The first half of Solomon’s warning in Proverbs 14:12 is downright friendly in its tone. Then it turns dark in a hurry: “…but its end is the way that leads to death.” In context the death he refers to is synonymous with “ruin.” In this one profound verse the wise king sums up in a nutshell what happened in the Garden of Eden and what keeps on happening every day. As Genesis makes perfectly clear, when human beings detour from doing things God’s way they inevitably end up with a mess on their hands.
I pointed out in my previous essay that the 3rd chapter of Genesis is arguably the most informative in the entire Bible. That opinion may seem off-kilter to some Christians because many of them have written the Old Testament off as being irrelevant compared to the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament. But keep in mind the early church, which by then was overwhelmingly Gentile in nature, insisted on including the Old Testament in what we know as “The Holy Bible.” Since they were fervently praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit in the matter one must conclude God deems studying the Old Testament vital to the nurturing of one’s ongoing Christian education. In other words it’s not just a “Jewish thing.” On the contrary, the Bible is an all-or-nothing package deal that reveals the entire history of God’s interaction with men and women. The good and the bad. Warts and all. And in Genesis the uncensored truth is revealed about how Adam & Eve, opting to do what seemed right to them at the time, ruined the paradise God had made for them. So there should be no doubt among Christ-followers that Genesis 3 contains serious modern-era implications. No one alive has ever known a single day when there wasn’t some kind of warfare, strife or wickedness occurring somewhere on the planet. Because Earth’s horrible landlord is Satan, world peace remains an admirable but nevertheless unattainable goal. Problems and hardships are the norm, not the exception, and that sad situation not only consumes us but effectively steals our joy. We can’t get no satisfaction.
That’s just one of a million reasons God’s Holy Word is indispensable to gaining a comprehensive understanding of life. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “There’s no more up-to-date book in the world than this old, old book we call the Bible. It’s concerned about men and women. It’s concerned about you. It’s concerned about all of us just as we are and where we are. It speaks to our very condition and holds before us a way of life. And here in Genesis it tells us why we’re in this condition, why things are as they are in the world in general and in our own individual cases. That’s the special message of Genesis.” A book I never hesitate to recommend to students of the Bible is Dr. Larry Crabb’s terrific “66 Love Letters – A conversation with God that invites you into His story.” In it the author carries on an imaginary but inspiring discussion with God about what he should glean from every book in the Bible. Early on God flat out informs Crabb, “In Genesis, I being telling the story of how everyone fails and I succeed.” Referring to what went down in the Garden God says to him, “Adam and Eve made the same choice you’ve been making since you were a kid, to protect yourself from pain and to be in control of your own pleasure, to negotiate with Me to get what you want out of life. That decision messed up everything in Eden, just as it still is messing up your life.” (The whole book’s plain-spoken like that. Check it out.)
The worldview we find in the Bible is unique in every aspect. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else. It definitively, concretely and unequivocally avers that God is eternal, that He created everything, that men and women alone were made in His image, that the Devil is a real person and that he seduced the first couple into sinning against their Creator. It tells us their pride-fueled iniquity led to the fall of all mankind, rendering us helpless and under the judgment of God. But it also says that God, due to His unbound love, mercy and compassion for us, has personally intervened so we may seek and find the way of salvation He’s provided free of charge. All that’s spelled out in Genesis. It’s no folktale. It’s actual history. Therefore a Christian who dismisses the first book in the Bible as inapplicable to their faith has built their house on shifting sand. A strong foundation is indispensable to erecting any sturdy structure and that’s the proper way believers should view the Old Testament. Jesus and the apostles said as much. Paul referenced the fall of man in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” Adam brought death into the world. Jesus brought life back into it. Thus it behooves us to be thankful this tragic but authentic history has been revealed to us in such a fascinating, engaging way. Each of us mimics, in our own manner, Adam & Eve’s behavior. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “According to the Bible, the remarkable thing about men and women in sin is that not only have they been taken down, as it were, by Adam, but they do the very selfsame thing to themselves.” In showing us the errors made by the first two humans God illuminates the mistakes we make every day when we do what seems right to us.
