Denny, my brother,
I must concur with what Jeff has said regarding the fear for your soul. What you are saying is directly opposite the truth of Scripture and does indeed have a profound impact on how you understand what it means to be justified by faith alone. You have rightly, I think, sensed that this is not minor disagreement but goes to the heart of the Christian religion, that is, how may we be reconciled to God?
The first way is by believing that it is populated by people who are sinners by nature. I now believe that the consequences of this belief cannot help but take its toll in our attitude and respect towards our God, our neighbors or ourselves.
Will you please show how this is? This indeed seems to be what Paul believed, for example, per Rom. 3. And what effect did it have on his attitude and respect toward God, his neighbors, and himself? We are all sinners, born in sin, deserving the wrath of God. We are all in the same boat! But God, being rich in mercy, has determined to love and to save some of these poor sinners in spite of them being enemies toward Him. And these He also conforms to the image of His Son.
The second way is by looking at our world as being populated by people who are sinners by an oppressive administration of deceit and evil. There is no truth in it but the truth of our spiritual need which the world deceitfully provides at the expense of our own ignorance. A world where all men cry out like lost dogs, without a master for food and discipline. Many even regress to becoming unpardonable spiritual or literal wolves. A world where nature itself does not care, with a single tear, whether someone lives or dies forever. All of this except by the grace of God.
Denny, sin lies within each and every man.
Gen. 6:5: "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. "
Ps. 51:5: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me."
Mark 7:20-23: "And He was saying, 'That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.'"
Rom. 3:9-18: "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.' 'Their throat is an open grace, with their tongues they keep deceiving,' 'the poison of asps is under their lips'; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness'; 'their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known.' 'There is no fear of God before their eyes.'"
Eph. 2:1-3: "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."
When I first heard and believed the Biblical doctrine of Justification by Faith (in the work of Christ) Alone, my knees nearly buckled with joy. I now believe my joy was so intense,... that I soon believed if the Reformed could show me this absolutely liberating truth they could do no wrong elsewhere. This was my idolatry.
I do not see that Reformed theology has done wrong here, my friend. Indeed, were it not for the truth of Total Depravity which was the one thing I knew to be true, I would not count myself Reformed today.
Kyle, please pray for me.
I will, brother.