Man is a slave to sin, and all his efforts to free himself from it are useless and futile. Human nature has become so weakened by his service to sin that he has no power and strength to resist the ever-repeated onslaughts and temptations. Sin is like a stain on the soul, from which no man can cleanse himself, though he wash himself with lye and take much soap to it (Jeremiah 2:22). Sin, from the earthly, human point of view, is an incurable disease of the soul. Sin brings man into a raging torrent, whose wild-foaming floods will soon drag him down into the endless depths. All his own efforts to extricate himself are in vain. In the despair of his soul, man then cries out for freedom from the chains and bonds of sin, for a power that will break the fetters. The tormented soul asks if there is no more balm in Gilead, if there is no more physician (Jeremiah 8:22), no way to drain the flood surrounding it.
Must man be subjected to sin as something inevitable? Must he always remain in the cruel clutches of this monster? When he peers into himself in this way, everything is dark and hopeless. Turning over a new leaf will not erase the sins that filled the last pages of his past.
But we contrast the great power and reality of sin and the hopelessness and weakness of man with the power and strength of God and the riches of His divine grace. Paul tells us clearly, “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). The angel told Joseph that the infant should be called “Jesus,” “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Until the time when the cross was raised on Golgotha, sin reigned. But since that day, which is so significant for us, grace reigns, “so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 5:21 and 6:1) Free grace is now available for every sinner. He can choose for himself whether he wants to remain in sin or enter the realm of divine grace.
Through Golgotha, God has created a salvation, as He once did through the brazen serpent in the desert. It depends on man whether he wants to look on it and obtain perfect salvation. The truth will make him free. Yes, the Son of God, who is Himself the Truth come into the flesh, will completely redeem him. All I have to do is to rely completely on Him and His grace and mercy. I cannot save myself, but He is powerful to save me. I cannot wash myself, but He is able to cleanse me from my ugly stains. He says, “Come now, and let us reason together…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
We cannot accomplish the forgiveness of sins ourselves, because it is offered to us “without money and without price.” There is nothing we can do to earn it; nothing we can do can redeem us. And yet, do not tell the sinner that he has nothing at all to do to obtain salvation. The well of salvation is ready and open, but the sinner must come to Jesus, repent of his sin, confess it, and ask for forgiveness.
There is no way by which man can be saved except through the Lord Jesus Christ. One may well call oneself religious, give tithes and sacrifices, do good works, and make an open confession and say “Lord, Lord,” but all this will not save anyone. Christ said, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). You cannot go around Christ and come to God. In Christ alone the question is answered, “What must I do to be saved?”
Salvation is more than reformation, confirmation, imagination, imitation, or education. It is a new creation in Christ, because it does not happen through what we do for ourselves but through what God does for us and in us. A new birth is required to be able to give us a new heart.
A man can no more make a Christian out of himself than a sculptor can make a real man out of a block of marble. He can no more change his heart and live a life pleasing to God than a leopard can clean his spots. But do not despair, there is One who can help and save – His name is Jesus.