15. The Wonder of Gender (2)

‘Life Workings’ Meditations No.15: The Wonder of Gender (2)

Gen 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

These studies should not be necessary but my careful reading of the whole Bible in detail over the years tells me that even the people of God get it wrong. It is clearly true multiple times of Israel in the Old Testament and there are various times in the New Testament that involved believers. As you read, watch out for these times of ‘falling short’ and getting it wrong.

Perhaps we should be honest and say it tends to be when we are put under stress by difficult circumstances that we miss the mark and are less than we would lie to talk about afterwards! I have witnessed it in even great men of God so those of us lesser mortals should not be surprised. I mentioned New Testament teaching at the end of the previous study so let’s take the obvious, if not sometimes contentious teaching of the apostle Paul.

I would always put men first even though Paul puts it the other way round. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph 5:25) Now I slipped this into Study No.8 on ‘Fathers’ but just in case you missed this vital teaching, here it is again. The Amplified version inserts after wives, seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love.” That is how the husband is to love the wife – you lay down your life for her!!! You see there is something vitally important behind this: God holds the husband accountable for the state of the marriage! That’s why Paul said, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” (v.22) Even as you are called to follow Jesus, when it comes to authority and getting the marriage straight, the buck stops with the man. Lady if you take the reins of your marriage God will hold YOU accountable for the marriage. Those He holds accountable, He disciplines, and it’s supposed to be the man, but it’s not a role of domination but of sharing, caring and harmony, the wisdom that each has contributing. Now women are under major attack from certain areas of modern western society (who also attack God’s design) and strangely it is the feminist movement that is having to defend ‘female privacy’ but may I suggest we, the church, ought to be protecting, blessing, and elevating our women, keeping them safe, free from abuse, exploitation & violence – and it should start in the home. Jesus elevated in their society the women who travelled with him. The church that truly observes Scripture will care for its women. This is not to be patronizing but protective and it should release them to safely grow and be fulfilled in who they are and what they do.

37. Blindness – to Building Church

The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 37. The Failure to ‘Build’ Church

Eph 4:11-13  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Hesitation: I hesitated to write this penultimate study in this Part on ways we can fall short of God’s will and thus limit our lives, for I have expressed my burden for the church in other series previously. Yes, only yesterday, almost as a sign to do it, I was talking with a friend who was sharing about a friend of hers in another church that she described as a fairly small, mostly aging congregation, who refused any talk of change. I could not help but think, ‘and unless the Lord comes in revival power that church will no longer be here in ten years’ time’. Let’s consider what is, and then what could be.

Characteristics of the Church: Let’s not look at the institutional aspects of church that we know, that tend to rely on man’s planning and effort, or of denominational church, that focuses on division and suspicion, and instead suggest some of the characteristics of the Church that the New Testament implies should be there. Very simply I suggest life, growth, and constant change, and then ask, am I blind to these three things?

Life: May I reiterate a vision of church I have used before of ‘church’: “alive with the presence and power and revelation and  activity of God by His Spirit, where God is truly honoured, where life and vitality, where fellowship and friendship, where power and authority, pour through the congregation, through this potentially wonderful ‘body of Christ’, bringing constant life transformations, with conversions, deliverances and healings being a regular feature of their life, and the surrounding world is impacted and changed”

Another well-known church leader was heard to say recently, “the truth is that we have been deeply ineffectual as churches and denominations. There is very little evidence of the power of God among us and virtually no evidence of the transformation of society because of us.” That is difficult to deny. My emphasis there was on reliance on the Holy Spirit, allowing Him free reign to do what Jesus did and still wants to do as he works to bring in the kingdom. Be honest, is this description what you know of as church and if not, why not? Is it because we focus on other things? Is it because we are chained to the past and fear the possible future? Is it because we fear being out of control if He is in control? Perhaps a need to confess, to repent and to pray.

Growth: The writer to the Hebrews scolded his readers (Heb 5:11,12) for not having matured. The words of Jesus to his seven churches in Asia Minor included the words, I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God,” (Rev 3:2) indicating that they had not gone on to fulfil God’s purposes for them. The Eph 4 starter verses above, speak of growth and coming to maturity.  The apostle Paul spoke of his expectation that we would grow in faith (2 Cor 10:15, 2 Thess 1:3), grow in life (Eph 4:16), grow in the knowledge of God (Col 1:10). The apostle Peter talked about his expectation that we would grow up in our salvation (1 Pet 2:2) and that we would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 3:18).

