Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Total Depravity

The United Nations is in session as I write this blog. The most powerful critics of the USA come to the USA to criticize the USA and go shopping. It is somewhat comical and somewhat sad but this is our world where some see evil in only some, not at all in some others and certainly not in themselves.

The missing element in the UN these days and in our world is an old Protestant doctrine called "Total Depravity". This terrible sounding doctrine is a declaration of a truly terrible reality. All men are fundamentally bent toward evil and getting worse not better. That is, all men are incapable of doing what their highest and most noble aspirations tell them they should do no matter how much they want to or how hard they try..

This doctrine about man's bent toward evil comes most clearly from the Apostle Paul's writings in Romans where he tells us we should not judge the sinners he describes in Romans 1 by concluding in Romans 2: 1 "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself: for you who judge practice the same things" Hugo Chavez needs to read this verse this morning and so do I.

Paul goes on to say that "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23 That is, we all fail to reveal the quality of love that God is all the time. This fact makes us " totally depraved". Don't compare yourself to dictators to get off the hook of total depravity. Compare yourself to Jesus and you will see you "fall short". Falling a little less short is no victory just like drowning in two feet of water is no victory over the person who drowned in 30 feet of water. Both are wet and dead.

If you need further convincing of this teaching on human depravity read Romans 7 and you will hear the Apostle Paul say of his own attempt at the highest of human aspirations "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do." Romans 7::14-15

If you need further convincing just watch every idealistic government for the people that rises up with no limits on its power end up abusing its power and people over time.

If you need further convincing just make up your mind that you will only love others like Jesus did and God commands and then try to live that out for a few days. Start trying to love Hugo Chavez if you are an American who loves America. Start trying to love George Bush if you are from Europe or Harvard and you think George Bush is the Anti-Christ.

The doctrine of total depravity properly understood in Europe and the USA due to the Protestant reformation birthed modern democratic behaviors like free press, limited power, term limits, free speech, separation of powers, etc. When the doctrine of total depravity is not understood and taught as a universal fact you will see these very democratic behaviors begin to disappear in the name of good people in charge of depraved people.

Watch these democratic behaviors that limit how much power some can have over others begin to disappear and you will see another characteristic emerge. We begin to call other men or governments Satan. Of course when we do call others Satan or evil, we reveal we do not believe we are totally depraved or evil, too.

Listen to the UN speeches this week and you will hear those who do believe in total depravity and those who do not. Those who do not believe in total depravity will most powerfully condemn the most democratic nations while at the same time claiming they lead revolutions that are fighting for true democracy even if it means going to war with the great Satans of the planet at the "temporary" but "necessary" expense of their own people's democratic freedom.

By the way, trying to turn the current US President or any other political leader into Satan to better oppose him politically does not fit well into reformation thought that birthed democracy. It certainly does not fit at all with Paul's words in Romans 2:1 the helped birth the reformation. Be very careful with anyone who helps you see others as fundamentally more depraved than we all are. Stay away from any teaching that does not put Jesus and Jesus' words at the very center of the debate. Jesus said "Judge not that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with what measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Matt. 7:1-2 He also said "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." Matthew 5:44 Does this include the week they come to the UN to speak and shop?

What we need to do is to preach total depravity again in our churches so all Christ followers are the first to know we all need limits on our personal power until Jesus is formed in us and truly becomes our personal limit which must become sustained love. When Jesus is our true limit we even sustain love toward our enemies during UN week.

Loving our enemies is really hard when they come to the UN and bash one's country while shopping in our stores! It is hard when they call one's leaders evil and then say "But protect my speech and let me finish my shopping."

Until Jesus is everyone's limit we need limits on all of us--especially those of us who have power over others.

By the way, believers in Jesus do have power over others in this world. It is the power of love and we would be wise not to trade the power of love for the power world leaders use. Jesus is our example and He wins because He loved. He was the only human who was not depraved and His perfectly sustained love proved it!

If anyone sees Hugo Chavez or me this week read both of us Paul's words in Romans 2:1 and Jesus' words in Matthew. We need it equally because without Jesus formed in both of us, we are totally depraved.

Pray for me as I listen to the speeches. I need God's grace!

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