Psalm 73 (read it here http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2073&version=NASB ), is a great help to me. I go through times where I struggle with my faith in The LORD and this is one of the passages in which God strengthens my heart.
The psalmit begins with an affirmation “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!” It’s good that he starts with this for what follows lines up with the experience of the doubter. The author of this psalm lets us know that he doubted also, but has come through those doubts and states the surety of a truth before walking us through the dark valley he traversed. He affirms the light at the end of the tunnel before taking us through it.
“But as for me, my feet had come close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped.” He describes has he had almost completely fallen away from the truth he initially stated. He was weighed down with doubt and attributes it to being consumed with the appearance of the wicked stating “As I saw the prosperity of the wicked…” This is problem. This is when the cares of this world are at their strongest – when we’re staring at them. Whether it be financial prosperity that lures us, intellectual respect, the belief system of the majority, peace and enjoyment among friends, etc; when we get our eyes off of Jehovah and see things through the temporal or naturalistic lens, we loose heart. We begin to entertain thoughts like those of the psalmist, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence…” These thoughts may sound more like this to us, “The God you were taught as a kid is not real, look at the majority of scientist and even the average Joe – they don’t even believe in Him!”, “How could God be real and this bad thing still happen to me? Maybe I’ve just been fooling myself.” Or “Where is God anyway, is He there? My world seems like it’s falling apart!”
The sure-fire way to stay in this situation is to continue to do what started it. This is the lot of those Jesus spoke of in His parable of the soils. Those who’s sprouts are choked out by the cares of the world. But by God’s grace, He will not let His children stay here long. (Why He designs our trials like these is for another day.) He will turn our eyes and hearts back to Him. Just as the Psalmist tells us, “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight, until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. ” He goes on to describe the certain destruction of those who do not fear Almighty God, and then describes himself through all this. “When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.” Looking back on his doubts and struggles he professes himself to have been senseless. This is interesting for it’s while going through these doubts he thought himself to had been foolish for believing in Jehovah; he had doubted the wisdom in not living as the ungodly. Now, having seen God afresh, he professes his doubtful time to be marked by ignorance and his mindset as that of a brute beast. Yet even in his ignorance and weakness he sees God’s grace through it all – “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.” Through it all, God had the psalmist. Through it all God was holding on to this doubting, weak creature, guiding him and will in time bring him to be with HIM.
The psalmist closes up with praise to the God he doubted initially. He declares that there is no one in heaven beside God, and nothing on earth he would rather have than Jehovah. He knows his own strength will fail him, but God is his Sustainer. It is good for him to be close to God, so he has made God his refuge. We come full circle now and see why he says as his opening statement “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!”
As I read this psalm, I am strengthened; for the world has it’s wise, it’s rich, it’s successful; and they look wise, rich, and successful. The cares can grip tightly, and there are times where I feel I am being strangled by these worldly cares. My steps are slipping, and I feel like I’m almost gone. It seems the wicked are wiser than me, it seems they have their act together, and I’m over here by myself living in a delusional world or I’m not having as much fun as they are. But God in His grace, revives me. He Who is able to keep me from falling holds my hand and guides me. There is a reason Scripture speaks of those who persevere to the end as His people. It is most definitely a fight, and by His grace, His people do fight. We are weak, but our God is strong and watches over us. We are foolish and ignorant, we are unstable and doubt the God Who created us and reveals Himself to us. We are quick to forget His mighty acts, for we easily are caught up by what we see now. Like Thomas, we are quick to believe only that which we can see; but God opens our eyes to the reality of Him. Soli Deo Gloria!
There’s another challenge I have in raising my boys, and that stems from the fact that they are my sons – they got daddy’s sin nature. Dealing with depravity is not an easy task. I see me in them, and it can be infuriating, discouraging, deflating, and more. And to make matters more convoluted, they each seem to have mastered a different facet of my sin nature. So while one takes pleasure in agitating his little brother to the point of inciting him to cry out in desperation, or likes to flaunt that he has something the other doesn’t; my second born has mastered manipulating others through emotions. He can appear innocent when he was the one throwing punches while the adult’s back was turned. Then there’s the baby – yes! Even him!! He can pitch a fit to get his way. Whether he legitimately needs something or just plain wants it, he cares nothing for anyone save himself.