Change: Growth implies change. Parents, understandably, get worried about their child’s development sometimes, perhaps when it is slow learning to walk or talk. They expect change. In that famous ‘love chapter’ 1 Cor 13, Paul writes, When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (v.11) He may have a future dimension in mind, but the principle still remains true for all time, children grow up, children change. As children of God (Jn 1:12,13, 1 Jn 3:1) some of us have the idea that that description is how we will always be – little children. Not so for there is yet another description we ought to understand.

Sons of God: Paul teaches we have been adopted as ‘sons’ (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:5,6, Eph 1:5). Now in Old Testament times the son held a special place in the family. As he grew up, he watched his father, learned the family business from his father, started to work alongside the father and would eventually take on the business from the father. Growth brought understanding, activity, and responsibility. Our heavenly Father is in the kingdom-building business and has shared it with His Son Jesus who now shares it with us (Eph 2:6-10).  

And Us: A verse we have considered many times in the past: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.   For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet,”    (1 Cor 15:24,25) requires us to realize and recognize how Christ is ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psa 110:1,2, Heb 1:13, 10:13, Mt 22:44) AND that we are part of his ruling, we are with him in working to bring down these enemies (which include such things as unbelief, unrighteousness, ungodliness, anger, bitterness, hostility, wars, fighting, etc. etc. as well as the more obvious evils, such as slavery, still as prevalent today as in the past). This is what the teaching about the ‘body of Christ’ in the New Testament is about, that starts with, “you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:27) That is our calling to enter into life, to grow and to change and become ‘sons’ who share in the Father’s business as He calls, He empowers and He directs. Are we blind to the church- its present powerlessness, its potential, what it could be if we pray, confess, repent, pray, seek Him, make ourselves available to Him? Can we change?

20. Unintentionality

PART TWO: Specific Failures that produce Guilt

The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 20. Unintentionality

Lev 4:13 “If / the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally/  and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, / even though the community is unaware of the matter,/ when they realize their guilt / and the sin they committed becomes known, /  the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the tent of meeting.

Next: As we go to move on in this series on Guilt, to consider specific ways we get it wrong, perhaps as a bridge between the more general issues we have been considering and the specific ways we fall short in this next Part, we would do well in this study to note the fact of unintentional sin which nevertheless means a person is guilty. It is also worth noting that so often people write off the book of Leviticus as just Old Testament law that is no longer applicable, but in the verses we will be studying we will see specific examples of principles that apply generally.

Groups & Process: Our verse above is about the whole community of God’s people, that’s the starting place for this particular group of verses. This law is reiterated but covering different people – a leader (4:22), anyone in the community (4:27) i.e. it covered everyone. The issue is of doing wrong unintentionally, i.e. they were not aware that it was wrong. But then the Law assumes there will come a point when they will realize they are guilty of a sin. It is at this point that the Law is provided whereby the sinner can deal with their sin in an appropriate manner – offering a sin offering. So we have different stages of the process: the sin, awareness of it being a sin, it being atoned for by a sacrifice. The same is true of the other two instances we have just noted.

Sin Types & Process Again: The nature of different types of sin is made clear. For example, sin by not acting: If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.” (Lev 5:1) or of wrong things done (5:2-4). In both cases the order of events is then made clear: “when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, / they must confess in what way they have sinned. / As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the Lord …. a sin offering; / and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin.” (5:5,6) There the process is expanded: sin & guilt, awareness, confession, offering, atonement.

Clarity: “If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible.” (Lev 5:17) This rather drives the nail in the coffin of the person who excuses themselves by saying that they did not know what they had been doing was wrong.

Application: So let’s be quite clear. We may not be part of a community such as Israel and we may not have the various religious ceremonial laws to abide by, but the general principles are still valid:

i) Sin is wrongdoing before God, disobeying His design.

ii) Regardless of whether we are aware that it is sin or not, when we have disobeyed we are guilty and we will be held accountable by God.

iii) If we become aware that we have sinned, the path is specific: confession, repentance and atonement.

Of course for us the atonement comes not from having to make a sacrifice but simply believing in and relying upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ of his own body on the cross for our sins.

