The Gospel -- the Good News -- begins with bad news because without bad news there is no good news. The bad news, then, is that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). The bad news is the fallen condition of each and every one of us. As humans we are hostile to God, blinded by the god of this world, dead in sin, intent only on evil, and all the rest.

The good news that Christ died to pay for our evil condition and the Holy Spirit will make us new is truly good news indeed. But it would be a mistake to think that, therefore, we who are in Christ are all wonderful people. The Christian life, in fact, is a life of "sanctification" (the theological term) -- a life of being transformed from the shortcoming that we are to the image of Christ. And that won't actually be finished this side of heaven.

This process of sanctification is a process of renewing the mind (Romans 12:2) and a life of obedience. Indeed, if you've looked at the call of God on your life compared with your own abilities, I don't think "inadequate" would be a sufficient descriptive. "Impossible" would be more like it. That's why I was so interested in Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth where he wrote,

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

Paul speaks of confidence, but it is not confidence in his own abilities. "Not that we are adequate in ourselves" he says of his confidence. No the confidence is "through Christ".

The tendency, though, is to go to the other side. "Well, if I'm not adequate, I should just stay out of the way and let God do what He will." And Paul says that's wrong as well. True, we are inadequate, but that's not the end of the story. God "made us adequate."

You see how that works? Yes, if you are reasonable and honest, we are inadequate to do what God asks. But the conclusion is not that we should then not do anything. The way God works is to make us adequate and then use us. It's like the Philippians 2 passage where we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (our job), but we do itbecause it is God who is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). You see, we do because He does in us.

Do you see this amazing arrangement, then, in Christ? We come to Him as failures deserving eternal judgment. We trust in Him alone. In this new relationship, He calls on us to do the impossible, enables us to do it, and then gives us rewards for having done it. Does it get any better than that?