In the modern age of movie technology I appreciate the ratings that are put on movies. They help us choose what we watch. Many PG13, most R, and all X rated movies are claiming to show violence or sexual conduct not appropriate for under age children. Personally, I don’t think most are appropriate for adults, although there is nothing wrong with sex and violence in their proper God-ordained contexts. In the few movies I have seen which show sexual images, I feel I am invading people’s privacy. Somehow I don’t think it appropriate to go into someone’s home, or, have others come into my home to watch private sexual intimacy. Yet, to me, this is what we do when we watch it on film. I also feel that it feeds inherent lustful thoughts, incites self-centered gratification, motivates wrong fleshly desires, and promotes shameful behaviour. Many who feed on such things are often led to increasingly more and deeper kinds of immoral subject matter, possibly becoming addicted; and possibly committing crimes against others, including family. The Bible warns of what can happen. (Romans 1:28, 32) Regarding violence, such content in movies, for sensitive people, is sometimes hard to watch, especially if it shows cruel and tortuous inhumane acts against fellow human beings. If enough is seen; the heart can become hardened and callous to both immoral sex and violence. When these kinds of things no longer bother people, what does that mean? Can it become dangerous for people to lose a sensitive conscience toward sexual immorality and violent atrocities? We seem to have a nature that is drawn to these sorts of things. Although I don’t like to witness these behaviours, such happenings are real and occur in life more often than we know. I say, “Shame on us humans”, and I include myself. Others would say to me, “You are being prudish”, or worse.
It is not only movies that show these behaviours. The Bible could be X-rated because it vividly describes the same kinds of sinful and evil behaviours. (2 Samuel 11:2-5 and 12:9; Judges 4:21; Judges 19:22-30) For many people, what is seen on the screen and what is read in the Bible is offensive and repulsive. But immorality and wickedness should be repulsive to us. It is not how God intended us to live. In the Bible, God is honestly reporting to us how people really are. We are good creatures corrupted by evil. I read something about Winston Churchill, a famous English statesman, who most people considered a good man. One day he read a newspaper article that was asking, “What’s wrong with the world?” He wrote back to the editor and very concisely answered, “What’s wrong with the world? I am.” It’s easy for people to think that they are better than they are. Jesus told a story to illustrate how people trust in themselves that they are righteous, and view others with contempt. (Luke 18:9-14) But the Bible, even though it recognizes both good and bad people (Matthew 5:45), nevertheless concludes that all of us are corrupted and have sinful and self-destructive natures. (Romans 2:1; 3:23; 7:18-21) I very much agree with C.S. Lewis, when he wrote in “Mere Christianity”, “No man knows how bad he is till he tries very hard to be good.” Some, who are reading this, may think that it is very negative and depressing. Yet the Bible very clearly presents human nature in this way and it tells us that our only hope for change, and a new life of freedom from sin and its consequences, is to get honest and realize how bad, and bad off, we really are. I have been a pastor for nearly 40 years and I think many people would look at my life and say that he is a good person. But I am under no delusion and am aware of my deep-seated sinfulness. I have at times felt that I am the worst of sinners. I fit God’s appraisal of human nature. Only when we come to self honesty about our condition do we become willing to get some kind of help. It is best if we turn to God’s solution. There is good news for all who want help! That is why God gives us the Bible and Christ Jesus. (John 20:30-31; Romans 7:24-25; Proverbs 28:13)
What do many humanists and secular people say about human beings? They say that we have evolved from lower life forms and that we have a material nature with no soul or spirit. Everything we are made of is physical stuff. Everything we are and have is found in this present material universe and nothing else exists. There is no God with whom we have to do. The problem of evil in humans is nothing more than the absence of a good environment and education, and as we work toward creating better environments, better living conditions, and better people, we can achieve a good and peaceful world. In this view, people see themselves as basically good and able to accomplish what they want. We are the masters of our destiny. Religion with belief in a supernatural being is often seen as an enemy which prevents human progress. One proof that religion is an enemy is the wars and other conflicts religions create. Religion, therefore, cannot be allowed to mix with our scientific advancing age. Religion must be kept out of public places. Science, education, and good government become our hope for a better world. Moral right is determined by each society’s consensus and laws. We have within us the capacity to achieve great things, if only we will work together toward our sought-after “utopia”. Someday, through science, we may even find a cure for ageing and death. Our future hope for a better world relies on continued evolution and the good things we do that future generations can build upon. We can only speculate what the future will be. There is no after life. Our death is simply a passing out of existence.