The Problem: The problem that arises is that so often we just don’t understand that certain things we say or do or don’t do are wrong, and we thus assume we are all right. But God says we are not. We will still be held accountable for them, even if we are not aware of them at the present. What is also concerning is that so often these things hinder our relationship with the Lord.

A simple example of this is Peter’s teaching to Christian men: Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1 Pet 3:7) i.e. men, if you don’t treat your wives properly don’t expect to get blessed; in fact expect your spiritual life to be limited. Sadly such men who mistreat their wives probably don’t care about the quality of their spiritual lives, but it nevertheless goes to show your religiosity can be annulled by wrong selfish behaviour.

And So: Your first reaction to this second Part may be negative in that you feel we don’t, as New Testament believers, need to focus on getting it right all the time, but the truth is that we can appear very spiritual and yet have big gaps in our righteousness which annuls the rest (read Isa 58:2,3). The truth of this is often witnessed at times of revival when God comes in sovereign power and it is the church that is first on their knees in tears of repentance for the things they had tolerated but which now appear before the gaze of the holy God. Let’s not wait until then. Let’s check these things out NOW and deal with them NOW.

Snapshots: Day 163

Snapshots: Day 163

The Snapshot:Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.” (Ruth 3:1) Maternal concern is a beautiful thing. It can produce worry and anxiety on behalf of the children but from the word go, concern and care are primary expressions of a mother. It is what motivates provision and protection and so now Naomi realizes that what they have is a somewhat precarious existence. She realizes that she herself cannot be that provider in the way Ruth needs, but she has in mind a way in which the present circumstances might show a way forward. It must not be rushed or forced, but that doesn’t mean nothing should be done. It needs wisdom and grace to guide our children towards their destiny and God is better at it than we are. Trust Him.

Further Consideration: We have previously just considered the security Naomi felt for Ruth in directing her to work in the fields of Boaz, and, considering the whole matter of security, we recognized the realities of church life where the presence of security is sometimes in doubt.

We now see the maternal concern for Ruth that Naomi has, that we might call a pastoral concern, a concern for well-being, provision and protection. This concern sees there is a long-term need here that will only be met in the provision of a husband.

Now I would suggest that there is here a parallel with the church (the bride of Christ (Mt 9:15, 21:1-10, Jn 3:29, Rev 19:7, 21:2,9) who is being prepared for the bridegroom, Jesus. In this sense, I suggest that church leaders, referred to in the New Testament as elders (those mature and spiritually wise), overseers (protectors) and shepherds or pastors (guides and providers), should be working to provide for the flock, by teaching and caring and creating a secure, loving environment by establishing an environment of grace, truth and righteousness so that people will not be damaged by the church (which can be either through heavy authoritarian leadership, or through an uncaring, clique-riven congregation).

If you’ve never really thought about this picture before, of Jesus preparing his bride through the means of the leaders and Eph 4:11 ministries, it is worth thinking about. In the same way that Naomi felt about Ruth and cared for her future well-being, so Jesus feels for us and cares about our future well-being. It is a beautiful picture that should engender feelings of security within us, a sense of being loved and cared for. In this respect, Naomi is a good example that all of us should consider in respect of one another in the church, especially if we are a leader or exercise one of the body ministries that Jesus has raised up to care for and to expand his church.

Snapshots: Day 162

Snapshots: Day 162

The Snapshot: in someone else’s field you might be harmed.” (Ruth 2:22) This is Naomi advising Ruth to remain in the field belonging to Boaz – who she knows is a kinsman-redeemer – but she simply does so because it is wise to receive his protection – NOT to manipulate the situation to bring Boaz and Ruth  together. Naomi is not a schemer. Later on as the situation develops Naomi will advise Ruth how to act righteously, but for the moment, she is simply looking for Ruth’s safety and well-being. Again we ask ourselves, can we, as the children of God, trust and commit our (trying) circumstances to Him, leaving our future in His secure hands? Even more, are we constantly on the lookout for the welfare and well-being of those around us?

Further Consideration: Feeling insecure in this day is an area that produces a very varied range of responses from people – and that includes Christian people. Throughout the ongoing time of the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic, the lock-down requirements and the whole fear overshadowing the Pandemic, unnerved many people. Elderly retired people, although being at a higher risk level, often appeared to cope better than younger generations because the amount of limitations were no more than they usually experienced. Others have not coped so well. This is insecurity because of a specific health threat.

