Second Reformed Church

Monday, September 29, 2008

"The Effects of Sin" Sermon: Genesis 3:14-24

“The Effects of Sin”
[Genesis 3:14-24]
September 28. 2008 Second Reformed Church

What is “Original Sin”? Not, what was the first sin, but what do we mean when we say that all humans are born with “Original Sin”? Most Americans answer this question incorrectly – most Americans say that “Original Sin” is the “eating of the apple” or, perhaps, sex. But that’s not what we mean by “Original Sin.” When we say all humans are born with “Original Sin,” we do not mean the sin of our first parents, we mean the effects of that sin. “Original Sin” is not the sin that Adam and Eve committed, but the effects that sin has on us.

God created Adam and Eve, sinless, and told them to obey – to live and love and tend the Garden, but not to eat of the fruit of the one tree, lest they die. The devil possessed the serpent and convinced Eve – he tricked her – into eating the fruit. Eve offered the fruit to Adam, and Adam turned his back on God and followed Eve into sin.

Then, as we saw last week, God came to Adam and Eve and asked them what they had done – not because God didn’t know. God knew exactly what they had done, and we will see it was all part of God’s Plan. But God confronted Adam and Eve – and God confronts us with our sin – to get them to recognize that they had sinned, to get them to confess their sin and repent of it, that they might receive God’s Forgiveness. But that was not to be the case – not yet. Eve blamed God for giving the serpent the gift of cunning speech. And Adam blamed God for giving him Eve. “God, You want to know why we sinned – look in the mirror! ” They followed the example of Satan and filled themselves with pride against God, refusing to repent in that moment.

And then God gave them justice, right? “For the wages of sin is death...” (Romans 6:23a, ESV). God smote them dead, right? No. Their were effects of their sin – effects that continue to affect us all – they were our representatives, and we have inherited “Original Sin” – the effects of sin. But we also see, in the second half of chapter three, promise, mercy, and hope.

God turned to the serpent – to the actual creature himself – and cursed him by making him the lowest of creatures, by no longer allowing him to walk upright, but making him to crawl on his belly for the rest of his existence. So, every serpent ever born has crawled on his belly, eating the dust, being an abhorrence to humans generally.

And we might say, “That’s not fair – the serpent was possessed. Why did God punish the actual creature when it wasn’t his fault?” We remember that the animals were created for humans, so, perhaps the best we can say is that in harming humanity, some punishment had to occur, even if the serpent did not invite his possession by Satan.

Then, in verse fifteen, God turns to the devil, himself, and God curses the devil. God promises that there will be enmity – strife – between the woman and her offspring – her seed – forever. Ever human being born would be at war with Satan from that day forward. The devil was on notice that the human race was called to take up arms against the devil. And, the devil will lose. God declares the devil fallen, defeated, and finished in the promise that God makes, which theologians call the prototevangelion – the “first gospel” – “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

God changes from the plural, “seed” to the singular, “he.” One will come, God promises, Who will be hurt by the devil – His “heel” shall be struck by the devil, but this One will crush the “head” of the devil. The devil will cause a devastating blow against this Son of Eve, but He will destroy all hope the devil had. The author of Hebrews explains, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15, ESV).

God tells them that the devil will be allowed to wage war with humanity, and the devil will cause pain and suffering, even to the Chosen One of God. But when the Chosen One comes, He will – through death – destroy death and the power of the devil and deliver all those who believe in Him from the devil and his wickedness. This is the Promise of the Coming and Victory of Jesus. How gracious of God, in the very moment of our first parents’ sin to give them this sure hope! That promise remains for us until Jesus’ Return, as Paul wrote, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Romans 16:20, ESV).

Such were the effects of sin for the serpent and the devil, but there were and are effects for us, humans, as well:

God turned to Eve and told her that the effect of her sin would be two-fold on womankind: First, the pain she would experience in childbirth would be multiplied. Let us understand this: There would have been pain in childbirth. I have heard people say that there was no pain in childbirth until after the Fall – after our first parents’ sin. But that’s not what the text tells us. What God says is that the pain of childbirth will be worse – it will be greater – that it was due to sin. Why? The Scripture does not say, but we might hazard the guess that the pain of childbirth, of bringing a new human being into the world bearing “Original Sin,” a person born a sinner, inclined towards sin, is an everlasting reminder of what happened in the Garden.

Second, God says that from that day forward “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Take a deep breath. What is God saying? Paul explained: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3, ESV). “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (I Timothy 2:13-14, ESV). Here, and elsewhere, we find that the spiritual leader of the family is to be the husband. God has gifted men and women in many ways the same. The Scriptural example of work and finances is that, usually, the men work and the women manage and spend the money. And so forth. But only women give birth, and men are to be the spiritual leaders of the household.

“Well, my husband is a spiritual moron. Do I have to follow his spiritual leadership?” It is true, there are times when women are far more spiritual, faithful, godly, etc., than their husbands. What would the right thing be to do – to make sure your husband knows what a spiritual lightweight he is, or to do everything within your God-given giftedness to humbly lead him into greater spiritual maturity? The “battle between the sexes” is part of the effects of sin – remember, men and women were created to complete each other and cause each other joy and fulfillment in all human ways. God is not saying that men are naturally more spiritual than women; He is saying part of the punishment for sin is that, rather than working together in mutuality in the things of the Spirit, there is now a hierarchy.

Adam – men – receive a three-fold condemnation which not only effects men, but the entire Creation: First, God tells Adam that since he listened to Eve rather than God, God was plunging the entire Creation into disorder and pain. The ground will not longer be easy to work, but work will be painful, difficult. Work will cause sweat, it will be unfulfilling, it will not always work out well.

