The sea became more stormy. The wind howled harder and louder, the waves grew bigger, the ship jumped up and down, even rising out of the water. “Man the lifeboats! Abandon ship!” came the call. People ran towards the lifeboats, slipping and sliding over the wet deck, struggling to keep their eyes open against the fierce wind-blown water pellets. They struggled into the lifeboats, wrestling with life jackets, scared, wet, cold. The final blow came just as they managed to push the lifeboat away from the ship…a huge wave rolled it over like a toy.
But then, further tragedy! A small girl slipped from the grasp of her mother and disappeared under the waves. The mother let out a scream of anguish, while others sobbed and yelled. “Look” shouted one passenger, “there!” A small hand was visible above the stormy water. It desperately looked for something to cling onto. The mother hurled a life preserver with a prayer in her heart. Success! The little girl gratefully grasped the life preserver and was hauled back into the waiting arms of her mother.
So many times we think of our salvation in those terms. We are near dead, we just have one hand waving for help above the stormy waves, and God throws us the life preserver. All we have to do is grab and hold on, and we are saved.
That sounds about right, doesn’t it?
You see, to continue the analogy from above, we are not adrift in the sea. We are lying stone cold dead at the bottom of the sea. We are dead in our sins, and cannot even raise a hand. A dead person doesn’t know that he is drowning.
And that is the T in TULIP, the Total Depravity of man. As a result of sin, apart from the grace of God, we cannot know what separates us from the majesty of God.
Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
Eph 2:2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–
Eph 2:3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
It is important to note that Total Depravity does not mean that we can do no good in society. Obviously we can. But our depravity is in relation to God, not society. All of mankind is fallen. That which we view as good in society is not pleasing to God unless it is according to His decree or instruction.
Rom 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Rom 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
We stand condemned, yet so many don’t know it. They happily exist in iniquity, and consider themselves able to pull the switch to jump start their own salvation, whenever it pleases them.
But unless one is acutely, painfully and insultingly made aware of just how far he is removed from God due to sin, he cannot ever realize his need for grace. He cannot lift a prayer, because he doesn’t know that he needs to.
It is only when one realizes how desperately miserable his condition is that he can call out to God. And apart from the Spirit, no-one can realize that. There is nothing in natural man that can call him to repentance.
For additional study on this topic, I recommend The Total Depravity of Man
by A.W. Pink.
In closing, do we currently, in the contemporary Christian church and society, understand the nature and implications of sin and its consequence, depravity? I am deeply concerned that we don’t. It’s hard to find anything on sin in belief statements these days, and when we do, it’s a sugarcoated or watered down description.
Unless we are deeply aware of our own inabilities we cannot know how big the grace of God is. We are, until such time as we receive the illumination of the Spirit from God, just dead men walking.