Unfortunately I was not able to make it to this conference, but my wife and several members of our church did and my lovely bride brought back the DVDs from the speakers at the conference. The first one that I watched (and that I’ve seen three times now) was Conrad Mbewe’s teaching on the Radical Depravity of man. I think this doctrine is one that offends many people, but to hear this gentle, gracious man speak about this thoroughly Biblical doctrine is moving… to say the least. The topic of repentance gets passed by far too quickly in the church today, which is why today’s contemporary church differs little from contemporary society. I lament the fact that in our culture of relative comfort, so many “Christians” pursue avenues of enjoyment and ease (that ultimately are fleeting) and pursue them with far more passion than they pursue the God who created us–the only one truly worthy of our worship.
Now, dear reader, I may not know you from Adam, but I do know that one thing you and I and Adam all have in common is that we’re sinners. So please understand that this is not directed at you, per se, but to all of us who too often place more importance on the “creature comforts” than we do the glory of God. I am no less guilty, so if you think I’m pointing the finger at you just know that I’m pointing three more back at me.
But here’s the thing. I do truly love my Savior, just as I hope that you do. I don’t just love Him on Sunday and on Wednesday nights. I want to love Him every glorious day He gives me. But I must confess… His love is PERFECT. Mine is not. I get distracted. There are lots of things that would call my attention away from Him. And they may not necessarily be evil, or working as a part of that unholy trinity: the world, the flesh, and the devil. But like that old hymn says all too well:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
When the eyes of my heart see clearly and are focused on the only object worthy of affection, I long so much for true revival. And I know both from the Biblical record, and from the history of the church that revival tarries when people’s hearts remain unbroken over sin. True revival only comes with true repentance. And though I am encouraged that men in our American churches are beginning to stand up and sound the bell, I see so few people who truly desire God. I know so many people who get more excited over their favorite weekly TV show, or favorite sports team, or their favorite band’s new CD, than they ever get over their time in prayer or study of God’s Word! And I am not talking about the unchurched or the unsaved here, I am talking about the people in our churches! I am not trying to be rude or judgmental. I love to see people get excited about the things of God! But we are so selfish and superficial, we often get more excited about the things of the world and the desires of our flesh than we ever do about the things that are pleasing to God.
It is a travesty how quickly we passover and divert our attention away from the subject of OUR sins, the ones we should be truly broken over. I recently read a response from an admirer of Rob Bell who (because Vodie Baucham used Rob Bell and the book “The Shack” as examples of taking sin too lightly in his sermon) that said, “From my personal perspective, I have never been more broken as a result of nor seen anyone more broken about systemic injustice and sin in the world than that of Rob Bell. Assuming the role of the convicting Holy Spirit is not something that we are called to do and those who do assume that role are really poor at actually causing any change inducing conviction within people mainly because they can see right through the agenda that should not be theirs in the first place. Conviction over sin should be something that someone internalizes and demonstrates, not preaches from a pulpit.”
That is the exact quote. It took me two or three readings to make sense of this. The basic ideas being expressed were 1) He had never been more broken or seen someone more broken than Rob Bell over other people’s sins; 2) Vodie Baucham was trying to play the role of the Holy Spirit by preaching on sin and brokenness; 3) preaching on sin from the pulpit for the purpose of conviction and repentance is wrong; and 4) conviction over sin is something that should be “internalized” not preached. I am not making this up. This is where too many people who say they are Christians find themselves today on the subject of sin and repentance. But clearly, the Biblical example of every prophet and apostle that God called forth in the Old and New Testaments preached to the people for the express purpose of conviction over sin and repentance to return a wicked people’s heart to God. And it is not for the conviction of other people’s sins–sins that we have absolutely no control over– but for our OWN sins, for these are the ones for which WE need to repent. Not that we should condone the sins of others, especially our sisters and brothers in Christ. But at the same time, neither will be condemned by them, either.
