The First Sunday in Lent

March 1, 2020

Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17; 3:1-7

The Amazing Season of Lent:

God’s Amazing Grace!

 

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.  And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.  In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”  “You will not surely die,”  the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

What comes to mind when you think of the season of Lent?  Do you think of Lent as the season when our altar is draped in purple paraments to remind us of the importance of repentance?  Do you think of Lent as the season when the pastor wears a black robe to remind us of the seriousness of sin?  When you think of the season of Lent do you think of our midweek Lenten services and the opportunities we have to focus our hearts and lives on what Jesus has done for us?  When you think of the season of Lent do you think of many midweek Lenten dinners that you have enjoyed over the years?

 

While all of that may be true, did you know that technically, today is not a part of the Lenten season?  Today is the first Sunday in Lent.  It is not the first Sunday of Lent.  What difference does it make?  The difference is this:  While the 40 days of Lent specifically focus our attention on the passion, the suffering, of the Lord’s Christ, the Sundays in Lent are specifically designed to serve as refreshing “oases” along our Lenten journey.

 

With that in mind I have developed a sermon series for the Sundays in Lent.  The overall theme of this series is:  The Amazing Season of Lent.  On each of the six Sundays in Lent we will look at an amazing truth that Scripture proclaims to us concerning the Lord our God.  Today we will look at:  God’s Amazing Grace!  There are two things we want to see today.  First, let’s see what God’s amazing grace led Him to do for mankind.  Then let’s see how mankind responded to God’s amazing grace.

 

Our text for today is taken from both Genesis chapters 2 & 3.  Let’s begin with Genesis 2:7.  Moses writes, “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground….”  Note the exquisite personal care with which God “formed” or “fashioned” the first human being.  While God created man from the “dust of the ground,” thereby giving him a “connection” with the earth as well as a “connection” with “the beasts of the field and the birds of the air” (See Genesis 2:19), God then did something that will forever set human beings apart from what we now call the animal kingdom.  Scripture tells us that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  What is the Bible telling us here?  It is telling us that in His amazing grace God has given to us human beings an immortal soul!  Unlike the animals we human beings were designed to live in a close personal relationship with our loving Creator— forever!

 

Now look at verse 8 & 9 of our text.  Moses continues, “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.  And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground— trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.  In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

 

While all of God’s creation was special and unique, while all of God’s creation was stunningly beautiful and perfectly flawless, God in His amazing grace made a special place for mankind to live and to enjoy.  To this day that place is called the “Garden of Eden.”  We are told that in the Garden of Eden there were “all kinds of trees…trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.”  Did mankind lack anything, my friends?  Absolutely not!  In His amazing grace God provided for all of man’s needs— both his emotional needs as well as his physical needs.  Everywhere man looked he saw nothing but beauty.  Whenever man was hungry he had before him the most healthy and the most tasty smorgasbord there could possibly be— a smorgasbord that was “open” 24 hours a day 7 days a week, a smorgasbord that was absolutely free!  What a wonderful testimony to God’s amazing grace!

 

As we go on to the next portion of our text we once again see God’s amazing grace in action.  Look at verses 15-17.  Moses writes, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’”

 

God knew that even in a state of absolute perfection mankind needed something to do.  People were not designed to simply sit around and do nothing.  Therefore, God’s amazing grace led Him to give man a “job.”  Man was given the blessed privilege of taking care of the Garden of Eden.  Now we need to remember, my friends, that this was not “work” in the way that we commonly think of “work” today.  Imagine that you were given the time, the opportunity and the means to “work” at your most favorite hobby each and every day!  For some of you it might be “working” in your garden.  For others it might be “working” at your needlepoint or “working” in and around your home.  For me it would be “working” on old cars.  Some might say that a life such as this would be simply “heavenly.”  That’s what it was like for man as he “worked” in the Garden of Eden.

 

At the very same time God’s amazing grace led Him to give mankind an opportunity to both experience and express his close perfect relationship with God.  In the middle of the Garden of Eden God placed the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  Then God told man, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  For Adam and Eve the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was their opportunity to openly confess their faith.  Every time they passed by that tree and did not eat from it they were confessing their love for their Creator.  Every time they passed by that tree and did not eat from it they were confessing their obedience to their God.  Every time they passed by that tree and did not eat from it they were proclaiming their thankfulness for God’s amazing grace!

