Everyday Evidences of Adam & Eve’s Fall (post #3)

This post is the third and last in our series “Everyday Evidences of Adam & Eve’s Fall.” Thus far we’ve identified the evidences associated with God’s judgments upon the serpent/Satan and Eve. By way of a reminder, those evidences are: snakes still slither on their bellies, the world’s lost people (the seed of Satan) are still enemies against Jesus (the Seed of the woman), labor pain is still a part of childbirth, and wives still have an inner desire to rule over their husbands. Also, in terms of historical evidence, Satan dealt Jesus a painful blow by working through lost people to get Him crucified, but Jesus dealt Satan an even greater blow by making that death a substitutionary sacrifice for mankind’s sins and by resurrecting.

Now we come to the everyday evidences associated with God’s judgment upon Adam. There are three of them. We’ll take them one at a time.

First, God told Adam that the ground was now cursed for Adam’s sake. Adam’s job in the Garden of Eden had always been to “work it” (N.I.V.) and “take care of it” (N.I.V.) (Genesis 2:15). Other translations translate the Hebrew as: “cultivate,” “till,” “keep,” “watch over,” “care for,” “dress,” or “keep.” You get the idea. Adam’s job was to care for the Garden of Eden in such a way as to not only keep it in top form as a lovely garden but also to harvest food from it.

Before Adam’s sin there were no thorns and thistles in the Garden of Eden or upon the rest of the earth. As a result of his sin, however, thorns and thistles would now be a part of the package. Centuries later the apostle Paul would write that all of creation was “subjected to futility” (Romans 8:20, N.K.J.V.), that it is now under “the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21, N.K.J.V.), and that it currently “groans and labors” like a woman experiencing birth pangs (Romans 8:22, N.K.J.V.). If you’ve ever tried to raise a garden or keep a yard looking good, you know that even today the earth’s soil can be downright uncooperative. We don’t have to plant thorns, thistles, weeds, etc. They grow and multiply just fine on their own.

We might ask, “Were the thorns and thistles a dormant part of the earth’s originally created mix of soil? Or did God create them brand new in the wake of Adam’s sin?” The Bible doesn’t tell us. In my opinion, though, the most likely explanation for their beginning is that when the earth was “subjected to futility,” certain plant species mutated and degenerated from their originally intended designs and became thorns and thistles. I say this because Genesis 1:31 tells us that prior to Adam and Eve’s sin God looked upon everything that He had made and found it all very good.

Second, as another part of God’s judgment upon Adam’s sin, God told him that sweat would now be associated with him eating bread (Genesis 3:19). It is important to note that the act of work itself was not the result of God’s judgment against sin. As I pointed out earlier, even Adam’s pre-sin days were marked by him working the Garden of Eden and taking care of it. Likewise, Eve was his helper (Genesis 2:18), to say nothing of the fact that she was also slated to bring forth children and do the work of mothering them.

No, the judgment wasn’t that Adam would now have to work. The judgment was that the work would now be much harder for him, hard enough to produce sweat on his forehead. The harvests from his farming would still provide food (“bread’) for him and his family, but cultivating those harvests and collecting them would now require much more physical exertion on his part. Anyone who has ever broken into a sweat while working can confirm that this particular evidence of Adam’s fall is still very much on display today.

Third, God informed Adam that because of his sin he was now destined to experience physical death (Genesis 3:19). God described Adam’s death as him returning to the dust from which he had been created (Genesis 2:7). This death would be the fulfillment of God’s warning concerning the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “…in the day you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17, N.K.J.V.).

Hebrew scholars tell us that a more literal translation of the Hebrew of Genesis 2:17 would read: “…in the day you eat of it dying you shall die.” This shows us that God’s warning about the fruit was never intended to threaten a sudden death for Adam and Eve. Instead, the moment they ate of the forbidden fruit the aging process would be begun in their bodies, and that aging process would eventually culminate in death. In Adam’s case, the physical death would take 930 years (Genesis 5:5), but it would happen just as God promised.

