Intro and prayer.
The Story of God and Man: The Fall
Have you ever wondered why so many things in this life are relentlessly so difficult, so painful, and so frustrating? Why are so many things so far from what they should be? And why do we as humans seem to have such a problem with that? We don’t seem to be able to accept that reality. We are restless about it. We want it to change. And we write stories about that.
More specifically, people have an obsession with stories about curses in them — spells, enchantments. The mischievous, conniving villain scheming…lurking. Laughing with the evil laugh. And in these stories, the curse has to be broken of course! I’m not talking about Christian literature; I’m talking fairy tales here. We have Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Frozen, The Little Mermaid, and one of my favorites: the Emperor’s New Groove. In these stories, breaking the curse requires and act of love, usually self-sacrifcial love.
Let me give you the best explanation I know for this: the reason for our obsession with curses is that 1) we were created for a world without a curse, but 2) we live in a world under a curse. I know some of you may be thinking: what is this guy talking about right now…but just hang with me on this.
The curse I’m talking about was a part of something known as [slide] The Fall of Man. Let’s read about this as we continue in the Story of God and Man, which is a series that we’re going through which is in many ways a summation of the very big story found in the Bible. To give you some context, you can see that we’re right here this week. If you flip over to page 26 of your booklet you will see several key texts listed, and this morning we’re going to key in on just two of them: Genesis 3 and Romans 5. If you’ve got your Bible, go ahead and open it up to Romans 5, because that is the main text I’m going to be pulling from, so it will be useful to have that open.
Disclaimer: I also want to reiterate that when we say “story” we don’t mean a pretend fairy tale; we mean a true, real-life set of events that we are a part of. Does that make sense? Good, now let’s get to the real, true story from page 26:
“The archangel Lucifer lifted himself up in pride, rebelled against God, and became the evil Satan. Many of God’s angels followed him in rebellion, becoming demons. Satan tempted the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, who doubted God’s goodness and love, disobeyed God, and so joined the rebellion. In judgment, God brought death into the world and subjected creation to a curse, giving man a taste of the consequences of rebellion. Yet God promised redemption and mercifully continued to bless His creation, reveal His goodness, and pursue a restoration of relationship.”The Story of God and Man: The Fall
So this fall, this curse came into the world as a result of man’s rebellion against God.
Last week Matt brought out how the Creation affected every aspect of our lives, by drawing out the impact of creation in four areas: 1. relationship with God, 2. human dignity and community, 3. marriage and sexuality, and 4. vocation. I’m going to carry that forward as we explore how the Fall of man has impacted those four areas. Remember from last week that God created the world good, and his design for the world was very good. But the Fall bent the good design of God into something that was not good (CS Lewis uses this word “bent” to describe how sin affected God’s design, and I think it’s a really accurate word, so I’m going to use that).
Creation brought joy, light, and life; the Fall brought sorrow, darkness, and death. Creation made things whole; the Fall made things broken.
Let’s look at how, starting with our relationship with God.
1. Relationship with God
How we were created
“Since God is the good, loving Creator and Sustainer of all creation and sovereign over all, we belong to Him. Therefore we must worship, love, adore; pray to; trust; and obey Him.”The Story of God and Man: Creation
How the good design was bent
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.”Romans 5:12 (CSB)
First, some of you may be wondering what the word “sin” means. Maybe you haven’t heard it before, or you’re just not quite sure. That’s okay! Sin is doing anything outside of God’s intended design and purpose for us. Okay, but wait a minute: how are we supposed to know God’s intended design and purpose for us? I mean, when you bring home some furniture in a box from Target, you pull it all out of the box, and what do you find? Well, first you usually find a giant red sheet of paper that says “don’t call us….please don’t call us. We know this furniture is impossible to put together; it’s designed that way.”
But after that, you find the instruction manual that’s usually tied on so you don’t lose it, right? Now I haven’t experienced this — thought I am going to soon God-willing — but when a baby is born, there is no instruction manual tied to the foot. There are no terms and conditions. So how are you supposed to know what to do in life? Seriously, how are you supposed to know?
Isn’t it unfair to expect people to just know what to do and then punish them for not doing it? Well, Matt talked about this last week, but God has created us with an internal, undeniable knowledge that we are created by God and for God. Every human being on the planet was given an innate sense of right and wrong: a conscience. We can choose to ignore that conscience we can warp and retrain that conscience, but it is there from day 1. And we are all able to understand a lot about God through the things he has made, as Romans 1 says — and it continues that because of that we are without excuse for our sin. And we have all acted in sin; we have all sinned against God. But why is sin such a universal experience? The answer lies in The Fall of Man.
