Tuesday, 13 September 2016 11:07

Confessing Sin And Trusting Jesus

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Dear friends, are you willing to dig deeper with me on the subject of our sinful depravity by nature? Believe it or not, how important for you and me to search out this matter, and truthfully, it is for blessed gospel reasons too. Two weeks ago we learned about the one main source of discovering about our sin and misery, namely, the holy and inflexible Law of God as brought home to our mind and heart by the Spirit of God. Before the unchanging and perfect divine standard of God’s holy Ten Commandments and Jesus’ summary of that Law, being ‘all out’ love for God always and genuine love to our neighbor always too, “There is none righteous, no, not one” as Paul teaches clearly in Romans 3.

This time, digging deeper still, let us look more at the reality of our sinful misery by nature, and what really is the cause of it, and how bad is it actually and factually. Think here of investigators searching through the rubble after a house fire, or the police checking over all the wrecks even to the black skid tire marks with a major and fatal highway accident.  The damage and consequences from our sins and sinfulness is horrendous. So let us get at the bottom of this serious solemn matter, and not skip over any of the sordid details and sad and bad consequences of what has happened and what we have become and are, left to ourselves and what is our only hope now.

 Here consider our two main Scripture texts to help guide and keep us on track in our digging deeper regarding our sinful depravity by nature.  Listen to the LORD ask in Isaiah 5:4, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?”   And then this wisdom word from Ecclesiastes 7:29 by the Holy Spirit-inspired King Solomon, “Lo, this only have I found, that God has made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” The meaning of that text is, as another paraphrase translation puts it, Solomon saying actually, I discovered that God created people to be upright, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.

 

I want to think with you about five crucial points on the basis of God’s Word, and in the light of the faithful summary gospel teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 3, all in connection with digging deeper about your and my sins and sinfulness of ourselves.

For one, God isn’t to blame at all.  How important to underline this reality. The Bible teaches so clearly that when God created us in the beginning with Adam and Eve, our first parents, they were made perfect and beautiful, righteous and just in all their ways.  They were created sinless and fully able never to sin, and by nature inclined only always to love and serve God in holy obedience and joy. YET instead, they wickedly, consciously, and inexcusably rebelled. Against their very nature as they were created by God in His image and likeness, Adam and Eve, when tempted to sin, listened to the devil instead of to God. So we read also in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.”

What more could God have done when He created this world and our first parents, Adam and Eve, and called them to perfect love and devotion to Him and flawless obedience to all His word and will before the LORD and one another? Likewise, what more could God have done for His people, the Israelites, that they might bear rich fruit to the LORD and live for His glory above all?  Oh, nothing, dear friends, nothing better or improved at all, not a single adjustment in any way, here or there could have been done, even by God. No, let none of us dare to blame God in any way, for even to suggest that is something false and it is going against all the evidence of personal and world history too. “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” [Ecclesiastes 7:29] Yes, “each turned to follow their own downward path.

To say otherwise and maintain instead that somehow God is to blame for this is always simply and terribly wrong! To assert God may in any measure be at fault, if not with some imperfection in His creative handiwork when He created Adam and Eve or somehow with His own eternal decrees and foreknowledge about everything being somehow not quite right according to our sinful thinking, is just not permissible. Why? Because that so shamefully discredits the perfect and holy God on the one hand, and at the same time, on the other hand,  arrogantly seeks to get us off the hook for all the sin and misery in our lives and in this cursed, fallen world? As fallen sinners, isn’t it just so devilishly characteristic of you and me by nature to blame others for our sins and sinfulness?

But when we become true Christians, by God’s grace and Spirit, that shows also in you and me then now listening to the Bible and humbly submitting to its emphatic clear gospel teaching. Yes, including this humbling teaching that God is not at fault in any way for our fall and faults in sin before God and each other. But we ourselves are, you and me and all mankind, with the exception of Jesus of Nazareth only. As the early chapters in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, makes ever so clear, our first parents were created perfect and unique. They were created perfectly and precisely and beautifully as God’s image bearers, made always to know God and to look like God in character and focus, and truly to enjoy God and serve Him forever. But even when this absolutely perfect couple, Adam and Eve, were placed in the most positive and best of settings, yet they wickedly chose to turn away from God and His will and instead to follow Satan and to allow that serpent to rule their lives rather than God. And so we read in Romans 5:12 Paul teaching us, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” making clear, as this truth memorably expressed states it: In Adam’s fall we sinned all.

