Two Ways to Launch Your Career in the Self-Salvation Business

We all exit the womb with certain tendencies: we eat a lot, cry a lot, poop a lot. And we’re convinced the universe revolves around us. We make-believe we’re little gods.

It doesn’t get any better as we get older; it grows worse. We mutate, we adapt, we figure out a variety of ways to try and make everything about us. We daydream that we are the captains on our ship of fate.

If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny. A sort of gallows humor. But it’s the bloody, depressing plot of human history. We daily snort the cocaine of self-worship, self-love, self-interest. It’s our precious addiction. All hail the god of Me. The ultimate result? We try not only to be our own gods, but our own saviors.

@@There are two ways we try to launch our career in the self-salvation business@@
1. By being a bad, immoral, sin-loving god.
2. By being a good, moral, law-loving god.

I’ve been an entrepreneur in both of these business adventures.

I’ve been the bad god. The I’ll-live-my-life-the-way-I-want god. Drink however much I want. Have sex with whomever I want. Use whomever I want. Lie, cheat, steal, manipulate…then repeat. Eat, drink, and be merry, and the future be damned. I get to decide what I want, who I want, when I want it. I’ve been that guy.

And I’ve been the good god. I knew that “the best way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin,” (Flannery O’Connor). I wanted Jesus to be my trainer in the gym of morality. My teacher in the school of ethics. My professor in the classroom of theology. My model on the path of orthodoxy. I wanted him to help me avoid liberalism, unethical conduct, sexual impurity, and doctrinal heresy. I wanted Jesus to help me be a good, moral, law-loving person—all so that I didn’t need Jesus to be my savior.

I wanted to render the cross an avoidable, unnecessary tragedy in the divine drama.

And I’m still both of those people. And I bet you are, too.

Sometimes we try be the bad god, sometimes the good god, oftentimes a freaky hybrid of both. The result is the same: Jesus the savior just gets in our way. So we give him the bird, give him short shrift, or give him a handshake for being such a good role model for us.

What we don’t give him is the confession, “I’m dead and evil and damned without you.”

I don’t care how bad you are, or think you are. Nor do I care how good you are, or think you are. I don’t care if you’ve aborted ten children or raised ten foster children. Served time or never been arrested. If you’re a pusher or a pastor. On our own, we’re all dead in the water, floating corpses bloated with evil. And there’s no self-salvation program by which we can reverse our death.

There is, however, a God who is foolishly in love with us. I mean, head-over-heels, punch drunk, crazy in love with us. It makes no sense. But it’s who he is. He self-identifies as Love. And he acts on that love to make us all his own.

The bad we are, and the good we think we are, he trashes all of it. Burns all our sins and all our righteousness in the passionate flames of his cross. He reduces us to ashes. To dust. To nothing. And from that nothing he remakes us in his own image. Breathes life into us with the wet air of baptism. We become not little gods but members of his own body. We’re the fingers and knees and kidneys and ligaments on the body of Jesus. We are bone of God’s bone, flesh of his flesh. That’s our new identity.

All of this not because Jesus is merely our role model, a great prophet, and a wise teacher of right living. No, but because he’s our crucified and death-defeating Savior. That’s his thing. It’s who he is and what he does. And he’s not interested in taking on business partners. He does it all himself. He not only saves us from sin; he invests us with his holiness. He takes away all our bad and he gives us all his good.

And when he’s done with us, we are the saved, justified, sanctified, law-loving, sin-hating children of God in Jesus Christ.

*The basic idea behind this article is from Tim Keller's book, The Reason for God, where he discusses "two ways to be your own Lord and Savior," (Chapter 11).