July 6 2017
One of the theological convictions to which I hold is the idea of total depravity. But believing that it’s true and experiencing its effects first-hand are two completely different things.
Let me start by explaining the idea of total depravity.
Oh man, that sentence is way too ambitious. Instead, in the words of Inigo Montoya, let me sum up.
Total depravity is the idea that humankind is completely separated from God and unable, on the basis of our own merit, to earn back what we have lost. It doesn’t mean that we always do the most wicked thing possible; it just means that we’re completely lost in our sin without the saving work of Jesus.
Our sin is so deeply planted in our character that we can’t escape its effects. The apostle Paul sums it up this way: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:17).
Without the influence of the Holy Spirit, the equilibrium would be tilted completely toward our flesh nature, and the only reason we don’t see even more sin than we do is because of what’s sometimes called God’s common grace. We call that our conscience, which is the Holy Spirit’s imprint on our hearts, even for those who don’t know Jesus.
That’s the theology behind it, and that’s the filter through which those of us who follow Jesus can interpret human sin generally.
But there’s a difference between knowing the idea generally and having to work through it personally.
This week, I had a first-hand experience with total depravity that took me by surprise. I find that odd given the job that I have and the things that I see as part of it. But this one hit close to home.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. And you, like me, have had to wrestle with your own emotions as you’ve processed what you’ve experienced.
And maybe, like me, you’ve realized that the only way to be able to process the effect of sin is through the message of the gospel of Jesus. When things happen to us or to those closest to us, we instinctively get mad at God and ask questions like, “Why did you let this happen?”
That’s where good theology comes in because you realize that’s the wrong question. Instead of asking God why he lets bad things happen to us, the question we have to ask is why he’d let anything good to happen to people like us.
Why, in the light of our rebellion, would he care for us? Why, in light of our sinful tendencies, would he be gracious to us? Why, in light of our desire to seek our own sinful gratification, would he do anything on our behalf?
But that’s what makes the gospel so amazing. We chose sin, but God didn’t leave us in our sin, despite the fact that we deserve to be left there.
Instead, he acted in love, mercy, and grace on our behalf. He did what we couldn’t do. He provided a means of return. And he did it by giving up his own Son.
And because of what Jesus has done, we have hope. Sin is big, but God is bigger.
This week at Parkland, we’re looking at two stories from Luke’s gospel that are about Jesus overcoming the effect of human sin in the lives of two particular people. These are stories of compassion, of mercy, and of deep and abiding hope.
And those are the stories that we need to hear.
See you Sunday.