But it wouldn’t just be Adam who would die. Anyone who came from his body would also die. That included Eve, whom God made from one of Adam’s ribs (Genesis 2:21-23). It also included all of his sexually reproduced descendants — an entire human race’s worth. Sin entered the world through Adam, and death entered the world through sin (Romans 5:12). Consequently, death was spread to each member of the human race by Adam. As 1 Corinthians 15:22 sums it up: “…in Adam all die” (N.K.J.V.).

The fact is that you are experiencing the aging process right now, and you can thank Adam for that everyday evidence of his fall. Likewise, unless you are a Christian who is alive at the moment of the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:50-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), you won’t make it out of this world alive. You can thank him for that everyday evidence, too.

I am happy to report, however, that Jesus has plans to remedy all the evidences of Adam’s sin. For starters, one day — following the Rapture and the seven years of the Tribulation Period — He will return to this earth and establish His 1,000 year kingdom upon it (Revelation 20:1-6). At that time He will revert the planet itself back to much of its original pristine condition. The wilderness and the wasteland will be glad (Isaiah 35:1). The desert will blossom like a rose (Isaiah 35:1-2). Waters will burst forth in the wilderness and streams will burst forth in the desert (Isaiah 35:6). Most specific to the issue of thorns and thistles, Isaiah 55:13 says of this kingdom age: “Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow…” (N.I.V.).

Following these 1,000 years, eternity will be ushered in as Christ’s earthly kingdom becomes His eternal one. Revelation chapters 21 and 22 teach that Christ’s eternal kingdom will feature a new heaven and a new earth, complete with a new eternal city called New Jerusalem. Will this “new” earth will be this one purged by fire and completely revitalized? Or will this planet be obliterated by the fire and a brand new one hung in its place? Well, there is a debate about that. (If you want to read more about that topic please read my post “The New Heaven, The New Earth, & The New Jerusalem.”) But the point here is that Revelation 22:3 explicitly says of the new heaven, the new earth, and the New Jerusalem: “And there shall be no more curse…” (N.K.J.V.)

That covers Jesus’ plan to remedy the evidences of Adam’s sin in regards to not only the curse upon planet earth but also work being taxing enough to produce sweat. But does Jesus have a plan to remedy the evidences of Adam’s sin in regards to physical death? Yes, He does. Just as Jesus arose in a glorified body fit for eternity, each believer will one day have his or her body glorified. 1 Corinthians 15:20 says that Christ has become the firstfruits of all deceased believers, and 1 Corinthians 15:22 says that just as in Adam all die, in Christ all shall be made alive.

Of course, it should be understood that there isn’t one great day when the bodies of all of history’s saved believers will undergo glorification. For example, the bodies of all the saved believers (Christians) from the church age will be glorified at the moment of the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:50-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), which occurs before the beginning of the Tribulation Period. (Deceased bodies will be resurrected, while the bodies of living Christians will not need to be resurrected.) Similarly, the bodies of all the believers from the Old Testament era will be resurrected and glorified at Christ’s Second Coming, which occurs at the end of the Tribulation Period (Daniel 12:1-3). Jesus referred to both of these waves of resurrections unto glorification as “the resurrection of life” (John 5:29, N.K.J.V.).

But the resurrections don’t stop there. Even the bodies of each of history’s lost people will undergo a resurrection, albeit not a resurrection unto glorification. These resurrections will occur after Christ’s 1,000 year reign (Revelation 20:4-6). The scene will be what the Bible calls “the Great White Throne Judgment” (Revelation 20:11-15). There, standing before Jesus, each of history’s lost billions will stand in a resurrected body, with the body being reunited with the soul that once inhabited it. Each person will then be cast body and soul into the eternal lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Jesus called this resurrection “the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29, N.K.J.V.).

And so I’ll wrap up this post and this series by asking you the same question that I’ve asked at the close of the previous two posts: Have you placed saving belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? If you have, then you can rest assured in the hope that one day you will be set free from all the damaging evidences of Adam & Eve’s fall into sin. But if you haven’t, then all the damaging evidences you have to deal with in this life will only be a warm up to evidences even more gruesome in eternity.

Yes, Adam fell into sin, and he took his entire race (including you) down with him. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Jesus — whom the Bible calls in 1 Corinthians 15:45 “the last Adam” — came to this earth, was born to a virgin (thus bypassing Adam’s tainted reproductive seed), lived a sinless life among Adam’s race, and died as the payment for each and every sin that Adam’s race had ever and would ever commit. Following that death, Jesus then arose from the dead and ascended back to heaven, from which He now offers salvation (forgiveness of sin) to each and every member of Adam’s fallen race.

