Series: Two Ways to Live Category: Core Seminars, The Holiness of God, Indwelling Sin, The Fall, Evangelism
Welcome to the second week of Two Ways to Live. As we begin, let me remind you of the two primary goals of this class. Two Ways to Live is a class designed: 1) to solidify the content of the gospel in our own minds and 2) to equip us to share it with others (1 Peter 3:15). To accomplish these goals, we’ll be working through a different aspect of the gospel each week using the Two Ways to Live tract as our guide (
these should be handed out).
While there is only one gospel message, there are many ways to go about sharing the gospel. With some people, we may share the gospel with them in a few minutes. With others, we may share the gospel over the course of a few months. The situation may not always look the same. But our goal is to share the gospel in its entirety so that others may know our Lord and Savior and be saved on the last day.
To review, last week we talked about evangelism. Can anyone remind us how we defined evangelism? [
We said that evangelism may be defined as sharing a specific message (the gospel of Jesus Christ) to a specific people (lost men and women), in the power of the Holy Spirit, with a specific purpose (the aim that they would repent and believe).]
We also talked about what evangelism is not, and it’s not merely giving your testimony or debating the incarnation or being kind to people.
Finally, we discussed what successful evangelism looks like. So is our job in evangelism to convert someone? [
No.] Why not? [ Successful evangelism doesn’t mean the person we’re telling the gospel becomes converted – that’s God’s work. Our responsibility and privilege is to tell the gospel accurately to lost people relying on the Holy Spirit in prayer.]
Now before we begin with Cell 2 of 6 in our tract, we want to briefly review Cell 1, which we discussed last week. Repetition will help us to get these ideas firmly planted in our minds and so we’ll practice what we’ve learned each week.
What was the first theme of the gospel that we discussed in Cell 1? [
We were introduced to God, the loving Ruler and Creator. In His vast wisdom and might, God created all that exists. All things were made by Him and for Him, including humans made in His image, and this means that He has creator rights on our lives. He lovingly made us to display His image as we rule the world under His guidance and protection.]. Would someone either recite or read the verse in Revelation 4:11 that corresponds to this idea? Now, would someone draw the picture that we used to fit with this truth?
Before we conclude our review, can anyone tell us why we emphasize God at the beginning of the gospel? [
In order for us to understand anything else that follows about the gospel, we need to understand who God is first. It’s His gospel, and the offense, judgment, and salvation we will see in the gospel are all based on who God is. The doctrine of salvation depends on the doctrine of God.]
Questions or Comments?
III. Humanity in Rebellion
Christianity, similar to other religions, recognizes that there’s a grave problem with the world we live in. It’s clear to just about everyone that something has gone terribly wrong. Whether you’re an atheist or a Buddhist or a Muslim, everyone agrees that the world is not as it should be. Why is that? Why do we see things like addictions, murder, theft, poverty, racism, and starvation?
According to God’s Word, Christians believe that God created the world as good. But when we look around at the world, it’s like a virus has been unleashed into a computer program and crashed it. Corruption, injustice, hatred, greed, and death are everywhere. What happened? Where did it go wrong? Was our government not set up right? Did we not give good family values to our kids? Do we need better schools? Did we not give peace a chance?
Well, maybe there’s truth to all of that. But none of them are the fundamental problem. Christians believe that what has gone wrong rests within each and every one of us. The fundamental problem lies within our own hearts, not anywhere else.
According to the Bible, the essence of our problem is this: Man Rejected God as Ruler over God’s creation. (
Draw only the crown crossed out and the earth)
Man, God’s creation, rebelled against Him. In our rebellion against Him, we rejected him as King, and enthroned ourselves, dubbing ourselves as King. (
Finish drawing the picture)
Because we want to rule, we try to run our lives our own way, not His, and this rebellion has affected the world and everything in it. This is our great problem, which the Bible calls “sin.”
A great verse to memorize and communicate this truth is Romans 3:10-12: “
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away.”
We’ll spend the rest of our time unpacking this truth of man’s rebellion against God. But first, I want to talk together about how this looks in a real conversation.
How do you describe sin to someone who’s not familiar with the term?
A. The Fall of Man
Sin began a long, long time ago in the Garden of Eden with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. God, who is holy, created Adam and Eve to live under his rule in the Garden of Eden. Because God created man, He had the right to tell them what to do, how to live, what was good for them, and what was bad for them. And unlike what any of us would be like with absolute power and authority, God was completely loving towards his creation, and ruled them with their best interest in mind.
All was well in the beginning, but soon something terrible would happen, something that is still affecting us today. We can read about it in
Genesis 3:1-8. ( Ask someone to read this passage)
God had told Adam and Eve not to do something, not to eat from a specific tree. But Satan comes to them, twists God’s Word around, and tempts them to eat of the tree. He makes promises to them, if they would just eat from the tree. Well, what does he promise them? [
In verse 5, he promises them that they will be like God.]
And we see that the woman is drawn in by this lie.
By disobeying God, Eve rejects God as her ruler. It’s either God’s way or her way, and Eve chose her own way, believing the serpent. Then Adam does the same thing.
