THE SUPREMACY OF GOD IN THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN
By Dustin Shramek
God's grace is a glorious thing and I'm sure that many of you would agree. But I wonder, how glorious is it to you? Does your heart fill with amazement and praise at the thought of God's grace? Or does you think a simple thank you is sufficient?
Imagine you were walking barefoot and you stubbed your toe. Your toe began bleeding and so your friend offered you a Band-Aid. You would be grateful, offering them a simple thank you and then go about your business.
But what if you were swimming and you got swept under by the current and drowned. Then, out of nowhere, the very person you hate most, dives into the water at the risk of drowning as well. He pulls you out and gives you mouth to mouth, he saves your life. Would you simply say thank you and then get up and walk away? Certainly not, you would be forever grateful for what they did, your heart would be full of joy and praise for their heroism. Your hatred would be reconciled and you would never get over their kindness. It would be your meditation for the rest of your life.
Well, I wonder how many of us view our salvation this way. Or do we just say, "Thanks, God. The Band-Aid works great," and then go about our business. We need to understand just how great God's grace is. We need God to restore unto us the joy of our salvation.
But we will never be able to fully appreciate God's grace until we understand what we have been saved from. We must rid our minds of the thought that salvation is a Band-Aid repair job, just kind of fixing us up. And then replace it with the sobering truth that we were dead, repulsive, ugly sinners. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
Dave Busby, last's years Main Event speaker, has said, "Your amazement at the grace of God will never exceed the understanding you have of your depravity."
I agree and I have found that statement to be humblingly true. I hope that after tonight you to will have a better understanding of your depravity (meaning corrupt, perverted, wicked), so that your amazement at God's grace may abound more than ever.
To do this I want to start by looking at Ephesians 2:1-3.
Verse one says that we were dead in trespasses and sins. What does it mean to be dead in our sin? God told Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:17, "but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." They ate, but didn't die physically. So what does this mean?
Charles Spurgeon divides it into 3 kinds of death. We are legally dead, spiritually dead, and eternally dead.
1) We are legally dead. We stand condemned before God. Spurgeon likens it to the inmate on death row. His sentence is already given, he isn't waiting to be condemned, he is condemned. As are we. The law reckons us as dead, condemned.
2) We are spiritually dead. Not only have we been reckoned dead, but death has taken place. Our spirit is dead. Our heart is dead and enslaved to sin. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Jesus said in John 8:34, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin." We are walking corpses in God's eyes because we are enslaved to sin. We are dead to good, but alive to evil.
3) We are eternally dead. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death." When we stand before God on judgement day, we will be sent to our eternal destination. Those dead in sin will go to Hell. Last week Matt shared with us the horrors of Hell. It is so horrific because Almighty God is passionately pouring out all of His righteous anger on the "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction." He proves Himself Holy by passionately punishing those who have attacked His glory. And He does this to vindicate the holiness of His great name. Which we have profaned.
How have we profaned God's name? "For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Je 2:13). God created us so that we would glorify Him by enjoying Him forever. But we have not glorified Him and we have not enjoyed Him. For the essence of sin is seeking our satisfaction in things other than God. Do you see why that would offend God? When we sin we are saying to God, "God you are not the most supremely valuable thing in the universe. No, I prefer my family, my job, my friends, myself, over you. For these things will give me real enjoyment. You can do nothing for me. I don't want you."
When we seek our satisfaction outside of God, He is greatly offended and we thereby justly earn the punishment of Hell that Matt so vividly showed last week. Nahum 1:6 says, "Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken up by Him."
If we die apart from Christ we will suffer an eternity of punishment.
In verse 2 Paul says that we walked in sin, we were slaves to sin. Isaiah 64:6 says, "For all of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment." Our righteous, good deeds are nothing but filthy rags in God's eyes. Romans 14:23 says, "Whatever is not from faith is sin." If you are not a believer in Christ, everything you do is sin. Going to church is sin, being kind to your room mate is sin, being honest is sin, coming to Campus Crusade for Christ is sin, its all sin! Everything is sin!
Titus 1:15-16 says, "To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed." Everything the unbeliever does is defiled and impure. They are "worthless for any good deed."
