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Understanding Our Total Depravity and Why it Matters

Man is bent toward sin. We can rename it, rationalize it, fool ourselves into thinking that it either doesn't offend God or that there is no God to be offended by it, and hope that there are no ultimate consequences for it. Conversely, taking a biblical view of it means that we acknowledge it, confess it, appropriate Christ's atonement for it on the Cross, and invite others to partake in the grace and forgiveness we've found.

Todd WagnerOct 25, 2009
Exodus 32:19-24

Messages In This Series (14)
The Lamb who Came is the Lion who is to Come: The Certainty of Christ's Return and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerDec 13, 2009
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (9 am service)
Nick VujicicDec 6, 2009
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (5:30 pm service)
Nick VujicicDec 6, 2009
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (11 am service)
Nick VujicicDec 6, 2009
Why it Matters that Eternal/Abundant Life Starts Now
Todd WagnerNov 29, 2009
The One Hope for You and for the World: Why it Matters that the Church is Healthy and Defined Correctly
Todd WagnerNov 22, 2009
The Person of the Holy Spirit: Understanding Who He is and Why That Matters
Todd WagnerNov 15, 2009
Salvation: Two Equal and Opposite Errors and Why Getting Them Straight Matters
Todd WagnerNov 8, 2009
Jesus: Who Do You Say He is and Why It Matters
Todd WagnerNov 1, 2009
Understanding Our Total Depravity and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerOct 25, 2009
The Image of God in Man and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerOct 18, 2009
The Character and Nature of God: Who He is and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerOct 11, 2009
Who Is the Trinity, and Why It Matters
Todd WagnerSep 27, 2009
The Truth About Truth: Where to Find it and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerSep 20, 2009

Welcome. We are glad that you are here. We are in the middle of a little series called The Big XII. We're calling this series The Big XII because we are talking about 12 essentials, 12 truths that if you jack with them, if you alter them in any way, if you mitigate the power and the meaning of them, the consequences in your life and in society and in your relationship with God and others are immense.

We're on the fifth one this week. What I want to do is talk about sin. Here's my message to you tonight. If you get this message wrong, the application of it is going to chase you the rest of your life and into the life to come. Bottom line, what I want to try to establish tonight… If you want to say otherwise, that's fine, but do not call yourself a biblical Christian. Don't profess to look at the world with a lens that is consistent with God's view of the world and reality if you don't hold to this view.

What view? Man is messed up, and man messes everything up. I speak there not of just male only but of humankind. We mess it up, and we cannot find any aspect of our being that is not in some way messed up. That is the affirmation. I will talk to you about why that affirmation is important and what the alternative to that view is and what the application to your life should be if you hold to that and the reason for it.

The reason that is true is because of this little thing called sin. What is sin? Sin is an act, but it is also a disposition. To God, the only sin that really matters to him is the sin that does not believe he is there, that he is not silent, and that he is good. Everything else is a secondary sin. It is really an effect of that primary sin. When you move away from that which is alone good, you must define good another way, and you corrupt the definition of good.

I mentioned last week the principle we were talking about was "Who is man?" Not male. Who is male and female? Who is humankind? We are image bearers of God. We are the supreme expression of God's goodness and glory in creation. Creation itself was good and glorious because God made it perfectly suited for us. He gave us dignity, honor, and responsibility. He gave us relationship.

He gave us everything we needed, and he gave us the ability to enjoy him and to reflect his glory to one another and to this world, but we left the goodness of God and went our own way, and we believed we could do better than him. Now what we really get concerned about as individuals is not that first and primary sin, which is to redefine goodness away from God. We really have a problem with the effects of sin in our lives, because whenever you leave God's definition of all reality, you redefine that reality in a way that is corrupt and will bring horror.

God is all about sex. He is for sex, but when we say, "We're going to redefine sex away from the goodness of God," we corrupt sex and make this thing which is to be a gift and enjoyed something which brings about pain and heartache. That is true of every activity and attitude in all of life. We believe we know better than God, and we are, as a result of that, individuals who suffer in every way.

Let me say it to you this way. I can't really confirm this is true. I've been in Africa numerous times, but I have never seen them try to catch a monkey this way, because I'm not sure they're catching monkeys anymore unless they're poaching. But it's said of individuals both in Africa and India that one of the ways they would catch monkeys is they would put jars out there, that the monkey could look in there and see things he believed he needed for his life to be full.

He would stick his hand in these jars, and he would grab these things he needs, and upon grabbing them and wanting them, he would not let go. Because he won't let go, he can no longer monkey around. He can't climb a tree to escape because he has this jar on his hand. All he has to do is believe a monkey doesn't need these worthless little balls that are in this jar, or whatever it is we use to tempt him, but he won't let go because he's convinced that "This is life to me."

As a result of that, he's less than a monkey. He's vulnerable to men who can throw a net over him and catch him because he can't climb. He loses the image of a monkey. He is no longer able to monkey around the way monkeys should monkey. This is a great picture of you and me. God is telling us where life is.

He's saying, "Look. I know there are some balls in there that you think if you just grab you'll be fired up about and you'll love, but bottom line, I'm telling you, what you think is life-giving is really encumbering you, and you lose the glory of man. You become a man with club hands with no ability to use digits."

