“If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD.” — Isaiah 26:10
The Bible teaches us that “if favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness”. Yet today, man believes that if we show favor (kindness, good-will, love) to people, that this has power over man’s wickedness and corruption. Man loves this idea, and it’s safe to say that at least 50% of movies and TV shows today carry this central theme. It’s an idea we love the sound of, but it’s just not true. What man fails to understand is that man’s nature is corrupt and evil, and that because of this, man can and will persist in evil, even if good is done to him. Man also does not understand or accept that God is the only one who has power or authority over man, or the sin that is in man, and that even our greatest attempts at morality can often only be an indication of our pride and rebellion against God, rather than of our good-will.
Good and Man’s Evil
Man wants to believe that he has power over the corruption in the world. What God is saying in Isaiah 26:10 is that the simple power of “good-will” towards man, corrupt man, is not enough to overcome his evil. He is showing us that no effort of “good-will” reduces the sin nature that is in man.
Today we believe this idea that the nature within man is flexible, that it can either be good or evil. And that what we do adds to or subtracts from this—that we can create our own nature within us by our actions. Or, similarly, that our nature is created and molded by those around us. We believe in man’s ability to be good. But the Bible teaches us that the nature within man is entirely corrupt. And it is not corrupt because of these two things, or the lack thereof, but because he is fallen, and this nature exists in us from our mother’s womb.
In fact, man is so corrupt that he will seek to use anything for selfish gain, even good things. How do we know this? By looking at how the world today treats God. God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” and yet this doesn’t quell man’s ambition for sin. If this idea of goodness were true, then man would have already stopped sinning because of God’s goodness. The problem in man is that while he wants to believe in his own "goodness", he also wants to disbelieve God's goodness. It is our desire for pride that blinds us to the truth here, not ignorance. This foolish thinking stems from man’s desire, not for good itself, but for his pride: he desires more to believe a lie about himself than he desires God or the truth. And he desires to believe himself to be better than God. If this were not true, man would cast aside these foolish ideas and submit to God’s goodness, at His Word.
Man wants to believe he holds some power and goodness, and in the face of this, he denies his own corruption, and that God alone is good: “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18) He also denies that God alone has any power, especially over sin. “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.” (1 Chron 29:11)
When we trust in these ideas of our goodness having power, we’re believing an idea that appeases our pride, but it’s still simply untrue. Man’s corruption is revealed even at the start of his own desires; not that he seeks for goodness to prevail in the world, but that he does not seek it from God, who is the only one who can accomplish this end. Man’s corruption is revealed in that he doesn’t seek the only One who is good. And rather than truly desiring good, what we actually desire is our own pride—to believe that we are good. This reveals to us that these ideas, though they appear on the surface to desire good, what they really desire, is pride for the self.
“... In the land of uprightness he deals corruptly...” What we see further in Isaiah 26:10 is that the whole world is God’s, and His creation is good, yet man acts corruptly within all this goodness—man is the one who is corrupt. And in his corruption He does evil, even within good.
Man fears evil being outside his ability to understand. He wants control and so he wants to be able to reason in his mind for some understanding over evil. The trouble with this is that man will compromise anything in order to feel this sense of control—even the truth. Man busies himself with formulating ideas and plans on how to control something that is entirely outside of his control. And for all his efforts, He never turns to God. If man truly desired good, then he would turn to God for it. Again this reveals man’s interest is in pride, not in goodness. For man puts off the truth about God and the truth about sin in order to give himself this sense of control.
Since man’s ideas and plans never hold the two essential facts of 1) God, or 2) the sin nature in all of mankind, all of his self-willed plans are based upon ideas that leave him lost to his own pride and desire for control.
In our ideas of “man’s goodness” we expect the powers of evil to submit to our will. In a word, we believe that the goodness we imagine to possess has the authority to command corruption to cease. We don’t usually perceive this, but our actions are largely built upon our arrogance about ourselves. The truth is that only God has the power and authority we imagine ourselves to possess: this reveals our pride and foolishness. It is only God who can command evil to cease, darkness to flee, and righteousness to reign. Man wrongly presumes that he could ever have any of this power, rather than submit to God who alone has this power. All of man’s ideas are built upon this wrong presumption about himself and a denial of God.
