I recently read a book that described that people often view the world in one of two ways, where we either believe the world is continually getting better and better or continually getting worse and worse.
To believe that the world is getting worse and worse is to lean towards nostalgia, where we look back on life 20, 40, 60 years ago as “the good old days”. A couple years ago Callie and I were having dinner with some older members from our church, people who had been living here for decades, we were talking about Dillon and how much it’s changed throughout the years and I asked them, “Would you say Dillon has changed for the better or the worse? And in perfect unison, they all said, “Worse.” And to be clear, in the context of the conversation they weren’t making a comment so much about the moral decay of our town, but rather the loss of retail over time.
But nevertheless, that’s the nostalgic spirit: Things are getting worse and worse.
On the other side is the view that the world is continually getting better and better. The authors call describe this as “progressivism.” The idea here is that as the human race we are continually evolving for the better, we grow and mature, we learn from our mistakes, and our history books only remind us of how good we have it today. And that through advancements in technology and medicine and with modern day realities like 2 day shipping on Amazon Prime, the world just keeps getting better and better.
(And friends, through your body language these past two minutes, you are tipping your hand as to what view of the world you hold.)
Truth is, both views have their blind spots. To be overly nostalgic is to wish for a day in the past that’ll never return and one we’ve probably romanticized over time. And to be overly progressive is to hope for a future day of perfection that’ll never be obtained and one that likely falls into the misguided thinking that what is new is therefore better.
And yet in midst of both views, the bible points us to a different view of the world altogether. Where from Genesis to Revelation, it paints a picture that is unbelievably (maybe even painfully) honest and realistic about the realities of our sinful and fallen world, both past and present, and yet also unbelievably hopeful and confident of a better future altogether.
Both soberingly realistic about both past and present, yet immensely hopeful about the future. And as we look at passage today from Genesis 3 and look at it in light of the entire storyline of the bible, this is view of the world I believe it is giving us as well.
This morning, we continue on in our sermon series in the book of Genesis and today we find ourselves in the second half of Genesis 3, where we are told of the consequences and wide reaching ripple effects of sin on our world today. Last week, we looked at the original sin of Adam and Eve, how they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil despite God’s command otherwise. And today, through God’s words to Adam and Eve, we gain further insight as to just how devastating and severe the effects of sin on our world truly is (and yet, even still, there are small glimmers of hope woven in).
So with all said, this morning I want to do a couple things. On one hand, I want us to begin to identify the myriad of ways in which our world, both past and present has been affected by the fall, how this description in Genesis 3 describes our world today, and yet as gloomy as that might be, we won’t stay in the despair for too long, because later on the sermon we’ll identify some points of application and reasons you and I can have resolute hope.
So let’s jump in. Let’s first name and begin to understand our world today as distorted by the fall of humankind.
Maybe the most common approach to describe the way in which sin has tainted our world today is by categorizing the various relationships that we as humans have. That is, sin distorts the relationship between us and God, the relationship between one another and in addition, distorts the relationship between us and creation itself.
Some of this we highlighted last week in the first part of Genesis 3. Adam and Eve’s sin created distance and separation between them and God, where the two of them went from perfect fellowship with their creator to hiding in shame from God. And then by the end of this chapter, we see the Lord God banishing Adam and Eve from the garden, meaning that they will no longer experience God’s presence in the same way. The relationship between us and God has been corrupted by sin.
Then there’s the relationship between humans themselves, between one another. Adam and Eve first experience shame, and then in attempt to remove their shame, move to blame instead. This is what we do - we point fingers, we attack each other, we turn our backs on each other, and not only towards our strangers and enemies, but towards the people we love, even the familial relationships that are meant to be nurtured and flourish in the home will struggle in various ways.
Then finally, even the relationship between humans and the creation itself has been marred. Adam and Eve were called to rule and reign on God’s behalf, cultivating and stewarding this garden paradise, and so when they sinned, creation itself fell with it. We’re told that “Cursed is the ground because of you,” God says to Adam. And it’s in light of this reality that a good and perfect world, now experiences earthquakes and floods, droughts and forest fires, hurricanes and tornadoes, yes, even pandemics.
The fall of humankind, the sin of this world has ripple effects on everything, from our relationship with God, our relationship with each other and even creation itself.
