Sin

Blogging Through The Bible: Genesis 3:1-8

Today we look at Genesis 3, one of THE pivotal chapters in Scripture. In the first two Chapters we’ve looked at creation. In Chapter 1 we had the “big picture” view, then in Chapter 2 we zoomed in on the Garden of Eden and the creation of man. There has been one constant so far…Everything has been good, or God even went so far as to say “very good.” (1:31) So, creation in it’s original condition is very good. All things are as they should be. There is no pain, there is no death, there is no sin. Even relationships are perfect. (2:25)

Sadly, we will see in our passage today, things did not stay this way.

Genesis 3:1 starts out with the serpent. Now, we aren’t told here that the serpent is Satan, but other areas of Scripture certainly help us to identify the serpent with him. (Revelation 12:9, 20:2, Romans 16:20 also helps make the connection) The picture we get of this serpent certainly shows us that something about this creature is amiss. The bible says that he was the most cunning of all the wild animals. The serpent goes on to ask Eve a question, “Did God really say, “You can’t eat from any tree in the garden?”

How many bad decisions start out with, “Did God really say?” The Word of God is sure, perfect, and good. If the Word of God says it, you can take it to the bank. But this is how Satan operates…he plants a seed of doubt in your mind. “Did God really say?…” He then misquotes God. He asks did God really say you can’t eat from ANY tree in the garden. He wants the woman to feel as if God is somehow depriving her of something good. But we know that isn’t what God said. Of all the trees God planted, there was only one that they were told not to eat of.

The woman responds in verse 2, but as we see, she gets it wrong too. She adds to what God had actually said. She got the first part right, “But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, “You must not eat it…” Well yes, He did, but then she adds, “…or touch it, or you will die.”

God never told Adam or Eve not to touch the fruit. He simply said not to eat it. So, she already is on shaky ground. Whether it is carelessness on her part, or whether Adam has inaccurately communicated God’s Word to her, I don’t know. But we see here that Eve does not have a firm grasp of God’s Word, and ignorance of God’s Word always leads to trouble.

We see from her statement, that even though she hasn’t taken it as far as the serpent did…she still feels somewhat deprived. She can’t even touch the fruit! Or so she believes…She did though get the part right about death.

Again in verse 4 we see the serpent continuing to plant doubt in her mind, “No you will not die..” , says the serpent, “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So, the serpent follows up a lie with a half truth. It is true that once they eat of the fruit, they will be like God. They will know good and they will know evil. But, the serpent says that they won’t die. This is a half truth. They wouldn’t die physically immediately after eating the fruit, but they would die Spiritually. They would be separated from God. Their sin and disobedience would drive a wedge between them and God. And one day, because of this sin and disobedience, they would indeed die physically.

After hearing the Serpent’s words, the woman looked at the tree, and she saw that indeed the tree was good for food, and it was delightful to look at…The Bible also says that it was, “desirable for obtaining wisdom.”

Sin initially is always desirable. It is pleasurable to the eyes, and it promises us more than what we feel like we already possess. Eve wanted to taste the fruit…it looked good. She wanted to be wise, she wanted to be like God in knowing good and evil. Perhaps God just didn’t want her to have that…perhaps God was holding out on her. Perhaps she knew better than God what she needed, and what was best for her.

Does this sound familiar to any pattern of sin you’ve ever experienced in your life?

Here’s the rub. She was already like God. She was created in His image. She already had all she needed. God had provided her and Adam with all that they needed for food. She even already knew about good and evil, if only she had understood. She knew good. She knew God. God is the definition of good. She had never experienced evil, but certainly anything contrary to the good that was in God is evil. God had already told Adam about death…so she understood the consequences of disobedience to God…which is the definition of sin, the root of evil.

Then the woman eats. Not only does she eat, but she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it.

Here we see another problem. Adam was the one charged with watching over things. Adam was the one given dominion over creation. The woman was to be his helper. Adam was actually the one told not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Certainly, it can be inferred that it was his responsibility to pass the message along to his wife.

