July 12, 2020 Sermon

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Jul 122020
 

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Genesis 3:15

Did you ever really mess up? Did you ever break something so that it was beyond repair? If it was a glass or a plate, it was probably not that big a deal, unless it was your mom’s favorite; an heirloom that had been passed down to her from generations past that was irreplaceable. What if what you broke a relationship? What if, in a moment of weakness, you did something that broke trust with your friend or your spouse? How do you fix things you broke? You can’t go back and undo what you did. You can’t roll back time and get a do-over.

That’s the situation Adam and Eve were in. They had broken trust with God. They had distrusted God, doubted his word, and then broke his specific command. There was nothing they could do to fix what they had done. They couldn’t go back in time and undo what they did. There were no do-overs. They deserved a lot worse than they got. They deserved to have God not just send them out of the garden, but to the fiery pit of Hell to spend eternity there with the one they chose to listen to instead of God.

As we saw last week, God was gracious. Instead of cursing them he cursed the ground. Instead of letting them eat from the tree of life, he posted Cherubim and a flaming sword to keep them from eating and living forever in a state of sin and decay. But the most gracious thing he did was give them a promise through which their relationship with him could be restored. In fact, he was so gracious that he gave them this promise even before he told them what the earthly consequences of their sin would be. He gave them something to give them hope; to keep them from despair.

God said, I will put hostility between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He (the woman’s seed) will crush your head, and you will crush his heel.

Do you see the wonderful grace of God in this verse? Ask yourself who is the doer? Who is it that is going to do the things mentioned in this verse? It’s God. God is stating what he is going to do. He is not telling Adam and Eve what they have to do to fix their broken relationship with him. He states what he is going to do. This is what is going to happen whether you believe it or not. This is what is going to happen no matter how much Satan, or any person tries to keep it from happening. “I am God, and this is what I am going to do.” God is the doer.

That’s wonderful grace because that’s the only way it could ever work. There was nothing Adam and Eve could do to restore their relationship with God. If there was going to be a restored relationship, God is the one who had to take the steps to restore it.

Imagine if, instead of giving a promise that depended on him, God had made a deal with Adam and Eve. Imagine if he had told them, “I’ll give you another chance. I’ll give you another command and see if you can earn back my trust by keeping it.” They would have failed miserably! Remember what the Bible teaches? Our sinful nature makes us, made them, incapable of keeping any command perfectly. No matter how many chances God would have given them, they would have failed. So, he didn’t give them a chance. He didn’t give them a command to keep. He gave them a promise to believe.

What was it that God promised to do? He promised to make sure that there was always hostility between Satan and all the descendants of Eve, all humans. Eve had considered the serpent, and Satan speaking through him, a friend. She now realized her mistake. She would pass on to all her children the knowledge that Satan is not your friend. He is your enemy. Even the Seed of the woman, Jesus, would experience the hostility of Satan as he was tempted in the wilderness and in the garden; as he was falsely accused, beaten and spit upon by Satan’s minions.

There would be constant hostility between Satan and the descendants of Eve, all humanity. There would be great hostility between Satan and the one special seed of Woman. When this person would come on to the scene there would be an all-out battle, but the outcome would not be in doubt. This special seed would have his heal crushed. He would be wounded. But Satan’s head would be crushed. He would be completely defeated. His power and his kingdom would be destroyed. The picture from “full of eyes” does a good job of depicting this, showing the nail of the cross passing through Jesus heal, but right through the head of the serpent.

Luther points out how the vagueness of this promise worked to make Satan fearful of every child born, and at the same time inspired faith and hope in Adam and Eve and all humanity.

With every child born Satan had to wonder, “Is this the one who has come to crush my head?” Satan would have to live in constant fear, constantly looking over his shoulder. He did learn quickly who this special seed was, and he used Herod to try to kill him in infancy, but God knows all things. He knew what Satan was up to and saw to it that Jesus was protected.

With every child born, Adam and Eve had hope that this would be the one. In fact, it’s likely that’s what they thought when their first child, Cain was born and Eve said, I have gotten a man with the Lord. God said that a male child would be born who would crush Satan’s head, could this be the one? We know it wasn’t, but as children were born, and then God narrowed the promise to the family of Abraham, to the line of Judah, and then to the line of David, people were watching and hoping that the next child might be the one. Then, through Isaiah, God made it clear how special this child would be. He would truly be the seed of just a woman, the child of a virgin.

The Bible says, When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law.  The devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. He shared our humanity (he was a seed of woman) so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death that is, the devil.

Just as God promised, Jesus is the seed of a woman. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not by a man. He was born of the Virgin Mary. As soon as he was born Satan was after him trying all he could to destroy him, or to get him to fail in his mission. He tried trickery and deception, the same tricks that worked on Adam and Eve, but Jesus resisted and remained faithful to the Father.

He tried turning all the religious leaders against him. When you are the only one who holds a belief, you are tempted to wonder how you can be right and everyone else wrong. But Jesus trusted that the only one whose opinion counted was the Fathers.

He had his minions heap unbelievable amounts lies and abuse and injustice and pain upon him. Sickness, suffering, and pain are often very effective tools that Satan tries to use to get us to think that God has forsaken us and so we give up on him. But Jesus remained faithful even in the midst of suffering. In fact, the Bible says that he learned obedience by what he suffered. His faith didn’t go without being tested. On the cross it didn’t look good. It wasn’t just Jesus’ heel that was bloody. But then Jesus cried out in a loud voice –something no one who was being crucified should have been able to do—he cried out in a loud voice it is finished!

What was it that was finished? Satan was finished. His head was crushed. His power was defeated. The war was over and won by Jesus. How do we know? Matthew told us in our Gospel lesson that at Jesus’ death, the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom… Tombs were opened, and many bodies of saints who had fallen asleep were raised to life.

The curtain in the temple symbolized the broken relationship between God and man. It symbolized the fact that sin separates from God. With the death of Jesus, every sin has been paid for in full. In Jesus there is no longer a separation. In Jesus we can now approach God without fear, in freedom and confidence. In Jesus our relationship with God has been restored. We can talk to him in prayer. We can listen to and rejoice in his word. We too will rise from the dead and live in his presence for all eternity.

Jesus has destroyed one of the most powerful tools of Satan, the fear of death. By crushing Satan’s head Jesus freed those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The greatest fear in death is worrying about what comes after death. Because we know we are sinful we know that God’s law condemns us. The most terrifying thing imaginable is to think that when you die you will spend eternity separated from God in the fires of hell. But Jesus crushed Satan’s head. In Jesus we know that all our sins have been paid for in full. The curtain has been ripped in two. We are no longer separated from God. He has adopted us as his dear children. Our relationship with him has been restored and, as John says, what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he is revealed (when Jesus comes again in glory) we will be like him, and we will see him as he really is.

Like Adam and Eve we have messed up big time. We have destroyed our relationship with God, and it shows in the imperfect relationships we have with each other. There is nothing we can do to fix it. Because we have a sinful nature, no matter how hard we try to earn God’s trust we only end up failing again and again. How thankful we are that God didn’t give us another chance. He gave us a promise, the promise that a seed of a woman would crush Satan’s head for us and destroy his power over us. That seed of a woman was Jesus. The fact that the curtain in the temple ripped in two when he died, and that he then rose again from the dead proves that God’s promise has been kept. Satan has been defeated. Your sins have been paid for in full. Death has become a sleep from which Jesus will wake you. The father has adopted you as his dear child and heir of eternal life.  Don’t let anything Satan or anyone says or does distract you from this truth.

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.

 

 

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