September 27, 1989
A recent miniseries dramatized the downfall of President Marcos in the Philippines. Running parallel to actual news stories, this television presentation documented some shameful aspects of human nature. Even after their fanatical hunger for power and wealth was exposed by the media, both Marcos and his wife clenched their teeth, shook their fists and claimed the media was lying. Toward the end, repeated requests by the American government finally convinced them that they had indeed lost the election and must leave the country to prevent a bloody civil war.
Marcos and his wife had set their mind on a goal and even though their intention may have been honorable to begin with, greed soon destroyed their perspective. They put their own desires ahead of human lives and in spite of the overwhelming pressures against them, they refused to change. They clung to the assumption they were right and everyone else was wrong. This insistence on being right reminded me of what Solomon wrote: “There is a way that seems right to a man...”
For Marcos, his way to wealth and power seemed right, but he and countless other tyrants expose the fatal error of the popular philosophy of relativism. It is the idea that each of us ought to be free to do whatever seems right in our own eyes. But think about it... relativism justifies murder, robbery, extortion, adultery and all kinds of criminal and destructive actions. Can anyone rely on “what seems right.” Or will our motivations corrupt our judgment and lead to a bitter end?
At the opposite end of Marcos’ ambition, there is another way that seems right to most people... “You can earn or deserve God’s favor in order to get to heaven.” Seems pure and logical, doesn’t it? After all, God is good and He will honor our sincere efforts to please Him.
But do you know... God never says that our goodness will purchase a place in His heaven. This is a way that seems right only to MAN... just as Marcos’ way seemed right only to him.
Having misconceptions about what is right is obviously not a trivial matter. In Marcos case, hundreds lost their lives. Even worse, under the delusion of, “I must be good to get to heaven”, millions are losing their souls. Please note the end of Solomon’s proverb: “There is a way that seems right to a man... but the end of that way is death.”
Heaven is a real place where we can spend eternity with God (if that is not true, then Jesus Christ is a liar). Thus, the criteria necessary for getting there has to be God’s criteria, not ours. In other words, what seems right to us ought to be checked out, not assumed. What does God say about the qualifications for heaven? Does He say it’s possible to be “good enough” all by ourselves? Does He list how many good things a person must do before the pearly gates will swing wide open for them?
Not at all. God’s qualifier for heaven is faith, not works; grace not human goodness. Both grace and faith drastically change a person, even making possible a goodness that will please God, yet even that does not change His entrance requirements. We are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
In spite of open preaching of the gospel, in spite of realizing in our hearts that we fail in every way to be all that a holy God requires, many still cling to “the way that seems right.” What does it take to shake a man or woman loose from such ideas so tenaciously held?
Marcos crumbled, fell, and now lives in exile, a broken and defeated man, perhaps without fully recognizing the futility of the way to wealth and power that seemed right to him.
Praise God, that is not what happens to anyone who recognizes the futility of trying to earn our way to heaven, the way that seems right. When we turn from it, to Christ, we are not banished but exalted, not broken but made whole, not defeated but given victory. Jesus Christ is the way — and His way leads not to a bitter end, but to everlasting life.