Satan tries to convince us that a life of obedience to God is a heavy burden that is impossible to bear. Satan tempts us with alternate forms of pleasure that are allegedly quicker and easier and better. We can get rich quicker by cheating someone. We can get secret sexual thrills without any personal commitment through Internet pornography. We can artificially get good feelings by experimenting with drugs.
Satan was the first revolutionary. I am using the word “revolutionary” in a modern radical sense. The word “revolution” originally referred to the completion of a circular journey such as when the earth travels around the sun in the course of a year. Every year the earth begins a journey around the sun and in one year’s time returns to the position in space that it had previously occupied. If such a revolution of the earth around the sun begins in the spring, the seasons will progress through summer, fall and winter, and then the completion of earth’s revolution around the sun is marked by the return of spring. In this sense, a revolution is a return to the past such as a return to a location occupied in the past or a return to a condition experienced in the past. In this sense of the word, a revolution in society is a return to old traditions and values and practices that had been abandoned for a time.
We had our own revolution here in America in the American Revolution with the Declaration of Independence written in 1776. That was a revolution in the old sense. Our forefathers were trying to restore their old rights as Englishmen, rights that the English Parliament had taken away from the American colonies. The American Revolution was about a return to old liberties that had been lost without a radical change in society and without a repudiation of Christian culture and without a rejection of the Christian church. That was a revolution in the old sense.
The first revolution in the modern radical sense occurred in France in 1789. A radical change is a root change, a change in the very nature of a society, a change in its core beliefs. For a time, the French Revolution replaced Christianity with the worship of nature and changed the name of the Cathedral of Notre Dame to the Temple of Reason. For a time, the French Revolution eliminated the seven day week from its calendar because of its association with the seven days of creation in the Bible. For a time, the French Revolution adopted a new calendar with a new year one. Year one was no longer the year of Christ’s birth as in the traditional calendar. One year during the French Revolution, the previous fall equinox was designated day one of year one. This new year one identified the beginning of our era not with the birth of Christ but with the French Revolution itself. These are the sort of radical changes that are evidence of a radical revolution. Revolutionaries in the French Revolution used violence in the name of ending all violence, employed simplified emotional slogans rather than reasoned arguments, and used vulgar language for its shock value.
The modern radical revolution is motivated by a religious faith, a faith that a complete overthrow of traditional authority will automatically result in the establishment of a perfect secular society, a utopia, a paradise achieved without religion. They believe that a new and better society will naturally arise from the ashes after the pattern of the mythical bird called the Phoenix. Of course, this has never happened, even though there have been many radical revolutions since the French Revolution. The French Revolution itself degenerated first into a reign of terror symbolized by the guillotine and then into the dictatorship of Napoleon. Later radical revolutions such as those in Russia, China, Cuba and more recently Venezuela have resulted in anything but paradise on earth. They have instead been descents into terror and poverty.
Now I have said that the radical revolution is a relatively modern form of revolution. Yet I would also say that Satan’s temptation of Eve in Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 is a proposal of this very sort of radical revolution, a root and branch revolution that uproots life as previously experienced. In addition, I would say that the modern radical revolution is a consistent application of the lie that Satan told Eve when Satan tempted Eve in the garden. We see the heavy burden, the big lie and the brave new world.
The Heavy Burden
First, the heavy burden. I am referring to Satan’s suggestion that obeying God is a heavy burden, an unreasonable burden, even an impossible way of living. I see this accusation in Satan’s opening question to Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” The English Standard Version translates this, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” I think that the ESV translation of this verse communicates more clearly what Satan was saying. Satan knew that God had not forbidden Adam and Eve from eating from any tree in the garden. Satan knew that God had forbidden their eating from only one tree. Satan did not ask this question in a quest for information. Satan asked this question to plant a seed of discontent in Eve’s heart.
In reality, there was nothing burdensome about this one restriction. This one restriction had nothing to do with depriving Adam and Eve of food that they needed, nothing to do with imposing some sort of fast upon them. The restriction was strictly symbolic. It symbolized God’s rightful authority to define what is good and what is evil. There was nothing evil about eating the fruit of that particular tree except that God had said not to do it. God had a right to make such a restriction because that tree belonged to God. After all, God had made that tree and even made it out of nothing. That was also true of every other tree in the garden. Yet God graciously gave Adam permission to eat freely of the fruit of every other tree in the garden. There was nothing burdensome at all about Adam and Eve’s life in that garden with that one restriction regarding that one tree. By obeying this restriction, Adam and Eve had an opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to God as their ultimate authority in life.