And so, you see, the issue that we face now is really very simple. Each of us must ask himself or herself the question: “Am I associated with the first Adam or the last Adam?” As we have learned, the first Adam crippled us in multiple ways. These ways begin in this life and extend into the afterlife, even growing worse in the afterlife. But the last Adam offers to set all these ways right if we will only believe in Him as Savior. I’ve done that, and my sincere prayer is that you will as well.

Posted in Aging, Belief, Christ's Death, Christ's Resurrection, Christ's Return, Coming Judgment, Creation, Death, Eternity, God's Judgment, Heaven, Hell, Prophecy, Restoration, Salvation, Series: "Everyday Evidences of Adam & Eve's Fall", The Depravity of Man | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everyday Evidences of Adam & Eve’s Fall (post #2)

After God had spoken His words of judgment against the serpent and Satan, He turned His attention to Eve. Even though she had been legitimately deceived by Satan (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14), she still had to suffer the consequences of her sin. And since she would be the “mother” of every woman who would ever live, the consequences of her sin would cascade down upon every woman of the human race.

First, God told her, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16, N. K.J.V.). There’s no doubt that it had always been God’s plan for Adam and Eve to produce children (Genesis 1:28), but evidently the process of childbearing was originally supposed to be painless. Now, though, as a consequence of Eve’s sin, pain would be part of the process. Any woman who has ever felt labor pangs can verify that this judgment is still very much a part of our everyday world.

Second, God said to Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16, N.K.J.). The best way to interpret these words is to allow the Bible itself to serve as the commentary for them. So is there another passage where God uses this same phrase? Yes, there is. That passage is Genesis 4:7, which is found in the context of the story of Cain and Abel.

Following Adam and Eve’s sin, God killed either one animal or two and used the skin to make clothing for the couple (Genesis 3:21). This was the world’s first shedding of blood, and in doing it God wasn’t just dealing with the problem of Adam and Eve’s nakedness; He was also dealing with the problem of their sin. You see, Adam and Eve needed forgiveness of sin even more than they needed clothing, and by God’s own standard such forgiveness only comes through the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Watching God make that kill in Eden and seeing for the first time the red blood that flowed inside an animal was Adam and Eve’s crash course in the necessity of a blood sacrifice for forgiveness of sin.

Now let’s fast forward to a time when Adam and Eve have two grown sons: Cain and Abel. It is time for the two boys to bring their own sacrificial offerings for their own sins, and it is only logical that their parents have described in detail to them how God shed an animal’s blood to provide the world’s first offering for sin. Abel, understanding what type of sacrifice is required, brings an offering of the firstborn of his flock of sheep (perhaps one slain sheep, perhaps more), including the fat of the sheep (Genesis 4:4). Cain, on the other hand, brings an offering of the harvests of his farming (Genesis 4:3). Predictably, God rejects Cain’s bloodless offering and accepts Abel’s blood offering.

Someone might ask, “But why didn’t Cain bring the blood sacrifice of a slain animal? Had Adam and Eve not taught him what type of sacrifice was required?” The little book of Jude gives us that answer. That book is all about apostasy in the church, and apostasy can be defined as rejecting or falling away from revealed truth. And what does Jude say about Cain? Jude 1:11 says of apostates, “Woe to them! For they have gone in way of Cain…(N.K.J.V.).” Well, what way could that be but the rejection of the necessity of a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin? And how could Cain be classified as an apostate in regards to that truth if Adam and Eve never revealed it to him? Furthermore, Abel knew to bring a blood sacrifice, and he must have learned it from someone.

Now let’s get back to the brothers and their offerings. After God rejects his offering, Cain becomes very angry and bitter (Genesis 4:5). God understands this and tries to encourage him by telling him, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:6-7, N.K.J.V.). But then God gives him a strong warning: “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7, N.K.J.V.).

