And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 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— 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. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
One of the greatest books about God ever written, namely, John Calvin’s Institutes, begins with this sentence: “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” What we may need reminding of in our day is not that the knowledge of God is difficult to comprehend and to embrace—that’s more or less obvious—but that the knowledge of ourselves is just as difficult to comprehend and to embrace. Indeed, it may be more difficult, first, because a true knowledge of ourselves assumes a true knowledge of God, and, second, because we tend to think we do know ourselves, when, in fact, the depths or our condition are beyond our comprehension without the help of God.
Who Can Know the Human Heart?
The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). David said in Psalm 19:12, “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” In other words, we never get to the bottom of our sinfulness. If our forgiveness depended on the fullness of the knowledge of our sins, we would all perish. No one knows the extent of his sinfulness. It is deeper than anyone knows.
But the Bible does not leave us without help to know ourselves. The fact that we cannot know fully how sinful we are, does not mean we cannot know deeply how sinful we are. The Bible has a clear and devastating message about the state of our own souls. And the reason it does is so that we will know what we need and shout for joy when God gives it to us.
Why Must We Born Again?
We are in a series on the new birth. We have heard Jesus say in John 3:7, “You must be born again.” And in John 3:3, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In other words, being born again is infinitely serious. Heaven and hell are hanging in the balance. We will not see the kingdom of God unless we are born again. So today the question is Why? Why is it so necessary? Why isn’t some other remedy sufficient, like turning over a new leaf or moral improvement or self-disciple? Why this radical, spiritual, supernatural thing called new birth or regeneration? That’s the question we try to answer today and next week.
Diagnosis: We Are Dead