In our modern mentality, we have accepted the lie that we are unique because we are modern. To an extent, this is true in the fact that we have modern gadgets that others have not had the opportunity to use. When it comes to human nature, we have not changed a bit since the fall of mankind into sin. Like the Bible teaches us, when it comes to human nature, there really is nothing new under the sun.
In our last lesson, we took a look at the Name (character attribute) Jehovah-raah, the Lord is my Shepherd. We have been created by God to follow Him. We need a Good Shepherd and Christ is our Good Shepherd. He provides food for us via the Bible, He casts out our fear, He helps us resolve conflict, and finally, He helps us control our thoughts so that they will not destroy us by leading us astray.
Most people have a desire to be right with God, even if they do not know how or what that exactly looks like. Many try to earn God’s righteousness by doing certain things and not doing other things. That is why we have thousands of different religions throughout the world. Another attitude that people take concerning being right with God is, “we are sinners and will never be right with God so we might as well enjoy our sin”. In the modern church, we mask that idea with sayings like, “we are all sinners and that is the way things are and will always be, we are all the same, we cannot help it”. Some take it one step further and say, “but thank God that He understands and forgives us”. I agree to the last part, to an extent. Yes, God loves us and He understands us. He also loves us and forgives us but if we leave it here, we do not understand the Gospel. The Gospel of Christ is not just for forgiveness and eternal life. There is much more to the Gospel and this Name of God, Jehovah-tsidkenu, helps us understand the full picture of the Gospel. Where do you stand? Are you one who is searching and longing to be right with God? Or, are you one of those who has given up to indulge in sin? Or, have you learned to mask that latter with religious talk like “well, we are all just sinners in the same boat, but thank God He forgives us, over and over again until we get to heaven”? Do you understand the full scope of the Gospel? This lesson will help us get an answer to each of these questions.
I. Mankind’s state of reality
I would like to discuss the following Scriptures, as they give us a real picture of mankind’s natural state.
Now that you have had a chance to look over these passages, I would like to glean insights about human nature, as described by God, our Creator, the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. First of all, our hearts are very wicked, so wicked that we do not even realize just how bad it is because it also deceives us. It deceives us into thinking that we are okay, or not that bad because we can always find someone worse. Or, it deceives us into thinking that someone or something other than ourselves is to blame, we are just the victim of “circumstances” beyond our control. According to chapter 5, we find for ourselves religious teachers who tickle our ears, telling us lies such as, we are not that bad, or God still loves us because we are His people, even if we do bad things, its okay, God understands. This is a way to calm our conscience while we carry our the evil desires of our wicked hearts. Chapter 6 tells us that by nature, we are greedy, all of us, from the least to the greatest. It does not matter if you are rich or poor, by nature you are greedy. The rich man and the poor man can stand on level ground when it comes to greed. The poor man who is controlled by greed is no better off than the rich man who is controlled by greed because they are both controlled by greed. When you are controlled by greed, it controls your motives as well and you will use and abuse others to get what you want. Does this look anything like our modern society? You would almost think that Jeremiah wrote what he did last week instead of over 2,000 years ago. By nature, we are stubborn, not wanting to listen to others’ advice because we feel like we know best. This ends up with an ideology of “everyone does what is right in his own eyes” or modern relativism, “your truth is truth for you and my truth is my truth for me”. Does this not sound like a perfect picture of our modern culture? Also, when we are stubborn, we do not want God telling us what to do, even if it is for our own good. When we turn away from God we turn to idolatry. We become controlled by sin. This manifests itself in many, many different forms but when brought down to the basics, it is all the same, sin manipulating your nature to do its bidding and destroy you. Your life will become worthless and depression will follow. It has been said that the disease of the 21st Century is depression. Why do you think we suffer so much from depression? Even if we have rejected God, our sins to not go unseen. God sees all of them and keeps an account. When confronted with the idea of judgment and sin, or when reality is pointed out, the fact that we are enslaved to our sin nature, many will say “it is hopeless” which implies “so we might as well enjoy what little time we have left”. The Bible uses another way to explain it, “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die”. Is this your outlook? Is this the way that you excuse yourself? As I have written earlier, there are some people, church goers, who still try to excuse their sin, masking it in false humility saying things like, “we are all sinners and that is the way things are and will always be, we are all the same, we cannot help it” and “but thank God that He understands and forgives us and gives us heaven”. They end up in the same boat as the ones who just give up and say that it is hopeless so let’s enjoy our sin. The only difference is that they cannot show that they enjoy it, even though they remain slaves to sin just like the first group. The only difference is that they are religious. Are you like those in the second category? Are you still a slave to sin, the only difference being that you cannot openly “enjoy” it anymore? Let’s take a look at Israel’s history to see that we are really no different in our modern world when it comes to human nature.
