The Fall

This week was the 3rd week in our series “God’s Story”.  This week followed an overview of the entire story (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration) in week 1, and a lesson about Creation in week 2.  The topic under consideration this week does not fit all that well with the rest.  It is the outlier, as the other 3 involve God doing something great.  The Fall, on the other hand involves Satan doing what Satan does and us doing something dumb.  Imagine paradise, a place where the Almighty Being has set everything exactly how it is supposed to be.  A place where people walk intimately with this Almighty Being and enjoy the work of their hands and the perfect company of each other.  This is what Adam and Eve had in the Creation we read about in Genesis 1 and 2.  But this is all lost in the Fall, certainly the dumbest action in human history.  It is the action that made us as a human race impure before God, fractured our relationship with the earth, and fractured our relationships with each other.   Certainly depressing, but not irreconcilable.  Jesus came to set these things straight on the cross (Redemption), and He will come to fully set them straight some glorious day in the future (Restoration).  In the meantime we fight against the results of the Fall while cherishing the glimpses we get of the Restoration.  If we are going to fully appreciate what Jesus has done and how serious our condition is, we must look to the Fall.

We find the account of the Fall in Genesis 3.  It should be familiar to people that have spent much time in church.  The woman (Eve) is tempted by a serpent, which we later learn is Satan, and she eats of the tree that God commanded Adam not to eat.  Eve then encourages Adam to eat of the tree, which he does, and then their eyes are opened to good and evil.  In realizing good and evil, they realize that they are naked and try to make garments out of fig leaves.  God then comes to them in the garden and questions them about what they have done (although He certainly already knows).  God is not pleased with their disobedience and casts them out of the garden.  Before casting them out of the garden, however, He describes consequences that they will face as a result of their rebellion and He makes them garments out of animal skins.  It is these consequences that I want people to really take from this lesson.  Largely because we are still living under these consequences.

The first consequence I want to touch is the consequence that was administered to Eve.  Genesis 3:16 reads, “To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.'”.  In this we see the consequences of the Fall in the area of family.  It is interesting to note that humans seem to have much more pain in childbearing than any other animal.  Females, you can blame this on the Fall.  The last sentence in the punishment is all too real as well.  History is littered with men ruling over women unjustly and treating them as mere property.  As a high school teacher, my heart breaks to see high school girls wrap their self-esteem up in a boy who treats her as if she is meaningless.  The girl desires deeply to be the boy’s princess and the boy gets some sort of power trip from treating her like garbage.  This is the results of the Fall working.  However, just because we are told this is a result, does not mean we should resign to the result.  The rest of the Bible teaches that husbands should lead their wives, but they should lead them with a servant’s heart not a dictator’s sword.

The second consequence is with our work.  Genesis 2:15 informs us that Adam worked before the Fall, but that work became much harder after the Fall.  Genesis 3:17b-19 reads, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”.  This passage is very personal to me.  In my first year out of college I had a horrible time adjusting to life in a career.  I had an understanding that following Jesus should be relatively happy and pleasant, because to that point it had been.  In reality, I simply hadn’t faced many challenges.  Stepping into the workforce full-time was that challenge.  Even if we are not working the land, we are still earning our food “by the sweat of our brow”.  It is in the Fall that we learn why work is so bittersweet.  We were created to work and be productive, but our work is going to bring thorns and thistles oftentimes because that is the result of the Fall.  Teenagers you must be prepared for it, and while you are in school, if your schoolwork does not seem a little difficult, if it does not feel like you are pushing up against a little resistance, then you possibly are not trying hard enough.

The last and most important consequence of the Fall we will address is the consequences with God.  When Adam and Eve were in the garden they were experiencing very close relationship with God.  Even after they ate the fruit they could hear God walking through the garden.  Such close proximity to the Almighty Creator is no simple thing to mess up, but mess it up they did.  As a result of their disobedience God cast them out of the garden.  Genesis 3 makes it sound like He did it for our good because otherwise Adam and Eve may have eaten of the tree of life and curse us all to eternal life in sin.  Why exactly God cast us out of the garden is tough to answer, but the truth is that He did.  Casting them out of the garden may seem harsh, but before He sent Adam and Eve out of the garden, He provided for them.  And the truth, is He continues to provide for us.  The entire universe is His creation.  He can do whatever He pleases with it.  He could have cast us aside as a failed project when we sinned, but He didn’t.  He continued to desire relationship with us as the rest of the Old Testament illustrates.  He created a nation for Himself and then He did the most selfless and perfect thing He could have done–He sent His Son to die for our sins.  His Son died so that all of the consequences of the Fall could be partially fixed now and fully fixed in the future.  We can aspire to God honoring work and families now, but everything will be restored when He comes back.  And when He comes back, some of us will be saved because we have put faith in the only path back to God, His Son’s death on a tree in about 30 AD.

