Why do we need to turn to Christ? And how, exactly, does the gospel invite us to turn to him?
To address these questions, we need to understand both our current condition and our eternal possibilities. What is our current condition? As we discussed in the last chapter, our condition is that we are separated from God. To use a metaphor from the last chapter, he is Light and we are not, and we are therefore inescapably apart from him. But what does this really mean?
Here, another analogy might help us. A good friend of mine spent many years as a judge. He presided over hundreds of drug cases. All were more or less just cases to him until, one day, he lifted his head to see his neighbor standing before him. Things were suddenly entirely more personal. And yet, there was a law, and that law had been broken. He might have liked to set his neighbor free, but what kind of justice would that be if he didn’t do the same for all the others? But if he did the same for all the others as well, what would become of the notion of justice? Or mercy, for that matter? If none are guilty, then mercy is rendered meaningless as well.
So what problem confronted this neighbor? Two, actually. The first was that he had violated the law in a serious way, and these violations required punishment. In this case, the facts were such that the man needed to go to jail. And his friend was the one who needed to send him there. There is no escape from such personal consequence for violations of the laws of this world. The only way that a violator of such a law can be justified and set free again is for him to pay whatever consequence is associated with the transgression.
But this man had a second problem, even graver than the first. My friend has told me of the dismal repeat-offender statistics for drug users. After jail terms have been served, justifying their release, the overwhelming majority of offenders nationwide end up before yet another judge for the same or worse offenses and suffer the same consequence as before—over and over and over again. The first problem in such cases is that there has been a violation of the law, but the bigger problem is that the weaknesses and desires that led to those violations in the first place have not been overcome. Although their time served in prison had justified them in the eyes of the law for past offenses, it failed to sanctify them from the weaknesses and desires that had led them to commit those offenses and that would yet induce them to transgress in the future.
These twin principles of justification and sanctification play a central role in our own situations relative to God. We, too, have two problems. The first is that we have violated the laws of God—our hands, the scriptures say, are “unclean.” The second problem is that our hearts are impure—that is, we still desire things that are not holy. Why is this a problem? Because anything that is unholy cannot be with God. We “must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness,” the scriptures say, “that [we] may be prepared for [his] glory.” “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.” In other words, unless and until our hearts and desires and wills are sanctified as the Lord’s, we will never be able to be with and see the Father as he really is, in the fulness of his glory. Which is to say that the only way to overcome the problem of never being able to catch up to light is to be made light ourselves.
The problem of life—the problem that the whole plan of salvation and redemption was conceived to solve—is how to transform and sanctify beings whose impure hearts, desires, and wills cannot abide the glory of God into beings whose hearts, desires, and wills can abide that glory. We are, as it were, the repeat drug offender. We must not only be justified or forgiven for past sins but must also be sanctified from any desire for sin. How else could God entrust us with his power?
("Falling to Heaven: The Surprising Path to Happiness", James L. Ferrell p.49)?