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The Depth of Our Sin

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 18, 2024 12:01 am

The Depth of Our Sin

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 18, 2024 12:01 am

Most people believe that if they've tried to live a good life, they'll be accepted by God. Today, R.C. Sproul refutes this delusion and examines Jesus' definition of "good."

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R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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I would say the greatest error and the most frequent error that human beings in this world make is the assumption that they are going to get past a holy God on the basis of their own performance. Nobody's perfect. Aside from our Lord and Savior, that is a true statement. But when somebody says, nobody's perfect, it's used as an excuse for sin and to try and explain that they're really good. But the message of the Bible closes our mouth, revealing that we are sinners to the core. Welcome to the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. We've been spending Saturdays considering what it means to be human.

R.C. Sproul has helped us understand what Scripture means when it describes us as being made in the image of God. Dr. Sproul then turned the corner last week, reminding us of the reality of our sinfulness. But just how sinful are we?

Before Dr. Sproul answers that question, don't forget that you can own this series, A Shattered Image, and Dr. Sproul's book, The Hunger for Significance, when you give a gift of any amount at Well, here's Dr. Sproul on the depth of our sin. I was speaking to a friend the other day, and this lady related to me a situation she just had with her son. The son was about six years old, and the mother is very keen on evangelism. And she asked the son, she said, do you think that after you grow up and live your life and die that you're going to go to heaven? And the boy seemed pretty confident that he would go to heaven, and so the mother probed this a little bit and said, well, suppose you were to stand before God, and God looked you straight in the eye and said, why should I let you into my heaven? What would you say to God? And the little boy thought for a second, and then he looked up at his mother and says, well, if God asked me that, I would say, because I've really tried hard to be good. And then this puzzled look came over his face for a moment, and then he said, well, not that good. I thought that was very perceptive for a six-year-old child because basically most of us harbor in our minds that all it's going to take to be acceptable to God on the day of judgment and the day of accountability is that we have tried, that we have done our best, and that we've been basically good with our lives. But even a six-year-old kid with a limited understanding of the perfection of God and His immature understanding of his own fallenness had to think twice and realize that his goodness was not quite good enough. Well, that's even a false statement, isn't it? It was not a matter of simply being not quite good enough.

It's not even close to being good enough. And yet I would say the greatest error and the most frequent error that human beings in this world make is the assumption that they are going to get past a holy God on the basis of their own performance. So from 6 to 66 to 86 to 96, I like people to wrestle with that question. And I ask you to wrestle it. What would you say to God if God said to you, why should I let you into my heaven?

How would you answer that? How do you hope to stand before God? Because again, this calls attention to the problem of our fallenness. This young man who said that he tried to be good or that he was good but had to stop and realize that he wasn't good enough was assuming something else, something that we've already looked at, namely that even though he recognized that he was not perfect, he was still thinking of his own sin in terms of that which was basically on the surface, something that slightly marred or gave blemish to his being the image of God, but he didn't really have an in-depth understanding of the degree and intensity of his alienation from God. Anybody out there will admit that no one's perfect. If I say to people, are you a sinner? I mean, you hardly ever hear somebody say, no, I'm not a sinner. We're all sinners.

What's the big deal? But to find one person in 10,000 who has any understanding of the degree of what that means is exceedingly difficult to do and is exceedingly rare to find. Now, the Bible tells us that the problem of our fallenness is not merely something, as I said, on the edge or the rim or the surface of our lives, but it goes much more deeply than that. And the problem that we discuss in theology is the problem that we call the problem of original sin. How many of you have heard that phrase at least, original sin?

Okay, good. I'm sure that if you've had any exposure to the teaching of various churches, you'll realize that virtually every church in the world council of churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, all these different churches, all have some concept or some doctrine of original sin. Now, how they understand original sin will vary greatly from church group to church group and from theologian to theologian, but at least this much is virtually universally agreed upon, and that is that if we're going to be serious students of Scripture, we have to develop some concept of original sin. The Bible simply does not teach that man is basically good. I know that's un-American, that the principle that we are taught from children on upwards in America is that man is basically good.

