We live in a truly miraculous day and age. Here in America, life has been made easier (but more complex) by the combination of great advances in technology and fertile imaginations. Cell phones enable us to contact anybody just about anywhere at any given time. Notebook computers can wirelessly access the internet from just about any location imaginable. The internet itself has become the world’s knowledge-base. There is no subject that cannot be thoroughly mined by simply ‘Googling’ it. Oh how I wish the internet had been around when I was in school. I actually had to go into a library and read books! Life is good. Life is accessible. Life is easier than at any time in history. But as Paul Simon once sang, ‘These are the days of miracle and wonder. Don’t cry baby, don’t cry.’
There may be good reason to shed tears, I fear. The modern church has adopted the world’s ‘let’s make things easy, convenient, marketable and consumable’ philosophy. The call to salvation has been streamlined much like the process of producing a Big Mac at McDonald’s. Pastors preach a short, life-affirming message marketing the good life that can be yours by simply reciting a short prayer or by signing a ‘decision’ card. Then Poof! Just like that, a person enticed by the pleasures and benefits of a relationship with Christ, is ushered into the family of God with great glee from the congregation, while the pastor records another mark on his annual salvation tally sheet.
And downright deadly to the soul. Not only is the pastor deceiving these people, they will most likely fall into self-deception, believing they have attained God’s favor and salvation when they are yet in their sins.
That is the elephant in the sanctuary that many pastors and their congregations refuse to talk about. They willfully refuse to address the issue of sin when it is the central problem separating man from his Creator. Modern Evangelicalism has adopted the idea that man is basically good and all he needs to do to ‘get right’ with God is ‘make a decision for Christ’.
This is false teaching. it circumvents the problem of man’s sin and his innate enmity for God and His holiness. Because the bulk of Christendom today has abandoned the doctrines of Grace (Calvinism) no one believes in the total depravity of man. No one buys into the biblical truth that man naturally has no desire to be reconciled to God or that he is completely helpless to save himself. That the grip of sin is so powerful no one can break loose of it and choose to do any redemptive good. This truth has been completely abandoned. As a result, salvation has been reduced to simple intellectual assent to eternal truths. The matters of the heart have been laid aside, to the shame of the masses.
This is a major reason why the doctrine of man’s radical corruption is important. Personal salvation cannot be attained until we confront our own sin, and repent of it, trusting in the work of Christ to cleanse us of all iniquity. Radical corruption is a practical doctrine with many applications into the ministry.
The practical application of man’s depravity lays its foundation around this central truth.
We cannot hope to ever attain God’s favor by acts of our own righteousness.
Dante wrote ages ago that at the very gates of hell a sign is posted reading:
Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
I was a false convert at the time I read the quote. Even though I thought myself secure, I shivered in my tennis shoes at the prospect of going into such a horrible realm without any hope of escape. I think if the doctrine of radical corruption teaches us anything it is this. At the gates of heaven a sign shall read:
Abandon all hope ye who desire to enter here in your own righteousness.
Man cannot stand before God’s holiness clothed with the filthy rags of his own righteous acts. The depths and breadth of his sinful nature will lay exposed before the light of the Lord, which infiltrates every dark corner of the heart. If we would only teach the doctrine of the nature of the human heart, that it is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, self-righteousness will have no cleft in which to hide. The posture of rebellious pride would crumble beneath the might of God’s holiness and righteousness. In its place we would lay prostrate in humility before Almighty God, crying out ‘be merciful to me, a sinner.’ (Lk 18:13)
Exposed and left out in the open, beneath the penetrating rays of God’s truth, we would be compelled to flee to Christ, lest we wither and die in the heat of God’s mighty wrath. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6) How can our pride be broken, unless we see ourselves as we truly are? The doctrine of Radical Corruption (Total Depravity) does just that. It is a mirror, forcing us to look at our own filthiness. Only then do we realize salvation is all of the Lord. (Jon 2:9)