Who Am I?
The pressures and problems of modern living are driving many people to a restless search for meaning and purpose in life. We have seen something of who God is; what about us? Why do we exist? Why are we here? Does human life have any meaning or purpose? The first thing to get clear is that man does not merely ‘exist’. He is more than an accidental accumulation of atoms which all happen to fit together into a convenient package we call ‘a human being’. The Bible tells us that he was specifically created by a wise and holy God. God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27) Man is more than a highly developed animal or refined ape. He is as different from other creatures as animals are from vegetables and vegetables are from minerals. In terms of size, man is minute compared with the sun, moon and stars, but God has given him a unique and honored place in the universe.
This is seen in one of God’s first commands to man:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
Man became God’s personal representative on earth, with authority over all other living creatures.
But man was also given special dignity. Being created ‘in the image of God’ does not mean that he was made the same size or shape as God (we have seen that God does not have ‘size’ or ‘shape’) nor that man was a miniature of God, possessing all his qualities in small quantities. It means that man was created as a spiritual, rational moral and immortal being, with a nature that was perfect. In other words he was a true reflection of God’s holy character.
What is more; man gladly and constantly chose to obey all God’s commands and as a result lived in perfect harmony with him. Man had no ‘identity crisis’ then! He knew exactly who he was and why he was in the world, and he obediently took his God given place.
But not only was man totally fulfilled and completely satisfied with his position in the world. God was satisfied with man! We know this because the Bible tells us that when his work of creation was complete, with man as its crowning glory:
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.(Genesis 1:31)
At that point in history; perfect people lived in a perfect environment in a perfect relationship with each other and in perfect harmony with God. This is hardly the situation today! What happened?
What Went Wrong?
The straightforward answer to the question is this:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12)
The first man and woman (Adam and Eve) were given great freedom, but also one serious warning. You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die. (Genesis 2:17) This was an ideal test of man’s willingness to obey what God said simply because God said it. But the devil tempted Eve to disbelieve and disobey God’s words, and she did. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6)
At that moment ‘sin entered the world’. by his deliberate disobedience man cut himself off from God. Instead of loving God, Adam and Eve were terrified of him: they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8) Instead of being assured confident and happy, their sin had made them ashamed, guilty and afraid.
But God had said that man would die if he disobeyed, and he did. Death means separation, and in one terrible moment man became separated from God; he died spiritually. He also began to die physically, and now had a dead soul and a dying body. But that was not all: the children of Adam and Eve inherited their corrupt nature and sinful character. From then on, like pollution at the source of a river, the poison of sin has flowed to all Adam’s descendants, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)
Notice that important word ‘all’, which obviously includes the writer and the reader of this page. We may never meet on this earth, but we have this in common — we are sinners and we are dying. If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, (1 John 1:8) and if we claim not to be dying we are being ridiculous. Fooling around with the facts does nothing to change them.
Many of today’s newspaper, television and radio headlines remind us of the fact that the world is in a mess. It is easy to condemn violence, injustice, disorder and wrongdoing in society, but before criticizing others ask yourself whether you are perfect and living a life pleasing to a holy God. Are you absolutely honest, pure, loving and selfless? God knows the answers to these questions — and so do you! All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) You are a sinner by birth, by nature, by practice and by choice, and you urgently need to face the facts — and the consequences.
Is Sin Serious?
When disease is diagnosed, it is important to ask the question: ‘Is it serious?’ It is even more important to ask that question about the spiritual disease of sin. Many people will almost cheerfully admit to being sinners, because they have no idea what this means. They treat it as being ‘just human nature’, or they shelter behind the fact that ‘everybody does it’. But those statements dodge the real issue: is sin serious? Here are some of the things the Bible says about you as a sinner.
You are debased. This does not mean that you are as bad as you can possibly be, nor that you are constantly committing every sin. Nor does it mean that you cannot tell right from wrong, or do things that are pleasant and helpful. But it does mean that sin has invaded every part of your nature and personality — your mind, will, affections, conscience, disposition and imagination. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9) The root of your trouble is not what you do but what you are! You sin because you are a sinner.
You are defiled. The Bible pulls no punches here:
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 7:21-23)
Notice that the list includes thoughts, words and actions. This shows that in God’s sight all sin is equally serious: Some people limit their idea of sin to things like murder, adultery and robbery, but the Bible makes it clear that we have no right to think of sin in this way. Sin is anything that fails to meet God’s perfect standards. Anything we say, think or do that is less than perfect is sin. Now face up to this question: Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? (Proverbs 20:9) Can you? If not, you are defiled.
You are defiant. The Bible teaches that sin is lawlessness, (1 John 3:4) deliberate rebellion against God’s authority and law. No civil law forces you to lie, cheat, have impure thoughts, or sin in any other way. You choose to sin. You choose to break God’s holy law. You deliberately disobey him and that is serious, because God is a righteous judge who expresses his wrath every day. (Psalm 7:11) God can never be ‘soft’ about sin, and you can be sure that not even one sin will go unpunished.
Some small part of God’s punishment of sin comes in this life (though we may not recognise it). But the final punishment will be inflicted after death, when on the Day of Judgement each one of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12)