Paradise Lost - Part Two
Scripture: Genesis 3:1–24
Paradise Lost-Part TwoGenesis 3:1-24
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Pastor Randy Smith
Among many others, Jesus made a radical statement in Matthew 18:3. He said, "Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Heaven and hell hang in the balance based on whether or not we are converted. Now most churchgoers would affirm that, but what we need to be converted too may catch us by surprise. We need to be converted to become like little children! Unless we become like little children - not being childish, but being childlike - we stand no chance of entering heaven. That is radical and often overlooked by many. We know we need faith to be saved. But is becoming childlike in the category of faith something we need in addition to faith?
I believe childlikeness is faith. Just as a young child entirely depends upon a parent for food and clothing and shelter and wisdom necessary for his or her survival, childlike faith is a simple trust that we are totally dependent on a heavenly Father for all things as well. It is a complete break from self-reliance and self-dependence so characteristic of today's society and a complete casting ourselves into God's loving arms for the ultimate provision of all things.
As we learned last week, this is what made eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil so tragic. Eating the forbidden fruit was Adam and Eve rebelling against God. It symbolized the personal autonomy that we alone apart from God can make the necessary decisions for a fulfilled and happy future. They, like many today, thought they were wiser and more sufficient than the all-loving, omniscient and omnipotent God to provide for themselves the essentials they crave.
Therefore according to Jesus, conversion is reversing the act of the fall. Conversion is not an act of independence from Jesus, but rather an act of dependence on Jesus. Conversion is becoming like a little child that gladly confesses that our Lord knows and provides what we need to be truly satisfied in this life, and provides all the means necessary in and of Himself for us to enter heaven in the life to come.
Last week we spent considerable time discussing the attack from Satan in the Garden. We spoke of how he hates God, and since he is unable to get at God, he targets those who bear God's image and hold the deepest place in God's heart. We spoke about his strategies that he still employs today to get people to choose sin by distrusting God's goodness and the revealed truth of His Word. He did it in the Garden by attacking the woman's desire and then her mind with lies. And we concluded last week with Eve being deceived, allowing sin to be conceived in her heart, partaking from the forbidden fruit and then giving some to her husband who ate with her as well. In 2:17 God warned Adam, "In the day that you eat from it you will surely die." If God permits, over the next two Sundays we will see how death entered and the further consequences brought about when Adam and Eve chose to be independent from God. We'll see how this still applies to us today.
1. The Repercussions (verses 7-19)
Let's start with "The Repercussions," which is our third of four points in this series. The moment after they ate we read in verse 7, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings."
Before the fall, 2:25, "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." Now the man and woman experienced shame. Soon we'll see how they hid themselves from God. Here we see how they hide themselves from each other. Innocence is lost. They become self-focused. They become aware of their weaknesses, and they do all they can to hide those weaknesses from each other.
Though not literal, we still wear these same fig leaves today. We still go through great lengths to prevent others from seeing our weaknesses. Though I could spend the rest of our time this morning providing examples, allow me to suggest one that has been on my mind all week before we move from this thought.
With my associate role in the Chicago area I have now been in full-time church ministry for almost sixteen years. From experience alone, it saddens me to see how many people, quite often men, who use spiritual things as a covering, or a fig leaf if you will, for their weaknesses or should I say sin.
Here is an example of what I'm talking about. I get a call from a woman who wants to meet privately with me. At the meeting she opens up about the intense pain she is experiencing in her marriage. Then she goes on to say that the root of her problem is her husband. Now that puts me in a very uncomfortable position. I want to help, but I do not want to discuss the man's sin with his wife without the husband being present. When I suggest we all meet together, it's met with either, "He's already refused any counseling," or "If he ever knows I'm here, it will only make matters worse."
So what does this have to do with "fig leaves?" Oftentimes, I'm totally shocked because this husband (if his wife is telling the truth) has fooled me and the entire church that he is an upstanding man of the faith. He is wearing a fig leaf! And oftentimes his fig leaf is disguised in one of two ways: A critical spirit frequently attacking others to keep others on the defense and the focus off of himself or an over-the-top concern for the peripheral so that the deep issues of sin in his life never need to be addressed.
