Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This week's sermon: The Choice

Genesis 3 God's Way or My Way?
Enter the villain: The serpent comes to Eve. He asks her if God really said that they could not eat from any tree in the garden. How mean, to be surrounded by such beautiful fruit and not to be able to eat it. Eve gets sucked in, she says, “You’ve got it all wrong, there is only one tree we can’t eat of. God told us not to eat, and not to touch the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, or we will die.” She falls victim to one of the great deceptions, she thinks the Serpent is really confused about what God says, and that he cares about what happens to her.

The Serpent Directly Contradicts God’s Word: the serpent then says to her, “Oh, no, you won’t die, not really.” In the Hebrew it says to die? You will not die. “No, God knows that on the very day that you eat of the tree’s fruit, you will have your eyes opened, and you will be like God in knowing Good and Evil.” The sad thing is that in reality, Adam and Eve know the most complete Good that has ever existed. They knew Good better than any of us ever will until we join our Savior in Heaven. They knew absolute Good unspoiled by anything Evil. Everything in their world was perfect. They had all their needs met. They had each other. They had unrestricted access to the God of the Universe. There was nothing more that they could possibly know about Good. By eating of the tree of knowledge, all they could possibly gain was a knowledge of evil. A knowledge of life outside of God’s will.

Eve considers the fruit: It is Good for Food. The first thing Eve does after talking to the serpent is look at the fruit and compare it with all the other fruit that they eat. It is “yearning” to the eye. It is not only practical, she decides but actually quite appealing. It is beautiful. It is tempting. It is “calling to her.”It is “coveted” for making one intelligent. Finally, she caves in to the serpents description. Surely God must be mistaken. Nothing that actually meets a physical need, and is that enjoyable could really be bad for you. It could only be beneficial. ..Right?

She eats, and so does Adam.
Their eyes are opened. The Hebrew says their eyes are unclosed. In this newfound knowledge that now saturates their lives, suddenly they see things like never before. Everything has changed. Their perspective is completely different. Now they know what it is to be outside of God’s will. And it is not what they expected.

They see their nakedness. Instead of having a profound knowledge, like God’s, now they see that they are naked. They become not just self-aware, but self-conscious. Now they are feeling vulnerable, and insecure, and are embarrassed for the first time. They try to cover-up. They look around quickly for something to hide behind. They have fig leaves, and decide to sew them together to make coverings for their naked bodies.

Broken Relationships: They hear God walking in the Garden. They knew God so well, that they recognized his footsteps, but now instead of that sound being delightful, it is a sound that strikes fear into their hearts so much so that they hide. They hide, because of their nakedness.

The Blame Game: Adam blames Eve, “The woman you put here with me; She, she gave it to me!” Last we saw of Adam he was saying, "this is the one for me, this one." Now we see Adam distancing as far as he can get she is no longer the one for him, his own bone and flesh, now she is just the woman God put there in the garden with him. Eve blames the serpent, “he lured me.” Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent.

The Curse & Exile: God tells each of them their consequences. God is not saying, I want this to be this way. He is pronouncing his judgment upon them, yes, but also telling them what the natural consequences would be because they had chosen this path.

God is telling the serpent that his loss of legs is a result of his planting doubt in Eve’s mind. That is his curse, his punishment. Because of that punishment, the serpent will crawl around on his belly and have his face in the dirt for the rest of all time. God’s also telling the serpent that he and the woman’s offspring will be in constant war.

God’s punishment of Eve is pain in childbirth, and in pregnancy. And the natural disruption of her relationship with her husband because of their sin would be that her natural desire would be for him, and that he would be her master. He would rule over her. No longer would the two of them work side-by-side, perfect partners, perfect companions. Instead of co-equal rulers of creation, now he seeks to dominate her like he does the rest of creation.

God says to Adam, "Because you listened to Eve," and by the way in the Hebrew, God takes care to correct Adams previous assertion that Eve was just some woman that God had placed in the Garden with him, by saying, “Because you listened to your woman.” Because Adam had taken part, no matter who started it, he had to face the consequences as well. Because of Adam’s sin, the ground from which he came would be cursed. Adam’s serving the soil and tending crops would now become toil and only by the sweat of his brow—the Hebrew says the sweat of his nostrils. And instead of things growing in their proper places, now thorns and weeds would spring up and he would have to fight not only to make the right plants grow, but to keep the wrong plants from taking over. And he would work hard until the day he died in order to simply survive.

God sent them out of the garden. He sent Cherubim to dwell at the East of Eden to guard the way as well as the flame from a self-turning sword.

All through the story, even though mankind had chosen their own path, even though they had chosen to disregard his warning, even though they had assumed that they knew more than God about what was good for them, he still cared for them. Even in the act of casting them from the garden, God was acting on their behalf. Because Adam and Eve did not eat of the tree of life, they were not stuck, condemned to be in their sinful state forever. When God was getting ready to send them out of the Garden, he stopped to make garments from the skins of animals to cover and protect the man and woman. And when God was pronouncing the curse, he left room for hope in his statements about the woman’s offspring. He said the snake would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed, but that the seed of the woman would crush its head.

The seed of the woman. The only one ever born of woman without the contribution of man was Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Satan the deceiver did his best to tempt him, to defeat him, to kill him and crush his followers, but Jesus triumphed. Instead of Satan winning, Jesus dealt him a fatal blow by living a sinless life, giving his life for us on the cross as an enduring sacrifice for sin, and then raising from the dead to be the first to experience total victory over sin and death. It is in a relationship with Jesus Christ that we can experience this same hope, this same victory over sin and hell and death. We don’t have to wait for heaven either. By walking with him, in the power of his Holy Spirit, we have the ability to resist temptation.

We can pray for strength, we can turn to God and admit we are being tempted. We can ask for wisdom. We can call a friend and tell them we are being tempted. We can choose to do something else that is edifying. We don’t have to entertain temptation, it is the one guest we can slam the door on. But we can only do so in the power of the Holy Spirit within us. This is not a matter of will-power, it is a matter of God power. He has already defeated sin and death and hell. We are his children, and we do not have to let those things rule in our hearts and lives. Paul says in Romans 6:12-14, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies!”

We have a choice, to allow sin to rule us, or to remember that it has already been defeated, and we don’t have to bow to that temptation any more. If you are not in a relationship with Jesus Christ and you would like to be, simply turn to him and ask. All you have to do is admit your need, and ask him to come and be your savior and Lord of your life. If you are in a relationship with him and struggling with temptation, don’t be afraid to tell him. He is longing to take care of whatever you need.

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