I See Trees of Green

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Good morning everyone. My name is Chris, I am the children’s and youth worker here at St Joseph’s. I am down with the youth right now so I am joining you by video.
I wonder if you know these words:
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed days, the dark sacred nights
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colours of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, saying, "How do you do?"
They're really saying, "I love you"

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more
Than I'll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world
These are obviously famous song lyrics. And if you have been following our series in Genesis 1-4 up to this point you would think Louis Armstrong is aptly describing the amazing world that God has made and the amazing relationship that mankind has with it and each other. Pure bliss. God has made the world purposefully and lovingly with his powerful words. All that he has made is good. He has made mankind in his image, giving them responsibility and value and honour. He has created them Man and Woman for each other as a way of imaging who God really is as a trinitarian relational God. He has generously provided for them with everything they need for abundant life with him in the garden of Eden.
But we all know only too well that the story is only just getting started.
We live in a wonderful world, but it’s a far cry from Genesis 1 and 2. Louis Armstrong’s song doesn’t describe all of reality it’s for those wishing to escape from reality for a few minutes and ignore so much of life around them. Wars rage. Pandemics take hold. Prisons are full. Families are divided. Promises are broken. Greed is everywhere. I don’t know in what ways but you will have experienced this brokenness this week, maybe even today. What has happened to our world? What has happened to mankind? We need to know don’t we. Without the cause we are hopeless for a solution. In fact, if there is no knowable cause all we are left with is to close our eyes put our fingers in our ears and whistle Louis Armstrong. But the Bible is very clear on the cause. It’s very clear on where it all went wrong and that’s why it gives us so much hope in providing a solution.
It starts with lies.
We are back in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and then Genesis 3:1 the serpent appears in the garden. We later find from the rest of the Bible that this is Satan or the devil a fallen angel who has set himself up as an enemy of God, or as Jesus calls him the Father of lies. And we see why Jesus gives him this name in what plays out next. He says to the woman “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” It’s posed as a question, but essentially, it’s a lie, it’s a leading question. It’s a question that tempts Adam and Eve to doubt God’s word and which makes out that God the entirely generous God who has given them all they could desire, including and especially relationship with himself, has been stingy. The devil’s first lie is that God is mean spirited.
Is that a lie from the devil we still tempted to believe today?
Eve replies with a lie of her own ‘“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.’” God makes no reference to touching the tree in Genesis 1 and 2. The lies are building and the mistrust in God is building too.
Where is Adam at this point? Negligent. He has been given leadership over the garden and over his wife and yet where is he when this unclean serpent is allowed into the garden? Where is he when his wife is being tempted to distrust God. We know from verse 6 he is with her. But he isn’t standing up for God or for his wife but is instead passively letting Satan get a foothold in his and his wife’s head. The Bible is clear that what comes next is Adam’s sin as much as it is Eve’s.
Next comes Satan’s big lies. “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
You will not surely die. You will be like God.
God has promised in chapter 2 that the consequence of rebelling against him as the life-giving God is sure death. Satan’s lie has always been that rebelling against God will bring life and joy not death. Instead, according to Satan, you will be like God.
These two lies are both lies we still believe today. Here is a song which is a bit like C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape letters written from Satan’s perspective which I think is really helpful for seeing his lying and scheming for what it really is:
‘From the words of Satan song’
I hope you found that helpful, challenging and encouraging. It’s not just unbelievers who believe Satan’s lies but as Christians we do too. How many of us still look around at those of our friends and colleagues who don’t know Jesus enviously wishing our lives could be like theirs. Tempted to believe ‘That looks like truly living.’ A bank balance I can guilt free spend on myself. A lie in on a Sunday morning. Not being the awkward one on staff socials who’s not drinking or gossiping. A freedom to embrace the cultures ethics and ideas without a thought to God’s good design. When the truth is that it’s all Satan’s lie. Away from God there is only death and disappointment. The truth is the culture we are surrounded by is not truly living. It is struggling away from God. It’s embraced Satan’s lie as human societies always have and is facing the inevitable tragic consequences. Having to view the world without our good generous creator God leaves people more anxious, more hopeless, less satisfied, more fractious, more scared. They’re spiritually dead and it shows. It’s so sad, ultimately this spiritual death leads to a hopeless physical death. Death is something we’ve managed to hide and cover up for a long time but not this year. Satan was the liar not God. Life away from God leads to death. As the strap line to the latest series of Line of Duty puts it. ‘Lies cost lives.’
The other lie is that by disobeying God and sinning that we humans would become like God. But that’s a lie too. We’ve already been told we’ve been made in the image of God so in some ways we are like God. But one way we really aren’t like God is in our knowledge of good and evil. Or at least we aren’t able to live like it. No one who chooses to be God of their own life can claim they have even lived consistently with their own moral standards never mind the true moral standards that God has instituted and revealed in his word. No, we don’t become like God through disobeying him. We just lead ourselves to the death God promised.
