Jesus can restore the gift of everlasting life to ANYONE.
"A-HA!!!! I'M JESUS FLAVORED BUBBLEGUM!", I yelled from my usual seat around the dining room table. Sunday afternoon is my 'thinking time', to investigate the world (via Google) and ponder. After I said it out load, I realized how very scandalous and sacrilegious, "Jesus-Flavored Bubblegum" sounds. My children acknowledged my madness (they are sweet, like that) but then quickly returned to their normal lives- presuming "Dad is 'going off' again." Indeed... I was. Let me explain the musings of my disturbed mind. (For those who get bored, just skip to the last paragraph)
I had just listened to a sermon- and the illustration stuck with me. It was a video of a young college-age speaker- who was presenting a very good message about the nature of our sin. He said that out sin is a disease- a sickness that we are INFESTED with- and that we cannot overcome this sickness, but are fated to be destroyed by it. His theology was that our sinful nature is so destructive that it cannot be repaired, and that our SOULS can only possibly be saved by the cleansing power of Jesus. The speaker said that our minds and bodies are 'worthless garbage' that DID have worth, but now is without value. He said we are like 'bubblegum that has lost it's flavor'. It was a good message. I didn't agree with it at all... but the dude did a good job.
For the life of me, I just can't buy into the theology of 'Total Depravity". I guess that is why I'm not Presbyterian or Calvinist. Theopedia.com defines Total Depravity as: "... every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation." Calvin sees humanity as used-up, chewed bubblegum, but how can we be completely depraved of good? How can we be incapable of choosing good? Calvin would say that our sinful 'state of being' is a disease, or a curse, that is passed to us... in essence, Total Depravity presumes that we are born evil. From a different perspective, the UM Book of Discipline (I feel) says it better in stating that humans are "inclined to evil, and that continually." In short- if there is a bad choice- we are GOING to choose it... but that is very different from saying that we can ONLY choose bad, or that we are born depraved of good. C.S. Lewis points out in his writing on Divine Omnipotence, that we have the knowledge of good and evil (the Book Of Genesis tells the story), therefore, it is impossible for us to be completely bad... otherwise, how COULD we even recognize good? In fact, if we ARE Totally Depraved of Good- then even our concept of 'good' would be evil. Lewis writes, "The Doctrine of Total Depravity- when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved of good, our idea of 'good' is worth simply nothing- may thus turn Christianity into a form of 'devil-worship'!" So... is sin a choice- or is it a disease / curse? This is the old argument of whether sin is 'inherited' or 'imputed'. In short- did I 'inherit' a sinful nature (my DESIRE and overwhelming likelihood to sin; my CHOICE) or was my sin 'imputed' (like genetics- passed on with no choice, but unavoidable consequences; my CURSE) to me? Well... personally... I can't believe that all people are born totally depraved of good, otherwise, how could Jesus have been born human? 1 John makes his stand in this VERY OLD argument, that Jesus was born (just like us) and yet He wasn't full of sin. Now, I know that one can easily say that Jesus was not human (like us) but was Divine, but that makes His suffering and His teaching irrelevant to us. I mean, why bother even coming to earth to live as a human, and to teach us how to NOT sin, if it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to NOT SIN. Jesus came to live (just like us) and to show us that we could CHOOSE a better way, albeit, I believe we can ONLY make that choice through our faith in His power to help us. (That part is also in the UM Beliefs) Sin has GOT to be about choice, otherwise we can't be held accountable, or responsible for our sins. Think about it! If sin is a disease that we inherit, or a curse that we receive, then how is it our FAULT when we sin? The biblical perspective is that we ARE accountable and that we CAN choose. That is why the Big 10 (Commandments) go along the lines of 'Thou shalt... and Thou shalt not'. These are life choices. Total Depravity makes us out to be victims of sin, not responsible participants. How easy to just say, "I did wrong, because I couldn't help it. My sin is part of who I am.'" There is no person on earth (and certainly none in Heaven) that would receive an apology like that, because it ISN'T an apology. It's a cop-out! Total Depravity, in reality, lifts the sinner ABOVE judgement- AND responsibility. And THAT- is why I didn't agree with that sermon. I CAN believe that we are bubblegum that has lost it's flavor, but I can never believe that human beings are worthless... or garbage... or 'depraved'. I believe that sin is a choice. I also believe that because of our choices (which happen to be 'inclined to evil, and that continually,") we make choices that lead us away from God, and away from the life that God wants for us. Like an addict, we inherit this sinful nature, that (even though we KNOW what the 'good' choices are) 'tempt' us to choose another way. As a result, we loose our 'flavor'... our original glorious way... and unfortunately, it isn't something that we can get back on our own. I believe that Jesus is a powerful force that entered into human history, but is also a living-force that is still present and alive inside each person. I believe that through CHOOSING to allow Jesus into my life and accepting His leadership in my life, I can CHOOSE to follow Him BACK into the life that God wanted me to have from the beginning. Through Him, I can REGAIN the 'flavor' that my life was designed to have! I believe that Jesus NOT ONLY opens the door for everlasting perfection in Heaven, but also brings back the joy and happiness of a God-filled life, RIGHT NOW! Through CHOICE, a person can surrender their life to God, and regain the 'flavor' of being a 'new creation' in Christ. Moreover, I believe (even though I don't fully understand HOW that works) that ALL people can be restored through Christ. What I have been taught by the Loving Grace of my Brother, Jesus, is that (somehow) there just AREN'T any mistakes BIG ENOUGH to outdo His love, and willingness to forgive us. That means that ALL people can find a new life in Him. So... what's the catch? We have to choose Him COMPLETELY. through Jesus, we can become what we were made to be... servants of God. The change is, now instead of existing to only serve ourselves, we find through this new life in Christ, that we want to serve others. Instead of absorbing all the 'flavor of life' around us for our own benefits, we look to bring others to the same joy and purpose that we have found, in this AMAZING, indescribable, brilliant LIFE! This life, where the broken can become healed... and the sinner CAN become a saint. I believe in the power of a God who loves me- and now charges me to go bring 'new flavor' to the world- as "Jesus-Flavored Bubblegum".