Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University.


Shipwrecked in space! Apollo 13 was more than two hundred thousand miles from earth when astronauts Lovell, Haise, and Swigert heard an explosion in the room containing the electrical generator, main engine, and guidance system. They watched in horror as clouds of gas and debris flew past the windows of the command module! Half of the craft’s electrical system was nonfunctioning.

They contacted Mission Control in Houston, Texas, USA. Command module pilot Swigert said, “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”1 It was an understatement. The computers in Mission Control analyzed the data coming from the command module and decided that an oxygen tank had ruptured. This meant no power; the main engine was dead. An accurate diagnosis was absolutely essential if the men now drifting in space could survive and return the crippled ship home. Could the guidance system in the lunar module perform the delicate maneuvers necessary to bring the men back to earth, or would they be marooned in space forever?

New maneuvers were programmed by the NASA specialists to solve the crisis. The dead command module was repowered and the sensitive maneuvers needed to separate it from the service and lunar modules were successfully made. A new flight plan was worked out just eight hours before splashdown. Their accurate analysis of the problem and execution of remedial measures finally led to the release of the orange-and-white parachutes that safely dropped the spacecraft to the surface of the Pacific Ocean. The three men were saved!

In the realm of salvation, the necessity of proper remedial measures is infinitely more important, for here our eternal salvation is at stake. A superficial or inaccurate analysis of our basic problems could have dreadful and irreversible consequences (see 2 Cor 13:5). And yet it is obvious that only too often we are more concerned over the results of sin than with sin itself; with reformation than with regeneration; with human measures than the divine remedy; with temporary ease rather than with eternal cure.

Hence, we need a true awareness of our condition. This may come to us as an overwhelming experience whereby we realize our spiritual need. Or, it may be the result of hearing a Christian truth, which for the first time explains our condition and its cure.

There are four basic things that all of us need to confront.


We were created for companionship with God, but that relationship was broken by what Lord Byron describes as “this uneradicable taint of sin, This boundless upas, this all-blasting tree.” In the words of John Bunyan, “one leak will sink a ship; and one sin will destroy a sinner.”2 And now, as Henry VI in Shakespeare’s play writes, “forbear to judge for we are sinners all.”3 And sin’s wages are severe: death and eternal separation from God. Hence, as Thomas Carlyle said, “the deadliest sin were the consciousness of no sin”4 and deadly, because there is no remedy for it.

Nothing is more calculated to impress us with the enormity of sin than a frank realization that it cost nothing less than the death of Christ to restore at-one-ment. Viewing the dying Savior will expose the unhallowed desires, impurity of lips, selfishness of motives, and infidelity of heart. Only then will we exclaim,

Lord, bend that proud and stiff-necked I, Help me to bow my head and die; Beholding Him on Calvary, Who bowed His head and died for me.5

The only way back to restoration is forgiveness, which is remedial mercy that separates the sinner from his sin.

Abraham Lincoln was asked how he would treat the defeated Southerners. He replied, “As if they had never been away.”6 That’s the way God forgives. He accepts us— as though we had never been away, as though we had never sinned.


Cleansing means a removal of evil in all of its aspects and a replacement with that which is pure and holy. It means a change in the content of our thoughts and actions. It means a spiritual change and renewal (see Phil 4:8).

God has provided the cleansing agent: “And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9, ESV). Sad indeed is the one who belittles the blood of Christ, for mysterious as it may seem, we are cleansed by faith in Christ and His blood, shed on Calvary. “You” writes Paul, “have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13, ESV).

The hands of Christ seem very frail, For they were broken by a nail. But only they reach Heaven at last Whom these frail, broken hands hold fast.7

In addition, the Word of God has a cleansing effect. “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3, ESV).


No matter how high and holy our aspirations, we are confronted with an unregenerate reality: the spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak, or in the words of Paul’s confession, “the good that I would, I do not” (Rom 7:19, KJV). So, our attempts at selfreformation end in miserable failure. Every effort at self-improvement is like “plucking bitter apples off a tree, and in their place tying good apples on with a string.”

Christ made it clear to His disciples the source and the need of the power by which alone they could become effective witnesses. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8, ESV). Why are we apt to ignore this imperative? Is it because we have become blinded by our selfsufficiency?


We need Jesus’ prescription for this to happen: “You must be born again” (John 3:7, ESV). This means the divine implantation of a new nature. This is not only outward change, a putting away of this or that bad habit, but a change that results in a completely new way of life (see Rom 6:6; 12:2).

In the words of Floyd E. Hamilton, Christianity takes the dissolute rake and changes him into Augustine, the saint and the great theologian. Christianity takes a John Bunyan, a prisoner in an English gaol, and makes him into the revered author of Pilgrim’s Progress. . . . Christianity takes the bleary-eyed drunkard in the slum, . . . and changes him into the loving husband and father, giving him victory over temptation and making him a respected and honored citizen of his country.8

Such a change comes about by the renewing presence of the living Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit” writes Ellen G. White, “re-creates, refines, and sanctifies human beings, fitting them to become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly king.”9


Augustine tells the story of a man who fell into a pit. A solicitous passerby inquired how he came to be in such a predicament. “Don’t ask me that,” cried the victim, “but help me out!” But “no one has strength of himself to emerge [from his wickedness],” writes Seneca, a Roman statesman of the first century. “Someone must needs hold forth a hand; someone must draw us out” (see Acts 4:12). We need something neither we nor anyone can do for us: a divine transformation. That need is gloriously fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Without Him we are lost in space on the spaceship Earth. “Mission Control” at the center of the universe offers to us and the world divine guidance and salvation. For “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15, ESV). Thank God for His rescue plan.

1 “50 Years Ago: Houston, We’ve Had a Problem,” NASA History, NASA, April 13, 2020, feature/50-years-ago-houston-we-ve-had-a-problem.
2 John Bunyan, “Sin,” Pilgrim’s Progress, pt. II., in The International Dictionary of Thoughts, comp. John P. Bradley (Chicago: J. G. Ferguson, 1975), 668.
3 Henry VI, pt. II, act III, scene 3, in The Works of William Shakespeare (Roslyn, NY: Black’s Reader’s 1944), 572.
4 Thomas Carlyle, “Sin,” in Bradley, International Dictionary of Thoughts, 668.
5 Author unknown.
6 Quoted by George Vandeman in “Guilt,” These Times, August 1971, 17.
7 John Richard Moreland, “His Hands,” in The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, ed. Frank Spencer Mead (Old Tappan, NJ: F. H. Revell, 1985), 56.
8 Floyd E. Hamilton, The Basics of the Christian Faith (New York: Harper and Row, 1946), 320.
9 Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1948), 287.

Rex D. Edwards, DMin, is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University.