The second or flip-side is that the Creation finds it more difficult to survive, thorns and thistles – which had not existed – now appear as defense mechanisms for the creation. The animals will soon turn on each other, no longer living in harmony, but wary and, even, malicious towards one another. John Calvin describes what happened to the Creation and our relation to it with these words, “henceforth life will be miserable” (Commentary on Genesis, 106, re:3:17ff).

Paul wrote, “For the creation was not subjected to futility willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope, that the creation will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:20-23, ESV).

And then God answered the question that was surely on their minds, “You promised death the day we ate of the fruit of the tree. Shall we die?” And God told him, yes, because of their sin, humans would die – they would return to the dust from which they came – but that is not the death they would die that day. No, Adam lived to a ripe, old age of 930. It was not physical death that they died that day; it was spiritual death. This is the primary and most horrific of the effects of sin.

Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:12-14, ESV).

The primary meaning of “Original Sin” – of the effects of our first parents’ sin – is that all humans are born sinners. We are all born guilty. We are all born inclined towards sin, desiring sin above God. As Paul explained to the Ephesians, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV).

Still, we remember that God made a promise to Adam and Eve – that one day, One would be born to deliver humans from death. But that was the future, let us see that in their day, God showed Adam and Eve mercy:

God showed them mercy in three ways:

First, He did not kill them on the spot. God could have killed them immediately for their sin, but God chose to show mercy according to His Plan and allow them to live, to come to repentance, and find forgiveness in the Promise Who was to come.

Second, God shed blood for Adam and Eve, because of their sin, in taking animals, putting them to death, removing their skins, and fashioning them into clothes for them. God covered their nakedness, which had become an embarrassment to them through sin, and He did so through the shedding of blood. Surely, this is symbolic of the Blood that would have to be shed by Jesus to cover their – and our – sin.

Third, God banished them from Eden. This was an act of mercy in that God kept them from the tree of life, which, one could surmise, would have kept them damned in their sin if they ate of it. God instead sent them forth to cope with the effects of their sin for themselves and all of humanity. God sent them forth with the Promise Who would one day come. And God sent them forth, clothed with blood symbolizing that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).

From these things we can discern their infant hope: there is Salvation in Jesus Christ Alone. Paul continued in Ephesians, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even while we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have ben saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a results of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10, ESV).

All humans are born with “Original Sin” – we are all born effected by sin – our lives will be hard, our bodies fall apart, and we are born spiritually dead, sinners, unable to help or save ourselves. But thanks be to God, God made and kept His Promise to send Jesus to save all those who would believe in Him Alone for their salvation. He is our hope.

Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom of God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. ... When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and mortality puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:22-26; 54-58, ESV).

Our Hope is that Jesus the Victorious is coming back to set all things right. Let us keep that Hope before us. And let us tell the world that death is conquered, salvation is available in Jesus Alone, the Creation will be freed from its suffering, and Jesus reigns now, with truth and grace, to the glories of His Righteousness and the wonders of His Love.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, our first parents sinned as our representatives, and we and all Creation suffer because of their and our continuing sin. Help us to understand that we are all born dead in our sin, with Only One Hope of Salvation. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. Let us care for all those perishing, and cause us to reach out with the Truth of Your Gospel. And may You be pleased to save many people for Yourself. And may You receive all the Glory, for it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Have You Clicked Lately?

If you could click your mouse and relieve hunger, donate mammograms, support child health, increase literacy, save the rain forest, and save abandoned animals -- at NO COST other than your mouse clicks, would you do it? Would you do it every day? I was asked to click on one of six connected sites by a friend, and I thought I might as well click on all six. Then I saw they had a free daily reminder, and I thought that there was no reason I could not spare the time to click twelve times to make a difference. You can do the same. Please do the same! More information is available on the sites. Start by clicking on The Animal Rescue site -- on the left, in favorites -- and click on the "Click here to give -- it's free" icon. There -- two down, ten to go. Click on all six sites. Sign up to be reminded to do it every day. Go ahead. Do it now, I'll be here when you get back. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

October is Pastor Appreciation Month

I have gotten almost daily e-mails from several entities over the past week reminding me that October is Pastor Appreciation Month. I thought you might like to know, too. As an ordained minister, I would recommend that you show your appreciation to your pastor with a large cash gift and/or an gift certificate. You might also use what influence you have to move that your pastor receive a good raise for next year. If these options aren't for you, it has always seemed like a nice idea to me to have a life-sized statute erected in the sanctuary... But those are just my ideas...

Monday, September 22, 2008

"Temptation & Fall" Sermon: Genesis 3:1-13

“Temptation & Fall”
[Genesis 3:1-13]
September 21, 2008 Second Reformed Church

God is Good. And God can only do good. It is impossible for God to do evil. Do not forget that. And with it remember that our minds are finite – we cannot understand the Fulness and the Wisdom of the Mind and the Will and the Acts of God. We need to keep these things in mind as we look at one of the greatest tragedies imaginable. Today we are looking at the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve, and, if the Lord is willing, we will look at the effects of their sin next week.

Yet we need to begin before our text and consider Lucifer, Satan, the Day Star: the devil is a created being. God created him, an angel, a leader of angels, but merely a creature, not a god. But that was not enough for Satan, somehow, according to the Will of God and by Lucifer’s own choice, he filled himself with pride and launched a rebellion against God. Isaiah records what happened: “How you have fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn How you are cut to the ground, you who lay the nations low You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15, ESV). God cannot tolerate sin, so He thrust Satan and his followers from heaven and damned them to eternal suffering.

