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James Merritt - Fresh From the Garden

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    James Merritt - Fresh From the Garden

The story of Christmas doesn't actually begin in the gospels. And the story of Christmas doesn't actually begin 2,000 years ago. No the truth is the story of Christmas actually begins in the beginning. And it actually begins in the first book in the Bible. And it actually begins, in of all places, a garden, called the Garden of Eden. So if you brought a copy of God's Word or you want to look on your smartphone or iPad, I want to invite you to turn to the first book of the Bible, that's a good way to start the day, right? First book, easy to find, Genesis 3, and while you're turning, let me just kind of remind all of us, kind of where we are right now.

You know, as American's we've adopted all sorts of cultural tales about Christmas, right? When Christmas rolls around, we know who we're going to hear about. We know what we're going to be singing about, at least in the malls, and on TV, and on the specials. You're going to hear about Santa Claus. You're going to hear about Jack, you're going to hear about, I was going to say Jack the Ripper. I don't know where that came in. Lord, help me. You're going to hear about Jack Frost. You're going to hear about Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. You know, you're going to hear about Frosty the Snowman.

Let me just say, I love those stories. There's nothing wrong with those stories. Go on and tell those kids those stories. No issues with the songs. That's all fine. Nothing. No problem there. I just want us to recognize that there is a deeper and an older story at the heart of Christmas. And it doesn't begin even with Jesus. And it doesn't even begin with Joseph. It doesn't begin with Mary. And it certainly doesn't begin with Santa and Jack. It actually begins with two people. Their names were Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were at perfect peace with God. They were at perfect peace with each other and they lived in a perfect place on planet earth. When you go back and read their story, something happened that plunged this world into a conflict that we're still fighting today.

And I believe it is the cause of every single problem on this planet. And what I'm going to ask you to do today, we're going to take up the first dimension of Christmas. Remember, there's three. Today's the first one. Here's what I want you to understand. You cannot and you will not ever understand what happened at Bethlehem until you understand what happened in the Garden of Eden. If you don't understand the Garden of Eden, you won't get Christmas. If you don't get what happened back in the beginning, you'll never understand what happened 2,000 years ago. By the way, the very first mention of any Christmas celebration that we know of, it was around somewhere around 300 A.D.

So the church didn't even celebrate Christmas for almost 300 years after Jesus was born. That story is just one small integral part of a much greater story that goes all the way back to the very beginning of the human race. Because the Christmas story is actually God's solution to the human problem. So you may be asking the question, "Wait a minute. I don't understand. How can there be a Christmas story before Jesus ever came? How do you have that"? Well, you have to see Christmas in 3-D. Because the story of Christmas can basically be boiled down to three words. And by the way, if you're looking for a way to teach your kids something, or your grandchildren, a different way to look at Christmas, teach them to learn these words, because this is what Christmas is all about. It all revolves around three words. It revolves around the word sin. It revolves around the word savior. And it revolves around the word, salvation.

And you will never understand Christmas, and you'll never see Christmas in 3-D until you understand this. OK, you ready? Sinners need a Savior. If you want to know what Christmas is all about, it's not about Santa. It's not about a bag full of toys. It's not about the North Pole. It's about Rudolph. It's not about any of those things. What Christmas is all about, simply put, is this. Sinners need a Savior. So we're going to look today at the first dimension of Christmas. We're in Genesis 3 and I'll pick up in Verse 1 in just a moment. Now before we do that, let me set this up. As you pick up the story, keep in mind, Adam and Eve are living a life we don't know anything about. We have no idea how great it was the first few weeks or first few months or ever how long that they lived. They were perfect people.

First of all, we're not perfect. They were perfect. Number two, they lived in a perfect environment. Number three, they had a perfect relationship with God. Now, I want you to imagine living in a world where you don't know anything about crime. You don't know anything about terrorism, about rape, about killing, about murder, about stealing, about lying, about lust, about bitterness, about anger, about anxiety. Think about a world where you know nothing about credit card debt. Think about a world without the IRS. Just think about that just for a moment. Makes you want to go to heaven right now. Listen. Think about a world like that. By the way, do you know what the Eden means, literally? The Garden of Eden. Eden means delight. They were living a delightful life. Everything was coming up roses. And then this happened.

