July 5, 2020 Sermon

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Jul 052020
 

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Genesis 3:1-24

Last week we saw a picture of the perfect relationship Adam had with God while he was in the image of God. Adam conversed with God without an ounce of fear. He rejoiced in everything God had made. He saw Eve as a wonderful gift and blessing from God. Together they enjoyed a perfect, interdependent and complimentary relationship with each other. But that’s not the case anymore. Now, when God speaks people are frightened, like Israel was when God spoke to them from Mt. Sinai they trembled in fear. Men and women complain about the way that God made them and fail to see the blessing of the interdependent and complimentary relationship for which God created them. As Paul clearly listed out in our second lesson for today, no one has a perfect relationship with God or with each other. Genesis chapter three explains why. Because Adam and Eve, the two people to whom everyone can trace their ancestry, sinned.

What was their sin? They distrusted God, doubted his word, and wanted to be their own god. This distrust was incited by Satan speaking through a snake. He planted the seed of distrust and doubt when he asked Eve if they were allowed to eat of every tree in the garden. He knew what God had told Adam, and Adam had related to Eve. Every tree was theirs. Hundreds, maybe thousands of different trees all producing beautiful, tasty, healthy fruit were theirs to eat. All except one. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were not to eat from that tree, or, God said, they would certainly die. Satan got Eve to focus on the one thing she didn’t have instead of the hundreds, or thousands of blessings she did have.

Now Satan had his in. “Eve, why would God keep something good from you? In fact, Satan implied, God has not told you everything. He has forbidden you to eat from this tree because he wants to keep the best for himself. He doesn’t want you to be like him knowing good and evil. In fact, he lied to you. If you do eat the forbidden fruit you will certainly NOT die. In fact, you will be truly enlightened, your eyes will be opened.”

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was appealing to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate. She gave some also to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

  Don’t you hear Satan’s words ringing in your ears today? “Never mind all the good things you do have, what about what you don’t have? Don’t let anyone tell you what to do or think, especially God. You do you. Don’t listen to what God’s word says. Listen to the scientists and philosophers of today, then your eyes will be opened. You will be enlightened.”

Modern man’s quest to be god, to be in control, to know good and evil, has made clear the devastating effect of original sin. It is evidence of our sinful nature that took over when Adam and Eve lost the image of God. It shows itself in distrust of God, and doubt, and rejection of his word. Those who like to think that they are enlightened and in control reject the Bible as Gods word, they reject the teaching of creation, and the first three chapters of Genesis which form the foundation of Christianity, they reject God-established authority in society, they reject what God says about marriage. They reject the idea of sin, especially the idea of original sin and the total depravity of our sinful nature, and so God’s plan of salvation seems like foolishness to them.

As Adam and Eve found out, distrusting God, doubting his word, and thinking they could be gods was all a lie. Eating the fruit didn’t make them like God, it separated them from God. It caused them to be afraid of God. They quickly learned that God was not the one who lied, Satan was. Knowing Evil was definitely not a good thing. And no, they didn’t fall over dead the moment the forbidden fruit touched their lips, but they died spiritually and they became subject to physical death. God said, dust you are and to dust you shall return. Genesis five highlights what we know from experience. Every genealogy ends the same way, and they died.

How did their fall into sin affect their relationship with each other? We hear that they immediately felt shame. Before sin they felt no shame. They showed that they were not more enlightened. Just the opposite. They foolishly tried to hide from God among the trees. And when God confronted them, they turned on each other and played the blame game.

While Adam still had the image of God, he saw Eve as a wonderful gift of God. He rejoiced that God had provided him with a partner who was suitable, a perfect match in every way. Now, after sin, he says, The woman you gave to be with me, this person I thought was the best gift ever,—she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it. What a change! And not a change for the good.

Eve blames the serpent. It was his fault for deceiving her, and implied, “so why, God, did you even let him in the garden? Oh, and Adam was right there with me and didn’t stop me. Some leader and protector he turned out to be!”

Still today, when couples are having trouble with their relationship, they often present a long list of all the things the other person is doing to cause the trouble they are having. I’ll always remember the title of a section of a marriage seminar I used many years ago. The title was “the trouble with us is me.” That’s the last thing our sinful nature ever wants to say, but it is one of the most important things we can say.

In addition to destroying their relationship with God and with each other Adam and Eve’s sin brought some additional consequences for them and for all of us, their descendants. Interestingly, those consequences fit the roles that God had created for them. From that time on, instead of being an experience filled with pure joy, the joy of bringing children into the world would be marred by pain. From that time on, instead of being a joyful act to provide for your wife and family it would be painful toil, tiling the soil, fighting the weeds. The world has coined a phrase that expresses the consequences of sin quite well. “Life’s a __________, and then you die.”

The worst consequence that comes because of Adam and Eve’s sin however is the spiritual consequence. Instead of passing on God’s image so that we could have a perfect relationship with God and each other, they passed on their sinful image. The Bible clearly points out that, by nature, as we are born into this world, we are enemies of God. The Bible clearly points out that by nature, as we area born into this world, we are not enlightened. We mistakenly consider God’s word to be foolishness. As Jesus says, from the heart come murder, adultery, and every evil. By nature, all our thoughts are only evil all the time.

That’s what we heard Jesus trying to explain to Nicodemus in our Gospel lesson today. He told him that flesh gives birth to flesh. Everyone is born dead in sin, physically alive but spiritually dead. That’s why everyone needs a second birth, a spiritual birth, a birth that comes from above. This second birth comes about by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the gospel in the word and sacraments. When the Spirit creates faith in us the image of God begins to be restored in us so that we are no longer separated from God by our sins. Our eyes are opened. We see that God has removed all our sins and put them on Jesus. We no longer are terrified by the thought of coming into God’s presence, but we are able to talk to him in prayer and listen to him speak to us in his word.

Next week we will spend a lot of time talking about God’s gracious promise in verse fifteen. But there are other hints of God’s grace scattered throughout this chapter.

We see God’s grace in the fact that he didn’t strike Adam and Eve with a lightening bolt of his righteous wrath the moment they touched the forbidden fruit. Instead he sought them out to call them to repentance and to give them a promise through which they could still have eternal life with him.

We see God’s grace in the fact that he drove them out of the garden and set cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the garden so that no one could eat from the Tree of Life and live for all eternity in a state of sin and imperfection. In his Revelation, John sees the tree of life again being made available to the descendants of Adam and Eve, people from every tribe, nation, language who are in the new Jerusalem.

We see God’s grace in the fact that Adam trusted God to keep his promise and named his wife Eve, the mother of all the living, including the seed of the woman who would be born to crush the serpent’s head and save the world.

We see God’s grace in making sure that there were and are consequences for sin. As we look at how messy relationships are between people and countries; as we experience the pain that comes to our now imperfect bodies; as we stand at the grave of a loved one; we are reminded that we are not gods. We are not totally enlightened; we don’t know everything. Satan lied to Eve and he still lies to us. We will have to face death, but God’s word is truth. With John, we look forward to being in the New Jerusalem and being able to walk and talk with God without fear, and to eat as often as we want from the tree of life.

June 28, 2020 Sermon

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Jun 292020
 

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Genesis 2:16-24

At the end of days three, four, and five of creation God looked at what he had made and declared that it was good. On the sixth day, after God had created all the land animals and everything that creeps on the ground, God declared that it was good. But after he created Adam, he declared that something was not good. God said that it is not good for the man to be alone.

God had in mind that humans would be blessed if they could enjoy a relationship with others. There is, after all, a wonderful relationship within the persons of the Trinity. As it was, Adam could enjoy a wonderful relationship with God, but he was not God’s equal. He was God’s creation. God knew what would be best for Adam was that he have someone who was his equal, a human being who shared the image of God with him, someone who was his perfect match, who complimented him emotionally and physically, and whom he would compliment emotionally and physically. But God didn’t remedy what was not good right away.

As the creator, as the all-wise God, he knew it was not good for Adam to be the only human living on the face of the earth. But before he made another human who was a perfect match for Adam, he wanted Adam to realize what he was missing. That’s why God brought the birds and animals to Adam and asked him to name them.

Adam was up to the task. God accepted the names that Adam gave the animals for it says, whatever the man called every living creature, that became its name. But just as God had planned, in the process of naming the animals Adam became aware that something was missing. Something wasn’t right. He felt his aloneness. He recognized that he was not an animal. He was different. He was unique. There was no one else on earth who was like him, who was human. He realized that all the animals had suitable partners. They were all able to be fruitful and multiply. But there was no suitable partner for him. Without a suitable partner there would be no human children. He would remain alone.

