Victory in the Past, Present, and Future
First Sunday in Lent
Sermon on Genesis 3:1-15
Victory in the Past, Present, and Future
Text: Genesis 3:1-15
The tree of life with ev’ry good in Eden’s holy orchard stood,
And of its fruit so pure and sweet God let the man and woman eat.
Yet in this garden also grew another tree of which they knew;
Its lovely limbs with fruit adorned against whose eating God had warned.
Why? Why create these two trees? Why forbid Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? If God had not planted such a dangerous tree, this never would have happened. If God had not given them the command not to eat, they might not have ever thought about it. If God is God and he knows everything, wouldn’t he have known that they were going to do this? Why didn’t he prevent it? Perhaps you have entertained those questions before.
Martin Luther famously commented that the first worship service took place in the Garden of Eden and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the first altar. There before that tree they could praise God for his glorious creation. There they could remember the command not to eat that God had given them. There they could show their love for God by obeying his command. In these ways it was very much like our worship today.
God could have created robots. He could have created marionettes—puppets on strings. But he didn’t. He created special creatures that were perfect just like him—special creatures that had the ability to exert their free will. These humans would give God the ultimate glory and honor when they chose to obey him—more honor than robots who would have been programmed to do so. It was God’s will that his people would fill the earth with more people, would rule over the earth, would enjoy the earth, and would continue in perfection forever and ever. But,
The stillness of that sacred grove was broken as the serpent strove
With tempting voice Eve to beguile and Adam to by sin defile.
Oh, day of sadness when the breath
of fear and darkness, doubt, and death,
Its awful poison first displayed within the world so newly made.
The perfection did not last long. There was an angel that God had created who rebelled against God. His name was Satan. His goal from the very beginning was to destroy and defile what God had made. His aim was to take every single human with him to his place of eternal banishment called hell. So he made his attempt by tempting.
His first strike was to plant doubt, “Did God really say?” Maybe these humans would be foolish enough to doubt what the God of heaven and earth said. Eve immediately strayed from perfection. She did not repeat what God really had said, but added her own law to God’s: “And you must not touch it, or you will die.” God never said that.
The second strike was a half-truth intended to create more doubt and a false sense of security, “You will not surely die.” They wouldn’t die—not right away. They would keep on living for many years. But what Satan did not mention was that they would eventually die, which they never would have before. Worse, they would become spiritual dead as sinners.
Strike three was an offer of gratification and pleasure, again based on a half truth: “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” They would not become like God. They already were! They were created in his image! Satan was right that they would know about good and evil. But what he didn’t share was that they would know evil because they had done it. What he didn’t mention was that there would be consequences for their actions.
These three temptations were more than enough. Eve fell into sin. She added to God’s command. She saw that the fruit (fruit, not apple) looked delicious. She saw that she might gain wisdom through it. She desired that pleasure and gratification. She took some and ate it.
Adam fell with her. He wasn’t off working in the fields. He was right there with Eve. He didn’t speak up. He didn’t try and step in. He didn’t try and stop it. He failed as a husband and head of the family. He failed as a believer. Then he ate some of the fruit himself.
Instantly shame and guilt set in. They were embarrassed by the bodies God gave them. They were afraid of God and hid. They were evasive and failed to admit what they had done and to confess their sins. They blamed each other and blamed Satan too.
Thus, perfection was ruined. Paradise was lost. Life would end. Death would come. Pain and suffering and sorrow would fill everything in between. Yet before any mention of the consequences, before the wrath and punishment were delivered, God had something else to say: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
God was going to place enmity, hatred, between Satan and the woman. There would also be hatred and animosity between his offspring (unbelievers) and her offspring (believers). But then a third party was introduced, “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” One would come who was going to crush Satan’s head. Though Satan would strike a minor blow “on the heel,” this one would come and crush his head. The hymn writer beautifully words it this way:
What mercy God showed to our race, a plan of rescue by his grace:
In sending One from woman’s seed, the One to fill our greatest need,
For on a tree uplifted high His only Son for sin would die,
Would drink the cup of scorn and dread to crush the ancient serpent’s head!
God’s will was thus proclaimed. It could not and would not change. A promise was made and God was going to keep it. It was as good as done.
Fast-forward some four or five thousand years. The long promised Son was here. He was on this same earth that we live on. He was here for those in the past. He was here for us in the present. He was here for those in the future. The perfect Son of God took on human flesh and dwelt among us.
Once again, Satan strove to break that perfection. Satan attempted to destroy what God had planned. Today you heard about one of many attempts at Jesus, perhaps one of Satan’s stronger attacks. Again he came with a series of three strikes. First he tempted Jesus to show-off, to needlessly use his power, and to stray from his humble life on the earth. Then he tempted Jesus to test whether his heavenly Father would really follow through on his promise for love and protection. Finally he tempted Jesus with pleasure and gratification. He offered him the wealth of the world. He offered him the chance to avoid suffering and death. He offered him “more glory” (though he really had nothing to offer at all).
Unlike the first Adam, Jesus the second Adam did not fail. Jesus resisted these temptations. Jesus resisted every temptation. Never once did he sin. Never once did he fall into Satan’s traps. He lived with perfect righteousness. That was half his mission—living in our place.
He also came to die in our place. He came to hang on a second tree. It was a tree that looked like a tree of death. There our sins were placed. There God’s wrath was executed. There death occurred. But though it looked like a tree of death it was really a second tree of life. There sins were paid for. There wrath was appeased. There Satan’s head was crushed. There eternal life was won. It was a tree of victory. The victory proclaimed at the beginning was accomplished and finished with the victory on the cross.
Now, that victory of the past has become our victory in the present time. Yet Satan has not stopped his efforts. Thousands of years later his goal is still to destroy and defile. He goal is to drag every soul possible to the depths of hell with him. So thousands of years later he still uses the same tricks.
He strikes with temptations of doubt. “Did God really say?” he asks us. “Did God really say you need to go to church?” “Did God really say sex is just for husband and wife?” “Did God really say he expects you to give your first and your best back to him?” “Did God really say that your sins are forgiven? Surely you have to do something to earn your way to heaven.”
Then he strikes with temptations rooted in half-truths. “You will not surely die.” “It won’t be that bad if you do it.” “No one will really know.” “No one gets hurt if you do that.” “Everyone else is doing it.” “You won’t go to hell just for that.”
Then he goes for the eternal jugular with temptations of gratification and pleasure: “Don’t you know how good that feels?” “Don’t you know how good that tastes?” “God would want you to feel like that and to experience that.” “God really just wants you to be happy. Do what makes you happy.”
Like our first parents, we fall. Sometimes we amend what God says like Eve to justify our actions. Sometimes we just want that pleasure and gratification. Sometimes we sniff the fruit. Sometimes we bite the fruit. Sometimes we eat the whole thing and ask for seconds.
Over and over again we too have sinned. Over and over again we are overcome with that sense of guilt and shame. We hide from God behind excuses. We blame others. We even blame Satan. But that doesn’t change the fact that we have failed, we have sinned, and will die because of it.
That’s why we are here. We gather to worship and praise our God for what he has done. From defeat he has wrought victory. From death he has brought life. He fulfilled a promise made at the very beginning. He promised to send a Savior, he sent his Son to save, and now he gives us that salvation.
God alone has worked this salvation. God alone gives this salvation. It is a victory that belongs to him alone. It is a Victory in the Past, Present, and Future. He promised it. He accomplished it. He gives it. Thus, God has created a Tree of Life three times over—one in the initial perfection of the Garden of Eden, one that his Son hung from to pay for sin, and one that waits for us to worship under in the eternal joys of heaven. Rejoice in your God who has won the victory throughout history and has given to you the restored gift of the Tree of Life.
Now from that tree of Jesus’ shame flows life eternal in his name;
For all who trust and will believe, Salvation’s living fruit receive.
And of this fruit so pure and sweet the Lord invites the world to eat,
To find within this cross of wood the tree of life with ev’ry good
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Posted on March 13, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Genesis, Genesis 3, Satan, Sermons, Temptation, Temptation of Jesus, Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Tree of Life. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.