Gospel Gap-Fillers #1: The Extent and Gravity of Our Sin

The previous 7 posts looked at some of the attractive gospel replacements that subtly twist motives and affections for Christ to distorted reductions of the work of Christ.  The next 5 posts will look at what should fill the gap between the true gospel and genuine life change for God’s glory. Again, the posts will quote from Paul Tripp and Tim Lane’s book  How People Change.


1. The Extent and Gravity of Our Sin

It has been said that the doctrine of sin is the one doctrine you can prove empirically, yet we all tend to minimize it. Early in our marriage my wife, Luella, graciously pointed out many failures in my love for her. She wasn’t being overcritical; she had seen real areas of sin rooted in wrong attitudes in my heart. I knew she loved me and she wasn’t crazy, but I couldn’t believe that I was as bad as she was making me out to be! I look back and cringe at how self-righteous I was. Self-righteousness is your own personal defense attorney. In a scary moment of self-defense, I said to her, “Ninety-five percent of the women in our church would love to be married to me!” (How’s that for humility?) Luella sweetly informed me that she was in the 5 percent!

I was a pastor at the time and regularly counseling married couples, helping them deal with the sin that stood in the way of the loving unity God intended for them. I was good at helping other people see and own their sin. But I was not willing to believe that my need was just as desperate. Maybe I was blinded by my theological knowledge or my pastoral skill. but one thing is sure: I had forgotten who I was, and I was offended that Luella had such a low opinion of me!

I don’t think I am alone. The struggle to accept our exceeding sinfulness is everywhere in the church of Christ. We accept the doctrine of total depravity, but when we are approached about our own sin, we wrap our robes of self-righteousness around us and rise to our own defense.

Scripture challenges this self-righteousness with clarity and power: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5), and “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10). The effects of sin twist every thought, motive, desire, word, and action. This disease has infected us all, and the consequences are severe.

Why is this perspective so essential? Only when you accept the bad news of the gospel does the good news make any sense. The grace, restoration, reconciliation, forgiveness, mercy, patience, power, healing, and hope of the gospel are for sinners. They are only meaningful to you if you admit that you have the disease and realize that it is terminal. 

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