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Friday, March 21, 2014

The First Sunday In Lent, March 9, 2014

The First Sunday In Lent, March 9, 2014
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7;     Psalm 32 (p. 742, Green);     Romans 5:12-19;     Matthew 4:1-11
Sermon – First and Second

Let us pray:  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

1 – The First Man

Lent is a time for review, and so here goes.

Today from the Bible we read again where all our problems began, in the Garden, with a man and a woman, and a serpent.  It is otherwise known as “The Problem Of Evil”.  Our reading doesn’t answer the question of “where” evil came from (the serpent already had its evil designs), but it does answer the question of our human part in it.  The Garden was a place of peace until…until the events described in today’s reading.

To summarize, God gives into Adam’s care the commandment
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
Adam has transferred the knowledge of this commandment to Eve who refers to it as given to both:
“We may eat…but God said, ‘You (plural) shall not eat…”
The serpent questions the commandment, and then denies the consequence of death for those who eat the forbidden fruit.  The serpent contradicts God.  Then, with Adam standing by, the one into whose care God first gave the commandment, Eve took the fruit and ate, gave some of it to Adam, and he ate it too.  Human sin entered the world, and the die was cast.

Denying truth and betraying God.  That’s where it all began, and the infection of sin took root in the human race, of which we are members.

So far, not good.  In today’s diagram we see the shadow of sin cast over a growing human race.

But wait, there is hope.  There is the possibility of the forgiveness of sin when we confess them to the Lord.  So says the Psalmist.  God is evidently a God who loves us, One in whom forgiveness dwells.  But the infection is still there.  What to do in the long run?

2 – The Second Man

Enter God’s solution:  Jesus and the Cross.  For centuries the people of Israel had understood the principle of sacrifice for sins.  They practiced the sacrifice of animals as an acknowledgement of their guilt and as a turning to God for mercy.  In the forgiveness which God offered, something had to die that sin might die.

This, of course, is the essence of what God the Father accomplished through His Son, Jesus.  Jesus has taken upon Himself the sin of the world, has taken it to the grave where it has died with Him, once and for all.  For those who look to Jesus as their sacrifice, that death of sin applies to them.  But there is more.  The One who was sacrificed for our sin was raised from the grave to a newness of life.  Sin in dead.  Christ is alive.  In that new life Jesus continues His work in the hearts of the faithful that the “leftovers” of sin in our personal lives might gradually be purged from us.  That process is called “discipleship”, and our exploration of that must wait for another sermon or two!

3 – Comparing The Two

St. Paul summarizes the story in this way:
18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)

In our reading from Matthew’s Gospel Jesus illustrates this obedience.  In answer to the devil’s temptation Jesus makes these affirmations:
1.  We live, not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
2.  We are not to put God to the test.
3.  We are to worship the Lord our God, and serve only him.

Trust and obedience in the will of God.  Note how these affirmations are the very ones that Adam and Eve failed to uphold.  In Jesus, we are back to the rules of the Garden.  For those who receive Jesus and the work of His Cross, we are back in Eden.  What a transfer!

In our diagram, we see illustrated the light of the Cross.  Those who trust in Christ are living in the triangle.  As the human race increases, so does the triangle.  I want you to note, however, that at the end of history, there are still those who have not bowed in obedience to the Lord God.  It is a tragic fact spoken of in the Book of Revelation.
“As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
The point is, all who are “in Christ” shall be made alive.  To receive Him is to receive life.  To refuse Him is to remain with Adam and Eve in the shadow of sin, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a)

But let’s finish that verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans:
“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

The urging of the season of Lent is to walk in Jesus, the Light of the World.  There we find all blessing and the solution to every and all sin.  May this season confirm in us our need for Jesus, and the healing, glorious presence of Jesus in our lives.