It would seem that Adam failed on a couple of fronts. First, Eve didn’t accurately know what God had said about the fruit..which caused her to be more susceptible to Satan’s lies. Second, if Adam was with her the entire time, why didn’t he take charge of the situation? Why didn’t he step in and correct her, and say what God actually said. Third, why would he allow her to even entertain these thoughts? Fourth, why would he obey his wife rather than God?

We often blame Eve for being deceived by the serpent, but Scripture actually places the blame on Adam. It was through Adam that the curse of sin entered the world. (Romans 5:12) Adam didn’t sin because he was deceived, actually he sinned with understanding! (1 Timothy 2:14) Eve desired the fruit, but apparently so did Adam! And because of these misplaced desires, the world will never be the same.

Verse 7 tells us that then, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked…”

Genesis 2:25 tells us that Adam and Eve were naked but felt no shame. This as we said speaks to the perfect intimacy they shared with each other, and with God. Because of their sin and disobedience, this is no longer the case. Now they knew they were naked, so they “sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” This intimacy is forever gone as a result of their sin. For the first time they knew shame and they sought to hide their bodies from each other…But it doesn’t stop there.

Verse 8, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden…and they hid themselves among the trees of the garden.”

Not only is their a loss of intimacy between the man and the woman, but also between them and God. Not only does shame exist between themselves, but also between them and God. Where once Adam walked with and spoke with God, now he seeks to hide himself from him. As we said earlier, a wedge has been driven between God and man. The relationship has been broken. Sin has entered the world…

This is the world we find ourselves in. A world infected with sin. A world separated from God. A humanity hiding from God and denying the truths of His Word. In many cases it has even gotten to the point of denying his existence.

If the Bible ended here, what a tragic ending it would be. But praise God this isn’t the end of the story…And praise God there is hope. We will see that next time…I hope you’ll join me!

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In light of the cross

I was at work the other day (and not having a particularly good day) when I found myself being rude to a customer. Not overtly rude, mind you. But still rude enough to get the point across that I was not happy with this particular customer. I’m not sure why though, just as the transaction with this customer was completed, I looked at her and wondered what was going on with her day.

I asked myself why this customer might be annoying me so. Why did the customer seem so distracted? Why did I care so much? Was it really going to kill me if this transaction took two minutes – as opposed to a minute and a half?

I actually found myself feeling rather guilty. I found myself thinking this is a person created in the image of God. This is a person Jesus cares about. How would Jesus have treated her?

Yes…all of this happened in span of no more than two minutes.

As I caught myself thinking these thoughts – and realized how rude I was being – and how contrary it was to the way of Christ, I tried to correct myself and be overly-nice to this person. I’m sure she thought I was the Jekyll and Hyde cashier. She eventually went on her merry way, completely unaware of the mental and spiritual dialogue that had taken place in my mind.

I thought about this moment for the next several hours- feeling guilty and beating myself up. I asked myself, “Did Jesus go to the cross so that you could act this way? Jesus didn’t die so you could treat people, created in his image in this way. Is this the way I am supposed to live in light of the cross?” I then began to ponder all of the ways in which I am supposed to live in light of the cross. And then it hit me.

Stop beating yourself up. Jesus did in fact go to the cross, and your sins are covered. You are forgiven. The weight of my sin on this particular day was lifted from my shoulders. I started contemplating the beauty of the cross and the riches we have in Christ. I was humbled and amazed by the many facets of what it means to live my life in light of the cross. I was stunned by the grace of God poured out through Christ.

So what does it mean, “…to live your life in light of the cross?” Why is it so stunning?

First of all, the cross of Jesus is a picture of amazing love. As we ponder the love of God displayed by Jesus, we should be moved to love like Jesus. If in our sinfulness God still loved and loves us, how can we not choose to show love to our fellow sinners? Not out of obligation, but so that we can also show them how Jesus loves. Our lives as Christians should be lives defined by love. Our desire should be to make everyone aware of this amazing love that we’ve been shown. This happens as we put this love on display. Jesus loves us in spite of all of our faults and failures. This being true, we must love others in the same way.

