Warning! This is a bit depressing today. Wow, sin really made a big mess! There’s no way to put lipstick on this pig. But before we can talk about our identity in Christ, we have to start at the beginning and talk about our identity in Adam.
Actually, what I should have done for this series is present a different week number one topic. I really should have started with our original identity: perfectly created in the image of God. We lost that stature due to Adam’s sin (and our participation in that), but we regain identity in Christ (topics to come after we clear the deck of the bad news).
Today we are going to look at a total of six descriptors from the Scriptures that very colorfully present the grave and hopeless condition of identification we possess as condemned sinners in Adam.
Yet even as we examine these titles of our natural condition apart from Christ, you will notice that most of the passages we are going to look at move quickly past the bad news and rapidly forward to a contrast with the good news. Interestingly, we constantly see the great grace of God breaking through, as if it can’t be restrained. Yes, the bad news is bad!! And it needs to be faced for what it is (and too many are unwilling to do this). But the good news is so great that God is ever pointing forward to it, saying essentially, “Run to that; run over there; flee from your sinful condition and embrace the grace that I offer.”
Thinking through the Scriptures and our natural, human condition, six identifiers speak to how seriously awful things are …
- Spiritually Dead – Colossians 2:13-14 – When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
Dead people just don’t respond to anything. Perhaps the creepiest moment of my life happened when I was about four or five years old. An uncle of my mother had died, and we were at the funeral home at the end of visiting hours. For some reason I can’t imagine, my father told me to go over to the open casket and lift up the arm of Uncle Harry. I did. Harry didn’t respond, though I’ll never forget the rigor mortis feeling! That’ll make an impression on a youngster!
What part of being spiritually dead can’t we understand? The fact is that we cannot respond to the gospel message apart from a work going on of life-quickening by the Spirit of God. We are spiritually dead due to participation in Adam’s sin. God has to do it all in order for us to respond and have spiritual life.
- Separated from God – Ephesians 4:17-19 – So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
The horrors of the African slave trade have oft been told, yet it is impossible to imagine it fully – children captured and taken from families and tribes, brought thousands of miles across an ocean and sold like animals. There was no hope ever of any sort of reunion. After a time, the ways of the former world were largely lost, and a different way of life and survival was adopted.
And so it is for mankind, estranged from the original father, having only some ill-defined sense of conscience and of a right relationship with a creator father. New ways of life were adopted that seemed natural in the surrounding world – as the text speaks of sensuality / impurity / self-centeredness (greed).
The separation of sin was like a vast ocean. There was no way to cross it to get back to God. The only hope was that God the father would come looking for us, though that was never a thought in the front of the natural mind. The separation was impossible.
- Strangers / Aliens – Ephesians 2:11-13,19-20 – Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. … Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
I suppose that many of you have had the experience of travelling in a foreign country, where it does not take long to realize that you are a foreigner, totally alien to that place and culture.
When driving in England, it is always weird, because you are on the wrong side of the road. I’ve never been more terrified in my life behind the wheel of a car than in Italy; it is truly an “every man for himself” situation of reckless aggression. Turkey was nearly as bad, as everyone is constantly pushing forward and honking horns at one another.
But the worst situation I’ve ever had was in Prague, in the Czech Republic. I was working my way down to the town center – the site of the protests that helped bring down the Soviet Union, and the place where in 1968 I remember watching the TV news scenes where Russian tanks put down a rebellion. I drove down a one-way street with cars parked on both sides and soon found myself on the square. There, a street officer pulled me over. I had apparently not read signs of “no entrance” because of a street festival taking place (of course, I did not know the language!). He demanded money to let me be released to go. I gave him what cash I had, which wasn’t much. I’m not sure I was not extorted, but I just wanted to get out of the strange cultural mess I found myself within.
In our natural and sinful condition, we do not have the language skills or connections to understand the gospel. But in God’s grace we’ve been bought into (and brought into) a new citizenship with a new set of relationships and capacities to understand and grow in that truth. But without Jesus bridging that gap, we would have never been able to get there on our own.
- Enemies of God – Romans 5:10 – For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
That just sounds so terrible, doesn’t it? To not just be an enemy of some person who doesn’t like us, but to be an enemy of God!
Colossians 1:21-22 – Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you …
Enemies can be very scary. We in our country have certain enemies in the world who have nuclear powers that could inflict great harm upon us. Some time ago, there was a false alarm in Hawaii that nuclear missiles were incoming, and it set off a terrible panic – as one could imagine.
But to think that our relationship with God was as enemies!! That He could, and justly should, eliminate us … that is the ultimate fright! But, all that has changed, as we’ll see in coming weeks!
- Slaves to Sin – Romans 6:20-23 – When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A person who is a slave is unable to truly make any choices for himself. The only real choice is to obey, and it is the only choice that is really workable at all. To disobey leads to punishment and pain and loss.
And prior to a life-changing relationship with God, one is a slave to sin. That does not mean that a person is always as bad as they could be or that they do not do good deeds that are driven by a residue of conscience dating back to the image of God in them from creation. But those good deeds do not serve their master, sin … nor the master that they need which is – as put in Romans 6 – the control of righteousness. This leads to a life of holiness – on the road that ends in eternal life with Christ Jesus.
- Hopelessly Lost! This is a major picture of the purpose of the coming of Christ. In the gospel accounts are parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son … all illustrating what Jesus came to do! Luke 19:10 – For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. And in 1 Peter 2:24-25 in says,“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Putting that all together, it is a very bad picture. But it gets better soon! We’ll talk more about lostness and foundness (just made up that word, like a friend of mine from Tennessee does all the time!). Catch you then.