I'm ungodly. Before you start gloating over that statement, let me assure you, so are you. Ah, now I have your attention if not your ire.
Let me explain my statement in terms we can all agree upon. God is perfect. You and I are not. Therefore, we are in our basic nature unlike God; we are ungodly.
Since we are so unlike God (ungodly), there is no way we could in our imperfection stand before the perfect God. This is what the Bible means when it talks about sin. When we talk about sin we often think of it in the vilest of terms.
Jared Loughner, the man who killed six and wounded 13 in an Arizona shooting spree, we see as a sinner, but we see ourselves as merely flawed, good people who sometimes don't do good. So when we are told that the Bible tells us everyone is a sinner (check it out in Romans 3:23) we bristle.
We think of sin as a verb, something we do. Think rather of it as a noun, something we are. The biblical word for sin means literally "failure to hit the mark." The truth of the matter is, we don't have to do anything to sin; the fact that we are ungodly, that we are flawed and imperfect is why we miss God's standard of perfection.
Most who reject the message of Christianity stop at this point. We don't like being confronted with the fact that we are ungodly.
Now we may in our hearts know that this is true, but we don't want anyone telling us what we already secretly know. Our practice at such times is the old "kill the messenger," then we can deny his message.
Suppose, however, I were to tell you there is good news that accompanies the unstartling realization that we are in fact ungodly. We have to face the fact that there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to make ourselves more godly. No amount of good works or penitent acts can change our ungodly natures.
The real message of Christianity is what you and I can't do, God has done for us. He did it by paying the price of our ungodliness (see Romans 6:23) and giving us the free gift, His bestowal of godliness, on anyone who would accept the sacrifice of His Son.
One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
Here is the crux of the Christian message: when a person puts his or her faith in Christ they become a brand new person altogether.
It is not that you are the same old you, but with a brand new start; it is that when you put your faith in Christ, God changes our basic natures from ungodly to godly. He credits your account with all of the righteousness of Christ. Amazing.
Do I understand it? No. Do I accept the gift I can't fully fathom? Gladly.
What I have written is the simple message of the gospel. The word gospel means good news. The unvarnished message of Christianity is that you don't have to do anything or not do something's to earn God's favor. All you have to do is accept the gift of what Christ has done.
The Bible puts it this way, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9 NIV84).
John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.