The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

The Great Gift of Sin: Why Our Depravity Gives Us Hope

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Ever feel confused about the topic of sin? You should, because it is confusing. Ever feel like God is impossible to please? It’s only natural to arrive at that conclusion once you understand a few things about how He defines sin. In this post, we’re going to sort out the confusion that leads to you feeling depressed and hopeless about ever being good enough in God’s eyes and help you understand how easy He is to succeed with. We’ll also learn why salvation is a permanent deal, and not some flimsy thing that you have to worry about losing through bad behavior.

In the Church today, various Christian denominations take drastically different stands on the subjects of sin and salvation. Some insist that it’s possible for you to be sinless. Many teach that unless you continuously strive and strain to be good, God will revoke your salvation and disown you. Cruise around the internet and you’ll find some very hostile language getting used on both sides as everyone insists that their views are right and everyone else is speaking for Satan. If Christian leaders can’t agree with each other on such essential theology, how can you ever hope to find peace yourself? How can you ever gain a confident understanding about what God requires of you and when He’s pleased with you? The answer’s simple: you need to talk to God directly.

What we’re going to do in this post is present you with a whole bunch of statements about how God views sin and salvation. But since we’re not God, you’re not going to know if we’re accurately speaking for Him unless you go to Him directly in the privacy of your own soul and ask, “God, is any of this correct? Is this really how You view things? Please help me understand what You want from me because I want to be in a good place with You.”

No human being assisted God in the creation of you. He made you all by Himself for the purpose of having a personal relationship with you. God is not some distant Deity who resides on some distant throne and doesn’t know or care that you’re alive. God is close. God is available. God is right there with you at all times. So when it comes to trying to understand what He wants and how He thinks, you’re not strung out on human interpreters. No human has more access to God than you do, so it’s time to reject this notion that you’re someone God never pays attention to and start interacting with Him. Ask Him to help you understand if anything we’re going to tell you is correct or not, and expect Him to answer you because God is leading you in life.

SOUL VS. EARTHSUIT

Alright, now let’s get into it. As a human, you have two main components to yourself. Your soul is the real you, but while you’re on this earth, your soul is cruising around in a highly complex machine which we call your earthsuit. Your physical brain is the computer that runs your earthsuit, much like the engine of a car. Your earthsuit is a very intelligent machine which has its own will and priorities. Those priorities are feeling good and being safe.

A good metaphor to use in understanding your own make up is that of a man driving a car. Your soul is the man, your earthsuit is the car. Clearly there are vast differences between a man and a car. Now let’s turn the car into a conscious, thinking machine and compare its thoughts to the man’s. The car craves gasoline. It can’t function without it. The man never craves gasoline. Instead, he craves human food. If you stuff a hamburger into the car’s gas tank, will the car get any use out of it? No, in fact it will cause a lot of problems. You see, what’s good for the man isn’t good for the car, and vice versa.

It’s the same with your soul and your earthsuit. Your earthsuit craves things like food and sex. Your soul doesn’t crave these things. Your soul doesn’t have a stomach or a sex drive, but it does have an intense need to worship. If your soul isn’t worshiping God, it will find someone or something else to worship, but not worshiping isn’t an option. Worship to your soul is like eating is to your earthsuit: it’s a built in need.

Both your soul and your earthsuit have needs and desires. What’s the difference? Well, a need is essential for survival. Your earthsuit must have food and water to function. Your soul must worship. A desire is something you want, but it isn’t absolutely critical. Sometimes desires can become so intense that they feel like needs. Your earthsuit’s desire for sex and physical touch are good examples of super intense needs. What about your soul? Does it have any needs that are as intense as your earthsuit’s desire for sex and touch? Yes, it has many. Your soul intensely desires the approval of other humans and it often confuses this desire with a need because it is so strong. This desire is common to all human souls, which is why you’ll see people putting themselves through all kinds of misery and sacrifice just to have a bunch of twits give them social acceptance and verbal affirmation. Our souls feel an intense desire to belong, and we will go to great lengths to satisfy that desire, just as our earthsuits will gamble with diseases and danger just to get some sexual gratification.

