The Intoxicating Pleasure of Sin

As we’ve been working our way through The Drama of Marriage series, we came to Genesis chapter 3. We learned there’s an “open secret” within every marriage—and that “open secret” is sin. Below is a little breakdown on the way sin works. Rarely does it prance into your marriage declaring its presence, but tends to seduce. It likes to be crafty and subtle—kind of like the serpent. And this is why sin easily destroys marriages. It creeps in unnoticed and unannounced. Whether you’re single, married, or desiring the other, I wonder how the below works itself out in your life.

13-tree-of-life
     “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
                                                   -Gen 3:6

 

What makes sin so intoxicating it its ability to offer more than one immediate pleasure. In Genesis 3, D. A. Carson observes Eve being enticed by sin in three ways. Its appeal was sensual, aesthetic, and sapient.

Sensual 

Eve saw that the tree was “good.” It was good for food and offered much physical satisfaction. Before the fall, the consumption of food was not necessary for survival. Eating was a gift from God for the purpose of physical pleasure. However, the lie of sin produced an action. She saw it was good for food and ate. She became convinced that eating fruit from this particular tree would be more pleasurable than the taste of any other fruit in the garden.

Aesthetic

The tree was “a delight to the eyes.” It was satisfying her physical sense through visual appeal. In the midst of temptation, she was already being offered some degree of pleasure. Though she had not yet sinned, here we begin to discover the difficulty of resisting temptation. It has an offer of satisfaction before it has satisfied. Temptation is often the bait of sin. The images have passed through our eyes and the smell has already lofted into our noses. It’s no wonder Paul speaks of taking every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:4-5). What brings us to the kitchen is not the knowledge of cookies being baked, but the intoxicating aroma filling the house.

Sapience

Every good lie must have a hint of truth. What made The Fall so insidious was the deception that Eve would become wise. There was truth to this. Eve would know good and evil, but the lie was this; Eve would not come to know good and evil in the same way God did.

Carson uses the following example to illustrate. When his wife had cancer, her doctors knew the kind of cancer she had. They were familiar with its terrible effects and mutations. They knew what the cancer was capable of doing. They knew its morphology and its many potential outcomes. They knew how to combat the cancer, and what kinds of treatments were necessary. The doctors had studied and interacted with the disease for years. They knew its color, its physical appearance, what it would be like in five years, and what it had looked like the previous year. No one knew this cancer better than these doctors… except his wife.

There was a way his wife knew this cancer in which the doctors could never know it. She knew it physically. She knew the way it felt and the way it made her change. The doctors never had to house the disease in their bodies, creating an incubation in which it could thrive. They never hated it mentally, much less, emotionally. It never affected their families the way it affected hers. The point here is that having an intellectual knowledge of the disease is not even close to the physical, emotional, or mental reality of having it grow in your body.

And this is the way in which Eve would come to know good and evil. She would only know it in a twisted sense. She would only know what the disease of sin would allow her to know. She would never know it as God knew it. And this was the deception. She thought she would become a peer with God. What a lie.

So What?

Sin has not changed. It’s still the same. Its aroma lingers in our noses, its sound in our ears, and its throbbing in our hearts. There’s no physical, emotional, or intellectual ground on which this disease doesn’t utterly consume. It deceptively and insidiously captures all senses. It intoxicates them and convinces us that we can be a peer with God.

And this is the secret that’s not so secret. Sin is subtly working its will in your marriage, and every relationship for that matter. Once we come to recognize this truth, we stand a much better chance of battling well. Christ has defeated sin once and for all, but its effects are still powerful. The great truth of Genesis 3 is not so much the reality of sin, but God’s promise that He would one day end the serpent and his power (3:15). He’s already done this through the cross work and resurrection of Christ, however, we still live in the “now, and not yet.” As such, we must fight, knowing that sin is ever-present— ready to seduce, lie, contort, and destroy—offering promises it can never deliver.

