“The Kindness of God.” Part 2: “Sin Entered.”

We began our post last time using the question in Psalm 8:4 as a starting point, what is man, that you are mindful of him?   We looked at the creation of Adam and Eve and their subsequent disobedience to a simple command of God: a single tree in the Garden is out of bounds.  And He told them why, they would die.  We discussed what that meant to them.

In this lesson, we want to look at what that means to us.

The Scripture speaks of man being created “in the image of God,” as we’ll see below, and so there are those who talk of  “the divinity of man,” and the “divine spark” in his heart that only needs to be fanned a little for man to show what a wonderful person he really is deep down inside.  This isn’t what the Scripture means.  God did not create another “god.”

B. The Condition of the Family of Adam and Eve.

In Romans 5, Paul built upon the historical fact of the Fall of our first parents in his development of its effects.  Scripture from Genesis to Revelation shows us the condition of the human family.

1.  Man is fallen naturally, Genesis 5:3.

More attention should be paid to this verse.  Genesis 1:27 says that God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him. However, Genesis 5:3 says that Adam…fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth (emphasis added).  There are those who believe that every infant is born “in the Garden,” that is, innocent and without sin.  Innocent they may indeed be of actual transgression, but, as there was never an infant born in the actual Garden, so there is no infant born without a sin nature.  It doesn’t take very long in real life for an infant to demonstrate that he is indeed a sinner, “born and bred.”  No parent ever has to teach his child to be selfish, be dishonest, to lie or to cheat.  They go astray as soon as they are born, Psalm 58:3.  There is no “divinity” in man; there is only, if I may coin a phrase, “devility.”

2.  Man is dead spiritually, Ephesians 2:1-3.

Paul described the unsaved as dead in trespasses and sins.  Clearly, this doesn’t mean non-existence or unconsciousness, as some erroneously teach about physical death.  However, spiritual death cannot be compared exactly to physical death.  A corpse is totally passive and unresponsive, seeing nothing, feeling nothing, knowing nothing and doing nothing.  It is completely indifferent to its surroundings.  It is dead.  However, according to Paul, spiritual death is a condition of separation from, rebellion against and resistance to God.

“Death” refers to both an event and to a condition.  We say, “So-and-so died,” referring to the event that ends physical life.  We say, “So-and-so is dead,” referring to the condition that results from the event.  For mankind spiritually, the event took place when Adam disobeyed God.  From that time forward, beginning with Cain and continuing down to us and our children and grandchildren, every single one of us has been born into the condition of spiritual death.  We are “born dead” spiritually as surely as we are “born alive” physically.  This condition has two elements:

a.  separation.

Physical death separates us from our family and friends; spiritual death separates us from God.  To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote of their pre-conversion life in part as being separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12, (emphasis added).  In spite of all the religion in the world, without the Lord Jesus Christ we are all afar off from God, Ephesians 2:13.  We are dead to God.  But there is also –

b.  alienation.

Paul wrote to the church at Colosse that they once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, Colossians 1:21.  In our natural state, so far from our being His children and He the Father of all mankind, as many believe, – so far from our struggling toward Him in some dim and obscure fashion, – so far from our being on one of the many roads which lead to heaven, – we are His enemies, Romans 5:10.  We have turned every one to his own way, Isaiah 53:6.  We are dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1 (emphasis added).

3.  Man is dysfunctional personally. 

Another term for this is “total depravity,” which conveys an inaccurate picture.  When we think of someone who is depraved, we think of a Hitler or some vile criminal.  However, that’s not really the meaning of the word.  Even Hitler did “good” on occasion.  The word itself comes from the Latin.  “Pravus” means “bent” or “crooked,” and “de” is a particle emphasizing the meaning of the word.  So then, being “totally depraved” means that we are “thoroughly bent.”  We are dysfunctional; nothing works right.

As to his personality, man may be considered in three aspects:  mind, emotions and will.  With his mind, man thinks, reasons, understands.  With his emotions, he has feelings and desires.  With his will, he makes choices and decisions.  The Fall has affected all three of these areas, even the will.

a. the mind.

Part of our difficulty lies in the fact that we are finite, that is, mere creatures, trying to understand the works and ways of One who is infinite.  As well might an amoeba try to understand physics as for us to “understand” God.  Still, our main difficulty lies in the fact that we are fallen, sinful creatures.  Even what little we do know is messed up.  Jude wrote, whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these they corrupt themselves, Jude 10.  No part of our lives or being has escaped being “messed up” by the fallenness, the sinfulness, of man.

