Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Veering From God’s Design

Leslie Basham: Initially, Adam and Eve had no sin. Alistair Begg imagines what their garden tending might have looked like.

Alistair Begg: (singing) “Raking leaves. I’m raking leaves. Oh, I love to rake my leaves. Oh, diddily do da!” (laughter) And Eve comes and goes, (singing) “Can I get you a sandwich? I love to get you a sandwich.” (laughter)

Leslie: If that doesn’t seem realistic to you, you’re right! A lot has changed when humanity went from Genesis chapter 2 to Genesis chapter 3. We’ll explore that today.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 101, for June 27, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, Pastor Alistair Begg has the ability to take difficult subjects and show us clearly what God’s Word has to say about them.

Yesterday, he began a message based on the early chapters of the book of beginnings—that’s the book of Genesis. He explained that God designed men and women with some pre-wired differences and those built-in differences were designed to be complementary. That means they fit well together, and together they more beautifully reflected the image of God.

So, what happened? Why do men and women now so often chafe and compete against one another? Alistair Begg is going to answer that question today.

He’s a pastor in Cleveland, Ohio, and the host of the daily program, Truth for Life.

Let’s listen now as he takes us back to the book of Genesis.

Alistair: When we look at this, we notice that if we’re going to accept what the Bible says—it says we’re different by design. It says that the design is put there in order that we might live in harmony.

But any perceptive person says,

This thing is messed up. I mean, if that’s what you’re telling me, that this God made us different by design and the reason He made it in this way is for harmony—goodness gracious. Something very badly has gone wrong! There’s a spanner—what do you call a spanner? There’s a monkey wrench in the system here.

Somewhere or another, I don’t know where this thing got in here, but the machinery is not doing what it’s supposed to do. Statistics tell me that. Life tells me that. My own feeling as a woman tells me that. The struggle that I have within my marriage, the fearfulness that I have as I look upon my children, all manner of things around me are saying something is dreadfully wrong.”

Well, yes, something is dreadfully wrong. But, again, if you want to go to the Bible and allow the Bible to answer the question, then you will be able to discover that that which has gone dreadfully wrong has not taken the Designer by surprise, and that He has already written into the process the mechanism whereby His design, which is a good and perfect design that has been flawed, may actually be recreated.

So, think with me: What did go wrong? What went wrong? Well, you just need to read what happened here. God gave them instruction. He said, “Now, I want you to do certain things, and there’s only one thing that I don’t want you to do.” And the one thing that He didn’t want them to do was the one thing that they decided to do.

The Lord God took the man and He put him in the Garden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die" (Gen. 2:15–17).

So here is the wonderful, phenomenal environment in which to live, and man turns his back on what God has said. He’s unprepared to do the one thing. And suddenly, what God has made different by design, with all of the harmony and wholeness that is represented in that design, is now marred. It is spoiled.

And suddenly, into the story comes guilt, comes alienation, comes suspicion, comes shame. One of the children kills the other kid. And the family becomes a battlefield. All of a sudden they’re pointing at each other like this.

“She said. She told me.”

“He didn’t.”

“She did.”

“It wasn’t my fault. Why are you looking at me for?”

“I’m going to hide behind the trees.”

How did it go so wrong so quickly?

Look at the end of chapter 2. “And the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (v. 25). They were naked, and they felt no shame. In other words, they just lived in this fantastic harmony with one another. They didn’t have to have a book or anything, no big thing written up on the wall for them to do or not to do or make sure you do this or make sure you don’t do that.

He said, “Look, just have at it.” (I mean, that’s a dreadful thing to say, but I mean, that’s essentially what He says.) He says, “Just do your thing and have a fabulous time in the garden. Have a fabulous time, but don’t do that.”

So rebellion comes in, embarrassment comes in.

In verse 7 of chapter 3, “The eyes of both of them were opened. They realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

“What do you mean? They didn’t know in verse 25 of chapter 2 that they were naked? And then they only realized that they were naked in chapter 3?” Yes, because it never occurred to them to be anything else other than naked. I mean, where would the idea of clothes come from?

