November 15, 2015

Genesis 3:1-7

Proverbs 16:18

In Tina’s car we have Sirius Radio, which is satellite radio. You can get the same stations all over the country. On Sirius Radio you can listen to music from every decade from the 40’s right up to the present day.

Music is one of those expressions that help each generation define itself. As we get older, we find ourselves flipping that dial back to those songs we grew up with.

As adults we remember the unique things about our teenage years, like the music, the clothes we wore, and the places we hung out.

We tend to forget how our emotions could swing like a pendulum from one day to the next, sometimes from one minute to the next, fueled by hormonal changes and unique stressors that filled our teenage world.

The teenager world today is filled with as much stress as ever, with as many obstacles, challenges, and opportunities as ever before.

A lot has been made of the generation gap that exists between teenagers and adults, made wider by technology, but we have a lot more in common than we sometimes think.

For example, adults, like teenagers, want to find a niche of friends that accept us for who we are. Adults, like teens, want to be accepted. And when we find a group that cares about us, we are not always very good about expanding that group to include others. We want to have fun but sometimes look for pleasure in the wrong places.

Teenagers are not the only ones concerned about looks. Teens may be popping pimples and wondering if they are growing in all the right directions and proportions.

Adults are checking to see how much hair we’ve lost, how gray it’s turned, how much weight we’ve gained or lost, or if our skin is wrinkling.

Go to any health club and what do you see in the exercise room from wall to wall? Mirrors. After staring in those mirrors for an hour, a few people leave the weight room with bloated biceps and egos. The rest leave depressed.

Like teenagers, we adults are constantly evaluating whether we are failing or succeeding. Teenagers might judge failure or success on popularity, whether they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, if they are making good grades, or whether they make the cut in the band or an athletic team.

Adults often judge our success by the kind of job we have, how much money we make, whether we live in the right neighborhood, whether our children are well adjusted, whether we know the right people, and whether we are advancing up the corporate ladder.

By the time some adults get to be forty or fifty, they panic because they realize they have not achieved what they thought they would have achieved and time is running out. This is sometimes called a mid-life crisis.

So it doesn’t matter if you are a teenager or an adult; it’s just not easy being a person.

Even though we are different, teenagers and adults, we share a lot more in common than we sometimes think.

Here’s something else we have in common. All of us from time to time try to take the place of God. We don’t accept the fact that we are not God. I know that sounds strange. All of us know that we are human beings, don’t we? All of us know that we are not God, don’t we? I’m not so sure.

How many of you adults have ever given your teenage son or daughter a lecture that went something like this?

“Young lady, just when did you start making the rules around here? You are not the rule maker in this house. You can’t do just whatever you want to do when you want to do it. Sometimes you act like your father and I don’t even exist. I know you don’t see any reason to do some of the things we tell you to do. But your father and I set boundaries and rules that are for your own good. If we didn’t love you we wouldn’t care what you did. As long as you live under this roof, young lady, you’ll do what you are told or suffer the consequences. Have I made myself clear? You need to remember that you are not the parent.”

Can’t you see that young lady heading back to her room fuming and mumbling to herself, “I’m not the parent. I’ve got enough sense to know I’m not the parent”?

Intellectually, the teenager knows she’s not the parent. She doesn’t pay the bills, put food on the table, make the rules, or break them without consequences. However, parents sometimes notice that their daughters or sons act like the parents because they make decisions with complete disregard to their instructions.

Intellectually, we all know that we are not God. But sometimes we act like we are. Sometimes we forget that as persons we are not supposed to try and take over roles that only God can fill.

In the film “Hoosiers,” actor Gene Hackman, playing the role of a new coach in a small Indiana town, responds to the charge that too much importance is being given to basketball in the school. His antagonists complain that basketball players are being treated as gods. Hackman replies, “Don’t you understand that men would kill to be treated like God for just a few minutes?” (From The Applause of Heaven, by Max Lucado, Carlsbad, CA SFAPR91).

Eve and Adam didn’t have to kill. Eve was told that all she needed to do was eat the forbidden fruit from a tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden and she would not die but her eyes would be opened and she would be like God, knowing good and evil.

