7/7/02 10.30 a.m. "Opportunity Lost" Genesis 3:1-15
Today we start a three part sermon series on 'The Fall', referring to the fall from God's grace that occurred as a consequence of Adam's sin. Today's sermon is called 'Opportunity Lost'.
God had finished his work of creation and seen that it was very good ( 1:31 ). God had created beautiful trees that were good for fruit ( 2:9 ). He had also made a tree of the knowledge of good and evil which looked good, but it's fruit was fatal ( 2:17 ). God had made man as the climax of his created order ( 1:27f ). He had given woman to man as a helper and companion ( 2:20ff ).
God had created man in a different way to the rest of the created order. Animals follow their own way with no moral choices. Man is created in the image of God. To follow God's ways, but with the freedom to reject them. Adam was given a choice. To follow the clear instructions given to him by God or not. His response would be motivated by love, trust and dependence of God, or by selfish independence, influenced by peer pressure.
Without an alternative our love and trust of God would be meaningless, making us little more than robots. The fact that there is alternative does not make God guilty of sin or creating evil. It is just a consequence of misusing what he has given us.
To illustrate this. You would not hold a manufacturer of kitchen knives responsible if one of their lives were used to stab someone to death would you ? The knives were designed to cut things in the kitchen, but someone has misused them to take the life of another. So, if God's gifts are misused by humankind, we cannot hold Him responsible.
We are confronted with choices every day. Adam was confronted with a tree that forced him to choose whether to obey God, or not. Whether to trust in God. Or to find out if he knew better.
Look at passage :
Verse 1. The serpent twists the word of God. Making God out to be negative and a spoilsport. 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'?"
We know from 2:16f what God said,. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, .
Here we have creatures rebelling against the Creator. Straightaway we have an assumption that the word of God can be questioned. This questions assumes that the word of God is subject to our judgement, when the reverse is true. We are subject to the judgement of the word of God.
Eve corrects the serpent, but does so incorrectly. Perhaps influenced by the negativity of the serpent she quotes God as saying that the fruit of the tree in the middle is not to be touched, verse 3.
The serpent goes on to plant doubts in Eve's mind. 4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
He denies the judgement of God and God is portrayed as a rival. So divine love is replaced by envy. And life replaced by a suicidal leap into the unknown.
Eve listens to a creature, not the creator. She follows her impressions, what the fruit looked like, not the instructions she had been given by God. Her goal was self-fulfilment that she thought could be found by becoming like God. Whereas, true self-fulfilment only comes when we are united with God.
The woman ate the fruit first and gave it to the man. He took it and ate it without questioning it. But it was not the woman who was held accountable for this sin, but the man. He was created first and was questioned first by God who, of course knew what had happened. This sets a precedent for headship within the marriage relationship, and for a spiritual responsibility that should be borne by the man. This does not mean that men and women are not equal in God's sight. But that we have different gifts, roles and responsibilities. Paul refers to this in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 when he considers the role and behaviour of women in worship.
This sin led to a breakdown in the relationship between God and Adam and Eve. This is the 'death' that God warned of when he told them not to eat from this tree. It is not talking of physical death, but the death of a relationship. Adam and Eve were not created to be immortal, but they were created to have eternal life, which is a life lived in a right relationship with God.
We read that the eating of the fruit spoiled the relationship with God in verse 10, when Adam responds to God's question, 'Where are you ?'
10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
Adam was afraid, and he was ashamed. This is the first time that fear is mentioned in the Bible. Adam was afraid of God because he had disobeyed him. Wanted to do things his own way. To be independent. To put himself before God.
He was ashamed of what he had done and, therefore, of his nakedness before God. God saw everything that he had created was very good, 1:31. The man and his wife were both created naked, and felt no shame, 2:25. Yet now they feel exposed, feel the need to cover up, are ashamed of who they are and what they have done.
Adam tries to cover up in two ways. First he uses fig leaves. Then he uses his wife and blames her, and indirectly God.
12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Or to put it another way, "She made me do it. And you made her so it's your fault, too !" This is not just a typical man, but a typical person, because the woman blames the serpent in verse 13.
God addresses the serpent , and passes judgement on him first. Initially He uses his sovereignty and judgement upon the one who first questioned it. He condemns the snake to continue to crawl on the ground in a symbolic way. And he introduces hostility between humankind and snakes that will last for ever.
God then turns to the woman and condemns her to great pain in childbirth, and also a spoiling of the marriage relationship. To love and to cherish will be replaced by to desire and to dominate.
