September 17, 2000
At about eleven o’clock on a Saturday night, as many people were preparing to turn out the lights, the lights of a particular community went out all by themselves. Air conditioners were without power. It seemed strange that this would happen on a night when there were no storms in the area. People of that community wondered what had caused the power outage as their homes grew warm in the July heat and their patience grew thinner.
The power was off most of the night, and it was the next morning before they found out what had caused the problem. A whole community had lost power because a snake had gotten into the powerhouse and fouled things up.
Snakes. The word creates images that evoke fear, disgust, or fascination. I am the father of two boys who, when visiting a zoo, make a beeline for the reptile and snake house when they locate it.
For several years now I have told Jonathon bedtime stories about a boy named “Jon” and his many adventures and moves. Of the stories that I have told of the past two or so years, several have included animals and reptiles, snakes included. And some of the ones that Jonathon begs me to tell over and over include, you guessed it, snakes.
“Daddy,” he will say, “tell me the Jon story about Jon, ah petting the python.” “And, in my increasingly sleepy state, I will again recite, with some variations, the story about Jon petting this python.
Snakes are fascinating creatures. They are mysterious, they are deadly, and they are captivating.
Sounds to me a lot like sin. In fact, the word snake and the word sin sound a lot alike.
Could it be coincidental that of all the creatures in the Garden of Eden, the serpent, the snake is the one who appears as the tempter?
Let’s read Genesis 3:1-5
Last week, we started our study of 9 keys designed to help us focus our vision and hearing on God so that we could begin to ‘see’ Him and ‘hear’ His voice with the goal of become His person in character and conduct.
We started off with a focus on the God the Father and I asked you a very important question, one that I repeat again today, “How much, how bad, do you want God in your life?”
Today, we are going to focus on the reality of something in our lives, something we often either do not want to focus on or we do not take into account, as we seek to solve problems and gain inner strength, healing, and wholeness in our lives and relationships – it is the reality of the human condition – it is sin.
But, we are also going to look at reality of forgiveness that God has made available to us through Jesus Christ and the importance of that truth as stated in the Bible.
The Genesis passage we read a moment ago is a timeless passage. It describes the basic human struggle over the course of human history – the struggle to be self-serving or God serving.
Now, you won’t read about that in any classroom textbook on history or sociology or psychology. But, you will read about the conflicts amongst nations, persons, and groups that this basic struggle has caused. Sin is written into the fabric of human history and human nature.
And there is no economic program, no governmental policy, and no social program, that will manage it, or get it under control, or keep it from ever happening again. . . . Except for one way.
Here is Eve, going about her business in the Garden. Oblivious to the reality of evil that is about to confront her.
The tempter begins with a question, “Did God really say?” Satan uses a question to create doubt about the validity of God and the truth about what he says.
From there we read the full frontal attack on God’s credibility. The tempter, the serpent, creates more and more doubt and uncertainty in Eve’s mind until as verse 6 says, “The woman was convinced.”
From there, it was all downhill. And we deal with the effects of that choice today in our own lives.
Sin begins with a question and ends with a bad fall and a warped soul. You know Satan, in the guise of the serpent, was partially right, ‘you will know everything, both good and evil.’ But, he was also dead wrong, Adam and Eve would not become like God.
Stanford Research Institute was studying the differences in vocational perceptions. They devised a short but succinct test. The first to be tested was an engineer. The researchers asked him: “What does two plus two make?” The engineer simply said, “In absolute terms: four.” The researchers made their notes and dismissed him. They called in an architect. They asked him the same question, and he said, “Well, there are several possibilities: two and two make four, but so do three and one – or two and one-half and one and one-half – they also make four. So, it is all a matter of choosing the right option.” The researchers thanked him and made their notes. The last of the three to come in was an attorney. They said to him, “What does two and two make?” The attorney looked around furtively, asked if he could close the door for privacy, and then came over close, leaned toward them and said, “Well, tell me, what would you like it to be?”
Truth takes a beating these days. No matter what the subject politics or Bob Knight or Irish football, the truth about a situation always seems to be up for grabs.
We have seen how Satan takes the truth and creates a question about it. How then is it possible for us to overcome this tendency in our own lives and live for God?
Jesus makes two important statements that John records in His book about the life and ministry of Christ. We find them in John 8:32 and John 14:6.
“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” “Jesus told them, I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Notice Jesus did not say you will think about the truth and the truth will then set you free. Nor did He say ‘you will find the way, the truth, and they life through me.’
Jesus said ‘You will know the truth,’ and I am the way, the truth, and the life.’
At a critical moment in the trial of Jesus, Pilate asks Jesus a very important question, “What is truth?”
“What is truth?” Is it merely a statement about some physical event that can be verified by some experiment? Is it some view or perspective that is proven to be true over a period of time? Or is truth about the very nature of reality – about life, about humanity, about purpose?
When Jesus said the truth will set you free and that he is the truth, he took truth and placed in on a different level. You see, the Pharisees and Sadducees and others that Jesus argued with looked at truth much the same way we look at truth – as a statement of claims about beliefs.
Jesus made truth a relational issue. Truth as Jesus talks about it deals with our relationship with God. Yes there is correct belief involved in the Christian faith. But the correct beliefs written in the Bible point us to a correct relationship with the God of the Bible.
Our sin, our self-centeredness, our agenda, keeps us from seeing and hearing God clearly and then trusting and obeying Him. Our sin affects our relationship with God and with others.
The truth is that until we are willing to face our sin, our fallness in our thought life, in our behavior and lifestyle, in our values and priorities, and make our own personal decision to follow God in these areas, God will be hard to see, hard to hear, and in short, hard to experience his love, grace, and mercy.
If we want to see, hear, and experience God. If we want to be free from guilt and shame and the past, then we must know, we must experience the truth that will set us free.
I want to conclude this morning with reading the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4:1-11. (Read)
Notice that when Jesus was tempted He replied with “The Scriptures say.”
Do you want to resist temptation and become the victorious Christian that God wants you to be?
Two things you must do. You must come to the honest truth about your own human nature and seek the forgiveness of God. Second, you must make a conscious and daily choice to read the Bible because not only is truth revealed in a person – Jesus, God has also given us the truth in writing – the Bible.
This morning I ask two additional questions, ‘Are you ready to be free from the inside out?’ and “Are you ready to study, understand, and apply the Bible to your life and situation?’
In reading the Bible and in confessing our sins – we are able to gain a clearer vision of God and hear Him when He speaks to us because we open ourselves up to His working in our lives. Amen.