Okay, so now we understand that both your soul and your earthsuit have a whole set of needs and desires. Because your soul is trapped inside your earthsuit and it feels dependent on it to function in this world, keeping your earthsuit happy is an important priority to your soul. After all, do you feel safe driving down the road in a car that is jerking and lurching and not responding to your commands? Not hardly. You don’t want to enter a heavy traffic zone unless your car is running smoothly. In the same way, your soul feels that its own well-being is extremely threatened by earthsuit malfunctions. When your earthsuit isn’t happy, your soul feels stressed, and vice versa.

Now since your soul and your earthsuit are so affected by each other, you’d think they’d be motivated to cooperate with one another. Well, they do cooperate—but they also fight a lot. Remember how each component has its own set of needs and desires? It’s the differences between those sets that cause problems. Take the Catholic priest whose soul cares deeply about pleasing God. When he does wrong, he believes that God won’t forgive him until he proves how repentant he is by physically injuring himself. This is called self-mortification, and it’s a practice which certain Christian denominations promote. Well, the priest’s earthsuit doesn’t care one wit about pleasing God and it detests being in pain. So when the priest goes into his self-injury ritual, his earthsuit is screaming in protest but his soul is demanding that the earthsuit submit to its agenda. This is an example of a soul imposing its will on its earthsuit in order to get its own unique needs met.

Of course the reverse happens all the time as well. A Christian man is surfing the internet when a porn video pops up in his face and starts auto playing. His earthsuit instantly feels aroused. Because his earthsuit intensely craves sex, his earthsuit wants to watch the video. The man’s soul doesn’t need or care about sex. Instead, it wants to please God, and it knows that God says watching porn is wrong. So the man’s soul wants to get away from the video. But to physically turn off the window requires an earthsuit action, and in that moment, the earthsuit digs in its heels and demands to have its own way. The man then finds himself with his eyes glued to the screen, his body tingling with great feelings of arousal while at the same time his soul feels intensely guilty. This is an example of an earthsuit imposing its will on the soul in order to get its own unique needs met. See how it works?

Both your soul and your earthsuit are self-serving and stubborn. They both want their own way all of the time. They’re like two men whose wrists have been handcuffed together. One man really wants to go left, the other wants to go right. The result is constant fighting and pulling and complaining as each man uses various manipulative tactics to try and get the other to do what he wants. Maybe one man sits down in the dirt and refuses to move until he can have things his way for a while. The other man gets so fed up being stuck in one spot that he gives in to the pouter. Your earthsuit and your soul both have ways of throwing tantrums like this in order to con the other into giving in. For example, your earthsuit only wants to function for so long until it wants to shut down into a sleep mode where it can do some self-maintenance. Meanwhile, your soul wants to put more of an effort into meditating on God. So you go into your room and lie down on your bed to do some focused praying, and the next thing you know, you’ve dozed off. Your earthsuit doesn’t care about talking to God. It sees a great opportunity to go into sleep mode, so when you lie down, your brain starts shutting down the machine. Your thoughts start getting sluggish and unfocused, your eyelids grow heavy, your muscles relax, and you’re out. You wake up an hour later and your earthsuit is happy but your soul is irritated that its efforts to spend time dwelling on God were sabotaged.

Your life on earth is a continuous warring of wills between your soul and your earthsuit. Each component wants to have its own way all of the time, and each does its share of winning and losing. And while all of this might have sounded a bit off topic, you can’t gain a proper understanding of sin and salvation until you understand your own composition. You need to realize that your soul and your earthsuit are two separate entities and that the real you is your soul, while your earthsuit is just a vehicle your soul is using to get around in on this earth. You also need to realize that your soul and your earthsuit each have a set of needs and desires which they are very invested in satisfying. It’s only after you understand all of this that we can explain to you how God defines sin.

TWO DEFINITIONS OF SIN

God uses two different definitions of sin in the Bible. When you don’t realize He’s doing this, you end up seriously confused. Let’s now talk about what God’s two definitions of sin are and how they differ.