To try to go through life like this because I won't let go of these things because I think they're life-giving, when all I have to do is believe there's life somewhere else and release them and come out of here and trust that God can provide me where life is… If I say, "No, I think I see what I want, and I'm going to grab them, and I'm not letting go, because I want these things. I have them. They're in my hand. They're mine…"

Now try to shave like this. My wife wouldn't want to be my lover with this. Try to change a diaper with this. Try to drive with this. You don't want to be next to me when I'm going down 75 if I'm just holding on to my worldview and living in my reality and letting my rage and my self-entitlement be that which I grab on to. See, I lose the image God wants me to have when I grab on to things that God says, "Todd, you don't need to grab on to those things. You need one thing. You need me. Hold on to me. Embrace me. I am where life is, not in that which you hold."

Now look. If we have a problem with God, our problem with God is that that which he said is his greatest expression of glory, the pinnacle of his creation, man, is not really glorious; he's a monster, and this world which is supposed to bring him glory is not always glorious. That is because man and the world he is sovereign over has been corrupted.

Why has it been corrupted? Why is the image of God no longer on us? Because of sin. Sin is any action or attitude contrary to the nature of God. When we say, "God is not good, his Word is not to be believed, offending him is not that big of a deal," that is sin. It is an activity, but it is a disposition. It is an orientation of the heart away from God toward our own understanding.

Let me read you this little thing I scribbled down as I meditated on this. I want to explain a few things to you. I'm going to talk to you about the effects of sin and why we should hate it. As a result of sin, we don't reflect God's goodness anymore. We have club hands. We have club feet. We are hindered. We're no longer able to monkey around, to man up, and to be glorious. We deface his image. It's not what he meant us to be. The world is not as it should be, and we are not as we should be.

We live in a world that is compromised, and though we see glimpses of God's goodness in us and creation… Even people who are holding on to things they shouldn't hold on to. You still see them at times do things where you see glimpses of God's goodness. The world… We see beautiful sunsets, we see the Grand Tetons, we see the Alps, we see sunsets, and we go, "That is good. That is glorious." We also see some things in humankind and in creation that are horrors, things that are unfamiliar to the life God ultimately wants to share with us.

One of the reasons God says when he restores the world to the place that it should be, which is called heaven, when God himself is here and eradicates evil and reigns as sovereign… In Revelation 21 it says the streets will be paved with gold. It says there will no longer be sickness or death. There will be no more clubbed hands. Man will be glorious because God will deal ultimately with sin.

It says the streets will be paved with gold. They will be as transparent as glass. I'll let you know, when we get to heaven, don't be discouraged if the streets aren't, in fact, literally paved with gold, because this is the best John could do with the vision he saw. What he saw was basically the earth God intended, the heaven that is where God is and where we will be with him one day, which is something he will create for us to enjoy.

The things that are the most excellent things and most cherished things on earth will be trod upon in that heaven, and we'll see God fully and know him for who he is. We won't be grabbing for anything else because we'll find complete satisfaction in him. We will know that he is good, we will see his goodness, and we will enjoy his pleasures forever. As a result of that, it will be heaven, because our image will be full and there will be no defacing. We'll respond to him.

Now let me just tell you, if you don't believe man is ultimately depraved… I want to explain depravity. I'm going to read through it, and then I'm going to come back and give you some places that we go if we don't hold to this. When you talk to theologians, people who love the Word of God, folks who study God and what he has said about reality, you will find that the understanding God has revealed to us about sin and its effect is that man is totally depraved, that there is some privation, which means we are deprived of the fullness of that which God wants us to have.

In other words, when we leave love as God has revealed love and defined love, when we leave kindness, when we leave relationship the way God wants us to live in relationship, we have to, therefore, create some other definition of relationship, and because it won't be God's holy definition of it, it is a corrupted definition of it, so it is a flawed definition.

When man separates himself from God and God's goodness, he then is dependent upon something else to define who he is, and it is less glorious. There is no aspect of us that is more glorious because we have left him. We are totally and completely depraved. Let me just share with you my journal this week as I was thinking about this. Here we go.

Sin has affected and infects all of what a human is. Not just the body or mind or emotion, but every aspect of man's being. Our intellect is depraved. Our will is depraved. Our physical well-being is depraved. Our conscience, our understanding, our vision, our love, our reason, our affections are all depraved.

In other words, guys, because we don't let God be our understanding of goodness…God is not our intellect; our own intellect is our intellect, our own vision is our vision, our own love is our love…you find a deprived love. It is not full. Now continue with me. We are unable to please God in any respect. This is part of what total depravity means. God is only pleased by perfection, not our best effort, and no part of man is perfect as a result of sin.

What I mean by this is the reason you cannot be saved by works is because even your best works are not perfect works because it is somehow depraved. It is not what God asks you to do. It's not the way God wants you to love. It is a compromised, corrupted form of love, so God says, "It's not worthy of me." So even if you do what we would call good, God would say, "That isn't good to me."

We lack good in ourselves, so when we are separated from God, we are unable to do anything that is perfectly and truly good. Although from our perspective we're able to do things that appear good, to true goodness, which means God, Isaiah 64:6 says our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment. It doesn't mean we are totally insensitive to goodness. It doesn't mean we're totally insensitive to wisdom, but it does mean our conscience, our goodness, and our reason have been corrupted and should not ultimately be trusted.

It does not mean we are as wicked as wicked can be or that we are continually and constantly committed to fully doing evil, but it does mean that even the most altruistic act of man is flawed in its ability to justify us before God's perfect justice. This is so important. We are not basically pure with an inclination toward evil. We are flawed creatures in need of total recall and complete transformation from the inside out.

