søndag 27. oktober 2013

Genesis 4 and 5 Beyond redemption

Genesis 4

Short recap:

Genesis 1-2 God creates the world, He creates the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and the animal on the ground, and He saw that it was good. He created man and woman and saw that they were very good. Genesis 3. Mankind fell into sin, which separated them from God, and they were thrown out of paradise (the garden of Eden).

This is where they are at in the beginning of chapter 4.

We are going to look at today’s text under the following three points:

1.A fallen state: (From godly to devilish)

2.Born into sin:(Born this way; but not destined to be this way)

3.A hope restored:(the identity of the serpent crusher is made known)

A fallen state

Adam and Eve being husband and wife do what a husband and wife should do, they had lots of sex and babies! After giving birth to Cain Eve says ”With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!”. Which might be interpreted in many ways, Eve is praising the Lord for helping her producing an offspring, and thinking maybe this is the serpent crusher the Lord has promised? However, more likely because of Eve’s fallen state that she was boasting about her creation. Notice that she isn’t saying “God gave me a son”, she says “With the Lords help, I have produced a man”. It almost sounds like what she is saying is: God helped me but I did all the work, with my own body, with my own effort, because I am brilliant and self-sufficient I managed to produce a man. Eve thinks she can fulfil God’s promise made in Genesis 3.15 herself “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”

so as Eve pronounced the forbidden fruit good, she has now pronounced herself the “creator” of man, and reversed the good order God set up in Genesis 1 and 2. The order was: God, man, woman. God was the Lord of all and creator, man was set to rule the earth, and the woman God created as the man’s his helper. Man and woman were created as equals, but different. Here the woman tried to make herself the creator, and not the creation. Thereby reversing the good order of God, Eve wanted to be the creator, and self-sufficient.

Eve first gave birth to Cain, and then later she gave birth to Abel, you see, in spite of their sin, God allowed Adam and Eve to have children, although they had not kept their end of the deal, God will always keep His(It’s in His nature), praise the Lord for that! In spite of Adam and Eve’s sin life goes on.

Born into sin:

Cain and Abel were the first people born into our fallen world, as we heard Adam and Eve were thrown out of the garden of Eden. Then they had children, so Cain and Abel were born outside the garden of Eden after the their parents had fallen into sin. And as children of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel inherited their sin, and their knowledge of good and evil. They were not just born with the knowledge of good and evil but with the same choice and responsibility Adam and Eve had, they could choose to do what was good or evil in the eyes of God. The situation was completely new, suddenly there was deception, lies, jealousy and murder. Just like the “great” secular literary tragedies, this one ends with Death and misery. Spoiler alert! Cain murders Abel!

When we read the story of Cain and Abel, it is very easy to get caught up in details that aren’t important. We ask ourselves, “Why didn’t God accept Cain’s offering, when he had worked so hard for it?” We heard last week how God cursed the ground, and how man with difficulty would cultivate it all of his days. Cain worked really hard for the ground to bear crops. Then we think we might have the answer, because Abel brought forward offerings from his livestock. We start thinking about the Laws of sacrifices given by God to the people of Israel, of course we think it’s because of the blood, there has to be blood. However, this was before any law had been passed. But these are the details that aren’t important, because if they were, there would be a section in the beginning of Genesis on what offerings God would accept.

I’m not sure how much we think about it, but we are born into sin, and into a fallen world. Although this is true, just like Adam and Eve we have been given a choice and responsibility. As was it with Cain and Abel, they had the freedom to do what was good, or to do what was evil in the eyes of God. So instead of stopping to meditate on God not accepting Cain’s offering we should press on, so that we get to the heart of the matter. Please follow in your bibles as I read verses 5 - 7.

“but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

In verse 5 we read that God didn’t accept Cain and his gift, then we see Cain’s reaction to God not accepting him or his offering. He’s angry with God and jealous of Abel, does this seem like a man who’s heart was set on serving God? Or does it seem more like someone trying to justify himself? Cain is trying to be like God, and telling God what is acceptable and what isn’t. God not accepting Cain’s offering had nothing to do with what he was offering, but with the attitude of Cain’s heart towards God.

God tells Cain that if he does what is right he will be accepted. God also warns him that sin is crouching at his door, eager to control him . God challenges Cain to do better. With God’s help Cain can repent and turn back to Him, it’s not too late, Cain is not beyond redemption. Will Cain be able to succeed where his parents went wrong? However, to succeed in turning back to God, he must overcome the control sin has over him.