Linked to that there are/were many people losing jobs because the effects of the Pandemic and the economic effect for many became severe and the future very uncertain. Insecurity from loss of income.

But the fact is that there are many other causes for people to feel insecure. I have a friend who was physically abused by her spouse before the courts banned him from the family home. Years of abuse leaves her constantly feeling insecure. Insecurity from relationships.

Naomi and Ruth are able to get security from the Law and from the integrity and graciousness of the reputation of Boaz.

What is sad today is that I have had it said to me more than once, “I don’t trust my church, I don’t feel secure there.” Further questioning reveals leaders who talk about safeguarding but fail to teach on no gossip or verbal abuse, and don’t hold people to account when it does occur. This is both lack of grace and lack of integrity. The church should be a place of healing and restoration, of truth and integrity, of grace and mercy. Knowing a number of churches where there have been upsets, it seems this is an area where we are particularly vulnerable to getting it wrong and not working to get it right.

Naomi was able to put Ruth at ease when going to work in the fields belonging to Boaz. Our people – fellow believers – should feel secure in the ‘fields’ belonging to Jesus.

Snapshots: Day 161

Snapshots: Day 161

The Snapshot: That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20) As Ruth shares with Naomi, the older woman shares something more of her culture. In the families in Israel under the Law, when the husband died, the responsibility for the widow fell on the next of kin, (Deut 25:5) though he had the right not to marry her (see 25:7-10). There are the signs here of a possibility but not a guarantee. The circumstances may look favorable sometimes but we can never force the will of God. Holding our futures lightly before the Lord is wisdom. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him to help you do it, and he will.” (Psa 37:5 Living Bible). It may look right and good, but ask His guidance and, having taken it, leave it with Him to bring the best for us.

Further Consideration: The Law of the Redeemer is first seen in Lev 25:23-29 and applied specifically to God’s people in the Promised Land, for when someone fell on hard times, and was all about redeeming the land which was to be kept in the family. Much of the rest of that chapter was about making that happen, including when a family had to sell themselves into service.

As we have noted above, in Deut 25 that was extended to cover the situation involving widows. This picture was extended in New Testament times to explain what Christ has done for us (see 1 Peter 1:17-21 and Gal 3:13,14).

There is a recognition in this provision of God in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that in this fallen world, things can go wrong: businesses can fail, husbands can die. In order to make sure that the Land remained in the hands of His chosen people, the law of redemption was instituted and so any would-be purchaser of the land of another – who is selling it because he has fallen on hard times – had to realize he is merely a temporary steward of the land until the Year of Jubilee when it is to be returned to the original family (Lev 25:10).

When it came to a widow, to ensure both her protection and her provision, there was instituted in the Law this opportunity for a brother to marry her. With no government financial net to catch her, she could easily find herself without any means of support and become destitute and thus starve. The role of the Law was to say to the family of the husband who has died, the responsibility for caring for her for the rest of her life is now on you, and the only way that can be guaranteed is if one of you marries her. Arranged marriages may not go down well with many today, but they have a remarkable success rate sometimes.

This protective net of the Law was now there to protect and provide for Ruth and therefore also Naomi.

Snapshots: Day 160

Snapshots: Day 160

The Snapshot: she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah.” (Ruth 2:17) A footnote suggest this is about 30 pounds or 13 kilograms of barley. Not bad for just picking a few grains at a time from the ears of leftover crops. We commented previously that she was a worker, that she was industrious but now we see that she also perseveres. The recent news has reported on young workers who gave up after a single day working for a farmer because the work was too hard. Ruth shames such people. To be workers in the kingdom of God sometimes means we have to endure or persevere in the face of hard circumstances or enemy activity. Will we let Ruth’s example challenge us to be those who see it through to the end – whatever!

Further Consideration: ‘Work’ in the world has sometimes had a bad press and at a down time Solomon agreed: “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain,” (Eccles 2:22,23) and Proverbs fourteen times refers to the ‘sluggard’, the idle or lazy person.

But Ruth could never be considered lazy. Already above we have observed how she is diligent on behalf of Naomi and herself. And this is the point of work, it is frequently on behalf of others, we work to provide for our families so often.

Jesus implied in various parables that God expects His children to be workers who take what He has given them and work with it and multiply it (see Mt 25:14-30). In that parable we are seen as stewards of God’s provision, who are required to put it to use to bless His world.