This leads to the next point. Even when we mess up, Jesus still loves us. Even when I was treating this customer poorly, Jesus loved me. Jesus died for my rudeness. My sins are ALL covered by the cross. I’m forgiven. Because of this fact, I don’t need to dwell on this sin. I’m free to move on. Does this mean I don’t think about my sin? I don’t think so. I think we should mourn over sin…because I believe God does. God desires holiness from His people…yet, we have this holiness in Christ. Therefore, even though we acknowledge our sin, we don’t stay there mired and wallowing in guilt. We can go boldly, proclaiming that we are forgiven.

We could continue to analyze this from all angles (the many facets of the cross are far more than what can be put forth in any blog post) but I can sum up this point like this:

Because of the cross, we have the responsibility AND the freedom to love others, in spite of all of their sins and failures. Also, because of the cross, we can know that even when we aren’t doing this perfectly, God still loves us in spite of all of our sins and failures.

For those of us who have experienced and known the unbelievable love and mercy of God, we don’t have to live defeated lives of guilt defined by our failure and sin. We can live lives of perpetual joy knowing that we are always loved and always accepted by God. What can be better than that?

This truth is what defines us as believers. Because we are loved much, we love much. Because we are forgiven much, we forgive much. And even when we don’t, we are no less loved or forgiven.

How freeing is that?

How wonderful is that?

Now, let’s go and enjoy the rest of our day, the rest of our lives even, resting in these marvelous truths and resting in this unbelievable love and mercy of God.

A Gospel Meditation

I’m not feeling well at all today, so I’m re-posting a slightly edited version of a former blog post. Perhaps someone needs to hear it, and will be blessed today.

 

At a recent bible study the pastor quoted the following definitions for what the Gospel is:

“The Gospel is the good news about the great salvation purchased by Jesus Christ, by which He reconciled sinful men to a holy God.”

–  Lorraine Boettner

“The Gospel is the good news of God’s saving activity in the person and work of Christ. This includes his incarnation in which he took to himself full (yet sinless) human nature; his sinless life which fulfilled the perfect law of God;his substitutionary death which paid the penalty for man’s sin and satisfied the righteous wrath of God; his resurrection demonstrating God’s satisfaction with his sacrifice; and his glorification and ascension to the right hand of the Father where he now reigns and intercedes for the church.”

– Jeff Purswell

After hearing these two quotes I jotted down my own definition of ‘The Gospel’ in my notes…I think it is a sort of meshing of the two together:

“The Gospel is what God has done, and is doing through Christ to redeem and reconcile a sinful people and His creation to Himself”

I’m still meditating on my definition and phraseology, so that may get tweaked…but nevertheless I think it communicates what I believe to be the central message of what the Gospel is, and what it does. My Pastor summed up the Gospel by saying that, “Christ is the Gospel”. John Piper has similarly said, and has even written a book entitled, God Is the Gospel

I rejoice that there seems to be a new awareness of “The Gospel” and what it really is. For so long we simply thought of it as something we needed hear in order to be saved(get to heaven) or a presentation we had to make for someone else to be saved. We thought of “The Gospel” as the entry point into the Christian life, and then we graduated from there and got into the real “meat” of the Christian experience. I rejoice that there is a new attempt at defining what “The Gospel” means, and it’s implications in every area of our life. Books are still being written on the subject of defining “The Gospel”. Just look at the two quotes I posted above…You have one rather short and simple quote, and you have another more detailed and complex quote. This sort of begs the question: “So, is the Gospel simple or complex? How exactly can you define what “The Gospel” is and what it isn’t?”

