The Sermon I Missed

Last Sunday evening a few of my friends were talking about what a great sermon they heard that morning, so I thought I would check out the message online.

Here is an excerpt of the message that was preached to about 1,000 people in 3 services.

This is what the Bible says about us.
This is so key to finding truth.
This is so key to our spiritual lives, our eternal lives.

We are bad people.

Just to clarify, this isn’t a random excerpt. This was the main point. We are bad people was displayed boldly on the video screen with the word bad underlined. And this isn’t some fundamentalist sect, this is mainstream evangelicalism.

I understand the gravity of sin and the fact that we are capable of incredible evil. Sin distorts our ability to know God, and in our unbelief and alienation, we act out of selfish, impure, and sometimes evil motives. I also understand that we are not saved, redeemed, or justified by our own goodness; that apart from the saving grace of Jesus, there is nothing we can do to rescue ourselves.

Do you really think the core of God’s message to us is that we are bad people?

This is what I see in Scripture:

• I am a child of God
• I am a friend of Jesus.
• My old self was crucified with Christ.
• I am not condemned by God.
• I have been set free from the law of sin and death.
• I am a new creature in Christ.
• I have become the righteousness of God in Christ.
• I am chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
• I am redeemed and forgiven by the grace of Christ.
• Because of God’s mercy and love, I have been made alive with Christ.
• I am seated in the heavenly places with Christ.
• I am God’s workmanship created for good works.
• I have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ.
• My life is hidden with Christ in God.
• God loves me and has chosen me.

Does this mean that I think I am good? No, it means I know my value and worth are based in the love of my Creator. His love both exposes and heals the brokenness in my life. Our message to the world is that they are reconciled to God, they are already loved and embraced by the Father. That is the truth.

Truth matters.

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48 thoughts on “The Sermon I Missed

  1. I hope that they at least used this tune as part of the service. :-)

    I have no doubt I am “Bad to the Bone”, but that the Father’s love for me and all of us, caused him to break through space and time to arrest me in my broken state and draw me to himself. I affirm all that you see in Scripture and thank God for it.

    Too often, “Bad People” messages from the pulpit are simply further ways to control “the sheep.” Gotta whip them into shape, doncha know.

  2. Bill,
    Actually they used “Bad to the Bone” as accompaniment to a biker guy riding onto the stage.

    Oh, and he worked in not tithing as proof of one’s badness.

    No I’m not kidding.

  3. Hi Linda,

    Could you pass on the online link to the message? It would be interesting to find out what your friends thought was so great about it.

    1. Josh, I could, but I won’t because it would link back to my blog and create all sorts of problems for me.

      The gist of the message was relativism, with this being presented as the truth followed by the point that we can be forgiven.

  4. On that theme, I find the way Scot McKnight frames it to be better: We are cracked eikons. This statement, while clearly pointing to our brokenness as the central theme also builds upon the presupposition that we are first and foremost made in God’s image, reflecting a good creation.

    1. Jamie,
      I agree. I wonder why we are so uncomfortable with this truth. It seems to me that people are innately aware of their brokenness. The thing they need to be persuasively convinced of is God’s love for them in the midst of their brokenness.

      1. Good point Linda – brokenness or unripeness ( translated from the Aramaic) is a better understanding of the human predicament than the mistranslation ‘evil’.Why don’t we have a look more often to what the original languages actually mean in Scripture.

      2. I found from my own religious upbringing that the expectation on us was to be good. You didn’t drink, smoke, chew….You didn’t argue with your wife, get angry, etc. Everyone came to church with a mask on their face, because anything less was unacceptable. What I do think is important is that we be honest with ourselves, and each other, about that part of our flesh that is still unregenerate. Although the eternal truth is that I am free from sin, I do, according to Romans, still have to deal with the sin nature, and until sanctification has had its final work I always will. I think we have to be honest about just how unregenerate we are in our flesh, and then understand his love for us “in the midst of [that] brokenness.” How much greater is our appreciation of His grace when we truly see how badly we need it!

  5. As much as I disagree with Brian’s main premises in ANKoC, I think he’s got this one right about evangelicalism and its way of framing the biblical narrative: the typical evangelical assumption is that unless we establish total depravity first, the gospel message will be distorted. No real redemption unless the Fall is a deep and complete one. And it’s the feedback to “evangelism” carried out in this paradigm that only reinforces that assumption.

    Here’s one example: a person involved in door-to-door outreach in the community says, “In over 90% of cases where we ask the question – Why should God let you into his heaven after you die? – the answer is: “Because I’m a good person!”

