March 16, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Genesis 3:1-7; John 1:10-11; 3:18-21; Revelation 18:21-23; Romans 3:23; II Corinthians 6:14
So, What’s the Story? “Let’s Talk about the Fall”
“Loving God, help us when we have been betrayed to look beyond hypocrisy and deceit to Your throne of grace, and there to lay our burdens down. We trust in Your covenant of unfailing love, revealed to us in the betrayal, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior. Amen.”
Today’s message is called “Let’s Talk about the Fall” – and it’s not even officially Spring until Thursday! Yeah, well, I believe in planning ahead…. Or maybe I wanna talk about LAST Fall! Actually I don’t ever wanna talk about last Fall again! And, no, I’m not talking about Autumn, I’m talking about THE Fall – the biblical telling of mankind’s lostness, when darkness overcame the light, when evil started moving into our neighborhoods, and how you and I are a real part of that story.
We ask questions like:
“What is wrong with this world – that my niece has cancer?”
“What’s with all the terrorists we read about in the paper?”
“Are people basically good or bad? I feel like I’m good, but sometimes I do things I regret.”
“Why do people die? My dear friend is about to die.”
“Why does it seem like there’s so little true justice in the world? I just read about all those people starving in Sudan because of an unjust government.”
“Can I trust the God whom you claim rules over this world?”
That said, this Lenten sermon series we are looking at how the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, tells the story of Jesus. We began this series looking at how Jesus met with two of His disciples, Cleopas and the “other one”, and shared with them, from Moses and the Prophets, how He was the ultimate fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises and prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah.
And for the next six Sundays, we are taking some guesses as to how Jesus did that. So I invite you to buckle up, open your Bibles, and hear the Word of God, from Moses all the way to the Messiah. What’s the Story? Today we look at “the Fall”, and we see it all the way to the “Resurrection”.
Our Old Testament reading comes from Genesis 3, this is connected to the second Creation story of Genesis. Hear the Word of God from Genesis 3:1-7 …. —-
1 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?’” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 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.” 6 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. 7 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.
- This story begins in Paradise – the Garden of Eden. Everything is right in this world. God the Creator has given every blessing needed to thrive!
- But there is one limit – “Do not eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
- In comes Satan, and Eve and Adam “Fall” to temptation!
- The result of “the Fall”? Adam and Eve are exiled from Paradise, must work and labor for their survival, and are separated from God’s immediate presence.
- Is this a one-time event? No this happens over and over and over again – and it seems to grow with each generation. Satan, in effect, murders Adam’s and Eve’s soul. ->Cain murders Abel out of jealousy ->Lamech abandons marital union and takes two wives ->then Lamech murders because someone has injured him -> and so on ->and so on->and so on until we come to today! ->by the time Moses gets to Genesis 6, the evil has gotten so great that “every inclination of the thoughts of man’s heart was evil all the time” ->the flood.
- And that cycle continues after the flood, as I said, all the way to this moment in history.
- Adam and Eve are “exposed/naked” for how they have chosen. And the results seem unstoppable!
Now, let’s jump 2,000 years. Scholars tell us that Moses lived about 2,000 years BC, and tradition says that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, so for the sake of simplicity, let’s jump the 2,000 years from Moses to Jesus, where we find yet another “story of the Fall” in John 1:10-11 and 3:18-21 …. —-
John 1 10 He [Jesus] was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him….
John 3 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he does has been done through God.
- As the New Testament opens, John the Baptist comes on the scene and picks up where Malachi (the end of the Old Testament) left off, warning of the judgment to come.
- The Son of God came, lived right in their midst, and was rejected!
- Verse 20 says, 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be “exposed/naked” for how they have chosen. And the results seem unstoppable!
What will be the end of the Fall? How can this resolve in a good way? Now, let’s jump another 70 or so years into the future. The same Disciple who wrote John’s Gospel, John the brother of James, also wrote the last book of the New Testament, Revelation. In this strange, difficult to interpret book of “end times” prophecy, John writes one last “Fall story” in Revelation 18:21-23 …. —-
21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:
“With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.
22 The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again.
No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again.
23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of a bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you
This is the Fall still yet to be experienced by us, but it is as real as the 1st Fall, and it is as terrifying as the “Fall story” in John 1 and 3.
- Those who choose to worship idols rather than God are completely exposed/naked and therefore “fall” outside of Paradise, and the tormented anguish of their exile in hell will last for all eternity – unstoppable!
Jesus explained to His two disciples, from Moses and the Prophets, how all the Messianic Old Testament Bible verses were fulfilled in Him; and we have seen this morning, how in the theme of the Fall the whole Bible is knit together as a singular story of God’s perfect power and love for us – but so what?
