Many TV series have a beginning segment called a recap where they remind viewers of what’s happened up to this point in the story. They don’t retell the story, just give a few highlights to get everyone up to speed so where they’ve been flows into where they are going with the story. I need to do that this morning.
We are building a foundation for Living Biblically. That isn’t as easy as just saying, “Hey, live like God wants you to live.” Living Biblically is more than trying to be good instead of bad, doing right instead of wrong. It is formulating our values for what we believe and letting those beliefs turn into our actions – trying to figure out how to live in the world and not be of the world, thinking and acting in a way that pleases God, living a godly life while fighting ungodly tendencies. To do so, we must discipline ourselves to make good and godly decisions with the ultimate goal of honoring God.
1Cor 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
This statement came out of a social crisis in Corinth. Meat that had been sacrificed to pagan gods was commonly sold in the market place. Some felt this meat was tainted because of the circumstances under which the animal died. Others said that didn’t matter. Which made people ask: Should a Christian eat this meat or refuse it on religious grounds?
We may not face that specific question, but: What do we think about abortion? What do we think about marriage? What do we think about manliness or womanhood? What do we think about socially acceptable practices that violate Biblical principles? How does what we think affect us politically?
Are there any lines drawn in our minds that we will firmly stand behind and will not cross because we believe crossing them would not glorify God?
What do we think about sin? What do we think about Heaven? What do we think about Hell? What do we think about God’s sovereignty? What do we think about God’s faithfulness? What do we think about salvation? What do we think about the truthfulness of Scripture? Where to stand when our world begins to crumble around us? Will its crumbling take us down with it or will we stand firm?
Some will say: “Don’t worry about all of that, just tell people to trust God.” Just saying, “You need to trust God,” doesn’t cut it for people who have no foundation based on who God is nor any experience with actually trusting Him with their life situations. The words “just trust God” need some place we can attach them in our minds. We first need to hammer in some pegs onto which we can hang our beliefs.
So, we began at the beginning: Gen 1:1-3 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be…” and there was.
With that simple, yet profound introduction to our Bible, we meet our Almighty God. This God is powerful enough to make everything that is, by a word spoken from His mouth. That makes Him more than capable of any action necessary to accomplish any purpose He chooses. What does that say about trusting Him?
- You can’t believe in healing unless you have a God in whom nothing is impossible.
- You can’t believe in divine intervention unless you believe in a God who will accomplish what concerns us.
- You can’t believe in overcoming unless you believe in a God who has overcome the world.
- You can’t believe in comfort, hope, a future, peace unless you believe in a God who provides for the needs of His children.
We cannot live Biblically unless we first nail down the pegs that tell us God is absolutely almighty and able to do exceeding abundantly beyond anything we could think or ask. That He is without limitations or restrictions. That He loves us with an eternal love and dances over us with joy. That He is a Father who delights in His children. And that He always does what’s best.
We don’t start the process of trusting Him by looking at the problem. We start by settling the issue of how trustworthy is He in the first place. Is He almighty enough for whatever we face? Then we can trust.
Remember: Before He spoke there was nothing. After He spoke there was everything.
We found out creation was by design, meaning, after their kind told us God created the diversity of mankind, animals and plants when He spoke them into existence. Any changes that happened along the way were programmed to happen by the God who created them.
We saw that God placed equal value on all human life and elevated people above the rest of creation. They were given dominance over the world to live and prosper within it. We also learned, because of God’s love for mankind, people were created as targets for His love and are included into His plan. He would make a way for them to come into the Family of God after Jesus died for them. We’ll see that later in the great missionary movement headed up by Paul to take the Gospel to the whole world.
We discovered that God was operating from a plan that was set before He ever laid the foundation of creation. That plan is traceable throughout the rest of the Bible and, in fact, takes the rest of the Bible to understand. He set that plan upon a specific couple formed in a special moment sometime after creation was completed and used them to establish the lineage through which His plan would be fulfilled. We saw the glory of that plan when we celebrated the birth of Jesus.
We learned that since Adam represented all mankind, when sin entered the story it not only affected Adam and Eve but became the curse of the whole world. We didn’t see that completely in Genesis but by reading the NT we saw the ramifications of their actions. In fact, eating the fruit became the act of deliberately disregarding God’s command, which introduced sin as the evidence of unrighteousness. The consequence of that sin was then placed on every person.
But we noticed that it wasn’t sin that got them kicked out of the Garden, it was Grace. Grace wanted to keep them from eating from the other tree – the Tree of Life – and living forever separated from God because of their sin. This was the first glimpse into the heart of God showing He desired none to perish but all to come to repentance.
