Life can be hard. We all know this. We live in a world that is not the garden because of the fall (Genesis 3).
The world that was Eden was ripped from the hands of the sons and daughters of Adam by his sin. We were born apart from perfection because he wanted to be like God. He was deceived, and through that deception, we all walk that way until the light comes on (for some of us) and drowns out all the lies and darkness with God’s unshakeable truth.
When I’ve heard people I love and respect teach about the fall, it has always been at the back on my mind that I am thankful for how it was taught. I am thankful that no one has ever said, “If it were me in that garden, I wouldn’t have followed into deception with Eve, and we’d all still be there in paradise walking beside God.” The problem is that some of us live that way.
We see ourselves as more than we are. We see ourselves as having righteousness other than what was imputed to us by Christ. We think we would have thrown that fruit back in the face of the enemy, or we would have shielded Jesus from the scourging instead of our voices rising in the same chorus as every other scoffer among the crowd. You aren’t better than that. You would have fallen also.
Haven’t we proven that when left to our own devices? Haven’t we proven we are capable of the same brand of rebellion as Adam? I am going to say this plainly – NO MATTER HOW GOOD YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR SIN IN COMPARISON TO OTHERS, IT STILL KILLED JESUS! It murdered Him. It maimed Him. It crucified Him.
Whether you are comparing yourself to Adam, your parents, your friends, people from school, drug addicts, murders, strangers you read or hear about, or any other person that makes you feel “not quite so bad,” you are THAT bad and then some. You deserve hell.
In saying that, I realize it’s not popular. It’s the part of the sentence that is most left out today. “Jesus died so He can heal you! Jesus died so you can be made whole! Jesus died because He wants to bless you!” In a way all those things are true, but they are not the whole story. That is not the whole gospel. The whole gospel is that you were a sinner, just like Adam, destined for hell, but God…
Those are two of my favorite words to see or think about together. They signify in my mind the rest of the story. The rest of the sentence. For example:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with 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 coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:4-7
We deserved hell and eternal separation from God, but God sent His son to die. This is spoken of over and over throughout scripture. He didn’t do that because He had to. He did it because He loved you and you couldn’t get there on your own.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9
If you think you could do enough good to outweigh your bad or that you just get to go to heaven because you don’t want to go to hell or that you’re just a really good person, and believe that Christ was crucified, you have a big question to answer. Why would God call His Son to be the lamb that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) if you really aren’t all that bad or you could attain heaven by your own merits? Why?
First answer is best said in a quote by Matt Chandler:
“Heaven isn’t a place for people who don’t want to go to hell. Heaven is a place for people who love God.” Not wanting to go to hell is not the same thing as having Christ be your Savior and Lord of your life. That leads to the next answer: YOU COULDN’T DO IT! You can’t save yourself. Really consider that. Was the death of Christ where He endured separation from God and then conquered sin and the grave just a throw away? NO. ABSOLUTELY NO. He died to save you because He was the only one who could!
“Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’ And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.'”- Revelation 5:1-10
He was the only one who could save you and you didn’t deserve it. You aren’t entitled to it, and to paint a picture that says anything other than completely saying, “God sent His Son to die because you were an enemy of the God (Colossians 1:21), and you could not save yourself and don’t deserve to be saved” is not the whole truth of the gospel.
The reason that this truth is taught less and less is because it offends us. In our world today, everyone gets to be right, there’s no absolute truth, and we all get to believe that really we’re all good at heart. We go to church in our tidy communities with our perfect families in our subdivisions, and feel good about ourselves because we are “good people.” That is plainly not the truth.
We have free will to choose, and what have we done with the world? Man has created genocide, human trafficking, racism, domestic violence, slavery, abortion, rape, and so on and so on. That’s what we do when left to our own devices. That’s who we are apart from Christ.
I don’t say that to mean that people throughout history haven’t done horrible these kinds things in the name of Jesus or cherry-picked the Bible to justify their atrocities. That is evident, and those people will have to give an account for every word they’ve ever said and everything they’ve ever done just like the rest of us. What I do mean to say is we need the whole gospel so that we can turn from what our will gets us to the will of God that longs to save us and give us new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26).
The whole gospel is a magnifying glass, and it calls us to see how badly we need Jesus. We need to repent and turn from our thinking and our way. We need to be made new (2 Cor. 5:17), and we will never know that without hearing the second part of the sentence and that’s why the whole gospel is critical. There can be no new life apart from it because we don’t know we need it until we see ourselves for who we really are and then we can see why it was necessary for Jesus to save us.
From there we can give that love and truth away. The thing about people having things they feel they deserve is that they typically hoard them. They don’t give away what they feel they have earned – especially in our world today. If in humility we can see ourselves as blood-bought sinners who are loved by God because He chose to love us when we least deserved it, we give that truth away. We give that love away in how we see people, how we talk to them, how we lay down our lives, and how we desire nothing more than to see the kingdom spread. In that truth the world becomes less about us and more about the kingdom of God.
I pray for wisdom to always remember the gift I’ve been given in light of the whole story and for the grace to see ways to give that away to others who don’t deserve it because I didn’t either, but I am so thankful for it and long to see others have lives covered by grace and goodness.
I will close by sharing one of my favorite songs:
How Deep the Father’s Love For Us: