Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sermon for 3/13/11 - "Really"

Sermon - "Really"

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

"Does it really say that?" I don't know how many times I've asked that question in my life. How about you? We buy a product or service and don't really read the fine print that carefully, or we forget what some of the terms of an agreement are. Or at least we want to forget some of it. Then comes the moment of truth. We find out how limited the limited warranty is. We find out the machine will do everything except what we wanted to do. "Really?" Really.

The same concept holds for all sorts of temptations. And they are common to all of us. We're tempted to excess, whether in work, rest, recreation, spending, saving, eating, dieting, you name it. Our actions have consequences. Our lives are full of predictable outcomes. You eat the candy bar, you get to use the calories or gain weight. You buy that toy, you get to pay for it. You name it, it has a result.

Here in Genesis we see the first temptation to sin. Who are our characters? We have Satan engaging with the undefiled woman and her husband. What are their goals? Satan's goal is to deceive and cause the people to stumble. The woman and the man don't seem to have much of a goal in mind. They are looking at life through innocent eyes. That innocence protects them, but it also prevents them from seeing the sophisticated deception Satan is able to dish out. We'll have to see what happens as we look into this case study some more.

How about the defense the people use? The woman uses the tools that are available to her. She has God's command. This should be enough, shouldn't it? Does God's command not accomplish God's will? Yes it does. And our Lord has told her not to eat of the fruit of the tree. He has made promises to her and to the man. And he has given them one command. Don't eat the fruit from that one tree. There's a natural consequence. You will die in the day you eat of it.

So now we see the woman fail. What does she do? She first expands God's command. No longer is she supposed to avoid eating the fruit from the tree, but she is not supposed to touch it – the fruit? The tree? Whatever the "it" could be, whether fruit or tree, the woman has just denied God's command by expanding it. And this one alteration of God's command leaves her open to other denials of God's will. She no longer has the protection of God's true command. Now she must rely on her own willpower, something infinitely weaker. Looking at the situation rationally, it's clear now that the fruit is beautiful, it seems good to eat, and it might potentially grant her divinity. With God's command denied, there is no reason to avoid what God has prohibited. In the end, the woman, at Satan's prompting, denies God's good will, trusting in her own will instead.

What is the result of the woman's sin? We see God's gracious curse coming upon the humans, bringing death upon mankind. I should probably clarify the idea of a gracious curse. In his grace and mercy, God will not allow sinful, disobedient people to eat of the tree of life and live forever in their sinful state. He will not leave us to an everlasting living death, separated from the presence of God, prohibited access to his grace and mercy. No, that would be a curse indeed. The curse God imposes on mankind in his grace is that we will live temporarily on earth, suffering from the results of a sinful world, and that he will raise up a means of salvation, a means of grace, for us. God graciously promises a deliverer we can approach in faith. Death has come upon mankind as a result of sin, but that death is not irrevocable. God mercifully provides a means of salvation.

So how will God deliver this sinful world? Now what? The woman has sinned. The man has sinned. God has proclaimed his curse on Satan, on the man, and on the woman. What this world needs is sinless obedience. We who are dying need the death of one who is like us in all respects but who is perfect, sinless, in order to redeem us from the curse of sin. We need the death of one like Adam, but like Adam prior to the fall. In short, we need Jesus, God and Man.

This is the crux of the matter. This is what our world doesn't like. We look for salvation from sin. We look to something outside of ourselves. We confess that we don't have the answer and that having someone give us the answer alone won't do us any good. We need someone to work salvation on our behalf. That's offensive to our culture. But it's the word that God has given us. We read one of the most-proclaimed verses in Scripture, John 3.16. God so loved the world! And while we often would like the "so" to mean "so much" the adverb God uses there isn't saying that. Actually, it says, "God loved the world 'in this way,' that he gave his only-begotten Son." Salvation is through Jesus Christ, God's only Son, perfectly and entirely human, like us in every way, but entirely without sin. Jesus, the second Adam, is the one who can die on our behalf, the one who can do what God has ordained. It is not our place to change this command of God. It is our place to accept God's command as he has given it.

God has graciously placed his curse upon his only son. Jesus, the one, has died for us, the many. Jesus, the just, has given his life for us, the unjust. And he has done it because of God's love. He has done it because we had no way of redeeming ourselves. He has done it because otherwise we would have no hope in this world or in eternity.

So why are we still struggling with sin? If Jesus has paid the penalty for sin, why do we still endure the curse? Is God's salvation in Christ not good enough? Are we tempted to add to what our Lord has said? Are we tempted to deny his truth? Do we again ask, "Really"? We've seen what kind of trouble it causes when we do that. So we don't ask the question that way. Instead, we look to the promise our Lord has given us. He comes to us in Word and Sacrament. He promises to clothe us with immortality, but he says that we have not yet been dressed in those garments. Instead, we get to follow Jesus in his humiliation for a time, in this sin-cursed world, walking after him, even to death, before we rise with him. But we know as he has risen we also will rise, putting on immortality, realizing the fullness of his redemption in Christ. Really. Really. Really.

We live in a world which can be described as "now, not yet." Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of sin. And he has done it wholly, completely, entirely. That is the present reality. We are partakers of eternal life, and we are partakers of it right now. At the same time, we see that we are still in our sin-cursed world. We have not been clothed as Jesus has been. We are not yet transfigured. Though we are partakers of the resurrection we have not been raised again yet. While we have eternal life now, we also have eternal life not yet. We look to our Lord in hope, confident in his promises, confessing that he is able to accomplish all he has promised, through Jesus Christ, God the Son.

Let us rise to pray.

Our Lord, once again we look to the reality of your promises. They are all accomplished in Christ Jesus, God the Son, who has come to redeem us from the curse of the Law, the Just for the unjust, the One for the many. Let us rejoice with great joy as we receive your promises and realize that we are partakers of the heavenly bliss to come. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Dave Spotts
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