December will be a year since I left social media all together. It was a very relieving time as I deleted all my information off of all the different websites I had created a profile on. I said my goodbyes and began reflecting on my new goals with the huge amounts of time I had now just freed up for myself.
I remember what caused me to start considering getting off of social network platforms. This did not actually inspire me to finally press the delete button but what caused the intial thoughts of this decision was what I had found out about myself. Around 2013 I became a Christian and set out to tell everybody I could about my savior and what he had done for me. I started Bible studies, I began preaching at youth groups and brotherhood meetings, as well as I started posting a ton on Facebook.
A ton might be an understatement.
What happened was in my quest to do this great thing called the great commision on the web, I instead started to cause arguments and hate on facebook. I started off with great intentions to give people hope but instead what I ended up doing was I built walls around the gospel that should not have been built. I was always right and never wrong. I was always doing and believing the right things and condemning others of their faults. I became very legalistic. Whereas when I started on Facebook many people sent me encouragement and letters saying how thankful they were for my posts the older I got and the more my focus shifted away from the gospel, the more I got hate mail. Not persecution for being righteous but needed criticsm for my sin of pride and arrogance. It turns out that even in this quest I had for good I managed to destroy it. I turned the gospel into incredibly bad news that no one could live up too, even myself. What I realized after years of proclaiming the gospel on Facebook was that I needed it. I needed the gospel again because I forgot it. I realized I was a broken man portraying a false righteousness that had a lot to say but not a lot getting done.
Have you ever thought to yourself about why you keep making the same obvious mistakes? Why do you keep falling into the same sin over and over again? Why is that every time you set out to make good solid changes in your life to the glory of God, often times you screw it up and end up falling flat on your face having to start all over with this repentance game again?
Sin is the issue and it’s a very a deep concept. The thought of being broken to the nth degree somehow has not stuck well with our Bible belt culture. It’s weird because it’s almost as if we are exactly like the Israelites in Exodus. We are these broken, annoying, prideful, stupid people who though have seen so many of God’s great works still fail to understand their depravity and God’s goodness.
Sin is missing the mark. The mark being established by God through the law as well as what the law truly represents:God’s character. I say that knowing that some people may mistake me for saying God’s character is revealed through God’s law meaning God is a person who just loves making rules and making life hard on his followers, but that’s not at all what I mean. Gods character is reflected through the law by showing his goodness, his justice, his righteousness. Christ showed us that with his life.(Hebrews 5:15) Out of all the people on this planet, all the people who have ever walked the planet only one person was able to follow the law to the nth degree and that was God. Jesus was not doing anything unnatural to himself by following the law. He did exactly what his character causes him to do. The law shows God’s character and reveals his nature. His nature is good. “ In him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
I love how R.C. Sproul describes it:
The law of God reflects His goodness. God is said to be good not because He obeys some cosmic law outside of Himself that judges Him or because God so defines goodness that He can act in a lawless manner and by the sheer power of His authority declare His actions good. God’s goodness is neither arbritary nor capricious. God does obey a law, but the law He obeys is the law of His own character. He always acts according to His own Character, which is eternally, immutably and intrinsically good. James teaches that every good and perfect gift comes from God. He is not only the ultimate standard of goodness.: He is the Source of all Goodness.”
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
God’s law reflects God’s good character but for us it also shows us our true character. It reveals the nature of man that we try to hide. The nature of man is something that gets discussed very little today. Because of this the concept of “free-will” is completely misunderstood. So for an easy way to digest what I am about to say I’m going to break it down into two parts. The first being Man’s nature, and the second being Man’s actions because of his nature.