Suddenly, rebellion, sin, shame, awareness, alienation, guilt, hiding were all part and parcel of the experience.

Now, I know that many of you are here today, and frankly, you’re very gracious to stay in your seat because you disagree vehemently with what’s being said, and you’re opposed to the very notion. And I respect the fact that you’re present. And I want to pay careful attention to who you are and what you have to say. But may I say as graciously to you as I can, we do not need the Bible to understand that our circumstances today as men and women are marked by personal fragmentation, by social tension, and by spiritual alienation.

We know what it is to feel a sense of angst that we are not really even comfortable within our own skin, that we can’t fully explain who we are or what we are. We don’t understand why it is that we feel the way we do towards other people. Sometimes we feel kindly disposed to them; other times we could kill them.

And this idea of a God who has made us and has plans for us, frankly we don’t have time for it. Then the occasions that we do think about it, we usually think of it in very sentimental terms, as if He was a gigantic Santa Claus waiting for the children to come and sit up on His lap.

But our world view cannot explain why we are as we are. Whether we accept this explanation of the Bible or not, I think we have to be honest enough to say that the Bible is prepared to give an explanation as to what went dreadfully wrong.

God made it, and He said, “This is really, really good.” All of a sudden it’s not as good as He made it.

The world that you and I know today, the world of sexuality, the world of family, the world as we know it today is not the world as God made it in all of its pristine beauty. It is the world as spoiled by man who determined to turn his back on God and to try and formulate the plan in his own way, to take the things that God had designed for our good, namely our sexuality, our masculinity, our femininity, and to turn them to our own selfish ends. And as a result of that, you see exactly what happens.

The woman is created second, and yet she sins first. She’s intended as a helper—what kind of help is this, to lead him into sin? And yet, interestingly, Adam elsewhere in Scripture is held absolutely responsible for sin. It doesn’t say, “As in Eve, all die.” It says, “As in Adam, all die” (1 Cor. 15:22).

Adam, who was supposed to be the leader, supposed to be responsible, is found to be irresponsible, found not to take the lead. The order of events is completely turned upside down, and the consequences are tragic. In fact, the consequences are judgment.

In verse 16 of chapter 3,

To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, "You must not eat from it, ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles [and dandelions], and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return’” (vv. 16–19).

You say, “But wasn’t work one of the gifts? Wasn’t work there in all of its pristine beauty? Yes, work that would never be drudgery. In other words, he could have . . . well, I was going to say he could have raked leaves to his heart’s content, but he wouldn’t have had to rake leaves, presumably, unless God fashioned into it the cycle of the seasons. If He did, he would have said, “I’m out raking leaves. (singing) Raking leaves. I’m raking leaves. Oh I love to rake my leaves. Oh, diddily do da!” (laughter) And Eve comes and goes, (singing) “Can I get you a sandwich? I love to get you a sandwich.” (laughter)

Now all of a sudden he wakes up, and he goes, “If I see another stinking leaf . . . If I . . . have you seen my hands?” (laughter) And she’s saying, “You know, when you’re raking leaves this afternoon, if you shout to me one more time, ‘Bring me a Coke!’ I will take the rake . . .” (laughter) And the children said, “Mommy, don’t you love Daddy?” (laughter) “Yes, I do.” Hmmm.

Isn’t it great having babies? It’s great having babies, but not as great as it would have been.

Is it great going to work? Some days. But the fact of the matter is, under the sun, work is ultimately drudgery.

So the characteristics of life, the elements of distinction, the provision for harmony wasn’t removed. It wasn’t changed in the sense that God gave out different deals. The same things were present, but now they were spoiled.

Pain in childbirth. Sweat in labor. So from now on, in place of intelligent understanding, intelligent submission, intelligent leadership, the thing goes south. The wife’s submission then, if you will note clearly what I just read to you, tends to be characterized by one of two experiences and often the simultaneous experience:

One, the desire to reverse the roles, and thereby take the lead over her husband. Her desire was for it. It’s the same verb that is used, incidentally, in chapter 4 where it says that “sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you.” In other words, it desires to control you. It desires to dominate you.

