This evening the students of B28, along with their often over zealous, sleep deprived pastor, will dive head first, eyes wide open into the deep end of the soteriological pool. We will begin our systematic study with a simple yet highly debated question: is mankind utterly depraved? Now, I know…for some, this is an ambiguous perplexity that should be reserved for the gray heads of theologica to bat about over cigars and brandy. In fact, I have had past lead pastors (when I was solely a youth guy) command me to leave dusty doctrine locked away presumably indefinitely. So, why engaged hormone crazed, love seeking, just trying to pass calculus 15 to 25 year olds with the question of human transgression? Shouldn’t we as pastors just stick to “peer pressure,” “dating advice,” or any number of other practical issues that will bolster teens in the now? I have no issue dealing with “real life” quandaries, and we typically do in our Q&A segment on Wednesdays; however, there is a transformative power in dealing out Jesus glorifying doctrine to young people and we, therefore, cannot neglect the tough (seemingly out of touch) truths of Scripture.
Why? First, because they are recorded for us by God. This should be reason enough. A vast number of passages throughout the Word spell out our innate hopelessness, and declare the realities of depravity. The first third of Romans is dedicated to reminding the citizens of the Emperor’s city that they were in fact wretched (that does not mean the same thing as “ratchet” for you young readers). Paul bars no holes with his proclamation in the first three verses of Ephesians 2. The Bible does not sugar coat the darkness of our souls, and therefore, neither should we.
Not only is the discussion on depravity Biblical, but it also is extremely practical. How so? Simply, it answers the questions of calamity, sickness, disease, crisis, infirmity, heartbreak, failure, disaster and death. In eleven years of working with young people I have, on countless occasions, been ask the query “why?” Why did my parents divorce? Why can’t I focus in school? Why did Hurricane Katrina ravage New Orleans? Why did the planes fly into the towers? Why did God allow the latest school shooting? Why does my mom have cancer? Why did my best friend move away? Why did my dog die? Why? The fundamental answer to each of these questions (and I am in no way downplaying the significance of decisions and consequences in any) is original sin. The fall brought about a cataclysmic explosion in the spiritual realm that splintered the cosmos. Depravity produces destruction. Apart from sin there is no death, no disease, no disaster. God designed all things perfect and called them “good.” We – each of us – has done our part to wreck that good. So when the young agnostic comes to me (which has happened all too frequently) attempting to pin the atrocities of the world on the gown of God, the doctrine of depravity is quite helpful in turning those accusations back on the antagonist.
I remember February 5, 2011 well. It was the day I found out that I had melanoma. Needless to say, I was a bit freaked out. I saturated my mind with blogs and medical journals coming to the conclusion that the devastating disease which claimed thousands of lives each year was something I no longer wanted in my body. However, I was helpless against the cancer’s onslaught. Left to myself I would know not what to do, nor even how to begin in curing myself. The phone call from the dermatologist had alerted me to my condition and awakened me to the reality that I needed to be fixed; but it had not made me whole. Two days later I went under the knife. The melanoma was cut out (literally she used scissors – it was odd watching that occur), I was stitched up, and days later I was pronounced well. Words cannot express my deep gratitude for the hands of surgeon. Whenever I encounter anyone in need of a dermatologist I always, without fail, recommend mine. However, it is vital to understand that my appreciation for my doctor is directly fused to my comprehension of my condition. If I had not been told that I was sick, I would have had no understanding of how great was my need. My awareness of my plight brought about appreciation for my savior.
I hope it is not difficult to understand that the same is true in the spiritual realm. Many Christians today carry no overwhelming gratitude to the eternal Savior, because they have never been informed of just how desperate their plight is. Should they truly see their sin and the colossal consequence of it, then they too would cry out in adoration of their Divine Healer.
So, with all these reasons and countless more at my back, I – and 70 plus hungry young folks – will plumb the depths of depravity this evening, and in seeing ourselves, we will – God willing – be humbled by the grandeur of grace.
Soli Deo Gloria.