EARTHSUIT SINS

Remember how your earthsuit has a long list of needs and desires? You didn’t choose these things, they were programmed into your suit by God. It’s rather like someone surprising you with a car. They hand you the keys and you look over at a machine which they picked out for you. They chose the color, the size, the style, the fabric of the seats, the accessories, the horsepower. You didn’t get a say in any of these things. All you get are the keys that enable you to run the machine, but the kind of machine you’re going to be running was chosen by someone else. It’s the same when God popped your soul into your earthsuit. Your soul didn’t get to choose anything about your suit. The color of your skin, the shape of your nose, what foods you like, what colors you like, how coordinated you are, what skills you’re good at, how intelligent you are—these things were all chosen for you by God. Many earthsuit features you were born with, others you acquired over time. Some of your preferences are locked in and can’t be changed. Others fluctuate.

Now let’s take a list of every preference and desire that your earthsuit has and show it to God. He is going to go through that list with a red pen and circle certain items on it. Everything He circles is a sin—a desire or preference which He says is morally wrong. For example, what turns you on sexually? If you’re a man, God says that there is only one sexual preference which is morally acceptable: a woman. If you’re a man with an earthsuit that is sexually attracted to women, then according to God, you’re attracted to the “right” target. But if instead your earthsuit is turned on by other men or by kids or by animals or by torture, then God gets out the red pen and says “these desires are sinful.” Well, now what? You can’t just change the wiring of your earthsuit, even if you wanted to, because you simply don’t have access to that control panel. And let’s remember who wired you this way in the first place. God did. You’re not gay by accident, you’re gay because God has either programmed your suit with homosexual desires from birth, or He’s programmed it to respond to certain life experiences and stresses by acquiring homosexual desires.

A lot of things can affect what turns you on sexually—especially things that happen to you at a young age. Someone molests you as a kid and you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by pedophiliac desires as an adult. This is extremely upsetting, yet it is also a common earthsuit reaction to being sexually violated when you’re young. Or maybe you find yourself unable to get sexually aroused unless there is an environment in which one human is degrading another. Did you choose this? No, it’s a pre-programmed response which likely surfaced as a result of you experiencing certain traumas. The point is this: you’ve got certain preferences and responses and cravings wired into your suit that God is marking off as sins on that long list of His. Why does this feel so defeating? Because when God says, “This is a sin,” that’s not all you hear. You read a bunch of extra stuff into that statement—things that make you feel despaired about ever pleasing God. For example, God says, “Homosexual desires are a sin,” and you hear, “Homosexuals disgust Me.” That isn’t what He said. He said the desire itself was wrong. He didn’t say you were some piece of filth to have those desires. God says “I hate sin,” but you hear Him say, “I hate sinners.” There’s a huge difference between these two ideas, and it’s the difference between hope and despair. If you’re going to have any hope with God, you need to stop misunderstanding Him, but you can’t do that until you get this confusing topic of sin clarified in your mind. So let’s keep going.

Right now God is skimming down a list of your earthsuit’s preferences, needs, and desires and He’s marking off certain things as sins. Not everything your earthsuit wants is labeled as sinful. God doesn’t consider your earthsuit’s need for sleep and food to be sinful. He doesn’t have a problem with the fact that you like the color blue, and He doesn’t consider any of your physical features to be sins. This business about God cursing people or hating people simply because of the color of their skin is idiotic. Maybe you were born with missing parts or too many parts. Maybe you were born a hermaphrodite. Is this a moral issue to God? Not at all. Here’s a critical point to grasp: God’s definition of sin revolves around the concept of internal desires & motivations. It’s not just what you do, it’s why you’re doing it. To understand how this works, let’s now hand God a second list.

The first list that God marked up was a list of your earthsuit’s basic desires. We’re now going to hand Him a list of all of the physical actions that your earthsuit is capable of. For example, picking up a gun and shooting someone—that is a physical action that your earthsuit can do. Is God going to circle that as a sin? It’s obviously an act of murder, and doesn’t God consider all forms of murder to be sin? It depends. There are times when God says it is morally correct to kill someone. A gunman is standing in a shopping mall shooting people down. A police officer pulls out his own gun and kills the gunman before the gunman can kill anyone else. Was this a sin in God’s eyes? No, it was a morally correct action. God has always taught that there are times when the execution of humans by other humans is correct. In the Old Covenant, we find Yahweh describing when the killing of another person would result in moral guiltiness and when it wouldn’t. Intention was the key in determining whether someone had committed a sin or not.

