In the arguments about the preeminence of environment vs. heredity we often forget that man was placed in Eden—a perfect environment. There was no want of food: food was in abundance. There was no want of shelter: shelter is needed for protection from the elements and there were no elements to harm anyone. There was no need to fear the animals: all were willingly subject to man. Calamity such as earthquake, famine, wildfire, etc., were non-existent. There was work to be done, but before sin there was plenty of time to accomplish all tasks. Man was free to serve the Lord with every ounce of creative ability. He was free to explore the world, care for the world, live joyously before the Lord and worship the Lord with gladness. He was free to walk with the Lord in the cool of the day in the beauty of holiness receiving a continuing revelation from God. Sin shattered all of this and the shards of this devastation pierce creation to this day.
Prior to sin few commandments had been given by God to Adam. Keep the garden—guard it and care for it. Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Eat of all the plants and trees given for food, except for one tree. All such commandments as “I am the Lord your God…” and “thou shalt not kill” were obvious to hearts and minds undefiled by sin. But no longer. Instantly Adam and Eve were plunged into darkness. Their love of God—gone. Once they looked forward to His presence with them, now He was an enemy loathsome and unstoppable. Their relationship with God had been changed from one of love and delight to one of hatred, fear, and anger. All relationship amongst living beings is personal, most especially that between God and man. It is impossible to emphasize this enough. All people have a personal relationship with God, either one of grace and love or one of judgment and wrath. How often we tell people that they can have a personal relationship with God when they already have a personal relationship with God—as an enemy rightly condemned by God. An enemy in dire need of forgiveness and cleansing.
In the whole, we cannot understand the effect sin had on Adam and Eve, for we were born into sin. Our hearts and minds have always been clouded and perverted. When Franklin Roosevelt spoke of fear being the only thing we had to fear he spoke deeper than he knew. There had been no fear in our parents, but now it flooded into their souls. Common to us, it must have paralyzed them with confusion and…fright. Terrifying thoughts must have inundated their minds. “What has happened to us!” Sorrow, self-loathing, anger, hatred, bitterness, a thousand vile strands of iniquity strangled their souls. “We are going to die!” “The Lord is coming, we have got to hide!” Pride and arrogance erupted again as they futilely sewed leaves to cover their nakedness—crafting robes of self-righteousness to cover their sin. They sought to force God to accept their works as payment for sin. Their minds were so clouded by sin as to think of themselves as gods who would determine good and evil, repentance and salvation. Once wise, they became fools.
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. Our heart is the core of who we are: our personality, emotions, desires, motivations. Because of the fall, our heart is rotted with sin and its consequences. Emotions such as rage, bitterness, sorrow, apathy, indifference, cynicism, despair, hatred, and many others are not native to us, but are now normal. Our desires even for things wholesome and good are perverted by idolizing the desire, resulting in envy and selfishness. We are motivated by selfishness and gluttony, rather than loving God and seeking His glory.
Likewise, our minds, the origin of our thoughts, rationality, reasoning, and planning have become degraded and depraved. Our ability to perceive and receive truth is impaired by a euphoric mix of lies, distortion, and relativism. We reject the absolute foundation of the existence of God and thereby we reject the word of God. Then we substitute the false premise of our own autonomy. We fall again and again to the temptation to think of ourselves as gods, twisting our ability to reason to justify iniquity and call it good. Yet we refuse to carry our reason forward and see that abominable acts by individuals lead to pervasive evil in society and ultimately to the death of nations.
The worst part of our minds is the creativity we use to make things of great beauty and wonder. We see prodigies of art, music, science, literature, architecture, engineering, etc., and ask ourselves why more people do not exhibit such vision, talent, and ability. The answer is that we do see it everyday and participate in it everyday, but it is sinfulness where we focus our creative impulse. Deception is one of our greatest areas of innovation. There as many forms of it as their are forms of martial arts: plausible denial; the bald faced lie; misdirection; the surprised look; the hesitant accusation etc. Some are masters of many of these: they are people who have inevitably mastered self-deception. All are masters of at least one. The reason we see few creative people outside of sinful pursuits is that we are like bugs circling an incandescent lamp. We are lured by the dark light of sin, trapped by the invisible glass of the enclosure, and slowly killed by the heat of our guilt. The insane focus of our minds prevents us from altering our orbits much beyond petty self-absorption and banality.
Thus our souls, who we are, are twisted and evil. Our works likewise. How can it be otherwise when our hearts and minds are perverted? We can no more rid ourselves of sin and its effects than a computer can rid itself of malware. Just as malware often brings in more malware, our sin brings more and more sin. Only intervention from someone greater than the computer, from the owner of the computer, can rid it of malware. We too need intervention from someone greater than us to rid us of sin.
Unlike the computer, however, we are culpable for our sin. We incur guilt, both internally and judicially. Internally as the mark of our conscience pricking us. Judicially as judgment from other men and most importantly, from God. Judicial guilt means that there is a debt owed, to men and especially to God. This is what punishment is, the payment of a debt. Some such debt is payable in money to men, all of it is owed as life to God. In other words, our debts to men are finite, but our debt to God is infinite and the coin it is paid in is wrath. Because of our finitude, this debt cannot be paid at once. Instead it is paid out over eternity. This is the awful reality of hell.
And in this awfulness is the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are perverted by sin in our natures. We need intervention from outside of us to heal us of sin. And we need someone to pay the judicial penalty to God for our sins. The Lord Jesus Christ does both these things. This is the gospel. He is the gospel. This is the hope, the earnest expectation we have as Christians. Not that we are without sin, rather we are worse sinners than all others, but that we have a Savior who has loved us, the most unlovable, with a love that is inexplicable, wonderful, and deserving of the highest praise.
Turn to him today!