“For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
So, last night our air conditioner broke. We discovered this about bedtime. The night before our oldest had his first day of school. Joy. My lovely bride had observed the house felt warm earlier in the evening, and I, being the loving and considerate husband that I am, ignored her because I was comfortable. Now, in my defense, we couldn’t have done anything about it anyway, but it was definitely not one of my finer moments as a husband. That being said, the real issue was a lack of air. Fortunately, we have two units and so could just move everybody sleeping downstairs upstairs for the night. Do you know what wouldn’t have worked? Pretending everything was fine and sleeping like we normally do.
The Gospel is good news at every point. The original Greek word, euangelion, literally means, “good message.” And indeed, the hopeful promise of eternal life and freedom from sin and the abiding presence of the God who rose from the dead once and for all time is good news. The Gospel promises the ultimate fixing of all that is broken within us. It assures us of the fixing of the brokenness that is us.
There’s just one little catch, though. If we are going to accept the Gospel message with its promise of goodness and life, we have to accept its basic guiding assumptions as well. If you don’t take on the foundation, you won’t be able to sustain the building. Indeed, many have tried to do that only to fall along the wayside as life gets hard in the days subsequent to their supposed acceptance. It really is an all-or-nothing venture. And part of that all is the fact that we need saving.
You see, the Gospel, by its very nature, assumes that you and I are broken on our own. It assumes that we cannot get to God in any kind of a meaningful sense without help…a lot of help. Until we are willing to accept that fact, we’ll keep trying to do it on our own. And as long as we are trying to do it on our own, we are necessarily not receiving the grace that will actually get us there.
Accepting this notion, though, almost feels like sitting through a recovery group meeting. You have to start by acknowledging the problem or you can never get on to accepting the solution. And the problem is simple: Apart from Christ, we are so broken by sin that we’ll never accept Him on our own. You can try it: Hello, my name is _____________, and apart from Christ, I am an incorrigible sinner; I can’t manage to get anything right on my own.
Doesn’t that feel good to get off your chest? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It feels awful to say something like that. It feels awful to say the kind of thing Paul here in Romans 7 says about himself. He writes with incredible honesty here about the challenge of righteousness. Inside of us–without Christ–there is nothing good. Not a single thing. We may recognize and want to do what is good, but we just keep messing it up over and over again.
Come on, you know that’s true just from your own experience. You didn’t need Paul for that. You’ve tried to do good things for other people before, but they always wind up as a mess, and one that leaves you feeling worse than you did before you tried. Eventually it kind of makes you want to just give up and quit.
And that’s exactly the point at which we must find ourselves if we are going to finally accept fully the hope the Gospel offers.
And when we accept that hope and help, everything changes. All of a sudden, as Paul would write in another letter, we can do everything with the strength of Christ through the Holy Spirit that resides in us. We can overcome our brokenness with His help and do some real good. Doesn’t that sound better than the flopping around like a fish out of water we do when we try and be good enough on our own? I sure do. Let’s put it into practice together.