If you only spend a few moments watching or reading the news, it's obvious that the world no longer resembles the peaceful reality of Eden. Death, destruction, famine, hatred, greed, and brokenness are not the exception today, they are the norm. They are so common that these things are sometimes described as inevitable or expected. No one expects life to be perfect or to go on forever—but we know, in our core, it should not be this way. Doesn’t it all seem out of place and unnatural? (Guess what? It is.) How did everything get this way? We find our answer in Genesis 3.
Satan, the enemy of God disguised as a serpent, challenges God’s command to stay away from the tree. He asks Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1). We see later in the Bible that Satan likes to twist God’s words (Matt. 4:1-11). He convinces Adam and Eve that God is a liar, and that God is holding out on them. He convinced them that God doesn’t want them to be like him, so he tells them to stay away from the tree (Gen. 3:3-6).
After being tempted by Satan, our ancient parents ate the fruit, immediately noticed that they were naked, and hid from God. They were ashamed. They were self-conscious. They were scared. They had disobeyed their Creator, and they knew it. They handed over their God-given responsibility to God’s great Enemy.
This was the first sin.
Sin, Death, and the Bad News of the Garden
Sin can be described as anything (whether in thoughts, actions, or attitudes) that does not express or conform to the holy character of God as expressed in his moral law. Sin is rebellion against God, first and foremost. Some say that to sin means to “miss the mark.” When we sin, we don’t just miss the mark—we point the bow in the other direction and shoot into the sky. Sin causes us to “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and leaves us under God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18). It doesn’t just cause division between people or cause us a little more trouble that we’d like; it brings division between people and life, and because of sin, death is now something we all must deal with.
Sin is bad news, and the creator of all bad news in the world.
The gut-wrenching stories we see on the news every night are an integral part of living in a world infected by sin. But sin also brings division between God and people. We see this immediately when Adam and Eve were taken out of the Garden of Eden because of their sin against God. Their perfect relationship with him was damaged from then on out (Gen. 3:16-19). This left mankind freefalling toward utter destruction.
Not only were Adam and Eve punished for their sin, but the consequences of their rulebreaking affects every person born afterward. They passed the nature of sin to their children and it’s been passed along ever since. The Apostle Paul says that “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” and that “one trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Rom. 5:12-19).
Sin runs in the family. Sin is a disease that would make the bubonic plague blush. Sin is deadly, in every sense of the word. It’s the real Black Death. It brings not only physical death, but also spiritual death.
Our bodies are buried in the ground, but even worse, souls without Christ are banished to Hell, a place of torment and never-ending separation from God (Matt. 25:46; Jude 1:7; Rev. 21:8). As Scripture tells us, physical death can and will be defeated, but spiritual death lasts into eternity. Adam and Eve, and all of us, were made to live forever with God. Now, we all are sentenced to death from the very start apart from his forgiveness (Rom. 3:9-18; 6:23).
We need to be delivered from sin and its effects. The apostle Paul felt the soul-crushing burden of sin, and he wanted to be done with it. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:23–25).
Good News in a Bad News World
But there’s good news in this bad news world. Deliverance from sin, the undoing of Satan’s work in the Garden of Eden, is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. As John says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Simply put: Jesus came to conquer Satan and restore the world to its rightful King.
Jesus is the most important person that lives—and ever will. He sits alive today in the heavenly places as the Cosmic King, inviting sinners to repent and place their complete trust in him for the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life.
It's all about Jesus. This Galilean carpenter is the hope of the world. The entire plan of God (Gal. 4:4-5), the whole swing of the Scriptures (John 5:39), and the sum of human history all lands squarely—like nails ripping through flesh, bone, and wood—on Jesus (Eph. 1:10). All things belong to Jesus, and all things were created by Jesus (Col. 1:15). And right now, all things are held together by Jesus, from Haley's Comet to the micro-skin-flake falling from your fingernail, Jesus is in control. “In him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17) and, "he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).
Is that your Christ? Do you have towering thoughts about the Lord Jesus, or are they reduced to a first-century Israelite who had a knack for healing and preaching? “Who is Jesus?” isn’t the mega-stumper question on the SAT. This isn’t the dreaded pop quiz question that you know you studied but can’t remember. This is eternity. This is your life now and your life to come.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asked his disciples this very question. “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?'"(Matt. 16:13–15). Is Jesus just a teacher? Is Jesus just a healer? A popular prophet? Captain of the fib team?
Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). So, what then? Who is this man?
Like the great C. S. Lewis said,
Socrates did not claim to be Zeus, nor the Buddha to be Bramah, nor Mohammed to be Allah. That sort of claim occurs only in Our Lord and in admitted quacks or lunatics. I agree that we don’t ‘demand crystal perfection in other men’, nor do we find it. But if there is one Man in whom we do find it, and if that one Man also claims to be more than man, what then?
The quest for the Biblical Jesus is of first importance. We can be like Adam and Eve and run away to a substitute, or we can be like Peter and stumble our way toward him.
Brandon D. Smith works with the Holman Christian Standard Bible and teaches theology at various schools. He is also co-author of Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians. You can follow him on Twitter.
J.A. Medders is the Lead Pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, TX. He and Natalie have two kids, Ivy and Oliver. Jeff digs caffeinated drinks, books, and the Triune God. He blogs at www.jamedders.com and tweets from @mrmedders. Jeff’s first book, Gospel-Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life, released this November from Kregel.
This is an excerpt from Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians by J. A. Medders and Brandon D. Smith. Get it on Amazon here.