Understanding the total depravity of man has helped me grasp the goal of disciplining children. (Now, granted, I don’t always operate under what I’m about to say because I myself still have a sin nature; but by God’s grace I strive to implement what I’m about to share.) The better I understand what Scripture teaches about man’s depravity, the more I was able to discipline with grace. Before I understood these things, I would get so angry at my children for doing the bad things they did. Not realizing that part of what made me so irate was that I saw myself in their sin, I was angry as I knew they knew better than to do it. I also knew there were others, people who thought I couldn’t do a good job and we looking for that “I told you so” moment, who were watching me, and my children’s sin was embarrassing me. Then God showed me my own depravity, and His grace became all the more magnificent! Not too long after, my theology began to affect my practice in child training. Their sin was not made to be a trifle, instead it was made all the more grave; yet the outrage at their wickedness was not the same. Their transgression was not against me, but God, so I need not take it personal. And they are doing what is natural to them; so instead of disciplining them out of shock that they would do such things, I knew their heart condition and could deal with it more appropriately. I know that when my children sin they are acting according to their heart’s desire. My goal of discipline is no longer behavior modification, for that is simply hanging pretty fruit on a dead tree. My goal is heart orientation. Their heart is the problem. So the times they exhibit their depravity need not embarrass me as I know they are bound in sin. Instead, it saddens me due to their bondage in sin.
Dealing with depravity should cause us to deal with compassion. I realize this issue is much deeper, I am not attempting to expound on the subject. I simply wish to emphasize one aspect of learning biblical truth – that dealing with depravity has forced me to deal with the heart, and to do so in a more loving way. Not that I mitigate the judgment given as a result of their offense; rather that judgment is dealt to them in grace – as a parent should discipline his/her child.
I realize that I have a link to monergism.com listed here on my blog, but some don’t check out the links.
Each month they have a column on the home page; this month’s is on the will, and since it falls withing the realm of my previous post, I thought I would post it here.
Bondage of the Will
“Many today build a theology around the idea which assumes that God’s commands to us in the Bible somehow imply our moral ability to keep them … but we soon forget that Romans 3:20 declares that “…through the law comes knowledge of sin.” In other words, the commands exist to reveal our moral inability, not our ability. This inability also includes God’s command of all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, an impossible act of natural will apart from a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit uniting us to Christ. Only the quicking grace of Jesus Christ applied by the Spirit can turn our heart of stone to flesh and illumine the Text in such a way (to open blind eyes and deaf ears) wherein we and able to see Christ’s beauty and excellency. Those who are unregenerate cannot see Christ’s excellency and thus have no capacity to love what is spiritual and so are not partly but wholly dependent on God to translate them from darkness to light. This means that man’s affections are in complete bondage to sin until Christ sets them free … and if the will is in bondage, it is not free. It chooses, not by coersion but by necessity to sin.”
This is a point of Scripture that we cannot afford to demote in any way.
I was speaking with a friend, and he gave assent to the the biblical doctrine that in Adam we all sinned, but it seemed that the depth of his recognition of that truth was not at the level that Scripture speaks of it.
What does God mean when He says we all died in Adam? Yes, we all fell in Adam, but what were the ramifications of this fall?
Watch and may God be pleased to bless it.
Read these words tonight and thank God for His sovereign grace!
“Why was I made to hear His voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?
‘Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That sweetly forced us in;
Else we had still refused to taste
And perished in our sin.”
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
My wife told me that she saw a segment on tv about a little girl who could not feel pain, like Roberto in the clip above. The parents were speaking of how they had to watch her every move, as she could touch a hot stove and literally watch her flesh burn off her hand and fell nothing – that there is not a single sensation that tells her she should pull her hand back; nothing to tell her that she is damaging herself! She has the capacity to kill herself and enjoy the entire process!
By now the spiritual, and even more dreadful, parallel should be apparent. God’s Word tells us that we are dead in sin, just as Roberto is dead to pain. He has no capacity to feel pain. The damage is there, and is actually being done, yet he has no impetus to cause him to repent from his course of self destruction. He is actually missing the pain receptors, so there is a communication breakdown from his hand, or any body part, to his brain . Even so the natural, or unregenerate man, cannot understand the things of God as he thinks them foolish, nor does he have the ability to understand them. (I Cor. 2:14)
Roberto could play with a broken leg, and not even slow down. We have a world full of men who have the wrath of God on them, and they don’t even slow their play. They continue in their God-hating sin, enjoying the sinful pleasures of this world, yet heaping up wrath. They have spiritual CIPA (it’s even congenital as they were born in sin). They are commanded to repent, yet they are not able to, for there is no repentance in them.
