They’re only human.
Sometimes you and I are pleasantly surprised.
Someone rises to the occasion and we’re impressed and gratified. Our faith is restored, our hope enlarged.
We didn’t know he had it in him.
On the other hand, who among us hasn’t been disappointed by something someone said or did? It was dumb or rotten, or both. There’s hardly a day goes by when we don’t shake our heads in amazement at the foibles and frailties of the human condition.
Then again, I need not look any further than the mirror to see a prime example of the fallen state of man. From the moment I rise in the morning until I turn off the light that night, I’ve had the world, the flesh and the devil chasing me – whispering in my ear, toying with my pride, distracting me from the better angels and clawing at my conscience.
No wonder I cling to Romans 7.
“I know that nothing good lives in me,” Paul laments, “that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t” (Romans 7:18-19, NLT).
Has ever there been such a candid confession from such a great man? Has there ever been a more brutally honest description of what and who we truly are? The reality may be harsh but it’s the truth of our predicament.
How often have I cried with the apostle, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, KJV).
The bad news is we’re a mess – fallen creatures living in a fallen world. Unable to save ourselves or even much help ourselves.
The good news is you and I are loved with a love so extraordinary it strains the credulity of heaven itself. Peter says angels have wondered at the love of God and longed to discover its eternal secret. It is a mystery so deep, so broad, so long and so high, Paul tells us it’s the greatest glory of all.
It’s indescribable Paul concludes.
In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we behold the extreme love of God in all its painful heartbreak and joyful triumph. Nothing reveals the Divine grace more than the Atonement. Nothing assures our eternal future more than the light of Easter morning.
God loved you and me when there was nothing in us to love.
As we enter this most sacred season in Christendom, we need to remember the central transformative truth of what we celebrate.
God loved us in our miserable depravity. He loved us before we could love him or even before we knew him.
Paul writes to Titus on the island of Crete:
“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other” (Titus 3:3, NLT).
Not a pretty picture. But an accurate one.
On Easter morning, when we go to church, we’ll be tempted to think we’re doing OK. Sure, God saved us, but look what we’re doing for him. We’re not so wretched. We might even deserve our best life now – health, wealth and the entitled blessings of our godly lives.
When we think this way – when we see ourselves in the fabricated countenance of our self-congratulations, we underestimate the love of God and sell short the cross.
What does Paul do in Romans 5?
He glories in the very depth of God’s love. He points to the majesty of the cross.
He lays out our situation with the bark off. He tells it not like we would wish it to be or how we might convince ourselves that it is. He makes us confront ourselves as he once had to confront himself.
Paul challenges us to see ourselves as we truly are. He tells us to survey that wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died – and then pour contempt on all our pride.
“When we were utterly helpless,” he writes to the Romans, “Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6, NLT).
Sinners. That’s what we were – it’s what we still are. Helpless sinners.
You and I might be willing to die for a member of our family – or perhaps a dear friend. We might even be willing to die for a really good person (Romans 5:7).
God went far beyond that.
He sent his only Son to the cruel cross on our behalf while we were the enemies of God.
There wasn’t a blessed thing in us that warranted God’s love – or even his concern. There still isn’t. Before we were born God looked at our lives. He saw the worst in us from the first. He loved us just the same.
When it comes to you and me, God is undaunted. He’s never surprised, never let down, never disillusioned by anything we say or do. He knows who and what we are.
God doesn’t give up on us.
God’s love is amazing. The cross of Jesus Christ is the one symbol of how amazing it is.
We love God only because he first loved us. We chose Christ only because he first chose us – before the worlds were made.
We glory in the cross of Christ because on that cross we see the love of God undaunted.