II. Israel’s example
As we take a brief walk through the history of Israel, we will discover that we are very much like them today. The only thing that separates us is time (and maybe a few gadgets). God called Abraham from among the nations and made promises to him, to make him a great nation and to bring forth the Messiah through his people, the Jews. God was faithful to His Word. The promise of a great nation was fulfilled. They were enslaved in Egypt and God rescued them, leading them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. On the way, we learn that the Israelites suffered from what all people suffer from, human nature.
12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 16 For who provoked Him when they had heard ? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years ? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness ?18And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient ? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3)
Their hearts were evil and they were unbelieving even though they had seen the mighty hand of God. We are no different today. They provoked God because they were sinners. They battled human nature as we all do. Their sinful flesh was in a battle with their desire to serve God. They showed their unbelief by their disobedience. We cannot claim to believe when we do not obey God. We may deceive ourselves but we cannot deceive God anymore than the Israelites could. Those who obeyed, entered the Promised Land and prospered, but, their sinful nature still haunted them. The judges of Israel come on the scene and we find each man doing what is right in his own eyes and the cycle of sin repeating itself from generation to generation. The generation that had seen the mighty hand of God died off and the new generation heard the stories but really had never experienced God. With their lips they honored God but with their lives they did as they pleased. God raised up enemies to enslave the people, they would live in slavery for years and then cry out to God for deliverance. He would raise up a judge, he would deliver the people and they would follow God until the judge died. Then the cycle would repeat because each person has a wicked heart that leads him to give in to his sin nature. Finally, after several generations of repeating this cycle, the Israelites rejected God altogether and asked to be like the pagans, having a king like themselves to lead them. God gave them the desires of their hearts and told them what they were getting ahead of time. The people were okay with it. King Saul was not a man after God’s own heart. He was a man who lived according to the leading of his sin nature and he caused a lot of problems. The people suffered greatly. God, being rich in mercy, raised up a king after His own heart, king David. Even though David had a sin nature like all of us, he chose to obey God and led the people to do the same. His son, Solomon, on the other hand, started off well but gave in to his sin nature and reeked much havoc on the nation. After his death, the land was divided. It just went from bad to worse. God warned both kingdoms, the 10 of the North and the 2 of the South. He then sent the Assyrians to destroy and take in to captivity the 10 of the North. The 2 of the South did not learn from the northern kingdom’s mistakes. God announced judgment on the southern as well. This is the time that Jeremiah wrote. God was raising up the Babylonian empire to judge Israel. The entire problem was that the people’s hearts were hard and sinful, causing them to obey the desires of their sin nature instead of listening to God. This is when God announces the promise of a new heart in the New Covenant in Christ. Not only that, this is when God reveals Himself as Jehovah-tsidkenu. He is righteousness and He wants to extend His righteousness to those who follow Him. The Israelites wanted to follow God but their hearts were bad and they could not be righteous. Today, we are born with an evil heart and need God’s righteousness as well. God knows and has provided.
III. God’s provision
God announced His plan to change man’s heart through the prophet Jeremiah.
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,”declares the LORD. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know theLORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares theLORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31)
This is a promise to the Israelites, a promise that has been extended to Gentiles like you and I (unless you are Jewish). We Gentiles are eternally grateful that God has grafted us in to His family. God promised to change our hearts, giving us a new heart of flesh and writing His laws on that new heart so that we can walk in obedience with God. This promise was fulfilled when Jesus instituted the New Covenant. Once Christ rose and ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the believers, giving them the new heart and His righteousness all at the same time. Now, when a person repents and enters into the New Covenant, his heart is changed and he receives the righteousness of God via the Holy Spirit. They cycle of sin is broken. We are able to walk in obedience. Our desire is there and the ability is there now because we have new hearts and God’s righteousness. Righteousness means “being right with God, being set back on the right path in the eyes of God”. According to Romans 6, our slavery sin’s power is broken. We are now able to say no to sin and temptation and yes to God. Have you experienced this in your life? Have you received a new heart, as well as God’s righteousness? Has sin’s power been broken in life? Are you living in the cycle of sin? Do you see all of the benefits that you have if you repent of your sins and enter the New Covenant? May the Lord help us break the cycle of sin by becoming obedient from the heart to the message of the Gospel.