It is one of my greatest fears, if not the greatest fear, that I should never be seen as a “somebody.” That my talents and my intellect and my voice, indeed, my very life, should not amount to the degree that someone, somewhere would not give a second thought to esteem it. It is a fear that has wrecked me and many relationships that I have held close to this drunk anxiety. It is an intoxication that breeds toxic living that breeds toxic relationships that breeds a toxic consciousness that breeds a toxic interpretation of the grace that holds everything together for the good. It cannot do anything else. As a child, I was surrounded by individuals who counted a life of wealth and power as the definition of their value, but this proved, inevitably, to be a terrible vanity. Eventually, I adopted this mindset and I am recovering from it even as I write this.
Especially as I write this.
I have come under the conviction that the greatest desire of the human race is the justification of our existence. Forgive me if I seem extreme, but I believe it’s why we spend an extra five minutes looking at ourselves in the mirror. It’s why we give away our money to the poor. It’s why we purchase the latest piece of technology. It’s why we vote. It’s why we protest. It’s why we get married. It’s why we get a divorce. It’s why we look at porn. It’s why we lie, cheat, and steal. It is, I believe, the motivation for all that we do. But the motivation isn’t alone. No, it’s married to the most devastating reality that even our greatest efforts to count for something in this life will not be enough. It’s never enough. This is what breaks us and leaves us naked in the despair of our failure to transcend our promised inheritance as sinners: death. Timothy Keller writes in Counterfeit Gods how this desire for more has led corporate officials and CEOs all over the globe to the harsh realization that, no matter how hard they try, it will never be enough to satisfy them. As a result, the majority opted for suicide to relieve themselves of this unbearable burden.
The only true hope for humanity is the perfect labor of a perfect laborer that transcends our failure to be good enough and that kills the threat of a meaningless death. It mends the broken vessel of countless screw-ups and re-dos and brings a promise of forgiveness to a hopeless, dismal people. It gives us the ever-present assurance that we are not forgotten. That our sin is not counted against us anymore. That “we are free to struggle because we are not struggling to be free.” It was the day that Jesus became a nobody so that we could be somebody. The sinless Son of Man wore the wrath of God and our sins so that the final verdict for his people would be “good and faithful servant(s),” just as if they always had been.
If we are in Christ, the deepest hope we have to be thrilled by is that we are not the savior needed to make our lives count. Christ was fixed on Calvary’s cross so that we would not have to slavishly attempt to fix ourselves. He bled out for us and his finished work is the reason we can struggle with (and conquer!) the sin that taunts us. We get to struggle! Because of Jesus, we are heirs of the freedom to fail and our names will not change because of it. Our identity is not a mail-in rebate because of what we have said and done, good or bad. If we are in Christ, we have a boldness of grace that trumps kingdoms and War Powers and it will keep us forever with no regard for the past, present or future. This isn’t controversy. It isn’t new. It’s sanity. It’s grace. It’s Jesus. It’s forever.
If you’re a sinner and you know it, then your life should really show it. Own it and use it for the glory of God. – Dr. Steve Brown