WHAT’S WRONG WITH MANKIND?
Evangelism Explosion Series, Part 2 Sermon preached at Lake Osborne Presbyterian Church on August 10, 2008 by Dr. Lawrence C. Roff
“Cultivate an outreach mentality”
You’ll continue hearing us using that phrase this year.
It means developing an entirely new orientation in our thinking.
Making “outreach” the default setting in our hearts.
That means things should be different in our homes.
Getting to know our unchurched neighbors.
Developing friendships that will enable us to share the Gospel with them.
Inviting them into our homes, and into our hearts, and into our church.
It also means things should be different at church.
Looking around on Sundays to find guests, and making them feel welcome.
Making decisions about coming to things like our Labor Day Picnic not based on your preference.
But based on a deliberate decision to be involved in an outreach effort.
And it certainly means things should be different in our prayer lives.
Praying that God would give you a heart for the lost.
Praying that God would give you a passion for at least one person you know who doesn’t know Christ.
Pray that God would give you persistence in reaching out to them, and that He would bring them to Christ.
During the five Sundays of this month, we’re examining the five parts of the Evangelism Explosion outline.
This is the most effective approach I know of for teaching people how to share the Gospel.
Starting in September, we want all the adults to take advantage of an opportunity to learn this approach.
We’ll all meet together in the fellowship hall during Sunday School to work through EE training.
These five Sundays in August will give you a head start.
It will also hopefully whet your appetite for what you will be learning.
It’s a very simple summary of the Gospel.
As one commercial says, “Even a caveman can do it!”
Grace – heaven is a free gift; it is not earned or deserved.
Man – is a sinner; and cannot save himself.
God – is merciful (and doesn’t want to punish us); but He is also just (and must punish sin).
Christ – who He is (the infinite God-Man); and what He did (died and rose to pay the penalty for our sin).
Faith – what it is not (mere head knowledge or temporal faith); what it is (trusting in Christ alone).
Some years ago a British newspaper invited readers to send in their answer to a question they posed.
Journalist Malcolm Muggeridge sent in his straightforward answer.
The question: “What’s wrong with the world?”
His answer: “Dear Sirs, I am. Yours truly, M.M.”
He was absolutely right.
And his answer is at the heart of what the Gospel is all about.
Mankind is not basically good.
As we acknowledge in the “T” of the T-U-L-I-P acrostic, mankind is “Totally Depraved.”
Some may remember Thomas Harris’s 1967 best-seller, I’m Okay; You’re Okay.
Not according to the Bible!
I’m NOT okay; and neither are you, or anybody else!
Jesus Himself said He didn’t come for those who were well, but for those who needed a physician (Mark 2:17).
This is the next point in the Evangelism Explosion outline.
Heaven is a free gift; it is not earned or deserved.
And that’s because man is a sinner, and cannot save himself.
This is how Paul presents the Gospel in the Book of Romans.
He begins with the fact that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
We deserve God’s wrath, as we saw in last week’s sermon about “Grace.”
But God has graciously provided a solution to this problem of sin.
1. What is our problem?
We have sinned
What is sin?
Unless we have a correct understanding of our problem, we won’t be able to understand the only solution for it.
Sin is doing something wrong, something bad.
Alvin Plantinga describes it as Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be in his breviary of sin by that title.
Most people have a concept of sin that falls far too short.
They’ve adopted a concept that gets them off the hook.
They lower the bar to make it easier to deceive themselves into thinking that they can jump over it.
Some charismatics think they don’t commit sin any more.
I had a classmate in high school who thought that way.
She told us in class one day, “I don’t sin anymore; I make mistakes, but I don’t commit sin.”
Of course she still sinned!
In fact, she just did, by the pride in her boastful claim; she just re-named it.
She had fallen for the same lie that most people have, even Christians.
They think of sin only in terms of “the biggies:” murder, rape, embezzlement, assault.
Since they don’t do any of these things, they don’t consider themselves sinners.
“I may not be perfect,” they admit, “but don’t call me a sinner!”
Let’s try it again, but this time Biblically instead of culturally.
What is sin?
In 1 John 3:4, God tells us that sin is “lawlessness;” it is breaking God’s law.
Our Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus provides a very penetrating description.
He not only named actions that were sinful – like murder, and adultery, and theft.
He also warned of the sinfulness of the heart attitudes that produce them – anger, and lust, and greed.
More than that, He talked about the “rottenness” of the heart out of which these things come.
And the Bible penetrates even more deeply to show us the essence of our sin problem.
It’s not just what we do and say – abusing drugs and sex, spreading rumors and innuendo.
Our attitudes qualify as sin – anxiety, fear, envy, laziness, jealousy.
Our motives condemn us as sinners – wanting to be noticed, wanting to get even, wanting to get ahead.
And even our failure to do what He commands seals the case against us.
