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The Fall and Rise of Humanity
** Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_D8NkKbwGI
At the end of last year, the Lord laid on my heart the word, “remnant” and the “remnant church,” and began to show me what the remnant church was going to look like. It was that message that I brought out to start out the New Year.
What I believe the Lord was saying, in giving this message, is the need of the church to get back to the basics of our faith, because there’s been an erosion happening within the church, in that while we may know what these basic truths are, we really haven’t taken the time to apply them in our lives and in our witness to the world.
And so a spiritual famine is sweeping across the world, across our country, and across the church.
The Old Testament prophet Amos talked about this time of famine 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 NKJV)
And this is mainly due to an overall erosion that is happening within the church. Now, to erode means to diminish or destroy by degrees, or to deteriorate. We see this erosion in nature as rain washes away topsoil leaving rivulets and gullies behind.
In the church, this erosion is seen in how churches have started to drift away from their theological moorings. These churches began by aligning their beliefs in accordance with God’s word, which is seen in their statements of faith, but over the decades and generations that followed they have allowed the norms and morals of their cultures and society to seep into their midst, and thus the erosion had begun, where many are now only shells of what their founders envisioned.
Back in November 2008, an article was written with this headline, “Russian Orthodox Church Stolen.” And the story’s byline was, “Wanted: One missing Russian Church. Last seen in July. Reward for its return.”
A 200-year-old church had closed, and then it was used as a school for the disabled. But in 1998 the doors of the school were closed as well, and it was turned back over to the Russian Orthodox Church. Now, in July 2008 they decided to reopen the church, but when they came in October to begin its reopening, the church was gone.
How can a whole church just go missing? How does one steal a church? It would seem in this case, 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 I think it symbolizes the erosion that is going on within 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 with the truths of God’s word for the hard realities of life; like betrayals, illnesses, losses, disappointments, and death to name a few. And 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, which unfortunately is being taught, sometime outright, from today’s pulpits.
The reality of this is simple, and that is, what we say we believe in is what we end up doing. Our beliefs dictate the choices and plans we make, along with the actions we take to get it done. If our beliefs are faulty, that is, if they don’t line up with God and His word, then our view of this world, and how we are to live, breathe, and have our being will be off center and out of balance.
In short, our belief system dictates our actions and how we deal with others and this world that we live in. Therefore, bad doctrine produces bad ethics, morals, and behaviors.
And so, we need to be grounded in the truth of God’s word if we ever expect to survive in the times that we are in.
Now the message I’d like to share today is actually in reverse order from how we normally see this phrase being used, like “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Actually we could entitle today’s message “The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Humanity,” because the human race began when God created us perfect, that is, we were created in the image and likeness of God, but then sin marred that image and likeness, and thus humanity fell into the bondage of sin and death. But then God, in His wonderful grace and mercy, has redeemed us through Jesus’s sacrifice upon the cross.
Now, in my weird way, as I was thinking about this vital doctrine, the words of Steve Urkel, from the TV show, “Family Matters,” came to mind when he used to always say, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” And that is the state of humanity without God.
Now, the fall of humanity is found in most church’s statement of faith. It talks about how humanity was created in the image and likeness of God, but then they disobeyed God thus allowing sin to be a permanent part of the human existence, that is, sin became part of our DNA. In other words, the human race has inherited the sin nature along with its consequences from our progenitors, Adam and Eve, and therefore, humanity is in need of a savior to get us back right with God.
The truth is that every evil and hurtful thing that happens in this world, whether it’s disease, death, divorce, depression, despair, 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.
And so our text today is taken from Genesis 3:1-11.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. 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.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’”
Now some have speculated that the serpent was the most beautiful creature in the Garden. This may have been because Satan was considered the most beautiful of all of God’s creation. Concerning Satan, God said, “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God.” (Ezekiel 28:12b-13a NKJV)
Notice that when Eve saw the serpent, she didn’t run away screaming; instead she was drawn to him. And it says that he was crafty and cunning. You see, 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 into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
You could say that while Satan is drawing us in with a helping hand, he is trapping and enslaving us with the other.
Now, let’s take a moment and look at this process used by Satan, because it is the same process he uses on us.
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 NKJV)
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, that is, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17 NKJV). That was it. They had full range of the earth and what they could eat. God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.” (Genesis 2:16 NKJV)
But no, they had to eat from the one that put us all in bondage to sin and death!
What I see this saying is that we need to stop focusing on what we don’t have, and instead start focusing and enjoying what God has given us, and learn the art of contentment (Hebrews 13:5).
But going back to the questioning of 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, these boundaries, not to spoil our fun, but to protect us from harm.
Let me just say that anyone who puts a question mark behind the word of God instead of an exclamation point is being played by Satan. Please understand that when we question God’s word, we’re standing in judgment of it, but actually it’s God’s word that is standing in judgment of 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 NKJV)
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, and that’s because he’s been at this a whole lot longer than any of us. 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 NKJV)
So, when the questions begin to arise about the goodness of God and of His word, rebuke it, and instead let’s submit ourselves to God and His word, resisting the temptation, and Satan will flee.
Notice how Jesus dealt with Satan’s temptations. He resisted them with the truth of God’s word, and in the end, Satan left.
In each of Satan’s temptations, Jesus never questioned, He just resisted through God’s word. He said, “It is written.” And when Jesus finally had enough He said, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” (Matthew 4:10-11 NKJV)
I cannot tell you how much I like that ending, not only that Satan leaves, but also that God will minister us back to health and wholeness.
Denies God’s Word
“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’” (Genesis 3:4 NKJV)
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 then, because 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 NIV)
There is a basic principle of interpretation, and that is, if something, like the law, 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 minuet points of the law of the tithe rather than the more pressing aspects of it, which are justice, mercy, and faith. And then He said that these things should be kept while at the same time 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 we give the tithe and give as He said we should. This blessing is seen in what is brought out by the prophet Malachi.
“‘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.’” (Malachi 3:10 NIV)
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 NKJV)
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 women and men 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 Satan uses begins with questioning God’s word, which leads to denying God’s word, and then misunderstanding God’s motives in giving us His Word.
And in the end, what results is sin
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 NKJV)
What is sin? The simplest definition 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 be the boss of our own lives, and in the process ignore 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, which I find humorous, because we can never hide our sin or ourselves from God.
Adam said, “I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10 NKJV)
And God responded saying, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Genesis 3:11 NKJV)
In other words, they determined for themselves that their nakedness was wrong. But, they never got that understanding from God. Literally, Adam and Eve became their own bosses determining for themselves what was right and wrong for their own lives, and never consulted 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 NKJV)
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 NKJV)
But the Lord is gracious 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 NKJV)
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 NKJV).
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. And humanity is still trying to do it the same thing, that is, cover their sins through religion and good works, but fail miserably in the attempt.
In Psalm 49:7, it says that no one can redeem themselves from death, or the consequences of sins, nor can they give a ransom to God to make it right.
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 for the sins of humanity.
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 NKJV)
And so, this is what Jesus provided for us, a permanent covering.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NKJV)
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 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 now 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, a fall in which we caused, but God fixed.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study