And yet, there’s even more going on than that. You’ll notice that there details about painful childbearing and painful toil. Now, what’s that all about?
Well, in many ways, what we see here in Genesis 3 is the undoing, or complicating of the original creation mandate itself. Remember the creation mandate that Adam and Eve were given in Genesis 1, their sacred charge was to, “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”
And now here in chapter 3, we see that their ability to fulfill the creation mandate has become much more difficult.
Remember, one way in which we as humans fulfill the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply,” is to have and raise children and yet, here Eve is told that with painful labor she will give birth to her children. And though of course I cannot attest to this reality through personal experience, I have, to quote a line from the musical Hamilton, I’ve been in the room where it happens, and yes, it does in fact look painful and difficult.
And yet the complications involved in childbearing ripple beyond the moment of delivery itself. Consider this frustrating and painful reality in pregnancy. In our world today, and throughout human history, there have been couples, that due to age and circumstance, don’t want to get pregnant yet do, and at the same time, there are couples, that due to age and circumstance, do want to get pregnant yet don’t, whether it be through infertility, miscarriages or other reasons altogether. That single dynamic alone has brought our world unbelievable heartache and grief, whether it’s a single mom who gives birth without adequate support or a lovely couple who had a crib and painted nursery ready, yet no baby. That’s heartbreaking. And that said, in midst of that heartache is a redemptive opportunity through the means of adoption and foster care and we’ll get to that more later. Yet nevertheless, our ability to fulfill the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply though it is often filled with immense joy, also at times comes with tremendous pain in various ways.
Even more, consider other part of the creation mandate. To subdue the earth. To take what exists in our world today, and then through our work, through our blood and sweat, through energy, imagination, intelligence and love, to create good and useful and beautiful things out of it. Even that has become far more difficult. For Adam, he’s told,
through painful toil you will eat food from [the ground] all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
The point is this. Work is hard work. incredibly so. And you and I experience this all the time. There are days when the shipment doesn’t arrive on time, or you have a meeting that felt wildly unproductive, your internet is painfully slow, the printer breaks, the harvest is underwhelming, a customer yells at you, your kids don’t listen to you, your patients complain to you. There are days when work is and feels so very hard. Days where you’re driving home and you think to yourself, “Did I accomplish anything of value today? That’s simply how work is in a Genesis 3 world. Work is hard. And to be clear, though work is hard does not mean it’s bad. In fact, because work was created and given to Adam and Eve before the fall, before sin entered the world, work is in fact very, very good.
Now clothes though, on the other hand, are just the opposite. Before the fall, Adam and Eve were naked and without shame, but then after the fall, they are clothed with garments of skin, that is, animal skin, and so as Pastor Kevin DeYoung concludes that “Laundry is a result of the fall.” Now that’s theology I think we can all get behind ☺
And that is how we’ll finish this first and maybe somewhat sobering part of our sermon today. In Genesis 3 we see how sin distorts every relationship, between us and God, between one another, and the created world and in doing so, complicates our ability to fulfill the original creation mandate itself.
Now, let’s turn the corner to this second and briefer part of our sermon as we consider some key areas of application and we’ll continue to unpack our scripture as we go. Here’s the first:
I promised you earlier that this second half of the sermon would be more hopeful and I’m confident it will be even though “expect suffering” may not seem all that hopeful.
But I was reminded of another quote by Kevin DeYoung, this one more serious, but I also think strangely hopeful. He says, “We suffer more because we do not expect to suffer at all.”
Or in other words, it’s easier to handle hardship if you know it’s coming. For those in the progressivism camp that says, “the world is getting better and better,” there may be this held out hope that our suffering will decrease as our world gets more modernized. Yet, the truth is, no matter how developed we get as a society, no matter how far advancements in technology and medicine take us, suffering will still come our way. It’s inescapable. It’s part of the Genesis 3 world we live in.
So whether in your relationships, or in parenting, or in your work, or in your everyday life, expect suffering. Don’t be overly surprised when what feels like undeserved suffering comes your way.
