March 13, 2011

Consider the Source - Mar 13, 2011

To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


I think I remember the first time I heard the phrase, “consider the source”. I had returned to my dorm room with some bit of rumor that had been told to me by some underclassman. This underclassman didn’t have the best reputation for being truthful. But, I WANTED to believe what he had told me.

When I finished re-telling the details to my, he just looked at me with a knowing grin and said, “Yeah, but consider the source”.

That’s really all it took. Consider the source. The house of rumor cards that I had just built in my mind, fell down. I realized that there might be a BIT of truth in what I had been told, but it would be quite naïve to believe the whole thing. Consider the source. Wise words.

We all have to constantly do this, don’t we? Parents are told all sorts of conflicting stories by children. Teachers are told conflicting stories by students. Adults are told conflicting stories by co-workers. Even the various news sources that offer up our headlines can’t be trusted. Everyone is filtering reality through their own particular lens of perception. We MUST consider the source if we are to know the truth.

We even have to apply that phrase to ourselves, don’t we. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that WE TOO filter our experiences with others through our own preconceived ideas and prejudices.

Our sermon reading for today comes from the early chapters of Genesis. Here in the first few pages of human history, we find the source of all the lies that make it necessary for us to filter our reality carefully. Here we find the headwaters of all the sin and suffering that has since flowed into the life of man.

Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17, 3:1-7 (NKJV)

7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

8The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

15Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17but 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.”

1Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

4Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

When we say, “consider the source” what we’re really saying is, what do you know about this person’s character? How trustworthy are they? What might their motives be? Can you take their word at face value?

When we examine the character of Jehovah God here in Genesis, we find nothing but good. For clarity sake, this is Jehovah God we’re talking about. The God of the Bible, not the gods of other religions. When you see the capital L-O-R-D in the Old Testament scriptures, that means that at that point in the text is found the Hebrew name for God. Sometimes pronounced Ya-weh or Je-ho-vah. This name is not like the word “god” which can be applied to the true God or to false ones. Jehovah is the proper name of the God of the Bible. It is never used of any other.

So what do we see Jehovah doing here? We see Him taking special care with mankind. Look at verse 7. Jehovah had formed the rest of the living creatures by simply speaking them into being. But when it comes to man, He takes a handful of earth and personally fashions it into the form of man. In this way God was subtly showing that mankind was on a different level than the animal kingdom.

For this most special of His living creations, God planted a garden. He called it Eden. In this garden paradise God placed everything that man would need, not only to live, but to fully enjoy living. We are told that Eden contained every tree that was pleasant to look at, and that produces fruit that is good to eat.

Jehovah even planted an education tree. There in the middle of Eden was a tree called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Now, some would say that the reason God told man not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was because He never wanted man to know what evil was.

That’s possible. But, I disagree. I think the name of the Tree tells us what it was there for. Adam and Eve could learn what evil was through the simple command attached to this tree. Eating from it would be evil. It would bring death. Obeying God and not eating from this tree would be good, and their life of intimate communion with God would remain intact. They COULD learn these lessons without ever actually taking from the tree. Without ever experiencing evil for themselves.

That Jehovah wanted man to remain sinless is shown by God’s clear command concerning the tree. He didn’t mince words when it came to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and evil. He told man openly NOT to eat from it, and He told man exactly what the consequences would be if he did – DEATH. The rest of the Bible makes it clear that God was not just talking about physical death. He meant the whole package. Physical death, spiritual death and separation from Jehovah God forever.

God had good plans for man. There’s a tree in the garden that shows us that too. The Tree of Life. God had an eternal existence planned for man, an eternal existence of happiness and enjoyment.

So, let’s consider the source. Jehovah took special care of man. He provided everything needed and wanted for him. He gave him a living paradise as his home. He provided for his education and planned an eternity of joy for man and their descendants. Concerning the one danger in the garden, God gave clear and fully explained warning.

God is good.

Now, when we examine the character of Satan, we find nothing but evil and deception.

For clarity sake, Satan is a fallen angel. He was created good, but chose to betray Jehovah God and to lead a rebellion of angels against Him. Satan is not the embodiment of evil, no story-book personification, he is a real entity. A real, individual, spirit being.

Here in Eden, Satan has taken possession of a serpent. Like those demons during Jesus’ day that took control of human beings and controlled their words and actions, here Satan has chosen a serpent as his vehicle.

And we’re told why Satan chose this creature. It was the smartest of the land creatures that God had made. In this way, Satan borrowed the serpent’s reputation and used it to his own advantage.

Satan still does this today, when he uses the highly educated men and women of prestigious universities to raise doubt about the trustworthiness of God’s Word. The most deceptive and effective temptation never comes from the people we consider foolish, or our open enemies. The most deceptive temptation comes from those who appear smart. People who just want us to be free from the manipulative influences of organized religion, or of the sadly outdated and oppressive ideas of the Bible.

This story from Genesis is so precious for understanding Satan’s character and methods. It’s no wonder he’s done his best to make people consider it some sort of tribal fairy-tale. It we think that, we’ll miss the detailed description of Satan’s tactics that we find here. And when history is forgotten, it is bound to be repeated.

In this case, Satan starts by appearing wise. He took the form of the wisest creature next to man. Then he asks Eve a simple, innocent looking question. Verse 1
“…And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 NKJV).
It’s just a question, but in this question Satan has nestled the implication that God isn’t taking care of Adam and Eve. Here you are in the middle of all this goodness and God has told you NOT to eat from it?!

