Tag Archives: repentance

Enmity

Studies in Genesis 3

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.” (Genesis 3:15 ESV)

Does God create hatred and loathing? Is hatred part of His eternal character?

When God stated that He placed enmity between the woman and the Deceiver, or the serpent, He is speaking about a level of hatred that moves beyond simple displeasure. This hatred and loathing is the deepest and longest lasting antagonism coupled with a desire to destroy and annihilate. The woman wants the Deceiver destroyed. The Deceiver want anything and everything God has done corrupted, unusable and taken away from HimimH.

There is an eternal difference between the “hatred” of God and that of His creatures who have rebelled against Him. God’s hatred is against sin. Scripture is replete with instances of God declaring His hatred and loathing for sin and for those who refuse to repent, who actively and purposefully rebel against Him, and who promote sin in others.

If a man does not repent,
God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies. (Psalm 7:12-14 ESV)

In the Gospels Jesus condemns the Jewish leaders by saying they are related to the Deceiver, telling them their father is the Devil. It, the Deceiver or the Devil, slanders man to God and God to man. It, the Devil, is both a murderer and a liar. Those to whom Jesus is speaking do the exact things done by the Deceiver.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 ESV)

God is not the author of sin. He did not decide to corrupt the heavens and the earth He created. Nor, was His objective that Man rebel against Him when He created Man in His image. Yet, He did foresee from the beginning the reality of sin in His creation. There was darkness on the first day of creation (see Genesis 1:1-5) and then God created light, and separated the darkness from the light. From the beginning, God separates darkness from light whether in the spiritual realm or the physical. If I am correct in my thinking that God created the physical realm with representative characteristics of the spiritual then from the beginning God’s plan and decree was to swallow darkness with light.

When God declared enmity, hatred and loathing between the woman and the Deceiver, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the Deceiver, He announced the outcome of the conflict between those who love and those who hate Him. God is completely and ultimately in control.

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Testing

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)

After questioning the man, who has blamed Him and the woman for his actions, God now turns His attention to the woman. His question is as direct as those asked of the man, but slightly different. He knows what she has done. She has listened to the Deceiver and worked out in her mind and heart the decision to rebel against God. She has plucked a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil believing, against all evidence, that by eating it she will gain something God is withholding. She has eaten the fruit and then given it to the man for him to eat.

God’s question is all inclusive. He asks the woman what she did. What have you produced? What work did you do? What have you made? What is the effect of your work? You have done something. What is it? God asks the woman to account for her thoughts, the decision-making process, the reasons for her actions. He is demanding a full accounting for all which just occurred because of her actions.

God wants her, as He wanted the man, to take complete responsibility for herself. God asks the woman, as He did the man, as He does all who bear His image, to give an accounting for their thoughts, motivations, decisions and actions. He never asks anyone to do something for Him. He did not ask them to refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He commanded they not eat from that tree.

God’s asking is a testing. Scripture is filled with God testing, or proving, every person. His tests are a teaching tool to discover what the person, or student, does not know, not what they do know. He knows the results of the testing. He wants those tested to know the results also. Yet, He demands a heart which seeks truth, so the testing becomes a tool used to purge the person of sin, as a furnace refines metal, removing the dross.

This is the uncomfortable reality of having the image of God while carrying the brokenness of sin. All are tested, put through the fire to burn away the impurities. Our responsibility, because of the image of God, is to acknowledge the testing is from God for our benefit, take responsibility for ourselves, and repent, turning away from that which breaks and cuts off any relationship with God.

Our actions carry no merit. God does not ask and then reward us for obedience. God commands with the expectation of obedience and blesses because it is His nature to do so out of love for those He created. Part of our responsibility is obedience and truthfulness.

Both the man and the woman disobeyed God. Neither the man or the woman answered God’s questions with complete truthfulness.

Second Question

Studies in Genesis 3

He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11 ESV)

God does not give the man a chance to answer the question “Who told you that you were naked?”  before moving onto the next question “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Both questions are simple and direct. Both questions require simple and direct answers. God wants an answer for both questions. Both questions are filled with anger and disappointment. God is not happy those created in His image rebelled against Him, hid from Him, and refuse to come into His presence.

I imagine God questioning the man and woman while they are still hiding. When God calls into His presence those who are spiritually healthy and righteous before Him will immediately stop what they are doing and give their full attention to Him. They will stand before Him in eager anticipation. On the other hand, those who are rebelling against Him will not, of their own volition, stand before Him. They will turn away from Him in fear, tempered with the overwhelming desire to run and hide. However, they will be forced into His presence and then kneel in terror at His wrath.

There is no indication in Scripture the man continued to hide from God during His questioning but their guilt, their fear, and the obvious desire to not be seen by God because of their nakedness, suggests they continued to hide from His presence. No one can hide from God’s presence. He is omnipresent. Trying to hide from God is a futile attempt to absolve oneself from the consequences of rebellion and a strong indicator of separation and a broken relationship.

God’s second question is even simpler than His first. “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11 ESV). A simple “yes” would suffice. But their actions toward God and their nakedness leads them to a different answer. God told the man he was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His command was direct and unambiguous. Adam understood the command. Adam knew he had done that which God had forbidden. God knew the man had done that which He had forbidden. God’s question is meant for confession, to draw out of the man the acknowledgement of his moral transgression and lead him to repentance. God already determined the consequences of eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam will die, not only physically but spiritually. Yet God, the benevolent Creator, knows what He will do for Adam to redeem the relationship.

Adam must truthfully confess his sin and repent. God will forgive. But God will not stay sentencing and punishment. He cannot abide sin in His presence therefore something must be done to fulfill His required consequence of sin, which is death. God knows what He will do. But first is the finishing of the trial and the sentencing. Adam and Eve must answer the questions posed by God.

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.

Covering

Studies in Genesis 3

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:7 ESV

As soon as Adam and Eve realized they were “naked” they tried to make coverings for their bodies. They used leaves because of the abundance of material and because they did not know how to make cloth or that they could kill and animal and use its skin.

Why did they see a need to cover themselves? Here are two possible answers.

First, they may have been ashamed and wanted to cover themselves to hide their shame. God has already told us they “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25 ESV). When they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, what they expected to happen did not happen. Their eyes were opened but they were not changed or made better by the act. Eve expected something that would make her like God. Her superstitious expectation, fueled by the lies of the Deceiver, were unreasonable and could never be fulfilled. Adam, on the other hand, had no expectations. He ate because he wanted to eat.

For the first time, they felt guilt and shame and did not know how to react. So, they hid part of their bodies behind coverings. There was remorse but no repentance. Repentance comes from acknowledging guilt and the consequences of rebellion and then mentally and emotionally turning away from the act and motivation. Instead of admitting to each other what they had done was wrong, that they should not have eaten the fruit, they tried to cover over their sin and rebellion with a superficial, self-made fix.

Second, they may have wanted to undo what they had done but did not realize they could not. After their willful act, when their eyes were opened to a new and uncomfortable perspective, they may have wanted to go back to their original state and life. They did not know how. Perhaps they were beginning to realize they could not undo what had been done. Yet, their sin, their transgressions, needed covering.

It is the insanity of man to try to fix the unfixable. Only God can do the impossible. Once a transgression, a sin, is committed it cannot be undone. Yet, by the image of God in them, they inherently knew their sin needed covering. God did not create Man and give His image to turn His back on any person. Because of His love and desire for relationship He would cover their sin and restore their relationship with Him. But in His way and at His time and at a great cost to Him.

It is the gospel which declares God has done that which Man cannot do.

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.

Confirming Evidence

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  [Matthew 5:19-20 ESV]

With these two verses Jesus closes a circle begun with His first statement “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:3 ESV]. Within the circle are all of the characteristics God is building into the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Outside of the circle is eternity. Like God, who transcends space and time, each Christian, as they grow and spiritually mature, will transcend the circle. This does not mean the qualities God is building into those who are His will no longer be necessary, as if anyone can grow out of being poor in spirit or no longer hunger and thirst for righteousness. Once emplaced these characteristics do not change. They do form the eternal foundation, laid in space and time, for the whole person who lives for eternity.

Everyone is a teacher. Everything done reveals what has been taught, what has been learned, and teaches in some way lessons to all with whom we come in contact. Our training is evident, the evidence of our training scattered with every step, gesture, word and thought. From the earliest training given by those who raise us to the right now impacts us for eternity. Our thinking and decisions, what we are right now allowing or giving permission to enter our life, influences who we are and what we will become. God may define who we and direct our development  but we still have  responsibility for our actions and reactions.

You teach others what you believe whether you are aware or care. Those who are poor in spirit have recognized the reality of sin in their lives, the world and those around them. They love the truth and hate sin. They confront sin and the lie behind it as part of their spiritual nature.

Being poor in spirit, with its characteristic and motivations, is only the beginning, the first step, in the call and life of the citizen of God’s kingdom. Each step which follows, each of the characteristics and motivations Jesus describes, He builds into the person making them whole and fitting them for eternity with Him. Though He does this with the individual we are part of a whole, a member of the body of Christ, where one piece influences and affects all others. We do not live independently from Christ or separated from the Church.

We are also His witnesses in this world for His righteousness and goodness. Who we are, what motivates us, all we do, all we are is critical to our witness. As servants, owned by Him, He governs us and gives each a purpose, being salt and light, showing His love, His mercy, purity and peace. What you do reflects who you are and dictates what you will become. How well we learn the lessons taught, conforming to the straightness of His will for us, is seen in the influence we have on those around us.  God is deepening our relationship with Him and strengthening our relationship with others at the same time. Being a citizen of His kingdom is not for the lazy but the diligent. There are no shortcuts.

Midway through His time, as Jesus prepared His disciples before sending them out, His instructions were explicit and definitive. Here are the people you are to teach. Go to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 10:6 EV]. Later, He would send them throughout the world.

Should those of the world accept you, good. Should they reject you “shake the dust from your feet” [Matthew 10:14 ESV] as you leave. People will reject you, persecute and drag you into court, and kill you. Your message is clear. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Matthew 10:7 ESV and many other places]. You are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Act like citizens of the kingdom of heaven not like citizens of the fallen world. Why? “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master” [Matthew 10:24-25 ESV].

Preparation for eternity is preparation to be like Him for eternity. What we do right now counts.