By Melissa McLaughlin

After a long, hard, bitter winter even our bodies moan, yearning for spring. We wait for the sun’s strength to be emboldened. We breathe in deeply waiting for the smell of young earth. Daily we scour the brown frozen scenery for the smallest signs of new green life.

The snowdrop is the first sign of spring for us. Despite the mere height of about 2 inches, the hardy white bloom can hold up under the weight of heavy ice and snow. Though only a drop of spring, still spring it is to my heart’s calendar when my eyes behold this mini, yet mighty herald of spring!

Crocus1 Crocus4 Crocus6

Usually aligned with the snowdrops are the bulging of buds on the trees. No actual colors, just a sense of life building up, preparing to burst forth. Soon to follow are the crocuses, our first full color of spring. Purples, yellows and whites singing their springtime carols. The joy they usher in lingers on as we know the vivid spring palettes of countless other trees, leaves, bulbs and flowers will soon be on full display!

Crocuses

One year in early spring, my friend who owns a small sheep farm, invited us to come and see their newborn lambs. Talk about a springtime treat! Though there was still a bite in the air, their little bodies were bounding with new life! Literally bounding! I never knew that lambs actually jump up and down like an animated toddler excitedly grabbing for a festive balloon! Small and sweet, energetic and uncontainable, these precious lambs were a sight for sore eyes and weary souls.

Lamb

When we think of spring, we think of life. However, what we witness is actually a continuation of life, the life that God created and set into motion long ago.

As we enjoy all the beauty and exuberance of new life in spring, may we remember the true source of all life.

God is life.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. – John 14:6a

God is the source of all life here on earth. Every bud and bloom, every plant and animal, every single human being, every beating heart got its start in God. It is God who formed us, it is God who breathed life into us and it is God who sustains us.

Only God can create life.

We cannot create life. We can only perpetuate what God has already created.

We can plant a seed in the ground, but we cannot create the biological intricacies necessary for that seed to develop into a dandelion, tomato, watermelon or oak tree.  In a marriage, a man and woman can come together, become pregnant and have a baby, but even then they only perpetuate the gift of life they were given. We are not capable of creating even one living thing – one living eyeball, one living ear, one living heart. We have robotic technology that can assist these living things, but we cannot create even one element of life. Life comes from God. Life exists because of God. Life continues because of God.

The LORD is the Living God.

But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. -Jeremiah 10:10a

All that is perfect, good, pure, innocent, holy, true and living is from God alone.

All that is tainted, sinful, broken, tarnished, destructive, evil, hateful or wicked is of Satan and leads to separation from the God of life – in a word, it leads to death.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What is sin?

Sin is any human behavior, word or thought that is in opposition to the perfection of God.

How do we know what God’s perfection is?

God declares His perfect will in His Word, the Bible, through His rule and His created order.

When we choose our own human actions, words or plans that are contrary to God’s perfection, we are in rebellion against Him. We are operating in sin.

When we rebel against God,

we are rebelling against life itself,

that which is created and sustained by God alone.

Consequently, when we are in opposition to God, we are in opposition to life.

The logical outcome of being in opposition to life and to God, is to be in union with death and Satan. There is no happy medium. We are with God or against Him. Believing and following God or not.

Alienation from the Source of all life causes a spiritual death and the consequences of continuing in this path will lead to physical death, as well.

Separation from God is death because only God gives and sustains life.

So what are we do to, sinful as we are?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and He said it was very good. Adam and Eve, the first humans, walked in communion with one another and with God in the beauty and perfection of the Garden of Eden. God provided for all their needs. He made the entire garden theirs for the taking. God issued only one command – do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17

When Satan entered in the form of a serpent, he first created doubt in Eve’s mind by saying this phrase that has echoed down through all time, “Did God really say…?” In the very same way, Satan plants this same doubt in the “learned” minds of people today when they read and discuss the Bible.

God never said they could not eat of any tree. The restriction was regarding only one tree. However, masterfully, Satan’s words exaggerated in Eve’s mind God’s only prohibition as he said to her, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

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

The exaggerating and twisting of God’s Word began. As has also been echoed down through all time, Eve then further twisted God’s Word by making it more restrictive than God ever said, falsely stating they couldn’t even touch it.

All other trees, fruits, vegetables and perfect provisions were forgotten in the shadow of this one forbidden fruit. Suddenly, all other trees were not enough.

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

Next Satan directly defied God’s Word and told Eve, certainly you won’t die. He doesn’t just say, “You won’t die.” Rather he proclaimed, “Certainly, you won’t 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.” Genesis 3:4-5

Finally Satan elevated the deception and temptation by pronouncing to Eve she will be like God.

As Eve considered Satan’s alluring words, she first noticed that the fruit looked good for food and was pleasing to the eye. This was not a desire to improve herself. This was simply a desire of the flesh, the natural, physical, emotional self, wanting what it wants. Then, she considered how it was desirable for gaining the wisdom of God.

