In my previous post, I Have Some Bad News, I summarized five truths I recently shared with my kids regarding our identity “in Adam.” I was working from the idea that before we can truly appreciate how good the good news is, we need to understand how bad the bad news is. This is all culminating in sharing the gospel with my kids later this summer. I want them to understand who we are “in Christ” and how an identity found in him really changes lives. But, before getting there, I needed to give them a picture of what life looks like “in Adam.” Our doing comes out of our being. An identity “in Adam” comes with bad news for both who we are and what we do.
So, what does life look like in Adam’s family? Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” The point- what we do comes from the overflow of who we are. So, being “in Adam” is not only bad news for us but also for the people around us. As sinners, an evil heart produces evil behaviors. What are healthy desires for people who are “in Christ” are experienced as selfish demands for those living “in Adam.” A demand necessitates satisfaction no matter the cost to others. Here are four patterns or ways of living we see expressed as demands through the lives of those apart from Jesus.
A Demand for Love
A demand for love says, “I need love, so love me!” Without Jesus satisfying our need for love, we’ll look for it anywhere, no matter how destructive it is to self and others. While processing this idea with my kids, I asked them to think of a biblical example of someone who demanded love no matter the cost to someone else. My oldest son mentioned Potiphar’s wife. The Scriptures say she “demanded” Joseph to engage with her in an inappropriate relationship despite what this would mean for her, Potiphar and Joseph. Her desperate attempt to satisfy her own need for love cost her integrity, damaged relationships and landed Joseph in prison.
A Demand for Acceptance
A demand for acceptance says, “I’ll work hard to be good.” Cain comes to mind. He was working hard to be accepted by God. Genesis 4:4-5 says, “… The LORD accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry…” We’re not told exactly why God didn’t accept Cain and his gift, but we can deduce that it had something to do with the attitude of Cain’s heart. The LORD goes on to warn Cain that sin was “crouching at the door, eager to control” him. Cain’s demand for acceptance and lack thereof fueled his jealousy and ended with the murder of his brother.
A Demand for Control
A demand for control says, “I’ll make it happen.” Think of Sarah. God promised Abraham a son, but obviously he wasn’t providing fast enough for Sarah. In her impatience and worry involving the circumstances of life, she decided to take matters into her own hands by offering her servant, Hagar, to Abraham. God eventually fulfilled his promise through Isaac, but not before Sarah’s demand for control precipitated an extramarital affair that produced a child out of wedlock. Later, she “demanded” Abraham to “get rid of that slave woman and her son” (Genesis 21:10). Sarah operating in her flesh brought experiences of brokenness for herself and those around her.
A Demand for Happiness
A demand for happiness says, “I will pursue pleasure and avoid pain.” Look at the example of Solomon’s life from Ecclesiastes. He set out to look for the “good things” in life. He pursued every pleasure imaginable. “Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure” (Ecclesiastes 2:10). He built huge homes for himself, planted beautiful vineyards, bought slaves, owned large herds and flocks, collected silver and gold and hired entertainment. He tried to “experience only happiness” and considered himself having “everything a man could desire” (Ecclesiastes 2:3,8). Where did his demand for happiness take him? “I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, and it was all so meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
So, that’s the bad news. Being born “in Adam” leaves us with an evil heart which expresses evil demands. We reject God and manipulate people for our own happiness and pursuit of love and acceptance. In my next post, we’ll round the corner and begin talking about the good news. “In Christ”, we have a new identity and new desires that free us and those around us from these demands. After all this bad news, I’m reminded of what Paul said in Romans 7:24-25, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Thank you, Jesus!