Why We Sin: Did God Really Say?

“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”?’ “(Genesis 3:1)

For the next week or so, we’re going to live in the excruciating moments leading up to the first sinful human action ever. What we’ll be looking for are clues to why we’re all such natural born suckers when it comes to sin and temptation – why we’re so easy to lie to, so willing to participate with the Liar in our own destruction.

down_350Here’s the first clue: The Liar invites us into a conversation with temptation with an obvious lie. (He’s a liar, remember.) Of course, God did not say Adam and Eve couldn’t eat from any of the trees – and, of course, Eve knew that. Here’s what God did say: “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 of it you will surely die.” (2:16-17)

This would be like starting a temptation about sex with, “Did God really say you should never hold hands with someone?” Or starting a temptation to disobey your parents with, “Did God really say you have to obey every adult who tells you to do something?” Our response is likely to be quick, corrective, and curious. And before you know it, we’re in a dangerous conversation about exactly where the line of sin is.

Think: Have you ever been lured into unhelpful thinking by your reaction to an obvious distortion of the truth? What can we do to make sure we’re not being deceived when confronted with a big idea about God’s Word that is obviously wrong?

Pray: Ask God to help you to overcome temptation to sin. Ask him to help you to be aware and careful when someone uses an obvious lie to get you engaged in thinking about a sin that tempts you.

Do: As we work through Eve’s temptation this week, notice in your own life what kinds of temptations are most effective at tripping you up.

Why We Sin: Don’t Touch!

“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.” ‘ ” (Genesis 3:2-3)

Eve’s answer to the serpent’s obvious lie about God’s command brings us to Day 2 of our clue-mining for reasons why we humans are so easy to tempt, so ready to fall into sin. And Eve’s answer seems pretty good. She sets the record straight about what God really said – until you look a little closer.

down_350Eve added a phrase to the command: “You must not touch it.” How did she come up with that? Why did she “improve” on God’s order not to eat the fruit with a further directive not to touch it? We don’t know, but it seems reasonable, right? Why touch a fruit you must never eat? It’s not a bad thing to stay a step back from the edge. It was probably a really good idea not to touch the fruit, but it wasn’t God’s command.

The problem with adding to God’s Words is that it’s another lie. God gives us commands as a gift; what he tells us to do (or not do) reveals his best intention for us. His directions reveal his character. To add to them distorts our understanding of him – and it’s our (wrong) perception of his character that we often end up rebelling against.

So, first the snake lied to Eve about God’s command – and then Eve lied to herself about it.

Think: Have you ever noticed anyone in your life adding extra rules to what God has actually commanded in Scripture? Do you ever do that yourself? How can you keep those man-made rules from distorting your understanding of who God really is?

Pray: Thank God for the commands he has given to you in his Word. Ask him to help you to keep from adding anything to his commands, even with good intentions.

Do: Read what Paul said about religious man-made rules in Colossians 2:20-23.

Why We Sin: The “God Can’t Be Trusted” Lie

” ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ ” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Once he has lured Eve into a conversation about God’s command, the serpent becomes more bold, directly challenging the truthfulness of God’s words. God said to Adam, “You WILL surely die.” The serpent said, “You will NOT surely die.”

down_350The choice to give into temptation and sin often involves doubts about God’s character. Does he really love me? Is he really powerful? Is it possible he’s just wrong? If you or a friend or the Liar can talk you into questioning God’s goodness, love, or power, you’re much more likely to take the next step into testing God by disobeying him.

With the germ of doubt about God’s rightness planted in Eve’s mind, the serpent challenged God’s motives: “He knows this experience will liberate you and make you like him. He wants to keep that power – knowing good and evil – for himself.” Translation: God is selfish, and he doesn’t love you.

Satan and his followers have been telling the same lie ever since.

Think: Have you ever justified sin by questioning God’s goodness, love, or power? Have you ever used painful circumstances in your life to convince yourself God didn’t deserve your obedience if he would allow that bad thing to happen to you? What’s wrong with that thinking?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be absolutely convinced of his integrity, his power, and his love for you proven in the sacrifice of Jesus for your sin and the promise of eternity with him.

Do: People challenge God’s goodness, power, and love all the time these days. Listen for those challenges in your world this week.

Why We Sin: It Looks Good!

“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.” (Genesis 3:6)

Even when you know it’s coming, this verse still hurts. Up until this moment, Eve and then Adam could have turned back, could have decided to trust God instead of the lie forming in their own hearts.

down_350Did you noticed the two motives we’re given for Eve’s choice to disobey God?

One, the fruit looked good. I like this quote from David Paul Tripp: “Sin lives in a costume; that’s why it’s so hard to recognize. The fact that sin looks so good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life in a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party.”

Second, she believed there was a good for her that didn’t come from God. She decided that forbidden fruit held some benefit (wisdom!) that could not be found on the path of God, in obedience to him. But no such good exists. The only truly good things in life come from him – or don’t come, at all.

Think: How often have you chosen sin because the package it was wrapped in looked so good? How often have you believed that some good thing was waiting for you outside of the will of God? How can we avoid falling into these traps again?

Pray: Ask God to help you to see through the costume beauty of sin to the ugliness underneath. Ask also that he will help you to be convinced that no good thing exists for you outside of his will.

Do: Read James’ take on the birth of sin and God’s gifts of goodness in James 1:13-18.

Why We Sin: Because She Did

“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.” (Genesis 3:6)

We’ve been tracking with Eve’s temptation all week, but why did Adam sin? Why did he eat from the one tree out of all those others in the paradise garden of Eden that God put on the “no” list? And if he was there with Eve the whole time listening in on her conversation with the serpent, why didn’t he say anything?

down_350Much has been made of The Silence of Adam in this tragic moment, and there are warnings here for men about our role as husbands and spiritual leaders. But there’s a wider warning for all of us followers about why we sin. We sin because someone else did.

It’s a human tendency. We designate certain people in our lives to do our thinking and feeling for us. We refuse to take responsibility for our own choices. If she does it, then I’m doing it, too. If he says “no,” I’m out. Honestly, it’s much easier to delegate all of our spiritual decisions to other people, which is probably why so many lazy Christians live that way.

But we don’t get any credit with God for farming out our conscience; we still face the consequences for our sinful choices.

Think: How much more likely are you to make a sinful choice if your closest friend makes that choice first? What can you do to make sure that you’re not mindlessly following anyone else’s choices to disobey God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to follow him more closely than you follow anyone else, especially when it comes to choices about obeying him.

Do: Read Jesus’ harsh words for those who use their influence to lead children into sin in Matthew 18:5-6.

Why We Sin: We Forget Shame

“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. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:7-8)

“We’re naked!” That’s the response of the first couple after committing the first human sin. They took the bite expecting to find wisdom, knowledge, something God had been keeping from them. Instead, they found shame. They hoped for freedom and power and instead found themselves running in fear.

down_350The sting of the serpent’s tempting lies was hidden in the truthful part of what he’d said. Their eyes were opened. They did learn about good and evil – by doing evil. But they did not become like God. Instead, they became much less than they had been: innocent, closely connected to their creator, shameless.

I think everyone reading these words has felt the shame of being caught in sin – or even of thinking about being caught in sin. It’s a sick, sinking feeling. It’s a trapped feeling. You want to hide, get away, escape, just like Eve and Adam tried to do. You want to be away from God instead of close to the one who made you, the source of your life, healing, and hope.

The point of remembering that feeling isn’t to keep feeling guilty for sin God has already forgiven. The point of remembering is to a) want really badly not to feel it again and b) be really glad that God has forgiven you because of Jesus.

Think: Do you think shame can sometimes be an appropriate thing to feel? Why do you think some people want to tell us that feeling ashamed is always a bad thing? How do you avoid wallowing in false guilt for sins that God has already forgiven?

Pray: Thank God for forgiving all of your sin through your faith in Jesus, including the sins you felt most ashamed of. Ask Him to help you to keep from wanting to go back to the sins that made you feel that way in the first place.

Do: Read what Paul wrote about sin, sorrow, repentance, and regret in 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Why We Sin: We Skip the Chicken Exit

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Have you seen this? One of the amusement parks I used to go to had this enormous roller coaster. It was so popular, you could stand in line for an hour or more just waiting to get on the thing. And if you were nervous about the ride and the screaming and the upside-downness and the throwing up, you spent that whole time in line just getting more and more scared.

down_350At the very end of the line, though, just before you got on the ride, they had a little gate called a “chicken exit.” It was the way to get out if you just couldn’t do. You had to swallow your pride – and I never did it – but it was there.

Today’s verse is a powerful promise that God always provides a “chicken exit” when we’re tempted to sin. Except it would be better to call it a “courage exit.” It’s a way out of the line leading toward the sin you’ve been contemplating before you actually get on the ride. It’s a gate, an escape, provided by the Creator of all things as a one-last-chance gift to avoid the painful consequences of sin.

Next time, man up and take the chicken exit. The ride isn’t worth what it costs.

Think: Have you ever experienced an unexpected “way out” of a sin that you were prepared to go through with? What does it mean to you that God promises not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear?

Pray: Thank God that you will never face a temptation that is stronger than you are in his power. Ask him for the courage and faith to take his “way out” of temptation when you see it.

Do: This verse can be fascinating to talk about with a group of close Christian friends. Next time you’re hanging out, bring up this promise from God that he provides a way out of temptation and ask if anyone has ever seen this happen. You might be surprised.