Quoting the psalmist, the apostle Paul wrote: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
The venom of sin—yes, of sin, that old-fashioned word we don’t like to use anymore—the venom of sin flows through the veins of each and every human being. And it is so seriously toxic that, without some kind of antidote, it will eventually destroy us. It will destroy us by separating us from God, who is the very Source of Life.
That is, more or less, our human condition as described in Scripture.
However, Scripture also tells us that this situation is—in the eyes of God—entirely unacceptable. For God, being separated from any one of us is … well … intolerable!
The idea of losing any one of us breaks God’s heart as surely as the loss of a child breaks the heart of any parent. That’s why God came to us—came looking for us—in the person of Jesus. He came to close the gap between humanity and divinity. He became one of us in order to reconcile us to himself. He came to be not simply a good example or the object of our veneration.
No. He came to be “the friend of sinners.”
He became a real human being so that he could bear real human sin and real human sorrow. He came to take upon himself the sins and sorrows of each and every one of us; and then leave all those sins and all those sorrows in the grave that he vacated on Easter morning.
Lifted up upon the cross, he became the antidote for our snakebite!
But why would he do this? One answer, of course, is to be found in that familiar verse we all know so well: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
John, chapter three, verse 16. Kind of explains it all!
Or does it? We all want to believe that God loves us; but , for some of us, that is not an easy thing to believe. Even if we don’t verbalize it, some of us feel we’ve fallen too far, done things that no one could forgive—not even God.
Others of us … Well, we’re skeptical. Even if we believe in God, we may find it hard to swallow the idea that he cares that deeply for individuals.
And it’s a good question: why would God care? Why would he bother with troublesome rabble like we appear to be?
Here’s another quotation from the apostle Paul; it’s from his Letter to the Ephesians (2:1-10)—and in the New Living Translation, it is rendered thus:
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.1
Wow. Heavy. Now pay close attention to what Paul says next:
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
“We are God’s masterpiece.” The King James Version has “We are his workmanship.” I’m told you could also translate it as: “We are God’s poetry.”
You are God’s poetry! If you want to know how you are regarded by the Maker of the universe, just consider that.
The Greek word for “workmanship” is poiēma (ποίημα), which gives us our English words poem and poetry.2 To God, each believer is like a poem—uniquely made, with a beauty and a complexity that may not be fully appreciated at first glance.
When we look at one another—or even at ourselves—we may not see any poetry. Perhaps all we see is torn and crumpled paper. Or a page that’s been badly stained or defaced. We might see only dull or incomprehensible script. But God sees the love poem he inscribed upon you, and upon me—and he recognizes the metre of his own verse.
That is why Jesus was willing to go even to the cross on our behalf—so that we could be raised with him, with verses that rhyme, to be sung in this world and in the next as ballads of love and compassion and humble service. Or, as the apostle said, “so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Christ Jesus does much more than simply preserve our mortal lives. He preserves us for eternal life, and presents us to this world as new compositions—heavenly love songs with grace-filled lyrics to soothe every wounded heart.
You are God’s poetry! You are God’s masterpiece! You mean everything to him.
You matter to God, my friends. Each one of you. And that’s yet one more reason why … the good news is good news.
1 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.