What is your opinion of humankind? Do you believe we are an advanced life form at the pinnacle of intellectual and spiritual enlightenment? Or do you agree with God as to our depraved nature apart from His redeeming influence?
“Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” (Ephesians 4:18)
Unless we have severely impaired vision, we don’t tend to think of ourselves as blind. Yet that is, in essence, what we spiritually are. In the absence of the influence of God’s Word, we basically tend to see ourselves as good. We justify the wrong things we do as necessary, and plod through life committing offenses against the holiness of the righteous God, being blind to the very nature of our sinful existence. And apart from Christ, we can do no different.
But when we open up the Bible, and God opens up “the eyes of our understanding” through the power of His Holy Spirit’s work in us, He helps us see ourselves as we truly are–as He sees us. And this places us on “the horns of the dilemma,” so to speak. Once we see what’s really going on, we are obligated to make a decision. Will we continue as before in stubborn rebellion against God, or will we commit ourselves and our destinies to the redeeming power of Christ’s finished substitutionary work of redemption on the cross and choose to follow Him? This is a very real choice we all make, one way or another.
Yet many of us misunderstand this process. These days some believe that being a Christian only involves a one-time experience of “accepting Christ.” We do need to be born again, yet the world is full of people who claim to have done this but have no evidence of it in their lives. Nowhere in Scripture is there an example of a Christian who did not subsequently obey God, because obedience is the evidence of conversion. Real followers of Christ follow Christ—Jesus Himself commanded us to “take up our cross and follow” Him. Genuine conversion involves not only a one-time submission of our will to God, but also a continuous, subsequent, ongoing submission on a daily basis in every aspect of our lives.
I John 2:3-6, 29, 3:2-10 tells us, “Now by this we know that we know Him [that we have been really born again, that we are genuine Christians], if we keep His commandments [if we do what He says]. He who says, “I know Him [I’m a Christian, I’ve been born again],” and does not keep His commandments [does not live the way God tells us to], is a liar, and the truth is not in him [he’s not really a Christian]. But whoever keeps His word [lives the way God say to], truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him [that we are really Christians, that we have been born again]. He who says he abides in Him [who says he’s a Christian] ought himself also to walk just as He walked…If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him…
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself [stops doing something, once he realizes it is wrong], just as He is pure…
…you know that He was manifested [was revealed to us] to take away our sins [He didn’t just come to die so our sins can be forgiven—He also came to give us the power to exhibit a life of increasing holiness through the power of His Spirit in us], and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins [as an ongoing way of life] has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness [does what is right] is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested [revealed to us], that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin [as an ongoing way of life], for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest [this is how we can tell them apart]: Whoever does not practice righteousness [does not do right] is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”
Human nature is depraved—it’s evil, and doesn’t, in and of itself, even understand that it is. But through the redeeming power of God—because He’s merciful, gracious, and good—He gives us the power to see our sin, be forgiven through Christ, and live a life that is increasingly holier as we spend time in His word and in fellowship with Him and His people.
Thank You that through Christ, our understanding is no longer darkened and we are no longer alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in us and the blindness of our hearts. Help us live in light of this truth, and proclaim it to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.