When Things Went Wrong
Beginnings: Genesis in an Age of Science
When Things Went Wrong
When we left Genesis last weekend, Adam and Eve were in paradise. All their relationships were right:
* Right relationship with God – God was walking and talking with them;
* Right relationship with the world – people were the caretakers of God’s world with a meaningful purpose for their work, i.e., to maintain and further the goodness of the world God had placed them in;
* Right relationship with people – Adam was no longer alone but lived a life with Eve without shame.
We read this description of life n Genesis 2 and we know deep down inside that this is how we were meant to live. But, then, we stop and look at the world as we experience it now:
- God often seems far away;
- The world we are to care for is polluted;
- Human relationships of all kinds are broken too. We must ask, “What went wrong?”
In the late 19th and 20th Cs, philosophers and psychologists began taking evolutionary theories from the field of biology after Darwin and applying them to issues related to human moral development. They thought that people and societies were evolving to become better and better and soon the world would be a utopia. then came two World Wars – and the discovery that the world’s best educated people groups had engaged in genocide under the Nazis.
Now, in the 21st C, few people believe that human beings and human governments are less evil now than they were thousands of years ago?” Most of us this morning know that human beings are as selfish and brutal now as we ever have been. The world is not simply evolving toward perfection.
And it’s not just “out there” in other places, is it? We look into our own hearts and, if we are honest, we know that if God were to place us in a perfect paradise right now, we like Adam and Eve, would spoil it in a day! Why? I contend that the only way to understand ourselves is to acknowledge that there is a warp in our human natures that constantly frustrates us when we try to live well. So, we have a longing inside to do what is right – but we don’t do it. As Paul said in Romans 7, the very things we don’t want to do are the things we do.
Today, we come to the Bible’s explanation for this strange blend of longing to be good and failing to be good that seems to be true of us all. It’s recorded in Genesis 3. The story there, written so long ago, is all-too-common even in our own day, i.e.: It’s a story of someone who “has it all” – good reputation, great job, wonderful prospects for the future – then throws it all away for a piece of fruit (or some equivalent). I want to show you how this is described in Gen 3:1-6. As I do, look into your own heart to see if I am right when I say that what happened to Eve and Adam is much like the path that you and I take when we want to do right and end up doing wrong.
#1: The atmosphere in which temptation thrives (3:1-3).
The serpent said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’"
Pastor Tim Keller calls the serpent’s approach, “the sneer.” He says it conveys an attitude that permeates Manhattan – and we’re not immune to it here in Southern California either. Do you see the attitude in the serpent’s question? The tone of voice? “Did God REALLY say…?” What we see is that the first human sin began not with so much with an action as with the sowing of an attitude.
“Really?” scoffed the serpent. The serpent didn’t make a case against the wisdom of what God had said. No, he mocked it! He wanted Eve to think that this command from God was ridiculous! This is the kind of thing I have seen so often when issues of faith come up. “Really? Your church says that? What out-of-date, uninformed people that bunch must be!” You see it, don’t you? An atmosphere is being developed in which anyone who reads the moral demands of God’s Word begins to think, “No rational, fun-loving person in our day would ever believe such stuff!”
My point is that we often begin to question our confidence in God’s Word not so much through good evidence against its truthfulness but much more through an atmosphere that makes the Bible’s moral demands seem absurd or antiquated. I know that sometimes we wrestle with our faith because of genuine intellectual questions. But, I think that our doubts about God begin more often the way they began with Eve; i.e., being in an atmosphere in which we begin to feel that the Bible and its commands seem laughable.
Look at Eve. In vv. 2-3, Eve first seemed to defend God. "No, serpent, you’re wrong -- we may eat fruit 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.
But that’s not quite what God had said, is it? God had not said, “You must not touch it.” Why did Eve add that to her short speech? Was she resentful that God had taken away one of the things she really wanted to do? I remember in jr. high school when I wanted to go to a football game but my parents made me go to church. I said, “You never let me go out and do anything!” Well, that wasn’t quite true. I was just frustrated that I couldn’t fully control everything in my life. I acted like their rule was senseless.
And, with that happening in Eve’s mind, the serpent saw an opening and went after it. “You could be like God, Eve,” he said. “No restrictions. No rules. No curfews.”
So, it was an atmosphere in which there was an attitude of making religion irrelevant and irrationally legalistic that opened Eve’s heart toward disobedience. That’s what the serpent exploited.
#2: The specific attack that furthers temptation (3:4-5).
"You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Notice here that the serpent did not go after things we might have expected him to attack. He didn’t try to deny God’s existence. Of course, Eve knew God existed! I imagine most of you do too.
And, the serpent did not attack the idea of God’s holiness. He didn’t try to get Eve to think, “Well, God doesn’t care how you live. He’s too big to care about that.” No, Eve already knew that God had told her how to live.
What the serpent attacked was God’s goodness. Essentially, he said, “You can’t trust that God’s way will be good for you. His rule is keeping you from enjoying life.”
And that attack went deep into her heart! In my years of living and pastoring, I have come to the conviction that when people surrender to temptation, it usually begins with an attack on God’s goodness:
* We say, “I know this is what God would have me do with my money or my time, but… I know I would enjoy life so much more if I did what I want to do with it.”
* We think, “I know God wouldn’t want me not to have sex with that person, but I’m sure I would be much more satisfied if I did have it the way I want to have it….”
Like with Eve, the temptation to disobey God takes root because we don’t think we can trust God. We think, “If I obey what I know God has said I should do, I won’t be happy.” What Satan tries to undermine is a conviction that God loves you – that his way is best for you. I think this is at the heart of almost all sin.
Today, I say to you: Look at the temptations you face – to the places you sometimes give in to temptation. And, more often than not, I imagine you will find that at the heart of the temptation is this same plan of attack we see in Gen. 3: You begin to question whether the way God calls you to live is relevant to your world. And you begin to question whether the way God says you should live is good.
#3: The act of the will that is the sin (3:6)
The woman took some and ate it. She gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it (3:6).
21st century people read the account of “the fall of the human race” and ask, “What was so terrible about that sin? Eating fruit from a tree in the garden: What’s so bad about that?”
And we look in vain in Genesis 3 for a clear explanation of why God thought this was so serious. God doesn’t provide an explanation for us at all. Instead, what we see in the Bible is that the people were called upon to acknowledge that God is God – and then to trust him and obey his command. God didn’t say, “I want you to obey me if it makes sense to you.” What did he say?
I’ll put it this way. God was saying: “I am God. Your life is a gift from me to you. The paradise you are in is a gift from me to you. So, let me tell you this: If you will truly live, you must live knowing that I am God. If you will live – truly live, then trust me and, specifically, don’t eat fruit from that one tree!”
Adam and Eve had a real choice when the temptation came -- and so do you when you are tempted. God only asked them for obedience in one thing. But, when temptation came, they didn’t resist at all. It was a surrender without a fight:
* “You’ll enjoy it,” said the tempter. “We will,” thought the people.
* “You want it,” said the tempter. “We do,” thought the people.
* “You can get away with it,” said the tempter. “We can,” thought the people.
* “It’s a ridiculous rule anyway,” said the tempter. “It really is,” said the people.
And then they gave in. And so, like them, you and I give in when temptation comes too.
So, right now, I want you to look at this text and ask, “What is the fruit I am tempted to eat at this point in my life? Where are the places I feel strong temptation? What fruit have I eaten in recent days?”
Let’s all pull out the kneelers for a time of confession…