God has wired it in such a way, and we see it here with Adam and Eve, that sin always results in shame. We can either repent of our sin and be cleansed by God as expected or wear a fig leaf in an attempt to hide the sin from others and even ourselves. Are you wearing any fig leaves?
We even try to hide our sins from God! Look at verse 8, "They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden."
Do you see the tragedy of this verse? From walking in perfect fellowship with God now to doing whatever it takes to avoid God's presence. Why do so many people nearly explode when you seek to share with them anything related to the Bible? It is because they have, as Romans 1 says, "Suppress[ed] the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). They have worked very hard to hide from God and any ounce of righteousness will only show the God that they have been desperately seeking to avoid. Just like we see in our text, that's what sin does! Sin never makes us want to seek God's face. It always pushes us further away from Him - for instance, less time at church, friendships with unbelievers more enjoyable and less desire for time in the Word and prayer. Sin and a holy God are not compatible. So here are Adam and Eve running from God hiding behind some trees. "He'll never find us here!" Folks, God sees everything! It's like the young child who closes her eyes and thinks she's disappeared from everyone in the room!
God responds with a series of questions. Verse 9, "Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, 'Where are you?'" Obviously God knew where they were! This is not a question of information. I believe it is a question of revelation. Adam and Eve violate God's Word. In doing so they sin and when they sin it forces God's hand to move.
One, we see God's hand move in judgment. As the perfect Judge of the word, God must deal with that which violates His eternal truth. Every sin will be judged and every sin will be punished. God would not be a God worthy of respect if He failed to do so. Two, God's hand also moves in grace. God does not give up on them! Notice that it was not the humans that sought God out, but rather it was God who sought out those fleeing from His presence. The serpent will only receive justice. The humans will receive justice and grace because if there is to be any hope to reconcile this relationship, God would have to provide the means.
Also worthy to notice is the fact that when God sought them out for answers it was not the couple collectively that God addressed. God addressed the man alone! A simple reading of the passage suggests that Eve was more at fault. But based upon what we have also learned already, it is safe to say that Adam is more responsible. This sin will forever be known as "Adam's sin." Even in the New Testament we read, "Just as through one man sin entered into the world" (Rom. 5:12). It's almost as if God is pointing a finger and saying, "Adam, this is all on you!" That doesn't seem fair! Why is the guy responsible?
But the cry of injustice usually comes from the woman! "Pastor, it's just not fair that wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:24)!" Think for a moment about that comment based upon what we just learned! Not the wife, but the husband bears the ultimate responsibility before God! The least the wife can do is help out a bit because it is not her but him that will be called out on the carpet in a marriage relationship!
So here's the textbook, or should I say "biblical" scenario of how it should look in our homes: Christian men are strong leaders in their home. They take the responsibility to lead their families in a way that honors Christ. They make sure the family is studying the Bible together, the children are disciplined, the attitude in the home is without complaining and anger and gossip, but rather marked with love and encouragement and self-control. The family is committed to a local church and serving accordingly, and all the financial decisions are pleasing to the Lord. He is a man before the Lord himself in the Word and prayer, maturing in the faith, filled with the Spirit so he can humbly lead his family like Christ leads the church through service, example and love. He is in constant union with his wife seeking her input as his "helper," considering her feelings and protecting her honor. And when the trigger needs to be pulled on a decision that affects the direct spiritual bearing of the family when all this has been implemented, he acts hopefully with the support of his wife as they function as a team, remember "one flesh?" But if the wife through prayer and gentle input still sees to the contrary, unless the Scriptures are being violated, she submits knowing that all the responsibility lies on him. It's the (without the sarcasm), "You're the one that will have to answer to God!"
God calls out Adam and Adam responds in verse 10: "He said, 'I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.'" So shame is a result of sin. Here we see that excuses are a result of sin and in this case we see a pretty lame one at that! I mean, after all, he was without clothes before and it was never an issue! You see what sin does!
