Ed Note: Due to technical difficulties, there is no audio for this sermon. Instead, a manuscript is provided below.
Introduction: Review and Imagination.
Last week we began looking at the Story of the Bible. As Christians, we believe the Story of the Bible is the Story of the world. We truly believe that no matter where you are with the whole Christianity thing, you will be surprised how much your life mirrors the Story of the Bible.
So, what we explored last week was that God created this wonderful, majestic, magnificent world. At the beginning of the Story we see BEAUTY. God’s intended order was for us to live in perfect harmony with each other and the rest of creation. Humanity was the height of God’s creation. We are the only thing made in God’s image. We were designed to continue the ministry of bringing the goodness of God into the world, and above all else bring glory to God.
Can you imagine this perfect world? A world where there is NO divorce. No injustice. No death. No decay. No kids bullying other kids. Think of any bad thing, and imagine a world where those things don’t exist. That is what the beginning of the Bible describes. If we are honest with ourselves, we long to live in a world like this, but it sounds like a fairy tale to those of us who have experienced the hardship of this broken world.
The problem or crisis is our first parents rejected their responsibility, and rebelled against God. Christians call this the FALL. This is when SIN entered into the world. All throughout the rest of the Bible we see humanity continuing in sin. We continue living for our glory instead of God’s. We continue to worship almost everything but God. We think we know what is best for us. This is a curse. God continues to warn us that our choices will lead to our own destruction, but we continue to ignore Him.
Theme: God is raising up people who regularly recognize their need for Him.
1. God’s assessment of humanity is we are sinful.
There is this dual desire in each and every person, because we all come from the same parents. We desire to do good, to bring goodness into the world, but it feels like the more we try the harder it is. It could be the world around us is fighting back, or it could also be we have failed as well. Some of us just get tired of doing good, or we hurt someone while trying to do good. The world is just a mess.
The challenge when reading the Bible is that doing good is not just about what we do, but why we do it. Turn with me to Genesis 4, and let’s look at verses 6-7:
The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”—Genesis 4.6-7
There is a lot I could say about these few verses, but I will try to keep it simple so we can pick up the pattern. First, we should notice in God’s question of Cain is that it is a question about His heart, desire, or emotions. Second, God sees that Cain’s unhealthy sinful desires could lead to bad actions. Sin is attempting to rule him. Third, according to Genesis 1.28 humanity is supposed to have dominion and not sin. So, God is reminding Cain what He created humanity to be.
What happens? Cain is RULED by His sinful affections and commits the first murder in human history (Gen 4.8). He murders his own flesh and blood—he murders his brother. As I said before, when we continue through the Bible this pattern continues. Look with me in Genesis 6.5:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.—Genesis 6.5
You see generations later, people continue to live with evil hearts. By the time you make your way into the NT those writers recognize these truths remain. Listen to what Paul writes in Ephesians 2.1-3:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.—Ephesians 2.1-3
Have you ever tried to catalog your intentions, desires, or affections? The more you learn to do this, I think you would be surprised how wicked even your best intentions are. Almost every time we desire to do good, there are selfish temptations right there corrupting our desires. I remember a time when I was waiting tables, and got fairly decent at it. Because of that I could help my fellow co-workers a lot. I would help them bus their tables, which would help them make more money, and possibly take money away from me. Many of them began to recognize this, and said, “John, you are awesome. Thank you so much.” And almost immediately I thought, “Yeah! I am awesome. I am so selfless.” There it is friends. Sin crouching at my door—ready to pounce on me.
Part of grasping the Story, and more importantly the Gospel, is grasping this truth. We recognize God’s assessment of us—even more than the assessment we have of our own selves. Self-assessment can be helpful, but only if it has some standard by which we are supposed to be striving toward. For the Christian we get that from God through His Word.
The beauty of this assessment is we can come to God free. We can embrace we are not like Him, we have not lived the way He desires for us. When we embrace our failures and weaknesses we can truly begin to experience healing. Much like AA, we need to stand up and say, “My name is John Pope, and I am a sinner.”
2. We can only be made right by God’s grace.
Now where does the narrative go from here? God begins doing something that will be a theme throughout the Story of the Bible and the world. Among all the people during the time of Genesis 6 the Bible says:
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.—Genesis 6.8-9
The temptation to think when we read this to think about it the way the world does—“Man, this man must have been a saint. He must have been VERY moral.” There is nothing here in this text that tells us that Noah was made righteous by the he was living. It is not until Hebrews 11 that we come to learn how Noah found favor, and was proclaimed righteous. And what we learn from Hebrews 11 is the LORD spoke to Noah, and Noah had FAITH—he believed or trusted God.
As we continue throughout Genesis this is the heartbeat of all those who are deemed righteous. They are deemed righteous by FAITH. This means Noah, Abraham, and all the others in Genesis made righteous by God’s saving grace. Even their faith did not begin with themselves, but was an acknowledgement that the God of creation, of the universe, had initiated a conversation with them. God spoke, and they responded. God is the initiator. He sees people in their wickedness, and yet still lovingly pursues through His desire to be gracious and merciful.
Remember while Genesis is in a larger book called “THE LAW” no laws had been given to Noah except to build an Ark. Noah had the choice to believe God about the coming destruction or a choice to ignore it.
Throughout the rest of the Story, all those who are found righteous, are found righteous because they choose to believe what God says. Another example of this is from a descendent of Noah—Abram. READ Genesis 12.1-3.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”—Genesis 12.1-3
Abram is told to leave the familiar and known for what is unfamiliar and unknown. But what is he promised and who promises it? He is promised there is a better life available, and he is promised this by the Creator of everything everywhere. If Bill Gates, who is the richest man in the world, promised even a tenth of his wealth if you were just willing to move to Seattle, would you do it? He is currently worth $82 BILLION. That means you would get $8.2 BILLION. Now the cool thing about Abram’s promise is it is rooted in not just a love for Abram, but in God’s love for the whole world. God wants to bless Abram, so he will be a blessing.
Once again I want us to not be overly impressed with the man, but with the God of the man. READ Genesis 15.1-6. What do we see here? We see a man having a hard time believing the promise from God. Therefore, we are not made or seen as righteous by having perfect faith, but trusting that God will NEVER have doubts. He will keep up His end.
God has just finished doing AMAZING things for Abram. He took a small force of around 300 men and defeated several nations that had combined their forces. After this Abram has an interesting experience with the king of Salem—Melcheizedek. Not much is said about this man except that he is a kingly priest. He serves Abram BREAD and WINE. There will be another kingly priest who will serve His people bread and wine, but we will talk more about Him later.
What we want to leave with today is those who are God’s people are the ones who acknowledge they are sinners desperately in need of God’s grace. These are the people of God. But they are a remnant in the Bible, and they are a remnant in the world today.