Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Are Christians Wicked And Depraved?
I want to deal today with statements that are often spoken BY Christians TO Christians ABOUT Christians.
To put it another way, I have many times heard preachers and teachers use these statements to describe their audience, even while assuming that their audience was made up of believers in Jesus Christ.
Or let me put it one more way to clarify what I’m saying:
These two statements are used to describe born-again Christians. And I want to challenge that thinking, not only because it’s not biblical, but because being unbiblical, it is ultimately harmful to the Christian walk, denies the work of Christ in the believer, and confuses an understanding of the New Covenant.
I will give you the two statements in just a moment, but first I want to say a word about the New Covenant.
The New Covenant is the basis of our understanding the work of Christ on the Cross, on our behalf, and should result in our praising and glorifying Him for His awesome work. It should also result in our freedom to draw near to Him in fellowship and communion. And it should result in the freedom of the very Life of Christ being lived out through us.
But teaching these two statements as applying to believers, to Christians, stifles our understanding of the Work of Christ, it stifles our freedom to draw near to Him in fellowship and communion, and it stifles the very Life of Christ from freely being lived out through us.
O.K. Terry, so come on, what are the statements, already?
Well, here they are:
1. The first statement actually is a verse of Scripture from Jeremiah 17:9. I’ll quote it from the King James Version, because that’s how it’s usually quoted, even by preachers who normally use a modern version of the Bible. It goes like this, and if you’ve heard much preaching and teaching, you’ve heard it a hundred or a thousand times:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”
Now modern versions will more accurately read, “desperately sick”, but in making their point, most preachers will revert back to the King James, because it drives their point home stronger.
And their point is simply this. That you, as a believer in Jesus Christ, still have a heart that is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Now, before dealing with the actual question of whether this applies to a born-again believer, let me make it clear that I’m not disagreeing with the truth of God’s Word. When God inspired those words of Jeremiah, He meant them. I’m certainly not calling into question the truth of the verse, only the truth of to whom the verse applies.
2. The second statement I want to deal with is also a statement that I agree with. I think it’s biblical, and I have often taught the statement myself, but NOT as applying to a born-again Christian.
The statement is actually the first point in the so-called 5 Points of Calvinism, and is usually called “Total Depravity”. It’s not a single verse of Scripture, but is deduced from several Scriptures, and goes usually something like this:
Man is Totally Depraved, in the sense that every part of his being has been affected by his inheriting Adam’s fallen nature, and he therefore has no spiritual good in him and can do no spiritually good act.
I believe this statement is perfectly true, when applied to the right persons.
The truth of this statement is the basis for Paul’s words in Romans Chapter 3, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who seeks for God; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”
But, again, our question is, does this teaching of Total Depravity apply to the born-again Christian?
Let’s put the two statements together and examine the truth of them as they apply to a true believer in Jesus Christ.
If we combine the two statements and boil them down to their essence, and apply them to Christians, we could say, “Born-again Christians are wicked (Jer. 17:9) and depraved (Total Depravity).”
Let’s examine, Scripturally, if that is true. Let’s look at some biblical truths and compare.
The New Creation
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
This is a most amazing part of the New Covenant, that God has given us a new nature, made us a new creation. He didn’t just add it on to the old nature, we were transformed in our spirit, and made a new man.
The Old Man was crucified with Christ, and is now dead. That means that we don’t have two natures, as is commonly and unbiblically taught. Our very nature was changed, in our spirit, and we were made a new creation.
Now that doesn’t mean there are no problems. Although our spirit or nature was born-again, made new, our flesh was not.
That’s why Paul is careful to say, in Rom. 7:18, not just, “I know that nothing good dwells in me,” but he adds, “that is, in my flesh.”
Did you know that a probe applied to a certain part of your brain can bring you back to a day in your life when you were five years old, and your mind will experience it as if it were today?
See, we still have the same essential body, the same physio-chemical brain, and unfortunately, some bad thought patterns ingrained in our flesh. These things are more physical than most Christians are led to believe. We know now from medical science how closely related our brains are to our minds.
I say all that to say this, that as Christians we are no longer wicked in our heart, in our nature, in our spirit. In fact, Jesus has come to dwell in our spirit and the Bible says that we are one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17).
The promise of the Prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah to give us a new heart has come to pass in the New Covenant. It’s no longer accurate to say that the heart of a Christian is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, or sick. We have been made new.
And God wants us to know that, because if our hearts are still wicked, then it makes perfect sense to live or walk like wicked people, doesn’t it? But if we are a new creation, with a new spirit that loves Jesus and hates sin, IN OUR NATURE, then it makes perfect sense to live or walk like Christ-lovers.
And that’s why Paul pounds it through our heads in Romans 6:6, when he says, “…our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be made powerless, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”
And in verse 11, he says, “Reckon yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God through Jesus Christ.”
In other words, don’t reckon yourselves wicked and depraved. Don’t be so foolish. You’ve been made new. Your nature has been changed. You are a new creation.
That’s one of the many ways in which our minds need to be renewed. Our spirit was born-again, made new. But our minds still need to be renewed, so that we are not squeezed into the mold of the world. But also our minds need to be renewed so that we are careful not to deny the work of Christ on the Cross in which he not only paid for our sins, but allowed us to be crucified with Him, making us dead to sin and alive to God.
No longer wicked and depraved in our heart, in our spirit.
Will we still act wickedly at times? Perhaps even lots of times?
Yes, but such wicked actions spring not from our nature anymore. They don’t spring from our spirit, but from being deceived by the world, the flesh and the devil. Being deceived into thinking that the desires of the flesh which war against the spirit are best. And so we find ourselves agreeing with Paul that “I do the things that I don’t want to do, and the things I want to do I don’t do.”
But we need to also agree with Paul when he says, “But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh.”
What does he mean? Simply this. That in his heart, in his spirit, he loves the Lord, he loves good, he loves what is right, and he hates sin. That’s his new nature, that’s his spirit. But in his flesh, in his members, in his physical brain, still dwells sin. And it’s that sin which is operating, not the new creation Paul.
And so Paul had to do the same thing that you and I have to do. To learn to walk by the Spirit, and not by the flesh. And part of that learning to walk by the Spirit is to realize that as believers we are no longer wicked and depraved in our nature. We are new creations, God-lovers, sin-haters. And we can live like it, IF we walk by the Spirit.
When we fail, thank God we have an Advocate. We are forgiven, all our sins, past present and future.
But what a joy it is to walk like what we are, new creations who love Jesus Christ.