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Bad to the Bone: A Study of Human Depravity - Part 4

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2005-07-31 PM
  • Systematic Theology
  • Sermons


Well it's wonderful to have so many guests with us, family members of those families that were dedicating themselves tonight. I need to give you a little context so you know what we're doing here tonight. We, on Sunday mornings, are studying through the book of James. And on Sunday evening now for a couple of years, we've been working our way through the great doctrines of the Bible. What does the Bible teach about those issues that are most crucial? And tonight in God's providence, it wasn't planned this way, but we come on an evening when we're going to be dedicating young children to the Lord to a reminder that they start life depraved. That's hard for us to believe in that little, cute package that they actually have nothing by which they can please God, and God must work in their lives in grace eventually just as He works in our lives in grace, but that's the truth that the Scriptures teach.

Let me just give you a little summary of where we are and where we've been. We're talking about human depravity, "Bad to the Bone," which is exactly what the Scriptures teach about each of us. We've already looked in detail, so I won't take much time here, but just to remind you, that we're talking about what theologians call "original sin" - that is, that sin that has been passed down as a package, if you will, to us from our parents and ultimately back to Adam. When we are born, we are born with first of all "imputed guilt". We are born with responsibility, the Bible teaches, and again we looked at this in detail. I'm not going to go back over it. We're born with the responsibility for and the guilt for Adam's sin. God imputed it to us just as He imputes the sacrifice of Christ to us and just as He imputes the righteousness of Christ to us, He imputes the guilt of Adam's sin to us.

We're also born with inherited pollution or corruption. And that comes in two waves. The first we already looked at is what theologians call "total depravity," that is, not that every person is as bad as they could be, but that every aspect of our being, every part of our being, every faculty of our souls and bodies is touched by this corruption.

But tonight, we come to the second part of this inherited pollution or corruption, and that is "total inability". This is such a crucial issue to understand. Essentially, what total inability teaches is that unregenerate man, that is man apart from Christ, is totally unable to respond to God or to please God in any way. Now tonight, you need to know that we sit here with a history of two thousand years of battles over this issue. The battles really began with Augustine versus Pelagius. Pelagius was a British monk who professed Christ in about 400 A.D. In 410, he travelled to Africa where he met Augustine. And the two disagreed sharply. What especially shocked and angered Pelagius was this line in Augustine's Confessions. Listen carefully, Augustine wrote:

Give me the grace, O Lord, to do as You command, and command me to do what You will. O Holy God, when Your commands are obeyed, it is from You that we receive the power to obey them.

Now when Pelagius read that line, he saw this as an assault on human goodness, on human freedom and human responsibility. If I could not respond to God, but instead, God had to give me the ability to respond to Him, then Pelagius said, no, that can't be true. If God has to give what He commands, then we are not able to do what He commands, and that means, ultimately, we're not really responsible to obey. That's what Pelagius thought. He taught that though grace may facilitate the achieving of righteousness, grace is not necessary to that end. He denied original sin. He argued that human nature is good at its core and able to do all that God commands it to do, including repent and believe the gospel. That's what Pelagius taught. He was condemned as a heretic by at least three church councils, but that's what he believed. Augustine, of course, argued exactly the opposite, and in a few minutes, we'll look at what Augustine taught about this issue.

Fast forward a thousand years to a similar conflict between Martin Luther, the German reformer, and the Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmus was a Roman Catholic scholar who initially was sympathetic to the Reformation, but the reason he was sympathetic is because, as any thinking Roman Catholic at the time, he understood that the church desperately needed reform. However, he was eventually asked by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church to write in response to Luther. So, he wrote what he called a diatribe, which simply means a discussion, a diatribe concerning free will.

Luther responded to what Erasmus had written. And Luther responded with what he believed was his most important theological work. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to read it. It's called The Bondage of the Will. B.B. Warfield called it "the manifesto of the Reformation". If you want to understand the Reformation, you need to read The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther. Luther saw it as the heart of the gospel. And you ask yourself with all that was going on in the Reformation, and you've read some about that, why is it that Erasmus decided to make the freedom of the will the point at which he attacked Luther's theology? Well listen to the reason Luther gives. This is from his book The Bondage of the Will. He's writing to Erasmus, he says,

I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account that you alone in contrast with all others have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous issues about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like, trifles rather than issues, in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood though without success. [He says,] "You and you alone have seen (listen to this) the hinge on which all turns and aimed for the vital spot.