To the first question I say yes, and yes. The Gospel is both simple and complex. For me that is the beauty of it. It is a well so deep that we can never reach its depths, or exhaust the life giving qualities…yet the simplest among us can come with our dixie cups, and skim from the top enough of it’s living water that we can be eternally secure in Christ. The Gospel is an ocean so deep that we can never plunge it’s depths, yet shallow enough for the smallest, and most timid among us to frolic along the shore with our water wings on. I’m sure those last couple of lines are similar to someone else, and if I knew who, or wanted to take the time I would give them credit…I wanna say C.S. Lewis has said something similar, but honestly right now I have no idea where I’ve read it, or even if it was an original thought.(though I confess I’m not very original…just stay with me for now though) God is so amazing and so vast that He has chosen to reveal Himself in ways that we can understand, yet we will never fully know Him on this side of heaven. I’m thankful I will have an eternity to get to know Him, and to learn His ways…

To the second question I would say you can read all of the definitions I’ve given thus far and have an accurate picture of “The Gospel”. That being said, I don’t know that they completely and fully define it, at least in ways that we completely understand. (Stay with me) The fullest and most accurate definition I would say would be that “God is the Gospel”. Everything that “The Gospel” is, God is. Everything that “The Gospel” does, God does. “The Gospel” was personified in the person of Christ, so in effect(or actuality) Christ is indeed “The Gospel”. That being said though, I think all of our attempts at defining “The Gospel” in human words fall short. Words tend to be exclusionary by nature. If we say something is this, then this can’t be that. But “The Gospel” is so vast, that it includes so much(everything?). So I think any attempt at defining what “The Gospel” is falls short because it is a part of every fabric of our lives…every fabric of our world even. I say this because there is nowhere that God is not active, and nowhere that God is not at work. “The Gospel” I believe is the truth that God is working all things together for His glory, to the completion, and fruition of His plan for all of creation.(Perhaps this is a better definition than the one I gave earlier?)

So many times in our definitions we say that the Gospel is this, but not that. The Gospel is that, but not this. My pastor even said the other night that, and I think this is a John Piper quote, missions is not the Gospel, but a result of the Gospel. I’ve heard others say that social justice is not the Gospel, but an outworking of the Gospel. I say yes, but these things are “The Gospel” because they are the Gospel at work. I believe this to be true of many other things that people say “aren’t the Gospel”. I think it better to say that these things alone are not the Gospel, because the Gospel is so much more. Perhaps this is splitting hairs…perhaps I’m missing something…but hopefully my point is being made.

God is awesome, God is amazing. We can’t fit Him, or His Gospel into a box. Ultimately all of our words fall short in defining Him, and what He is doing. Yet we can know Him, and cling to Him and His Gospel. We can embrace His Gospel, and live it, (at least to the degree in which He enables us to), and let it flow out of us onto and into others. The Gospel truly is good news for a world that so desperately needs it. Let us continue to explore the depths of what His Gospel is…yet know in our hearts, that ultimately His truths are simply too much for our finite minds. But isn’t that what makes Him God? Isn’t that what makes “The Gospel” good news? He brought His vastness down to us…He has given us a glimpse into who He is. He has given us enough to want Him, and desire Him more…He has given us a thirst that only He can quench. Oh how I thirst for you God…

“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.”

Psalm 42:1-2

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!…
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33-34,36

Sacramental Clumsiness

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“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:19-20

Two weeks ago at my church we took Communion. Celebrating Communion amongst the saints is one of the most important, as well as one of the most beautiful things a church body can do together. God present amongst his people, evident in the weight of grace we experience as we partake of the elements. The bread and the wine (grape juice for us), symbolizing the body and the blood of our Lord.

Such rich symbolism-The body of Christ broken, the blood of Christ poured out-for my sin, and the sin of those all around me. We receive the elements, and we receive this grace one more time. Grace imparted, symbolic and very real.

We all see the symbolism within the Lord’s Supper. We understand what the elements represent. We understand, at least to the degree our finite minds can understand, what Christ has done for us. But, I wonder if perhaps many of us are missing one other key symbol contained within this most precious of ceremonies.