There is also nothing burdensome about the Christian life and nothing burdensome about a Christian social order. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30:
- “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (28).
- “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (29).
- “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (30).
The Christian life is not burdensome because the Christian life is the life that God made us to live. It is the way life is truly meant to be lived. Trying to live life any other way is like a fish trying to live on dry land. When we live life the way that God meant for human life to be lived, things just naturally work out better. If you want to read a summary of the way that God intends for us to live, just read the ten commandments. Life is just better when we love God with all our being. Life is just better when we love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we follow the ten commandments, life just works out better, just as the new lawn mower that someone buys works better when he follow the guidelines which the manufacturer provided in the manual that came with the lawn mower. God made us, and the ten commandments are the manual that He has provided for us. Yet there is something in addition to things just working out better when we do things God’s way. God also rewards our obedience. Not that God has to. Not that God owes us anything for our obedience. Yet God always rewards our obedience so far as that works for our good and God’s glory.
Yet Satan tries to convince us that a life of obedience to God is a heavy burden that is impossible to bear. Satan tempts us with alternate forms of pleasure that are allegedly quicker and easier and better. We can get rich quicker by cheating someone. We can get secret sexual thrills without any personal commitment through Internet pornography. We can artificially get good feelings by experimenting with drugs. And so on and so on.
The radical revolutionaries similarly criticize the Christian traditions of society and the laws that are social applications of the ten commandments. Western society has a tradition of laws that protect the family, laws that protect human life, laws that protect property rights. The radical revolutionaries portray such laws as burdensome restrictions. They distort every aspect of traditional culture into some form of exploitation. They want instead free love, the redistribution of property, and access to abortion and euthanasia.
In the garden, Satan’s argument that obedience to God is burdensome was based on that one restriction on eating the fruit of that one tree. Yet when Adam and Eve followed Satan’s counsel and disobeyed that restriction, look what happened. They were kicked out of the garden. They lost access to all the fruit of all the trees. And a curse descended upon the earth, thorns and thistles began to infest the ground, and Adam had to toil and sweat in order to eat bread. This is the heavy burden that sin produced.
The same sort of heavy burden results when an individual or a Christian society sets aside the ten commandments as if they are a burden and begins looking for fulfillment outside the bounds of obedience to God. The sins that are promoted as pleasures turn into tyrants that ruin individual lives and whole societies.
The Big Lie
Second, the big lie. Notice two parts. The first part is Satan’s big lie about God. Satan lied about God by calling God a liar. Eve told Satan that God had warned that if she ever did eat of that forbidden fruit, she would surely die that very day. Satan responded by saying that that was not true, that God had lied to her.
Now God had not lied to Adam and Eve. What God had told them was true. To eat of that forbidden fruit was to disobey God, and to disobey God is to reject God as one’s ultimate authority. To reject God in any sense is to cut oneself off from fellowship with God. And God is not only our ultimate authority. God is also the creator and sustainer of all life. So to reject God is to die. If Eve ate of that fruit, she would immediately die in a spiritual sense, for being out of fellowship with God is spiritual death. She would also begin to die physically. The only reason that she would not immediately die in a physical sense was because of God’s merciful patience.
We notice, too, Satan’s big lie about Adam and Eve. Satan told Eve that she could eat the fruit if she wanted to, and that by so doing, she would become like God. Satan was saying that Eve could become like God by deciding for herself apart from God what was good and what was evil.
There is a good way and a bad way to become like God. Let me illustrate this with the ways that a young school boy can become like his teacher. He can become like his teacher by learning the lessons that she is teaching him. He comes to know information and to master skills that she has, and in this way he becomes like her. That is the good way that a student can become like his teacher. There is also a bad way. A student can force his teacher out of the classroom, march to the front and take charge. He can become like his teacher by usurping her authority and taking over the classroom. That is the bad way that a student can become like his teacher. Satan was tempting Eve to become like God in a bad way by claiming authority that only God rightfully has.
It was true that Eve could decide for herself what was good and what was evil, even though she had no authority to do so. Satan’s big lie was that Eve could do this and suffer no bad consequences. Satan claimed that she could do this and not die, contrary to what God had said. She could do this and get by with it.
Individuals today are deceived by this same big lie. They think that they can do whatever is right in their own eyes and get by with it. This big lie is also a part of the radical revolutionary faith. As you come to understand this, you can better understand some of the disturbing things that are now in the news.
Atheism is one form of Satan’s big lie about God, and if there really is no God, then there is no set definition of what is good and what is evil. There are no absolute standards. So everyone gets to decide for himself or herself what is good and what is evil. Yet the radical revolutionary is not satisfied with this. He has allied himself with a revolutionary group, and he wants his group to decide what is good and what is evil not only for his group but also for everyone else. All that is needed to accomplish this is the will to power. Since there is no good and evil, all that really counts is who is in control, who is in power. Might makes right, and the one in control gets to define what is good and what is evil for everyone else. For people who think this way, the good and the true are whatever helps their group get power over others. Facts don’t matter. The truth is whatever promotes the group and its propaganda. Consequences such as the loss of life and property damage do not matter. The good is whatever promotes the group and its propaganda. This is the result when a group believes that there is no God and tries to obtain the power to define good and evil for all of society.
There is another consequence. When a group believes this way, then the group also believes that no one has a right to argue with them or even to say anything that contradicts them. When a group believes that it has a divine-like authority to define good and evil, then anyone who opposes the group is evil by definition, and any argument against the group is an unthinkable form of blasphemy. A radical revolutionary refuses to discuss issues with those whom he regards as evil blasphemers. We see this type of thinking when a group silences anyone who disagrees with them because they regard any word spoken against their views as a hateful form of violence. Yet this same group can loot and destroy and provoke fights, and they regard this as a form of peaceful speech that should be protected. They see no contradiction because they think that they alone have the right to define good and evil. By definition, whatever they do is good and whatever their opponents do is evil.
The Brave New World
Then there is the brave new world. When Eve entered into Satan’s temptation, she entered a brave new world, not brave in the sense of courageous but brave in the sense of foolishly presumptive. When Eve took the forbidden fruit and ate it, she didn’t do so acknowledging that she was doing something wrong. Often when people sin, they acknowledge that what they are doing is wrong but do it anyway. They admit that they are doing something evil. Eve did something far worse. She did something evil while arguing to herself that she was doing something good. People who do the worst evils are often people who have convinced themselves that the evil that they are doing is really something good. People can be zealous about evil, can harden themselves in their evil and can work at becoming more evil when they think that their evil is really something good. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Most bank robbers probably recognize that stealing the money that other people have entrusted to a bank is morally wrong. They know that this is wrong, but they do it anyway. I know of a bank robber who didn’t think that way. When Lenin was building up his revolutionary movement that would eventually take control of Russia in 1917, Stalin, the communist who came to power in Russia when Lenin died, was one of Lenin’s followers. In 1907, Stalin had a behind-the-scenes role in a spectacular bank robbery. The stolen funds were sent to Lenin to help fund his revolutionary movement. I am sure that when Stalin helped with this bank robbery, he thought that he was doing something good, not something evil.
Our nation today has problems. Part of our problem as a nation is that we have our own radical revolutionaries. They want power so that they can decide what is good and what is evil for everyone else. This is a scary prospect.
In the short term, we need to pray for their movement to fail. In the short term, we need to pray for leaders who will stand up for a good society as God defines good.
In the long term, we need to pray for the success of the gospel and the strengthening of the church. Jesus is the only one who can defeat Satan’s big lie. When a person looks to Jesus in faith for salvation, Jesus forgives that person’s sin and Jesus also delivers that person from Satan’s big lie. Jeremiah described this part of salvation as God’s writing His law on a person’s heart. This is God’s delivering a person from his rebellious desire to define for himself what is good and what is evil. God replaces that rebellion with a willingness to acknowledge God’s right to define good and evil and with a desire to do the good as God has defined it. When we do what God says is good because we want to, that is what the Bible defines as true freedom. This is the freedom that Jesus came to give us.
Also, as more and more people experience this true freedom, they start to affect our culture for the good. And as our culture changes for the good, our culture eventually affects our laws and institutions for the good. This takes time. This is a long-term project that usually cannot be completed in one generation. We have to be willing to work for something that we may not live to see. We do the work because we believe that the future belongs to Jesus and His kingdom and not to Satan and the radical revolutionaries.
Dr. Grover E. Gunn is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of McDonald PCA in Collins, Miss.