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Jack Graham - The First Gospel

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    Jack Graham - The First Gospel
TOPICS: The Gospel of God, Gospel

Take God's Word and turn with me to the third chapter of the book of Genesis. All the way back to the beginning, to the Garden of Eden. Now let me remind you God the Creator made man in His own image, placed him in the Garden to experience life to the fullest. Psalm 84:11 says to all of us, "The Lord God is a sun and shield; He gives grace and glory, and no good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly". God made available all the good things of life to the man. He said, "Enjoy your life. Live your life to the fullest. Share My love". And then to add to that He gave him a wonderful companion, a completer. They were content in the peace of God. They had peace with God. They had peace with one another and they had peace with the creation of God. They were made in the image of God.

That's the potential and possibility for good. They were made in the image of God, to know God, to love God, to experience His presence. You have this same capacity for God! For good! But something happened that literally became Ground Zero of the human race. Who could forget 9-11? Those terrorists planes taking down the World Trade Center buildings and a portion of our Pentagon. And when you watch those buildings crumble, I remember thinking as you saw the rubble on the ground that this is really a picture of the result of sin and terror in the world. The powers of evil that are dominate in the world. It was a devastating blow to America and to the world. It was then called Ground Zero. Well, Ground Zero really is found here in Genesis chapter 3. Ground Zero of the human race. And the result of what happened there is the destruction and the pain and the sin and the sorrow and the death that terrorizes the earth and every person in it from that day until this day! From that day until this day mankind, womankind has lived with a fretful and fearful future!

So what happened in Genesis chapter 3? The first scene in the Garden is what we're going to call "Satan seduces". Look at the first five verses of Genesis 3: "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Did God actually say, "You shall not eat of any tree in the garden"?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, "You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die".' But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'"

From Genesis 3 all the way to the last chapter of the Bible in the book of Revelation when Satan is destroyed, actually in chapter 21 of Revelation when Satan is forever banned into eternity, into the pit of hell from that day and even in eternity past there has been an insidious war, an invisible war, a supernatural war behind the scenes as the forces of evil attack the forces of good and of God. You see Satan, Lucifer was a created being of God; a part of the angelic hosts of God. You can read about this in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel chapter 28. But there in heaven the archangel Lucifer, which means son of the morning, the shining one, rose up in rebellion against Holy God. And while we don't understand all of this mystery of what takes place behind the scenes, we do know that before there was rebellion on earth there was revolt in heaven! And Satan said, "I will exalt myself above the throne of God".

He thought he could be like the Most High God! He thought he was greater than God, more wonderful than God, more beautiful than God! And when God saw the rebellion He banned Satan from heaven and with him one third of the heavenly hosts had followed him and these became the demonic, hellish forces that we know today in this spiritual war. The fact is this war is engaged every day since before time began and Satan is very real. He is not a cartoon character. He is not a caricature. he is not down in hell with a pitch fork waiting for people to bend over to shovel coal. But he's loose on the earth! As a matter of fact the Bible says he's the god of this age! He's the god of the world! So "he is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour"! Jesus called Satan in John chapter 8 and verse 44 a liar and a murderer from the beginning. Here we see him manifesting himself as a serpent.

Now lest you think this is some strange concoction of a myth, this is not a talking snake, per se, but Satan manifesting himself through this powerful being that was in the Garden of Eden. The shining one, and he is crafty and he is deceptive and he is devious and he is powerful. So he manifests himself, he shows up in this snake. Now a number of our people have been to the Amazon on mission trips. How many of you have been to the Amazon? Let me see your hands. And we have a great group down there. And I want to give you this. I picked it up from the US Government Peace Corp manual so it ought to be the truth, right? Comes from the US Government, Peace Corp manual. It was given for volunteers who serve in the Amazon. And literally, this is true, how and what to do when an Anaconda snake attacks you. An Anaconda can be up to 35 feet long. You ever seen one of these things? These creatures? They can eat an animal that weighs three to four hundred pounds. So here's what to do if you ever encounter this snake:

Number one: Don't run. The snake is faster than you are.

Number two: Lie flat on the ground, get your arms tight by your sides and your legs tight together.

Number three: Tuck your chin in. The snake will come and begin to nudge and climb over your body.

Number five: Do not panic.

Number six... this could only come from the government, right? Number six: After the snake has fully examined you, it will begin to swallow you from the feet end. Always from the feet end.

Number seven: Permit the snake to swallow your feet and ankles.

Number eight: Do not panic.

Number nine: The snake will now begin to suck your legs into its body. Be completely still. (Does anybody think you could actually do this?) Be completely still. This will take a long time. And when the snake has reached your knees, slowly, with as little movement as possible reach down, take your knife and very gently slide it into the side of the snake's mouth. Then suddenly rip upward severing its head!