Therefore here is the truth, no buts or ifs or doubts about it, even as the Heidelberg Catechism so faithfully explains and maintains this for us in Q&A 6&7.  We read there, after the Catechism just asserted in Q&A 5 that you and I can’t keep any of God’s holy laws perfectly: In no wise, for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor,  this next question, Did God then create man so wicked and perverse? Answer: By no means; but God created man good, and after His own image, in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him and live with Him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise Him. Q&A7 immediately follows then, instructing us, Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature? Answer: From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; hence our nature is become so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin.

What this stresses to us dear friends, is that while it must be maintained and ever confessed by you and me that God is not to blame at all for the ruin and miserable consequences of the Fall, the only other conclusion to be reached is that our sin is totally our fault. This is our second point now, the second assertion and confession of faith this is exhorting that we all need to acknowledge personally, shall it be well with our soul. None of us can even blame the devil. The devil is a most wretched foe in that he is a sly and vicious and relentless tempter, always wanting us to sin, yet God made Adam and Eve fully able to resist the devil too if they had really wanted to do so. Even as fallen children of Adam and Eve, never can we blame a single sin on the devil. Sin is always a matter of letting ourselves be drawn to evil from our own heart and will. So James also says in James 1:14, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”

Again, how important to own up to this truth, as harsh and humbling as it may sound. This is nothing but the truth, the real gospel facts.  Not one of us can blame our own sins and sinfulness on anyone else or anything else but ourselves, yourself and myself alone.  So, for example, your friends did not make you go to that ungodly racy movie. You allowed yourself to go there, against better knowledge even.  It isn’t your parents’ poor example of hardly caring for church that makes you now quite indifferent about church, but it is repeatedly your own rebellious mind and heart refusing to be submissive God and His word.  Neither is it your computer or television that is leading you into the quagmire of lust, but your own unwillingness to live holily before God and your neighbor.  It is you continually choosing instead to sin grievously, falsely pretending all the while that not even God, or anyone else, has to know. 

What does God’s word say in Jeremiah 17:9? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Hear too what God says already in Genesis 6, in the first couple of thousand years after the fall of Adam and Eve.  God says in vs.5 these scathing and scorching words, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  As fallen sons and daughters of our first parents even in all generations since, we are sinful wrecks, and our wretched, sinful, wicked condition and life is each and all our own fault. There is not one of us who can stand before God on our own and say it is not so.  All of have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and it is our own fault, each one of us. 

Failure to confess this means not only discounting what God’s word teaches us in its’ 66 books, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, but it means also denying what the faithful Christian church of all ages has always confessed. When in the 1500s and 1600s the church was mercifully brought back by God to the faithful teaching of the Holy Bible, the Reformation Christian churches again confessed and taught in their confessions the somber reality about our totally depravity in sin. They taught then rightly not only that God is not at fault at all with our fall into sin, but it is totally our fault, your and my fault, each one of us. They taught also that it is really terminally bad, our fall into sin and your and my sinful and corrupt and perverted ways, left to ourselves, our third point.

