G K. Chesterton was an Englishman known for his sharp wit as a journalist, social critic, novelist and a philosopher/theologian. Once, a series of articles appeared in an English newspaper on “What is Wrong with the World?” Upon reading the articles, he wrote a brief letter to the editor:
“Dear Sir: regarding your series of articles on “What is Wrong with the World?” I am. Yours Truly, G. K. Chesterton.
Chesterton had an honest assessment of himself and of humanity. The doctrine of human nature is not popular in the world, even in the church. We don’t want to see ourselves as sinners much less as sinners that can only be saved by Christ. We prize our self worth and our independence. We think we are the masters of our souls.
Our view leads to the degrading conditions we live in today. Poverty, war, sexual degradation, child abuse, and loneliness are just some of the conditions caused by our human nature. The effect of our nature extends to the harm we cause the environment.
Our human solutions are delusional. We think our human efforts will make the world better. We have some evidence for this. We eat better and live longer and have more things, but our personal lives are as messed up as ever. We can send men to the moon, but we can’t get people to be kind to one another.
Christians are most foolish when we ignore our nature. I have so many friends who have crashed on the shores of this world because they did not pay attention to their own souls. Salvation comes to us at a point in time. We are continually being reclaimed by Christ but the promise is not immediate transformation. Salvation is a continual work because we continue to sin and need God’s grace. How can we ignore the darkness of our hearts? We grow to think that God condones our sins, approves our worldly behavior, and smiles on our sinful thoughts. It seems that we sear our minds against the judgments of God, and we refuse to confess and repent of our sins before God. Is this one of the reasons that we see so much church declined today? If we are honest with ourselves, then we must come to same conclusion as Chesterton when he answered the question, “what is wrong with the world,” we are.
Our nature as fallen Christians should drive us to a deep and abiding humility before God. We should never forget who we are. Jesus made it very clear that we should have an honest understanding of our condition. Jesus held up the example the poor sinner who recognizes his sin instead of the Pharisee who confessed to God how great he was.
“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”
“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”” Luke 1813-14 ESV
Once we understand our wretched condition, we confess our sin and repent and we are justified, we are saved. But there cannot be any justification if there is no heartfelt repentance and confession.
When we come to Christ, we are called to pursue God. We seek after the One who preserves us. We are called righteous, but it is an alien righteousness. Righteousness belongs to Jesus. He bestows his righteousness on us. We are called holy but again, it is an alien holiness given to us by Jesus. Our salvation belongs to the Lord. He keeps, he continually forgives, and he continually cleanses us of our sin when we confess and repent. The Christian life is a constant battle to grow and overcome sin. It is a process that continues until we die. Then, we are glorified, God makes us fit for heaven. This is our journey and our goal.
Hebrews 12 exhorts us to run the race and run it with endurance. My days of physically running are long over. My knees are shot, my back locks up and I carry too much weight. But when we run the race that God lays before us, we never get too old, too tired, or too disabled.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2 ESV)
Hebrews is addressing believers. We are called to lay aside anything that holds us back but particularly our sin. Our run is a deliberate act, not a casual enterprise. We must ignore what the world wants and focus on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter our faith. This is the only way we can run with endurance. Jesus said that the one who endures to the end will be saved. We run but we persevere because of the grace of God.
What if we stumble and fall? We will stumble and fall. But God is there to pick us up. He cleans us up and causes us to run again. So, there is no excuse. We know who we are, and we know who God is. Therefore, let us run the race, let us persevere to the end. We can do it because Jesus has already run the race. All we have to do is follow.