Number ten: Be sure you have your knife! Now, I'm simply saying when Satan attacks you better be prepared!

Satan comes seductively. And temptation, you know, is the solicitation, the seduction, the temptation for us to fulfill a God given desire in a God forbidden way. That's really all sin, all temptation, I should say. To fulfill a God given desire in a God forbidden way. And that's how Eve was tempted, this is how Adam was tempted, and all of us since that day. God gave them the delicious foods of the Garden, everything in it. Said you may enjoy it, experience life to the fullest. He gave them one rule, one restriction to protect them lest they die. But Satan came along with these words. "Did God actually say that? Did God actually say"? He put a question mark beside the word of God. And if you ever hear someone, whether it's in a university, a denominational school, a seminary, a church, if you ever hear anyone put a question mark surrounding the word of God you can know it is a lie out of the pit of hell! The word of God!

And as this beautiful being in the garden manifesting himself, Satan manifesting himself through this being, Satan is an impostor, a deceiver. He shows up sometimes as an angel of light in pulpits. Satan has his own false prophets. He has his own false religions. He has his own false gospels. And he said, "Did God actually say"? You know he attacks the mind of Eve. In fact, we're told in 2 Corinthians 11:3 "But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a pure and sincere devotion to Christ". Beware the battle of the mind because Satan attacks the mind. Satan targeted Eve's mind with lies and she begins to entertain these lies and negotiate with the enemy.

"Did God really say that? That must be a mistake. Eve, maybe that's just Adam's interpretation of what God said. Or maybe there's some kind of error in the transmission or in the translation. And besides you know, Eve, you can't take God's word literally. Did God actually say? And Eve, when you're more educated you won't be so dogmatic about God's word. You'll be more open. Everything's not so black and white". All the rationalizations, they come forth and Satan questions God's word. That's where he always starts. "Has God said"? "Is that really true"? But then he questions God's goodness.

You know, there are only three times that Satan speaks in the Bible. Here in Genesis chapter 3 Satan speaks as we're hearing him now. And he accuses, Satan is the accuser, the adversary, He accuses God to man. He says, "God's holding out on you. God's depriving you. God's not really a good God. He knows your eyes are going to be open". He accuses God to man. Later on the book of Job, chapter 1, another famous chapter of the Bible, Satan accuses man to God! He says, "Has Job served You from naught? You take away everything he has, God, and Job will deny You to your face". You see he slandered the man. He accused this man of being a phony. And then in fourth chapter of Matthew, the temptation of Jesus, Satan accuses, attacks the God-Man. Three times he speaks and we learn so much about Satan and who he is every time he opens his mouth.

Of course, his guile is to cover himself under the cloak of darkness. Here he questions God's goodness. "God doesn't want you to be happy. He's denying you pleasure! He's denying you power! He knows if you eat of this fruit that He has told you not to eat you'll not die, but you will be as God Himself"! That's the oldest lie and the original temptation. The fact is God did give Adam and Eve all they needed to enjoy life, to live life to the max. For their own good God gave them one law, one rule in this relationship to protect them. Genesis 2:15 to 17: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the lord God commanded the man, saying, 'You shall surely eat of every tree of the garden'". Note it, Satan said, "Did God tell you not to eat of any of the trees"? Eve at least knew, "No, He said that we could eat of everything but this one tree, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in that day you shall eat of it you shall surely die".

And here Satan not only distorts God's word and puts a question mark, but here he flat out denies the word of God. Verse 4 of chapter 3 again. "You will not die"! God said, "You will die". Satan says, "You won't die". And so the second scene then is man's sins. Look at verses 6 and 7: "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food". Notice the process here. "She saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate". Here we see as John tells us in the New Testament, the lust of the flesh, (she saw it, I mean she desired it) the lust of the eyes, (she saw it with here eyes) and the love of the world (this ambition to make one wise.) The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and pride of life! "And she gave also to her husband who was with her, and he ate".

What was Adam doing for goodness sake! Standing by, watching this whole thing! Rather than leading his wife to love God and to obey God! He's standing there watching, and ultimately participating. Adam sinned with his eyes wide open. The Bible tells us that Eve was deceived but that Adam deliberately disobeyed God. So Adam became the human father of sin. And his sin brought failure and spiritual death to the entire human race including you and me. And we have inherited this sinful nature. This is the original sin. Man has fallen! Woman has fallen! And we are spiritually dead! To be spiritually dead means that we are separated now from God! This relationship, now no longer is Adam and Eve, are they walking in fellowship and friendship in the Fatherhood of God, but now, as we're about to see, they run and they hide from God! Spiritually dead! Sin brings shame! It brings guilt! It brings fear! It brings grief, lying and deceit and selfishness and separation and emptiness and restlessness! Sin promises pleasure but delivers pain! Sin promises freedom but delivers bondage! Sin promises life but delivers death!

