John Simon Ritchie was born on a spring day in 1957 in Lewisham, England to a middle-aged couple, John and Anne Ritchie. John’s mom was a high-school dropout who left school to join the RAF. His dad was a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a trombone player on the London Jazz scene. Shortly after Ritchie’s birth, the couple split up and in his early years, little John lived in a small rented flat in east London. As a teen, he became an avid David Bowie fan and a “clothes hound.” He learned to play bass guitar and eventually became the most famous member of the influential punk rock band the “Sex Pistols” where John took the stage name “Sid Vicious.”
During the meteoric rise of the band, Vicious befriended and later lived with manager Nancy Spungen, as the pair entered a destructive codependent relationship based on heavy drug use. Sometime later, Nancy Spungen’s murder was well publicized, as she was found in a pool of blood, stabbed while the couple was staying in New York City’s Hotel Chelsea. Under suspicion of the crime, Vicious was released on bail to continue performing but was later re-arrested after assaulting a man at a nightclub. A judge ordered a psychological evaluation and John forcibly underwent drug rehabilitation on Rikers Island in New York. In celebration of Vicious’ temporary release from prison, his mother hosted a homecoming drug party for him (she had been supplying him with drugs and paraphernalia since he was young). Late that night she assisted him in procuring heroin, and he died in his sleep after overdosing on it.
By all accounts, in less than twenty-two years of life, John Ritchie had seen life. He knew what it was to be rich and what it was to be poor. He knew fame and he knew loneliness and rejection. He lived a short, tumultuous life. I wanted to read you some of his lyrics, to help us hear how his bleeding heart was so very obvious, but couldn’t find any that had words I could be comfortable reading silently, let alone reading out loud in mixed company. I thought it telling that his most purchased song was a takeoff of the Sinatra song: “I did it MY way!” The lyrics are vulgar, woven together with some of the more familiar Sinatra ones.
Why do I mention Sid as we open Genesis 3. The answer is simple, but painful. Sid lived life on his terms. So did Frank Sinatra… so did Adam and Eve – and that is the problem. Many in our day frame life as though “living on my terms” becomes a statement of freedom. The record of the original sin confirms a contrary view.
Life lived by rules formed in rebellion will not lead me where I think it will.
Let me go backward for a moment to set that statement in context… Over the last few weeks, we have been walking carefully through the record of the beginning of the human story, looking at the Biblical Creation account and then searching the text for an explanation of the origin of evil in the world. We have called that pursuit “What Went Wrong?”
• We looked at Genesis 1 and recognized the story told us two things: God created everything and gave it the purpose for its existence, and God LIKED things the way He designed them.
• We followed that in Genesis 2 and found that God designed man, then woman. He assigned them both certain tasks, and then made them MORAL AGENTS with the opportunity to obey Him and commune with Him, or not. We recognized from Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22 of the “Greatest Commandment” that God’s highest moral ethic was love, and true love requires choice. God’s original design allowed the possibility of evil, though God did not create evil.
As we continue our look at “What went wrong?” we should keep reading Genesis 3 to the end. As we do we will note the following truth:
Key Principle: Every facet of life was disastrously infected by the introduction of sin into a world not designed to operate well after the assault.
Understanding what Evil Is
Before we look at the impact of the introduction of evil and sin into the story of humanity (which is the heart of the rest of Genesis 3), we need to stop and emphasize something so that we don’t go astray from the truth. We must address a definition so that we can discern what evil truly IS and what it is NOT.
To that end, let me offer a simple illustration I used at the Youth Conference this past week speaking to the crowd of teens in attendance:
If I place a chair in the middle of the platform, can you seriously make the argument the area beside that chair is the place I created a “not chair” space? That is how many people approach evil. In other words, some people argue about EVIL as if it is something God could have created – but evil IS NOT a thing. It is the absence of something.
Ask any police officer derided for the ticket they just wrote, and he or she will tell you: “You don’t create disobedience by creating a standard.”
Let’s say it this way: Evil is mutiny against His designed order and ultimately against God Himself. When any of us disobey God, we engage in evil. Evil is not the presence of something; it is the absence of righteousness, the negative, and the disobedient diversion from the standard. It is the willful absence of submission to God’s perfection. It is the abandonment of holiness (the distinctive quality of God).
We must be clear on this: Evil is NOT a thing created, a substance invented, an entity discovered, or a dark force God surprisingly encountered along the way. Evil is the lack of moral perfection. Therefore, God did not create evil, author evil, or make evil – that is simply the wrong way to think of the concept.
That doesn’t solve everything because there is something God DID that bothers people.
The Lord God of Heaven decreed evil would be included as part of His eternal story. He used the heinous departure from His good desire for His own purposes in the telling of His story. Don’t forget! The point of the story has always been to REVEAL WHO HE IS to the cosmos (in contradistinction to His enemy’s claims about Him). God’s story was constructed for an audience that includes both mankind and the angelic world that preceded man in creation.