This is where mankind goes from bad to worse, and this is where we are shown that we can’t fulfil God’s promises, Only God can. While Eve is trying to get God’s blessing without God, we see that the nature of the man she has “produced” is revealed. The would-be saviour’s heart is filled with anger, jealousy and bitterness, and he becomes a murderer. Cain walks up to his brother the and says “let’s go into the fields”, they do and in the fields Cain attacks and kills his brother. The sin of rebelling against God, and eating the forbidden fruit has now escalated into premeditated murder. I am so glad God is the one who appoints the saviour and not us, we can’t fulfil his promises, Only God can.

What is sin ?

But what is sin, we speak of it a lot but we rarely try to define it.

To sin is to drive a wedge between us and God, the sin awakens His righteous anger, and fury. The sin hurts us, and those close to us. Some of us in this room might have been told when we were little that us being bad makes Jesus cry. But that’s not the case, but when we sin we push our almighty Father away saying

“ no daddy, you might be God, but I know best, now leave me to it”.

We awaken His righteous anger, but not just that, by sinning we hurt ourselves, and those who love us. We might think that sin is without consequence but it isn’t. A couple of weeks ago a 13 year old boy killed his 3 year old brother, and wounded his father outside of Bergen. How can we say that my sin has no consequence when, children murder children and brother kills brother. Sadly, as we could read and hear on the news, the story of Cain and Abel is not unique, nor is it a pointless cautionary tale.

It shows us how brutal sin can be. Sin is most of the time wrapped up in a nice package, it looks nice, it smells nice, it’s only logical. But here is the truth, sin is ugly, sin escalates, and without Jesus sin will kill us. As we can read in Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”

And in Romans 3:23 we read “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

For some reason when I read this I identify myself with Abel, the innocent godly man who’s offerings and persona is always accepted by God. Not the bitter, jealous, murdering brother, who rebels against God. But that is who we are, not matter how little we like it, we are Cain. We are rebels and not the cool kind like in star wars, we are rebels against God. He says “left” but we say “right”, He says” forgiveness” but we cry out “revenge”

Last week Daniel talked about the world through the looking-glass (the mirror) where everything is opposite of what it was meant to be. I talked about how Eve wanted the blessing of God without God. Now we see that Cain has decided to rebel against God, and do what pleases him, and not God. He clearly chooses to sin, although he has been warned, does it sound familiar? And as we all hear and read this we’re thinking to ourselves. “Cain, Cain, Cain, you are one bad sinner, has there ever been a sinner like you.” It’s really easy to forget that we are Cain isn’t it. We think, if there ever was a man beyond redemption that would be Cain. He did not by far meet God’s standard, but scary part is that neither do we. We are all sinners, we are nowhere near God’s standards, and because of our sin we are going to DIE…

Wait there is more, but just like for Cain there isn’t more we can do. But if we read Romans 6:23 again we can see that is says that the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, we can only turn to Him, only Jesus can save us. In verses 11- 12 God pronounces His judgement upon Cain; “Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brothers blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth”

As for many others in the bible, God’s judgement becomes the turning point for Cain, Cain shows remorse when Judged by God. In verse 13 “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

But if you now look at the verse 13 in the bible at your table you’re going to see a little * (star) On the bottom of the page your you are going see that the word punishment can be switched out with, sin. I am going to disagree with the translators here and say that the alternate reading is the right one. The reason for this is God’s response to Cain, God responds to Cain as if he has repented. This is the reason God protects Cain and grants him life. Cain actually says to God,” my sin is too great to bear”. And by doing so he shows remorse, Cain is unable to bear his sin and punishment, and he knows that his punishment will kill him without the help of God. Cain’s remorse is why God forgives him, and gives him a sign and the promise that whoever kills him will receive a sevenfold punishment, to prevent anyone from doing so. The sign he is given is the city of refuge, a place where murderers could go to be pardoned or protected. In spite of Cain’s sin, life goes on and in spite of our sin life goes on, that is a real tangible l sign of Gods mercy.

Life went on in the City of refuge, the people there actually made lives for themselves, Cain got a wife and had Children. As you can see, Cain too were granted a normal life in spite of his sin, all through the grace of God. We can read from the text that God kept His promise to Cain since in verses 17-24 we can read about the first 5 generations of Cain.

When we get to Lamech, we again understand why God is the one who appoints the saviour and not us. Lamech lives in bigamy (bigamy means that a person has many wives), already here we see Lamech’s disregard for God’s good order of things (Genesis 2:24; a man shall have one wife) From bigamy we go directly to murder. He boasts to his wives of having killed a man for wounding or striking him. It does not appear to have been in self-defence according to the text. The Pentateuch (the first five books of the old testament) Insists on proportional punishment. That’s where we get the expression “an eye for an eye”. If you open your bibles in Exodus 21:23-25. Exodus 21:23-25 “23 But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, 24 an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, 25 a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.” But as I said about the offerings of Cain and Abel, this is before Israel had been given the Law. But killing someone for hurting you is in-proportional, and not a sign of a godlike character. He is boasting that his vengeful character makes him safer than Cain when he says “ If someone who kills Cain is punished seven times, then the one who kills me will be punished seventy-seven times ” Whether Lamech repented or not we don’t know. However, what we do know is that just like Cain, Lamech was not the serpent crusher. And we see how sin has escalated from disobeying a simple command, to spiralling into murder bigamy and a love for violence and revenge.

