Sin is hopeless.
As a kid going to Christian school and attending church, I heard enough sermons about sin to last me a lifetime. Don’t do this. Don’t say that. Don’t even think about it. Fix your attitude. Be better. Try harder.
I left high school with a sense that I was pretty much a failure. God loved me in some vague way, Jesus died for my sins, but I could never seem to “get it together.” The bouts of depression and anxiety that were a part of my life for as long as I could remember never seemed to totally go away, no matter how hard I tried to improve my attitude or say or do the right things to make God happy.
I did what a lot of young people are doing. I left church altogether. I was bitter and defeated and didn’t belong among all the others who had their “perfect” Christian lives in order: Christian college, marriage, kids, career. Me? I was very successful in college and career, but I didn’t belong with all of those who had the answers, the keys to God’s approval, as I saw it. God’s grace covered me in a thousand ways during these “lost years,” but I didn’t see it until later. I only returned to church in my thirties when I came to the end of myself and knew I had no emotional reserves left. It was a move of sheer desperation.
God has revealed Himself to me in tremendous ways over the past several years since that move. But when I realized the sermon last week was going to be on sin and atonement, I reflexively wanted to bolt out of fear. I felt like that confused and sad teenager all over again.
My fears were challenged by the following passage from Ezekiel quoted during the sermon:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV)
Look at how many times the phrase “I will” is used in this passage. God is telling His people what HE WILL DO FOR US! He wants our repentance, but He is the one doing the heavy work of changing us. I don’t have to “get it together” alone and live in a cycle of trying harder and failing. HE WILL do the things He has promised for me.
It is human nature to try and do everything independently. Anyone who has spent time around toddlers can attest to the constant attitude of “I can do it myself!” Little kids want to do everything themselves even when they have a team of adults willing to help. We never really lose this desire for independence, and it wreaks havoc on our relationship with God and our understanding of the Gospel.
We can’t do anything ourselves, but so often we latch on to the idea that we can. We do this even when we have Almighty God saying that HE WILL do tremendous things to us and for us. We get frustrated and give up even when the only resource we need has promised to do the work of changing our hearts.
Sin is hopeless. Our God is not. Jesus’ death and resurrection are proof of God’s ultimate power to change us.
Where is your hope today? What will God do for you today to change you?