Image by Engin Akyurt
In these precarious times of the COVID-19 virus, conversations about ‘pandemics,’ viruses, infections, and contaminations seem to be ‘soup du jour!’ People feel very vulnerable when the entire population of the globe is threatened by a common and insidious condition that might lead to death. Some tremble in fear, as if paralyzed, feeling like a target, and even a victim of this worldwide threat. Some, on the other hand, display a certain bravado, either feeling immune to the enemy, or else a sense of denial of its possible effect upon their lives.
What a perfect metaphor for the character, nature, and effects of sin on our lives. When the subject of ‘sin’ is broached, whether in religious or social settings, many people display similar responses to those reactions some have concerning the virus mentioned above. They feel uncomfortable, conspicuous, guilty, or else they feel defiant, blasé, or self-righteous. Perhaps a combination of some, or all, of these feelings. Some might ask, “Why do Christians seem to be so obsessed with sin?!”
“Sin” is too strident a word for most secular sensibilities. ‘Other people,’ like murderers, rapists, and the like, are sinners. The typical person, initially, considers their own poor or negative actions as “mistakes” at best, or anti-social at worst. Certainly not the dirty word, “sin.”
First, we will look at how God defines sin, then man’s relationship to sin, and finally God’s remedy for sin. If you follow through to the end of this article, I believe you will gain something new in your understanding of the subject, as well as a fresh and hopeful view of the future that lies ahead.
The word for “sin” comes from the Greek, “ha-mar-tee-a,” meaning “to miss the mark.” For illustrative purposes, let’s suppose two people had a competition to see which one could stand at the Equator and throw a stone and hit the North Pole. They are on the Equator in Borneo, Indonesia. One steps up, flexes and throws as hard as he can. The result is that he only hits the neighboring village’s meeting house, causing the elders to run in panic! A young lady from a nearby island, steps up. Mimi is her name. She picks her choice of stones, coils back, and throws the stone. It rockets out of sight, over the South China Sea and heads toward the Island of Hong Kong. The projectile crashes through a window of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, causing rumors of plummeting interest rates!
Which person wins the competition? The answer is neither, of course, because they both missed the mark of hitting the North Pole! God’s standard for Heaven is perfection. While one might be a better person than another, and seem closer to perfection, both, in fact, miss the mark.
This truly is the ‘ultimate pandemic.’ What happened to make this a pandemic, or a condition, that infects all people? I have been told that if God created sin, then He is evil. This is not so. Sin is not a thing, it is a condition. In Genesis, (yes a reliable account of origins), God told Adam, the first man, that he could have free access to anything in the garden. The single exception was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The account recorded in Isaiah 14 provides an excellent back story. Lucifer, a beautiful angel of music, rebelled against God. He desired to make himself equal to God to the point of even being God himself. He overused the word “I” (in Greek, “ego”) as he makes his diabolical declaration, “I will be like the Most High!” In Genesis chapter 3, as a result of this sin of Pride, Lucifer is cast to the earth. Now called Satan, as that crafty serpent, he comes to Eve and asks, “Sssssssay there, has God sssssssaid....?”
The first temptation begins in the form of a subtle, quiet question. Not in a shout of deception, but in a seemingly curious manner, such as, “I’m not saying He’s wrong, but…” Eve, emboldened by the ability to doubt, ponders questioning God. She entertains Satan’s questioning of truth, which sets the stage for the distortion of truth that would come. Eve says that God told her she was not allowed to touch or eat of the fruit of the tree.
This was not the whole truth, but a distortion of the truth. God did say she was not allowed to eat the fruit, but He did not say she could not touch it! Adding to God’s word is one small step away from disobeying it. Satan, himself emboldened, finally lies to Eve and says, contrary to God’s statement, she will not die if she disobeys God. She eats, and feels no change. Not wanting to remain alone in her rebellion, she turns around and offers Adam the forbidden fruit.
Adam, instead of warning, protecting, and loving his God-given mate, gives in to the temptation, and so leads mankind in the great defection. Eve was deceived by Satan, but Adam disobeyed and sinned willfully and willingly. Immediately they viewed their innocent nakedness in a sinful way and tried to cover their shame by making coverings on their own. It was to no avail.
They “heard the sound of the LORD God, walking in the Garden in the cool of the day.” Such a fascinating phrase. They are ashamed and afraid and hide themselves. When God calls out and asks where they are, it is important to note that he calls out to them, not because he doesn’t know where they are, but because he wants Adam and Eve to realize where they are! They are hiding from God because of guilt. Hiding from God is similar to when small children play the game, Hide-and-Seek. When children hide, they usually will pick something nearby like a sofa and hide their faces. In doing so, they leave their entire backsides in full view! We are the same way. God sees us so clearly, even when we feel we are hidden well. He must shake His head at our naivete.