We need to be remade, not reformed. We need to be crucified, not curbed. We need to be redeemed, because we are totally deprived of that which God says is good. There is no aspect of our being that is not in some way compromised or corrupted. What God wants you to know is he's saying, "Look. That's why your best efforts leave you wanting before me."

Gang, if you don't get the issue of total depravity correct, what you are trifling with is the issue of salvation, because you will try to give God a corrupt version of good, a corrupt version of generosity, because it's not God's. The only way you can please God, the Scripture says in Hebrews 11:6, is with faith that he is good and an acknowledgment that you are not. "Without faith it is impossible to please God."

Now, if you don't believe man is the ultimate problem, then what you will do is seek to reform unjust social structures so man can thrive. Follow me on this, because this is very, very important. When you look at the world and see the monsters that are in it, and when you look at the world and see not just the sunsets but also the tsunamis… You don't just see the beauty of earth; you see the quakes on the earth. You don't just see the glory of the heavens; you feel the terror of the hurricanes.

God says, "I did not mean for hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis and monsters that kidnap 10-year-old children and put them in their backhouse and rape them systematically for 18 years and father children by them who are imprisoned due to no ill choice of their own." God says, "That is not the way I meant the world to be." Folks ask me this sometimes. They say, "Todd, what would you ask God if you could ask him any question?" Sometimes I say, "I'd ask him how in the world he could wait."

I mean, how can he watch the horrors I've seen firsthand in terms of the oppression of tribalism and colonialism and male dominance, where they exploit children and women in African nations, and American families that are given to greed and exploitation and why poverty and injustice is all around them; when he sees men in general use their physical power to be abusive toward women and children who are around them?

How could he let that go on when he sees what happened in California? "Why didn't you stop it? When you see, Lord, even more than I do… I just catch what Fox catches, but, Lord, you see it all. Nothing is hidden from your sight. You know how totally depraved we are." Mark Twain didn't even see how totally depraved man is, and he still said, "There are times when you look at human nature over the course of the last tens of thousands of years, and it makes you wish Noah had missed the boat."

What God is saying to us is "Look. If you think you're offended by it, I'm offended by it." So I say, "Well, why won't you do something?" He would say to me, "Todd, it's interesting you'd want to ask that question, because if you pay attention, I've already answered it. The reason I have not yet executed justice is because I do not delight in the death of the wicked. I don't want my wrath to be poured out on those I love. Now I will, but some would say I am slow because I am inattentive or unable to do something about it, but I am not slow in that way."

He says, "I desire that none should perish but that all should come to eternal life, because when my wrath is filled out completely…" By the way, that little flood Noah was a part of? Noah himself was not righteous. He was a herald of righteousness. Noah just acknowledged that he was not holy before God. He told others about the greatness of God, and he trusted in the word of God. Nobody else did.

So Noah found rest above the coming flood of judgment because God, in his grace, provided a mercy ship through revelation that Noah could get on by faith, and he would be lifted up beyond that flood of judgment that was to come. God said, "That's a picture of my judgment, and believe me, that flood and that desperation that happened that day is going to be a joke compared to the judgment that's coming."

In fact, what I tell folks is that if I really was going to press God for a question, I would wait until I was in heaven, and if God did not complete this good work which he has begun in me, I would have a different question in heaven than I do right now. My question in heaven wouldn't be, "God, how could you wait so long to advance your kingdom work?" He has told me that. He doesn't want judgment to come completely on those he loves, so he is patient, and he's not slow as some count slowness.

In heaven, if God did not change me, if I did not truly see his goodness and his infinite perfection… I don't think I'd say this the first week. I probably wouldn't say it the first 10 years, and given some of the horrors I'm familiar with in the Holocaust and the genocides around the world and the individual cases of abuse and exploitation of children, I probably wouldn't say anything for 10,000 years.

But I think along about that 100,000-year mark I'd elbow myself up to God and say, "Hey, Father, you know this hell thing. I think they get the point. I mean, just like I couldn't imagine your goodness, I could not imagine what it's like to be completely separated from your goodness. Why don't you shut that thing down? I'm not saying you just let them in. I'm just saying why don't you just turn it off and annihilate them? Because I have to tell you, you're a little angry, and this is a bit excessive."

My question then would not be, "Why didn't you come sooner to execute justice?" My question would then be, "Why is your justice so severe?" His answer is, "Todd, hell exists not because you suffered and you were offended, but hell exists because I, in my infinite perfection, was offended, and since they rejected my infinite offer of grace, the only way for my justice to be satisfied is for them to have an infinite, unending opportunity to suffer since they did not accept my infinite, perfect opportunity for redemption."

When I understand the goodness and greatness of God in heaven fully, I'll understand why hell is not defined by annihilationism. God says, "Wagner, get your arms around who I am now so you don't hold on to things that affect my image and so you can be a Noah today, a herald of righteousness who claims no righteousness of his own but who declares to others, 'You want to know the goodness of God.'"

The reason the terrors of men continue at the pace they do… The Scripture says, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly or fully, therefore, the hearts of men among them are given fully to do evil." But do not count his slowness as his inability or unwillingness. It is his grace, and do not presume upon it, ye who are depraved.

Now look. If you don't believe in the depravity of man, then you will offer change, and you will call people to trust in your solutions to man's problems, not by having man deal with his depravity, acknowledging that he cannot trust his reason, he cannot trust his intellect, that we don't need more education, that we don't need different income distribution, that we don't need political reform. What we need is heart transformation.

