I am reading “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. In this book, he answers the most common questions people have in regards to Christianity: “How could a good God allow suffering”, “How can a loving God send people to Hell”, “Hasn’t science disproved Christianity”, etc. I had many questions like this myself before becoming a Christian. I couldn’t understand why people kept telling me about Jesus and His death on the cross, I remember thinking it had nothing to do with me because it happened so long ago! I also remember feeling so offended hearing people talk about “sin” or “being a sinner”. I was a good person, with a kind heart, how dare you say that about me!
In this book, Tim Keller says that “most people think of sin primarily as 'breaking divine rules’”. He says “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity apart from him . . . It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God.” (p.162)
Sin is not just “doing bad things”. It is finding your significance and identity in anything apart from God. If I find my significance (meaning) in being a good teacher, what happens when my kids don’t do well on the test? If my identity is found in being a good parent, what happens if one of my kids strays? If it’s in my successful career, what happens if I lose my job? If it’s being the funny one at the party, what happens if no one laughs at my jokes? If my identity is in my beauty, what happens when I age??? Yikes!
The reality is if we’re not finding our significance in Christ, we’re finding it in something else. Tim Keller calls these our “god-substitutes”. They can be your job, family, political affiliation, even your charity work. We’re all finding our significance and identity in something. He also says “A life not centered on God leads to emptiness.” (p.166)
You’ve heard it said there is a god-shaped hole inside all of us. St. Augustine said “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee!” (p.165) I think that’s why Jesus starts his Sermon on the Mount with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3) Until we come to the end of ourselves (poor in spirit), saying we want God and His way of life, we are just filling our life with “god-substitutes”. We are finding our significance in places that will never make us feel significant. We are seeking identity in places that will never show us our purpose.
I realize that Jesus has paid my debt and redeemed me. However, when I peel away what is on the surface, I realize that at times I am finding my significance in other things. I am not fully “resting” in who I am in Christ. If my identity and significance does come from my job, my ministry, my marriage, friendships, etc., what would happen if all of these things were stripped away? Is my identity solely found in God? Do I fully understand my significance in Christ?
In the book “Respectable Sins” Jerry Bridges reminds us not only to preach the gospel to others, but to also preach it to ourselves daily! The more and more I understand sin (Genesis 3), the more I understand and am thankful for John 3:16. I’m praying that I find my significance in Him, the only One who can satisfy!
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)