The solemn reality is, according to God as He teaches us in the Bible, our sin problem is not minor but major, overwhelmingly and hopelessly so, left to ourselves. That is, to be clear, sin has affected and infected us, you and me, each and all, so deeply and devastatingly that there is not a single detail of your and my life that isn’t stained and impacted with the virus of our sins and sinfulness.  From head to toe, skin to marrow, mind and heart, our will and emotion, it is all spoiled with the corruption and rot of sin and evil-mindedness.  None of us are only partly affected by the fall into sin, but each of us is completely stained and infiltrated with the guilt and evil and curse and bondage of the fall into sin.  Of ourselves now, even our best works are as filthy rags before the perfectly righteous and infinitely holy God as we read in Isaiah 64:6. God’s word states there, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” 

It is really terminally bad, our sin and guilt by nature brought on ourselves by ourselves. So bad is it even that our situation and condition is hopelessly irreparable, and unfixable, and forever unredeemable, left to ourselves.  So we read for instance in Job 14:4, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” That is God’s answer. Not one of us on our own can ever make right what we have done wrong. Not one of us can make straight what has been made crooked by us.  Not all the money in the world, nor all the wisdom of the wise in this fallen world, and not all the resources of this universe could bring about a God-pleasing just and good solution and resolution to the dilemma of our wretched sins and sinfulness of ourselves.  It is utterly hopeless for any one of us to escape the righteous condemnation of God for all our sins and sinfulness and the everlasting punishment for sin in body and soul that you and I justly deserve and will certainly meet with on our own. In Proverbs 20:9 we read this convicting condemning question, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” The implied answer is: No one, at all! No wonder Jeremiah cried out then as he did in Lamentations 5:16, “The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us that we have sinned.

I don’t know if you ever were present when a doctor told a person the results of a thorough diagnosis and after all the tests: It is really terminally bad. You have a disease that will cause your death, and it could be shortly within months or perhaps a little longer with surgery and chemo treatments etc. But truth be told, it doesn’t look good at all. Listen, dear friends, it is one thing to be told that about our temporary physical life here on earth, but what about being so informed about your and my whole being and existence in body and soul, for now and forever? The Bible wants us to face our sins and sinfulness most seriously and to be gripped and confronted how bad and sad it truly is, with each one of us on our own.  If the misery section too of the Heidelberg Catechism has you still thinking and believing, But there has to be some hope on our own, you just are not hearing or refusing to listen to what is being said. You are refusing to take seriously even the report of God’s diagnosis of your and my spiritual condition on our own.  

Yes, admittedly, from one perspective, it is a lot of bad news to have to hear, but let me ask you this question: Would you not rather have all the facts of your and my miserable condition of ourselves laid out on the table rather than covering over the dismal truths about our terrible plight on our own?  I’d far rather have a doctor who will be honest with me than one who hides the facts, not wanting to hurt or discourage me at the time, just pull the wool over my eyes so to speak. And then still only to face the inescapable painful reality of death in the end, even most shockingly and devastatingly so!

Therefore also now, dear friends, we have to dig still deeper about our sinful depravity and tell you yet more bad news. There is, on top of all that has been said so far our fourth point. Please listen carefully here. Our condition as fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, with each of us conceived and born in sin as David confesses in Psalm 51, your situation and mine on our own, and that of our children and grandchildren too, is utterly hopeless, except each of us be ‘born again’. The Catechism teaches thus in Q&A8, Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good [saving good that is], and inclined to all wickedness? Answer: Indeed, we are, except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

This is the bad and sad dilemma for everyone born since Adam’s fall, except for Jesus of course. And mentioning Jesus, remember now, it is Jesus who taught this most clearly and emphatically, especially also in John 3.  Unless a person once born into this world is also born again, he or she will never be saved and never enter into the kingdom of heaven.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you”, Jesus said thus to religious Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God [and]… cannot enter the kingdom of God.” [John 3:3]

Do you ask perhaps now: But how does having to be born again add to our human misery and desperate plight as totally depraved sinners of ourselves? Well, let me ask you then in answer to your question: How is it even possible that anyone of us ever be born again? It is humanly impossible and it is just never possible for anyone of us to be born again on our own. So Nicodemus asked too in bewilderment, “How can these things be?” [John 3:9] On its own, the teaching of the necessity of the new birth only adds to our sin and misery left to ourselves. For anyone of us to be born again, given a new heart and made a new creation, requires a miracle of supernatural power and wisdom greater than the creation of the whole universe at the beginning of time. A complete new creation of ourselves in this world, and certainly with ourselves from ourselves is just not going to happen. That is the solemn reality with you and me apart from God and His saving almighty hand in our lives.

