The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die….”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (New International Version)
Lent is a 40-day season of preparation and repentance for Christians anticipating Good Friday’s cross of Christ and the victory over sin in Easter’s celebration of Christ’s resurrection. To understand why there is a need for repentance, let’s turn to where disobedience, shame, and guilt first entered the world.
Ever since humanity’s fall into sin, our human nature tends to look at the one thing we can’t do, instead of seeing all the range of possibilities that we can do. The serpent (the devil) was successful in getting Adam and Eve to focus on that one tree they needed to avoid. In our fallen condition, just tell us what we can’t do and we’ll probably be sure to do it – rather than enjoy all the vast prospects we presently have and can actually do with God.
What’s more, the devil subtly planted a terrible and untruthful idea in the heads of Adam and Eve – that God was somehow holding out on them and was not providing everything they really needed and wanted in life.
Sin may look attractive, and even initially taste good. Yet, disobedience has an awful aftertaste and damages our insides. Indeed, sin always over-promises and under-delivers.
Perhaps the greatest and deepest effect of sin is the shame of disobedience which causes us to hide from God, one another, and even ourselves. All this hiding causes spiritual blindness. We end up sleepwalking through hell, unaware of our awful spiritual plight.
Because of this reality, we need deliverance; we need a Savior to intervene and save us from our ignorance and guilt. As mere dust, we need God’s Spirit to breathe new life into us so that we may again enjoy the Lord in Paradise.
Our fallen spiritual condition does not want to acknowledge our need for the sheer grace of God. Sewing some fig leaves together is symbolic of Adam and Eve’s new independence from God; from now on, they’re going to operate on their own. The introduction of sin into the world causes people to look for ways to cope and deal with life apart from God.
We want to return to Paradise. We don’t want to hurt and struggle and be overburdened anymore. So, we devise all kinds of ideas and ways of doing that. And the Paradise we seek always seems to be “out there” somewhere, just out of our reach.
In our fallen condition, we are plagued with the “if only” syndrome:
If only I had _____ (fill-in the blank) then I would be happy and be in Paradise.
If only I could meet the right person, then that special someone could meet my needs and complete me.
If only the people in my life were better, then everything would be okay and I could enjoy Paradise.
If only I had more money, a bigger house, another car, more power and influence.
If only other people would stop being jerks, care more, serve more, love more. If only my family would listen to me.
If only I could have my way, then there would surely be a restoration to Paradise.
The point to all the “if only” is that it twists us all up into believing that I’m either unlovable or that everyone else is the problem. If they would just change, then the world would be a better place. Or if only I was better, then I wouldn’t have so many problems.
The truth, however, is that we already have what we are so desperately looking for. And since we are unaware that God is with us, and wants to provide for us, we sew fig leaves together and look love in all the wrong places.
No man or woman is going to complete you because no person can fix what is broken in your heart. If you had your ideal relationship, perfect family, and dream job, you would still be empty. Why? Because you and I need a Savior to deliver us from our sin.
We all need deliverance from our disordered loves and misguided attempts to find Paradise in this life apart from God. The temptation after The Fall is to try and manufacture happiness outside of God through perfect relationships and ideal circumstances.
What to do? Repent. Turn from the shame and guilt of disobedience and deal with the brokenness in our own lives. And that is what the season of Lent is all about.
Without God there are hidden feelings of mistrust, alienation, conditional love, selfishness, greed, and injustice. But with God there is forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love – the very kind of love that we need.
In this season of Lent, we must repent of our hiding and wishing for everything and everyone else to be different without any cost to myself.
What do you need to repent of in this season?
Who are the people that you look to do for you what only God can do?
Have you forsaken your first love of Jesus Christ?
How is the state of your relationship with God? Has it been stale, dull, and lacking passion, desire, and energy? Has distance replaced intimacy between you and God?
Do you avoid the spiritual disciplines of bible reading and prayer because you believe something else will satisfy the real needs of your heart?
Are you keeping up appearances and hiding, while on the inside you have doubt, depression, and despair that things will never change?
The prayers of this season are to be prayers of repentance:
Merciful God, we confess that we have hungered after things which do not satisfy. We have doubted your ability to provide for us. Forgive our lack of faith. Restore in us such trust and love that we may again walk with you in Paradise.
Loving God, we admit that we’ve given ground to Satan by believing his deception that we can find ultimate happiness in things other than you. So, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we resist all of the devil’s strategies to hold us in spiritual blindness and darkness.
Blessed Holy Spirit, we invite you to bring the fullness of your power to convict us and lead us into faith in Jesus. We humbly ask that you bring all the power of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection directly against all forces of darkness seeking to destroy us. Set us free from all that blinds us and keeps us in bondage.
Grant us, O God, the grace to be faithful and persistent in our walk with you. Amen.