A hope restored:

Adam and Eve had another son, and this time Eve said “God has granted me another son in place of Abel, whom Cain killed.” What Eve is saying is clearly pointing back towards God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 about the serpent crusher. God is restoring the linage of Adam, Seth means “granted” or “appointed”. God grants Adam and Eve another son, so that the serpent crusher is of Adam’s linage. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord, they started to worship God by His name. Could Seth be the serpent-crusher? Well… no, Seth died.

Then we have the whole genealogy from Adam to Noah, people lived and died. Babies were born, and life kept on going spite of their sin. They were all waiting for the serpent-crusher, (spoiler alert) they were all waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ. He who was going to crush the serpent and shed his blood to cover our bloodguilt (our sin, which can only be washed away with the blood of Christ) The reason God forgave Cain his sins, and the reason God has forgiven the sins of those who are in Christ. Is that when Jesus died on the cross, He took all the sin that had ever been, and all the sin that was ever going to be with Him on the cross and died. That means that every sin you have done, and every sin you are going to do Jesus has already died for. This is why Cain was forgiven when he repented, and this is why we will be forgiven if we turn to Jesus and repent.

Just like Cain built a city where those guilty of murder could seek refuge, Jesus is our city of refuge, in Him no sin or the devil himself can reach us. With the mark of Christ we are safe, sin and the devil cannot touch us. We may get sick, we may lose people we love, we may even die, But in Christ we are safe! So seek refuge in Him, nothing else. We can’t fulfil God’s promises, only He can!

søndag 20. oktober 2013

Genesis 3: The mirror universe

Genesis 3:1-24

You know when you look at your reflection in a mirror, when you raise your right hand in the mirror your reflection’s left hand is raised. The image is flipped. Left is right. Right is left.

In the beginning God created a perfect world. People have said the Bible is divided into two parts: Genesis 1 and 2 is the first part. The rest of the Bible from Genesis 3 onwards is the second part! And there is a great deal of truth in that. In chapter 3 our universe was turned upside down. Truth was swapped for lies, love for hatred, peace for conflict, Creator for creation, “very good” for pretty bad.

We live in the mirror universe. A reflection of perfection gone wrong. We’ll look at the passage under three points:

1. The Mirror Universe

2. Who’s the Boss? (destroying God’s good order)

3. Did God really say (lies and death)

1. The Mirror Universe

Genesis 3 is the mirror image of Genesis 1 and 2. In the first two chapters we get this glorious picture of a perfect creation: God speaks, his powerful word making things happen. God speaks, and declares things “good” because they are doing what he says. Things are running according to his plan. But when he makes man and woman in his image, in the image of God they (both) are made, he says it is “very good”. Ge 1:27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…. 31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!

But we do not live in a world which is “very good” do we? We do not live in a world of perfect relationships, where God walks amongst us, where we are at peace with him and each other. We are in a world where we are excellent at murdering each other, manipulating, abusing, power-plays. This afternoon two of my friends are helping another couple divide up their things. It is a deeply painful, messy, emotional thing. It is awful. Our relationships are a wreck.
And never mind our ruling the world. What a mess we’ve made of that. We pump poisons into the air, into the water, into the soil. The same stuff we need to breathe and eat and drink! Are we completely mad?!

We live in the mirror universe. We’re on the wrong side of the looking glass (looking glass is an old word for “mirror” – a great word!)

Everything is backwards. Did you notice in chapters one and two the good order in creation set up by God. There is

· God, who rules by his word,

· then man, created to rule the world (that means look after, not abuse),

· and woman created to help the man in his task of ruling (equally made in the image of God, but with a different job), both in obedience to God.

· then creation, the animals and plants, obeying the good rule of man and God.

BUT! In Chapter 3 we have the snake (creation) ruling over the woman. The woman obeys the snake. The man then listens to the woman instead of listening to God, and together they try to be like God, defining for themselves what is good and bad (look at verse 6 She saw that the tree was beautiful (lit. “good”) and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. Just please please note that the sin of Eve has nothing to do with sex. We’re such a sex-charged society that we see naked and think SEX. Sex wasn’t the problem. Sex (in marriage) is good, says the Bible, very good. In fact, we’re commanded to have sex, and often. Sex was not the proble.m. The problem was SIN. The problem was wanting to be like God. Actually to BE God. Eve wanted to take God’s place.
She wanted, she declared it good – and so she acted. God said it was not good, she declared it good. “I am God”. Nothing has changed, we do the same thing every day.

