Do you understand Sin?
Good morning brothers and sisters. Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I hope you had a great time with loved ones. It is a privilege for me to come and share with you again. I’m really thankful for the honor of sharing God’s Word. I’m just going to jump straight into what I want to share with you today and that’s the topic of sin. Do you understand sin? Let’s see. I want to go straight to the beginning both in the Bible and the history of humanity in Genesis Chapter 3.
Let me give you a bit of a background about where we are at. Genesis 3 is the third chapter in the Bible so there’s only two chapters before it to recap. God just created the earth and everything in it and it was good. He created Adam and Even, the first people, and it was very good. These first humans are now in the Garden of Eden. They are in paradise. Everything is perfect. That’s Genesis chapters 1 and 2 in nutshell. Then comes Chapter 3 and Chapter 3 changes everything. In fact, everything that happens after Chapter 3 is because of Chapter 3. This is where sin enters the picture.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty 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’?”
The serpent is Satan and notice how Satan doesn’t beat around the bush. He immediately asks a question that places doubt in the goodness of God. God’s so unreasonable, did He really say that you can’t eat from these trees in the garden? Satan always tempts us with this question, “Is God really good?” Does God really have my best interests in mind?
Good thing the woman knew Scripture. There was no Bible at the time, but Scripture is simply God’s Word and God did speak to the woman about the fruit on these trees. Scripture memorization was pretty easy back then.
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.’”
Now Eve’s response sounds right but it’s actually a little off. Do you know what she said that wasn’t from God?
“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.”
It’s the last part. God never said that. God never said not touch the tree. There’s no punishment that comes from that. God only said not to eat the fruit from that tree. Eve added that last part to the commandment. Now, I can’t get inside Eve’s mind and Scripture doesn’t elaborate anymore on the mindset of Eve while she was in the Garden of Eden, but I suspect that there was already a temptation that was strong. That in her own mind, it was possible, she was already wondering why she was not allowed to eat from this particular tree in the middle of the garden. And that this temptation was so strong or at least strong enough that she knew better to avoid this tree, to not even touch it lest she was tempted to eat of the forbidden fruit.
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.”
Satan’s trick again: to cast doubt on the goodness of God. God’s lying to you! And he’s lying to you because He doesn’t want what’s best for you. He knows this will be good for you that’s why He’s doesn’t want you to have it. Satan is casting doubt on God’s goodness.
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.
And Eve gives in to that temptation and doubts God’s goodness and disobey’s God. And then she gives Adam the fruit and Adam instead of taking spiritual leadership as the man and as the husband, not only did he not stop Eve from eating it He didn’t even question her when she gave him the fruit. And it wasn’t like Adam wasn’t there when God explained to them the dangers of eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Adam wasn’t watching football or something. He was right there. God was talking to him and explaining to him the rules. But Adam failed as a spiritual leader. He did not take responsibility as the man and as the husband and so he allowed Eve to disobey God and he himself disobeyed God by eating the fruit.
Disobedience to God is what we Christians call sin. And Adam and Eve sinned when they doubted God’s goodness and ate from the forbidden tree.
We can learn a lot about sin by what happens to after Adam and Eve immediately after they disobeyed God. The first thing we can learn from them is that sin is first and foremost about broken relationships. Sin breaks a lot of things, but the most important thing sin breaks are relationships. Let’s read on:
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.
Immediately Adam and Eve felt a sense of insecurity because they knew they have done something wrong. There was a sense of shame and guilt. Have you ever felt that? Right after you did something wrong, maybe in secret, you begin to feel scared that someone will find out. This is how Adam and Eve felt. There was a need to cover themselves as if to do so would also cover their shame and guilt. So in a sense their relationship with themselves were broken. They felt insecure about themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
So not only did Adam and Eve covered themselves now they are hiding from God. Adam and Eve’s relationship with God changed and now they are scared of Him because they knew they did something wrong. Because of their disobedience, their relationship with God was broken.
