We often think of our need for a Savior in terms of our own sins. What I mean by this is that we tend to recall the “bad things” we’ve done and see this collection of misdeeds as the reason we need forgiveness. It isn’t that we don’t need to be forgiven of these things (we certainly do!) but there is something deeper, something more wicked than the sum of all of the worst things we’ve done. In fact, it isn’t our “sins” that are our primary problem. Something darker, deeper and deadlier is at work in us.
When we speak of Total Depravity (the “T” in TULIP), what comes to mind is often the acts of such wicked men as Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and other infamous bad guys. We may think of certain categories of people like murderers, rapists, child molesters, telemarketers. In other words, we think of the worst of the worst – people who have acted in heinous ways – as the truly depraved. To apply a term like “total depravity” to our dear old grandma or the delightful, well-mannered little girl who lives next door seems overly harsh and downright wrong. In truth, however, the Bible describes us all as having the same wickedness as those notorious offenders above. Granted, not all of us act out our depravity in such extreme ways, but the corruption that infects every one of us at our root is the same. Though we may try to deflect this charge (“I’m just not that bad a person!”), the testimony of the Bible convicts us (even if we don’t “feel” guilty).
Paul, writing to believers in Ephesus, said, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…and [you] were by nature children of wrath….” David, in his great prayer of repentance said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” In Romans 3 Paul gives a scathing indictment against all mankind, saying such things as, “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.”
When the Fall occurred (Genesis 3), it was not just Adam and Eve who suffered the consequence of their sin. It was passed down to all their descendants. A corrupt tree cannot produce good fruit. Generation after generation of mankind is reproduced with a nature that is spoiled with the effects of sin. Our desires, our minds, our wills are all corrupted.
This sounds absolutely horrible! That’s because it is. And it gets worse. The effects of this condition (called “sin”) is so extensive that it makes us utterly incapable of coming to God on our own.
Jesus himself said, “No one can come to me to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Isn’t that chilling? “No one can.” Again Paul, “No one seeks after God.”
As it turns out, we really do need a Savior. I’m going to borrow an illustration from R.C. Sproul:
It has been said in pulpit after pulpit that man is drowning in the ocean. He’s going down for the third time, and unless someone helps him, he will surely die. The problem with this is that the Bible doesn’t describe us as drowning or dying. The testimony of Scripture is that we’re dead! We are at the bottom of the ocean, already dead, lying with an anchor on our chest. No matter how many lifelines are thrown, we are incapable of grasping for it…we’re not even capable of knowing it is there! We don’t need someone to throw us a life-preserver, we need someone to breathe life into us.
In Romans 7:24-25 Paul says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”