There are certain earthsuit actions that we automatically label as sins. For example, when is it ever okay to intentionally wound someone else? Surely God would never smile on one fellow belting another, would He? It depends on intention. In the Bible, we find many shocking stories of God specifically instructing people to do things which He Himself has labeled as sinful. We find a wild example of this in 1 Kings 20 when Yahweh instructs one prophet to give a second prophet a bleeding wound that will help the second prophet put on a convincing charade as a soldier in trouble (see Know Your Bible Lesson 15). Then there’s the time when God told Peter to eat unclean foods, and when He ordered the prophet Ezekiel to cook food over a fire that was fueled by human poop. Physically interacting with any kind of poop was a sinful action according to Yahweh’s Old Covenant Law, but because God defines sin by intention, even sinful actions can become acts of obedience when we are doing them in response to God’s convictions (see Present Convictions vs. Past Commands). Does this sound confusing? Well, think of it like this: God is the Law Maker, and as such, He can make exceptions to His own rules whenever He wants to. God answers to no one—He is the Supreme Authority. So if He says that in general it’s a sin to strut around naked in public with your genitals in plain view, then you need to keep your clothes on. But if God then comes to you personally and tells you to walk around in the nude—which He did with the prophet Isaiah—then suddenly it becomes a sin for you to keep your clothes on, because now you’re disobeying a direct order from God. See how it works?

Sin is a fluid issue. God lays down basic rules, but He also reserves the right to call on you to go against those rules at any time. His direct orders to you today trump everything else. When God tells you to do something, He wants you to obey. Maybe what He’s telling you to do is listed as a sin in the Bible. Maybe what He’s telling you to do goes against what He’s telling a bunch of other people to do. Maybe your pastor says what you’re doing is wrong. Well, God is the Supreme Authority, and He is the only One you will be judged by in eternity. So you need to do what He says simply because He is the One that is saying it. If other people have a problem with something God is telling you to do, they’ll just have to lump it. Other people aren’t your judges in life.

Okay, so let’s recap. Your earthsuit has a bunch of preferences and desires and God says a lot of them are sins. That’s very frustrating because you didn’t pick these things—God programmed them into you and now He’s calling them bad. We’ll get more into this later on. Your earthsuit is also capable of doing many physical actions and God says that a lot of those are sinful as well. For example, sex is both a desire and a physical action. God has a long list of sexual desires which He says are wrong. Suppose you’re a heterosexual man. Your basic wiring is not labeled as sinful by God because you desire women. But which women? Let’s say you’re married. God says your desire to have sex with your wife is good, but your desire to have sex with your neighbor’s wife is a sin. He says your desire to look at pictures of naked women online is also a sin. If you’re gay or you’re a pedophile, you need to be paying attention here because we’re making a very important point: just being straight doesn’t make anyone morally pure in God’s eyes, just as being gay or being a pedophile doesn’t make you some piece of filth. So the next time you see some Christian holding up a “God hates fags” sign, realize that such a person is delusional. God does not define anyone by their sexual preferences. He doesn’t think a man is fabulous simply for being straight and He doesn’t think some other guy is scum for being aroused by kids or his own gender or some other target which God calls sinful.

Now the topic of sin is extremely vast. We could go on and on about all of the earthsuit desires and actions which God calls sinful. Sexual sins are just one drop in the ocean of possible sins, but we’re focusing a lot on sexual sins because they tend to be a source of epic guilt and shame for souls who sincerely want to get right with God. It’s the stuff that’s wired into you that you didn’t choose and can’t change that really drags you down into despair when God gets out that red pen and starts calling your natural urges sinful. And in the Bible, God gets pretty strong in stating His feelings about sin—using words like loathsome and abomination. Yikes. How can you ever hope to get in a good place with a God who thinks you’re chock-full of sinful desires? This is how God views you, by the way. It’s how He views every human. We are all brimming with sinful desires, sinful thoughts, and sinful intentions. Every day we act on some of those sinful intentions, and that results in sinful actions. And with God hardwiring sinful desires into us, is there any hope of us not being sinful? Nope. The next time you hear a Christian boasting about being sinless for some period of time, realize that you are talking to someone who is very deluded on the subject of sin. God has intentionally boxed you in on the sin issue. It is totally impossible for you to not sin. Not only will you sin, you will sin a lot. Is this depressing? Right now it is, because we haven’t gotten to the good part yet. But hang on, because we are getting there, but first we need to talk about God’s second definition of sin.