Let’s not float in the stars – let‘s get down to the account of how evil entered the human story, and what it affected.
We read in our last lesson the story of 3:1-7 and learned:
• The story began with the serpent and his arrival to the Garden (3:1).
• Satan’s mimicry of a known animal of the field was a trick explained in later portions of the Bible, where his sneaky ploy was unmasked (3:1).
• In costume, Satan used Eve’s misperception of what it means to “die” and used that to twist her thinking (3:2-4).
• Eve was drawn by the appeal of the fruit and rejected God’s analysis that the fruit was poison. She called it “good for food” in her mind, when God said it would, in fact, kill her (3:5)
• After Eve touched the fruit she kept breathing, so she decided to eat it as well (3:6).
• By the end of the account, Adam and Eve had defied God, and suddenly things in the Garden looked “changed” to them (3:7).
It is at that point we resume the story with the devastating results of their mutiny against God.
The backdrop was a beautiful canvas. Remember the words that ended the creation account in Genesis 2:25?
Genesis 3:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
When they were created, man and woman were feeling good. Man was OK with himself. Woman was OK with herself. No billboard advertisements at the edge of the garden made them feel inadequate. They had no marred self-image – no need for better makeup or another exercise machine they would eventually save for a garage sale. The issue wasn’t whether they were beautiful enough or felt important enough – they were happy with who God made them.
Enter the tempter (3:1). Think about the series of events that led to a long row of dominoes falling in an escapade of destruction:
• The man was to guard the garden and failed – exposing his wife to the guile of the tempter and neglecting the protection of the boundaries of God (Genesis 3:1b).
• The woman actively entertained the vital question of God’s authority over her and focused on the one thing God told them to leave alone – deciding the promised poison looked perfectly palatable (Genesis 3:2-3). She failed to trust God’s Word.
• The serpent openly accused God of holding back on what was best for them and they failed to recognize that God was exactly Who He claimed to be (Genesis 3:4-6).
What came from the fall affected every area of life:
They faced the initial LOSS of INNOCENCE – when the text reminds, “their eyes were opened” in Genesis 3:7a.
In 1998, Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels and Joan Allen starred in the Hollywood version of a play named “Pleasantville.” In the story, David Wagner (played by Maguire) was a TV loving kid whose mind was stuck in the 1950s. He was addicted to a classic 50’s sitcom show named “Pleasantville,” a story about people living in a simple place where all of its citizens were swell and simple-minded. They knew nothing of violence and life seemed idyllic. Watching the show one evening, David and his obnoxious sister Jennifer (played by Reese Witherspoon) are tossed into the TV world of that town when an eccentric repairman gave them a mysterious magical remote. Dropped into 1950’s Pleasantville, David and Jennifer bring the village out of their 1950s lifestyle of repressed desires and move them into more modern societal values (read: they bring in sexual immorality as a device to set people free) while trying to find their way home. In the beginning of their time in Pleasantville, the whole screen is in “black and white” as a 1950’s show would be. As each person in the movie launches from repression to freer sexuality, he/she becomes color. The town begins to become rich in color. That is the view of the producers of the film. Life that is beautiful is life that has left even the simplest of ethical morays – like sexual expression in the context of marriage bonds.
Isn’t that exactly what Satan promises? “Throw off the rules and you will be free!” Live with your eyes wide open. Don’t be naïve, as if the worst thing that can happen to you is to miss the dirty connotation to the joke just told. From that generation of “freedom thinkers” we saw the value of childhood diminished. Little girls needed to grow up faster.
Let me challenge this way of thinking for a moment. “Worldly wise” when it really means “Sexualized and forced from innocence” is no wisdom at all.
Keep reading what else casting off God’s Word and leadership did:
They faced the DEATH of a positive SELF IMAGE, seen in the phrase “they knew they were naked” in Genesis 3:7b. Suddenly, they found themselves deficient. This was the birth of fashion houses, cosmetic companies, and Gold’s gym. Eve looked at her body and began to evaluate that she wasn’t looking as fine as she did yesterday. She was going to need some accessorizing. Adam noted some mid-section pudginess and started thumbing through magazines for an “ab buster” to keep that “six pack.” Wait a minute! Wasn’t eating the fruit supposed to make them BE LIKE GOD and know everything? What they learned is that without God, life doesn’t look the same!
Not only that, but they faced the first embarrassing blush of SHAME when the text reminds they “covered themselves” in Genesis 3:7b. It wasn’t bad enough they didn’t like what they saw on themselves, but they suddenly felt it wasn’t good enough for anyone else to see either. Shame convinces us we are worthless – because worth was instilled by God and living in disobedience makes us feel like a fraud. Shame makes us feel unlovable to others. It isolates us.
