We live in an era of comfortable Christianity where girls strut through church pews in yoga pants with calligriphied-tattoos of “worthy” on full display trumpeting the slogan of the redeemed while they sip their skinny vanilla lattes from Starbs (hold the foam, there’s hidden carbs in aerated milk). A society which neglects the truth of the gospel in exchange for a lie, we are the Romans 1:25 church.
We are so uncomfortable at the recognition of our unworthiness. In a world where we strive to classify every person as good and holy, it is suffocating to actually believe what the Bible says about our human condition – there is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). This means that with every fiber of my being I am wicked, to the core, there is poison in my heart and venom in my veins. There is nothing redeeming about me, my sins are blacker than night and thicker than coal. I am unworthy.
It can be so hard to grasp a concept like that when the world is doing everything that it can to assure us that we are good. To remind us that despite our fears and failures, at our core we are a good person, and because of that we are worthy. We have convinced ourselves that kicking puppies is bad, a sign that we might want to rehabilitate our priorities, but it does not mean that we are inherently sinful, rather that we’ve simply sinned. The Bible says the opposite – the Bible is a story of redemption on all fronts.
There once was a garden where everything blossomed. Where animals and humans live harmoniously without peed-on-carpets and chewed-out-couches. Within the garden there lived a man and a woman more amorously enamored by the other than any romance-novel we could dream. They spent their days in a landscape of scenery too stunning to be captured by any form of the senses.
And they were naked. Not just fig-leaf exposure status, but like Woodstock buck-naked. And they had no idea. The world was so pure and cohesive that they had no reason to “cover their shame” as the Old Testament says, because in the garden shame did not exist. Here was a place that truly was heaven on earth, indwelled by the Living God in perfect harmony with his creation.
The Lord is right by my side… in the coolness of the day… you hold it all in the palm of your hands… and everything’s alright… (Ryan Ellis, Everythings Alright)
We say the word “literally” a lot on our culture, but seldom does it actually mean “literally” as defined. But this is a special case, this garden was literally perfect. Imagine the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen and then multiply that by infinity. The living breathing God, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Holiest of Holies walked in the garden. There must have been something special about it… oh wait, he made it. My God is a master artist. An artisan that created the trade.
And his first portrait was this garden. The garden where it all began. Where all was well and righteousness was freely gifted.
And then came that bloody snake.
You know the story, in perfect light there was an eclipse. Man fell. Just as Satan himself fell away from the Lord; and now we are living in the repercussions of our great-great-great-great-great-great…great grandparents. They really screwed everything up. No more unabashed nakedness, no more harmonious living, no more inheritance of righteousness – with one act they traded in their identities as God’s prized and beloved to an inheritance of sin. They ushered in a new world that destroyed the garden from the roots up.
We come from a long ancestry of sinners. We cannot escape. We are filthy.
I don’t know about you, but I sin, a lot. I am predisposed to do so. My heart is rotted by ages of disobedience to the living God. Because the garden was uprooted, we exist in a world that cannot survive without the pretense of sin.
I am entirely unworthy. So unworthy.
I was confronted with this recently whilst sitting beside my best friend pouring my heart out, begging for direction, hating the darkness elicited by my own sin. She looked at me and spoke these words.
“There is nothing in you that is good, and you are so unworthy. You can’t do any of this by yourself.”
At some ungodly hour of the morning, we engaged in a conversation about just how radical the Lord’s grace is, and I’ve been processing through that since. What better time to be thinking about that then Good Friday?
Even though historical accounts place the crucifixion of Christ in a different time of year, we celebrate his sacrifice every year during the Easter season. And rather than go off on a tangent of why bunny rabbits and plastic egg capsules are irrelevant, I think its important to note why this season is so important, and why this day, in particular, is of such grave importance (no pun intended).
2000 years ago our God decided to give the garden another shot. He took on flesh and walked among his creation once more. But this time his beautiful streams of living water and sprawling majestic countrysides had been replaced by thickets of sin. His people had forsaken him. His kingdom was building barriers against him, they were chopping down his creation to build homes founded in sinful living. And yet, the almighty king looked at them and said to himself, “I have a plan, I love them too much to let them go, I will give them another chance and this time they don’t have to do anything.” Talk about a cosmic love story.
The God of all creation took on a suit of flesh and walked the earth amongst his people – people who were rotted through with shame and regret, who had forsaken him to his face – in the form of Jesus Christ; and he did the very thing that we never can: he lived a perfect life. He lived the life that we were supposed to have when we were still frolicking in the garden of intimacy.
And then, rather than making all of us, a conglomeration of humans who are rotted from the inside out, pay for our sins he decided that he would take them onto himself and sacrifice himself in our place.
There is so much to unpack here – I could write a whole essay purely on the miracle of his grace in this one action, the historical significance, the current ramifications, the wrath of God, and beyond…
But back to the idea of being unworthy.
This was an idea that I brought up at my Bible study, and the first reaction was shock and horror. Worry that the words spoken to me were spiteful and mean when in reality they were exactly the words that I needed to hear.
I recognize that I am a sinful creature. That I live in a world where the devil has dominion, and because of that I am fallen. I am a person apart from the Lord because of my sin.
But because of his sacrifice, that is not my identity anymore. I do not have to live a life shackled by my shortcomings because the Lord extends grace freely. He takes me from completely unworthy to wholly holy. And there has never been a time when I have been more inclined to get on my knees and worship the God of the universe then when I realize that there is absolutely nothing in this world that makes me worthy of anything, except my God.
I am unworthy of what I have been given, and yet the Lord has taken me from peasant to princess because he loves me so much that he sees me as a child rather than a sinner. I am unworthy of his grace, and yet he has given it to me.