However, the fatal flaw lies in our lack of “spiritual” understanding.  In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul taught that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Two things are in this verse:  1). We won’t receive the things of God because we think they’re foolish.  This refers to our attitude toward them.  2).  We can’t received the things of God because we don’t have the ability to receive them.  We are dead in regard to them.  In Romans 8:7, Paul wrote, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot (emphasis added).  “The mind set on the flesh” is another way to describe “the natural man:”  us as we’re born physically.

b.  the emotions.

Our Lord taught that men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil, John 3:19.  For the most part, man loves his sin and is quite content to remain in “darkness.”  As long as the gospel “invitation” centers on his escaping the consequences of his sin, man will listen.  “Do you want to be saved from hell?”  Of course, he does, even if he doesn’t believe such a place exists.  Folks may joke about it or use it as a swear word, but no one in their right mind wants to go there.  However, if the question is, “Do you want to be saved from your sins?” the response is usually quite different.

c.  the will.

Here’s where the controversy lies.  Many who say they believe in “total depravity” believe as well, contrary to Scripture, man is able to understand and to receive the things of God, especially salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, without or perhaps with a little grace that leaves the final choice up to man.  After all, “whosoever will.”  However, Revelation 22:17 says, And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely (KJV).  How many people out there in the world, or even in “church” for that matter, are “athirst” for the water of life?

At the same time, let us agree that man does indeed have a will.  When I say the will been affected by the Fall, I don’t mean that it has been destroyed, as some claim the doctrines of grace teach.  We make choices all the time, even about spiritual matters and about God and His Word.  Indeed, it is the choices we make that determine the kind of life we lead and the kind of person we are.  Man has a will.

The question is not whether or not we have a will, but how does it work?  In other words, how does a man or woman, boy or girl, decide something at any particular moment and in any given situation?  What “decides” the deciding?

Further, let us agree that the man or woman, girl or boy, actually makes the choice and does the acting.  We’re neither puppets or robots.  On the one hand, it’s possible to take a belief in the sovereignty of God to the point where that is what is really being said.  For example, I used to know a brother who would always say, “I was caused to believe.”  He would never say, “I believe.”  Cf. 2 Timothy 1:12.  The sovereignty of God does not negate, diminish or undermine the will of man.  On the other hand, it’s possible so to emphasize man’s will that a “No Trespassing” sign is, in effect, put up, and God can’t do anything in our lives without our permission.  Though much more prevalent, this view is as wrong as the other.

In order to understand how the will functions, look at two examples of its working:  one before the Fall, and one after.

Genesis 3:6 says, …when the woman saw that the tree was food for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…. Her mind and her emotions were both involved.  The fruit of the tree was good for food and could make one “wise.”   These appealed to her thought, her mind.  The tree was a delight to the eyes, and its fruit desired.  These appealed to her feelings, her emotions.  Based on these factors, Eve “willed,” deciding to take and eat the fruit.  Her choice did not happen by itself.  Neither do ours.

We see the other example, after the Fall, in Joshua 7, especially v. 21.  Compare the two incidents.  They are identical.

If a person is hostile toward God, thinks His Word is foolish and wants no part of righteousness, it’s unreasonable to assume that his will, his choice, is not affected and determined by these things.  As much as modern man might want it, the will is not isolated and insulated from what we are.  It’s in the same boat we are, and goes along for the ride quite “willingly.”

Beside the will does “decide,” but follow through isn’t always successful.  How many of you have decided to lose weight, or quit smoking or some other bad habit?  How about starting some good habit, like exercising or reading Scripture more faithfully or more regular prayer?  Paul knew this:  to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good, I find not, Romans 7:18.

4.  Man is declared guilty judicially, John 3:18. 

In Ephesians 2:3, Paul wrote that even believers, though elect from the foundation of the world, 1:4, are by nature children of wrath, just as the others.  See also John 3:36; Romans 3:19.  There is a mistaken notion that everybody is headed for “a better place,” regardless of what kind of life was lived by the person going there, or what kind of person they were.  However, John 3:18 says of those who do not believe in Christ that they are condemned already.  We may not want to believe it, but Scripture reveals that it is already too late.  It’s too late for good works, for reformation, for turning over a new leaf!  Apart from the Lord Jesus, we’re condemned already!  It’s too late for religion, for ceremony, for good intentions.  The verdict has already been reached:  we are guilty before God and sentenced for execution.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, this life is little more than a cell on death row, and life is simply a waiting for the executioner to come and carry out the sentence.   He who does not believe is condemned already, John 3:18.

