The point is not really or universally grasped by many professed believers. We are not only in need of a degree help, but outright deliverance from self, and a recreated nature. We must come to realize that we are inherently hostile to God. This radical insight needs strong emphasis for our realization of the need of a Saviour – not just a helping hand but a new heart or regeneration that alters the whole orientation of our core being. Generally, gospel preaching is too superficial. We are armed and defiant towards God. We have no capacity to turn to him, love him, or trust him. We credit man with a goodness and ability he does not possess. We flatter him with what he can do to prepare for salvation. Our helplessness and dependence upon God is total. Our need of grace is urgent. Our natural state is perilous. Our estimate of the powers of the human will sedates us into carelessness and ambivalence about the wellbeing of the soul. We may concede the bias of the will to sin but not candidly acknowledge its bondage to Satan and our own evil inclinations and preferences determined by our fallen nature.
Our hearts, by nature, are loaded with enmity towards God. That is a barrier to repentance and return that we cannot choose to surmount. Grace-as-disposition must be granted to us as Thomas Aquinas admits. When we share that admission concerning ourselves by the grace of God we have no alternative but to resort to prayer. How many Christians know and confess in their hearts that they do not have needs alone that God can meet but an antipathy to God that only he can tame and reverse. Look at Paul’s estimate of the natural man: Those who live according to the sinful nature (all of us) have their minds set (fixed, cemented) on what that nature desires (our natural disposition which only God can change) . . . . The mind of sinful man (comprehending all our faculties and leanings) is death (helpless and unresponsive to God) . . . . the sinful mind is hostile to God (our attitude from birth bereft of righteousness). It does not submit to God’s law (rebellious), nor can it do so (inability through the overpowering of sinful choice – no alternative but servitude to self and Satan). Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (attract him, gain his approval, or comply with his nature). This Pauline description of man devoid of grace rarely reaches the pulpit if popularity and prosperity are the central aims of ministry. How many of the “converted” are willing to concede that they are hostile to God and not just in need of his help? Where is this spur to humility and contrition nowadays?
Given that portrayal of human nature we cannot be shocked by the assertion that the world hates Jesus Christ and the evidence is mounting daily from every quarter from the wise, the powerful, the religious, and the irreligious (as we would expect).
Cultures, for all their differences, are coalescing in this hostility to God and his truth. Who knows what imposed and received “orthodoxies” (scientific, ideological, etc) are reliable and in accord with reality? We have a plethora of information, expert advice and opinion, but where is truth in this world hostile to God? With what lies and delusions is mankind influenced through the god of this world? Man hates God and that subjective stance skews the way he sees and represents things. Dubious evidence for what man wants to believe crops up everywhere and in every discipline. Daily life in humble fellowship with God is our only sure option as we make our way through the maze of ideas and opinions where the experts are so certain and yet in constant contradiction of their colleagues of equal repute.
Prior to regeneration there is hatred for Christ. Without regeneration that hostility is rabid even if restrained by common grace.
We are not reaching out to a world that is keen to know the Lord Jesus but a world where he would be killed once again as when he came to us in the Incarnation. Listen to the great ones of the earth in their arrogance against him. Hear the proud words of the framers of contemporary opinion. Mankind is geared for war with God. Our concern for sinners must be sincere but not sentimental. Sentimentality, as creeping as kudzu, is strangling the Church and choking its witness. What greeted the Lord Jesus at his advent among those warned to welcome him by countless prophetic utterances? The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). Hostility and fierce opposition were awaiting the Saviour at his birth. Everyone who does evil hates the light (John 3: 20). The Light has come into the world but Satan and his servants have always striven to violently, but vainly, extinguish it.
Jesus knew that he was in a world that despised him. At the early stages of his ministry Jesus told the disciples, not yet notorious through knowing him, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil” (John 7:7). The antipathy directed at our Redeemer was evidence of human distaste for the Father represented by the Son. “He who hates me hates my Father as well” (John 15:23). Human nature is averse to God comprehensively. It opposes the Father, attacks the Son, and resists the Spirit. It can only be conquered and pacified by omnipotent grace. In the meantime the human spirit is filled with malice and driven by viciousness towards God. This is our incentive for crying, “Repent”, knowing that only God can grant it: When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).
So if the Lord Jesus was so vehemently hated why should we be immune to such contempt and cruelty as was meted out to him? If they see his resemblance in us they will hate us too, and life will be a battlefield. As Jesus remarked when the disciples were clearly identified as his followers, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). And John himself, taking the words of Christ to heart, both warns and comforts us with his observation, confirmed by his own experience, “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).
Christian proclamation needs to be honest and forthright for our relationship with God to be authentic and effective. Our hearts were once alienated from him, and not just by indifference or occasional wrongdoing, but through plain and inexcusable hatred for him and his holiness. How can a fallen, enslaved, and captive nature will holiness and desire the holy One? We are enemies that have been won to surrender through irresistible divine love. We have been caused willingly to lay down our arms with which we fight and fend off the Lord. And now we live in alien territory surrounded by foes, and we are engaged in combat ceaselessly. The world that hates Jesus hates us and we should not relax our guard.