Summary: This sermon is for those unbelievers who have a warped view of God, but it’s also for believers who have not experienced the abundant life that being a Christian can offer.
A.W. Tozer once wrote, “What first comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you”.
Many people have been turned off of God and church and Christians by some of what gets popularized from the Old Testament. They think that God is a cruel, genocidal, tyrant who wants to take away all human freedom and enjoyment. That he’s just watching for us to break the Law so he can punish us. And I admit that if you just pick out certain passages from the Bible you can make God look that way.
If Christians depict him that way by legalistic, punitive, unforgiving, exclusive behaviours and attitudes, that just adds to the problem. And once someone has formed an opinion about God and church, it’s difficult to persuade them otherwise.
So today, rather than looking at God’s prohibitions, let’s look at His permissions and invitations. This sermon is for those unbelievers who have a warped view of God, but it’s also for believers who have not experienced the abundant life that being a Christian can offer. What first comes to mind when you think about God?
I want to start in the Garden of Eden because this is where many people start their attack against God. It’s very easy to look at the story in the garden and focus on the one prohibition God gave, and then say that they made just one mistake and he kicks them out and puts guards at the entrance. That doesn’t seem like a very fair God. But it all depends on your perspective. Let’s look at the story in Gen 2&3 2:8-10, 15-17 ; 3:1-6, 22-24…
God had just created everything and said it was all very good. Now we won’t get into the creation account today, that’s a whole other story. But what I want us to see is that God created everything on earth essentially for human beings. He put them in this perfect paradise, gave them dominion over every plant and animal and said this is all yours, enjoy it.
In chapter two he says you may eat from every tree in the garden, but don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because it’s not good for you, you will die if you eat from that one (and I am warning you because I don’t want you to die).
Even the tree of life was in the garden, and notice there was no restriction against eating from that one. So there was a tree of life and a tree of death.
Now Satan comes along and notice what he does. He doesn’t focus on looking at all the wonderful things God has given them to enjoy and have dominion over, he focuses Eve’s mind on the only one thing that God prohibited. Eve acknowledges that He gave them permission to eat from every tree in the garden except that one. Satan simply takes the focus off the goodness and generosity of God, and puts her eyes on his power and control over them.
God is all powerful, he is perfectly holy and this is why he has to have obedience in order to dwell with us. That is not a bad thing, it’s just the reality of who God is.
Anyway, they eat the fruit from the forbidden tree and God has to eject them from the garden, why? They now knew about evil and the realities of life outside of God’s paradise, and God did not want them to suffer in that state for eternity, so he took away the ability for them to live forever in that state by kicking them out and putting cherubim with flaming swords to guard the way to the tree of life. He warned them about the tree for their own good, and he kicked them out for their own good.
The only reason we see God giving many other laws and commands throughout the rest of the Bible, is because he kept trying to get us to have a good life and relationship with Him. Finally sending his son to die because he saw that we could never return to perfect obedience again.
And if you look at every problem in this very problematic world we live in today, it is all because we have chosen not to do this thing God’s way. His way is not meant to restrict but to bless, to provide abundant life.
You see only a holy, omnipotent God can know good and evil and choose only good all the time. The point is that He gave them everything, and they chose the one thing that wouldn’t be good for them. That is the perspective of God we need to have and today we are going to look at many of the other ways that God invites us to enjoy Him and his blessings, as opposed to the restrictions.