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by Dr. C. L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, October 17, 2015

“They are all under sin” (Romans 3:9).

The human race is “under sin.” The Bible says this many times. It says we are “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). We are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). The Apostle Paul wrote, “sin...dwelleth in me” (Romans 7:20). We are all in a terrible condition. You are in a terrible condition.

This condition is called total depravity. Everyone is totally depraved. You are totally depraved. Tonight we’re going to look at what total depravity is not, and then at what it is.

I. First, what total depravity is not.

Total depravity is not the same as the individual sins you have committed. Make no mistake – you have done many sins, and they are terrible. The Bible says, “sin is the transgression [the breaking] of the law” (I John 3:4). When you break God’s law, you sin.

When God says not to do something and you do it, you sin. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness [thou shalt not lie]” (Exodus 20:16). You know you shouldn’t lie, but you do it anyway. You sin against God. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15). When you steal you sin against God.

When God says to do something and you don’t do it, you sin. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). Yet you lived for years as though God were not important. Every time you missed church on Sunday, you broke that commandment. You sinned.

The Bible says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). And Jesus said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Every time you look at pornography on your computer, you commit that horrible sin.

The Bible says, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12). It doesn’t say to honor them if they’re Christians, or if they’re right on everything – it just says to honor them. Every time you break that commandment, you sin. There are some of you here tonight who actually hate your father or your mother. That is a terrible sin.

You have a long, horrible record of sins. That record will condemn you at the Last Judgment. The Bible says everything you do, say and think is written down in God’s records – God’s “books.” At the Last Judgment, “the dead [will be] judged out of those things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). You will stand before God. The record of your life will be read out in front of everyone. The Bible says, “the fearful [too afraid of what people would say], and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers [Greek pornois, those who look at pornography, or have sex outside of marriage], and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars [everyone who tells a lie – have you lied?] shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8). You will be ashamed of yourself. You will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

It will not help you to say that you’re as good as most people. It will not help you to say you’re a “nice person.” You know that you’re a sinner. God knows it too. It will not help you to say that someone else is worse than you. Both of you will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

It will not help you to give up some sins or try to be a better person. Your sins from the past are already in God’s books. Even if you never sinned again, you would go to the Lake of Fire for what you have already done. It will not help you to say that you could have been worse. You have already been bad enough. You are in terrible trouble, and you can’t do anything to escape.

The record of your sins is horrible. But that is not what “total depravity” means. Your record of sins is nothing compared to the evil and horror of your sin nature. Out of your sinful nature come the bad things that you do. Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within” (Mark 7:21-23). The word “within” means “inside.” This verse is talking about the way you are inside. You don’t just do bad things, you are bad. You do bad things because you are bad. You don’t just do sins, you are sinful. You do sins because you are sinful. Out of what you are come the things you do. And this brings us to the next point.

II. Second, what total depravity is.

Total depravity refers to the way you are. It means that you are sinful and corrupt inside. That’s why you did the things you did. It came out of your nature. The Bible says you are “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). That’s the way you are. You inherited this nature from your first father Adam. He sinned, and passed down sin to the whole human race, down to your parents and then down to you. That’s why the Psalmist wrote, “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Now you are a sinner. That’s all you are. That’s all you ever will be. That’s all you ever can be.

Total depravity means that you are in a permanent state of sin and you can’t get out of it. The Bible says that you are “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). You are “dead in trespasses and sins.” Our text says that you are “under sin” (Romans 3:9). You are in bondage to sin. Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant [Greek doulos, slave] of sin” (John 8:34). The Apostle Paul said that you are “servants [slaves] of sin” (Romans 6:20). You are not a child of God. You belong to the Devil. You are in the “the snare of the devil ...taken captive by him at his will” (II Timothy 2:26).

In your heart, in your center, you are an enemy of God. The Bible says so. It says, “The carnal [unconverted] mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). That’s why you are selfish. That’s why you resist doing what God wants, and inside you want to do something else. Even if you don’t say anything out loud, you resist on the inside, because in your heart you’re an enemy of God. You are against God.

You cannot understand spiritual things, even if you try. The Bible says, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14). That’s why there’s no point in asking, “How do I trust Jesus?” It isn’t something you can learn!

