I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up, Part 1

Some will remember the title of this article as a phrase (from days gone by) that was the plea of an elderly actress in a commercial for a medical alarm company.  I imagine that you can find plenty of memes on the Internet related to this, but let’s be sure and still remember loved ones who actually do need access to help when they find themselves in a situation that they can’t resolve alone.  (For that matter, I suppose that all of us could qualify to be in that situation.)

As I get older, I find more and more situations where getting back on my feet is a challenging process.  Nieces and nephews may ask me to sit on the floor to play a board game with them, but I know that sitting down will be more difficult than standing back up.

In a way, though, we are all like the person in this commercial, only from a spiritual standpoint.  Let’s take a look:

We are fallen.  In the verse below, the idea of falling short brings up images of a long jumper who didn’t land far enough to win a prize, or a student whose grades weren’t enough to pass the course.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT

That’s all of us.  Every single one.  While theologians discuss the lack of culpability for small children and those of limited mental capacity, if you’re reading this right now, I don’t think that those conditions apply to you or me.  If we understand things that are clearly right and wrong (as defined by God, not the whims of humankind), and still choose to break those rules, we are guilty according to our own decisions.  We decided to lie or cheat or steal or lust or harbor unforgiveness (or whatever we know that we have done wrong), and we have no one to legitimately blame except ourselves.

We are mortally injured.  Our fallen state is not just an inconvenience, or something that we just spring back from.  The guilt that we carry for our sin isn’t just uncomfortable or something we can just ignore.  The choices we have made have earned us an eventual death – not just physically, but being dead to God (unable to be near Him).

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.
Ephesians 2:1‭-‬2 NLT

See also Romans 6:23, which describes this self-inflicted condition as the “wages” that we have earned through our rebellion against God.  Like a criminal “earning” jail time, or a poor-quality entry “earning” last place, the logical outcome of our fight to be separated from a holy and all-powerful God is that we will get what we deserve.  (This condition makes it all the more impressive that God provided another way…keep reading for the details of that good news.)

We cannot save ourselves.  Jesus taught something quite different from most (all?) other belief systems.  Many faiths expect adherents to earn their way to success, whether by practicing rituals, or performing good deeds.  In contrast, the God that Jesus showed us was far too holy – too special and set apart – to exist in the presence of evil, no matter how “little” evil we think might be in us.  This means that following Jesus isn’t about becoming “good enough”, but rather realizing that we will never be that on our own.  The good news is that He provided the solution:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
Romans 5:6 NLT

Notice that this verse doesn’t say that we were having difficulties (like not being quite good enough to save ourselves), nor that we just needed a little guidance.  Jesus didn’t just come to teach us how to be good, or to somehow “unlock our inner potential”.  We were “utterly helpless”!

Once we understand that we are fallen, though, and cannot get back to our feet on our own, the passage above is just the beginning of the good news.  More on that in the second part of this article, but if you’d like a sneak peek, read passages like Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:13, and Acts 2:36-41.  Drop me a line in the comments below if you have any questions in the meantime.


Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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