Man’s nature was corrupted forever at the fall in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were given a clear command by God and because of their desire to be God they put all of mankind under the curse of sin. Sin became the very real and very present thing that we all live with today. So present that many times for people all they actually see and want to see is the sin going on in the world. There is a reason why the news does not spend an hour on all the good things going on in society. No one wants to see that. We want to see Tucker Carlson on Fox News go at it with Trevor Noah on CNN to the point that name calling and disagreeing for the sake disagreeing is the only thing we take away from the news. We want to see huge celebrities get caught in crazy sex scandals. There is even a reason why the church often times fails to high light the great works of God going on in their communities as well as around the world. Have you ever sat through the prayer and praise reports in your church? You could get a hundred prayer requests but at most one praise report… That seems kind of off. In a world created by a good God we have very little to praise him about according to our own praise reports in the midst of regenerated believers and that does not even take into account that many of us like prayer requests time because we learn gossip. In the very place and time when we are to confess to God how much we are broken and need him, we still try to please our flesh by trying to figure out why that married couple in your church is having issues. This very issue, points to the fact that man is depraved. He is broken and something is wrong with his vision. He only sees evil. He only longs for evil and even in what’s considered “holy” places.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick
The heart is the root of where your actions come from. You only do what you’re heart and mind want you to do. There is a reason why you get up in the morning, there is a reason why you marry the person you marry, there is reason why you you either choose to have sex before marriage or not. There is a reason behind everything you do and for our actions in general, they all stem from the heart. Your heart is the reason you sin. Do you understand that? Do you understand that the reason you continually fall into sin is actually because you want to and not by accident?
R.C. Sproul again says: ‘We conclude that fallen man is still free to choose what he desires, but because his desires are only wicked he lacks the moral ability.” Sproul is getting at the fact that even though you choose whether to go to the food bank and serve or decide to go get wasted at the bar on Friday night that in the end your heart is the issue. In the end your heart is the issue because out of both of those choices if your heart has not been changed by God then everything you do, you do because of your desires. If your heart has not been changed by the gospel then your “heart is deceitful above all things.” It makes you think that when you choose to serve the hungry over partying illegally, that you are doing good but your actually not because your heart behind it is the issue. Your heart has a flawed aim to do what is good. God’s heart is good therefore whatever he does is good. Our heart is evil therefore whatever we do is evil. It’s not to be trusted.
As Romans 14:23 says:
For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin
or as Hebrews 11:6 says:
Without faith it is impossible to please him.
This point gets right into the middle of the second dealing with our actions. Because our nature after the fall is sinful, we only sin.
A wild animal is wild because of the habitat it is surrounded by. If it is in a Zoo caged up it will act very differently compared to it’s cousins out in the Sahara. The creature acts according to it’s nature. If a person is surrounded by people who have evil hearts and are only able to sin, then that person naturally according to it’s own nature will sin. They act on the nature of their heart.
So what is the actions that are produced by someone who has a broken heart? Romans 3:10-18 says:
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.”
A man who has “no fear of God before” his eyes is a man who acts according to his own purpose. He follows the ways of his heart and that way leads to ruin. Man is utterly hopeless apart from God. He is broken in more ways than we can imagine and though men have the hearts to do very wicked things it is by the common grace of God that man does not go as far as he could in his sin. We are broken is what the Bible continually teaches us. That from Genesis to Revelation there is a problem with man and that is that he has a dead heart. His heart is made of stone, it is unable to respond. In Romans Paul talks about how before we come to Christ we are dead in our sins. Dead means lifeless, immovable, unresponsive. We are like Lazarus laying in the tomb before Jesus comes.
Another example Paul gives us to understand just how far off from God we are, in Romans 6 the Apostle breaks down how we are slaves to sin. When you read Romans 3:10-18 and then Romans 6 it is very clear that as slaves to sin there is no righteous in us. There is no desire to be free because we do not know we are in chains until the time that God chooses too enlighten us.
For me as I reflect on these truths about how broken of a man I am it truly brings to mind how even after I was born again that I continually struggled to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. But once I came to the truth of the doctrine of Total Depravity I began to understand myself and my state before Christ came into my life in a much deeper and influential way. Because I understood where I really came from on spiritual state before Christ, I was able to under the difficulties that I had, especially early on as Christian, struggling to kill the sin in my life. Being a broken human being is what we all suffer from since the fall of Adam, and though so far in this post it seems like we are hopeless the truth is that Christ has made a way for his people. He has called them out of the wilderness, out of their nature. He has called them unto himself like Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. And so God created us good, yes. We are image bearers of him, yes again. His law reflects his character and as image bearers we are suppose to reflect his character as well but reality is that we have fell into sin. Our hearts are broke. We are lifeless. We are hopeless, running carelessly through the wilderness with no direction, yet God has more to the story.
The Five I Am Statements of the Gospel
This is the first post of a series of posts coming up. In all there will be five posts all connected to one another breaking down the Gospel to it’s deepest levels. Hope you enjoy and that you stick along for the journey.
By: Austin Neil Gregory