    I won’t get into the discussion why I think this is the wrong question to ask in the first place. I’m not even going to argue against the fact of depravity (one would have to define what he / she means by “total” though).

    If the message was simply: “we’re all seriously messed up and won’t get out of this mess without God’s help!”, I would see nothing wrong with that. But by overemphasizing the condition to the point where it becomes my identity and more importantly God’s disposition towards me, everything heads in the wrong direction. I’d much rather begin with our true identity in Christ and tackle the road back to wholeness from there.

    1. Yeah, it does seem quite distorted, in light of Jesus’ example, to start with the foundation of ‘you’re bad’ and work up from there. I mean, I guess it works, but we shouldn’t always take efficacy as an indicator that something’s a good idea.

      I was first introduced to the idea that we’re not completely depraved in a strange place. I’m a Catholic, and I went to a very conservative Catholic Bible college just after high school. It was not a good place for me, and later on I bumped into other people in Catholic circles who said the place made them feel uncomfortable. Anyway, ironically, it was here that I first heard the idea that ‘complete depravity’ is a lie, that the church officially doesn’t believe in it, and that the deeper truth is that we’re made in the image of God.

      Surprises come from all quarters. I guess it’s good to keep an open mind.

  6. Sounds very representative of what is being preached in Evangelical America these days. A friend told me a while back that his preacher told the congregation that their hearts were divided and desperately wicked. I told him emphatically that his new God-given heart is good.. I mean what is the good news all about if receiving the Spirit does not make our innermost being good?

    Here are a few thoughts from Preston Gillham:
    (http://redeemed.kansasbob.com/2006/05/your-heart-is-good.html)

    Here’s my question: If the heart is the executive center of us, the seat of our passions and desires, the deepest of our inner recesses, and is indeed flawed by duplicitous, deceitful, and wicked tendencies, then what is there for Satan to do that I won’t automatically do?

    Seems to me the devil is out of a job. Why should Satan waste his time tempting us if we are going to follow our hearts and wind up in the ditch of sin anyway?

    And here is a follow up question: What did Jesus truly accomplish with all that He suffered during His crucifixion? If all He did was make me into a heart divided, what good is that? I’m no good to God divided, except after I die, and I’m going to continue serving Satan by default of my flawed heart just as I did prior to becoming a Believer. Granted, maybe I’ll sin a bit less, but how good is “less” when God demands pure and holy?

    “If the heart is desperately wicked then why should I trust anything that comes out of it. It forces me to look outside myself continually for direction and help. Though that is not necessarily a bad place to start, to live that way continually does not develop any place for solitude or quite where we can meet Father on a regular basis. If my heart is evil, why would I want to meet God there? I am in need of constant rescuing, from myself and from my own heart. His gift, His presence is my new heart.

  7. Linda,

    I am still resonating with the video I watched of Alan Hirsch yesterday (from Rick’s blog) … where he nails the problem with reaching the lost: the way the Gospel is presented is such that we have to convince folks that they are bad in order for them to feel the need for salvation. Please….

    Haven’t they ever really read John chapter 3?

    I’ve been processing the reality of Papa’s love for me for the past 10 months, actively, and for the past two years, generally. This just goes to show you how deeply ingrained the “you are not worthy of God’s love” message is.

    We don’t earn the love of our heavenly Papa … any more than our children earn our love. We love them because they are our children. Of course, I realize that this is the problem with many of our children … their parents don’t love them with this unconditional kind of love — and I blame the poor message from so many of the pulpits and the “Christian” authors for this.

    And, Linda … Papa asked me to tell you that he is especially fond of you, sister! ;^)

  8. I don’t believe Jesus worked on the good/bad dualistic model.Augustine due to his sexually permissive lifestyle in his pre conversion youth felt great guilt throughout his life and literally invented the idea of ‘original sin’ – i.e. we are all bad people.Augustine bless him has a lot to answer for in the present fundamentalist mindset.He did say a few great things though in his saner moments.I’ve discussed one recently on my blog at http://theprodigalprophet.wordpress.com

    1. Augustine is certainly responsible for a lot of the theology surrounding Original Sin, but he didn’t invent it, Origen of Alexandria did.

  9. If we are bad people without possibility of redemption, then the Gospel is of no use. So what’s the point of hammering on that week after week?

