Sin. It’s all around us. The depravity of man seems to scream from every street corner. Whether it’s a parent abusing a child, a husband committing adultery, a teenager bound to drug addiction, or mass murder; all of us, in some way or another, are acquainted with the devastating effects of sin. The fact that God, upon creating mankind, pronounced everything that he had made “very good” (Gen. 1:31) may seem hard to grasp at times, especially as we look at the deteriorating culture around us. And as believers, it’s easy to see the sins of others.
For many of us though, having been raised in a sub-culture that is predominately Christian, our own personal sin and depravity might not be something to which we’ve given much thought. When was the last time you thought about your own sinfulness and depravity apart from Christ? When was the last time you remembered the mire that you were saved from and thanked God for the redemptive work of Christ on Calvary?
Sin is a Disposition
Heath Lambert in his book, A Theology of Biblical Counseling, says “Sin is a disposition of human beings that leads to a failure to conform to the moral law of God” (217).1 Notice the word disposition. Sin, more than just being the bad things that a person does or doesn’t do, describes who every human being is at their core. Mankind has a nature that is innately oriented away from God and towards sin. This natural tendency towards sin, if not brought into submission under the reign of Christ, eventually leads to sinful desires and behaviors. One must remember, though, that God did not create humanity to possess this sinful disposition, to want sinful things, or to behave in sinful ways. Instead, as we read in the Creation account, God created mankind to live in a state of moral goodness.
The Fall of Mankind
When Adam and Eve, in Genesis 2:16-17, ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil after God had specifically told them not to, they became sinners (Genesis 3:7). This disobedience instituted a spiritual separation between God and man, and physical death became a part of life for man. The consequences of this sin rippled out from Adam and Eve and would affect the life of every person who would ever live, except Jesus, and would touch every element of human existence. This effect is often referred to as the doctrine of total depravity.
The Effects of Sin
Lambert lists seven ways in which man’s life is affected by sin:
1. Sin affects man’s standing before God.
Adam represented the human race before God in his disobedience. Therefore, because of his guilt, every person born into this world is guilty of sin (I Corinthians 15:21-22). This guilt separates man from a holy God who, in his perfect holiness, cannot look upon evil (Isaiah 59:2). Men are sinners, not only because of Adam’s representation, but also because of their own actions that are a result of their sinful disposition.
2. Sin affects man’s motivations.
James, in James 1:14-15, clearly makes this point when he says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”2 Scripture is clear that every sinful act a person commits is the direct result of a prior distortion in the human heart that desires the wrong things. Sinful behavior grows out of sinful desires.
3. Sin affects man’s thinking.
Paul reminds his readers that they are “alienated and hostile in mind” (Colossians 1:21). Sin’s corrupting influence on human thought often results in mankind assuming that bad things aren’t really that evil. Again, this thinking often ends in sinful behavior.
4. Sin affects man’s emotions.
Emotions are gifts from God that allow people to express how they feel. However, because of sin, people’s emotions have been marred. Sinful people feel hatred when instead they should love. This is seen in the life of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:1. Sinners feel love for things they should flee from and hate. The proverb writer speaks of people like this when he writes about those “who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil” (Proverbs 2:14).
5. Sin affects man’s bodies.
Apart from affecting the spirit of a person, sin also affects the body. In I Corinthians 15:42-44, Paul paints a picture of the terrible reality of the current physical body we live in. He describes man’s body as perishable, dishonorable, and weak. Sin has horribly corrupted a body that was originally designed to be good. It now creates physical weakness and ultimately results in physical death.
6. Sin affects man’s relationships.
Before the fall, human relationships were designed to work together in joy, harmony, and love. Man’s rebellion against God, however, resulted in enmity and strife in man’s relationship to other people. Paul describes this enmity in Titus 3:3 when he says, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient … passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
7. Sin affects all of Creation.
The consequences of sin are evident in every human being and every human relationship. Apart from this, though, sin also affects the entire Creation order. In Romans 8:20-22, Paul describes the creation as “being subjected to futility” and “groaning together in the pains of childbirth.” Natural disasters, car accidents, vicious animals, etc., are just a few of the things that stand as testimony to the effects of sin on the natural world.
We’ve painted a bleak picture of who we all are apart from Christ. The doctrine of total depravity, wherein every aspect of human existence is broken by sin, is just that—bleak and hopeless. Article 4 of the Mennonite Confession of Faith states, “As a fallen creature, man is self-centered, self-willed, rebellious toward God, unwilling to yield to Christ, unable to break with sin, and under divine judgment.”
John Piper, speaking on the depravity of man, says, “Total depravity means that apart from God, our hardness and rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.”3 That describes each one of us. And it is good for us, as believers, to be reminded of the dark reality that sin has stamped on each of us.
Yes, admitting that our condition apart from Christ is really this bad may be hard for many of us. It’s much easier to see the depravity of others and completely overlook our own need for ongoing redemption. I urge all of us to humble ourselves under this truth, terrible though it be. When we do, we will really be in a position to see and appreciate the glory and wonder of the work of God in our personal lives and in the world at large.
|Johnny Beiler lives in Elnora, Indiana where he is currently pursuing certification in Biblical Counseling at Elnora Bible Institute. If he’s not busy working on homework, you may find him waiting tables at a local pizza shop in town. He enjoys interacting with people, hiking/enjoying nature, and diving into a good book with a cup of coffee close by. Johnny is passionate about seeing young men embrace godly masculinity as they are transformed by Christ through the Gospel story.
1. Lambert, Heath. A Theology of Biblical Counseling. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2016. Print.
2. The Holy Bible, ESV. 2011 ed. Wheaton, ILL: Crossway, 2001. Print.
3. Piper, John. “Introduction Session 1 TULIP.” Desiring God, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.Kauffman, Daniel. Doctrines of the Bible. Scottdale PA: Herald, 1956. Print.