Verse 1, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. 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, lest you die".'" What's that word? Die. Just keep that in mind, that word. "But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely,'" what? "'Die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'"

Now let me just stop. At this point of the story, without going into too much detail, there's been no harm and there's been no foul. Just talk. Just conversation. Just a discussion. However, two seeds have now been sown into the mind of Eve. There's the seed of doubt. Can you really trust God's word? Can you really believe what God says to you? And there's a seed of distrust. Is God trying to keep me from something that you ought to have? Is God keeping me from knowledge that you really ought to know now? As long as those seeds were left alone, as long as they were not watered and cultivated, they would not bear the fruit of disobedience. But now your kind of picking up on something.

Now we witness the terrible tragedy that has put the world in the mess that it is today. This is what happened. "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food..." By the way, sin is attractive. It's why people do it. "So when the woman 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. And she also gave some to her husband, who was with her. And he ate".

Now what you're reading there is what the Bible describes as sin. Now let me just kind of be honest with you. I realize in the post-modern age that we're living in, that the word sin has fallen out of favor. I realize there are certain people, if they are sitting in this room today, they would immediately close their books, they would tune me out and turn me off. They would say, "I cannot believe you're talking about this antiquated notion of sin in the 21 Century". Well, we all believe in it, we just haven't changed the nomenclature. So it's no longer a sin, it's a mistake. It's no longer a sin, it's a misjudgment. The problem is, we have all sinned. We're all separated from God. We've all fallen short of the glory of God. And the reason why that baby was born 2,000 years ago, wasn't to deal with the symptoms of the problem, it was to deal with the problem, which is sin.

So number one, Christmas solves our problem of sin. How does Christmas do that? Number two, because Christmas meets our need for a Savior. Now, God never leaves a problem unsolved. He doesn't need to wait on a lab report. He doesn't need advice. He doesn't need counsel. The problem of sins now entered into the universe and God is so good, that immediately He gives a solution to the problem. And it's wrapped up in a single verse that carries within it the hope of the entire world. Probably many of you are not familiar with it, but it's a few verses down. Verse 15. God's talking to the serpent that kind of caused all this mess to begin with. And He says, "I'm going to put enmity between you and the woman and between your", now, this is important, "between your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel".

Now, I'll tell you why that's the most important verses in the Bible. If you're into prophecy, and some people are, you know, some of you are really into prophecy. That is the first prophecy found in the Bible. As a matter of fact, it's not only the first prophecy found in the Bible, it's actually the second promise found in the Bible. The first promise was, you eat of that, you're going to die. The second promise is, "I'm going to send someone that's going to take care of your problem". Because you see, even more, this is not only the first prophecy we find in the Bible, even more than that, it's the first gospel sermon you find in the Bible. And even more than that, it is not just the story of Christmas, it is the story of Jesus. Because God says, "I'm going to make a prophecy that I'm going to fulfill, and I'm going to make a promise that I am going to keep".

And I think this one verse, believe it or not, is the heartbeat of the Bible. You say, "Why do you believe that"? That's Genesis 3:15. Beginning with Genesis 3:16, here's what the rest of the Bible is all about. God fulfilling that prophecy and God keeping that promise. If you don't know what the Bible is all about, that's it. God's going to fulfill that prophecy and God is going to keep that promise. Now here's why this word offspring is so important. In the Hebrew language that word offspring literally means seed. And what the word seed is, it refers to the physiological part of the man that allows the woman to conceive, right? The woman has the egg and the man has the seed. That's what causes birth.

Well, for centuries, as you can understand, ancient Jewish Rabbis and Biblical scholars, they would look at that and they would give that philosophical stroke of the chin and they'd scratch their head and they'd have these big discussions and they'd say, "I don't understand this. Her seed. Women don't have seed, women have eggs. It is the man that has the seed". As a matter of fact, that word for seed is used over 300 times in the Bible. Every other time except guess which time, right here, every other time that word is used, it refers to the seed of a man. And yet God promises that whoever this is that's going to rescue us from our sin and defeat Satan, He said, "He's going to be born of a woman. It's going to come from her seed".

