Christ Is The Point
SOURCE: adapted from an article by Mark Galli
Many people recognize their need for God—that their lives are a mess and that this world is headed for destruction. They know they need to be saved. But they imagine that salvation is within their grasp.
They may reject the idea that they can earn God’s favor with works, but they are fully convinced that the solution lies within them. After all, they reason, it’s just a matter of choosing—in this case, choosing God by faith using their autonomous free will….
Evil and injustice may abound on the earth, and we may
participate in it from time to time, but the one thing that is not fallen,
corrupt, or evil is the will. It is perfectly free and able to choose God.
This is a naive view of human freedom.
It results from a view of sin that is not as radical or as truthful as the view we find in Scripture.
In the Bible, the will itself is so corrupt and enslaved that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to see what Christ has done for us and to free us to respond in faith to him. As Jesus put it, no one comes to him unless the Father (through the Holy Spirit) grants it (John 6:65). Otherwise the human condition is considered hopeless, which is why the Bible uses such words as blind, dark, deaf, and dead to describe our situation outside Christ.
The good news is that our salvation is not dependent on our success at making right choices, even the right choice of faith.In fact, the Bible regularly reminds us that we cannot consistently make good choices with our corrupt wills.
As Paul puts it, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19, NIV). Instead of relying on an autonomous free will to remind us to make right choices, we are called to simply trust what Christ has done for us on the cross and through his resurrection.
But isn’t that a choice, to trust in Christ? Yes and no.
It is not even a possibility without God’s intervention. We can’t even recognize who Christ is, what he has done for us, and sense his invitation to respond in faith without the work of the Holy Spirit. The very fact that we can apprehend all this is a gift right from the start.
Furthermore, to trust in Christ means that it is not my trust that reconciles God to me or me to God. It is the death and resurrection of Christ that reconciles God to me, and the faith empowered by the Holy Spirit that reconciles me to God.
This is why the gospel is such good news.
There are times when even the most dedicated Christian will recognize that his or her life is still in shambles, still driven by selfishness, still filled with doubt and confusion about God. At such times, panic can set in:
Am I really a Christian? Is God working in my life to bring me into deeper fellowship with him? Has God given me the gift of grace? Will I enjoy the fellowship of heaven? Do I believe enough to be saved?
The very fact that these sorts of questions bother us at such times shows that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, working in our lives. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to convict the world of sin and guilt (see John 16:8). So the paradox is that when we’re troubled like this, it’s the very sign of God working in our lives to bring us into deeper fellowship with him.
And of course, we do not believe enough to be saved. Of course, selfishness rules our hearts in too many ways. Of course, we have doubts and confusion about God. It’s called sin. But the gospel calls us to stop looking at ourselves—at our doubts, our sins, and our choices. The gospel says look to Christ. Don’t trust in your ability to choose right or even to trust perfectly. Look to Christ, who died for sinners. Faith is recognizing the reality of our situation and the deeper reality of our Savior. Faith is the drowning man grasping the outstretched arm of his rescuer. Faith includes a response, but our response is not the main thing.
Mark Galli (read more about Mark here). This blog is adapted from Mark’s new book God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins (Tyndale).