In the first chapter of the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul writes of a very specific, very special problem which permeates every heart that is born into this world. This problem is the ultimate fallacy of human thinking, which leads to the rise of all other bad ideas, conflicts, and struggles.
Not only is this the most foundational issue in the human heart, it is also the one that is most often missed and misunderstood. The reason that this problem is so hard to accurately identify is precisely the reason why it is so effective and powerful in influencing the heart in which it exists.
It is not a problem of this or that wrong action or desire. It is not merely a wrong choice here or a misplaced step there. The problem of which Paul speaks is viral in nature, and it has a leading influence in every aspect of a persons thinking. It is an idea which is burned in the foundation of every persons thinking, which also gives rise to an unimaginably large array of desires, thoughts and actions which point a life in the wrong direction.
And although this idea is so powerful and influential, it most often goes completely undetected in the lives of the billions of people that fill the world. Although a person might philosophize and think on all the different influencing factors in their life, they never really dig down deep enough to expose and uproot this central issue. We don’t see it because it is the very foundation on which we stand as we look out onto the issues of life which surround us.
What is this virus? What is this idea that influences every single other idea that we ever conceive of? What is this foundational presupposition on which we stand? It can be summarized in two simple words: I can.
I can, on my own, understand right from wrong. I can look onto the world that surrounds me and come to my own conclusions. I can live correctly. I can define what it means to live correctly. I can do all these things because I believe that I contain within me the sufficient resources and standard to come to my conclusions and then to build my life on them. I can do these things without any specific instruction from the one who made this world.
I can think independently of the Creator, and I can do it effectively and successfully. I don’t need God for life. Maybe he is out there somewhere. But there is no way of really knowing. And no need. Because I can do it ok on my own.
Looking at the human heart from outside of it, the Bible challenges the heart of the issue: “What makes you so confident in the power and sufficiency for your independence?” You did not choose to be born. You cannot control the weather. You do not control the circumstances that surround you in life. Very often, you cannot even control the emotions and desires welling up in your own heart. Yet you live your entire life as if you can. There is no substantial reasoning to back this sort of life.
And yet we do, and in doing so, we rebel against reason. But more importantly we rebel against God. We rebel against the only one who truly can and does know, sustain and direct all things. This rebellion is the very essence and foundation of sin and the definition of the depth of our need for him to teach us how to think and how to live.
The essence of saving faith in the gospel is to look at this story, and in the person and work of Jesus Christ, understand that he can, and he does, and that without him we are lost. Our understanding of our desperate need to live a life influenced by his Book is to be the fundamental truth that is to replace the lie of ‘I can’.