Ignoring the cry for help from the poor.
Not spending quality time with children.
Refusing to forgive when we’ve been wronged.
You’ve heard of “the seven deadly sins.”
Of course, every sin is deadly, since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
That phrase comes from Proverbs 6:16-19.
The seven are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.
What is sin?
Is it a germ that invades our body?
Is it a break in our DNA chain?
The Bible doesn’t give us that kind of description.
I don’t know what color it is, or what shape it is, or what a “piece” of it looks like.
I can’t get a pound of it to study in the lab.
I won’t find it by dissecting brain cells.
But its effect on every one of us is unmistakable.
Sin pollutes our minds – causing us to think about things all wrong.
Sin pollutes our hearts – causing us to love things we ought to hate, and hate things we ought to love.
Sin pollutes our wills – causing us to choose things that hurt us and those around us, and they never really satisfy.
Bob Reymond puts it this way in his Systematic Theology (page 450).
Every part of his being – his mind, his will, his emotions, his affections, his conscience, his body – has been affected by sin (this is
what is meant by the doctrine of total depravity). His understanding is darkened, his mind is at enmity with God, his will to act is slave to his darkened understanding and rebellious mind, his heart is corrupt, his emotions are perverted, his affections naturally
gravitate to that which is evil and ungodly, his conscience is untrustworthy, and his body is subject to mortality.
It’s not popular in modern evangelical circles to dwell on sin.
You’ll seldom, if ever, hear the word from the big-name media preachers and authors today.
They’re too focused on “positive” Christianity, and how God can improve your life.
The TV preacher of the largest church in America today has two best-sellers topping the charts.
Your Best Life Now and How to Be a Better You.
Sin doesn’t fit into the equation; it’s never even mentioned in either book. (By the way, neither is the cross!)
It’s another story entirely when it comes to historic Christianity.
Sin is not just a doctrine analyzed in heavy tomes of academic theology.
It has been the starting point for cultivating deep, personal devotional and spiritual health.
The life of the soul is nourished by the repentance that flows from an awareness of individual sin.
This has consistently been a major theme in the greatest Christian literature of all the ages.
From the fifth century, Augustine’s Confessions.
From the fifteenth century, Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ.
From the nineteenth century, Octavius Winslow’s Personal Declension.
Perhaps no era of the church gave more helpful attention to dealing with sin than the English Puritans,
and those who followed in their footsteps, and continued drawing attention to the reality of sin,
men like Jeremiah Burroughs (The Exceeding Sinfulness of Sin),
Thomas Brooks (Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices), Obadiah Sedgwick (The Anatomy of Secret Sins),
as well as men like Jonathan Edwards, J. C. Ryle, Charles Spurgeon.
And most outstanding among those Puritans was the giant, John Owen, with his classic trilogy,
The Mortification of Sin, Temptation, and Indwelling Sin.
If you’ve never read these, you have missed three of the most valuable books ever written!
Kris Lundgaard offers an abridged version of these classics with simplified language in The Enemy Within.
Thank goodness, we still have men willing to call our attention to this necessary self-diagnosis.
Cornelius Plantinga, in NOT the Way It’s Supposed to Be.
Jerry Bridges, in Respectable Sins.
John Piper, in his newest, yet-to-be-released book, Repentance.
Evangelism Explosion helps us explain that man is a sinner.
It also helps us explain …
2. How serious is our problem?
We have fallen short of God’s glory
To fall short of God’s glory means to come up short of what is required to be acceptable to God.
If something costs five thousand dollars, and you only have a quarter, you’ve fallen short.
If you try to leap five miles across the Grand Canyon, and you only make it 25 feet, you’ve fallen short.
If you have to get all 500 questions right on a qualifying test, and you only get five, you’ve fallen short.
When it comes to God’s glory, we don’t even come that close!
It’s more like trying broad jump across the Atlantic from the end of the Lake Worth pier to England’s shores.
With a good running start, you might make it 15 feet … a professional athlete might get to 25.
But you’ve both fallen far short of what it takes.
Make no mistake about it, God’s standard is absolute perfection.
Quoting Leviticus 19:2, Jesus said we must be perfect, even as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
Habakkuk 1:13 tells us God’s eyes are too pure to even look at evil, much less allow it into heaven.
By our vast number of sins, we fall far short of the glory of God!
The Bible uses a number of analogies, and a number of different words, to teach us how serious sin is.
This isn’t a complete list.
These four are just a sampling.
First, sin is a debt that we can’t pay.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
As Paul said in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death.
Every sin I commit adds to the ever-increasing enormity of that debt I owe.
Second, sin is a deformity we can’t fix.
Our nature is twisted and perverted so that we choose to do despicable things.
It is uglier than any physical deformity we will ever encounter.
Look at how the addict destroys his life, and those around him, and is unable to stop doing so.
