Boom. It was like getting hit by a truck hauling twenty tons of gospel. With this revelation I gave myself over to Christ in a way I never had before. Why didn’t someone tell me this sooner? For years I struggled to “get right with God” and reduce my sin. This struggle defined my apostasy which lasted nearly a decade. This misunderstanding came from being raised in a church that did not effectively teach grace.
Missing The Point
In youth group I was shown the fun and importance of community and musical worship, but it also felt like I was being given a list of things not to do. When I failed in these areas I was reprimanded and told to repent and try harder. No one prayed over me or emphasized grace. Sure, I read my bible following studies I was given, but I didn’t truly see grace there either. If only I would have fully read through Romans or 2Timothy (or any other book in its full context). You see, my pastor did not preach straight through any book, but instead would pick and pull scripture out of context to meet the needs of his weekly theme, as if the bible was some old car sitting at the scrapyard. In my senior year of high school I felt called to vocational ministry, but was convinced I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps before that could happen. In college I shied away from Christian groups because of the hypocrisy I saw coupled with my own guilt that I hadn’t been living for Christ by thought or deed. Thus started a pattern of me going to a church just until I felt convicted about my calling. With that conviction I would convince myself I wasn’t ready and would try to rein in my sin, which would only, at that point, get worse.
Suddenly It Changed.
It seemed no different from any other point in my pattern. I had just started coming back to church after being invited by a new friend. I went to a couple of Sunday services and eventually the Christmas service. Again, I started to feel that conviction. Despite the feeling, I went again just after New Year’s Eve, which was definitely filled with too much sin even for my secular palette. There I was invited to a Community Group for men by a guy I had never met before. I couldn’t make it to the one on the night he led, but he pursued me and found one that worked for me. I showed up, ran into an old friend, and had a great time. That night the conviction returned louder than ever, followed by the whispers that I was not good enough and never would be. This time I refused to believe that, but I knew I had failed time and time again. I got on my knees and prayed in desperation for clarity on how to get my life on track. What came back to me was a thought spoken into my head that felt like a comforting hand on my shoulder. “You suck and that’s okay.” I immediately felt a peace about me and collapsed in a slumber. I viewed my sin in a whole new light during the next week. When I sinned, I would repent and actually feel better. This feeling made me want to sin less and so I did. I desired to have a better understanding of this new viewpoint, and so went on the hunt for scripture to better understand it. I found myself in the book of Romans and after finishing it I realized I had never read an entire book besides one of the Gospels. This was the most equipping scriptural experience of my life up to that point. Still I wanted to know more. The next Sunday at church I heard someone make a joke about the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism. I pressed them for information after the joke because I didn’t get it. Not fully satisfied by the answer I studied both theologies that night.
I Was Floored
Here were two very conflicting views on God that are each embodied by five points. Each point refuted the other side’s take on an issue… all but one. There was one thing that both sides agreed on: Total Depravity. There it was. A name for my condition. I read as much information as the internet would give me on the subject. Between commentary and supporting scripture I saw the whole picture. At last I saw how futile my living had been. There was literally no way I could get better apart from God. My pattern was ridiculous because I kept leaving God to get better for him. I finally realized that God wanted me around just the way I was and that I would get better by pursuing him. Never would I be perfect, but I could be better. So, I dove in. I dove into His love, His word, and His church. I am by no means a non-sinner now, but sanctification is happening, and it is awesome.
So what is Total Depravity?
For a quick summation, I will turn it over to R.C. Sproul:
“The term total depravity, as distinguished from utter depravity, refers to the effect of sin and corruption on the whole person. To be totally depraved is to suffer from corruption that pervades the whole person. Sin affects every aspect of our being: the body, the soul, the mind, the will, and so forth. The total or whole person is corrupted by sin. No vestigial “island of righteousness” escapes the influence of the fall. Sin reaches into every aspect of our lives, finding no shelter of isolated virtue.” – What is Reformed Theology?
You totally suck, and there is nothing that you can do to fix it on your own.
Chris, Why Are You So Excited About That?
Because this is GREAT NEWS! It means that you don’t need to rest on your own ability to do good. The grace of the Lord is deeper than any pit your puny human arms can dig.
2Cor 12:9- But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore, I urge you, if your story is anything like the first part of mine, to just accept that you can not do it alone and fall into the arms of the one who lived perfectly for you. You may not be able to stop sinning, but you can rest knowing that you will never out sin the grace of God.