I’ve been surprised recently how many people have been having a personal revival just from recognizing the biblical concept of total depravity. This doctrine teaches that man is not sick, but dead, a slave to his sin nature, and if left to himself, will reject God and choose sin 10 out of 10 times. Scores of Scriptures from all over the Bible sing this dirge in a perfectly unified chorus (Psalm 5:9, Psalm 14:1-3, Mark 7:21-23, Eph. 2:1-3, Romans 5:7-8,12,19, Romans 7:18, etc.).

Why is this doctrine blessing people?

Grace isn’t grace if the wretch isn’t a wretch.

When we finally see how helpless, disqualified, sinful, selfish, undeserving, and enslaved by sin we are, grace begins to appear glorious. Without an understanding of sin, we continue to defend our merits, continue to try to earn God’s acceptance through our good works, seek to impress others with our righteousness, and fail to see why the cross is so amazing.

But once we see our absolutely bankrupt state and the horrible nightmare that is the human heart, we suddenly look outside of ourselves for salvation. We need a hero to save us! Then Christ Jesus appears in all his glory, a Savior for all who would dare believe that His being stabbed by Romans and pinned to a Dogwood tree was sufficient to save us from the penalty and the power of our sins.

This is what Paul found when his hope of self-rescue came crashing to the ground in Romans 7:24-25: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Tim Keller says, “The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.”

(I like that quote a lot.)

One man recently asked to meet with me, as he struggled to understand God’s grace, though he’s been attending church for years (like many of us). We met for lunch, and I said, “Well, let’s start with your depravity. Do you believe you’re dead and helpless without Jesus? Do you believe you’re sick, twisted, and perverted; enslaved by sin without Him intervening?”

This man looked shocked. He said, “No one has ever told me that before.” We talked about grace for the next hour. I received a text from him a few days later. It said, “At one point during lunch yesterday I saw you shift gears responding to the Holy Spirit, the words that have been branded on my heart came just after you shifted gears…O wretched man…until we get that we can’t possibly get grace…I am getting a picture of my own wretchedness today…with my best effort I am still just worthy of death, hell, and the grave…I fail but that is why he sent Jesus.”

Happy is the man or woman who finally sees the fallacy of self-sufficiency and sees the power of the cross! And that’s why believing I suck doesn’t suck at all.

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