What is the Biblical view of human nature? “In the beginning God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them”. (Genesis 1:27) According to the Bible, who we were made to be, and who we are now, differs greatly. We were made to be workers, and to rule with God as good stewards over the creation. We were made to commune with God on an intimate, joyful, meaningful level. We were made to live without sin and death. We were made to share God’s attributes, such as love, wisdom, goodness, peacefulness, truth, self-control, and so forth. We were made to be in harmony with God, nature, others, and ourselves. We were made to be intelligent, imaginative, and creative – learning, discovering, and inventing. All was very good. (Genesis 1:31) But if we honestly evaluate ourselves, how do we compare to those characteristics of being in God’s likeness? We are not very good stewards of ruling the creation – we abuse it, greedily consume it, squander it, deface it, and ruin it. We don’t seem to have intimate, joyful, and meaningful communion with God – we are often out of touch, unaware of His presence and purpose for our lives. Instead of being God centered, we are basically self-centered. We certainly don’t live free of sin and death; as we all carry guilt and shame for violating our moral conscience, and death comes as an enemy to all of us. (1 Corinthians 15:26) We don’t enjoy the perfect array of Godly attributes – we are often not very loving, wise, good, peaceful, truthful; nor in possession of self-control, as proven by bad habits. We are not always in harmony, but frequently experience broken relationships with God, nature, family, others, and ourselves. Concerning our intelligence, imaginativeness, and creativity; we do not put them to the best use. In fact, we “lose” our minds in many situations, and often lack ability to creatively solve problems. People define our present condition as what it means to be human. In truth, the way God created us to be is what is truly human. We need restoration.
I once took some kids over to the local YMCA where they were scheduled to participate in a kid’s basketball league. On the wall of the gym I noticed a sign which read, “We build strong kids, strong families, strong community.” I thought, “What a fantastic goal.” Then underneath those words was a list of rules. The rules were things like “treat others with respect”, “no profanity”, “watch your angry words”, and “avoid harmful physical contact”. Everyone I met there seemed nice and friendly so I asked myself, “Why the list?” The answer was obvious, we are nice so long as things go our way, or people do not provoke us, but situations happen in life that suddenly bring out the worst in us. We have natures easily susceptible to behaviours that destroy what we are trying to build. I suppose they posted this sign and rules because they observed how nasty people can get in the heat of competitive sports. Generally, we humans think we are ok, are basically good, and have the ability to “get it all together”. Are we blind, or what? Every day we see what the world is like. Does it look like it is harmonious, right, and good? It should be obvious, when thinking about it, we have fallen a long way from what God created us humans to be. What happened? Why must humanity be in such a struggle to get better? The answer to these questions is seen in the third chapter of Genesis.
What does Genesis reveal about our corrupted nature? Genesis reveals that we have become creatures who run away and hide from God. (Genesis 3:8) We do this because we know that we have done wrong and are guilty, and to face God would bring judgement and punishment. We are afraid of God; we feel embarrassment and shame, so we avoid God. (Genesis 3:7, 10) But, it could be argued, if our nature is to run from God, how do we explain the fact that most people profess to believe in God? How do we explain the existence of religions all over our planet?
If people are running and hiding from God, why do most believe in Him? The answer may very likely be that we humans have an inborn sense that there is a God, and because we live in a threatening world, people feel they need a God to help them deal with life’s problems and fears. But we don’t want the real God who created us. So we invent a god who we can deal with, who we believe will respond to what we want. An in-depth study of world religions reveals that their definitions of God do not fit the God revealed in the Bible. The Biblical God is a God to be rejected. (Romans 1:20-21) Even people who believe in the God of the Bible invent their own god by changing Him to fit with a god they feel more comfortable with. For example, some may say something like, “I don’t believe in a God who would send anyone to hell. My god loves and would never do that.” I would agree that hell is a hard concept to understand. Others sometimes change God’s views of who they are as human beings. Denying their own evil nature, they may say that they are basically good, and on that basis, they believe God will accept them into heaven. I think we can conclude that most people do believe in God, but not the God revealed in the Bible. That is a God they either defy or run from. Since people need a God to help them with their problems and to save them from fear or death, they invent one they can live with. Actually, their ideas of god are idols. (Exodus 20:2-6; Deuteronomy 6:14; Isaiah 45:5-6) If we were confronted with the true God as He reveals Himself in the Bible, we would be unable to stand before Him. (Exodus 20:18-19; Psalm 143:2) Because we run from the true God and hide, we don’t make an effort to truly understand who He is. The God of the Bible cares about us and wants to help us. He came into the garden and confronted the man and woman who were hiding in fear. (Genesis 3:9)