Yes, there are imperfections. Yes, there are blemishes in Mars that I've mentioned, but deep down inside, beneath all these surface problems beats the heart of a righteous person. Let me read you the Apostle Paul's descriptive view of the state of mankind. In chapter 3 of Paul's letter to the Romans, Paul teaches this, quote, verse 10, "'As it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one.'" There is none who is righteous, not even one.

Now doesn't that just run smack up against everything that you've learned in your culture, where we say so-and-so is a good person, or so-and-so is a good person? Here's Paul saying, there's nobody righteous, not even one. Well, maybe all the Apostle means here is that there's nobody perfect.

Then we wouldn't be quite so startled by the strength of this language that he uses here. Maybe that's all he means, there's nobody perfect. Then he goes on to say, there's no one who understands.

Almost sounds like a frustrated husband, you know, who's always going to be, my wife doesn't understand me. But Paul is being that Paul is being very sober here. He's saying there's nobody out there, no one out there who really understands who God is, who really grasped the nature and the character and the perfection of God. Now I think you will see in the structure of Paul's writing here that there's kind of an assumed or elliptical, logical progression to this description of the human situation. There is none righteous. In the next statement, there is none who understands.

Do you think there might be a link between those two statements? Part of the reason why none of us ever achieves the standard of righteousness or perfection that God requires of us, that none of us becomes that mirror and reflection of His greatness is because we don't understand what the standard is. We're so far removed in our thinking now from the holiness of God that we've become blinded as to what is right and what is wrong. Look on TV every day. Watch the vehemence of the debates that are going on. I keep coming back to abortion, but there it is. There we see the nation divided at its heart, and we see people protesting, marching, being chained to doors saying, stop this holocaust, this affront to the sanctity of life, where on the other side of the street you have other people with deep convictions, risking social ostracizing and all the rest, and they're running around marching with signs saying, stop invading our rights, maintain human rights, and keep the rights of women and so on. They are pro-choice or pro-abortion, and you have pro-life, pro-choice, and you have these different factions at each other's throats in this country, and both are sincere, opposite ends. And I look at that.

I see that image on television. I say, here, half the world is sure they're right about this point, and the other half is sure that they're right and the two can't be brought together. What is the basis of their thinking? What is the standard by which we are judging right from wrong? What Paul is saying here is that the reason why we don't have the right attitudes and the right practice, the right behavior, and the right kind of lives that would please God is, first of all, because we don't understand. We don't understand who He is. There's none righteous.

There's none who understands. There's no one who seeks after God. I can't think of anything that the Apostle has written that provokes more disagreement in daily conversation than that one. I mean, I listen to Christians talk all the time, and they're telling me always about people that they know who are not Christians, who are not believers, but who are seekers who are seeking after God. And I have to scratch my head and say, wait a minute, my friend says he knows somebody, or my person says I'm searching for God. I can't seem to find him, but I'm searching for God. Paul says there's nobody that searches for God. That is, no natural person, no person outside of regeneration that searches for God.

No, no, no, no. As Thomas Aquinas said, people are seeking desperately for peace of mind, for relief from guilt, for meaning and significance and value to their lives. All the while they're running as fast as they can from God. Don't tell me that you have sought for God with all of your heart and soul and have not found Him.

He's not hiding. It's our nature not to seek God. It is our nature in our fallenness to flee from God. He goes on to say, there's no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away. Together they have become futile. There is no one who does good, not even one.

Now let me say that again. The Bible says that no one, no one does good, not one. What if I said to you, you've never done a good deed in your life? You'd think I was nuts, wouldn't you?

You'd say, where's this guy coming from? What do you mean, I haven't done a good deed? Obviously, the word good is relative.

Now be very, very careful here. Relativism teaches that there are no absolutes, okay? And so that goods are just relative. But when I say that good is relative, I mean that something is judged to be good or bad according to a standard.