And she suddenly received the “knowledge of good and evil” – and realised she had just moved from “good” (in line with God’s word) to “evil” (disobedience to God).

Adam and Eve in 2:25 were naked without shame, joyously free. Now in v7 they are naked, defenceless before God. Naked and ashamed. The mirror universe.

There is a play on words in the Hebrew between naked ʿārôm in 2:25 and the next verse where the shrewd ʿārûm serpent is. Another mirror, contrast. Adam and Eve, innocent, free. The serpent, crafty, shrewd. In our world innocence does not survive very long. We have all experienced the hard school of life giving us “knowledge”, sometimes deeply shameful knowledge, as our innocence is snatched away from us. You may be sitting here today with deep shame. You do not have to bear your shame – Christ has borne it for you on the cross. Praise God that through Christ our innocence, at least before God, can be restored. And in eternity, we will be without shame, for Christ has taken our shame.
And if you need help in taking that shame to the cross, naming it “this is what I have done” or “had done to me” we can pray together after the service, and give it to the Lord who bore the stripes on his own body to erase the stripes on your heart. Your innocence can be restored in Christ, and only in Christ. Nothing else helps.

You see, this may be a passage of the Fall of Man, and God’s right judgement – but there is hope, there is life, the story continues. Yes, God bars the way to the tree of life with a flaming sword. But that’s because he himself will go through the looking glass, he will go to the cross, the tree of death, in order to bring us back to the tree of life and smash the mirror universe and restore all things. Praise God! That’s Genesis 3:15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.
Here is the first promise given that one day the serpent, the symbol of evil in this passage – he will be destroyed. His head will be struck by the offspring of the woman. There will one day be born someone who can strike down the serpent. But that strike will be costly, for his heel will be struck by the serpent.

The rest of the Bible is then looking for that serpent-crusher. That is the hope as each child is born: perhaps he can defeat evil. And the promise is added to with Noah and the Ark, with Moses rescuing the people, King David leading his people – but none of them were enough. Until suddenly Jesus arrives, the better Noah, the better Moses, the better King, rescuing the whole world from slavery and defeating evil on the Cross forever. That is our King, our God.

That’s the glimmer of hope. We are not cursed to live in this mirror universe forever. Jesus Christ has opened the way back to the Real World. We can even begin to feel the warmth of the Real Sun, the Real Truth, the Real relationship as His Spirit lives within us and breathes new life. But Oh! The day when we see him face to face, whether we see him coming in the clouds or see him after we pass through death to eternal life. What a day! To see the world reborn, and our King and Saviour. That is what we live for. That is what we were made for. All of us. Let us keep that in mind.

But there’s more of the serpent’s lies that we need to expose and bring to light so that we are not fooled by the mirror image.

2. Who’s the Boss

Now this point continues on from the first (the mirror universe) but I’ve put this on its own because it is a particular problem for us in our society. Because we have swallowed the lies of the serpent.

We either believe that “Men and women are different, but not equal” Traditionally it has been that men are better than women, I think in the last 20 years or so the lie has been that women are better than men.
The other lie is that “Men and women are equal, but not different” – and that’s something we hear all the time: there’s nothing special or unique about a man as opposed to a woman, or a woman as opposed to a man. Just swap them out interchangeably. It is a lie from the mouth of the serpent, and it is destructive, especially to women (which is ironic since it is often so-called women’s interest groups which say it).
By contrast God says “Men and women are different. Men and women are equal.” We are both made in the image of God, but with different roles. God lifts us up and celebrates our differences and our equality. There is honour both for the man and for the woman.

You see we must remember the curse or judgement in v15 where the serpent and the woman are destined to be enemies until the end of time: And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. The voice behind the serpent is revealed later in the Bible to be Satan, an angel created by God who wanted to be like God and tried to overthrow God. He was thrown out of heaven and banished from God’s presence. He is the ruler of this mirror universe, given the reigns by God for a short time in order that sin may be revealed, exposed and dealt with either by repentance and acceptance of Christ, or eternal expulsion (being thrown out) from God’s presence. So Satan is very active trying to destroy and bring down humanity, and he particularly hates women: there is hostility between the serpent and the woman.

And we have seen that. Throughout history women have been abused, mistreated, oppressed, kept down, raped, beaten, starved, ignored. I read an article recently on women’s experiences during war – and it’s awful. Men have used their superior strength to keep the little woman under control. In many societies, even today, beating your wife when she steps out of line is a perfectly acceptable and normal way of behaving.

