Tag Archives: guilt

Excuse

Studies in Genesis 3

And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10 ESV)

Adam was terrified. He had a word for what he was feeling. “Afraid.” This is the first time this word is used in Scripture. Afraid means to dread, to revere, to stand in awe, to terrify. It is a legitimate emotion one who has rebelled against God should feel when coming into His presence. We are admonished throughout Scripture to fear God, both as our Creator and our Judge. Adam was afraid because he was coming into the presence of God having just sinned and rebelled against Him.

But Adam gives a different reason for his fear. He declares his fear comes from his nakedness. It is a slightly different word than the one used by God before they rebelled. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25 ESV). Here, naked means bare and describes their state of being. They are not only unclothed before God and each other but they also have nothing to hide. God describes their nakedness within their environment as they “were not ashamed.”  They were secure in their home.

After the fall, when Adam comes into God’s presence he is ashamed. He has something he wants to hide. He has a secret he does not want God to know. He is not bare. He is naked. He does not mention the poor attempt at making an apron, which had probably fallen apart by this time.

Adam withdrew himself from sight because he could not cover himself adequately to feel secure. He was forced into hiding, not by God who wanted him to present himself, but by his own guilt which would not allow him to stand openly before God.

Adam’s explanation of being afraid to stand before God is an excuse meant to divert attention away from the true reason. He knew God well enough to know He is all powerful and all knowing. Still, he offered an excuse to God, a dishonest attempt to make himself less guilty before the One who declares guilt. There is no reason to declare innocence. In his innocent nature, Adam could walk bare before the world and have no fear. His shield and protection was God and he did not know he needed protection from anything. Adam was given dominion over the world. He was God’s authority over the Earth. Nothing on the Earth could challenge his authority. Though inhabiting an earthly creature, the snake, the Deceiver was not of the world, yet was still a creation of God. Adam knew his authority. So, for him to offer an excuse for hiding shows not only his relationship with God was compromised but also his authority over the Earth.

I have heard it said that “an excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” None of Adam’s words are lies. But, his response is still not true. Instead of saying “I ate the fruit you forbade” and “I do not want to face you because I am ashamed,” Adam offered a half truth, “I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10 ESV). Lies are subtle, hidden within partial truth, designed to divert attention. Repentance is not soft but hard, designed to break the resistant will and conform it to God’s will. Adam was afraid and felt remorse because he got caught. Repentance fully faces wrong done while remorse hides behind excuses.

Judgment and Discernment

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. [Matthew 5:22 ESV]

We are responsible for judging the intent of the thinking of our hearts. Outside of us only God can know what is in a person’s heart. He knows better than the person. Few are honest enough with themselves to know when their thinking and their hearts are bent toward evil or wickedness. Fewer allow guilt to drive them toward God. Without the forgiveness which comes through grace none could survive the conviction of sin. We must admit we sin before we will admit what our sins are. Those who refuse to admit what their sins are face God’s wrath.

Francis Schaeffer has suggested when someone is confronted with their sin and the enormous consequences of their sin they must do one of two things. Either they will go insane in trying to absolve themselves of the consequence through ignoring sin or they will commit suicide. We cannot live with guilt. Either we declare ourselves not guilty or we sentence ourselves to death.  Schaeffer knows the third option is to acknowledge God and His ultimate authority and compassion for us through the sacrifice of His Son.

We are responsible for accepting or rejecting the grace offered by God. He commands all to receive His grace, to accept their guilt and admit the truth their death sentence has been fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ.

From the beginning of man’s history, from Adam in the garden created in the image of God and given a realm in which to serve God, all are commanded to follow and obey Him. It does not matter that sin entered the world when it comes to obeying the commands of God. Sin is not an excuse for disobedience. Adam was commanded to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He was also given permission to eat from any other tree in the garden including the tree of life. Only after he willfully disobeyed God was he driven from the garden so he could not eat from the tree of life. Now all are commanded to eat from the tree of life, which is Christ, and live, but do not. Again, most in the world are in willful rebellion against God refusing to obey His explicit command.

Jeremiah, prophesying against the nation of Judah, compares those who are under God’s grace and know it and those who only think they are God’s yet rebel against Him.