And as a result of the fall, the principle of harmonious distinction within the marriage bond is now messed up. And the affinity of man and woman and the harmony and the wholeness of their nakedness and in all of the bliss that God had intended is now jeopardized as a result of sin. And so the woman’s experience is in part to say, “You know what? I’ll take control of this.”

Or, her experience of submission is the experience of unjust subjugation as a result of the wrongful domination of her husband. And what happens is the marriage simply becomes one of struggle and conflict. As a result of the fall, as a result of sin, man now rules over woman in a way that wasn’t true beforehand.

The woman has effectively taken leadership in eating, which was contrary to God’s plan. It had disastrous results. Man has failed in his leadership and shares in the disastrous results.

While the relationship with God was intact, there was no was no need for emphasis upon the principles of the roles and the submissions. They rejoiced in turning towards one another. There was a wonderful harmony about their lives. Clearly, that’s what the whole picture was in the garden. But as soon as sin enters, then there is the need to articulate, to teach, adjust the position of what it means to rule and what it means to submit.

Somebody is sitting out there saying, “Ah, yes, but tell the people, tell everybody here that once you become a Christian that fixes it, you know.” (laughter) No. I’m not going to tell you that. I’ve spent twenty-seven years in pastoral ministry dealing with people who both follow Christ and those who don’t follow Christ, and frankly, in my experience, I’ve dealt with as many people within the framework of following Christ whose marriages are a royal shambles as I ever have with those who profess no interest in Jesus.

So, you see, my dear sisters and friends, that’s why I’m saying to you, you don’t need ten principles of how to do this and how to do that. You need to come to a convinced understanding of what it was supposed to be and what it actually is.

Because when you realize what it actually is—because I’m a sinner and you’re a sinner, and your husband definitely is a sinner, and that your whole marriage is one ugly person married to another ugly person trying to make their way through one ugly journey in life with a bunch of ugly kids (laughter)—then you can have a far more sane and realistic estimation of what’s going on, rather than this silly nonsense that is held out either in periodicals that are produced in the secular environment or is held out, frankly, in periodicals that are produced from Christian publishing houses, which are not true to life.

They’re just not true. Because regeneration, the new birth, the transformation brought about by Christ does not eradicate my fleshly instincts, my desire for selfishness, my propensities to go my own way. I am no longer before God held to account on the basis of what I have trusted in the work of Christ. But the fact of the matter is that my wife knows that she’s still married to a saved sinner, and the saved part may sometimes be lost in the sinner part, as she tries to make her journey through her days.

In sexual terms, the answer to the erosion of physical intimacy is not found in some strange esoteric abstraction in relationship to what it means for me to be a Christian. Not that what it means for me to be a Christian is not directly related to all of that. Not that my own perverse human spirit is not wrapped up in all of that. But the idea for our non-Christian friends that the answer is Jesus to every question is something that we ought to be very, very careful in saying.

Yes, ultimately, the answer is that. But the issues that confront us in the living of our lives are real issues. And that our sense as men of priority equaling superiority rather than responsibility erodes confidence and trust. It ends up putting us in a position where men and women are living as rivals rather than different by design, a suggestion that our gifts and our personalities were there so that we could fight with one another rather than that we could complement one another. And, again, I say to you that if we just look around, as we can see the evidence of it everywhere.

I’ll just finish with a couple of quotes here:

Women are increasingly to be found succeeding in the work place while their menfolk, who cannot get jobs, stay home and look after the kids.

Writer Shirley Conan was not far from the mark with her ideal of superwoman, but they face the agony of tension between career and home. They spend years earning degrees and doing professional training, and it seems absurd to stop and give it all up. But it seems just as absurd to have a child and then leave it for someone else to raise.