In more general teaching the apostle Paul taught, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” (Col 3:23) and also, For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thess 3:10) That particular dictum seems to appear nowhere else in the Bible as such, but may come from such thinking as, Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.” (Prov 19:15) We might say that character is built through work OR work is an expression of character. Whichever it is, the “wife of noble character” (Prov 31:10-) is the classic example of a worker who receives abundant praise for efforts in providing through work for her family. In a day when society provides for those out of work, the temptation is always there to take the money and avoid work where possible. That is sad for it demeans the person, even if they do not realize it. In a fallen world money does not grow on trees – unless you own a banana plantation, but even then it needs picking. How we go about work reveals much about our character.

Snapshots: Day 159

Snapshots: Day 159

The Snapshot: You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:13) These early verses of Ruth are a mix of the providence of God and the character of Ruth being revealed. To her other attributes must now be added humility. Very often people in difficult and trying circumstances exhibit a brash defensiveness, not so Ruth. She is a foreigner and foreigners often try to make their mark, prove their worth, not so Ruth. Humility recognizes weakness in a good way. Mother Teresa once wrote that we practice humility by never standing on one’s dignity, i.e. we never make demands for our worth to be respected. We simply trust God with our reputation. That is being godly.  Let’s be godly people today.

Further Consideration: Humility is not something much talked about today. It rarely features in the lives of politicians or ‘celebrities’ it seems, yet I have observed it in one particular quiz expert on TV. This man, who must have a photographic mind and able to hold an incredible number of facts in his mind, competes against members of the public in a way that can only be described as gracious, humble and encouraging. He often praises his competitors, either when they have won or lost. His humility never exalts his own amazing capabilities; in fact he often comments on how he’s not doing well or having a bad day. It is almost as if he is wanting to lift up those competing against him. Now that is humility.

Humility has a modesty that recognizes both the good and the not good in self. Dickens’ Uriah Heep was the epitome of the not-humble, with his hand-rinsing movements and his declaration that, “I am but a humble man,” declaring the falseness of it. One of the things about humility is that it does not declare itself.

But, as we just intimated, humility is able to speak honestly about both our good points and no-good points. When God has enabled us to achieve something or do something well, it is not wrong to acknowledge that. Paul’s description of us being ‘jars of clay’, (2 Cor 4:7) earthen pots that hold the glory of God, remind us of Isaiah’s words, “We are the clay, you are the potter.” (Isa 64:8). This recognition is the balance of true humility, recognizing that of ourselves we are nothing, and yet in His hands we can be used to achieve great things. Never be afraid to balance and acknowledge both things, the grubby and the glorious aspect of our lives.

If, like Ruth, we come as servants in humility, we can be used by God and His glory seen through us. Her humility, I think, stirred something in Boaz that opened up the way ahead. Beautiful!

Snapshots: Day 158

Snapshots: Day 158

The Snapshot: Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done.” (Ruth 2:11) Ruth has a history and it is one that reflects well on her and it now contributes to the good feeling Boaz has about her. Solomon was later to write, “A good name is more desirable than great riches.” (Prov 22:1) and, “A person is praised according to their prudence.” (Prov 12:8) What do those who know us say about us? No doubt they will be able to find faults, but can they speak well of our reputation for graciousness, always looking for the good in others, wisdom, insight, understanding goodness, kindness, gentleness, industry, thoughtfulness, compassion, spirituality and perhaps creativity?  All of these are the things that build a reputation and open doors to further blessing.

Further Consideration: Reputation can be a funny thing because it really resides in the minds of others, and people think about other people through the tinted glasses of their own prejudices and insecurities. So perhaps an individual’s reputation should be considered as what the majority of people think about them.

Having said that, we follow a Lord whose reputation varied according to what a whole variety of different groups thought about him. The religious establishment thought badly of him (out of their insecurities), and his disciples seem to have had mixed feeling about him, often questioning and rarely getting understanding. Even today various religions around the world hold questioning views about him perhaps, again, from a defensive standpoint.

And that is it; so often we can’t help ourselves but have ideas about other people and those ideas may be built on untruths or partial truths, they may be what they are, as we’ve said, as a result of our own insecurities and our defensive feelings that are brought to the surface because of them. Reputation, from our viewpoint, can be something we should be very careful about.