Luther said in everything I've taught, in everything I've believed and instructed, it all comes down, it hinges on the issue of the freedom or bondage of the human will.

Later, there was a battle between the followers of John Calvin and Arminius. We'll look at that in more detail, this famous theological joust, when we examine the doctrine of salvation in a few weeks. But when you look at all of these battles, you have to ask yourself what exactly is the crux. What's the bottom line issue? In each of these historical conflicts, the crux of the differences centered on the question, "To what extent is man's will affected by the fall and by original sin that he inherits from his parents?" To what extent is our will affected by that? Or a more common way to express it is: "does man have a free will, and if he does, what does it mean?"

Now this issue can be very confusing because both words, the word "free" and the word "will", can be used in different senses. So, for clarity, we need to start with some foundational definitions. What do we mean? Well first of all, when we talk about the will, it's used two different ways. It's used for that faculty of the soul that makes choices. Or Jonathan Edwards said it's really just the mind choosing. He rejected the idea that there is some separate mechanism in your soul and mine called the will, but instead the will is just our way of describing the mind choosing. I think he's right. So when we speak of the will, and we do that, understand that we're not talking about some separate compartment in your soul. We're describing the reality that because you were made in God's image, "your mind has the capacity to make choices."

So, when we say that the mind's capacity to choose is free, what exactly do we mean? Your mind is free to make choices. Free in what sense? This is the key question, and there have historically been three answers offered to that question. The first is called the "neutral-will" theory. It's also referred to as the "freedom of indifference". This is the most common, non-Christian definition of free will. R.C. Sproul defines it this way: "It simply means the ability to make choices without any prior prejudice, inclination or disposition." Basically, this view argues that we make decisions free of any influences. Now folks, this view is both irrational and unbiblical.

Perhaps if you had any philosophy in college, you heard about the "neutral-willed mule". It's a famous illustration. Imagine a mule for a moment who has no prior desires or this mule has equal desires in both directions. And his owner puts, on one side of him, a basket of oats on his left, and on his right, his owner puts a basket of wheat. If the mule has no prior desire for either oats or wheat, he would choose neither and eventually starve to death as the illustration goes. If he had an equal desire for oats and wheat, again he would remain frozen in indecision. Without motive or prevailing desire, there can be no choice. And again, this would be a dead mule. As we'll see in a few moments, this view is also unbiblical.

But let's move to the common definitions that Christians have historically offered. The first of these, the second in our list of three, is what's called the "freedom of contrary choice". Now keep your thinking hats on tonight, alright? You need to stay with me; this is crucial to understand. This is similar to the neutral-will theory. This view teaches that our wills have been damaged by the fall, by Adam's sin, but that every human being is still able to cooperate with the Spirit unto salvation, that grace is given to every sinner whether that sinner will ever believe or not, and by that grace, the effects of Adam's sin on the will are erased and reversed which enables every sinner to respond to God. There isn't a single sinner, whether they will ultimately believe in Christ or not, who isn't able to respond to God is what this view says. The unregenerate sinner can freely choose to reject Christ and remain in his sin, or that same sinner has the power to make the contrary choice – to receive Christ.

This view is usually held by a group called Arminians. It's based on a fallacy. The fallacy is that the power of contrary choice is the essence of what it means to have free will. If you have free will, then you can make either choice. That's a fallacy. Let me show you why it's a fallacy. Let's just take the person of God for a moment. God, all of us would agree, has absolute power of free will, more than any other being in the universe. As R.C. Sproul says, he said: "I have a free will and my sons have a free will; it's just that my will is more free than my sons' free will." Well, God's free will is the greatest. I think all of us would agree with that. But can God, does God in every sense have the power of contrary choice? And the answer is no. God can choose good, but God can never choose (what?) evil. So, an absolutely free will does not necessarily have the power of contrary choice.

That brings us to the third, and the one that I would embrace and I think the Scriptures teach, I'll show you in just a few minutes, and that is what's called the "freedom of self-determination". It simply means "the ability to choose according to the disposition of your own will without any external control". Nobody forces you to choose what you choose. You make real choices. Your outward acts are determined by your will and your thoughts and your dispositions and your views and your feelings are what lie behind real, intelligent, conscious decisions that are the expression of your character, what is in your mind. So, when we say that human beings have a free will, we mean it in this sense: that man's mind is able to choose what he wants. God doesn't force you to do that. You choose what you want. That's what we mean by free will.

