Before I begin, I would like to say "Hello!" to everyone who has visited my blog (From all over the world, too! Wow!), and a hearty "Thank you!" to Dan Phillips for the link. :)
This past week has been very hectic, with my mother-in-law falling ill (she's on the mend) and my husband preparing to go to work offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, so new posts have been on hold until now. Thanks for your patience. :)
We dealt with the Old Testament's diagnosis of our human fallenness in part 3a. We learned what sin is, what it has done to us, and the penalty for it. By our own inclinations, we miss the mark of God's holy, absolute standard every time. Dan has shown that the teaching of human lostness is found throughout the OT, proving that the doctrine wasn't concocted by any apostle or later church council.
Categorical Biblical Diagnosis of Human Fallenness: New Testament
Jesus and the apostles were true Israelites who accepted and emphatically affirmed the God-breathed origin and inerrancy of the Old Testament (John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:21). They all affirmed the OT's teaching on the universal, pervasive nature of sin. The New Testament builds on and develops this doctrine.
WDJS? (What Did Jesus Say?)
Jesus began His public ministry with a very brief but powerful sermon. In Matthew 4:17, He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
"...Jesus' first word, 'Repent', translates the Greek word metanoeite (meta-no-AY-teh), which indicates a change of mind so fundamental, so root-to-branch, that the life changes as a consequence..."
Why would Jesus issue such a command? If we were naturally good and accepted by God unconditionally, would He have said "Repent."? If we just needed to try a little harder or think about God more, would He have said "Repent."? If we only committed certain sins, but were sound otherwise, would He have said "Repent." categorically, with no qualifiers? No.
Jesus tells us to change our most basic assumptions because everything about how we think is fundamentally wrong. Nothing had changed about Man's sin nature when Jesus came along, and He didn't have to explain because the OT had already laid it out.
WDJS? (What Did Jesus See?)
Jesus looks into our hearts, and what He sees isn't pretty. In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus says, "For from within, [that is] out of the hearts of men, come base and wicked thoughts, sexual immorality, stealing, murder, adultery, Coveting (a greedy desire to have more wealth), dangerous and destructive wickedness, deceit, unrestrained (indecent) conduct; an evil eye (envy), slander (evil speaking, malicious misrepresentation, abusiveness), pride (the sin of an uplifted heart against God and man), foolishness (folly, lack of sense, recklessness, thoughtlessness). All these evil [purposes and desires] come from within, and they make the man unclean and render him unhallowed." (Amplified Bible)
This picture of death and spiritual death is the same one that shows up throughout the OT. Adam sinned and died, and all his children have been spiritually stillborn.
So What Does Jesus Prescribe?
Because we're not basically good, or even just "a little bit bad", Jesus gives us two extreme prescriptions for what we need in the face of His teaching.
First, Jesus tells His followers, "...take up [your] cross and follow Me." (Luke 9:23). A cross is where death happens. Jesus is telling us that our sin-riddled nature must die.
Second, Jesus tells us that we must be born again. Nicodemus was a religious, legally righteous man, yet Jesus told him he had to be "born again". (The exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus can be found in John 3:1-21). Dan writes,
"'Born again' means what is already there is all wrong, we need to start all over with something new."
What Did the Apostles Teach?
Peter taught what Christ taught. At Pentecost, Peter told those assembled, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38). Peter affirms that without being born again as an act of God's grace, there's no spiritual life.
Paul also confirmed Jesus' teaching and developed it. His most systematic teaching of the good news of Christ is the book of Romans. He sets forth how sin came to hold us all, and how sin was conquered by Christ in Romans 5:12-21. He sets the first and last Adam side-by-side and compares and contrasts them.
Both Peter and Paul affirm that all are involved in sin. All repress the truth of God, and all turn aside from God. It is out of God's grace and great mercy and by means of Christ's resurrection from the dead that we are born again. We don't take the initiative.
Adam, as representative of man, brought sin into the world. As a result, everyone is born with a sinful nature. Jesus and the apostles affirm the OT teachings of man's sinfulness. They acknowledge that none are good, and that we all fall under condemnation.
Jesus, the "last Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:46, 47), tells us to repent (to radically change our way of thinking), take up our cross (to put our sinfulness to death), and that we must be born again (an act of God's grace and mercy).
Coming up next...
Part C will cover the section of chapter 3 that really "tilted my world" and got me off the fence in my view of God and how He works. The way Dan explains it, in language that is very easily understood, makes a whole lot of sense to me. Stay tuned. :)