Going back to Adam and Eve… when Adam and Eve sinned in the act of rebellion against God in the garden, this sin brought death into the world. [slide] Remember Romans 5:12 – “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” The sin of Adam [and Eve] was the first sin, the original sin, but it set mankind on a very different course than the one for which they were created.
How did it do that? How does death come from sin? Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” This verse teaches that the wages of, the result of, the right and just punishment for sin is death. God is about bringing life, and since sin is against God, against his ways, in direct opposition to him, so the opposite path — the path of sin — brings death rather than life. And while sin brings the death of many things, the greatest death is the death of our relationship with God. The greatest death is the death of our relationship with God.
In our sin, we cannot be in relationship with God. In our sin we have declared ourselves enemies of God. In our sin, we cannot even approach God. And the Bible teaches that one day we will stand before God and be judged for the things we have done, and those of us representing ourselves, being judged on our own actions, will be rightly condemned to hell. There is no amount of good we could do to undo our sin. There is no way for us to fix this on our own. There is no hope for those of us on our own. (Praise God that is not the end of the story.)
The Reign of Death
Romans 5:14 (ESV) says “…death reigned from Adam to Moses [and beyond to us], even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam”
But in this clouded darkness, there is a ray of hope that shines through at the end of Genesis 3:15 [slide]: “He will strike your head, and you will strike his heal.” Satan will land a strike to the heel, crippling mankind, weakening them with the poison of sin. But one day mankind would somehow land a fatal blow — a blow to the head — of the enemy, Satan. What is that fatal blow?
Well, normally in a story it’s not good to look too far ahead (spoiler alert), but in this case, we do need to look ahead. We look ahead to the fatal blow dealt by the savior of the world, Jesus. This passage I’m going to read is a bit longer, so please flip in your Bibles to Romans 5:12 if you haven’t done that yet.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.Romans 5:15-21 (ESV)
Have you ever wondered: why did Jesus (God himself) come as a flesh and blood man of all things? There are many reasons, but one of them is made clear here in Romans 5: Adam sinned and every man and woman after him, taking the path of rebellion, the path of disobedience. But Jesus came as a true and better “Adam,” a man who lived perfectly in righteousness and obedience. All of mankind had come under a curse, and the way to break that curse was for a perfect man to take on the sacrifice for the sins of humanity upon himself while having no sins to answer for himself — only the sins of others.
Jesus lived the perfect life that we failed to live and died the death we deserved on a cross, taking on the punishment of our sins, and he resurrected so that like him we can be resurrected into new life, eternal life by faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, by following him by sacrificing our entire life to him. If you’ve been around Stonebrook for very long, you’ve probably heard me say that over a hundred times, and you can probably say it right along with me, and I want that because this is the most important truth in the world. If you know one thing, this is the thing you should know. This is the gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is our one hope.
So how should we respond? Read from page 27 of your book:
How we should respond to the reign of death:
1. “We should despair of finding acceptance with God through our own goodness and righteousness and cast ourselves on His mercy and grace.”Life in Light of the Fall
You read that rightly: we should despair. Not something you hear very often, but it is good to be real about what life is like in a world separated from God and his goodness. We should take the time and energy to reflect on, meditate on, really feel the effects of sin. Artists do this with songs of lament, with stories of tragedy, with biographies and historical accounts.
But the story doesn’t end there, praise God, and we shouldn’t stay there. Our despairing should always result in turning our eyes, minds, thoughts to the grace of God. If you don’t know how to do this, take a look at the Psalms (like Psalm 4 and 13 — two of my favorites) as they are an incredible example of this. If you have never turned to the grace of God before in Jesus, I would encourage you to do that today, and if you don’t know what that looks like, I would love to talk to you about that, or I’m sure the person who brought you today would or any of our pastors.
And for those of us who have done that, we need to continue to daily cast ourselves on the mercy and grace of God. This is part of what we call walking in the gospel.
Now, while the mercy and grace of God secures both a present and future hope for us, we still live in a world affected by the fall, a world that has been cursed and stained by sin. Because of that, sin grapples and ensnares us. Let’s look at that part of the curse from the fall that happened, told in Genesis 3:15. [slide]
The Raging Battle [of sin against Satan]
15 I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.Genesis 3:15 (CSB)
There would now be a lurking enemy, a slithering snake — Satan. Mankind would be under constant spiritual attack, on the enemy’s turf. 1 John 5:19 says “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Evil would now gain ground more easily in our hearts and minds: distorting, confusing, concealing, making evil seem good and good seem evil. Walking in step with God’s good design would now be an uphill battle. Fear, trepidation, anxiousness, frustration would now lurk around every corner. What was created to be clear, obvious, simple would now be clouded. Sin would now be more like the default, the standard setting of mankind. [slide] This concept is conveyed well in Genesis 4:7, which says “…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” or 2 Corinthians 11:3 which says “as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
Fighting sin would now be a hard battle. It would take great effort. It would leave us bruised and bloodied at times. It would require us when wounded to receive help and healing from others, sometimes being dragged off the battlefield to the sidelines to get patched up. I myself have been the dragger and draggee multiple times. Even the best of us will be hit by Satan’s flaming arrows from time to time. It is a different way of life. This is not how it was created to be, but it is how it is.
But here’s how we are to respond (page 27):
How we should respond to the raging battle:
2. “We must be vigilant to resist the evil desires of our corrupt nature, the pressures and influences that come from a corrupt world, and the temptations of the devil.”Life in light of the Fall
It will take work to fight back against the evil desires within us and against the devil’s temptations. It’s a fight we will lose ground on every day if we fail to engage in the battle. If we forget to bring our weapon to the fight (which we see in Ephesians 6 is the Bible), we are not going to land any blows against the enemy. If we fail to put on our armor of righteousness (which is Jesus), if we drop our shield (which is faith in Jesus), we are going to get hit, and it’s going to hurt. And even when we’re fighting with proper technique and have all of our armor on, it’s still going to hurt. It’s still going to sting. It’s still going to be hard.
One thing I will encourage you with is to never fight alone. Never fight your battles against sin alone. That is a recipe to lose. Be in community. Confess your sins to one another. Encourage one another daily. Warn, comfort, and help those around you with patience and love, and part of love is being willing to have the hard conversations. That is what the Bible speaks of when it talks about “bearing one another’s burdens.” It is not sitting around and waiting for the enemy to slowly gain ground and gain ground until the battle is eventually all but lost. Know your Bible so well that when the enemy comes at your friend or your wife or your brother or your daughter you can smack Satan straight back to hell where he came from. James 4:7 “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” You’ve got to fight. And by the power of God, who has given the Holy Spirit, if you prepare well for the battle, you can win.
We’ve looked at how the fall has affected our relationship with God, and I took more time on this one on purpose because it is the most foundational and most important, but let’s keep going and look at how the fall has affected human dignity and community.
2. Human Dignity & Community
How we were created
“Since all men and women are created in the image of God and descended from one man and one woman, we must regard all men as valuable, treat them with dignity, respect all, and treat all justly regardless of race, gender, age, position, giftedness, health, or disability.”
“Since God is our supreme authority and since He has established human authorities to lead and organize society, we should submit to the appropriate authorities—children to parents, wives to husbands, employees to employers, church members to church leaders, and citizens to governing authorities.”The Story of God and Man: Creation
Humans were made to work together well at all times. Group projects are not supposed to be a cause for panic. Driving in traffic is not supposed to require calm breathing just to keep from slamming on the horn. If we operated in community according to our design, there would be no need for prisons, punishments, even judicial systems. Lawmakers would be having a grand ol time rather than fighting tooth and nail, jockeying for position and clout. And all people would be respected, cared about, and cared for.
How the good design was bent
What a world that would be, right? But that’s not the world we live in, because as we looked at in Romans 5, we see that sin and death reign. Instead of a desire to love others, our desire changed to love self. So how do we live in light of that?
How we should respond
3. “We should not be surprised when we realize that we have sinned, but be quick to acknowledge our sins to God and, when appropriate, to others and to ask God for His help and grace to live uprightly.”Life in Light of the Fall
When we sin, the first thing we should do is make things right with God. We do this through confession and repentance (Psalm 51 is an incredible example of this). We acknowledge our sin to God, remember that we can do nothing on our own to save ourselves, and we rest in the grace that Jesus won for us. Because we sin daily, confession should be a daily act, and because we have a great high priest in Jesus as Hebrews teaches us, we don’t need to go to a pastor or priest for God to hear us. Jesus is our mediator, so we can go straight to him in prayer when we confess our sins. And I want to clarify that this daily confession is not what saves us. The grace of Christ is what saves us, and faith in him secures us salvation. That is safe. But it does change the relationship when we confess, when we apologize to God.
A good analogy is a marriage: if I sin against my wife and fail to confess, it doesn’t make us any less married, right? But it does erode the relationship. Confessing doesn’t make us any more married, but it does build the relationship. And because God has been incredibly good and gracious to us, we should do everything we can to build that relationship with him.
Part of confession is recognizing our own brokenness in our relationships, our own sin against others, our own neediness, the hurt and pain we spread with our thoughts, words, actions, and inactions. That’s why after confession to God, we also need to confess to one another (as James teaches) and ask for forgiveness from those we have sinned against.
Because of our sin, our relationships are going to be broken. And yet, even within that, God finds a way to forgive and redeem the sin we bring into relationships. God is able to turn things that hurt relationships into things that strengthen them when forgiveness and healing come into the picture. When we are hurt by someone, but choose to love them anyways, to love them in spite of their actions, that does something remarkable. It grows bonds. It builds trust. It brings together what would have been pushed apart.
Think about your closest relationships for a minute — the people that are closest to you. Are those the relationships in which everything has always been good, where there has been no disagreements, no struggling, no apologies and reconciliation? I’m guessing no.
It is adversity that builds strength in relationships. It is through the pain, through the frustrations, through all of the messiness and challenges that relationships grow stronger like a piece of metal that is forged: it must be heated and pounded to be shaped into what it is made to be. The Bible says “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” It is a tough process, but a necessary one. And it is effective if (and that’s a big, important if); it is effective when done with intentionality, with care, and with a recognition and response to the one true shaper: God.
We have looked at how the fall has affected our relationship with God and human dignity & community. Now, let’s look at how it has affected marriage, family, and sexuality.
3. Marriage, Family, & Sexuality
How we were created
“Since God created us male and female and commanded that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and since He desires humans to multiply and fill the earth, one man should enter into a life-long covenant with one woman, be sexually active, bear children, and raise a family. Sexual activity outside of this God-ordained marriage covenant—such as adultery, cohabitation prior to marriage, polyamory, homosexuality, or bestiality—is a violation of God’s purpose and plan and will result in suffering and loss and the judgment of God.”
“Since God created humans male and female, we should celebrate masculinity and femininity, which God has designed to complement, not compete.”The Story of God and Man: Creation
How did this design get broken?
How the good design was bent
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”Genesis 3:16 (ESV)
The act of childbearing would now be a very painful one. This act of bringing new life into the world, the act of recreation that models the creation of our God, would now be broken and painful. This brokenness would lead to infertility, miscarriages, the tragic and tear-filled loss of life that works against the creation mandate that God gave to be fruitful and multiply. My wife and I have been down that dark road and I know so many of you have as well, and we should all mourn the effects of sin that broke God’s good design.
And then the verse continues: “he shall rule over you.” What was created to be a complementary relationship would now turn into a competitive one. Instead of a love that serves and loves — a sacrificial Christ-like love that Ephesians 5 commands husbands to give to their wives — instead of that, husbands would now take advantage of their power to control, conquer, dominate their wives. Instead of sitting under the rule of Christ and leading their wives in following him, husbands would now seek to sit themselves upon that throne of ruling and reigning, crowning themselves as king, creating their own kingdom of comfort, demanding servitude and subjugation. And this sin goes beyond marriage relationships.
The oppression of women is no surprise to us in this world, but even more recently things like the “me too” movement and the increased ability for women to tell their stories have lifted the curtain, revealing the depth of the horror of oppression that has been disgustingly all too present in the lives of those all around us. Women have been abused, wrecked, mistreated, ignored, cast aside, treated as objects, treated as less than humans made in the image of God.
Men were created to be protectors, but are instead drawn to exploit their strength over women, protecting their own wants and desires over the needs of those they were made to protect.
Men were created to honor women, but would instead be drawn to treat them as merely objects of sexual gratification through lust and pornography.
Men were created to provide food, shelter, and safety for women, but would instead be a source of danger, aggression, chaos.
Men were created to lead with virtue and love, tending families of peace and comfort, but would instead be lead by their own passions and desires of selfishness, anger, and recklessness.
The family life was forever changed through the fall of man. So how do we respond?
How we should respond
4. “We should remain humble, gentle, and patient towards those who sin, for we remember our own need for God’s mercy and help. Plus, we realize we, too, could stumble if we grow proud and are not alert.”Life in Light of the Fall
Ultimately, God’s calling for us in marriage and family relationships is one of being re-creators: to continue to create in the ways that God did. To create families where love and goodness reign. To create relationships where thriving occurs. To create families where peace, growth, expansion, creativity, and maturity bloom and sprout fruits of the Spirit — families that operate according to the rule of love and grace.
