I believe living in Amarillo is like ALMOST living in Texas. One can feel fairly isolated from the rest of the Republic. I feel like the whole state is celebrating the return of Blue Bell Ice Cream except us up here in the panhandle. It doesn’t help that my brother Keith and his whole family are texting me pictures last night of them eating Blue Bell and posing in front of large grocery store freezers packed full of the wonderful stuff. I’m happy for them. Mostly. I’m trying to rejoice with those who are rejoicing today with their big bowls of Homemade Vanilla and their two and three half-gallons of Cookies ‘n’ Cream. I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m trying.
“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.” ~Genesis 3:6
I don’t know how long the paradise of Act One lasted. Or how short. I wish we had a little more information, a few stories, about Adam and Eve and God living together in the garden in perfect relationship. Perfect harmony. Wouldn’t that be great? I wish we had eighteen or nineteen chapters on Adam and Eve and God eating and drinking together, swimming and playing together, walking and talking in perfect relationship. God joking with Adam, “What kind of a name is baboon?” Adam says back, “Did you see what you did to that poor animal’s rear end? What else am I supposed to call it?” I wish we had some of that.
It should shock us that when Creation ends, it takes just two sentences in the text for the snake to approach the humans and just two of his questions for them to doubt the goodness of their Creator and wobble in their trust. And sin.
God creates us perfectly. He loves us perfectly. But then the devil comes at us with a set of lies. And the lies he used that day in the Garden of Eden are the same lies he uses today. They still work. He’s never had to buy new tools.
“Did God really say…?”
It seems like an innocent question. But it’s not. The snake is casting doubt on God’s Word. “Are you sure this is what God said?” Adam and Eve should have run away right then. But they seem open to the questions. When temptation knocks on the door, you don’t have to answer. Martin Luther would shout out loud any time he felt tempted by any thing, “I don’t do that anymore! I’ve been baptized!” Sometimes, though, when temptation knocks, we want to make sure who it is before we shoo them away. We want to take a good look. Check it out. We take our time, lingering at the open door. Adam and Eve should have bailed.
“Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”
Well, no, that’s not true. The humans knew it wasn’t true. God told them they could eat from every tree and plant in all of creation except for one. Every tree. Every plant. We can eat from anything we want.
“But what about that one tree?”
“Well, everything except that one tree.”
“God won’t let you eat from that tree?”
“No. He’s given us 77,914 species and varieties of trees and fruits and vegetables and plants to eat. All of it. As much as we want, anytime we want, except for that one.”
Well, God doesn’t want you to have any fun.”
It’s an old line. And it’s lame. But somehow it still works.
The Bible teaches that we should only have sex in the context of marriage. And sometimes people will say, “Well, y’all are just anti-sex. All Christians think sex is wrong.” Are you kidding me? We work for the One who invented it! He developed the mechanics! He came up with it! And he says it’s very good!” Now, outside of marriage, it’s not so good. In fact, looking at the big picture, it’s devastating to you and to your whole community. But within the boundaries of marriage, it’s mind-blowingly awesome!
God wants us to enjoy his good gifts. And he gives us instructions on how to enjoy them best. He knows. He made us. That state gives our drivers licenses, but you can’t take your car on the sidewalk. Your parents might give you a jet ski, but it won’t work in a parking lot. You’ve got to take it out on the water. God’s instructions, his boundaries, help us enjoy his good gifts to the max.
He won’t let you have any fun? That’s what six-year-olds say on the way home from WonderLand after riding every ride fifteen times and eating and drinking everything in sight for twelve straight hours.
“Can we get some ice cream?”
“No, we’re just going to go home.”
“You never let us have any fun!”
It’s an old line. And it’s lame. Why does it still work? As our Lord says, if you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more your Father in heaven?
“You’re not going to die.”
There won’t be any consequences. It’s a flat-out lie. It’s exactly the opposite of what God had said. There are always consequences for disobeying God. Never mistake God’s patience for weakness. God’s justice requires that there be consequences. And, by the way, notice that in Act Two, sin is not fundamentally about hurting people or doing wrong according to human standards. Sin is disobedience to God’s Word. It’s a breach of trust in the goodness of God’s character and in the truthfulness of his Word. And it always carries consequences.
“You will be like God.”
Adam and Eve were attracted to that. And who’s not? Yeah, I’d like to be like God. I’d like to decide what’s right and what’s wrong for myself. And for you and everybody else, too. Sin is the desire to be like God. We’re not content to be loved by God and cared for by God. It’s not enough to love and serve God. We want to be autonomous and self-sufficient. We have to be able to do anything we want. We don’t want to be limited by anyone or anything. We want the power of absolute control over our own lives.
That is rebellion against God. God alone is good. And God alone knows what is good and what is not good. We cannot establish our own righteousness. We have to learn from God every day, in every new situation, with every new decision. Act Two is about men and women trying to play God and being suspicious of God’s goodness. It’s about men and women trying to escape the Creator’s limits. Basically, sin is refusing to live in the Story of God: rejecting God as the author of the Story and refusing to play the part you’ve been given by him to play.
The Creator of Heaven and Earth forms a perfect world for us, he gives us everything we could ever want or desire, and he settles in to live with us. Perfect harmony. Perfect relationship with God and with all people. Paradise. And they rejected it. They ate from the tree.
We’ve all eaten from the tree. All of us. You and me, we’re all guilty.
Act Two is clearly about “The Lord commanded…” versus “But the serpent said…” Who’s in your ear right now?