Jeff Vanderstelt, he’s a pastor in Bellevue, Washington where Callie and I are from, I’ve quoted him before, in sermons past. He tells the following story in one of his books …
He says, I remember the day I heard yelling and screaming sifting up through the floorboards of our home. He says, I ran downstairs to find out the source of the commotion. In our dining room, I found my children angrily yelling at each other over a game of Chutes and Ladders.
And so Jeff asked, “What’s going on?”
His son Caleb, pointing at his sister Haylee, shouted, “She cheated,”
“Well, he tore the player’s head off!” Haylee then shouted back.
This, Jeff says, went on for a few more rounds until Jeff eventually said, “I need to know what happened here. One at a time. Caleb, did you tear the head off the player?” And as he says this, Jeff notes was looking at a headless cardboard player in Caleb’s hand.
And as Jeff asked this question, Caleb disappeared into his shirt. He did “the turtle move” as Jeff describes it. He pulled his shirt down over his knees and pulled the neck hole over his head so that all Jeff could see was a shirtball with some hair poking through the top.
You see, Caleb had sinned and his response was a familiar one. His response was to hide.
Friends, have you ever metaphorically (or literally) done “the turtle” before? (You don’t have to raise your hand for that question)
Or have you ever done something that you're ashamed of and wanted to disappear? Have you ever wished you were become invisible after saying or doing something you regret?
Do you ever feel like you fall into the same sins and habits over and over again, doing what you don’t want to do and failing to do what you do want to do?
if you’re answering “no” to all of those questions, well then please take notes for the person sitting next to you, cause boy oh boy do they need it. But as for the rest us, well, this sermon is for you.
This morning we continue on in our sermon series in the book of Genesis and this morning we come to Genesis 3. In many ways, this is where everything begins to fall apart, where Adam and Eve’s paradise in the Garden of Eden becomes paradise lost. It’s a story of shame and blame, original sin and a sneaky serpent, and yet in midst of it all it’s a story with a glimpse of hope and promise too.
And though it’s a story from so very long ago, it is in so many ways our story too, for it describes before us not only why we sin, but also illustrates our unsuccessful attempts to try and cover it all up. After all, Adam and Eve were humans just like us and we are both their spiritual and biological descendants. In addition, in Hebrew, the name for Adam means “human” and the name for Eve means “life.” Together what you get is, “Human life.” And so, they are not only real, they are also representative. Their story is our story. As image bearers, they reflect back to us, what we are really like, their sin is our sin, their actions are our actions and their hope is our hope.
And so for today, here’s where we’re headed. We’re going to highlight, on one hand the seeds of our sin, that is, why we sin and what the root causes are, and secondly our response to our sin, how we act and deal with our sin. Seeds and response. And as we do we’ll hopefully get a clearer picture as to why we sin and what to do and what not to do about the shame we feel in the midst of it. So let’s jump in.
The first 5 verses in many ways serve as a case study in identifying the root causes of human sin. And before I explain that, let’s set the stage of where things were left by the end of Genesis 1 & 2 and highlight some of what Cindy read from Genesis 2.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen that Adam and Eve are made in the image of God, called to reflect God both in who they are and what they are called to do. And as his image bearers they are given this sacred task, this divine mandate to rule and reign, to cultivate and steward this garden they’ve been placed in, the Garden of Eden, where they’ve been commissioned to take all the good and potential within it and carry the creation story forward. Here they enjoy perfect fellowship with God and one another. Try to Imagine paradise and that’s Eden.
In the midst of it all, they are told that they are free to eat from any tree in the garden except for one, they are told that they must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when they eat from it they will certainly die.”
In doing so, God is essentially gives them a choice, and the choice is this: Will they obey and trust God as they carry out this sacred calling and communion with God or will they not? That is in essence the choice that lies before them. To trust and obey God or to not trust and obey God.
And for a while everything seems to be going great until then along comes a serpent. Where exactly he comes from is and why he’s a good snake gone bad we’re not told. But at the very least, it’s clear from the start that he’s up to no good.
