Recently, we (husband and I) have been praying and thinking about our "theology." Some deep things to think over!
Today, the thought of "total depravity" was on my mind. Total Depravity means that, apart from God, we are completely sinful. John Piper (ck out http://www.desiringgod.org/ for things by him) talks about how there are two types of sin referred to in the Bible (my wording, not his). There are sins, and then there is sin. The first type is what you normally think of as sin - going against the will of God. Sins are things we continue to commit even after we are saved. "Sin," in contrast, is everything we do apart from God. Piper points out the following verses to make this point:
Romans 14:23 - Whatever is not from faith is sin.
Hebrews 11:6 -And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must
believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Romans 7:18 - For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is
present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
What he is saying is, before we are saved, nothing we do can truly be "good," even if it looks good in the eyes of the world. Why is this? As Paul says, ". . . nothing good dwells in me . . . " so, connecting the dots, nothing good can come out of us in our flesh. As Piper says, even building a hospital or doing some other great philanthropic deed, if done apart from faith in God, is sin because it does not please God for us to do seemingly good things apart from Him. This doesn't make sense from a worldly perspective - how can doing something good be sin regardless of whether or not God is involved. Perhaps it's because God's ultimate goal is not to make "good people" who do "good deeds," but to make humble people who know Him and have a relationship with Him. What is the ultimate goal of life - to be good? According to the Westminster Confession, "The chief end of man [is] to glorify God and enjoy His presence forever." Challenging!
I was reading James 3:13-15 today. Here it is: "Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. " It's interesting to consider how negatively James portrays a life lived without true faith. He really makes clear how much of a stench all our "good works" are without the true, saving faith of God at work in our lives. Verse 13 implies that, witout wisdom (that comes from faith in God), we cannot live a good life, we cannot perform deeds in humility. We will have bitter envy and selfish ambition in our hearts because they are simply characteristics of "good deeds" performed without the wisdom of God. Think about it - why can't you do anything good without God's wisdom? Because your wisdom, which governs what you do, will - by nature - be sinful. It is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. I was a "good" person before I was saved. But I wasn't "good" in God's eyes because the wisdom that directed everything I did was evil! Even if it looked good from the outside, it wasn't because my heart was wrong. Understanding that makes it all that much more clear how precious God's grace truly is, how amazing it is. He saved a wretch like me because His grace is amazing - not because of anything I did right. I was the worst of sinners, as Paul says (1 Tim. 1:16), but God showed me mercy so that " . . . Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.." Wow.