Remember this: One of Satan’s most important ploys is to entice you to isolate yourself.
If he can convince you that you should be ashamed, you will volunteer to live in a prison with an unlocked cell door!
It was only that, they faced a DEBILITATING CHANGE in their relationship with the Creator, feeling, for the first time, the need to “hide themselves” from God in Genesis 3:8-10. Not only did Satan beckon them to isolation, but guilt drove them to run from the only ONE Who was deeply invested in making them truly successful. They could have run up to God weeping and told Him they were wrong…but that isn’t like us. We’d prefer to hide what is wrong and hope He doesn’t know as much as His Word teaches He truly does.
They faced the anguish of all that DESERVED GUILT and exchanged healthy and holy reverence of God for open FEAR to be seen of God in Genesis 3:10. Reverence leads us to worship. Fear leads us to HIDE. One ends in acknowledging how GOOD God is in spite of us, the other leads us to believe we are rejected before we even ask for forgiveness.
The bottom line is that man’s pain came from his deliberate mutiny against His Creator’s right to rule his life – and so does YOURS.
When we decide we know better than God does about our children, our finances, our emotional needs and our sense of fulfillment – we relinquish the benefits of trusting Him to meet our every need. Seeking to gain, we lose out on blessing. Blessing comes from submission, correction and re-connection. The wages of mutiny are a grand dose of shame, discontent, guilt and a host of unforeseen problems and unintended consequences.
Go to Genesis 3:12 and listen to the sound of blame shifting and guilt:
First, hear the sound of BLAME:
Genesis 3:12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
• Man tried to blame the woman for his lack of guardianship and leadership (3:12) – the leader blames the followers!
• The woman blamed the tempter (3:13) – like the shopper blaming the advertiser for MAKING HER BUY the product!
Don’t miss the common thread in the two! Blame is formed by ignoring personal responsibility while victimizing yourself. It is an exercise of making someone else responsible for your response to a situation.
Inside the BLAME can be found the dulcet tones of human RATIONALIZATION: We are prepared to trade long held grand ethics for short term practical benefits.
Dottie and I bought another older vehicle for her use this week. The seller thought they were being kind by leaving off the purchase price of the vehicle so we could claim less if we didn’t want to pay the full sales tax. After all, they said, the tax was paid on the vehicle when it was bought new. Why should the government get another tax revenue on the used price sale? Can you hear how easy it is to rationalize? Can you read the hash tag “#not my tax” as if people who don’t agree with something have a right to lie to cover their disagreement? Remember this: rationalizing is making a plausible excuse that is entirely acceptable to you, but is not actually correct. We do it when our morals call us to sacrifice our account balances. If you want to work to change tax policy, that is a great place to get involved in government. The wrong way to do it is lie about a price to receive the benefit of it. Why? The answer is simple.
God didn’t amend “thou shalt not lie” with words like, “unless thou thinkest thy government already has enough and shouldn’t get more of yours.”
Keep reading in the text:
Genesis 3:14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;
It is clear that God immediately imposed judgment against the creature. Don’t miss that this is the first time in the Bible that we read about God “cursing” something. What does that mean? In short, God’s curse is the opposite of God’s blessing. It is the turning of the winds of support into the face of the one advancing. Where God guides, He provides. Where God forbids, He allows the elements to harm us in exposure.
Picture God’s blessing as a warm parka in an Alaskan snowstorm. Picture His curse as taking away the waterproof quality of that parka, and allowing the elements to seep, creep and freeze. It isn’t designed to be comfortable. It is designed to be punitive, instructive and corrective – as well as a deterrent to onlookers.
Even greater than what man could understand, the mutiny opened the front in a spiritual WAR.
Look at Genesis 3:15:
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
Because of sin, God promised to engage man in a battle between the deceiver and his own future through the provision of the Messianic seed (3:15). Look closely at the verse. God would bring enmity (read: a “knockdown, drag out fight”) between Satan and man. In the process, the seed of the enemy (those convinced to follow him) would battle the seed of the woman that was coming.
Look at the promise, because something is obviously incorrect on the face of the statement.
Women don’t provide “seed” to make a child. That necessary ingredient is placed within them. Only ONE WOMAN would have “seed” placed within without the assistance of the man (perhaps in response to his passivity in the Garden). That woman was the physical mother of the Savior, who bore a child without carnally “knowing” a man.
The bottom line of the passage was this: Satan’s seduction, Eve’s mutiny, Adam’s passivity and stupidity – none of it surprised God. Not one thing. He already had a plan in place to redeem from the moment sin occurred.
The passage is one of judgment, but even in the midst of God’s strong hand there was GOOD NEWS of undeserved grace and unstoppable salvation. Theologians call this passage the first proto-evangelion – the first “Gospel” if you will.