SPIRITUAL SINS

Since your soul is not a physical being, it can’t do physical actions like your earthsuit can. But your soul does have desires and it is has the ability to think for itself and make choices. So when we get into the category of spiritual sins, we’re talking about soul desires and choices.

Now just as your earthsuit comes hardwired with desires which God says are sinful, your soul does as well. For example, your soul is enormously prideful. It resents the idea of having to submit to God. It wants to be the one in charge. You didn’t choose to be like this, God made you like this, and then He turned around and called it a sin. So pride is a sin, and yet all humans are prideful, so once again we find ourselves feeling hopelessly defeated.

Now in the New Testament epistles, you’re going to find a lot of bad teaching about spiritual sins. Like most Christians today, the New Testament writers were quite confused on the subject of sin. For example, James talks very harshly towards those with weak faith. James says:

Now if anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask Yahweh, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways. (Jam. 1:5-8)

According to James, God has a very negative view of doubters, and if He senses doubt in you, He ignores you and refuses to help you. This is a gross misrepresentation of God that has caused all kinds of needless angst. The reality is that God has intentionally made this faith business a very challenging thing. It is very hard to trust God in the face of threatening circumstances, and by the time we add up all the things that distress your soul and combine that with a list of all the things that distress your earthsuit, we realize that human beings are very fragile, fearful creatures who are very easy to upset.

You trip on the sidewalk and feel something crack in your leg. What’s your first thought? “It’s all going to be alright”? No, you panic about how extensive your injuries are. A major earthquake hits and you find yourself buried under a pile of rubble. Do you think, “It’s all good—I’m with Jesus”? No, you panic and start believing every worst case scenario that demons throw at you. Trust is extremely difficult for humans. Throw in a few difficult truths about God—such as His refusal to communicate in an audible Voice and the fact that He’s the One who stuck us in the crisis in the first place—and we frequently find ourselves feeling like “don’t doubt” is an impossible command. And indeed it is—it’s just as impossible as the command to “not sin.” You’re going to sin and you’re going to doubt. This is a reality of being human. Perfect, unwavering faith is simply not an option on the menu, and if you think you have such faith, you’re just being blinded by arrogance, which by the way, is another sin.

Okay, so where are we now? As humans, we’ve got two components to us: our souls and our earthsuits. According to God, both of these things are entrenched in sinful desires and are frequently making sinful choices. The bottom line is that we’re sinners through and through. For all the sins we actually have the option not to engage in—like stealing another man’s wallet—there are plenty of other sins that are wired into us—like envying the success of our coworker or hating the person who hurt us. So here we are: stuck in the deep muck of depravity and feeling more than a little shafted by a God who claims to love us. If He loves us so much, why did He set us up to fail like this? If He thinks sin is so loathsome, why does He force us to engage in it by weaving it through the very fiber of our beings? We can’t just turn off the pride of our soul or the lusts of our earthsuit. So what does God expect from us?

THE GOOD NEWS

At last, we come to the good news: pleasing God has nothing to do with being sinless. Big sigh of relief there. If God was only pleased by sinless creatures, then we’d all be doomed. But the reality is that all of these desires welling up within us that God has taught us to view as bad are simply not an issue to Him. What He wants from us is submission, and that is a choice of the soul. It is solely in response to our submission to Him that God grants us salvation. Salvation has nothing to do with good works. It is entirely a matter of submission. But wait—what happened to faith? What about that common Christian jingle of “salvation comes through faith, not works”? Well, that jingle is a bit misleading.

Faith is when your soul chooses to believe in something that your earthsuit can’t confirm the reality of. Your earthsuit uses its senses to determine what is real and what isn’t. But you can’t see, hear, touch, or smell a God who is refusing to interact with you in a physical form. This means that to get anywhere with God, you have to switch to a totally different way of relating: that of faith. Ever heard it said that without faith, it is impossible to please God? This is quite true. You can’t confirm God’s reality through your physical senses. If you insist on only using those senses, you’ll end up denying the reality of God, as many do. Even though there is tangible proof of His existence all around us in the form of the things He has created, humans are famous for discounting all of this and saying that until God speaks to them personally in some sensual way, they will refuse to acknowledge that He exists. This is a refusal to apply faith in one’s relationship with God. What makes this such a defiant act is that while we’re refusing to relate to God on the basis of faith, we’re exercising our faith in plenty of other areas of life.