Genesis delivers both truth and consequences. We see that, as a result of their disobedience, Adam & Eve becoming miserable, depressed people so sated with fear and anxiety they just want to find a hole to hide in. They can’t stand themselves for blowing it so badly. Eve’s told giving birth will be a sorrowful and painful experience. Adam’s informed that from now on there’ll be no free lunch. That he’ll have to work and sweat like a plow mule just to provide the basics for his family. They’re both understandably devastated because things used to be perfect. It’s easy to imagine them asking each other “Where did we go wrong?” Ironically, they knew the answer all too well and it’s there for us to read in Genesis 3. They’d stopped listening to God. Like he does to so many of us in the world today, Satan started whispering in their ear, “Is it really true that God said…?” and they listened because it’s what they wanted to hear. The Devil mocked God and their trust in Him by saying “Are you kidding me? You actually believe that crock? Good grief. You’re dumber than I thought!” Satan attacked their pride and it was all she wrote. Solomon wasn’t just whistling Dixie when he told us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is our collective Achilles heel, it would seem, because it reliably brings all of us down. I find it interesting God didn’t demand that Adam & Eve love Him, praise Him or worship Him in any physical way, shape or form in Eden. They weren’t required to do anything at all. God had blessed them by placing them in paradise because He adored them. In fact, it sounds like He spoiled them rotten. They had it made in the shade. All God asked was that they honor Him by not breaking the single law He imposed upon them: Y’all leave that solitary tree alone. Their unwavering obedience would reflect their acknowledgement of His authority. No accolades were necessary, just sincere respect for His sovereignty. But that proved to be too much to ask of them, evidently.
In a way, God asks only one thing of believers – spread the Good News of the Gospel across the globe. God sent His only Son into this world to show us how to live righteous lives and to tell us He loves us so much He’ll gladly hand us the keys to His kingdom. To say His offer is generous is putting it mildly. On a silver platter He’s gifting us with “…the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). That means we can possess and exude right now the same kind of warm peace, spiritual confidence and inner contentment that Jesus displayed to all He came into contact with. All God asks of us is that we voluntarily surrender our wills to Him by accepting His Son as our Savior. Now, our surrender must be total and genuine. That means we can’t just curtsey, make a few hand signals and then go on doing as we dang well please. Not at all. We must allow Him inside to transform our heart and mind from top to bottom. We must declare war on the Devil. The Bible says, “You who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10). Obedience is more than just toeing the line. To be obedient we must do everything in our power to walk the straight and narrow road 24/7. Is perfect obedience possible? Not on your life. But we prove our allegiance to God by getting up immediately every time we stumble, repenting of our sin and carrying on with the great commission He’s given us. (I take comfort in knowing as long as I’m following in the footsteps of Jesus I’m always moving forward and that He’ll pick me up no matter how many times I let Him down.) Obedience is not an option in a Christian’s life, it’s a non-negotiable obligation. The Gospel never gives us permission to do whatever we want and that’s the pride-stifling hang-up that keeps so many people from giving themselves over to God. It’s also what tripped up Adam & Eve.
What the first couple did in Genesis is exactly what folks do when they reject Christ. They’re figuratively telling God to take His generosity and stick it where the sun don’t shine. The story of mankind’s fall from grace in Eden is hard for me to swallow simply because it’s so incredible Adam & Eve would be so presumptuous as to think they could defy and rebel against their Maker and not suffer any consequences. Yet they did and the awful shape the world’s in stands as proof positive they caved to temptation. Here’s the kicker, though – we’re no better than those two. They’re me and you. But we don’t want to admit it, that’s for sure. However, as Flannery O’Connor said, “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” And the raw truth is that every unholy thought we give birth to in our brain is an act of disobedience. In Genesis 3 God graciously presents us with a true-to-life allegory of what we do to Him day in and day out.
