Imagine you have a kid. Say, four years old or so. There is a room full of dust bunnies, and you hand her a dust mop with strict instructions that you want every last dust bunny taken care of. (And we all know how fast those suckers multiply!)
You leave the room, and poor Cinderella goes to work, pushing the dust mop around. Maybe she hums while she pushes, maybe she stops to look at her shadow on the wall, maybe she puts the mop down altogether to try to build a doll out of the dust bunnies. She knows what “Clean this room!” means, but just how long are you going to wait for her to really clean it? I think it would be a little out of her range of abilities to do the sort of job you expect!
Imagine if God had waited till we were spotless to come for us. He'd wait an eternity! Not that that's a long wait for the creator of the universe, but he would never come if it were up to us to somehow become perfect.
Besides that, if we actually had been able to clean ourselves up, he wouldn't have needed to have come. Think about that. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2 : 17).
We were born into sin. It's in our very bones. We are imperfect creatures incapable of reaching the standard set by God. (Romans 3:23, 5:8, 6:18) I find it very comforting reading about Jesus associating so freely with “tax collectors and 'sinners'” (Mark 2:15). Surely if there's hope for someone as bad as a tax collector (a notoriously dishonest person), there is hope for me, too!
I bet there's a part of you thinking, “Well, golly, I'm certainly not as bad as a tax collector! But I'm a sinner, yeah.” But wait! You ARE as bad as a tax collector! James 2:10 clearly says that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” ALL of it. That means that one little white lie involving your steamed carrots when you were six makes you just as guilty of being a sinner as, say, setting fire to someone's house.
We are no longer under the law, however. Under the law, we have no hope, which is why God wasn't about to wait for us to scramble out of sin on our own. We use the law now to see where we have strayed, but it is the Gospel that saves. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)
The music group Glad says it wonderfully in their song “And This Is Love”:
You did not wait for me to make myself a worthy man
You did not wait for me to make a good and righteous stand
There was nothing I could do
In sin I had died
But your love conquered death and raised me to your side
Grace. We were and are thoroughly, completely, and utterly undeserving of any goodness from God. “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5) But he saved us anyway, and we thrive on the hope he has given us that one day, we will be spending eternity in heaven with him!