You use faith every day in many different ways. When your husband is out of sight, you can’t visually confirm that he isn’t cheating on you. Instead, you’re choosing to have faith in his good character—you’re choosing to believe in the reality of something that you can’t sensually confirm. When you hear gossip about your husband flirting with his secretary at the office, you once again choose to exercise faith that in your absence, your husband is remaining faithful to you. It’s because we’re constantly applying faith in our human relationships that God finds it unacceptable that we refuse to apply our faith in our relationships with Him. And yet merely believing in the reality of God and even correctly identifying who God is won’t get anyone saved, because salvation is a matter of submission, not faith.

Let’s say to an American: “Your country has a president. Do you acknowledge this?” The American says, “Sure, why wouldn’t I?” Then we give the name of the current president and we say, “Do you acknowledge that the person we’ve named is the current president?” The American says, “Sure.” What have we proved by having this exchange? We’ve demonstrated that our American is in touch with some very obvious realities. What haven’t we proved? Well, we don’t know anything about how our American personally feels towards the current American president. Maybe he hates the president. Maybe he thinks the president is an idiot. Maybe he wishes the president would be impeached. Maybe he thinks the president is fabulous. The point is this: merely acknowledging the existence of a leader is not the same as submitting to them.

In the world today, there are plenty of people who acknowledge the existence of God. There are plenty of people calling themselves Christians who would agree that the Names of the real Gods are Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. But so what? This isn’t submission. To simply say, “Jesus is God,” does nothing to get you into a right relationship with your three Creators. Salvation is a matter of submission. The submission that results in salvation is a soul attitude which says, “I accept that Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are the only real Gods and that They are the Supreme Authorities over all things and over me personally. I accept Their judgment of me as a sinner who has utterly failed to meet Their definition of perfect righteousness. I accept that They say the just punishment for sin is eternal damnation. But I also accept that They are extremely gracious Beings who delight in being merciful, which is why They are offering to permanently accept me as Their child if I sufficiently submit to Them. I accept that free gift of grace because I sincerely want to be pleasing in Their sight.”

So if a soul attitude like this is all that is required for salvation, why do so many souls end up in Hell? What is so repulsive about submitting to the Authority of Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? Well, it’s that sin thing. First our Creators intentionally design us to be these depraved wretches, then They turn around and blame us for it. That kind of hypocrisy irks us to no end and we just can’t stand submitting to Gods who would act so unfair. After all, why should we be blamed for how we are? Where does the Holy Spirit get off telling us that it’s wrong to be bi or hateful or promiscuous when He’s the One who gave us these desires in the first place? If we’re honest, we really resent this whole set up. And yet we need to resent it. It is vital that we adamantly disagree with our Creators in some fundamental way if we’re ever going to end up on the right side of Them. Let’s now learn why.

THE MECHANICS OF SUBMISSION

From God’s perspective, He made you to live forever, and there are infinite options for how your future can play out. His point in starting your life on this earth hampered by your earthsuit is to give you some say in setting the tone for your future dynamic with Him. You see, you were designed to revolve around God, and you will revolve around Him regardless of where you end up in eternity. You are utterly dependent on Him, and you can’t do anything apart from Him, so you’ll never see the day that you are disconnected from Him. The popular notion that Hell is a place that is devoid of God’s Presence is utterly incorrect and invented by the same people who refuse to acknowledge that God is sovereign. God created Hell, and He micromanages what goes on in it just as He does with Heaven and this world. So you’ll never be separated from God—it’s only a question of what God’s attitude towards you will be. He’ll either be hostile or gracious, and either choice can be expressed in a wide range of intensities.