Now Satan walks the earth, to and fro, seeking those he might destroy, those he might lead against God, not because Satan is a ruler, not because he can lead a rebellion or possibly usurp the throne of God, but in his pride, he now is the consummate sadist. The devil’s goal is to bring as many people into eternal suffering as he can.

In recent history, we have thought of Satan as the ruler of Hell, meeting out punishment on those who go there. But that’s not the case. Satan is just one more of the condemned. The only power he has is the power God allows him. God is the Ruler of Hell, as He is the Ruler of all creation. We see in the Scripture that the devil has to go to God to ask for permission for everything that he does (cf. Job 1:6-12). The devil has no power over anyone or anything except what God allows him for the moment. What the devil has, and all his demons – all those fallen angels who were cast out with him, as we will see in our text, is great skill and cunning. The devil is a consummate persuader, trickster, twister of the truth.

So, let us turn to our text: We read, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman...” Notice that the serpent is not condemned for being crafty. When we are told the serpent was crafty, we should understand that to mean that he was wise, a brilliant speaker, a persuasive orator, one who could argue his point well. This ability was a gift that God gave to the serpent. In fact that gift is held up and we, as Christians, are told to be like him – from the very mouth of Jesus, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:15, ESV).

The serpent’s gift was a good gift, given to him to glorify God with. But the devil came upon him and possessed him and used the serpent’s good gift and twisted it to present a perverse, but persuasive, argument to Eve. The devil inhabited the serpent to tempt Eve – to get her pride to well up in her – to get her – if for just a moment, to think of God, not Almighty on His Throne, but as a creature – which God never is. God always is, was, and will forever be. He created everything that exists, and He was never created but always existed. But the devil, in co-opting the skill and the voice of the serpent, calmly talked with Eve and put forth an argument until... It is at this point that many will throw out chapter three and declare it mythology. “Serpents don’t talk.” Why not? Is it impossible to believe that there was a time when all the created beings, humans and animals, all spoke the same language? Is that really so far-fetched? Baalam might have been surprised to hear his donkey speak Hebrew, but he didn’t question her ability to speak Hebrew, just what she was doing (cf. Numbers 22). We confess we believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. Why should we have trouble believing that the animals used to speak the same language as we? It is the devil who wants us to deny this truth; don’t fall for his lies.

So the devil co-opted the voice and the skill of the serpent and spoke with Eve. We probably only have a summary of the conversation in Genesis. But the crux of the argument was a question – see the devil knows the Scripture much better than we do, and he doesn’t usually just outright lie to us, he manipulates and twists and causes slight doubts – then, he thrusts his hooks in and pulls us down. And he asked Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” “Wow. What a beautiful garden. Now what did God say? That you are not allowed to eat any of this beautiful fruit? Not from any tree at all?”

Just a little nudge – just a little doubt. How much has God given you? Do you really think He is being fair? Do you think you might have misunderstood something? Maybe God really wants you to have everything. Maybe there are no limits. Doesn’t that sound more like the God you know? Don’t you think He would want you to go ahead?

No, God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16b-17, ESV). God said they could eat from every tree in the garden, except one. God told them to tend the garden, in joy, with ease, in worship to Him, and He would cause the trees to be plentiful with food for them. “Just don’t eat from that one tree – or you will die.”

But he had gotten Eve to doubt, ever so slightly, so she adds to God’s Word, she makes it restrictive in a way God never said, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” “Got her ”

We fall into this so easily – it is one of the sins of the Pharisees: they added to God’s Word. They added burdens and put heavy yokes on the people when they should have been showing them that through the Savior, their yokes are light A pervasive example in the New Testament are all the additional laws that the Pharisees put on the Sabbath day. God commanded that one day in seven be given to Him in worship and no work be done. However, the Pharisees took it to an extreme God did not intend, so they left out mercy and necessity. So, if their neighbor was deathly ill on the Sabbath, they would not get help for them, for that would mean someone would work. If an animal fell into a pit, they would let it die, rather than pull it up, because that would be work. And so forth, we add to God’s Word to our destruction.

We also subtract from God’s Word. Using the same example, we consider the Sabbath law today: we are still obliged to spend one day in seven in the worship of God. Well, how do we define a day? If we have a day off, that’s twenty-four hours. If we have to go to work for the day, that’s eight hours. If we spend the day in worship, that’s one hour. God is not stupid, beloved. But let us return to our text:

The devil, possessing the serpent, had gotten Eve to add to God’s Word, to admit the slightest doubt about God’s Word, and then the devil launched in full force: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And he almost told her the truth No, they would not physically die the day they ate the fruit – though they died spiritually. Yes, they would know good and evil – they would know what it is to sin – something God had never done. But the direct lie was to say that this act of rebellion – this “cosmic treason” as Dr. R. C. Sproul calls it – would make them like God. We already saw that humans were created like God – in his Image, being sinless, having reason, and dominion over the Creation. In this act, they became less like God, they corrupted the Image that they had been created with and came to know the hell of being a sinner.

Eve believe the subtlety of the argument, she bewitched herself, she saw that the fruit was good to eat and pleasant to the eyes and she wanted that wisdom – that knowledge, so she ate of the fruit, and she gave some to Adam and he ate it as well.

And it’s very American to say, “It’s always the woman.” But listen, Eve allowed herself to be deceived by the serpent’s argument and sinned, but Adam purposefully chose to turn his back on God and submit to Eve and join her in her sin. Both are guilty, but Adam’s sin certainly seems the worse.

We are susceptible to the same things today. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, who were being mislead about one thing after another, “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed to you one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (II Corinthians 11:2-3, ESV). And before we call Paul a chauvinist, he wrote, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – “ (Romans 5:12, ESV). Understand, Eve was deceived, but Adam effectively gave God the finger and followed after his wife. Paul warns us, we are prone to deception, and there are times when we blatantly turn our backs on God.