But there's an important caveat to be put on this, and that is, Jonathan Edwards put it this way, the great American theologian, "The will always chooses according to its strongest inclination at the moment." Let me give you just a personal illustration. Sitting at a desk as I do week after week studying, which is the joy of my life, doesn't always contribute to a healthy body and to the proper weight that I need to be. So lately, I've been thinking a lot about the need to lose some weight and get in shape a little better. That's a desire I have. But at the same time, in the evening my girls all want dessert. And so, my wife says, "Would you like some dessert, some ice cream?" Now I'm faced with a choice. I have one desire which is to lose some weight. And I have another desire which is to have some homemade ice cream. I will choose the one that I have the greatest desire for. And we always do this; this is how the will works.

What this means, and this is very important, this means that every choice you and I make is free in the sense that it's what we want, but it's also determined, determined, not by some external force, but by our own desires. But this is where the problem is because our desires, as we've already learned in total depravity, our desires are all corrupt. That's why Augustine said we have a free will, but we lack liberty. That seems a strange thing to say. We have a free will in the sense that we choose what we want, but we lack the liberty to make every choice. We can choose what we want, but we never want God, and we never want righteousness.

Now back to what Augustine taught, I think he puts it very clearly. Look at this chart for a moment. Look at the first column, you'll see pre-fall man. This is Adam and Eve before the fall. You'll notice that pre-fall man was able to sin. Obviously, they demonstrated that at the fall. But they were also able to not sin. I know that's bad grammar, but stay with it. It made sense in, in Latin for Augustine, so stay with it; it translates and you'll understand - able to not sin. Adam and Eve did have the power of contrary choice. They could choose one or the other. After the fall, Augustine said, the Scriptures teach that man continued to be able to sin, but now he is unable to not sin. In other words, he has no capacity to stop sinning without the intervention of God.

Now that brings us to the regenerate man. Here's a believer. Now he continues to be able to sin, you and I are walking examples of that, but now we're also able to not sin. We have a capacity to obey God that we didn't have before God changed our hearts. And the day is coming, and this is the fourth column here, glorified man, when God takes us to Himself, and He fully redeems us, body and soul, we will be able to not sin, and we'll be unable to sin. Don't you look forward to that day?

So, you see our problem. Our problem is that we have a free will in the sense that we make choices and we choose what we want, but the problem is our wanter. The problem is our desires are always biased against God and against righteousness. We are, without Christ, unable to not sin.

Now, understand that inability, as we're talking about here, inability to please God and so forth, does not mean that it's impossible for us to do good in any sense. Theologians speak about the fact that we can still perform natural good, things that appear good to others, civil good. And we can even perform external religious good. You can do good things that appear good religiously and externally. We can do good in that sense. The problem though is our good never rises to the level of pleasing God because the good that we do is not motivated by a genuine love for God and is not done for His glory. So when you understand the freedom of the will in this sense, you understand why Luther said that free will is too grandiose a term for what we really have.

Now is this what the Scriptures teach? I want us to go through and see what the Scripture says. The Scripture lays out a series of categorical negatives. These passages I'm going to show you use the Greek word "dunamis". It's a word which means "to be able", "to have the power", "to have the capacity". And the Scripture says that man apart from Christ has no power, no capacity, no ability to do these things.

First of all, man cannot act contrary to his nature. He can't do it. Jeremiah 13:23: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?" We can't change our nature no more than someone can change the color of their skin or an animal can change the surface of its skin which is part of its nature. We cannot make moral choices that conflict with what we are by nature. Notice how he continues, "Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil." If they can change their nature, then you can change your nature, and the obvious conclusion is (what?) neither is true. Christ said in Matthew 7:18, "A good tree cannot [doesn't have the power to] produce bad fruit, nor does a bad tree produce good fruit."

The Scripture goes on to say that man cannot, without Christ, enter God's kingdom. In John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus "unless you are born again, you cannot [there it is again, you haven't the power, you haven't the capacity to] see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus responds, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" And Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God." This is a reference to Ezekiel, which we'll look at in just a few moments. So man, apart from the work of God, does not have the capacity to enter the kingdom of God.

Nor can man do anything that is spiritually good. Listen to Jesus in John 8:34: "Truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin [everyone who is committing sin, and that's all of us because there are other passages of Scriptures that said there is no man on earth who does not sin, everyone who commits sin] is the slave of sin." You understand that picture? It's an ugly picture; it's part of America's past and part of history's past. You are a slave unable to extricate yourself and do righteousness. You can only do sin.

