In the lesson intro, we said that there are four aspects to the message of the Good News (i.e., God’s story), four deeply connected realities that together comprise the one, unified message of the gospel. In the last topic, we looked at the first aspect, namely, the truth that God created you, that He cares for you, and that we’re all accountable to Him. In this topic, we need to say something about us. Not only does the Good News say something specific about God, it also says something specific about us. The question is “what does it have to say and will we receive it?”
Well, again, it’s true that God created and cares for us, and that we’re accountable to Him, but the Good News also tells us that we, as His image bearers, have turned our backs on Him and have sunk ourselves into ruin. We have rebelled against Him and are now guilty of sin, estranged from the One who designed us and loves us. We are in spiritual bondage to sin and helpless to extricate ourselves. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but it is clearly what the writers of scripture affirm about us. They also affirm that grasping this point personally and existentially is the key to grasping God’s offer in Christ.
A Key To Gospel Life – Resurrecting
Our Understanding of Sin
Isaiah, the prophet, says, “Each of us has turned to his own way (Isa 53:6). The apostle Paul sums up the entire matter for all people, in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Each one of us has turned our back on God. Each one of us has fallen short of God’s glory. Each one of us was designed to know Him, enjoy Him, and serve Him all the days of our lives. But, in our own wisdom we have foolishly forfeited our relationship with Him and chosen our own way instead. Ideas have consequences; bad ideas have victims – often of their own making! Nonetheless, we are accountable to Him for this.
So what we’re really saying is that our sin – putting our own interests and desires forward as final reality and dismissing God from our lives – is a perversion that lives and reigns within us and from which we cannot pardon or free ourselves. Sin involves us in acts contrary to our created nature as image bearers – disgraceful and dishonoring breaches of God’s commands, including lying, cheating, stealing, hatred, malice, discord, rage, etc. These acts flow from our hearts and miss the mark and we’re culpable for them. We’re guilty because of them. Paul says this is a very important reality to understand, because God taught us that if we sin, if we break His commands, we shall certainly die (Gen 2:16-17). Spiritual death through disobedience entails separation from God now (i.e., spiritual lostness), ending in physical death and separation from God for eternity.
Coming to grips with the knowledge of our spiritual condition apart from Christ is important because it properly frames our need for the gospel and the forgiveness offered to us in the gospel. We must understand that the Good News emphasizes our lostness not so that we wallow in it, but so that we do not fail to respond properly to God in Christ.
So, for the Good News to be good news for me, for you, we must allow God to speak to us about our guilt, our alienation from Him, and our helplessness. He’s not looking for you to try harder; He’s looking for you to confess sin, repent from it and turn to Him in faith (more about this under aspect #4). In Ephesians 4:17 the apostle Paul says that we are separated, alienated from the life of God Himself, the One for whom we were created. So we’re not only guilty of our sin, we’re alienated from God and helplessly stuck in our sin. The Lord must do something to rescue us if we are to be freed from our slavery to sin.
Again the realities of guilt, alienation and helplessness before God are important truths flowing to us from the Good News itself. They teach us why we need the gospel. They also teach us something about the struggles and challenges we discussed in Course 1: Signs of Your Guide.
It seems that our experience of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and other challenges is underwritten by a deeper, more profound reality, namely, our guilt and alienation from God due to our prideful rebellion in the pursuit of life apart from Him. Further, it seems that God uses these persistent and painful challenges as signs to point us to our rebellion so that we might turn to Him and find Him in Christ..
Loneliness, depression, anxiety and other ailments are only symptoms, important ones to pay attention to because God uses them to draw our hearts back to Him. him. Jesus didn’t really come to make us feel better about ourselves. He didn’t come to solve some of these problems as ends in themselves. He came to restore us into a relationship with God; our guilt and alienation from God is the root, the fundamental, the all-determining problem we exist with. We’re guilty for our sin, we’re alienated from God, and we’re helpless without his help. These are hard truths, Paul said “for all who sin and fall short of the glory of God” and that is true for each one of us.