I want to pause here for a second and go back to the command God gave Adam and Eve about this problematic tree in the middle of the garden. If you check Genesis 2:16-17, it says:
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
So was Satan right? If I were Adam and I heard God’s command I would treat this fruit as if poison. In my mind, I’m thinking that once I took a bite out of this fruit I’m going drop dead. But Adam and Eve did not immediately drop dead. In fact, there is no mention whatsoever of a physical death in Genesis Chapter 3. So was Satan right? He did say to the women, “You certainly will not die.” And she did not, at least not immediately. Was Satan right? Did God lie? God didn’t lie. The death that God was talking about was a relational death, a spiritual death. The death that God was talking about was the death of a relationship between God and Adam and between God and Eve. Relational death is more important to God than physical death. If you understand sin, you understand that relationships is of the utmost important to God. Sin breaks a lot of things, even our physical bodies which we will talk later about, but first and foremost, sin breaks relationships and sin breaks our relationship with God. But that’s not all.
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Not only does sin breaks our relationship with God but it also breaks our relationships with one another. Adam and Eve’s relationship with each other changed and now instead of owning up to what he did he blames Eve.
Two weeks ago, Mike talked about how kids in his class like to compare with one another. “It’s just not me who is talking, he is talking, too.” They also like to blame each other. “It’s not my fault, he started talking to me first.” “It’s not my fault, she started it first.”
13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Eve, just like Adam, instead of owning up to what she did she blames the serpent. And here’s where we need to realize that sin is more than just about our broken relationship with God but it’s about broken relationships even in nature. Have you ever watched the Discovery Channel or the Nature Channel? I love those channels and I’m a big fan of the documentary Planet Earth and Life. These film crews go all around the world to take pictures of rare animals. Now a lot of it is of animals hunting other animals like a lion killing an elephant or a shark eating a seal. We see that on the television and we think, okay, this is natural. But it’s actually not. Animals eating one another is not suppose to be natural. Because of sin, even relationships in nature were broken and destroyed. This is how it’s suppose to be:
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Even the relationships in nature are broken as a result of this sin. This is bigger than just our relationship with God. Understanding sin is to understand that relationships is important to God and that sin ruined every relationship possible on earth.
Today we still feel the consequences of this brokenness. All of us have been hurt by people and all of us have hurt others. Without fail. All of us have experienced hurt and all of us has dished out hurt. We have all felt the effects of sin and we all have a sinned. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Here is our problem: because Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world, today we are all sinners.
For a long time, I was really mad at Adam and Eve. It’s not my fault I’m a sinner, it’s Adam and Eve’s. If only they didn’t eat that stupid fruit. Why couldn’t they just behave themselves?! Then I came to realize that it didn’t matter who’s fault it was the problem still remained that I am a sinner. I have a problem. And just as sin separated Adam and Eve from God and from one another, sin also separates me from God and from other people.
When I first started teaching, I got sick a lot because kids are dirty and carry a lot of germs. I remember getting sick all the time and I blamed it on the kids. And yes, it was the kids’ fault—they are the ones that are picking their noses, not washing their hands, etc—but the reality was that I was still sick. I still had to deal with the problem of my illness regardless of who gave it to me. I still had to get medicine and go see the doctor. So it is with sin. Yes, it is Adam and Eve’s fault, but in the end I am still a sinner and that’s still a problem I have to deal with.
And not only am I a sinner but you are a sinner and the person sitting next to you is a sinner. This leads me to my second point: Understanding sin promotes humility. Remember, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We’re all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pastor like Pastor King or you’re a criminal or you’re somewhere in between. We’re all in the same boat, we all have the same problem—broken relationships and in particular broken relationships with God.
You see, God is perfect and He is holy, and that means He cannot come into contact with any sin. Not even a little bit. Any sin in God’s presence would be immediately wiped out and destroyed by His holiness... His righteousness. Because God is perfect He cannot tolerate even the smallest imperfection. If he did, he wouldn’t be God. And here lies in the problem: We are sinners. And if God comes close to us while we have sin His holiness would wipe us out, too. So God has a problem. I know it sounds strange, but it’s true. God has a problem. He loves us but He can’t come close to us because His holiness would destroy us. His holiness would slay us.
