The Long Way Down

Foundational Truth – Man is fallen and now lives under the curse of sin.

Text: Genesis 3

In last week’s sermon we looked at the conditions that made it possible for man to fall: his moral nature and the presence of a genuine moral choice. In this week’s sermon we will look more closely at the extent of the Fall. The Bible makes it clear that mankind still retains the image of God. It is also abundantly clear by comparison to the other creatures of our world that man is superior in rationality, linguistics, imagination, creativity, art, and a host of other areas. If this is true, what were the effects of the Fall on Adam’s race?

On March 9, 1945, Allied forces planned a bombing raid on Tokyo of an unusual sort. Because most of the buildings in the city were made of wood and paper, the goal was to start a firestorm that would become self-sustaining and far more devastating than a standard bombing would be. The raid resulted in the destruction of almost 16 square miles and the deaths of between 80,000-130,000 civilians – more than were killed by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and almost as many as were killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

But humanity was not “burned to the ground” like the buildings of Tokyo when Adam sinned. Humanity looks more like London after being on the receiving end of Luftwaffe bombing raids for years: the buildings can still be distinguished but they are bombed and damaged. I think it was Barnhouse who proposed the image of a 3 story building. The top story represents man’s spirit and is completely caved in with pieces crashing into the second floor, which represents the soul-ish aspect of man: his intellect, imagination, motives, affections, and desires. The bottom floor is man’s body and, while still functioning, will inevitably be brought to final ruin given enough time.

Man Separated from God

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee” wrote Augustine of Hippo, and these words are true. The Bible describes mankind as dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2). This death is a spiritual death and means that we are cut off from communion with God because of sin. This leaves man unable to experience the fullness of humanity, and so we are like an amputee who senses something that is no longer there. Eternity is set in our hearts, but we can no longer search it out. This is spiritual death.

Man Separated from Man

Another effect of this devastation is that man can no longer look at his fellow man “face to face”. We can only see in part and we only want to be seen in part. We hide, we keep secrets, we don’t let others fully in. The longing to be “understood” becomes a complaint of hypocrisy as we are not only misunderstood, but we fail to understand others. Even in the closest of relationships there are places of distance. To complicate this even further, our competing desires lead to wars and fightings among us (James 4). These are the sociological consequences of sin.

Man Separated from Himself

But as if being cut off from God and from others is complicated enough, we must further acknowledge that man is separated from himself. The unity he is meant to be no longer functions as a unity, but man will act in a way inconsistent with his own principles, or speak in a way inconsistent with his own feelings, or present himself in one situation in a way inconsistent with the way he presents himself in another circumstance. One way to describe the effects of sin on man is to acknowledge that he is a fragmented creature, no longer able to summon the prerequisite morality to be a true unity.

But God

In salvation/redemption, God restores the fellowship between man and Himself by 1) pardoning the breach of sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ and 2) giving redeemed man a new spiritual life through regeneration. This is followed by the restoration of the soulish aspects of man, including the redemption of the sociological consequences of the Fall (the Church as the community of the Redeemed) as well as the redemption of man’s intellect, affections, desires, etc… This process is called sanctification and it is a process in which each individual must participate by exercising the new spiritual life within him in seeking after God and righteousness. The final stage of this plan is for the body of sin to be destroyed and the building to be resurrected in perfect righteousness, which is glorification.

Implications and Applications

Since there is a universal recognition that we live in a messed up world, it isn’t surprising that the world creates solutions. Because the world refuses to acknowledge that man is fundamentally sinful, these solutions never solve (of often even attempt to solve) to moral nature of man. So some will say that bad environments are the cause of problems in the world. But if we follow this to its logical conclusion, we see that the current generation has been raised in a world with more education, more money, better health services, and more liberty than any previous generation. Despite that, kids in $200 sneakers are throwing rocks at police so that they can create a more just world. Others attribute the problem to nature and attempt to solve it with various medications. But carried out to its logical conclusions is the moral evil of eugenics sponsored by people like Margaret Sanger, whose organization is still the largest abortion provider in our nation. Now we can acknowledge that there are benefits to improved environments (for example, a nation of just laws is preferable to a nation of lawlessness). Nevertheless, the final salvation of mankind can never be accomplished by any means other than the salvation of God. So while we should seek the betterment of others in every way we can, our ultimate hope is not in politics, education, etc…

This leads us to the conclusion that any hope of creating a Utopia on earth is bound to fail, because Utopia cannot exist when it is populated by sinful people. In fact, the quest to create a Utopia has probably caused more unnecessary death and pain than anything else in the last 100 years. In order for there to be a heaven, there must be a people fit for heaven. And only God can make a people fit for heaven.

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