Such were some of you!
Praise The LORD that there is a verse 4, and following, in Ephesians 2!
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
May The LORD use Roberto’s situation to glorify Himself! May He cause the truth of our depravity to be ever increasingly beautiful as we see the ever increasing depths of it!
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
My hands are dirty – polluting all they touch. My eyes feed on filth and never, never have enough. All that passes over my hellish tongue, and through my vile lips, is not just tainted with evil but wicked to the core; as the kernel of thought was concieved in the rotted womb of my own dead heart.
Wickedness is not something I do, it is what I am.
All I offer, if anything at all, I corrupt. Even my most “sincere sacrifices” are in reality nothing but hypocritical bribes, aimed at attaining a thing for the pleasure of my own consumption and falling [or rather purposefully stopping] short of even attempting to aim at Your glory. And to even further manifest the stone cold state of this chunk of granite – I do these things, am told of Your worth, and give no regard.
Wickedness is not something I do, it is what I am.
Your command is to repent; yet there is no shadow of turning within this stalwart of self-sufficiency. Your command is to believe; yet I dare not trust You as You are vehemently opposed to all I am, and I to You. I cannot trust You, as this bedrock of self-sufficency is the foundation which I came from the womb building my empire upon. To lose this is to lose my life. Not only that, but this bedrock is my very core. It is bound to me and I to it.
Wickedness is not something I do, it is what I am.
Command repentance – I cannot give it, for there is none within me. I will not seek it, loving all I am and gladly being bound to it. You say, “REPENT!”, yet my master says, “No!” – and gleefully obey his wishes.
Wickedness is not something I do, it is what I am.
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
There is an ongoing debate among professing Christians, and the crux of it is this: “Just how wicked am I?” I do not fully understand why, but men like to play word games with their doctrine. I was taught that “But for the grace of God, I would be a drunken vagabond.” This phraseology sounds so spiritually humble, yet those men who I have heard proclaim that would reject the idea (in my opinion biblical doctrine) of total inability (AKA total depravity). This doctrine teaches that man is so sinful that there is absolutely nothing he can do to save himself. That he, apart from the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, can do nothing to merit God’s grace. That his heart is so overrun with wickedness, that apart from the grace of Almighty God, that man would commit the most heinous crimes imaginable for he is no better than the vilest of sinners. Yet men repudiate this teaching, declaring that it abolishes man’s responsibility to repent of his sin as God commands him to.
Their reasoning is that if God tells us to do a thing, then we must be able to do it. This is extremely faulty logic, as well as unscriptural. God commands us to uphold the 10 Commandments, yet it is an impossibility to keep them without blemish. Christ tells us to draw near to Him, to resist the devil, etc; yet also tells us that without Him we can do nothing. Scripture clearly tells me that I was dead in sin. That I walked according to the prince of the power of the air. Scripture clearly teaches me that I was “willingly” living my life for Satan, bound by my wicked master, and in dire need of life and freedom. God’s Word makes no bones about my being unable to change my heart as much as a leopard could change his spots. By my very nature, I am sinful to the core. There is no possible way for saving, Christ-honoring faith to come from this deceitfully wicked heart! With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.
There are other areas which I desire to address, but I would like to begin with this one. Ask yourself, and search The Scriptures for the answer – “How wicked am I?” If you say you are a sinner, but not so much so as that you cannot on your own, choose to love and believe in God, then I would challenge you to take another look. Scripture says we are dead, bound in sin, incapable of understanding The Gospel in our unregenerate state. Sure we are commanded to repent, but responsibility does not denote ability. If God were to only tell us to do that which we could, then there would be no need for dependence on Him.
I do not believe Scripture teaches that Christ has done all to save us, save put the finishing touches on sealing our eternal security until we meet His blood with out faith. What Scripture does teach is that Christ ransomed us with His blood, that He reconciled us to God, and through His death, we are made righteous before God.
These are just a few thoughts… comments most welcome.