How Can I Please God?

Title: “I Have a Dark Side I Must Understand”

Series: SELF-DISCOVERY IN GENESIS

Introduction:

We learn in the Bible, that spiritually speaking, we have two natures in one body. The nature that we go on feeding will grow, while the nature that we go on starving will diminish. We each find ourselves in a spiritual struggle, even after we’ve come into a relationship with the Lord. In fact, we could say that each and every one of us has a dark side. And even as we find ourselves trying to please God, thoughts, emotions, and actions sometimes come to the surface that we know are not in keeping with our faith.

Today, I hope to come to an understanding of how we got to this point, and what can be done to overcome the dark side of our lives. There are three basic phases that humankind has gone through since the creation, and by examining these we will learn how to better deal w/the struggle that is so much a part of our everyday lives.

1. SERENITY

To live a life of serenity means that you live in peace, calm, undisturbed and unchallenged by conflict. This was the life that God created for us in the beginning. A life that knew nothing of the spiritual struggle.

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. – Genesis 2:8-9 (NIV)

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.”Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV)

God caused an unlimited variety of trees to spring up in the garden. The “tree of life” gave life – even eternal life – when eaten (3:22). The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was placed in the garden to give man the opportunity to exercise his freedom of choice.

Every tree was appealing, but only one was prohibited. This tree gave man the occasion to express his obedience and love for God. There was nothing inherently evil about the fruit of the tree. On the contrary, the eating of this tree gave its partakers a knowledge which God Himself possessed.

God gave Adam and Eve a life of serenity, but He also granted them a very special freedom: He gave them the freedom to choose. They were not created as robots; they were created in the image of God and with the freewill to make their own decisions. They were created to have fellowship with God, but the exchange of love always requires the freedom of the recipient to respond to or reject that love. To institute freewill, to give humankind an opportunity to respond to or reject His fellowship, God warned, “If you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will die.”

Unfortunately, this life of serenity soon ended as we shall see. But the good news is that this age will return for those of us who come to Christ for salvation. Paradise is on the horizon for those who have teamed up with Jesus.

“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”Revelation 2:7b (NIV)

In at least some fashion, heaven will be a return to the Garden of Eden. So we see mankind was made for serenity, but regrettably Adam and Eve moved into our second phase:

2. SEPARATION

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.  Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”  The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”  So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”  To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”  Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.  The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.  And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:1-24 (NIV)

Satan, in the form of a serpent, tempted Eve in much the same way he tempts us today. Eve was tempted by her desire for the fruit, it appealed to her senses, and it also promised her something beyond her present experience – the wisdom of God. In effect, the temptation was to substitute what God had freely given, fellowship, love, serenity, in exchange for a life of self-reliance.

The temptations that come to us are the same – no matter what form they take, they are always designed to take us away from fellowship with God and to become men/women/children who are dependent only on ourselves. In short, it is a reversal of God’s plan – rather than man being made in the image of God – we choose to make God in our own image. And rather than accept the great generosity of God our Creator and rejoicing in the fellowship He grants us, we find ourselves, like little children, reaching out our hands for more. Adam and Eve gave into the temptation and serenity ceased. They chose to walk away from God, and God honored their choice. And we, as their spiritual ancestors, all have made that same choice when we have chosen to sin against God.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23 (NIV)

To help us better understand our separation from God it will be helpful for us to grasp five areas of alienation that resulted from Adam’s sin.

1) Psychological Separation: Man from Himself

Before sin, there was no shame, no guilt, no self-consciousness. But now the man and woman are ashamed. Human shame is a feeling of distress at our deficiencies, deformities, or absurdities – real or imagined – and especially at the uncovering of these things. It is also a feeling of distress at the uncovering of things once held private. Our text suggests the joining together of these sources of distress with a few words of great sorrow and mystery: after they had sinned, Adam and Eve “realized they were naked.” For the first time in their lives they couldn’t stand scrutiny. It wasn’t merely that they flinched when their partner’s gaze dipped southward; it was also that they had trouble looking into each other’s eyes.

2) Spiritual Separation: Man from God

Before sin, man was comfortable being with God. There was no running from Him, no hiding, no desire to be away from His presence. But once they sinned, the comfort level was gone, and they foolishly thought that they could hide from the presence of the Creator of the Universe. The spiritual separation that we feel today began with Adam and Eve.

3) Sociological Separation: Man from Man

When God challenged Adam, he took it like a man – He blamed his wife! For the first time they found themselves at odds with each other. Marital strife, abuse, divorce, lawsuits, gossip and war were all introduced by the virus of sin.

4) Environmental Separation: Man from Nature

The world was thrown off kilter because of sin. This was the beginning of weeds, erosion, floods, droughts, tornadoes, earthquakes, and viruses which began to make life miserable. (Romans 8:19-22) informs us that the creation itself waits in eager expectation for a return to Eden and serenity.

5) Physical Separation: Man’s Spirit from His Body

From this point on Adam and Eve began the process of physical death. They were banished from the garden and their bodies began to age. What was once united, body and spirit, is now separated. The spirit lives eternally, but the body’s days are numbered. So here we have two phases of mankind’s existence – Serenity and Separation. You and I and all who follow Adam exist in the third phase.

3. STRUGGLE

Ever since the Fall of man we have been involved in a spiritual struggle. Even those of us who have turned our lives over to Christ find ourselves in turmoil.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.Romans 7:14-25 (NIV)

If we are to overcome, we must understand the basic truth of our depravity. We need to understand that we all have a dark side. Evolution says that man is getting better – that if the right environment is provided man will choose the good. But the Bible teaches us that we have a bent toward evil. Laws, discipline, and punishment are necessary to curb our sinful nature. And most importantly we must recognize this sinful nature within ourselves. Here are four truths about our sinful nature.

1) I have inherited a sinful nature that, if unrestrained, is capable of dreadful evil. I think we’ve established this.

2) I need Jesus Christ to transform my sinful nature.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:24 (NIV)

The good news is that with Christ on my side, and with my willingness to rely on Him instead of on my own goodness, I can overcome. It is simply a matter of letting go and letting God.

3) As a Christian, I rely on the Holy Spirit to empower me against the daily struggle with my sinful nature.

You…are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.Romans 8:9a (NIV)

God knows that we can’t do it on our own. He’s not sending us out like lambs to the slaughter. He is empowering us to prevail over the forces of evil by relying on the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

4) I look forward to Heaven when the struggle will be over and the Victory won!

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

Heaven will be the beauty of the Garden of Eden restored. Heaven will be the perfect fellowship with one another – no sham, no pretense, no self-consciousness. Heaven will be the freedom to walk and talk w/our Creator – perfect fellowship with God. In heaven we will be completely free from the sin nature and its consequences.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”Revelation 21:4-5 (NIV)

Conclusion:

We all have a dark side – we’re capable of the most horrible crimes. But greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. There is no sin so horrible that the blood of Christ cannot wash it away. There is no sin so bitter that He can’t transform it. No matter how grievous or minor you think your sin is, you need Christ to cleanse you and transform you into His image. Paradise is waiting for you.

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