He begins by saying this, “Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”
Of course, that’s not even close to what God said. God said you can eat from all the trees except one, not that you can’t eat from any tree. So notice right away what the serpent is doing. He’s sowing seeds of doubt, getting them to doubt and question what God had truly said. And this is on one hand, one of the seeds that gives birth to sin: We either doubt the truth of God’s Word or we simply fail to remember or even take time to learn what it is that God truly says in His Word.
But yet, the serpent’s tactics run even deeper than that. Where he’s not simply trying to get them to doubt the truth of God’s Word, but even more, he’s trying to get them to doubt the goodness of God himself.
When God earlier gives the command about which trees to eat and not eat from, what’s highlighted before Adam and Eve is God’s abundance and generosity.
God said, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.
And yet here’s the serpent saying, “Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” He’s trying to frame God as stingy and restrictive, as some kind of cosmic killjoy by trying to get them to focus on what they can’t do.
And Eve seems to be buying in to the serpent’s schemes, for as she responds to the serpent, she says, that not only can they not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they can’t even touch it, which is not true. God said nothing about touching the fruit, and yet here is Eve misremembering, and in turn, making God’s command to be more restrictive than it actually was. And in midst of it all, Eve is losing sight as to just how many good trees there are to eat from. And rather than remembering God’s goodness and provision, Eve is fixated on God’s restrictions and boundaries and even creating new ones of her own.
And now with Eve thrown off balance a little bit, this is where the serpent goes in for the kill. He says to the woman, “You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and that you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Notice the promise, you’ll be like God. And here’s the tragic irony: They were already like God for they were made in the image of God! And yet, here’s the serpent, tempting them to want eve more. Effectively saying, “God knows if you eat the fruit, you’ll be like him. Maybe you can even rival or challenge him. The serpent’s essentially saying, “God’s holding out on you. God’s not truly good. God doesn’t want what’s best for you. God wants to keep you in your place. Your God can’t be trusted.”
The serpent is trying to get them to doubt the goodness and character of God himself, because if he can get this domino to fall, then they’ll be all the more to disobey God because they know believe that God cannot be trusted.
Consider for example, some of the ways in which we question or doubt God’s goodness, both as Christians and the culture at large. Consider God’s vision for relationships and intimacy. Some people think that because God created us and designed the deepest forms of intimacy to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage and loving commitment, some conclude that God must be some kind of killjoy, that’s he’s not really for our good, yet all the while, it’s by living into God’s vision for relationships and intimacy that love can truly flourish.
Or consider finances. When we read that God wants to be generous with our finances and to give sacrificially, we may think that God is a miser, that’s stingy, that in some weird way he wants that money for himself and wants us to be miserable. Yet all the while it’s by giving generously that we experience true financial freedom and freedom from materialism.
Or consider suffering. When life doesn’t go our way, when suffering occurs, whether it be the hardship of losing your job or the devastation of losing a loved one, the serpent, the devil, wants to get you believing that God is not truly good, that he’s not really loving. After all, the serpent may whisper, “Because such and such happened, God must not really love you.” And so sometimes, in an attempt to get back at God or to simply cope with the pain, we find our way into sin, whether it be some outright sin or gluttony or entertainment to simply numb the pain.
Often times our sin can be traced back to the smallest of seeds that fester and grow, whether it be doubting the truth of God’s Word or doubting the goodness of God himself. And sure not all sin is rooted in these reasons. I don’t get the sense that Caleb ripped the players head of in Shoots and Ladders because he was doubting God’s goodness. I think he was just being impulsive, maybe selfish, as sometimes little boys and little girls and grownups sometimes tend to be.
Now before we transition to our response to sin, I want to throw this question out there.
If you come across a “no” in scripture or something that seems negative or restrictive, ask yourself, “I believe God is good. How might this “no” be to my benefit or for my good? Put your parent hat on and ponder that question.
Alright, let’s now make the transition to the second half of the sermon (this second half will be quite a bit shorter by the way). How do you and I often respond to sin? What are we prone to do, and what how to we often respond to the sins we commit?
In turn, there are two primary ways in which respond: Shame and blame. We either turn inward and experience shame and go into hiding, or we turn outward, get defensive, and move towards blame. So let’s briefly look at how these two play out. First, shame.
As Adam and Eve sinned, they both realized that they were naked, making coverings for themselves.
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.
Even more, they do “the turtle” move and hide from God (v.8)
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.