We live in an age of mass-communication, no longer just TV but of social media brought by the phone in our hand, and it means we can express our views about other people to other people and in so doing we either exalt or destroy the reputations of others. In the Final Judgment, I have a feeling this particular sin – of what we call character assassination – will rate as highly as murder for it has the same potential of destroying a life, and it happens regularly today, tragically.

To summarize, as God’s children let’s seek to maintain a good reputation that may open or direct others to Him. Let’s also make sure we are careful to ensure we do not participate in character assassination in gossip on the Internet or face to face.

5. Off-loading Blame

The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 5. Off-Loading Guilt by Off-loading Blame

Gen 3:12 (Msg) “The woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.”

Misconceptions: There is perhaps no subject like guilt to create misconceptions, wrong ways of thinking, and so in this and the next few studies we are going to eyeball some of these. The first misconception we need to consider is that off-loading absolves from blame – it doesn’t!

Wrong Belief: We have touched on this before but we do need to slowly consider this because it is something that is so common in modern life and Christians are not immune from it. It is the belief that if I can give a reason for my perceived wrongdoing, especially one that off-loads the cause of it onto other people, then is absolves or clear me from the guilt of it. We see this so clearly in the case of the Fall. Adam has been told not to eat of this particular tree, we assume Eve knew about the prohibition, but she went against it and then got him to go against it. They both did what God had said not to do. They were guilty.

Confrontation: But then God confronts them with their changed state, they have become self-aware in a new way: “Who told you that you were naked?” (Gen 3:11a) Guilt always changes our state. However we appear, we all know, deep down at least, that what we do is wrong, which is why we move into a defensive, self-justifying mode.  There can only be one reason for this and so God makes them face it: Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (v.11b) If we are to prosper in life and in eternity, we need to be confronted with the things we’ve got wrong; we can’t take them to heaven!

Justifying: Then we get Adam’s excuse: The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (v.12) I can’t help feeling if I had been God I would have laughed at Adam and retorted, “Adam, you’ve got to be joking! Are you saying it’s my fault because I gave you the woman, that if I hadn’t given her to you, she wouldn’t have been there to lead you astray?” But it continues with the women when the Lord questions her: “The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (v.13b) There is almost behind her offloading, the objection, ‘well this is your world God, you made the snake, he was the one who led me astray.’

Sources of Excuse: I don’t know if you see it yet, but there are the things that go to the heart of all our offloading of guilt – to blame someone else. When things go wrong, very often people blame God: ‘how could a God of love allow this to happen, why didn’t He step in and stop me doing this?’ Because He respects you too much to take away your free will. But often that is too blatant a call so we focus our bad attitudes, our bad behaviour, on other people.

Marriage Breakdown: Whether it is cohabitation or marriage, when one partner commits adultery and enters into an illicit sexual relationship with someone outside the partnership, it becomes The most fertile ground for self-deception, half-truths, and self-justification by offloading blame. My wife stopped loving me, she was no longer physically attractive, we just couldn’t get on any longer, she was taken up with her women’s groups, her clubs, her hobbies etc. etc., and never had time for me so when my assistant showed concern and care, it was just natural to find love with her.

Teenage Rebellion: My parents don’t love me, and they clearly don’t love each other, they don’t understand what I’m feeling, the struggles I have with life, so why shouldn’t I go off and try and find peace and pleasure in drugs and sex with my friends.

The Lie: There is an untruth that each person in this sort of situation (and with time and space we could find many more) cons themselves into believing: “I can’t do anything about this weak marriage relationship, this bad relationship with my parents,” and so on. Adam and Eve made choices – wrong choices. You and I have the capability of making choices. That’s how God has made us and He expects us to make good decisions – I will work on my marriage, we will take time and effort to start communicating again, listening to one another, responding in love again to one another, I will not look outside my marriage for comfort. Or perhaps – I will wait for an opportune time to talk honestly with my parents, to ask them about where they are at with me and become the catalyst for change in our family. Yes, of course we cannot do these things without God and maybe without the help of someone outside my situation – that’s why I’m here.

The Starting Point: If we are going to start taking back control and bringing change then the starting point has to be to confess to the Lord you’ve got it wrong and you need His forgiveness and His help to put things right. Whatever steps you need to take, you need His grace and His wisdom, but please stop believing the lie. The truth is that with God’s help you can bring change, you can step back from your bad attitude, words and behaviour, you can restore the relationship. Ask Him.