Reading the stories of early mankind’s depravity, I felt the depths of my own sin. Studying Genesis, I was shocked how quickly sin escalated after the Fall in chapter three. God catalogued all sorts of sins for us—from lying, anger and deception to the sins of adultery, sexual debauchery and even murder! He wants us to understand how deep the curse of sin can go.
Here are some things I’ve since learned about the depths of sin:
1. Our sins are never graded on a curve.
I had a tough chemistry teacher. I loved chemistry and studied hard, but on one test we all fell short of an “A.” As all the advanced students begged for a “curve,” complaining their lower grade would mess up their record, my teacher stubbornly insisted we all “rise to his standard.”
Spiritually, one tiny sin is enough to make us fall short of God’s complete and infinite perfection, His absolute standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23; Matthew 13:40-42). We are all stained by original sin (Romans 3:18-18). Every one of us falls so impossibly short of God’s intentions for us—what He designed us to be and achieve.
As sinners, we deny God’s right to rule us; we enthrone ourselves instead. Our hearts are bent on evil, deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Like God’s people in Jeremiah 9, we move from one sinful thought or action to another (v. 5); and in our rebellious state, we refuse to acknowledge, praise and thank the Lord.
All we deserve is eternal death (Romans 6:23). There is no “curve.”
2. Comparisons are foolish, because only God is qualified to measure our sin.
The Psalmist says we have all become corrupt and “there is none who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). But in our foolishness, we look at the drunk down the street and think we’re doing fine. Or we compare ourselves to Adolph
Hitler or Emperor Nero, and say, “Hey, I’m a saint compared to them!”
But they are not the moral standard by which we will be judged. Rather, we will stand before a holy God who will judge what we did with Christ (Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15). Or we will stand in Christ at His Judgment Seat as He examines our works (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
We should not be looking at others, judging them, but rather looking into our own hearts and understanding how deep our sins go.
The problem is, we proud sinners don’t know how truly filthy we are, just as we don’t know the full extent of God’s holiness. The sinless Christ said we must be “perfect” like His Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). The angels proclaim God’s boundless holiness, crying out, “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), and that must be our measure, not any false standard we create or tolerate in ourselves.
3. We may look good on the outside, but God sees our hearts.
We Christ-followers like to look spiritually impressive, but we’re not fooling God. He knows the secret things and the intent of our hearts (Psalm 44:21; Jeremiah 17:10).
We get so proud, strutting around in our perceived “goodness,” when inwardly, except for the grace of God, we are rotten and offensive.
Repeatedly in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus stressed, “You have heard that it was said… but I tell you.” Jesus always went to the heart of the matter, addressing the Pharisees’ motives and deconstructing their false beliefs. Outward conformity to the law, and embracing lesser standards of love and holiness, were insufficient for His Kingdom.
I am easily deceived and self-focused, but God graciously shows me the outrageous rebellion in my own heart. I continue to pray the Psalmists’ prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart… see if there is any wicked way in me…” (Psalm 139:23-24).
4. Our sin runs deep… and wide.
Ultimately, all sin is an offense against God (Psalm 51:4). It’s not just the depth, but the breadth of our sin that offends Him. Just watch one news cycle on television and you’ll see the wickedness in our world (Romans 8:20-22). Sin permeates the culture in thoughts, words, deeds and depraved consciences (Titus 1:15).
The entire universe groans under the widespread bondage and pain of sin (Romans 8:21-22). Even Christ-followers, waiting for the redemption of their bodies, long to be released from the awful effects of their sin (8:23).
John MacArthur wrote, in “The Breadth and Depth of Sin” (a study of Genesis 3:1-7), “…all evil, all sadness, all failure, all death is because of sin. And people who don’t believe in sin and don’t understand the Fall cannot diagnose properly the human dilemma.”
Understanding the depths of the Fall, MacArthur adds, explains why “the rest of the Bible tells the story of redemption.” We have to see how fatal sin is (Ezekiel 18:4b) before we can begin to comprehend our need of rescue. In Adam, we’re all headed for decay and death; but in Christ, we are made alive (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22).
5. In our sinful condition, we would never seek God.
I sin because I am a sinner and I desperately need a Savior. But it was God who came seeking me.
Sinful people don’t understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14), and without Him, no one seeks the Lord (Psalm 14:2). We are utterly selfish creatures. Even our feeble attempts at goodness are like “filthy rags,” because we need the Holy Spirit to transform our sinful nature (Isaiah 64:6; John 6:65).
I’m thankful the Spirit does move on our hearts while we are “yet sinners” to bring us salvation; and that there is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 5:8; 8:1-2). It was because of my deep, deep sin Jesus came to die. The penalty for sin is death, and when Jesus shed His blood and died, He paid the penalty (Hebrews 7:27; 9:22; 1 Peter 1:19).
The apostle Paul prayed believers would comprehend the “length and width and height and depth” of God’s love for sinners (Ephesians 3:17-19). As I contemplate those words, I remember a childhood song: “Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.”
The “fountain” of God’s love and grace is more than sufficient to save us from the depths of our sin, if we will only cry out to Him.
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