John 8:44, Jesus says, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 15, Jesus says: "apart from Me, you can do (what?) nothing." Nothing. We cannot do spiritual good apart from the work of God. Scripture goes on to say that we can't even embrace the truth. John 14:17, Jesus refers to "… the Spirit of truth, whom the world (watch this) cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him…." - can't comprehend the truth.

And let's turn to 1 Corinthians 2, 1 Corinthians 2:14. Here's another foundational passage. Paul says, "A natural man [that is an unregenerate man, a person who has not come to life in Christ] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God [speaking of revelation, the context here is talking about God's revealed truth], for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot [there's our word again, he cannot] understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." This verse not only tells us about man's inability to comprehend spiritual truth, but it also tells us why. He doesn't welcome or accept spiritual truth because to him, it's foolishness. He lacks the ability to spiritually apprehend truth. This verse isn't denying that man can sit even in a congregation like this and have some basic understanding of what the truth teaches, but he can't apprehend it spiritually. He can't really see it for all of its beauty and glory, and it doesn't affect him in his heart, it doesn't change him. It's like words on the page that mean nothing to his real life and soul. So, the unbeliever can't even embrace the truth apart from the work of God.

Nor can he obey God, turn to Romans 8. You getting a picture of man's inability? Romans 8:7. Paul says,

"The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, … [for] those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

You see what Paul is saying here? He's saying the mind that is a fleshly mind, the mind that is still unregenerate that's outside of Christ, that mind is hostile toward God, it doesn't subject itself to the law of God, in other words, it doesn't obey God's law for it is not even able to do so, doesn't have the capacity to obey God in any way.

And in fact, verse 8 says, "those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Now who are those in the flesh? Look at verse 9. If anyone, "however [if you], you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." So, he's talking about unbelievers here, those who don't have the Spirit, those who have not embraced Christ. They cannot obey the law of God. They don't have the capacity, the power to do it. They don't have the capacity to please God. Verse 8 of the same passage makes that clear – "those who are in the flesh cannot please God." There is nothing an unbeliever can do that will please God, even an external obedience to the law of God (why?) because it's not done for God's glory, and it's not done out of a heart of love for God. It doesn't please God, and if you doubt that, Hebrews puts it a different way. Hebrews 11:6 – "… without faith, it is impossible to please … [God]" – can't be done.

But here's the one that really brings us to the crux of the matter. The Scripture teaches that man cannot come to Christ for salvation. Turn with me to John 6, John 6:44. Now notice what Christ says here. Let's start, to get context, in verse 41.

… the Jews were [therefore] grumbling about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven." They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, "I've come down out of heaven?" [Say look, we know this guy, we know His family, what's He claiming?] Verse 43, Jesus answered and said to him, "Do not grumble among yourselves." Now watch verse 44, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."

Now let's take this verse apart piece by piece. Start with the first words – "no one". There is a universal negative, both in English and Greek. Absolutely no human being is excluded – no one. "Can", "no one can" – again this is our Greek word "dunami". It means "to be able", "to have the power".

You understand this. We have this same issue in English. We have two words in English that imply ability to some degree. One of those is "can" and the other is "may". Now if you grew up in a home where there was a teacher or if you remember from school, you stood up to ask a question and you said, "Teacher (or mother), can I get something to drink?" What was the response you got? "Well, sure you can. You have the ability, but are you asking permission? The right word for that is may'."

The same thing is true with this Greek word that lies behind the English word. Jesus is saying no one can, no one has the ability, no one has the power to come to me. That's Christ's common expression throughout the gospels for approaching Him for salvation. You remember those famous words where He says, "Let all who labor and are heavy-laden come unto Me, and I will give you rest." He's talking about coming to Him, approaching Him for salvation.

So, He says, "no one" (universal negative), "can", that is, has the power or capacity, to come to Me unless (here's the necessary condition, unless) the Father who sent Me draws him. No one has the capacity to come to Christ for salvation unless the Father draws. Now what does it mean "to draw"? Well this Greek word occurs eight times in the New Testament. Some people who read this passage want to read this word as "to woo", "to coax". No one can come to the Father unless, or excuse me, can come to Christ unless the Father woos him or coaxes him to come. That's not what the word means. In fact, according to the dictionary on New Testament terms, Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, a ten-volume set rehearsing all of the secular uses, the Old Testament uses, and the New Testament uses, it means, this word "draw", means "to compel by means of irresistible superiority". It's sometimes in the New Testament translated as "drag".