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God’s Story: Creation

We, as people, like to create things.  We like to write songs, paint pictures, build houses and furniture.  This desire to create things is because we are created in God’s image–God is the original Creator.  A big difference between our creation and God’s creation is that God created out of nothing.  If I write a song, I must use my mind and language–things that already exist.  If I build a house, I must use tools, materials, land, my hands, and my mind–things that already exist.  God did not create out of things that already existed; He created out of absolutely nothing.  He could have created anything, but He decided to create you, me, animals, plants, bacteria, volcanoes, stars, and the entire universe.  God does not make mistakes–He did not make a mistake on you, me, or anyone else.  God created the universe, you, me, and everyone else on purpose and for a purpose.

The Universe When we begin to think about God’s creation, we should be humbled.  Everyone has seen enough nature to realize that it is beautiful and amazing.  The Bible tells us: “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).  This passage tells us that God’s power has always been on display, it was on display when the Egyptians were building the pyramids and it is still on display today.  In fact, we have become so much better at discovering things about the world that we are finding more and more cool things God has done.  Take a moment to watch the images on this video.

These images come for telescopes attached to satellites.  We could not even see this beautiful stuff until the last few decades, but it has been there since the beginning.

Not only can we see very big beautiful things that God has created, but our science is also leading us to very small beautiful things that God has created as well.  Take a moment to watch this video to see what I mean.

The video shows just an animation of how we think things may work inside of our cells, we do not know for sure.  Once again, this has been happening for years and years without us even knowing about it.  God is very big.

Realizing how big God is should lead us to worship.  We should praise God for how awesome He is.  When we praise God for how awesome He is, He gets glory, and we begin to occupy the place we were designed to occupy.

You When we begin to realize how small we are compared to God, we begin to be very humbled.  We are clearly not the center of the universe, but we are still important. The Bible tells us that, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).  We are not just some mistake in God’s big creation.  We were created for a purpose; we are not an accident!

No matter what happens in each of our lives, we must remember that we are not an accident.  No matter how poorly we are treated by others, how much of a failure we may feel like, or how much we may mess up, we are not an accident.  God loves us and created us for a purpose.  This does not mean God does not care what we do.  God cares very much what we do.  We may feel like God’s rules are a burden, but the fact that He creates rules for us is a sign that He loves us.

A loving father cares what his children do, it is a bad father that does not have any concern for what his children do.  A bad father lets his children play in the streets, a good father gives them the freedom to make decisions but cares very much about their safety.  God is the Good Father.

Everyone else Not only did God create the universe and you, He also created everyone else.  The awesome God that is big enough to create the universe, also created you, me, and every other human being that has ever drawn breath.  This God is a loving Father that cares very much what we do.  At the center of His will for what we do is that we treat each other with love.  Not only does He want us to remember that we are created in His image, but He wants us to remember that everyone else is created in His image, and we need to treat each other like it is true.  Your family, friends, acquaintances, and everyone else on the planet are beautifully designed by God and deserve to be treated like it.  This is part of God’s mission for us, that we treat each other with respect and love.  Jesus told us that loving each other is the second greatest command, and He is very serious about us carrying it out.

As we live our days, we should make it part of our mission to remember how awesome  God is.  When we remember how awesome God is, we should remember how much He loves us.  When we remember how much He loves us, we should remember how much He loves everyone else.  Once we remember all of these things, we are well on our way to fulfilling our purpose.

God’s Story (Message: 7/7/13)

Stories Human beings are infatuated with stories.  As a high school teacher I am impressed with how students can be thoroughly entertained for long periods of time by movies, novels, video games, and sporting events.  If I attempted, in my Biology class, to describe cells for 2 and 1/2 hours, it would be a real snoozer.  Maybe I just need to be more dynamic in my delivery, but I am not sure anyone has ever given a lecture that was captivating for 2 and 1/2 hours.  Pure information delivery rarely engages for a long period of time, stories have a much better shot.

Take a moment to think about the things that entertain you the most.  Maybe it is a novel, movie, video game, or sporting event.  All of these involve conflict over time.  That is what a story is.  We are introduced to a setting (space) and a group of characters (people), a conflict is generated, and that conflict is resolved over time.  These characteristics are in every good novel or movie.  We are usually given enough time to get to know the people and the place, and then a conflict arises.  The rest of the plot is spent resolving that conflict.  Sporting events follow a similar pattern; we become acquainted with the characters and rules of the game and then watch the conflict unfold until a resolution is reached.  A competition is just a constructed conflict.  The Heat are trying to beat the Spurs, the Bruins are trying to beat the Blackhawks, and the Yankees are trying to be the Red Sox.  A video game follows the same pattern.  You are introduced to the rules, controls, and characters of the game and then you are trying to resolve a conflict over time.  Maybe this conflict is killing zombies or maybe it is beating Bowser after jumping on blocks and running in one direction.  Everyone has their favorite movie, television show, children’s book, novel, sport, or game.  The questions is, “Why are we so entertained by this pattern (setting, characters, conflict, resolution)?”.