We saw when they left the Garden, Grace went with them. Since the Plan of God was instrumentally connected to Adam and Eve, when they left the Garden, they took the solution to sin with them. They were the ones through whom Jesus would eventually come as the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. His death would pay the penalty for all sin making the way possible for those who received Him to be granted the right to enter into the Family of God.
Which, more or less brings you up to date. Now, let’s dig back into the story. A question needs to be asked: where did the sin come from that now placed every person underneath its curse?
Remember, in the Garden, Satan’s temptation? Gen 3:4-6 The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
We cannot separate Sin from Satan. Sins are the actions that followed the temptation to disregard what God said to do. Adam and Eve agreed with the temptation when they found disregarding what God said more desirable than obedience. From that moment on, temptation has been the tool Satan has used to push us toward ungodly thoughts and behavior in order to keep us separated from God. The urge to give in to temptation is given a name: SIN NATURE. It is the desire to satisfy our wants apart from God and even disregard His commands to do so. The Bible will tell us later that nature is in every person. It is a resident desire causing us to sin.
Rom 7:19-21 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
That means Paul found that same nature within his life that was exposed by Adam in the Garden. He sees it residing in each of us and if not resisted will compel us to commit sinful acts against God.
James describes the urging of this nature as lust. James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
Adam demonstrated that same lust in his desire to reject God’s best. He didn’t create the lust, he exposed it. But, once it was exposed, consequence was placed on his actions. It is that consequence that is passed to all men. We see that in the next story.
Gen 4:1-7 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, "I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD." Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."
Did you hear what the Lord said to Cain: sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it. “The willingness to sin that was exposed by your dad is also in you, Cain, and Satan is targeting you at the point of that same willingness to sin. Satan is crouching at the door and will try to overpower you. But you can resist.”
It’s the same thing Peter said: 1Pet 5:8 Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith.
This would be the subplot within the greater Story of Redemption. The desire and power within us to sin can and will overwhelm us, but God has provided the way out.
Listen to what Paul said: 1Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
Endure – successfully deal with. Endure the trip – you successfully completed the journey. Endured the illness – you successfully gained your healing. Endured the night – you successfully made it from the darkness into morning.
How can we resist or endure? Something showed up in the Garden that was unexpected. Adam and Eve were created with Free Will.
In the creation of mankind and the formation of Adam and Eve, God gave each person Free Will. Free will was the right and obligation to choose: right or wrong, godliness or ungodliness. Free Will is the underlying gift that makes what God offers a true offer. It can be accepted or rejected.
Josh 24:15 "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Deut 30:19-20 "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him;
But the right to choose wasn’t without consequence. God judged them according to the choice they made.
Jer 17:9-10 The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.
Realize Free Will isn’t the curse. Free Will is the gift that makes us able to choose. Our nature to Sin will drive us to make ungodly choices. We are able to make godly choices because of Free Will. The story of Cain shows us we can resist.
When God told Cain he could resist the temptation to kill his brother, Cain had a way out but refused it. Why? The will to resist was weaker than the desire to sin. He killed his brother because he wanted to.
With Cain, his Free Will gave in to the desire to be his own god and disregard God’s best. Free Will was his struggle point with his nature to sin. That is also our struggle point in our war against sin in our lives.
Because of Free Will, we will either choose to honor God or we will dishonor Him, obey or disobey, respect or disrespect. We have been given the right and obligation to choose how we will live. So, what will we choose: godliness or ungodliness?
Rom 7:24-25 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Rom 5:15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
Salvation came through Jesus but also the power to deny the Sin Nature’s control. Jesus was the answer to both.
How? Because God 2Cor 5:21 made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
When? Isa 53:5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
At what point is that applied to us? John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
You’ve heard the consequence of Sin. You also heard of the Grace of God in Jesus to take upon Himself the penalty of that consequence. You must also hear of the gift of Free Will by which God gives us the opportunity to choose to receive the reward of what Jesus did.
By the actions of one man, Adam, the nature to sin has been exposed and cost of sinning against God has been applied to every person. But by the action of the other Man, Jesus, that cost has been paid and the control of the sin nature broken. We now have within us the overcoming power of a transformed life to deny the sin nature’s authority over us and can choose instead to live the life God called us to live.
Hang some of this on the pegs driven into your mind so that you can stand firm, trusting completely in our Almighty God and resisting Satan’s attempts to get us to deny God the right to rule our lives.
- God is sovereign and rules with absolute power and authority.
- We are created with the desire to rule our own lives apart from God driven by our Sin Nature.
- That reveals choice which also reveals Free Will.
- But the greater purpose of Free Will is the privilege to choose to submit that desire to rule our lives to God.
- By that submission, God receives us as His Children and obligates Himself to provide all that is necessary for us to live godly lives that honor Him.