What can man do?

For centuries, Christians have debated what part man has in his salvation. Can he repent and believe on his own? Or does he have to be enabled by God before he can respond? From man’s viewpoint, every Christian can say that he has responded. Having realized his sinfulness before God, he turned to God for forgiveness through the blood of Christ. If you are a believer today, you have “done” what it takes to be saved. But where did those actions come from? Why was it that you believed? Was it something you accomplished by yourself? Is it something anybody can do? A look at the following verses should answer those questions.

Sinful man does not seek God (Rom. 3:10-12; Eph. 2:1-3).

Last weekend, I helped a lady from Pittsburgh with an overheated car. She was happy to have someone who could give her advice on what to do. After pushing the car to a nearby parking lot, she called AAA on the phone. She did that because she needed someone to tow her car to a repair shop. Without that help, she would be stuck with a dead car.

The Bible tells us that without the Lord Jesus Christ, every person is spiritually dead in his sins. That means that people who have not yet been born again are unable to have a relationship with God. They do not understand their sinfulness or their need to turn to God from their sins. Is that really true? Yes, everybody is sinful and none ever seeks God’s help on his own. Instead, every sinner continues in his sin without any hope in himself. The lady with the broken down car asked for help, but sinful man doesn’t do that.

Sinful man is deceived (Prov. 14:12).

Have you ever gotten lost while traveling? It isn’t very difficult to do. If you don’t have a map, you could travel in the opposite direction without knowing it. While traveling with a college team, I asked one of the team members to be my navigator. After looking at the map, she told me which direction to go. But after several hours, I began to feel uneasy. Where were we? After pulling over and consulting the map, I found that we had been driving the wrong way.

Every person in life is born with a sinful nature. Some are worse than others, but all are traveling the wrong way—away from God. Because of our sinful nature, all people naturally want to do what pleases himself instead of what pleases God. What makes things worse is the fact that sinful man does not know that he is walking away from God. He may think that he is going the right direction, but in the end he will see that he is headed for destruction.

Sinful man cannot please God (Prov. 15:8).

Is this really the case? There must be some people who do what is right. No, the Bible makes it clear that even the nice things done by sinful people are an abomination to him. That means that he hates what they do. It is disgusting to him.

The newspaper recently reported that a man broke into an Eastlake home and cut up and killed several kittens. That was a very strange and unkind thing to do. The children who owned the kittens are very sad now. But what would happen if the man who killed their kittens sent them a picture of a kitten. Would they be happy with it? No, they would become very angry. Why is that killer sending me a picture of kittens? That would be disgusting.

God views sinners in the same way. He does not look at the good things they do. Instead, he sees their sinfulness. No matter how many times a sinful person walks an old lady across the street, gives money to a church, or mows the grass for a neighbor, God still sees them as a sinner. He is not pleased with even the “good” things they do.

Sinful man deserves Hell (Rev. 20:11-15).

At the end of time, God has prepared a terrible punishment for those who do not turn from their sin. It is called the Great White Throne Judgment. Those who have not turned from their sin to Jesus will be punished for their sins. The Bible tells us that all sinners who have ever lived will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ to be judged for their actions. There will be no hiding on that day. God knows everything everyone has ever done.

Then after looking at a book filled with their sinful actions, another book will be opened—the Book of Life. That book records the names of those who have eternal life. The names of those who have been born again are written on its pages. But those who have refused to turn from their sin and receive Jesus as their Savior—these people will face the greatest punishment ever. They will be cast into the lake of fire to be tormented forever. What a terrible punishment! But it is a punishment that every sinner will face unless God intervenes.


Sinful man is on a crash course headed toward destruction. But there is no hope for him in any ability of his own. He is spiritually dead, deceived, disgusting to God, and doomed. These barriers are impossible for him to overcome by himself. So, he must turn to someone outside himself for help. Are there other men who can help him? No, even the best of us cannot convince an unregenerated man to turn to the truth. But there is someone who can. In fact, there is only one who can help. And that is God.

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