Men, let me say at this point that if any of you have done this or are doing this stop it right now. It is sinful and wrong and is not Biblical at all. You have believed Satan’s lie that you are more valuable than she is. You’re falling right into the trap of v8 And you (the woman) will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over (oppress) you. Let’s sit together and pray for repentance and ask the Lord to show you how to be the servant leader instead of bully in your house. Bullying can also be done with words. It’s easy. It comes naturally. (The wives can also do it!) If you’re doing it we’re not judging or condemning you – we are all sinners here. But stop it, be the man you were born to be a Real man, not a twisted mirror image!

However, let me also say that if you are disobeying God by not being the leader in your family, taking responsibility for your wife and children, providing for them, feeding and clothing them, loving them, caring for them, teaching them spiritually, praying with them, then repent! This is the second lie. Again, this is an easy trap to fall into since our society tells us that men, husbands, Dads, are not needed. That women are capable.

And women are capable: at being wives and mothers. But women can’t be husbands and fathers! The woman cannot be the man. And it is Satan’s lie that says to women that being a mother and a wife is not valuable, that it’s unimportant, that it’s rubbish or beneath you. And all that counts is working, for money. No, that is a lie. God created you to be a woman. Let us honour womanhood, honour motherhood, honour wives. We love you and honour you.

But let us too honour manhood, and being husbands and fathers. Look at the creation of man and woman. Did you notice that he was created first. Man was given headship over woman, which means he has the responsibility to look after her, like the rest of creation. It is part of his job. Did you notice that he named the woman, just like he named the animals? It’s clear that she’s completely different to the animals – she’s created out of him (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh), made in the image of God. But she is also under his protection, she is his responsibility.

But in this chapter, the mirror image, we immediately see the man’s failure to be a man: to take responsibility and to care for his wife. Now Adam had obviously told her what God had said about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - look at her answer in v3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die” (If you look back at chapter 2 you’ll notice God told Adam before he made Eve. It was Adam’s job to teach Eve the word of God. Still our job guys.) So Adam gets top marks there.

But then he fails to protect her from the serpent, then he listens to her when she’s obviously wrong, then he obeys her command to eat.

Because look at verse 6. Where is the man during this interchange? With her. What was he doing? Picking his nose?!
Adam gave up his responsibility. He was a lazy man – and the world was plunged into darkness. And there are many lazy men in this world. Passive men, “nice” men who say “whatever you want, dear”. Oh it sounds so loving – but it is evil.
The good man will stand up and say no. Adam should have stood up to Eve and said “no”. A good man would have grabbed the snake and flung it out of the garden saying “you stay away from my wife”. But Adam was not good – he was “nice” and meek and mild, and because hey, I didn’t do it, I didn’t disobey God – she did… it’s her fault. Look at the nice man Adam and his excuse in v12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Not my fault. It’s hers, and yours. I was just being nice. Didn’t want to rock the boat, destroy the peace.

We are cursed with “nice” men.

I remember teaching a Bible study on Ephesians to a very mixed group of men – and we got to chapter 5 the passage about marriage. Some guys had very traditional African thinking: the man is the boss, his family exists to serve him. Others were very Western, modern, the woman is the boss, I do what she says. Passive. “Nice”. Both were blown away by the Bible’s teaching: Husbands are to be SERVANT LEADERS. Both. Like Christ.
One guy from Angola told me that changed his life. He went home that night and apologised to his wife. He realised that he is the head of the home for the benefit of his family, so he can lead them well – not so he can lord it over them. A highly educated guy from Tanzania was deeply challenged in how passive he had been in his family. Went home, apologised to his wife for his what he realised was laziness.

The Bible cuts right across both these lies of Satan. Be servant leaders, men, like Jesus. Not like Adam.

3. Lies and death

Because we live in the mirror universe which is full of the lies of Satan. The lies sound so wise, so loving. And it always begins like this “Did God really say”. Notice that in v1. And he lies about what God says. Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?

What did God actually say? You may eat from ANY of the trees – just not that one, because it’s bad for you. It was a good command. Satan twists it to sound like a bad one. And oh how we fall for his lies.

Marriage is bad. Sex outside of marriage is good. Porn is good, it’s harmless. Money will make you happy. A new girlfriend will make you happy – drop the other one. The problem is with everyone else, not with you, you don’t need to change. God’s a killjoy. Christianity is booooring. Have your fun now, come to God later (you never will). Iæm sure you can think of more. What Satanic lies are tempting you now? Name them, and repent. They are lies, damned lies. (Yes, damned in the proper use of the word as in leading to Hell).

