When I was in high school, a family was hosting a swim party for our student ministry. I wanted to go, but there was a slight challenge to overcome. My gray 1984 Honda Accord was parked in the carport and my mom’s car was parked behind it. The only problem was that my mom wasn’t there, and I couldn’t find the keys to her car so I could move it. But I really wanted to go swimming. I thought, “If I’m careful when backing out, I think I can avoid hitting her car.” I began to carefully reverse the car. No cameras in cars back then, so I’m just checking my side mirrors. And I got to that moment where I knew I was going to avoid hitting my mom’s car. I was right – I did avoid hitting my mom’s car. But I did not avoid hitting the red posts in the carport. I got out and I saw red paint all along the side of my car.
A normal person probably would have gone and told their parents about the accident. But not me. I thought to myself, “Surely I can find a way to cover this up.” I went to K&B Drug Store looking for gray spray paint. I know what you’re thinking – “Our pastor really is a genius.” Well they didn’t have any gray spray paint, but they did have black. I should probably mention that the sun is starting to set about this time. I thought, “Black is close enough to gray and it’s surely better than the red that’s there now.” I buy the black spray paint and I cover the red spot. I go to the party and thoroughly enjoy my time in the pool with my friends. I drive the car home and it’s become clear that I have gotten away with this. Honestly, it kind of felt like a victory.
The next morning, I am woken up by my father’s voice saying, “Benjamin, come out here.” Benjamin? This doesn’t sound good. I walk outside, walk around to the driver’s side of the car, and in the daylight, things looked much different than the night before. I had painted what looked like a massive black cloud on the side of my car.
I didn’t want the red paint to be exposed, so I had to figure out a way to cover it up. But my attempt to cover it up only made things worse. When you and I have done something we know we shouldn’t have, we usually experience guilt and shame. We feel so exposed and we know we need a covering. When we can’t see a way out, we assume we must provide a covering for ourselves.
Here's the question I’m asking in today’s message:
Are You Covering Yourself?
Genesis 3:1-13 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
This moment is known as the fall or as original sin. While this is the first encounter with sin, it is the playbook human beings have been operating out of ever since. We are led to believe that there’s a better way than the way God is offering us. We give into the temptation and go around or even against what God has said to us.
They realized they were naked. If you take this line at face value, you’re probably wondering, “How in the world could a person be naked and not know it?” Fair question. Genesis 2 ends with this statement:
Genesis 2:25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Before sin came into the picture, Adam and Eve experienced perfect harmony with God and with each other. But their sin has brought guilt and shame. It has separated them from God and from each other. And they have to figure out what they’re going to do about this. They need to make a plan for how they’re going to get their sin and shame covered.
God asks Adam, “Where are you?” Adam answers by saying, “I heard you getting closer, but I was afraid – so I hid.”
“Hiding is the natural response to shame.” Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame
How are you trying to cover your sin?
When they feel the guilt and shame of their sin, they hide from God. They are doing this physically, but we try the same method. When we sin and we don’t want to feel guilty about it, some of us try to completely dismiss God from our minds or we hide. We can hide behind our workaholism, pretending to be someone we aren’t, or even through religious activity. They made fig leaves to try and cover themselves. What are the “fig leaves” you’re using? Status. Busyness. Fitness. Church Activity.
“Hiding requires us to put energy into keeping things about ourselves away from our own and others’ conscious awareness.” Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul
In his book Forgive, Tim Keller talks about the difference between Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow or what he calls true repentance and false repentance. He mentions several counterfeits of repentance. In other words, here is what we often do with our response to our own sin.
Rather than take responsibility for our sin, we point to someone else as the cause of our sin. This is the classic moment you ask your child, “Why did you do it?” And without hesitation, they mention the person who “made” them do it. It’s cute when your child does it; it’s not so cute when you do it. Adam and Eve are really good at this one too.
God asks Adam, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” It’s a “yes or no” question, but Adam can’t even answer it. Instead he says, “The woman you put here with me.” In this one moment, Adam blames Eve and he blames God. In other words, I never would have sinned if she hadn’t given me the fruit. And she never would have given me the fruit, if you had not put her here with me.
When we blame others for our sin rather than take full responsibility, it creates separation between us and God, as well as between us and the person we are blaming.
When God asks Eve what she has done, she blames the serpent.
Who are you blaming for your sin?
What difference would it have made if Adam would have just said, “Yes I did eat from the tree you told me not to. I’m sorry for not trusting you and your word. I have sinned against you. Please have mercy and forgive me.” Then what if he would have turned to Eve and said, “I’m sorry for not encouraging us to trust God’s heart and His word to us. Will you forgive me?”
“When our wrongdoing brings down real-world problems on our head, we cry, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that!’ But our sorrow isn’t over how we wronged God or others but over the trouble it has brought to us.” Tim Keller, Forgive
When we talk about self-absorption, we tend to think about people who are full of themselves or think that they are the center of the universe. But it is just as possible to be self-absorbed with how bad of a person you are. And when you’re self-absorbed with how much damage your sin is causing you, you won’t have space to see 1)what your sin has done to God’s heart and 2)the amount of mercy and forgiveness God wants to grant you.
Beating Yourself Up
When we feel bad about our sin, we believe that beating ourselves up for a specified amount of time will somehow atone for the sins we committed.
“The use of self-hating contrition as a way to atone for one’s sin rejects God’s forgiveness as much as its opposite – a proud denial that you have done anything wrong.” Tim Keller, Forgive
Are you trying to beat yourself up as a way of atoning for your sins?
Not only will that never work, but you will miss out on tasting the extravagant mercy of God. If Jesus has already been beaten and crucified for your sin, you don’t have to beat yourself up. Besides, you’ll never be able to pay the price that your sin demands.
If you keep trying to cover yourself, it will never bring the life you and others long for.
Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
If we keep trying to cover our sins, Jesus won’t be able to cover them. If we uncover our sins, Jesus can cover them.
And if we can uncover our sins before each other, then we can forgive in a way that covers each other.
“We don’t think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.” Donald Miller, Scary Close
God ultimately does something for Adam and Eve to foreshadow what He’s going to offer to every single one of us.
Genesis 3:21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Hebrews 9:14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.
Are you covering yourself?
How are you trying to cover yourself?
Is it working?
Jesus is ready to cover you, but He can’t cover you as long as you’re covering yourself.
Today, own up to your sin. And receive complete covering.
“Jesus, I am a sinner. I’ve tried to cover myself, but it hasn’t worked. Today I receive your covering for all my sins.”