Third, sin is a disease we can’t cure.
It’s worse than any cancer as it eats away at the soul.
It invariably advances and spreads throughout every part of our spiritual body.
And unlike cancer, it is always terminal; no self-generated chemotherapy or radiation can touch it.
Fourth, sin is a crime we can’t excuse.
It’s not just that we’ve made a few mistakes.
It is more wicked than the most repulsive felony on the books.
And there is nothing we can say or do that will excuse it, or explain it away, or get us a “not guilty” verdict.
This is where the human heart balks.
“You can call me a sinner.”
“But how dare you call me a criminal?”
But that’s exactly what God will call us when we stand in His court.
Like criminals in human courts, people may try to deny the charge.
They may blame it on the way they were raised,
or the way society mistreated them,
or their lack of education.
But there will be no clever lawyer to manipulate the evidence to get them off the hook before God’s bench.
Here’s one of the strategies many people hold in reserve in the event that they find themselves one day in that dilemma.
They may know they’ve sinned, and will have to answer for it before God.
But they’ve got a trump card up their sleeve.
And it’s this – there isn’t all that much sin in their life.
Most of the sin in their life has escaped their attention.
In fact, they may have a hard time thinking about the last time they sinned.
And so they assume that God will dismiss the charges against them.
Or if anything, they’ll just pay the equivalent of a small fine.
One of the excellent illustrations in the Evangelism Explosion Gospel presentation is the “three-sins-a-day” one.
Remember that sin is anything I do which God forbids, or that I fail to do which God commands.
Getting angry when a driver cuts in front of me on the road.
Turning for another look at a skimpily clad woman at the beach.
Mentally composing a scathing rebuttal to someone who’s hurt me, even if I never speak a word of it.
How many sins do you think the typical person commits in a single day?
Could you imagine going from breakfast until lunch with only one impure thought?
And making it from lunch until dinner with only one moment of proud boasting?
And getting from dinner to bedtime with only one intemperate word toward a family member?
None of us would claim to come anywhere close to that good a record.
But even at that, that’s three sins a day!
In a year that’s … that’s … that’s nearly a thousand.
I’m 62, so that would add up to … sixty two thousand sins!
Can you imagine standing before a judge, with sixty two thousand convictions, and expecting leniency?
But sixty two thousand doesn’t even come close to the countless billions of offenses we accumulate in a lifetime.
How could anyone possibly expect to get a reduced sentence, much less a waiving of the sentence, or probation?
And yet countless billions of people blindly expect exactly that!
Evangelism Explosion helps us explain how serious our problem is.
It also helps us explain …
3. Where did we get our problem?
We have all sinned
Has it ever dawned on you that sin is the easiest Biblical doctrine to prove?
All you have to do is turn on the evening news … or pick up a newspaper or news magazine.
Not just sin in what people do … murder, robbery, perjury, slander, divorce, abortion.
But also what sin has done to the world … war, famine, terrorism, revolution, persecution.
And even what sin has done to nature … earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, cancers, heart attacks.
If there were no sin, think about what we would NOT have.
No era, no nation, no culture, no individual is exempt.
What Paul wrote here is absolutely true.
All have sinned.
And look at his description earlier in this chapter, in verses 10-18, quoting from the Old Testament.
None is righteous, no, not one;
No one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
No one does good, not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
They use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
What strikes us so powerfully in these words is not just the depraved qualities he describes.
But the fact that this is true of every single human being!
It’s like a death knell ringing over and over and over again.
No one … none … not even one!
How is it that this has become true, universally, of every human being on the planet?
Can we find the cause in inadequate educational opportunities?
Do we lay the blame at the feet of poverty and oppression?
Is it the fault of broken homes and delinquent parents?
That’s what most sociologists and psychologists will tell us.
“Whatever your problem is, it’s not your fault.”
As many have written, we have become a nation of victims.
Just as Adam and Eve shifted the blame for their sin, so do people continue to do today.
But it’s from Adam and Eve that all this stems, isn’t it?
That’s the Bible’s answer to this universal pandemic of sin.
Everyone got it from the same source.
From their parents … and they from theirs … and they from theirs … all the way back to Adam and Eve.
David knew this basic doctrinal principle when he confessed his sins in Psalm 51.
Faced with the realization of what he had done – adultery, murder, conspiracy – he accepted full responsibility.
It wasn’t anybody’s fault but his own.
He knew it was wrong, but did it anyway.
His words reflect a full confession.
I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in Your sight.
You are justified in Your words
and blameless in Your judgment.
But he also recognized where that enormous character flaw in his own heart had come from.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
There was no sin in the act of conception.
But sin was passed on to him from his mother, and was part of his very nature from the moment of his conception.
One of the clearest explanations of this transmission of sin is found right here in Paul’s letter to the Romans.