Despite the massive advance of the woman’s movement in the last half century, the haunting question remains, “How am I best to deploy my life? Who on earth am I?

Currently, it’s even more difficult for men. The young men of this generation are the first to be raised on an equal basis with women. They are expected to be sensitive as well as manly, to cook as well as play sports, to bathe the kids and spend time caring for them and not leave it all to their partner. They are to be strong yet to be totally rid of male aggression and the overbearing arrogance that has, alas, been so common down countless centuries. And the change is all supposed to happen now, in one generation—a generation moreover—when the woman may prove to be the better breadwinner as well as the better homemaker, thus causing the man to say, “Who in the world am I? Where do I fit in to this?

And the answer of lesbianism is: You don’t fit in at all. I do not need you. I don’t want you, and I am free to design my own package.

God says, “No, you’re not.”

You’re no more free to design it than is a man to step outside the framework of his marriage and be involved in multiple relationships with other women. You’re no more free to do that than we are to recreate marriage to our own design.

Now, the wonderful thing in the story is that, although everything has gone so dreadfully wrong, God, in His mercy, doesn’t say, “Well, you did what I told you not to do, so therefore, you’re done.” No. He actually comes to seek them out. He judges them in justice, because He must. “This is how it’s going to be,” He says, “because there are implications of this. You will surely die.”

Death, which was not the design from the beginning, enters into the world. But the fabulous thing is that they now discover themselves to be shameful, aware of their nakedness. He comes along, and in verse 21 of chapter 3, He says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and He clothed them.”

And He clothed them. And that is, of course, the picture of the unfolding story of Jesus. As we’ve turned our back on God in rebellion against His plan and against His design, God sends His Son the Lord Jesus Christ in order that He might provide a covering for us, in order that by His death, we may be covered over by all of His righteousness, that all of that mercy and all of that grace may become ours, something that we don’t deserve, having turned our back on Him.

Oh the love of God! Oh the mercy of God! Oh the goodness of God to come to our rebellious hearts, to come to our family battlefields, to come to our upside-down lives and say, “Here. I’ve got a covering for you. I’ve got an answer for you. I have a future for you. You’ve been trying it your own way. How about you just try it My way?”

Father, we pray that as we think these issues through, that the Spirit of God will be our teacher. Help us to examine the Bible to see if these things are so, for we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Nancy: That’s Pastor Alistair Begg speaking to a group of women about the way that sin affects the relationships between men and women and, in fact, our relationship with God Himself.

Now I know a program like this can bring up a lot of hurtful memories because we’re talking about that heavy, hard topic of sin. Tragically, sadly, men have hurt women, and women have hurt men, and there’s a lot we need to deal with. I’m so grateful Pastor Begg pointed us to Jesus, the ultimate solution to the problem of sin.

You may need to talk with someone about how to apply the truth of the gospel of Jesus to your specific situation. I want to encourage you to find another woman who knows Jesus, who loves His Word, and ask her for some helpful advice in your situation.

My friend Mary Kassian and I have co-authored a workbook, a Bible study that can facilitate that kind of discussion between women. It’s called, True Woman 101: Divine Design. It will walk you through the first chapter of Genesis to understand the way that God designed men and women. And then we’ll take an honest look at the way that sin ruined those relationships. We’ll discover the hope that Jesus provides through His life, death, and resurrection. And we’ll discover what living a new life in Christ looks like on us as women.

When you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts this week with a gift of any amount, we’d like to send you this study. Ask for True Woman 101: Divine Design when you make your donation. You can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, and we’ll be glad to send you one workbook per household as our way of saying, “Thank you for your donation to Revive Our Hearts.

Now, you may find yourself in a situation as a Christian wife married to a man who is not a believer, or perhaps you have a family member or a friend who is in that difficult situation. Tomorrow Alistair Begg takes us to 1 Peter chapter 3 and explains why a husband needs to be won through his eyes, not through his ears. Be sure and join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you live out the beauty of the gospel. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the NIV84.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.