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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Whom can we blame and is it really so bad?
Text:LD 3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Law Exposes our Sinful Nature
 
Preached:2009
Added:2009-12-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 5
Hymn 1A
Psalm 51:1-2
Hymn 55
Psalm 24

Readings:  Genesis 3, Romans 5
Text:  Lord's Day 3
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,

 

Back in the 1980s, over 5000 Canadians received blood transfusions tainted with hepatitis C and HIV.  These transfusions were supposed to save lives, but in the long run they didn’t.  In the 1990s, this became known as the “tainted blood scandal.”  The federal government spent years discussing how they might compensate the victims and their families. 

 

Just like those who received the tainted blood, we have received the guilt and corruption of our first father, Adam.  Through our shared humanity and ancestry, we have received a deathly condition;  in fact if we were merely sick, there might be some hope for us.  But as it is, because of Adam’s sin every single one of us comes into this world dead on arrival.  We have a condition of spiritual death and in this condition we are all inclined by nature to disobey God and his law.  Apart from Christ and apart from the Holy Spirit, we all tend towards the hatred of God and our neighbour.  The reality is that all human beings share a fallen, broken, even dead condition. 

 

But what if we could blame someone for this?  In the tainted blood scandal, the victims and their families could blame the federal government and the Red Cross.  Especially after 1986 when tests were readily available to detect tainted blood, somebody else could be legitimately blamed.  But what about us who have received a spiritual transfusion?  Is there someone we can blame for this?  And at the end of the day, is it all really so bad?  Those are the questions we want to look at this afternoon as we consider what the Bible teaches about our fallen human condition.  We’ll consider the origin, extent and solution in regards to this condition.

 

I think we’re all familiar with the story of creation of man.  On the sixth day, God created Adam, the first human being.  Later, God took a rib from the man and from that formed the woman who was later named Eve.  One theme that recurs through Genesis 1 is God’s assessment of his creation as “good.”  However, after the creation of man, in Genesis 1:31, we hear God saying that all that he has made is “very good.”  Humanity was created very good. 

 

Connected with that, humanity was also created in the image of God.  The image of God in humanity is something that can be considered in a number of different ways, but for this afternoon, we can focus on what Ephesians 4:24 says, namely that it consists of true righteousness and holiness. 

 

What is true righteousness?  First of all, it is an attribute of God whereby God is always loyal and true to his Word.  God always does what is right.  But this is an attribute that people can share to some degree.  People can also be loyal and true and do what is right.  This is the way that Adam and Eve were created.  They could do what is truly right.

 

Then what about holiness?  To be holy means to be set apart from sin.  Again, that is an attribute of God.  God has nothing to do with sin besides hating it and punishing it.  Holiness is also an attribute that may be shared by human beings.  Human beings can also be set apart from sin and they too can hate sin and love purity and what is good.  And again, this is the way that the first man and first woman came into the world.  They reflected their Creator.

 

God created man this way for a purpose.  Colossians 3:10 gives us a clue as to what that purpose is when it speaks about a new nature “which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”  The new nature is a re-creation of the nature which man had before the fall.  And Paul says that this has to do with knowledge.  What is that knowledge?  Certainly it includes what Jesus says in John 17:3 about the essence of eternal life:  knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ his Son.  We were placed on this earth to know God, to be in a good relationship of fellowship and communion with him.  Our race was formed out of dust so that we find our highest joy in God.  At the end of Psalm 73, Asaph sings the song Adam sung before he fell, “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

 

God created man for a relationship of communion with himself.  In that relationship, Adam and Eve and all their posterity would love God from the heart.  Not out of compulsion or a sense of duty or obligation, but because their hearts would be on fire for him, filled with true love. 

 

Being in that condition, they would then live with God in perfect blessedness, going from strength to strength.  They would be praising him and making much of him with everything they did, said, and thought.  Everything would be seen in its proper relation to God the Creator, everything would be done in relation to him.  They would never be distracted from God. 

 

Loved ones, before we go further, take note that this is not just the way that it was.  Because of Christ and his redemptive work for us, this is what we will some day again be -- and more.  Many know the name of John Milton because of his epic poem Paradise Lost.  Few people know that he also wrote another epic, Paradise Restored.  But Milton was not quite right in giving it that title.  After Christ’s return and the inauguration of the age to come, we will be in a far better place than Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden.  Listen carefully and I will tell you why:  because what we gain in Christ is far more than what we lost in Adam.  The glory of the Second Adam far excels that of the First, even when Adam was in his original state.  And we are united by faith not to the first, but to the Second Adam.  It’s his glory that we will share in the age to come.  What we gain in Christ is far more than what we lost in Adam.  So it won’t just be Paradise Restored, but Paradise That Will Blow Your Mind.  So, if you like the idea of rightly knowing God, heartily loving him and living with him in blessedness to eternity, you’re going to love what Christ has in store for you. 

