Main Idea: God’s promise from the very beginning was to send Jesus.
Father, help us this morning to trust Your promise rather than in the promises of sin. Help us to trust in Jesus. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
I’m going to pick on all you coffee drinkers for a bit. Who here likes coffee? Why do you like it? Maybe you like the taste, or maybe you like the way it gives you energy for the day. Or maybe you like its positive benefits, such as antioxidants, or even its laxative effect.
Now, I don’t like coffee, so I don’t have this problem, but have you ever drunk too much coffee in a period of an hour or two? What does it do to you? Yeah, you can get the jitters, and you can get restless. And if you ignore these symptoms, and keep drinking more coffee, it can lead to things like insomnia, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
And yet, even knowing these things, you’re not likely to stop drinking coffee when you feel like drinking coffee, are you? Why? Because it tastes good, and it makes you feel good.
Now, I don’t mention these things this morning to try to convince you to stop drinking coffee. But I simply mention it to bring up the idea that temptation can promise us what seems to be good things, but ends up leading to bad things. Have you noticed that? You can be tempted to drink more coffee to get more energy, but too much can lead to anxiety or even the opposite of what you wanted: fatigue.
And this concept is true of other things too. It’s often why people steal: they’re trying to be satisfied with food, or they’re trying to provide for their families, they’re trying to get something they perceive as good, but could end up hurting themselves and others. Gluttony, greed, gossip…these are all things that we’re tempted to do because they make us feel good for a moment, but end up hurting us and the people around us after that moment is over.
James 1:14-15 says:
Each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)
So we sin not because we set out to sin, but because we’re drawn away and enticed. We’re lured by the promise of what we think will be good things: pleasure, satisfaction, or even wisdom, but in reality, it leads to death. So I want us to think this morning about what sin promises us, and what we can truly expect to receive from sin. And, in contrast to that, think about what God promises us, and what we can truly expect to receive from God.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. And if you remember from a couple years ago, we talked about how Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas in which we anticipate the coming of Jesus. So Advent isn’t the same as Christmas, but it does precede Christmas, lead into Christmas, and announce Christmas.
Advent is kind of like the promise that Christmas is coming soon.
So as we prepare our hearts for Christmas, I want us to focus on the promise that God gave us, and why God even gave us this promise in the first place. To see that this morning, we’re going to go back to the very beginning, the book of Genesis.
The word “genesis” simply means “beginning,” so the book of Genesis talks about the beginnings of many things. It talks about the beginning of the world, the beginning of mankind, and even the beginning of the promise of Jesus, which we’re going to be looking at this morning. But first, we’re going to look at the beginning of sin.
Genesis 2:15-17 says:
The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
Literally, it says, “dying, you shall die,” which is how the Hebrew language expresses that something is sure to happen. But it also kind of sounds like, because of our sin, we’re going to die two deaths, or at the very least that we’re going to die a second death in the process of dying our physical death.
You know, as Christians, we don’t believe that death is the end. It’s merely a door to enter into eternal life. I don’t know who, but someone once said:
Death is not extinguishing the light from the Christian; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. – Anonymous
So don’t be afraid of death. And don’t mourn as those who have no hope. Because eternal life won’t just be forever. It will be abundant. Eternal life will be free from sorrow, free from pain, and free from all sin.
Of course, Adam and Eve didn’t know this, but in telling them that the wages of sin is death, I think God was also telling them that they would not be sinners forever. God would wash away every sin.
So that was the warning, or promise, that Adam received from God. If they disobeyed God by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God told them, “dying, you shall die.”
Now skip to Genesis 3:6.
The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6)
So that was the first sin committed by mankind. Adam and Eve disobeyed God because they were tempted to make themselves wise. They were tempted by what they thought was good, and yet they sought to obtain it for themselves rather than trusting God in His wisdom. And because of that, they were told, “dying you shall die.”
And this isn’t just about Adam and Eve. This is also about our own experience with temptation and sin. This is how it happens with us as well. When you’re tempted to sin, isn’t it because, at least in that moment, you think you know better than God? Isn’t it because you think you can obtain for yourself faster or better what God already promises you in abundance, but requires you to wait for?
Put it like this. If you think you need more money, you might lie, cheat, and steal, but God has already promised us unseen riches. Philippians 4:19.
My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
The difference, of course, is that we need to wait on God’s timing.
Or maybe like me, you’re obsessed with food, and you’re tempted to just eat and eat and eat. Seriously, it’s a real temptation for me. I’ve told Abby many times, I seriously could just eat all day long. I rarely ever feel like I’m full. So I’m tempted to overeat, and it’s a real battle, because I love the taste of so many foods. But God’s already promised a greater feast in the age to come. Isaiah prophesies about it, saying:
On this mountain, the Lord of Armies will prepare for all the peoples a feast of choice meat, a feast with aged wine, prime cuts of choice meat, fine vintage wine. (Isaiah 25:6)
I think the same verse speaks to those who are tempted to drink too much alcohol. We sin when we consume in excess now what God has freely promised us for the future.
So God gives us commands in the Bible not to take away our pleasure in various things, so that we would find that our ultimate joy comes not in any of these things, but in Him. And when we sin, we’re denying God as the source of our joy.