Why? Because their deeds aren't done in faith. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him" (He 11:6). When you do your good deeds, are you doing them to glorify God? Is God's glory your motivator? If our good deeds are not done in faith, they are sin. We need to stop thinking that sin only means to hurt others. We have a very horizontal outlook on sin. We only look at our interactions with fellow humans and then judge if something is good or bad. We must be looking vertically! For God is greatly offended when you cheapen His glory. Therefore, Paul says that all people before Christ walked in sin.
Paul also says that Satan works in the sons of disobedience. A person is either a son of God or a son of disobedience. We either bear fruit for God or for death. Matthew 7:18 says, "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit." Apart from Christ, one is a 'bad tree", bearing "bad fruit". We were sons of disobedience. Just as I am a son of Shramek, inheriting Shramek traits, I also was a son of disobedience, inheriting traits of disobedience.
This brings up an interesting problem. How did we become a child of disobedience? Did we sin when we were little and then become a child of disobedience? No, we were born a son of disobedience. Paul says in verse three that we are by nature children of wrath. That is who we are. "We are not born in a neutral zone but as enemies of God, 'by nature children of wrath'. We do not merely do evil; we are evil."--Michael Horton
Just as it is in human nature to walk on two legs, have social relationships, etc. It is human nature to sin. Psalm 51:5 says, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." In Genesis 8:21 God says, "the intent of Man's heart is evil form his youth..." We are born with a sin nature. This is called original sin.
When Adam sinned he was acting as a representative for all of mankind. Therefore Adam's sin was imputed to us. Imputed means, "to be given credit for something that you did not do." Remember two weeks ago when Matt shared about justification and how Christ's righteousness is imputed to us? We need Christ's righteousness imputed to us because Adam's sin was imputed to us. And we are held guilty. This teaching is referred to as imputed sin. And I want to add that all of the catechisms of the major denominations believe original sin and imputed sin, including the Catholic church. This is not something new.
The most clear text that teaches this is Romans 5:12-19. Verse 18 says, "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men."
So when we are born we are "by nature children of wrath", we are "sons of disobedience."
Verse three also says that we lived in the lusts of the flesh, we indulged the desires of our flesh. What does it mean to live in the flesh?
Turn with me to Romans 8:6-9, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you."
Paul has set up a contrast between those who are in the flesh and those who are in the Spirit. He says that Christians are those who are in the Spirit, thereby implying that if you are not a believer, you are in the flesh. The problem is that those who are in the flesh are death. They are hostile toward God. Romans 5:10 says that they are enemies of God. Why are they hostile? Because they do not submit to God. Why don't they submit? They are not able. Whoa? Did you hear that? The mind set on the flesh is unable to submit to God. He even goes so far to say that they cannot please God. If you are in the flesh there is absolutely nothing that you can do to please God. But wait. What if a person wanted to believe in Christ, wouldn't that please God? Yes it would, but this text says they are unable to do anything that can please God, therefore, we must conclude they are unable to believe in Jesus, they are incapable of desiring Jesus. They will not want Jesus for if they did, they would please God, but they cannot please God.
Turn back now to Romans 3:10-12. Paul writes, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."
Paul says that no one seeks God. There isn't a single person who will seek God on their own. No one does good. There isn't a single person who will do good in their own power. Left to ourselves, we will always choose according to our nature. We will never seek God because that is against our nature. We will only seek sin for it is sin that we delight in. Job 14:4 says, "Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one!" Jeremiah 13:23 says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil." We are accustomed to doing evil, and we cannot change who we are.
What does all of this mean?
Does it mean that we are floating in the sea of sin, barely staying afloat so we don't drown?
Are we in the dog house with God?
Is God a little upset by our sin, so He has sent us to our room or grounded us from TV?
NO!! We aren't' floating in the sea of sin, we are dead at the bottom of the sea! "We aren't in the dog house with God, we are in the morgue!" God isn't a little upset, He's furious and His wrath is pointed right at us! He doesn't just send us to our room for the night, he condemns us to Hell for all of eternity!
HEAR ME PEOPLE!!!! THIS IS NO SMALL MATTER!
We were in deep trouble. We were dead! And if you don't know Christ, you still are dead. Dead people can't raise themselves. That's why we need Jesus! Left to ourselves, we would happily and willingly sin our way to Hell!