Now if we differ over our assessment about our performances, maybe it might have something to do with the fact that we're judging ourselves and each other from different standards. According to God's standard of goodness, according to God's norms for righteousness, no one does good. Remember when the rich young ruler came to Jesus? He was all excited. He'd heard Jesus talk about the kingdom of God, and he came up and he said, good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? He said, eternal life, I dig that concept.

That sounds great. I'll live forever. What do I have to do to get it?

Where do I sign up? And what did Jesus say? What were the first words out of Jesus' mouth? Jesus looked at the man and said, why are you calling me good? Only God is good.

Critics have jumped on that and say, here Jesus is saying, hey, why are you calling me good? Only God is good. I'm not God. Leave me alone.

Don't try to elevate me. That's not what Jesus was saying. Jesus understood that that man had no idea who He was talking to, and yet in a cavalier way, in a frivolous way, He comes up and just says, lays the flattery on Jesus and says, good teacher. Jesus said, wait a minute.

Wait just a minute. Why are you calling me good? Don't you know that only God is good? He said, okay, you want to know how to get to heaven? You know the commandments. You went to the synagogue. You learned your lessons.

You were bar mitzvah. I should not kill. I should not steal. I should not commit adultery.

By this time, this young guy is championed to bed, and he is getting more and more impatient. He wants to know how to get into heaven. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus. I mean, I was looking for something much more profound from you.

You have such a reputation for being a theologian. I didn't want to hear the same old stuff that the rabbis have been teaching all this time. I just doubt to not kill. I just doubt to not steal.

I just don't keep the law. He said, hey Jesus, all this stuff I've done for my youth. He says, I've kept the Ten Commandments all my life.

Jesus said, oh, you kept them all from you? Okay. Well, here's just one thing you need, just one more thing. Oh, now the guy is excited. He said, okay, I've done the easy part.

I kept the law. Now I just have one more thing. I'm going to get in heaven. Let me turn around.

What's that one thing? Jesus says, go and sell all that you have. Give it to the poor. Take it to the cross and follow me.

I said, oh. And the Scriptures tell us a very, very sad ending to that story. The Scriptures say that the man walked away sorrowful because he had great possessions.

And again, we look at that passage, and we try to build a whole theology of private property and wealth and all of that on the basis of that. That's not what Jesus was talking about there. Remember the guy had just said he'd kept all the law of God? I think it's clear what Jesus is doing in His own pedagogy here. I can just read Jesus' mind if I dare. Jesus says, oh, you kept the Ten Commandments. Let's see. Let's start with number one.

Thou shall have no other gods before me. Let's see how He does on that one. Okay, you keep all the law.

Go sell all that you have. Whoops. Can't keep that one. It was over. He didn't have to get to the second commandment.

He never got to it. Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not… Obviously, the rich man had never been present on the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus explained that when God says you're not allowed to kill a human being, that that's the shorthand version of the law, but that elliptically contained within that statement, thou shalt not kill, is that thou never must be angry with your brother without cause, that God will judge you if you hate someone without cause, if you gossip about someone, if you slander someone, if you're unkind to someone. All of that is part of the broad complex of the law against murder. The great commandment, thou shalt love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your mind and all of your soul and your neighbor as much as yourself.

Now, just stop right there. I know that there's no one in this room or who's watching on television who has kept the great commandment for five minutes. There's nobody in this room whose entire heart has been given to God. But if we love God with our whole mind, imagine what we'd know about the things of God. Imagine the depth of our ethical sensitivity if our entire minds were given to God. You see, I haven't loved God with my whole mind for five minutes in my life. I haven't loved God with my whole heart for five minutes in my whole life.

But I recognize that nobody else has either. And since God grades on a curve, you know, He's really not all that concerned about this commandment. He called it the great commandment just because He was overstating the case. See, we don't take it seriously.

Jesus took it very seriously. No one does good. You say, well, I sacrifice, I do things, I give my money to the poor.

