Dear brothers and sisters,

‘In sin did my mother conceive me.’ (Psalm 51:5)

This Sunday we continue our series ‘Songs of the King’ with Psalm 51 which King David sings after his adultery with Bathsheba. I am so grateful to John Mason who will be teaching us and look forward to learning from this extraordinary part of God’s word.*

The Psalm contains one of the most confronting admissions by a human being ever spoken: ‘in sin did my mother conceive me.’ And what David says of himself, he says for all of us as human beings. None of us is born innocent. In fact the very opposite is true. Because of the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, all of us began our existence in our mother’s wombs as God-defying sinners.

Article 9 in the Anglican 39 Articles puts the Bible’s teaching accurately: man ‘is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh [our fallen human nature] lusts always contrary to the Spirit.’ And it is not as if becoming Christians means the end of this disease: ‘this infection of nature remains even in them that are regenerated.’

We know it to be true in our own daily experience. Our default desires are not to please God our creator but to please ourselves at his expense and others’. This is reflected in what we pray in confession: ‘we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, we have offended against your holy laws, we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.’ It isn’t that we just do sinful things from time to time. We are born with this evil, sinful nature from which our wicked actions and inactions constantly and inevitably arise.

The Lord Jesus diagnoses our human disease with such stark honesty: ‘from within out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.’ (Mark 7:21-22)

This truth is what is termed ‘original sin’ or ‘birth sin’.

It is no surprise that this assessment of what we are really like is not exactly popular! I was once at a second-hand bookstall at the Salamanca Market in Hobart where I came across a book critiquing ‘original sin’ and its impact on the Western psyche. The bookstall owner saw me flicking through its pages and began to tell me about it. He said it was about this ‘crazy’ idea in Christianity that we are born evil, how the idea has done so much damage to society for centuries, and how (shockingly!) there are even some people who still believe it today. You can imagine the awkwardness as I admitted that I not only believed it myself but thought it was vital to a proper understanding of ourselves and our world.

It is not popular. But it is vital. It is only as we realise our utter wickedness by nature that we will ever begin to appreciate the unimaginable wonder of God’s undeserved intervention in our lives through his Son’s sin-cleansing blood and his Spirit’s life-giving rebirth. Praise him for his amazing grace!

Your brother in Christ,

*John and Judy are members of St Thomas’ and normally attend the 10am service. Prior to being part of our fellowship John was the Rector of a number of churches here in Australia (St Matthew’s Wanniassa in Canberra and St Clement’s Mosman) and also in the USA (Christ Church New York City). John continues to serve as the Chairman of the Anglican Connectiona network of gospel-centred Anglican churches in America.