I’ve spent most of my life as a professional journalist, which has afforded me a fascinating opportunity to see not only what people do, but why they do what they do.
If you watch or read the news on a regular basis, you’re familiar with how bad things are in the world. Newscasters move from one negative story to another – economic decline, joblessness, poverty, crime, war, terrorism, lying, cheating, stealing. You may have said it out loud – “the world is a mess!”
After covering news stories for 40 years, I want you to know that I agree with you. The world is a mess. However, the world’s problems didn’t begin with my generation or yours. My grandparents were born in the 19th century and they told stories about what a mess the world was back then. They survived tough economic times, crimes and wars. Their grandparents were born in the 18th century and their world was a mess.
The point is that the world has been a mess for thousands of years. As far back as we can look in history we’ll find people living in a messed-up world. Guess how long it took to mess up the world? Less than a minute!
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”
That brief conversation put in motion a tidal wave of damage that continues to this day. It’s because of that conversation between Satan and Eve and Adam’s response to Satan’s deception of his wife that we need evangelistic apologetics. It also explains why the Church is under attack.
Satan is one of the most powerful creatures in the universe. The devil is no match for God, but he is more than a match for humans. The first person born on earth (Cain) murdered the second person born on earth (Abel) because of jealousy and greed (Genesis 4:1-8). It happened because of what Satan put in motion years earlier in the Garden.
I used to cover the crime and courts beat (also called the police and legal beat). That’s where you cover the crime, the search for a suspect or suspects in the crime, the arrest of suspect(s), the trial of suspect(s), the conviction or acquittal of suspect(s), the sentencing of the convicted, how the families of the victim and convicted deal with it, and how all of that affects other people in the community. You learn a lot about what motivates people when you cover crime and courts.
I can tell you that most people I covered who were found guilty committed their crimes for the basic reason of selfishness. Strip away all of the lies and excuses and you’ll see that people hurt people because they’re selfish. Can it really be that simple? Yes, it can.
Satan = selfish
Eve = selfish
Adam = selfish
Cain = selfish
Here’s a list of “crimes” from the Bible. The root cause for each one is selfishness.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21
Look again at what Satan offered Eve – “God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Here’s how Eve responded to Satan’s offer – “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.”
Adam was standing with Eve the entire time. Here’s how he responded – “she also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” What happened next is a tremendous insight into the sinful nature of humans –
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself Genesis 3:7-10
their eyes were opened
- they knew they were naked
- they covered themselves
- they hid from God
God went straight to the problem – “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Adam’s answer? “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Remember that Adam had walked and talked with God in the garden many times before and had never experienced fear. Something happened to Adam that caused him to be afraid of God.
What did Adam and Eve say when God confronted them about eating the forbidden fruit? Adam blamed God and Eve – “Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Eve blamed the serpent – “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The serpent is not recorded as saying anything to God. Satan’s work was done.
What about Cain and Abel? Hebrews 11:4 – “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” 1 John 3:12 – “not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” Where did this evil begin? Selfishness. Cain wanted what his brother had and became jealous and angry. God said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” How did Cain respond? Did he repent of his selfishness and do what was right? No. “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”
God confronted Cain and said, “Where is Abel your brother?” How did Cain respond? He’s selfish and cares only about himself, so he lies: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” God said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”
What did Cain do when confronted with the horror of murdering his own brother? Remember, he’s selfish and cares only about himself. “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”
“My punishment” … “greater than I can bear” … “You have driven me out” … I shall be hidden from Your face” … “I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth” … “anyone who finds me will kill me.”
Do you see all the personal pronouns? “My” “I” “me” – It’s all about self fulfillment and preservation; not a word about God, his parents, his dead brother or other siblings. Everything’s about Cain. We’re still that way – it’s all about us.
The Apostle John explained this “selfishness” problem with great clarity and perspective –
“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” 1 John 3:8-12
This may be one of the most important things anyone will ever tell us. The root of all problems in life is sin and sin demonstrates itself in pride, selfishness and fear. The antidote is “love” – love for God and others. This is how God created humans to function in a perfect world. It’s still how God wants us to function in an imperfect world. Understanding this basic fact of human nature will help us deal with attacks on the Church and how to use evangelistic apologetics to help the people God brings into our lives.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”