There is our phrase again, the same one God used in pronouncing His judgment upon Eve (and all the women who would come from her). The point is that just as sin’s desire was to rule over Cain, Eve’s sinful desire would be to rule over her husband, Adam. Her desire, though, would never be any more pleasing to God than sin’s desire to rule over Cain. That’s why God quickly added in the words, “And he (Adam) shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16, N.K.J.V.).

So, what are the two consequences of Eve’s fall that we see on display every day in the world? One is the pain that comes with giving birth, and the other one is the desire among many wives to claim headship over their husbands. Perhaps no scriptural truth is more hated and rejected by the “modern” woman than the truth that God has appointed the husband as the head of the wife and the wife is to be submitted to the husband. Nevertheless, this truth is so fundamental to God’s blueprint for marriage that it is found in no less than seven passages in the Bible: Genesis 3:16; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:11-13; 1 Timothy 3:4-5,12; and 1 Peter 3:1-6.

As for Cain, we know which path he chose. Rather than bring a blood sacrifice and in so doing rule over his sinful desire, he killed Abel (Genesis 4:8-10). How ironic it was that the same man who stubbornly wouldn’t shed the blood of an animal was perfectly willing to shed the blood of his brother!

But what about Eve? Was she able to keep her inner desire to rule over Adam in check? Since scripture makes no mention of her ever again causing any problems, all indications are that she was. Even more than that, she gave birth to a third son, Seth, and he embraced the spiritual legacy that Abel had been forced to relinquish (Genesis 4:25-26, 5:1-32). In addition to Seth, Eve gave Adam many other sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4).

Our choice today, then, is clear. We can either follow Cain’s example or Eve’s. When God reveals truth to us, we have the option of embracing that truth or rejecting it. By submitting herself to Adam’s headship, Eve embraced God’s truth by controlling her sinful desire to rule over Adam. Cain, tragically, rejected God’s truth concerning the need for a blood sacrifice and became the human race’s first lost person.

You say, “That’s fascinating, Russell, but how does it apply to my life?” It applies to your life in that you will join Cain in that eternally lost state if you reject God’s revealed truth concerning the final, all-encompassing blood sacrifice that spiritually fulfilled all the previous blood sacrifices and brought the need of them to an end. I’m talking, of course, about the death that Jesus died on the cross in shedding His blood for the sins of the human race. Make no mistake, to reject Him as Savior is to reject His blood sacrifice for your sins, and that amounts to you going “in the way of Cain.” And as I’ve tried to help you understand in this post, that isn’t a way that you want to go, not for this life or the one to come.

Posted in Bible Study, Choices, Christ's Death, Disobedience, Eternity, Forgiveness, Heaven, Hell, Husbands, Marriage, Obedience, Salvation, Series: "Everyday Evidences of Adam & Eve's Fall", Submission, The Bible, Wives | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everyday Evidences of Adam & Eve’s Fall (post #1)

A straightforward, literal reading of the Bible’s record of history teaches us that approximately 6,000 years have passed since Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. That’s a lot of years. The fact is, though, that the specific evidences the Bible associates with that fall are still on display each and every day. Over the next three posts we’ll look at these evidences in the order in which God instituted them. We’ll start with the evidences involving the serpent/Satan.

The Garden of Eden’s serpent was the creature through whom the fallen angel we call Satan spoke in temptation to Eve. Basically, Satan “demon possessed” the serpent by entering into its physical body. If you find it unbelievable that a fallen angel can enter into the body of a creature, I would remind you that a large group of demons once asked Jesus to cast them into a herd of swine (Matthew 8:28-32; Mark 5:1-13; and Luke 8:26-33).

God’s judgment upon the serpent itself was that the creature would be cursed to go on its belly and eat dust all the days of its life (Genesis 3:14). Furthermore, we can be safe in assuming that this judgment also extended to the serpent’s mate and all its offspring. Does this mean that Eden’s serpent originally walked upright? It’s pretty much impossible to interpret this judgment in any other way. And I don’t have to explain that snakes today are still forced to locomote by way of their bellies.

As for Satan, he got judged as well. First, God said to him, “I will put enmity between you and the woman” (Genesis 3:15). That meant that from then on Eve and Satan would be enemies. There would be no more intimate conversations between the two of them. Yes, Satan had deceived her and caused her to get too chummy with him (1 Timothy 2:14), but that wouldn’t be happening again. Now she would understand that he was, in reality, her arch enemy.