So when we compare ourselves with one another we’re just comparing how big our stain is. And yes, you might have a smaller stain than the person next to you, but it doesn’t matter. God’s holiness still can’t tolerate that stain. God still can’t come close to you. His holiness will kill you. There’s no use comparing because the truth is that in the eyes of God we are all dead because of sin. And when you understand this idea of sin it promotes humility because you realize there’s not use comparing. Everyone is in the same boat. Everyone has sin.
This brings us to the third point of understanding sin. Understanding sin is understanding the power of God. Remember, God has a problem. He loves us but He also wants to be close to us. But He can’t because of our sin. So God solves this problem by coming down and dying for us so that we won’t have to die.
I’m a big fan of Law and Order, it’s a show about how police and prosecutors work together to catch criminals. In law and order there is always a court scene with lawyers and a judge. A good judge has to follow the law and has to be fair. In Scripture God is also called a judge, in fact, He is the perfect judge. Some describe God’s solution to our sin problem as a court case. Because of our disobedience the punishment is death... relational, spiritual, and physical. That was Adam and Eve’s punishment for disobedience as it is ours. Scripture says the wages of sin is death. A good judge has to carry out the punishment. So God as the perfect judge has to carry out this punishment of death which we deserve. If He doesn’t give out the punishment He would be an imperfect judge and He would no longer be God. Remember, God is perfect in everything He does and that includes His role as a judge. But this God is also a loving judge and He loves the people that He has to give the death sentence to. So He gives out the punishment but instead of making people go through it. He steps down from the judges seat and takes our punishment for us. He takes our spot. He goes to the death penalty for us. I’ve watched a lot of Law and Order. It’s one of my favorite shows, but I’ve never seen an episode where a judge walks down from his seat to take the punishment of a criminal.
This is the reason why the Cross is so important to us Christians. There’s a Cross hanging up in the front behind this screen. Some of you have crosses at home or hanging around your neck. Do you know what the Cross represents? The cross was a torture device designed to kill people as slowly and as painful as possible. The Romans used this to kill people and they used it to kill Jesus. What would you say to someone who is hanging up an electric chair in the middle of the home? What would you say to someone who is wearing a lethal injection needle on the neck? You probably think that person is crazy or sick in the mind. But that’s what many of us do. We have a Cross hanging up in our homes and we wear crosses around our necks. We do this because it reminds us of God’s power at the Cross. When He died on this torture device He paid for all of our sin.
The Apostle Paul who was a great theologian said this, “We are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” Because Jesus (God) died for us, it’s as if we died and fulfilled the punishment that is rightly ours.
And when God died He redeemed us. He bought us. He saved us. He took us that were once dead and made us alive because now we can be in a relationship with God once again. God can come close and His holiness won’t kill us because of all our sin, past, present, and future, have been placed upon Jesus so we appear pure and clean before God. He’s redeeming us just as He redeemed the image of the Cross. In the days of the Romans, if they saw this they would have been afraid. The cross would have caused fear and uneasiness because it was symbol of torture, pain, and death. But today, God has redeemed this image to be a symbol of peace, hope, and life. Just as He has changed the image and redeemed the image of the Cross, so has He redeemed those of us who believe in HIm and follow Him. He has redeemed us as well. This is the amazing power of God. He can take something so horrible as a torture killing device and turn it into something so wonderful and hopeful to the entire world.
And this leads us to my last point. Understanding sin produces thanksgiving. Some of us, especially those of us who have walked with Jesus for awhile, we start losing our sense of awe for the Cross. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve heard the message so many times that you’ve grown callous to the Good News. And when this happens you begin to take God less seriously. You don’t reject Him, but you start complaining to Him. God, I wish my life was this way. Or God, I wish I had this to make my life better. Or God, why does this always happen to me. We start complaining to God when we forget the vileness of sin and hence the power of God to overcome that sin.
As many of you know, I’m involved with Asian Young Life, a ministry to Asian teens. I remember a few years ago I was trying to convince my father to donate money to Asian Young Life. I was pestering him like the persistent widow and giving him all these reasons why he should support us. My dad listened and then finally he turned to me and said, “Gerald, I already gave Asian Young Life a son, isn’t that enough?” And I never asked him to donate again.
Brothers and sisters, God gave us His son, isn’t that enough? What more can we ask? Understanding sin produces thanksgiving.