This is the reality about humanity. We are each born with an evil God hating heart. Genesis 8:21 says that every inclination of man’s heart is evil from childhood, and Jesus’ words in Luke 11:13 assume that we know we are evil. Many people will say “I have always loved God,” but the reality is, no one has. We may have loved a god we made up in our minds, but the God of the Bible, we hate.
In our evil we rebelled against God. We take the law of God, written in His Word and on our hearts, and we disobey it. This is the picture of the very first sin in Genesis 3. Even if God has told us not to eat from the tree of knowledge, we are going to do it anyway.
We spurn of Creator’s authority over us. God beckons storm clouds, and they come. He tells the wind to blow and the rain to fall, and they obey immediately. He speaks to the mountains, “you go there,” and to the seas, “you stop here,” and they do it. Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator…until we get to you and me. We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, “No.”
Jesus told us that everyone who sins is a slave to sin, and Paul went as far as saying that we are captives of the devil himself. And because we are slaves to sin, we are blinded to God’s truth. Ephesians 4:18 says that we are darkened in our understanding and our hearts are like stone. According to 2 Corinthians 4:4, we can’t even see Christ because of the depth of our spiritual blindness.
The Bible describes us as enemies of God and objects of His wrath. We are spiritually dead and eternally separated from God. What’s worse is that we can do nothing to change our status before God. No one who is morally evil can choose good, no man who is a slave can set himself free, no woman who is blind can give herself sight, no one who is an object of wrath can appease that wrath, and no person who is dead can cause himself to come to life.
The Gospel confronts us with the hopelessness of our sinful condition. But we don’t like what we see of ourselves in the Gospel, so we shrink back from it. We live in a land of self improvement. Certainly there are steps we can take to make ourselves better. So we modify what the Gospel says about us.
We are not evil, we think, and certainly not spiritually dead. Haven’t you heard the power of positive thinking? I can become a better me and experience my best life now. That’s why God is there–to make that happen. My life is not going right, but God loves me and has a plan to fix my life. I simply need to follow certain steps, think certain things, and check off certain boxes, then I am good.
Both our diagnosis of the situation and our conclusion regarding the solution fit nicely into a culture that exalts self sufficiency, self esteem, and self confidence. We already have a fairly high view of our morality, so when we add a superstitious prayer, a subsequent dose of church attendance, and obedience to some of the Bible, we feel pretty sure that we will be all right in the end.
Note the contrast, however, when you diagnose the problem biblically. The modern day Gospel says, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps and you can be saved.” Meanwhile the biblical Gospel says, “You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do.”
The former sells books and draws crowds. The latter saves souls. Which is more important?
In the Gospel God reveals the depth of our need for Him. He shows us that there is absolutely nothing we can do to come to Him. We can’t manufacture salvation. We can’t program it. We can’t produce it. We can’t even initiate it. God has to open our eyes, set us free, overcome our evil, and appease His wrath. He has to come to us.
Now we are getting to the beauty of the Gospel.