Second, God promised to take the enmity between Eve and Satan even further by making “the seed of the woman” and “the seed of Satan” enemies (Genesis 3:15). Since women don’t have reproductive seed, the term “the seed of the woman” is a clear reference to Jesus and His virgin birth. The term “the seed of Satan” is a reference to the spiritually lost people of the world (Matthew 13:38; John 8:44; Acts 13:10; and 1 John 3:10). The enmity that existed between Jesus and spiritually lost people reached its climax in lost people getting Him crucified, but the fact is that the enmity continues to exist today as lost people still reject Him and rebel against Him on a daily basis.

Third, God said that even though Satan would bruise Jesus’ heel, Jesus would bruise Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). With these words God was metaphorically playing off Satan’s association with the serpent. While a bruise to a person’s heel is painful, it isn’t permanent or fatal. In contrast, a great enough bruise to a snake’s head is permanent and fatal. If you’ve ever run over a snake’s body with your car, you know that the blow doesn’t actually kill the snake. However, if you run over a snake’s head, that blow will kill the snake.

God didn’t fill in all the details of His metaphorical illustration, but history would eventually prove that He meant that Satan would work through his children to get Jesus killed, but that the death wouldn’t be permanent or fatal because Jesus would resurrect three days later. More importantly, the spiritual blow that Jesus would strike by dying that death for the sins of the human race would be an eternally fatal one for Satan and His cause. Ultimately, Satan and all his seed are doomed because of Christ’s death and resurrection, and what we see on a daily basis in this world are merely the dying battle throes of a spiritual war that has already been decided.

Because of this the most important question that I can ask you is: Have you placed saving belief in Jesus (the seed of the woman) as your personal Savior or are you still a part of the seed of Satan? If you have never placed saving belief in Jesus, let me urge you to do so right now. Make no mistake, He is the only one who can provide the salvation that you need to rescue you from the eternal judgment brought upon the human race by Adam and Eve’s fall into sin.

Oh, and there’s something else that I need to add in here, too. Whether you realize it or not, if you don’t know Jesus as Savior, you are actually living a life of enmity against Him as you pursue the desires of your spiritual father, Satan (John 8:44). Don’t believe it? Then let me point out that Jesus Himself said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23 N.K.J.V.). You see, you are either with Jesus or you are actively working against Him. According to Jesus’ own standard, there is no middle ground. And so I ask you again: Have you placed saving belief in Jesus (the seed of the woman) as your personal Savior or are you still a part of the seed of Satan? Never forget that nothing less than your eternal destiny is riding on your answer.

Posted in Angels, Belief, Christ's Death, Christ's Resurrection, Demons, Eternity, God's Judgment, Salvation, Satan, Series: "Everyday Evidences of Adam & Eve's Fall", The Depravity of Man, The Devil, The Gospel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give God Time

The old saying says, “Timing is everything.” As for the Bible, it makes no attempt to downplay the idea. It tells us that God the Father didn’t send Jesus to the earth until “the fullness of the time had come” (Galatians 4:4, N.K.J.V.). It tells us that Jesus died for the ungodly “in due time” (Romans 5:6, N.K.J.V.). It tells us that there is “a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, N.K.J.V.). It tells us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, N.K.J.V.).

What is it that you are waiting on God to do? Perhaps your unrequited waiting has caused you to conclude that what you are waiting on is never going to happen. You’ve started telling yourself, “It must not be God’s will. If it was, it would have happened by now.”

Well, I’d be lying if I promised you that God always says, “Yes” to our requests. Sometimes He really does say, “No” even to requests that make perfect sense to us not only logically but spiritually. On the other hand, though, if His “Yes” gets delayed long enough, it can take on the false appearance of a “No.” It’s these situations that require great patience on our part as we are forced to wait for His timing.

I have lived long enough to learn that God isn’t in a hurry. I’ve seen Him bleed a “Yes” out for years, even decades, before finally bringing it to pass. Why does He do this? Does He just like watching us squirm? No, His reasons are far more loving than that. He makes us wait because He loves us enough to put in the necessary time to teach us, instruct us, mold us, shape us, train us, mature us, and season us. You see, God isn’t satisfied to merely grant our request; He wants to make sure that before we receive it we have reached a state where we can properly appreciate it and use it as He wants us to use it.