Once Adam had recognized what God already knew, God quickly, on the same day, the sixth day of creation, provided a suitable partner for Adam. He caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He did some surgery, taking some bone and flesh from Adam. He took what he had taken from Adam and built a woman from it.

  These things are significant. Eve was not created from the ground. She was made from Adam. She was equally human. She was equally in the image of God. The Bible doesn’t say this, but some have suggested that the fact that God took a piece of Adam’s side instead of his head, or his feet is an indication of their equality. Adam was not to be ruled over by Eve and Eve was not to be trampled on by Adam. The thing that is absolutely important to remember is that neither was greater or more important than the other.

When Adam woke up and God brought Eve to him as his bride, as his perfect match, as his suitable partner, Adam rejoiced in what God had done for him. He spoke his first recorded words. He said, now (implying, at last, here is a suitable partner for me) she is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be called “woman,” because she was taken out of man.

Did you notice the perfect relationship that existed between God and Adam? God knew that Adam needed a suitable partner. He could have just made Eve right away. But he wanted what was best for Adam. He wanted him to experience his aloneness so that when God provided the solution for his loneliness, he would fully appreciate what he had done for him. He was providing an example for him that whatever he might need he could trust God to provide.

Did you wonder about what Adam said? He had been asleep when God took some flesh and bone from his side. He didn’t see it happen. But as soon as he sees God bringing Eve to him, he perfectly understands what God had done for him. She was part of him, taken out of him, built by God out of his own flesh and bone. She was suitable, more than suitable, she was perfect, just what he needed, and he was just what she needed.

Since the image of God has been lost, we don’t know what it’s like to have this perfect relationship with God. Our relationship with God is marred by sin. We think that we should be able to tell God what we need and expect that he will give it to us. But we are only clay pots. He is the potter. He is the one who knows better than we know ourselves what is good for us. In his grace, even though we don’t deserve anything from him, he still provides us with what we really need instead of what we think we need. As the image of God is being restored in us through faith, we grow more and more comfortable saying “Lord, not my will, but your will be done.” When we recognize a need we are more and more able to trust that God will provide for that need at just the right time in just the right way.

Consider also the perfect relationship that Adam had with Eve. He recognized her as a precious gift from God. That’s the way every husband is to view their wife, the suitable partner that God has provided for them. He recognized her as his equal, as the one taken out of his side, as the one he would want to put his arm around to cherish and protect. He recognized that, although she was equally human, she was also different. They complemented each other perfectly. He saw them as two pieces of a puzzle that were meant to fit together perfectly, not just physically so that they could work together to fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and fill the earth, but also emotionally so that they could work together to build each other up and care for each other’s needs. He understood that having a wife meant leaving all others, literally sticking together, remaining united so that nothing and no one would come between them. It’s the same word that the Bible uses for Ruth who forsook family, home, parents, culture, and country  to stick to Naomi and say, wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you make your home, I will make my home. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. As Jesus said, what God has joined together man must not separate. He understood that they were to become one flesh, to be untied perfectly in their goals, their desires, their service to their creator, as if they were not two, but one.

We don’t hear anything from Eve, but since she was in the image of God, she too understood perfectly what God had done. She too was eager and willing to enjoy a perfect relationship with Adam. They both understood perfectly the interdependent and complementary partnership in which God had placed them.  They understood that they were created by God to serve each other in love in the roles that God had given them.

Because of sin, perfect relationships no longer exist. None of us has a perfect relationship with God. We often ignore his will and insist on doing things our way, not his. None of us have perfect relationship with our spouse. Husbands don’t always see their wives as precious gifts of God. They don’t always cherish them or treat them as part of themselves. They let work, or hobbies, or other people come between them. They aren’t determined to protect and defend their wives and stick with them no matter what. Wives see their husband’s shortcomings. They don’t feel cherished and protected. They may resent their role as child-bearers. They fail to provide their husbands with the respect they need. They get involved with their own things, children, work, hobbies, other people, so that their husbands feel alone. All too often spouses think that someone else would be a more suitable partner than the one they have, and quickly turn to divorce which God forbids, except, as Jesus says, for unfaithfulness.

