The Fall of man was like having an atomic bomb go off near Eden. Adam and Eve survived, but because they were exposed to the radiation, they were greatly deformed and sickened. It was as if they were altered genetically, and all their offspring for all generations would be affected.
All men have been affected by the Fall. They no longer love God and the things of God but have become hostile toward Him. The Bible indicates that as a result of the Fall, all men have received a sin nature. Paul in Romans 8 describes how this fallen nature affects everyone. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires . . . The mind of sinful man is death . . . the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:5-7)
A reasonable question in light of this is, “Has the image of God in man been destroyed?” The answer is no. God’s image was defaced and damaged, but it was not obliterated. The Bible continues to speak of mankind as being in God’s image and admonishes all men to treat others with dignity and respect because everyone still reflects God’s image to some degree (James 3:9, I Corinthians 11:7).
Because of the Fall, all people are lost and unable to respond to God. There is a desperate need to reverse the effects of the Fall. And God, in His graciousness and love, has set in motion all that is needed to gradually reverse these effects through two initiatives.
The first initiative we call reformation. Man is in need of a radical change of heart: hostility toward God needs to be changed to love; a sense of alienation from God needs to be changed to a sense of acceptance by Him; a natural inclination away from God needs to be changed to a desire toward Him. But man cannot change himself. He cannot reverse the effects of the fall. There is nothing in this world that can change him. This world says that man can be changed through education or political views or his own will. Though there is some truth in these views, none of these can change or heal a heart that has turned against God.
Only God can change a man’s heart. God brings about a radical inward change when a person repents of his sin and submits to Him. Ezekiel the prophet describes this radical inward change in this way:
I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:25 27).
Christians usually notice evidence of this change of heart shortly after their conversion. They find new desires within themselves. They want to pray and seek God while in the past they did not have time for God. They seek to be around other believers and have a new desire to understand God’s word and to follow Him. They often have a new inward sense that they are children of God. One of the most surprising things that happened to me when I came to Christ was that I was changed from a totally self-centered person to a person who really cared about other people. I have no explanation for this change except that God invaded my life and changed me. God changed my heart.
The second initiative of God toward us we call restoration. Even though He changed our hearts at salvation, He now needs to change our lives by restoring the defaced image of God in us. Paul refers to this in Colossians 3:10 when he says, “you have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” This is the process of renewing that begins when we come to know Christ personally, and continues throughout our lives.
We are being restored to Christlikeness. Jesus is the visible expression (image) of the invisible God, so to be made into Christ’s image is to be made into the image of God. This process begins at salvation and goes on throughout our lifetime. Then when we die and go to be with Jesus, God instantly finishes the project. Thus, the effects of the Fall will not be totally reversed in our lifetime, but God will bring to completion that which He has begun in us. (Philippians 1:6)
The restoration process has two parts. The first is growth in our relationship with Christ, which is accomplished as we spend time with God and His people seeking Him, learning about Him and His ways and applying His Word to our lives. The second part of restoration is healing from the damage of sin. We all come into the Christian life damaged by living in a fallen world and by the sinful choices we have made. We have all been hurt in our lives and often have little insight about how to heal from those hurts. Often, the need people have to heal from emotional damage has not been well recognized in the church, but it is clearly part of Christ’s message of hope to us.
At the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61:1-3 (Luke 4:18-19), which refers to the healing aspect of His ministry.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion –to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Jesus came to set us free from the damage that sin has done in our lives. The damage from our past sinful choices and sinful treatment by others may take many forms: addictions, depression, a distorted self-image, relational problems, unhealthy thinking patterns, unresolved emotional problems or many other difficulties These problems have roots in unresolved pain from our past, and to get better a person must process that pain and replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones. This takes time and help from others who understand the healing process. Notice that healing is a process and does not occur instantly at salvation.
God has set out to transform us. Apart from His work in our lives we would never be able to change. He has to reform us by changing our hearts and then restore us by giving us the strength and direction to become more like Christ. Apart from God’s work in a person’s life there is no hope of a better, more meaningful life.
• Meditate on Isaiah 61:1-4
• Think about and answer these questions:
a. What are areas in my life that need to be restored?
b. How have I seen God begin this process of restoration?
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