Because we live in a culture obsessed with self-esteem, the concept of sin is disagreeable. The popular message of the day is that happiness and contentment comes not in change, but in simply accepting who you are. The perceived fallacies and character flaws are really not flaws at all; they’re simply preferences and everyone’s preferences are okay. The world will finally be the great place it can be when we all accept that we are different, and that one person’s differences don’t mean they’re more right than any other.
That’s not what the Bible teaches.
Instead, we find a much more pessimistic view of humanity in the pages of the book that tells us our true stories. We all, regardless of our economic situation, nation of origin, or situational upbringing are dead in our sin and transgression.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3).
Imagine yourself stranded at sea. There is no boat in sight; no piece of driftwood to hold you up. Just you and the water. Sure, you’ve had some swim lessons, but you’re no fool – you know that in this vast ocean there is only so long you can tread water. The minutes start to tick by, one by one, and with each second you know that your strength is a little bit less than it was before. Then you notice that your kicking legs are starting to feel heavy. You tilt your head back as you realize that you’re starting to sink deeper. Now your ears are almost fully submerged. You know the end is close, and then suddenly you take on that first bit of water. You cough it up and your heart begins to race. You come to the sudden realization that there is no hope for you. Your head dips again and you prepare yourself to swallow, when suddenly, out of nowhere, you see the rope being thrown your way. With your last ounce of strength, you grab it, and you are pulled to safety.
Some have said that this is what it’s like to be saved. Jesus, when you couldn’t save yourself, tosses you a line at the cross. Just reach up and grab it and He will pull you to safety. There’s really only one problem with that illustration: We get way too much credit.
If we believe what the Bible says about us, we are not dying; we are dead. We are not in trouble; we are helpless. And we don’t need to have our lives realigned; we need to be born again.
This isn’t a picture of someone drowning, taking on water. Instead, the picture here is of a corpse, dead and bloated, floating face down in the sea. No strength. No power. No hope.
That’s what it means to be saved.
The gospel doesn’t claim to help the weak; it claims to make the dead live again. It is only when we begin to see the true nature of the utter despair of humanity that we begin to see Jesus not as the key to a better life. Not as a sage only teaching about love. Not as a miracle worker only concerned with the alleviation of human suffering.
Jesus is our Rescuer. And, according to the Bible, He rescues from sin and death. Jesus jumps into the sea of sin and death and hauls our lifeless bodies to the shore. Then, He leans low, and breathes new life into us:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Eph. 2:4-5).
What was dead lives. We are dead in sin, and that’s why we must be born again. Glory to God.