God Centered Perspective: Broken. Our current experience is a far cry from the paradise that the bible describes in Genesis 1 & 2; we intrinsically know that we have all been born outside of Eden. The restful rhythm of life that existed in the paradise of Eden, and that every human soul longs for, now evades us; the contentment, rest, and happiness that was once experienced in perfect paradise in the presence of God was fractured as a result of sin. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they shunned God’s authority, care, sovereignty, provision & protection and the results were catastrophic.1 The main thrust in Genesis 3 is to teach the Jewish people that humanity was not created in its current state, but this condition was brought on by their own doing.2 The fracture that occurred as a result of Adam & Eve’s rebellion (you and I would have done the same thing) is a complete fracturing of the entire created order – this is not a simple break; it is akin to a shattered mirror. The consequences of sin are grave:
1. Humanity’s relationship with God has been fractured; the Bible says that we are spiritually dead, totally depraved, broken, hopeless, helpless, in need of outside intervention.3
2. Human relationships are fractured; this relational fracture is most poignantly seen in the battle for authority in marriage – women now have a tendency to rebel against their husband’s leadership role and men now naturally drift towards oppressing women.4
3. Death, pain & suffering are now an everyday occurrence; physical death enters and pain during child birth is just one example of the pain and suffering that are now part of the world.5 Death, disease and difficulty were not part of Eden.
4. The creation itself has been subjected to futility (meaninglessness)6; God cursed the ground that He had called man to cultivate. The central calling of Adam was to cultivate, to work at and invest in his culture, his work, his wife, his children; everything that we are called to cultivate and have dominion over now wars against us. The perfect paradise of Eden has been lost. This means work, children, husbands & wives, relationships and health will, at times, war against you.
All things that were created to glorify God are now but a glimpse of the majestic grandeur that they once were. This fracture is the reason for poverty, injustice & oppression; cancer, hospitals & nursing homes; tornadoes, tsunamis & earthquakes; holocausts, genocides & jihads; Zoloft, Adderall & Xanax; wheelchairs, walkers & hearing aids7. Our sin is the reason that there is pain, suffering, death, crime, disease, poverty, divorce, murder, natural disasters, hardship & a soul level meaninglessness in this world.8 All things are now broken and will never be made new until Jesus’ second coming when He ushers in His eternal kingdom.9 The creation that God made and called “very good” is now fractured as a result of our sin and rebellion.10
So how do we life productively in a world gone wrong?11 How do we keep from resigning ourselves to passively trying to merely survive this life? The Jews in the first century wanted a Messiah that would overthrow the Romans and set up His own rule and reign on earth. But, before God could set up an earthly kingdom, He had to deal with the real problem which was not outside of man. Sin and rebellion in the hearts of man was (and is) the real problem that Jesus came to defeat. The kingdom of God has begun by setting up the rule and reign of Christ in the hearts of His children. God restores part of the created order in the hearts and lives of those that are His, but they are still fallen and still live in a fallen and broken world; their hearts, however, increasingly long for home. Redemption has begun, but is not yet complete. Messiah is ruling & reigning in the hearts of His people; He is progressively restoring the image in us so we are more accurate reflectors of His glory.
The world is broken and will never be restored until Jesus returns. However, many believers set their hopes here, believing that they can get things to work and make them right, but the believer that finally understands that all things will never be made new on this earth is free to set his hopes and affections on Christ and eternal things. Our hope is not in repairing this world and the things in it; our confidence is in the Creator who promises to recreate this world so that it needs no fixing. The gaze of the child of God is heavenward, it is on Jesus and the day when He, not us, will make all things new. Redemption has begun! This focus gives us the ability to face affliction, depravity, death, disappointment and difficulty with hope. Instead of running and hiding from difficulty or insulating ourselves as if hardships do not exist we can weep with those who weep12 and empathetically enter in to other’s pain offering Hope because we know that this world is broken. Only Hope in God will satisfy.
As image bearers of the Almighty that He is progressively restoring, we are moved to action to be agents of restoration & reconciliation because we increasingly identify with our Father. We work to restore that which is broken because we are reflectors of the Almighty. We become eager to engage in and attempt to meet the overwhelming amount of physical needs in this world because we see them as a result of the fracture and not how they should be! However, we never loose sight that the the rebellion of the human heart against its Maker is the greatest need of all. No degree of water wells, education or food – on their own – have the power to redeem the soul. We are not surprised when things are difficult and progress is hard; the sustained fuel to continue working is knowing that there is coming a day when God will make all things new – all things will be remade and nothing will be broken.13 The harmonious rhythm and rest of Eden will return. Yes, sin has fractured the universe and our best efforts at living gracefully & faithfully still fall woefully short in their real world implementations in family, work and relationships because we are all broken. Our hearts plead, “your kingdom come,” as we become increasingly more aware that we are “aliens and strangers” in a world that has been subjected to futility.