I do all of that thing. But you see, for a deed to be good in the sight of God, not only must it conform externally to the law of God, but it must have been done flowing out of a heart that loves God completely. So if any deed I do has the slightest admixture in it of selfishness or pride or arrogance or anything else that mars that work, it's not good in the sight of God. And because sin touches everything we touch, Jesus is not exaggerating. Paul is not exaggerating when he says, no one has done good.

No, not one. There are people who think they have enough good in their lives. If they have enough goodness to satisfy the demands of God, I say to you, you have no goodness that meets the requirements that God has set forth. Again, the Apostle says, their throats are open graves, their tongues practice deceit, the poison of vipers is on their lips, their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood, to remark their ways in the way of peace they do not know.

And then here's the bottom line, there is no fear of God before their eyes. Are you afraid of God? Do you have a sense of honor and reverence for God?

Does what I'm saying seem utterly strange, foreign to you? Let me suggest to you that God made you, and He made you in His image. And in making you in His image, He has given you, He's built into your makeup as a human being, a capacity for and a need for the reverence of your Creator. And you know that God is worthy of your honor and of your reverence and of your adoration.

And you know that it is your moral responsibility to do those things. But we have been so disobedient for so long that after a while we're not even afraid of God. We laugh at Him. We say He can't touch us.

He can't hurt. He's hiding. That's how deep it goes. It's not just on the surface. Paul goes on to say that it's not simply that we've missed the mark, that we're alienated from God, but that we are actually enemies of God in our natural state. Now, when we talk about original sin, we are not talking about the sin that Adam and Eve committed. We are talking about the result of the first sin. Original sin has reference to our sinful condition, our sinful bent, our sinful inclinations by which actual sin flows. To put it another way, we sin because we are sinners. We are not sinners because we sin.

Is that clear? The reason why I sin in my fallen condition is that since the fall of mankind it is now the nature of human beings to be inclined and drawn to sinfulness. I sin because I'm a sinner, and I was born a sinner.

David says what? I was born in sin, and in sin did my mother conceive me. I mean, not only does the Bible teach us, I believe clearly and unambiguously, that the moment a human being is conceived in the wound that God regards that conceived embryo as a person, not only as a person, but as a sinful person.

Not only do we have life in the womb, we have corrupt life in the womb. That's what the Scriptures tell us, that at the very moment we're conceived we have already now participated in the fallenness of the human condition. And so we are born with a disposition and an inclination to sin. That's what original sin means. Now again, what is the degree of it has been a tremendous issue throughout the history of the church.

Is this disposition, inclination, or bent to sin something that is total, radical, or is it partial and tangential? Historically, we've had all kinds of positions taken on the extent, the degree, and the guilt imposed by original sin, but there are three major schools of thought on understanding original sin, and they are what we're going to call Pelagianism. It's related to a monk in the fourth century whose name was Pelagius, and then we have semi-Pelagianism. He had Pelagius had a cousin by the name of Semi.

He was a truck driver in the ancient world, old semi-Pelagianism. And then we have Augustinianism. Now, these are the three major groups or schools of thought in understanding the extent to which the image of God in the narrow sense has been lost through the fall. And what I'm going to do in the last lecture in this series is to give a brief survey, an evaluation of these three schools of thought, because I think you will see that they typify not just the ancient debates over man's sinfulness, but all the contemporary arguments as well will fall at one point generally in one of these three positions.

That was R.C. Sproul with a message that the world doesn't want to hear, but one the world needs to hear. And I trust that these messages are helping you answer the world's questions about who they are and also their great need for a savior. Today's message was from Dr. Sproul's series, A Shattered Image. It's an in-depth study on what it means to be human.

And you can own this complete series. Access the digital study guide and we'll send you Dr. Sproul's book, The Hunger for Significance, Seeing the Image of God in Man, when you give a gift of any amount at The debate about identity, the value of human life is heated today. People are asking questions and making assertions that are not based on the truth. So be better prepared as you work through this study and Dr. Sproul's book.

You can request both at before the offer ends at midnight. Since we are all sinners, what has that done to our wills? How free are we? We'll answer that next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-18 03:23:06 / 2024-05-18 03:32:38 / 10

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