Christianity has long held a very pessimistic view of humanity’s natural capacity to will and to do what would make for true blessedness. “The Articles of Religion,” one
of the foundational documents of United Methodism, says that “the condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing [that is, ‘preceding’] us.”1 Apart from grace, the human will is in bondage. We are persons “sold into slavery under sin” (Romans 7:14).
Fortunately, God has not abandoned humanity to the morass of its sin and bondage. At the right time, in Galilee long ago, in the power and with the authority of God, Jesus stepped forward to bring deliverance to a world in slavery to sin. His was not a self-help movement. He came with an authority from beyond. To a world steeped in sin, he proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15).