So, what is the answer? Realize that as long as you live on earth there are no perfect relationships. Realize that imperfect relationships are healed only by confessing your sins to one another and granting forgiveness for Jesus sake, and then devoting yourselves again to selfless service to each other in the roles God has given.

We heard the Apostle Paul remind us how to have the best possible relationship in this sinful world. As we are filled with the Spirit, we submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. We strive to serve each other God’s way, submitting ourselves to his will. As husbands we see that it is our responsibility to love, cherish, and protect our wives as Jesus loved, cherished and protected us when he sacrificed himself on the cross. Husbands can do this only as they take their sins and shortcomings to the cross of Jesus and rejoice daily in their forgiveness. Wives see that it is their responsibility to encourage and support their husbands and help them carry out what is an overwhelming responsibility, to be like Jesus. As spouses we recognize that we are one flesh, therefore whatever we do or say to our spouse we are doing or saying to ourselves.

It should go without saying, but in this sinful world it has to be said. The perfect relationship that God created, the first marriage and the only thing that can be considered marriage in God’s eyes, is one man and one woman who have left father and mother, who remain united, clinging to each other for life, who see themselves as one flesh. Anything other than this God calls sinful perversion whether it is people living together outside of marriage, or having multiple partners, or homosexual acts, God says all these are a sinful perversion of what he created as a perfect relationship.

All of us struggle in our relationship with God and with others. None of us is perfect. Each day we need to come to God in prayer confessing our sins, receiving his forgiveness for Jesus’ sake, and seeking his help to grow in faith. It is only as the image of God is being restored in us through faith in Jesus that our relationships with God and with others can improve. As long as we live in this imperfect world, we look forward in hope to that day when Jesus will return, when the image of God will be completely restored and we will enjoy what Adam and Eve had – a perfect relationship with God and with each other.

 

 

2020-6-22 Sermon

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Jun 222020
 

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Genesis 2:15

How do you say the phrase, “It’s time to get up and go to work?” Do you say it with excitement? “It’s time to get up and go to work!” Or do you say it with dread, “It’s time to get up and go to work.” Even if you love your job, the word “work” tends to have a negative connotation. You may not consider it miserable, but you probably consider it hard, or exhausting mentally, or physically, or both.

That’s why it’s hard to imagine what it was like when God gave Adam and Eve work to do in Paradise. When we hear the word paradise, we think of putting our feet up and sipping a cold drink on a beach while watching the sun set. We think of a place to relax, a place where we don’t have to get up and go to work. But the Bible says that after he created Adam, God took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it. 

   God made Adam his steward. He put him charge of caring for the garden he had made. God could have taken care of the garden by the power of his word and let Adam just sit there and enjoy it, but that would not have been good. Just ask a quarantined person how much Netflix they can watch before they get bored to death.

God created humans and he knew that they needed opportunity for meaningful service. He appointed humans to rule and care for all that he had made. He appointed us as his representatives and gave us the opportunity to serve him by using the gifts he has given us to care for his creation and especially for our families, the people he has placed in our care.

As long as Adam and Eve were in the Image of God, their state of righteousness and holiness, the word work didn’t have any negative connotations. It was a joy, not a burden. It was something they got to do, not something they had to do. Because they perfectly understood who God was and all that he had done for them, they were happy to do whatever he asked of them. It was their opportunity to express their gratitude to God for creating them, giving them life, and providing them with every blessing. It was an opportunity for them to have the joy of discovery as they learned about all the different plants and trees God had created and how the fruit of each one was wonderful and unique. I picture it like a kid in a candy store being told their job is to sample everything there. They would thoroughly enjoy the work of discovering all the different flavors and textures of all the different kinds of candy.

As we know, Adam and Eve didn’t retain the Image of God. Sin affected everything, including their view of work. Since they were no longer in perfect harmony with God, they no longer viewed their work of caring for all God had made as a way of giving thanks to God. Work no longer seemed to be a blessed opportunity to show gratitude to a gracious God. It now seemed like a sentence, a punishment, something they had to do or else.

In addition, because of sin, they were cast out of the garden where everything had been planted by God. In the garden all they had to do was harvest. Now they were going to have to plant everything themselves. Now there would be weeds so they would have to cultivate. Now, only by the sweat of their brow they would have food to eat. We can’t fully grasp what work was like in the garden before sin, but we know by experience what it means to work in a world where there are weeds, and floods, and droughts, and hail, and tornados. We know by experience what it means to be able to eat only by the sweat of our brow.

