by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

January, 2009

Late last year, I had to put my car in the shop. Most of us have done this at one time or another but we usually have some idea what’s wrong with the car. In this case, I only knew that something was wrong. I couldn’t even figure out what the problem was. There were almost no symptoms other than a pesky light on the dash.

I should probably back up and explain a bit about my situation. In some Chevrolet automobiles—or at least in mine—there are two trouble lights on the dash. One is the standard “Check Engine” light, which is amber and shaped vaguely like an engine and indicates problems involving the overall running of the vehicle and the emissions system; the other is also amber, shaped like a wrench, and labeled “Service.” I checked the Owner’s Manual and found that the “Service” light “. . . will stay on or come on if it detects a problem on the vehicle.” How’s that for helpful? Apparently, it indicates problems other than those represented by the “Check Engine” light. Wonderful! But what was the specific problem? I had no idea. I took the car to a local shop where the mechanic said they would inspect the car and call when they knew what the problem was.

When the garage finally called, we were told the problem had been a headlight that was burned out. They replaced the headlight—a job I could’ve probably done myself for far less money if I’d known what was wrong—and I was back on the road.

Have you ever been in a situation like that? You knew something was wrong but you couldn’t figure out what it was? Perhaps your knee was hurting, your stomach was upset, or something just wasn’t right? I think it’s probably happened to all of us at one time or another. In my case, I’m surprised I didn’t notice the burned out headlight because I do a fair amount of driving at night.

Like my car, humanity has a problem. Something inside of us is broken and we can’t fix it. Something simply feels wrong. The problem is that our relationship with God is imperfect. The Biblical name for this problem is “sin.” In the Old Testament, this is attributed to Adam and the Fall (Gen. 3). In the New Testament, Paul expresses it more personally: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23 ESV).

For hundreds of years, humanity tried to mend its relationship with God. We knew something was wrong but most people didn’t even know what the problem was. God sent prophets, who tried to tell the people about their broken relationship with God and how to fix it (2 Kings 17:13; Jer. 7:25). But in most cases, the people simply refused to listen (2 Chr. 24:19; Jer. 25:4-5; Jer. 29:19; Jer. 35:15).

But sin is a far worse problem than most of them realized. The prophet Ezekiel proclaimed, “The soul who sins shall die.” (Eze. 18:20a ESV). And Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “For the wages of sin is death,” (Rom. 6:23a ESV). If that were all, there would be no hope; all would be despair. But Paul makes it clear that there is more: “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23b ESV).

People all around us are dying from sin. Some may know there’s a problem but don’t know what it is; others simply aren’t aware of the problem at all or are ignoring it. But sin cannot be ignored. Paul told the Ephesians, “. . . you were dead in . . . trespasses and sins . . .” (Eph. 2:1 ESV). Their sins are killing them, whether they are willing to acknowledge it or not. But there’s good news because “God, being rich in mercy, . . . made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4a, 5b ESV). There is a remedy for sin and we know who and what it is. We can tell everyone. We can share the good news of Christ’s salvation with others and help save them from sin.

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:22b-26 ESV.

Copyright © 2009 by David Phelps