5.  Man is disapproved individually, Romans 3:10, 11. 

 It’s human nature to believe that we’re better than Scripture says we are.  After all, look at so-and-so!  The trouble is, with Scripture, we are the “so-and-so” – there is no difference…, Romans 3:22.  In the verses at the heading of this section, Paul tells us:

a.  there is none righteous.  

This means that none of us measure up to God’s holy standard, as revealed in His Word and demonstrated by the Lord Jesus.  Our very best, our “acts of righteousness,” are nothing more than filthy rags in the sight of God, Isaiah 64:6.  What must our unrighteousness be in His sight?  The term “filthy rags” refers to a menstrual cloth, or a rag that a leper might use to wipe his sores.  Not very pretty, but a graphic description of our natural state before God.

b.  there is none who understands.

“Understands” what?  Our condition before God, in contrast to His perfect holiness and righteousness.  Man can and does understand much of the world he lives in, but forgets he must answer to the One who created, sustains and governs it.

c.  there is none who seeks after God.

Because of our innate belief that “loincloths” are sufficient to cover whatever deficiencies we might have, we don’t realize that God is the only One who can do that. We don’t understand that our “answers” are all wrong!  And too often, we don’t care.  In our sinfulness, we refuse to come to God, yet He is the only One with the answer to our sin problem.

In our next post, we’ll begin to look at how He has answered it.

Questions

 1.  Whose image did Adam pass along to his children?

 2.  What is the effect of this?

 3.  What does “spiritually dead” mean?

 4.  What are the two elements of spiritual death?

 5.  What does “total depravity” mean?

 6.  How does total depravity affect our mind?

 7.  Our emotions?

 8.  Our wills?

 9.  What is our standing before God judicially?

10. What is our standing before God individually?

11. What is “righteousness”?

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The Beautiful Snow, 2014

Last year, I started the custom of reposting this to mark the first snowfall of the winter.  With a few changes, it’s essentially the same post that I’ve done twice before, except that this time I put the poem first and all the background material second.  Also, I added “2014” to the title to distinguish this post from the others.

Whether you’ve read this poem before, or this is your first time, I hope it’s a blessing to you.

Oh!  The snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and the earth below.
Over the housetops and over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet.
Dancing,
Flirting,
Skimming along.
Beautiful snow!  It can do no wrong;
Flying along to kiss a fair lady’s cheek,
Clinging to lips in frolicsome freak;
Beautiful snow from heaven above,
Pure as an angel, gently as love!

Oh!  The snow, the beautiful snow,
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go
Whirling about in maddening fun,
It plays in its glee with everyone:
Chasing,
Laughing,
Hurrying by,
It lights on the face and it sparkles the eye;
And the dogs with a bark and a bound
Snap at the crystals as they eddy around;
The town is alive, and the heart is aglow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow.

How the wild crowd goes swaying along,
Hailing each other with humor and song;
How the gay sleighs like meteors flash by,
Bright for a moment, then lost to the eye:
Ringing,
Swinging,
Dashing they go,
Over the crest of the beautiful snow;
Snow so pure as it falls from the sky,
To be trampled in time by the crowd rushing by –
To be trampled and tracked by thousands of feet
Till it blends with the horrible filth on the street.

Once I was pure as the snow, but I fell,
Fell like a snowflake from heaven to hell;
Fell to be trampled as filth in the street,
Fell to be scoffed at, to be spit on and beat.
Pleading,
Cursing,
Dreading to die,
Selling my soul to whoever would buy;
Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,
Hating the living and fearing the dead.
Merciful God!  Have I fallen so low?
And yet I was once like the beautiful snow!

Once I was fair as the beautiful snow,
With an eye like a crystal, a heart like its glow;
Once I was loved for my innocent grace –
Flattered and sought for the charm of my face!
Father,
Mother,
Sisters – all,
God and myself I have lost by my fall.
The veriest wretch that goes shivering by,
Will make a wide sweep lest I wander too nigh.
For all that is on or above me I know,
There is nothing that’s pure but the beautiful snow.