 

Adam and Eve were created in a wonderful way.  So, when it comes to the question of whom we can blame for our fallen condition, we simply can’t put it at the feet of our Creator.  He is not responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves.  Our race is wicked and perverse, but our Creator is not. 

 

So, where did all this wickedness and perversity come from?  To find the answer to that we can consider Paul’s words in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin...”  Who was the one man?  Obviously, Adam.  Sin entered into the world, not because of God and his creation, but because a man failed, rebelled and deserted the God who made him and gave him life, breath and everything. 

 

How did it happen?  Genesis 3 tells us the familiar, sordid story.  Eve listened to the father of lies.  She convinced her husband (he apparently didn’t need much convincing), she convinced him to do likewise.  Both reached for the crown that was on God’s head and sought to place it on their own heads.  They were created for fellowship, but their fall created enmity and dysfunction, not only with God, but also between themselves.  The perennial question of whom we can blame goes back to that sorry situation in the garden.  Adam blamed Eve, and by implication God who created her.  Eve blamed the Serpent.  Surprisingly, the only guilty party who doesn’t do any blaming is Satan, although to be fair he doesn’t get a chance either.  Blame is something that the humans in this story excel in.  Taking personal responsibility is now unnatural for them and, by extension, for us.

 

Through Adam’s disobedience, we have all become infected with death and sin.  We call that “original sin.”  Through the history of the church, there have been those who denied this teaching.  Pelagius is the most well-known.  This British monk who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries taught that children are born innocent and only learn how to sin by imitating the bad example of their parents and others.  For the Pelagians, there is no original sin passed on from Adam.  It’s all about bad examples.

 

But the Bible teaches something different.  We sang Psalm 51 a moment ago and there David speaks for all of us when he says that he was conceived and born in sin.  There have been those who hear that expression and think that it refers to reproduction, as if reproduction is evil.  However, that’s not the case.  David means that he was brought into this world already poisoned with sin, a hereditary corruption passed on from his parents and their parents and all his ancestors back to Adam.  David wasn’t the only Biblical writer to recognize this.  Also the prophet Isaiah stated that we are all rebels from birth (Isaiah 48:8).  That’s true because Adam’s rebellion has been passed down through the generations to each one of us.  No one is immune.

 

You know what happens when you have a beaker of water and you place a drop of red iodine in it.  The water remains water, but the iodine gets diffused throughout.  So it is with original sin in the human race.  Sin was dropped into our race, we still remain human, but sin is everywhere in us and among us. 

 

But is it really so bad?  If we only have ourselves to blame, perhaps we can find a way to minimize the problem.  Maybe it isn’t so bad after all.  But again, what does the Bible say?  After the fall into sin, most of humanity went down the toilet.  Before the Flood, we hear of what God saw in Genesis 6:5,  he “saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of his heart was only evil all the time.”  We’ve come a long ways away from the “it is good” and “it was all very good” of Genesis 1.  After the Flood, God promises never to again curse the earth with a flood, even though he recognized that every inclination of man’s heart is evil from childhood.

 

We are indeed totally unable to do any good and we are inclined to all evil.  There’s no denying that the Bible teaches this.  However, we do need to carefully qualify this.  It is not the case that every human being is as bad as they possibly can be.  Yes, human beings are totally unable to do any good and inclined to all evil and we often describe this teaching as “total depravity.”  But unfortunately that name for this doctrine can give the impression that unregenerate human beings are in fact as wicked as the Devil himself.  But it’s quite easy to see that this is not the case at all.  Your next-door neighbour who’s not a Christian is probably not pillaging your house while you’re here at church this afternoon.  You can be thankful to God for that!  Your Father restrains the evil in this world because he loves you.  But that doesn’t mean that your neighbour watching football instead of robbing you is doing something that can earn favour with God, or that he is pleasing God.  He may be doing civil good, but he is not doing saving good.  That’s why our Canons of Dort in article 3 of chapter 3-4 say that human beings are “incapable of any saving good.”  So, that’s also why it’s better than to speak about “total inability” than “total depravity.”  Totally inability makes it more clear that we are unable to do anything to merit or earn salvation from God – and that’s really the big issue here.  All of humanity has a big problem in our fallen condition.

 

This fallen condition extends to every part of our being and every part of our lives.  Thoughts, words and deeds are affected by the fall.  Our relationship to God and our neighbours are affected.  Our daily work is affected, whether studying at school, working in the work place, working at home – it’s all been impacted by our fallen human condition.  Our health is affected – because of Adam’s sin, human beings get sick in numerous ways and eventually die.  Because of Adam’s sin, we live in a broken, messy world in every respect.  The extent of our fallen human condition is universally far-reaching.    