In chapter five, Paul describes how Adam’s sin and guilt was passed on to every human being.
Adam was not merely the first human being; he stood as the legal representative of every human being.
Theologians describe it as his having been our “federal” (representative) head.
The choice that Adam made to disobey God was a choice that he made as our representative.
The same principle works today in our own federal (representative) government.
A decision made by our representative is made on our behalf.
Whatever the consequences of that decision, they are passed on to us.
When Adam sinned, it is as though you and I, and every human being, made that decision and committed that very sin.
We are guilty of what he did.
And when he sinned, he became a sinner; his nature changed and became that of a fallen sinner.
And we are born with that same fallen nature; in fact it is true of from the moment of our conception.
This is what theologians mean by “original sin.”
Evangelism Explosion helps us explain where we got our problem.
It also helps us explain …
4. What has God done about our problem?
We are justified through Christ’s redeeming blood
When I first wrote down this point in the outline, I wrote, “What can we do about our problem?”
All of a sudden it struck me.
The Gospel is not about what I can do to solve my problem.
It’s about what God has done to solve my problem.
I was nearly back-sliding into Arminianism!
What could we possibly do to solve our sin problem?
That’s what we looked at last week in the sermon about “Grace.”
There’s absolutely nothing we can do!
Even the faith we exercise to trust in Christ is not our own; it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
And yet Satan continues to deceive the masses into thinking that they can fix their own problem.
As long as their good deeds outweigh their bad.
As long they’ve done their best.
As long as they were sincere.
Here’s another place where Evangelism Explosion training provides a very helpful illustration.
This one is called “the omelet.”
It shows how foolish it is to think that a few good works tossed in with the bad will help.
Imagine that I invite you to my house for breakfast.
We’re talking in the kitchen as you watch me prepare an omelet.
One after another, I crack open five eggs and empty them into the bowl.
The moment I crack open the sixth and final egg, we can both smell that it is rotten.
But then I go right ahead and drop it in with the five good eggs.
Would you accept that if I served it up to you?
Most of the eggs were perfectly good.
There was only one bad egg.
Of course not!
How much less could we expect God to accept our lives if we served them up to Him like that.
There may be many things in our record we would call good.
But even if there were only one bad egg (and we have far more than one sin), the rottenness spoils the whole.
Our point is not proven just by an illustration, though.
It’s proven by logic.
If I have broken God’s law and stand guilty before Him,
no amount of good deeds will take away the fact of my offense.
That wouldn’t work in criminal court before a human judge;
it certainly won’t work before the Judge of all the earth.
And it’s also proven by direct statement in Scripture.
James 2:10 says, Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
It doesn’t matter if you keep the sixth commandment (murder) perfectly except for one instance.
If you commit just one murder, game over.
I had a Sunday School teacher in fourth grade who gave me an illustration of this that I’ve never forgotten.
Imagine that you live on Lake Erie, several miles back from Niagara Falls.
You have a boat chained to a dock in your backyard.
The chain securing it to the dock has a thousand links.
How many links must break before the boat drifts into the current, and is destroyed when it goes over the falls?
It only takes one, doesn’t it?
And that’s all it takes to be swept away by God’s justice.
Just one sin.
But what has God done about our problem”
Listen to Paul’s answer here in Romans 3.
This is the Gospel, the good news.
He has done for me what I could never have done for myself!
We are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
That’s the solution to our problem.
Not because of anything in me, but because of His grace, He has done for me what I could not do.
By His death in my place, Jesus paid the debt I owed because of my sin.
By faith in Him, I receive forgiveness of sins and a transformed heart.
That’s what each of those important words tells us.
Justified – God declares me “not guilty.”
Grace – I deserved exactly the opposite.
Redemption – by doing so God purchased me and made me His own.
Propitiation – Jesus’ death fully satisfied what His law demanded in payment for all my sins.
Faith – all I have done is accept this gift, putting my trust in what He did for me, rather than in what I could do for Him.
Evangelism Explosion helps us explain what God has done to solve our problem.
In Romans 5:20, Paul said, Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
When you see that you are more sinful than you think (as Masha told me in Ukraine in 1998),
you will not only realize that you need Jesus more than you thought;
you’ll also see that He has done more for you than you ever realized.
Someone who thinks their only problem is a little cold won’t be too concerned about it.
Just take a few pills, wait a few days,
and they’ll get over it.
But if they believe the doctor’s diagnosis:
that it is a life-threatening disease,
one that will kill them if left untreated,
they will do whatever it takes to get that treatment immediately.
That will become more important to them than anything else in their life.
They’ll put everything in their life on hold until they’ve received that cure.
And once cured, they’ll never look at life the same way again.
Not only that.
They’ll never think of that doctor who cured them the same way again.
What do you think of the doctor who has cured you … Jesus?