A man’s got to know his own limitations

By Robert C. Oliver - Contributing columnist

In his character of “Dirty Harry”, Clint Eastwood often made short statements such as “Go ahead, make my day”, that are remembered and quoted often. One other such statement was, “A man’s got to know his own limitations:. This is a true statement and one that we ought to consider in the realm of our spiritual state. Let us consider briefly some of man’s limitations that must be known.

Man does not have the authority nor the ability to determine the way to conduct himself in order to be pleasing in God’s sight. The prophet Jeremiah said, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). God is omnipotent and thus He and He only has absolute authority. As God said to the children of Israel through His servant Moses, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…” (Deut. 4:2), man likewise is limited to what God has said, without adding anything nor excluding anything. We are limited to the inspired word of God as instructions concerning how we can be saved from our past sins, how we are to worship God in this present life, what the guidelines of acceptable morality are and how we are to react to the needs of those around us. It is not what I think one must do to be saved, but what the gospel of Christ reveals. It is not what acts of worship make me feel good or pleases me, but what has God authorized as acceptable worship. Peer pressure, pleasure and personal desires do not determine that which is morally acceptable to God, but that which He has revealed in His word. Neither greed nor prejudices have any part in determining whether we help those in need, but compassion without partiality is dictated by God. When it comes to what is right and wrong in the realm of serving God, we need to know our limitation.

Man does not have the ability to live without committing sin. The apostle Paul wrote, in reference to both Jews and Gentiles, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Writing to Christians, the apostle John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”, and “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1:8, 10). It is not in man that lives, to live without sinning. The seriousness of this is seen in the end result of sin. The prophet Isaiah said of Israel, “…your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:2). “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23). James tells us, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15). Since it is beyond our limitations to live without sinning, and since the end result of sin is eternal death, we all therefore need a way of salvation, which we are unable to provide for ourselves. Man must seek the salvation that God has offered through His Son Jesus Christ.

Man is incapable of hiding his sins from God. The Hebrew writer stated, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Solomon said, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc. 12:14). It is beyond our ability to hide anything from God.

Man does not have the ability to live forever. Through the history of man there have been attempts to find some way to immortality for this earthly life. Such does not exist. James says, “…For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). The writer of the book of Hebrews stated, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). As David approached death he said, “I go the way of all the earth…” I Kings 2:2). Man will not live forever. However, in the spiritual realm, one can have eternal life.

Man is limited in the time in which he can prepare himself to have the heavenly home. We will be judged according to what we do now, in this body (II Cor. 5:10). When the rich man wanted Lazarus sent to warn his living brothers, Abraham told him, “…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:26). It is simply a fact that while we are here in this present life, we can change our ways and become faithful children of God becoming heirs of eternal life. But, once death takes us from this life, we will be unable to change our fate.

Man, if he dies in his sins, cannot go to heaven anyway. John writes, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: rcoliver@centurylink.net.

By Robert C. Oliver

Contributing columnist


Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: rcoliver@centurylink.net.