I love the question I was once asked earnestly by a senior girl in high school–“how much of this Bible do I need to take seriously?” She captured beautifully the tension that a faith seeking understanding produces. When we are seeking to understand God, and the Bible, and life–where should we begin?
Do we have to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do we have to believe in His virgin birth? Do we have to be baptized? Do we have to believe in God’s creative initiation of the world? Do we have to believe in a god? While all of these things are essential to believe, I think we need to begin at a far simpler and challenging part of the Gospel story. Because quiet frankly, the bodily resurrection, the virgin birth, Hell, scriptural infallibility, sanctification and all of these other complex Biblical concepts are irrelevant–even God Himself–if we do not believe the Problem that the Gospel Story is trying to redeem.
Without a problem, there is no need for the Gospel-centered solution. So if we do not admit the Problem–us–and the depth of the Problem–our utter and total sinfulness–then the solution is pointless. Sundays would be better spent on the golf course enjoying the now of life if we can do it ourself.
Humanism teaches that the problem is out there, and that the solution is within us. The Gospel teaches that the problem is in us, and that the solution must reside outside of us.
So what is the first step:
We admitted we were powerless and that our lives had become unmanageable.
What is the purpose of this step?
Step 1 is about letting go. You admit you have a problem and begin to seek out help. It isn’t easy, but admitting powerlessness allows you to break the cycle that you have been stuck in.*
Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
Therefore, if you are not ready to acknowledge your sinfulness, then the rest is pointless. However, if we are ready to confront our powerlessness and see that “As a result of sin, human life is poisoned by everlasting death. No part of human life is untouched by sin. Our desires are no longer trustworthy guides to goodness, and what seems natural to us no longer corresponds to God’s design. We are not merely wounded in our sin; we are dead, unable to save ourselves.”^
If I do not believe that at the core of my being resides the destructive, corrosive and deadly poison of sin, then I can manage my sin through minimization. If we were truly honest though, we would echo the words of Paul–“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate…I do…I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do want to do–this I keep on doing!” (Romans 7:15-20).
This helplessness has to be the starting point of your relationship with Jesus Christ–otherwise he is unnecessary. If we are not trapped in our sin, we could rescue ourselves.
It is essential to admit this powerlessness, because then and only then can Jesus Christ become our Savior.
No one ever opts for a savior…a rescuer is only necessary when there is no other option or way out. You call in the rescue squad when you are lost, running out of fuel, injured, scared and recognizing your mortality. A Savior is the only option of last resort.
Therefore, in Christianity, surrender is not defeat but victory, because we allow ourselves to be rescued.
This is why the true healing of the Gospel begins with the true diagnosis of the Gospel that “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord laid upon Him [Jesus Christ] the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
For the Eunuch in Acts 8, this scripture from Isaiah was the starting point of his faith, because he recognized He was stuck and in need of savior. Which allowed him to receive the Good News that “God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8). The eunuch–a “powerless” man who had been barred from God’s community–was graciously allowed into the presence of God through Jesus Christ.
Once we see the full grace of Christ to take away our sins, then suddenly we discover the answer to those other questions. That I need a God who is in charge. That I need a God who conquered death through the full bodily resurrection. That I need a God who was born into this world differently. That I need a God who created the heavens and the earth…and me. That I need a God who wipes away my sins and invites me to join Him through baptism.
Therefore, have you opted for Jesus out of convenience (or cultural/familial pressure) or have you surrendered to your powerlessness and received Jesus Christ as your Savior out of necessity?
*By the way…you may not realize that the portion in bold is the first step towards recovery in A.A. This spiritual movement realized the essentialness of people identifying their own powerlessness before any other step would be fruitful.