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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Temptation (It Starts) - March 5, 2017 - First Sunday in Lent - Text: Gen. 3:1-21

What a great way to start Lent, with all three Bible readings giving us insight into our spiritual condition. Remember, Lent is the time we contemplate our part in Jesus’ dying on the cross. In our Epistle lesson for this morning Paul reminds us that by one man, namely Adam, sin entered the world but more importantly, by one Man, Jesus, forgiveness enters the world. In the Gospel lesson we are given the account of the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness. The difference between the Gospel lesson and our text, the Old Testament lesson is this, where Adam and Eve failed, Jesus succeeded. Here is where we begin seeing the fulness of the Gospel, the fact that not only did Jesus come to die on the cross, He also came to live for us, doing everything for us, in our place that we cannot do, namely resist temptation and sin.
 
Just a brief word before we get into Genesis chapter three and that is to say this. Either the Bible is the Word of God and it is to be believed, or it is not. There seems to be a debate about this in our world today, especially when it comes to the theory or belief of evolution and belief is the optative word. As Christians we have the same evidence as the evolutionists. The way we interpret that evidence is often contradictory. The reason for this is because we believe the Bible to be God’s Word and so we look at all the evidence in light of the Bible and if there is a contradiction, or a seeming contradiction then we know that the problem is not with the Bible, but with the fallible human explanation of the evidence. One striking example is that of dating methods. Most all the dating methods which give dates of millions of years to our earth are faulty dating methods and have been proven to be faulty. And, interestingly enough, most dating methods that give a young age to our earth, and have been proven to be more accurate at dating, are simply avoided and not used. Because no one was around when the world was created, except God Himself, then no one knows exactly what happened, except God Himself, so we take His Word for it.
 
As we get into our text we notice that we are introduced to three characters. The first character is the serpent. Of the serpent we are told, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” So, who was this serpent? From these words as well as from other words of Holy Scripture we know that this serpent was a fallen angel, even Satan himself, the one Jesus calls the father of lies. Satan was created as a good angel, however he rebelled against God and was thrown out of heaven, along with his own followers. Satan thought himself to be a god equal with his creator God and that was his undoing. And we are also told that because of Satan’s fall, that is the very reason God created hell, not for us, but for Satan.
 
As the father of lies, Satan is the master. Satan approached Eve and brought questions through doubt, exaggeration and twisting of words. And actually, if you listen carefully you may notice that Satan really does not have any new tricks or temptations today, he simply uses the same old lies which do work just as well today as they did in the Garden of Eden. Satan began by twisting God’s Word, “Did God actually say . . . ?” “Perhaps you misunderstood.” How often is this temptation used on us and even on our Christian churches. How often do we hear such statements as, “Well, there many interpretations of the Bible.” Do we hear Satan in these words, “Did God really say that or did He really mean what He said?” The reason we have so many different denominations and so many churches that look like our society is because Satan has tempted so many to doubt the actual words of God and instead has tempted mankind to twist and reinterpret God’s Word into his own image.
 
Notice Satan’s temptation that Eve can be “like God.” There are actually some religions, cults and sects that teach that a person can become a god. Yet, even worse is the subtlety of this temptation. We may not believe we can be like God or even become God, yet whenever we put our own thinking before God’s Word, that is what we are doing. In other words, whenever I suggest that what God “really means” is something other than what His Word actually says, then I am indeed being like God. Here again we see this especially in churches that have thrown out the actual Word of God for their own understanding of His Word. Examples in our world today consists of such things as: God is love so certainly He does not want us to condemn those of the homosexual community. Men and women are equal in God’s eyes so certainly God wants women to have the same roles as men in our churches. God loves everyone so we should not discriminate against anyone in our congregations especially keeping anyone from doing what they want, coming to the Lord’s Supper and the like. And the list goes on. Just listen to how people talk and you will know if they worship God or if they believe themselves to be god.
 
As for the serpent, he, as Satan was punished with eternal spiritual death and exile. As for the serpent, the snake he was punished with crawling on his belly and eating dust.
 
The second character we have in our text is Eve. Eve was the woman created by God from Adam’s rib to be a helper suitable for him. Of course the feminism of our society would rather skip past these words failing to understand what a great gift and privilege God has given both Adam and Eve in this relationship. The problem with the view of our society is that it is tainted with sin and fails to understand the good that God gives in everything, especially here in the different roles of men and women. Anyway, as for Eve, she was created by God and we understand that at this time she only knew good. She did not know what evil was, nor what lying was, nor anything about sin because she only knew good.
 
As Satan tempted Eve she began to get the hang of his temptation and she progressed, first from Satan’s questioning, “Did God really say . . . ?” to her own exaggeration, “God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Satan’s temptation lead her to doubt and finally to disobedience. She ate of the fruit and gave some to her husband.
 
When she was confronted with her disobedience she blamed the serpent. How often do we find ourselves following in the footsteps of our first parents. We never take the blame for anything, but we can always find someone else to blame. “Well, she did it first.” “I only said those hurtful things because I was hurt first.” “You made me do it.” When God asks us about our breaking the commandments, continually, I believe we certainly will answer as Adam and Eve, blaming someone else, pointing the finger at others and not accepting our part the problems we have caused. It is our nature after all.
 
