Naked before God: Part I
Sin and Its Consequences and Man’s Response
Introduction: The four-part series Naked before God: Sin and its Consequences addresses the reality of the effects of the fall and God’s answer. All are naked before God because of sin. There are consequences and a need for self-examination. God has not left His people to fend for themselves.
Hopefully the title, naked before God, caught your eye. What does it mean to be naked, undressed, or exposed? In today’s culture and I am sure in previous cultures, the idea of the idea of nakedness is and was desired in order to achieve pleasure The idea of exposure often carries the idea that the person himself or another person is the agent of exposure. However, the idea of sin and being naked before God is a different matter. I chose the term and phrase- naked before God – to help express a too often biblical truth and its implications. I am referring to the fig-leaf function of life which is a response to sin and to God.
Return to the Garden as described in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve post-fall forsook God and His counsel. You might say Adam’s refusal to police the Garden was the first sin. God holds Adam for the first of eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. True knowledge is God-derived and God-given. Adam chose his way which was Satan’s way. As a result Adam sinned and mankind including Eve was judged guilty. Before God confronted them, their eyes were opened, and they knew they were naked and ashamed before God and each other (Genesis 3:7). In a true sense the “felt” the sting of guilt and condemnation. “Felt” is an interesting. It was not a matter of feeling guilty. They were guilty. They still were image bearers of God and thus were shamed and ashamed. Nakedness indicated guilt and shame indicated disgrace and fallen-ness. Their condition and nature had changed radically.
The word for naked in the Hebrew language carries the meaning of lay bare. Interestingly, without sin and sinfulness – their pre-fall state – they were naked but not guilty. There was no sin in them; they were not sinners! In response to this new knowledge of themselves and I suspect of God, they attempted to hide – they covered themselves (Genesis 3:7). Their thinking was convoluted such they thought a physical act of their own could somehow hide from God and each other what they had become. They attempted to take matters into their hands but failed miserably and universally.
They entered into an entirely different and radical state of existence. They realized this fact but I doubt that they grasped its full significance for themselves and mankind. Their view of self, each other, and God was radically different. Their Creator had become a Judge and a Being to avoid. Their condition was in mark contrast to their estate before sin at which time they were naked and unashamed – they had no guilt and no condemnation (Genesis 2:25). Self-protection, perhaps as a way of escape and self-denial, was their initial reaction. They covered themselves with fig leaves, material of the physical to no avail (Genesis 3:7).
They were guilty and they needed a spiritual cleansing. Adam and Eve, still moral creatures, had a different view of morality. They “knew” good and evil from an entirely different perspective – as a fallen creature and image bearer of God. No man-made attempt could reverse the effect of sin. They were exiled from God’s presence as unholy and unclean. Still God had plans for Adam and Eve. He promised a covenant Savior and Mediator (Genesis 3:15). God was teaching Adam, Eve, and all mankind that salvation is of the Lord.
Initially, salvation was not an issue. There was no sin in the earthly realm. Adam’s choice to eat was his as a free moral being. In one sense, knowledge was not the issue. In another sense, knowledge was the issue. More precisely, failure to act based his presumed knowledge of God was an act of the will. He was more in himself and Eve than in pleasing God. He was a covenant breaker. He was to learn a very hard lesson: mankind can never dress himself so that he is acceptable before God. Adam made no attempt to dress himself aster his encounter with God.
Eventually God clothed Adam and Eve and then He exiled them (Genesis 3:21-24). It was not and is not safe for any sinner to be in God’s presence without a mediator and proper clothing. Jesus describes a similar situation regarding the proper dress (Matthew 22:1-14). The man at the wedding feast had the wrong set of clothes. Apparently, he dressed himself according to his standard and his choice. He insulted the master, was unacceptable to the master, and he was “exiled” – thrown out because he was unworthy. Verses 14 sums up the meaning of the parable: many are called but few are proven acceptable. God sets the standard for the believer’s proper clothing: it is the righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthian 5:21)!
