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ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 108
November 1999

WHY HE CAME


Part 1: The Condition of His Creation

TURNING POINT

It's an old argument--as old as humanity's second generation.

There is "good" from man's perspective, and "good" from God's perspective. Man sees the counterpoint of good and evil in shades of gray, from his own perspective on the level playing field. "Good" defines actions and feelings that are noble, unselfish, loving, while "evil" defines those things that are antisocial, selfish, angry and cold. Anyone who is "better" than I is good; anyone who is more wicked than I is evil--just as anyone who has more money than I is "rich," while anyone who has less is "poor." A billionaire sees most of the world as needy, while someone on welfare sees most of the world as wealthy.

In the economy of eternal salvation, however, these subtleties count for nothing, for God is the standard, and He is perfectly good. There is no one more good than He, there is no one as good as He, and everyone, in comparison, is evil.

As seen from the plateau of earth, this is a bitter pill. By the world's standards this is the epitome of injustice, arrogance, and inequity. To a post-modern society that preaches the gospel of inclusion and relativism, this is gross heresy. And it all goes back to that pivotal moment when Adam and Eve decided they'd rather be equal to God than beneath Him. Prior to that moment, they were subject to their Maker, and sinless. After their rebellious choice, they were still subject to Him, but now the seed of their rebellion had taken root, and would be passed down through each succeeding generation, changing forever the relationship between mankind and God.

Just about all the corruption and misery on this revolving planet can be traced back to men or women attempting to set themselves in the place of God. Wars are built on man's greed and lust for power, leaving death and destruction in their wake; famine and pestilence are the product of man's moving whole nations about as figures on a chessboard. Flowing out of Eden are all of this earth's woes, given birth when Adam and Eve chose to align themselves with evil rather than good.

WHAT IS GOOD

From the earth, "good" is subjective; from the heights of heaven, earthly good does not even exist. From the perspective of earth, people are categorized into groups of good, better and best, or bad, worse and worst. There is, nonetheless, a low-denomination of goodness that is the common currency of our society:

But from the perspective of heaven,

The atheist says, "I am good," or at least, "I am all right." But the believer says, "God alone is good," and "I am only good through Him." God's definition of goodness is righteousness, holiness. To accept the fact that He alone is good and righteous, one must be willing to take a position in subjection to Him.

Ah, there's the rub. The human spirit since Adam is far too lofty, too self-absorbed to agree to such an arrangement. When God asked Cain to give a report on the whereabouts of his slain brother, his reply was, "Why should I?" And modern Cains the world over raise a defiant fist, shake it in the face of God, and sneer, "What have you to do with me? I don't need you to define who I am."

God recognizes only one standard for righteousness: His own. Falling short of that standard is called "sin." But here again the world is offended: "What arrogance for anyone to set a mark to which we cannot attain! No," they cry with jaw set firm, "we reject this notion of righteousness. It is a made-up standard--and one we choose to ignore."

And as God's standard is ignored, the world's standards sink ever lower, ever deeper into the muck of depravity--until the human standard of goodness becomes something coarse and profane, something so vile as to cause holiness to retch, and turn away in disgust.

A BENT TOWARD SINNING

Ask any parent: Which is easier to teach your young child--right, or wrong? Which takes more effort from a parent--teaching the path that leads to a morally and ethically upright life, or teaching the path that leads to destruction and decay?

Most parents, of course, would answer that they do not try to teach their child the way of wrong. One reason for this is that it isn't necessary. A child requires no special instruction in taking the wrong path; leave him alone, and he will find it on his own.

It remains a mystery why there are still so many who subscribe to the philosophy of the inherent righteousness of man--the misguided belief that people are, from the womb, essentially good, and that any evil in them is only picked up along the way from external forces. One doesn't even need Scripture to disprove that notion. What path does a child take when left on its own? Does the unsupervised child show up on time for her piano or violin lesson? Does he, on his own, choose to go to the library to study, and do his homework?

