“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not pretty enough.”
“I’m not smart enough.”
“I’m not working hard enough.”
“I’m not doing enough.”
“I’m not strong enough.”
“I’m just not enough.”
We all think it and feel it and say it and live it more than we even realize.
I mean, we all know we aren’t perfect, right? So why is it so debilitating to feel it?
Whether it’s losing, getting a bad grade, disappointing your parents, not getting into the college you wanted to get into, getting broken-up with, or scrolling through social media, the reality of our imperfection smacks us in the face almost every day.
The world tells you, “you are enough.”
“You’re perfect just the way you are.”
“God loves you just the way you are.”
Well, I hate to break it to you, but as good as that sounds to hear when all you’re feeling extra “not enough,” it’s just not true.
You are not enough.
One way to understand sin is to understand that it means “missing the mark.”
The harsh reality is that Jesus came not just to be a good example for how we are to live, but because we are not good enough.
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously lived according to the ways of this world . . .” Ephesians 2:1-3 CSB (emphasis mine).
We like to dilute the reality of our imperfection so that we don’t make ourselves or others sound that bad. But it’s bad.
Here’s the thing. Dead means dead. Can something dead do enough good deeds to make itself alive again? No! It’s dead.
God is life. He created life and breathes life and gives life and is life. When we said, “hey God, uh, thanks for creating me, bro, and this Earth is sweet and all, but I think I can figure it out on my own. Thanks,” we turned away from the source of life and died.
We are spiritually dead apart from God. We have no way of getting back to God on our own, because every good thing we do to try to fix that gap between us and God is really just making it worse. We are so caught in a web of selfishness that every “good” thing we do is actually out of a selfish motive. Our lives are all about ourselves.
So if sin means “missing the mark,” then what mark are we missing? We are missing the mark of what God intended for human flourishing. We are missing the mark of perfection. We tried to flourish as humans without God and against God’s way and that just can’t happen. We didn’t create us or this world. We have no idea what’s best or how to live the way we were created. We need our Creator to be intimately involved in our lives.
But we said no. And we live in direct defiance to God every single day.
And then there’s the word “trespasses”: “And you were dead in your trespasses . . .” (Ephesians 2:1a). To help us understand trespasses, think of a man who cheated on his wife repeatedly and wasn’t even sorry about it and then just up and left her with no remorse. That’s a trespass. That’s breaking a covenant—breaking a marriage promise to love each other and fight for each other no matter what. Our turning away from God is just like this trespass.
No exaggeration here.
God created us with intimate care and time (Psalm 139:13-16). He created us to be in perfect, unhindered union with him (kind of like a marriage covenant, but infinitely better). But we wanted to go our own way. We wanted nothing to do with the Creator and Lover of our souls. We followed our own way, our own desires and thoughts, and created an immense gap that severed our relationship with God.
We like to pretend that sin isn’t a big deal or that we aren’t that sinful, but when we really look, we realize just how selfish we can be. Sin is that temptation to cheat to be able to get a passing grade. It’s in our worries. It’s in our judgment of others. It’s the desire to take advantage of someone. Its laziness. It’s the little lie you tell to pass the blame off on someone else. It’s you doing something nice for someone so that they will like you. It’s that frustrated and empty feeling you get when you look in the mirror and are dissatisfied with your appearance. It’s the anger you have when someone hurts you. It’s hidden in the words of gossip at the lunch table. It’s self-harm. It’s bullying. It’s in the secrets you keep hidden from others. It’s joking in a way that purposefully hurts others. It’s all the masks you wear to try to please everyone. It’s striving for success without a thought who it can hurt.
It’s all sin.
Charles Spurgeon says, “We stubbornly believe that there must be something in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatsoever in us” (Spurgeon, All of Grace).
It’s extremely uncomfortable to sit in the reality that we are not good enough. We have nothing good in us. There are no amount of good works we can do to impress God.
We desperately need God to intervene. We weren’t created to live this way.
But it gets worse.
We hate the word judgment, but we usually only hate it when it’s directed toward us and our own lives. We want God to bring his judgement—or consequences—down on all evil. In fact, we tend to question God when we see evil happening and we don’t seem to see Him taking any action. Pandemics. Wars. Natural disasters. Genocide. Racism. Shootings. Kidnappings. Abuse. Crime. Bullying. Suicide. Mental Illness. Diseases.