1. Define naked for God’s perspective.
2. What happened between Genesis 2:25 and 3:7?
3. What was God’s twofold answer?
4. Would Adam and Eve be allowed back into God’s presence and if so how?
5. Will we ever be naked and unashamed? On what basis will you answer?
Naked before God and The Quest for Hiddenness: Part II
Lack of a Proper Self-Examination
We continue the series: Naked before God: Sin and its consequences. In Genesis 2:25, Moses wrote that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. There was no sin so there was no guilt and no condemnation. They stood before God and each other in harmony and intimacy. In their pristine, pre-fall state, they had a sensual experience. They saw, heard, touched, smell, and tasted the fact of God’s good creation (Genesis 1:31). They agreed with God – it was good. They had nothing to hide!
Their sensual experience was dictated by the interpretative grid of God’s spoken word. Yes there was general revelation – nature and the physical world. But God did not leave them to determine how they should live. He gave them word revelation. Natural and word revelation were linked and in sync. Moreover, Adam and Eve understood that God communicates and reveals and they were receivers, interpreters, and implementers of that revelation.
Apparently, they truly feared the Lord at least for a short time. They had correct knowledge of Him and themselves. In Genesis 3:7, we learn that they were naked and ashamed. What happened? Their eyes were opened and they realized that they were naked. They had an awakening but it was unpleasant to say the least. The couple became aware of things in a way that they had not known before. They had eyes and ears but they did not see and hear as they had. They saw in a perverse manner. Darkness and deadness entered them and the world.
There was a radical change in them, in the realm of their being, and in the universe’s existence that they had not known. A new state of affairs came into being. There was angst, decay, and misery. Their thoughts, desires, actions toward self, each other, and most importantly toward God were radically changed. Relationships changed. Love was replaced by self-focus and self-protection, the latter I call this the fig-leaf function of life. As a result of the change in them, distrust, fear, strife, blame-shifting, and anger entered into the world. These were directed at God (the woman you put here with me: 3:12), each other (- she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it: 3:12), and the serpent (The woman said: The serpent deceived me and I ate: 3:13).
All mankind followed suit. Self took center-stage. God-interest and other-interest was exchanged for and marked by me-first focus. They were now enemies of God unfit for His presence. Self -protection, self-trust, and self-focus became Adam’s and Eve’s, and all mankind’s, modus operandi. It was and is the primary concern and driving motivation of every person unless the Triune God supernaturally intervenes.
Their self-focus and every person after them born of ordinary generation, was and is demonstrated by the attempt to cover self. The word translated covering carries the meaning of surround, grid, and belt. They took charge, so they thought, and clothed themselves. They had to come to grips with the fact that they did not have the proper attire. A physical and natural remedy could never accomplish what was needed: a supernatural washing and cleansing. Moreover, they ran and hid in an attempt to “protect” themselves from God (3:8-9). However, they failed; it was and is impossible to avoid and escape God. God is man’s environment and this God’s world (Psalm 24:1-2; 29:1-4; 139). Man has been on the run from God ever since the Garden.
Sin entered into the world through Adam’s first sin and God’s judgment. Sin has relational consequences. Self-protection became critical for man as a result of refusing to move to God for His wardrobe that He gives freely via the blood of his Son. Self-protection fits the expression of a fig-leaf function of life. Many thoughts have been given why a fig leaf was chosen. Suffice it to say that Adam and Eve used that which was at their disposal. The fig leaf was not designed by God to hide people or things. Adam and Eve used God’s creation in a manner God contrary to God’s design. Their attempt was an utter failure.
Every person engages in this futile activity. It takes many forms. One form is denial and another is deception both of which are closely linked. Fallen man, even believers are quite skillful in denying sin. The medical system and community has gone a long way in helpful rid the word sin from the culture’s vocabulary. Various labels are given to people “to explain various feelings and behaviors opening the door for a plethora of medications. Guilt then is medicated away. Medications and so-called talk therapy help to reinterpret thoughts, desires, and actions as non-sinful. Excuse making follows.
In whatever form, deception and denial lead to hard times and misery in this life and perhaps the next (Proverbs 5:21-22; 8:36; 13:15). This was the estate that mankind’s first parents entered and with them all mankind. Among other things our first parents initiated and experienced the cataclysmic and radical change from naked and unashamed to naked and ashamed. The latter represents part of the bad news.