Turn to Acts 16. You'll get the context of this word. Acts 16:19. Here, you'll remember, we're in Philippi and there was a slave girl who had a spirit of divination. Verse 19, of course Paul cast the demon out, and "when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and "dragged" them into the market place before the authorities." That's our word "draw", the word "dragged". They drew them to the market place. They compelled them by irresistible superiority and force.

Turn to James 2. We're going to get to this passage here in just a couple of weeks. Well, maybe more than a couple. James 2:6, he writes, "But you have dishonored the poor man (he's talking about having partiality toward the rich in their, in their assembly). Is … not the rich [the ones] who oppress you and personally drag you into court?" The word "drag" is again our word for "draw". We're not talking about wooing; we're not talking about coaxing. We're talking about "compelling".

So, the meaning, back to John 6:44, the meaning is crystal clear. No human being has the power or ability to approach Jesus for salvation unless the Father irresistibly compels him to come. Now we'll talk about salvation when we get there. This doesn't mean that God drags the sinner to Himself against his will. It means that God has the capacity to make us willing to come. He changes our desires, but it's a work of God. We don't have the capacity to come to Christ apart from the work of God.

Now you may be sitting there thinking of the most common of the objections to what I've just taught you, and it's this. Responsibility implies ability. If God commands people to repent and believe, they must have the ability in and of themselves to do it. Now on the face of it, that sounds logical and reasonable, but that isn't even consistent with the rest of the Scripture. Think of the law of God for example. The law of God, that reflection of the moral will of God, contained or I should say, outlined in the Ten Commandments, summarized by Jesus Christ as love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself, that law is compelling for every human being. And yet you tell me, is there a single human being who has the capacity to obey it? No, and in fact, that wasn't its intention. Its intention was to show us we couldn't keep it. Look at Romans 3. We looked at this last week. Romans 3:19:

We know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

The law wasn't given. You weren't given commands to love God perfectly and to love your neighbor as yourself because you have the ability to keep it. You were given that command to show you you could never keep it, and apart from God's grace, you would never have a hope of heaven.

Paul makes this same point in Galatians. Galatians 2:16. Galatians 2:16, he says, "… [We know] … that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified." So God gave commands that no one would ever keep.

Galatians 3:24: "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith." God gave a law simply to show us that we could never keep it, not because we have the ability to keep it.

So, in reality, the opposite is true. Inability does not negate responsibility. A.W. Pink gives the illustration of having a debt. He says: "Inability to pay a debt does not excuse a debtor who has recklessly squandered his estate." It doesn't mean you're off the hook. God lent man the ability to obey Him. Mankind in Adam squandered that ability on sin, and we still owe God what He allowed us to borrow even if our resources no longer allow us to pay Him back. God has no chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Pink's other illustration is a man who chooses to drink. And he gets drunk, and then while drunk, he kills a pedestrian with his car. What if that man pleads innocent because he says I was drunk, and I couldn't help what happened? Because he chose to get drunk, his lack of ability only compounds his guilt, doesn't it?

Louis Berkhof in his Systematic Theology writes, "We should not forget that the inability under consideration is self-imposed, has a moral origin, and is not due to any limitation which God has put upon man's being." It's something we all would have done in Adam's place.

So, understand that every person has a free will in the sense that they can choose what they want. They make real choices. Each of us makes real choices. But apart from the work of God, no human being has the capacity in his will to choose God and to choose Christ. That's what theologians mean by "moral inability". Nothing we can ever do, nothing we will ever choose to do pleases God or brings us one step closer to God.

Now, what are the implications of our moral inability? Well first of all, consider the doctrinal implications. I'm not going to take time to turn to each of these. I just want to give you something to think about. Because this is what the Bible teaches, this moral inability demolishes any hope of salvation by human merit or action – absolutely destroys it. There's no way you or I by our effort, by our merit, can ever gain salvation before God, can ever gain acceptance with God.

Let's do turn to Titus 3 because I want you to see how Paul makes this point. Titus 3:3, we touched on this verse this morning.

For we also once were foolish ourselves [Paul is now talking about all believers, he includes himself – we once were foolish ourselves, we once were], disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another [he says that's what we were]. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy….