Now all the rest of the Scripture, every time you read about a child being born, is born from the seed of the father. But there's no father mentioned here. So there's this implication, OK, so whoever this is, is not going to have a biological father. There's something else you need to know. Every time that word offspring or every time that word seed is used in Scripture, it means children, plural. But when the word is singular, it's singular here. It always notes a specific descendent of someone and when it's an individual, and by the way it's individual here, it always refers to a male because the pronoun is always masculine. So we get all of that up, this is what God is saying. God is saying, "Look, I'm going to solve your problem. Here's how I'm going to do it. There's going to be a male that's going to be born from a woman, but He's not going to have an earthly father. And He's going to be capable of undoing", he's talking to the serpent, "He's going to be capable of undoing everything that you and Adam and Eve have done".

Now, centuries later, the Prophet Isaiah explained it this way. He said, "Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin," a woman who's never known a man, never had a seed implanted in her, "The virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call His name Emmanuel," which of course means, you know, "God with Us". Right? God with us. Now, this Redeemer, God says, "is going to be a human being. He's going to be a born of a woman. Going to have to be from the seed of a woman. He's going to have an earthly mother". Wait a minute. But he's not going to have an earthly father? No, The seed's going to come from the woman. But every child has to have a father. Well, there's only two kinds of fathers. There's an earthly father and there's a heavenly Father. So if this guy doesn't have an earthly father, I think most everybody I can kind of figure this out by the process of elimination, right?

So what's under P number 2, it must be heavenly father. Right? So He's going to be a son. He's going to come from a woman. It's going to be from her seed. He's going to have a heavenly Father. And God prophesied that when this seed of the woman would come, He said, "Here's way, here's how you know, the seed has come". He said, "Two bruisings will take place". He said, "He shall bruise your head," talking to the serpent. "And you shall bruise His heel". Now, where does, think about this. If you're walking along the woods and a snake strikes you, where's that snake most likely going to strike you? On the foot or on the heel of the foot.

Well, you go back to the cross and now you realize, "Okay. Now, I get what happened at the cross. God put all of the poison of our sin on Jesus. Jesus bore the full poison of our sin. Because from the moment, remember that Adam and Eve fell and rebelled against God, the greatest world this need had was a Savior. That's what we needed. That's exactly what God did. That Savior was prophesied. He was promised in this verse of Scripture. And Jesus is the fulfiller of that prophecy and He is the keeping of that promise". But how does that happen? OK, I get it. So Christmas solves our problem of sin and Christmas meets our need for a Savior. But exactly how does He save us and how does that work? And that's the third part of this message. And that is, Christmas provides us the gift of salvation.

Now remember I told you, the serpent's going to bruise the heel of the Savior, but the Savior will bruise the head of the serpent. Now you don't have to be a doctor to figure this out. If I were to come to you and I were to say to you, "Look, I'm going to do one of two things. I'm going to let you choose which one I do. I'm going to bruise your heel or I'm going to bruise your brain". Well, that's a no brainer. Say, I think I'll take the heel. I think I can recover from that, better than I recover from the brain. Brain's far worse. You know why? This can cripple you. This can kill you. Now here's how it works. It was at the cross that that serpent bruised the heel of the Savior. But it was at the resurrection and the empty tomb that the savior bruised the head of the serpent. Because what Jesus did when he came out of that tomb after He died on the cross, He took the steam out of death. He took the power out of sin. And we now know because of Christmas that the failure in the garden of Eden, even though it was fatal, it was not final.

Now, you may have never heard Genesis 3:15 referred to as the first Christmas story. But that is what it is. Because it's the very first verse in the Bible that tells us we are sinners in need of a savior who can bring us salvation. Now let me just kind of wrap all this up. I want to show you how this works. I know when you came in today and you're looking at 3-D Christmas, you know, you're expecting, "OK, I know he's going to be in Matthew. I know he's going to be in Luke". I guarantee you the last passage you thought I'd be in would be in the book of Genesis and the third chapter. Well, let me just show you how all this ties together. OK? So I get it. I know what you're expecting.