The idea of a utopian society is misinformed, because utopianism is basically an idea that if we could just lose the unjust social structures that are out there… And mark this: We should do all we can to deal with unjust social structures that have been introduced by unjust, unrighteous, totally depraved men. We should make the invisible city of God visible here on earth by living according to his kingdom worldview and loving each other and caring for each other the way God says in his Word we should love and care for each other under his theocratic rule.

We should have a government of the people by the people for the people, but the people should love and reason as individuals informed by Scripture. The reason America has outlived the average length of civilizations is because when we were founded, we were founded with an understanding of the depravity of man. We knew that man does not use power to lift others up. We knew that men always have used powers to crush others; to control others, not serve others; to promote self, not prostrate themselves before others; that man is not a god.

Power is not evil, but power can be used wickedly, and depraved individuals who are not informed by how God wants you to use something always corrupt whatever the institution is, even if it's good. What America understood when it was founded was we cannot seat power in an individual or even in one expression of government, so we have checks and balances. We have a legislative branch that cannot act without approval of the executive branch that is constantly evaluated by the judicial branch.

But when the judicial branch begins to legislate and ignore the legislative branch or the executive branch begins to write into law on its own simply by decree, you have trouble, because men cannot handle power. Even when they tell you they're trying to serve you with their use of power, men consistently try to control. In fact, Friedrich Nietzsche said man's desire to control his own destiny and impose his will on others is his most basic instinct. It defined Mao. It defined Stalin. It defined Lenin. It defined Marx. It defined Mussolini. It defined Hitler.

What you see is "Look. Here's what we're going to do. We're going to have a supreme race. We'll get rid of the undesirables. We'll move them out, and we'll take that which is good and create a society where goodness can fully be expressed." Except he misunderstood. The problem with man in Germany was not that there were Jews and Catholics and homosexuals around. The problem in Germany was that man was depraved, every Aryan one of them.

Unchecked and unguided by God's definition of rule, it leads to tyranny, famine, and death…always. There are certain systems that are depraved. Nazism is a depraved system. It goes without saying. Communism is a depraved system…the idea that an elite ruling class, a self-perpetuating political party would define production and distribution and wealth exchange at a certain level and that social activity could only be done a certain way.

Marx, as you understand, believed that all human ills could be expressed in economic terms, so he said, "Let's just ruin this different class system, give everybody this little same thing, and everybody can think the same way, and then there will be no real problem with humankind." The problem is that the Communist leadership elite used that to oppress people and exalt themselves.

Socialism, which is just another step off of communism, is the idea that it ought to be held collectively again by the state, that distribution and production and wealth is not an individual's right but, again, the state's right. This is why in America we go, "No. The state is not king; the law is king." That's lex rex (law is king), not rex lex where king is law.

I agree with Abraham Lincoln. Socialism doesn't work, because you don't make a weak man strong by making a strong man weak. That's what socialism does. Those are flawed and failed systems, and no amount of nobility can redeem them. It's like polygamy is a flawed system, and no amount of nobility can make polygamy work, because that system doesn't work. Some of you guys go, "Hey, what about this, Todd? In the Old Testament there are all kinds of guys who get it on with a bunch of different wives and concubines, and God didn't seem to do much about that."

I go, "Oh, really? Yes, he did." There was all kind of horror and consequence. There is not a single example in Scripture of a man who took multiple women to himself that did not turn into heartache and isolation and despair and conflict. His judgment was not as severe and as full and as quick as maybe we would have liked it, but you can't find a single instance where it brought blessing. Ever.

Now here's the deal. I was talking to a buddy this week who doesn't know Christ, is not a follower of Jesus at all. I've been trying to love on him and encourage him. He said, "Todd, my first wife was like an angel without wings, and I destroyed her. I was unfaithful to her. I was abusive toward her. I brought such pain and trauma into her life that I don't know if I could ever forgive myself." His depravity took a good institution and corrupted it.

I said to him, "I can relate to that, because I'm in that same good institution…monogamy, one man and one woman. I'm in a monogamous marriage or a marriage that is just one man and one woman like you were, but I have to tell you something. Just like you, buddy, my depravity corrupts marriage the way God intended it.

Now, because I am seeking God's face and am leaning not on my own understanding in a way that you're not, because you believe man is basically good and must choose good as best he can, I don't trust myself, but the fact is I'm not always leaning on the Lord, and I'm not always letting him order my steps. Sometimes I trust in my depraved intellect, my depraved reason, and my depraved defections. When I do, it brings horror into the Wagner family.

So I have also ruined a perfect institution, because I am depraved. The image of God in me is defaced. Not as defaced as it was in you, but defaced enough that I have brought woundedness into perfection. The only way my marriage is going to move back toward glory is when I learn to love as Christ loves, not in a way the world accepts. I don't need to compare myself to you or to individuals who are in worse marriages than I am. I need to cling to and pursue marriage and love and kindness and gentleness and cherishing and honoring as the Scripture says. When I do that, it brings blessing."

There are times, as a daddy, I parent in a way that seems right to me, and it's defined by anger and control issues and abusive speech, and it's not very glorious. I am their only father. I live with them, but when I don't live with them the way God wants a man to live with them, less than as God would define how a man should live with them, it is a corrupted man, and it brings pain and death.

So what I have to do is constantly remind myself that they don't need Todd Wagner to father them; they need Todd Wagner reformed, redeemed, crucified, parenting them. I must decrease and Christ in me must increase. The hope of glory is not me schooled; it is me surrendered. Whenever I trust in me and lean on my own understanding, the paths are not very straight at the Wagner household. I am aware of my depravity.

Capitalism, a system where organizations and distribution and welfare exchange, or wealth exchange, is held and done by individuals or collective groups of individuals and corporations at their own will. That is a good system, that a man can kill what he eats, but depraved man corrupts it, and he starts to move outside of appropriate walls we have put in, law that we have put into order how capitalistic societies should work.

If we just go to make more wealth and don't live in a restrained way in a civil society, then our love for gain and our ability and desire to control and seek our own comfort our own way will break this good system. See also today. So, whether the system itself is corrupt or whether the system is good, the depravity of man is what brings about trouble.

It's interesting. I've never seen this show, but I know the writers in Hollywood who put this together. It was a group of men, and they debated, "What do we need? What can we do to allow the goodness of man to birth forth? How can we allow man to flourish?" What they said was, "Let's just run this little experiment. Since we can't run an actual experiment this way, how about if we write a show where we put a bunch of people on an island and let them start over free from all the social maladjustment that is in our world today, and they can be lost on this island?"

It was a Christian and a man from a Jewish background who have written this show called Lost that so many of you love. What you are seeing is them work out what would happen with this basic worldview. Is man good, and will he keep paradise, paradise, or will evil seep its way in? All this really is is a modern-day retelling of a little book that was written in the 1950s by a guy who used to have a utopian worldview who, when he saw the horrors of World War II, came back to a more biblical understanding of the depravity of man.

He wrote a book called Lord of the Flies, where you get rid of the sins of the fathers and you get rid of the social maladjustment of the previous generations and institutions and you have a bunch of boys shipwrecked on an island in paradise. What should happen? Should they grow up, because they're intrinsically good, to have goodness on that island because they have no error to follow? No. There is bullying and tyranny and murder and death. Why? Because the problem isn't the island; it's the man.

There is no aspect of your being you should trust in. You should never lean on your own understanding. This is a basic worldview. Society hangs in the balance as to what we believe the solution is. So don't bicker about Washington. All Washington is is an expression of the people. You should spend more time lobbying your neighbor's heart than you should trying to get law written in.

We have law. I was flying this week out to LA and back, and as I was flying over, I was reminded of the LA riots. I just thought if the people of LA realized there's not enough law enforcement there to keep them from just turning the city on edge, and the only reason corrupt man is in any way not expressing his full privation is because of the fear of punishment. When you lose the fear of punishment, you'll see the true nature of man.

I have to tell you, if there was a blackout, if there was an eradication of the police force, I'm not going to rape you. I'm not going to come into your house and steal your flat screen. I'm not going to take your chicken, because I do not pursue good because of the fear of retribution. I pursue good because I understand if I pursue anything less than God it is death to me and death to you.

Now, it's good that we have law, because man is depraved. Even I, at times, find myself moving away from what God says, and you'll see the image of God defaced in Todd Wagner. You'll see me coach in a way that isn't consistent with what God wants me to do. This is why God tells us, "Trust in me." This is why he says that man is unable to save himself. If you believe your best works, your corrupted, less-than-perfect works can appease him, you are deluded. Your salvation and all of society is at stake.

I said this earlier. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations, according to some Scottish writer in the 1800s, is 200 years. They always progress, he says, through the following sequence: from bondage and oppression to spiritual faith, and spiritual faith then gives them the courage to face the truth around them.

They define reality and say, "Look. The reason we are where we are is not because we have a broken economic system; it's because man is greedy and we have stepped over the boundaries of law and rightness we knew needed to be in place." We just shuffled paper, and we traded in things, believing it would continually inflate and we would have more later and we could deal with it later, and we moved into this great Ponzi scheme.

Because of the bondage that's going to come from that, we're going to get back and go, "Look at where we have gone," and it'll lead to repentance and spiritual faith, which will give us the courage to begin to act in obedience again. That courage then moves toward liberty, and liberty (freedom to do rightly because we've acknowledged our error) leads to abundance, and abundance then gets us back to where we are selfish and want more, and selfishness leads to complacency, and complacency moves to apathy, and apathy moves to dependency. "Let somebody else provide for me, not my own work."

When you get dependent, you have bondage, and it is where we are as a country. It's because we're still looking for something to deliver us, something to provide for our welfare. That is trouble. Society is at stake. Our salvation, even more importantly, is at stake. So what do you do? You have to learn to hate that which makes you and the society and the world you live in less than God intended it to be and to love him.

I want to walk you through different responses to the reality of sin and deprivation in man's soul and this world. I'll walk you through what the Bible says. These are different ways that people throughout history have responded to this thing called sin. The very first thing we do… I've done this myself. I want to look around, and I want to blame somebody else for my problems. Let's just go back to the very beginning. The very first time God is walking with man, wants to enjoy man, wants man to enjoy him… "Adam, where are you?"

"I'm hiding."

"Why are you hiding?"

"Because I'm naked."

"Who told you you were naked?"

"The woman you gave to me screwed this whole thing up. It's your fault and her fault." And off we go. Things haven't changed much since then. I love to blame someone else. My family says, "Man, Dad, you're angry."

"Let me tell you why I'm angry! Do you know what I live with? Let me tell you why I'm a control freak. I have to be!" "The kids you gave to me. It's their fault." Really. How is that working out for you, Adam? Not so good. We blame God. We blame others.

I love this story. This is in Exodus. Moses is up on Sinai. He's hearing from God, meeting God. God is going to tell him how to live, how to have a society that is a theocratic society that lives in fear of God and God informs them on how to have prosperity in life. He isn't gone for long, and the people go up to Aaron and say, "Aaron, that dude Moses isn't coming back. He has found something up there or he got eaten by a mountain lion. We have to have a new leader. We have to worship something, because his God is gone or he's gone."