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds. [Jeremiah 17:5-10 ESV]

God sees the evidence of the thinking of the heart in each person because He intimately knows each person. At the same time it is the responsibility of the individual to recognize the thinking of their own heart and accept responsibility for their thinking and actions. While the thinking of their hearts may be hidden from others their actions and the body language which accompanies their actions are never hidden. Others will see and form judgments based upon what they see. It is easy to judge others. Are we honest and discerning with ourselves concerning our own sin and guilt?

Obedience to God and right relationship with Him brings clarity. All judgment, in order for the judgment to be righteous, must be viewed through a Godly filter which recognizes sin and realizes the consequences of sin and followed by relinquishing control to God. Without doing these three steps, judgment, whether of self or of others, is arbitrary and sinful.

We are responsible for the intent of the thinking of our hearts. It is not our responsibility to judge the intent of the thinking of the hearts of others. It is our responsibility to be discerning, open to the counsel and instruction of the Spirit and confront sin where ever we find sin, whether in ourselves or in others. God commands we love Him and live according to truth. There are no other options.

Evidence of Sin

What is the evidence for sin? There are several primary pieces of evidence left in the trail of everyone bent by sin. Since God requires man recognize sin in self and the world He commands the evidence remain obvious. His declaration of sin as rebellion against Him is all the verification for sin He needs. He always tells the truth and demands His creation live in truth declared. Man is created in the image of God. It is this image, even corrupted by sin, which gives us the tools to know truth, the difference between right and wrong, and the reality of physical death pointing toward spiritual death.

Even if we don’t know the word “sin’ we do know the feeling “guilt.” In the New Testament the word “guilty” means to owe or to be in debt. In the Old Testament the word “guilty” means to commit an offense and be held responsible for it, either by self or an authority. Whether in the Old or New Testament the guilty person is held and judged against a specific standard. This recognition of “guilt” points to sin and the intellectual acknowledgment of its reality, not the emotional realization of the consequences which follows. Emotions are subjective, influenced by many uncontrollable and unpredictable external and internal circumstances. Both the mind and the emotions, as parts of the image of God, are corrupted by sin and so cannot see, or will not see, and understand sin’s reality.

No one can live with a guilty conscience for long. They must do something with the guilt. For sinful humanity one of the prevalent means for easing the shame brought on by sinful actions and attitudes is to change the standard which judges those actions and attitudes rebellion against God. We say what we have done is not rebellion and has violated no law and then we convince ourselves the lie is true. Doing this gives us permission to continue living out the lie. Or, we can do something to absolve ourselves of the guilt. We offer restitution and pay for our sin using our own means and then feel better. Doing this never changes the truth of history and the reality of what has been done. Nor, because of the doctrine of total depravity, will we adequately pay for our own sin, either actively or passively. Doing this is another way of changing the rules. So, we either ignore the rules and our rebellion against them or we explain away our rebellion and alleviate our feeling of guilt.

But wait. Our heads, the intelligence, tells us “guilt” is real. Our heads, our minds, tell us we have done something to produce guilt. If we are honest we will recognize there is an objective standard existing outside of self which is absolute and which we have violated, producing guilt. We know, intellectually, the difference between right and wrong. This is the second piece of evidence for sin. Admitting one is guilty is as vitally important as recognizing the truth of sin. Ignoring the guilt will compel the person to begin viewing the created world, governed by the absolute laws of God, to believe a lie which is insane.

It is not a great leap to realize a standard, a measurement of the distance between right and wrong, must have a Standard Giver. Since God, the Standard Giver, has created people in His image are capable of recognizing both the standard of right and wrong and the One upon whom the standard is based. We know, intellectually as well as intimately, the boundaries of that standard. We may ignore them, rationalize them away, say they do not nor have never existed, call them something else, but we know, even with a corrupted image, the difference between right and wrong. We also know we always want to choose that which is wrong. In order to abrogate our responsibility to do what is right by choosing to do the wrong we must redefine truth, saying it is something it is not. When we do this we say God is something other than what He is truly.

Truth, and right and wrong, are as absolute as mathematics. Evidence for the reality of sin is the recognition of what is right and what is wrong based upon the intimate knowledge of the intrinsic, objective standard of God, the truth, known because of the tools given within the image of God carried by all.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [Romans 1:18-21 ESV]

One unconditional piece of evidence for the reality of sin is the absolute certainty of death. Death is the separation from that which sustains life. Physical death occurs when the body is no longer sustained in the physical world, through the natural laws, standards emplaced by the Standard Giver. So, spiritual death is separation from the absolute One who sustains spiritual life, as well as physical life. Separation from the Life-Giver happens when there is known and deliberate rebellion against the Standard Giver.