While she didn’t die right away for eating the fruit, her decision, then Adam’s decision to eat the fruit, had the effect of death. It killed the kind of relationship God had originally established between them.

Adam and Eve were already created in God’s image. As God shaped and formed them from the dust of the ground and blew breath into their nostrils, these human creations had the mark of the potter upon them. They were set apart from the rest of creation to carry out God’s work, to have dominion over the animals and to care for the Garden. Adam and Eve were holy creations, set apart to do the work of God. But they were not satisfied. They wanted more. They were not content with being created in the image of God. They wanted to shape their own lives. They wanted to be the potter.

You and I are have been created in the image of God. God makes us holy when we come to Jesus and God sets us apart for a purpose just as were Adam and Eve. The question is, “Are we willing to accept the purpose that we were created for or do what we want to do and go our own way? Do we want to dismiss God’s plan and direction and adopt our own?”

Now you’ve heard me ask this question enough that you know the answer. What is in the middle of sin? “I.” “What is in the middle of “pride?” Yes, it’s I.” “I” am in the middle of pride.

It is pride that causes us to want to make our own rules. It is pride that causes us to decide to do what we want to do even though we know it’s not what God has commanded. It is pride that causes us to decide that some of God’s boundaries are too confining, so instead of obeying them we ignore them, forgetting that God has placed boundaries, not to confine us but to give us freedom.

When we follow our own way and do our own thing we become full of ourselves. We fail to listen, seek, or heed the advice and wisdom of others. We become arrogant people.

When we fail to yield to God’s way we have actually told God by our actions that we don’t need Him. That’s what Eve and Adam did. They said by their actions that what God had said didn’t matter. They thought they knew better. Do we ever think we know better than God?

Captain James Cook was an English explorer and navigator. He is credited with discovering Hawaii around 1779. When he first landed on the Pacific island the natives thought he was a god and gave him divine treatment. He did nothing to discourage their perception and embraced the role of god. All worked well for Cook until he left the isles. A storm forced him to sail back to the island for shelter. That’s when things changed.

The natives might have been a bit backwards in their beliefs but even they knew that a god would not be hindered by a storm. They felt betrayed and killed Captain Cook for pretending to be a god.

(“The Human Side of Ministry,” Rick Warren, The Pastor’s Update, February 1991, OWMAYJUN94).

Like Captain Cook, we know we are not God, but sometimes we just pretend we are, taking the place that rightfully belongs to God, until of course, the storm comes; then we cry out to the real God for help.

We are attracted by sinful pleasures, gain at any cost, and self-indulgent behavior. We make gods out of the rich and famous, set them up as our models to imitate, and set our sails to catch the winds of this world, ignoring the winds of God’s Spirit.

God instructs us to set our sails to catch his Spirit and seek first the kingdom of God. Holiness is elusive when we had rather catch the ways of the world. Our goal is to be like the Master. However, too often we allow the sin of pride and arrogance to separate us from God. We are on a dangerous and slippery slope.

Like Eve, we are tempted by what we see, by who we know, by the advice of others, which cause us to doubt that God’s ways are best. Over and over God has sent prophets to tell us that what we see is not what we get. Listen to the prophet Isaiah.

11 The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
12 The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),
22 Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he? (NIV) Isaiah 2:11-12, 22.

This is our sin. We trust in ourselves and not God. The prophet assures us that all who place their trust in themselves, their possessions, their knowledge, their money, their intellect, their security, will one day be brought low.

If we want God to lift us up instead, we are told to humble ourselves before God. Jesus said that instead of acting with pride, we should adopt the attitude of a little child With a child standing before the group as an example, Jesus said,

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:3b-4 (NIV)

Who here this morning is willing to humble themselves before God and this body of witnesses? Who here is willing to let go of your pride and make room for God?

To those who humble themselves and ask Jesus to be Lord of their life, God promises to lift you up. God promises to make you great in his Kingdom. God promises to forgive your sin. God promises you abundant life. God promises you eternal life.