Ryan Burgett, June 15, 2012
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them… Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good… So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 1.27,31; 3.6-7
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the crown of His creation was humanity. Unlike the other creations, mankind was made in God’s image. Then He put these–His perfect children–in a garden (Gen 2.8) where they lived completely exposed and completely free before Him (Gen 2.16, 25). But, for their own protection He warned them against eating the fruit of a certain tree, because in the day they ate of it, they would surely “die” (Gen 2.17).
This was as perfect of an existence as one can imagine. They were free of shame, they lived in a beautiful and bountiful garden, the work of their hands was abundantly blessed, and they lived in perfect communion with each other and with God.
But then their perfect lives were invaded by the serpent, a liar, who convinced them that rather than being perfect, they were incomplete, and it was up to them to attain perfection and “be like God.” So even though they were already perfect and “in the image of God”, they believed the lie and took their lives into their own hands, eating of the forbidden fruit (Gen 3.1-6). But rather than finding perfection and freedom, they found shame. They looked at their perfect bodies, but felt exposed, naked (Gen 3.7).
This incident brought them to a crossroads where they had an important decision to make. They knew that they had done wrong and they had two options, to surrender or to dig in. They were God’s perfect children and they could have cried and thrown themselves down at His feet asking for forgiveness, and had they done that I am convinced that He would have forgiven them on the spot. But instead, they dug in deeper. Their initial fault was that they had believed the lie that they were incomplete, and had taken matters into their own hands to reach perfection. But they felt shame and knew that they were not perfect any more because of it. So they made the same mistake again and tried by their own power to fix themselves. They took their perfect bodies, made in God’s image, and covered them up with fig leaves (Gen 3.7). But two wrongs never make a right, and the fig leaves did not help. Then sure enough, God found out (actually He already knew) what His kids were up to.
God took a great gamble when He created mankind, because in making them in His own image He gave them a free will. They were completely free to make their own decisions. In other words, their destiny was in their own hands. And with that freedom, they had chosen to believe a lie and seek to attain perfection by their own power. So rather than zapping them and changing their wills, He accepted their decision to take care of themselves.
Their reality had shifted. They were no longer living out of their identity as perfect children of God. Instead, they were now going to take care of themselves. So God explained to them what this was going to look like. In His perfect knowledge, God explained to them the work of their hands would no longer yield abundance, there would be more pain and children to deal with, and their relationships with Him and with each other would be confused up from then on. He then killed one of His precious creatures and made them clothing made of skin as a graphic image of the severity of what they had done.
Through the generations, this process continued as people tried by their own strength to better themselves, to lift themselves out of their shame and condemnation. Some went so far as to commune with demonic entities. But none of it brought the peace and freedom that humanity was designed to enjoy.
When the time was right, God graciously provided to mankind His written law, so they could see and know the perfect standard that they were trying to attain. The law can be summed up with this, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mat 22.37-39). But as people came to find, they could not live that out. No matter how hard they worked to keep the law, they kept feeling more and more shame and condemnation. Generation after generation on the earth continued to sow together fig leaves, in a sense, to try and fix themselves and reach perfection and fulfillment on their own, believing the same lie that Adam and Eve believed. But were never able to reach it.
But in the midst of all this, God had a plan to redeem mankind. He knew that the only way to change the hearts of mankind was to let them find out for themselves how hopelessly lost they were apart from their identity as His children. He knew that in order for them to shake off the lie (that they could be more like God through their own strength), they had to see where the lie had lead them.
So when the right time had come, God came to the earth as a human being to clean up the mess and redeem mankind. This God-man was Jesus. He came preaching the truth, proclaiming “Repent, and believe in the good news!” (Mark 1.15). Repent means to “change one’s mind.” What Jesus was proclaiming was “Change your way of thinking and believe the good new!” What is the good news? You are created in the image of God! You are made to be perfect and without shame! You are made to live in right relationship with God and His creation! Stop thinking that by sewing together fig leaves that you can reach your created value! By your own power you cannot make yourself more like Me! The only way you can reach your created value is to tell God you are sorry for trying to save yourself and instead embrace who you were already created to be!
But, there still was a problem–death. Just as God had warned Adam and Eve, death entered the perfect creation once they stepped outside of who they were made to be. The old serpent, the devil, knew that He must stop Jesus before He brought freedom and life to mankind. So just as he had tempted Eve to step outside of her created value, he tempted Jesus on multiple occasions (Luke 4.1-14, Mat 16.23). But unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus never gave in. He embraced who He was and lived out His perfect, created value, exactly as all mankind was originally meant to have live.
Because he could not cause Jesus to fall through temptation, Satan changed tactics and instead decided the only way to shut Jesus up was to kill Him (Luke 22.3-4). And having been possessed by Satan, Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to be killed. Then on that fateful day, Jesus was wrongfully accused, condemned and murdered by death on a cross (Mark 14-15). Satan thought he had won.
But if striving for perfection outside of our identity leads to death, then living life completely in perfection as children of God must lead to life! And in victory Jesus then rose from the grave, defeating the serpent and the lies. The apostle Paul described the significance of this when he wrote, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor 15.20-22). Jesus modeled the perfect life, the life we are all meant to have. And though the first man, Adam, left a legacy of death, Jesus left us a legacy of life!
So what now stands between us and the life God designed for us? Repentance and belief in the gospel. To follow Jesus is to step into our identity as children of God, free of the curse of shame and condemnation that Adam and all those like him brought on themselves.
The truth is that we can live the life we were meant to live, in perfection, in right relationship with each other and with our heavenly Father. All the fig leaves in the world can never bring us back to our created value, only repentance and belief in the good news.