Three Problems and Christ

Three Problems and Christ

Guilt, sin, and death – and we are helpless before them, although responsible, for them. Christ is our only hope as the One who knew no sin but became sin for sinners (2 Cor.5:21). Either we are cursed, or we gratefully trust that He became a curse for us (Gal.3:10, 13). Rejoice not in chocolates and days off and shows, but in the sinless person of Christ, and His death, and resurrection.

Calvin begins his Institutes of the Christian Religion with the comment that ‘Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.’ If we start with Socrates’ ‘Know thyself’, we soon run into three obvious problems with all of us.

First, we all have a guilty record before God. If God should mark our iniquities, who could stand before Him? (Ps.130:3) We all fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23), and in the judgment every mouth will be stopped (Rom.3:19). No one will mount a defence. Small wonder that David could pray: ‘For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great’ (Ps.25:11). The Judge of all the earth does justly, but that is only to restate the problem so far as sinners are concerned.

Secondly, we all have sinful hearts. As Jeremiah put it: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?’ (Jer.17:9) Out of the human heart comes all the evils that defile us (Matt.15:19). The more we experience of life, and of our own selves, the more we realise that there is madness in our hearts (Eccles.9:3). Augustine of Hippo has been much criticised for over-reacting to his Huckleberry Finn-Tom Sawyer type misdemeanour in joining with some friends in order to steal some pears. They were not hungry, so they ended out throwing the pears at some pigs. So why did they steal the pears in the first place? Many years later a reflective Augustine recalled: ‘our real pleasure consisted in doing something that was forbidden.’ He did what had no reason behind it – rather like the old vandalising of phone booths.

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