That’s what Adam and Eve did in the garden, and that’s why they ultimately needed to deny themselves, denying what they perceived would satisfy them, and trust in God, who actually could satisfy them with Himself.
Now, obviously we’re skipping a lot of the story, because there was also a serpent, and fig leaves, and blaming each other and all that, but I just want us this morning to focus on the first sin, and especially the first promise.
So the LORD God asked the woman, “What have you done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than any livestock and more than any wild animal. You will move on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:13-15)
It’s that last verse, verse 15, that I really want to focus on. Talking to the serpent, God said, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.”
Now, at the risk of sounding sexist, I wonder if this is at least part of why women can often be so much more discerning than men. I believe God has given men and women different strengths and weaknesses, and that some of that is actually even a result of the pronouncements God made after we sinned. Like, sometimes my wife and I can come away from a conversation with other people and afterwards Abby will have gathered a whole lot more information from that conversation than I did. She’ll know about feelings that weren’t stated out loud. She’ll pick up on a small thing someone said that alluded to another thing from a previous conversation. She can know things by what WASN’T said. And I will sometimes accuse her of reading into things too much. And she will sometimes admit it’s very possible she’s reading into things, or sometimes she’ll just flat out tell me, no, she isn’t reading into things and acts dumb founded that I didn’t walk away from the conversation with the same information. And sure enough, she’s usually right.
And I don’t think Abby is alone in having this gift. Women are often able to pick up subtle clues in conversation that men are just oblivious to! Have you noticed that?
So I wonder if women often have the gift of discerning between spirits because of what we read in verse 15, when God told the serpent, “I will put hostility between you and the woman.” I wonder if women, therefore, more fully feel the hostility between mankind and spiritual forces of evil. And before you say that I’m over-spiritualizing this, I’ll remind you that we’re all in spiritual warfare, even when we don’t realize it. And I just wonder if God has often given women the gift of being on the front lines of at least feeling and articulating this warfare.
Now, women, before you get big heads about this, this can also be used for evil. Having the gift of discernment can also lead to the temptation to gossip, right? So, once again, we need to trust God’s wisdom and timing rather than our own.
But even more than this part of the promise, I want to focus on the second part. God promised the serpent, “I will put hostility between your offspring, and her offspring.” So we have to ask, who are their offspring?
The first is easy. The offspring of the serpent are the children of the devil. That’s all of us before we knew Jesus.
The second takes just a second more to realize who it’s talking about. On the one hand, we’re also the offspring of the woman, because Eve was the mother of all the living. That’s literally what her name means. So on the one hand, there’s hostility between the offspring of the serpent, that’s all of us, and the offspring of the woman, which is also all of us. So we have conflict amongst ourselves, and we have wars with nations, and we even have a war going on within us, and all of this is because we all struggle with sin.
But on the other hand, there’s a fuller meaning of this verse that we can only really see when we read the verse in its original language, because the Hebrew word translated “offspring” in this verse is singular. And it’s the offspring of just the woman. It’s not the offspring of the man and the woman, but just of the woman. So who is the only person ever to be born of a woman, not having a human father? Jesus.
So check out what would happen to Jesus. God said to the serpent: “He [Jesus] will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Jesus would later tell the Pharisees that they followed their father, the devil. And it was the Pharisees and other religious leaders who Jesus sought to have Jesus crucified. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, and yet, it was not the end of Jesus. It was merely like a bruise to His heel.
But in doing that, Jesus administered a fatal blow to Satan. Jesus would crush Satan’s head through the very act in which Satan bruised Jesus’s hands and feet.
It’s interesting that if this is the first prophecy about Jesus, it was given not to people, but to the serpent. Now, as far as I know, the serpent in this passage is never explicitly called Satan, but it is hinted at several times throughout the Bible, so I think it was Satan, or at least indwelt by Satan. Regardless, it’s interesting the promise of the Savior was first given to the serpent.
You see, God was declaring His victory over the enemy, to the enemy even before the enemy knew the battle had begun.
Advent is a good time for us to remember that as well. As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, we anticipate the coming of the Savior, the Light of the world, but we also aren’t in the dark. We know that Jesus came, and we know that Jesus died, and we know that Jesus rose victoriously, because death couldn’t conquer Him, and instead, He conquered death and hell for us. That’s the promise.
But before I close this morning, I want to look at just one more promise from Scripture, which I think was the very first promise.
Genesis 3:15 is often thought to be the first promise of Jesus given in the Bible. But I actually think it’s Genesis 1:3: “Let there be light.” Jesus is the light of the world. He’s the light in our darkness, and the darkness will not overcome Him.
You see, I think God allowed darkness to exist so that He could fill that darkness with Himself, the light. And in the same way, God is allowing sin to exist for a time so that He can love sinners and forgive their sin. God allows rebellion to exist for now, so that He can reconcile all things to Himself, so that in the end, God will be all in all.
What I’m saying is simply this: “dying, you shall die,” is part of the promise. We don’t want to live forever as sinners, because that’s an existence full of pain, sickness, and sorrow. So instead, God promises that we will die, so that we can truly live.
So when Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him. He was literally inviting us to die to ourselves, so that we would live in Him.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)