When Adam and Eve elected to become gods of this world they brought several very subtle factors into play that until this day plagues the church and all mankind in the way we consider and process information. In fact, because we have looked at the obvious and overlooked the more subtle issues of the fall we not only miss some of the most dynamic factors, we tend to play flawlessly into the enemy’s trap. Because we confuse the process with goal we continually exercise our attempt to be god of our world and exercise the judgment of good and evil!
There is a way God wants things to be for mankind. His version of how things should be was demonstrated in the world He created for man: a garden, all our needs met, no sickness, pain, sorrow, or death! The way things should be will once again be accomplished at the return of Jesus. Between now and then we are to pray for things to be as they should, use our faith for things to be as they should, and live incredibly abundant lives through the finished work of the Lord Jesus.
We were created to be the recipients of God’s incredible love. We were equipped with the capacity known by no other living beings, the ability to know and feel God’s love. As such, we are designed to live in an environment of life, health, happiness, and every other good and fulfilling aspect of life’s existence.
Man has no capacity to be as we should be apart from a life surrounded by God and all the aspects of His provision. Interestingly, the word ‘righteous,’ as translated by Thayer’s Lexicon, means: as it should be! This is one of the most common places we confuse the goal and the process. The way it should be is how it was in the garden. When we consider how it should be, we think more about our behavior, whether or not the things we do are right or wrong! So righteousness becomes more about the behavior (works) than the quality of life.
Our faulty sense of righteousness launches us into a legalistic, performance-oriented approach that tends to alienate us from the life of God more than it connects us to it. The guilt that emerges from our failure to succeed at our moral inventory condemns our heart and destroys faith. Let’s look back at the Garden and see if we can unravel this destructive process and find our way into life as it should be: righteousness (as it should be), peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit!
We all know that man developed a sin nature at the fall. But our understanding of the sin nature has been dominated by legalistic concepts of actions instead of the nature that drives those actions. By confusing the goal and the state we misinterpret almost every aspect of walking in the righteousness of God!
Having a sin nature was not manifest in the desire to commit evil; it was first manifest in the form of fear! Adam and Eve were afraid after the fall! They were afraid because they were naked. (Gen 3:10) They were afraid of God when He came to the Garden to fellowship with them. (Gen 3:8) This fear resulted in an inability or unwillingness to trust God. It was this lack of trust that led to sinful, destructive actions. Rev. 21:8 gives us a look into the ultimate factors that will forever separate people from the presence of God. The list of detailed actions begins with the two driving aspects of the sin nature: fearful and unbelieving. Fear doesn’t trust (believe) and doubt doesn’t obey! This root cause leads to all the sinful attempts to synthetically reproduce a life of happiness (life as it should be.)
But, from where did the fear emerge? Until the choice for independence was made, man was intimately connected to God. His life choices were an actualization of his identification with his Creator! Man had been crowned with dignity and worth. He knew who he was in relation to God! His sense of self was intimately interwoven into the life fabric of a unique oneness with the Creator: he was created in the likeness and image of God! He was of God – a child of God!
At the moment of choice, Adam and Eve experienced spiritual death! If we go to a hyper-mystical definition of death and ignore what the Bible teaches, we will miss the subtle shift that occurred at this moment. The Bible defines death as separation. Physical death is when the spirit and soul separate from the body, terminating one’s capacity to experience this physical world. (Ja 2:26) Our spirit and soul do not cease to exist, they are merely separated. Likewise, spiritual death doesn’t mean their spirit ceased to exist. It means in their spirit they were separated from God. They lost their capacity to habitually experience oneness with God. They felt alone!
This was the first time man felt alone. Even connected to God, Adam was given the capacity for a mate so that in this life he would never feel alone. Being alone was the one thing man could not endure! (Gen 2:18) This feeling of aloneness and alienation caused the loss of peace and safety they had always known. In the ensuing void the abiding emotion was fear! When light is removed, darkness always emerges!
This dominating fear was so prevalent, so inescapable, and so permanent it became a part of his nature. It became natural to feel alone. This is the sin nature: the feeling of aloneness, the alienation for God as our Source of life and the ensuing fear! This fear can only be resolved in an intimate, loving relationship with God our Creator which restores oneness. It is the renewal of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit that gives us the capacity to be as we were created, as we were meant to be: joyful, loving, happy, and safe!
It would be great if this were the end of the quagmire! Everything becomes complicated by the one capacity that man had never independently utilized: judgment! Now man, from his sense of fear and the resulting need to find his once known safety, instead of trusting God would make his own personal determination of good and evil; thus, the introduction of religion! Religion is man’s attempt to approach God from the false, ego-centered sense of his own logic. Christianity, on the other hand, is the acceptance of God’s provision for a relationship through the Lord Jesus.
Religion starts from the basis of fear and insecurity. It starts from the idea of separation, and then seeks connection through behavior and works. Of course, it determines those works that should be employed from the personal intellect, an intellect that has been molded and shaped by a personal history of fear and failure. Even when the religious person applies a truth from Scripture, it will always turn that truth into something that earns them the right to be connected to God. Thus the implication that failing to apply that truth on the basis of their logic (personal revelation and private interpretation, 2 Pet. 1:20) can separate one from God. The entire process is fear driven.
Sadly, legalists have, since the earliest of time, been driven by their insecurity to control the beliefs of others. There is a sick idea that says: “If I make others agree with me, that makes me right!” But nothing can be a satisfactory substitute for oneness with God! Because the basis of their security does not emerge from a loving relationship with God, their beliefs are their source of (false) security. This is why the legalist is so threatened by those who disagree. To disprove their judgments would be tantamount to threatening their relationship with God. Therefore, they are quick to dispute, attack, and persecute anyone who threatens their intellectual security.
Growth, to the insecure, poses their greatest fear: being wrong! In the absence of a secure relationship with God, being right is their security. Therefore, the possibility of being wrong is their call to war. Yet this insecurity masks itself beneath the most perfect disguise: religion!
The insecure legalist reads the same Bible you read and quotes the same Scriptures you quote; yet, in total opposition to the Apostle Paul’s words, the teachings of the Scripture produce zeal (selfish ambition, strife and every evil work). For the legalist, the Bible is not a path that leads to intimacy and oneness with God; it is a wall that alienates them from God. The knowledge of the Scripture is their substitute for intimacy. The amount of time they pray is more important than the value of their connection in prayer. The process is the substitute for the reality. The number of chapters they read is more prominent in their mind than how they will live after having read those chapters. They are not disciples seeking to live as Jesus lived; they are merely students who think that knowledge is spirituality. But as Paul said, knowledge puffs up but love builds up!
Paul told his beloved Timothy, The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. (1 Tim 1:5-7, NLT) But today as in his day, some people miss the whole point.
At this point I want to ask you, “Does the Bible create a path for you to draw to God, know Him intimately, and feel at one with Him? Or, do you use it as a substitute for the intimacy that you do not know how to develop with God? Are you more loving and tolerant of people because of what you experience in God or, are you more critical, fault-finding, and less tolerant? Do the things you discover in the Word magnify your sense of guilt, or does it lead you to decisions that will direct you to a lifestyle that will keep your conscience clear? Does it make faith easy or complicated?”
These are the kinds of questions we must ask and based on the answers adjust our driving motivation. Life, as it should be, is more about the quality of life you live than the process by which you get there. We know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but we also know that only intimacy with the Holy Spirit can lead us in the path of righteousness (how it should be.) Through the Lord Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, God knows how to get you from where you are to the life you could/should be living.
This article is based in part on a new upcoming series by Dr. Jim Richards, as well as his soon to be released book, “The Earth is Not Flat.”