Charles Stanley - Lessons Learned In The Garden Of Eden
The Bible is an amazing book. And the reason God gave us the Bible, because He wanted us to know how to live. He wanted us to know who He is and why we so desperately need Him, how we deal with sin, and also the source of joy and peace and all the promises He's given us in His Word. One of the things that is so interesting is how He has arranged the Bible. And we talk about Genesis and people think, "Well, that's just all about the beginning". But that beginning is the foundation for everything else that goes on in the Word of God.
So, I want you to turn to Genesis chapter one. And the title of this message is "Lessons Learned in the Garden of Eden". And oftentimes, we sort of breeze through these three chapters. What are the lessons that God intends for us to learn very early, right up front in the Bible? And so, I want you to turn to this first chapter and let's begin in verse twenty-six and go through the rest of that chapter. Here's what He says, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea,'" rule over the fish of the sea, "'the birds of the air, the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.' Then God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that's on the surface of the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed, it shall be food for you; and to all the beasts of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food,' and it was so. And behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day".
Notice He says that He made all of us in His own image? Well, look at this this way. When He mentions that, and we think about the qualities that you and I have, there are three qualities that God would share with us. There are three things. First of all, there is personality. God has a personality. You say, "Well, now my doggie has personality". No, he doesn't have a personality. He may have habits, that he's developed, but that's not necessarily his personality. God is a Person. He's not a thing. He's not something we worship. God is a Person. Secondly, is morality. No animal has morality. God has created you and myself with personality, with morality. We know that there are some things that are good, good for us, and some things are not. And the third is spirituality. We can have a relationship with God. So when He said, "Let Us make man in Our own image," who is He talking about? God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, made in the image of Almighty God. Almighty God who has personality, morality, and spirituality.
So, God settles that in the very beginning of the Word of God. And we're separated from everything else that God created. So, the truth is that people are very unique in the creation of God. And think about this. You go around the world and no two people are exactly alike. A few people may look alike, but everybody's thumbprint's going to be different. In other words, God made us from not only His awesome love, but His indescribable creativity, that He made all of us different. Now, who is Us? Let Us make man in our own image. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. So, think about this. In the very beginning of Scripture, God tells us who has created us and He tells us what He's like versus what we're like. And you think about animals, birds, beasts, fish, all the things He created, but only man is made in the image of God. So that makes every single one of us special. This book is absolutely awesome. In the first three chapters, you and I learn enough principles to live by, to guide us, to enable us to be happy all the days of our life.
So, I want to give you a few of those because I think they're so very, very important, and the fact that God expects us to learn them. So, what are these principles? What are the lessons that God wants us to learn from the very beginning in these first three chapters. Think about this. The God who is our God is a God of love, creativity, beauty, and generosity. That's good enough for me. Think about it. He's a God of love, creativity, beauty, and generosity. And if you look at creation, look at all the things that God has done in our behalf, He created them all. A second thing I want you to notice is this. That God, God intends for us to be productive in our work. For example, He said in this fifteenth verse of the second chapter, "Then the Lord God took the man whom He had created, put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and to keep it".
Now, for folks who don't want to work, people who are able to work don't want to work, just want to sit around and waste your time and your money and your talents and abilities and skill, it's a sin against God. Look at this, He put Adam in the garden and said, "Cultivate it and keep it". God intended for us to invest our life in something that's worthwhile. And then, for example, you'll notice he said something very specific here. God is protective. He said to Adam and Eve, "All the things I've created are yours, except there's one tree in the middle of the garden of Eden that you should not eat of it because I want to tell you, the day that you eat of it you're going to die. You shall not eat of the tree of knowledge and good and evil because if you do, you are going to die".
So right up front, here's what God does. He gives us a choice. In other words, otherwise, we'd be robots if we didn't have a choice. Somebody says, "Well, why did God do thus and so"? Because He wanted you to choose to love Him or choose to obey Him or choose not to. And so, right up front, very beginning of life, He gives us a choice. And so, He says, "Of the fruit of the tree, knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat". And then, He says also, I want you to learn this. Listening to Satan is always costly. God is giving us principles by which to live, and the same thing is true today. It's costly to listen to the devil today. It was costly to listen to the devil with the first couple.
What I want you to see is how much God's covered in these first three chapters of the Scripture. And so, when you look at those verses, then I want you to notice, beginning in the verses that follow. The Scripture teaches us that Satan is a deceitful and cunning liar in verse, chapter three, verse four. He's a liar. And God wants us to learn that right up front. He says, "The serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die!'" which was a lie. So right up front, Satan is a deceitful liar. He said to Eve, "You won't really die. I mean, something may happen, but you won't really die". So you cannot listen to the devil. Then, of course, one of the lessons we need to learn is you can't hide from God. So where do you hide from God?