How strange it should be that this beautiful snow
Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to go!
How strange it should be when the night comes again
If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain!
Fainting,
Freezing,
Dying alone,
Too wicked for prayer, too weak for a moan
To be heard in the crash of the crazy town:
To be and to die in my terrible woe,
With a bed and a shroud of the beautiful snow.
_______

The poem ended there.  Later, a Christian added the following:

Helpless and foul as the trampled snow,
Sinner, despair not!  Christ stoopeth low
To rescue the soul that is lost in sin,
And raise it to life and and enjoyment again.
Groaning,
Bleeding,
Dying for thee.
The Crucified hung on the accursed tree!
His accents of mercy fall soft on thine ear,
There is mercy for thee; He will hear thy weak prayer:
“O God, in the stream that for sinners did flow,
Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”

There are several versions of who actually wrote the poem.  The main one seems to be that it was written by Joseph Warren (Whitaker?) Watson.  It’s found among his published poems.  Perhaps he did write it.  I really don’t know, although the poem is written in the first person.  Unless Mr. Watson had a really vivid imagination, I find it hard to believe that he “dealt in shame for a morsel of bread.”  It’s certainly possible that he wrote the last stanza.

The background from years ago that I remember about the poem I found again in avisoland.blogspot, dated March 26, 2011.  Briefly, here it is:

In the early part of the Civil War, a young woman of 22 or so died at the Commercial Hospital in Cincinatti, Ohio.  She had once been beautiful, but a hard and dissolute life had written another story on what had been a fair countenance.

This poem was found among her belongings.  It was given to the editor of the National Union, where it was printed for the first time.  When the paper came out, the girl hadn’t yet been buried.  A noted American author (some sites say Walt Whitman) was impressed with the poem and followed her to her burial.

Perhaps this is the first time you’ve read the poem, or it may be a second or third time, and you’re feeling a little like the poor young woman who wrote the poem: abandoned and helpless.  So far as we know, though there are varying thoughts about it, this lady died without the Lord Jesus.  You, though, have an opportunity.  The Lord says to you, “Come.”  The Spirit says to you, “Come.”  I say to you, “Come.”  Come to the Lord Jesus just as you are.  You don’t have to dress up or clean up or shape up.  You just have to ‘fess up.  With all your discouragement, your depression, your depravity, just come.  “But,” you say, “You don’t know me, or what I’ve done.”  That’s all right.  He does.  And He died for such as you, anyway.  And me.  He didn’t die for the “good people;” He died for sinners.  That’s all you have to be to come to Him.  O, that you might do it today.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.

A Time to Weep; A Time to Laugh

A time to weep; a time to laugh, Ecclesiastes 3:4.

There was, and perhaps still is, a popular conservative radio program.  I really don’t know because I don’t listen to the radio, and haven’t for several years.  I prefer silence to the inane yammerings and what passes for music in our time on the radio, even much of “Christian” radio.

I used to drive for a living and did listen to the radio, including the program mentioned above.  In fact, I could have listened to the final hour of this program three times.  Once was enough.  This was during the time of the Clinton administration and the troubles he had in the Oval Office.  This particular program delighted in making fun of the various things reported in the news, troubles and policies alike.  I’ll admit, some of the things were cleverly done and someone spent a lot of time dreaming them up and producing them.  Still, I eventually got tired of them and turned the radio off.

The thing is, even then I recognized that the program was wrong.  Make no mistake, I am conservative, politically and religiously.  I have no use for the liberal tendency to rewrite history and to destroy the things which made this country [US] great.  We’re not perfect, by any means, but we don’t have to build walls to keep people in.  And I’m not perfect, either.  You’d only have to talk to my wife to find that out.

But “laughter” isn’t the proper response to sin.

Ezekiel lived in a similar time.  Granted, he didn’t have radio or television or the internet,  but it was still a time of great wickedness.  Early in his ministry, he saw a vision in which God told some angels to “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it,” Ezekiel 9:4 (NKJV).

True, these men would later be spared from the judgment which, in the vision, befell the city, but that’s not what I’m thinking about here.  God was looking for people who did not make light of the terrible situation of their times, but who “sighed and cried” over it.

Can I make the application to today and the world in which we live?  Things are happening which would have been unimaginable in my youth.  I’m on Facebook, write a blog, spend some time on “yahoo answers,” but seldom do I see any real concern for the moral and spiritual cesspool this world has become.  Granted, my view is limited.  But I see jokes and cartoons and off-color or worse remarks and ridicule and scorn for what our spiritual ancestors suffered and died for to pass along to us.  This says nothing about the sacrifices of life and limb young men and women have given to protect our “freedom”.

Where are those who “sigh and cry for the abominations” championed and highlighted and promoted in our society?  Where are those who are heartbroken over what has happened to our country and our world?  The desolation and damnation at the end of that road – that broad road that leads to destruction?

I know such folks are out there.  Their voices just aren’t being heard in the din and depravity of our time.

This is a time to weep, not to laugh.