Prayer: Lord, please help us to remember that we live in a world that is broken because of our sin. Help us to set our hopes on you and on Your promises of restoration. Help us to serve faithfully and become more accurate reflectors of your glory.
1 In Genesis 2:16-17, we see God prohibiting Adam from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A question might arise, “why then did God put this tree in the garden, wasn’t He tempting the first couple?” Adam had been given rule and reign over the entire earth, everything was beneath him. He was at the top of the proverbial food chain; the image bearer of the Almighty. However, the tree was a visible reminder that he was not over all things; the tree and its prohibition to eat its fruit reminded Adam that he was still under authority and that all things were not under him. In short, the tree was a reminder that God was sovereign, ultimate and supreme and that he was not; Adam was created, God was Creator.
In Genesis 3, we see Satan tempting the couple to shun God’s authority and take life in to their own hands. If we are not careful, we will tend to minimize this rebellion by thinking that it was a simple act of eating a piece of fruit. We might think, “what’s the big deal? Is eating a piece of fruit really worthy of the death penalty?” We reckon that the death penalty is not worthy of jay walking. The act of eating the fruit, however, was only the evidence of the rebellion that existed in the couple’s heart. Adam and Eve effectively said, “I know that you say that you are sovereign, ultimate and supreme, but we want to be sovereign ultimate and supreme.” This is treason, for which death is still handed down in many cultures. The Maker of all things, the One who gave the couple their breath, their live, their food, their water is the One that they shunned and rebelled against. The couple only had one commandment to follow and yet their lust for independence, power and control fueled by their pride rendered them incapable of obeying. How much more incapable are we to obey, being born in sin and objects of His wrath (Ephesians 2:1-10)?
2 For a more in depth discussion on the fall of mankind, see The Fall by Bruce Henry
3 The theological term for this concept is Total Depravity. Total Depravity means that no part of us remains untouched by sin’s staining effects. Though we are not as bad as we possibly could be, no part of us is free from the effects of sin (our emotions, our minds, our hearts, our desires, our motives, our bodies, our intentions) even from birth. This does not mean that we are utterly depraved; utter depravity is when every area is as depraved as possible. We are not as bad as we could be, but no part of us is clean. Total Depravity does not teach that man is incapable of doing anything good in some ways (even as fallen people we are still image bearers), but we are unable to do anything good in relation to God. Wayne Grudem summarizes this well: “Scripture is not denying that unbelievers can do good in human society in some senses. But it is denying that they can do any spiritual good or be good in terms of a relationship with God. Apart from the work of Christ in our lives, we are like all other unbelievers who are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart (Ephesians 4:18).” Grudem, Wayne (1999). Bible Doctrine (pages 215-216). Zondervan.
As a result of the fall, we are spiritually unable to know or pursue God; the bible says that we are spiritually dead. God told Adam that rebellion, as evidenced by eating the fruit that God prohibited and would result in death (Genesis 2:17). Additionally, the bible paints a grim picture of our condition when it says that every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5); the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9); we are sinful before we are born (Psalm 51:5); no one is righteous, seeks God or does good (Romans 3:10-12); sin & death entered through Adam & affects all men (Romans 5:12-14); nothing good dwells in our flesh; we lack the ability to do anything good on our own (Romans 7:18); apart from Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sins and by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3); apart from Christ, we are darkened in understanding, alienated from God due to hardness of heart (Ephesians 4:18-19)
4 “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)
5 Genesis 2:17, 3:16
6 Romans 8:18-39. Man and creation was created to glorify God, but in its current state we are unable to do that fully. Imagine the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone before it was subjected to futility by the fall!
7 Because of God’s common grace, we are fortunate to have medications, institutions and aids that help us to live in a broken world. However, none of these were necessary in Eden.
8 The book of Ecclesiastes discusses the meaninglessness of life below the sun, when viewed in the context of the here and now. We have to experience life above the sun, in pursuit of God, for things to make sense.
9 Revelation 21
10 Genesis 1:31
11 Paul David Tripp, Broken Down House: Living productively in a world gone wrong
12 See Jesus Loved Mary, Martha & Lazarus so He Stayed Two Days Longer
https://thegospelcenteredlife.com/2011/07/15/jesus-loved-mary-martha-lazarus-so-he-stayed-two-days-longer/, Romans 12:15
13 Revelation 21