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What We Believe
“The Fall and Rise of Humanity”
This summer I’ll be going through a series on what we as Christians say we believe in. And while most already know them, like the Apostle Peter I never get tired of retelling them (2 Peter 1:12). And the reason is because while we know the stories or doctrines, we haven’t really taken the time to apply them to our lives and to our situations.
The writer of Hebrews gives us this take on why we’re not walking in the fullness of what God has so graciously given.
“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food” (Hebrews 5:12).
The Old Testament prophet Amos talked about these times saying, “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).
But there is another reason, and it’s called erosion. To erode means to diminish or destroy by degrees, or to deteriorate. We see this erosion here in Mesquite as rain has caused huge rivulets in the landscape. We also see this when we go to the beach and see pieces of the cliff lying on the beach below.
Erosion is also going on in the church, especially within the mainline denominations. These denominations were founded upon God’s word. They aligned their beliefs in accordance with God’s word, but over the years erosion has taken its toll. Many of these denominations have begun to drift away from their theological roots and are now only shells of what their founders first envisioned.
In an article back in November 2008, the headline read, “Russian Orthodox Church Stolen.” The story began, “Wanted: One missing Russian Church. Last seen in July. Reward for its return.”
It seems that the church, which was 200 years old was closed and used by the Soviets as a school for the disabled. But it closed its doors in 1998 and it was turned back over to the Russian Orthodox Church. In July, 2008 they decided to reopen it as a church and when they came in October, it was gone.
How can a whole church just go missing? How does one steal a church? It would seem one brick at a time. A business owner from a nearby village was paying four cents a brick. So, the local villagers dismantled the church, brick by brick, and sold it.
The local priest said this was nothing less than blasphemy and a grave sin, but as I see it, it symbolizes the erosion that is going on in today’s churches. Little by little the church is being dismantled, not from without, but from within.
The reason is because the church is not preparing people for the hard realities of life: the betrayals, illnesses, losses, disappointments, and death with the truth of God’s word. The people need God’s truth now more than ever before in order to help them through these hard and difficult times. What people don’t need, however, is more pop psychology and philosophies that are here today and gone tomorrow.
People need to be grounded upon the sure foundational truths of the Bible if they ever want to survive in the times we are in.
This week we’re looking at humanity’s fall and rise, and I’d like to kick off today’s study with the famous words of Steve Urkel, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” along with “Did I do that?”
Some time ago I read a story about a 15-year-old girl who murdered her 9-year-old neighbor because she wanted to know what it felt like. Afterwards, she attended the church’s youth dance. And we seem to ask the same question every time we see or read this again and again, “How could people do such a thing?”
Well, the reason is bound up in most church’s statement of faith: the fall of mankind through Adam and Eve. It talks about how humanity was created in the image of God, but then disobeyed God thus becoming sinners. And now the human race has inherited sin’s nature along with its consequences, and therefore, humanity is in need of a savior.
The truth is that every evil and hurtful thing that happens in this world, whether it’s disease, death, divorce, depression, or destitution is rooted in the events of Genesis chapter three, which is about humanity’s fall. It’s about the day sin entered into the human experience.
Read Genesis 3
Some have said that the serpent was the most beautiful creature in the Garden. This may have been because Satan was considered the most beautiful of all God’s creation (Ezekiel 28:12-15), and the Bible often describes Satan as a serpent. And while we’re not told as to the serpent’s beauty, we are told about his charm.
When Eve saw the serpent, she didn’t run screaming from the garden. Instead, there was something about the serpent that drew Eve to it. It says this serpent was crafty and cunning. Satan never appears in a way that is frightening; rather he shows up in a way that draws us to him. The Bible says that he transforms himself in to an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). In other words, Satan shows up lending a helping hand, only to entrap us with the other hand.
Let’s take a moment then and look at the process Satan used upon Eve, and it’s the same process he uses against all of us.
The Process of Temptation
Questions God’s Word
And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1b)
Satan said, “Hey, did God really say that?” or “Is that really what God meant?” Notice that the focus is on the one boundary God gave, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17), instead of what God did give to them, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden” (Genesis 2:16).
We need to stop focusing on what we don’t have, and instead start focusing and enjoying what God has given.
But going back to the questioning God’s word, isn’t this what we all tend to do? We focus on the don’ts in the Bible; rather than the dos. But God places these restrictions not to spoil our fun, but to protect us from harm.
Have you ever notice how it ends when we go against God’s word, thinking that in some way it restricts us? Have you ever seen those pictures comparing how someone looks when they’re partying and having a good time to how they really look?
That’s the picture we get when we think we’re doing okay when directly go against God’s word.
Anyone who puts a question mark behind the word of God instead of an exclamation point is being played by the devil. Please understand that when we question God’s word and stand in judgment of it, God’s word is actually standing in judgment on us.
Jesus said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48)
Eve’s mistake was getting into a debate with Satan. We will never win a debate with Satan. He’s much smarter than we are. Instead of debating him, we should be resisting and rejecting him, along with his accusations and temptations.
The Bible says, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7)
So, when the questions begin to arise about the goodness of God and of His word, rebuke it, submit yourself to God, resist the temptation, and Satan will flee.
Denies God’s Word
“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die’” (Genesis 3:4)
Now, while it is one thing to question, it’s something totally different to deny God’s word. To deny the truth is to accept a lie, and God’s word is true.