 

Sadly, however, our text does not end there, does it.  In spite of all that the Lord God had done for mankind, in spite of all that the Lord God had given to mankind, in spite of all of God’s amazing grace what was man’s response?  Mankind’s response to God’s amazing grace is recorded for us in Genesis chapter three.  Instead of remaining steadfast in their confession of faith, instead of openly professing their love and their obedience and their thankfulness for the amazing grace that the Lord had so richly and so openly showered upon them Adam and Eve chose to give in to the devil’s temptations.  Adam and Eve chose to rebel against their loving Creator.  Adam and Eve chose to sin— thereby bringing sin into the very fabric of the human race.

 

The result of Adam and Eve’s decision was both immediate and profound.  Their decision to rebel against God completely shattered their once perfect relationship with the Lord.  The instant Adam and Eve sinned they “died” spiritually.  While it is not included in our text for today evidence of Adam and Eve’s spiritual “death” is found in their attempt to hide from God (Genesis 3:8).  It is found in the fact that they were now afraid of God (Genesis 3:10).  And it is found in their attempt to evade their personal responsibility for what they had done and put the “blame” on someone else.  Eve blamed the snake— “The devil made me do it!”  Adam even went so far as to try to blame God!  “The woman you put here with me— she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  (Genesis 3:12-13).  At the same time Adam and Eve’s decision to rebel against God destroyed the perfect relationship that they once had with each other as husband and wife.  Evidence of that broken relationship can be seen in the fact that now they were embarrassed to be naked in front of each other.  That is why our text ends by telling us “they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”  How sad!

 

Is there any connection between our text for today and our lives today?  In my mind there is a very clear and a very powerful connection!  The first portion of our text, the portion taken from Genesis chapter two, highlights what God’s amazing grace led Him to do for mankind.  In His amazing grace God gave to Adam and Eve an absolutely perfect world in which to live— a world that brought joy and happiness and purpose into their lives, a world that richly provided for all of their needs, a world that gave them a meaningful way to show their love, their obedience and their thankfulness to their loving Creator.

 

Even though Adam and Eve’s sin has now spilled into all of God’s Creation causing countless problems, untold destruction and heartaches beyond measure (See Romans 8:18-25), God’s amazing grace has led Him to left us a wonderful world in which to live and enjoy!  The beauty of God’s created world, the variety of God’s created world, the ability of God’s created world to sustain life, the natural resources embedded in God’s created world— all of this and so much more is a testimony to God’s amazing grace!  Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 5:45, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  That is evidence of God’s amazing grace!

 

How has mankind responded to God’s amazing grace?  Here’s an even better question:  How have we responded to God’s amazing grace?  Here is where we find a connection with the second portion of our text, taken from Genesis chapter three.  Over and over again Satan uses that insidious question, “Did God really say…?” to tempt us to doubt what God in His amazing grace has revealed to us in His holy Word and follow what we think is “right” or what the world insists is “acceptable.”  How often do we give in to that temptation?   Every single day of our life we have every reason to openly and boldly confess our faith, our love, our obedience and our thankfulness to the Lord for His amazing grace.  And yet, just as Adam and Eve rebelled against God so also you and I rebel against our loving Creator over and over again.  The season of Lent leads us to be brutally honest with ourselves, my friends.  When we look into our own hearts and when we look into our own lives we see that all too often we treat God’s amazing grace as though it were garbage to be trampled under our feet.  Evidence of our sin can be seen in both our relationship with God as well as in our relationships with each other.

 

Is there any hope?  Is their any remedy to the situation we are now in?  While our text for this morning ends without giving us anything positive to hang on to let me give you a glimpse of what is to come.  Next week as we continue our study of The Amazing Season of Lent we will focus on father Abraham and how God in His amazing grace led Him to give Abraham God’s Amazing Blessing!  Until then stay focused on the cross (Pointing to the cross) so that you will always have reason to say:

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen