March 1st, 2020
Old Testament Reading:
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Sermon: The naked truth
In the Disney movie we all saw as children, Jiminy Cricket stood on our shoulder to serve as our conscience. He was always there to remind us that we were making a mistake or making the wrong choice. With each bad choice would come a certain consequence. We might trip and fall, or injure our bodies by scraping our hands or knees. As our bad decisions elevated, we would face certain punishment: being sent to our room, loss of privileges, extra chores, no weekly allowance, or even a spanking on a bare bottom.
As we grew older, the consequences became even more severe: banned from watching TV, loss of driving privileges, suspended or expelled from school, or an arrest. For severe offences, we might face the loss of a job, a broken relationship, a jail sentence, mandatory drug rehab, and medical problems associated with our substance abuse. In the midst of such chaos, most of us would have preferred a childhood spanking over the adult punishment we were now facing.
What were the consequences of man’s original sin? First, Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, a magical place where they had everything their hearts might ever desire. Why would they give up everything for one single bite of forbidden fruit? Because they were weak, human, and easily fell prey to the tricks of the devil. They were convinced that they would somehow be equal with God. This is a familiar story in the Bible. Men built a four hundred foot tower at Babel in an attempt to reach the heavens. Yes, you guessed it. That tower collapsed, their language was confused, and they never achieved their lofty goal.
The second consequence was even more permanent. Women would experience pain during childbirth and men would be forced to labor in the fields for food to eat. No longer would God provide everything they needed. Again, we find a similar story in the wilderness where God provided fresh water from a rock, manna from heaven, and a daily quail for each family. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, these miraculous gifts were suspended. Men and women worked the land and harvested the crops they raised.
What are the consequences of our sin? First, like Adam and Eve, we are separated from God. Like the pagan people of Nineveh, we have only two choices. We can receive the Gospel message and trust that Jesus alone can forgive our sins. Or we can reject the Gospel and suffer for all eternity in the fires of hell.
Jonah was confident that none of the pagan peoples of Nineveh would hear his prophecy. He was so sure that he would fail so he turned his back on God and boarded a ship bound for Spain. God is not willing to wave goodbye and forget about us. God brought the storm at sea which threatened the ship. God convinced men to throw Jonah overboard. God saved Jonah from drowning when a large fish swallowed him whole. Three days later, that same whale spit Jonah out on shore. God was patiently waiting to send him on with his second call to preach a message of repentance to the people in Nineveh.
Jonah succeeded because God inspired the people to repent. From the poorest citizen to the king, everyone who heard Jonah’s message put on sackcloth and repented of their sins. Jonah was flabbergasted. God had his way despite the half-hearted efforts of an unwilling spokesperson—a disobedient prophet.
Is your conscience starting to bother you? Is Jiminy Cricket sitting on your shoulder with an unhappy report? How many times must God call before you pick up the phone and answer? How far will you run before God finds you and brings you home? Will you squander your wealth like the prodigal son? Could you find yourself in the gutter with no place to sleep and nothing to eat? How long will you rehearse your confession? How confident will you be that the Heavenly Father will hear your story and forgive you?
Let’s stop playing games. Consider Jesus’ words in John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
What are being asked to do?
Hear the Gospel message; believe in Christ; be blessed for all eternity.
The evidence is overwhelming. Adam and Even got a second chance. So did the people of Babel, the Israelites in the Exodus, and the Prophet Jonah. Today the Gospel message gives us an opportunity to turn back to God, believe in his Son, and receive the promise of eternal life. Will you repent, confess your sins, and receive this precious gift? I caution you not to run away. There is nowhere you can hide. God know your every thought and is familiar with each one of our sins. When God forgives, those sins are not only forgiven; they are forgotten! What a blessing! That’s the naked truth!