All of us are a product of families: a father and a mother. We have all experience the brokenness of sin in family life — some of us to a much, much greater degree than others, and we should seek healing and reconciliation from that to the degree that it is possible. But even when others don’t apologize, when they don’t recognize the hurt they caused us, we can and should still operate in patience, gentleness, and humility.
I want to be clear that if you are in a situation of abuse where you are unsafe, I am not saying that you should just sit there and take that. You should seek help and get out of that situation immediately. But even for those of us that have been abused and hurt deeply, I want to encourage you that healing is possible in Christ. He can redeem and restore you. And part of that process is recognizing our own great need for Jesus, our own brokenness. So whatever your situation, we should walk in humility and patience.
Let’s now go to the fourth and final area that the fall has affected: vocation (which means calling).
How we were created
“Since God appointed men and women as rulers and caretakers of the earth, we are responsible to Him to treat the physical world around us as a stewardship entrusted to us. The earth belongs to our God to whom we will give an account for our stewardship. Being made in the image of God, men and women are also to work as creators and caretakers, designing, arranging, protecting, providing, developing, giving, loving. We should find purpose and fulfillment in the work of our minds and of our hands and do our work as unto the Lord.”The Story of God and Man: Creation
How the good design was bent
“…cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”Genesis 3:17–19 (ESV)
Work that was meant to be simple and good would now be complex and difficult. Work that should have been fulfilling and rewarding would now be frustrating and painful. It would now be with great difficulty just to get enough food to eat and stay alive. It has been with immense effort that we in the USA live in a modern world where food and shelter is readily available, and yet so many in this country and elsewhere still go without.
This impacts our work in that it both makes it more difficult, more frustrating, and it changes the type of work that we have to engage in just to stave off death. And even when we do that as best as we can, death will still take us one day (unless Christ returns first). “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
That sounds pretty bleak, but how should we respond?
How we should respond
“Since God cursed the earth, human survival and flourishing have become more challenging and the work of creating, arranging, providing and protecting more difficult. Yet God has a redemptive purpose in difficulties and sufferings—they humble our pride, demonstrate to us the terrible consequences of rebellion, and draw us to God in a dependent relationship. We should rejoice in our trials, turn to God for strength, and yet work hard to do what we can to mitigate the effects of the curse.Life in Light of the Fall Closing Statement
So, we should respond be rejoicing in our trials, turning to God, and doing good work on this planet while we have the opportunity, stewarding the gifts, abilities, and callings God has given us. Now, rejoicing in our trials seems like an odd thing. Why should we do that? Well Romans 5 tells us:
The Unexpected Blessing in the Curse
“we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put to shame [this hope will not disappoint us – CSB], because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
There is an unexpected blessing in the curse. There is a purpose in the suffering, in the pain, in the struggles. God is able to use it in ways we never could have expected or dreamed of. And it doesn’t always feel like he’s doing that, especially in the midst of great suffering. But he is.
Jesus draws this out in his sermon on the mount, which can be found in Matthew, where he says “blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who are hated and persecuted by others because of Jesus,” because they have something far greater than comfort in this life.
There is a benefit to experiencing our need for God. There is a goodness in it. So while we groan and weep for the fall, we need not fear it. We need not hide from it. We will not be defeated. We will not be lost.
But we should turn from sin and turn to the one and only solution: God. Even if we live as people with very little, with unfulfilled desires, with lost hopes and dreams, with chronic hurts and pains, with weary war-torn hearts; when our hearts and minds are telling us to be done, we can say “but in God.”
- We have nothing, but in God we have everything
- We have turmoil, but in God we have peace
- We have pain, but in God we have pleasures forevermore
- We have heartache, but in God we have heartwarming affection
- We have friends who let us down, but in God we have a friend that will build us up
- We experience betrayal, but in God we have faithfulness to us, faithfulness to the very ones who have betrayed him
- We have restlessness, but in God we find true rest
- We toil with blood sweat and tears, but in Christ we have one who by the sweat of his brow and the blood poured out because of his tears of love and compassion for us saved us, saved you
- We have lost everything, but in God we have gained more than we could have ever hoped or dreamed of.
So when you experience pain and frustration and turmoil, when life seems too heavy to bear, when you lose your way: Look to Jesus, who came to rescue us, to right every wrong, to make all things new. Confess your sins to him, your own brokenness, and then turn to him for healing. Jesus absolutely loves to heal broken people. It’s his very heart. It’s his joy.
So all you with heavy hearts and downcast eyes, come to Jesus today. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He will never fail. He will restore.