“Then the eyes of both were opened.” What a gentle euphemism for the horror that descended upon them as they realized the full impact of what they had done for themselves and all of humanity. Their very nakedness, which was a gift and a joy for each other became something they felt obliged to hide from each other. And they tied fig leaves to cover their nakedness and hid in the bushes, because they heard God walking in the cool of the day – and surely, the Almighty God would not know what had happened, nor would God be able to find them if they hid.

Bill Cosby has a sketch called “Brain Damage,” in which he explains how children must be born brain damaged to do and say the things they do. For example, and this may have happened to one of you, if you break a lamp or a vase, rather than admit what you did, you hide under a table, thinking that that way, your parents will never know. Or you clean it up and throw it out, thinking that your parents will never notice it’s missing. One from my youth: there were times when I was being punished and told I could not have dessert. Somehow, I believed if I snuck into the kitchen and quickly ate some cookies from the cookie drawer, my parents would never be able to figure out what I had done – despite the chocolate on my lips and the smell of cookies on my breath.

Adam and Eve did the same thing: they knew the Almighty God, the Creator. They had been in fellowship with Him. They knew there was nowhere they could hide from Him. They knew that He knew everything and knew their sin. Still, they covered themselves and hid.

Now God would have been perfectly within His Right as God to blot them off the face of the earth. He could have come upon them, told them He knew what they had done, and “boom” – gone. But God’s Plan, which they did not know, was to show compassion and mercy – this was all a set-up for the coming of the Savior, as we’ll see. You see, God confronts us about our sin, not because He doesn’t know – God always knew what we would do and He knows what we have done – but He wants us to understand what we have done and come to repentance.

So God called out, “Adam, Eve, where are you?” “Oh, we’re here, God, hiding, we heard You and didn’t want You to see us naked.” “Oh. And who told you you were naked? Did you eat of the tree which I commanded You not to eat?” God knew. And it was all part of His Plan, but in order for there to be forgiveness, there must be confession and repentance. But that’s not what happens. If there was any doubt of their sin – their pride against God – it roars up with a vengeance as God confronts them with their exact sin: Did you eat of the tree which I commanded you not to eat?

How does Adam answer? “The woman that You gave me, God, she gave me the fruit ” Notice, Adam doesn’t say, “it’s the woman’s fault.” He blames God – “the woman that You gave me – if You hadn’t given me this woman, I’d be fine.”

How does Eve answer? “The serpent that You created, God, and made so cunning, deceived me ” Notice, Eve doesn’t merely say that she was deceived by the serpent, but there is implied in the text the accusation against God – “the serpent that You created so crafty, so cunning – if You hadn’t made him such a persuasive speaker, I’d be fine.”

They had been tempted. They had fallen. And they were dead; they were destroyed. “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17b, ESV). God obviously didn’t mean physical death, because He didn’t put them to death on that day. But they surely died spiritually on that day.

The results, Lord willing, we’ll look at next week, but a few verses as a prequel: David wrote, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). And again, Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – “ (Romans 5:12, ESV). And, “...[you] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3b, ESV).

It is a deeply tragic and hellish truth of the human race that our first father and mother were tempted and fell into sin and died spiritually. Yet, it was not God’s Plan to leave us in that spiritual death, thanks be to God. No, Paul continues in his letter to the Ephesians, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even while we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – “ (Ephesians 2:4-5, ESV).

If the Lord is willing, we will look at this more next week, but for today, know that God had a Plan from the beginning to send His Son to save all those who would believe in Him Alone for their salvation. If you confess that you have been tempted and fallen and you are dead in your sins, unable to help yourself, and you confess belief in Jesus as your only Savior, He will save you and raise you from your spiritual death. He will forgive you and make you His son or daughter. Without Jesus, we are damned with the devil. So turn to Jesus, believe in Him and live.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, it is a terrible and difficult thing to talk about the Fall of humanity into sin. Our own pride wells up and we become angry with our first parents, but, surely, we would have fallen just like them. We rejoice that this is not the end of the story and that You are a Merciful and Gracious God. We ask that You would cause us to be wise like serpents, so we would quickly see and deny the arguments of the evil one, and we ask that You would cause us to quickly run to You for forgiveness when we do sin. For You Alone are the hope and the future of us all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I'm Not Ignoring You

I have been negligent in my blogging "duties" due in part to my computer misbehaving and then my being hospitalized with partial lung failure due to my sarcoidosis. Many of you know that I have sarcoidosis. It is an incurable autoimmune disease that no one knows how and why one gets. The symptoms are painful, swollen joints, for which I receive painkillers and steroids (which leaves me ineligible to be a swimsuit model or an Olympian). But as far as the disease goes, we address concerns as they come along and continue to search for answers. What the disease does, basically, is replace the good organ tissue with scar tissue. It effects all the organs, but usually the lungs and heart first and hardest. I have a great team of doctors working with me, and I thank God that I can use being ill to minister to others, and that God continues to allow me to serve Him, which I will do until He takes me home. I appreciate your prayers, e-mails, calls, cards, and any information you might stumble upon. May Jesus Christ be praised!

Even if you don't don't hear from me, our God is worthy of worship! Sunday Bible Study continues at 9 AM, and then, morning worship is at 10:30 AM. We continue our look at the Seven Ecumenical Councils Wednesdays at 7PM. Join us, and let us magnify our Worthy God! See you tomorrow. For Him, Peter.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Created for One Another" Sermon: Genesis 2:18-25

“Created for One Another”
[Genesis 2:18-25]
September 14, 2008 Second Reformed Church

God created Adam out of the dust of the ground, and, sometime later, God created Eve. Why? Why didn’t God create Adam and Eve together? In verse eighteen, we see God say, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (NRSV). Much has been made of this latter phrase, so let me give a literal translation of it: “I will make him a helper in front of, corresponding to, equal to and adequate for him” (my translation). Eve was not created to be Adam’s maid, but his completion. But that doesn’t answer why they were not created at the same time.