1. The idea of being laid bare or being exposed is generally met with skepticism, fear, avoidance, and increasing efforts to “keep the lid on.” Exposure is uncomfortable and necessitates a different view of self, others, and God. Do you agree or not? Please give reasons for your answer.
2. The pre-fall estate and the believer’s presence in heaven have what in common?
3. The clothes of pre-fall Adam and Eve were what? Post-fall, their clothes were what? What happened?
4. What are the clothes of every believer in heaven (Revelation 6:11; 7:9. 13; 19:1-10, 14) and what do they represent?
The Call to a Proper Self-Examination: Part III
An important aspect in the discussion: Naked before God: sin and its consequences is awareness of the fig-leaf function – the tendency to cover-up. In order for the believer to avoid the fig-leaf function of life, the Bible calls believers to self- examination and self-inventory. The tool of that activity is the Word of God under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The Word is sharper than any two-edged sword. It filets the heart, the inner person. (Hebrews 4:12). It is within the inner person that thoughts, desires, and actions are formed and begin to take expression. The believer is told to guard the heart because it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).
The Bible in various places gives the clarion call to examine self – to make oneself naked before God! Judgment starts with the household of God such that self-examination is to be considered a blessing (1 Peter 4:17; Matthew 7:1-6; 2 Corinthians 13:5; James 1:22-25). The temptation is ever before man to deceive himself (Hebrew 3:12-13). Sin has a way of deceiving people, both believers and unbelievers. David knew this truth and he prayed that God would examine him and search his heart (Psalm 139:1, 23-24). God is the heart Knower. However, God uses means including others – sometimes friends and sometimes enemies – as His agent for believers to use as a tool for self- examination.
Many reject this call for self-examination. The tendency of sinners, even saved ones, is to defend, ignore, and or hide. But God calls His people to listen to learn in order to change in order to grow in Christlikeness. God expects and equips His people to begin with self and to move to others. If one has not learned God’s comfort, he will not comfort himself or others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 8-10).
In Genesis 3, the Bible expounds the truth that deception is futile and arrogant. The message is continued throughout the Bible. The book of Hebrews was written as an encouragement and warning to remain firm in the faith. It was a time of growth but only if God’s providence in the form of trouble and testing was handled according to biblical truth. In Hebrews 3:12-13, the author wrote that in the time of testing and temptation, each person was to guard his own heart and encourage others in order to prevent sin’s deceitfulness.
The deceitfulness of sin manifests itself and centers on the ever-present tendency to develop and act upon a wrong view of God, self, others, and God’s providence (life). The sinner so easily considers himself more important than God and others (Philippians 2:3-5). In James 1:22, James urged his congregation to look into the mirror of God’s word and not walk away “forgetting what he had seen.” The blessing of spiritual growth comes in the doing (1:25; John 13:17). Doing flows from a desire to please God irrespective of feelings. The desire must be correctly informed so that thoughts, desires, and actions follow. Feelings may or may not follow but they are linked with thought and desires.
Spiritual inventory is a blessing and leads to blessings when done properly. The Bible does not teach morbid introspection. You can’t discover how bad you truly are. The cross proves that. Try as you might you are worse than you think (Romans 5:6-10). You can’t plumb the depths of your heart and discover the radical, utter sinfulness that was present within before you were regenerated.
Even as saved people the capacity to please and honor self in contrast to pleasing and honoring God is still present. Moreover the tendency to place self high and above God as the object of worship and affection is ever so strong. The tendency to idolatry is in the heart of every person. The cross proves the facts that sin required a radical and supernatural solution and resurrection life begins now in this life the moment one is saved, Jesus provided God’s solution in His perfect life before the cross and His perfect death at the cross. He was considered utter scum by the Father and so, too, were you believer. Yet, the good news is this: you are a saved sinner because you are in Christ. God “sees” you in a completely different light – in Christ. You cannot cloth yourself. Don’t go back to the Garden in any form! Otherwise if you do, you are rejecting God’s gift of His righteousness via His Son and applied by the Holy Spirit. God considers what He has done as yours. He considers Christ’s perfect life as if you lived that life. You are not condemned because God condemned Jesus in the place of every believer.
1. Is it your habit to accurately and prayerfully evaluate yourself in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions according to God’s Word?