In Jesus’s prayer to the Father He said, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17).
We see an example of denying God’s word in what some say and teach about the giving of the tithe. They say, “That’s Old Testament Law and doesn’t apply today, because Jesus has done away with the Law.” And while it is found in the Old Testament and given as a Law, it is also just as applicable today as it was back them, Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it.
Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)
There is a basic principle of interpretation, and that is, if it is carried over from the Old Testament to the New Testament then it is still applicable in our time.
Speaking of the Pharisee’s hypocrisy, Jesus said that they would rather keep the minute points of the law of the tithe; rather than the more pressing aspects of it, which is justice, mercy, and faith. And then He said that these things should be kept while still keeping the law of the tithe (Matthew 23:23).
The temptation of dismissing the tithe and denying God’s word concerning it has caused believers today to miss out on God’s blessings, which God is willing to pour out upon us when give the tithe and give as He said we should. This blessing is seen in Malachi 3:10.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Misunderstands God’s Motives
“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5)
We question God’s motives when we think that God is trying to withhold something good from us. This is what happened with Eve. Satan got her questioning God’s motives thinking that God was withholding something from her.
Like I said earlier, God places these boundaries in His word for our protection, not to be some cosmic killjoy.
Let’s look at an example.
God said that sex was to be limited to marriage between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24), and any sex outside of this union is called sin (Galatians 5:19). At this point many ask the question, “Doesn’t God want us to have a good time?” Yes, but in the way He has prescribed, because He knows the dangers when we do it our own way.
Today, sexually transmitted diseases are not only on the rise, but they also have the potential to make a woman sterile, or much worse, they can kill. So, God put this boundary of sex only within the confines of marriage between a man and a woman to spare us unwanted emotional and physical pain, not to mention death.
And so, as we see in our passage of Scripture, the process of temptation begins with questioning God’s word, which leads to denying God’s word, and then misunderstanding God’s motives in the giving His Word.
The End Result of Temptation
Sin Resulting in Death
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
What is sin? The simplest definition I can give is that sin is missing the mark. It’s a personal and voluntary deviation against God and His word (Isaiah 1:2; 53:6). Sin is our desire to the boss of our own life, and in the process ignoring God’s principles for living.
This is seen in what happened to Adam and Eve. After they ate from the tree of good and evil, they went and hid themselves when God came calling. Adam said, “I was afraid because I was naked.” And God responded saying, “Who told you that you were naked?”
In other words, they determined for themselves that their nakedness was wrong. They never got that understanding from God. Literally, Adam and Eve became their own bosses determining for themselves what was right and wrong, and no longer did they consult God.
We see this today with statements like, “Look out for number one.” “Do you own thing.” “If it feels good, do it.” The reason we say these things is because the sin nature of Adam has been passed down from generation to generation to you and me. It’s literally part of our DNA.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
And so, the consequence of sin is death. First physical death because now our time on earth is limited, which is seen in what God said to Adam and Eve, “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
But there is another death that occurs, one that is deadlier, that is if something can be deadlier than death itself. And there is, it’s spiritual death. It’s a death that breaks our ties and relationship with God.
“It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore” (Isaiah 59:2).
But the Lord is a gracious God wishing none to perish but all to have eternal life (John 3:16).
And so, while the judgment against us is death because of sin, God made a way to bring us not only abundant life right here and now, but eternal life when our physical life is over.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
But before I get too far ahead, let’s go back to our story in Genesis. This grace and ultimate deliverance can be seen in what God provided Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. It says, “For Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).
The reason God did this is because He knew that humanity couldn’t cover themselves. Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin and shame with fig leaves, but these would only wither and die. Humanity is still trying to do it themselves, that is, cover their sins through religion and good works, but they are failing miserably.
The Bible says, “They cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God” (Psalm 49:7).
And so what God did for Adam and Eve is make garments to cover them out of animal skin. Note that this was God’s doing, not man’s. And this reveals that God’s way requires a sacrifice, a shedding of innocent blood.
This is how God states it in both the Old Testament and New Testament.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul … and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22).
We see Jesus providing us this very covering.
The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Let me end with a biblical illustration of the consequences of the fall and the grace God has extended through Jesus’s death upon the cross.
The story is found in Exodus and the building of the tabernacle. It says that when they built the holy place where the Ark of the Covenant resides, which is also called the Mercy Seat of God, they were to hang a veil separating it from the rest of the tabernacle.
The veil represents the separation that exists between God and humanity because of sin. But within the Law it speaks of a time coming when this relationship will be repaired. It is seen where the High Priest was allowed to go behind the veil and into the presence of God during the Feast of Yom Kippur to sprinkle the blood of the atoning sacrifice upon God’s Mercy Seat so the sins of Israel could be forgiven.
Fast forward several thousand years to the time of Jesus. After His death upon the cross a great earthquake shook the temple and the veil of separation was torn in two, from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:51).
Why from the top to the bottom? It’s because God is the one who tore it. What this represents is that there is nothing that separates us from the love of God, not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, or even death (Romans 8:35).
Nothing separates us from God because Jesus paid the penalty price not only through His shed blood, but also in His applying it to God’s Mercy Seat in Heaven.
“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12).
Jesus paid it all. Jesus paid the price for our redemption through the blood He shed upon the cross so that all who believe in Him will have eternal life through Him.
And so now, instead of sin and death, we can have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thus, the fall and rise of the human race, which we caused and God fixed.