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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Gospel Thinking: Man is Doomed

(This is the fourth article in a series.  You can find the other articles here:  Part 1   Part 2   Part 3)
What does it mean to be gospel-minded?  It means to habitually allow the truths of the gospel to frame the perspective from which we view our circumstances.  In this series, we’ve been taking some of the basic truths of the gospel and considering how that particular truth could shape our thinking.
The truths that we’ve already considered are: God is holy, man is sinful, and God is wrathful.  Now we’re ready to move on to a fourth: Man is doomed. 
(I know that these first few truths don’t conjure happy-go-lucky emotions.  It may seem like thus far this series has been a bit dark.  Just remember two things.  First, the good part of the good news is just around the corner.  Second, these truths, while dark, are real and true and they can and should be used to help us think rightly about the world around us.
That man is doomed means simply that man is completely helpless to change his deadness in sin.  As we saw last time, God’s wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness ultimately in the form of eternity in hell.  Since all people have sinned against God, hell is the justly deserved destination of all people. 
Whenever we’ve wronged someone in this life, we frequently try to “make it up to them.”  We attempt to work to regain that person’s affection, sympathy, support, forgiveness, etc.  Most religions of the world attempt to do this with God.  In these religious systems, good works lead to salvation, nirvana, paradise, or whatever. 
However, this will not work with the one true God.  A good deed cannot cover up a bad deed.  That bad deed, or sin, must be dealt with according to the justice of God.  Nothing slides.  So no amount of good works will improve a sinner’s station before God.  Even if this would work, it still would not address the root issue.
We’ve noted in recent weeks in our Sunday morning study of Philippians that man has a heart problem.  All sinful deeds spring from a sinful heart: For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness (Mark 7:21-22). 
The physical circumcision that marked Abraham’s descendants did not enable them to obey God.  Rather a change of the heart was needed, a change that could only be accomplished by God: But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear (Deut 29:4).  Man’s hell problem is compounded by his heart problem.  There is nothing he can do to change his sinful nature: Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil (Jer 13:23).
Again, keep in mind that these more difficult truths set us up for the really good news that God has provided salvation for sinners in Jesus Christ.  We’ll get to that shortly.  For now, how can the truth that man in himself is doomed help us to think rightly about everyday life?  Consider a couple of scenarios.
A believing couple has three adult children.  None of them show any interest in spiritual things.  The parents are tempted to overwhelm their children with the truth, bombarding them with books, articles, sermons, and heart-to-heart talks.  They remain in a state of semi-panic over the spiritual condition and ultimate destiny of their kids.  How can this component of the gospel help them to think rightly about the situation?  “Our kids are slaves to sin.  They need a change of heart that only God can bring about.  While we will continue to take advantage of opportunities to speak the gospel to them, our ultimate tool should be prayer that God will do what needs to be done.  Whatever happens, we will trust and worship Him.”
In a very different situation, a man has Muslim neighbors.  They are devoutly committed to this false religion.  Because of the violence perpetrated by Muslims here and abroad, sometimes he is tempted to regard them with indifference, and at other times with scorn.  How might the gospel help him to view this situation rightly?  “These people are doomed to hell.  They deserve it, but no more than I do.  Only the God of the Bible can help them and He only does that through the word of the gospel (Rom 10:17).  He may not change their hearts, but that is His business.  My responsibility is to tell them the grave predicament they are in before God.”
Have you been taking time to look at your circumstances through a gospel lens?  If not, you’re likely no more gospel-minded than before we started this series.  For that reason, you’re likely still engaging in unbiblical thinking about your life.  But you don’t have to stay that way!  It doesn’t take long.  Just set aside three minutes a day to look at one situation in your life from the perspective of the gospel truths covered so far.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly and radically your perspective can change.  Let’s press on together!
Next time, God is gracious. 

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