Those who are without the Spirit of God can only see work as negative, as something they have to do in order to survive. Those who are without the Spirit of God don’t acknowledge God, or that everything that exists belongs to God. Those without the Spirit of God can only see work as something they do to try to get what they want. It can never be for them an opportunity for loving service to God and others.

By God’s grace you do have the Spirit of God. As we heard last week, the Image of God is being restored in you. You have been born again of water and the Spirit. You have a new man of faith that fights against your sinful nature. By God’s grace you have been enabled to see that God owns everything and that you are his steward. He has designated you as his representative and has given you the job of caring for, of being in charge of all that he has made. He gives you many opportunities for meaningful service to him and your neighbor as you live out your life on earth.

Because you have a new man, because the image of God is being restored in you through faith, you have a different view of work. You realize who is it you are really working for. As Paul told the Colossians, work not only when their eye (your earthly master) is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for people, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. That’s a very helpful reminder, especially if you have a boss or employer that doesn’t treat you well.

As someone in whom the image of God is being restored through faith, you see work as an opportunity to provide for your family. In fact, Paul says that if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Even an unbeliever, even an atheist has the natural understanding that they should take care of their families as best they can. Believers have that natural knowledge, and in addition they have the command of God, so if believers don’t provide for their families, they are going against both the natural law and God’s specific command. So, we heard Paul say in our second lesson today, if anyone does not want to work (implying that they are able to do so), he should not eat. Indeed, we hear that some among you are idle, not busy working, but being busybodies. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we command and urge these people to work quietly and eat their own bread.

Maybe the clearest passage that depicts the difference between the attitude of the sinful nature and the attitude of the new man toward work is Ephesians 4:28. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. The one governed by the sinful nature is only thinking of themselves. They don’t want to have to work. They think others owe them and if they don’t give them what they think they are owed they justify taking it. That’s the mindset of looters. But those who have been born again and have a new man of faith see work as an opportunity to serve God, to provide for their families, and even as an opportunity to provide for those who are unable to provide for themselves for whatever reason. It’s the contrast between a selfish attitude, and a selfless, Christlike attitude. It’s a contrast between thinking “what can I get for myself without doing any work,” and “what can I do so that I can have something to share with others.”

Matthew demonstrated the change that God had worked in his heart not just by leaving his tax collector’s booth to follow Jesus. He used his work connections as an avenue for bringing many others into contact with Jesus. Whatever job you have you will have opportunities to do what Matthew did. There will be opportunities, as you show that you are working for the Lord, not for people, to explain the reason for your attitude, maybe your lack of the use of foul language. I know I had that opportunity when I worked construction as number of co-workers commented about the fact that I didn’t use foul language. You may have the opportunity to invite co-workers to your home where you may offer a prayer before a meal. You may have the opportunity to invite them to come to an event or a worship service at church. You will have opportunities to tell your co-workers about the hope that you have in Jesus, and that he wants them to have. What more meaningful service could there be than to do what Matthew did, to invite others to meet Jesus!

We all have to admit that, even thought we have a new man of faith and are being renewed in the image of God, we don’t always see work as an opportunity for meaningful service. We don’t always remember that we are really serving God, not people. We don’t always think about supporting our families and those in need. All too often we fail think about bringing those around us at work the good news of the gospel. All too often we want to be served instead of serving. All too often we think of ourselves first, which leads to greed and discontent. We daily sin much and deserve only God’s wrath and punishment for these things.

Thankfully, Jesus always had the proper attitude toward work. He was always eagerly doing the work the Father had given him to do. In fact, he alone served as God’s perfect representative on earth, fulfilling what Adam and Eve and you and I fail to do. On the cross the Father gave him the punishment we deserve for all the times we have failed to see the work God has given us as an opportunity for meaningful service. He punished Jesus for our laziness, our selfishness, our greed, and our discontent. He raised Jesus from the dead to assure us that all our sins have been forgiven. He has called us, as he did Matthew, to trust in Jesus for forgiveness and to see our work on earth, whatever it is, as an opportunity to serve God in faith and to serve our neighbor in love.

Solomon wrote, A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

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