When in a Crunch

 

The following is the content of an old post I wrote near the end of my first year in seminary. After a recent conversation with a young man on the topic, I thought this might be helpful for others.

imagesI am a whole-hearted advocate of Bible reading plans. But as we all discover, not only is it hard to keep on track, but after 4 months of reading it becomes very difficult to read with any sort of vigor and depth. Our eyes begin to haze over stories of the Old Testament and fly past the familiarity of the New Testament.

One of the most helpful pieces of practice I’ve received in combating this inevitable tendency is to ask three simple questions anytime I read a text, especially of the Old Testament.

  1. What is this text saying about God?
  2. What is this text saying about me?
  3. What is my response in light of these two realities?

Here is a small example from my reading in Isaiah yesterday.

Isaiah 41:10
‘Do not fear,
for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you,
For I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

I’ve kept all the statements asserting something about me to the left, and all the statements regarding God, I’ve indented. The first thing to notice is this. In this small verse, there is way more being said about God than me. This should give us a clue as to what our focus should be.

As a side note, this is the lens through which we should read the entire Bible. There is always way more being said about God than we think, and we should make it our duty to have an eye for those things. Understanding God first and fully, as he has revealed Himself, is the only way we will be able to make sense of our condition and what our proper response should be.

Notice the first two lines. First, what is God saying about Himself? He is with us. Second, what does the text say about me? It asserts that I am fearful—“Do not be afraid.” These two lines form a small argument. God is with us and therefore we should not be afraid. In other words, the ground for not being afraid is the knowledge that God is with us. Notice, it’s not a promise of delivery. It’s a statement of reality. God is presently, actively with us, and this is the reason we should not be afraid.

So when I’m sitting in the back of my Greek class with an intensely large knot in my stomach and a pounding heart because I am about to go up front and give a 45 minute presentation in Greek, the command I have from God is not to be afraid. Why? Because He is with me. Though my hands will still shake, my voice will still waver, and the class will notice, God is with me. I don’t have to be afraid.

The second statement made about God is that He is our God. Meanwhile, the second statement made about us is that we anxiously look about ourselves. It is an interesting argument. Apparently, the cure for anxiety is the reality that “God is our God.” On the surface this seems unhelpful. God is no more my God now than He was five minutes ago. So by this reasoning I should never have been anxious in the first place. Was not God still my God five minutes ago?

I think the answer is this. The subsequent statements supporting the claim that “God is my God” give the rational for the command. As such, the command is to believe that God is able to strengthen, help, and uphold. And this God is my God.

Without becoming too tangential, the God who is saying, “I am your God,” is the same God described in the rest of the Old Testament. If we would even begin to understand the “I AM” statements of the Old Testament when we hear God say, “I AM your God,” then it takes on a whole new meaning. Therefore the force with which we understand God’s ability to strengthen, help, and uphold are significantly exponentiated. When we truly begin to see and believe His ability to strengthen, help, and uphold, we should rejoice. We are starting to understand “I AM.”

Given the context of Isaiah, my anxiety of public speaking is rather minute. But in accordance to the book of Romans I am a beneficiary of these promises. So as insignificant as a 45 minute Greek presentation is in the basement of a chapel in Deerfield, Illinois, He is no less MY God and no less the “I AM” of the Old Testament. He is faithful to His promises. He will strengthen, help, and uphold this anxious student.

Did you forget this was about Bible reading? Here’s the point. I have found it very helpful in Bible reading plans to take the time and ask those three questions. We don’t have the time to do an in-depth word study and syntactical diagram while throwing back the milk from our cereal bowl before rushing off to work. This practice does not and cannot replace rigorous Bible study, but when in a crunch I have found these three questions to be insightful and helpful. I hope you do too!

Some Thoughts on Athens

As most of you know, a little over a week and half ago Pastor Matt and I left for Athens, Greece to teach the leaders of a migrant Romanian church. This group of men had been learning from the curriculum and teachers of Training Leaders International (TLI) for the past three years. They’ve been on a long journey and have worked really hard. In fact, they, along with other migrant people groups in Athens, were the first group ever to complete the TLI program and graduate. It was an honor to watch each of them receive their diplomas and I was deeply encouraged by the work God appears to be doing in Athens. Pastor Matt went on to Romania, but I am now [Read more…]