When I think about people who run away from home, as if God didn't know where they were. Or they get themselves in trouble and committing immorality in some secret hotel or distant place, or whatever it might be, trying to hide. People hide from all different kind of things. Where are you going to hide? Watch this, where are you going to hide when you're always in the presence of God? Listen to me, you cannot hide from God. No way. You may shut Him out of your mind. You may say, "I don't believe it". You can say anything you want to, but you cannot hide from God. And God makes this point in the Scripture because after Adam and Eve had sinned against God, the Scripture says that they heard something. And that is, they heard the Lord God, the Scripture says, walking in the garden. "The sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees in the garden". They thought they did.
Let me ask you a question: where would you go to hide from God? Maybe you ought to ask it this way: where do you go to think that you've hidden from everybody, including God? There is no such place because everything that exists is in the presence of God. It is absolutely impossible to hide from God. Adam and Eve thought they could. And remember that they were unashamed and absolutely pure, and when they sinned against God, they had to find some fig leaves, or some kind of leaves, in order to protect themselves and take away their shame. God knew exactly where they were. God knows exactly where you are. If you're trying to hide from God, it's futile. And the truth is, think about this: you don't want to be distant from God. You don't, for example, when there's danger, where do you want God? Close to you, with you, inside you.
When you want to sin against God, where do you want Him? Out of your mind. Too late. He'll always be there. God exists, everything that exists is in the presence of Almighty God. And Adam and Eve learned that lesson in a very difficult way, in a very painful way. And so, there's no place to hide. You see, the problem is people don't think, they just don't think. "Well, if I can do this and I can do that. If they don't know and she doesn't know and he doesn't find out, and they certainly don't, then everything is okay". God does. He warns us against sin, and what I want you to see in the very beginning of the Bible, there's no escape. You cannot hide, watch this, you cannot hide from a God who loves you, loves you enough to send His only begotten Son, Jesus, to the cross to die for your sins.
Listen, the truth is, if you have any sense at all, you don't want to hide from that. You want to hide from sin, but you can't hide from sin. So, there's no place to go. Then, of course, one lesson we have to learn is that disobedience always carries with it pain and disappointment. And certainly, that was true of Adam and Eve. And think about this: the truth is, all sin is disappointing, all sin. Sin never really and truly satisfies anything. Person can steal to make money or have money, and what happens? When that runs out, they've got to steal some more. Or people get all the money in the world they want and they're just as dissatisfied as they were when they were poor. You cannot live without God and be happy and satisfied and content in life. I'll tell you why: because who God is, and He made us in His image. We have a personality. We have spirituality. We have morality. And so therefore, we're going to respond accordingly.
Then one of the lessons we need to learn is this: regret does not erase the penalty of our sin. It's one thing to regret something, but that doesn't escape the penalty. And it's interesting what happened to Adam and Eve. They sinned against God. Immediately they regretted it. First thing, for example, they experienced is shame. They had no clothes because God made them perfect, didn't need any clothes. No such thing as shame. There's disappointment and regret, but here's the problem: because I regret it doesn't fix it. The truth is, when we sin against God, if you're saved and you sin against God, the Holy Spirit's going to convict you of that sin and you're going to regret it. A person who can live in sin and tell you they have no regrets about their living; number one, they're lying. And secondly, they'll pay the penalty.
So, there's going to be regret, and there will be a penalty. There are often surprising consequences to our sin. They could never have conceived of the fact, for example, that they would lose their innocence, and they'd have to start wearing clothes. They would never have believed that they would be thrown out of the garden. The Bible says God drove them out. They would never have believed that God would drive them out of this awesome, beautiful place that satisfied every desire of their heart, no needs whatsoever; totally, completely satisfied until they sinned against God. They would never have believed that. And the same thing is true today.
When you say to somebody, "The Bible says, 'The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.'" Or somebody, you might say to them, "Well, be sure your sin will find you out". It's amazing what people don't believe. Many people don't believe the simple principles of Scripture. One of the reasons they don't believe it is because the judgment in their life hasn't happened yet. But ultimately, it's going to. And when you think about that and think about the fact that God cast them out of the garden, they would never have believed that because everything was so perfect. I've watched this with people. People are getting along fine, family's good, big cars, big house, and big that, and everything's fine. Why do they need God? Every once in a while, somebody will say, "I don't need God". There's no such thing as a person not needing God. He could stop the next breath if He wanted to. And God warns us early in the Scriptures.
Well, another lesson I think is so clear here, the penalty for our sin can't be avoided by blaming somebody else. We can't eliminate the penalty for things that we do because we can blame it on somebody else. All of us can blame somebody else for something. The truth is that we can't blame anybody for our sin but ourselves. Then, of course, sin is costly. He said, "Don't eat of the tree in the midst of the garden. Don't eat of that tree". They did anyway. The God who created them gave them every possible joyful thing they could enjoy in life. All of a sudden, they're confronted with this God who said, "Don't eat". As a parent, let me ask you this: aren't there some things you've said to your children, "Don't," and you've had a good reason for saying it because you didn't want them to hurt themselves, harm themselves? You didn't want them to make decisions that would ultimately wreck their life.