Now there's one sense in which we ought to thank God for the shame and the guilt of sin, because it is this shame and this guilt that drives us to grace. And that's what we see in verses 7 and following: God seeks. "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths". This ridiculous effort to cover up their own sin with the works of their own hands. But isn't that what man does? Isn't that what all religion does? Is to try to cover our sin with our own human efforts and work. "And then they heard 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 of the garden".

What a tragedy. This first couple that walked with God so beautifully are now running from God, hiding. "But the Lord God called to the man and said, 'Where are you?'" Not asking for information; God knew exactly where they were. But in one sense saying, "Where are you now, spiritually? What have you done? Why have you done this"? The man said: "I was afraid, because I was naked; I hid myself". Now man doesn't repent; he starts making excuses. "He said, 'Who told you you were naked?' The man said, 'The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit and I ate.'" He took his troubles like a man and blamed it on his wife! He's rationalizing, excusing himself. "What have you done, Eve"? And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate".

Sin robs the couple of their innocence and of their intimacy with God. They're no longer walking with Him; they're running from Him. Which is the condition of the human race. We're all running from God. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God". We hide from God in all kinds of ways, cover our sin in various ways, cop out, maybe with alcohol and drugs. That emptiness, that restlessness, we try to fill it with other things. You know you can even run and hide from God in church? You're not being honest with God. You're not living as God intended. You've broken God's command and you're running from God. Some blame others. "I couldn't help it; they just tempted me". Some blame circumstances. "It just happened; I don't know why it happened". Others blame their lack of opportunity. "I didn't have the right education. I wasn't raised in the right environment". It's this whole victimization kind of attitude that "its not my fault". But God says, "Your fault". We've all sinned. But in our sin God seeks.

This is an act of grace. God could have obliterated them in the moment. But He came looking for them, just as God in Christ, the Bible says Jesus came "to seek and to save that which is lost". This is the Gospel, which is the final mark here, the final scene, which is Jesus saves! Just as man was trying to pass the buck on his sin, Jesus said, "Okay, if you're gonna pass the buck, pass the buck to Me"! And in verse 15 of Genesis chapter 3 there is this first Gospel, this first promise, this first blush of the bright and glorious Gospel of Christ! Satan and sin have their day but God saved the day! Sin doesn't win! God is still in control and He speaks this promise of life and love and hope!

And here it is in verse 15: "I will put enmity (that's war between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring). He (who is He? Jesus) He (the offspring of the woman) shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel". This is a prophecy of the fact that the child that would come, the Savior who would come would be born of a woman. Every seventh-eighth grade biology student knows that seed belongs to the man, but here the seed belongs to the woman. The offspring of the woman. This eludes to the virgin birth of Christ. And then it speaks of the cross. The fact that Satan will bruise his heel, (that's the sufferings of Christ, the bruising of Christ, the beating of Christ, the blood of Christ.) But He, this Savior, shall crush his head!

The scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ at the very beginning Jesus is praying in the Garden. You remember this? Sweating drops of blood. Praying in passion, preparing Himself for the cross. And the serpent slithers into that Garden, the Garden in the Mount of the Olives, and after Jesus surrenders to do the will of God, do you remember what He does in the movie? He stands up, face resolute and with sandal feet, He crushes the head of that serpent! That's exactly what happened at the cross and in the power of the resurrection. Sin and sorrow and death is crushed! This is the first Gospel! But this Gospel has been from time immemorial, before time began. The Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the earth! This wasn't plan B. God didn't stand back and say "Oops! What happened? What do I do"? No! From the beginning God's plan was a Savior and His name is Jesus!

What an incredible Gospel prophecy! Jesus saves! Romans 16:20 says: "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with y ou". The Gospel declares grace in the Garden to a fallen, broken race. God illustrated vividly for the first couple and for us when He stripped them of their human efforts to cover their sin, their shame, their nakedness, when He killed an animal. And with the squeal of that animal, the death gurgle of that innocent animal and the blood flowing on the ground, for the first time man understood that the wages of sin is death and blood and that it would take a sacrifice to cover our sins. Not the sacrifice of goats and bulls and doves, but the sacrifice of a Lamb of God (Jesus) who takes away the sin of the world. What a promise! What a Savior! What a salvation!
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