Here’s one more Bible passage, from the Apostle Paul: “14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (II Corinthians 6:14)
How do we normally hear this verse applied? I most often hear people use this verse to counsel young couples about interfaith marriages. “Don’t be yoked with an unbelieving husband or wife!” And, while I do think that is good advice, it is not what Paul is talking about here. His primary context is probably more related to business partners, and is meant to be applied also to friendships and relational connections, certainly marriages would be included.
But a careful look also suggests that this is to be applied directly to you and me.
We live in a very broken and fallen world! There is no way to escape this truth, or to deny its existence! Yes, we have the splendors of God’s glory, amazing sunrises and awe-inspiring sunsets, mountain scenes and beaches, wildlife and weather that takes our breath away; music of our Chancel Choir, the songs of the birds bringing this Spring to life, the coos and cries and giggles of babies – but we need glasses to see these beauties clearly and hearing aids to enjoy the sounds.
That’s God’s perfect Creation and our brokenness, fallenness, side-by-side!
Some patterns we see in this storyline: First, on the one hand, every time we Fall it is instigated by Satan – he tries to trip us up!; and on the other hand, we are completely responsible for choosing to follow Satan rather than God!
Second, we see a pattern of effects from the Fall:
Effect 1: We are banished from God’s presence (on that day you shall surely die) – Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden; Cain from God’s people; ultimately, those who die without ever choosing God, from His eternal presence in heaven.
Effect 2: We are corrupted in nature – Adam and Eve disobeyed, Cain killed, Tower of Babel built to suggest equality with God. The problem of sin is found in our heart! It’s not just an issue of education or surroundings, it’s a heart condition!
Third, we see a pattern of progression – sin goes from bad to worse, all the way through the history of humanity!
But this is not the end of the story!
What this proves is that we do not live in a spiritually neutral world. Every decision we make is a battle between listening for God’s voice or deciding we don’t need to!
This story tells us that God is not the one to blame for the condition of this world – we are!
People do bad things simply because we want to! Maybe because we want to be God! And God is, therefore, just when He judges us.
And because God is perfectly holy, He can have nothing to do with sin! What fellowship can light have with darkness? Remember last week when we read from II Corinthians 5 that God calls us to partner with Him? And today in II Corinthians 6 we read where He asks, What do righteousness and wickedness have in common?! God can have nothing to do with being yoked with our sinfulness!
And here’s the Good News! We cannot save ourselves from this condition of hell-bent destiny – and we don’t need to! God has sent us a Savior – and that salvation comes to us in the form of ultimate judgment! Did you hear that? God saves us by judging us as guilty of sin!
He does that because His Son, the promised seed of Abraham, the Son of all-mankind and the Son of God, paid the guilty-price for our sin! Our only responsibility is to receive that gift with an open life – and then to live like we believe what we say we believe!
So how does the Bible answer our questions about cancer and death and terrorism? How we understand our concerns about environmental degradation and economic collapse? What does God say about injustice?
God did not create this world to be ravaged by things like cancer and terrorism. But He did curse the “very good” world He had made – because of our sin. We have all set ourselves up as gods in His place, and as such we have attracted His deserved wrath. God has rightly cursed this world because of us. We have no one to blame but ourselves. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!”
But we can still trust this God whose anger we have stirred, because way more than His anger He has loved us with His very Son!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He is the cure for the fallen, broken world we have corrupted! He offers us a rescue from this terrifying, accelerating descent into hell. That rescue is Jesus!
Beginning in the desert and continuing to Calvary, Jesus did what Adam (and you and I) failed to do! He resisted Satan’s temptation to exalt Himself on His own terms! Jesus freely chose to obey God all the way to His death!
Here is the answer for how we can trust God in the face of so much evil and suffering in the world. Here is the reason we can trust the God who has cursed us for our sin. He is the same God who suffered for us to conquer evil and sin and death! He is the same God who bore the curse on our behalf!
On the day in the Garden of Eden when God declared that the judgment for sin would be death, on that same day the Son of God was there sharing in that decision. It was a judgment, but it was also a mercy. To remain in the presence of this holy God as a very unholy sinner meant eternal death. To be banished from His presence meant only temporary death.
Here is the answer why we can trust God in a fallen world: He is none other than “the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world” for sinners such as me!
I invite you to trust this God! Amen.
Lawrence, Michael; Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church; Crossway; Wheaton, IL; 2010; Pp. 129-140.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Faith Alive Resources; 2012; P. 355.
Wheeler, Mark; The Ledger newsletter; Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church; 03/2014.