2. The Christian life is one of balance in terms the bad news and the good news. Define the bad news and define the good news.
a. How do you bring those together?
b. How does self-examination help you bring those two into proper focus?
3. Read Hebrews 4:12 and James 1:22 in light of Matthew 7:21-23, 24-27 and write out how those passages work together and encourage you to evaluate yourself.
The Result and Blessing of a Proper Self-Examination: Part IV
Continuing our discussion, Naked before God, sin and its consequences, we need to remember that a believer is a saved sinner but a sinner nonetheless. God expects change because He has changed you. He saved you with an agenda for and to change. Change in this aspect is often called growth in Christ or Christlikeness. Believers are not people who can ‘stand on their laurels” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3). Paul called the congregation at Thessalonica to grow. They were not to be content with simply being saved. Saved people are changed in their whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions. These come more into conformity with God’s thoughts and desires as given in His word (Isaiah 55:8-9).
One way to grow is to always the bad news: what you were out of Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3). You were a member of Satan’s family and kingdom (Colossians 1:13). You were a perverter and exchanger of the truth ad idolater (Romans 1:18-23). Your father was Satan and you loved the darkness (John 8:44; 3:17-21). The bad news was worse than can imagine. You were saved from it – you were saved from self, sin, and Satan!
But you are never to remember the bad news without remembering and focusing on the good news – you are in Christ, bought with a price, and covered with the blood. In Christ, you were naked before God. He found you wanting in yourself but in Christ you have been covered with robes of righteousness as a result of His shed blood. These changes came in spite of who you were (Romans 5:6-10). Your badness if truly understood highlights the amazing good news. The good news is even more amazing in light of the bad news. Change is a key. The unchangeable God brought change in you so you are changed and changing. Apparently there is still growth in perfection in heaven!
Naked before God is a humbling and fearful experience. But is essential. An aspect of change in focus is an increasing understanding of fear of the Lord. In lieu of the self-focus inherent in fear of man is fear of the Lord. Growing in the fear of the Lord is growth in self-discipline. A simple definition of fear of the Lord is this: my increasing and dominating awareness of the ever-present God as I live in it and that He has something to say about my every thought, desire, and action. Jesus had fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-4). He always was aware of Himself in the context of Hi relationship with the Triune God. This awareness constrained His every thought, desire, and action. He was able to live for God and not for self.
As you grow in fear of the Lord – increasing whole-hearted aware that He is God and you are not – you will begin to and evaluate your thoughts, desires, and actions to see in what ways they are in line with a variety of biblical principles. You will be encouraged to trust and obey not as a duty or burden but as a blessing (1 John 5:3).
As you reflect on your badness (not simply shortcomings a term which may be used as a euphemism for sin), you will place them in proper perspective. As a child of God you have been loved with an everlasting love in spite of who and what you were apart from Christ (Romans 5:6-10). You are to love as God, the Fountainhead of all love, has loved you (1 John 4:7-12). One result of being is confession, repentance, and developing fruits of repentance.
As a result of a proper self inventory, your badness should point you to God and His greatness and goodness (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Timothy 1:12-16). If it doesn’t then your gaze is more on you and the consequences of sin rather than on God’s honor, mercy, and grace. On the other hand, if you only focus on God’s mercy and grace then you have missed the bad news and God’s supernatural solution. Unless you have a correct picture of the bad news (unsaved sinners in a world of bondage to sin, self, and Satan), you will miss the greatness of the good news. If you focus solely on the good news you will not appreciate it for what it is – the supreme expression of the Triune God’s beauty, majesty, love, and power. Believer, you were saved in spite of yourself in order to become more like Christ. A proper self-inventory will point you to repentance which is a friend to sinners (2 Corinthians 7:8-11). It points you to the God of repentance, a way of life here, and to heaven.
1. Read 1 Timothy 1:12-16. Note that Paul never forgot the bad news and his bad news. They were one and the same. Write out how the Timothy passage can be a blessing to you and how you have begun using it.
2. Write out your view of self and sin and interact with the following: .
a. God saves sinners.
b. Unsaved sinners are in hell.
c. Sin is a problem because sinners sin.
3. Write out how you have been changed and the changes in thoughts, desires, and actions that must follow.