What a Mess
sin, total depravity, original sin
A year ago over our family, along with my sisters and their families and my parents went to L.A.. We had a wonderful time. As part of our week we took a bus tour of the L.A., Hollywood area. It was one of the best things we did because we were able to see so many things we would not have seen if we had passed on the tour. And one of the best things about the tour was the bus driver. This old guy talked all the time and regaled us with stories. The thing that made him stand out was a phrase he used over and over again: “what a mess!” In fact, it was so frequent we started counting the times he said it. When talking about the traffic, it was “what a mess”. When talking about the effects of a construction project it was “what a mess”. When talking about the Academy Awards Cermony it was “what a mess”.
We smiled at this hackneyed use of a phrase but I must admire the clarity of this man’s theology. I’m sure that if he had read Genesis 3 this man would have put it down and said, “What a mess.” And he would have been right on target. As we look around our world today we see an eroding moral standard, a cancerous disregard for human life, and a sad lack of virtue in the people who should be our role models. Things are still “a mess”. Genesis three tells us how we went from “It is good, very good” to “what a mess!” Let’s dig in.
Satan and Eve strike up a converstaion. We are told that Satan appears as a serpant. What was this serpant like? I don’t know. We also don’t know if this is the entire conversation or if there was some small talk that existed before this. But we can discover and see the two-fold nature of Satan’s attack:
Cast Doubt on God’s Word
Satan begins, “Has God indeed said you shall eat of every tree of the garden?” He takes God positive instruction and seeks to paint it as something restrictive. Eve answers correctly . . . almost. She said, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and YOU MUST NOT TOUCH IT or you will die. This is the opening that Satan needed.
Neither shall ye touch it— Did not the woman add this to what God had before spoken? Some of the Jewish writers, state that as soon as the woman had asserted this, the serpent pushed her against the tree and said, “See, thou hast touched it, and art still alive; thou mayest therefore safely eat of the fruit, for surely thou shalt not die.”
Could it be that Eve’s addition to God’s command is the handle that Satan needs? Satan declares openly that God will not do what He said. And then he seeks to impugn God’s character. He says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan implies that the only reason God had placed the restriction on them in the first place was because He was protecting His own “turf”. God was staving off the competition. You can see what Satan is banking on. He is sure that the man and woman will respond by saying, “Hey, why should I be the servant . . . I’d rather be God.”
Satan knew that as long as Adam and Eve depended on God, they could not be touched. While they trusted God’s promise they were under His protection. So Satan first sets out to get Adam and Eve to question God’s credibility. He tries to get them to move out of the protected area and into the line of fire. He is still trying the same tricks today.
Today he will suggest that the Bible is
- too old to be relevant
- biased by the patricarchal society of the day
- tainted by the fact that the Jews were white
- no good because it was written by ordinary men
And perhaps you have heard a number of other reasons why the truth of scripture should be discarded. It doesn’t matter what the reason is . . . the goal is the same. Turn us away from God’s truth. But if we turn away from something we must turn TO something else.
Get us to Trust ourselves rather than God.
Satan seeks to replace God as the authority with other things.
When the woman SAW that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also DESIRABLE for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (v. 6)
Do you see what happened? Eve trusted her eyes and desires more than God’s word. And then she trusted her reason “it was desireable for gaining wisdom”. We must not trust even our eyes, our mind, or our desires over the Word of God!
This was not a one-time affair. Satan is still using the same “bag of tricks”. He wants to get us to trust our systems, our traditions, our feelings, our “steps to powerful living”, our programs. He’ll encourage us to place our trust in our goodness, our bank account, our friendships, our appearance, our personality. He takes different approaches but it is always the same goal: trust yourself rather than the promise. He may try to keep us from reading and studying the Word or He may seek to distort the Word . . . but the goal is the same: trust ourselves or something other than God’s Word.
Here’s some examples you might have heard,
- I know God says we should not commit adultery BUT . . I’m really in love!
- I know God wants me to forgive BUT . . . you don’t know what they did!
- I know God says sex is for marriage BUT . . . I have desires!