Paul rehearses what we were, that depravity that was who we were, our inability to do anything but those things, and then he said, we needed God to act. He didn't save us on the basis of our deeds because that would never do. He saved us instead by His mercy. Understanding who we are apart from Christ demolishes any hope of salvation through who we are or what we do.

Another doctrinal implication is that it requires that salvation flow solely from the grace of God. Ephesians 2, we looked at verse 3 this morning, but look at verse 4:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ [by grace you have been saved], and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Here you get God working, and it's His grace at work. Notice that the subject of the first three verses is man, each of us, but the subject beginning in verse 4 is God. God loved us; God made us alive; God gave us grace; God raised us up; and God seated us. Understanding our depravity that's outlined in the first three verses leads to the conclusion that we can only find hope in the grace of God.

The final doctrinal implication is: moral inability demands that salvation be a sovereign act of God. I wish we had time to turn back to Ezekiel 36 where what theologians call and biblical scholars call the new covenant is laid out. There God says I will act for My namesake, and I will take out your heart of stone and I will give you a heart of flesh and I will cause you to walk in My ways. It's a sovereign act of God. Salvation is monergistic, not synergistic. You recognize "mono", one. "Erg", you remember from your science classes, means "work", a unit of work. "Monergistic" means "one working"; "synergistic" means "working together". Salvation is not working together with God; salvation is monergistic, God working. And that's outlined very clearly in Ezekiel 36.

Now briefly, look at the personal implications of moral inability. This brings it right to home for each of us. It destroys all of our pride and it reduces us to beggars before God. I love the story Jesus tells in Luke 18 where he says two men went to the temple to pray, one of them a Pharisee, and he stands and he prays thus to himself: "God, I thank You that I am not like other men. I do all of these wonderful things and am not like this tax gatherer here." The tax gatherer, on the other hand, having realized his utter inability to do anything that would please God, responds by not even looking up to heaven, but rather keeping his head lowered beating on his chest and saying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner! God, you're going to have to act because I have nothing to offer."

It also empowers our evangelism. You say, well wait a minute. If that person has no capacity to respond, then what am I doing evangelizing? Well, this is the beauty of what the Scriptures teach. You can share the gospel, and if God is at work in that heart, no matter how weak your arguments (and that's not a justification for weak arguments), but no matter how poor your presentation, no matter how weak you are in expressing yourself, the power of God can take the truth of God and bring life to that dead heart because it's "monergistic", God working.

Look at 2 Corinthians 4. Paul says: "… we have this ministry (verse 1), as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart [he goes on to say that we are manifesting the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. He said listen, we're teaching the truth. Verse 3, unfortunately] … our gospel is veiled, it's veiled to those who are perishing [they can't see it. Why? Verse 4], … the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so they don't see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ [They don't see the light. They're blind.]

But Paul says I have a ministry where I'm sharing the truth. And notice what happens. He says], as we preach (verse 5) … Christ Jesus as Lord … [here's what happens, verse 6], [the] … God who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness" (the God who in creation said, "Let there be light" speaks light into the blind eyes of the sinner who can't understand the gospel)." God does another miraculous work, and He says, "Let there be light, let that person understand the truth", and there's light. A light comes on. So, this reality empowers our evangelism.

And finally, it demands our eternal gratitude and praise. Listen, you would never have chosen God if He had not chosen you.

Let's pray together.

Father, this is hard for us because it cuts us in our pride, reminds us that we have absolutely nothing to offer You, that every part of our being has been affected by sin, corrupted, and we have no capacity to choose You and no capacity to choose anything that would please You because our desires are corrupt, and we always want something other than You and something other than righteousness.

Father, we acknowledge Your grace. If You had not chosen us, we would never have chosen You. We thank You for Your work. Lord, we praise You, we exalt You, we worship You for Your grace shown to us in Christ, that You commanded there to be light in our hearts. We saw the beauty of Christ, we saw the glory of the gospel because of You. Lord, make us messengers of that truth.

And Father, I pray for the person here tonight in whose heart You're working right now. Perhaps they've made some profession of faith in the past, but there's been no change, there's been no life that demonstrates that You have changed them. Lord, help them to see their utter inability to do anything to approach You. Reduce them to a beggar crying out with the publican, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner". And Lord, I pray that You would change them by Your grace, even as You promised, to those who will cry out because You're the One energizing them to make that cry.

We pray it in Jesus' name, for His glory. Amen.

Systematic Theology