There are a number of things that I am able to fix around the house. But every once in a while, I get to the place where I realize that I don’t know how to fix something and I need to call for help – for the furnace or an appliance or something like that. There are numerous areas in our life where we need help from someone who can solve the issues we face, so we call a lawyer, plumber, doctor or some other professional.
At Christmas we celebrate God’s coming to earth as a baby in the person of Jesus.
Sometimes we act as if this is just a nice celebration for us – family gatherings, gifts, the “Christmas feeling” whatever that means. Yet we know it is about God coming into this world. Do we really need God to come? Is it like the times when we call the plumber, Dr., lawyer etc. because we recognize our need?
This morning, I would like to go to the very beginning of human history to help us think about our need of God. We will look at the story of Adam and Eve and examine all the aspects of our need of God which were revealed as soon as sin entered the world. As we reflect on our need, I hope that the story of the coming of Christ, which we will celebrate next week, will increase our appreciation for this season and the wonder and amazement of what we celebrate.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. The crown of creation was when he created human beings in His own image. He placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, a pristine place of wonder. It was a place in which they had meaningful things to do, the blessing of a relationship with each other and also a close and intimate relationship with God. Yet in that place, there was one restriction. They were not permitted to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Through the work of Satan, Eve was tempted to disobey God’s command and Adam joined in that disobedience. Immediately the effects of their disobedience were evident. They knew that they were naked and the first signs of guilt came upon them. When God came to them following their disobedience, they hid from him, but when He found them He began to question them. He first of all asked Adam, why he had hidden. Rather than admit his guilt, he blamed Eve and Eve did not admit her guilt either, but blamed the serpent. Immediately God’s judgement came down upon them. Beginning with the serpent, or Satan, God cursed him and announced his eventual demise. Then he stated the consequences of sin on Eve and then on Adam. Finally, they were removed out of the garden.
This story reveals seven consequences of sin which are seven reasons why we desperately need God.
One of the first consequences of sin was that they were separated from God. In verse 8 we have a beautiful picture of what must have been. It says they, “heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” It is a picture of beauty, peace, and relationship. But now there was something wrong because it goes on to say that “they hid from God.”Wenham says that, “the trust of innocence is replaced by the fear of guilt.”
When asked to explain his hiding, Adam admitted that he was not just playing a game of hide and seek, but said, “I was afraid.” This is further evidence of the alienation between God and man. He had never been afraid before, but now, because of sin, he was afraid.
The final evidence in this story of the separation which had occurred is shown when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden. In verse 23 we read, “the Lord God banished him…” One writer says, “The garden of Eden was a type of … sanctuary, where God was uniquely present in all his life-giving power. It was this that man forfeited when he ate the fruit.”
So in the beginning of time when sin came into the world, there was a significant separation from God. Do you have a sense of that separation in your life?
Recently someone asked me, “Do you ever doubt?” I had to admit that sometimes I do. Even though I quickly gain faith when I look at creation or consider the work of God in redemption, the presence of those occasional doubts are a current evidence of the separation from God which is still our experience.
Whenever difficult things happen in our world, the existence and love of God are questioned. I read an article in TIME written Sept 15, 2005 which said, “as the initial shock of a disaster passes, (there is)a revival of the familiar question, Why God Lets This Stuff Happen. The survivors often say God saved them…but if he chose to save the living, did he choose to kill the lost? It is an occasion for atheists to remind believers of the flaws in the case for a benevolent God, and even the most mainstream pastors acknowledge that at times like this they are pressed for answers about how a loving God lets hateful things happen. "Of course, this makes us doubt God's existence," declared the Archbishop of Canterbury after the Asian tsunami…”
So there continues to be a separation from God.
Because we are separated from God, we desperately need God to come. To that sense of need, the Bible gives a promise in Jeremiah 31:33 – “I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
As we look at the story in Genesis once more, we come quickly upon a second consequence of the fall into sin.
This consequence, we could say, was probably the first consequence. In Genesis 3:7 it says that immediately after they had sinned, “they knew that they were naked.” Previously, they had had no sense of that kind of shame. When God came to them and looked for them, their response, in 3:10, was, “I was afraid.” Where did this fear come from?
Shame and fear are simply consequences of guilt. They knew that they were wrong and their sense of being wrong made them ashamed of their wrong doing and afraid of their encounter with God.
What a horrible feeling it is to be guilty. Although people can deny their guilt by changing the rules or declaring that they have done nothing wrong or by blaming others as Adam and Eve did, there is no way of escaping guilt.
Those of you who receive the newsletter from Crisis Pregnancy Centre will have read a number of letters from people who have been through a Post-abortion recovery program. In one of those letters we read, “The post-abortion counseling program was part of the journey that pulled me out of a two-decade long period of demise. I was never able to see just how my life spiraled out of control after my first abortion. It was a severe delineation point in my life. Afterwards, I turned my back on God, I began emotionally eating, my already active alcoholism picked up serious momentum and I became extremely promiscuous. But I denied it had to do with my abortion.”
That is what guilt will do and any time we sin we will suffer the consequences of guilt.
Because we are guilty, we desperately need God to come. To that need, God promises, in Jeremiah 31:34 – “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
A third consequence of the fall is its effect on creation. We have sometimes misunderstood this consequence, but even Romans 8:22 speaks of it when it says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
The evidence of a broken creation is seen in this first story. It is seen in the curse upon the serpent in 3:14 when it says, “cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals” and also in 3:15 which says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” It is seen especially in the curse upon Adam when we read in 3:17 – “cursed is the ground because of you…” and in 3:18 – “it will produce thorns and thistles…”
The consequences of sin were not only upon the human heart, but also upon the world in which we live.
The evidence of this broken world is still upon us today. A few images and a few words will help us recognize how true this brokenness is. I need only say things like, “Flood of the Century,” the “flood of 2006” and “hurricane Katrina” and you understand.
But the evidence of a broken world is not only seen in a world that can’t be controlled, but also in the way we treat this world. I often think of this brokenness when I see a trashy road because people have thrown things out of the window of a car or a trashy river because people throw things on the banks of the river so they will be washed away. We have heard a lot recently about pollution in Lake Winnipeg and although I wonder why the government is picking on minor polluters when there are major polluters left alone, the reality is that the tenth largest fresh water lake in the world is in trouble and people are a major cause of that pollution.
The physical world is broken and getting worse, therefore, we need God to come into this world. To that brokenness, God gives a promise in Isaiah 65:17,25 - “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind…The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.”
It is interesting that the first response of Adam and Eve was that they realized that they were naked. As Stigers says, “the sense of shame centered around the organs of generation, we should see here a perception that the very source of human life had been contaminated by sin.”
When God addressed Eve about her involvement in the sin, part of the curse upon Eve was, as 3:16 says, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.”
One of the greatest blessings, the joy of intimacy between a man and a woman which results in the production of children, was cursed because of sin.
This curse continues with us until this day. Every woman who has had a child knows about the pain of child birth. Even though today the actual birth process can be made painless by medication, that does not take away from the existence of the pain itself and many other pains that accompany having children. It includes the pain of caring for a child and even the pain of losing a child, a child which has not yet been born or a child to SIDS.
I don’t think we should limit this curse only to the pain of the childbearing experience by a woman having a baby. I think, in the context of the nakedness Adam and Eve experienced, that we should also understand that a serious sexual brokenness occurred that was not there before. In our world we see ample evidence of that sexual brokenness. We see it in the brokenness that comes from lust and it’s consequences. We see it in the exploitation of women and children for sexual purposes and we see it in the terrible struggle of same gender attraction.
Because we are broken sexually, we desperately need God to come. To that brokenness, God promises in Isaiah 65:20 - “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.”
The curse to the woman includes another devastation and that is the brokenness of human relationships. The broken human relationships are already evident in 3:7. In their recognition that “they were naked,” we see a rift beginning to form between the man and the woman. No more is there a clear and wonderful companionship between them as God intended. There is a barrier between them, a barrier of shame. That barrier is immediately evident when God calls them to account and Adam blames Eve for the sin.
A further evidence of this brokenness is a part of the curse when God says to Eve in 3:16, “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This is not a revelation of God’s will, but a curse upon them. Women will have a desire for their husbands to the point that they will even countenance abuse. Husbands will rule over their wives to the point of abusing that power.
Wenham states, “those created to be one flesh will find themselves tearing each other apart.”
The evidence of this brokenness is still very much with us today. It is seen in women who continue to stay with abusive husbands. It has always astounded me that abused women say nothing and go back to their husbands again and again even though they know that they will be abused further.
It is a sad fact that men abuse the power they have and emotionally, mentally, sexually and physically abuse their wives. Statistics suggest that 35% of all women who are or have been in married or common law relationships have experienced emotional abuse and 29% have experienced physical assault.”
The brokenness of this primary relationship is also seen in the many marriages which break up because of affairs.
To this situation of desperation we need God to come into our world. To that great need God has made a promise in Joel 2:28,29 – “ ‘And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”
Another effect of the curse is seen in what happened to Adam when God spoke to him. To Adam, God said in 3:19 “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…”
We need to understand that it is not work itself that is the curse, but the effort involved in it. God declares that work will be difficult and with great and often un-rewarded labour people will do their work.
This curse continues to the present day. This summer we spent a day helping our son move a pile of gravel into his garage which had a dirt floor. Our grandson, who at the time wasn’t 3 yet, was helping. It was amazing how much the little guy did. He filled several five gallon pails with stones. His line, repeated many times throughout the afternoon, was “Doing hard work.”
Sweat produced by physical labour, the existence of chemical companies who help you kill all the weeds in your fields, the ads on TV which declare that “work shouldn’t hurt” are all evidence that the curse on work continues to this day.
Because of this need we desire God to come into this world and God promises in Isaiah 65:21,22 – “They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands.
The consequences of sin are all consequences which relate to us as human beings. Most of the ones we have looked at are about broken human relationships and broken relationships which impact the world around us. The brackets to all this brokenness are the separation from God we looked at in the beginning and the final separation which comes in death.
Death as a consequence of sin is seen in 3:19 when God says, “until you return to the ground…” Because of sin, death came into the world.
I watched a movie a while ago in which a teacher wanted to give a group of students an opportunity to play their music in a concert. The people putting on the concert refused and so the teacher told a lie to the concert promoter to try to persuade him. He said that the students were all from a hospital and that they all had a serious disease. He gravely announced to the promoter, “they are all terminal.” The trick worked and they played and did very well. What interested me about this was the line, “they are all terminal.” Although he was lying about the students, this one line was not a lie. We are all terminal.
To this desperate need for God to come, God’s promise is given in Isaiah 53:10 – “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.”
On a hot summer’s day, a glass of iced tea is needed and welcomed.
After spending several hours watching a hockey game and coming home frozen, a hot bath is needed and welcomed.
As we reflect on the brokenness which has come into our world because of sin we realize that we all experience this brokenness in one way or another and we begin to understand that the coming of Christ into this world is needed and welcomed.
As you prepare for Christmas, I invite you to take some time to focus on your need of God. I believe that when we know just how much we need God, our celebration of Christ’s coming next weekend will be much more significant.