Eve quickly corrects Satan. No, they can eat from all the trees, there’s only ONE that is forbidden. And it’s forbidden for a good reason, it causes death.

And that’s when Satan moves in for the kill. You see, he can’t actually hurt Eve. She’s sinless and invincible to him right now. If he’s going to do anything to her, he’s got to separate her from God. He’s GOT to get her to sin. And so Satan leaves sneaky questions behind and moves on to DIRECTLY assault Jehovah’s character. Verse 4...
“4Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5 NKJV).
Satan suggests two ideas to Eve. FIRST, that God is tricking you. He’s lied about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It’s REALLY a good tree to eat from. And SECOND, but you can rise above Jehovah God. You can defeat Him. The fruit that will make you AS WISE AS HIM is within your reach right now.

So, let’s consider the source here. So far Satan has borrowed the reputation of the serpent to make himself look wise. He’s used questions to make Eve question God’s goodness. He’s used lies to make the worst possible course of action seem like the only wise one.

Satan is evil.

Now, I want to take a second here to talk about Satan’s favorite tool – the lie. Lies distort reality. That’s what they do. Lies alter the way we see people around us. And the worst thing about lies is that they last. They continue to distort our view long after they’re told.

Look at the world from Eve’s perspective BEFORE Satan came along. She was happy. She had the world’s greatest husband. She lived in a perfect climate. Never had to fold clothes. When she was hungry, she just ate. Every once in a while God would stop by and they’d all go on a walk together. EVERYTHING was perfect.

Then Satan came along and offered a set of eye glasses to Eve. Glasses which distorted the way she saw the world around her, and most tragically – glasses which distorted the way she saw God.

For just a moment, assume that Satan’s words were true. See it from Eve’s perspective: God is tricking you. He actually wants to keep you under His thumb. But right here, hanging from this tree is fruit that will make you just as wise as God! Just as wise as the one who made everything good around you!

Viewed through the lens of Satan’s lies, Eve’s action of eating the fruit was not only SAFE, it was the best choice she could possibly make! She could even do a favor for her husband by sharing this great gift of God-wisdom with him.

The reality that Satan presented was a distorted reality. A lie. But once the deed was done, there was no going back. No way for Adam and Eve undo what they had done. All they could do was try to cover it up.

This is the same thing that Satan does today. He sets up a façade of lies to trick us into doing what God has clearly told us NOT to do. He still teaches the same lesson to humans that he taught our first mother – Disobedience to God leads to pleasure, knowledge and promotion. But when we finally do what Satan has led us to, we find the same thing. The distortion of reality falls away and we see that there is no going back. No way for us to undo what we have done.

How many times has that happened to you? It’s happened to me a billion times. There’s something that I know God doesn’t want me to do, but I begin to see it in a different light. This COULD be good for me. It could lead to pleasure, or popularity, or some kind of advantage. But when the deed is done, my conscience reveals the truth. It was wrong. Sin. And now it’s done, with no way of undoing it.

If only I would have considered the source. God is good. Satan is evil. What God tells me can only lead to my joy and benefit. What Satan suggests can only lead to my ruin.

So, who should we trust today? Well, when you consider the source, the answer is pretty obvious.

Satan’s leading has made our world into a world where mothers kill their own children. A world where pain and sorrow surround us instead of peace and happiness. A world where governments oppress the people they’re meant to serve. A world where earthquakes destroy, and tsunamis obliterate. Because of Satan’s lies, our lives will all terminate in frailty and death.

Some ask the question: If God is so loving, why is our world so messed up? It’s not a hard question to answer when you consider the source. God is good, Satan is evil. The headwaters of all our suffering is not God, but Satan’s lies, and our sin.

Thankfully, God remained good after Adam and Eve became evil. And in His goodness and mercy, Jehovah has provided a door through which we can escape the dead end that this world has become.

Shortly after man’s first sin, God found Adam and Eve and the Serpent. And He promised that one day a Man would be born who would face the temptations of the Serpent, and would not give in to his lies. The Bible tells us that this Man was Jesus. The Son of Mary, and the Son of God.

Instead of listening to Satan, He listened to God. Instead of seeking pleasure and knowledge and promotion through disobedience, He considered the source, and trusted in God. And by giving Himself to suffer hell and to die in man’s place, He defeated the serpent and re-opened the door to Eden for all mankind.

Romans 6:23 says…
“23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23 KJV).
In Isaiah 53:11 God talks about our Savior saying…
“ 11After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light ‹of life› and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11 NIV).

The season of Lent is forty days long, not counting Sundays. The ancient Christian church didn’t consider the Sundays during Lent part of that season. Lent was about seeing the sufferings of Christ that were done in our place. The SUNDAYS were viewed as “little Easter’s”. Little calms in the storm on which to see the final event in the story of sin and grace.

Today we’ve mostly seen the source of sin in Eden. But let’s close by thinking about the source of our salvation. Jesus. The Savior that didn’t sin. The Savior that died for us. The Savior that left the tomb on Easter, resurrected from the dead.

Satan led the human race into a world of sin and suffering and death. Jesus Christ gives the gift of forgiveness, and lead us out of sin and suffering and death – to be reunited with Jehovah God.

Disobedience leads to death, but faith in Christ to real pleasure, true knowledge and the ultimate promotion.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

No comments:

Post a Comment