We die. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” [Genesis 2:16-17 ESV]

God uses the word death twice in this restriction. On the day Adam ate from the tree he began dying. Adam did not immediately die but the process of physical death begin. He would die. This suggests two things. First, God created those in His image to live and not die. Second, He told Adam what death was. We know death as separation from that which gives life. So for Adam death separates from God since God created him and breathed life into him. But, he would not be separated immediately in physical death. We do see God separating Adam from the garden immediately. Death is a consequence of sin but it is also the definitive evidence for the reality of sin.

We can no more ignore the truth of death than we can ignore the truth of sin than we can ignore the truth of God. To do any of this is to lessen God and everyone made in His image. Believing there is no sin or reason for guilt elevates self to God’s place and replaces His standard with the individual’s unreasonable expectations. Such an attitude shows contempt for God and for those made in His image. This attitude is called pride. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. [Proverbs 16:18 ESV] If being poor in spirit builds the desire of a love for the truth and expresses a complete hatred for sin then the hidden sin facing all but especially those who are poor in spirit is pride.

In the Old Testament the word “pride” means to exalt, to have majesty or excellence, coupled with arrogance. In the New Testament there are several words translated “pride” and used only a few times. “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” [1 John 2:16 ES] John uses a word which means “empty words,” “empty assurances” or” empty trust.” Everything the person says implies an empty belief and misplaced trust in an object which cannot deliver what is promised. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up (proud) with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” [1 Timothy 3:6 ESV] Paul uses a word which means “smoke” or “mist,” having the outward appearance of substance but with nothing inside. Pride blows hot air into a person until they are so big they can see nothing but themselves. Pride is essentially a self-righteous, self-absorbed excuse to view self as not sinful or beyond sin. Pride expresses itself in self-righteousness.

Those who are poor in spirit recognize sin has separated them from the riches of a personal relationship with God. Pride hides truth and inflates self shutting off every personal relationship. Once one begins working with God there is a continual trial to not place self ahead of Him. It is easy to begin viewing all which has been done, or said, to see the successes and failures, and to attribute them to personal effort. While we live in this world God does not erase the corrupted image given us through Adam as we acknowledge sin and relinquish control. We must continually fight the tugs and pulls of the world, continually acknowledge sin in ourselves and continually relinquish control. Even John, at the end of his life when he saw Jesus, fell on his face because he recognized his sinfulness.

However, the internal understanding or knowledge of truth shown by God may become a source of pride. Look at Elijah. Here was a man willing to stand alone before a hostile leader in the power of God and defeat the opposition, do miraculous and mighty things, and speak boldly and truthfully. He is the only person in the Bible we can say with certainty was taken into heaven without dying. Yet, he became exhausted with his battle and ran to the mountain of God to speak with Him.

“The word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”

“He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’” [1 Kings 19:13-14 ESV]

Elijah thought he was the only one speaking for God, that all others had deserted God or been killed. He points out to God his attitude toward the direction given. He was “jealous” for God. Elijah showed how passionate he was for declaring truth and hating sin. He was not afraid of standing alone even against the prophets of Baal whom he had just killed. He knew the people had killed God’s prophets and were out to murder Him. God did nothing to stop the murder of those prophets. Elijah told God when they killed him no one would be left to speak for God. He was telling God to do something. He has done everything he could for God and it seems as if God has done nothing.

Notice God does not rebuke Elijah. He has protected him, given him food miraculously, listened to him and given him dominion over rain and life. He enabled Elijah to outrun horses. He killed 400 men and would have killed 850 had the rest of the false prophets showed up. God sustained him as he walked for days without food. Elijah’s focus upon God waivered with physical exhaustion. He had to see himself before God and worn out before he would see God utterly and finally in control. Though there is no mention of pride in Elijah his words before God about himself and what God has not done are self-important.

Even the godliest men will succumb to pride when they focus upon themselves and not on God. Pride, which is sin, focuses upon personal accomplishments and not on God. Even focusing on failures and not on God makes proud. Anything which elevates self above the station specified by God is rebellion. Though God blesses those who are poor in spirit there is still a tendency to view self in a way which places self where God never intended.