Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s message.
- Read Genesis 3:1-7 in your group. What was the problem with Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? What did that reveal about how they viewed God?
- Psalm 63:5-8. What does this psalm teach us about God? How is this different from the lies that Adam and Eve believed (and the lies we ourselves believe at times
- Here’s one way we could define sin: being or doing anything that shows I am not satisfied in God. If God alone is our satisfaction, why would we look anywhere else to fill our soul’s emptiness? In what ways do we reveal that we are unsatisfied in Christ (even if we would never say that with our words)?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?
Well, good morning everybody. Good morning all of you that are here with me at the CrossPoint campus, and good morning to all of our campuses that are watching today. For those that are home watching online, we're glad that you're with us.
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and we have a lot of things to be thankful for. I'm sure, like me, you went around the table and said a few of the things that you're thankful for. But one of the things that didn't make it to that list on Thursday for me but one that I wanted to share an also celebrate with you all today as a church family is that recently, you may have seen this, but recently we officially became property owners in the city of Niagara Falls. Our church has a permanent location in Niagara Falls, so that's something to be celebrating.
We officially closed on the former Niagara Catholic High School, and now we begin the journey of readying that space for our church campus there in Niagara Falls to have a permanent place to call home. Thanks for your continued prayer and support. We do want to thank God for all of his abundant provision in that way. A lot of good things to be thankful for.
I'm going to ask you to turn in your Bible to the beginning, Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3, so page 2 if you have a hard copy with you. What I want to let you know is the good news, now that we've made it through our Thanksgiving celebrations, Christmas is right around the corner. Now, that's good news. Now, I know we've been hearing Christmas music on the radio since November 1st, so while the October 31st decorations haven't been put away, we're already hearing Christmas music. I get that, but the good news is that Christmas is almost here. That's good news.
Now, if I were to say to you, "Why is Christmas being so close good news? Why is that good news to you?" you might give me a few different reasons. You might tell me about the presents that you're looking forward to that will have your name on them under the tree. You might be looking forward to the time off from work, or just spending time with family.
Although those are certainly good things, that's not what makes Christmas good news, at least not in the sense that I'm using it. But Christmas and good news, there is actually a historic connection between the coming of Christmas and the announcement of good news. In fact, in the written account of the very first Christmas in Luke chapter 2, here's what we read in verses 10 through 12. "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you,'" there it is, "Good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger." Here is an announcement of the coming birth of a Savior, of a baby boy, and the angel says, speaking to the shepherds, "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people."
Now, maybe you're in town for the holiday and not a regular churchgoer, or maybe you're relatively new to church and you might be thinking, "Why is that such good news?" I mean, yes, people are excited usually when they find out that a baby is coming, usually they're excited about that, but outside of the normal level of excitement that a baby would be born, why all of this for someone's birthday? I think that's a natural question to ask.
In fact, some of us who have been in church a very long time, we may need to be reminded of why this is such good news as well, because what I know about me I might guess about you, and that is it's very easy for me to go into autopilot at the Christmas season. It's easy for me to drift into nostalgia and familiarity as I enter into the Christmas season that I too can miss the significance, the need for why Christmas was so necessary in the first place.
That's really setting the stage for all that we're going to do in this series called Christmas Trees, that we're going to look at the need for Christmas. We're going to talk about the grace of Christmas. We're going to talk about the history of Christmas, and we're going to look at the promise of Christmas. In so doing, we're going to actually look at four different trees that take prominence in the scripture, four specific trees that are named and mentioned and how those things are connected to our understanding of what Christmas really is.
What we're going to do is talk about the need for Christmas today and why that good news is even good news in the first place. Now, as Pastor Jerry reminds us often, in order for there to be good news, there must first be bad news. The bad news is this, that human beings are self-declared rebels against the God who made them, that we have declared war on the very God who gives us life and sustains our lives. Which is really, really silly when you think about it that way. It's almost like saying that there's a house plant that hates the sun, even though it's by photosynthesis that that plant can even exist and grow, yet that's exactly what's true for humanity. That in our sin, in our brokenness, in our separation from God, we are self-declared enemies of God. That's the bad news.
But it didn't start that way. But in order for us to understand why we need the good news of Christmas, we do need to see where things all went wrong in the first place. To do that, I want to take us back to the beginning. I want to take us to a tree, a tree in a garden where things went wrong.