But in order to learn from it we must dig deeper and discover what motivated Adam & Eve to do such a foolish thing. Since they were perfect who had the means to spoil their perfection? The Bible implies none other than Satan goaded them into sinning using his wily cunning and dogma. Webster’s defines dogma as being basically “a belief.” It can also mean “an arrogant assertion of opinion.” As I read Genesis what really sticks out is that the Devil never offered evidence what he was saying was truthful. You can almost see the sarcasm dripping from his foul mouth as he belittles Eve with “You think God really said you can’t eat from any tree in the garden? Seriously? Get real, girl!” He was blatantly lying through his fangs. He then adds with a condescending grin, “Surely you will not die…” (Genesis 3:4). It’s as if he patted her on the back, winked and said, “You can take my word for it. We’re friends so why would I lie?” That’s the same fib Satan prods me with all the time. But Eve was sitting in paradise, for heaven’s sake. Nevertheless, the fact is she and her mate believed the Devil’s empty propaganda and literally gobbled the bait.
A strong case can be made that unsaved people anchor their entire non-Christian platform on similar groundless dogmatic assertions. They’ll spout stuff like “Science has proven…” or “I read on Facebook…” or “My professor said…” or “Everybody knows…” when they have nary a clue what they’re talking about. Yet they’ll base their whole rejection of Christianity on an unsubstantiated hypothesis because they’re satisfied it reinforces their argument. Whether they realize it or not, they’re doing precisely what Adam & Eve did. Those two figured, “Hey, if the serpent says so, it must be true…” Agnostics and atheists always have a hard time producing an undeniable, rock-solid reason for not believing in Christ. They have no proof whatsoever there isn’t a God. They also can’t prove Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t the Son of God possessing two natures (divine & human) in one person. All they have is a dogmatic assertion they’re right and we’re wrong. But we have God’s Word. They’ve got nothing. They’re liable to spout things like “Miracles are impossible. Thus, Christ’s miracles were merely illusions.” As far as they’re concerned, that settles the issue. But who, precisely, established as fact miracles are impossible? Nobody has because nobody can. They’ve just arbitrarily decided to believe in hollow dogma and to heck with logic. These days dogmatic assertions abound on the web like fish in the ocean. Anyone with a smartphone can conjure up any half-baked idea their little mind can formulate and broadcast it to the world as being the God’s honest truth and there’ll be folks that’ll swallow it hook, line and sinker.
Take the idolized theory of evolution, for example. I dare say there’s never been a bigger hoax perpetrated upon society. A theory, by definition, is an unproven conjecture. Yet it’s taught in schools and universities as if it was a rock-solid fact when, in reality, it’s no more than another dogmatic assertion. Yes, it’s a possibility but so is time travel. It should be treated as a supposition but it’d leave secularists with nothing to hang their hats on and they can’t stand the thought. Phillip E. Johnson, in his thoroughly-researched, best-selling book, Darwin on Trial, wrote, “As the creation myth of scientific naturalism, Darwinism plays an indispensable ideological role in the war against fundamentalism. For that reason, the scientific organizations are devoted to protecting Darwinism rather than testing it, and the rules of scientific investigation have been shaped to help them succeed.” He adds, “Naturalistic evolution is not merely a scientific theory; it is the official creation story of modern culture. The scientific priesthood that has authority to interpret the official creation story gains immense cultural influence thereby, which it might lose if the story were called into question. The experts therefore have a vested interest in protecting the story, and in imposing rules of reasoning that make it invulnerable. When critics ask, ‘Is your theory really true?’ we should not be satisfied to be answered that ‘it is good science, as we define science.’”
When the risen Christ appeared to Paul on the Damascus road He told the apostle He was sending him out into the populace to “…open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). Jesus has given us the same assignment. We’re to reveal the truth to those who are blind to it. We’re to correct them. Straighten out their skewed reasoning process. Make them think so they can see through the false dogma they’re being bombarded with. Lloyd-Jones preached, “Men and women are deluded by a prejudice; they’re silenced by a dogmatism that comes from the archenemy. It began like that, and it has continued like that. That is the trouble.” Due to not having a leg to stand on Satan’s fallback response will always be “Because I said so!” and the gullibility gene we still carry in our DNA strand from Adam & Eve will accept his flimsy rationale all too often without considering the consequences. The Devil’s proficient at making his way of doing things seem right to a person. But Christians should know that when we disobey God and go it alone it leads to death. Death of marriages. Death of friendships and family bonds. Death of faith and trust. Death of everything that has meaning. God doesn’t demand obedience because He’s a tyrannical egotist. He demands it from His children because His primary desire is that we may “…have life, and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Only through obedience can we have it.