The True Nature of Man
Wesley was quick to point out that the people of his day regarded human nature as being essentially good, and “a little less than God.” He was troubled that men considered human nature as generally being very “innocent, and wise, and virtuous.”
It is interesting to observe as an educator how our culture differs very little from the culture of the 18th century in this manner. The emphasis in American’s public schools is to make the self-esteem in every child a priority and perhaps teach them something along the way. As a result, we are graduating a whole generation of students who are very confident. Many inner city kids who play basketball are very cocky that they will one day be the next Michael Jordan. We have students who are convinced they are going to be brain surgeons even though they have failed Chemistry class. These kids are being taught that their innate nature is essentially good and they are taught to ignore their faults and failings.
Sin is deceptive. If you think you can become a doctor while playing video games throughout med-school instead of hitting the books then you may also think you can get to heaven without dealing with your corrupt and sinful nature. Wesley points out that the Bible does not teach that men are essentially good, it teaches that we are all “dead in trespasses and sins”, “without hope, without God in the world.” In contrast to the teaching of our modern culture the Word of God teaches that the “wickedness of man was great in the earth” and that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
The Bible teaches that God is patient and tolerant but that there is an end to his patience and a time for justice. Men were utterly sinful and depraved in the generations following the fall of man. God’s grace was finally overcome by his justice and he destroyed the entire earth with water with the exception of Noah and his family. He did not call forth his justice until he saw that this evil in the heart of man was continual. Every moment of every day the heart of man rebelled against an Almighty God. God had to answer this rebellion with justice lest he cease to be God.
The unregenerate heart of man is still evil. Indeed, there is “none righteous, no, not one.” The quickening of the Holy Spirit is the only remedy to the perpetual blindness in the heart of evil men. They are in a state of extreme depravity but somehow they have convinced themselves that they are essentially good. We cannot possibly know God in our natural state. We must have the light of his Spirit to shine into the darkness of our mind and soul before we can perceive Him.
We cannot not know him in our natural state and we cannot love what we cannot know. Therefore, we can only love him when he reveals himself to us through his Spirit. We cannot love God in are carnal nature, we can only love him after he has revealed himself to us and changed our nature.
There is within every man an intrinsic desire to worship. Even an atheist worships something. Usually we worship our own idols, not idols of wood or stone but idols we’ve set up within our own hearts. We generally worship ourselves through pride. Because pride is the vehicle through which many men lose their own souls, God passionately hates it.
We often worship our sinful appetites. We allow our flesh to dominate our lives. Men who think they worship nothing when they refuse to worship God are often worshippers of their own flesh; pornography, gambling, alcohol and drugs, along with all sorts of sexual perversity. They are worshipping idols that will take them to an eternal hell unless God providentially intervenes.
The great hope of all men in regard to the terrible malady that besets them is found in the Great Physician. He has devised a way to cure our bent toward sin. Through the shed blood of Jesus Christ sin can be forgiven and conquered
Two men were having a discussion about living a pure life.
The first man said, “It is impossible for a man to live pure and holy?”
The second man asked if he thought Christ had lived a holy life?
“Oh, yes,” replied the first, “that is clearly taught in the scriptures.”
“Did Christ live a holy life everywhere, all the time?” asked the second man. “Yes indeed. “ replied the first.
“Do you not think that Christ can live a pure life in and through you?” answered the second man as he ended the conversation.
We can be more than conquerors, not through our own efforts, but through Christ who strengthens us with his own power and presence.