Satan lied to the woman 4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

Well, they did die. Death entered the world and they were barred from the tree of life. And he told a bit of the truth, as always does: the man and the woman did indeed become “like God” as soon as they ate of the fruit. But the horrible irony, the awful lie, was that they were already “like God” because they had been created in his image (1:26). They threw away everything for something they had already been given.

And we fall time and again for the same trick. That’s why thankfulness is such a powerful antidote (medicine that works against poison). When we thank God for what we DO have, we’re much less likely to fall for Satan’s lies. But when we fill our minds with discontent, when we, like Eve, forget all the trees we do have, including the tree of life, and focus on the one we don’t, and allow ourselves to be tempted into thinking that it’s beautiful. Oh it wasn’t beautiful. They were naked, ashamed, at war with each other, and thrown out of paradise. What a cost.

As I said, two people we know are going through a divorce now. It’s not beautiful. It’s horrible, and painful. How much better to have climbed down from you pride and arrogance and said sorry and worked hard at your relationship instead of letting it go to pieces. Trust God, his word does not lie. Oh, it may be hard, very hard, but it is the truth. It is life. Anything else is a lie.

We live in the mirror universe at war. Satan is at war with us, and us with him. He seeks to destroy us. Work is hard. The ground is cursed. 17 And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.

Childbirth is pain .” 16 Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And our marriage relationships are a battleground And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”

Death is in the world 19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”

We live in the mirror universe, under judgement.

But there is hope. Remember 3:15 a serpent-crusher will come! And look at v21 And the LORD God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife – God makes clothes, not out of plants, but animal skins. And there is just a hint here of the sacrificial system, where blood is shed in order to cover the sins of the people. The animals died to cover Adam and Eve’s shame – pointing ultimately to Christ who covers our shame.

There is much more to say, if you’ve got questions we’ll have an opportunity for you to ask in a moment. But now let’s focus our attention on the great rescue act where Jesus on the cross opened the way back to Paradise, for all those who take refuge in him. Let’s celebrate Communion together.

søndag 6. oktober 2013

Genesis 1:1-2:4 The God who rests

Gen 1:1-2:4

Do you want to know the future?

Yes! We say. But what if it was terrible – what if awful suffering was waiting for you just around the corner? Would you still want to know?

Probably – at least you could prepare, maybe. But it would certainly be difficult to enjoy life now, knowing what is to come! It would always be in the back of your mind, and anxious gnawing thought, leaving you no peace.

But what if there was a way to change the future? Change the suffering to rejoicing, the sadness to happiness, the gnawing thought which saps your energy to something which fills you with hope and purpose.

Well, it is. We know the future. All of us.

We know that we are made by God.

And we know that our relationship with him is broken. We feel it in the depths of our being. Like when you’ve said something horrible to your parents or your husband or wife and you haven’t made right – you feel the break in relationship. You may try to cover it up with drink or loud laughter or entertainment or drugs or whatever else we use – but it’s there. The relationship is broken, giving us no rest, no peace.

This is how we live. With this deep, gnawing guilt that we are separated from God, and there is nothing we can do to get back to him.

But Genesis gives us hope. Even here, right in the beginning there is hope. V1 says “in the beginning” – and that which has a beginning has an end. And as we saw last week, the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are carefully structured to keep our focus on what is soon to come. What God has done points to what God will do. The last things will be like the first things. And that gives us hope. It is good news for us. The Bible does not stop after Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve disobey God – no, it continues, there is hope, God will restore all things.

There’s a pointer to that here on the seventh day: it doesn’t end. Notice all the other days – what comes at the end of the day: “and there was evening, and there was morning, the x day”. The seventh day does not have that – it does not end. God’s perfect rest does not end. We’ll explore that idea in more detail in a few minutes.

“The last things will be like the first things” – and today we’re going to get an idea of what those last things will be like. What is coming is what has been: living on new Earth without sin, without evil, in perfect harmony with God, each other, and our world. That is the promise we look forward to, the prize won for us by Jesus on the cross. That is our hope. What does this puny life matter with its small crude pleasures and its passing and light suffering: we have all of eternity to rejoice with our Heavenly Father!

It will be like it was in the beginning: Adam and Eve at peace with God, at peace with each other, at peace with the world, ruling over the world with wisdom, meeting with God as he walked in the garden in the cool of the day. Naked, and without shame. Knowing and being known intimately, completely, and being fully loved.

Our future is marked by these two words: rest, and relationship. Along the way we’re going to examine the Trinity: that God is three Persons in One. So, like last week, get your thinking caps on, because this is solid food for the mind!

1. Rest and relationship

Ge 2:1–3 So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

God had finished his work of creation. Everything was completed. Everything was “very good” (1:31), because everything was as it should be. It was all in accordance with his plan. So God rested. And we get an idea of what God was doing with his rest in chapter 3:8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden.