So Aaron says, "Give me all your gold. Give me all of your jewels," and then he made a calf, and they all worshiped it, and they were having a great time, because they could make that calf pleased by all types of immorality and self-indulgence. So, Moses is up there, and God says, "Hey, Mo, enough of the note taking. Let's go down and teach." So down Moses went. Verse 19 of chapter 32. I love this.

"It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses' anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it."

"This is no god. You can't consume gods. Gods don't go through you and turn into stench and waste." Watch this. "Then Moses said to Aaron, 'What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?' Aaron said…" This is what you call your first biblical employee evaluation. Aaron is there in the manager's office, and this is what he says:

"Boss, don't get mad at me. You know your people. I mean, this is not an easy asylum to run. They are nuts. Look. All they said was, 'Make for us a god who will go before us, for this Moses…' You, boss, were gone. You took a long time on that business trip. 'This boss who brought us up from the land of Egypt…we don't know what has become of him.' So I said to them, 'Okay. Well, then whoever has gold, let them tear it off.' So they gave it to me, I threw it in the fire, and out came this calf."

This is the beginning of Darwinism. Nothing plus time plus chance equals a calf. "I don't know how it got here. I don't know anything. It just happened. It was unbelievable." What do you do if you're Moses? You have to go, "What? Are you kidding me? How about this, Aaron? You're an idiot. They're idiots. You forgot what God has been screaming at us. We were in bondage because we were idiots. We haven't even stopped being idiots for very long, and you're going back to being an idiot." "It's the fire's fault."

"The computer. I bought it, and porn was everywhere." "I married this woman, and hatred, betrayal, and divorce are rampant." "I had this kid, and this severed relationship came out of it." "I started the car, and it drives 90 everywhere it goes." We blame it on something else instead of just facing it and saying, "I am corrupt. I corrupt even good things." A car is a good thing. Marriage is a good thing. Computers are a good thing, and I corrupt them…every one of them.

We deny it. "Oh, it's not really sin." We redefine it. We don't call it perversion; we call it an alternative lifestyle. We don't say we're mocking God's revealed institution for social order and blessing. We just say we're cohabitating with a significant other. On and on. We deny it's there. We hide it. We redefine it. Go look at today's Watermark News story. "I tried to hide it, but I couldn't. It was still there." This is what David said. Don't deny it.

David said in Psalm 32, "When I tried to deny it was there, your hand was heavy upon me. My vitality was drained away. The fever heat of summer was all over me." Does that describe you? Some of you guys go, "Where is this abundant life God talks about?" Well, it's right there, but you have to let go of the banana, that thing you think is life-giving. I meet people here all the time who go, "I don't know what the problem is. I can't figure out why my life isn't like it should be."

I go, "It's because you won't deny. You won't admit you're holding on to something God says you shouldn't hold on to: your excuses, your patterns, your strategies. His hand is heavy upon you. Everybody can see the clubbed hand you have. It's going to keep being that way. Don't tell me you don't have a problem. Don't tell me you can handle it. Don't tell me that just because others say it's wrong it's not your problem. Don't say everyone else is overreacting. Repent. Listen. Humble yourself."

I'll tell you what else we do with sin. We do this all the time. We flirt with it. The Bible says in Proverbs 14, "Fools mock at sin." The Bible says in Proverbs 22, "The prudent see evil and hide themselves, but the naïve proceed and inherit folly." The Bible says we should encourage each other day by day that there's no life in those jars, lest we be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. So quit flirting with it.

I was talking to kids this week, and I was just saying, "When you sit there and watch Hannah Montana, you think it's such a great deal, but I'll tell you about Hannah Montana. Her shows the last couple of seasons are all about getting the kiss from the boy. You may think it's funny because Lilly and Hannah are working their way through that, but when you start to laugh at all they do to get that kiss, all they do to get that love, when you're in high school that's what you're going to go for. You're going to think that's where life is because that's where Hannah thought life was."

Leave Hannah Montana. Jump to your little movie you were watching this weekend. You were just laughing at it. It's really not something you want to go to, but you start to think there's a little life there. You flirt with it. "I'm not going to do it, but I'm going to live vicariously through Will Ferrell doing it. I'm not going to do it, but I'll let those couples see if they can find paradise through illicit affairs and live through them doing it, and I'll flirt with it."

I want to tell you, you sow a thought, you're going to reap an action. You sow an action, you're going to reap a habit. You sow a habit, you're going to reap a character. You sow a character, and you're going to reap a destiny. You don't believe me? Keep playing with your little cub, and it's going to grow to a lion. I wouldn't flirt with it. The Bible says love does not rejoice in unrighteousness. It doesn't rejoice in it at all, and it certainly doesn't pay to have it rolled out and displayed before it.

The other thing we do sometimes is we just feed it. We just go for it. We surrender to it. We embrace it. When you do that, it's never satisfied, and we're always needing something more. You go look at the life of Cain. God says, "Cain, sin is crouching at your door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it."

Cain didn't master it. He fed it, and he became arrogant toward God. God said, "You're going to be a wanderer." Cain built the city. Cain's son said, "Hey, if somebody killed Cain, Cain killed them. If somebody messes with Lamech, I'll kill seven of them." And on and on and on it went. You feed it, you're not going to find your desire. You will find more deprivation and less glory.

