The Highlands of Scotland are full of castles which are no longer inhabited. In the evening sunlight, it’s not difficult to recognize that at one time these must have been magnificent places. Although they no longer have windows or tapestries, much less residents, the splendor of these ancient structures speaks to their former glory, even in their now-ruined condition.
This world is full of ruined glory, for this world is full of people. Adam and Eve were the apex of God’s creative handiwork, and He was absolutely satisfied with them. They were created with an inclination to do good. But in lusting after a throne they could never inhabit—God’s throne—they found themselves degraded, losing the place and the privileges they were created to enjoy.
In tempting Eve, the serpent’s first strategy was to cast doubt on what God had said, subtly challenging the truthfulness of His word—and she succumbed. She believed the lie that God could not be trusted to do good. Having sown the seed of doubt, the serpent then watered it with ambition. Once a hint of uncertainty began to fill Eve’s mind, pride’s appeal was more than she could withstand.
Eating the fruit was wrong simply because God had said not to eat it. Yet the opportunity for immediate gratification seemed to anesthetize Adam and Eve from the painful consequences of their future actions and the ruin that would come upon the splendor they knew. Then, as if the disobedience itself weren’t bad enough, amid deception and disobedience, they sought to deny responsibility.
Like Adam and Eve, we, too, are prone to assume that we, and not God, are the final judges of truth. Once we have decided to seek to remove the Creator God, who speaks an authoritative and true word, we deny Him the right to command our obedience. But when we reject God’s rule, we don’t become our own masters; we simply put ourselves under the rule of a whole host of lesser masters: deceit, darkness, despair, and death.
“What is this that you have done?” We have all believed the lie that our way is better than God’s. But He has gone to the extent of sending His Son in order that the hardness of our rebellion might be overwhelmed by His kindness, which “is better than life” (Psalm 63:3). He has shone His word right into our hearts, that we might see His splendor now and forevermore, and that we might be remade in His image and restored to the glory God always intended His image-bearing creatures to have. Seeing His goodness and coming under His rule are what liberates us from the mastery of deceit, darkness, despair, and, yes, even death.