The Gospel & Life Hacks

In Faith & Belief
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I like life hacks — those lists of clever ways to get around life’s little annoyances. You see them in your news feed or in the nifty two-minute packages at the end of your favorite newscast.  

  • Twelve ways binder clips can help you get organized.  
  • Five things to remember in a job interview.  
  • Three ways to remove set-in stains.  

Those lists always leave me thinking, “Cool idea! Why didn’t I think of that?” Life hacks are helpful stuff.  

Sometimes I leave church feeling that way too — like I’ve just gotten some helpful tips for getting around life’s little inconveniences.  

  • Six steps to a more disciplined life. 
  • Three little words to make your marriage stronger. 
  • Five ways to share your faith.  

But hearing Barry Jones’s sermon yesterday, I was reminded of a deeper truth: Jesus didn’t come to give us a 12-step plan for self-improvement. He came to resurrect our cold, dead souls. He came to lift us out of the squalid, gory pit of hell. You see, life hacks are appealing to people who need rescue from crowded schedules or crowded freeways, not people who need rescue from death. Life hacks are little heroes for stories where the stakes are low. But the gospel is about a much bigger rescue with much higher stakes. Yesterday Barry reminded us that the gospel of Jesus is for beggars and losers and the criminally immoral.  

Barry noted that the three men responsible for writing more Christian scripture than anyone else were all accomplices to murder. Moses, David and Paul all had blood on their hands. And then he hooked us with the words from Jesus’ sermon on the mount: 

"Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery…" 
"Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell…" 

The truth is that all of us are as guilty as Moses, David and Paul. All of us have blood on our hands. Some of us have such tender hearts that we have embraced this truth since the moment we first read Jesus’ words. Some of us are so thick-headed we had to actually commit adultery or murder in the flesh to come to the same realization. But all of us are guilty. And when you’re guilty, you forget about self-improvement programs. When you’re hanging on by a thread, you’re not concerned with set-in stains. When you’re naked, poor, pitiful, blind and wretched, you don’t worry about saving face. Instead, you throw yourself on the mercies of your Judge and beg, like David did, snot-faced and sobbing, for life.  

Barry said, “Today at IBC, they have given the microphone to an adulterer and murderer. But I take comfort in the fact that I stand before a whole room of adulterers and murderers. This is why Jesus came.” 

Indeed, this is why Jesus came. To rescue adulterers and murderers. Jesus himself said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” And the great, cosmic joke is that there are none righteous. All are called because all are sinners. All need the gospel because all are terminally sick.  

I have also heard Barry say that the mark of a good sermon is that Jesus had to die for it to make sense. That was certainly the case yesterday. For Barry to preach that sermon, the Father had to lay on his blood-soaked son the vicious, whoring sins of us all. Yesterday wasn’t about tips and tricks, or "six steps to a better you." It was about rescue and repentance and courageous authenticity and a Judge who died so that a convict like me could go free.  

And that’s better than any life hack.  

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