March 15, 2016
Naked and Afraid
Post by Brittany Tedesco
Do ever wonder what the first man and woman looked like? They were the ultimate in how the human form was intended to look. Our ideals of beauty are so subjective. They change with time, and they're different according to various cultures.
Throughout the centuries, artists have rendered Adam and Eve's bodies according to the standard of beauty of their time and place, yet no depiction can really ever capture the true magnificence of their appearance. The reason for this, I think, goes beyond subjectivity. I think it's because Adam and Eve were clothed in light.
Various theologians have speculated that this could have been the case. One reason I lean toward this line of thought is because being in the direct presence of God, as Adam and Eve were, changes people's appearance. Think about what happened to Moses after he spent time in God's presence. His face shone like the sun. He literally had to keep a veil over it until the glory wore off, because it was probably blinding to those around him.
One of the things we know about God is that He "wraps himself in light as with a garment" (Psalm 104:2 NIV). Light, here, is depicted as clothing. We know that Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness after they disobeyed God and sinned, but clothes hadn't been worn in the Garden of Eden before this happened. What made them recognize they lacked clothing with which to cover themselves? Could it be because the light in which they were robed was suddenly stripped away, leaving them with the realization that their bodies were now bare and exposed?
Since the tragedy of original sin, man has sensed his own nakedness. We try to clothe ourselves in a million different ways to reclaim the glory we lost in Eden. We adorn ourselves in our accomplishments and good deeds; we constantly try to make ourselves look and sound better than we really are. We hide the ugly parts of ourselves behind the façade we show to the outside world. Or, we look to religion. Perhaps that will provide the glorious covering we lack.
But Adam and Eve already tried religion in the garden with their leaf coverings. They tried to cover their sin by the work of their own hands, and it just doesn't—and can't—work that way.
Trying to cover ourselves in anything but the light of Jesus Christ—the garment God has laid out for us—is nothing more than pride. Our skills, abilities, knowledge, accomplishments, and religiosity are so often the breeding ground of pride. And always, pride whispers to us, "You've got this. No need for God here."
Take a moment and think about your best qualities and accomplishments.
Now, imagine that all of those things that came to your mind were stripped away, one by one. All of them. Gone.
Maybe you don't have a very long list of skills, accomplishments, etc. with which to clothe yourself, and you're constantly fighting that naked feeling. But you find other ways to hide. Perhaps you adjust the way you behave and act according to the person in front of you—you become calculated and controlling.
Now, imagine that your covering is ripped away and everyone sees you for who you really are, warts and all.
Is this a horrifying thought?
I know I'd much rather look in the mirror and say, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"
Our strong suits provide us with a boost. In them, we find solace and security—they have a special place in our lives.
The Apostle Paul had a lot of strong suits; he was highly knowledgeable, intelligent, and accomplished. But he considered all of those things as garbage compared with the greatness of knowing Jesus Christ.
Sure, God can use our gifts and abilities for His glory, but He'd just as soon use us without those things—because those things don't produce life.
Paul knew this. He preached what many claim was his most masterful and compelling sermon at Mars Hill to the intellectuals in Athens. But few believed that day.
His approach was different in Corinth. Paul told the Corinthians: "When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom. . . for I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. . . my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NASB).
The Bible tells us that many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized.
"For when I am weak, then I am strong," Paul said (2 Corinthians 12:10).
God's Spirit is the only thing that can move the hearts of men toward Him. Forget our intellect—the Bible tells us that the "Spirit searches all thing, even the depths of God." The greatest intellect among us pales in comparison with His Spirit.
A team of native missionaries, assisted by Christian Aid Mission, share the gospel in the primitive African nation of Guinea. But as their work grows and expands into villages that have never before heard the gospel, their resources lag behind.
They wrote that they, "lack the adequate funds to recruit and train village pastors for multiplication."
What they do have, however, is a projector, a screen, and the Jesus film.
With expectations set reasonably low, they entered the N'Zerekore Forest, a spiritually dark place and one of the hotspots of the Ebola epidemic. They showed the Jesus film, said a few short words about what Christ did on the cross, packed up their equipment, and got back in their vehicle.
To their surprise, the town chief stopped them before they could leave. "This Jesus message you preached to us, plus all He did for us, touched me. I believe it and I want to know what to do to be like you."
The team exited their vehicle and made an altar call. Many of those villagers joined their chief in surrendering their lives to Christ that day. "This village of 2,000 now has the fastest growing church in the region," the ministry leader wrote to us. The town gave the missionaries a parcel of land on which to build a church.
Did you catch the chief's words? He wanted to know how he could be like those missionaries. . . those missionaries who did nothing humanly noteworthy, who stayed in the background while Christ was center stage. But the chief recognized his own nakedness as he encountered the light of Christ covering them.
"Most of us have felt that is was our responsibility, with the Lord's help, to live the Christian life," writes Miles Stanford in The Reckoning that Counts. "Our unqualified failure in attempting to do so has been the Holy's Spirit's means of showing us that we cannot 'produce,' nor are we meant to. Only the Lord Jesus can live His life through us; and He does this as we reject our own resources, to walk in reliance upon the Spirit of Life."
How counterintuitive this feels for us "doers" who want to use all of our human ability to work for God. But this isn't our job, it is the job of Christ in us.
"It is not, 'Only what is done for Christ will last,' but rather, 'Only what is done by Christ will last,'" Stanford writes.
As we decrease, Christ can increase in us. As we begin to view those things in which we take pride as nothing but garbage compared with the greatness of knowing our Lord, we stop trusting in them. We stop pretending, stop trying to work for God. We rest. We take off our leaf garments and let His light enfold us.