“The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)
The question has been debated for ages… Are people intrinsically good… or bad?
The Psalmist answers the question assertively. He captures the Heart of God and gives us an indispensable understanding – the right starting place, if we are ever going to find the fullness of life that God offers us.
From God’s viewpoint, we were created “good.” Very good, in fact. Perfect physical and spiritual reflections of the Almighty Himself.
But then, things went south. Way south… In no time flat.
Sin entered the mix and did more than just separate us from God… Sin corrupted us. Spoiled us. Defiled us. Beyond repair. In an instant, sin turned us from intrinsically good… to bad – from being perfect reflections of God’s image into self-centered, self-absorbed creatures who seek to establish and elevate our own image.
The Bible calls this… wickedness.
In the New Testament, the apostle begins with these same words, from the Psalmist, and paints the picture of our sorry state before God…
Even worse, is that the Bible tells us that, ever since that first sin, this “wickedness” has been passed down from person to person, generation to generation. We are (at our core) seeking our own ways, and our own good. We are inherently… self-centered.
As anyone who understands about the nature of recovery knows, we must start with accepting the bad news before we can ever get to the good. This is what God wants us to understand. We are not just “off a tick” in need of some tweaks. We are a shambles, in need of a complete and utter makeover.
In fact, we are in such a mess that there is no way to fix what we have become. We ARE broken, beyond repair. It is our natural and inescapable state.
But God did something amazing… He decided to make us new. He made a way for us to leave the old utterly-broken self behind us… and to BE a brand new creation.
The message of the gospel is that we cannot save ourselves. We cannot fix ourselves. God will not even fix our old broken selves.
But He doesn’t have to fix us. Jesus came to make the way for each of us to die so that we could live again. Through Jesus, we die to the old person (the messed-up hot mess we were) and are “born” into a whole new way of living… AS a whole new person, with a new heart and new abilities. This is the essence of what it means to be born again.
As a baby leaves behind one realm of existence and is birthed into a new realm… so it is with us. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) Upon receiving what Jesus has done for us… we are immediately “born” anew.
Different reality. Different heritage. Different way of doing things. Different power at work within us. Different results to what we do.
All because we have given up on the notion that we are good… and just need a few improvements (or better motivations)… We have realized the hopelessness of our own efforts at being good (at pleasing God) and simply trust in the One Whose efforts were perfect and Whose sacrifice (on our behalf) pleased God… forever!
The Psalmist reminds us of one other real effect of a perpetual trust in God… “God is present in the company of the righteous.” (14:5)
The New Testament promises one better… “God is the Present of the company of the righteous.” When we receive Him, we receive everything that His Presence brings to our lives. Him in us, working through us – being the only good that truly matters.