When the LORD asked them about their disobedience, Eve blamed the serpent and, in turn, Adam blamed Eve. “The serpent deceived me” ...and… “the woman who You gave to be with me.” In fact, the reality was they were both blaming God. It is God who created both of them, yet they attempted to transfer the guilt of their disobedience onto the shoulders of their Creator God. This is the exact response we hear from those today who reject the personal God of the Bible. They blame the ills of mankind on the “hateful God of the Bible.” This accusation is not new to God. He has heard this from the very beginning!
So begins the legacy that would be passed down to every generation to come, the Ultimate Pandemic. “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Because of the willful rebellion of a man, the nature of sin would be passed down to each and every subsequent generation and individual. Mankind would be forever tainted with sin, prone to rebel against God, deserving of an eternity of separation and a breach in the intimacy he once enjoyed with his God. You see, it is not that we are sinners because we sin. Rather, we sin because we are sinners.
However, this God, pronounced deserving judgment on the serpent. In His very next breath recorded in Genesis 3:15, He presented the “protevangelium” which is the first time the Good News is declared. He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This is a prophecy that, while the One to come would be wounded by Satan through His death on a cross, Satan would be dealt a death-blow. Satan would be vanquished by the One to come reflected in His resurrection from the dead. God said that the earth will groan under the weight of sin and that mankind will suffer the ravages of sin, but that a provision will exist for mankind’s deliverance and salvation. This would be found in the One who is able to fully bare then become the penalty for sin!
In Genesis 3:21 it says, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” This was an actual provision, as well as a prediction. Adam and Eve had made for themselves coverings of leaves in order to hide their disobedience, made manifest by their sinful view of their nakedness. God, in order to provide a better covering, made garments of skin. This was to show them that the efforts of man are totally inadequate to deal with the problem of sin. Instead, God would Himself provide a solution, but that solution would require the shedding of blood, declaring that salvation and ultimate deliverance from the judgement that sin demanded the shedding of innocent blood. This ultimately would come in the person of Jesus, the Messiah. God, in His love, immediately gave man hope after man shook his defiant fist like a petulant child. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us!”
The sinful condition of man has affected him in all ways. John the Evangelist wrote about this, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:16). All sin can be found in these three areas. The lust of the flesh is the desire to experience that which one ought not experience. The lust of the eyes is the desire to have that which one ought not have. The boastful pride of life is the desire to be that which one ought not be, or is not.
All of these categories of sin can be found under one banner, the sin of Pride. It was pride that Lucifer wrongly exercised in his desire to usurp the throne of God. Pride prompted his repeated use of the word, “I” in his rebellion. All sin has ‘self’ as the center, asserting wrongly that one’s own desires are superior to God’s. “It is about me, not God!” Genesis 3:6 details how Eve was tempted by the lust of the flesh because “the woman saw that the tree was good for food.” She saw “it was pleasant to the eyes” in the lust of the eyes. Then she was tempted by the pride of life, since she saw that it “was desirable to make one wise.”
In our lives as humans we are also tempted in the same exact ways. We give into these passions regularly. We then often wonder if there is any way we can be free of this bondage. If we were to pick out a sin we personally have struggled with, it would fit clearly in one of these three categories. Every sin is a pride-filled product of self over God.
Jesus, being fully God and fully man, was tempted in exactly the same ways. Yet, unlike Eve and ourselves, He defeated each temptation. In Matthew 4 we find the account of Jesus, at the very beginning of His public ministry. Having just been baptized by John and acknowledging the pleasure and purposes of the Father, Jesus ventured into the wilderness. It was there Satan confronted Him.
Satan tempted Jesus in precisely the same ways in which he tempted Eve and how we are tempted today. After a long fast, Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn stones to bread, which is the lust of the flesh. Jesus successfully resisted and rebutted, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Satan then transported Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and tempted Him to a flamboyant and inappropriate display of His power and glory. Satan encouraged Him to throw Himself off then to allow the angels to save Him. Jesus resisted the temptation of the boastful pride of life and countered, “It is written, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”
Finally, the crafty, fallen, sinful, and rejected deceiver tried to tempt Jesus with the lust of the eyes by showing Him all the kingdoms of the world. Satan then illegitimately and prematurely offered them to Jesus in exchange for Jesus to bow and worship the diabolical angel. In rejecting Satan, He said, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
Just as we deserve the wages we receive for our work through our paychecks, so also we deserve the wages we will receive for our sin, which will be our death, both physical and spiritual (Romans 6:23). Jesus validated His claim to conquer sin, both for the present and for the coming Day. He did this for us through His death, burial, and resurrection. Satan may prowl around looking for someone to devour, but we no longer need to be a slave to sin. We do not have to accept the prison of despair, the life of hopelessness. We no longer need to be lovers of self...He loved those before us and loves us infinitely, unconditionally, and intimately! Unlike a deadly virus which has no known cure, we are rid of the deathly disease of sin. It is all because of the Blood Work and Gift of Jesus our Savior, on our behalf. It is eternal life!
Christians who no longer fear death don’t want to just die. No!
Because of the death of sin in the risen Jesus, it is now that we want to live well!
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