Why do we need babysitters, if children are essentially good? Just leave them alone and they'll eat a balanced meal, do their homework, and be in bed by nine o'clock. Right?

Walk through an average neighborhood on a Saturday evening, and at random select a number of teenagers. Hand them the keys to a car, and tell them they are free to do whatever they like--no restrictions. Will they hold a Bible study? Will they collect goods for the homeless, or feed the hungry? Will they reject the offer, choosing instead to stay at home and spend a quiet evening with their family? Or will they gleefully take off at a speed somewhat higher than the posted limit, and spend the night reveling in mischief?

It's not that righteousness and goodness do not exist on earth, but that they are the exception, rather than the rule. And what we all need to learn is not evil, but good. Sin is in our genes, it is nestled comfortably into the myriad folds of our brain. It need not be acquired from an external source. Good, however, is unnatural to our senses. Righteousness comes from a decidedly external source: God.

THE POISON OF ASPS

From the beginning man has been a liar. And, from the beginning, when he did tell the truth, it was often to ensure that his blame was shared with others. When God confronted the first man about his wrong, Adam did tell the truth.

Though he didn't give the full story, Adam's response was the truth. What he failed to explain, however, was the reason for their behavior. Adam and Eve had never before been afraid of God; they had never before known that they were naked; and they had never before hid from the presence of the Lord. Then, when he next opened his mouth to explain, Adam gave ample evidence that the 'poison of vipers' was now on his lips. In that first act of rebellion the serpent's venom had been transferred to man; that first intercourse with evil suffused the vile capacity to turn against a loved one into all of mankind. Adam's next words were cold, hard, and calculated.

Here is the sickening echo of every cowardly excuse devised. Eve was, literally, flesh of Adam's flesh. God had created her from the man's body. They were man and wife, living not only in perfect union with God, but perfect union with each other. They were one. Now all bets were off. Suddenly, with the flesh of the costly fruit still digesting in his belly, Adam's wife was now "the woman," and she was responsible for his downfall. Worse, the man implicates God Himself: Who was responsible? "The woman you put here with me."

When it came her turn, Eve showed herself a suitable companion to the one who had just weaseled out of his responsibility, for she, too, had received a dose of the poison that would be forever on the lips of her seed.

How quickly they had fallen. How quickly they had acquired the skills of sin. Only a short time earlier their union had been described in glowing, even loving terms: 'flesh of my flesh,' 'cleave to his wife,' 'one flesh,' and

Now there was shame. Now there was division, distrust, doubt, anger. And Eve gave birth to Cain, then Abel, and though they surely did not go out of their way to teach their children the ways of sin, the poison was just as surely passed down through them. The venom of deceit was now a permanent fixture in the genus Homo sapiens. So when the jealousy of Cain for his brother, Abel, caused mankind's first murder, we already have the full flowering of the lie.

He knew. The blood and sweat and dirt from stashing his brother's body were still upon him. But in only one generation the lie had been born. And the lie is still alive and well. In fact, the lie defines today's culture; it is the foundational premise upon which today's society is built. Dishonesty, deception, rancor, duplicity, coarse speech, and vile hatred hidden beneath the syrup of tolerance. These are now the well-practiced fruits of the first man's rebellion.

CERTAINTIES

The period bridging the late Sixties and early Seventies was a time dripping with the honey of peace and love for all mankind. Hippies and flower children preached the gospel of universal brotherhood, the end of all war, free love and unencumbered sex--all washed over by the acrid haze of hashish and marijuana.

The lead singers in the choir for this worship were the four Beatles, and their anthems--both during and after their years together--included such titles as "Give Peace a Chance," "Love," "Strawberry Fields Forever," and "All You Need is Love." The best known of these paisley paeans is surely John Lennon's "Imagine":

John Lennon had it right: The concept of universal peace in our time must include an absence of heaven, since God makes it clear in His word that on this side of the great Judgement Day man will always be at war with man, that nation will always rise up against nation, and that anger and hate will always trump peace and love.

