Tag Archives: remorse

“And I ate”

Studies in Genesis 3

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13 ESV)

Like the man, the woman’s response to God’s interrogation was partially, but not completely honest. She responded with two honest statements. First, she truthfully said “the serpent deceived me.” Some translations use the word “beguiled.” The Deceiver, in the guise of a serpent, lied to her and she listened, believing the lie. She was told that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would have specific results beyond simple nourishment. Eating the fruit would give her hidden knowledge and make her like God, which means, equal to God.

To beguile means to lure, charm, captivate, mesmerize, enthrall. She was lured into believing the lie by a beast created by God because of her own thought process and desires. She was enthralled, which means to enslave, by the possibility of being something she was not. She was mesmerized by the superstition that some physical piece of fruit, when eaten, would make her more than what God had already made her. She wanted to eat the fruit and the lie presented an excuse for her to disobey.

Secondly, she admitted straight up that she ate the fruit. There was no waffling or hesitation. “And I ate.” She is using the same words used by the man, who also said “and I ate.” Perhaps their straightforward answers to God’s interrogation was an adequate response to His questioning. However, when God walked in the garden both the man and the woman hid from Him. His calling them and questioning of them showed they had been caught. There was remorse for being caught but no repentance for the act of rebellion. Or, was there remorse?

Both the man and the woman were created in the image of God for relationship with Him. Before their rebellion their relationship with God and each other was wholesome and complete. There was no reason for them to lie to God, nor disobey His direction. They easily could have brought their questions to Him without fear of ridicule or being ignored. We cannot assume the broken and strained relationships we currently have is indicative of their relationship with God or each other. There was no sin up to this point. We cannot conceive living without sin dogging our every thought, motive and action. Up to this point they had a healthy relationship free from sin.

Both of their responses to God show no acceptance of what they had done and no repentance. They admitted “I ate” but they did not admit I disobeyed.

What she didn’t say was “I decided to eat because I believed You were keeping something from me which I deserved, needed, wanted and had to have.” Is the expectation of such a response too much to demand from those created in His image?

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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.

Just and Unjust Judges

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. [Matthew 5:25-26 ESV]

Do we have to stand before a Judge before admitting when we have done something wrong? Are Judges known for being compassionate? Do they forgive offenses, willful acts, crimes against men and the state? Is it not their responsibility to look at the evidence and determine culpability? Are they not charged with upholding the law which constrains them? What Judge is going to set aside law for personal preference? If they do then they are not a Judge but as much a criminal as those standing before them. Those Judges who are just will agonize over their decisions because they want truth and compassion, justice and righteousness.

Christians are faced with unjust judges daily. All those around us will judge our actions and words against their arbitrary standard or a predetermined measure. They will assess not only what is right and good but every wrong. For the unjust Judge will build a case regardless of the facts, no matter the evidence. Those being accused of doing something wrong may not have done anything wrong. Christians who suffer for righteousness’ sake face accusers who are judging them because of their relationship with Christ. In fact, they have probably done everything right.

However, I do not think this is what Jesus is speaking about in these verses.

I think he is telling us to judge ourselves against God’s standards so that those who do accuse us have no evidence to substantiate their claims. If they do have evidence because we have done something wrong then we are responsible for righting the wrong. Jesus is using the world’s unjust system as an illustration for God’s justice. We cannot expect non-Christians to act like Christians.

We can expect Christians, or those who say they are Christians, to act according to God’s known will. We must say sin is sin. Jesus is direct in His statements about a brother confronting a brother about sin.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [Matthew 1815-17 ESV]

Again, I do not think this is what Jesus is speaking to in these verses (Matthew 5:25-26), though they are related. I think He is telling us to admit when we are wrong, confess sin, repent and turn away from sin, before being hauled in front of a Judge. We should not have to be told when we are wrong. A Judge will not be nice. God is loving and compassionate but not nice.

One of the underlying principles of the Sermon on the Mount is the desire of God to make those who are His whole. For the individual, wholeness means being remade, recreated by God into the likeness of His Son. We are created in His image, bent and corrupted by sin, then recreated by His Spirit and fit for here as witnesses and for eternity as citizens. God changes the person immediately but takes His time disciplining and developing the person for eternity. He makes the person whole intellectually, morally and emotionally and willfully. He molds those who are His into people who act obediently as His servants.

I hate the process for it demands I see myself as God sees me, as Christ sees me and as the Holy Spirit sees me. God sees me covered with the blood of Christ. Jesus sees me as one He is willing to die for and did. He who lives in the Christian, the Holy Spirit, sees me as a citizen-student being fit by Him for eternity.

This is important. Christians must not view themselves as they see themselves in the world. God trains us, when we are obedient, to see ourselves as He sees us, covered with the blood of Christ. We stand before Him, and before the world, in His grace.