God replies with a second question: Verse 11, "Who told you that you were naked?" Followed immediately by a third question: "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"
I grew up about two hours north of here. And though we moved to Illinois when I was eight, I still have several memories of living in New York. One of those was the time our neighbors were building a house. One evening after the crew left, my younger sister and I (she was probably three at the time and I was seven) went over to explore the construction site. The cement had just been laid and I found it so cool to watch the splash of the cement every time I threw a rock into the pool of newly poured concrete. We were writing on the cement and also walking on places where it had not dried. Then to my surprise, the head builder pulled up in his truck. At the time, I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, but when he arrived I had that feeling that I was in a whole lot of trouble. When I saw the look on his face my fears were confirmed! Immediately he fired off a series of questions. "Who did this?" "Who did this?" "Who did that?" And I distinctively remember that I blamed everything on my three-year-old sister, everything! Where did a seven-year-old child learn to do that?
God questions Adam and gives him an opportunity to confess his sin and repent. Does he do that?
Verse 12, "The man said, 'The woman whom You gave to bewith me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.'" Since he didn't have a little sister to blame, Adam blamed his wife! No repentance but rather, "It's her fault!" Another result of sin we see here in addition to shame and excuses is blame shifting! It's the classis game of finger pointing! Adam does what all of us do today. We pass the buck and make someone else responsible for our sin. I'm a victim! "Why do you yell at your children?" "Because they never listen to me!" "Why are you so frustrated?" "Because my boss is a jerk." "Why were you intoxicated?" "Because everyone else was doing it." And my favorite, "Why are you sleeping a church?" "Because you guys keep the temperature too high." It's my environment…my addictive disease…my desire from birth…my ADHD…my low self-esteem…my horrible spouse…do I need to keep going?
My friends, we always make the choice to sin! So instead of taking responsibility for his failed leadership of the marriage, Adam blames Eve. "If it weren't for her this never would have happened! It's her fault!" But Adam also blames God as well! Did you catch that? He says it was, "The woman whom You gave to be with me." "God, if you had never given me Eve, none of this would have happened. So God, it's Your fault! Either You shouldn't have given me a woman, I mean, after all, things were just fine before she arrived, or You should have given me a woman at least half as holy as me!"
The Lord then turns to the woman in verse 13 and asks, "What is this you have done?" Think we'll get a better response from her? "And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." Hey, everyone else has already been blamed; let's throw some of the fault on Satan while we're at it! "The devil made me do it!" Folks, Satan will give you what you want, but he can't make you do anything. He tempts, but you commit the action. Between the two humans we never see personal guilt, broken hearts or repentance over sin.
I have found it interesting that when busted, the greatest sinners like we see with our original parents always have the greatest excuses. When someone is dealing with out of control sin, you wouldn't believe the out of control excuses I hear. It is always everybody's fault but their own. Take someone through Matthew 18 and it's almost laughable at the faults they will find with the church. I want to write a book when I retire! I know it will be a best seller! Names will be changed to protect the guilty!
We are about out of time (and some of you are probably glad to hear that!), but let me take what we've learned and have spoken about this morning and tease you a little with next week's information.
One, why do men have the tendency to wear a sinful fig leaf and dominate women? One of the consequences of sin spoken to Eve in verse 16 was, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." But there is hope!
Two, how can we cover our spiritual nakedness when we as perpetually sinful people live continually in the presence of a perpetually holy God? In verse 21 we read that "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them." There is hope!
Three, how do we exist when we know God as perfect Judge must punish every sin we commit? In verse 15 we learn about a coming Messiah from the offspring of the woman who will take that punishment for us? There is hope indeed!
For that Messiah is Jesus Christ. Jesus perfectly obeyed where Adam and Eve failed. He is the "Second Adam" who lived a sinless life and went to the cross as a substitute for sinners. He took sin upon Himself, was judged in the sinner's place and offers complete forgiveness to all and the removal of all guilt to those who call upon His name in faith. He restores our relationship with the Father. He restores our relationships with each other. And He provides the hope we need to forever remain in His presence. He has done everything to reverse the curse and restore the image of God in us! Do you believe this Gospel message? Have you given your life to the Lord, Jesus Christ in childlike faith?