But it didn't start out wrong. In fact, quite the opposite. I want to show you a few verses from chapters 1 and chapter 2 of the book of Genesis. Look with me at Genesis 1:31. "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." Then verse 8 of chapter 2, "Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east in Eden, and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground, trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil."
Then drop down to 15. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for when you eat from it, you will certainly die.'" Then the last verse of chapter 2 is verse 25. It tells us this, "Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."
We meet Adam and his wife, who we'll discover later on in the story is named Eve. They are in the epicenter of perfection. They have the perfect environment. This garden is called Eden, which in our vernacular today has come to be synonymous with something that's perfect. Even people who don't know this historical narrative, they still use the word Eden to describe something of perfection. That's exactly what's true for Adam and Eve. They're in the epicenter of perfection.
That Hebrew word Eden can be translated or rendered as delight, or even as pleasure. Think about this for a minute. Adam and Eve, our ancestors are in the garden of God's uninhibited and constant delight. That's perfection. They're in the perfect environment.
But they've also got the perfect job, the perfect vocation. Did you notice what God gave for Adam to do? Take care of the garden. Work it. Take care of it. Now, it's important for us to acknowledge and recognize here, and this needs to be said, work is not a result of the fall. Your job might be a result of the fall, but work itself is not a result of the fall. They were given this job.
Now, we have to admit, whether you like your job or not, Adam's gig is pretty sweet, because he works in the garden. You might think, "I'm not a green thumb person." Nor am I. I outsource that responsibility to a lot of people who are better at that, my mother-in-law. I outsource that responsibility. But here's the deal. Do you think you could handle this? I think I could. "Hey, can you take care of the garden, Adam, where I am making trees come out of the ground?" That's what the text said. God made all kinds of trees come out of the ground. Instead of like planting an acorn and watering it, I think that's how it works, and waiting for decades, God just brings the oak tree out of the ground. You think you could handle that, Adam? Yeah, he's got the perfect job.
He's got the perfect vocation, but they're also, Adam and Eve are also in the perfect relationship. Think about this. Adam and Eve, they are experiencing a oneness in marriage that we can't even fathom, though maybe sometimes we get a glimpse of. You see, they don't drag any baggage into this union. There's no history. There's no emotional baggage from having dated the wrong people, or from growing up in a dysfunctional home, or from experiencing trauma. They're walking into this pure, so they share in this oneness.
On top of that, Eve doesn't have any mother-in-law to criticize her cooking. Is that hitting too close to home this Thanksgiving weekend? The freezing rain has also frozen our brains. All right. I'll move on.
But here's the thing. Bigger than that, bigger than the relationship that they shared together, there was nothing in the way of their relationship with God. They had a perfect relationship with God, the God of the universe. Can you imagine that?
They're in the middle of all of this perfection, but in spite of the fact that there's the perfect environment, and a perfect job, and a perfect relationship, Adam and Eve are faced with a choice to obey God and enjoy the world he made as he made it or to choose a different path. The story in Genesis 3 begins this way in verse number 1, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?'" Did God really say?
Now, you might be reading this, and there's something that we have to address. You might be reading this and think that the most shocking part of this verse is the serpent said to the woman, but that wasn't the most shocking part of this story for people who have heard it and read it for centuries, and nor should we miss the significance of the fact that it didn't seem to catch Eve off guard. We would be remiss if we decided to get hung up on this detail that our setting is less than accommodating to in the 21st century Western world that we live in. We would make an egregious error if we stopped reading and just started in a downward spiral of evaluating whether or not you think that's a truthful statement, because then we would actually miss the significance of this entire story. The most shocking part is not the serpent said to the woman. The most shocking part is what happened after he did.
The serpent, who is this serpent? Our author doesn't seem interested in identifying him. He doesn't seem overly concerned with making that ID. Maybe he assumed his audience knew, maybe not, but we can benefit from the further truth that has been revealed for us through the centuries to better understand the identity of this serpent. If I could take you from Genesis all the way to the very end in the book of Revelation, here's what we read in Revelation chapter 12, verse 9. It says this, "The great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, which means accuser, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him."
The ESV says, "He is the deceiver of the whole world." Jesus added this insight as well in John chapter 8, verse 44. Jesus said this, "You belong to your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
This serpent, this ancient serpent, the devil, the accuser, the Satan, Jesus identifies him as the father of all lies. What we see introduced in Genesis is confirmed throughout the progressive revelation of scripture, that Satan is a deceiver. He wants to deceive the whole world. He wants to throw everyone off of what God has revealed. He wants to deceive, and twist, and turn, and coerce, and manipulate, and lie. That's exactly what he does in this story.