Eve had forgotten much in this short time. She was made in the image of God. Eve had already been given free will to know right from wrong in a simplistic way or this decision would not be a struggle even now. Her every need had been provided for in a lush, beautiful garden paradise. Eve walked freely in closeness with God.

Tragically, overshadowing all of this is the thought that to be LIKE God meant in Eve’s mind that she could decide for herself what is right or wrong, thus making herself EQUAL with God. Satan had already sought that same status and suffered and will always suffer eternal separation from God as a result, for only God is God. However, Satan will still gladly lead others to follow suit, seeking to BE God for themselves.

We learn this same lesson over and over again. The desire to become more like God is humankind’s highest goal.  Even as Christians, we desire to become more like Jesus. However, this will not be gained by defying His authority, for He alone is God.

Only by surrendering to His sovereignty, truth and goodness and obeying His commands will we actually become like Him. For He is God and we are only a small, finite part of the vast kingdom over which He rules and reigns forever.

After Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, she offered it to Adam and he indulged, as well. Though they must have expected some great wisdom to fall upon them, all they experienced was shame. They immediately recognized their nakedness and covered themselves in fig leaves.

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. Genesis 3:6-7

When God came through the garden looking for them, calling for them, they hid. Now the sin had taken hold in their intellect for it is not even reasonable to attempt to hide from God, the Creator who is All-seeing, All-knowing and Ever-present. From physical distortion of the truth, to emotional distortion of the truth to intellectual distortion of the truth, this scene in Genesis captures it all.

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.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:8-13

Once we have partaken of sin, the shine and sparkle quickly wears off and we are left like Adam and Eve, trying to cover up our brokenness and hide from God.

Separation from God is literally death because only God gives and sustains life. This is the outcome of sin that is so easily forgotten by all of us.

When God asked them about their choices, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. The sin-blame-game continues in much the same way today. It is still hard to confess we have done wrong, to ourselves, to God and to others. Excuses slide off our tongue and we quickly explain away what we have done. We are no different than Adam and Eve at the core.

When God looks upon Adam and Eve’s human-made inventions for “covering up” He of course knows that will not be adequate. God Himself covers them with animal skins.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

Right then and there, the first innocent blood was sacrificed to cover mankind’s sin. Furthermore, God Himself provided what was needed just as He would do again one day.

One vital point we would rather overlook in our sinfulness today is the sacrifice that is required to make atonement, to make reconciliation, to make things right between us and God.

The first animal sacrifice for the covering of Adam and Eve’s sin is a foreshadow of the innocent blood of Jesus being shed for our sin one day on the cross. The system of Old Testament animal sacrifices also pointed ahead to Christ’s final sacrifice for sin. The animals, having done nothing wrong, were killed to atone for the sins of the people, just as Christ, in complete innocence, did the same once and for all, for all time and all humanity.

God, the God of life, required the lifeblood sacrifice for sins, because the wages of sin is death. The wages are something we have earned, contrasted by a gift which we did not earn. For our sinful behavior, this is what is owed us. When we choose sin or rebellion against God, we choose rebellion against the God of life itself, so in essence, we choose death.

These consequences for sin may on a surface level appear severe to us. However, God is making clear that He is absolutely pure, perfect, true and holy. His standard is absolute perfection because He is absolutely perfect. If He tolerates even a hint of sin and defiance, then He is not being true to Himself. God hates sin because it separates us from Him and from life eternal.

Fast forward from Genesis to the New Testament. Why does Jesus have to die?

Humans try to cover themselves before God with man-made efforts. Our efforts could never be adequate. As God covered Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so He covers us today with the blood of Jesus.

Sinning against a holy and infinite God requires a holy and infinite sacrifice. In addition, to cover a human sin fully, a human must die. Only Jesus was both. Fully God. Fully man. Only Jesus could pay the price that was required to reconcile us to God.

Through the sacrifice of Jesus, God remained true to Himself, by requiring a just payment for sin. A perfect, holy, just God requires a perfect, holy, just payment. Yet, He also remained true to Himself by allowing for a merciful substitution for that payment. A merciful God mercifully provided a replacement for our payment. God Himself paid the price that we could not.

As we remember the innocence of the animal slain to cover Adam and Eve, let us remember the innocence of our Savior, Jesus.

Looking back, if sin causes death, why didn’t Adam and Eve die in the Garden of Eden as God said they would if they ate of the forbidden fruit?

They did. The wages of their sin is death. They died an immediate spiritual death, as evidenced in their shame-burdened behavior, covering up, hiding and blaming. In addition, from that point on, a physical death would also one day end their lives. God could not allow something sinful to live forever in His kingdom, which is why after this they could not eat of the Tree of Life and were banished from the Garden of Eden.