Is there no hope? In Matthew 19, when the disciples asked Jesus, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus answered them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." That is our hope. God. It is God who saves! We cannot save ourselves, it is impossible, but not so with God. He can save us.
Turn back to Ephesians. Here in verse 4 and 5 is the heart of the gospel, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)."
"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins" BUT GOD!
"In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world" BUT GOD!!
"According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" BUT GOD!
"Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh" BUT GOD!
"Indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind" BUT GOD!
"And were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest" BUT GOD!
Our hearts were hard (Ez 36:26) BUT GOD!
We were in the domain of darkness (Co 1:13) BUT GOD!
We were enemies of God (Ro 5:10) BUT GOD!
We were slaves to sin (Ro 6) BUT GOD!
We bore fruit for death (Ro 7) BUT GOD!
Our minds were blinded (2Co 4:4) BUT GOD!
This is the heart of the gospel. BUT GOD!
Its all about Jesus, not us. BUT GOD!
Its about His power, not ours. BUT GOD!
Its about Him choosing us, not us choosing Him. BUT GOD!
Its about His glory, its about His fame. Its all about Him BUT GOD! being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)."
That's what grace means. When you were dead in sin, unable to do anything and totally unworthy of anything other than condemnation. BUT GOD!
Do you see why the gospel is so beautiful?
Does your heart sing forth with praise?
Or are you indifferent?
Are you dead in your sins? Do you need the Holy Spirit to make you alive? Do you need God to rip out your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh?
These are hard questions, but oh, they're so important. Don't dismiss them just because you always go to church, you have a belief in God, or you do good things. As we've seen, none of those things will help you when you stand before the throne of God on judgement day. If you don't have Christ, all He'll see is a corpse, dead in their sins.
How does one know if the Holy Spirit has made them alive? How do you know if you've been raised from spiritual death? I think you can know by how you answer these questions:
Do you cherish Jesus and His death? Do you love Him beyond measure? Do you hold Jesus dear to your heart? Do you long to be with Him?
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field" (Mt 13:44).
Is Jesus so sweet to you that you would give all that you have, including your life, to be with Him? That's the kind of faith that saves, the kind that loves Jesus. "If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed" (1 Co 16:22). Do you have that kind of love for Christ?
Maybe some of you don't and you're beginning to realize that you're dead in your sins. You want to love Jesus, but you can't. You want to repent of you sins and turn to Christ, but you're unable. What should you do? Throw yourself at the feet of Christ and cry out for His mercy. Ask Him to give you faith. Ask Him to give you a love for Jesus. Ask Him to grant you the desire and ability to repent.
Ephesians 2:4 doesn't say, "But you, seeing your state of despair, because of your guilt and conviction, chose God and became alive." It says, "BUT GOD! Made you alive even though you were dead."
If you are a believer, your heart ought to be overflowing with praise and thanksgiving when you hear "But God". It is a glorious thing that God saved you. You weren't drowning in the sea of sin when God threw you a life preserver and pleaded with you to grab hold. For God could have pleaded all He wanted, but dead people don't grab life preservers. No, dead people sink to the bottom and are in need of a mighty Savior who will swim down to the bottom of the sea and pull you a shore. And just as He pulls you up out of the water, He gives you the ability to breathe and you take in the first gush of air and rejoice that you were once dead, but now you are alive!
We must never forget our salvation. Ephesians 2:12 says, "Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Why should we remember? Because it humbles us and glorifies God. We couldn't save ourselves. We couldn't even muster up the faith to believe in God. But God did give us faith and He did save us. Oh what a glorious God we serve. May we remember in all things the great work that Christ has performed in us. Raising me, Dustin Shramek, a dead sinner, to life.
He can raise you too. Ask Him to give you life. Repent and believe on Jesus for there is no other way. For it is only by His grace that you can be saved. And oh, how wonderful His grace is. What glorious grace. What amazing grace.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was blind, but now I see.
His grace is amazing. For He saved me, a wretched sinner. I was lost, but God found me. I was blind, but God gave me sight. I was dead, but God made me alive.
May we find hope, peace, and joy in those wonderful words, "But God."
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, by the Lockman Foundation.
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