At that moment the fall of man happened. Man chose to reject God as the rightful ruler and authority of his life, and chose to make himself his own ruler and authority. Man did not want to listen to God’s Word about how he should live his life; he wanted to run his life his own way without taking God into account.
So what was the result of this sin? What did Adam and Eve do? [
In verse 8, it says that they hid from God.]
Here we see what man’s relationship with God had become. Whereas before, there was no strain in man’s relationship with God; now they hide from him. By rebelling against God, man broke the right relationship of God over man that existed.
You see, God’s holiness is actually an extremely frightful thing if we’re rebelling against God. His purity condemns our impurity. Habakkuk 1:13 says of God,
“ Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong .” Our sin is an affront to this holy God, and we need protection lest we be consumed in His presence. The prophet Isaiah declared himself ruined when he came before God (Isaiah 6:5), and Ezekiel fell facedown (Ezekiel 1:28). It’s a scary thought to be exposed to God’s holiness in our sinful condition.
B. The Depravity of Man
But back to Adam and Eve. At the time of their rebellion, all of mankind became rebels against God by nature. When Adam and Eve fell, all of mankind fell with them, including us. We see this in Romans 5:12: “
Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin.” All of Adam and Eve’s offspring inherited their sinful nature – that’s everybody. It’s their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, all the way down to us. So this wasn’t just a problem for Adam and Eve. This rebellion against God and our broken relationship with him is the same problem that every human being since them has faced. We’re all infected with sin. Romans 3:23 says, “ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Just like with Adam and Eve, the Bible says that God created us to live in a right relationship with Him. That’s a relationship where He cares for His children, where He speaks to us like a Father, and we listen as His children. But we’ve ruined that relationship. We didn’t listen to God. Instead, we listened to ourselves. We rejected God’s ways and followed our own. We’ve set ourselves up in opposition, declaring our autonomy against God the Father.
You see, this is what sin is. It’s breaking God’s holy law. James 2:10-11 says, “
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”
We’ve all broken God’s holy law. But beyond that, we’ve offended a holy God, the one who stands behind the law. The law was there to show us what God’s like. At the same time, it shows us what we’ve become because we can’t keep it. Romans 3:20 says, “
no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
So we see then that breaking the law is not an abstract offense distantly removed from our relationship with God, but it’s very personal. We’re all rebels who have broken our relationship with God.
But there are lots of people who share the gospel without going here first. They might present the basic problem as the fact that we are out of God’s wonderful plan. Or we are living a meaningless existence. Or they may present the problem as the fact that this world is broken. But Two Ways to Live goes right for this issue of sin. Why do you think it’s important to talk about sin as a personal offense against a holy God? [You may want to play devil’s advocate a bit to make the class really think about this.]
A few minutes ago, I didn’t just talk about sin, but about original sin—the idea that we are sinful from birth because of Adam’s sin. Is that an important concept to explain whenever you share the gospel? [Answer: no, but it can be really useful because it shows the depth of our problem and explains some of what we see around us.]
Other Questions or Comments?
C. Implications for Evangelism
Okay, let’s stop for a moment and think about this with our evangelism. Is man’s sinfulness an easy thing for our non-Christian friends to grasp? Do you think most people believe this? Why or why not?
While most people will admit they’re not perfect, they usually come from the angle that it’s a question of making a mistake or not, rather than sinning against a holy God. This is because many people think they’re basically good, born innocent, and just trying to do the right thing. We like to think of ourselves as good. We identify with the good guys and not the bad guys, don’t we? But this makes it all the harder to explain this part of the gospel.
If you’re telling an unbelieving friend this part of the gospel, he or she is likely to dismiss it. Either they don’t want to think about it, which is just more evidence of having a sinful nature, or they’re not convinced from their own worldview. So how do we help our unbelieving friends see that we’re all sinful by nature and rebellious against a good King and Ruler?
Well, ultimately God has to supernaturally work in the person’s heart, but we’re responsible for telling the gospel message as clearly, accurately, and helpfully as we can. So to that end, there are many things that we can point at to help clarify man’s depravity. Let me give you five.
Look at Children - Point them to children…particularly if they’re parents! Psalm 51:5 says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (And this was David speaking, the one described as “a man after God’s own heart.”)
Although children are very cute, children are born very corrupt. They have an inherent self-centeredness. You didn’t have to teach little Johnny to be selfish, did you? Or little Suzy to hit others? Anyone who has ever raised a child will probably understand that the child’s natural inclination is to serve himself and fight for what he wants. With care and grace, you might talk about this when your friends tell stories of their own disobedient children.
Look at the World – Point them to the world around them. As we’ve already said, most everyone agrees that the world is not right. There’s too much hate. There’s too much injustice. There’s too much selfishness. There’s too much greed. Yes, that’s right. That’s because the world is full of people, people do these things, and people are naturally sinful. Talk about current events and ask why that CEO decided to falsify the financial statements and misappropriate the company’s assets? Or why that man murdered that person?
The reason there are problems in the world trace back to the first sin committed by man. In Genesis 3 after Adam’s sin, God curses the ground so that it will be difficult to produce fruit and declares that death is now man’s destiny. Sickness, natural disasters, wars, and famine in the world can all be traced back to man’s sinfulness.