It is obvious that God intended to created Eve, from what God said in verse eighteen. John Calvin comments that “man was formed to be a social animal” (John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, 69, re: verse 18). And that would seem to give us an answer, wouldn’t it? God delayed the creation of Eve to make it clear to us that we are created for one another. Humans need each other, and most humans have need of a spouse.

God said it was not good for man to be alone. Humans need to be in fellowship with other humans. There must be a mutual regard among humans, and we are all commanded to love each other. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV). It is good for us to love each other – it is helpful to me to love you and it is helpful to you to love me. It is the right thing to do, and we show the love of God as we love each other by providing for each other in the ways that God has enabled us.

The closet and greatest fellowship two human beings can have is found in marriage. Paul responded to the Corinthians who wondered if it might be best for all Christians to be celibate: “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should give his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband” (I Corinthians 7:1-3, ESV). One of the reasons most people ought to get married is that one’s spouse helps one keep from sexual immorality.

Another reason for the gift of marriage is that the human race cannot continue without women. Although the obligation and the status of the husband and wife is to be of mutuality, men and women are not the same – there is a difference of functionality. The most obvious is that only women can bear children. It is the joy of the husband to have children with his wife and the joy of the wife bear the children of their union.

There are certain advantages, also, to remaining single, but most persons are not given that gift. Most people are given the gift of marriage. And it is not right or pleasing to God for someone who has not been gifted with singleness to remain single. Most men were created for women and most women were created for men. We were created for love and fellowship.

Understanding this, it might seem very strange to see what God does next – in verse nineteen. After God says it is not good for a man to be alone – the implication being that humans are to be in human relationships – God brings all of the animals of the field and all of the birds of the air to come past Adam, and God told Adam to name them whatever he would name them. “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him” (ESV).

Surely God didn’t think that Adam would find his equal – his partner – amongst the animals. Of course not. And that is the point of this interlude: humans were created with a special relationship to animals – we are to care for them, protect them, provide for them – to have dominion over them, as we discussed recently. Some of us have very dear animal companions. But no animal was every meant to be the husband of a women or the wife of a man. And we know that there have been people who have thought otherwise.

Animals fulfill a special role in the world and for humans, but they cannot be what a man or a woman needs in a marriage relationship. Only a man can love a woman and a woman love a man in the way that God intended men and women to complete each other.

And that is what we find in the final section of this morning’s Scripture: in verse twenty-one, God caused Adam to fall asleep, and while he slept, God took one of Adam’s ribs and fashioned Eve and brought her to Adam. And some of us may be tempted to say, “What nonsense – a fairytale!” It may be helpful to know that the word that is used here, tsela, may mean a human rib bone, but, more often it refers to a side of something. In the book of Jonah, this is the word that is used when we are told the boat rolled from side to side – from rib to rib. So, if it pleases you, don’t think of God removing a single rib from Adam, but dividing him into two human beings.

Which is the better understanding? I’m not sure it makes a difference. The point is this: in creating Eve out of Adam, not out of the dust like Adam, Adam and Eve were not merely like beings, they were two halves of the whole. John Calvin said that they “spring from one and the same origin” (Commentary on Genesis, 73, re: verse 21). This proves the equality of the man and the woman, they were created out of the same lump, as it were. They were both created in the Image of God. They were not created competitive beings, but two beings who complete each other as one. Thus we have Adam’s confession: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (ESV).

And then we have Moses’ commentary in verses twenty-four and twenty-five. Moses tells us that since Adam and Eve, man and woman, are two halves of the one whole, for this reason and in this way, the man and the woman leave their parents’ home to make their own home (while not neglecting their responsibilities to their parents), and they join together in marriage and become one flesh. When a man and a woman join together, they recognize in each other a part of themselves that was missing, so we have in modern English the expression, “you complete me.” That is exactly what God is telling us: humans were created for one another, and in marriage, a man and a woman find completion in each other.

Again, that is not to say that singleness is a second class state of being. Some people are called to lives of singleness, and there are advantages to being single. But only those who have been gifted to singleness should live that life. Most persons ought to marry.

And in marriage, Moses comments, the unity is most profoundly exemplified in the physical union of a man and a woman. They were naked and unashamed, because their nakedness was for each other and pleasing to each other. Physical attraction is a good and wonderful thing. It is good and wonderful that a husband and a wife take joy in each others’ nakedness. In fact, Paul tells us that this is how we should understand the relationship between Jesus and the Church.

Paul wrote, “In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying it refers to Christ and his church” (Ephesians 5:28-33, ESV).

In the way of some profound mystery, just as a man and a women are united into one flesh, so Christ and the Church are united in one flesh. And this is a place where we must leave that truth: Paul says it is a profound mystery, and it is. One of the reasons God created Adam and Eve out of Adam and gave them to each other in marriage, where they became one flesh, was to give us a picture of what it means to join together with Christ as His Church.

Sadly, we know that there is strife in many marriages, and some tragically end. But that was not God’s intention for us. No, we have brought this strife upon us through our sin – through the sin of our first parents and through our own sin in these last days. But it will not always be that way. We have a glorious picture of the marriage – the union – the fellowship which is soon coming:

John records: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of many peals of thunders, crying out, ‘Hallelujah For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’ – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:6-8, ESV).

He continues, “”Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:1-4, ESV).

Brothers and sisters, the history of Adam and Eve is history. God created Adam out of the dust and created Eve out of Adam, to show us that we were created for one another, both for fellowship and love and, in a greater sense, to complete each other in marriage. We see there is a place for singleness and we have a special relationship with all of the other creatures of the Creation, but it is in marriage that most people find the fulness of themselves – their completion.

But all those who have believed in Jesus Alone for Salvation, whether they marry on earth or not, will know that completion on the last day, when Jesus descends with the new Jerusalem. Then all Christians, the Church, will be joined together with Christ in that mystery which is called the Marriage of the Lamb.

So, let us love and care for one another married and single. Let us care for the creation. And let all who believe look forward with great joy and expectation for the return of our God Jesus, our Bridegroom.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for giving us each other – friends, family, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. We thank You for creating us with a need for each other and with a fulfillment in each other. Yet even more we thank You for the witness that You are our True Fellowship and our Eternal Husband. May this mystery give us joy and hope as we wait for You and serve You until you call us home. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Banner of Truth, May 26-28, 2009

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"Work Is Not Punishment" Sermon: Genesis 2:4-17

“Work Is Not Punishment”
[Genesis 2:4-17]
September 7, 2008 Second Reformed Church

Are you familiar with the song, “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend?” Even if you’ve never heard the song, you may well have had the feeling, right? “The best thing about work is going home.” “I only work to make money so I can enjoy myself on my days off.” “I deserve a break today, so I’m calling in sick.” “Why shouldn’t I let the system – or my girlfriend – support me – I mean, just look at me.” Surely we have heard these excuses or some like them.

It seems as though people believe work is a nuisance we have to live with or even a punishment for something we, or even, you did. Would many people say that they enjoy their work? That they look forward to accomplishing their work? That their work is a joy to them?

The Scriptural idea of work suggests that it is not a punishment, but something that should give us joy. If we go to work, hating or dreading what we are there to do, there is something wrong. Even in a difficult work, we should be able to find joy.

Let us consider: how much time passed between the creation of Adam and the first sin? In the Scripture, it’s less that a chapter, but it was actually some period of time – it was not instantaneous, some time went by before the first sin.

Let us look at what we find in this morning’s text:

Verse four of chapter two backs us up, telling us that we have heard the overview of the Creation, and now we are going to look at a specific incident.

Verse five tells us that the bushes and small plants had not grown yet – God had created them, but they were not yet growing, maturing, multiplying. And this was at a time before it rained – in fact, there was no rain until Noah – there was only this mist that kept the plants healthy. And there was no man (yet) to work the ground. So, one of the reasons that God created human beings was to work the ground, to care for the plants – remember we saw last week, caring for the Creation is part of what it means to be created in the Image of God.

So, if God intended to create humans for the purpose of working the land, but humans didn’t yet exist, then God could not be punishing humans by giving them work. The gift of work come under the category of being created in the Image of God.

Then, as I just said, verse six, there was a mist – not rain – on the earth that provided for water.

Then, verse seven, it is the sixth day, and God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth, and when the body was completed, God Himself breathed into the form and gave Adam life – he became a living being. And here we are.

And then, verse eight, since there was a human to work the ground, then God planted the special garden He called, “Eden,” in the east, and God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to live and to care for it, to work the ground and provide for it. It was a gift, a responsibility given, but it was not a punishment.

So, verse nine, God caused every pleasant plant to grow up, and it was pleasing to the eye and good for food. And God put the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden.

Would you like to see where this lush Garden, this gift of God was? Moses gives us co-ordinates in verses ten through fourteen. Here’s where the Garden of Eden was: where the Tigris and Euphrates and Pishon and Gihon Rivers all come together. Unfortunately, we’re not sure what the Pishon and Gihon Rivers were, but we do know where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers come together. We know the country that the Garden of Eden was in. Today we call it, “Iraq.”

So, we see that we were created to work and work was not given as a punishment, but as a gift and a responsibility. Paul wrote, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).

John Calvin wrote, “Moses now adds, that the earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation. Whence it follows that men were created to employ themselves in some work, and not lie down in inactivity and idleness. This labor, truly, was pleasant, and full of delight, entirely exempt for all trouble and weariness; since however God ordained that man should be exercised in the culture of the ground, he condemned in his person, all indolent repose. Wherefore, nothing is more contrary to the order of nature, than to consume life in eating, drinking, and sleeping meantime we propose nothing to ourselves to do” (John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, 66-67 [Genesis 2:15]).

And Adam and we are not merely called just to work non-specifically, but God calls us to our work such that we will glorify God through our work. Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24, ESV). Everyone has a boss to answer to, and everyone has to answer to the Lord Jesus Christ. So, we ought to focus ourselves as working for Him. If we focus on Him and pleasing Him and glorifying Him in our work, the failures of those humans around us will not be as draining.

Does that mean just spiritual work or work in the Church? No, when we consider work, here, we are talking about every kind of work that provides for the economy of the household – whether that be your immediate household or the household of faith. All honest work adds to the provision of some part of the Creation. So, all work can give us joy; all work can glorify God.

And surely there are some who want to call out, “But I don’t find my work joyful: I find it irritating, mind-numbing, painful, futile – it’s hard and unpleasant. How does that fit in?”

And we’re right to wonder about that – no one’s work is always joyful – we struggle and suffer to accomplish the goals that are set before us. And we wonder if that isn’t punishment – doesn’t that mean work is punishment?

The answer is this: work has become unpleasant and hard because of sin. Because our first parents sinned, God cursed the Creation as part of our punishment. Listen, “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 to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:17b-19a, ESV).

