Genesis 3: 1-5 (King James Version = KJV)
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
It sounds pretty appealing — gaining godhood just by doing what someone says to do. Being a god, one could control their own destiny and maybe even the destinies of others. The very idea appeals to humanity’s intellect and ego, and that’s one of the best ways to manipulate people: offer something of great value in exchange for what seems to be a small thing. It’s a classic bait-and-switch. You never get exactly what you were promised, and there’s always a high cost.
This tactic is still being used on humankind today. Except it’s not a fruit in the Garden of Eden being used. It’s personal identity. People are being told and even encouraged to choose an identity other than what they already possess and the traits they were born with. They declare these new identities before their family, peers, and even the world via social media and the internet, seeking affirmation and justification for their choices.
New theories (or in some cases, old theories that are getting new traction over social media and from academia) abound. These theories proclaim that various identity-defining traits are social constructs that can be redefined by anyone at will. It sounds good at first and I can understand why such ideas appeal to people. Why be constrained by things like biology, expectations, rules, and even facts sometimes? It’s easier to ignore those things and make a new fluid reality.
Except that isn’t reality. It’s wishful thinking at best. These theories are being pushed through peer pressure, affirmation from like-minded people in internet groups, and the feeling of missing out on something that appears popular right now. Choosing a new identity is an easy way to get attention, feel important, accepted, and even loved.
Unfortunately, sometimes real mental health issues and their underlying causes get overlooked or ignored along the way. Sadly, a surface-level bandage (of a new identity) is literally being sold as a cure for many ills.
But reality has a way of overcoming any challenges to it. Biology runs deep. If the only way someone can attain their identity is through surgery and a permanent regimen of hormones and chemicals, then it is a very expensive and physically damaging illusion. And even though one may choose not have surgery or take drugs, if they have to disguise themselves to maintain a new identity, then that also is an illusion.
Like the serpent’s words in the Garden, an illusion is just another word for a lie. And lies are meant to hide the truth. In Genesis, the serpent wanted Adam and Eve to disobey God. That original sin forced Adam and Eve from paradise in the Garden of Eden. They lost their immortality and so much more, eventually dying as God had said. They didn’t heed God about the price they would pay for their disobedience. As a result, sin entered the world through Adam and Eve and their descendants. Sin became a part of everyday life unto this day. That is why evil exists on Earth.
So, why today are people hiding behind illusions and allowing themselves to believe lies? I believe it’s because the real world is scary, unpleasant, and often harsh because of sin. Bad things happen to both good people and bad people.
In Matthew 5: 43-45 (KJV), Jesus said “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
I wish more people could see God as He is, a more complete picture than is usually depicted. God shared much about Himself in the Bible.
Isaiah 45: 18-24 (KJV) reads:
For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.
Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
God does not make mistakes. He created the heavens, the Earth, and all of us. God is outside of Time itself. He made Time. And through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, God made a way for all of us to be redeemed from sin and made new creations in Him. His Holy Spirit can dwell with us and help guide us through the trials of life.
God can make a way where there seems to be no answers. He can intervene on our behalf. He can comfort us, bringing peace and surety in the midst of a dark, depressing, violence-filled world. He is God. Nothing and no one else can compare to Him.
Look to God for truth and answers instead of people who might only say what we want to hear. People may have ulterior motives and let us down, but God honors His promises. God is eternal. He is full of mercy and love, but He also has a wrath.
He has given us free will and He wants us to choose Him. Ultimately, that choice is an individual one we must all make. Will we choose to believe a truth that may be hard to hear but brings peace or a lie that sounds good but can only bring ruin?
Joshua 24: 14-15 (KJV) reads:
Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
- 1 John 2: 15-17 (King James Version = KJV)
This passage of scripture took me a while to understand. There are lots of things to enjoy in the world. And that's the danger. I'll use the analogy of a kid in a candy store: so much is offered, and it's tempting to want it all, even when you know you can't possibly afford everything you want.
The more we obtain, whether it's wealth, possessions, status - also known as fame (including social media status), pleasure, or knowledge, the more we will want. That's human nature.
While God did create us with free will, He also sent us His Word (the Bible) to guide us through life. He wants to provide for our needs, but He wants us to lean and depend on Him. He deserves our love, praise, and worship. If we take our focus off of God and Jesus Christ, we can get distracted by what's going on around us and lose sight of all the Lord has done for us. We risk becoming not only ungrateful, but selfish.
Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 13: 19-23 (KJV)
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
It doesn't matter whether times are financially good or bad, human nature fights against God. Sometimes it's sneaky and sometimes it doesn't hide at all. We are living in a society that demands — and usually receives — instant results, instant information, instant access, and instant satisfaction. So, when those things are not achieved, we complain and/or do something about it. We sometimes don't even question why we want something, we just believe we want it. And we may not need it. It might not help us. It could actually harm us.
This is especially true of most entertainment these days. While television shows, movies, and online projects may employ excellent actors and be visually gorgeous, what do their stories promote? How much of it recognizes and honors God? And how much fights against God, either discreetly or overtly?
Proverbs 6: 16-19 (KJV) reads:
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
God made all of us. He constructed the universe and everything within it. And He loves us. He wants each of us to be reconciled to Him, as we were separated by the sin of Adam in Genesis. He wants to take care of us and see us reach our full potential. God never promised we would have perfect lives or that we would never experience hardships. He promised He would be there with us, to help us through those difficult times.
The world, in the form of human nature/behavior, cannot provide permanent answers. Most people aren't even asking the right questions. So many are seeking self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction. And yet, without the Holy Spirit, we human beings are incomplete. We cannot find true satisfaction outside of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as diligently as we may try. We may get close. We may find temporary bliss, but it will always end. And that's because the only things that last come from God.
Proverbs 16:25 (KJV) reads:
There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Proverbs 16: 17-20 (KJV)
The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.
There will always be distractions, whether they seem to be good or bad ones. But the Lord can help us navigate our way through all that comes our way. Trust in the Lord, lean and depend on Him. Keep Him first in your life, and everything else will get resolved.
Psalms 27: 13-14 (KJV) reads:
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
Here's one final excerpt from The Former Things. In this scenario, Sean Winter and his co-workers have recently survived a tornado in Oklahoma City. Now, Sean is at his apartment contemplating what happened.
I start heating some water for chamomile tea on the stove. A few minutes later, the whistle of the kettle alerts me that it’s ready. While I wait for the tea to steep, I flip on the TV and remain standing. It seems our tornado made the national news.
“—according to the National Weather Service, the Oklahoma City tornado that hit this morning was a strong F3 on the Fujita Scale. Local storm chasers have claimed it was more like an F4,” the female news anchor says. “Whichever the case, we have verified reports of serious damage throughout the city, at least eighty-four people were injured, and six are confirmed dead.”
Given how violent the storm was, it’s incredible that it wasn’t far worse. I sit down on the couch and look at the screen. I see the news anchors talking with a reporter on the scene, but I don’t hear their words. I’m lost in thought. I think I’m starting to see how close I came to dying today. It could have been our building that the tornado ravaged. It was right outside, across the street. My fears about us all being sucked up into oblivion almost became reality. The people in that bus and the parking garage weren’t so fortunate. I keep thinking about Keith and his vehicle. They weren’t lucky, either. I mean, he’s fortunate to be alive. Vehicles can be replaced. But I do feel bad for him. He’ll have to file a police report and wait for the vehicle to be towed. Then he’ll have to get a ride home and find other means of transportation.
If I had a car, I would have given him a lift. Why should it matter to me? I have no obligations to him, none at all. Except that, for some reason, I care.
I take a sip of my tea and nearly burn my tongue. I try to shake off the sting from the heat before I lean forward, grab the remote, and immediately change the channel. Maybe some sci-fi will take my mind off things. At first I’m excited, one of my favorite shows is on: Battlecruiser Amsterdam.
It starts with a visual recap with voiceover by lead actress, Chance Powers — who plays Commander Sylvia Michaels: “Previously on Battlecruiser Amsterdam, the crew encountered an ion storm, which severely damaged the ship. Will the crew be able to survive long enough to repair the ship and make it out of the storm?”
Frowning, I turn off the TV.
The tea is so weak, it tastes like someone put grass in water. But it’s the right temperature now, so I gulp it down. I hope it can steady my nerves. I lean back against the couch and try to unburden my mind. Think good thoughts, right? But I keep seeing the destruction outside the Prosaic building and reliving the tornado sounds. I close my eyes and slowly tilt my head from side to side for a few seconds, feeling the crick-crack noises of my joints popping and relieving their tension. I breathe deeply a few times, but my right foot keeps tapping erratically, betraying how frayed my nerves still are.
Now I think about Keith. Even though I may not agree with Keith’s belief system, I know he was trying to help me through the whole experience. His actions helped quell my anxiety attack. He didn’t overreact when I was freaking out. That got me through two storms — the one outside and the one inside. And I walked away from the disaster without a scratch. But he lost his vehicle. He’s the one who needs help now. Is that what I’m really wrestling with? How am I supposed to do anything?
My finger starts tapping on the armrest. I can’t help it. Keith couldn’t do anything about the weather. He just did what he could for me. He acted like a friend. He stayed with me, listened to me.
Why should it matter to me if someone else believes in a god? People believe in all kinds of crazy things. Besides, it’s not like he forced me to pray with him.
You can preorder The Former Things now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Releases July 12, 2022!
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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