Sadly, Adam and eve bought the devils lies. How do we know? It says in verse 6 that they took and ate the fruit and sinned against God. But we also know because as humans we’ve been doing the same ever since. Have you ever watched Who do you think you are? on BBC? Celebrities trace their family history to see who they are related to to better understand why they are like they are. But none of them go back far enough. If you want to understand why you have blue eyes or a good left foot or a natural skill with languages go back a couple of generations. But if you want to know why you prefer to be ruler of your own life, why you naturally accept God’s good gifts but don’t accept the giver you need to go all the way back to our father Adam. Every child of Adam has repeated his disobedience. And just as we are like Adam in our sinning, the consequences of that sinning affect us in similar ways too.
The first consequence is shame and guilt enter the world
Adam and Eve’s eyes are opened and they know they are naked. Previously their relationship with their God was close intimate and shame and guilt free. Now it is anything but. God comes to walk with them in the cool of the day, for his evening stroll with them and they hide. Look what they have given up! Imagine putting that walk on Strava. They had that close a relationship with God and now they are hiding.
God calls out to them ‘Where are you?’ Adam says they’ve hidden because they were afraid. They were ashamed of what they’d done. They knew they were guilty.
And each one of us I’m sure has felt exactly the same about our sin. We’ve known guilt and shame. We’ve been scared what other people might think of us if they truly knew what we are like under our polished facades, never mind what God who can see into our hearts thinks of us.
I have had the privilege of leading a few Christianity Explored groups for people looking into the Christian faith. This is the least controversial part. No one has ever told me they wouldn’t mind having their lives on display for others to see. Everyone tells me they feel guilt and shame about how they’ve lived.
We want to cover up at all costs. For Adam and Eve that meant making clothes out of fig leaves and hiding. For us it might be deleting our internet browsing history or looking respectable on social media but none of it really covers up sufficiently when it comes to God. We need a better cover. We’ll come onto that later but first.
But the second consequence is that the blame game begins
12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Caught out by God, the blame game begins.
Adam blames Eve for giving him the fruit. He also blames God to a certain extent by pointing out it was God who had put Eve in the garden with him. Eve blames the snake. Sinful humans we haven’t changed - we don’t want to take responsibility for our sin. We think up every excuse why it is someone else’s fault. But Genesis 3 is clear. Adam and Eve are responsible for their sin. Their sin is their own despite being tempted. And our sin is our own. We may have been tired, we may have been stressed, we may have been tempted, we may have been egged on, but ultimately, we are each responsible for our own sin in God’s sight.
So, what do we do in light of all this? Is it all bad news? I said at the start that if we know the reason our world is so full of greed, war, selfishness then we might be able to know a solution. We might have some kind of hope. And we’ve discovered that the problem is ourselves and our believing the devils lies and sinning and rebelling against God. Well, the hope is not you, and it’s not me. From birth we are Adam and Eve’s children too. We have followed in their paths. We have made the same mistakes. We too are totally responsible for our sin. And knowing all this is not going to solve it. No amount of effort to not listen to the devils lies will work. We will continue. But there is a new Adam a second Adam, there is hope.
Christ the new Adam
Matthew chapter 4 documents another scene like that of Genesis 3. This time its Jesus who is being tempted by the devil. God’s son. Once again, the truthfulness of God’s words is being put into question. Once again God’s offer of true life is being put into question. But this time this second Adam resists. He trusts God’s words and refuses to give in to the devil’s temptations. And the amazing thing is that he did it for me and for you.
Jesus Christ, who Hebrews says was tempted in every way like you, but did not sin, lived a perfect life for you. The devil is the father of lies but Jesus came full of grace and truth John 1. He did this to defeat the devil. He did it bring those who have exchanged the truth about God for a lie back into relationship with God Romans 1.
So, what should we do in response to what we have heard? Most of our country have been watching Line of Duty on BBC a TV show about corrupt police officers. Don’t worry no spoilers you’re safe. But in this TV show the suspected corrupt police officers are interviewed in a glass interview room in the middle of the police station. As they are shown evidence against them each of them has a decision to make. Do they keep the lying going? Do they pile untruth on untruth and hope to get out of there or do they open up with the full truth and hope for a merciful and gracious judge? Well, we are all in that glass box. We have all believed the devil’s lies, lived the lie that we are god and that our actions have no consequences. We have a choice. We can keep the lies going. Blame others and our circumstances. Try to cover up our guilt and shame ourselves. Lie to God. Treat him as a stingy joy thief. Or we can embrace the truth. We can accept that we have lived a lie. We can confess the serious mistakes we have made. We can start to walk in the truth. Not in the vain hope that the judge will let us off, but in the certain hope that God will be merciful and gracious and forgive us because of his Son, the second Adam’s work on the cross.
As that song so brilliantly put God yearns for you. He was willing to go where Adam had been and failed, where we would go and fail and resist the devils lies. All we need to do is put our trust in Christ. The death we are promised by God in Genesis 2 for believing the devils lies, Jesus took on the cross. The perfect life of obedience becomes credited to our account so we are no longer guilty in God’s eyes. We are clothed in Christ’s righteousness so we are no longer naked and in a position of shame.
And what’s the future for Satan? Revelation 20:10 the devil is thrown in to the lake of fire forever. He is defeated forever. It may seem now like Satan has power. It may seem in your life like his lies are believable, but he has lost and he will ultimately be defeated. God’s enemies always lose.
Let me pray for us:
Father God.
We are so aware of our own sin. We have believed the lies that Satan has told us just like our father Adam. We have sinned and dis obeyed and distrusted you when you are the life-giving generous God who deserve all praise and are the source of all joy. We believed the father of lies. Thank you for Jesus defeating Satan. Thank you for him going where none of us could have gone. We thank you for your forgiveness. We pray you would protect us from the devils lies, lead us not into temptation, and keep us fixed on your truth.
You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.
Amen

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