We cannot really hide from the One who sees and knows all. So how do humans respond when confronted with their wrongs? We deny our guilt. We find it difficult to accept responsibility for our wrongs. Instead, we justify our actions; we blame. (Genesis 3:11-13) Because our corrupt human nature does not wish to honestly look at who we are and admit our evil side, we make excuses and blame something, or someone, for the way we are, or for what we did. We blame our upbringing, we blame another person for influencing us in the wrong direction, we blame our circumstances, or we blame the devil. We even blame God if we feel He failed us. Pride and fear prevents humility and truthfulness. It is as Jesus said; we choose to remain in darkness rather than coming into the light, because we do not want our deeds or thoughts to be exposed. (John 3:19-20) We make excuses and go into hiding. Our hiding from God sometimes means running from churches and hiding in bars, sports, or hobbies. We hide by deceptively thinking we are better than we really are. We hide behind lies, or by denying the truth, or by believing we are basically good. We even hide from reality by hiding in mental illnesses. I am not talking about the kind of mental illness caused by physical or chemical deformity, but a self-chosen illness as a way to escape reality. We use anything as a reason to hide that will get us out of facing God and ourselves. The proof of our corrupt human nature, and our rejection of the true God, can be seen in things we say, think, or do, that are destructive to ourselves and others. (Genesis 4:9-10; Romans 1:28-32)
Our sinfulness is deeper than we know. The apostle Paul knew it when he said, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh…wretched man that I am”. (Romans 7:18, 24) The apostle Peter knew it when he said to Jesus, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8) The prophet Isaiah knew it when he said, “Woe is me for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5) King David knew it when he said, “cleanse me from my sin…my sin is
ever before me.” (Psalm 51:2-3) Job knew it what he said, “I repent in dust and ashes”. (Job 42:6) When we get honest and allow ourselves to see the truth, we become broken and cry out to God for a Savior, as did the apostle Paul, “who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God…” (Romans 7:24-25) Even after years of being a believer in Christ, I am discovering, by God’s loving mercy, things about myself that need admitting and changing. I am thankful for God’s loving and gentle faithfulness in showing me who I am so I can get better. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
Does this mean that there is nothing good in our human nature? One might think so with Bible statements that say “no one is good.” (Romans 3:12; Matthew 19:17) However, Genesis does not say that man knows only evil, although for some it can reach that point. (Genesis 6:5) Man knows both good and evil. (Genesis 3:22)
Although our nature is corrupted, mankind is still capable of good and great things. (Genesis 11:6; Matthew 7:11) Art, music, inventions, architecture, beautiful buildings, gardens, good deeds, love of family and friends, and so forth, are all a part of who we are and what we are capable of doing. (Genesis 4:21-22; Romans 5:7) There are a lot of good people in the world with varying degrees of niceness and goodness. (Acts 10:22) But in spite of goodness, all have their not-so-nice side. No one is good as God is good. (Luke 18:18-19) No one is good enough to overcome the evil in his or her human nature. No one is good enough to merit God’s forgiveness and eternal life. Much good we do is tainted by self-centeredness, wrong motives, and love for ourselves. Oftentimes people do not help others because there is no advantage to self, or it is too inconvenient. (Luke 10:29-37) Although a lot of real caring goes on, many people do not genuinely care for others. Their caring is selective; only to those of our own kind whom we care about, or because it is part of our life’s vocation. (Luke 6:32-34) But not all is hopeless. Since God is the ultimate definition of good, we can achieve true goodness in proper relationship with Him. Believers in Christ do wrong (Galatians 6:1), but, having been converted and possessing God’s Spirit, we have His Divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4) and have been created for good works. (Ephesians 2:8-10) Good works are to characterize all those who are true followers of Christ Jesus. (Titus 2:7, 14; 3:14)
In summary, what does Genesis reveal about who we are? By failing to heed the warnings of their Creator, the first man and woman allowed evil and destruction into their world. The nature of humans changed from pure goodness to a mixture of good and evil. (Genesis 3:5, 22) Our moral sense, our relationships, our thinking and judgements – all aspects of our being created in God’s image have been affected in a negative way. The aspects of the image of God in us have been damaged beyond our own abilities to fix them. We are guilty of wrongdoing. We fear God’s judgement, so we run and hide from God. When confronted, we deny our guilt. Most of the time we do not take responsibility for our wrongdoing and instead we blame others. We do good things, but even our goodness is frequently tainted with selfish motives. One of the most difficult things I ever admitted to myself was that the only reason I did good things for other people was so I would look good and people would like me, not because I genuinely loved and cared about them. The apostle Paul had a difficult time finding people who did not seek only after their own interests, but also were genuinely concerned for the welfare of others. (Philippians 2:20-21) This is the nature of human beings. We are a race of people who cannot see ourselves for who we really are. We are deceived, (Jeremiah 17:9) and our destiny is self-destruction. Because of our corrupted nature there is need to be restored to God’s image and to true goodness. God offers us the hope of renewal. That is what the Bible is all about. It tells us the truth about who we are, and it gives us the solution. God plans and works to restore us back into His image. God’s restoring of us is based on our response to His offer of salvation. Individuals can resist God and thus forfeit becoming part of His new world. Those who receive His offer will be resurrected in new bodies that are perfectly fit for life in the coming restoration of all things. (Acts 3:19-21) Jesus Christ possesses the true human nature. We are to become like Him. (Galatians 4:19; Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2)
What does it take for people to break through their deceptive hearts so as to see themselves as God sees them? To know who I am, I must come to see the truth about myself, both good and bad. To do this, I need honesty and courage. To have honesty and courage, I need a safe place to come out of hiding; a place where I know I will be loved. If we are fortunate to see our true nature, and humbly admit it, what do we do? We call out to God for Him to save us. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:11, 14)