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Doctrine Illuminated: The Fall of Humanity

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[8 minute  read]


In these Doctrine Illuminated articles, the core beliefs of Addison Street Community Church are fleshed out in more detail. Begin by examining the section of the Doctrinal Confession, found at the top, and then discover an explanation of each of its lines below.


 
Section 6. The Fall of Humanity. 
“We believe that humans were created good, but by voluntary disobedience of God’s law fell from their holiness and happiness. As a result of Adam’s sin, and by their own choice, all people are now sinners without excuse and subject to the just condemnation of God’s eternal judgment.”

What’s wrong with the world? Why is there so much injustice, disagreement, and suffering that we hear about (or even witness) on an almost daily basis? These questions resonate with all people because everyone feels the ugly repercussions of what the Bible calls ‘sin.’ Understanding what the Scriptures teach about sin helps us understand several things. For example, why can life often times be so incredibly difficult? Or, why does evil seem to prevail everywhere we look? We were originally created good, but have inherited a sinful nature from the first person who willingly disobeyed God’s gracious boundaries. And we, too, have become disobedient by our own rebellious choices. Read on to understand how to better live in light of these grim realities.


“We believe that humans were created good, but by voluntary disobedience of God’s law fell from their holiness and happiness.”

In the book of Genesis, we read that on the sixth day of creation God made man and woman in his own image. Everything the Lord had created up to this point was declared “good” (see for example Genesis 1:10). But once humanity was made, he said that everything was very good. He then put man in the garden of Eden to work it and keep good care of it. Adam and Eve, the first couple, lived a perfect life there with no wrong or injustice, in the direct and constant presence of their Creator. Further, God put in the garden of Eden the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And he told Adam that he and his wife could eat from absolutely any tree they’d like except for that one tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they disobeyed, God said, they would surely die. You may know the story–they voluntarily disobeyed and were subsequently expelled from that paradise, falling from their perfect state of holiness and happiness. Since then humanity has been cursed by sin and its troublesome consequences.


“As a result of Adam’s sin, and by their own choice, all people are now sinners without excuse.”

And this sin ultimately leads to death for all people. Romans 5:12 says that death spreads to all men because all sinned. Therefore, no one can blame Adam and Eve for all the suffering in the world. Ultimately, we all suffer because we’re all sinners. And this attempt to transfer guilt to someone else has been around since original sin. (We call it original sin not only because it was the first transgression but also because it is the origin of the human sinful nature.) When Adam blamed Eve—and even God—for what he had done, he said to the Lord, “The woman whom you gave me to be with, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). But he wasn’t alone. Eve, too, tried to transfer her guilt to someone else. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13). Pointing the finger at others won’t help us get rid of the trouble and death that sin produces. Nowadays, the idea that injustice is only the product of what other people do to certain groups is propagated and widely accepted. While consequences may linger from what past generations have done, the Scriptures teach that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). And as Romans 3:23 clearly states, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Playing the victim game won’t fix the problem. But let’s remember that the gospel is the good news that Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins. To apply this news to our lives it’s important to deny the tendency we have to transfer the hurt and guilt we carry in unique ways and deal first with our own sin and rebellion against God.    

 
“[Humans are] subject to the just condemnation of God’s eternal judgment.”

God is good. This is at the same time both a great and terrifying truth. Since God is good, he cannot let the guilty go unpunished. And we have observed experientially and biblically that all people have sinned. So God’s judgment is certain and right, and condemnation is just. But God’s goodness also provides salvation. At the cross of Jesus Christ, God punished the sins of his people through Jesus Christ, their substitute. That is why the psalmist prophetically stated that “love and faithfulness meet, righteousness and peace kiss” (Psalm 85:10). What God told Moses about his own character was here most climactically and clearly seen. “The Lord passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…’ ” (Exodus 34:6–7). At the cross the Lord clears the guilty by punishing Jesus in their place, thus offering forgiveness for sin. All those who do not put their faith in Christ’s sacrifice will face God’s judgment and his just condemnation. 