There are actually three lies that the deceiver dangles in front of Adam and Eve. There are three lies I want to show to you, because not only does it uncover what's going on in Adam and Eve in this story, but I'll just tip my hand here, his playbook hasn't changed.
Here is the first lie that the deceiver holds out in front of Adam and Eve. God's rules are restrictive. God's rules are restrictive. Let's look again at our text in Genesis 3, verse 1. "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman," look at this, "Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?" Well, you tell me. Is that what God really said? Rewind to Genesis 2:16 for the answer. "And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.'"
The voice of the deceiver is the one of increased prohibition. The voice of the Father is one of freedom and liberty. You are free to eat from any tree, but the deceiver comes with his lie, God's rules are so restrictive. "Didn't God say you're not even allowed to eat anything?" But is that what he said? Literally the opposite. "You are free," are those words. You are free.
But the deceiver wants us, wants them to believe that God's rules are restrictive, so here's what the deceiver's ploy is. Here's what he's after. He wants to reprogram the way that Adam and Eve hear the Father's voice so that they won't see God's love in the midst of God's law. He wants to reprogram, almost put a filter over their hearts and ears so that they can't hear God's voice clearly so that they will begin to doubt and be suspicious of whether God really has their best interest in mind, or that he's just a rule giver who's trying to confine, and restrain, and limit rather than a loving Father. He wants to distort the way they hear God's voice. "Did God really say you can eat from any tree?" It's a lie.
The second lie is that God exaggerated the consequences. God exaggerated the consequences. Let's continue in verse 2 of chapter 3. "The woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat from the trees in the garden, but God did say, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it or you will die.' 'You will not certainly die,' the serpent said to the woman." You will not certainly die. You will not die.
Now, sometimes when Satan lies, he twists the truth. That's what lie number one was. "You can't eat from any tree?" No, you can, except one. Sometimes he'll flat out deny the truth, "You won't die."
But God was pretty clear. Look at verses 16 and 17 from chapter 2. "the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. For when you eat from it, you will certainly die." God's pretty clear.
Satan's second lie is that God exaggerated the consequences, that it isn't as severe as he's made it out to be, that God is exaggerated again because he wants to manipulate, and restrict, and confine. He's overblown this whole thing. "You're not going to die."
Now, if you know the end of the story, and spoiler alert if you don't but you've had a few centuries to catch up, Adam and Eve don't drop dead immediately upon eating fruit from the tree. So who was right, the serpent or God? Well, death was introduced even though it wasn't blatantly obvious. The relationship was severed. Death was introduced into Adam and Eve and all of their posterity. Even though at first glance physically speaking maybe nothing outwardly changed, but inwardly there had been a fracture that had completely broken off human beings' contact with God. That carried on from generation to generation to generation.
C. S. Lewis put it this way. "Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? What once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?" You could cut a branch off of a plant and it may look vibrant for a time, but pretty soon those leaves will start to fall. Those petals will start to fall and so it is with humanity. Though they kept on breathing, their souls already began to wither. Satan's ploy is that God has exaggerated the consequences, but in reality it was Adam and Eve who underestimated them.
But there's a third lie from the deceiver, and it's this. God is holding out on you. God is holding out on you. Verse 5, the deceiver's rebuttal continues this way. "For God knows that when you eat from it," that is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, "Your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil."
God's hogging all of this godness to himself. God's holding out on you. He doesn't actually want what's best for you, and you have an opportunity to really show him, because he knows. He's got a secret. He knows that when you eat of this tree, man, nothing will be the same. God's holding out on you. You will be like God if you eat from this tree.
Now, this is what's so ironic about that statement, how Adam and Eve were made in the first place. We don't have to go far. I only have to turn one page to Genesis 1:26. "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image.'" In our ... Everyone, every campus say this word with me, "Likeness." Let's try that again, "In our likeness, so that they may rule." Well, that's what God does. "'So that they may rule over the fish in the sea, and the birds in the sky, over the livestock, and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures, over all the creatures that move on the ground.' So God created mankind in his image. In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them."