Frank W. Boreham was a highly influential pastor of another day. I offer the following quote from him as an encouragement to anyone who is right now waiting out God’s timing for the fulfillment of a “Yes.” I’ll even add in the scripture references for the Bible stories the quote references so that you can read them for yourself and draw encouragement from them. Boreham wrote:

Give God time, and even when the knife flashes in the air, the ram will be seen caught in the thicket (Genesis 22:1-13). Give God time, and even when Pharaoh’s host is on Israel’s heels, a path through the waters will be suddenly opened (Exodus 14:1-31). Give God time, and when the bed of the brook is dry, Elijah will hear the guiding voice (1 Kings 17:1-9).

And so, dear reader, my closing advice to you is very simple and direct. Whatever that “Yes” is that you are waiting to be fulfilled, give God time. Oh, and while you are waiting be sure to cooperate with Him fully as He does the work inside you that will prepare you to make the most of the request once you receive it.

Posted in Desires, Disappointment, God's Timing, God's Love, God's Timing, God's Will, Impatience, Patience, Prayer Requests, Waiting | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Depression

Depression is a real thing. According to the website http://www.healthline.com, it’s estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States have had at least one major bout with depression in the past year. Of course that number is probably low given the fact that many depressed people don’t want to talk about their problem and don’t want to end up a statistic in a poll.

I personally know some good people, Christians, who struggle with depression. One of the best church members that I ever had called her depression “the pit.” It robbed her of her Christian joy and caused her to isolate herself from people, an isolation that cut completely against her normally outgoing nature. Each time her depression came upon her all she wanted to do was lie on her bed in a completely dark room.

Ralph Barton was perhaps the most popular cartoonist/illustrator of America’s roaring ’20s. His caricatures of celebrities and New York socialites were featured in various magazines such as Vanity FairHarper’s Bazaar, and, most notably, The New Yorker, where he served as an advisory editor. He also drew the illustrations for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a wildly popular book of the decade.

Barton had fame and money, hobnobbed with celebrities (he and Charlie Chaplain were very close friends), traveled the world, dated and married beautiful women, and enjoyed the finer things of life. And yet on May 19th, 1931, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in his penthouse apartment in Manhattan. He was just 39 years old.

The truth about Barton is that he was a deeply troubled man who suffered from chronic depression and mental illness. The suicide note he left is one of the most famous ones ever written, having been published many times in many places. I offer it here again as an illustration of the depths to which depression can take a person. Barton wrote:

Everyone who has known me and who hears of this will have a different hypothesis to offer to explain why I did it. Practically all of these hypothesis will be dramatic–and completely wrong. Any sane doctor knows that the reasons for suicide are invariably psychopathological. Difficulties in life merely precipitate the event–and the true suicide type manufactures his own difficulties. I have had few real difficulties. I have had, on the contrary, and exceptionally glamorous life–as lives go. And I have had more than my share of affection and appreciation. The most charming, intelligent, and important people I have known have liked me–and the list of my enemies is very flattering to me. I have always had excellent health. But, since my childhood, I have suffered with a melancholia which, in the past 5 years, has begun to show definite symptoms of manic-depressive insanity. It has prevented my getting anything like the full value out of my talents, and, for the past three years, has made work a torture to do at all. It has made it impossible for me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life that seem to get other people through. I have run from wife to wife, from house to house, and from country to country, in a ridiculous effort to escape from myself. In doing so, I am very much afraid that I have spread a good deal of unhappiness among the people who have loved me.”

Barton’s glamorous life and tragic death prove that no one is immune from depression. Even the Bible backs up this truth. Take the time sometime to read the following passages:

  • Israel’s King Solomon voices his depression in Ecclesiastes 1:1-11.
  • Solomon’s father, King David, does the same thing in Psalms 42 and 43.
  • The prophet Elijah asks God to take his life in 1 Kings 19:1-4.
  • Jonah asks God to take his life in Jonah 4:1-3.
  • Job asks God to take his life in Job 6:8-9.
  • Moses asks God to take his life in Numbers 11:10-15.

