As Christians, what we have learned and understand is that we are created in the image of God. That image, however, is fractured and distorted by sin. We can’t fix our image because we cannot change our sin nature unless God sovereignly intervenes and provides a way for us to change.
Sin is not a popular word in culture nor in many churches. We seem to live in an odd church environment, where the Bible appears to be out of step with the church. In reality, it is the church that is out of step with the Bible. I see this more and more every day as the popular church embraces a subjective, feelings-oriented gospel that is not concerned with actual doctrine, but experiencing the Bible and feeling good in light of diluted truth. Sin is defined and understood in relation to God and his moral law. Sin includes not only individual acts such as stealing, but also attitudes that are contrary to the righteous attitudes God requires. In the 10 Commandments, we can see that God considers a desire to steal as sinful in his sight. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also prohibits sinful attitudes such as anger or lust (Matthew 5:22, 28). Paul lists attitudes such as anger and selfishness (Galatians 5:20) as works of the flesh that are opposed to the desires of the Spirit. They are all considered to be sin.
Sin is serious! Sin is not some minor flaw or a sickness or a disorder. It’s a serious issue that means separation from God and eternal wrath. The human heart is bent toward sin and is not “good” as some teach, which is why Paul is so forceful in Ephesians 2:1 – 3:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
We are born predisposed to sin and we cannot trust our hearts to tell us otherwise (Jeremiah 17:9). My little granddaughter is almost 2 years old, and I have noticed there is a rebellious nature at work within her. Despite being an only child and having the positive godly influence of her mommy and daddy, no one had to teach her how to sin; it came naturally! The hard truth is, sin is not something we do, it is something we are.
I love that despite the bad news found in the above passage, Paul follows up with this:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5
Those two little words, “but God” brings such hope into hopelessness! God, who is rich in mercy, makes us alive in Himself! We cannot perform such a miracle! This is truly the wonder of salvation, that God would condescend to save a wretch like me. We deserved His wrath; but instead we receive mercy and grace that is new every moment. Any sense of self-esteem or self-worth we may want to claim for our own is caught up by who we are in Christ and by his unmerited favor and immeasurable grace. God saves us for his glory, not because we deserve it but because it pleased him to do so. Salvation, the cross, the gospel, is not just for receiving and then moving on to something better. It is applicable each and every moment of each and every day.
To have an adequate view of sin and self and to have the image restored we must strive after the character of Jesus Christ. God sent His Son out of mercy and love to redeem sinful man and progressively restore us to the image and likeness of His Son.