In the last post we learned we cannot encounter God and remain unchanged, following Jesus will cost us everything, and that following Jesus is more than just saying we do but is instead a heart matter. Proximity does not equal intimacy.
In this post we will take a closer look at what we are before we follow Christ so we can understand what we are supposed to be changed into once we do follow Christ.
The world today has grown up with a world-view that says humanity is inherently good. We see it said overtly and subvertly. For the overt examples, you only need to type in “man is inherently good” into your search bar and you will be inundated with articles and blog posts and philosophical papers and books all espousing the notion that man is inherently good. They will say things like people are naturally inclined to love and not to hate; to be generous instead of greedy. For the subvert examples we must dig deeper past the top layer of language and thought and delve deeper into the human psyche. If we come from the standpoint that humanity is inherently good, then we can easily come to the conclusion “whatever we think is good because we are inherently good.” If the majority thinks it is so then it must be so. We see the fruits of this train of thought with things like the erosion of truth. Some people may not use the exact words but they would say there is no absolute truth and no real truth outside of themselves. “What’s good for me is good for me and what’s good for you is good for you”. We have seen it most recently in the explosion of “self-identification of gender and sexual orientation”. I can’t keep up with all of the acronyms and names that have been coined but it seems that there is another one popping up each minute. In addition, if we are inherently good then evil must be explained by something outside of ourselves that is “unnatural”. That sounds like a great thing. It helps us feel better about ourselves and puts evil and bad things out at arms reach. But is that what the truth is? No.
So, in accordance to the title of this blog, what does Scripture say about who we are before we become followers of Christ? There are many verses that the church has seemed to gloss over or even leave out in an attempt to make “their message” easier to take rather than the raw, authentic truth of God’s message. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable – who can understand it?”. In contrast, the world loves the saying, “Follow your heart!” But again, if we come from the view that man is inherently good then it would make sense to follow our hearts because it would always lead us in the right direction. However, that is not the case. Our heart is constantly leading us astray when we don’t have the Holy Spirit leading our hearts in the ways to God. Mark 7:21-23 says, “For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.” If you think about it, what do we have to teach a child? Do we have to teach them to walk up to another child, hit them on the head and take their toy? Or do we have to teach them to share their toy and wait patiently for their turn to play with the toy? I know I never taught my 9 month old son to steal the dog’s bone and come up from behind me and whack me in the head hard enough to leave a bump in the morning, yet, he did it! (Being a martial artist, I was so proud that he waited for his target to lower his defenses before striking!) Do we have to teach a child to be selfish or to be generous? I didn’t have to teach my son to want all of the attention all of the time but he does and it doesn’t help that he is just so darn cute which makes me want to give him all of my attention a lot of the time! Do we have to teach a child to lie or to tell the truth when they’re in trouble? I don’t think I taught my son to give me the cute “who me?” smile when we catch him doing something he shouldn’t but he does. What comes naturally? Sin comes naturally because of what we have come to call The Fall.
All the way back in Genesis 3 after the creation account, we see the fall of man into sin. Before this fall, we were created to be in close relationship with God. To glorify Him was and is our purpose of being created. Still, in accordance with the sovereignty of God, evil was allowed to infiltrate His perfect creation. This Fall put into each of Adam’s offspring an inherently sinful nature. Because of this, “[w]e all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6). Our very nature strains against the will of God. That’s why people think it’s so hard to “walk worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Ephesians 4:1). It isn’t in our nature to do the Lord will. Back in the garden God told the serpent, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Matthew 12:30 says, “Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.” We are slaves to Christ, or slaves to sin.
Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians are only “Christian” on Sunday morning in the pew if that. We have masks we change into depending on where we are, who we’re with, the situation, and a whole slew of other reasons. I remember having those masks; having to switch between them and remembering which mask went with each group in each situation. Constantly having to adjust how I talked and acted based on my ever-changing surroundings was exhausting. That was never what following Christ was or is. It’s not an “accessory” we put on and take off at will. It’s who we are or we’re not. There is no “in between”, “on the fence”, lukewarm option. Jesus makes it quite clear in Matthew 12:30, “Anyone who is not with me is against me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.” In addition in Revelation 3:16, God says, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.” That leaves no room for being a so-called “passive Christian”! It leaves no room for just “sitting on the sidelines”! Romans 9:8-9 says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Getting off the sideline might not mean going to Africa and living in a mud hut proclaiming the gospel; it might be simply obeying the Holy Spirit’s calling to have that short conversation with a co-worker at just the right time. It will always be to love those around us. The Holy Spirit is the one that guides us and reveals His will for our lives. We choose to either obey those commands or not. Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.”
So, we were born into this world dead to our sin because of our sinful nature which we acquired because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. Humanity is inherently evil because of this nature we are all born into. If we die in this state we will face eternal separation from God and face the consequences for those who reject Him: Hell. (Hell will have its own post or series in the future.) But there is hope! This isn’t the end of the story but only the beginning! God didn’t leave us without a way to Himself which theologians call Reconciliation or “being saved” as most people hear it. That is what comes next.
For His Glory!