God says that He’ll make His decision about how to treat you for the rest of eternity based on how you respond to Him in this life. This is what makes your soul choices on earth so important—because God has decided to essentially overreact to them. From where you’re sitting it’s an absurd overreaction for God to cast you into eternal anguish over a few decades’ worth of attitude. Well, tough, you’re not in charge. God is in charge, and He is going to be making all kinds of calls that you don’t like. This is how it is when you’re some dot of a creature interfacing with God Almighty: you don’t see the big picture, you can’t keep up with His mind, and you don’t understand His perspective, so much of what He does is going to hit you as nonsensical and wrong. God isn’t going to downsize Himself to make you comfortable and He isn’t going to raise you up to His level, so the only way this relationship is going to work is if you decide to enthusiastically embrace your place as the powerless speck who is utterly trumped by an infinitely superior God. Here’s where submission comes in. Submission is when you disagree with what God is doing, but you yield to His Authority because you accept that He infinitely outranks you and you’re afraid of ending up on His scary side. The kind of fear that motivates us to submit to God is called reverence (see Why We Must Fear God). Reverence is another critical soul attitude, and reverence is the thing that helps you swallow your pride and bow down to God’s Authority for the first time.

When you first come to God, you don’t know Him. He’s a total Stranger to you, and He’s making judgments about you that you think are totally unfair and ridiculously extreme. So why on earth would you choose to submit to the Authority of a totally unknown Deity who says a bunch of stuff your pride finds insulting? There’s only one reason: because you’re freaked out by His power. Reverence is that feeling you get when some mugger holds a loaded gun to your head and says, “Hand me your wallet.” You do it because you recognize that the mugger is in the power position. He’s got a device that can blow your brains out. You’ve got nothing that can defend against that. In the same way, God initially says to you, “Submit to My Authority or I’ll chuck you into Hell. And by the way, I created you, I own you, and I can do anything that I want to you. Mess with Me, and I will mess you up worse than your tiny mind can possibly imagine.” Now if you find that summary offensive, it’s probably because you’ve never been properly taught about the reality of God’s wrath.

What passes for the Gospel message in the Church today is some ego stroking guff about Jesus dying for you on a cross because He love, love, loves you and just can’t stand the thought of being without you. Often Hell isn’t even mentioned. And once you’re told that you were created by some co-dependent Pushover who weeps at the thought of spending eternity without you, are you going to ask for salvation? Of course, and you’ll have no troubles believing you’ve got it, because after all, God can’t live without you. Well, there’s a major problem with this set up, because salvation is acquired through submission and when you think you’re doing Jesus some kind of favor by accepting Him into your life, you’re not submitting to Him one iota, and He’s not accepting you. The bottom line is this: if nothing about God seriously disturbs you, then you’re in a serious crisis. Salvation is obtained through submission and submission is only possible when there is a clash of wills. As long as you think everything about God is fabulous and you approve of everything He does, you have never submitted to Him, therefore you are on your way to Hell.

There is no salvation without submission, and there’s no submission without a clash of wills. This is why God created you to be such a depraved little thing who wants to sin on every level. It’s not because He wants you to feel like some sucking failure in His eyes. It’s because He wants you to have the opportunity to give Him deep, wholehearted submission.

Let’s consider the difference between the phrases, “Let me have your food” and “Let me amputate your leg.” The friend who wants to swap lunch plates with you is asking you to submit to being temporarily inconvenienced. The doctor who wants to cut your leg off is asking you to submit to something which will radically change your quality of life. Not all submission is the same, and how much submission is even possible in a given situation depends on various factors which are not in your control. Giving up your lunch plate will never be the kind of sacrifice that giving up your leg would be. Every sacrifice comes with limitations.

If God had made you some selfless being who didn’t care at all about having your own way, then there would be no basis on which you could ever practice submission to Him. Your relationship with Him would be like that of a rock: you’d simply be a creature who He acted upon instead of one who actively engaged with Him in some rich, meaningful way. If God made you only mildly interested in having your own way, then His orders to you would never be more than a mild inconvenience, and you’d never experience the depth of communion that He wants with you. It is because God wants such a rich, complex, and deep dynamic with you that He designed you to be utterly consumed with having your own way. Only then are you even given the chance at choosing gut-wrenching submission to Him. It’s when you hate what God is asking of you and when His judgments resonate as so utterly unfair down to the very core of your being that your choosing to submit to Him becomes so very meaningful and His delight with you becomes so intense. God is thrilled by our submission to Him, and He takes great joy in pouring abundant rewards down on our heads. But He will not make His rewards meaningless by casting them on everyone who moves. He attaches a price to His grace, and that price is submission.

