But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
C.S. Lewis famously said: “The highest doesn’t stand without the lowest.” This makes sense. Case in point, what makes the height of Mt. Everest so spectacular is the depths of the Grand Canyon. What makes the height of the Freedom Tower possible is the depth of its foundation.
This is true, especially true of the gospel. The height of the good news of the gospel does not stand without the depths of the bad news. R.C. Sproul notes: “The gospel is only good news when we understand the bad news.” If someone says to you— “I have bad news and good news”—if you are like me you may prefer the bad first (to get that out of the way) then the good. As a child I would prefer first my bland vegetables so I could in turn enjoy my dessert.
This is true of the gospel. Tim Keller says that: “In the gospel, we discover we are far worse off than we thought, and far more loved than we ever dreamed.” In other words, the good news is the love of God, that we are loved beyond our wildest dreams, that we are accepted beyond what we can ever imagine, that we are embraced with breathtaking love! This is the height of the gospel that takes our breath away!
However, many take this for granted. Many in the churches across America today assume they are loved by God. God’s love is too domesticated, too tame, and too familiar. Such an understanding of God’s love is far from breathtaking, it’s more stale, arid, and old. Such a heart has never experienced the true love of God.
Ironically, what makes the height of God’s love so breathtaking to a true believer is coming to an understanding of the depths of our sinful nature, a biblical understanding that we (apart from Christ) are far worse off than we thought. Unconverted man hates this notion. Because of this he creates man made religions. Examples are legalism and humanism. The man- made religion of legalism tells us that the glass of our human goodness is half- empty. We are good, but not good enough. So, because of this, we must keep striving to increase our half-empty glass to being two-thirds empty or three-fourths empty with emphasis on the empty, the not quite good enough. The religion of legalism is fatally pessimistic. The other extreme is the man-made religion of humanism. It tells us that the glass of our human goodness is half-full. We are good, and getting better. We must strive to increase our half-full glass to being two-thirds full or three-fourths full with emphasis on our fullness; we are good and getting better all the time. The religion of humanism is fatally optimistic.
However, the gospel of God concerning Christ (the only God-made religion) is neither pessimistic, nor superficially optimistic. It’s realistic. Scripture tells us that the glass of our human nature is dirty with sin, that our dirty glass of sin nature contaminates the water of our so called good works. The bad news is not that our glass is full or empty, but dirty. It doesn’t matter how little or how much water we have. It is still dirty.
But the good news is this: if we would fall on the mercy God and trust and repent of our sins and stop looking to our accomplishments (whether half-full or half-empty) and look to what Christ has accomplished on the cross, then God will do what is impossible for us to do; God (as Paul says to Titus) will wash us, and renews us, and pour out on and in us His Holy Spirit. In short, He will pour out our good works, wash the glass of our hearts, and renew us by pouring his presence and power within us, replacing the foul water of our righteousness with the pure water of the righteousness of Christ. Beloved, this is the breathtaking height of the gospel!! This is the Easter message of Resurrection Sunday. As Christians may we soak this in! Though we are far worse off than we dare to think, remember that we are far more loved than we dare to dream.