by Mark Freeman
I will be the first to admit that I am stubborn. Not that it is something I am proud of, just that it is something I recognize as true. I resist the notion that I may need the help of someone else until the situation has gotten so bad that I look ridiculous. I am not sure what drives this aversion to having someone assist me. I am sure that pride is a big part of it, I do not like the idea of being the one in need. I see myself as someone who is helping others, that guy is cool…. the guys who swoops in to save the day. I don’t mind playing that role, but I feel something break in me when I consider being the damsel in distress. So, to avoid this revelation of my insufficiency, I often try to do things that are way beyond my intellect or ability. The examples are endless, but I will give one story here that most guys can relate to.
We were living in a house with a basement and had turned that room into a second living area. A friend was getting rid of one of those entertainment centers that used to hold the massive TVs we all had before flat screens were a thing. We needed furniture for that space, and I agreed to take the behemoth wood cabinet off his hands.
One thing worth noting here is that the game of football had the bulk of my attention through my childhood and college years. The weight room was one of my favorite places to be and might as well have been a second home. So, I have tended to fancy myself a fairly strong dude and have seen feats of strength as opportunities to display my superpower. When I saw the size of this furniture piece, I was secretly stoked by the anticipation of my wife’s infatuation with me when she saw my power on display.
I was able to move this beast to the trailer and from the trailer to the top of the stairs in our home. I then flipped the thing on its smooth top so that it could easily slide down the carpeted staircase. I was thinking that the hard part was over when I positioned myself underneath and began to pull it over that top step. I am obviously not a math guy and had not calculated my weight in comparison to the furniture piece or the velocity in which gravity would hurl the monster at me. Immediately I lost control and began to back pedal. Luckily, I was able to keep my balance and a bit of pressure to lessen the impact when my back hit the wall at the turn of the staircase. I was now the only thing standing between the cabinet and the wall it so desperately wanted to destroy. Pinned, bruised, and completely helpless I had to quickly come to grips with my reality. I was going to have to call for help and it was going to take more than my wife and elementary aged children.
When confronted with the notion of lostness, of needing to be saved from our sin, I find that most of us respond in a similar way. Of course, we are not claiming perfection, but we think ourselves basically good and surely more moral than those people out there that obviously need the rescuing. Jesus is nice and all, but we secretly believe that our situation is not all that dire and that we possess in ourselves the fortitude to make it all better. Grasping the reality of our brokenness is the foundation of a biblical understanding of redemption. No one cries out for a life preserver in the baby pool, but when you find yourself engulfed by the angry waves of a turbulent ocean it tends to change your perspective.
Romans 3:23 clearly states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
We must personally accept and help others see that there is not some loophole that can be found. The word “all” has no wiggle room! It literally means every single person and that makes sense when sin is described as not attaining the perfection of God. We must move the target from a comparison of our righteousness to that of our peers to viewing our actions considering who God is.
In a similar way Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Here the sinner is compared to a sheep who chooses to go it alone. Isn’t that the core of the issue? Instead of falling helplessly into the care of the shepherd, we think so highly of ourselves that we face the roar of the lion of life with the weak bleat of a sheep. If and until we recognize that when weighed and measured, we are found wanting, we will never experience an authentic turn of repentance and faith in Christ.
In way of application for the believer, I have found it so critical to be continually reminded of our helpless state. We can never graduate from the gospel and I find that it is tempting, as we find victory over blatant sin, to begin to think we can now swim the angry ocean alone. The minute we forget that we would still be pinned against the wall by our selfish choices, were it not for redemption in Jesus, we have effectively disqualified ourselves from presenting an unadulterated gospel. In that flawed mindset we will unintentionally communicate a sliver of hope in the goodness of man, instead of testifying to our desperation and pointing all attention to the saving work accomplished at the cross.
Also, I have noticed that much of the time evangelism skips this most crucial concept. We are tempted to focus on the good news without sharing the need for it. I am convinced that the work of gospel sharing is mostly about helping another see the sickness that is killing them. Once we see ourselves as one of the “all” in these verses, an insatiable hunger for redemption arises. The answer, at this point, is met with joy and relief. Many strays from leading with the bad news of sin and its consequences and find the hearer discounting the personal application. Once a person realizes they are lost, eyes and ears are open for the introduction of a map. If they believe they know the way, directions have no place in their paradigm.
Mark Freeman: I am originally from the southwest corner of the state and attended a university in Arkadelphia. I met my amazing wife (Terri) in high school and we married halfway through our college career. That was 1997 and to this point we have lived in fifteen different homes, in near as many cities, to do all kinds of things we felt Jesus leading us toward. Much of the adventure has taken us overseas and across cultures. We have two teenagers (Caleb and Brennen) and two toddlers (Jack and Darcy) in our home. I have to admit that I enjoy most the nights that I take my love on a date, the days we watch our kids activities, a game of disc golf here and there, traveling the world at every chance, and the (not so rare) occasion that I get to drink good coffee!