Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sermon: Genesis 3: 1-7 Yield Not To Temptation

‘Wet paint: do not touch.’ I wonder if you’re like me, and when you see a sign like that, all you want to do it touch it, to see if it really is wet paint? Or am I the only one? Or what if you see a sign saying ‘Keep out’ - you want to see what is in there that you’re not meant to see...

What is it about us that we want to do those things we’re not meant to? Why is temptation so, so tempting? Oscar Wilde once declared that he could resist everything except temptation. (Which is probably nothing!). Why are we wired to be tempted, and to give in so easily?

Over the past few weeks we’ve been thinking about God’s good creation - the world was perfect, an ideal paradise in the Garden of Eden. But that’s just not how things are these days. We’re no longer in Eden - the world has been changed since then.

This morning we’re looking at how the change happened. How sin entered the world in that first act of rebellion. But we’re not just interested in it because well, it’s nice to think about. This is something that affects us day and daily - we’re all too aware of those temptations to sin; and as we baptise Bethany today, we recognise that she too will grow up to face temptation. How can she - indeed, how can any of us - resist the devil’s lies? We need the sword of the Spirit - the word of God, the truth of God.

So let’s go back to Eden, and watch as the drama unfolds. Back in chapter two, we’re told of the two trees in the middle of the garden - the tree of life, and also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In 2:18, God gives the fruit of the trees to Adam (and Eve), ‘but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’

So all is well and good. There are lots of trees in the garden. There’s just one they’re not allowed to eat from. (Wet paint). Now in 3:1 we’re introduced to ‘the serpent’. He is described as crafty, and we quickly discover that he is working against God - the creation turning against its creator.

This is all we’re told of him at this point - the crafty serpent. But as we trace the theme through the rest of the Bible, we discover just who this serpent is. In Revelation 12:9 we’re given the clearest picture: ‘The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.’ Let’s see how he deceives Adam and Eve:

First of all, he questions God’s word: ‘Did God say...’ as in did God really say? Hmm... so God is holding something back from you? He’s not allowing you something? What kind of God is that? [But then, is a parent being a bad parent by putting a fireguard around the open fire?]

Eve answers true enough, but then adds in a little extra - ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ (3:3). God never mentioned touching it! Was this an extra safeguard - don’t eat it, don’t even touch it, and we’ll be sure to be safe?

The serpent moves on from questioning God’s word to contradicting it: ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ (3:4) There’s no danger! It’s an empty threat! You will not die. The devil’s lies continue today - you deserve it; just take it; no one will ever know; love is all that counts; it’s your right; if it feels good, do it; there’s no hell; no consequences; you will not die.

The bait is dangling on the hook, and Eve is hooked: ‘So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.’ (3:6)

They want to be like God; they want to know good and evil - to define what is right and wrong. Even though they already know what good is (it’s all around them), and they don’t need to know about evil. Have you ever been like that? Suddenly all you can think about is the object of your desire - that temptation, whatever it might be... your new colleague; that chocolate cake in the fridge; ‘borrowing’ from work; you know what it is that you face...

And then Eve takes it, eats it, and gives some to Adam. Why didn’t he step in to stop her? Why didn’t he confront the serpent and keep to God’s word? He too was caught up in the temptation. He too was carried along by the devil’s lies.

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you think you’re at work, or at church, and you’re naked? The shock would be terrible, until you realise it’s just a dream... The serpent was right - their eyes would be opened, but not in a good way. It’s more like a nightmare, as they realise for the first time their nakedness - their shame. [Now some people think that this forbidden fruit was them having sex for the first time - not so. Part of God’s command to them in 1:28 was to be fruitful and multiply... sex is part of God’s good design and plan for his people, within marriage]

Next week we’ll see the consequences of this first sin, and how God deals with it. But before we’re too harsh on Adam and Eve, thinking that they messed it up for all of us; before you think that you would have done better; cast your mind back to the last time you faced temptation. The last time you fell into sin. Did you put up any resistance? Did you give in straight away?

What was the lie you believed? How were you led astray? What was it that caught your desires? Could you change? Could it be different? You see, part of our human experience is this bias towards selfishness and sin. It maybe won’t be too long before Bethany learns those vital words (especially with two big brothers): ‘mine’ ‘no’ ‘not fair’. We don’t have to be taught to stand up for ourselves, we know it instinctively. We say no to God - as one person has put it, sin stands for ‘Shove off God, I’m in charge, No to your rules.’

Adam and Eve said no to God and his one command in the Garden of Eden. We still follow our first parents in their rebellion and ours to this day. Even though you know better, you still do it. Who can rescue us from this body of death? (as Paul cried out in Romans 7)

But in another garden the one known as the Second Adam faced temptation at a level we have never known or experienced; sweating drops of blood, such was the pressure he was under (Luke 22:44), as he prayed ‘not my will but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42) Jesus obeyed where we all fail - as he went to the cross, dying in our place; to forgive our sin and credit us with his obedience.

Our prayer for Bethany is that, even though she too will fall into sin; that she will know the great Saviour, who offers us his peace, and a place in the new heavens and new earth, where there will be no more sin or sorrow. Our prayer is that each of us will hear God’s word rather than the lies of the devil as we stand in God’s salvation & power.

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 23rd September 2012.

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