UNDERSTANDING SALVATION

So what exactly is salvation? In Sunday School we talk about Jesus atoning for our sins, but once again this is a misleading description. When we think of atonement, we think of something being taken away, erased, forgotten. But God does not give Himself a memory wipe of all of our past sins the moment He accepts us, nor does He then pretend not to notice when we sin from that point on. Remember those lists of desires that God was circling with His red pen to indicate which ones were sins and which were not? Well, salvation is like God taking a list of the names of all of the humans on the planet and circling the ones who He has decided to eternally accept.

Salvation is when God decides to be forever gracious towards you as a reward for your submission. You’re not the one who is changed at the moment of salvation—God is essentially changing His mental label of you from “unaccepted” to “accepted” (see What happens to the soul at the moment of salvation?).  At the moment of salvation, God is still a virtual Stranger to you. You don’t begin to understand the implications of the reward He just bestowed on you by deciding to eternally accept you and to allow you into His Heaven when you die.

While we’re quick to grasp how unfair Hell seems, we rarely think about how absurd it is for God to throw open the gates of Heaven towards any soul who submits to His Authority and aligns with certain essential truths. And yet this is how extreme our Creators are: Their wrath is mind-blowing, but so is Their grace. Withhold submission from Them, and you’ll end up in a horrible place. But choose to submit to Them, and They’ll respond with such incredible generosity. When it comes to relating to our Makers, the entire relationship revolves around submission. The deeper our submission to Them is, the more enthusiastic They will be towards us and the closer They will draw us to Themselves.

Submission doesn’t stop with salvation—we are presented with new opportunities to submit our entire earthly lives and the abundance of these opportunities is made possible by the fact that we were designed to be so utterly selfish and depraved. So you see, from Their perspective, being sinful is not some horrible thing. Instead, it is a glorious opportunity for submission, and submission is the price our Gods put on the greatest reward of all: intimate communion with Them. It is by wrestling with these sinful lusts and grappling with our pride and crying out for God to have His way with us in our souls that we end up in an awesome place. Take away sin, and you take away the opportunity to acquire the only things that are worth having: the approval of our Gods and an invitation to commune with Them in some rich way.

CONCLUSION

No one ends up in Hell because they were depraved by nature or because they acted on that depravity in shocking ways. Another glorious effect of God creating us all to be so intrinsically depraved is that it totally evens the playing field. The molester, the murderer, the abuser, and the pervert have just as much of a chance to succeed with God as everyone else. Your disgusting lusts, your obnoxious pride, your judgmental attitude—none of these things make you undesirable to God. He created sinners because He wanted sinners, and it is sinners who He loves. He reaches out to us all with great enthusiasm and desire, totally undaunted by the horror of the desires that He Himself wove into us. It is not perfection that He demands from us, but a soul attitude of submission. It’s when we are willing to yield to God’s Authority in the midst of all our wretchedness that He sweeps us up into His arms with great delight. When we give up on the dream of dominating Him and instead embrace our absolute dependency on Him and ask Him to have His way with us, then we find ourselves forever accepted by a Love that never lets go.

The longer we walk with God, and the more we realize how the entire relationship revolves around  submission, the more we realize what a great gift it is that He created us to have wills of our own and desires that are intensely opposed to His. Rather than act as some insurmountable obstacle between us and God, sin is the critical element which makes submission possible, and submission then seals us forever in the security of God’s embrace. So if you are currently in despair over how sinful you are, ask God to help you see what a great opportunity He has set before you, and ask Him to help you permanently surrender yourself into His hands. Do not keep viewing your depravity as the death of all hope, but as a gift from a God who wanted to set no limits on how much you could succeed with Him.

FURTHER READING:
Understanding Divine Judgment: Illumination, Empowerment & A God Who Delights In Mercy
Accepting the Mercy of God
Emotionless Submission: Why You Don’t Need Tears to Get Saved
Submission vs. Alignment Q&A
Overcoming Shame

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