Posts Tagged Sin

Walmart Believes in Total Depravity

While the superstore would never ever admit it, what I witnessed this “Black Friday” morning was a major corporation organizing itself in such a way for which the only reasonable explanation is that they do not believe in the “goodness” or in the “reasonableness” of humanity.

I have not done “Black Friday” door buster shopping for probably 14 years. This year, there is one gift (the initials of it are Nintendo Switch) that I rolled out of bed to try to nab. Alas, to no avail, “online special only” I was told.

Upon entering the store, the door buster cohort and I were literally herded (no other appropriate term here) by Walmart shepherds through a single looping one-way street with a towering median of door buster items. Credit goes to the workers for having the median so well-organized. However, this plan was doomed to fail. People are going to cross the median; they are going to go the opposite way in the one way lane; they are going to get to the thing for which they woke up at 4am.

The amazing observation here is that Walmart anticipated this. Not only did they anticipate our/my consumerism would prevail over circumstances of pandemic proportions, but also the powers that be saw the nasty cocktail of “Black Friday” during a pandemic, and said, “Cards on the table; we don’t trust in the orderly goodness of humanity. We will build a wall and corale them into our loopity loop. We’ll station workers like security guards at every 10 yards.” While the superstore executives would never ever say it publicly (nor would the government), actions speak louder than words. Walmart believes in total depravity.

For those reading who are unfamiliar with total depravity, it is the Christian doctrine found in the Bible that teaches that humanity is not always as bad as it can be, but it is as bad off as it possibly could be.” That is to say, at any given moment, human beings by nature possess an indwelling spiritual bankruptcy that has the capability to be and do great evil.

Walmart anticipated this. They acted as one would expect a believer in total depravity to act. Did the superstore’s plan work? Not at all. The plan disintegrated after the first person had to wait at the first turn. People dispersed and broke every law.

Every external law fails to cure or order the totally depraved soul. Law simply can’t do the job. This is why Paul wrote in Romans 8,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

(Rom. 8:1–6 ESVi)

Only the God of the Bible through the work of Jesus Christ by the power of the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit can resurrect spiritual life in a totally depraved sinner. Jeremiah the prophet asked,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

(Jer. 17:9 ESVi)

The answer is God.

“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

(Jer. 17:10 ESVi)

And upon his searches and tests, humanity is found wanting; we are found incurably wounded with a heart that lies to us about our spiritual condition. For this reason, God sent and revealed his Son, as the Nicene Creed teaches,

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven;

he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,

and was made human.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered and was buried.

The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.

He ascended to heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again with glory

to judge the living and the dead.

His kingdom will never end.

If the Spirit of God is awakening you to the truth of your own depravity (as he did me), then you are ready to receive the good news,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

(John 3:16 ESVi)

Thanks Walmart. Thanks for reminding us that we really aren’t as good as we think we are. We aren’t okay. We aren’t law abiding, good little boys and girls. We are sinners. Thanks be to God, for he has spoken to us in these last days by his Son, who after making purification for sins, sat down at the right hand of Majesty and now offers to us a life and salvation sweeter than ten thousand charms (and Nintendo Switches). Merry Christmas! Christ has come!

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The Real You

Recently, I joined some buddies for dinner and a movie. We are all sci-fi fans – even though to be such a fan means that one must deal with the occasional film that is drenched in cheese :). I was expecting exactly that when we decided to watch the new Bruce Willis film Surrogates (see trailer above).

The film was fast – often moving forward to advance the story without stopping to explain details. The action was fair; I for one could have used a little more action emphasizing the superhuman abilities of the surrogates – just for fun. However, it is clear that the minds behind the film wanted to keep things moving. Overall, it wasn’t too heavy on the cheese.

I would like to highlight four features that I found incredibly redemptive: 1) Willis’ desire for and commitment to his wife, 2) the exposure of our lack of integrity in the cyber-world, 3) sin is present in humanity and utterly dark when allowed to reach its full potential, and 4) there is something special about being human. It is clear from the beginning that Willis longs for the real presence of his wife in a world that has chosen to live life in a false reality where any one can be anybody (e.g., a fat, ugly guy can pose as a beautiful, blonde woman by means of his surrogate) and anybody can do anything. Morality and accountability become things of the past. For Willis to remain committed to his wife is heroic in and of itself.

Secondly, the viewer is forced to ask, “am I person of integrity when I roam the online community?” Further, “Is the cyber-world my unrestrained playground, or do my convictions and beliefs in reality extend to the virtual world?” A related concern for me as a student pastor is whether or not we are equipping our tweens and teens to “proceed with caution” during their time online. Online strangers aren’t always who they present themselves to be.

Third, our capacity for evil, if left to our own devices, is grotesque. If this isn’t clear in reality, virtual reality is the realm where we feel “safe” giving ourselves over to our desires – because after all, it’s not real right?

Lastly, there is something special about being human. Very basic and simple things often taken for granted in human experience are so vivid in the film: seeing one another, hearing one another’s voice, touching one another. There is something special – divine even – about humans in relationship with one another. During premarital counseling, Pastor Jim Riggle at Shawnee Hills Baptist Church in Jamestown, Ohio looked me straight in the eyes and urged me, “When you get in the car and realize that the gas gauge is on ‘E’ because Aimee used your car yesterday, I want you to say, ‘That’s my Aimee.'” I try to make it a habit of taking note my wife’s “That’s my Aimee” habits. These are the things I would miss so much if she were not with me. There is something indeed special about being human and being in relationship. Thank you God, and thank you that relationship both with you and with other humans is being reconciled through your Son, Jesus Christ.

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