Jesus told his disciples that the turmoil will still be going on even when he returns to lift out His people.

The world will never "live as one," because it is not in man's heart to do so. The utopian society is a myth perpetuated by those who reject the power and dominion of God, in favor of what they believe to be the inherent power of man over his own destiny. In 1980 John Lennon was shot to death on the street outside his New York apartment by someone who hadn't signed on to his concept of universal love and understanding.

There will always be those willing to take life in order to satisfy their own willful gain. The process of life on this earth is not a dignified, courteous chess game, but a vicious, muddy Rugby scrum. There will always be the tyrant, the egomaniacal dictator, the power-mad President willing to sacrifice mother's sons to pursue their own self-centered agenda. These will not pass away in our time, but will remain--indeed, proliferate--until Jesus Himself returns.

A SUICIDAL ARROGANCE

Adam and Eve sinned against God, and in the tragic aftermath of their rebellion they whined and dissembled, clutching the offending fruit behind their backs even as they disavowed any responsibility for the act. They pleaded for a lighter sentence--but they still held sufficient fear of the Maker not to lie to Him.

As the presence of natural sin took root and matured, it would fall to Adam and Eve's offspring to demonstrate the fatal arrogance that would not shudder at the thought of God's potential wrath.

Weep over the suicidal arrogance that permits no fear of Almighty God. Tremble at this indictment.

One does not lie to whom one truly fears. When overcome by a quaking reverence, one can only confess the truth. We cannot respect those to whom we lie, for by its nature, a lie diminishes the worth of the one being lied to. We lie because we imagine we can get away with it, which means we consider ourselves superior to the one who has challenged us.

How does a citizen of the United States feel when watching and listening to the President brazenly lie to the populace? What happens deep inside, on both an intellectual and emotional level? That citizen knows that his or her leader considers himself superior to the one hearing his words.

Indeed, that citizen knows that the 'leader of the free world' holds the citizenry in utter contempt.

When we fear God so little that we can lie to Him, He knows that we consider ourselves superior. And herein dwells the root cause: pride.

This prideful arrogance has only blossomed and ripened since the days of mankind's second generation. It has spread into a putrid mass that envelops every family, every nation. This generation fears God even less than Cain did, and those who do fear God--those who are not afraid to confess this terrible sin--should weep over its ultimate destruction.

WHERE IS THE HOPE?
an afterword

Romans 3:9-18, the text on which this issue has been based, is an uncomfortable indictment of the condition of God's creation. It paints an unpleasant picture of the heart of man. It describes not only the behavior of the unregenerate, but the very base nature which even the Christian carries around deep within. While still upon this intemperate plane, we will none of us rise completely out of the seed planted in Adam's rebellion.

Because of this, believers still sin. Because of this, pastors will still commit adultery, missionaries will steal, and everyday Christians will still cheat on their taxes, scream venom at their husbands, utter profane words, and hate their neighbor.

This is the condition of His creation: mankind. Yet the sorry tale does not end here. For the Lord is a God of grace, of mercy, and of hope.

God knew, from the beginning of time, that even if men and women were willing, they would never be completely obedient. That is the legacy of Eden. So God sent His Son to take upon Himself our disobedience. God sent salvation in the person of Jesus Christ: to be born and live in humility, to suffer, to die, then to rise up out of the grave, so that every member of His creation might know Him--in spite of his sin.

God's joyful, victorious answer to the story of man's depravity will be the subject of Part 2, in the December issue of Aspects.


COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

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COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

All original material in Aspects is Copyright © 1999 David S. Lampel. This data file is the sole property of David S. Lampel. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright (C) 1999 David S. Lampel."). This data file may not be used without the permission of David S. Lampel for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content. Brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words may be used, with the appropriate copyright notice, to enhance or supplement personal or church devotions, newsletters, journals, or spoken messages.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture is from the New International Version. NIV quotations are from the Holy Bible: New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission. NASB quotations are from the New American Standard Bible © 1960, 1962,1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation.

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