PILLAR 2 - THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN
All people are sinners. This is one of the strongest and most obvious evidences for the truth of the Bible. We don't teach our children to lie, covet, or be selfish. They are all born with a PHD . . . just like their parents.
As it is written: "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." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18)
But could Jesus say something like that? Yes He did just after John 3:16:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:17-20)
It is very easy to detect a false gospel by how humanity is presented. False gospels tell us we are victims. The true Gospel tells us we are the criminals. It is true that there are people who are victims and we must be sensitive to that, but they still need to see that their crimes against God are far greater than the hurt they have experienced.
Now I’m going to say something that is going to shock a lot of you. There is a part of the Bible that is not inspired by the Holy Spirit! Please don’t stone me just yet – please hear me out. Do you know which part? The Ten Commandments! They weren’t inspired – they were actually engraved in stone with God’s finger! Of course I am being facetious here and I do hold to the inerrancy and divine inspiration of Scripture. But I really want to bring home the importance of God’s Law to New Testament Christians in seeing that dark night sky of our sin against God.
Some preachers in the past have tried to preach God’s law as a stick to make us behave, and others in more modern times have tried to use it as a carrot to a better life. But it was Martin Luther who realized that God’s law is not meant to be used as a stick or as a carrot – it is meant to be used as a mirror. Now mirrors can hurt, but they also help. Every day my mirror reminds me that the effects of the curse are taking their toll on me – I’m getting older and my body is wearing out. But it also sets off the alarm to do something about it. I’m not talking about plastic surgery but I am talking about our need to be saved.
A failure to understand God’s law is the reason behind the three most common objections against Christianity by the man on the street:
1. How can a loving God send people to hell?
2. What about people who never hear the Gospel or grow up in other religions?
3. Why does God allow suffering and evil?
Do you ever get asked those questions? Who here asks those questions? Do you struggle to find the answer? Would you like to be able to answer them? The answer is quite simple really – they’re all asking the wrong question! They have a wrong view of God and a wrong view of man and it causes them to ask the wrong questions.
So what’s the right question? Let me see if I can lead you to it by holding up the mirror of God’s law. The ninth commandment says you shall not lie. Who here has told a lie? The Bible says that all liars will end up in hell which usually causes us to default back to the wrong question “how can a loving God send someone to hell?” But what if we considered why lying is so offensive to God? What if we contrasted the evil of lying with the goodness of God? Can good judges ignore crime? How much more can God never ignore every time we break one of His laws? If I lie to my daughter she can do nothing to me. But if I lie to my wife I’m going to be sleeping on the sofa. If I lie to my boss he can fire me and if I lie to the government they can throw me in jail. Did you notice that it was the same crime in every scenario but when I did it against a higher authority the consequence became more and more severe. How serious is it to lie against an infinite authority? It is an infinite crime and that is why there is a hell.
The right questions to ask are:
1. How can a good God forgive anybody?
2. How does God put up with me?
3. Why aren’t there more disasters and suffering?
People who read the sermon on the mount as a list of moral guidelines miss the point completely. When Jesus tells us that lust is adultery and hatred is murder. That our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. That we must be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Jesus isn’t giving us pointers on how to live our best life now. He’s holding up the mirror of God’s Law to destroy all our confidence in our own righteousness leaving us destitute before God and longing for a perfect substitute.
If the Holiness of God and the depravity of man are preached rightly and understood rightly then we should be left hungering and thirsting after the perfect righteousness we need for right standing with God. We should also see that it is impossible because of our guilt. It is impossible and our guilt demands that God must judge and punish all evil.
People say that God is good and loving and this is true and it is also exactly what our problem is. If God is good and loving then he must judge us and punish us, otherwise He is violating His own character and nature.
Everyone thought Luther was crazy in his monastery but he was actually the only sane one there. His great question should be our great question – “How can God be both just and the justifier of men?
That is the question I will answer on wednesday!
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