We’re going to have weeks at the office that absolutely drain us, we’re going to have seasons with our kids where it feels like we’re taking two steps forward and one step back, where even just working towards understanding and respect within relationships and teams of people feels agonizing. And then above all of that, we’re faced with the reality of death and our human fragility, a reality that’s introduced when God says, “for you are dust and to dust you will return.”
Life is indeed hard. So expect suffering. You’ll be better prepared emotionally, mentally, spiritually when the time comes.
That’s the first, expect suffering. Here’s the second.
Point people to a better hope and a better future.
Now, that’s a little more hopeful, isn’t it? I can’t help but look at this account of Genesis 3 and not see it in light of the entire storyline of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, and here’s what I mean.
The bible begins in a beautiful and perfect garden. It’s a place where God’s people enjoy God’s presence. where at the center of this Garden called Eden runs a river and planted there is the Tree of Life.
And tragically, by the end of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are banished from it entirely.
Yet fast forward to the end of the bible and we see much of the same thing that we did in Genesis 1 & 2. The end of Revelation paints a picture of the new creation and in doing so deliberately uses some of the landmarks familiar from Genesis 2. Just like in the first Eden, there will be a river flowing through the garden with the Tree of Life beside it. And of this renewed Eden, we’re told that there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things (the Genesis 3 order of things) has passed away.”
So friends, as Christians, this means, it is our calling and responsibility, to point people towards, to remind them of this new and better Eden right here, right now, in the midst of our Genesis 3 world. And even more, to partner with Jesus himself, through the power of the Holy Spirit and begin to show the world around us what this future reality of ours is like.
So friends, when you help families break generational cycles of poverty, when you care for the widows, when you tell someone about Jesus, when you give people meaningful and dignified work, when you comfort someone with the truths and promises of scripture, when you step into the suffering by adopting or serving as a foster parent, you are pointing people to a better hope and a better future.
When you use your God given gifts and talents to plant gardens, make beautiful art, make delicious meals where family and friends can gather around the table, you are partnering with Jesus in helping to bring what will be into the here and now.
You see, the nostalgic view of the world says, “We’ve got to go back to the way things were” when in fact the biblical vision of the world, says, “We need to look forward and work towards how things will be.”
Friends, that’s the second, point people to a better future and better hope. Here’s the third and final point:
Our only hope is through Jesus himself.
Our only hope to get back to the original Eden and the Tree of Life, or better yet, to arrive at this restored Eden is through Jesus himself.
And I say that because of all that is described in verse 15. You might have noticed all this talk of the woman’s offspring and snakes, head crushing and heel striking … what in the world is that all about? Well, it turns out that it has nothing to do with our fear of actual snakes, terrified of them I might be.
Instead, it’s believed to be by many as the first gospel of sorts, the first promise of good news in a world gone bad.
Here you have a serpent, who represents the Devil. Were told that there will be enmity between him and the woman’s offspring, one of her descendants. One day, they’ll go head to head. And though serpent will strike the descendant’s heel, this descendent will crush the serpent’s head. And you don’t need a medical degree to know which of the two is more lethal – a head injury or heel injury? This descendant, will win this battle.
And so, what’s described before us is this “wounded victor.” And of course, who does this remind you of? Well, of course, Jesus himself. Who, though he was mocked, bloodied, flogged and crucified, Jesus gave the Devil the ultimate and final blow, by dying and rising from the grave.
This wounded victor, who will later be revealed as Jesus, is our only hope.
And this is where it gets rather personal. Here might be the greatest gut punch of all. You all, why is the world the way that it is? Why do we still in 2021 find ourselves in this Genesis 3 world? Friends, I think the answer is rather simple. As the one constant throughout all of human history has been the sinfulness of the human heart. And no amount of nostalgia, no amount of progressivism, can heal it. It’ll take nothing short of the transforming power of the gospel and the sacrificial death of Jesus and his resurrection to heal our sinful and suffering hearts.
Our society will tell you, all the problems in the world are out there, all the solutions are in here (in the heart). Just look within yourself and together we can make the world a better place.
You all the bible says just the opposite. We got an inside problem and an outside solution. All the problems in the world begin with the inward turn of human heart, and all the solutions lie outside of us in Christ himself.
So friends, run to Jesus. Ask him to show you where you contribute to the brokenness of the world. Ask him to fill you with courage and love and then go out there and help those around you see what this world will one day be.