Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sin & Salvation # 1 - "The Fall"

In 2010, I wrote:

In his book, What God Wants to Know, Bruce Larson tells about a story from a family member who was a conservationist. She and her husband and her five-year-old son were on vacation in Florida when they saw a sign saying “Naturist Camp.” The conservationist assumed that a naturist camp was the same thing as a naturalist camp, so they stopped to check it out. When they reached the beach, they learned their error. The naturist camp was actually a nudist camp, full of vacationers in the buff. Some swam, some rode bicycles—in all their glory. Eyes wide, and pointing at the naked cyclists, they boy said, “Look Mom and Dad. They’re not wearing safety helmets!”

Not long ago, I read about White Tail Chapel in Ivor, Virginia. This congregation within White Tail Resort, wears not suits, but their birthday suits, every Sunday. Now, I’m not advocating nude church like Pastor Allen Parker does,[i] but the point is that there’s something honest about nakedness. This is why the Bible says that in Eden, Adam and Eve “were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:25[ii]).” The nakedness of Eden represents innocence, simplicity, trust, and the lack of judgment. There was no reason to say that nakedness or clothing was good or evil, because everything was as God created it to be, and God had declared it to be “very good (Gen 2:31).” Nakedness wasn’t wrong, because nothing was wrong. Then sin entered the picture, and it all turned bad.

Now, I know what you’ve always been taught. You think the fall came when Adam and Eve ate the apple that God told them not to eat. Sin entered the world through one wrong bite. But I’m going to tell you that sin entered the world through a different set of teeth.

Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve let the serpent sink his teeth into their minds. You see, we’ve got it all wrong if we think that the first sin was eating a piece of fruit. Eating the fruit was the symptom of sin, but sin came before that. Genesis 3:6 says that Eve “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise.” The first sin wasn’t eating a piece of fruit. Fruit is good—and this piece of fruit, in and of itself, wasn’t bad for her to eat. What made the action bad was the attitude of sin that said, “I want to be something other than what God made me to be", and I’m going to do whatever is necessary to change that.” She saw that the fruit would make her wise. In other words, she drew a distinction between wise and unwise. She said, “I’m not wise, but the fruit will make me wise.” She differentiated between good and evil things in the garden (note the name of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), even though God had declared it all to be good. That was the sin—the disease. Eating the fruit was simply the symptom.

We’ve been taught that sin is breaking rules. But is that what sin is—breaking rules? Jesus said that it’s not murder or adultery that are the problems in humanity—it’s the attitude that causes them (Mt 5:21-22, 27-28). Sin is the disease of an attitude that says we’re separate from God and from our fellow human beings. Sin is the pride that places our desires above God’s will or above the needs of others. Sin is when we put ourselves in the divine seat and think ourselves wise enough to be judges. Sin is a curse that found its way into Adam and Eve’s hearts before they ever took the first bite of their fruit snack. Sinking their teeth in was just the symptom of the disease that already had hold of their hearts. Sin is the disease; sins are the behaviors.

How do we know that the problem was their attitude, and not just their actions? Verse 7 says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” There was nothing wrong with their nakedness before they ate the fruit, and there was nothing wrong with their nakedness afterwards. What changed? Their attitude. Suddenly they saw themselves as separate from God, separate from creation, as non-natural. Insisting that they were non-natural, they felt the need to distinguish themselves from the way God had originally made them, and they covered up.

And we have been trying to cover up ever since. Cover our sin, cover our pride, cover our mistakes. We try to cover it with religion, thinking that if we can only make enough rules for ourselves, we’ll be okay. But we couldn’t keep just one rule—what makes us think we can keep more? Jesus didn’t come so we could follow the rules; He came so God would rule our hearts. Instead of giving us religious rules (the first rule never worked to begin with), Jesus gives us a relationship with God that guides us.

In Romans 3:23-24, the apostle Paul writes, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” The 1777 New England Primer said, “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” Romans 5:15 says, “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” How did Jesus do this? If sin was humanity’s attempt to say, “We’re separate from God,” then Jesus is God’s response, saying, “I’m one with humanity.” Separation is defeated through the God-Man Christ, who heals the disease of sin and counteracts the Fall. On the cross Jesus declared forgiveness, not just of our sins (behaviors), but of our sin (disease of Self).

You don’t have to go to a nudist church to know that God sees our flaws. Hebrews 4:13b says, “All things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” We may try to cover up our sin, but God sees it all. Instead of covering our nudity, God restores us and returns to us to the innocence of Eden. Because of what Christ did for us, we can be like the first family in the garden—unashamed.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/10/nude-church-white-tail-virginia_n_4763199.html.  July 20, 2016.
[ii] All scriptures taken form the NASB.

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