Christianity 201

April 20, 2015

Totally Depraved…Without Christ

Gal 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Today we pay a return visit to Sunny Shell who blogs at Abandoned to Christ. To read this at source, click the title below.

Total Depravity and a Small Act of Kindness

Yesterday, on my way home from the grocery store, I was overwhelmed by a very small act of kindness. Not one done to me, but one I was able to offer a total stranger.

As I neared a construction area in my neighborhood, I saw a man driving a truck wishing to come out of the alleyway. He was unable to because no one driving either north or south would allow him entrance onto the main road since we all had to share a single lane due to the construction. I understand. It was rush hour and everyone was trying to get home.

When it was my turn, and I had the right of way, I stopped and waved him in. He was hesitant and looked to the car coming southward, but they saw me and stopped too. The driver of the truck smiled, carefully drove out, and gave me a warm wave of thanks. I smiled, nodded and waved back. Then I smiled and waved at the driver who joined me in this very small act of kindness and they smiled and waved back.

Unexpectedly, as I thanked God for this opportunity to show a stranger this very small act of kindness…I began weeping. I was overtaken by the fact that I could experience such joy over something no one else involved in this situation would probably ever remember. I mean, this isn’t the kind of thing anyone goes home and writes about (well…obviously…present company excluded). This very small act of kindness isn’t something we’ll eagerly tell our family and friends or even years from now, reminisce fondly and repeatedly tell our grandchildren about. It’s simply a very, very, very small act of kindness.

So why am I writing about it? Why am I telling you about it? Why is this small act such a big deal?

It’s a big deal because the instant I thanked God for allowing me to experience exuberant joy for such a small act of kindness, I realized how very depraved I am without Christ. As I thanked God for allowing me to notice that other person, the small need he had at the moment, and that I was able and desired to meet that need, filled me with joy.

Realizing I’m far too self-absorbed, selfish, and so many other words that begin with “self”, to notice another human being, let alone a need they might have, I wept with thanksgiving in my heart to the Lord. In actuality, we’re all a bit too self-something or other. We all complain too much, we all feel more entitled than we ought, and we all suffer from outright pride, or pride cloaked in self-loathing.

Our eyes are too fixed on self rather than on Jesus and that’s why we disobey Him and why many won’t acknowledge Him as who He is—the one true God, Creator of all we see and can’t see, the King of kings, the Lord of lords and the only way of eternal salvation. Whether we want to admit it or not, and regardless of how meek a person may appear, disobedience to God in any form originates from pride. We all have it. And we all suffer from how it manifests itself—total human depravity.

But here’s the thing, total depravity doesn’t mean I’m as depraved as I can be and neither are you. Total depravity means we’re all sinful and totally incapable of saving ourselves. But because of God’s common grace, no human being is as depraved as they can be. Evil does not dominate the earth because God is God and He is gracious. The sun shines on both those who bear the righteousness of Christ as well as those who reject Him. God causes the rain to fall on the ground and bear fruit to feed both His children and His enemies.

Without God’s common grace poured out to all creation, no human would be safe from constant evil bombarding them from their first breath to their last. None of us would ever be able to experience any joy in participating in any act of kindness, small or great because we simply wouldn’t even think to do it. We’re all too self-actuated. We are all that depraved (Rom 3:10-12).

Admitting I’m totally depraved without Christ isn’t self-loathing. And it isn’t depressing. It’s actually an act of great confidence, that is, confidence in Christ’s finished work on the Cross on my behalf. Those whom God has chosen to grant repentance that leads to saving faith, willingly bring and see all things in the light of God’s truth so that it’s clear that any and every good has been carried out by the mighty and compassionate hand of God (John 3:21)—even a very small act of kindness.

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

Prayer request for regular C201 readers: Please pray for me (Paul) and my wife (Ruth) as we are going through an extremely stressful time right now in various areas of life.

August 22, 2012

Looking Unto Our Founder and Perfector

Every once in awhile I stumble on someone who is doing devotional blogging and wonder how I never saw their work before. After including a piece from Camille’s other blog today on the link list at Thinking Out Loud, I decided to check out her devotional blog, where she was deep in Hebrews chapter 12.  This is a mash-up of two of her posts — we tend to run long whereas she keeps things concise! — at her blog Think Upon These Things.  Again, you’re always encouraged to click through instead of reading here, and the browse the rest of the blog and consider bookmarking it in your computer.  (The links today are in the title of each of the two parts.)

 Hebrews 12:2 “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith….”

“looking to Jesus”

Note the commands that we see in Hebrews 12:1 & 2.

Command #1: “Let us also lay aside very weight, and sin which clings so closely.”
Command #2: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Now, note what is not a command.

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

This is not a command. In English, it is participle. It takes a word which normally functions (look) turned into an adjective (looking) in order to describe the manner in which we are to complete the action of the true verb (run).

“Looking to Jesus” is not a command. But that does not mean it is not an imperative. Meaning, if you or I try to run while looking at something other than Jesus (even the cloud of witnesses, great though they might be), we will fail. We will not endure. Why? Well, consider this. Hebrews 12:1 clearly proclaims that we must look to the cloud of witnesses in order to inspire us to lay aside the weights of sin. Why? Because that’s what they did. They were imperfect men like we are who struggled with the same hindrances that plague us. They ran well, with endurance, although imperfectly. However, Hebrews 12:2 clearly proclaims that we must look to Jesus as our example of endurance as we run because He ran in such a way that was perfect, satisfying God’s righteous demands, and it is Him and Him alone that we seek to imitate.

Think of it this way. Suppose you want to draw a picture of a horse. However, you can’t find a horse, so instead of using a live model or a picture from the Internet or a child’s toy horse, you settle for the cow that you can clearly see from your window. What will the flaws be in your picture? The basic body structure of the two animals is almost identical. They both have hooves, four legs, a tail, a powerful torso, a neck, head, ears, nose, eyes, and a mouth. However, the fine points of your model will be fundamentally erroneous. Also, a cow has features that a horse does not have. If you are considering a female cow, it will probably have udders. If you are considering a male cow, it is possible that it will have horns. Horses never have udders or horns. You are looking at a model that appears genuine, but is actually quite distorted.

This is what happens when we try to too closely imitate godly men and women who have gone before us instead of using Christ as our model of endurance. Christian biographies, accountability partners, and role models all have their place, but when it comes right down to it, all of those models are missing something or have too much of something that Jesus Himself had or didn’t have. This is why we pray in Jesus’ name, and not in the name of any saint. This is why we study His life first and foremost and measure everyone else by Him. This is why we call ourselves Christians and go by no other man’s name first and foremost.

Aside from the perfection of Jesus’ pattern, I believe there is another reason we are told to look to Him first and foremost as we run with the intention of endurance. We all know that we sin daily. This is what we have that Christ hasn’t got – our sin nature. This is also what we lack – the holiness of God. But when we look to Jesus, we look at what we will one day become – not the Son of God Himself (we will never be divine), but we see that He has satisfied the righteous requirement of the law (our failures!!) and made it possible that we would be considered justified (legally guiltless) before God the Judge of all. We see in Him what will take place when we are fully and completely sanctified. Seeing Jesus as we run gives us hope, because we are not perfect, but He was; we are not yet perfect, but because of Him, we one day will be.

“founder and perfecter”

Founder: synonymous with author, champion, pioneer, prince, or predecessor.
Perfecter: synonymous with finisher, goal, or completer. 
(See this for the variety of translations of these two words!)

Similar to Revelation 22:13’s statement that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, this statement notes two distinct yet complimentary truths about Jesus’s relationship to the believer. He the origin and leader of His disciple-followers faith in Him. Without Him, we would have no basis of faith. The story of redemption at its very beginning starts with Jesus Himself (Genesis 3:15). You cannot get any more fundamental than Jesus Christ. We need Jesus in a way that we need nothing else!

However, Jesus’ role does not stop at the beginning; His presence in the story remains until the very end (Revelation 22:17), and He is there through all the rising action, present at the climax, and even controls the dénouement. He remains even now, the perfect example for us, the Sovereign Lord over us, and the sanctifying force in us.

Short entry, but this is not a complicated truth. :)