FIRST OF MANY

6.10.18 Pentecost 3B

Pentecost B

Genesis 3:8-15

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring a and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.

 

 

I find the beginning chapters of the Bible absolutely astounding. Here’s why.  As much as the smartest scientists and philosophers and astrophysicists tell us they know absolutely, completely, for sure that the world is most likely, probably something like 4.5 billion years old maybe, they were not present for the beginning of time and so they have no clue what they are talking about.  There is a lot of intrigue about the origins of this universe and world and a lot of uncertainty if you listen to those “smart” people.

The answer, however, is neatly packaged by the only one who was there before it all began. In the first chapters of Genesis, God tells us that everything came into being from God who made it all out of nothing simply by his almighty Word.  We are not descendants of dumb luck or absurd chances that some cells decided to be little swimmy things in water and then decided to be bigger swimmy things, then little slithery things, then walking things, then hairy and bigger walking things, then less hairy walking and talking things.  How can that possibly be the most sensible belief about the beginning?  If that is the answer then we wonder why there is a problem in our world with bullying, porn, violence, abuse, immorality, arrogance. That kind of thinking about our beginning gives life no value.  It gives us no purpose and no reason to exist.

When a lot of people see Genesis and the Bible as a bunch of nonsense, fairytales and fantasies, anything but facts, I find these first couple of chapters so very enlightening, comforting, and true.  And I think we can help people see it this way.  If Adam and Eve are the very first human beings, then we would expect to find characteristics and qualities that you and I also have.  As we hear about the devil successfully tempting the first human beings into sin – where he tells lies as if they were truth, where they don’t value God the way they should, where they don’t value each other the way they should – we would expect that to be a way that is still effective on humans today.  After they fall into sin we would expect them to handle it in a way that you and I still do today.  And as God approaches them after their sin, we would expect him to deal with them in a way that he still deals with us today.  These first chapters do not tell us things that are peculiar, mythical, or specific to a certain time or place but they tell us something universal.  These first chapters explain so much about you and me.  Like I said, I find that absolutely astounding.

The beginning of Genesis is not a story that you and I have to try and figure out.  It is not like any other book or story because this book, it has us all figured out.  Reading through these first couple chapters, we find out who we are and what makes us tick.  We find out why we treat each other poorly.  We find out why we cope with sin the way we do.  We find out how God intervenes and rescues us from all of those things the way he does.  As we look at this section of the Bible we see all of the firsts – the first days, the first people, the first temptation, the first sin, the first human reaction to sin, the first divine reaction to sin –  but this is just the first of many times that these things happen all the way up to today.

When we pick it up in Genesis 3:8 Adam and Eve have just done what God told them not to do.  The devil tempted them to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and they did.  So, now what?  What is the solution to this problem that Adam and Eve have brought into the world?

Adam and Eve have their own ideas.  They take cover.  They take cover behind fig leaves that they sewed together, because they needed to cover this new concept of shame.  God comes on his normal stroll in the garden, and Adam and Eve take cover in the trees of the garden.  They now need to cover up this new thing called guilt.  And finally, when God confronts them they take cover with excuses, blaming, and even blaspheming against God.

Notice the changes in Adam and Eve that happen because of sin.  In an instant their relationship with God was different.  God was so good to them. They were in perfect union with him.  Now God’s footsteps sound like police sirens, from which they desperately want to hide.

In an instant another relationship was different.  Up to this point the devil had been the one pointing the accusing finger at God, even blaspheming him.  He said, “You can’t trust God. Look, he’s holding out on you with this tree.”  Now, not only had Adam and Eve listened to the devil, but they became fluent in his language.  Adam points the accusing finger at God and says, “The woman you put here with me —she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Because of the first sin, Adam and Eve ran from God and were now speaking the same language as their enemy, the devil.  In other words, that first sin made them afraid of their Father and friends with their foe.

Like I said this was the first time that happened, and the first of many times since.  Adam and Eve’s behavior here reveals something that is true for you and me.  As human beings we have a deep-seeded desire for two very important things: to be known and to be loved.  For most of us we would like to go through life with someone, someone to share things with us and to know us.  And we want those people to love, accept, and approve of us.

But when sin comes into the picture, we can’t really have both.   If someone really knows everything about you, then some might not want to love you anymore.  So, we’ve got these two things and, given the choice, you probably would want to be loved, which means you might give up being completely known.  Just like Adam and Eve, we take cover.  We hide.

That’s pretty easy to do, isn’t it?  We hide from people at work, at school, in the neighborhood, at church, with friends, and even in extended families.  We hide stuff and put only the best version of ourselves out there.  Is there a more terrifying thought than if all of our acquaintances, our casual connections, would suddenly know everything that only our close friends know?  What if suddenly all of our close friends knew everything that your family knows?  What if your family knew everything that only you know?  And what if everyone knew everything?

That is true for one person; he knows it all.  When we are confronted with that truth, then we can become very good at speaking the language of our enemy.   We point the finger at God and blame him.  “God, your plan for my life, the way you want me to live, your guidance for the so-called good life about how I should think, speak and act, well it just is not right.  It’s not exciting.  It’s not fun.  It’s not fair.”  It’s like the irrational hope of a someone caught red-handed in sin, thinking that hiding behind the lies and finger-pointing will somehow help them escape their guilt.

That’s what happened for the first time here in Genesis 3 to Adam and Eve, but it was just the first of many.  This is what sin does to us.  It makes us afraid of our Father and friends with our foe.

There they were, Adam, Eve, and the devil newly allied with each other against God.   The three of them should have been placed like bottles on fence posts.  Boom, boom, boom.  1,2,3.  Blown to bits.  But God stepped up in a different way.  God says, “I’m going to rearrange things here. I’m going to bring Adam and Eve back to my side.”  He looks right at the devil and says this: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

This is a big verse in the Old Testament.  This is God’s declaration of war against the devil, and it’s the first indication of how God is going to win that war.  One of Eve’s own descendants, one born of a woman, would crush the devil even though it would come at a great cost to himself.  This verse is the first promise of our Savior, Jesus.

You might look at those words and say, “I don’t know if I see that!”  Why would God be so cryptic and vague?  Why didn’t he just come out with it: “Jesus Christ will die on the cross to forgive your sins?”  This promise was exactly what Adam and Eve needed in that moment, nothing more and nothing less.  God basically gave them an empty bowl of a promise that, over time, would be filled with more and more and more details.

When God said that one of Eve’s descendants, one born of a woman, would crush the head of the devil, it happened.  The fulfillment of that promise was a male born of a woman, just a woman with no human father, so that he was both true man and true God.  When God promised that he would crush the head of the devil, and the devil would strike his heal, it happened.  Jesus defeated the devil not with brute force but hidden behind weakness and suffering when he died on the cross.

God went on to describe what life would be like for Adam and Eve in a sinful world, how everything that had been perfectly good would now be bad, how their work would be frustrating and hard, how childbearing would be painful, how their marriage and relationships would now have strife.  That would be too tough to hear, if it had not been for the promise that God had spoken.

And this promise worked for Adam and Eve.  A little while later Adam and Eve had a child, and sure enough it was a boy.  Adam and Eve looked at their son and thought, “Here is the one. This is the answer to God’s promise, the Savior.”  They were a little soon.  Jesus would not come for a couple thousand years, but it shows that God’s promise worked.  Two people who had been afraid of their Father had been given faith in their Father instead.

In contrast, think about what God’s promise did to the foe, the devil.  God says to the devil, “One of Eve’s descendants is going to crush your head.”  Can you image the thoughts that filled the devils head after that promise was made?  “Who!?! When!?! Where!?!?”  But God didn’t give those details.  I can only image the devil wanting to be present for every birth after that, waiting to see if it was a boy and wondering, “Is he the one?”  How that promise taunted and tormented the devil from that point forward.

Look what our good and gracious Father is doing.  He finds people who are afraid of their Father and friends with the foe, and he gives them faith in their Father while putting all the fear on the foe. In the garden was the first time God did this, but again it’s just the first of many times after that.

You and I are so good at being the person who irrationally hopes that they can hide behind lies and finger-pointing and escape our guilt.  Part of the reason we do it is because we often forget that there’s a better solution.