Do you know why we do that? Because of the next response to sin in Scripture. You forget its bitterness. Don't you do that? I do. Do you know what I do when folks come to me and they're broken and their marriage is just awful and their kids are strung out and their debt is immense and their hope is vanquished? I say, "Before I talk to you about God's grace, I want you to journal about life's pain."

I was talking to my buddy Chip Dickens who leads re|engage this week. When he got his PhD over at SMU, he did a study on how people change, specifically kids, and how they move past what he calls perceptual boundaries. People are perceptually bounded. He talked about how when kids are little, if they have three pennies, you can't convince them it's better to have this one nickel than those three pennies.

Over a period of time, we move past this psychological impairment and start to go, "Okay. I will then realize that getting rid of these three pennies is worth that one nickel," and then you have to get rid of that big nickel for that little dime, and on and on we go. All of life is like that. We get hung up by perceptual boundedness, he called it.

I go, "Well, did you find any solutions for what moves kids through?" He goes, "Yeah, I did." I go, "Let me just guess what they were, all your doctoral studies. Can I tell you how you move people through that?" He goes, "Go for it." I go, "Well, I think you have to compel them with story." He goes, "What do you mean?"

I go, "Well, you have to tell that kid a story about the kid who had the three pennies and the kid who had the nickel and what the nickel could give him and what the three pennies could give that one so he learns to value the nickel more than the three pennies. Don't just tell him that one is better than the three. That doesn't make sense, but you have to compel him with story." He goes, "That was one of the things we found."

I go, "Let me tell you the other thing. You have to confront them with consequences." He goes, "What do you mean?" "Well, you have to say, 'Okay, if you're not going to learn from me, then go out there and keep your entire life trading three pennies for a nickel and see how that works out for you,' and eventually they're going to go…" He goes, "That's the other thing we found. You can't spare them consequences."

I go, "Dude, all you psychologists are scaling these mountains to find understanding, and you're just going to finally catch up to where the theologians have been sitting for centuries." He laughed with me, because he knew these things and just found empirical data to support them. Do you know what God does to get us out of our perceptual boundedness? He tells us a story. "This is who you are. This is why you're here."

It's a true story, and he shows his love in the midst of it and the rescue of fallen, depraved men, and he lets the world you live in deprive you of the life you want so you learn to hate it and love the world he calls you back into so you can move through your psychological boundedness. "There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it's the way of death."

I think about what we do. We forget the bitterness of living in life like three pennies are better than a nickel, like illicit relationships are better than a covenant of love. Go journal some of that and re-read it regularly. Don't let the movies convince you it's all fun. Write stories about the day after. You've lived them. Don't forget its bitterness. Israel in the wilderness says, "We need a new leader. Let us return to Egypt. It was better there." Really. You have to go back and remember.

As I move to those that are good, when you start to see and remember and meditate on sin's destruction and what it was like to live with clubbed hands, you start to flee it. I marvel at Joseph. You read Joseph, you read Genesis 39, and it's like reading a Penthouse Forum. This beautiful woman of power tries to seduce this good-looking young man.

Day after day she tantalizes and tantalizes, but what does Joseph do? He continually, it says, ignored her lies, and then when she grabbed him, he left his cloak behind and fled. The Scripture says, "Flee sin." Don't even let it be named among you, as is proper among those whose perceptual boundedness has been broken with supernatural insight. The Scripture says in 1 Thessalonians 5, "Abstain from every form of evil."

Do you know what's so sick? We don't abstain from it; we pay for it to enter into our hearts, and we wonder why even though we go to church we still have clubbed hands. Because you don't know about sin's power and about the depravity of your flesh, because you mock one of the big truths that God says, "Don't jack with this."

So what do you do? Don't just flee from it. You have to hate it. You have to hate life like this. You have to hate evil. You have to love good. Psalm 97. Amos 5. Proverbs 8. Proverbs 8 specifically expounds on what the beginning of wisdom is. It's the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 8:13: "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil…" In other words, God knows what he's talking about.

I'll take you back to my story with my kids. They said again and again when they were little… The older ones would say to the younger ones, "Listen to Dad. He knows where the good candy is." The more we grow in love with God, we ought to say to one another, "Hey, listen. I know what it feels like, but trust the Father. He never jacks with us. Hate what he says we should hate."

Then the last thing we have to absolutely do is confess it, admit it, acknowledge it. Acknowledge it to one another and acknowledge it to God. Live in deathly fear of it. Understand its power and hold on your life. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and [just] to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us." "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion."

This week, my Community Group got together, and someone shot an email out and said, "Hey, I'll tell you what we're going to do. We're going to discuss with each other things in our lives that are worthy of praise, things we're thankful for, and then we're going to share things we want to pray about. That's how we're going to constitute our time." So we got together, and it went around. I happened to be last. They said, "Todd, what do you want to share with us that you can praise God for this week?"

I said, "I praise God that this week I was not thrown in jail, that I was not unfaithful to my wife, that I did not abuse my kids verbally and physically, that I did not give way to the lust that rages in my depraved flesh. I praise God that I am still able to lead the body of Watermark and lead the staff and my friends here with integrity and honor, because there is nothing in me, left to itself, that doesn't need to be locked up or abandoned.

By the grace of God, he has held me again this week, and he has taught me to lean on his Word and his will and to crucify my flesh and to live no longer in a way that seems right to me but in a way that is right to God, and it has been life to me. My prayer request is that I would do it again this week."