If God loves us, he would eliminate it, right?
We start to believe that God must not be in control or that he must not care. If he was in control, obviously this world would be a better place. Or maybe he is in control, but he just doesn’t care about us. If he did care, he obviously wouldn’t allow all of this pain and evil in the world. Right?
We want God to end all evil. We want him to destroy everything that brings death and hurt and suffering, and steals life and joy and peace.
The problem with that? He would have to eliminate us.
God wants to destroy evil once and for all. There is no place for evil in the presence of God. He wants to put evil on trial and give it the sentence it deserves.
“Yes, God! Destroy that evil!”
“Wait. We are part of that evil? But I didn’t cause these diseases or natural disasters! I’m not as bad as all those terrible people doing those terrible things!”
The problem is, God isn’t looking to destroy some evil, he is looking to destroy all things that have severed our relationship with God and ruined his creation. That means he wants to destroy lies, hatred, jealousy, racism, gossip, hurtful joking, sexual immorality, idolatry, selfish ambition. Everything. It’s so easy to point the finger at evil without seeing the evil that dwells inside of our own hearts. But as we take a look at the list above, we can’t help but find ourselves painfully guilty.
Oh, yes, God is going to destroy evil once and for all, no matter the size of its path of destruction. He wants every ounce of evil gone.
But we have that evil in us.
We’re a slave to it.
We just can’t stop.
If God is going to put evil on trial, we will be awaiting our own trial and well-deserved consequence.
The consequence? Death.
I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, wait, wait. I thought we were already dead and stuff? Didn’t you just say that before? How we’re spiritually dead apart from God? This is getting confusing.”
Life on this earth apart from God is truly a spiritual death. You can walk around, heart beating and lungs breathing, but inside you’re just not alive. Really alive. As NF says in his song “Oh Lord”: “Everybody’s gon’ die, but don’t everybody live though.”
But this punishment of death for our sin is more than a spiritual death. It’s eternal separation from the God who is life. It’s an all around, forever kind of death.
We need to sit in the weight of this for the next part to be as sweet to us.
Death was never meant to be introduced into humanity. What introduced death? Our desire to be our own gods, rely on our own abilities and knowledge, and turn away from God himself.
Here’s another way of thinking about it: Have you ever seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life? So there’s this scene where George goes to see his sick daughter, Zuzu, who is so excited to show him the rose she got at school. A few petals fall off the rose when George looks at it and Zuzu says “paste it, Daddy.” (If you’ve seen it, I hope you read that line just like she says it in the movie). George pretends to paste the petals back on the rose and gives it back to an unsuspecting Zuzu.
We are the petals.
Zuzu is an innocent girl who doesn’t know how life works in a plant. You cannot paste parts of a plant back on the plant and give it life again. The petals, though they may feel alive, are severed from the life of the flower, and now they are dead. (Actually, if you want to get technical, the flower doesn’t have life anymore either because it was cut from the roots, but you get the picture).
God is the flower (with roots) and we are the petals that have fallen off. There is nothing we can do to get back to God. Like I said before, dead things can’t do enough to get back to life again. We have no way of fixing it ourselves. Oh, we will desperately try. We will try to develop healthy habits. We will strive to be loved by all people. We will dream of falling in love, having children, getting a nice job and living in a nice house. We are nice to people and try our best to get good grades and please our parents. We try to do nice things for the earth or for the homeless or for those who are less-fortunate. We are a good friend to others. We try to live a nice and comfortable life that doesn’t rock the boat too much.
But we still just aren’t enough.
We can’t take our eyes off ourselves. Every thought, action and word that leaves our mouths is full of selfishness. We desperately crave the spotlight, the attention, the love. We want to be noticed and loved and praised. We are stuck in a web of our own selfishness and we are destined for final death without connection to our God.
So now what? If we’re dead and can’t do enough good things to make ourselves alive again. If we’re so steeped in sin that we can only act out of selfishness. If there’s nothing we can do because it will just make everything worse. What do we do?
If God is going to follow through with his plan of destroying evil once and for all, of putting it on trial and sentencing it to the punishment it deserves, then we will get caught up in that destruction because we are guilty of disobeying God.
A final death. A real death. A forever death. A no-connection-to-God death.
Let that sink in.
Click here to read part 4 of “Live Free.”