Follow-Up From Yesterday’s Sermon

I thought it might be helpful to match some terms with theological concepts that were front in center in the sermon yesterday, and then answer a question that I received after the service.

Total Depravity is the word theologians use to describe the biblical teaching that every aspect of a human being has been corrupted by sin, and therefore there is nothing the sinner can do to earn God’s favor or acceptance. Sometimes people have misunderstood Total Depravity to mean that every person is as depraved as the could be. But Total Depravity is not referring the depth of sin but the extent of sin. It states that there is no part of a person (mind, emotions, will) that is untouched by sin.

Total Inability is the necessary consequence of Total Depravity. Because every aspect of a person has been corrupted by sin, no one on their own can take even the smallest step toward God.

Romans 8:6-8 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

One more thing. I was asked a thoughtful question by a man after the second service. His question went something like this: “How should I understand the “good” things that I see myself or others doing? If, apart from Christ, no one can please God (Romans 8:8) and there is nothing good that dwells in the sinful nature (Romans 7:18), then how should I think about “good” acts that people do?

It’s important to ask, “What makes an act good?” An act is good if it is the right act (defined by the Bible), springing from the right motives (faith), and done for the right end (the glory of God). If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we often do the right thing for the wrong reason. For example, we might help someone move because we are trying to show others how kind we are. Or we might give money to a ministry so that we can have control over it. In these cases the help moving and the generous financial gift are relatively “good” compared with not helping in either case. But neither act is perfectly good in God’s eyes. From God’s perspective both acts are tainted by the sins of selfish motives or self-glory. That’s what Isaiah 64:6 means when it says that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” in God’s eyes. God, knowing our hearts perfectly, sees not only the act but also the motive and the goal. It might be helpful to remember Romans 14:23 when it says that “everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Sin is found not only in the act but also in the heart where the motive and goal reside.

I hope that this helps clarify a few things for you. If you have other questions, feel free to post them in the comments.

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