As we pass the elements, there is a certain clumsiness. There is an uncertainty. There is nervousness and even a bit of quiet and controlled chaos. “Is the gentleman going to bring the plate to me, or do I need to get up and get it?” Even he doesn’t seem too sure of where he is supposed to go. There is space between myself and the person to my right, so I gingerly walk it over, afraid to spill the juice. I slowly pass the cups, she carefully receives them from my hand. This scenario repeats itself time and again throughout the congregation. My 3 year old daughter loudly whispers throughout as I try to shush her, then she finally decides to get up and take off down the aisle. I have to race after her.

This clumsiness, this uncertainty, this bit of chaos in the midst of the sacred as we receive the elements is the perfect symbol to represent the way in which we receive Christ. And how powerful it is! We fumble around, so unsure of ourselves. To the naked eye there is nothing elegant, nothing sacred, nothing graceful about it. As we shakily received the cups, so we shakily took hold of Christ himself. In all of our clumsiness and gracelessness we receive the infinite grace of Christ. In spite of all of our uncertainty we can be sure of our place in his kingdom.

Thank God it doesn’t depend on us. Thank God our receiving of his grace has nothing to do with the gracefulness or gracelessness with which we receive it.

From the book, Beautiful Ruin: More Reflections In The Midst Of The Journey

Walking in the Light

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5-10)

The last time we looked at 1 John, we talked about fellowship, both our fellowship with God and our fellowship with each other. Here in this passage, we will get a clearer picture (I hope) of what this fellowship should and could look like.

First off, and hopefully this was at least implied in our last entry, all fellowship begins with Christ Jesus. It is through his blood that we are able to have fellowship with Him, and it is through his blood that we are able to have fellowship with each other. This is because it is through his blood that we have been cleansed from all of our sin. (verse 7) Once we have experienced this cleansing grace, we can begin to walk in the light of Christ. When John is here telling us that we are able to “walk in the light” he is telling us that we can walk in the ways of Christ. As verse 5 tells us, “…in him(God) is no darkness at all.” In Christ, we can begin to live our lives, and love others, as Jesus did. As there is no darkness in God (sin, evil, traits contrary to what we see evidenced in the life of Jesus) so there should be no darkness in our lives. Through the blood of Christ, this is not only possible, but this is a reality.

 This doesn’t mean of course that we will live lives, or enjoy relationships that never encounter any type of struggles. It doesn’t mean that we begin to live a sinless existence once we enter a relationship with Jesus. Anyone who lives in the world knows this simply isn’t true. What we do see however, is that when Christ went to the cross, he bore our sins. All of our sin, past, present, and future were laid upon him. For believers, through this sacrifice, we receive the righteousness of Christ. I’ll be the first to acknowledge, this isn’t a transaction that we can fully understand, but it is a truth plainly put forth in Scripture. (2 Corinthians 5:21) As we continue to grow in our understanding and knowledge of this truth, we continue to exhibit more and more of this light of God in our lives. (Galatians 5:22-23)

So, what are our first steps to this kind of life, and this kind of fellowship? Look at verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession of our sins is the first step. As we confess our sin, we are forgiven for our sin. We can’t expect forgiveness if we refuse to confess. This is true not only in our relationship with God, but it is also true as we cultivate relationships with each other. For any relationship to be healthy there must always be an acknowledgement of our failures and our sins. So often though, as opposed to freely confessing our sins and shortcomings, we act as if we have already attained perfection. However, John tells us here that if we are doing this, we make God a liar. (verse 10)

Therefore, if we want to truly walk in the light of God, and if we truly want to cultivate fellowship within the body of Christ, and in every sphere of our lives, we must be willing to continually acknowledge and confess our sin. If we fail to do this, instead of revealing light, we reveal darkness. Where there is darkness, God does not dwell.  As long as we continue to walk in darkness, we cannot have fellowship with God, for in him darkness cannot dwell. (verse 5)

Some things to think about:

How many of you have ever had a dispute with a brother or sister in the Lord or even a family member, and each of you refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing? How did this turn out?

Do you always see yourself as the victim, or do you sometimes acknowledge that there are times when you probably could have and even should have done things differently?

Is there a situation right now in which you might need to confess wrongdoing, not only to God, but also a fellow believer and/or family member/friend?