  10. Isn’t it basic calvinism? (T in TULIP stands for total depravity)

    If we were totally depraved and capable of no good at all we would live in a different world, a lot worse even than our broken world. And if Christians would still be totally depraved and capable of no good at all there would be some practical and logical problems… I don’t buy it…

    I think the cracked eikon story is much more interesting… and we are called to do good. To be light and salt for this broken and hurting world. To be(come)perfect because He is perfect. To grow in love. and we’ll never be perfect in this life, but if we think we are bad and will stay bad we can only go backwards from broken eikon to self-hypnotised stupid being that only sees his own badness and ignores Jesus’ invitation to come and be part of the solution…

    Not that I’m perfect, not at all… I’m not perfect, but forgiven, and He’s working on me to become changed into His Image again…

    peace

    Bram

    1. The “T” in TULIP does not meant that humans are totally unable to do good, rather, that the effects of sin have so permeated our being that we’re incapable of being thoroughly good, and that especially by our own singular, apart from God effort.

      Though Greg Boyd is a self-described non-Calvinist, his “cracked ikon” metaphor is closer to Total Depravity than not.

      Good post and thoughts, Linda.

      Tom

    2. amen, Bram. I love 2 Corinthians 3:18, which speaks to that. The picture in my mind is that of Adam and Eve in the garden, created in God’s image. Through the fall that image was corrupted, and now, through application of the cross to our daily lies, we are being remade into his image again, individually and corporately.

  11. And where is “the great exchange” in all of this? Where we exchange our inadequacy for His sufficiency?

    Where is Jesus as the vicarious man – the One who cleanses the temple (us) by His purity?

    Of course I’m not relying on my goodness, because *His* is more than enough.

    Honestly, you don’t need to shame people – they already feel that (as part of the carnal experience of humanity). You need to present them with the solution – Jesus!

    1. Sarah do you understand where this idea of ‘the great exchange’ came from?
      The vicarious model of atonement was only one of many thought up by the Early Church Fathers.There are others which seem to blend in better with Christ’s life and form of spiritually.If your pastor gave you the vicarious teaching set it aside for awhile and seek out other models for yourself.

      1. What is a good resource you would recommend that discusses each model of atonement that arose in the early church?

        I don’t have a pastor. I came across this conception of Jesus as the vicarious man (the second Adam) in my own re-examination of the version of the gospel story I had been taught. I’d be interested in reading competing views.

  12. It seems to me that when Jesus approached people he started with grace. He may end with, go and sin no more, but he starts with, neither do I condemn you.

    The only people who needed reminding of their brokenness were religious leaders who thought they were God’s gatekeepers.

  13. We must be BAD to sit through something like that – and actually pay someone so that they can berate us. It’s beyond BAD – it’s SADISTIC. I once counted that I had heard over 5,000 sermons in my life. That’s when I came to the conclusion – not only am I BAD – I’m STUPID too.

  14. Guess I haven’t missed much in Evangelical land since, I’ve been gone. Not really doing much of a job to convince me to comeback.

    1. The typical person like me and Jerry responds well to abuse–or at least used to. You however are blessed with an aversion to it. Yeah I think that kind of aversion is a gift of God. I have a friend who loves abuse and seeks it out at every opportunity. There are many who would take advantage of that:( I prayed for him this morning.

  15. I’m speaking this Sunday …
    I’m thinking “Turn or Burn” or maybe “Splash or Ash” – then I thought how bout the first three words in the Bible?

    “Genuine Moroccan Leather”

    but my thoughts are with this comment made long ago:

    Quia amasti me, fecisti me amabilem.
    Augustine.

    Yes, this will be my message this Sunday morning …

    1. I don’t know much about Latin, but I’m gonna take a stab: does it mean ‘because you have loved me, you have made me loveable’?

  16. its as if the bible starts in Genesis 3 for these people. genesis 1 & 2 which repeats over and over again about creation…”and it was good”, is glossed over.

    i grew up in evangelicalism, believing that my true nature was bad. it wasn’t until i hit college and had some gracious wesleyan professors who gently were used by God to reveal to me that my true nature is the image of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

    this shift in my thinking has changed my life. the other is unbiblical in my opinion.

    1. Amen! I think this is such a crucial, core thing that is so important in the whole Christian worldview, yet it gets almost no coverage. It’s kinda an interesting coincidence that I’ve been getting daily mass e-mails from a Christian writer (John Eldredge) about how your heart is good, and there’s ample evidence for that in the Bible.

      I think it may be one of the two most important life-changing truths in Christianity (the other being that God loves us dearly, even to death).

  17. Well, for the record, I think I’m DAMNED GOOD and God is so fortunate to have me…and I him. My brother is a God Man…and so am I. Your pastor is good too…but he feels good about himself by saying he is bad and he thinks he makes God feel good too.

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