There is something within us as human beings that says, “I can do it.”
There is something in us to drives us to take agency, to want to take control.
“Mine!” is heard throughout the house if you have ever had a couple of toddlers playing in the same place together.
So often, we are focused on ourselves, on our ability to do it, our capacity to overcome. If only we strive a little more, try a little harder, work a little more.
And in some aspects of life, that works well. But it assumes one very important idea… That you are alive.
If you aren’t alive, you can’t overcome. You can’t strive nor try. You can’t work a little more.
Because you’re dead. And once you are dead, there is nothing more that you can do. You’re done. Nothing more.
I think that we, in our physical bodies, are so used to sinning that we lose track of the horror that we are committing. Our sin means that we are walking away from God, walking away from our Creator, walking away from his glory and the glorious plan that He has for each of us.
Instead, we are choosing a short-term enjoyment that leads one place: to death. This is what Paul says to the Ephesians:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sinsEphesians 2:1
Our spirit is dead before God. Our spirit, before him, is no longer able to do anything. We no longer live because we are dead. If we have sinned, we have experienced a spiritual death that is worthy of nothing more than the wrath of God who will destroy everything that is not living spiritually before Him.
What must we do?
On the day of Pentecost, when Peter told the Jews that they had killed the Messiah, the Jews responded: Brothers, what must we do? They were in big trouble, and they realized it. They knew that their sin would produce a punishment from God that they wouldn’t be able to bear.
In fact, there was nothing that they could do. Their entire relationship with God was based on obedience to God’s law that neither they nor any of the Jews before them, nor after them, were able to fully keep. As a result, they also had sinned. They also were dead in those sins and there was nothing more that could be done to merit God’s forgiveness. They couldn’t make God owe them for the good works that they had done. God didn’t owe them anything except punishment.
The only thing that they could do is repent and believe in the Messiah that they had killed, and have faith that God would have grace and mercy upon them.
Only by God’s grace and mercy can we be made alive. Paul goes on to say that God has had grace and mercy upon the Ephesians, and upon all people who believe in Jesus. This grace, this mercy that he has had upon us, allows us to be resurrected, to be made alive once again after having experienced our spiritual death.
Jesus took the punishment for our sins as he was nailed to the cross and killed there. He didn’t deserve God’s wrath because he hadn’t sinned. He was fully alive before God, in his physical body and in his spirit, but yet God both sent him and then killed him as a sacrifice for our sins. A perfect sacrifice that would be done once for all sins, for all people, for all time.
And by doing this, God did the work that would allow us to be made alive once again. But it is not because of what I, or any of us, have done. Instead, it is only by the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ that this is made possible. Without him, I am dead. With him, I have been made alive again.