It is hard to strip away this life raft of “man’s goodness” that so many of us cling to, but it is necessary in order that we can be truly saved. While the evil in this world does not subside for our plans and ideas about it, we are not without hope. For we are given fully sufficient help by God; He shows us the whole problem of this world: Sin. And He also gives us hope in the midst of it all: God’s salvation.
All of this introduces to us the bad good news. It’s bad because sin is in us, and not something outside of us. It is in us and our fellow man, and not some condition of circumstance. It is not something we have any power or control over. But it’s good news because Christ came to save us; Jesus has conquered sin (1 Cor 15:57), and can truly help us. God is on the scene.
Man Seeks to Be God
Our only true hope is found in God and not in ourselves. If we continue to try to trust in our own goodness, power, and authority, rather than God, we will continue to be dragged down by our own sinful nature.
The morality that exists in the world today is based upon the foundation of these ideas, and man has found shelter from all the evils of the world in them. But it is a shelter built upon the sand, and it will fail those who trust in it.
What we must understand is that the foundation of all morality outside of the Bible is built upon an idea of what man wants to believe is true about himself—but it is only a desire and not a reality. All of it is a form of godliness without any real power (2 Tim 3:5). It is not of pure intentions, but of a corrupt desire for pride and rebellion; one that seeks to be god, rather than submit to the only God. These ideas are the pride in which man enjoys most, and they are entirely dangerous to his soul.
It is only the Bible that teaches us what is true: man's nature is entirely corrupt, and God is the only one who has the power to change man. Man does not perceive the corruption that is in himself, and so he fails just as much to perceive the truth of God’s existence and His unmatchable sovereignty. In man’s blindness he seeks to trust in himself, to worship himself, rather than trust in and worship God alone. No matter what form this takes in the unregenerate man, this is the foundation for all that he does.
“...And does not see the majesty of the Lord.” Isaiah 26:10 teaches us that man is corrupt in nature because he rejects God, all for the desire of his own evil pride. Our nature is revealed as corrupt by the very fact that we do not perceive God’s majesty, and by the truth that we deal treacherously with God, seeking to rob Him of the glory that only belongs to Him. Man’s pride is wicked, and it is the foundation of all he does.
Sin Is Not Rational
Another perhaps equal trust we have today is in our ability to reason with people.
Again, as we walk in this, we do not understand the sin nature that exists in man. We desire to believe in having the ability to reason and rationalize with others, and this makes us feel safe. But again we do not understand what sin is. Sin is an entire corruption of our nature. It is the whole nature within man that is corrupt, not partial, and therefore there is not this residual place within man that has the ability to reason for what is good.
In this case as well, it is only God that can help man. Since man’s nature is entirely corrupt, it the grace of God that can help us. Man does not possess the strength within himself over corruption, either over himself or over others.
When we trust in reasoning, this again reveals to us that we do not understand what we are dealing with: it reveals our foolish presumption about ourselves, our true ignorance about the world around us, and how easily we’ve been tricked into believing ideas that just aren’t true.
As much as man desires to feel this sense of control within his own understanding, this most often gives way to his belief that he can rationalize with others by the very ideas with which he’s chosen to comfort himself, these ideas that give him a sense of control. But as we previously discussed, these ideas most commonly are built upon man’s own thinking, and not upon the truth of God or upon the truth of sin. Therefore these ideas in themselves are no remedy to the corruption in man, they are sugar pills and not medicine. They are only ideas that help people feel a comfort within their pride, but have no true power to treat the real condition.
We see this most commonly in the world, but we also see this happen within the church. Far too many of us continue to trust in our ability to reason with people, even within the pulpit. And again, we fail to understand the true nature that is within man. When we trust in our ability to reason people into righteous living and repentance, we show how truly foolish our own thinking is, and how much of our own pride is left over.
God alone has the ability to save man. To draw man to the truth. To turn him from evil ways. If we do not realize this, then we do not realize the full extent of what the Bible teaches us. The Christian needs to learn how to seek even the salvation of man by God’s power, and not through his own. One of the most common ways we rebel against obedience to this is by seeking to reason with people as the means to them turning from sin. While we do always speak the truth and we do reason, we do not do this to the extent that we trust that reasoning to be the power. We must in all cases trust God alone to be the power to save a soul.