Have you ever tried to defend, rationalize or excuse your wrong actions and attitudes before an impartial Judge? He will not let you. Either we judge our sin or God does and He may use a human judge which will carry much pain. There is an eternal difference between remorse and repentance.

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. [Matthew 5:4 ESV]

Those who are poor in spirit recognize the fact of sin, truthfully acknowledging the presence of and corruption caused by sin. Almost immediately there is the realization of the consequences of sin. As I become more and more aware of the reality of sin I become more acutely aware of what has happened because of sin. Once my eyes are opened to the absolute truth of sin then my heart grows troubled and anxious, afraid of what might happen because of sin.

Realizing the consequences of sin will force one of two reactions. Either we say we have not sinned or done anything wrong or we acknowledge our sin. Remorse is the emotional state of admitting wrong without agreeing to the truth of sin. Someone who shows remorse knows they have done something which makes them guilty, by violating a law or standard of which they are completely aware, and do the thing anyway. They get caught and are sorry for what they have done, but only because they were caught. For them the law or standard carries no weight or influence in their lives. Perhaps they have trained themselves to feel no guilt or think what they do has no consequences.

Repentance is the admission of the truth of sin and the personal, emotional desire to not continue sinning. It is a turning away from sin where remorse is only a brief stop before continuing in the direction of sin. Repentance is characterized by grief over the hurt and pain caused to another because of our actions. It realizes the end results of our actions and demands we stop them, change the motivation which inspired them, and retrain our thinking to keep ourselves from doing them again.

I have characterized repentances as a turning away from sin. I first stop when I realize I am going in the direction of sin, realize the consequences of continuing in that direction and begin to turn away. I grieve over sin but soon realize the process of grieving does not stop just because I want to turn away from sin but will last for the rest of my life because I can do nothing to stop sin.

Jesus says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” [Matthew 5:4 ESV] I am supposed to grieve but Jesus’ teaching does not stop with the truth of my mourning. He moves through the entire process. None of the elements Jesus states can be ignored or skipped. So, too, none of the steps which come with grief, which has its own process and includes denial, anger and then acceptance, can be skipped. Because mourning is grief it begins with denial, moves into anger and culminates with acceptance.

Jesus’ statement, blessed are those who mourn, is the next quality which describes the citizen of the kingdom of heaven and what they look like. There are seven of these qualities and this is only the second. Jesus makes this statement which is the exact opposite of what the world and anyone in the world wants and expects. It is not hard to spew out those desirable characteristics or circumstances sought after and coveted by the world. I know them intimately and struggle with them daily. I want peace which means a lack of conflict both externally and internally. I do not want to be attacked especially by guilt over a circumstance of which I seem to have no control. I do not want anyone telling me what to do or how to act or where to work or how to live.

If the world views something, anything, as good or desirable it is guaranteed God holds the opposite view. This is not simply because God’s views are diametrically opposed to those of the world but because the thinking of the hearts of those in the world are in complete rebellion against God. Many things are good but their attainment or the means by which they are accomplished when done for self and not for God are tainted and corrupted by sin. Sin must be dealt with for nothing sinful will exist in God’s presence for even a moment of eternity, whatever a moment in eternity looks like. Even Satan and those angels who rebelled against God are cast out of God’s eternal holy presence.

Understanding the threat of being removed from the presence of God should illicit mourning, grieving, wailing and gnashing of teeth. If I am not moved to anguish by the possibility of being ejected from the presence of God then my concept and understanding of God is faulty. It also shows my understanding of who I am is mistaken. To “mourn” mean to lament, be grieved because of something which has happened to a person. Mourners wail, tear their clothes, toss dust in the air, refuse to eat and drink because they have no appetite. They have lost someone they love completely, never to see that person again, and are consumed by their grief. Jesus tells me I should mourn, grieve, and cry out in anguish, because of what has happened to God, to those around me in the world and to me because of the cost of sin. But the focus is upon God and the reality we have lost our intimate relationship with Him because of our rebellion. He has not died. We have died.

Mourning is a direct result of spiritual poverty. It is not the emotional anguish over physical suffering or loss but the deep grief over or because of sin which causes spiritual death. Death, which is separation from that which sustains life, is the outcome of sin. God created man to have a relationship with him so the primary result of sin is how it affects God and what it cost Him. I am so selfish in my view of sin I forget or ignore or redefine the extent of the impact upon God. I think nothing I do has an impact upon Him. Those who are poor in spirit have changed their focus from self to God, from how God views truth and our inclination to believe a lie to hatred for sin and love for truth.

We know what sin costs people. They die and are separated from God. In order to understand the penalty of sin we must know what it cost God.