This what we do. This is so often how we respond. Sin leads to shame and when we feel shame we so badly want to cover it all up. And though we probably aren’t using literal fig leaves, we often try to cover up the shame and inadequacy, that “not good enough” “there’s something wrong with me feeling” through religion, or success, or status, or accomplishments, or purchases. You name it.
We’ll do whatever we can to cover it up and if that doesn’t work, we try another popular tactic. We’ll try to blame our sin on someone else.
Is it a bummer that scripture isn’t more relevant? Friends, this is our move. It’s a tale as old as time. Such insightful and piercing observations that give us a window into the human heart. We so desperately want to shake off our sin and get it off of us, that we sometimes resort to this other tactic.
Notice what Adam says:
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Consider the audacity and boldness in what Adam is saying. He’s saying, “God, this is your fault, this wouldn’t have ever happened if you hadn’t created this woman. This one’s on you. And so not only does he blame the woman, he’s blaming God for creating her in the first place.
Gosh, neither Adam nor Eve come out looking good in this story, and Adam especially so. He was silent when he should have spoken, he was passive when he should have been strong and resolute. Because as we learn, he was with Eve the whole time she was having the conversation with the serpent.
And then notice Eve, she says, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” She blames the serpent. It’s the first time we hear this familiar excuse, “The devil made me do it.”
In summary, everybody is pointing fingers and serpent hasn’t simply convinced them to turn their backs on God, but also on each other. Things have changed drastically from ch.2 to ch.3. Adam and Eve celebrated with one another their fellowship together, they were naked without shame. And now they are both feeling shame and trying to blame.
Callie and I recently did a marriage study, a series called 5 Dates, and in it was this quote, “50% of every relationship is 100% you.” Pretty good, right? Friends, what’s yours to own?
And I’ll finish with this:
Often times, when we experience shame or hear of others experiencing shame, we sometimes, and maybe unintentionally pile more shame upon their shame. We say things to others or to ourselves things like:
“How could you do that?” “You should have known better!” “You should be ashamed of yourself!” “What would people think of you if they found this out about you?
That’s just simply piling shame upon shame and only leads to more shame.
But consider what Jeff said to his son Caleb. Consider this response instead:
He said to his son: “Caleb, you don’t need to hide. You don’t need to cover up. Remember, Jesus died on the cross for your sins. I know you feel ashamed for what you’ve done. That’s what we feel when we sin. But you don’t have to keep hiding. Go to Jesus. Come out of hiding and believe that he died for you and can take your shame away.”
Jeff says, eventually, I saw an eyeball peaking out of the shirt’s neck hole, then two, then a nose, and then his whole head appeared as he leaped toward me to wrap his arms around my neck. “I’m sorry, Dad. I ripped his head off.”
I love that. That’s the kind of parent and friend and pastor I want to be. That when my kids and friends and those around me experience shame, I want to point them to Jesus.
In midst of this difficult and heartbreaking story, there’s a glimpse of hope, where it says,
9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Dare I say, it’s the most important “but” in the bible. Biggest “but” in the bible. Okay, I’m done.
And it’s our first glance that in our sin and shame and blame, God pursues us. God never gives up. God doesn’t completely give up on humanity once and for all.
Now the bad news is, it will get worse before it gets better. Things will spin further out of control. As we’ll see in the stories of Cain and Abel and Noah and the flood in future weeks, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
But yet, softly and tenderly, here comes God asking “Where are you?” In our sin, but God, in our shame, but God, in our blame, but God … God continually pursues us, calling us by name.
It’s quite stunning when you look at this from the full storyline of scripture. The story of the fall, the story about Genesis 3 is about man wanting to become God, to be their own Lord, their own God, their own Ruler.
And yet the story of the gospel, and the hope of our redemption is about God doing the very opposite. How God became man, and dwelt among us.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve say in essence, “My will be done” and years later, Jesus, in a different garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night before he died, says “thy will be done.”
And as he goes to the cross and rises from the grave, Jesus takes the blame to rid us of our shame.
So friends, go to him. He loves you so much he sent his Son to die for you and he’s waiting for you with open arms.
As the hymn goes: “Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me … Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling, calling, “O sinner, come home.”