This is a big question.  Where did this universal human desire come from?  How does every culture have this same desire?  I would argue that one reason we love stories is because we were created to love one particular story.  Well, that sounds simplistic, you may say.  It may sound simple, but who says true answers cannot be simple?  I ask that you stick with me because I thoroughly believe this story we are to love is written in history and verifiable; it is written by God and it changes everything.  The story changes how you look at yourself, how you look at other people, how you view your role in the world, and how you think about the future.  It is thoroughly non-fiction and life-changing.

Life Questions People have always wanted answers to particular questions: “Why are we here?” “Where did we come from?”  “What is wrong with the world?”  “How can it be fixed?”  “Where are we going?”  Each of these questions follow our story pattern.  Characters (us), setting (the world), conflict (evil, pain, lack of peace), and resolution over time (how is it fixed and where are we going?).  Every religion, philosophy, and worldview must wrestle with these questions.  Christianity is no different, it must wrestle with these questions, but it is very unique in its answers.

Creation When one opens to the first two chapters of the Bible, she receives answers to the first two questions.  These two questions are enormous: 1) Why are we here? 2) Where did we come from?.  These questions define who the characters and the setting are, and since the characters are us and the setting is the space where we live out our lives, the answers are incredibly important.  We cannot understand how we are to live unless we realize where we came from and why we exist.  You will end up living in one way if you believe that we are the result of a lot of chemical reactions over time (as the Biology textbook I teach from will tell you).  You will end up living in a completely different way if you believe that we are designed by a Creator that loves us and truly wants the best for us (as the Bible will tell you).  If I am only a result of chemical reactions, I may do whatever I want. If I am the prized possession of a divine, loving Creator, I should read the instruction manual and live according to the Creator’s design.  It can be very appealing to want to act however we want, but only a dummy would try to use a refrigerator to make toast.  A refrigerator is not designed to make toast.  You are not designed to hate, be angry, and have multiple sexual partners.  You were not designed to live that way and you will end up in the repair shop if you do.

Genesis 1-2 inform us that God created us on purpose, the universe on purpose, and has a purpose for both.  Genesis 1-2 are very dense with information that people debate the particulars of.  We will get into the details more in next week’s message, but for today’s purpose we can rest in the fact that the world began with God creating the heavens and the earth, God creating us, and we began life living harmoniously with God, the earth, and each other.

Fall As we get to the third chapter of the Bible (Genesis 3), we see things take a sour turn.  God had given Adam and Eve one rule, not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  What exactly this tree looked like, I am not sure.  Why exactly God gave them a tree that could cause them to fall, I am not sure.  But this is how it happened.  Adam and Eve were given one tree they could not eat from, and to that point could only, seemingly, see the good in life.  However, all evil was not banished from the Garden of Eden because Genesis 3 informs us that a serpent, possessed by Satan, begins tempting Eve to eat of the tree.  Satan engages in what he still does to us, he takes God’s words and twists them for his purposes.  In response, Eve eats of the tree and then gets Adam to do so as well. Like Genesis 1-2 there is a lot of detail in Genesis 3 that we will explore in upcoming weeks, but there are some questions we can go ahead and answer.

Is there really right and wrong? In the account from Genesis 3 we learn that right and wrong are very real.  What God says is law and breaking the law has big consequences.  God said do not eat of the tree, eating of it had horrible results.  God still says do not hold anything higher than Him, doing so has horrible results.  God still says do not commit adultery, doing so has horrible results.  God spoke gravity into existence, trying to act like gravity doesn’t exist has horrible results.  One would not jump from a building and hope to fly, do not have sex before marriage and expect to have good results.

What is wrong with the world? In response to the question “What is wrong with the world?”, Genesis 3 provides us with the answer: sin.  Each of us, now, has a knowledge of good and evil and a desire to do both.  We inherited this from Adam and Eve.  Both good and evil are attractive to us, but we must draw close to God, do good, and avoid evil.  God is not tempted by evil (James 1:13), but we are, and it is our engagement in evil that separates us from God.  At the end of Genesis 3, God bans Adam and Eve from the garden and they lose their intimate relationship with God.  The one act of sin made them unworthy of communing with God face to face, and in the process they lost their proper relationship with each other (Genesis 3:16) and their proper relationship with the earth (Genesis 3:17-19).  Every problem we see today is a result of us not following God’s design.