God makes clear to Adam that he is responsible for his own actions. He listened to his wife and then ate. We cannot blame others, or peer group pressure for our own sin. Adam's relationship to God and the created order is spoiled. He has to work upon the ground, that formerly produced food on it's own. Man will rejoin the dust he was created from when he dies.
The man and woman are also banished from the garden that had been created for their enjoyment and are separated from God.
23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24After he drove the man out, he placed on the east sideE of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
The Fall is the title for today's readings. It refers to man's fall from the grace, or undeserved favour of God. It is foundational for our understanding of how we relate to God, our neighbour, our environment, and ourselves.
Romans 5:12 reads, 'Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.'
We are all affected by sin, the tendency to put ourselves before God. This means that we are unfit to be with God like Adam and Eve who were excluded from his presence.
We are unable to do God's will. We are unrighteous in His sight. And we are insensitive to his word. This comes from pride, and leads to self-justification. Trying to defend ourselves. Perhaps by blaming another, like Adam. Blaming our circumstances. Or by making out that we are better than someone else.
So how does sin affects our relationships?
1) With God.
We have seen from the story of Adam and Eve how sin kills our relationship with God. It puts a barrier between us and him. Yet he still loves us, but cannot relate to us. Like a parent of a disobedient child. The parent loves the child and wants the best for him, but the relationship is affected because the child has been disobedient, say just run across the road without looking.
It shows us that we need a Saviour. Someone who can come and take the punishment for everything that we have ever done wrong. Someone who can demolish the barrier that separates us from God. Romans 5:8, ' But God shows his love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ dies for us.'
2) ( sin affects our relationship ) With others.
Most people will remember the of O.J.Simpson. He was accused of stabbing to death his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman in June 1994. Over the next year, a worldwide television audience was held in thrall as the trial unfolded. Simpson was acquitted of the murders on Oct. 3, 1995. In a civil case ending in February 1997 the jury unanimously found Simpson liable for all eight charges brought against him, including the charges that he had caused the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. He had to pay damages of over 33 Million dollars.
Family members or friends are often the initial chief suspect in murder cases. Sin has ruined relationships throughout history.
Adam blamed Eve. Their relationship would now be affected by desire and domination, sin, selfishness. Their son Cain killed his brother Abel in Chapter 4 because he was jealous of him. We all fail to love others as ourselves. The story of the Good Samaritan would have taught the expert of the law that he couldn't even bring himself to say the word Samaritan, never mind love a foreigner .
But, by his Holy Spirit, God unites his people. He gives us an opportunity to relate to one another in a way that is not selfish, but selfless. Following the way of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many ( Mark 10:45 ). Jesus who washed his disciples feet and said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." ( John 13:15 )
When we go to be with God we will have perfect fellowship with God and also with one another. Unaffected by the sin that still clouds our lives.
3) ( sin affects our relationship ) With the environment.
Adam had to till the soil because of his sin. The garden that God had created for him provided food without work, but sin spoiled things.
We are now starting to realise how our sin affects the environment. The sin or selfishness of humankind had led and leads to pollution. We have recently seen this with the United States. Even though this country produces a disproportionate amount of the worlds gases President Bush has refused to ratify the Kyoto agreement to help reduce the amount of pollution that is affecting the world. Of course, there are many other examples.
But, we can help to reduce pollution. We should only use our cars when absolutely necessary. We could help the deforestation of the earth by using recycled paper, or paper where the trees have been replaced.
When Jesus returns there will be a new heaven and a new earth, so we can look forward to a time when there will be no pollution, no disharmony between man and the environment.
4) ( sin affects our relationship ) With ourselves.
Adam's sin led him to be ashamed, to hide and to cover up. We all do it, although few of us use fig leaves ! We're a bit more sophisticated about it, although I sometimes wonder who we are fooling.
I was walking towards the Post Office in the High Street. I saw someone I knew on the opposite pavement. "Hello, how are you ?" I said , as you do.
"I'm fine" ,replied the person. "Well, not completely fine because I've just come out of the Doctors !"
We have a fear that if people knew us as we really are then they would reject us. They wouldn't want to know. So we put on a mask. Of being fine when we've been to the Doctors. Of being fine when we are worried about our job, a relationship, a loved one, or the emotional pain that we are feeling.
But we have a God who accepts us. Who loves us as we are. But who doesn't see us as we are. Because we are one with Jesus, he sees Jesus in his perfection. Not you and me, sinners.
"God showed his love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
So there is no need to be ashamed, to feel guilty. "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1
Although sin and the fall leads to spoiled relationships we have a God who has defeated this problem. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him has eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16f