They were made in his likeness to rule over everything that God had made, including the very serpent that moves on the ground, but that wasn't enough. Isn't that just like the deceiver to say that God is holding out on you and here's what you really are after, when in reality that's actually something God had already promised or given? "You will be like God." But isn't that exactly what God already did? "You will be like God. He doesn't want you to be like him." Isn't that exactly ultimately what he wants, representatives of his on the Earth?
One of the ploys of the deceiver will be, as we see here, to get you to pursue something that actually God does want you to have, but at a time or through a means that he has not ordained. He will dangle something in front of you, just as he did with Adam and Eve. "You will be like God." Well, that's already yours, but maybe you just need to be patient for what God is going to do, Adam and Eve. Maybe he will give you that knowledge of good and evil at some point, but he has said to trust him, to not disobey, to only follow this one thing. Don't eat from that one tree. But Satan wants them to pursue something that God ultimately wanted for them, but through a means and at a time that he had not ordained.
"God's holding out on you. He doesn't want what's best for you." This is the lie of the deceiver. The cumulative effect of these lies becomes too much for Adam and Eve to withstand any longer, and Adam and Eve are both there by the way. Adam, who was with her. We know this because all of the verbs in chapter 3 are plural, and the word you that Satan, the serpent, uses in chapter 3 is also plural. Though the dialogue is between Eve and the serpent, we know Adam is right there with her.
In becomes too much for them to withstand, and so what happens maybe is predictable or you know this story. Verse 6, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye." Well, that's just like every other tree, but this is different. "And so desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and she ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked, so they sowed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." They hid behind the very thing that brought their downfall, leaves from a tree.
Here we see Adam and Eve, they rebel. Now they do know evil, but it is not in the way that God knows evil, because God has never sinned. Now they know good, but only by comparison to what they now know, and that good will soon be a distant memory.
John Walton, one theologian and scholar, said this about this passage. He said, "In seeking autonomy, freedom, and power, they only forge new chains." In the pursuit of autonomy, freedom, power, making your own path, living your own truth, being your own God, they only forge new chains. If they thought God's one rule was restrictive, don't eat from this one tree, it wouldn't be long until there were 612 more rules that were added to accommodate for the brokenness of the world that Adam and Eve had introduced. They rebelled.
But what happens as a result of their rebellion? The story continues in verse 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, but the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'" Not because he didn't know. "He answered, 'I heard you in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.' And he said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?' The man said, 'The woman you put here with me ...'"
Can we just pause in a moment of sentimentality and just you're so stupid. I mean this is spoken like a man who's not been married for a very long time, all right. I mean we'll give him some slack. "The woman you put here with me." That's a long car ride. I'm just going to say, that's a long car ride. "'She gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.' Then the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me.'" The devil made me do it, "And so I ate."
My uncle David is our counseling pastor here at The Chapel, and he will often talk about the downward spiral of sin and its effects. We see it played out so clearly here in Genesis 3. It starts with rebellion. I'm going to do my way, not God's way. This is so helpful to me. It starts with rebellion, and that's exactly what happened. Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the tree.
But after rebellion is guilt. Guilt. They experienced guilt. We know this because they sought to cover up what had been revealed to them, which is the second thing. They covered up with ... The third, excuse me. They covered up with fig leaves. They sought to cover up their guilt this way. They realized they were naked and took a step to cover it up.
After that was fear. What is somebody finds out? What if we're found? In this case, what if God finds us? They hid.
The last thing is blame shifting. Blame shifting. "The woman you gave me," which yes in way is blaming his wife, but it's also blaming God. Things were fine when I was alone, but you, God, you put that woman here. Eve blames the serpent. Blame shifting.
This cycle ... Put that back for one second. This cycle of rebellion, guilt, cover up, fear, blame shifting, you can see this play out over and over in the scripture with Adam and Eve's own son Cain upon his murder of Abel, his brother. With King David and Bathsheba. We can see it over and over even in our lives as well, that rebellion leads to guilt, which leads to cover up, covering up the guilt, the fear that someone will find out what we've covered up, and that when we're found we'll shift blame so that none of it has to stick to us. That downward spiral just perpetuates over and over and over. The cycle of rebellion is hard to break.
The impact of their rebellion is that sin severed Adam and Eve's relationship with God, but also for all of their descendants. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans chapter 5 verse 12, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people because all sinned." We repeated the pattern of our ancestors.