 

But there is hope.  A moment ago, I mentioned the iodine in a beaker of water.  How might you get that iodine out so that the water is pure and crystal clear once again?  Maybe there are some budding chemists among us who know the answer to that – myself, I don’t know.  But there is something similar that can happen in medicine.  If someone’s body has somehow been contaminated with lead, arsenic or mercury, there is a treatment known as chelation therapy that can draw out the heavy metals and the patient can hopefully recover.  That works for somebody who is sick with heavy metal poisoning.  But what can be done for someone who has been spiritually poisoned to such an extent that Scripture says they are spiritually dead?  Is there something that can draw out the poison and restore to life?  Is there a spiritual chelation therapy?

 

Yes, there is.  God has a way to draw out the poison and restore us to life so that we can have fellowship with him and increasingly do what pleases him.  The way is regeneration by the Spirit of God.  Regeneration is also known as being born again.  Literally, in New Testament Greek (in Titus 3:5) it’s palin-genesis, or “Genesis-again”.  A new beginning.  Through the Holy Spirit, what was poisoned and dead, comes to life.  What was formerly repulsive to the Holy One becomes pleasing and acceptable.  All because the Holy Spirit creates life and faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Now notice a couple of things about this being regenerated or being born again.  First of all, notice that it is necessary.  Every one who would be saved must be regenerated.  There is no salvation apart from regeneration by the Holy Spirit.  This is not about external behaviour, but about our standing with God.  To be right with God, we need to be regenerated so that we believe in Jesus Christ and receive all his merits for us and in our place.  Regeneration, the new birth, is necessary for all of us, each and every one. 

 

Second, notice that regeneration is not something that you do for yourself.  Many years ago, there was a book written by a popular Christian author, “How to Be Born Again.”  The title is absurd.  It’s just as absurd as if I were to write a book, “How to Be Born from Your Mother.”  It’s not something that you do, it’s not something where you can boil it down to a formula and a procedure to follow.  The Lord Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  Regeneration is incomprehensible and it is a gift of God. 

 

Finally, we should give some attention to the question of how you can know whether or not you have been regenerated by the Spirit of God.  The answer is simple.  The evidence of regeneration is found with faith in Jesus Christ and its close partner, repentance.  Do you believe with your heart in the Saviour?  Do you rest and trust in him?  Do you love him?  Then do you also hate sin and desire to please your Father in heaven?  Answering those questions in the affirmative, we can be sure that the Holy Spirit of God has done his work of regeneration in us and that we are alive to God through Christ.

 

So, there is a solution to our fallen human condition, a solution that comes from above.  We know about that solution, but then how do we work with that?  Obviously, as I just said, regeneration is a gift of God that God works in people apart from their own efforts and inclinations.  But you know that God has given you that gift, what now?  Let me make two suggestions this afternoon and they both have to do with prayer. 

 

Let’s start close to home and think about our families and especially our children.  Here I’m speaking to the parents among us.  We should pray that all our children would be regenerated by the Spirit of God.  We should pray constantly and regularly that the Holy Spirit would be given to them and that he would work in their hearts a true faith in Jesus Christ.  We want them all to embrace the covenant promises signed and sealed to them in their baptism. 

 

Let’s then move out into the community.  What about that guy you work with who’s not a believer?  What about the fellow student at university who is lost and confused about spiritual things?  What about your neighbour who’s a Roman Catholic and doesn’t know the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone – who is lost?  I could add many more and you know the ones I’m talking about.  Are we praying for them and for their regeneration?  Let me encourage you to do that and then to pray for them not just in a generic, general way, but to pray for them by name and ask the Holy Spirit to make them alive so that they would believe in Christ.  Let’s pray for ourselves too that our hearts would be broken for them, so that we would have compassion on them and tell them about the life-giving power of a great Saviour.  When we pray regularly in this way, I know from experience (and some of you do too) that some pretty amazing things can happen. 

 

Apart from regeneration, we have a horrible human condition, a sinful way of life inherited from our forefathers.  Regeneration puts us on the track to full restoration and beyond.  We are responsible for our sin, but God is responsible for our deliverance and for the glorious day which awaits us upon Christ’s return.  When the day comes, indeed “how shall our joy abound!”  AMEN. 

 

Heavenly Father,

 

We confess to you that we have no one else to blame for our fallen condition than ourselves.  Father, you are good, holy and righteous.  We and our fathers, however, have sinned.  We have our original sin and our actual sins and it’s all quite ugly and disconcerting.  But Father, we thank you for the gift of regeneration by your Holy Spirit.  We thank you that he creates faith in our hearts so that we may embrace Christ our Life and Righteousness.  Father, we do pray for our children that you would give each of them the gift of your Spirit and regeneration.  We pray also for all those people whom you’ve placed in our lives who are still lost in darkness.  Please also give them your Spirit and bring them to the light and life in Christ.  Help us with your Spirit to have a heart for them.  Lord God, we pray that you would continue working in our lives, keep us faithful until the day of Christ’s return.  Father, we long to rightly know you, to perfectly love you from our hearts, and to live with you in eternal blessedness, praising and glorifying you forever in the new heavens and new earth.  We want our faith to become sight.  Please bring that day quickly.   




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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