Human nature often advises us to pick ourselves up by our boot straps. To stare our problems in the eye and command them to heel. To whip them into shape with sheer will power and intuition.
And, like most admirable and innovative ideas offered by human nature, it’s perfume attempting to mask the stench of decay. Influences like Disney and Alcoholics Anonymous and American Christianity and others will try to distract us into thinking otherwise.
While butchering the story lines of classic, original fairy tales, Disney will insist that, only because of the protagonist’s strong-willed character and gutsy personality did they triumph over the antagonist.
AA will feed us lies about “the strength within” and the deeply buried ability every human has to be good and do better and make everything right, choosing to whitewash the tomb rather than restructure the entire house.
American Christianity will soothe our ears with fuzzy sentiments, a placid, compliant view of sin, and an immovable trust in man’s innate goodness and desire to fix himself in order to rack up the attendant numbers and cash in on tithes or book or church cafe sales.
But what is the true state of man?
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.
Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,
The poison of asps is under their lips;
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness;
Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Most of my life was spent attempting to hold onto a righteousness I conjured up in myself. I stiffly marched to the beat of God’s law. But I failed to keep up with the drums. God demands perfection from those who desire to follow His law, and, although I smiled at the world around me through a perfect facade, I was flailing like a fish on the sand.
I became desperately aware of my need for Jesus, but I didn’t want to admit defeat. After all, I scoffed foolishly to myself, where was He all this time? Who has been holding my life together but me?
What glorious grace, that God didn’t strike me down in those months before He saved me. My soul frequently spat in His face, shoved the cross to the side, laughed at His sacrifice. I was not raised in a godless home. I was taught the Scriptures. I could recite the gospel like it was the pledge of allegiance. I knew, mentally, intellectually, I knew He was God. I knew He had died to save. I knew He had sacrificed Himself.
But He hadn’t yet saved me.
And I didn’t want Him to. Can’t you all see I can do it myself? Just watch… just watch me. I’ll prove that I don’t need a Savior.
And I tried, with all my might, not to need a Savior.
The funny thing is, though, that once God has set His mind on saving a person, He pursues them, hunts them down until they’re His.
And the most counter cultural part of it all? I didn’t play a part in any of it.
He chose me before the world began. He guided my footsteps and guarded my heart, despite my wicked heart. He closed in on my soul and hedged me in with His grace and love and mercy when I wanted nothing to do with Him. He wore me down like a pocket knife whittles a stick, bringing me, exhausted, to my knees. He brought me to the point of utter hopelessness and helplessness, to the point of realizing I couldn’t be the good little girl I wanted everyone to think I was, to the point of knowing and recognizing my dependence. He washed me clean with His shed blood, under the shadow of the cross. He swept out the cobwebs of my heart the moment after my repentant tears hit the carpet and welcomed in His overwhelming peace.
He did it all.
There were no bootstraps, no iron will, no strong character or gutsy personality. There was no innate goodness, but rather innate incapability.
There was just Jesus.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive togetherwith Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.