Yesterday, I talked about the fact that Jesus came into this world to “save His people from their sins” and yet people would rather be saved from everything else except their sins. The reason for this is that many people do not sin as man’s greatest problem. But as D. A. Carson points out,
If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.
Today, I would like to discuss the subject of Man in Sin. What does the Bible mean when it says that man is a sinner? I would like to share five things in response to this question based on the teaching of the Bible.
1. We Are Sinners in What We Do
Sin is the breaking of the law (1 John 3:4). All of us have broken the Ten Commandments. Jesus gives us a proper understanding of the Ten Commandments in the Sermon on the Mountain. No mere human being can claim to have kept all the Ten Commandments. We have all broken each one of them at one time or another. James says that if you break one of the commandments, you have broken them all (James 2:10). Every day, you and I sin by doing things that we shouldn’t do and by failing to do the things that we should do. There is no escape. We all know that. Even the people who do not have the Scriptures – those who have never even heard of the Ten Commandments – are guilty before God. They too are sinners for God has written His law on every human heart. Every person is born with a conscience which either accuses or excuses him when he has done something wrong (Romans 2:15). So, we are all sinners in what we do.
2. We Are Sinners in Who We Are
Sin has affected who we are. We sin because we are sinners in the same way a dog barks because it is a dog. We call a man who sleeps around, a womanizer; a person who steals, a thief; and someone who kills other people, a murder and so on and so forth. You get the point. I am sure you have heard it said: Sow a thought and you reap an action; Sow an act and you reap a habit; Sow a habit and you reap a character; Sow a character and you reap a destiny.
Anyone who reads the Bible seriously will understand this. But you will never really understand that you are a sinner until you come face to face with Jesus Christ. Before the Lord Jesus Christ, we all must say with Peter, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). We must not only read our Bibles, but we must let our Bibles read us before we can fully understand who we are before God. Once the searching light of the Word of God penetrates the human heart, sin comes in the open. The Bible is like a mirror which shows us who we really are inside and before our holy and just God.
3. We Are Sinners from Head to Toe
This is a very bitter pill for most people to swallow, but we all must swallow it. It’s good medicine for our souls. A right diagnosis leads to the right prescription. An correct diagnosis is the first step towards a cure. The doctor must do his job well and when he has, the patient must accept both the diagnosis before the cure. As it is with the body, so it is with the soul. Now, you may wonder what I mean when I say that we are sinners from head to toe. I don’t mean that man is as bad as he could ever be. Thank God. If that were the case, life in this world would have been impossible. Praise the Lord that He restrains the power of evil in this world so that we can go on living, working and worshipping Him even as we enjoy His blessings. But the truth of the Bible is that man is totally depraved – totally corrupt. “No one is good,” the Bible says “no not even one” (Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 53:1-3; Romans 3:10-12). We are all evil at heart. Even the best things that we do are like a “menstrual cloth” before God (pardon the language here but that’s the literal translation of what Isaiah 64:6 says). We are not good people who occasionally do bad things. No! Rather, we are bad people who occasionally do good things. And everything that we do that is truly good, we do under the direct influence of God. Left to ourselves, we would only do that which is bad. So, on hand, God deserves 100% of the credit for any good that I have ever do. And on the other hand, I am 100% responsible for all the evil that I have done in my life. They hymn writer, Henry Twells (1889) said it well:
Not for our sins alone; Thy mercy, Lord, we sue; Let fall thy pitying glance; On our devotions too; What we have done for thee; And what we think to do. The holiest hours we spend; In prayer upon our knees; The times when most we deem, Our songs of praise will please; Thou Searcher of all hearts, Forgiveness pour on these.
I couldn’t agree with him more for this is what the Bible tells us. As it was in the time of Noah, so it is today (see Genesis 6:5). Human wickedness in the earth is great in extent. The trend and direction of men’s lives is only and continually towards evil. Human nature has never been able to rise above sin. People in every generation, from every race and in every age group have struggled and continue to struggle with sin. Therefore, we must say, no generation is worse or better than another; no race is worse or better than another; and no age group is worse or better than another. They are all bad!
4. We Are Sinners from Birth
According to the Bible, I was born a sinner from the moment my mother conceived me and so were you. Each one of us came into this world the same way – in sin (see Psalm 51:5). We all started out bad, being born with evil natures. No one has to teach a child to lie. Every child naturally knows how to lie. But every child needs to learn to tell the truth. You had to learn to tell the truth and did I. No one had to teach you or me selfishness. We were born selfish and we had to learn how selflessness. Every child learns the word “No” before they learn the word “Yes” because they hear the word “No” more often than they hear the word “Yes.” Thus, all godly parents bear the solemn responsibility of praying for their children’s salvation. I must say one more thing before I get to the last point. The fact that we were born in sin, does not mean that we are not responsible for our sins. I cannot blame my parents for my sins and you shouldn’t blame yours either. I am responsible to God for my sins and so are you.
5. We Are Sinners before a Holy God
This has huge implications friends. It means that we stand under the just condemnation of this holy God. Because of sin, man is under the curse of God and doomed forever unless he repents and trusts in Jesus for salvation. As we have already seen above, man is full of sin (from head to toe) and was born in sin. In sin, man cannot obey God. A sinful man only obeys the Devil who is continually working in the hearts of those who are against the Lord. I was once that way until the Lord changed me. If you are a Christian today, you were that way too. All of us who have repented of our sins and put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation, were like that. Our past lives expressed the evil within us. We did every wicked thing that our passions or our evil thoughts led us into. We were under God’s anger from birth just like everyone else. And those who have not repented of their sins – those who are still refusing to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned before God. God does not mess with sin. He has said that every sinner will die (see Ezekiel 18:20 and Romans 6:23).
But there is Hope
Now, all that is very depressing! It’s true, but depressing. Let me end on a high note. It’s not a hopeless situation. There is hope. The Bible offers salvation in and through Jesus Christ. Our God is just and holy. But He is also merciful and gracious. In fact, He is so rich in mercy so much so that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, He gave us back our lives again when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Furthermore, He lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Jesus Christ. Everyone who believes in Jesus today sits with Him in the heavenly realms because of what He accomplished for us on the cross. So now, we are no longer sinners under the just condemnation of God. Instead, we are saints under the merciful forgiveness of God. God can now point to us as trophies of His grace. We are saved by the rich kindness of God which He showed us in all that He did for us through Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:4-7; Romans 5:8).
Salvation is by Grace Alone
All this underlines the fact that our salvation is by grace alone. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” That is the good news of the gospel. But we needed to hear the bad news first before the good news. Good news is only considered good in light of the bad news. Now, we are ready for the Good News which I hope to discuss in greater detail in later posts. God bless.