(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
Our description of man has led us into a gloomy pit. How difficult we find it to face the truth we have uncovered! As we look up, however, a comforting shaft of light pierces the darkness. It is the promised way of escape.
But before observing this way of escape, let us take one more look around.
There is a reason why so many people are unhappy, why there is so much conflict between individuals. Isaiah pinpointed the trouble long ago: “We have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isa. 53:6).
You like your own ideas, plans, aspirations, and longings. So does everyone else. Thus when a man encounters resistance to his wishes, or faces demands that are not to his liking, he tends to rebel, to attack, to run, or to defend himself. His natural reaction is to be resentful, bitter, stubborn, full of fight. It is easy for a person to think that his own desires are the reasonable ones. He will find a way to make a selfish drive seem selfless, deceiving even himself.
Furthermore, it is natural to shrink away from a glimpse of oneself. To back off from reproof is as human as shielding the eyes from a burst of light in a dark room. Again, Jeremiah’s assessment of the heart, that it is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9), and Jesus’ statement that men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19) are as up to date as the literature on psychology that describes the mental mechanics for evading the truth.
The patterns of deceit and self-defense are so systematized that their names are common dictionary words. We have considered rationalization, regression, suppression, repression, extroversion, introversion, compartmental thinking, and projection–-some of the more common ways of turning from the truth about oneself. To peer further into the darkness, such avenues can lead to psychoses requiring hospitalization–-or to broken homes, crime, vice, or even murder or suicide.
Such is the heart of man. One shudders to contemplate its potential for evil. The Bible and literature on psychology alike paint this oppressive picture.
Scripture’s Accurate Diagnosis
But, as already mentioned, there is hope. Since in this presentation we are looking to the Bible as our guide, we can turn to it not only for a description of man as he naturally is, but for the path away from our disturbances, neuroses, and psychoses and to peace.
“Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble,” said the psalmist in Psalm 119:165. Is this possible?
Many persons turn to a counselor for help because they are in circumstances that offend them or have caused them to stumble. They are dissatisfied, irritated, unhappy. Either they flee from the vexing situation or attack it. One would think that people would rush to buy a book that pointed out the path to peace and freedom from offense. People do buy it by the millions every year. The Bible continues to be the all-time bestseller. But it is a Book that most persons quickly lay aside.
Though man’s hope lies in God and His Word, many people quickly turn aside from the Bible because it reproves and corrects. Man simply does not like the truth about himself that he finds in God’s Word.
Churches are criticized because their ministers upset people when they preach about the sinfulness of man and the inflexible standards of the Bible. Once I had a long conversation with a fellow counselor about the value of “deeper life” conferences, in which the details of the ideal Christian life are discussed. He felt very strongly against this type of conference. He believed it did irreparable damage because after such a conference a wave of very upset people came to him. That they could not attain perfection greatly disturbed them.
People have often turned to me as a counselor because their pastor has upset them. Having listened to him preach about sin, they feel guilty and inadequate. As they relate the details of their stories, it invariably turns out that they were much happier people before they began attending church and studying the Bible. Therefore, could it not be reasonable to conclude that their problems were caused by what they heard and read? To remove the cause would seem to relieve the person’s anxiety. And this has long been advocated. There is wide spread pressure on ministers to preach “positive” messages and to emphasize the good in man.
Wait just a minute, though. Perhaps a look at the methods of other professions may help you understand the value of pointing out the “bad,” the evil, the negative.