Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: depravity

The only hope

A few days ago Montreal daily La Presse published a cartoon by Serge Chapleau, with two frames, entitled Teenage Crisis 2000 and Teenage Crisis 2014. Both frames picture a young man with a surly, vacant expression, wearing cargo pants that appear in imminent danger of descending to his ankles. In the first frame he is holding a skateboard; in the second he is holding a Kalishnikov and wearing an ammunition vest. It is an apt comment on the distemper of our times.

Young people are conscious that something is rotten in the state of our world. They feel an apprehension of a great conflagration that will sweep away the detritus of our corrupt world. Some opt to make as much money as they can before the fire reaches them, others opt to have as much fun as they can, and still others feel compelled to take an active part in bringing on the conflagration.

Several generations ago, communism was the great hope of those disenchanted with the emptiness of materialistic society. Communism promised the great hope of an intense class struggle which would be followed by a reborn humanity and a classless society. Alas, communism only produced more of the same envy, greed and class consciousness.

Now the same sort of disillusioned young people are turning to Islam as the great hope for righting the wrongs of our world. Eventually they will learn to their sorrow that Islam has no power to produce a better kind of person. The savagery and cruelty of the groups waging jihad should be sufficient evidence to show that jihad is not going to make the world a kinder, gentler place.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jeremiah identified the root of the problem – the depravity of the human heart. No philosophy, political ideal, or religion that does not admit this problem, has a hope of improving our world.

Ezekiel foretold the solution: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). The birth of Jesus Christ was the first step in God’s plan to make it possible for mankind to be transformed from the inside out – one person at a time.

There are no shortcuts. Forced conversion makes no change to the depraved heart. Watering down the cost of redemption makes it ineffective. The depravity of the human heart could only be dealt with by the crucifixion of the only man whose heart was not depraved. The depravity of our own heart requires us to deny ourselves (the natural inclinations of our depraved heart), take up our cross daily (dying daily to those inclinations) and following Jesus. We must deal with our depraved heart to allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives and incline us to live as Jesus lived.

There is a very real danger that, after we have become a Christian and been set free from the compulsions of our depraved heart, we will begin to see ourselves as somehow superior to other people. This is part of the deceptiveness of our heart that Jeremiah spoke of. We cannot help anyone else find their way to freedom if we forget that we are no different than they are. The only difference is that we have washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and allowed the power of the Holy Spirit to govern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.

The failure of communism and Islam to provide any real benefit to humanity should be evident by now. The world is waiting for something that does work. Many will find it too hard. The gate into the kingdom of God is narrow, but it is still the only real hope of mankind.

Knowing our own wretchedness

I am quite well aware that I am an imperfect person. Such awareness means that I am a truly humble Christian, doesn’t it?

Or am I mistaking complacency for humility? Perhaps I should come right out and call it lukewarmness. That is what God called it when He told me what He thought of me almost 45 years ago. I opened the Bible at random and my eyes fell on Revelation 3:16: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” He was telling me that I left an awful taste in His mouth and He just had to get that taste out of His mouth.

Has God ever spoken severe, disapproving words to you? If so, it was not His intention for you to go off and start a pity party. Those were words of mercy, calling you to repentance. We cannot become a child of God if we think we are doing pretty good without Him. The severity of God in revealing the depth of our corruption is the most effective way of leading us to repentance so that we can experience His goodness and mercy.

When Isaiah saw God, he didn’t just bemoan his imperfections; he said: “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). That confession moved God to cleanse his lips and then send him out to speak powerful words on God’s behalf. It is always the case that when we are most aware of our own depravity, we are just a step away from experiencing the greatness of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

The apostle Paul was acutely aware of his weaknesses. He confessed to being the chief of sinners; he said “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Yet he also said: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I like the way Blaise Pascal put it: “Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because He shows us both God and our own wretchedness.”

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