You might sit there and go, "Man, that would be kind of hard to be in a Community Group with your pastor and to hear him say those things," but I would tell you that that is why I might get to be your pastor for another week: because I know the depravity in my heart. I am not a good man. I am a rebel. I am filled with self-will. I will use my power to crush you.

I might do it in a veiled way at first so you'll trust me, but that will just set you up all the more, except for Christ who has saved me from that slavery to self. He has taught me to walk as he has walked and love as he has loved, and when I am attentive to him, it brings blessing to my family, to my kids, to my friends, and the image of God is slowly restored in me. But that is who I am.

You make room for sin, you flirt with the Deceiver, you listen to him, and you will become less and less of the man or woman God wanted you to be. Let me take a humorous tack at that just to wrap this up. I'm going to show you what my concern is for this church, because there are a lot of folks who are here, and we don't hate sin; we flirt with it. Some of us are feeding it. Some of us deny it's there. Some of us have just compromised, and we cannot make room for it. Watch this.

[Video]

Male: I know that what Jesus teaches is really important, so it's really refreshing to come on Sunday and hear Todd preach from the Word, because, frankly, I just don't have time for Scripture during the week. So thanks for making room for me.

Male: It's so great to be a part of a group where people just listen to me talk. Most of the time, I'm the only person who says anything. All my life people have been telling me what to do, but now they're listening. Thanks for making room for me.

Female: Thanks for making room for me.

Male: So I'm flying down the highway, and I see this sign for this new church, and I'm thinking, "Church? I love church. So many new faces."

Female: A friend invited me here three or four months ago, and this is a great place. I've enjoyed getting to know people, and there are a lot of people around my age, which is nice. The first time I tried to come here, they were talking about Service Day and service opportunities, about giving back to the community and doing good, and immediately I was just turned off. I mean, I work hard all week long, and I feel like I give a lot.

Male: I walked through the door, and I was warmly greeted. I enjoyed some really tempting coffee, and then I just found some people I truly connected with.

Female: But I've also got another set of friends that we just like to go out and hit the town on Fridays and Saturdays, you know, unwind from the week and have a good time Friday and Saturday night, so that kind of makes Sunday mornings a little hard to get here. Luckily, I decided to come back to just a regular service, and it was pretty good. I felt like I got my tidbit for the day and felt like I'm ready to focus on my workweek ahead.

Male: I'm amazed at how much people love spending time with me here, and it's just great being a part of their lives even outside of Sundays.

Female: I'm not quite ready to give that up yet. It's exhausting to hold up both worlds, but I find that this church really accepts me. I don't know that I'm really there yet to want to commit to serve some more, but I appreciate those that do. Thanks for making room for us.

Male: Thanks for making room for me.

Female: I've been coming to young adult stuff and on Sundays pretty regularly, and it's so easy to meet people. Everyone is really friendly. I feel like I've made a million new friends, tons of Facebook friends. People will comment on my wall all the time, sometimes people I don't even really know.

Male: After attending here for about a couple of months, I started hearing a lot about this whole Community Group thing. I was pretty reluctant, just because I had heard about people having to share their emotions. I know it's all the rage these days to share your hurts and get in community and try to better your life, but the problem with that is that it's really hard, and you don't always see results.

Female: Like, I have so many people I need to hug I don't have time to stop and really talk to any one person. So it's just fun and easy. I know how they're always saying how you should really get into community, but I feel like I have like a village instead of a community, which is pretty cool.

Male: So the first time we met with the guys, I told them, "Hey, I'm not here to be your girlfriend. I don't want to hear about all your problems, and you definitely can't ask me about mine."

Male: So in my community, we're actually comfortable with who we are and where we're at.

Female: I mean, I don't ever have conflict with anyone, so I just want to say thanks for making it so easy.

Male: I thought this was going to be pretty difficult, but it's actually been pretty fun.

Female: Thanks for making room for me.

Male: Thanks for making room for me.

Male: It's satisfying to know that I'm really making a difference in someone's life.

Female: Thanks for making room for me.

Female: Thanks for making room for me.

Female: Thanks for making room for me.

Male: Thanks for making room for us.

Male: I love it here, and I don't ever plan on leaving. Thanks for making room for me.

[End of video]

Well, he is here, and he is a liar, and every part of your being wants to follow him, because your intellect and your will and your reason and your nature are flawed because you've left God, but he wants to call you back. He has made provision…infinite, perfect provision…that you might come and that rightly would he save you if you trust in him.

But you must come, sinner. You must acknowledge your sin and your depravity. You must not trust in yourself as a means to win back relationship to him or as a means to find life on this earth. Let go of that which you grab: your perverted, corrupted view of marriage, your perverted, corrupted view of kindness. It is not holy if it is not completely and fully God's.

There is one that wants you to compromise and re-cut and re-trade truth, and if that is something you make room for here, the glory will diminish in your life and in this body's life and we will be a depraved people. But if you come and accept his will and his grace and crucify that flesh and you are reborn and walk in faith, you can please him and be a herald of righteousness so that others themselves may find life. Come, ye sinners, and go, ye saints. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.


About 'The Big XII'

"This series will cover twelve truths that if you don?t get exactly right, the ramifications and the impact on your life will be enormous. They matter today and eternally. If you want to call yourself an orthodox follower of Christ, these are truths that you cannot miss. These are twelve central, non-negotiable principles of theology and we will discuss what it means to embrace them, the alternatives to them, as well as the application of them. In other words, what it should look like when devoted, orthodox followers of Christ live them out." Todd Wagner