Atomic Bomb BlastThe 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.

Reformation
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.

Restoration
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.

Application Suggestions:
• 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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The Fall of Man – Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617)

If man is created in the image of God, why does he struggle with so many problems? Why do people have so much trouble getting along? Why are there so many wars? Why are people so selfish? These and many questions like them betray the fact that there is something wrong with man. Though he started out well, something happened along the way that upset the apple cart, and he has never fully recovered.

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, there is a record of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and we learn what happened to man that has caused so many problems. We can only imagine that the garden was a beautiful, lush place filled with all kinds of vegetation and animals. The weather was perfect, and there was plenty to eat. There were also opportunities to explore and learn. Everyone got along well, and God was at their “beck and call”.

God had given them only one restriction. They could eat from any tree in the garden except from the tree in the middle of the garden: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8-9,15-17). God told Adam that if he were to eat from that tree he would die.

In Genesis 3 another character enters the garden—Satan in the form of a talking serpent. His purpose was to try to persuade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree. In a very clever way the serpent called God’s character into question and caused Eve to doubt God’s goodness (Genesis 3:1-6). He convinced Eve to try the fruit, and she, in turn, convinced Adam to join her, and nothing has been the same since.

What happened as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin is often called the Fall of man. He became less than he was created to be. Before the Fall, man desired to know and follow God. Afterward, man’s attitudes were hostile toward God (Romans 8:5-8). This inclination against God is what the Bible calls a sin nature (Galatians 5:19-21). Man’s hostility or his indifference toward God leads to many sinful behaviors. As a result of the Fall, man is thoroughly sinful and unable to make his way back to God. He is lost and can’t save himself. This does not mean that he is as bad as he can possibly be.

All of mankind was impacted by Adam and Eve’s sin. The following are three ways human life was affected by Adam and Eve’s choices.

Physical Death

God told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would surely die. They did eat, and although they did not die immediately, they did begin to die. Their physical death had become certain. The only question was how long they would live before they died. And they were not the only ones who would die. Death spread to all men because all men sinned (Romans 5:12). So through the sin of one man, sin spread to all men, and all men died.

Separation from God

Separation from God is spiritual death. Man’s relationship with God died with the Fall, and he was separated from God, the source of all life. Thus, man would not only die physically but also spiritually, leaving him to wander around aimlessly looking for something that was missing—looking for life from God.

Many people realize there is something missing in their life and are searching for something more or better. But they don’t know what it is. It is God. Even when we do have a relationship with God and life is better, there is still a sense that something is missing. We will never fully experience life and fulfillment until we go to be with Jesus and experience life beyond our imagination. We look forward to that day with a deep yearning. But it begins with finding life now through a relationship with the living God.

Physical life moves from life to death, but spiritual life moves from death to life (John 5:24). We were all born dead spiritually and only find life through Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be born again (John 3:3). All men are born dead spiritually, and their need is to come to life by becoming alive to God.

Changed Relationships

The Fall changed man’s relationships in many ways. It changed his relationship with himself, other people and even with nature. We are told that before the Fall the man and the woman were naked but not ashamed (Genesis 2:25). But immediately after the Fall, they realized they were naked and were ashamed (Genesis 3:7). Shame altered man’s relationship with himself. All of us now struggle, to some degree, with self-worth because of our sin. One of our greatest needs is to regain a sense of our value and worth.

Sin also damaged man’s relationship with other people. Immediately after the Fall, Adam and Eve’s relationship with one another took a turn for the worse. Adam blamed Eve and God for his sin, and Eve blamed Satan (Genesis 3:8-13). There was fear, shame and blame but no remorse or repentance. Relationships began to suffer. It was not long after the Fall that Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:8). And not long after that, God was sorry He had even created man. He sent a flood to destroy man but preserved the human race because of one righteous man and his family, Noah (Genesis 6:5-8).

Even man’s relationship with nature was affected by the Fall. The world itself was altered. Originally the earth produced all kinds of fruit. After the Fall, fruit production was more difficult. God cursed the ground and caused thorns and thistles to grow to crowd out the crops man needed to live. Man would have to work hard to survive in this new world (Genesis 3:17-19). All of creation, we are told in Scripture, was subjected to frustration through the Fall and awaits its liberation from decay that will occur when God’s children are liberated (Romans 8:19-21).

The Fall of man was like a tragic train wreck. It left mankind and this world battered and in twisted disarray. A train wreck can be cleaned up and cleared away. Man’s condition and the condition of this world will not be fixed completely until Christ returns to make everything right. When a person comes into a personal relationship with Christ, Christ begins the process of restoration that will continue throughout the person’s whole life. But the restoration will not be completed in this lifetime, and so we look forward to Christ’s return and the completion of the good work He has begun in us.

The Fall of man and its terrible consequences are not a pretty story. But it does help us make some sense out of this world and explains why there is so much pain and suffering. It also helps us to develop realistic expectations in an imperfect world.

Application Suggestions

• As you think about your life over the past few weeks, how has sin hindered your relationship with God?

• Read and meditate on Genesis 1-3.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

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problem modelWhy is Life so unfair sometimes? Why do I have to suffer the consequences of someone else’s behavior? Ever heard those questions before? Ever asked them?

I know I have. And I have heard those questions asked numerous times in counseling sessions with other people.

None of us like it when somebody else messes up and it affects us. It leaves us with the responsibility of figuring out how to correct the problem. One of the biggest areas that I help people work through in counseling has to do with their fathers. Many fathers are absent, neglectful and hurtful towards their children. Some fathers don’t even realize what they are doing, or the effect it might have on their children.

When these children become adults, the fallout of their father’s interactions with them can cause major problems. When they show up in my counseling office they are suffering from the results of someone else’s behavior. Together we have to figure out how to correct the emotional damage done to them. The good news is that there are solutions. The bad news is that the solutions involve going through a process that takes time and hard work. Yet there is hope and healing during the process.

 

In the Pocket Principle (Fallenness of Man) , I noticed many similarities between the counseling process and the solution God has provided for man’s fallen condition. They both involve a change of heart and a process of restoration. Read on to discover the good solution that God has given us for the consequences of Adam and Eve’s bad behavior.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.