Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What Happened in the Garden - Part 2

Previously, I wrote an article entitled What Happened in the Garden - Part 1. As the sharp readers might surmise, it was intended to have a part 2. I now present that here.

The entrance of sin into the world brought a whole new set of challenges for the newly created humans, the biggest challenge being, "What do I do now?" Since the time of Adam, we have all followed in his footsteps, which reminds us again that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So what did we learn from Adam about dealing with sin?

We first learn to try to hide it. Adam tried to hide in the garden. How absurd it is to think that he could hide from an omniscient God in the place that God created. Come to think of it, how human it is to think that we can hide from an omniscient God in the world that God created.
Usually, our first instinct with sin is to try to keep others from finding out. We might hide it by hiding ourselves, figuring out that if we are not around anyone, they will not figure out what we have done. Watch for the telltale signs of friends who no longer come around. Watch the person whose church involvement begins to wane. It very often lets us know there is a sin issue being hidden. Watch for your own temptation to withdraw from godly people.

Another tactic of hiding it is trying to dress up so that we do not look guilty. Adam and Eve did this by making their coats of fig leaves. Well, sure, they look pretty, but will they last? The fig leaves may have been among the largest leaves in the garden, but they, like every other leaf after the fall, would dry up and rot, leaving the covered parts not so covered. We dress up by putting on a good face, and saying the right things. But we know we are covering up sin, even if no one around us does.

Why do we hide? Because we instinctively, or through revelation working in our conscience, know that something is wrong. If you have to hide it, should you be doing it?

The irony was that the only person Adam and Eve had to hide from was God. It was not like their pastor was gonna show up in the middle of a marital spat (as I have accidentally done). It wasn't as if their kids might over hear them fighting. It was not like the garden police were speeding to the scene. God was all there was. And he already knew.

We then learn to try to shift the blame. Once Adam realized he was busted, he tried to shift the blame to the woman: "It was the woman."

Kids are great at this. We say, "Why did you hit him?" "Because he hit me first." Really? That brought an uncontrollable reaction from your arm? No it didn't. You simply decided not to control your responses.

But we adults are scarcely better. "Why did you lose your temper?" "Because my husband got upset that the house wasn't clean." "Why did you look at pornography?" "Because my wife wasn't taking care of my desires." Listen for it in the conversations of others ... and listen for it in your own life. We are ingenious at shifting the blame to others. And if we listen close we will hear the echoes of the lazy man who lays in his bed because "there is a lion in the streets" (Prov 22:13). It sounds absolutely stupid except to those who say it and those who share the tendency towards excuse.

But it gets worse. Adam did not simply blame his wife. Even more devious, he tried to shift the blame to God: "the woman you gave me." We have become master blameshifters. People who absolutely deny on their grave the sovereignty of God over all of life will somehow manage to shoehorn God into their own sin problems.

Things like, "God just made me a passionate person" fly out of someone's mouth when confronted about their anger. "God gave me a high sex drive" excuses the sin of adultery or even sexual addiction in marriage. "I was born a homosexual" becomes the reason for sexual deviancy. Hey, folks, God is not to blame. You are the way you are because of your sinfulness.

The third thing we learn to shoot the righteous. Okay, technically (and textually), this wasn't in the garden but track with me here. Cain's response to his own sinfulness was to kill Abel. Think about Abel. All he did was show up to worship God and show up to go to work. And for that, he gets the redline express downtown at the hands of his own brother. Why did Cain go after Abel? Because it was more satisfying than addressing his own problems. If you can get rid of the righteous, the wicked will not look so bad. This is the natural end of blameshifting. When we get caught, we try to implicate someone else, even the righteous.

This is the guy who refuses to go to church because the pastor preached about his pet sin. This is the guy who, when confronted about adultery says, "My wife would only have sex with me three times a day." This is the lady who, when confronted about laziness says, "Well my husband works all day long and never helps around the house." This is the child who, when confronted about rebellion says, "Did Jim tell on me? What a dirty rat. He is such a hypocrite."

Attacking others is always easier then repentance because it does not require the humiliation of admitting and confessing our sin. It feeds our pride and secures our own role as judge of right and wrong. It leads to the destruction of others, both those we attack and those who have the misfortune of having to live with us in our lack of repentance.

The fourth thing we learn is that sin costs us big time. For the serpent, there was a curse. For the woman there was a curse. For the man, there was a curse. (More on this later? Do I smell a part three?) Sin never brings the satisfaction in the long run. Sure, it feels good now. But it doesn't work. It leaves us empty, grasping at the wind.

The fifth thing we learn is that confession is the only hope. Only when we come face to face with our sin can there be forgiveness and restoration. Apart from that, there is no remedy. In pastoral counseling, I have absolutely nothing to offer someone who will not come face to face with their sin and confess it. My best advice is that that "The way of the transgressor is hard," and "He who covers his sin will not prosper."

The last thing we learn is that God always has enough grace to cover our sin. We pass roadkill everyday without a second thought. It becomes the material for jokes. However, the first animal that Adam and Eve ever saw dead was the animal God killed to cover their bodies. It was probably an act of blood sacrifice, not just an attempt to get some better clothes. It was the act of God in grace to cover the sins of Adam and Eve. Every day Adam and Eve passed that bloody carcass, they were reminded of the cost of sin. Every day they put on those clothes of skin, they were reminded of the cost of sin. But every day they were reminded of the grace of God.

God's grace didn't remove the curse. They were still evicted from the garden. The life they desired of being like God never came to pass (cf. Gen 3:5-6). The cute garden home with the white picket fence was never seen again. They witnessed the brutal murder of their son. He worked hard and she had pain in childbearing. They had marital problems. They died. All because they thought they knew more than God did about how to live the life that God had created. Perhaps even their death was an act of grace in that God prevented them from having to live forever with the consequences of sin.

We, as preachers of the gospel, much preach a lot about sin. But we much preach even more grace. We must warn of the dangers of sin, the dangers of coverup and blameshifting, and the only hope of Jesus, the Lamb slain for the sin of the world.

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more
Romans 5:20

No comments: