A light in the dark

How does it appear that there is a God?
The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.

The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996.

Man is born in conflict.

As creatures fashioned by, and in the image of, our Almighty Creator God, there is within each of us a desire to know and be known by God, to enjoy the blessing of fellowship with God, and to find in God the meaning, purpose, and direction of life itself.

God has created the world in such a way that all things would point His creation to Him, that we would seek Him out in worship and obedience (Acts 17:27), that we would clearly perceive His eternal power and divine nature (Rom. 1:20), and that we would learn from the Eternal One the purpose of all life (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Not only does this “light of nature” direct us to know that there is a God, but so also does His mighty work of providence, the way in which God orders and ordains all things that come to pass, point us to find him. There is a super-abundance of evidence pointing us to the truth that there is a God who is worthy of our worship, praise, and obedience, so that “the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no god.'”

How foolish we’ve become.

While we have an inherent knowledge of the reality of God, there is also with each of us, as fallen creatures, a blindness of heart and mind (Eph 4:18; Rom 1:21), a refusal to bend the knee, an indignant balking at the Lordship of our Creator. We behold the evidence of the hand of our Creator and merely say, “How sublime.” We put the created thing in the place of the Creator. We turn, each of us to our own ways, and do what is right in our own eyes. We make ourselves to be gods, self-made men. We deny the evidence of God all around us, and we have become fools.

Such is the need, then, for something special to come along.

While the evidence of God is clear for all to see, because of our sinful hearts, the light of nature and God’s works in creation are insufficient to bring us to a saving knowledge of who God is and how we can be right with Him. We need something more. We need God to speak directly to us. And so He does, in the Scriptures. Through the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, the Scriptures were by God “to reveal Himself… to declare His will to the Church… to preserve and propagate the truth… and to establish and comfort the Church” (WSC I.I).

We can give God praise, then, for He has not left us to languish in the darkness of our foolish hearts, but has given His Word as “a light unto our feet” (Ps. 119:105), that we may know God and the salvation He has worked for us in Jesus Christ.

He Came for our Shame

“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
(Genesis 2:25)

I seem to be raising an exhibitionist.  I want to protect his identity, so I won’t reveal which child, but one of my little boys (under 7) apparently has no sense of shame.  He’ll run through the house naked, having “forgotten” to bring his clean pajamas and underwear down for after his shower, never giving a second thought to his, ahem… current state of affairs.  I’m praying, hoping, that someday here soon he will develop a sense of modesty and dignity – we’ll see.

I only mention this because I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the story of the fall.  We read in Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and we are told that their “eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”  The next thing we know, Adam and Eve are sewing fig leaves together, hiding from the sound of the Lord walking in the garden.  They hid in fear, for they knew they had disobeyed God, and they knew the consequence of such disobedience: death.  They made loincloths to cover their shame, a shame they did not know up to that point.

Where did this sense of shame come from?  They were naked before and knew no shame.  God created them, male and female, and God called His creation good.  Why they are they ashamed of their bodies?  Was there some physical change that suddenly made them shameful?  Did the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil add 50 pounds, fast?  If that were the case, then all we would need to do to lose this shame is return to the ideal physical form, whatever that may be.  While I could stand to lose a few pounds, I don’t think that will take away my shame before God.  So what were they ashamed of?

Donald Barnhouse writes in his commentary on Genesis, “It was not skin nakedness that they discovered, but the nakedness of their dead souls… When sin came there was nothing left of righteousness and they were naked indeed.  We must not think of this as a change from blissful innocence of nakedness to a conscious knowledge of it, but from glory to nudity.”

Their shame came from the loss of glory, and while they had always been physically naked, now there was a spiritual nakedness, too.  This was not an embarrassment over a lack of clothing.  It came from deep within, from a fear of exposure, of being really seen, known as a sinner, a rebel from the ways of God.  I think this is a shame we all share.  We know our sins, they are ever before us.  While it would be humiliating to be exposed physically before others, to have my soul laid bare before God and man is truly terrifying.

D.A. Carson writes in The God who was There, “You cannot hide moral shame with fig leaves… You cannot undo the loss of innocence. It cannot be undone.  We cover ourselves in shame.  There is no way back to innocence.  In the Bible, there is only a way forward – to the cross.”

You see, even in the fall we have a glimpse of the Gospel.  God provides a cover for Adam and Eve’s sin and shame with garments of skin (Gen 3:21), presumably that of a lamb.  The first sacrifice for our sins was made by God.  And the final, perfect, sacrifice for our sins, to finally remove the guilt and shame, would also be made by God.

John tells us that in Christ, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  That very thing which brings us shame, the flesh, the body, Christ took upon Himself so that He could take our shame away.  1 Peter 2 says, “He has borne our sins in His body upon the cross.”  Isaiah 53:4 says, “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrow.”  Every consequence of sin has been put upon Christ and has been answered in Him as well.  The debt has been paid.  Sin in has been atoned.  The dividing wall of hostility has been torn down.  The chains have been broken.  Death has been defeated.  Judgment has been satisfied.

He came in the flesh to take away our guilt and shame, not so that we can go back to being naked, but so that we could be further clothed in glory (2 Cor 3:18, 5:4).  The glory for which we were created, the glory we lost in sin, the glory whose absence is our shame, has been restored and magnified in our Savior Jesus Christ.  When we come to Him in faith, laying down the “fig-leaf” attempts at self-righteousness and trust in His perfect, complete, and eternal righteousness, then we will begin to know the freedom from guilt and shame deep in our souls.

“Man of Sorrows,” what a name
for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood;
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!