You are SCUM.
Well, so what? I'm convinced that a lot of people are just happy with their lives and the foolish meanings they have in them, and most people nowadays probably couldn't care less that God has a plan for their lives. Who is this God anyway? Why should they care what He thinks? This objection sounds all too familiar.
Understanding something about God is critical, that He is holy and perfect, that we need to be both, and have fallen grossly short.
However, the thing that is largely missing from our presentations that bothers me most is a powerful confrontation of the sin in a person's life. We gloss over things with statements like the above quoted ones from known Gospel tracts, putting a statement out front that is designed to cater to something man would want (a good plan, a meaningful life, or something else) rather than the clear offense of the Gospel and what the Bible says about our state of sin.
The Bible teaches that we are DEAD in our sins, and that we are EVIL, completely opposed to God, HATING HIM, and wanting NOTHING to do with Him. THIS is the state of man without Christ, not merely having a problem or only being separated from God. Man, apart from Christ, is under God's WRATH, and in danger of HELL. Spurgeon put it better than I ever could:
Ho, ho, sir surgeon, you are too delicate to tell the man that he is ill! You hope to heal the sick without their knowing it. You therefore flatter them; and what happens? They laugh at you; they dance upon their own graves. At last they die! Your delicacy is cruelty; your flatteries are poisons; you are a murderer. Shall we keep men in a fool's paradise? Shall we lull them into soft slumbers from which they will awake in hell? Are we to become helpers of their damnation by our smooth speeches? In the name of God we will not. It becomes every true minister of Christ to cry aloud and spare not, for God hath set a day in which he will "judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel." As surely as Paul's gospel was true the judgment will come.
Do I seem a little upset? I hope I do, because I am. We have dumbed the Gospel down so much, trying to "encapsulate" it so that our culture can stand it to some extent, and we've lost the force of it. We are evil, sinful, rebellious, rotten sinners who have mocked, insulted, hated, and blasphemed God and deserve nothing but His wrath and justice. Where do I get this? I get it from the BIBLE, which is the thing we need to be giving people when we share Christ with them. If we don't, then we have no power. How can I make this statement? Have a look:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Why is it then, that we don't bring the Word of God, preached/declared expositionally to people if we want God to save them? Hmm? Is not the Gospel the power of God unto salvation? Why then do we not take the passages of Scripture that deal specifically with salvation (our state before God, the need for atonement, repentance, faith, etc) and expose those to people, demanding their submission to them? WHY, I ask you? WHY do we NOT do this?? Perhaps we don't think they are so bad; maybe we think that they can just choose Jesus if they feel like it and that their state isn't TOO deplorable. Well, I'll tell you what: that is NOT the teaching of the Bible, and we need to repent of this kind of evangelism. Where does the Bible indicate such a wretched state of man that I've described so far? I'm glad you asked.
Romans 3:9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
(10) as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one;
(11) no one understands; no one seeks for God.
(12) All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
(13) "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips."
(14) "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
(15) "Their feet are swift to shed blood;
(16) in their paths are ruin and misery,
(17) and the way of peace they have not known.",
(18) "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
(19) Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
(20) For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
I simply cannot understand Christians not affirming Total Depravity unless they are ignorant of what the Bible teaches, or they are flat out rejecting its teaching for some reason. I DEFY anyone who would say that man has a will that is free in the sense that we can choose God on our own, and I stand on the clear teaching of Scripture to back me up. It simply is NOT true. Without the Holy Spirit changing us, we cannot choose God. It will NOT happen.
The Bible says in this passage and a few others besides that we are not able to submit to God's commands. Romans three is very clear; no one is good (neither Jew nor non-Jew). No one is righteous, no one seeks God. After saying this, Paul goes into one of the most thorough and condemning descriptions of the human race found in the whole of the Bible. There are others, but this one I think takes the cake. We are BAD, and to say otherwise is against the Bible's teaching.
"But wait," you might say, "I know people who do good things! Besides, doesn't the fact that the Bible commands us to do something make it possible for us to do it?"
Two answers exist. First, I will respond to the first statement with a question -- good in whose eyes? The Bible makes very clear how God views our "righteous acts"! Not only that, our flawed perspective of right and wrong causes us to view a person's "good deeds" from the wrong angle. Instead of seeing "all the good" someone is doing and seeing the "little sin" that is there, we should be seeing the fact that everything a person does is sin! Since everything that is not from faith is sin, and that without faith it is impossible to please God, we MUST conclude that people who do not have faith in Christ are sinning in everything they do. They constantly fail to glorify God in everything, and therefore are continually sinning. Apart from the saving work of Christ, the Bible makes very clear what we are:
We are scum.
There is NOTHING good in us that God looks down and sees as a reason to save us -- NOTHING! The Bible indicates clearly that NO ONE does good! Since this is the case, the electing grace that is discussed in the Scriptures MUST be Unconditional. There isn't anything good in us that would be a condition for election anyway (never mind the Scriptures that address this fact, but this is a subject of a later post).
To the second question, I offer a resounding NO. There are many passages of Scripture that indicate quite the contrary. In that last link, Joshua demands the people of Israel to choose to worship the LORD -- and then turns around and tells them that they CANNOT DO IT. Who of us can be holy apart from Christ's work in us? Who of us can be perfect? NONE of us can. By the same token, none of us can choose Christ without God making it so we can. It is that simple.
I think George Whitefield said it very well:
Come, ye dead, Christless, unconverted sinner, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with graveclothes, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone placed on top of it. View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him, Ah! how he stinketh. Stop there now, pause a while; and whilst thou art gazing upon the corpse of Lazarus, give me leave to tell thee with great plainness, but greater love, that this dead, bound, entombed, stinking carcase, is but a faint representation of thy poor soul in it natural state;...thy spirit which thou bearest about with thee, sepulchered in flesh and blood, is literally dead to God, and as truly dead in trespasses and sins, as the body of Lazarus was in the cave. Was he bound hand and foot with graveclothes? So art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions; and as a stone was laid on the sepulchre, so there is a stone of unbelief upon thy stupid heart. Perhaps thou has lain in this estate, not only four days, but many years, stinking in God’s nostrils. And, what is still more effecting, thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy boasted free will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said ‘take away the stone” and cried “Lazarus, come forth,” also quicken you. This is grace, graciously offered, and grace graciously applied.
May God grant that we get back to this kind of evangelism, confronting sinners in their sin with the truths from God's Word and with God's Word itself.
The Gospel and God's Glory are at stake.