“So what do I have to do then?”
If you’ve ever shared the gospel with someone, you’ve probably heard this question in response. The idea behind it being, what must I bring to the table to get right with God?
Any time I’ve come to this point in a conversation, I know I’m either at a crossroads or a major roadblock. Even when we tell say there is nothing we can bring to the table, there is no way for us to clear the ledger, even the score, or whatever cliché you prefer, people disconnect. It bounces off of them. I know because it bounced off of me for a long time.
For years, I didn’t get the gospel message. Truth be told, I rarely heard it growing up. But I was pretty sure I had an idea of what Christians were all about: working hard at doing good deeds and spoiling fun for everyone else so they could get right with their God.
Then I became one and found out I was completely wrong. The block for me was a real understanding of my sin—I didn’t realize that sin has as much to do with who we are as what we do. I couldn’t see that it wasn’t actually possible for me to even things out on my own. (I also didn’t care, but that’s a whole different issue.) Fundamentally, I couldn’t grasp the concept that sin was what created a barrier between me and God.
Even as a Christian, it’s easy to forget this. It’s easy to start just encouraging people to live right, or make better choices. It’s easy to treat the problem as a knowledge issue. But it’s so much more than this. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
There is only one thing between us and God, and that is our sin. It is not our intellect that separates us from God. The barrier is sin, this barrier that has come in. That is the problem: God is there, and we are here. “Why do I not know him?” asks someone. Because of this barrier. The only way to have it removed is through the Lord Jesus Christ. He came in order to be my sin offering. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself . . . he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21). There it is—your sin has been laid upon him, it has been dealt with, it is cleared. Believe it, thank God for it, and you will know him as your Father. Christ “is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). “Do you need wisdom?” says Paul in essence to the cultured Greeks. “If you do, go to Christ. He is the wisdom of God; all the necessary truth is in him.” He is the truth.1
The barrier to our reconciliation with God is not simply a knowledge issue. It is our sin. It is this thing that is fundamentally who we are. And this is why the gospel is such good news for all of us. For in coming into this world, Jesus came to remove and destroy the barrier between me and God. He came to take our sin upon himself—to be sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He came so that we could put an end to our futile striving to earn what can only be given to us—and to help us see and believe the good news for what it is.