Have you faced all this misery section gospel teaching for real in your own mind and heart, and confessed personally: O LORD, I am in dire straits, my situation as a human being conceived and born in sin into this world is utterly hopeless and helpless, and I have nothing of myself to plead upon. I come to You only with all my sin and guilt, so inexcusable, and self-blamable always, and left to myself, justly condemnable, deserving only eternal hell in body and soul already now, and hereafter, forever and ever. And my cry now is, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner, I am evil born in sin, Thou desirest truth within, Thou alone my Saviour art….Gracious God, yes, my heart renew, make my spirit right and true….Cast me not away from Thee, Let Thy Spirit dwell in me? 

Isn’t this where all this divine teaching of our sin and misery of ourselves is meant to lead us?  To Whom else shall we go but to the Lord Who, praise God, has not left this fallen sinful world to itself, but even when Adam and Eve fell, that very same day God came to them in tender mercy and lovingkindness, proclaiming and promising to them the one way of escape yet by His grace through His Son and by His Spirit.  The good news of the gospel still today is that the almighty merciful Triune God is yet out to regenerate hearts and to make us new creatures in and through Christ Jesus.

The whole gospel message is God delights in mercy and with Him there is perfect solution and everlasting salvation rich and free for all who call upon the LORD in spirit and truth and trust and obey the only gospel of Jesus Christ. Even so, what did Jesus further say to Nicodemus when telling him about the necessity of the new birth?  Such a miracle comes about in and through Christ and by the gospel word under the power of the Holy Spirit, even with the gospel of John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The hardest, deadest, coldest, meanest sinner might yet be saved looking to Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Saviour of sinners. There is no misery of ours, however desperately miserable our sin and guilt, that the Messiah Saviour can’t and won’t overcome for us. Yet who will trust and follow Jesus, and turn from sin and repent and believe in Christ alone except you take to heart all the Biblical teaching about our sin and misery, left to ourselves?

It is so good therefore for us to hear this now.  To prove that, let me yet say something about our fifth and last point with digging deeper regarding our sinful depravity of ourselves. I mean the point now about how is this precious practical GOSPEL teaching you are hearing? You could ask it this way: How can this negative sounding message about our desperate and hopeless misery in sin of ourselves be of any positive good?

Let me tell you how. When by the  Holy Spirit you and I are once and repeatedly gripped with this teaching about how great our sins and miseries are, there is nothing like it that will have us truly repent of sin and trust and follow Jesus alone as only Saviour and Lord.  With this faithful teaching and preaching, when blessed by God, you and I will always be kept from foolish pride about ourselves and instead learn true humility of heart before God and our neighbor. Think how this humbling truth can motivate and stir us up in true love to Jesus as one and only Saviour of sinners and ever glorying in Him alone as given by God the Father, and made known to us by God’s Spirit and Word.  Nothing so leads us as seeing, by God’s Spirit and word, the impossible hell-hole and eternal pit of misery Christ came to save us from.

If you refuse heartily to say ‘amen’ to this message, doesn’t it suggest you are not yet truly saved, indeed, not yet born again of God?  Oh, seek the Lord for His regenerating grace and saving help before it is forever too late! On the other hand, if you, by God’s grace, wholeheartedly agree with all that is said, won’t that become evident in you showing,, again by God’s grace, most humble and hearty thanks for such a gracious and hopeful gospel in an otherwise totally hopeless and grim situation if left to ourselves?

 

Nothing advances the gospel cause in and through our lives practically like you and me, by God’s grace and Spirit, really being gripped heartily, and increasingly even, about how great our sins and miseries are on our own, and yet, regardless and most wonderfully, how Jesus Christ is mighty to save even the chief of sinners.  Oh, that makes one shout in endless joy and praise: Hallelujah what a Saviour! Praise God Triune, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Hallelujah! Then digging deeper about our sins and sinfulness, we learn, is actually such positive gospel truth, as God’s means for you and me truly to trust and follow Jesus Christ as only Saviour and Lord. Amen.   

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor 

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