It has become a family tradition in the worst sense of the word. Because those same lies that the serpent dangled in front of Adam and Eve are the same lies that he attempts to use for us, and we should be better prepared to counter them than we are. We've got history on our side. We've got the written revelation of God's Word on our side. We've got time to learn from wise people who have told us, "Don't make the mistakes I've made." But for some reason, we find ourselves in situations, maybe you'll agree, where we still, we still are falling for the same old lies.
God's rules are restrictive. Maybe you grew up believing that God's favorite word was don't, or if you read it in the King James version, thou shalt not. Maybe you believe that that was God's favorite word or phrase, that all God was there to do was to stamp out any enjoyment that you might have. If you were smiling, it was probably sin, all right?
Now, that may be an extreme view for some of you. You might think, "Man, that's so way out in left field," but that's not hard to imagine for some, that God's rules are restrictive. In fact, that's God's favorite pastime is coming up with rules that are intended to confine and restrain.
Or that God exaggerated the consequences of sin. That God has exaggerated the consequences of sin. Maybe that's hard for you to imagine that all of the prohibitions that maybe you were taught growing up, maybe you've kind of decided to throw off all of that. You're only in church today because it's a holiday weekend and mom asked you, dad asked you to come. Life has gone just perfectly fine since you decided to start living your truth instead of God's truth.
You think, "Man, these consequences, man, this is just a way to control people. This is like a system that's designed to stamp out any individualism, or individual thought, or entrepreneurial mindset. This is designed to control, and confine, and contain." This warning about consequences for sin, that's just all manufactured to control. I've heard things like that you may have heard things like that. You may have said things like that.
You think, "Man, there's a whole bunch of people in my circle who don't give any thought to God and his ways, and they're doing just fine." You can make the same error that Adam and Eve made, which is just because there's not a blatant, immediate consequence that comes right on the heels of your decision doesn't mean there isn't one.
The scripture says, "Do not be deceived. God will not be mocked. You will reap what you sow." If you continue to plant seeds in your life of sinful decisions, it may take time for any of those things to appear above the surface, but do not be deceived. God will not be mocked. The law of sowing and reaping will not be overturned in your exception.
Pornography isn't hurting anybody. This is the lie. Pornography's not hurting anybody. If you're a married person, "Hey, at least I'm not being unfaithful in real life. Isn't that better? Isn't it better to do this than to go out and cheat on my wife, cheat on my husband? This is just a way to protect me from really something serious." God exaggerated the consequences of lustful thoughts, but there's nothing bad that can come from nurturing that, and feeding that, and giving that some opportunity. Over time, by planting these seeds of lust in your heart, you don't know what a destructive harvest will crop up in your life in the future. It's arrogant to think that you will be the exception.
Or, "I'm in control of my drinking, and I only do this on certain days of the week, and I only do this when I'm drinking, so really this isn't a problem because this is confined to this," and all sorts of justifications can be made for why I'm in control of it. That there's not going to be the consequence that God warned me about. It's arrogant to think that you would be the exception.
Or how about this lie? God is holding out on you. He's a cosmic killjoy. He doesn't want you to have good things. He wants you to eek out an existence in this life and just barely skate your way into heaven. He doesn't want anything good here for you. He doesn't want any joy for you. He just wants to stamp out all of that. He's holding out on you.
The lie of the enemy would be this, wouldn't it? "Hey, if you really want to enjoy life, do it this way. Not what God says. Do it this way." Yes, sometimes that will look like pursuing something that God ultimately wants you to have at a time or through a means that he has not ordained.
How about this? How about sexual satisfaction? God doesn't want you ... This is the lie. God doesn't want you to experience the maximum sexual pleasure that's available. That's why we've got all of these Victorian Age rules around sex, and God is actually such a prude that he doesn't want you to actually enjoy this thing. "Let me show you," the deceiver says, "How to really find maximum pleasure."
And yet, I have never talked to anyone in a pastoral setting who has told me this phrase, "I just wish I had slept with more people." Never heard it. But you know what I have heard? "I should never have done that. The pain that has come from that decision, that relationship, or that season of my life, I wish I could take it all back."
But the lie of the deceiver is this is the path. But here's the truth. God actually invented sexual pleasure. It was his idea. Yes, we are allowed to talk about that. It was his idea. If it was his idea, he actually knows the path to maximum pleasure. But to pursue it in a means or at a time that he has not ordained is to think that God is actually holding out on you.
