Last Wednesday I presented a speech in my Toastmasters club on Total Depravity. I'm posting it here for your review, both in recorded form (WAV) and the transcript.
Click here for the WAV file.
Are you a good person? Most of us would like to think that we are. After all, we’ve never killed anyone. We have jobs. We pay our taxes. But I ask you again, are you really good? Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, and guests, I’m going to speak to you today about a topic that used to be commonly taught in the pulpits across our land. Sadly, though, it is more and more frequently being replaced with self-help and pop psychology messages whose purpose it is to make you feel good about yourselves.
What is it about Christianity that sets it so far apart from all the other religions of the world? I hope that by the end of this speech I will have answered that question for you.
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith (and backed up by many scriptural references), sin is defined as any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God. In other words, sin is either not doing what God commands or doing what He commands you not to do. God’s law can be summarized in the Ten Commandments.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor: which is lying
10. You shall not covet.
The scripture says in James 2:10:
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Don’t raise your hands in answer to these questions, but I want to ask you a few questions to see how you measure up. Have you ever, even once in your lifetime, told a lie? That would make you a liar, wouldn’t it? Have you ever, even once in your lifetime, stolen anything? Think about it. Anything from a piece of candy when you were a child to a ball point pen from your office? If so, you’d be a thief, wouldn’t you? Have you ever committed adultery? Some of you may be thinking: Well I haven’t done that! Are you sure men? Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Finally, have you ever murdered anyone? I bet everyone in this room would be quick to deny this. Yet, once again, our Lord in Matthew 5:21-22 equates being angry with your brother without a cause with murder. So, I tell all of you that by that standard, I am a murderer.
The fact of the matter is that we are all born with a sin nature that we inherit from Adam. How many of you have children? Those who do, know what I’m talking about. We have seven, and I’ve seen it in every one of them. When they get to the age where they can speak just a few words, what is one of the first words they speak? “NO!” It’s usually said with a defiant frown on their face in response to your command. Now, did you ever sit down and teach them how to be rebellious? Did you ever have to teach your children how *not* to share with others? I think not. These things come naturally to our sin nature. Each and every one of us was born with a wicked sin nature. The Bible says that this sinfulness was imputed unto us from Adam. So, in God’s eyes, it’s as if we had disobeyed Him in the garden, right along with Adam. He was our representative and sinned on our behalf. Now, before any of you self righteously think that if you had been there, you would have made different choices, think again. You’ve just acknowledged that you are all lying, thieving, adulterers and murderers. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only man who has ever lived a perfect life here on this Earth. Yet, in order to give us an example on how we should live, listen to his response to a man who called Him, “good.”
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Look at the contrast offered in this passage. The Lord Jesus, who was very God Himself, refused to take on the label of “Good” as an example to us on how we should view ourselves. Next, you have a guy who was bold enough to answer the questions I asked you earlier with a proud response of, “I have done everything perfectly.” The point that Jesus is making here is not that everyone has to live in poverty in order to be holy. His point is that none of us live a truly holy life. The Lord knew that this man had not performed even the limited number of commandments that Jesus had mentioned. When the rich young ruler tried to claim that he had perfectly carried these out, the Lord Jesus simply showed him how he violated the first commandment to “have no other gods before me.” This young man’s god was money, and the Lord knew it. This man’s original question was flawed. “What good thing shall I do?” He completely missed the point. There is *nothing* he could do to gain eternal life on his own efforts.
Let’s look at some more scriptures to see what God’s view of man really is:
God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
So, have I convinced you of the wickedness of man? I hope so, for I have only scratched the surface of scripture in showing this to you. We must now ask the fearful question. That question is “So what?” Mike, you’ve told us, and convinced us that we are all desperately wicked and totally depraved. So what does all this mean?
God is a holy God. He hates sin and will not tolerate it in His presence. Consider the following:
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
This is terrible news! We have read that we are utterly wicked and depraved. We have read that we hate God and His judgment awaits! Listen to the agony expressed by the Apostle Paul over this very subject:
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Thus in verse 25 we get the message of the Gospel. It is through Jesus Christ our Lord that we can escape this judgment!
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Remember earlier how I told you that we have all sinned through Adam? Some of you may not have liked that. It didn’t seem fair. However, by the same way that Adam’s sin was imputed unto us, Christ’s righteousness is also imputed unto His people.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
This is glorious news! And this is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. Every other religion involves man working, as hard as he can, to measure up to the standard that his god has set before him. In Christianity, on the other hand, God in His infinite justice set the standard so high that no one can attain it. Then God, in His infinite mercy, sent His own Son to perfectly fulfill that same standard on behalf, in the place of, those whom He has foreordained from the foundation of the world to enter into His kingdom.
So, I urge you today to repent! Throw yourself on the mercy of God and beg His imputed righteousness on your behalf. It is the only way you will ever overcome your very own total depravity.