In a play entitled Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare; there is a scene in which a father gives advice to his son. Among the words of advice there is this gem:
If we are to be true to ourselves and thus to God and our fellow man, we must understand ourselves. What we believe about ourselves will do much to determine the success or the failure of our Christian lives. You are a human being, subject to joy and sorrow, success and failure. You seem to go astray from God as soon as you choose your way (Read Psalm 58:3). You are born; you do wrong; you have to repent; you die. Why does all this happen to you? Let us memorize the following truth:
By sin man is fallen from his original state, and is now unable to escape from his sinful condition by any natural ability.
Since you belong to the human race, you are caught in this situation. Is God unfair? Did He make us to be lost, to raise our cries in hell? I know I am this way, but why? I want to understand myself, and so I turn to the Bible to find the truth about myself.
From time to time I am asked, “Why did God create evil?” My response is usually something like this, “What makes you think God created evil?” “He created everything so He must have created evil, right?”
Let’s explore that thought for a moment. “How do you define darkness?” Darkness is the lack of light. The reason for this is that darkness is not “some thing”; but is a description of the lack of something. So is “evil”. Evil is the lack of what we call righteousness. Righteousness is another of those churchy terms. It means “walking correctly with God”. Therefore, evil is the lack of walking correctly with God. God did not create it because it is His will for all of us to walk in righteousness. Man’s sin brings about evil. The Book of James does a great job explain the source of sin.
I. Man’s Original State
In the beginning man was made in the image of God (Read Gen. 1:26). Since God does not have a body like ours, this means we were created in His spiritual image. That is, we are intelligent, emotional, and we have a will. We think, feel, and have will. So it is said that man was made a little lower than the angels (Read Psalm 8:5). His physical body came from the ground and his life from the breath of God. Thus, he became a living soul (Read Gen. 2:7).
In the beginning, man was perfect. He had no sin. He lived in a beautiful spot that probably was located somewhere in the Mesopotamia. But man had the will to do things, to choose right, or he could choose wrong. Without this ability, he would have been just another animal, acting by instinct. God made many, many animals, but it was from man that He expected to get the most pleasure.
II. The Fall of Man
God did not want man to live like the lower animals. He wanted man to be different. So he made man able to choose and gave him a rule for guidance (Read Gen. 2:17). We know there was something here man was not supposed to do. As long as he refrained, he was innocent. An animal would have eaten of the tree without knowing it was wrong. But man was intelligent, he could choose, he knew that God expected him to obey the rule.
Ah! But if he could choose right, he could also choose wrong. Vanity was necessary to his ability to choose (Read Rom. 8:20). Pride and desire were present in him, as in us all (Read I John 2:14). Adam and Eve made a bad choice! They disobeyed. They did not believe God. He told them that if they disobeyed, they would die. So by their sin they brought death into the world (Read Rom. 5:12). We have fallen heir to their belief and the penalty of death.
III. Why the Charge?
God knew that from this couple would come an innumerable host of people. Some would be decent, others would be evil. God wanted to save the world (Read John 3:16). But He could not be partial. He is no respecter of persons (Read Acts 10:34). To save all people, He must devise a plan of salvation which would apply to all alike. So He mad a plan.
First, He included us all under the sin of unbelief (Read Gal. 3:22; Rom. 11:32). To believe in something requires us to make a choice to believe. Not choosing is the same as choosing not to believe. This is a huge problem in the world today. Many people think they can escape judgment by simply ignoring the situation. For us to receive salvation we must declare that we believe. Read Romans 10:9 and write it in the blank below.
Second, He put us all on an equal basis. We are equally guilty of unbelief, and we can all be saved equally by faith through grace and mercy of God (Read Gal. 3:22). Now the sin and death that came by Adam and Eve can be forgiven and conquered by faith in Jesus (Read Rom. 5:17). Thus, we can all be saved the same way. God is impartial.
Of course, infants and people so mentally retarded that they cannot choose right and wrong are kept safe by the grace and mercy of God, just as we are pardoned by grace and mercy. We will talk more about that in the next chapter.