The great news exposed in this promise was this: sin will not rule forever. In fact, even in His judgment of death, God made clear that physical death was not immediate, and the woman would have offspring. That offspring would one day crush the serpent’s head. That good news found fulfillment at Calvary in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The fact is that you were born into a spiritual war. There is a real enemy. There is a real fight – but you were given the armor of Ephesians 6 to stand the ground upon which God has placed you!
God turned His eyes to the woman, and in a famous passage He promised her PHYSICAL PAIN would replace the joy of the reproductive system. A collective groan may now rise from the females of the assembly! The pain of childbirth is not ALL there is to this! He said:
Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth; in pain you will bring forth children…”
Whereas the woman was designed to find great joy in bearing a child, there would be physical pain in the reproductive cycle, in pregnancy, and in delivery. What should bring JOY now brought pain. What should have been SAFE, now often became unsafe. For centuries, many women left this life while bearing a child. I suspect Adam (if he saw her delivering children) probably never forgot the risks were directly associated with their rebellion.
In addition to PHYSICAL PAIN, there was another change in the woman. She, who was designed to be an assistant to do good, became A HELPER in REBELLION! Woman was made to AID man in his walk with God – and now she would COMPETE with him and help him by supplying her own rebellious spirit to his fully saturated rebellious heart (3:16b).
Look at the phrase:
Genesis 3:16b “…Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
The text suggests that she will want HIS JOB – and struggle with submission. I believe this record of the early penalty was given to remind us more and more of what will happen as the end draws near. What began as man’s passivity and woman’s mutiny will evolve into all kinds of confusion in relationship. What was designed to be TEAMWORK was about to become COMPETITION. She would find her relationship to her husband now to be a struggle for dominance. If physical pain weren’t the needed reminder, emotional struggle would be!
Look at the whole of the STRUGGLE: Because of the lack of guardianship and leadership, God ended His dealings with their rebellion in words to Adam – the work I gave you will now be a struggle. The ground won’t cooperate (3:17b-19).
Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground because from it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Instead of Paradise, you will move to Thornburg. Nothing will be easy. Simple work will become sweaty toil. And the ultimate judgment for sin is death – and the bringing of the body BACK TO DUST.
Life went on.
If you keep reading, you will see that God wasn’t done with Adam and Eve’s role in the story.
Genesis 3:20 Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all [the] living. 21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
In Genesis 3:15, God showed He had a plan to provide for man long before man ever realized his problems. God set forth a coming VICTOR in the struggle against the enemy (3:15). In the interim, God supplied a temporary covering when man felt naked (3:21). Sadly, both the coming Victor and the short-term covering required the death of an innocent for their sin.
Before the end of the chapter, man was cast from the Garden into the fallen world (Genesis 3:22-24).
The text simply states:
Genesis 3: 22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
In Genesis 3:22, we became “like God” in that we now bore full culpability for our sin, because our defiance cast off the protection of innocence. Most of us experienced this as we grew into adulthood, so that we are now fully responsible for things were weren’t before.
• If you put your shirt on backward at age three – you tried and we give you credit for that. If you put your shirt on backward at twenty-three you are probably trying to say something, make a social commentary or protest. We think you are weird, but we accept that you are young. If you put your shirt on backward at 73, we think about calling your doctor!
• A perfectly understandable lapse of table manners at age two becomes a public point of shame if you don’t catch on by fifty-two.
• We understand when you run down the beach without your pants at age three, but if you do it at forty-three, we are going to collect our children, run to the car and call the police!
In Genesis 3:22b God said: “…and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—
From the beginning, death wasn’t the only option. There was another way for man to remain physically alive by God’s provision – if man ate from the tree of life. If he ate, his cells would regenerate, and his physical death would be pushed back. If he kept eating, the time of his physical death would keep moving back. God could have easily shut the system down, but that wasn’t His choice. He wanted to set up systems and operate within them. For the most part, He still does. There is the occasional breach of the norm – a miracle here or a healing there – but that isn’t the norm of our lives, even those of us who know Him.
If you keep reading, Genesis 3:23 reveals that, “God sent him out from the garden of Eden”.
Look at the link between man and the ground. He CAME from it, and now he would FIGHT with it to sustain himself. Held away from the cell regenerating plant of the Tree of Life, man needed to work the landscape and plant food. Eventually, he and his wife would go back to the ground – ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The chapter ends…
Genesis 3:24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
The end of the story can be felt in the words “drove the man out.” He was pushed to the OUTSIDE of the place of peace and blessing. He faced a hostile landscape with a sense of blame and failure, a newly changed competitive relationship with his wife.
Apart from God, our lives are DRIVEN OUT. We don’t have God ever-guiding, ever-providing. We live without the security of His divine approval.