The doctrine of sin has often been ignored, diminished, and distorted. The acceptance that something is wrong with the world is nearly universal, but most people tend to avoid what the Bible teaches about sin and its unfolding effects. Modern culture tries to fix the wrongs that have been done by focusing on the sin of generations past. At the human level, hardly anyone denies that the reason we suffer is because of human oppression and the consequences of the shortcomings of past generations. But at the Divine level we are not to see ourselves only as victims, but to deal with suffering in the face of our own sin and guilt. There was just one man in history who suffered even though he was perfectly righteous—Jesus Christ. We must understand that we all need a personal Savior because we can’t adequately solve our own biggest problem, the sinful nature inside of us. Only then will the gospel will make sense, for though it’s true that Jesus died for the sins of his people collectively, it can only reach each one of us if we accept our individual responsibility for sin.



Sometimes, Our Apologies Stink Bad

Have you ever been turned off by someone's attempt at rectifying a wrong with you? All of us offend someone at some point in our lives. It's probably a given that it's happened this week. Instead of judging too quickly someone's lackluster apology, why don't you plan on giving a meaningful (that is, sincere and full) apology the next time you are aware of offending someone or somebodies? Do you know how to apologize?

Jimmy Dodd, the founder and CEO of PastorServe, recently sent me a letter that was super helpful on the theme of apologizing: "The Nine A's of Confession." He said this: "... we make mistakes [and we sin]. We must apologize. Personally, when I apologize, I take a deep breath and think through the Nine A's. Each one is critical."

Read this prayerfully with an open heart and start right away with someone. Throughout this list, I've put brackets around my own additions or tweaks.

  1. Address everyone involved. When you hurt with words or actions, address EVERYONE impacted.
  2. Avoid "if, but, and maybe." This is essential! Using the word "if" declares that you are not fully taking responsibility for your actions or words. The phrase "if I hurt you" says that your actions may or may not have inflicted pain. The word 'but' conveys that you believe you were justified in your actions.
  3. Admit specifically. Just admit what you did! This is where the vast majority of apologies go horribly wrong. Don't justify your behavior. Don't beat around the bush. Just admit what you did or said. It's not rocket science. If a video tape shows you punching  a woman— don't be so foolish as to say, "Everyone who knows me can confirm that I have the highest respect for women." In reality, that statement only confirms that you are an immature, narcissistic, blame-shifting individual; [not to mention, a liar].
  4. Acknowledge the hurt. Acknowledge the pain you caused. Use words like, "I know my actions caused deep pain." Make sure the other party is satisfied that you understand the depth of hurt your words or actions inflicted upon them.
  5. Accept the consequences. Yep. There are consequences to careless words and actions. Accept [humbly] what is coming your way.
  6. Alter your behavior. Commit that [by God's grace and Holy Spirit's power] you will never do this again. Tell the offended party that you will diligently work to change your behavior. [Even ask for and submit to some extra accountability like a fellow church member or counselor to hold your feet to the fire and encourage you in any progress you're making.]
  7. Allow the other person to share their emotions. Ask the offended party what else they need you to know. Often, there is deeper hurt than we ever realized. Practice active listening! Don't defend yourself, just listen!
  8. Ask for forgiveness. So basic but often overlooked. Every apology must include the words, "I am sorry. Will your forgive me?" [And if you've offended a family member, spiritual or biological, I'd add: I sinned against you on this.]
  9. Allow time for final reflection. Don't rush the apology. Sometimes, people need time to reflect, further acknowledge the hurt and ask questions to confirm that you understand the pain you caused. [Give them that space and keep the door open for them to "come in" and elaborate further on the hurt.]

For another helpful read about cultivating a church culture of healthy confession, check out John Lee's post "Confessing Sin is Always Awkward, Sometimes Costly and Absolutely Worth It".