What a beautiful picture we have painted here. God walking in the cool of the day in the garden he had created, with the people he had created. Until one day they weren’t there – they were hiding from him because they broke his word. But we’ll look at that in 2 weeks time. For now just notice that everything was at peace. Rest means at peace in our relationships – with God, with each other, with creation. Everything was as it should be. And it was “very good”

Think about your best rest. It’s not being unemployed, or being a layabout, or so rich you have nothing to do. That’s not restful, because we were designed to work, like God. The best rest is when all hard work is done, when everything is as it should be, nothing hanging over you – that is rest. Satisfaction. Or a holiday, when you finally spend some uninterrupted time together, nothing pulling you away. Just time to enjoy each other’s company. We had that this summer when we took the kids on Pirate boat trip to Denmark. So fun just to relax together. Enjoy being together, hanging out.

But when relationships are broken – when you are out of relationship with someone – there is no rest. Conflict, arguing – that’s not restful. War. Not restful. Manipulation, gossip, back-biting – not restful. Rest and relationships are linked.

The theme of rest is a huge one found throughout the Old Testament. We are not at rest, our rest was broken – we broke it when we disobeyed God. But God has made a way back! The last things will be like the first things. We’ll see now that God’s rest is linked with God’s rescue of his people. God’s rest is linked to relationship. And then we’ll see that God’s relationship with his people is a reflection of himself. He is one God in three persons.

Let’s look at relationship first, and then finish off looking at God’s rest which will take us through the Bible, through God rescuing his people Israel, to the Cross of Jesus Christ, and beyond the Cross to the glorious hope of the Heavenly City filled with the glory of God.

2. Perfect relationship

Why did God make people? The Bible’s answer is “God made people because God wanted to make people”. God is God and does what he wants, and what he wants, happens. He is God!

But have you heard “God made us because he was lonely” or “God wanted some friends”? Probably! And it’s nonsense. There is never any hint at all in the Bible that God made us because he was lonely. That’s the kind of simple made-up answers some well-meaning Sunday school teachers tell their children. “God was all alone and was sad. So he made his friends. We are supposed to be friends with God. And God gets sad when we ignore him.”

It’s rubbish. And although it often comes from good motives it is a dangerous lie. It reduces God to the level of a lonely old man, with a bit of magical powers – and it makes Him dependent on us. And the child begins to think “Well, I’ll sulk, and manipulate God into doing things for me just like I do with Mom and Dad”.

If God needs us – who’s God?

No, the reality is much better, much wilder, much more mind-blowing. God is not, was not, and has never been lonely. God is in a perfect relationship with himself.

And we are a reflection of that. Ever wonder why we are made “in God’s image”? Why we are made male and female. Why two different beings? Because that reflects God: the Father, and the Son, the Spirit the love-bond between them. Like a husband and wife and their undying love for each other. So united, they are as one. That’s kind of like the reflection of the Trinity. God is Three Persons in One.

Makes sense? No! But it’s true. The marriage illustration is a good one, but no illustration is really good enough to explain the Trinity. I have heard of water: one thing, but three forms ice, liquid, steam. But that sounds like God is just changing himself from one thing to another – and we know that Jesus prays to the Father while the Spirit comes upon him – all three are separate persons. So that doesn’t work.

Or we get an idea like the three-headed ogre. But the Father, Son and Spirit are three independent persons, bound so strongly in their perfect love that they are as one. Jesus said “I choose to lay down my life and to take it up. My Father loves me because I lay down my life.” (John 10:17.18) “Father, not my will but yours” (Mark 14:36). Perfect love, perfect submission. No compulsion here. They are not forced to work together because they share the same body. They are not three parts of a whole. Each is fully God. Jesus, the Son, is God. Fully God. “All the fullness of the deity dwells in Him” (Col 2:9). The Holy Spirit is God, fully God “I will send you my Spirit, and I will live in you” John 14:17 (For the Spirit to live in us means Jesus lives in us).

God is Three. God is One. This is simply true. God the Father is God. God the Son is God. God the Holy Spirit is God. God is Father, Son and Spirit, One God.

This is solid food. But you didn’t expect knowledge about God to be simple, did you? When is reality ever simple? Look at light. Easy enough. But then you test light and sometimes it acts like a waveform, and sometimes like a stream of particles. It’s those two things at the same time. Woah. How? Nobody knows. It’s a mystery. The reality of God is a glorious, curious mystery.

But the Trinity is vital to understand. From before time in all eternity God has been at rest within himself. He is in perfect relationship with himself. He needs no other. The glorious message of the Bible is that he made us to share in that perfect relationship – to be at rest with him. As Jesus says in John 14: 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.

In Christ we can know God. In Christ we become what we were made for: to be in relationship with God.

