Corrupt Men and God’s Grace
I touched on it briefly at the end of yesterday’s devotion. Chapter nine ends with both the darkest and yet most genuine picture of mankind since the fall. I rehearse the words here: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
It’s truly hard to imagine. How many seals must be opened and trumpets blown before wicked men come to their senses? Even demonic plagues fail to bring men hardened by sin to their knees! “Perhaps God should rain showers of love down upon them,” you suggest. God can show no more love than He has shown already through His Son’s life, death, and resurrection. There is no more to be done via blessing or punishment than God has done, yet man still hardens his heart and sets his will against God.
And this is man without the regenerating work of the Spirit which births a person anew—nothing more, nothing less. This is us in our natural state—that state we inhabit after our fall (Genesis 6:5). We refuse to worship God but choose to worship the creature instead and make idols of those creatures. Granted, our idols look different from those of the ancient world, but that only makes them all the more insidious. The demons who stand behind the idols are still the same. John Calvin said that the man’s nature is “a perpetual factory of idols” (Institutes, I.11.8). And, as the Apostle Paul plainly shows in Romans 1:18-32, idolatry leads to immorality as men will naturally craft idols which bless the pursuit of their most sordid lusts. And to pursue those lusts, men will lie, cheat, steal, murder, and sell themselves to the devil to fulfill their most lecherous endeavors.
And this is why Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Ye must be born again.” Flesh can only birth flesh; He is the Spirit who makes the natural man a spiritual man. It is not of human effort, not of the one who runs. One cannot birth oneself anew; one cannot will himself into the Kingdom. God must take the man and remake him, break the clay pot and reshape it. All the man can do is die that he may live, surrender that he may be free, come to the end of himself that God may re-create him. Regeneration—being born again—is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. This is what is required that men may repent and believe. Lay yourself on God’s altar today—and live.