Remembering 9/11

Remembering 9/11

by Bob Burridge ©2011

There are times when evil shows itself so boldly that even those who know no Savior are horrified. On that September day in 2001 we were all reminded about the depth of human moral corruption. We saw the ugly side of the fallen human nature. We saw what any of us could be and would be, were it not for the restraining hand of our Creator who rules over all things, shaping them to reveal his nature and glory. It is God’s power, mercy and grace which alone keep individuals from falling into the depths of such pure depravity.

The tragedy of America’s 9/11 was not the only time in history when the pawns of wickedness took the lives of thousands, and destroyed the illusion of our temporal peace and prosperity. There was the slaying of the infants of Bethlehem by the paranoid pride of Herod when hearing of the birth of Christ, the new born King. Roman troops surrounded Jerusalem in 70 AD slaughtering over a million Jews in the siege of Jerusalem. These are but a few of the many sad glimpses at how the simple eating of forbidden fruit in Eden corrupted those made to display the glories of the Creator.

The message of hope is not found in our nation’s resolve, or in memorials to loved ones senselessly taken from us in a moment of repulsive horror. True hope is found in the hand of God that not only keeps us all from descending to the same depths of evil, but also sent the Savior to redeem from that fallen race some who would be adopted into the family of God. To love and redeem the good is wonderful. To do the same to the unworthy is astounding. Since there is no one who is truly good, considering the depth of our corruption, the work of our Savior amazes us and humbles us. We are driven to solemn worship of the Redeemer and King of all kings.

Romans 5:5-11, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

No Exceptions

No Exceptions

by Bob Burridge ©2011

Humans were created without an inclination to do evil. Adam and Eve were holy and free. Their freedom didn’t mean that God had no plan or idea what would happen. Their Creator was not open for suggestions about an uncertain future which in any way was dependent upon them. Eden was not a cosmic moral experiment. God is sovereign eternally. By “free” we mean that man had no built in pull toward evil. He had the moral ability both to do good and to sin.

In the fall, all humans lost that freedom and
became corrupted, inclined toward evil.

Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

At that moment in Eden, when Adam represented us all in the first sin, humanity became depraved. Sin brought death and bondage. There was no more ability to do good. The chains of corruption were firmly fixed upon us all. Fallen humans were cut off from the Creator, the source of truth and life. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1 saying that we were all, “… dead in trespasses and sins”

Sin alienates us all from God. The guilt that comes from it deserves eternal judgment, eternal separation from the Creator. Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death.”

This corruption, or “depravity”, is inherited by all humans. In Romans 5:12 Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Just how seriously damaged are we from our inherited corruption?

We say this depravity is “total” because every part of the person is involved. Fallen humans are unable to do any spiritual good. Humans are corrupted to the core of their soul. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good  And does not sin.” The Apostle Paul references that verse, and quotes from Psalm 14:1-3 in his letter to the Romans. There he tells how complete our depravity is from the time of our conception. The classic passage of Romans 3:10-12 says, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.’ ”

No one, aside from God’s grace, has the ability either to believe or to repent. Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” In 1 Corinthians 2:14 the Apostle Paul wrote, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

No one can change his own basic nature. To do that he would have to go against what he already is. He can’t even understand the real problem, much less understand and trust in the solution. As far back as the time of the prophets, Jeremiah 13:23 said, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.”

Fallen humans hate the fact that they need God’s grace in order to do what is truly good. Once confronted with this biblical teaching, it either converts them, or condemns them. Those not renewed by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit will be offended. They will refuse to admit their lost condition. Their negative response further exposes the corruption they are so quick to deny.

The denial of man’s total depravity is at the root
of all non-christian thought and values.

The philosopher Rousseau proposed the idea of the “Noble Savage”. He was born in Calvin’s Geneva in 1712 (about 200 years after John Calvin). Rousseau came to hate the principles of God which were revealed in Scripture. Instead of total depravity, he taught the natural goodness of humanity. To him civilization was a mistake. It gets in our way. He thought that if we could just get rid of rules and cultural traditions, we would see mankind at his best.

The Frenchman Robespierre believed strongly in the teachings of Rousseau. He believed that man will prove his natural goodness if he was only allowed to be really free. He believed this theory could liberate the people of France.

He and his followers finally came to power. He had his opportunity to put his beliefs into practice. We call this period of France’s history the “Reign of Terror”. It lasted for a little over a year beginning in 1793. When it was over more than 20,000 Frenchmen had been killed in a horrible blood-bath by the “good men” of Robespierre. Included among those massacred were many clergymen who dared to doubt that man was naturally good.

How did he justify his use of terrorism and violence in proving that humanity is basically good? He explained it this way, “We must annihilate the enemies of the republic at home and abroad, or else we shall perish… in time of revolution a democratic government must rely on virtue and terror… Terror is nothing but justice; swift, severe and inflexible; it is an emanation of virtue …”

A couple generations later there was the French artist Gauguin. He also believed in Rousseau’s idea that man is basically good. He left civilization to live with the “Noble Savage” in Tahiti. The Tahitians lived without civil laws and restrictions. He was certain he would find an ideal society where there was unhindered human kindness and goodness. However, Gauguin was disillusioned with what he found in Tahiti. After painting a Tahitian scene, showing that what he found was not noble, he committed suicide.

History confirms what God reveals about man in the Bible. Humans are all fallen creature. We are totally depraved and live under the shadow of eternal damnation.

These are hard teachings. Jesus admitted this to the disciples in John 6. Some had stopped following him because of his teachings. In John 6:60 it says, “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ ”

So Jesus repeated that same thing he had said earlier in verse 44. In John 6:65 Jesus said, “… Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

Our total depravity provides the barrier
that reveals the power of God’s grace.