And so it is here that we must address these issues in the church. While the world walks its course in this sin, the church often does as well. How many Christians today continue to walk in this sort of pride and self-effort? It is too common to see in the church, and it is a great stain upon her.
So often as God awakens us to the great wonders of Himself, we mistakenly start to attribute these things to ourselves, and rather than offer up pure obedience to God, and dependence upon God, we begin to misuse the things of God (good things) for our will, desires, ambitions, and plans. And one instance of this is in “man’s goodness”, or this belief of being able to reason people into salvation and righteous living that has entirely infected the church. It is disturbingly common to see many men and women of God seeking to operate in Christian efforts by their own strength, rather than by God’s, by these fallen ideas, rather than by God’s word of truth. Rather than seeking for God to act, to save, doing so by prayer, we are altogether still convinced of ourselves and our “good intentions”.
The church today still does not see her own sin nature, that God alone is good, and that God alone has any power or authority.
Christians often walk into God’s throne room, only by the greatest act of His mercy, and then begin to imagine that they can use the things of God according to their will. What a wicked and evil presumption! Our place before God is in humble submission to Him. Seeking to obey His will and not our own. This does not decrease as we become children of God!
So many Christians are lulled to sleep by this perverse “morality” of the world. Tricked and deceived by it. Thinking it to be good, and therefore permitting themselves to walk in it, and flirt with its idealisms. We must stick closely to Christ, and not be so easily seduced by our own evil desire for pride.
Preacher, do you believe you have the power to reason with man in his sins? Or are you trusting in God, that He alone can do the work of salvation? Are you quite impressed with the little bit of knowledge you yet have? Or are you humble before the Lord?
Christian, what are you doing here believing in these ideas? I think in part it is because you don't yet fully understand what it is that you believe. It is no sin to simply take Jesus by the hand and allow Him to lead you when you do not yet perceive what He is pointing at. But what are you doing playing around with these ideas of the "good" in man, that "rationale" in man? Do you not realize that this hurts your witness, and does not help it? No matter how much you think otherwise. Are you now willing to repent? Christian, believe the truth. And trust in God where you cannot yet see.
When we seek out the things of God, even the salvation of others, by our own strength, this again shows our foolish pride, and shows how we seek to rob God of the glory that only belongs to Him.
Jesus Is the Only Hero
One of the prevailing problems in the church today is where we continue to seek to rob God of what is only His. As God welcomes us into His great wonder and grace, in our corruption, we try to lay hands on these great wonders, to use them for our evil pride and ambition. What terrible wickedness this is.
One of the great areas we can see this in is where we seek to be the hero, rather than bow to Christ, who is the only hero. Often, we try to use the things of God for our own glory, rather than for His. This happens as God shows us wisdom, and deep down we think, “Oh, look how clever I am!” When He fills our hearts with compassion, “Oh, look how wonderful I am!” When He makes us more holy, “Look at me!” In every way that God increases us, sin seeks to abuse His mercies for evil.
As the songs of heroism blaze around us in the world, what is disgusting is that so many Christians also seek to make themselves look heroic. And what is sad is that they can hardly see this because they’re so convinced that what they are doing is good! But Jesus is the only hero. Everyone else is only a pretender. We need to get that. And where our pride seeks out any foothold, in any area, no matter how much our flesh desires it, we need to come against it.
The Gospel of God offends us. It offends us because God tells all of us that our own righteousness—our own goodness and efforts—is entirely worthless. We hate to hear this, but if it is true, as much as we might hate it, is it not evil to continue in rebellion against the truth, all to believe some lie about ourselves? God has provided righteousness for us in His Son. “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matt 11:6) Let us lay down our arms, as hard as it might be to our pride and identity, and turn to the living God through Christ Jesus.
The reality of sin and evil in this world are evident. And the Bible alone gives us the explanation for this: sin. We all have to decide if we are going to seek out God’s help and salvation through Christ, or if we are going to keep seeking out our own will, ideas, and plans. We all must decide whether we will serve the Living God, or the idols of our own making: “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness... And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh 24:14-15)