Ge 1:26–27 (NLT) Then God said, “Let us (Trinity) make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

The creation of man is different to all the other acts of creation. God’s command in v26 is not “Let there be …” (impersonal third person) but rather the more personal “Let us make.”
The other animals are made “according to its kind” or “of the same kind” – the man and the woman were made “in our [God’s] image”. Man’s image is not simply of himself; he also shares a likeness to his Creator.
Another difference is that the creation of man is specifically noted as “male and female” (v.27). We are made as relational beings, made for each other - emphasised again in chapter 2 with the woman being made for the man as a suitable companion. We are made for relationship. And in that we reflect the Godhead. He is in perfect relationship. We are designed for perfect relationship.

We have also been given responsibility for God’s creation. We are to reign over all other living creatures: sky, sea, and land creatures. Like God, we have a relationship with creation. We are designed to be in relationship with Him, with each other, and with our world.

Isn’t that what we want to experience – harmony with all of life? At peace. At rest. Rest reflects the relationships in the Trinity. So let’s now look at the theme of rest as it unfolds throughout the Bible, starting here in Genesis 2.

3. Perfect Rest

Gen 2:2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

God rested on the seventh day, and, as I said earlier, the seventh day never ends. The day of rest, of perfect harmony in relation to God and his creation – that day is never-ending. There is no “and it was evening, it was morning, the seventh day”. Thankfully, even after Adam and Eve sin against God, the text does not say “and it was evening, it was morning, the seventh day” – instead we’re promised in 3:15 that a saviour will be born to crush evil and restore the broken rest.

I’m going to give you now a brief Biblical Theology of rest – tracing this idea of rest through the Bible.

In Exodus 20:8-11 (pg47) this idea of rest comes up again, in the Ten Commandments. Listen “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God.” Why should God’s people rest one day out of seven? Listen to the reason “11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

We are to rest on the seventh day to remind us that GOD rested on the seventh day. It reminds us of his rest. It reminds us that we are out of relationship with him and that we need that relationship restored. It reminds us that in Christ we can enter his rest. It reminds us of our hope for the future: the world restored to its former glory, all of us together, united, at peace with God, with each other, with nature.

In Deuteronomy 5 (pg112) the Ten Commandments are repeated – but this time the reason for keeping the Sabbath, that is remembering the day of rest, is different. Listen carefully. Dt 5:12–15 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God.” And here’s the reason: 15 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the LORD your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.

God’s rest is now linked to God’s rescue. Because the real problem in remembering God’s rest is that we remember that we’ve been thrown out of it! We’re no longer at rest in the Garden of Eden, but we are outside the Garden, outside Paradise, in a world filled with conflict and broken relationships and unrest. So God says “Remember the Sabbath day, remember that I am a rescuing God”. God’s rescue plan is linked to his rest.

In Deut 12:10 we read that in the Promised Land God will give his people rest pointing forward to the rest we will have in Heaven.

So how will God achieve his rest? How will God bring sinful people – we who are the cause of all the un-rest – how will He bring us into His rest? Through a great rescue, the great rescue that the Exodus pointed towards: Jesus, the Christ, on the Cross, giving his blood so that we sinners could be made right with God.

That is why Jesus said “I am the Lord of Sabbath”. Mark 2:27–28 (pg 600) Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

The Sabbath was made for man. It reminds us we need our relationship with God restored, and it points to our rescue in Christ! Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath both because he is the creator of the Sabbath and because he is the fulfilment of the Sabbath. We find Sabbath rest only in Christ. Through his death we have been reconciled to God. We are at peace with Him. Our relationship restored. 1 Pet 3:18 (NIV) For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

In Christ, we can enter God’s rest, through faith in Him. Hebrews 4 (pg728) reminds us that His “rest has been ready since he made the world. 4 We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.” (Heb 4:3-4) and in v7 it says God set [a] time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”

Don’t harden your hearts, because then the future is one of broken relationships in all eternity – something the Bible calls Hell. Imagine being cut off from God forever.

But today, today we are being invited to experience the love God has within Himself. That same love the Father lavishes on the Son, he will lavish on those who are in Christ. Eternal rest. Eternal peace.

And if you are a Christian, that is our destiny! So be encouraged – no matter what suffering or hardship you endure in this life, no matter what you are called to give up to follow Christ, no matter how many hours you spend serving, or money you give, or ridicule you endure, or friends you lose for Christ – our rest awaits. Perfect harmony.

I’ll let the Bible have the final word on rest. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, where we see that the last things are like the first things (only better). The promise given in Genesis, now fulfilled.

Rev 21:1-5 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

He will live with us, and we will be his people. Perfect relationship. Perfect rest. What a merciful and glorious God we serve!