In contrast with our being dead in sin, Paul said in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”

Since salvation is totally a work of grace, and since it is entirely granted by an all sovereign and all powerful God, there can be no uncertainty about our salvation when we truly believe in Christ’s work as our only hope. Our confidence is never dependent upon our works or knowledge. The price demanded by our offenses against God was fully paid for on the cross of Calvary long ago by Jesus.

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.)

Trashing, Bashing and Gnashing

Trashing, Bashing and Gnashing

by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2018

We have seen tragic events where the lives of victims have been ended violently by terrorists, deranged minds, and people very frustrated with circumstances in their lives or in the world they live in. Few could fail to see the horrors of such crimes.

Sadly, we often see some take advantage of these tragedies to attack groups with whom they disagree politically, or religiously, or who hold to a different view of the world. They play the “blame game” hoping to rally their own followers to hate those they see as opponents in issues not directly related to these disgusting crimes. They use these appalling incidents to trash, bash, and gnash out at those who might cost them votes in elections, or who hold different convictions about what they personally cherish as standards to live by. It’s equally sad when we see those attacked lash out personally against their accusers which is often just more trashing, bashing, and gnashing all over again.

There is a better way to deal with these horrible events that take place in our fallen world. Rather than attacking one another personally we are better off to go after the actual perpetrators of these atrocities and the twisted convictions that motivate them.

Drugs are not to blame for the addictions that destroy people’s lives. Trucks and cars are not to blame for those incidences where pedestrians are targeted and violently run down. Guns are not the problem in the mass shootings that take place. Knives are not to blame for criminal stabbings, and the banking industry is not the cause of robberies. The problem is in the abuse of these things by those with no regard for the law or for the lives they are willing to snuff out.

There is a common inner cause for both the violent crimes, and the gnashing out personally against people who hold different views. A poisoned root yields bitter fruit. It’s what’s in the human heart that lashes out either criminally or rudely.

The real cause is uncomfortably buried in us all. We would rather not admit it of course, but that’s part of the self-deception that makes us see the evil in others while we excuse it in ourselves. Long ago the Prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Roman believers quoted from Psalm 14:1-3 and 53:3 to remind them about the real moral condition of the fallen human heart. He said in Romans 3:10-12, “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’ ”

We all got this way because we as a whole human race were represented in Adam when he sinned in Eden. When he ate the forbidden fruit he became spiritually dead, separated from fellowship with God his Creator. All those naturally descending from him inherit that fallen condition and the total inability to do what’s truly good and God honoring aside from the work of God’s grace. Romans 5:12 summarizes this relationship, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”

For the sake of advancing his eternal plan, and for the benefit of his redeemed children, it’s God who holds back the depravity in humans at times. Any good that we do is produced in us by God’s work in our fallen hearts. Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” When God peels away his restraint that holds us back from being what we all would be aside from his governance we get an ugly glimpse of just how depraved the fallen heart is aside from the tempering hand of a Sovereign Creator. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”

In Romans 1:22-28 Paul explained how God at times gives the rebellious over to their depraved urgings. In their behavior we see what it would be like in our world if it wasn’t for that restraining hand of God and his redeeming grace that can set us free from the overwhelming grip of rebellion.

Therefore there is nothing in any of us that can justify pride or feeling superior to others in those times when by his merciful restraint we aren’t engaged in evil. It’s God’s restraint that keeps us from becoming psychotic criminals or self-serving opportunists. We also give him all the glory when we avoid the rudeness and blame-shifting that demeans others personally. Our attitude should be one of humble gratitude to God for when sin is restrained in us. We need to understand where all the depraved behavior around us is coming from.

The root cause of vicious “blame game” attacks is not fully grounded in faulty parenting, the influence of various political movements, anomalies in the human brain, or changes in body chemistry. These may be contributing factors that promote aberrant or mean behaviors, but they are not the primary cause. Understanding such things may guide us in our attempt to correct negative influences. However, if that’s all we treat or blame, we are missing the real culprit that keeps corrupting while we tweak the little things that keep us distracted from the underlying disease.

Rather than look for excuses that help us explain the state of the mind severed from fellowship with God, we need to remember what lies at the root of both criminal behavior, political opportunism, and personal rudeness. This underlying cause is what comes out during squabbles in the home, gossip in the coffee break room, cutting remarks in social media, and inflammatory remarks made by those who influence us in the mass media.

God has placed us in this lost world as our current assignment. What we see happening here should stir us to diligent prayer, bow us in humble worship, instigate us to sincere evangelism on the personal level, and deliver us from the shallow, uninformed, and rude game of blame. Taking a firm stand for truth and morality doesn’t mean we can’t be kind. God’s word makes it clear that the love God desires us to pursue is not arrogant or rude. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;”

The crucifying of Jesus Christ was not just a moral lesson drawn from the tragic death of some moral teacher. It was the fulfillment of the ancient promise that God himself would come to redeem his people by dying in their place. He was the representative of his people just as Adam represented the human race in Eden. Jesus paid the debt that separates us from our Creator. Those unworthy sinners whom he redeems by grace, he clothes with his own righteousness making them accepted in God’s sight again. That’s the only hope that delivers us from what we would otherwise be.

Rather than trashing, bashing, and gnashing out at those who evidence our fallen condition, we need to do our part as Christ’s representatives here in God’s world. Honor the King of kings, and thankfully serve the Savior who suffered and gave his life to redeem such rebellious creatures as ourselves. He calls us to be restored as the much loved children of our Creator, and to show that love he puts in our hearts as we deal with the challenges and evil around us. This does not mean we ignore the demands of justice, or that we never challenge behaviors and attitudes that are wrong. But we carry out our assignment here with patient kindness without arrogant rudeness or irritable behavior.

[Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.]