Redemption Well this is depressing.  It is not just our imagination that there is something wrong with the world, there really is something wrong with the world, and all of us are infected.  It is not just an illusion that you think bad thoughts; you really do think bad thoughts.  It is not just an illusion that you need to follow rules; you really do need to follow rules.  We are living in a broken world, which leads us to the next question, “How do we fix it?”.  Here is the trick, we do not fix it on our own.  In fact, God is control of fixing it, we are simply to believe in the way He fixed it, love the way He fixed it, and live a life of purity.  You see, God did not give up on humanity after we fell.  He could have, we are His creation, He could have done whatever He wanted to with us.  No one would fault an artist for throwing a canvas away after his dog knocked paint onto it.  That is the artist’s right, it is his creation after all.  The artist would only stick with the painting if he loved it, only if he cared enough to redeem it.  This is precisely what God did.  God did not give up on humanity or the universe.  He could have went and created another one, but He stuck with this one, and did the most radical thing.

Not only did God stick with humanity, as we see Him do throughout the whole Old Testament, He took the most extreme action in sending Himself as a baby to save humanity.  Jesus Christ was born in a barn to a young couple about 2000 years ago–not the way we would expect the Creator of the universe to invade.  I would expect God to fly in like a superhero or use a megaphone that reaches every corner of the earth–after all, He could have done it this way.  But He didn’t.  Humanity is so precious to Him that God sent His Son to become a man of humble beginnings and then died a very humiliating death to repair the damage done by our sin.  Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, my sins, and all of humanity’s sins, so that we could live in eternity with Him.  This is the Gospel and it is the truth. Truth can be very hard, but when viewed correctly the truth is so freeing.

When we think about fixing the world’s problems, we want to work harder to fix it.  We want to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.  The trouble is, no amount of hard work could fully bring us back to God, only He could fix the problem.  He does not ask us to work our way to Him.  We cannot save ourselves, we can only believe Jesus came to die for our sins, ask Him to change our heart, and commit to living according to His design day by day.  This in the resolution to the conflict, but it is not fully realized.

Restoration The trouble with where we are living now is that we are halfway home.  Jesus came and invaded the world and committed deicide (death of God) for our sins.  He told us how we should live, but He has not completely fixed everything.  Sin still reigns in the world, Christians and non-Christians struggle with it, but this will not always be the case.  The Bible does not leave us ignorant to how all of this going to end.

Our culture is obsessed with movies about how human life will end.  Is everyone going to get a virus and turn into zombies or are aliens going to invade and wipe us all out?   I would argue that neither are going to happen.  We can do a good enough job ripping ourselves apart.  Our selfishness, anger, and lack of understanding of what our purpose is mixed with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons are a good enough recipe.  I do not know the step by step process of how the world is going to end, but I know what the resolution is.  The Bible does say things are going to get worse, but the end is not an empty planet where humanity used to be or even a burned out sun.  On the other side of life on this planet is Jesus Christ making everything new and restoring everything to how He originally intended it to be.  The details on how this will happen and what heaven will look like are not crystal clear in Scripture, but we can rest in the fact that the God who loves us is going to make all things new.  For one of the most thorough passages on how it will all end you can check out Revelation 21:1-8.

Conclusion In concluding, I want to highlight something about God’s restoration and also provide advice on where to go from here.

First, I must point out that not everyone is going to be a part of the restoration that happens in the new heavens and the new earth.  The Bible is clear in several places, including Revelation 21:8, that hell is very real and it is eternal.  Hell is separation for God and it certainly exists.  Are we the ones that conclude whether someone goes to hell or not?  No, that is God’s job, but it will happen.  The response is not to come to God out of fear, but the truth is real.

Second, to non-Christians, you must make a decision about whether you believe that Jesus is who He says He is and whether you believe He really died for your sins.  If you believe that He did, then you need to pray to Him, get involved at church, get baptized, and learn to live a life that pleases Him.

Third, to Christians, you should internalize each stage of God’s story.  If you struggle with self-image, you should really dwell on the fact that God created you beautiful.  If you struggle with pride, dwell on the fact that God is much bigger than we can imagine.  If you struggle with your faith, dwell on the fact that Jesus’ life and death are among the most historically verified events of His time.  If you struggle with anxiety, dwell on the fact that God is firmly in control and is going to make all things perfect.  Treasure and love all of these truths so that you view yourself through the lens of God’s love.  Treasure and love all of these truths so that you take sin very seriously.  Treasure and love all of these truths so that you have the assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ that God wants you to have.  Treasure and love all of these truths so that you have the hope in Christ’s return God wants you to have.  Treasure and love all of these truths so that you are ready to share them with the non-Christians addressed above.