Charles Spurgeon was one Christian who had a different take on depression. “Who was Charles Spurgeon?” you ask. He was England’s most famous preacher during its golden age of preachers, the Victorian age. His Metropolitan Tabernacle in London is sometimes referred to as the world’s first megachurch. However, Spurgeon suffered from great bouts with depression that plagued his ministry and life. As the The Spurgeon Center website puts it:

Spurgeon owned more than thirty books on mental health. He read about depression, wrote about depression, and suffered from depression. Spurgeon’s letters contain numerous references to his sinking spirits. He often called himself a “prisoner” and wept without knowing why.

But what was the different take that Spurgeon had concerning depression? He called his depression “a prophet in rough clothing.” In his Lectures to My Students, he says:

Fits of depression come over most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There may be here and there men of iron…but surely the rust frets even these.

Basically, Spurgeon looked upon depression as something with which everyone, to some degree or another, must wrestle. But he viewed bouts with depression as helpful experiences for the Christian. As he saw it, fits of depression cast Christians down to keep us humble before God so that we might not be egotistically exalted above measure (2 Corinthians 12:7). They teach us that we have the power of Christ upon us the most when we are the weakest, not when we are the strongest (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). They strip us of our overrated wisdom as we learn that we don’t really have all the answers to life’s troubles. They reveal the inferior quality of our supposed courage as we grow scared that we can’t overcome our depression. And they force us to face the reality that even though the born-again experience has equipped us to feel true Christian joy, sometimes we are not even happy, let alone joyous. 

I have to say that the more I study Spurgeon’s attitude toward depression the more I see the blessing in it. Surely it’s no coincidence that God was able to use the man so mightily. Needless to say, I want that same uncommon spiritual power upon my own ministry.

But what if that power only comes by way of bouts of depression? What if it takes those bouts to keep me humble and cause me to understand the fullness of Jesus’ words, “…without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)? Well, that’s another matter altogether, and it’s one that I have to come to grips with one way or another in my own life.

I really don’t believe that God wants us to desire depression. Furthermore, I don’t believe that depression even comes from Him. But I do believe that He can use a person’s depression as a tool to do outstanding spiritual work not only in that person but also through that person. We might think of this as Him redeeming depression and bringing good out of it. It’s just a shame that so few depressed people actually understand this, and therefore they never reach the place where they can benefit from that good.

Posted in Adversity, Attitude, Brokenness, Comfort, Depression, Discipleship, Encouragement, Humility, Ministry, Perseverance, Preaching, Suffering, Trials, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What I Didn’t Know 25 Years Ago

I was 27 years old when I accepted what is commonly referred to as “the call to preach.” 25 years have passed now. And what have I learned in those 25 years? I’ve learned what I didn’t know.

What I didn’t know was that God’s call to preach would be housed inside His call to pastor. Preaching and pastoring, of course, are not the same thing. When you accept God’s call to preach, you envision yourself standing before congregations, open Bible in front of you on the pulpit, sharing the message that God has given you for the hour. Admittedly, that’s lofty mental imagery. What you don’t envision is all the messy stuff that comes with pastoring.

Preaching requires studying your Bible. Pastoring requires studying your church members. Preaching means spending time with God in prayer. Pastoring means spending time with your church members. Preaching locates you in a pulpit. Pastoring locates you in hospitals, rehab centers, and nursing homes. Preaching involves the question, “Is this the message that God wants me to preach?” Pastoring involves the question, “How can I get more people to attend church?” Preaching incorporates effective introductions, illustrations, and conclusions. Pastoring incorporates effective leadership, motivation, and results.

When you accept God’s call to preach, you don’t understand about contentious business meetings. You don’t take into account church budgets, committee meetings, and problem people. You don’t realize that “stepping on toes” with a sermon will usually be followed by mending a broken relationship with an in-home “let’s make up” visit. You assume that all your church members have the same innocent motivation and deep commitment to Jesus that you have. Then you come to the wildly disappointing realization that they don’t.

According to the gospels, Jesus spent a lot of His time preaching. According to those same gospels, however, He spent every bit as much of His time, if not more, ministering. He didn’t isolate Himself in some ivory tower, only coming down periodically to preach a powerful sermon. Instead, He moved in and out among the common folk of the land, visiting them in their cities, towns, and villages. He held one-on-one healing sessions with sick individuals. He touched lepers that no one else would even approach. He cast demons out of actual human beings who had actual names. He showed love to a land full of people who weren’t getting it from the Romans, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, the priests, the tax collectors, or the merchants.

