As Josh Duggar’s sexual sins and addiction continue to unfold in the news, let it serve as a wake up call for every man, woman, and child. While most of us aren’t celebrities like Josh, each of us needs to understand how total depravity impacts us.
Forgetting the Christian doctrine of total depravity, we minimize our sins, and the grace that Christ offers us.
Without a working knowledge of total depravity, you can’t appreciate the gravity of sinning against God, or the cumulative effect of sins.
Consider this example, a young boy accidentally finds pornography. The porn appeals to his natural tendencies to lust. He knows he shouldn’t continue to look, but he does. As he leaves he carefully replaces the porn where he found it, planning to return again.
Once the boy returns to the hidden stash of porn, he develops a habit quickly. The pornography appeals to his brain like nothing he has ever experienced. Little does he know that porn hits the pleasure center of his brain with the three times the power of morphine.
As he repeats the habit of viewing porn, the boy develops a compulsion. With masturbation, he reinforces his carnal desire to view porn. At this point the young man has a psychological dependency. He sees himself and others through the filter of pornographic sexuality. He increasingly medicates his stress with fantasy, masturbation, and pornography.
No longer an isolated event, the boy has moved to the final stage, addiction. His condition is increasingly neurological, and his personality is changing. His neural pathways, brain chemistry, and function runs on the interior chemical reactions he has to sexual stimuli.
Sadly, it’s easy to see how any child exposed to pornography is likely to develop sex addiction over time. Repeat a behavior, it becomes a habit. Repeat a habit, it becomes a compulsion. Repeat a compulsion, and it becomes an addiction.
“My Utmost for His Highest” was one of my earliest discoveries into understanding total depravity. In his devotional, Acquaintance with Grief, Oswald Chambers wrote:
“At the beginning of life we do not reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin. We take a rational view of life and say that a man by controlling his instincts, and by educating himself, can produce a life which will slowly evolve into the life of God. Bus as we go on, we find the presence of something which we have not taken into consideration, viz., sin, and it upsets all our calculations. Sin has made the basis of things wild and not rational. We have to recognize that sin is a fact, not a defect; sin is red-handed mutiny against God. Either God or sin much die in my life.”
“Wild and not rational” not only describes the human nature and our proneness toward sin, but it describes addiction, also.
A heartfelt understanding of total depravity paves the way for accepting God’s grace. Rather than the doldrums of ‘sin management,’ we’re free to revel in God’s love. There, we find his love is superior to all others, including the false intimacies of porn, sexting, and affairs.
Even though God’s love is superior, and we find our deepest satisfaction in him, total depravity continues with each mortal heart beat. Both the new convert and the old disciple know that indwelling sin remains.
“O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson
Staying mindful of our total depravity, our spiritual radar is more sensitive to those moments when we begin to stray. This sober mindset understands that smaller sins become bigger sins through repetition.
More than knowing right from wrong, an experiential knowledge of total depravity may increase our dependence on the Holy Spirit. This maturing of our faith occurs incrementally and experientially, from the moment of our conversation (positional sanctification in Christ) to the ongoing and last breath of our progressive sanctification (relational sanctification in the Holy Spirit).
As I continue to post about what we can learn from Josh Duggar’s circumstances, I hope you will pray with me for Josh and his family. None of us need gloat about Josh’s failures. The doctrine of total depravity reminds us all that our only hope is in the transforming grace of Christ.
As always, I invite you to interact with me for the good of the Christian community.