So I want to give you what you're expecting. Because there is a verse in the Bible, as a matter of fact, there's a verse in the Bible that I think is probably the most familiar Christmas verse in the Bible. There's one verse in the Bible that I guarantee you that everybody, almost everybody around the world knows this verse. If they know anything about the Bible, if they know anything about Christmas, I guarantee you, they know this verse. You don't have to know the Bible. You don't have to believe in Jesus, you don't have to go to church. Almost everybody knows this one verse of the Bible. I guarantee you'll know what it is when I put it up here. "For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord".

Now how many of you remember that verse? Told you. Yeah, everybody. You say, "Oh, yeah. I've heard that verse a million times". I bet you've never really studied it. And I bet you've never really thought about it. Now while you're sitting there, you going, "It's pretty simple. I mean, not hard to remember. 'For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'" But have you really thought about it? "What do you mean"? All right, let's go back. So this angel is making this announcement, right, to these shepherds. These Jewish shepherds who have been waiting on this Messiah for thousands of years. He's talking to Jews.

Now if I'd been that angel, I would have said, knowing I was talking to these Jewish shepherds, and knowing that this was primarily, you know, at first a message for the Jewish people, I would have said, "For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Christ," and that word means the Messiah, that's who the Jews had been waiting on. But the very first word the angel says is not Christ. He says, "unto you is born this day in the City of David," would say that out loud with me? Say it again. Yeah, Savior. "A Savior". Time out. Wait a minute. Why did you say that first? I mean, He is Lord, isn't He? Why didn't you say that first? I mean, He is Christ. Yeah. Why didn't you say that first? He is our Redeemer, right? Well, yeah. Why didn't you say that first? He is Ruler, right? Yeah.

Well, why didn't you put that first? Why did the angel, of all the words he could have used, think about it now, "For unto you is born this day, in the City of David," why did God make sure that angel said, I want the first word to come out of your mouth not be Lord, not be Christ, not be Ruler, not be Redeemer? I want the first word they hear, I want the first word that sinks into their heart is this word, "Savior". "For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior". Why did He do that? Because the first key to understand both who Jesus is and why Jesus is necessary is because He is our Savior. And understanding both who Jesus is and why Christmas is even necessary is because He is the Savior who brings salvation.

Let me put it to you this way. Make it real blunt. Real, just where everybody can understand it. You don't need Santa Claus to have Christmas. You don't need Frosty. You don't need Jack. You don't need Rudolph. As a matter of fact, you don't even have to do jack. But you can't have Christmas without Jesus. Because listen, the greatest need, even of children, are not toys that Santa can give, but salvation that Jesus can give. Because we are all sinners who need a savior. From the time of Genesis 3, from the time that Eve took that bite and Adam took that bite, the greatest need of the human race was not a life coach. The greatest need of the human race was not a financial advisor. The greatest need of the human race was not a political leader. The greatest need of the human race was not a military general. The greatest need of the human race was a Savior.

And a Savior is someone who saves you from something. And what this Savior saves us from is sin and what He saves us with is salvation. And that's why I want you to understand, you will never understand the story of Christmas, you'll never understand why we make it a big deal every year, you'll never even understand why Christmas is necessary until you understand this. Everyone on this planet is a sinner who needs a Savior, who can provide salvation. Period. The Christmas story tells us every year, it's not just about a little baby and the cattle wooing and the shepherds coming and the gold and the Frankincense and myrrh. That's all window dressing.

What that little baby tells us is this. "I was born of a virgin. And I did leave heaven. And I did come to earth. And I didn't come to live primarily. I came to die primarily because you are sinners in need of a Savior. And you will never truly understand the story of Christmas and you will never see it in 3-D until you can honestly say and mean four words".

And here's what they are. I need a Savior. Until you can say that and you can mean that, you will never get what Christmas is all about. But I'll tell you this, when you do, you will begin seeing Christmas the way it should be seen in 3-D. I know. Because even though I was raised in a home that did the Santa Claus thing and the gifts under the tree and left milk and cookies on the table and, you know, and all that. And, you know, loved Rudolph and that's all well and that's all good. I saw Christmas for the first time in 3-D when I was a nine-year-old boy in that movie theater and I saw Jesus dying on a cross for me and it hit me. James Merritt, you need a Savior. And because I have Him, I enjoy Christmas every day in 3-D and so can you.
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