God steps in with his promise to us.  He says “I am not charging you with any sin.  I declare you innocent of all guilt because I have already charged it to my Son.  The punishment you should pay, I have already given to him.  Not only are you fully forgiven and free, but, because that sin is paid for, no one can ever bring it against you again.  No one can every charge you with it because the penalty has already been paid.”

God has spoken that word to you, and every time we see a little bit of water connected to that powerful Word of God he speaks it again.  “You don’t need to be afraid of your Father anymore.  I have given you faith.  I have made you a part of the family forever.  The foe is the fearful one.”

For all who have this faith in Jesus we have undeniable and unending comfort and peace.  And that means we have no reason to hide behind excuses, lies, and finger-pointing.  God has provided the real solution to sin’s problem.

In fact, with God’s word of promise we find out that we have those two things that we desire deep down, the desire to be known and the desire to be loved.  With our Father in heaven we have someone who knows us, better than anyone, better than we even know ourselves.  And yet he still accepts us, approves of us, and loves us more than we could ever imagine.

All of this is ours from our Father through his Son, our brother.  That’s why family is most definitely and always will be better than the foe.  To God be the glory.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GOD MADE IT SO WE BELIEVE, TEACH, AND CONFESS IT

Week 6- 7.16.17

LL pic 2

 

Hebrews 11:3

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

 

The very first words of Scripture are, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The first two chapters of Scripture detail how God did that. So why is this sermon on creation and preservation number 6 in our Lutheran Legacy series, when it is on page number 1 in the Bible?

The answer is here in Hebrews 11:3.  “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command…” By “faith” the writer means saving faith, faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Without knowledge of Christ and trust in him alone, the account of creation makes no sense.

That means we first need to know who God is before we can understand what he made.  We covered that in the first week, the festival of the Holy Trinity.  Before we understand how this world got here we also need to know what our standing is before God, how does he see us.  That’s where those 4 key concepts of the Bible that we covered in the 2 and third weeks come in.   God tells us about our sin and he shows his undeserved and unearned love toward fallen mankind.  His grace gave us the greatest gift we could ever have, a Savior, Christ the Lord.  His grace is so completely responsible for turning us from unbelief that it also creates faith in us to believe and understand who God is and what he does.  The faith he plants in us through the Word and sacraments will produce the fruit that God expects of his children.

Does all of this sound familiar?  It’s what we have covered so far.  It’s the legacy that we carry on as Lutherans. It’s this faith alone that we confess before all the world, faith that is built on grace alone found in Scripture alone. This is the faith that God gives us so that we can believe, teach, and confess how God created and preserves the world.

So, here we are now at week 6, Creation.  Genesis 1 and 2 tell us that God created the universe out of nothing in six normal days, by the power of his Word. On Day 1, he began his creation with light. He simply spoke and it came into existence. God divided the day into a period of darkness and a period of light. On Day 2 he separated the water into waters above and waters below, with the sky or heavens in between. On Day 3 he organized the waters below the sky into seas and had dry ground appear. He also had the land produce seed-bearing plants and vegetation, according to their kinds. On Day 4 he created the sun, moon, stars, and all the heavenly bodies to serve as signs, to regulate the time into seasons, and to give light on the earth at various times. On Day 5 he created the sea creatures and winged creatures, according to their kinds, and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. On Day 6 he created the land creatures, according to their kinds, and then he crowned his creation with mankind. He formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living being. After Adam had named all the animals, God caused him to fall into a deep sleep and he took a rib from Adam and used it to build Eve from the dust of the ground. He also commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. And on Day 7 God rested from all the work of creating, with which he was now finished. It was all very good, perfect.

Of course that perfect creation has changed tremendously since God made it. The devil, a fallen angel, tempted Adam and Eve to sin. They used their free will to follow his temptation.  With that sin changed the world into a place of selfishness, corruption and death. Every human conceived by a human father and mother since the fall into sin is conceived and born sinful. Yes, we enjoy the blessings and beauties that remain in God’s creation, but it’s not the perfection of Eden.  Instead, this world continues to suffer the decay sin causes.

