As Bad as it Can Possibly Be

At one point or another in our lives, most of us get to face some critical health moments. Something isn’t right; we don’t feel well. So we go to the doctor or the emergency room to discover the underlying problem and gain some relief. We may have an expectation as to what is going wrong. The diagnosis may prove to be minimal compared to our concerns, or it may be something even beyond our worst imagination.

Several years ago when I had the one and only hospitalization of my life with the pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lungs), I underestimated the situation. The doctor walked in and began with those words you don’t want to hear, “Well, I’ve got some bad news for you.”  I never once suspected what was actually happening. But the good news was that it didn’t kill me and the worst was over; it was just a matter of recovery.

Spiritually speaking, our diagnosis is very, very bad. In fact, it is as bad as it can get. We have inherited at the moment of inception a deadly condition for which there is no natural cure. There is nothing we can do to fix the problem that will result in our physical death and eternal separation from God. Yep, it’s bad.

As we wrap up this final week of our “Him Alone” series about the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Spirit, we will be talking about how to truly know God. And to know Him we need to recall the grand story that spans from eternity past to eternity future. And we will do so by making five divisions, beginning today with creation and the entrance of sin.

Creation: God Creates / Man Sins

There was a perfect once-upon-a-time beginning to God’s Big Story. We read in Genesis 1, on the 6th day, God made the animals and finally man as the pinnacle of creation …

Genesis 1:28 – God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  …  31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Things were as good as they could possibly be. After all, you can’t beat perfect.

But you can mess up perfect, especially when Satan is involved. You know the story of the fall of man into sin, and everything changed. A curse of death was pronounced on all; and at the end of Genesis 3, man is driven out of the Garden …

Genesis 3:23-24 — So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

So how bad is the situation?  Very bad. As bad as it can be. Man is destined to struggle all through life in a cursed environment, die physically, and be spiritually separated from God due to the debt of sin. This truth is picked up and spoken of throughout Scripture.

Psalm 14:2-3 — The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

This passage from Psalm 14 is quoted in Romans 3 at the final, decisive point of Paul’s argument about the lost condition of man. Paul wrote graphically of this as well to the Ephesians when reflecting on their condition prior to knowing the gospel …

Ephesian 2:1,3 — As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins … we were by nature deserving of wrath.

Dead is bad … very bad. It is not just a sickness from which recovery is possible. There is no life. The only hope is resurrection, and dead people can’t make that happen for themselves.

Why is it important to understand this clearly?  Let me suggest two reasons that come to my mind.

  1. Evangelism – There is an old saying about evangelism that you have to “get a person lost before you can get them found.” Think of those you know who scoff at the notion of God and a Savior. They have no sense of need. They errantly believe they are self-sufficiently in a good position. And until a person realizes they are lost, they will not reach out for a map or check the GPS system.
  1. Appropriate Gratitude – When we realize that biblically and spiritually speaking we were truly lost and dead in our sins, without God and without hope, we rightly realize that we did not find God, He found us. He chose us so that we could choose Him. The extent of grace is beyond our imagination, just as was the lost condition we faced … but all of that is a part of other portions of God’s Big Story.

In that second chapter to the Ephesians, Paul reminded these mostly Gentile readers of the extent of their lost condition …

2:11 – Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

It is good for us to remember how lost we were.

No Excuses for Mankind’s Situation (Romans 1:16-32)

Before talking about today’s Scripture reading, let me welcome you to the first of what will be a total of 30 devotional readings and writings (Monday to Friday for six weeks) that supplement the current Tri-State Fellowship teaching series called “Cross Words.”  These writings are timed daily to hit at 6:00 each morning, and I remind you that you may have them delivered automatically to your email.

The Reason for Cross Words

Of course, what we mean by cross words are those Bible and doctrinal terms that are connected to the work of Jesus Christ in dying on the cross of Calvary to save us from the debt of sin. But before we can begin to delve into these terms, I thought it appropriate to take one written session to be reminded why the cross was necessary.

So, Just How Bad are Things?

The answer – worse than you can even imagine … as bad as it could possibly be. It is a death sentence.

The Great Epistle to the Romans

The Apostle Paul’s premier writing is the book of Romans – a message that describes in greatest detail all which God has done through Jesus Christ to make us acceptable to Him in His perfect kingdom and presence. In a word, to be His presence, we must be perfect – righteous. We need righteousness – and that is the theme of the Book of Romans … as it says:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Paul begins to describe this salvation in chapter 3, verse 21 and following. But first, Paul writes from 1:18 to 3:20 to prove that all mankind is totally lost and without hope – condemned by sin. The style of writing throughout this section is of a prosecuting attorney presenting a foolproof case of condemnation against the accused criminal – all mankind. You may have heard some preacher at some point say that, when sharing the Gospel with someone, you have to get them lost before you can get them saved. Well, that is a kind of simplistic statement, but it contains a lot of truth.

My wife Diana comes from a largely Pennsylvania Dutch family background. And it is from her grandfather that I heard a term I had never encountered before: “Nix Nootz.”  This was a way of most often describing a child who was misbehaving, but doing it in a sort of cute and endearing way. Unfortunately, that is how many people believe God looks at our sins and our all-too-human condition … a sort of “boys will be boys” way of it not really being THAT big of a deal! After all, they’re just human!

But as you read through this passage, you see that there are no excuses. Mankind is lost in sin. It is not even a matter that, well, some folks just haven’t heard the truth very clearly, so they should be acceptable and excusable if anyone is! But the answer even there is a solid “no.”  The creation shouts out that there is a God to be sought after and to be known and obeyed – leaving them also without excuse.

There are no excuses whatsoever. Man in his own state and condition is totally, utterly, impossibly lost and condemned to death and separation from God. In theology, this is what is termed “total depravity” … which does not mean that every person is as bad as they could be, but that every person is lost and possesses nothing in themselves of righteousness that might give them any merit with God.

Simply stated, man is lost … needing “cross words” to find a connection of salvation with God and any hope for eternity. And that is what we are going to talk and write about over these six weeks.  (If you read today’s Scripture in your own Bible or translation, be sure to look under this attached Scripture reading for the first of the daily puzzles.)

God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Here is the daily puzzle where we will regularly identify a couple of words every day… for a total of 66 cross words altogether. On April 22nd, the missing letters will be filled in to spell something for which YOU may be a prizewinner if you can be the first to identify what it says.

Our words for today:

Wrath – This speaks of God’s anger toward sin. As Christ took our sins upon himself, God’s wrath executed a judgment of them upon the cross.

Curse – No, not saying something wrong … this means that sin entered the human race through Adam’s rebellion, and the curse of death has passed down to everyone (except Christ), making us unacceptable in that state to a perfect God.

puzzle 1