Oh, and did I mention how Jesus’ loving ministry ended? He got nailed to a cross. That, you see, is how this world treats God’s servants, and anyone who is feeling “the call to preach” should be made aware of this. It’s not all nice suits, expensive cars, big salaries, and congregations who can’t wait to hear and apply what you have to say. At least that’s not been my experience. Instead it’s trying to minister to needy people who oftentimes don’t understand their need and other times don’t appreciate your help even if they do understand their need. Thankfully, there are exceptions to this rule, no doubt about that. The exceptions, however, simply prove the truth of the rule. And, as naive as I was back then, is something else that I didn’t know 25 years ago.

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A Fresh Word From God

Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. (1 Samuel 3:1, N.K.J.V.)

The Hebrew word translated as “widespread revelation” in this verse is hazon. It’s a word that refers to divine revelation. Most typically in the Old Testament it is used in reference to a prophetic vision such as the ones God’s prophets received from Him.

Therefore, our text verse is describing a time in ancient Israel in which God wasn’t doing much talking. A fresh word from Him was rare and God-sent visions were scarce. The nation was forced to operate from old revelation, the revelation that God had given them through Moses by way of the law centuries earlier.

And what was the cause of Israel’s sad spiritual state? The main problem was that Israel’s priesthood had turned corrupt. The High Priest, Eli, was old, and he was allowing his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to handle most of the priestly duties. Unfortunately, Hophni and Phinehas were wicked men.

For example, even though the Mosaic law allowed for Israel’s priests to receive designated portions of the Israelites’ animal sacrifices (Deuteronomy 18:3), Hophni and Phinehas always greedily took more than the share the law allowed (1 Samuel 2:13-17). Also, they commonly had sexual relations with the women who served at the Tabernacle, Israel’s God-ordained place of worship (1 Samuel 2:22). The elderly Eli did make some attempt to rebuke his sons, but they ignored the old man’s words (1 Samuel 2:23-25). How bad were Hophni and Phinehas? The Bible actually says that they did not even know the Lord (1 Samuel 2:12) and that God wanted to kill them (1 Samuel 2:25), which He did by means of an Israelite battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:1-11).

Is it any wonder, then, that a word from the Lord was rare in the days of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas? Is it any wonder that there was no widespread revelation during that time? Why would God bother to share new revelation when Israel’s priests weren’t even living up to the old revelation?

Interestingly, our word hazon is also used in Proverbs 29:18, which famously says in the King James Version: “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” The teaching of the verse is that a fresh word from God (a revelation) is the difference between perishing and thriving. A situation is lying stagnant, and then all of a sudden God speaks a fresh word into it. He says, “Here’s how things are and here’s what I’m going to do about it.” Without that fresh word (that God-sanctioned vision, that divine revelation) the situation will continue to trudge along in its pitiable condition.

It is also worth noting that the Hebrew word translated as “perish” in Proverbs 29:18 of the King James Version is para. It’s a word that means to run wild and unrestrained. And so what the original Hebrew of Proverbs 29:18 tells us is that where there is no fresh word from God, people run wild. As the New International Version renders the verse: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint…” The New Living Translation gets even more blunt, saying: “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild…”

You say, “Okay, but what does all this mean to me?” First, it means that if your life is marked by unrepentant sin, you needn’t expect a fresh word of guidance from God. Why should He impart new guidance to you when you aren’t even living up to the guidance He has previously shared? Second, it means that without that divine guidance you are running unrestrained and wild. You aren’t in God’s will. You aren’t living the kind of a life that He can ideally bless. You aren’t in a place where He can share with you all the wonderful insight that He has for you. Only when you repent of your sins and start living up to the spiritual light that God has already given you will He be able to impart to you a fresh word of guidance that will allow you to move to a higher level in your living.

Posted in Backsliding, Confession, Counsel, Disobedience, God's Will, Greed, Obedience, Personal Holiness, Rebellion, Repentance, Restoration, Sex, Sin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment