This sermon has been inspired by a pet peeve of mine -- those people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and instead, blame it on the devil. I can never understand that. Also, this sermon touches on my deduction that the serpent in the Garden of Eden WAS NOT the Devil. But please read and tell me what you think.
The scripture this morning will be taken from the book of Genesis, the 3rd chapter, verses 1 through 13. Again, that is the 3rd chapter of Genesis, starting with the 1st verse, and it reads.
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."
Most of us here this morning should be familiar with this passage of scripture. It deals with the "fall of man" or the "Original Sin." In it, we find Adam, the first man; Eve, the first woman; and the serpent. At this time they are in the Garden of Eden, after God created the Heavens and the Earth, and shortly after God created Man.
But included within the familiarity of this passage has also been a lot of assumptions, a lot of blame, and the basis for a whole gender war comes basically from this set of scripture. The assumptions come in the role of the true identity of the serpent. Assumptions also comes in when the fruit is described as an apple. The blame comes from blaming Eve for going against the word of God and eating from the fruit of the tree. The gender war has developed because it was a woman that supposedly caused a man to sin against God.
Now of all of the things we are going to deal with this morning, the gender war is not one of them. But let us look to the scripture to see who was who, what was what, and who was really to blame for this original sin.
In the first verse, we have the serpent talking to Eve in the garden, and he challenges her. Now, the scripture says that the serpent was a crafty wild animal, the most crafty that the Lord God had made. Which brings me to my first point, and it is a point that does not set well with most people. It has been long assumed that the serpent was the devil. In fact, the 13th verse of this passage of scripture is the impetus for the saying "The Devil Made Me Do It," a saying I despise, but we will get to that later.
When looking at the first verse, we have a description of the serpent. The serpent has many devil-like qualities, but to be honest, it is highly unlikely that he is the devil. How, you may ask, can you say that? Well, it's easy.
If we search through scripture, the first time the devil is mentioned by name, is in 1st Chronicles when Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take the first census of Israel. The next time he is mentioned is in the book of Job. Now, in all of the Old Testament, the devil in fact is only mentioned by name in 3 books, and is referenced by implication several times in the Psalms and in the book of Proverbs.
The New Testament draws us a different picture. Satan, or the devil, is mentioned numerous times, and in fact, tries to tempt Jesus to follow him. It was Satan who tricked Judas into betraying Jesus and it is this same devil who is the enemy in the book of Revelations. It is during Revelations where we get the notion that the serpent MIGHT be the devil, where it says in the 12 chapter, the 9th verse "The great dragon was hurled down -- that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray."
So while Revelation talks about that ancient serpent being the devil, it does not specifically point to the serpent in Genesis. In 2nd Corinthians 12:3, Paul says: "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may be somehow led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." It is interesting to note that in nearly translations of the scripture, the serpent is not referred to as the devil.
The bottom line of all of this is that nowhere in all of scripture is the serpent in the Garden called the devil. We have made him into the devil because, in reality, it is more convenient to do so.
Now, none of this is to say that the serpent is not of the devil. After all, any influence which incites you to go against the will of God, no matter what it is, is of demonic influence. Notice I said, demonic influence.
You see, the devil is very limited in what he can and cannot do. To put it bluntly, the devil cannot make you do anything. Let me repeat this, THE DEVIL CANNOT MAKE YOU DO ANYTHING. All throughout scripture we see that the devil does one thing. He tempts. He tricks. He cajoles. He makes applications. But we see, that in every case, the devil offers, for lack of a better word, an opportunity, and it is up to us to accept or reject it.
And even if we look at his actions in the book of Job, we notice something very interesting. The devil actually didn't do anything. All the devil did was talk to and challenge God. When the devil tempted Jesus, that was all he did, which is why we call it "the temptation of Christ." All of the things that happened to Job, both physically and with his possessions were done by God.
In others words, the devil has no power. If God is a mighty God, and a omnipotent God, an all- powerful, all knowing God, a God without equal, then what can stand against that? I believe in the ultimate power of God, but I do not believe in the ultimate power of Satan. The God I worship is the most powerful force in the universe which nothing can stand against, let alone defeat. Which is why the tempting of Jesus did not work. After all, did not Jesus quote to Satan, "Do not put your Lord God to the test?" And did Jesus not also say, again to the devil, "Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only."
Jesus correctly told Satan that God was his Lord. God is the God over all, including Satan. So no matter what we say, no matter what we have been led to believe, Satan is powerless against the powerful nature of God. But let's go on.
The second half of the first verse through the fifth verse details the conversation between Eve and the serpent. The serpent, in a very clever, manipulative and deceitful way, somehow convinced Eve that this fruit, which nowhere in scripture is it called an apple, was good for the soul. The serpent tricks Eve by appealing to her more curious side. He assuages her fears of death, by assuring her that death will not come, but knowledge and wisdom. He even said that she would become like God, because she would know good and evil. The serpent said all of the right things and touched on all of the right cords in order to get Eve to do what he wanted.
The serpent confronts Eve and challenges the edict that was laid down by God regarding eating of the fruit of the tree that was in the middle of the garden. Eve protests, saying that God had instructed them not to eat of the tree. But the serpent, in an attempt to tempt Eve, explains to her that despite God saying that they would die when they ate of the tree, instead they would become like God, having their eyes opened.
Eve allowed herself to be drawn in by what the serpent was saying, like all of us. Often we let people trick us or convince us into going against God. And even more frequently, we talk ourselves into it. We make excuses, we justify our behavior, but in the end, we are the ones responsible for going against the edicts of God. It is we who should accept the consequences no matter what is present before us.
But let's move to the 6th verse. The 6th verse says: "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."
Now this scripture is interesting for 2 reasons. The first is that when Eve looked at the tree, she saw that the fruit was good for food and it was pleasing to the eye. She also wanted wisdom. She wanted knowledge. In other words, she wanted what the tree had to offer, even though it was forbidden.
This point is important because it illustrates another controversial point in this scripture. Eve had the free will to do what she chose. It is how we were created.
Let us not forget that Genesis 1:27 says "So God made man in his own image." If we were made in the image and likeness of God, it stands to reason that as a part of that original makeup that we were given free will to make our own decisions.
A lot of people will say that we have no choice in the things that we do in life. And while I personally do believe that God has a master plan for all of us, I also believe that God wants us to have a choice. He wants us to come to Him freely, of our own decision and of our own free will. During the ministry of Jesus, never is there an instance of him forcing someone to believe in him. We are told many times that if we believe that Jesus is the Christ, then we will be saved. We are given the opportunity to believe that Christ is the risen savior, and we are given the opportunity to believe that Christ died for our sins, and we are given the opportunity to believe that Christ will indeed come again.
It is the opportunity for belief which suggests that God does not want us to be mindless puppets, but he gave us a soul for a reason. He gave us to opportunity to be discerning in our faith. And it is that exact reason that he gave us the free will to believe or not to believe, to follow him or not to follow him, and to accept Christ as our Savior or not to. After all, that is why we open the doors of the church every Sunday, to give you an opportunity to exercise your free will to walk down the aisle and give your life over to God. No one can or should force you into it. You have to come to Jesus of your own free will, of your own choice, and based out of your own personal experience. It is free will that makes us unique among all of God's creations.
The second point is highlighted in the second half of the 6th verse. "She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." This is interesting because conventional Christianity suggests that the sole blame for this "original sin" rests on the head of Eve. But as we see by the scripture, Adam was right there. He was, as the scripture says, "with her." Which should make one wonder "Why did Adam not say anything?"
If, as we see, the serpent, was tempting Eve, and scripture tells us that Adam was right there, it only makes sense to question the motives of Adam. After all, it was Adam whom God gave the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree, and this was at a time before God created Eve. So therefore, we must truly wonder why Adam stayed silent during this crucial exchange between Eve and the serpent.
It is also interesting how the serpent only talks to Eve and not Adam. Was Eve an easier target? Was the serpent aware of, as scripture says, Eve's interest in this fruit that was "desirable for gaining wisdom" ?
But aside from the serpents choice of who to tempt first, what is also says is that just because you don't say anything, doesn't mean you are absolved from responsibility. As we know, when God hands out his punishment, he doesn't just punish Eve or the serpent, but Adam gets punished as well.
If we see something that goes against God, and we do nothing to stop it, we are just as guilty as the person who is committing the sin. When my wife came home last week she was upset because she was in the parking lot of Walgreens and she saw a man beating up a woman, and noticed that of all of the people in that parking lot, no one did anything to assist. As she drove around and looked for a pay phone to call the police, she told me about how people stood around and watched and looked and did nothing. Now I can understand that some people are afraid to enter into a situation like that. Statistics prove that of all of the dangerous situations a police officer can go into, he or she is most likely to be injured or killed in domestic disputes. This fact is borne out by one of my best friends, who is a cop who has told me on more than once occasion that he dreads answering domestic calls.
But that notwithstanding, it is incumbent upon us to act on behalf of God, on behalf of what is right and just. God is a God of justice, he is a God of action and he is a God of peace. During Jesus' ministry, he always took a pro-active role in resolving conflicts or when answering questions. Jesus did something. And if we are to follow the example that Jesus laid down for us, we are to act as well.
It should have been easy for Adam to say "Wait, we are not going to do this!" or "God said don't, and we're not." But he didn't. He stood there, and according to scripture, said nothing. He watched the whole thing transpire, and even ate the fruit without so much as a whimper.
So while it may be easy to blame Eve, it is not entirely accurate. Adam is equally responsible for this because he said nothing and did nothing. Adam is guilty because God spoke directly to him and told him what he could and could not do, and Adam went against God by accepting the fruit from Eve.
There is one more thing in this scripture that bears mentioning. The other reason why Eve cannot be held solely to blame in this whole thing is found in the 23rd verse of the 2nd chapter of Genesis, where it says "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." They were of one flesh, therefore the argument can be made that what applied to one applied to the other. When we are truly of one flesh, then we are bound by the same rules, the same regulations, the same edicts.
Moving on to my final point, Adam and Eve eat the fruit, and get the wisdom that scripture says Eve desired. And when they get that knowledge, they discover that they are naked, so they made some make shift clothes out of fig leaves. Then God comes into the garden and Adam and Eve hide, which seems to be mistake number 301 for these two. After all, how can you hide from God?
But God confronts them and asks them why they are hiding. And they tell God that they heard him, and they hid because they were naked and ashamed. I have always believed that in addition to feeling naked and ashamed, they felt guilty. They felt guilty because the fell for the serpents tricks.
Then God asks them who told them that they were naked and did they eat of the fruit of the tree. Then Adam says "The Woman! She did it! I didn't do it! She gave me the fruit and I ate it." But Eve, not wanting to take any responsibility either says "The serpent did it! He tricked me so I ate it."
Notice if you will, how similar we are to Adam and Eve all these thousands of years later. Adam, instead of saying, "God, I know you told me not to eat the fruit, but I did anyway" immediately shifts the blame to Eve. And Eve, not wanting to be caught up, blames the serpent by saying, "he deceived me."
"The Devil Made Me Do It!" How many times have we heard this line or said it ourselves? How many times have we done something that was totally wrong, and we knew it was wrong, but we decided to do it anyway? If our children buys candy when we told them not to do it, and the child says "The devil made me do it" is he going to get a less of a spanking? When someone goes up for murder and blames the devil, do they get any less of a sentence?
Let's face it. And it may be harsh, but saying, that the devil made us do something is an excuse and a cop out. It is an effort by us to absolves ourselves of responsibility for our actions. It is easier for us to blame the devil than to say, yes, I did it. It is easier to shirk the responsibility than to admit that there was something within us that caused us to sin against God. I have heard testimonials where people give the devil so much credit and so much backwards praise that only at the end do they mention God. Sometimes, I have to wonder, are these people worshiping God or the devil.
When we stand before God on Judgement Day and are forced to give an accounting for our lives, do you really think he is going to let us make excuse after excuse, blaming everyone and everything but ourselves for our misdeeds and misdoings? Do you think God is going to say that it was okay that you let the devil trick and tempt you into every bad decision you made? Do you think that Jesus died only to have us blame our sins on someone else? Is it fair to say that you are a Christian, that you believe in Jesus and you follow the commandments of God, yet somehow, you let someone with very little power turn you away from the one true God?
You see, the hardest part of being a Christian often is admitting that we have faults, that we are vulnerable, that we are susceptible to temptation. And while it is not easy to admit that we are all fallible, remember what Paul said in the 3rd chapter of Romans. "This righteousness from God comes though faith in Jesus Christ to all those who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Paul says to us quite clearly that we all have sinned, that we all have fallen short of the glory of God, but we are justified by our faith in Jesus. We are justified because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross! We are justified because God gave us a gift in the person of Christ, and it is a gift that should not be taken lightly.
But with that gift comes responsibility. Responsibility not to make excuses. Responsibility not to shift the blame. Responsibility to be held accountable for our own lives and the actions that we have taken. It is our responsibility to live the type of life that is worthy of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It is our responsibility to do those things that are just and right in the eyes of God. And if we falter every now and then, we are forgiven by the grace extended to us by Jesus.
But we have to accept the responsibility. We have to accept the fact that God gave us free will and Jesus' constant and ever present invitation to become a part of his family is a reminded that with Jesus anything is possible.
So I leave you this morning by saying stop worrying about the devil. God is there. Don't give into the temptations of Satan. Jesus is with you. If you worship the same God that I worship, then you know that all power belongs to God, that all of the glory belongs to God and all of the praise belongs to God. Because my God is a good God, my God is a powerful God, my God is a loving, caring compassionate God. My God is the type that forgives me even when I do wrong. My God is the type that loves me, even when I don't love myself. My God is the type of God that no one, no devil, no person, no building can defeat. My God is the God that made it possible for me to live. My God is the God gave the free will to be able to be here this morning and proclaim to you that the devil has no power. That the devil can only tempt you. That the devil can only trick you. And if you follow the devil, it's because of you.
But if you follow God............................(pause)
But if you follow Jesus............................(pause)
If you are willing to take responsibility for your life, and follow Jesus, then the devil will not be able to touch you. He will not be able to harm you. He will not be able to trick or cajole or tempt you. Because you will have faith, justified in the rising again of Jesus Christ. You will have faith in the one true God who loves you no matter what. And you will have faith in yourself.
The devil can't make you do anything. But God can help you do everything.
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