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Marathons, mud runs, CrossFit, Yoga, diets, non-GMO and gluten-free foods, Christian financial programs, anti-vaccination, and homeschooling have—each in their own way—taken over the driver’s seat of the lives of so many in the church. While all of these things in and of themselves may be good things and have their proper place in a believer’s life, they often hold too prominent a place.
It is fairly easily to gauge whether we have given these things too prominent a place in our hearts and lives; we can be sure that we have when they become the overwhelming subject of conversation we have at church, when we get together with others, and when we consider what we spend our time reading or writing on social media. After all, Jesus taught us that we speak most of what our hearts value most (Luke 6:45). So, what do these things—that seem so completely unassociated with one another—have in common? They can all be ways that we try to control our lives in order to escape the misery that is the effect of the Fall.
Sin and misery are the all-encompassing and inescapable realities of this life in this fallen world.
“The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.” So wrote the members of the Westminster Assembly in Q. 17 of the Shorter Catechism. Everything negative in this life falls into one of these two categories—namely, sin and misery. The catechism goes on to explain the estate of misery when it says,
All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.
Sin and misery are the all-encompassing and inescapable realities of this life in this fallen world. Christ came into the world to redeem us from our sin and misery and to give us eternal holiness and happiness.
While Jesus bore the curse in our place, took the guilt and power of our sin upon himself at Calvary, and reconciled us to God (thereby, definitively dealing with our sin), the misery that came into the world on account of the Fall remains until the resurrection. We are all subject—no matter what physical, dietary, monetary, medical, and educational decisions that we make—to “all miseries in this life, to death itself.”
The pursuit of “godliness” in light of “the world to come” must be of chief importance.
The Scriptures actually have quite a lot to say about the things that we foolishly trust in order to escape the misery of life. For instance, the apostle Paul explained to Timothy,
For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Tim. 4:8)
All forms of exercise may “profit a little”; however, they are not paramount in the life of the believer. The pursuit of “godliness” in light of “the world to come” must be of chief importance.
Concerning foods, Jesus himself made the audacious statement (i.e., audacious in light of the temporary dietary restrictions of the Old Covenant era),
“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matt. 15:11)
The apostle Paul followed this with a warning about the danger of falling into the false religion of dietary asceticism when he wrote,
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? (Col. 2:20-22)
The danger of being susceptible to these things is that they have “an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body”; however, when considered spiritually, “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23).
People assume that money can purchase safety and satisfaction—happiness and health.
The apostle also warned the members of the church against loving money when he wrote,
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (1 Tim. 6:9)
By way of contrast, Paul commanded,
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17)
For every one verse in Scripture about God’s desire for believers to be financially responsible, there are two verses about the ever-present danger of greed. Often only the Lord knows whether we are being “financially responsible” or hiding greed behind the idea of “financial responsibility.” Money is one of the greatest ways that men and women try to escape the fall, because in our minds money can purchase safety and satisfaction—happiness and health.
In so many ways we are all striving to escape the fall, yet finding it to be a futile enterprise.
No matter how health-conscious men and women may choose to be, the Scriptures make it clear that no one can escape the reality of sickness and disease in this fallen world. We read about King Asa: “In his old age he was diseased in his feet”…“and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians” (1 Kings 15:23; 2 Chron. 16:12). This isn’t teaching us that we should avoid medicine or homeopathic treatment. Neither is it teaching us that “if we just have enough faith God will heal us.” Rather, it is teaching that the use of secondary means for healing is in vain if we are not trusting the Lord.
No amount of sensitivity to the intricacies of medicinal or homeopathic practices can ever give what the Lord alone can give. For many in the church, a preoccupation with health practices is nothing less than an attempt to seek to avoid the effects of the fall—for themselves and their children—by natural means and measures.
In the same way (and I write this as someone who homeschools) many who chose to homeschool have (perhaps unknowingly) convinced themselves that this is how we are to protect our children from the world. While we should be absolutely committed to the Christian theistic education of our children, no environmental or situational form of education was ever instituted by God to safeguard our children from the world or to change our children’s hearts. I have known plenty of children who were homeschooled by competent and godly parents and are now “off the spiritual reservation.” Education should never be embraced as a way to escape the effects of the Fall. Education (even Christian education) is a good servant but a bad savior.
Only Jesus will deliver us from the effects of the fall in the resurrection on the last day.
We learn from the book of Job that the wisest and godliest of men and women are still subject to the most severe suffering and the greatest of miseries in this life—even when they have not done anything foolish or sinful to deserve that suffering. When we trust in exercise, diet, financial programs, medical practices, and educational reforms to escape the Fall, we will ultimately find ourselves to be frustrated with the outcome. God has promised to deliver believers from the guilt and power of sin and the miseries of this life and the life to come onlythrough the last man, Jesus Christ.
In so many ways we are all striving to escape the fall yet finding it to be a futile enterprise. There is a day coming when everything that men inconsequentially strive after in this fallen world will become the confident possession of the believer but only in the resurrection. So while “physical exercise profits,” it profits little. While caring about what we eat matters, it matters little. While seeking to be fiscally responsible matters, greed is always lurking at our door. While pursuing wise medical choices matters, it is no sure safeguard against sickness; and while wanting to give our children the best form of education we can give them matters, it cannot ultimately protect them from the evils of their own hearts.
Only Christ can give what we are so often foolishly seeking after in these things. Only Jesus will deliver us from the effects of the Fall in the resurrection on the last day. So “it is better to take refuge in the Lord” than in any of these fleeting and fading things (Ps. 118:8-9).
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This article is adapted from “Striving to Escape the Fall” from reformation21.org.Click Here to Subscribe to BCL’s Free Monthly Newsletter and Weekday Devotional
 Iain D. Campbell, Ruth: A Devotional Commentary (Exploring the Bible) (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2010), 117.
Ruth: A Devotional Commentary (Exploring the Bible)by Iain D. Campbell