For Eve, she was punished with a desire for her husband and pain in childbearing. Her desire for her husband can still be seen in our world today. We see this through the constant striving of women to usurp the roles that God has given especially to men, roles in the church and in society. Personally I do not know why women want to lower themselves to be like men. We know how men are, if the women want to do our work, we will let them and we will sit and watch them. Here again we see how our society has been duped by the lies of Satan and we miss the good gifts and blessings our Lord first gave to us before the fall into sin.
 
But let’s get to our last character, Adam. Adam was also created only knowing good. He did  not know what evil was, what lying was, what sin was. He only knew good.
 
Adam’s first failure however was his failure in his responsibility to care for Eve. Adam was in charge, we know that he was in charge because God held him responsible for what happened. We call this the order of creation. According to the order of creation God first created Adam and God put him in charge of the Garden and his family. Adam failed this responsibility by allowing Eve to speak with the serpent in the first place. I can only imagine what he was thinking as he watched Eve converse with the serpent. According to his role, his God given role, he should have stepped in and sent Satan away, but instead he simply watched and then joined in her sin by eating the fruit with his wife.
 
When God came calling and holding Adam accountable, remember, God first called to Adam. Adam blamed Eve and even worse, he blamed God, “The woman whom you gave me . . . ” Adam says. “It’s all your fault God, if You had not given me this woman then this never would have happened.” Here again, as men, we must understand that the order of creation has never been negated. God will hold us accountable for our family and what happens with our family.
 
For Adam his punishment was hard labor. No longer would the world simply grow food, now it would take hard work. Work, which was not a curse, but a gift given from the beginning, would now become toilsome and no longer much fun.
 
And finally we get to the first Gospel promise. Because of the sin of Eve and Adam, there was now a separation between God and man. God’s promise was that One would be sent to take care of this separation. One would come who would bring reconciliation and forgiveness.
 
The One who would bring this forgiveness was One who would be born of a woman, thus He would be truly human and so would be able to be a substitute. Remember, the price for sin that was set in the Garden of Eden was death, physical death and apart from Jesus eternal spiritual death, and that price had to be paid and it had to be paid by those guilty of sinning. The only way out for us would be to suffer the eternal punishment or to have someone take our place and that someone would have to be someone like us, a human being, except without sin.
 
The One to be born would be a human, but He would also need to be born in perfection, in other words He would have to be truly God. The One to be born would therefor also be the Son of God, and He was as He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, thus making Him truly God.
 
Finally, the one to be born would need to fulfill all God’s Law and Prophecies and would have to suffer and pay the price for the sins of the those He came to save.
 
So, what does this mean for us? As we read this account from Genesis we may notice that in the beginning when God was active everything was perfect. In Genesis chapter one and two everything is described by God as being good and even very good, everything was perfect.
 
When we get to chapter three we move from God acting to mankind acting and all hell breaks loose, literally. Perhaps we would do well to take notes from these first three chapters of God’s Word. Our problem always has been and will remain that when we believe ourselves to be in charge and we attempt to put God out of the picture life becomes unbearable. And yet that is what we do on a daily basis. We do this in our personal lives, making decisions without God and even in spite of Him. We do this in our society, working to throw God out of the public square and attempt to relegate Him only to our church buildings. We do this in our congregations when we put ourselves and our perceived needs before our Lord in other words, when we fail to make regular and diligent use of our Lord’s means of grace and then when we attempt to blame Him because of our failings and sin. We do this when we determine to run our congregation as a business, when we determine to run our congregation according to the whims of our society, instead of acting in faith and doing what God would have us to do according to His own Word and not our faulty understanding of His Word.
 
Thanks be to God that He remains in charge, even in spite of us. Thanks be to God that He is continually working in and through us, even in and through our congregation to bring good from evil. Would that we could simply go back to living in Genesis one and two? And yet, what great words we have from our Lord here in chapter three. God created. God created all things out of nothing. God created all things good, even very good, yes, even perfect. And after His creatures failed, disobeyed and sinned, God continued and continues to be in control. God continues to reach out to fallen humanity. He has taken care of our sins and the price for our sins. He has paid the price for our sins, for your sins, for my sins, for the sins of all people, of all places, of all times. His desire and His will for us is always good and even perfect. His desire is to give to us and to pour out on us blessings upon blessings. And He does give to us and pour out His blessings on us. He has given His blessings to us through the substitutionary work of His Son, God in flesh, Jesus Christ. Jesus life, suffering, death and resurrection was for us in order to pay the price we owe for our sins. Thus, by faith in Jesus we have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Thus, we rejoice in the gifts we are given.
 
As we begin this lenten season, we know how this will all end. We know the rest of the story and it is knowing the rest of the story, it is knowing our sins are forgiven which give us the boldness to repent and confess our sins. Because we know that as we repent, so our sins are forgiven and we have life and salvation, for Jesus’ sake. To God be the glory. Amen.

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