The depravity and lostness of humanity
The great Reformers, John Calvin, Martin Luther and others have rediscovered the plight of man before God as they studied the Scriptures in the original languages in the sixteenth century. For many centuries the church of God was in the dark about their true condition before God. How depraved and lost are human beings without God? Are they partly depraved, and partially lost. Do they need some assistance to be better individuals? Do they only need assistance from God to be accepted by Him? Or are they totally depraved, totally lost?
The Bible makes it clear in Romans 3:11-19 that humanity are unable to help themselves, unable to save themselves. We are in fact dead in our sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-2). We don’t need divine assistance only, we need to be born from above, born of the Holy Spirit. We need a new birth (John 3:3-5). We are radically evil and sinful. We are not as evil as we could be, not all of us! We are totally depraved, meaning there is no way we will turn to God unless the Holy Spirit makes us alive to spiritual realities. Listen to how Paul the apostle puts it:
“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 ESV).
The Scriptures here explain the condition of man without God. This passage makes it clear that we don’t need improvement and self-actualization. We don’t need to revamp the self. We need a complete change of our natures to come to God. We need spiritual regeneration. We need to be born again, we need the Holy Spirit to make us alive unto God if we have any chance to come to God and be saved. The Father must draw us in order for us to come to Christ (John 6:44). We are not by nature looking and seeking after God. Rather, it is God who was and is seeking after us. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He takes the initiative in salvation. It is God who awakens us to our sinful condition. It is God who convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). It is God who shows us our depravity before God. If left to ourselves we will never seek after God. We are born in sin (Psalm 51:6). We go estranged from the womb (Psalm 58:3). We are all born in Adam with a sinful nature (Romans 5:11-19). We are born evil and rebellious. Again, I said we are not as evil as we could be, but we are morally and totally depraved, God-hating and unable to choose God and receive His salvation unless God takes the initiate and shows us our sins and how heinous our sins are in front of his holy and just presence.
Many times we compare ourselves to other sinners, like serial killers and prostitutes and thieves and murderers and rapists and say to ourselves we are not as evil as they are. My friend without God’s restraining hand we will become the worst creatures of hell! Without God’s restraining hand nothing will stop us from becoming as evil as Hitler or Stalin if we are given the opportunity. Many times we are not as evil as we could be because we lack the opportunity to sin in such ways. But we should not think that serial killers and rapists are more evil than the self-righteous and the religious. Was it not the Pharisees and the Scribes in Jesus’ day that were excluded from the kingdom of God and tax-collectors and prostitutes that entered the kingdom of God? You see if we start relying on our own goodness and righteousness then we are in a worse danger than when we live in spectacular sins. If we live as if we don’t need God and become self-sufficient then we shut ourselves out from God’s grace and mercy. This self-righteousness is what made the Pharisees in Jesus’ day so contemptible in God’s sight. As Charles Spurgeon said:
“The black devil of licentiousness has slain her thousands, but the white devil of self-righteousness has slain her tens of thousands.”
Paul the apostle said of the Jewish leaders:
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:1-3 ESV).
Self-reliance is what is taking many people in our societies to hell. You are not safe at all if you think you do not need Christ desperately from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, and second to second. The prophet Jeremiah warned us with these words:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV).
As John Calvin the theologian said: “the heart of man is an idol factory.” Left with an unregenerate heart no human can image what we are capable of. And relying on our own abilities and living independently before God may be the worst kind of evil. It is a heinous crime against God’s majesty to inwardly say to Him: “I don’t need you.” What surprise God-haters and God-ignorers and God-deniers will face when they stand before God one day face to face and hear the words: “depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Jesus Christ described the heart of man in this way:
Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”” (Mark 7:18-23 ESV).
We are eternally lost, eternally damned, eternally wicked and totally depraved left to ourselves and our own devices. We are without hope and salvation without God shining into our hearts the truth of the gospel. If we want to know the extent of our depravity before God all we have to look is at the law of God and the Ten Commandments. In the law of God we see our guilt to the fullest extent. In God’s moral law we see how many times we have fallen short of the perfection and glory of God.