And as the stench of sin grows, the sweet fragrance of God’s Word is covered up and his creation forgets about him.  This even happens among us.  Where God planted faith to make us beautiful and holy in his sight, the devil uses the Old Adam to rear sin’s ugly face. Many get caught up in the apathetic mantra, “who cares.”  Some say the Bible serves as a good resource of life lessons and self-help tips, but they also turn to the trending “wisdom” found in posts and blogs. Others defiantly deny God’s work and his word as a bunch of fairy tales.

And the biggest argument against God’s account of creation coming from science is evolution.  Everything happened to work out over billions of years.  The sun, the stars, the planets, they just formed out of a massive expansion of energy called, “The Big Bang.”  Gradually since then, life grew from simple forms to the more complex until it reached its highest form, mankind.

The “scientific theory” of evolution is a closer to faith-based thinking than scientific reasoning.  Because where did the rapidly expanding matter come from?  Why has another Big Bang not happened?  If everything has been gradually evolving over billions of years, then we should not be able to classify all life into different kinds. It should just be one long continuum ranging from less complex life to more complex life, with every possible combination and variation in between. At the very least, there should be tons of evidence for these in-between life forms. But there is not.

Ultimately, though, we can’t prove creation either.  So how do we know and follow what God says about creation?  Why do we care about it?  It’s a faith issue.  The Bible says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”  We believe it because God says it, because God made it happen.  It’s the same for everything in the Bible.  We believe that God had a plan to save us from the corruption of sin, from the decay of this world, from the destruction of death.  We believe that Jesus left heaven to carry out that plan.  We believe that God’s Son paid the full price for our corruption.  We believe that God’s Son proved this by conquering death on the third day.  We believe that God’s Son ascended back to heave to rule all things for the benefit of his people and to prepare a place for us.  And we believe that if God loved us like this, even when we don’t deserve it, that he is more trustworthy than any mortal scientist or modern philosopher who claims to have the answer.

If Bill Nye would die for my sins and rise from the dead, then I would believe in him and his theories of how this world got here.  But he has not and he cannot.  Only Jesus Christ could and did.  Jesus Christ does not teach me the theory of evolution or allow it be an option for my understanding.  Instead, he takes me to his Word and the account of creation, inspired by the Spirit.  So that is what you and I believe, teach, and confess.

What is important to remember in all this, is that the Lord God who created this world in 6 regular days and then rested on the seventh, did not rest from that point on.  He still sustains the processes that he himself put into action at creation.  If he withdrew his hand at any time, the universe would fall apart. We heard Paul say he gives all people life and breath and everything else. The Psalms say he sends the rain, makes grass grow for the cattle and plants for man to cultivate, bringing forth food from the earth (104:14). We might be tempted to attribute those things to nature and it’s order, but who created the natural order? Who regulates the seasons? The Creator does.

Jesus says, You are children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil (unbelievers) and the good, (believers) and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  Our heavenly Father feeds and waters the whole world, whether the unbelievers acknowledge it or not.  One quarter of the world’s population confesses to being Christian. That means our one true God feeds ¾ of the population even when they do not worship him or give glory to objects of their own creation. See how gracious our LORD God is, how he still preserves us?

This week in the devotions that I posted to our facebook page from Your Time of Grace dealt with worry.  They were great reminders taken from Matthew 6 where Jesus reminds us we don’t have to worry about anything.  We have a heavenly Father who knows all things and knows how to provide exactly what you need so that your physical and spiritual life will be taken care of.  Elsewhere in Scripture, God tells us he even has an army of angels that he sends to carry out his will.  You have nothing to fear.

What is our response to all of this? David wrote in Psalm 8, When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings (angels)  and crowned him with glory and honor.  Our response is awe and wonder that the LORD God of all creation sent his Son to save us from our sin and death, to make us children of God. Our response is to thank and praise, serve and obey him!  Our response is to carry on in life knowing that nothing is really ours, but everything is the Lord’s to be used for his glory and purpose. Our response is to trust our creator God, not worry. Our response is to remain calm day by day even during a drought.  We can trust our loving God’s care and protection. Our Lutheran Legacy is to believe, teach, and confess these simple words, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

God grant it.  Amen.