This is also remedied by Jesus in the New Testament when He said, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will live forever.” (John6:54) Here Jesus symbolizes the Tree of Life. However, we can only live forever in the kingdom of God if we have first been made holy by the covering of Jesus’ blood. When we partake of the bread and juice at communion, this symbolizes partaking of Jesus’ sacrifice of His very body and blood shed for us. Only when we are made holy in Christ, by believing in Him and confessing Him as Savior and Lord, may we eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in heaven.

As we reflect on all that Jesus did, we can recall how He refuted every lie of Satan from the beginning, as follows:

  1. Did God really say that? “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” – Lie.
  2. You will surely not die. – Lie.
  3. You will be like God. – Lie.

 

As a result of listening to the lies of the evil one and choosing disobedience to God’s Word:

  1. Adam and Eve sealed their fate as sinners and shame immediately set in. Every human now contains the seed of that same sinful nature.
  2. They died an immediate spiritual death and in short time a physical death.
  3. They gave up the opportunity to truly become like God, as disobedience only makes you more like Satan.
  4. They forfeited the opportunity to eat of the Tree of Life.

 

In contrast to Satan’s lies and the consequences of following him into sin, Jesus brings truth and life!

  1. Jesus lived a perfect sinless life, in complete obedience to God, even unto death, death on a cross.
  2. Through His physical death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, rescued us from hell and because He arose from the grave, He also won for us the opportunity for life everlasting, where there is no more death, sin or pain.
  3. For any who believe in Jesus, we are given the gift of becoming children of God and that is what we are! We truly become like God, a part of His eternal family!
  4. For those who believe in Jesus, we will live together with Him forever!

In this way every lie that Satan murmured in the Garden of Eden is shot down by the all-surpassing power, truth, holiness and grace of Jesus Christ. When questions arise about the truth or infallibility of God’s Word, let us remember that from the very beginning, God meant what He said and said what He meant. His Word is true. His Word stands.

God started the story of mankind in a garden of perfection with His people living near Him forever, in obedience to His sovereignty and receiving His blessings. God ends the story of mankind with another garden where He restores His sinful people by requiring the just penalty be paid for their sins so that they may live in perfect holiness, in His presence, under His dominion and blessing forever.

Jesus restored all that was taken in the garden.

Yet as we stand, forgiven and reconciled to God, through the blood of Jesus, may we not lose sight of the seriousness of our sin. The animal sacrifices of old give us a clearer understanding of how much God hates sin and simply cannot allow sin. For He is good. Through and through. And ultimate goodness leaves no room for evil and sin.

If in my sin, I had to bring a precious lamb, like one from my friend’s farm, to be slaughtered for my sins each year, I would be weeping in utter dread for that moment. If I were to see the little lamb looking at me, in all innocence, simply loving me, I can’t imagine how I could endure that horrific price be paid for me.

And yet how easily we forget, that is exactly what Jesus did and more. Our precious Lamb, living and breathing, innocent and loving, was slaughtered on a cross. For my sins. Had I walked there with Him, had I stood at His feet there at the cross, I would have pleaded for some other way. But only Jesus was good enough to pay the price I owed. Let us not forget His eyes as He hung there, looking at us. Sweating. Crying. Bleeding. To death.

That is our Sacrificial Lamb.

May we always remember the price that was paid. Our sin is no small thing to gloss over, to wink at, to say “It wasn’t that bad” or “I didn’t mean it”. The truth is a terrible price was paid for every moment of pride, every look of lust, every white lie, every thought of petty jealousy, every time we acted out in self-righteous anger, every occasion of selfishness, of putting ourselves before others, or rebelling against God’s Word, putting ourselves ahead of God or above God in any way.

Our sin is death. The charge stands.

Mercifully, a suitable substitute has taken my place. The price for my sins is paid.

Paid by a precious, innocent Lamb.

As we gaze upon the perfect innocence and holiness of Christ and meditate upon the effect of our sins upon Him, One so pure and loving, may our hearts well up with affection, gratitude and love for Him and all He has done, drawing us ever closer to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God! May our hearts overflow with unending praise and thanksgiving! For He has won the victory over sin, death and hell! He has paid the price for our rebellion! He has clothed us with His righteousness! He has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light! Worthy is the Lamb! Glory to the Lamb! Christ has risen!

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!  John 1:29

Sacrificial Lamb

*Lion and Lamb / Lamb photo at the top courtesy of Pixabay.

Additional Sources and Resources:

The Covenant of Grace – By Ligonier Ministries https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/covenant-grace/

What We Confess With Our Clothing – By Desiring God https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-we-confess-with-our-clothing

Why Did Animals Die for Adam and Eve? – By Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry https://carm.org/why-did-animals-have-die-sins-adam-and-eve-and-others

Genesis 3 Bible Commentary – By Christianity.com https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=3

Genesis 3:21 Bible Commentaries by Biblehub.com https://biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/3-21.htm

Bible Commentaries – By Biblestudytools.com https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/

Bible Commentaries – By Biblehub.com https://biblehub.com/commentaries/

Lion and Lamb