Look at Your Life – Point them to examine their own life, hoping they’ll see their own rebellion against God. Why do they choose to do things they know are wrong? Have they ever lied or cheated or stolen or hated? Why did they do that? These are just symptoms of something that is more fundamental to who we are. It’s like a tree that bears bad fruit. It’s the sap, or life, of the tree that needs to be changed, not the external fruit. The Apostle Paul was right when he declared, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Rom. 7:18).
And when making the case that this person you’re speaking with is sinful, also make sure that you include yourself in that indictment. Feel free to expose some of the sin in your own heart. This will actually serve to breakdown barriers that may be up and will invite further conversation and sharing.
Look at God – When asked to “look at themselves,” people will undoubtedly compare themselves to other people. Challenge them to compare themselves to God. When they see who God is, they will be better able to see who they are. They might feel like they’re not all that bad, but that’s because they haven’t understood how holy, blameless, and morally pure God is. They need to understand that God demands perfect obedience to His law. He is a holy, holy, holy God (Isaiah 6:3).
Look at the Bible – The Bible is where God’s law is found. We can also help our unbelieving friends to “look at themselves” by holding up God’s law to their lives like a mirror. Does God think they’re okay? Walk them through the Ten Commandments to see whether or not they meet his standards. After that, walk them through the Sermon on the Mount to see the far-reaching extent of those commands and what it means to keep them perfectly.
At this point, many people will object that our good deeds will outweigh our evil deeds if called to account, but that’s not how God judges sin. Once sin is committed there’s no amount of good works that will fix it, at least from sinfully depraved people. This is where Christ comes in, which will get to in a couple more weeks, Lord willing.
[At this point, have the class practice a bit. Have them split up into pairs and share the first two cells of Two Ways to Live with each other—and then ask some questions that a non-Christian might often ask. Explain that if you’re not a Christian, that’s just fine—you can participate just the same.]
In conclusion, let me summarize what we talked about today and give some final thoughts.
The clear biblical picture is one of man in a natural state of sin and rebellion against God. Sadly, there are naturally no “good” people. This is a difficult message to get across in today’s inclusive, tolerant, and pluralistic culture.
So Christianity, similar to other religions, recognizes that there is a grave problem with the world we live in. Something has gone terribly wrong.
But, Christianity does not fundamentally understand the problem to be an economic, political, or social. It’s not even a problem that can be solved by realizing our true inner potential. Christianity is very clear that there is a problem between God and man. The problem is that we are in spiritual rebellion. We fundamentally want to live our own way, not God’s way, and so we’re at enmity with God. The nature of this rebellion is what the Bible calls
sin. And human history from Adam and Eve onwards details the disastrous consequences of our rebellion, and God’s plan to make right what man has made terribly wrong.
Next week, we’ll plan to consider the effects of man’s sin. We’ll see that man’s problem is not simply that we’re at enmity with God, but that there are consequences for our rebellion. God won’t let our rebellion persist indefinitely. But praise God that He has given us a remedy through Jesus Christ in this gospel that we continue to learn about.
So keep trying to familiarize yourself with the Two Ways to Live gospel outline and try to memorize the scripture verses – one a week. The two we’ve done already are Revelation 4:11 and Romans 3:10-12.
Questions or Comments?
Depravity of Man
People may think that they’re free to do whatever they want. And in a sense they’re right. But that’s not the issue. As slaves to sin, they’re free to do what they want, but they don’t have the ability to want what is good. An example of this is an alcoholic or a crack addict. These people are free to do what they want, but the problem is that their wants, their desires, are to do the very things that destroy them. They’re not free. Rather, they’re enslaved.
In the words of Jesus, we love darkness (John 3:19). We can do whatever we want, but by nature we want to reject God. By nature, we are dead in our sins. So remind your friends that though they may feel free, their sinful desires make them slaves unless God intervenes.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.,  Preaching the Cross, p. 81, “As a result, most Americans believe that their major problem is something that has happened to them, and that their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe that they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution. What the gospel says, however, is that we have an inner problem that demands and alien solution – a righteousness that is not our own.” Augustine,  The Confessions of Saint Augustine, p. 28, “Yet, I lusted to thieve, and did it, compelled by no hunger, nor poverty, but through a cloyedness of welldoing, and a pamperedness of iniquity. For I stole that, of which I had enough, and much better. Nor cared I to enjoy what I stole, but joyed in the theft and sin itself. A pear tree there was near our vineyard, laden with fruit, tempting neither for colour nor taste. To shake and rob this, some lewd young fellows of us went, late one night…and took huge loads, not for our eating, but to fling to the very hogs, having only tasted them. And this, but to do, what we liked only, because it was misliked. Behold my heart, O God, behold my heart, which Thou hadst pity upon in the bottom of the bottomless pit. Now, behold let my heart tell Thee, what it sought there, that I should be gratuitously evil, having no temptation to ill, but the ill itself. It was foul, and I loved it; I loved to perish, I loved fault itself.”