When Adam first worked the ground in the Garden of Eden, it was not difficult – it was pleasant – it was completely joyful, and he surely raised praise to God and glorified Him in the work he did. But, after the first sin, God removed our first parents from the Garden, He made the soil hard to work, He gave the plants thorns and thistles, He undid the good relationship man had with the animals. Sin made work hard and unpleasant.

Even so, we can do our work to the best of our abilities. We can work as for the Lord and not merely for humans. We can work in such a way that we glorify God in our work. And we can look forward in hope to that day when all will be restored, including, completely pleasant work.

In the mean time, let us always consider that what we have to do has been given to us by God as a gift. Let us give thanks for the work we have. Let us work as for the Lord – not merely as for our human bosses who are sinners like us and will fail us – let us be concerned with what God thinks of our work, and if we are, our human bosses ought have nothing to complain about. And let us have the attitude that we are doing the work we have to glorify God, and if we do that, we will find joy and satisfaction in Him.

“Well, wait a minute,” some of you are thinking, “that’s all well and good, but I’m retired. I don’t work any more. How does any of this apply to me?”

The Bible knows nothing of retirement – which is not to say anything one way or another. What the Bible shows us of life is that we are born, we live and work, we die, we are raised from the dead, and then we spend eternity suffering in Hell, or living with Jesus. That’s what the Bible presents to us.

Yet, there is a principle in Paul’s letters that we can use to address retirement. Paul wrote, “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12, ESV). And, “For even while we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (II Thessalonians 3:10-12, ESV).

In other words, if you’re able to provide for your own living, you ought to do so. You ought not to be mooching off of another person or the “system.” Whether you work in an employ that gives you a regular paycheck, or, if you are retired from such an employ, but can provide for yourself through some means you have set up, if you have any ability to provide for yourself, you ought to do so.

Thus, whether one is in gainful employ or not, the theological principle that Paul gives us is, “Don’t be a mooch.” If you are able to provide for yourself, do so.

“Well, ok, but what about those people who are physically and/or mentally incapable of providing for themselves?”

Throughout the Scripture, we are told to care for the widow and the orphan and the stranger in need. The same principle applies here, if anyone is truly unable to provide for themselves, then Christians ought to provide for them. And some of you are thinking, “Well, that will never happen.” Then, shame on the Church. We are to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, and we work to make sure that we have the basics for survival, so we ought at least be willing to provide those basics for someone who truly has no means to provide for himself.

Work is not punishment. Work was given to humanity as a gift and a responsibility and as a way to glorify God and be joyful in Him. Work has become difficult due to sin. Still, in whatever we do, we should consider the Lord Jesus as the One for Whom we work, and seek to do all things in a way that pleases and glorifies Him.

Let us pray:
Lord, we thank You for giving us the earth and the call to care for it. We thank You for the work that You have given each one of us to do, whether it is in someone’s employ, or through the good works You have given us to do, simply because they are right and pleasing, God-glorifying works that also give us joy. Keep us from being idle busybodies and from mooching off of others. Show us that we each have work to do for You, and we work towards the fullness of Your Kingdom among us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Monday, September 01, 2008

September Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach:

9/7/08 Communion Genesis 2:4-17 "Work is not Punishment"
9/14/08 Genesis 2:18-25 "Created for One Another"
9/21/08 Genesis 3:1-13 "Temptation & Fall"
9/28/08 Genesis 3:14-24 "The Effects of Sin"

Join us at 10:30 AM each Sunday!

"Image & Dominion" Sermon: Genesis 1:1-2-3

“Image & Dominion”
[Genesis 1:1-2:3]
August 31, 2008 Second Reformed Church

Have you every heard someone say, “She’s the spitting image of her mother”? Or, “He’s the spitting image of his father”? People have told me that I look just like my mother and just like my father. What do we mean by saying someone is the “image” of someone else? The Bible says God created humans in His Image. Does that mean we look like God? If we put a picture of everyone who every lived in a computer and created a composite picture, would that be what God actually looks like? What does it mean to say that God created us in His Image?

If the Lord is willing, we are going to spend the next several weeks looking at the first four chapters of Genesis, examining several of the key teachings – doctrines – that we find in these chapters. We won’t cover everything; for example, we looked at the fact of creation as good by God’s Word over several weeks earlier this year. We will be looking at the condition in which we were created and what happened because of the Fall – because Adam and Eve chose to sin against God.

This morning, let’s focus in on chapter one, verses twenty-six through twenty-nine as we consider what it means to say that we are created in the Image of God.

Verse twenty-six begins, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...’” (ESV). And notice verse twenty-seven: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (ESV).

Let’s notice, right away, something I hope we would find obvious: whatever being created in the Image of God means, both men and women – both Adam and Eve, were created with it. In this world of gender confusion, we need to state here that Adam and Eve were both, equally, created in the same Image of God.

Let us also understand that if humans were created in the Image of God, there is a sense in which humans are like God. Don’t get nervous about that Humans, in some way or ways, are like God. Even Satan acknowledged that – he used that truth to seduce Eve into sinning. He told her that God was denying her something she ought to have in the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5, ESV).

The devil likes to tell us almost the truth – yes, it was true, if they sinned against God, their eyes would be “opened” in the sense that they would “know” good and evil – and the word “know” here is the same word that is used in chapter four when we’re told that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Genesis 4:1a, ESV). Yes, if they sinned against God, they would have a passionate, intimate knowledge of evil. But – and here’s the lie – they were already like God – they were created in the Image of God. And “knowing” sin would not make them any more like God, because God cannot “know” sin in the way that humans “know” sin, because God cannot sin.

So, Adam and Eve were created in the Image of God, and, in some way or ways, that means they were created like God. What, then does it mean to be created in the Image of God?

