In my dorm room on the fourteenth floor of Harrington Hall, I listened to the radio while doing non-academic chores. The program "Unshackled," from Chicago's Pacific Garden Mission, played into my ears. "A man isn't a sinner because he gets drunk. He gets drunk because he's a sinner."
A light bulb flicked on in my head. In spite of all the Bible learning I'd received from infancy, I'd never before made that connection. That short and simple explanation became a mountain-top experience in my understanding of the "sweet mystery" of life.
My obsession had been to keep examining myself to see if I had any unconfessed sins, as if I could finally eliminate them all and, as a result, be in good standing with the Savior. Mine was a fearful bondage, thinking I was somehow supposed to be above sinning, but recognizing how impossible such an expectation really was.
When the Scripture verse jumped out at me, "He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust," I felt as if a breath of pure air had flushed my lungs. Of course, He knows! He understands us better than Mom does, since she expects us to be above reproach. But, unlike Mom, He knows all our secret faults and our struggles to escape them. He knows what a hopeless and helpless creature I really am.
I'm a sinner. Not because of what I've done, but because of what I am. Sins are just the symptoms of the underlying disease. And, I don't have what it takes, on my own, to heal myself. It reminds me of childhood, listening to my father pray the liturgical prayer at the beginning of every Sunday morning service: "We confess that we are, by nature, sinful and unclean...."
This critical problem began in the Garden. Our first parents' failure brought the disease upon themselves and all the rest of us. Sin is now a genetic illness, in our genes through no fault of our own. We're now programmed to die. When the telomeres of our replicating cells become critically short, our decline grows more obvious in our aging bodies. Even though we were originally created "very good," we're now conceived in brokenness. We're vulnerable, corruptible, and mortal. The soul that sins, that's all of us, dies. We know it from experience and from the Word in both old and new Testaments. And, I firmly believe we can thank God that He provided the end to this sin-sick existence through death. Otherwise we would be doomed to walk this wilderness forever as a sort of living-dead nightmare with no way out of it.
From the beginning, from that same Garden, God also gave the promise of redemption. The seed of the woman, the Messiah, would destroy the works of the enemy. The message is not one of reincarnation (since our soul dies), but of resurrection to new life, a new creation, when Jesus makes "all things new."
I'm a sinner, but saved by God's grace; not because of anything I've done, but because Jesus alone is faithful. Thanks be to God!
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." ---1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV
Copyright 2010 by Edy T Johnson
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This is well-written and so on the money. So many times I hear people say "and she's a christian"
It's if because of my religion I am expected to be without fault. But you did an excellent job of showing that because I have fault, I need to be a Christian.
As a Christian, one is not perfect, just forgiven when asked. Outstanding article.
Wow- "a man isn't a sinner because he's a drunk, he's a drunk because he's a sinner."
Edi- that is the key to seeing people isn't it? I feel like my walk with the Lord has gone through the same progression- as a child I loved everyone and was full of compassion, but as I got older, I began judging people and comparing my "slight" sin to their "big" sin. Thank God he teaches us of our total, abject need for Him!!!