The Fallen Man
By Rachel Rose
We read it on cute little t-shirts, hear it in movies, and see it printed on wall plaques and memes: “Follow Your Heart.” The implication of this phrase is the common belief that humans are inherently good and our hearts will reliably lead us to what will make us the happiest.
Is it true?
Simply put, the answer is “no.”
Jeremiah 17:9 states, “[t]he heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
This truth from Scripture adamantly refutes the misconception that the heart is an adequate compass for guiding people in the choices of life. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, deceitful means “making or trying to make someone believe something that is not true.” The human heart is deceptive and it does not tell the truth about what brings true joy. Following the heart can actually bring great pain and suffering.
What kinds of lies does the heart tell?
One common lie, especially for those who are not yet Christians, is that true satisfaction and lasting joy can be found in something other than a relationship with God. Similarly, even though we may say that we know that the Lord is good and wise, our hearts may question the guidelines that He has set forth for us in the Bible.
Our hearts will attempt to persuade us to think our situation is different than the scenarios in the Bible, and it’s therefore acceptable to make an exception, “just this once.” I’ve heard, more times than I can count, professing Christians tell me that the Lord gave them permission to act against clearly defined biblical principles. Their reasons included, “the Lord knows my heart,” and “He knows this particular thing will make me happy.” This is deception. The Lord will never guide us to do something that is contrary to the Bible, His true Word. Whenever we choose to disobey God’s Word, we sin.
What exactly is sin?
Wayne Grudem, a well-known theologian, defines sin as “any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.” Our sin can manifest itself in innumerable ways. A majority of people, if asked, could list out a few well-known sins such as stealing, lying, murder, and adultery. These come from the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20. Most of us would agree that cheating on a spouse is wrong; however, God sees even deeper than our outward actions, looking to our hearts to reveal to us our sin. Matthew 5:28 tells us that if a man even lusts after a woman, he has committed adultery. God’s Word holds up a standard of perfection that some people may be able to uphold externally with their actions for a time, but an attitude of rebellion against God’s standards can be found in the depths of their hearts.
When we read the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), we may think it merely has to do with which belief system we claim to follow. There is, however, much more to this commandment. This command is about Who is to be our highest authority, and Who is to be our greatest love and treasure. At the root of every other sin–whether listed in the other nine commandments or found anywhere else in Scripture–is the failure to keep the first commandment. Any time we place anything before God in our priorities, we commit idolatry, which is sin.
Why are our hearts like this?
In the beginning, Adam and Eve were created by God with morally neutral hearts (Genesis 2:7, 2:21-22, 2:25). Their hearts were not yet deceptively inclined toward evil. They had the freedom to choose to obey or disobey God. They were given many fruit trees to eat from, but one was forbidden—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God explained to Adam that if he ate from it, he would experience death (Genesis 2:15-17). Satan, in the form of a serpent, deceived and persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Adam followed suit (Genesis 3:1-7). This event in human history is recorded in the first book of the Bible—Genesis—and is referred to as “The Fall.”
Adam and Eve chose to give Satan authority over their lives rather than submitting to the leadership and authority of God, and that choice did not produce the happiness they anticipated. They experienced numerous negative consequences as a result of their choice. These included: pain in childbirth, marital strife, and a curse on the beautiful earth that had formerly produced food generously for them (Genesis 3:16-19). Yet, the worst consequence was the very thing that God had warned Adam about in the beginning—death. Although Adam and Eve did not immediately experience physical death, they did eventually die physically (Genesis 5:5). The immediate death they experienced came in the form of spiritual death (compare Genesis 2:25 with Genesis 3:7). Their hearts became sinful and inclined toward evil, just like Satan’s.
Adam and Eve were not the only ones affected by their sin. Their choice had ramifications for the entire human race, starting with their own offspring and spreading to all future generations. Romans 5:12 tells us that “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
Now all humans (except Jesus, who we’ll talk about more next week!) inherit two things: a nature from birth that is inclined toward sin and a corresponding guilt for sins committed. These two concepts are referred to as original sin. This is why mankind is referred to as “fallen.” Adam and Eve “fell” from their created condition of being holy and happy; they became sinful and miserable. Thanks to our inheritance from our first parents, we, too, are sinful and miserable instead of holy and happy. Our hearts deceive us into sinning, and the resulting consequences of our sin, and our slavery to our sin, cause misery (Ephesians 2:1-3, John 8:34, Romans 3:10-18).
The consequences from sin come in many forms. The most obvious one is physical death, as mentioned above in Romans 5:12. Death came into the world as a result of sin coming into the world. This, however, is not our biggest problem. Rather, spiritual death is our biggest problem. We experience a spiritual separation from the Lord due to our sinfulness. As sinful, broken beings, we cannot come into contact with God’s holiness (Exodus 33:20). Since we were created to be in continual relationship with the Lord, we feel that separation from Him, even if we are ignorant of what is causing those feelings. Anxiety, restlessness, fear, discontentment, hopelessness, lack of self-worth—the list goes on and on. We are miserable apart from Him. This separation transcends this physical world and continues on into eternity. After we die, our sinfulness requires that we spend eternity in Hell, apart from God (Hebrews 9:27 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9). This is the ultimate consequence of sin.
How do we fix this?
We can’t. We need a Savior.
Although Adam and Eve hid from God to hide their shame, the Lord pursued them (Genesis 3:8). God knew that humankind would be helpless and unable to save themselves. Out of His love for Adam and Eve and us, God took on Satan himself. God confronted Satan in the garden, and He ended that confrontation with a promise of defeat:
“The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
This passage of Scripture is known as the protoevangelium and gives us our first glimpse into how God would fix our hearts and our sin problem.
Who is this Son? How will He crush Satan and fix all that Adam and Eve had undone?
Tune in next week to read more about God’s solution to our problem as Margaret writes on The Redeeming Christ.