Reverse the Curse
February 28, 2016 Leave a comment
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:1, 31) What a beautiful picture of God’s original creation: organized around the magnification of His creative glory and untainted by the destruction of sin with everything operating at the apex of its created purpose. This is how God intended the world to be.
However, since the Fall of humanity in Genesis 3, “creation was subjected to futility…groaning together” (Romans 8:20, 22) for a return to its original condition. No aspect of the creation has escaped the distorting effects of sin’s curse. In particular, men and women, alone created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), have suffered greatly.
In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul describes the extent to which sin has affected each and every human being. Paul highlights three aspects of our humanity in particular that have been distorted by sin:
- Our bodies (Romans 1:24)
Sin distorts the way we use our bodies. No longer is the body a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Instead it is a vehicle for pursuing physical pleasures. Though sexual immorality is in view in this passage, other distorted uses of the body include drug abuse, gluttony, eating disorders, self-harm, idolatry of health/fitness, and a host of others. At the root of each pursuit is a desire to use our body to bring pleasure to ourselves rather than to glorify the Maker of our body.
- Our passions (Romans 1:26)
Sin also distorts our passions. Rather than desiring God, something or someone else becomes the ultimate focus of our heart’s desires. Whatever is in that top slot determines what drives us and gives us satisfaction. For some this is fame–doing whatever it takes to be noticed and adored by others (even if it’s just on Instagram). For others it is sexual pleasure (as it is in Romans 1), whether it comes from homosexual or heterosexual stimuli. There are an endless number of examples. Ultimately though, any distorted passion replaces God’s intended purpose for an aspect of creation with a self-serving exploitation of that creation.
- Our minds (Romans 1:28)
Finally, sin distorts our minds. Rather than acknowledging the natural revelation of God on display in nature, our depraved minds repress the truth of God’s very existence– either explicitly or implicitly. Sin so corrupts the sinful mind that it claims to be wise despite ample evidence to the contrary. We don’t realize that the wisdom we claim is really folly that leads to death.
What a mess!
God, in His justice, doesn’t force humanity to love and obey Him so He “gives them up” to purse these distortions. But, also because of His justice, He doesn’t let this rebellion of “exchanging the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25) go unpunished. As a result of these sinful distortions, God is (rightly) prepared to judge humanity’s ungodliness (disregard of God’s rights) and unrighteousness (disregard for man’s rights).
Thankfully, God is a God of justice and mercy. Instead of leaving humanity on its own to wallow in sin, enslaved and controlled by the very things they thought would free and satisfy them, God provided a way back to Himself. Just as “the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help” (Exodus 2:23) and God delivered them by sending Moses, God responded to the groanings of all humanity by sending Jesus. At the cross, God’s justice and mercy meet: Jesus takes “the wrath of God [that] is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18) upon Himself in the place of His people, though He had done nothing wrong (Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; 1 Peter 2:21-25).
In Romans 12, Paul shows how this good news of God’s glory in saving His people through judgment against sin begins to reverse the curse of sin. For those who repent of their sins and place their trust in Jesus, God brings restoration in the same areas in which sin once brought distortion:
- Our bodies (Romans 12:1)
The gospel restores the way we use our bodies. Rather than using our bodies to bring selfish pleasure to ourselves, we now offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice…holy and acceptable to God”. This means that they are used expressly for the worship of God through holy living, taking the gospel to the nations, and enjoying the gifts God has given us they way they were meant to be experienced.
- Our passions (Romans 12:9-20)
In addition, the gospel restores our passions. Our primary desire becomes obeying God and serving others. In fact, God has designed us in such a way that as John Piper puts it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”. How do we gain this satisfaction? By worshipping God and imploring others to worship Him as well. With this perspective, we begin to view other people as fellow image-bearers of God rather than objects to be used for our own fulfillment. We have compassion, understanding that they may be lost sheep just like we once were, yet we hold forth the gospel truth: inviting them to join us at the joyful feast of God’s glory.
- Our minds (Romans 12:2)
Finally, the gospel restores our minds. The light of the gospel exposes the darkness and vanity of sin and its way of life. No longer do we seek to reason away God and His will for our life. Our mind is freed from the sin’s pattern and is reshaped according to the Scriptures. We begin to gain true wisdom and do away with worldly folly. As our minds are renewed, we continue to gain a greater understanding of our sinfulness and God’s holiness.
That is the transforming power of the gospel. As the Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers and as believers fulfill the Great Commission by taking the gospel to the nations, the curse is gradually reversed until it is finally removed forever when Jesus returns to consummate His Kingdom. At that time, “the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). Sounds a lot like the pre-Fall Garden of Eden in Genesis 1 and 2 doesn’t it?
Learn It. Love It. Live It.