When people say I am the “spitting image” of my mother and/or father, I believe what they essentially mean is that I have the same physical characteristics as my mother and/or father – that I look like them. But that can’t be what we mean when we talk about being created in the Image of God, can it? It can’t for a very simple reason: God is a Spirit; God does not have a body (cf. John 4:24). So, being created in the Image of God cannot have to do with the way we look – it must have something to do with something else.

What we find in the Scripture is that being created in the Image of God has something to do with holiness, with reason, and with exercising dominion. We find these in seeing that through our first parent’s sin, the Image of God was destroyed in us, we became sinners, we were given over to a depraved mind, and the creation, itself, was punished for our sake. We also find that each of these – the Image of God – is restored in us through Salvation in Jesus Alone, which begins with conversion and concludes in the restoration, when we are brought into Glory.

First, the Image of God has something to do with holiness: Adam and Eve were created sinless and holy. In that way, they were like God, but after choosing to sin, they lost that part of the Image, and, as humanity’s representatives, passed it down, so every human being is born a sinner (except for Jesus).

Paul wrote, “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10b-11, ESV). And again, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:21-22, ESV). “ have put off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9b-10, ESV).

Part of what it means to be created in the Image of God is that humans were created to be holy, like God. We were not created to be sinners. But we chose to sin in Adam and Eve, so all humans (except Jesus) are born, having lost that part of the Image of God. Yet, in Christ, through His Salvation, we can begin to recover it in this life and fully recover it in the next.

Second, the Image of God has something to do with reason – with the ability to use our minds correctly. Humans were created with a mind that worked rightly, though it is finite. Humans were created, like God – in the Image of God, having the ability to reason – to think – to understand – rightly. God’s Mind, of course, is infinite, so our mind was not created the same as God’s, but our ability to reason – to process information – was like God’s. But since the Fall, we are born with depraved minds that don’t reason rightly.

Paul wrote, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity to dishonoring their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever Amen. ... And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not be done” (Romans 1:21-25, 28, ESV).

Part of what it means to be created in the Image of God is that humans were created to be reasonable, rational, right-minded beings. But, as Paul explains, our first parents chose rather to sin and be born spiritually mentally ill – God called Adam and Eve to know Him and learn of Him and they chose rather to be futile and debased in their mind, so God let us have it.

Forgive me for using politicians as an example again, but they make the point so clearly. Have we not heard more than one politician say that he believes upon religious conviction that abortion is wrong, but he would never try to persuade another person of that view or to make it a law. To say that is to prove the depravity of the mind, because what he is saying is that such and such is an absolute moral law, but don’t worry about it, I would never hold you to it. A person who says that is either a liar, a hypocrite, or insane. Yet, in Christ, we can be restored.

Third, being created in the Image of God has something to do with exercising dominion. What does that mean? Look again at verses twenty-six and twenty-eight and twenty-nine: “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. ... And God blessed them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food’” (ESV).

Dominion does not mean that we can do what we want with the creation. Dominion means that we are to rule over the creation, to govern the creation, to protect it and see that it is provided for. God gave humanity the ability, the authority, the responsibility, and the means to steward – to shepherd – the creation. God gave Adam and Eve the authority to steward the riches of the creation for the creation – just as God provides for all of our needs and governs over us. God made them His representatives over the rest of the creation. God made humans in His Image, as just governors. God made humans in His Image – holy, with a mind that reasons rightly, to be used to rule over the creation as God’s stewards.

But they chose to sin, and God responded by punishing, not just them and us, but the whole creation for the sin of our first parents: “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....” (Genesis 3:17b-19a, ESV). And Paul explained, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it.... For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:20a, 22, ESV).

So, we see that being created in the Image of God means that Adam and Eve were created holy – sinless, with the ability to reason rightly, and with the call on them to care for all that God created. Sin has corrupted that Image: we are sinners, our minds are depraved, and we have not been good stewards of and for the creation. But there is hope:

This is what Paul wrote about all those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (I Corinthians 15:49, ESV). “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:18, ESV). And again, “ have put off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9b-10, ESV).

In other words, that Image of God – holy, rational, exercising dominion – that God created Adam and Eve with – that was corrupted when they sinned – that Image of God is being restored in everyone who believes in Jesus Alone for Salvation. The Image of God is being restored in everyone who believes – and since it is God Who is doing the restoring – it will continue until it is fully restored, when He brings us into the Everlasting Kingdom. Day by day, we are being transformed into the image of our first parents, before they sinned – with the uncorrupted Image of God.

In these days between now and glory, as we are being changed by God Who lives in us, what shall we do?

Let us remind ourselves that Christ is restoring in us the Image of God. Wonderful, God-glorifying days are ahead of us

Let us strive to live after the Image of God, understanding that Christ enables us to live holy lives, to use our minds rightly, and to exercise dominion – to care for and provide for the creation. Let us strive against sin and to follow after all the commandments of God. Let us strive to learn to use our minds well – in a way that we show our love to God with our minds – which is part of the greatest commandment. Let us do everything we can not to harm the creation and to provide for its needs – to work with the creation and look forward to the day when it is restored and enters into the glory that we also are awaiting.

Let us pray:
Sovereign Lord, we thank You for creating humans in Your Image. We thank You for the understanding that we were created and we are being transformed into a truly holy people, who love You and live for You with all that we are, including our minds, which help us to have dominion over the creation. Teach us even now ways that we can better care for and provide for all that You have created. And may You receive all the glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

"The First Seven Ecumenical Councils"

D.V., beginning Wednesday, September 3rd, at 7PM, we will spend seven weeks looking the first seven ecumenical councils. Join us as we look at the history and theology of these councils and see why they matter to us today!