Yet here in our culture of “comfortable discontent”, it seems that most of us “Christians” would rather be entertained than to confront our sin and great need for repentance. Or if we do focus on those things, it is usually (as the person I quoted above demonstrates) with regard to other people’s sins, not our own. I thought what Conrad Mbewe had to say about the subject of radical depravity and the condition of our hearts at the True Church Conference was excellent, for if we fail to understand this issue of radical depravity, we cannot understand our great need for repentance.
This is not everything Mr. Mbewe had to say, but I will share a bit here. May it speak to you as it did to me, and draw your eyes not to the sins of others or the depravity of our society as a whole, but to the sins and depravity that still exist in our own hearts.
From Conrad Mbewe on Radical Depravity:
The subject of repentance cannot be exaggerated. Jesus himself said, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3)”, nothing can be more clear than that. This is non-negotiable.
If you play hide and seek with this you will be doomed for all eternity. This needs to be repeated tonight. If you are here and you have not genuinely turned from sin, you will perish.
And when you see on the other hand that the Bible offers a free and eternal salvation, then why are not the people of the world falling all over themselves to accept this free offering of salvation?
This is the same question that the apostle Paul is asking in his conclusion and the answer is that all men and women are totally depraved.
Verse 9 says, “What shall we conclude then,” what is the summary of the many words I have spoken…the reason why the warning is not being headed, why men and women are not rushing to embrace the cross, is because all human beings are deprived and depraved, Jews and gentiles alike.
When we go into 21st century America with all the progress that has been made, with the number of churches that you see; you may perhaps begin to think that here are a people that will be more willing to gladly embrace the message of the cross. However, if you have attempted to do evangelism you have come home depressed. The message of this text is that there is no difference between those who live today in America and those who lived 3 centuries ago in Africa, we are all in the same boat.
What about those who have been brought up in a Christian home and have been taught the Bible from an early age. You would t
hink they simply need to be elbowed and they will fall over into the kingdom, but many have perished in their sin with this type of background. The charge has been made that all, even Jews brought up with an understanding of the Old Testament, are in radically depraved.
This is necessary for us to understand when it comes to repentance and our work of evangelism. No matter who we are dealing with, we are all in the same boat and are radically depraved.
There isn’t a people group somewhere that’s different, that is looking for the true God of the Bible in order to embrace him. The Bible is telling us that there is no one who has an advantage.
Why is that the case? What does Paul mean by the phrase that “all are under sin?”
What are we up against as we do evangelism, as we knock on doors, as we give out literature? What are we up against?
When Paul speaks about being under sin, he is referring to one of the major pillars of Christian theology; he is taking us back to Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve sinned against the living God. At this point a drastic change took place in their beings, a moral change. Having been alive they became dead, spiritually.
Yes, there was a change that couldn’t be missed; they would now run away from God. Even when we hear that today there are those who are running to God, Adam and Eve ran away. They wanted nothing to do with him, because their hearts had become sinful.
Romans 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. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Here the whole of the human race are being divided into two categories, those who are living according to the Holy Spirit and those who are hostile to God, enemies of God. They may be religious people and church goers, but all you need to do is open the God of the Bible before their eyes and before long they will be hissing at you and will run you out of the church. They are worshipping a God of their own making
They are worshipping a god who doesn’t mind their sin and pleasure seeking. A God who tickles them in the midst of the sinfulness, that god they will worship.
But once you declare a holy and righteous God who is jealous for his own honor and who says you are to live for me and sacrifice to me and I am to be your all in all; that God they do not want.
This is the God that they are hostile toward. They will not submit, they cannot submit, they are totally unable to do so.
And between the mind and the will we find the heart. The heart is desperately wicked and is beyond cure as Jeremiah teaches us. The power of sin is enslavement and therein lies the depravity. We are corrupted by a foul power.
It is not in our power to simply decide to want God. However moral, or religious, or educated; powerless is the state we are all in, without the Grace of God. Unless the power of God visits us we are in this enslavement.
–Conrad Mbewe, 2009 True Church Conference in Muscle Shoals, AL