IV. Our Natural State
We are now under the condemnation of sin and death (Read Rom. 5:12). As soon as we are capable of making a right choice, the sentence of sin is passed on us (Read Rom. 3:23). As long as we remain in the desires of the flesh, we cannot please God (Read Rom. 8:8). We cannot receive the blessings of the Spirit as long as we remain in unbelief (Read I Cor. 2:14). We cannot even come to God unless some outside force draws us (Read John 5:44; 12:32). We must all repent or perish (Read Luke 13:3). We must be changed (converted) (Read Matt. 18:3). We must be given a new life (Read John 3:3).
And so it is said that we are conceived in sin (Read Psalm 51:5). We can be saved only through faith and the unmerited favor (grace) of God (Read Eph. 2:8-10). This is the way all are saved, no matter how moral or how wicked we may have been. Those who have faith enough to repent in the name of Jesus are saved by grace. Unless we have such faith, we will be lost because of the unbelief charged against us. For those who have such faith. Jesus provided forgiveness from sin and the resurrection of the righteous (Read John 5:28-29). Without such faith the grace of God is not extended to us (Read Heb. 11:6).
V. How This Influences Us
Now we understand what we are and why we are that way. What effects should this produce in our lives?
1. It Should Humble Us (Read I Peter 5:6)
Now we know that we are dependent upon God and this humbles us. We put pride aside for we know where it leads (Read Proverbs 16:18). We ask God for our needs (Read Matt. 6:9-13). We avoid ungodly lusts, knowing their dangers (Read James 1:14). We admit that we are sinners (Read Rom. 3:23). We look to Jesus and to Him only for salvation (Read Heb. 12:1-2; Acts 4:12).
2. Never Good Enough (Read Rom. 3:10)
We never think of ourselves as “good enough” or “all right” without repentance and faith. We know our good deeds are like filthy rags if we are faithless (Read Isaiah 53:6). Like the leopard, we cannot change our spots (Read Jer. 13:23). We exercise faith in God and accept the gift of salvation (Read Eph. 2:8-9). Then only does our good work become meaningful (Read Eph. 2:8-10).
3. Our Love is Excited (Read I Tim. 1:5)
Knowing what Jesus has done for us, we love Him (Read I John 4:10). He did love us and now we want to love Him. We do not drag His lovely name among filthy words. At every opportunity we want to tell those near us what He did for us and how He had compassion upon us (Read Mark 5:19). We want to roll up our sleeves and work for Him.
4. We Want to Obey Him (Read John 4:15)
Now we know that we cannot save ourselves. Jesus knows the way we should go, so we seek out His will in the Bible. We follow His commandments, never trusting in ourselves. Wherever He sends, we will go. Whatever He says, we will try to do.
5. We Trust His Promises (Read John 6:37b)
Things may get bad for us sometimes and we may not be able to see the end of our problems, but we trust Jesus to never cast us away. Like Job, we trust Him even if He calls for our death (Read Job 13:15). Like the Psalmist, we know He will go with us, even there (Read Psalm 23:4). He is our strong Protector; all we have.
Oh, yes, what you believe about yourself does much to determine your success or failure as a Christian.
1. Commit to memory the truth of this lesson and stay with it until you can write the words without looking in the book. Be sure to write it.
2. What does Psalm 8:5 say about the original state of man?
3. What pattern was used in the creation of man? (Genesis 1:26)
4. Of what was man’s body made? (Gen. 2:7)
5. What law was given to man? (Gen. 2:17)
6. What sin caused them to disobey? Read the lesson.
7. Under what sin did God include us all? (Gal. 3:22)
8. Who must draw us before we can be saved? (John 6:44)
How does He draw us? (John 12:32)
9. Why did God want to save the lost? (John 3:16)
10. Without faith, what are good deeds like? (Isa. 64:6)
11. How then are we saved? (Eph. 2:8-9)
12. For what purpose are we saved? (Eph. 2:8-10)
13. What did one man bring into the world? (Rom. 5:12)
14. Show that, without Christ, we are all sinners. (Rom. 3:23; Acts 4:12)
15. What must happen to us if we are to be saved? (Matt. 11:6; Luke 13:3)
16. What is there about Jesus that removes the sin of those who believe and repent? (I John 1:7)