- I know God tells us to be kind and tenderhearted BUT . . . it’s a basketball game!
This is what the Devil did in his encounter with Jesus. The Devil tries to get Jesus to give in to His hunger, His vanity, His insecurity. He tries to cast doubt on God’s promise but Jesus does not fall for it. Each time . . .every time He stands on the promise of God.
There were a number of repercussions from this first sin. The first thing that happens as a result of their sin we are told is that they realized that they were naked and were ashamed. This sounds a little odd to us. But all it says is that sin caused them to lose their innocence. All of a sudden that which was innocent and good, became shameful. Immediately man felt he could not stand in God’s presence as he really was. Immediately man began trying to cover themselves. Man’s relationship with God, died.
How would you feel is you were in a room of people and suddenly on a screen on one wall scenes from your thought life were shown? What if some of the foolish choices of your past were also projected on that screen? What if the screen portrayed the times you lied, used other people, and indulged your sinful desires even though you knew it was wrong? What would your first instinct be?
Of course, you would cover your face. You would want to hide. If you had a coat you would put it over your head to hide your embarassment and shame. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve. Can’t you picture them sewing fig leaves together. I don’t think they used one or two leaves. They weren’t ashamed because certain body parts were visible . . . they were ashamed because THEY were visible. I think they sewed a bunch of leaves together in an attempt to make the first camoflague outfit! They wanted to blend in with the rest of the garden . . . hoping God wouldn’t notice them.
They knew that as a result of sin, they were no longer friends of God . . . but enemies.
They became intellectually confused. The same man that had not long before been able to name all the animals due to the wisdom He possessed, is now hiding from God. The Biologist suddenly becomes the child. What happened? What would cause such foolishness in someone who had so much potential? How could they think they could hide from God? What would make them think that they could deceive the all-knowing one? Why didn’t they admit what they did? Why didn’t they take responsibility for their actions and plead for mercy? Why don’t we? Sin tarnishes our reasoning ability.
They became relationally stressed. The same man who had treasured his wife as “flesh of my flesh” is now seeking to blame her for his sin. Those who were co-workers are now combatants. Marriage would never be the same again. In fact, no relationship would ever know that same harmony again. One day when the two sons of Adam and Eve went to worship, only one returned alive. From the moment of the first sin on, mankind lost that sense of community and oneness that existed in the Garden.
There were also physical repercussions from the fall. There is the entry of physical death. And we learn that from here on out there would be pain in childbirth (implying that it was not designed to be painful). Working the land would become “labor”. Work would be done by the sweat of their brow. I take this to mean that before this time there were no diseases or decay in our bodies. Once sin entered into the world that all changed. The Physical balance was disrupted. I believe this is the explanation for birth defects, heart disease, cancer and every other disease.
As a result of the sin of this first couple, weeds and other environmental effects came into the world. I would contend that the animal world lived in harmony before this first sin. Only after sin’s entry into the world did animals (and people) devour each other. In fact, in Romans 8 we read these words,
Rom. 8:19-22 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Even the creation was effected by sin. I believe this is where tornados, hurricanes, floods and all the weird weather came from.
You see, sin is like a cancer. It is not content to stay in one place. It wants to take over everything! By the time we get to chapter six listen to what Scripture says, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (6:5,6)
You may have heard theologians talk about “Total Depravity”. When they (we) use this term we are not saying we believe people are as corrupt as they can be. What we are saying is that the effect of sin has touched and tainted every element of our existence (our total existence). What it has done is corrupted (depraved) every area of our life. The Depravity or corruption experienced by Adam and Eve has been passed down to every one of their descendents. The bus driver was right on the money . . . “What a Mess!”
But in the midst of this squalor God does not wring His hands and say, “Woe, is me!” Instead, God acts with mercy. Even while the stench of that first sin is fresh, God is beginning the process of redemption.
In Genesis 3:15 we read the first promise of the Messiah. God is speaking to Satan and says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” There is coming a day when a descendant of Eve’s will be attacked by Satan in a powerful way. Satan will succeed in “striking his heel”. But this descendant will “crush” Satan’s head. This descendant is Jesus.
