Have you had your soul lifted by the gospel today? Have you been flabbergasted by the fact that God loves you – and like you – even though He knows you better than you know you? Have you been floored by the reality that though you are a sinner, God has adopted you into His family? Have you been shocked by the fact that the God of the universe has held nothing back from you in Christ?
If we take the time to consider – to really dwell – on the reality of the gospel then our souls will be lifted. But there is an order to that lifting, for the gospel cuts us at the knees before it lifts our souls.
Think, for a minute, about the most basic message of Christianity as it applies to humanity. Think about it, and you’ll remember if you haven’t in a while that it is at its core the most insulting of messages. Emil Brunner, the Swiss theologian, said it like this: “All other religions spare us the ultimate humiliation of being stripped naked and being declared bankrupt before God.” That’s pretty strong language.
And yet it points to the humiliating nature of Christianity. No other world religion treats humanity with such pessimism. In all other schools of thought, we have something to bring to the table. We can strive toward God and meet Him, and in a sense, be congratulated when we do.
In Christianity, we bring nothing to the table. In fact, the only thing we bring to the salvation of equation is the sin we need to be rescued from. Perhaps that’s why, if we look back into history, Christianity has been called the religion of women and slaves. In cultures of the past, neither of those two groups had many rights, so it wasn’t a far stretch for them to admit their abject need of God’s complete and total intervention on their behalf.
This is how we are cut at the knees. And part of the reason the gospel, at times, ceases to lift our souls is because we have bypassed that cutting. That’s because the one character flaw that has, and will continue, to most keep people from Christ is not greed. It’s not lust. It’s not lying or stealing or killing.
That’s the only thing there is no room for at the foot of the cross. It’s that same pride that makes us forget our moral bankruptcy. It subtly creeps in, over years and years of belief, and like a snake in the grass whispers in our ear, “You really weren’t that bad, were you? You never killed anyone did you?” You begin to play that out, and suddenly you find yourself distorting the gospel because it makes you feel better about yourself.
We are the people of the measuring stick. We want to constantly know how we’re doing. We want to foster that sense of achievement whether we are exercising, at work, or with God. That’s also why we are people of comparison – it’s because we love to have the ability to look at others around us and say, “I’m messed up, but at least I’m not as bad as him. Or her.”
But the gospel would remind you that you are. You are as bad as him or her. And so am I. Acknowledging that is a prerequisite to coming to the cross. And it’s only when we know this to be true that we can, again, find our souls lifted by the gospel message.
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