The Uniqueness of Christian Hope and Three Responses When Christians Fail
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- 2021 Feb 24
Tiger Woods is awake and recovering from surgery, according to a statement posted this morning on his official Twitter account. The golf legend was involved in a serious car accident yesterday near Los Angeles, where he suffered multiple leg injuries. He was trapped but conscious when emergency responders reached the scene.
According to Golf Digest, Woods suffered fractures in his right leg as well as damage to his ankle. His right leg was stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia. Surgeons used screws and pins to stabilize the bones in his foot and ankle.
Jack Nicklaus spoke for golf fans everywhere when he responded, “We want to offer him our heartfelt support and prayers at this difficult time.”
Magnetohydrodynamic explosive munitions
Woods’ accident yesterday was one of the six million car accidents that occur in the US each year. While Tiger Woods is one of the most famous athletes in history, he is as susceptible to the laws of physics as anyone else.
Technology changes our circumstances but not our character. Soldiers in the biblical era fought with slingshots, swords, and arrows (1 Samuel 17:40; Matthew 26:52; 1 Samuel 31:3); we fight today with camouflaged tanks and magnetohydrodynamic explosive munitions. But no matter how it is fought, as Gen. Sherman said in the Civil War, “War is hell.”
As I noted yesterday, Christianity offers the hope of moral transformation for those who follow Jesus and submit to the Spirit. To this, I would add that Christianity offers a unique hope of such transformation.
The natural cannot change the natural. Humans cannot change human nature. The prophet was right: “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Look across our history: Are we not still dealing with the same mistakes, failures, and problems as our ancestors?
Why I cannot pay your debt
This is why natural transformation requires supernatural agency. In theological terms, someone must pay the penalty for our sins before a holy God can forgive them. Since Jesus is the only sinless person who ever lived, he is the only person who does not owe the debt of sin and thus the only person who can pay the debt we owe (Romans 6:23).
If I have $100 in my pocket, I cannot pay your $100 debt and mine at the same time. Only if I owe no debt can I pay your debt.
This is what Jesus uniquely did for us (Romans 5:8). With all due respect, no other religious leader ever claimed to be sinless or to atone for the sins of others. Jesus did what Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, and every other religious leader could not. This makes the salvation he offers unique (John 14:6).
In addition, his Spirit inhabits those who trust him as Lord. The Holy Spirit lives in us as his temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). He makes us a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and begins the process of internal sanctification that makes us more like Jesus (1 Peter 1:2; Romans 8:29). This, again, is a promise no other religion or worldview makes or can make.
Three biblical responses
However, when we claim that Christianity changes Christians, we must answer this question: Why do so many Christians act in such sinful ways? Reports of horrific sexual abuse surfaced after Ravi Zacharias’ death last May. World-renowned pastor Bill Hybels took early retirement after allegations of sexual abuse were made against him. Doesn’t this contradict the truth they proclaimed?
Let’s close with three biblical responses:
One: Separate the message from the messenger.
When doctors fail us, we don’t reject medicine. When lawyers act corruptly, we don’t reject the law. Christianity never promised that Christians would be perfect. Our hope is not in the preacher but in the One being preached. We are saved not by Bill Hybels or Ravi Zacharias but by Jesus (Acts 4:12).
Two: Hold each other to the standards of Christ.
Our message changes the messenger if the messenger is willing to be changed. God respects the freedom he gives us so much that he will not force us into repentance and godliness. But if we cooperate with him, his Spirit will make us the kind of people our Father intends us to be (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Three: Balance grace and consequences.
We do not want to be the army that buries its wounded, but we also do not want to offer what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” that ignores accountability and the consequences of sin. If I drive a nail into a piece of wood, you could remove the nail but the hole remains. Sinners can be forgiven, but they must seek restitution (Matthew 5:24; Luke 19:8). (I plan to say more about confession and the consequences of sin in tomorrow’s Daily Article.)
What Satan put into our heads
How does today’s conversation relate to you? Do you need to seek forgiveness from God and/or from someone your sin has harmed? Do you need to offer forgiveness to someone who has harmed you? Do you need to renew your commitment to seek the holiness our Father requires and empowers? Do you need to share the unique hope of the gospel with someone today?
C. S. Lewis observed in Mere Christianity: “What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
Who or what is the source of your happiness today?
NOTE: Even if you know what the Apocrypha is, do you know why some denominations use it and some don’t? That’s one of the ten questions I answer in my latest book, Biblical Insight to Tough Questions, Vol. 7. Please request your copy of our new book today.
Publication date: February 24, 2021
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/benwhitephotography
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
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