Your thoughts and imaginations are wrong. The Bible says, “The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). Your thoughts are evil, too. That’s the way you are inside, and you can’t do anything to change that.

You cannot change yourself or make yourself be good. The Bible says you can’t! It says the lost person “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). You can’t be good. You have tried and failed. You have failed again and again. And you will always fail.

You cannot change your nature – the way you are inside. The Bible says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). You can’t change your skin. The leopard can’t change his spots. And you can’t get rid of your evil nature. Job said, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4). You can’t change yourself from unclean to clean. Try it! You’ll soon find out that you stay dirty after all.

Let me ask you a question. Can you stop being human? Can you change, so that you are no longer a human being? Of course you can’t! But all human beings are sinners! The Bible says, “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). The Bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Since you can’t stop being human, you can’t stop being a sinner. You can’t change your sinful, depraved nature. You have no hope in yourself.

You cannot do anything to please God. The Bible makes that very clear. It says, “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). “In the flesh” simply refers to lost people. If you are lost, there is nothing you can do to please God – to make Him happy with you. Even your so-called good deeds or religious works don’t please God. The Bible says, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). You may think you can please God, or say you can – but God says you can’t! Is God right or is He wrong? When you try to be right with God by learning, or trying to be better, you’re saying that God is wrong. And you will fail again and again. You can never do anything that will please God.

You cannot learn anything that will get yourself saved. Again, that’s why there’s no point in asking, “But how do I trust Jesus?” Learning something won’t help you. Learning something won’t change your nature. Jesus said to lost people like you, “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word” (John 8:43). Again, Christ said, “He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:47).

You cannot by your efforts come to Christ or trust Him. Jesus Himself said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). I didn’t say that – Jesus Christ said it! You can try to make yourself be saved – but you will fail. You can try to learn the right words. You can look for this feeling or that feeling – or no feeling at all. And you’ll never get anywhere. You won’t be converted – because you can’t convert yourself! You’re dead. You’re evil inside. How could you convert yourself? You can’t.

As a lost sinner, you are “dead to God” – completely sinful and hopeless. You are not capable of salvation. You can’t make your own conversion happen. You are dead to God. You are “dead in sins.” You may try to not think about your sinfulness, but it is still there. God still sees it, whether you want to or not. God is angry with your sin. God is disgusted with your sin. One girl wrote, “I was disgusted with myself.” And you should be too. If you aren’t, it means you’re not awakened to the truth.

What is the answer? In you, there is no answer and there never will be! “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). You must have Christ! Only the blood of Christ can “[cleanse you] from all sin” (I John 1:7). Your dillying and dallying will get you nowhere – except Hell. Your questioning will get you nowhere – except Hell. Your wondering and trying will get you nowhere – except Hell. You have no hope.

You must have Christ! You must have His Blood! You must have the mercy of God to draw you to Christ. You cannot save yourself. You must have Christ! Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Is that true or isn’t it? Do you believe it or don’t you? Jesus said you cannot come to God except through Him – Christ Himself! There is no other way, no other truth, no other life! You’ve tried the other things and failed. There’s nothing there. You’ve got to have Christ! Christ! Jesus Christ Himself! Christ! You’ve got to have your sin pardoned by the Blood of Christ! Blood! Blood! Blood! You must have Christ! Christ! Christ! Amen.

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by Dr. C. L. Cagan

“They are all under sin” (Romans 3:9).

(Ephesians 2:5, 1; Romans 7:20)

I.   First, what total depravity is not, I John 3:4; Exodus 20:16, 15;
Matthew 22:37; Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:28; Exodus 20:12;
Revelation 20:12; 21:8; Mark 7:21-13.

II.  Second, what total depravity is, Ephesians 2:3; Psalm 51:5;
Ephesians 2:5; Romans 3:9; John 8:34; Romans 6:20;
II Timothy 2:26; Romans 8:7; I Corinthians 2:14; Genesis 8:21;
Romans 8:7; Jeremiah 13:23; Job 14:4; Romans 3:23, 10; 8:8;
Isaiah 64:6; John 8:43, 47; 6:44; Jonah 2:9; I John 5:7; John 14:6.