom of choice.”
That was man’s first mistake—thinking it was in his best interest to disobey God—to ignore God’s law and follow the desires of his heart. And man has been doing that ever since. All men inherited Adam’s fallen nature, and all men will make the same mistake Adam did. So man shakes his fist at God and says, “You can’t tell me what to do. I’ll make up my own mind if I want to go to heaven or hell.” This is the Devil’s trap and man falls for it every time because that’s his nature. Man’s fallen nature tells him, “I’m my own boss. You can’t tell me what to do.” Man in his fallen nature is like a rebellious child who will never admit that his parents’ rules are for his own protection and well-being.
As Sovereign Creator of the universe, God has the right to make laws that govern man’s actions; therefore, man does not have the right to do as he pleases if his actions are contrary to God’s laws. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Where God is concerned, man does not have rights; he has duties. He is obligated to honor his Creator and keep his commandments. God is the potter; we are the clay. God has the right to assign laws that his creatures must obey. God’s commandments are laws that are as fixed as the laws of nature. Man cannot change or do away with the law of gravity, and he cannot change or do away with God’s commandments. He can ignore them, but he’d better be ready to suffer the consequences.
Right now, in this country, man has the freedom to worship God. It is his God-given duty as a human being on this earth. But a lot of the time, man’s worship is not for God, it’s for himself. Man gets up on Sunday morning and goes to church because he feels like it, because he feels obligated to go to church, because he needs something extra to get him through the week, or because he expects to get a blessing. Man has the attitude that God owes him something because he went to church. Man feels like he deserves a good feeling from going to church. He wants a blessing for himself. None of these are valid reasons for worship. Matthew 15:8-9 says, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. We worship God in vain when we go to church for any reason other than to honor an almighty God. Our generation has put the kind of importance on man’s rights and freedom that the Pharisees did on the law. Because the Pharisees couldn’t get beyond the law, they were blind to God’s grace. We can’t get beyond the rights and freedom we think we have in order to see that God is the focus of our worship. Worship is not for us. True worship must put the focus on God. We must worship him as he commanded us to worship-- in spirit and in truth. If we have not the spirit of God dwelling within us we cannot worship God. If you are unsaved, you are separated from God. You cannot worship Him.
Man has given himself the right to have saving faith whenever he is ready to believe. Well meaning church people say, “All you have to do is believe and accept God’s son as your personal savior.” God has not given us the right to tell people that. It is not within man’s power to have faith on his own. Faith is the gift of God. According to Ephesians 2:5, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Man cannot conjure up enough faith to believe unto salvation on his own.” Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?” Man doesn’t even know his own heart. Man won’t admit his shortcomings. He won’t admit it when he makes a mistake. Just like Adam he covers up his sins. He hides under the cover of darkness. He will not come out of the darkness until the light of Christ shines on him and dispels the darkness so he can see himself as he truly is. Only God has the power to bring us into his marvelous light. Through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, we realize we are wretched sinners unworthy of his grace. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” When God brings repentance, it is unto salvation. When we repent simply because we’re sorry we got caught and we would sin again if we knew we wouldn’t get caught, we are demonstrating just how evil we really are. When God has given us a new heart, we are more than willing to surrender to the drawing power of His Holy Spirit. God is the author and finisher of our faith. He has the right to do it all, and He does it all, from beginning to end. How can we have the audacity to take over the rights and power of an Almighty God, who is the author and finisher of our faith? We think that we have something to do with resurrecting ourselves from sin and death. Lazarus had no power to bring himself to life. Jesus called him to life and Lazarus did not refuse. When he was dead, he had no rights and when he was brought to life, the only rights he had were those given to him by God. The Bible says that not even Jesus Christ resurrected himself—Acts 13:30 says, “But God raised him from the dead. Acts 13:48 says “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Man has no rights in being saved. He doesn’t even realize he needs to be saved until God quickens his heart and gives him the gift of repentance. When God allows a man to see his sin as he stands before a Holy God, he can do nothing short of falling on his face and begging for mercy.
Man has given himself the right to play God. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “And ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the world.” Many Christians have eagerly gone out and evangelized the world. Many denominations take missions very seriously. They can tell people how to get saved in 3 easy steps. They can take them down the Roman road or walk them through plan of salvation. They can even give them a little prayer to pray to ask Jesus into their hearts. But sad to say, none of this is of God. Man has no right to play God. Salvation is God’s way and only God’s way. Man has nothing to do with it. There are steps to salvation that man can consciously take. Picking verses out of context from the book of Romans is not the way to salvation. There is no plan of salvation that man has come up with that will save people. And man cannot come up with a prayer that he can advise someone else to pray and be saved. Some Christians are so eager to get people saved that they continually usurp the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 6:44 and again in 6:65, “No man can come to me unless the Father that hath sent me draw him.” So how can man invite anyone to be saved? I’ve actually seen well-meaning church people physically try to pull someone to the altar against his will and coerce him to pray until he feels something. It’s happened to me at least three times in my life, and I assure you it is not of God. This kind of coercion is man assuming he has the same rights as God, and it is of the devil.
When man makes a profession after this kind of coercion, we go out and spread the news . . . Guess who I led to the Lord! If anyone was led to the Lord, the Holy Spirit did it, not any man. We cannot take credit for what God has done. We can’t even take credit for our own salvation. Ephesians 2:5 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” If we had anything to do with our salvation, we would have something to boast about. We could say, “Look what I did. I made a decision. I accepted Jesus.” Instead we should be able to say, “I don’t know why God in his mercy would save a wretch like me.” Give God the praise and glory for his salvation.
Jesus calls us to be a witness—that’s all! He has not called us to find and save his lost sheep. So how do we witness? Matthew 5:16 tells us. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.” Jesus said in John 12:32. “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 declares, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: Because it is written, be ye holy; for I am holy” Our witness is in the lives we live. Unbelievers should be able to see Jesus in us. So many times I’ve heard unbelievers say, “Why would I want to be a Christian. Old “so-and-so” claims to be a Christian and he uses profanity, drinks, and hangs out in the bars every weekend.” More than any one thing, the lives we Christians live is the greatest earthly influence on unbelievers. We can’t be witnesses for Jesus if we don’t live like He has commanded us to live.
We cannot invite people to be saved, we cannot draw people, we cannot lead them down the Roman road, we cannot lay out a plan of salvation in three easy steps, nor can we give them a prayer to pray. God has not given us the right to do what only He can do. We can only live our lives as true witnesses of what Christ has done for us and leave the rest to an Almighty Sovereign God who has the right to have mercy on whom he will have mercy.
It’s time we pay attention to what God told Isaiah in today’s text, “Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, it is truth. Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God. Yea, before the day was, I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” When God wrought the work of creation, there was no opposition to it, or hindrance of him; and in providence, all things are done as be pleases; so all his purposes and decrees, which are his works within him, are exactly accomplished according to his pleasure, and none can resist his will. The work of redemption is finished just according to the blueprint of it in his eternal mind; and when he works upon the heart of a sinner at conversion, whatever obstructions and difficulties are in the way, God removes them, and the work is begun, and carried on, and performed. The work of the Lord in his churches, and the setting up of his kingdom in the world shall be done, and none will be able to hinder it.