I have been a Christian for several years now and for many of those years, I never questioned what I was taught. I took everything as fact and never spoke up. When friends had questions that I couldn’t answer about my faith, I sometimes doubted, but I knew God was out there because I saw His work in my own family.
As I grew older, I learnt about Christian apologetics (defense of the Christian faith), and began to understand the truth of the gospel in a way I had never experienced before.
But as I recently went on a Christian retreat where I was to learn more about God, I discovered a slight problem with the gospel.
Actually, a more than slight problem with the gospel. It’s such a great concern that I fear is at the core of Christianity, threatening to break its foundations and rupture the hearts of those who are so close to finding purpose in the faith.
The problem, you might guess, is sin.
Which, I guess is true, but it’s not the even bigger issue that I’m thinking of.
But what even is a sin?
Google defines a sin as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law”, which basically means that in the Christian faith, a sin is disobeying God, going against His commands.
But God has so many rules and expectations, it’s impossible to keep every one of them. Why even try? Let’s just live our lives in peace without guilt or shame in doing what we want.
And so, if God is real (which I believe he is https://annamariesarah.com/2017/09/21/why-i-believe/ ), then He is written off, shoved to the side, forgotten and rejected by His own creations.
Sin is not entirely the problem. The gospel destroys sin, Jesus defeated death and has the victory in the story of the gospel! So then, what is the problem?
At this retreat, I learnt that one of the main reasons people don’t accept the gospel is because they fail to recognize the weight of their sin and how much they truly need help.
I’ve been one of those people. I’ve compared my sins to others and rationalized, thinking “Oh my sin, isn’t as bad as theirs”. I’ve thought “hey, at least I’m not a murderer or a rapist or have hurt other people the way I’ve been hurt by others”. I’ve held that “holier-than-thou” mentality over other Christians, and whether or not I did it subconsciously, it happened. Sin happened, and I did it, and comparing my sins to others’ sins does not excuse my own. (Not to mention, it’s super prideful to be thinking that way). Sin happens every day in my life because I fail to worship the almighty God as he deserves. He is worthy of it all – all the honour, glory and praise, God deserves it all!
How can we accept the gospel as truth if we don’t recognize the depth of our own sin? How can we accept Jesus as Saviour if we don’t even think we need Him?
Currently, I’ve been diving into the book of Judges – a book of the Bible written much earlier than the 4 gospels that tell of Jesus’ suffering and victory. As I came across the 13th chapter, I counted about 7 times that God had saved the Israelites from their own sin. And this was just from the beginning of Judges – it doesn’t include all the times God saved them before that!
The Israelites rebelled many times, basically thinking God has so many rules and expectations. Let’s just live our lives in peace without guilt or shame in doing what we want and serving other gods. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point.
The Israelites’ pride in thinking that they didn’t need God caused them to live their own way, serving other gods. 7 Times they turned from God in Judges Chapters 1-13 alone.
Out of frustration, God even says in Judges, “‘When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!’” (Judges 10: 11-14, emphasis added).
I can definitely understand God’s exasperation at this point. He created them and loved them, and all He wanted was for them to love him back by worshipping only Him.
At first I was like, “Well He wouldn’t need to save them if He didn’t put all those rules in place to begin with. Like, isn’t He kinda selfish and attention-seeking for wanting glory all the time and wanting us to worship Him? If He’s God, He doesn’t even need us.”
It’s true that God doesn’t need us. A humbling thought as it is, but also one that provokes the thought that God had a selfish motive in creating us. But if God is perfect, and perfectly good, then it is not in His character to be bad – he cannot be selfish. So why would he care if the Israelites worshipped Him or not?
Apologist and philosopher Peter Kupisz gives a plausible explanation, “If God is of infinite value, then we cannot equate His value with anything else we know because nothing else is of infinite value. Thus, he deserves all the praise and worship because he of infinite value – the most fantastic being in all of existence, the ultimate source of every good thing we experience and He is the leader of every created being.”
Kupisz goes on to say that, “Committing a sin against an infinite God is committing an infinite sin” – a sin so deep and petrifying, we cannot make up for it by doing finite good things. Without God, without Jesus, without the gospel, we are in deep trouble.
So then, is God wrong to ask for the Israelites’ worship? I don’t believe so. And, like the Israelites, God asks for our worship and praise too. When we don’t, we are committing an infinite sin!
Let’s go back to Judges for a moment and take a look at what God does just 2 verses after He expresses his irritation with the Israelites:
“Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer” (Judges 10: 16).
What does God do? He has compassion on them. He saves them. Again.
Why would He do that?
I think the answer lies in His character:
God is love (1 John 4:8, 16).
He is not anger or irritation or sorrow. He expresses those emotions, but He is not them. He is love.
In the Old Testament, There were so many sacrifices being made in order for the Israelites’ sins to be atoned, that it didn’t make any sense for God to keep asking for sacrifices. 7 Times they turned from God in Judges Chapters 1-13 alone.
Yet God saved them over and over and over again. This is why the gospel exists now – because God sent His one and only son, Jesus, to be the once-and-for-all, final sacrifice! Jesus saves us from our sins each day over and over and over again – if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
So you see, the problem with the gospel isn’t just “sin”, it’s a specific sin called pride that blocks us from seeing our own sin for what it is, and how much we truly need God.
The problem with the gospel isn’t God or Jesus; they’re perfect.
The problem with the gospel isn’t even other people. They can’t fix our sin!
The problem with the gospel…
(Photo credits: Kayla Noakes)