Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, December 15, 2018
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Fallen From Goodness

Genesis 3:1-21

 When I began this sermon series in the Old Testament, one of the things that I said is that these first three chapters of Genesis are challenging for us as modern Christians, and it might be easier if we just started with chapter 4.  And maybe this chapter is especially difficult, what with the talking snake and all the world’s problems coming back to Eve eating a “piece of fruit.”  It never says apple. In Jewish interpretation, it was a pomegranate.  

 But even if we were to dismiss this whole chapter as a “fanciful fairy tale,” it wouldn’t change the truth revealed in it.  These early chapters of Genesis are “mythical” in nature, meaning that they are stories that explain our common human experiences, whether we read them literally or figuratively.  

 This chapter answers three deep questions about the nature of sin, its effects on the world, and what God will do about sin.  

 First, what is the nature of sin?  That’s not an easy question.  

 Is sin just simple disobedience?  Is it just rule-breaking?  Does God make the rules, and then we break them, so we’re sinners, we’re rule-breakers?  I think there’s more to it than that.

 Is sin an act of foolishness?  There certainly seems to be some foolishness to Adam and Eve’s choice.  God has given them every good thing they need.  But they foolishly think that God is “holding back” on something else that’s good.  And they go looking for more, and foolishly end up getting more than they bargained for.  

 Is sin an act of pride?  The creature wants to be more like the Creator, so the creature goes grasping after “being like God.”  As if we could become more like God by disobeying God.  

 Is sin an act of mistrust?  Satan, in the guise of the serpent, certainly seems to take that angle of attack with Adam and Eve.  “Did God really say you can’t eat any fruit?”  He’s trying to get them to mistrust God, to think God is being unfair.  “Oh, you won’t die.  Instead you’ll become like God.”  He is trying to create mistrust between God and human beings, trying to convince human beings that “God is holding out on you.”  

 Some say there is more to sin than of any of these understandings:  Sin is an act of rebellion.  Sin is seeking to overthrow God, to cast him off the throne and putting oneself in his place.  Sin is “making myself god.”  

 I think all of these are at least part of the picture.  And I think we experience all of them in our own sin.  Sometimes we don’t trust God.  We don’t always think that he has the best intentions for us.  Or we may think that we know better.  We may be proud.  We may say to God, “It’s my life.  I’ll make my own decisions.  I’ll decide what’s right and what’s wrong for me.”  We certainly do all try to act like “our own god” from time to time.  It’s hard to nail down one thing and say “This is sin.”  

 Before we move on though, let’s ask ourselves a tricky question, and one that has troubled many people:  Why did God allow us the freedom to disobey him in the first place?  Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier if God had not put the temptation of a “forbidden tree” in the Garden?  Did it really need one more tree?  Was the landscaping “really missing something” without it?  And why, if God is in control, did he ever allow Satan into the Garden to tempt them?  

 I think the best answer is this:  God values our freedom.  God wants us to choose him, to love him, to enter into relationship with him.  But we are only free to choose God, to love God, to have relationship with God, if we are also free to reject God, to hate God, and turn our backs on God.  God doesn’t want “robots” that only do what he tells them to do.  He wants human beings who choose to love him and obey him.  

 The second big question:  What are the results of sin?  And there are many.

 Obviously, the big result of sin is that God places a curse on creation.  But even before God pronounces judgment on sin, we see its results at work.

 The first result is that Adam and Eve are ashamed of themselves.  They realize they are naked.  Their innocence is lost.  And they try to cover themselves.  They are alienated from each other.  They are alienated from themselves.  Shame is the feeling that “I am not who I should be.”  And as soon as Adam and Eve sin against God, they know instantly, they are no longer who they should be.  And when we sin, we are no longer who we should be.  

 They are also alienated from God.  When God comes to see them, they hide in the trees.  They say, “I was afraid, ‘cause I’m nekked!” Did you ever stop to think about

what a silly moment that is?  “I’m naked!”  As if the God who made them “hadn’t seen it all before?”  As if they could hide from God?  But don’t we do the same thing?  Don’t we try to hide our sin from God?  

 So even before God pronounces his judgment on sin, there are broken relationships.  When God confronts Adam and Eve about what they’ve done, we see broken relationships.  Adam tries to blame Eve.  Then he tries to blame God.   “The woman you gave me brought me the fruit.”  Adam and Eve were intended to be “partners,” but now they’re looking to blame each other!  

 God pronounces his judgment on sin.  We might call it the curse.  Or we often talk about this being “The Fall,” as in creation has fallen away from the goodness God intended.  The goodness of creation is broken.  

 We now experience pain and suffering and difficulty and toil.  The blessedness of creation is gone, replaced by brokenness.  The goodness of working in the Garden has been replaced by weary toil outside of it.  The joy of “being fruitful and multiplying” has become pain and difficulty in childbirth.  The partnership of marriage has become a struggle for dominance between male and female.  And finally, the life that was given in the Garden becomes death as human beings “return to the dust from which they were made.”  In one way or another, all the blessings of the “good creation” are undone by rebellion against God.  

 I think it is helpful to see sin as an act of rebellion because one of the things that I see in the brokenness of creation is that the orderliness of creation is turned on its head.  God created male and female to be partners, and for human beings together to reign over the earth.  But now male and female struggle against each other, and the very earth rebels against human beings and makes life difficult.  

 Before we move one, let’s ask another interesting question:  What if Adam and Eve had repented of their sin and turned back to God instead of turning against each other and seeking to make excuses for their choices?  I find that an interesting question because I don’t know that we can answer it.  But knowing what we do about the nature of God, and his grace and compassion, I think that life would have continued in the Garden.  When we turn away from God, when we feel shame, instead of continuing to run away from God, we should remove the cause of our shame through repentance.  

 Last big question:  What will God do about sin?  

 I want you to see that even in a chapter that is seemingly “all about judgment,” God’s grace is still at work.  

 First, there is the promise of a deliverer, one who will crush the head of the serpent.  This deliverer is Jesus who crushes the power of Satan and delivers humanity from sin and death.  

 Second, there is an act of gracious provision.  Before God sends Adam and Eve out of the Garden, he provides for them.  They’ve got nothing but the “fig leaves on their back,” so God makes them new garments out of animal skins.  You can only get animal skins by killing an animal.  Adam and Eve have never seen death before.  But now that they’ve sinned, they see death.  Not their own death, but the death of an innocent animal.  And by that death, God “covers their shame.”  

 It begins a precedent:  Sin is covered by sacrifice.  We see that over and over in the Old Testament in the sacrificial system.  And all of that foreshadows the final sacrifice of Christ, the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of humanity.  

 Two other interesting things in this chapter:  One is the mention of birthpangs, the pain of giving birth.  Romans chapter 8 also mentions birthpangs.  There, the birthpangs are a sign of the coming of a new creation.  So birthpangs are both a reminder of the curse and a promise of our future hope.

 And finally, there are the trees.  In the garden, the trees are God’s gracious provision.  They give life to Adam and Eve.  But after they sin, they try to hide in the trees.  Later on, the tree becomes a symbol of the curse of death.  In Deuteronomy, the Scriptures say, “Anyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.”  But Jesus was willingly hung on a tree.  He willingly endured the curse of the tree so that he might give life. And finally, at the end of the book of Revelation, God reveals that in the new creation, there will once again be a tree of life.  The cycle is complete.

 Even in the midst of the brokenness of this world, we see God’s grace at work.  

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