So, even in the midst of this initial rebellion, God points to a Redeemer. Even in the Garden, God is pointing to a coming Savior. They were spiritually dead but there was one who would come who would give them their spiritual life back. Even when man is engaging in rebellion God is planning redemption.
The next thing God does is make garments of skin for the first couple. God makes them clothes. How odd, you say? Truth is, I believe this is an act of mercy and grace. God sacrifices an animal (or two) and clothes the couple in their skins.
I think we miss the significance of this? Before this time no one killed animals. Surely Adam and Eve were horrified when the animal was killed. The animals were friends of the humans. This must have been like seeing the family pet killed and then being asked to wear their skin. We would shudder and be horrified at such a thing.
What God was teaching Adam and Eve was the horrible consequence of sin. God stated that when they ate of the fruit they would die. So the animal now dies as a temporary substitute. Even in His mercy God must deal with the infection of sin. It must be addressed. Sin costs. In this case innocent animals were sacrificed to “cover” the first couple for their sin.
The final act is not so clear. God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden. He says, “the man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” In our mind it sounds like God is threatened by us. We seem to think if Adam and Eve ate from that tree God would no longer be able to touch them. Not so! That is to attribute false motives to our God.
This is not a defensive act . . . it is a pre-emptive act of mercy. Sin has disrupted creation. The world we now live in is spoiled . . . man’s body is prone to injury and decay. As long as we live in this body we will never know the wholeness that we once knew before the fall. God wants man banished from the garden so that they can be restored to fellowship! To never die would be a curse . . . not a blessing at this point. Man would be doomed to live forever in the body scarred by sin. They might long to die . . . but wouldn’t be able to do so.
Let’s draw some quick conclusions.
- When you are facing a choice between doing what God says and doing something else . . . realize that you are walking into a trap. When we trust ANYTHING but God we are stepping into sin. Cling to the truth of Scripture (even when you don’t understand) and don’t trust anything else.
- When you are tempted to resent rather than forgive . . .remember who’s whispers you’re hearing
- When you think the world’s morality is better than God’s. . . remember who’s whispers you’re hearing
- When you start to use people instead of love them . . . remember who’s whispers you’re hearing
- When you start to worry instead of trust . . . remember who’s whispers you’re hearing
- When you start to scheme instead of wait . . . remember who’s whispering to you
- When you begin to grumble rather than rejoice . . . remember who’s whispering to you
- Accept responsibility for your own actions. Stop blaming and own up to your choices, your decisions and your sin. And the best place to begin this honesty is in your own praying.
- Confront the deadly excuse, “but I’m not hurting anybody” whenever you hear it. Help yourself and others to see the wide-ranging repercussions of rebellion against God. Understand that any sin is not a laughing matter . . . it is deadly and widely destructive. Your actions do not just effect yourself but others around you . . . and even the world in which we live.
And the next time you see a “natural disaster” realize that it is not really an “act of God”, it is an act of man. Don’t blame God . . . instead, use that circumstance to cause you to repent of your sin and to deepen your longing for Heaven . . . where the effects of sin will be abolished and tragic circumstances will be banished.
- Respond to the One who offers you a way out. The message of the Gospel is simple: “your life is a mess because of sin and there is only one who can fix it: His name is Jesus.” He alone is without sin. And he gave His perfect life in exchange for your sin. He died in our place. If you will receive His gift and place your trust in Him you will be spiritually re-born. Not only that, you will be on the road that leads to being freed from all the horrible consequences of sin.
How do you start? It takes an act of faith. God must awaken you and you must respond. Perhaps that response would come in the form of an honest prayer like this:
Father, I don’t come with any excuses. I acknowledge that like Adam and Eve I have often turned from You. I am a sinner and I have made a mess of my life. Today I receive the offer of salvation you extend. Today I declare my faith and confidence that Jesus died in my place, for my sin, and that His resurrection opened the door for anyone who would believe . . . including me. Today I place my trust and confidence in Christ. I want Him to lead and direct my life. Thank you Father, for your grace. Amen.
Things are a mess . . . . but they don’t have to stay that way.