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The “total” part of the traditional phrase “Total Depravity” refers not to the intensity of sinfulness in humanity but to its .That is to say, Christians don’t claim that every part of a person’s life is just as depraved and bad as it could possibly be but rather that every part of life is at least a little affected by our sinful tendency to put ourselves first, and that includes our minds, how we think.Our familiarity with these words ought not blunt for us how startling many contemporary people would find the idea that there is actually comfort to be found in the idea that we are “not our own.” To many people these days, not being in charge of your own destiny, not being able to make up your own rules as you go along, would sound like profoundly ugly, bad news!When Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled,” I picture him doing so with a quivering chin and with his cheeks wet with tears.Question: Who among us could plausibly deny that we have thoughts in the course of the average day that would cause us to blush right down to our toenails were others able to see those thoughts!? This fall has so poisoned our nature that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil? Yes, unless we are born again by the Spirit of God. If you tell me that my great-grandparents were wealthy people who once lived in a huge mansion on Long Island, I might wish that I had that kind of money but the prior state of my long-dead relatives doesn’t change much for me in this present moment.This may be one way to hook Lord’s Day 2 to modern people. Although you can find someone to disagree with almost anything, Q&A 6 is probably the least controversial or difficult part of L. In other words, some people assume that whatever once was has no bearing on today.Tell most people that you really ought to trust our elected officials, and they’ll respond, “Yeah, right.” On the other hand, tell most people that a certain political or religious leader has fallen into trouble, and they’ll respond, “Duh.” We’re only sure about one thing these days and that is that we should never be sure about much.
In the Upper Room the night he was betrayed and hard on the heels of Judas’ having fled into the night, which was then swiftly followed by Jesus’ sad prediction of Peter’s upcoming denials. Do even we believe this about other people around us every day? That is to suggest the question: How does the kind of “hate” (in Q&A 5) manifest itself?
We Christians do not profess Jesus as our only comfort lightly–we do so because honesty tells us that there is nothing else in life that is certain. Our car alone trundled down the road every Sunday morning and evening on our way to a house of worship. We entrusted a couple of them with the key to our house to tend to things when we were away.
If a lot of people can never get past “Duh” and “Yeah, right,” it’s probably because they’ve been paying attention to real life. Probably we all know folks like this—folks who are shining examples of what some of us might call “common grace.” How do you suppose such people would feel if we told them that apart from the grace of God, they have “a natural tendency to hate God and [their] neighbor”?
Two passages seem fairly logical to exegete when preaching on Lord’s Day 2: one is the Matthew -40 passage where Jesus gives this summary of the law in answer to the Pharisees who had asked him for the “greatest commandment.” Another passage would be Deuteronomy 6:1-9 where the famous when he substituted “mind” for the traditional “strength.” As Neal Plantinga once suggested, surely the Pharisees and others noted the switch for the same reason we’d be struck if a child at bedtime prayed, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my brain to keep”!
In connection to Lord’s Day 2, it may be difficult to know precisely how that angle on Deuteronomy 6 / Matthew 22 may fit but it could be used to highlight the scope of sin.