And so, you said, "Don't," and when they do, there's a penalty. And the reason you want to teach them that is because all of us have experienced the penalty of disobeying God about something in our life. And when I think about how clear God is, and the consequences, sometimes there are consequences that last a lifetime. And I think about people who commit certain kind of sins. And I won't get into describing them. They can't ever get away from it. It's not that God doesn't forgive, but somehow, they can't forgive themselves. Sin is costly. It cost them everything and all humanity has suffered as a result of it. And I think about what He says in this third chapter, twenty-fourth verse, "So, He drove the man out of the garden, at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life". He warned and warned and they did it anyway, and the result is they got thrown out of the garden.
Now, think about this. You say, "Well, that's been a long time ago". They had everything possible plus a perfect mate. They chose to listen to Satan's lie. "That's not really what He meant". You know, I can hear people say that today. "I know that's the Bible, but I don't believe that's what it means". Things haven't changed. And we still haven't even gotten anything that doesn't go on every single day. "Yeah, I know that's what the Bible says, but you know, I believe part of it. I don't believe all of it". Which part do you not believe? It's all the inspired Word of God. Each of these points is a simple warning of what happens when people disobey God, when they sin against God. And for Adam and Eve, what was it? The Bible says God drove them out.
So, here's the truth that you don't want to miss. You sin against God, pay the consequences. It doesn't make any difference who you are. You will not escape the consequences of sin, you cannot. You can ask God to forgive you. Will He forgive you? Yes. Well, have you escaped the consequences of sin? No, you haven't. Because when you and I choose to sin against God, something happens on the inside of us. And you sin again and again and again and what happens? Before long, you're weaker and weaker and weaker; not only to one sin, but lots of other different possibilities. When you sin against God, you'll pay the penalty. That isn't what I think. That's a truth God intended for mankind to learn in the very, very beginning. And you put all the wonderful principles of the Word of God together and what happens?
In the very first three chapters of the Word of God, He's just about covered everything, not details about forgiveness and how you're forgiven. You can think of most anything. Does God love us? Yes. Did His love for Adam and Eve stop... that cease? No. He kept on loving them. In fact, Adam lived to be about nine hundred and thirty-some years old. So, did God cast him out? Cast him out of the garden, but He didn't kill him, out of His awesome love. But imagine living in the garden of Eden and then walking out into the kind of landfall that they must have had in those days and start making a living with nothing. "The wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life". We reap what we sow, more than we sow, later than we sow. Is there anything about what we've said that you don't understand? We all understand that, right? Amen? Anybody can understand that.
So, there is no excuse for sinning against God and saying, "Well, I didn't know better". We do know better. God wants the best for us. In other words, a perfect example of God's attitude. God's attitude is, "I love mankind. I've given them the best place to live, every single possible thing, every opportunity, only one restriction, and look what man does". The truth is, things haven't changed. There is one Savior and that's Jesus Christ. God sent Him into this world to die on the cross to atone for our sin, all the way back to Adam. And the shedding of His blood paid our sin debt in full, today, tomorrow, all the way back to Adam. But you can't change the laws of God.
In all of these three chapters plus many more, but these three tell us enough to warn each and every one of us against sinning against God because the principles do not change, and I trust that you'll remember that. And you may be saying out there somewhere, "Well, I just never have been into the Bible". You better get into it. Because the Bible says, "It's appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment". You'll stand before God and give an account for your life. Is He willing to forgive you? Yes, He is. Is He willing to change your life? Yes, He is. But you have to make a decision about how you're going to live your life.
If you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, let me ask you one last question: what are you depending upon when you stand before God, and one day you will, what are you depending upon for, if you want God to accept you into heaven, what are you depending upon? No, that won't work, that won't work, that won't work, none of that's going to work. Only the grace of God through the death of Jesus Christ is the only thing that works. And I trust you'll be wise enough to ask Him to forgive you of your sin. Tell Him that you've been trying to do it yourself, that you've been trying to hide from Him, that you've done all kind of things that you felt that God didn't know about. He's known about every one of them. Is He willing to forgive you? If you're willing to ask Him, the answer is yes.
Father, how grateful we are that You've given us an instruction book that deals with every issue of life. And You gave us so much in the very beginning that no one can deny Your love for us, Your willingness to guide us and lead us. And I pray that every person who hears this message will get honest with themselves and realize they need You, cannot escape You, cannot fool You, cannot lie to You, but will one day stand before You. In Jesus' name, amen.