Why would you be a 17-year-old, why would you be a 22-year-old, why would you be a 33-year-old, why would you be an any-year-old, why would you be this person who doesn't find out what you want in this arena, even if you're not married? Why wouldn't you find that out? It sounds so logical. It sounds so believable that God is actually holding out on you. He doesn't want this for you. He's made it so narrow and confined. Only marriage, one person forever. How boring.
We believe the lie. Some believe the lie that God is holding out on them, and so they would rather take things into their own hands and find out on their own. "I'll just figure this out for me." Every time we believe these lies, it's as if we take another bite from the fruit of the tree. "God, I don't want what you have. I want to do it my way."
But sin is not just what we do. It's actually a condition we're in. Did you know that? Sin is not just when we break like a rule. Sin is a description for the condition we are in. That sin has so distorted our view of God, our view of us, and actually our view of sin itself. Sin has distorted our view of sin.
Sin is not just a lapse in judgment. "I wasn't thinking clearly. I didn't have my coffee yet." Sin is not just circumstantial. "Well, you made me mad," or, "You don't know what I've been through," or, "You don't know my past," or, "They put me in an uncomfortable position," or, "I didn't have an option." Sin is not circumstantial. Sin is a condition that we are in as rebellious people against a holy God.
This is what theologians talk about when they talk about total depravity. You may have heard that phrase before. You may not have. But total depravity does not mean every person is as bad as they possibly can be, but rather that sin has not left any part of you or me unaffected. Sin has not left any part of you and me unaffected.
John Piper said this about our lives. He said, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." I'm still thinking about this statement from a previous message, that the goal of our lives is the glory of Christ. To take Piper's statement that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, what if we took that definition of what our lives should be about, and what if we viewed sin through that same vernacular?
What if it was this? what if we defined sin this way? Sin is being or doing anything that shows I am not satisfied in God. Sin is being or doing anything that shows I am not satisfied in God. For Adam and Eve, for our ancestors, "God, I know you've made tons of trees, but out of the 999 trees," I'm just making up a number, "Out of the 999 trees that are good for food and pleasing to the eye, that's not enough, because I want this one tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God, what you've given me, I'm not satisfied. But this one thing over here, that's what I want." Sin is being or doing anything that shows I am not satisfied in God and what he has provided.
We do this over and over. We do this. We hear this. "The spouse you gave me, God, the woman you gave me, the husband you gave me, that's not what I asked for," and that's used as a justification. But that's actually blame shifting, because when you were married, the preacher said, "What God has joined together." "God, what you gave me isn't enough. I'm not satisfied in God."
Financial debt, consumer debt where we glean to the edges of our fields and then some, we're actually saying, "God, the salary you've give me is not enough. I'd love to contribute to the mission, but I've got other things I have to pay attention to." We do this and the accumulation of our stuff.
We do this when people pursue a high to escape the pain of their circumstances. "God, the comfort that you said you'd promise in my grief is not enough. I need something else." What if we saw sin this way?
That's the bad news, that we are alienated from God because of sin. But the worse news is that we are on a path of self destruction and we are unable to stop ourselves. But this, this is where things turn. This is why Christmas is such good news, because God came to get us. When we had our backs turned, when we were walking away from him on this path of self destruction, he was not content to allow us to continue. "He is not willing that any should perish," 2nd Peter 3 says. Or it's not on the screen, but Ezekiel 18:23 says, "I do not delight in the perishing of the wicked, but rather that they would turn from their wicked ways and live." "That's what I delight in. That's my Eden," God says, "When people repent. That's what I delight in."
He wasn't content to let us continue, friends, on a path of self destruction. But when we were at our very worst, joy to the world, the Lord, he came. He came to get us. He rescued the rebels. He delivered the traitors. He loved those who hate him.
But we don't have to wait till the New Testament to even see God's heart like this. We don't even have to wait until Romans or John to see this. This is in our text. Look at Genesis 3:15. This is God speaking. "And I will put enmity between you, serpent, and the woman and between her offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel." Then verse 21, "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and he clothed them."
There is promise and provision in our passage. The offspring of the woman will crush the head of the serpent, and even in the garden, God replaces their unsatisfactory coverings that they made for themselves out of fig leaves and he gives them garments of skin, which means someone had to die. The first animal sacrifice. Blood was shed in response to their rebellion. Even in the garden, we see God's promise and his provision.
He longs for you to come to him, but it's not just well wishes. Jesus did not send seasons greetings from heaven. Isn't it so annoying when someone sends you a postcard from somewhere tropical when you're in winter in western New York? It's okay to be annoyed. Really, I mean you're actually ... You see it on Instagram. Really? Okay, really? We know what you're doing. We know that this is like a flex that you're not in the freezing rain of western New York right now, okay. Isn't that just a little bit annoying?
God doesn't do that. "Hope you figure out that sin thing. I'm going to be in perfection. I'm going to be in the fullness of my glory where there's no rebellion, there's no stain of sin." He doesn't do that. Instead, this is what Romans tells us, Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." In the midst of our rebellion, he pursued. He came for us and because of us. More specifically, he came for our sin and because of our sin. He pursued.
If we lighten, if we lessen the severity of sin, then we lighten the significance of Christmas. Because if sin isn't really that serious, then Christmas can just be something that we sentimentalize. We can sentimentalize the incarnation to our own peril. If it just conjures up warm feelings of nostalgia, we miss exactly why Jesus came, why Christmas was necessary in the first place. But Jesus, he unwinds the effects of what took place at the garden tree.
Again Romans 5, this time verse 19, "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man, Jesus, the many will be made righteous." For just as through this disobedience of Adam we were made sinners, here's the good news. Here's the gospel. Through the obedience of the one man, that Philippians tells us he became obedient to death, even death on a cross, we can be made righteous. We can be restored. We can be reconciled.
At the garden tree, Adam and Eve turned their backs on God, and every generation after them has followed suit. But thanks be to God that because of Jesus coming, God announces to the world, "You can turn around. You can turn around now."
One of the Christmas songs that you'll probably hear a bunch of if you haven't heard it a bunch already is Happy X-mas by John Lennon. Happy X-mas was released in 1971 in the US, and the song begins with Lennon's unmistakable voice saying somewhat matter-of-factly, "So this is Christmas."
Now, the song you might know is subtitled War is Over, and it was written as a protest against the Vietnam War, of which Lennon was quite vocal about. Although John Lennon is regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century and maybe ever, and for good reason, I am quite sure that even he did not realize the full significance of the lyrics of the song.
The end of the song concludes like this, with Lennon and a children's choir singing. "War is over if you want it. War is over now. War is over if you want it. War is over now." Although, like I said, I don't think he understood the full significance of those words, he was right to tie them to Christmas, because it's through Jesus' death for our sin and his resurrection, which announced to the entire cosmos that his sacrifice was more than sufficient, it is because of Jesus' death and resurrection that he has declared the war that was declared at the garden by Adam and Eve is over if you want it to be.
You can pretend like he doesn't exist, continue to live life your way at odds with him, continue to ignore his ways and suppress the truth that you know, or you can lay down your arms and accept the incredible offer of peace that was purchased for you and me with Jesus' blood. So this is Christmas. Let's bow together for a word of prayer.
With your heads bowed and your eyes closed, if you're here today and you recognize your own need of a Savior, that you need Christmas afresh and anew, maybe you recognize the lies that you've believed, and we're all there with you. You're not alone in that, but here's the step you need to take. You need to turn around. That's what repentance really is, to do an about face, a 180. Repent means to turn away from your old life of sin and turn toward Christ Jesus.
We would love to help you begin this journey of being a disciple of Christ and walking by faith. To do that, I would love to invite you here at this campus, whether you're in the Worship Center or the East Worship Center, to just come across the Atrium and go to the Fireside Room. You'll find your way. There'll be prayer partners and pastors that are there who would love to pray with you, give you a Bible if you don't have one. That'll be an early Christmas present from us to you, and show you what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Maybe with your heads still bowed and your eyes still closed, you may be a follower of Christ and recognize where you've believed some lies, where there's been some rebellion in your own heart. Though Jesus is Lord of your life and he's Savior for now and eternity, you want to declare war on the sin in your life now. Sin declared war on God, but now that you are in Christ, it's time for you to declare war on sin. Say, "God, get it out of my life. Remove every vestige, every stain, every error, every impure thought, every wrong heart habit for us to truly understand what it means to be satisfied in God."
Lord, we thank you for your truth. We thank you for Christmas. Thank you that in the coming of Jesus, we have been made new and given new life. I pray, God, for those that need to take a step of faith, that they've had the courage and the boldness to do so. That for all of us to walk out of these doors today pursuing you as our greatest satisfaction, that what you've provided and who you are is more than enough for me. May that be true of all of us, by the power of your indwelling Spirit in us who are your sons and daughters. For we pray this in Christ's name, amen.