Why do we need Christ? Due to sin, we are dead in our trespasses and sins . . .
“This does not mean that we cannot create wonderful things (e.g. arts, sciences, literature), but J.C. Ryle rightly says, ‘he fact still remains that in spiritual things [we are] utterly ‘dead,’ and [have] no natural knowledge, or love, or fear of God'” (Holiness: The Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, & Roots, 4-5).
Even our best things are tainted by our fallen, sinful corruption. Is. 64:6 says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Paul also says, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Phil. 3:7-9).
When Jesus taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8), do not make the mistake that any purity in the heart is something we can have apart from being made new in Christ. Jer. 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The contrast is that apart from God’s grace, the heart is wicked. In Christ, yes we can be pure in heart. Acts 15:8 says specifically, that the Holy Spirit is given to Christians. God knows their hearts, and if they have faith in Christ, they are given the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a testimony also to their hearts being made pure in Christ.
Rom. 2:15 says that the Law is written also on the hearts of the Gentiles. Paul is saying that they have no excuse. They cannot say that they didn’t know what God required of them. The Law is written on their hearts. But, they haven’t kept the Law. Therefore, a few verses later, Paul says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . .” (Rom. 3:23). They are without excuse for their sinfulness. Then he adds, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive” (Rom. 3:11-13). The point is, even in the things we do according to the Law, we are still sons of disobedience, children of wrath, dead in our sins and transgressions. We are still in rebellion against God. That’s what is so amazing about grace . . . while we were still sinners, Christ died for us and saved us.
J.C. Ryle suggests that even though we can still do things that we look at and say are ‘good’, we are still sinners against God. So, any ‘good’ that we do is tainted by our sin, and ultimately not pure, not righteous, not holy. God doesn’t look at a sinner’s heart and say, this man is 85% righteous but 15% sinner. And then to another, this man is 10% righteous but 90% sinner. Instead he says, there are none righteous, no not one. They are all 0% righteous and 100% sinner. That is why imputation is so important to justification. Christ lived the perfect life that we should have lived and are condemned for not doing, and he died the sinless sacrifice on our behalf, our ransom, imputing his righteousness to us and taking our sins from us and taking them on himself on the cross.