Learning From Our Choices

The following is a sermon based on Genesis 3:1-7, entitled:  “Learning From Our Choices” Preached on January 10, 2010, 2nd in a series of Living a Life of Purpose

 How are we doing on our resolutions?  We are now ten days into them, have we anyone who has failed in keeping their decisions for a better life?  Or do we have anyone who has succeeded in keeping their promises? What are the typical resolutions?   Among them are the following, according to a government website: Lose weight, manage debt, to save money, get a better job, Get fit, get a better education, drink less alcohol, quit smoking now, reduce stress overall, reduce stress at work, take a trip, do more volunteer work. 

This weight loss thing is a stinker.  I was doing so well up until Halloween!  Then the candy came, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Year’s, etc.  There’s always something!  And with Valentine’s Day approaching, I’m afraid my destiny has been determined!  So much has been made of the need to keep our resolutions that Parade Magazine recently had an article entitled: “Make Changes that Last.”[1]  In it, the authors encouraged us to be clear about our directions, keep ourselves motivated and even making our environment support our changes.  I guess that means I need to either finish off the Bergin’s and Asher’s or throw them away!

Our text today has to do with choices.  Not all choices are good.  In fact, if I were to survey the congregation, I’m sure everyone can think of a bad decision we’ve made.  Where did it all start?  For that we turn to the book of beginnings, the book of Genesis.  From this text, what can we learn about choices?  First, we might learn that…

THERE ARE REPERCUSSIONS TO EVERY DECISION.

Genesis 3:6 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. 7 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.”

In reading from Genesis 3 only, we fail to discover what’s happened prior to the decision by the first couple.  In chapter two, we read how God made Adam and Eve in His own image and that this creation was “very good.”  And after designing them, He put them in the Garden of Eden to manage it.  They had dominion over the entire creation (1:28).  He supplied them with every type of food they could ever need.  Conditions could not be more perfect.  But with their managing came an instruction in 2:16: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  This information comes before our passage today.

From the passage itself we read of the serpent, the personification of Satan himself.  How Satan took the form of a serpent, we do no know.  And from the book of Ezekiel, we know that he was at one time an angel, one of God’s prized creations (Ezekiel 28:12ff).  Nevertheless, we see an overt act of treason in approaching the woman.  Genesis 3:1: “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’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 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.'” 4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

And we know the rest of the story.  What did the first couple fail to do?  To listen to the right voice.  They also failed to apply God’s plan to their situation.  And in so doing, they brought on their destruction.  God judged them for listening and following the wrong voice.  And they showed their own shame by trying to cover themselves.  They succumbed to the temptation and disobeyed God, committing a similar act of treason against God’s holy and perfect will. 

Our Scripture Lesson for today was from 1 Corinthians 10.  What’s interesting about this passage is that the bad examples of history provide a teaching tool for us today.  Paul writes in verse one: For I do not want you to be ignorant….”  Valuable lessons are learned from the past, from taking a look at the personal accounts of history.  Even though all of Israel traveled through he desert and ate of the manna, and drank from the rock.  Still the human nature is incredibly bent towards disobedience and overall very, very stubborn.  Verse 6 tells us: “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. What happened to them?  God judged them and most of that generation died.  They were guilty of many of the same things that the unregenerate practice today.  Idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God, grumbling and complaining: all of these offend Him.  The minute that we think that God was too harsh, we must recognize that sin against Him is rebellion and a form of disloyalty.  Paul states the purpose of bringing these matters up in verse 11: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”

So let us be encouraged to have a renewed vigor against those things that we contribute to not only an unproductive life, but a rebellious life in the eyes of God.  Rick Warren wonderfully maps out a four-step process that every temptation follows.  It starts with our sinful desires.  We have certain buttons that the devil pushes.  He knows what bothers us, individually.  Next, just like Eve, we doubt God’s instruction.  Thirdly, we succumb to the deception that says: “it’s not that bad” or “everyone is doing it.”  Lastly, this breeds disobedience.  This comes from James 1:13 which tells us: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  The problem is not with someone or something else.  “The devil doesn’t make us do it,” as Flip Wilson’s theology taught.  Rather the problem is with us and our fallen nature.  We do what we know is wrong.  And that’s why we need a Savior, not only to forgive us, but renew us so that we make right choices.  That leads us to some good news, that…

THERE’S A STRATEGY TO EVERY SUCCESS.

To overcome such things, Warren advises a three part strategy: First, refuse to be intimidated by that which allures you.  Secondly, recognizes your pattern for temptation and be prepared for it.  Don’t go to places that are unhealthy for you, whether it is on the internet or a physical location.  I once worked with a recovering alcoholic named “Traci.”  She would avoid the office parties that served drinks, knowing that her years of sobriety were too precious to jeopardize.  Or I know a person that was once a homosexual.  He is now happily married with a house full of children that bear his name.  But many years ago, he told me that he could not go to some places that reminded him of his past. 

Lastly, we must request for God’s help.  Someone once said that the Lord is only a prayer away.  We need to practice impromptu and instantaneous prayer, which calls out to God in a moment of trial.  1 Corinthians 10:12: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  But when we indulge our sinful nature and give-in, where come a few things.  For instance, guilt, which brings a loss of self-esteem and feelings of failure.  Secondly, failure- the knowledge that we could have done differently, but fell short.  Lastly, it is an evolution in the wrong direction.  We are going on the wrong way. 

But the good news is that temptation can be a character-builder.  Warren states: “Every time you choose to do good instead of sin, you are growing in the character of Christ.”[2]  And, “Every time you defeat a temptation, you become more like Jesus.”[3] Christ is the key.  He’s given us His Spirit so that we don’t do what we would normally do according to our sinful desires. 

So, even when the Asher’s and the Bergin’s are in my pantry, there is hope.  That God has not given me over to gluttony, but I must bring that before the cross and walk in the life He has given me!  I was so blessed by Bill’s message last week.  I appreciated his three points and so let me use them as a springboard for us today.  He reminded us that we are shaped by a divine reality; stamped by a divine image; summoned to a divine vocation.  Part of God’s summoning is to follow Him, rather than to follow the world.  This is our reason for being: to answer God’s call and step up.  But when we hear the voice of temptation and remember the voice of failure, we must reject it and listen to the right voice, the One that calls us to a higher standard.  Let us learn from our decisions!  When has a bad decision ever yielded lasting joy, happiness and spiritual wholeness? 


[1] Chip and Dan Heath, (2010, January 7). Make Changes That Last. Parade, 6-9.

[2] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 201. 

[3] Ibid., 203.

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