Text: Romans 5:12-19 (Genesis 3:1-21, Matthew 4:1-11) ††† ††† ††† ††† ††† ††† ††††††††††††1st Sunday in Lent
††††††††††† In the name of him who loved us and
gave himself for us, dear friends in Christ:
I wonder how many of you watched last Sundayís Super Bowl game?† Those of you who did will remember that there
was a point in the second half when the Patriots had the ball and they were
moving fairly steadily down the field.
But then their drive stalled.
They failed to convert on a critical third down play and would have had
to turn the ball over to
††††††††††† Whatís my point?† Just this: that tiny little violation that
didnít interfere with anything and that had no affect whatsoever on anyone on
the field might very well have cost the Giants the game.† The whole team (and their fans) might have
tasted bitter defeat instead of the sweet victory they now enjoy all because of
one manís almost imperceptible misstep.
As it turns out, the team managed to recover and achieved their upset win in the last minute of the game. †And Iím kind of glad they did because I
thought it was pretty low of the Patriotís head coach to make the challenge
that got the referees to restudy the play in the first place.† It seemed to me that he was trying too hard
to win by any means Ė even by weasely technicalities.† Add the fact that
††††††††††† But the point still stands:† we can all understand the basic idea that the difference between winning or losing a game, a season, or a championship title, may all hinge on one playerís performance.† †That final field goal attempt, or free throw, or penalty shot, or turn to bat when itís the bottom of the ninth inning, youíre down by a run, thereís two runners on base, and youíve got two outs and a full count.† The whole teamís undying fame and eternal glory or ignoble fall into defeat and shame all hang on the performance of one man.† If he does well we all win; if he does poorly we all lose.† And if you are a teammate or a fan of the guy whoís in the crucible thereís nothing you can do about it.† You can only watch and see what he does.† And we accept this.† Itís not a question of being fair or unfair; itís simply the way that sports are played.† Thatís the way it is.
††††††††††† And, according to
††††††††††† The really bad news is that we start life on the losing team.† One manís trespass condemned us all.† We heard about that in this morningís very familiar Old Testament lesson.† Surrounded by a garden paradise and with only one rule in existence, our first father managed to break it.† So doing he placed himself and all his descendants under the curse of sin.† And from time to time Iíll hear people say, ďThatís not fair!† Why should I have to suffer for someone elseís offense?Ē† The question betrays a number of misunderstandings or false assumptions. First, weíve already seen that what we would call fairness is not an issue.† Itís simply the way it is Ė and we have to deal with reality the way it is, not the way we might prefer it to be.† Second, the person who asks that question implies that if he or she had been the one being tempted, they would have stood their ground.† That smacks of the sin of pride and itís almost certainly mistaken.† Third, it shows a failure to appreciate what sin really is.† Itís not merely the violation of an arbitrary command; itís the seduction to renounce the image of God who is self-sacrificing love in favor of placing oneís own needs, desires, and gratification above all else.† Thatís what our first parents fell for.† And thatís what they became when they sinned: self centered, self seeking, self conscious.† Thatís why the first thing they notice after eating the forbidden fruit is that theyíre naked.† They didnít notice before because they werenít focused on themselves.† Itís this inherent defect that they passed down to us. And now weíre so steeped in it, it doesnít even occur to us that itís wrong.† We honestly believe that looking out for old number one is a good thing; when it is in fact the exact opposite of what we were created foróof what it means to be made in the image of God.
††††††††††† But whatís really interesting is that when referring to the fall, the Bible consistently calls it the sin of one man.† Specifically, itís called the sin of Adam, which may seem kind of strange considering there were two of them there and that Eve was the one who actually fell for the temptation first.† Why blame it all on him?† The simple answer is that it was his fault.† He was the one placed in charge.† He was the one given Godís Word concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was his duty to relay this Word to his wife.† In that sense, he was the worldís first prophet or preacher.† And Eve was the worldís first congregation or church.† It was also his duty to protect and defend her. But where is he while sheís being tempted by the deceiver?† Heís standing right next to her like a useless lump.† He listens to Satan twisting and turning Godís Word, impugning the Lordís motives, and filling his wifeís mind with lies and half-truths while he remains silent watching to see what she will do.† Then, when he has failed in his duty to defend her, debunk Satanís lies, and lead her back to the truth, he follows her lead into sin. Thereís no question that he was the one at fault.
††††††††††† The incident reminds me of the time when
Moses went up onto
††††††††††† Itís really amazing the amount of spiritual damage one man can do.† I mean, just think about the many false prophets and teachers who have led people astray by giving them what they want, or by telling them what theyíd like to hear, or by proclaiming the wild thoughts of their corrupt imaginations rather than what the Lord God has said.† A billion Moslems world wide have been seduced by the lies of one man named Mohammed Ė and that only includes the ones living now.† Who knows how many others have lived and died believing his lies in the thirteen centuries since he spoke them?† Some thirty million people across the globe today have been seduced by the lies of our own American false prophet, Joseph Smith, who founded the cult of Mormonism. And theyíve only been at it for a tenth of the time.† How many more will be swept into their trap of deception in the years to come if the Lord tarries?† And how many others will be sucked into all those other cults that were born in the mind of just one man Ė or one woman (I donít want to be accused of sexist here)? And how many more souls are lost eternally because of the sin of one parent or maybe two who were raised in the Christian faith and who (at least for a while) truly believed, but then neglected to make any reasonable effort to ensure their children were also raised in the true faith?† Any one man or womanís sin can cause all kinds of trouble for others and might cause their eternal destruction.
††††††††††† But, as has been previously stated, it all ultimately goes back to just one man and his failure to defend the one person in his care and to speak to her the simple, straight forward Word of God.† Just one man got us into this whole, great big, stinking mess.
††††††††††† And by Godís boundless grace and mercy, and in his infinite wisdom, itís just one Man who can get us out of it:† Godís Son Jesus Christ.† This is Paulís whole point in todayís Epistle lesson.† Just as you were brought under condemnation by someone elseís sin, so also are you redeemed, forgiven, and given eternal life through someone elseís perfect obedience.† And what Paul wants you to see is how Godís grace is magnified in this plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.† He writes, ďÖ the free gift is not like the trespass.† For if many died through one manís trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for many.† And the free gift is not like the result of one manís sin.† For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.Ē You see what heís saying?† Heís saying that Adamís sin led to many others sins because we, Adamís offspring, are sinning constantly.† So not only are we condemned by being on the wrong team and having the big loser for an ancestor, weíre also condemned by our own countless sins and failures.† The upshot is that each of us is justly damned by God a billion billion times over. Ah, but now, in Christ Jesus all that damnation is removed.† Jesus doesnít just die for Adamís one sin, he dies for all our sins.† Or say it another way, when he hangs on the cross, on him is hung the just penalty of every sin against God that has ever been committed.† Thatís how much God loves you in his Son.† Thatís how much the one man Jesus was willing to suffer and surrender to have you back as a member of the church, his bride, which he purchased with his own blood.
††††††††††† The bride he purchased with his holy, innocent blood shed upon the cross, and still cares for and defends today, I might add.† You see, Jesus does for us, the church, what Adam failed to do for his wife.† We see it, in part, in the way he handles the temptations of the devil in this morningís Gospel lesson.† Youíll note that each time Satan suggests something, Jesus counters with, ďIt is written ÖĒ Thatís Jesusí way of saying, ďThatís what you say, Satan; and youíre a liar.† Now hear what God said.Ē† What we need to understand is that the conversation has been recorded for our benefit.† By ensuring that we have it in written form, Jesus speaks to all of us and explains how to counter temptations when we experience them. †Itís what Adam should have done for Eve to keep her from falling, and what Jesus does for us for the same reason.† Because temptations really havenít changed that much.† The devil knows what works.† And if we take the time to analyze his approach in two of todayís lessons, weíll see that itís pretty consistent.
††††††††††† It comes down to this: ďThe Lord isnít doing a very good job of taking care of you, is he?† It wasnít very nice of him to deprive you of something, was it?† You can do better for yourself.† Much better.† Take the initiative.† Have it now. Why wait?† Youíll be glad you did.† What?† Worried about consequences?† Relax. Theyíre not as bad as you think Ė and thatís only if you get caught, which you wonít.† Besides, didnít he say that heíd always keep you from falling? Youíve got to think about yourself. And how much you want it.† You know you do.† And how much easier my way is.† Why, Godís way is always the hard way, the long way, have you noticed?† Iím not so sure he has your best interests at heart.Ē
††††††††††† Any of that sound familiar?† It should: we hear it often enough, donít we? Itís to counter and overcome that constant chatter that comes at us from a dozen different directions that Jesus speaks to us in the church through his Word.† Itís to tell us the truth.† Itís to tell us what God has said.† Itís to keep us from falling again and again, because he knows the consequences of falling into sin:† he paid them. And he knows how much damage can be done to you and to others by that so-called ďone little sinĒ that looks so harmless.† It never is.
But thatís only part of the picture.† Sure, Jesus speaks to us in the church to keep us from falling into sin; but even more he speaks to us to assure us of his love and forgiveness.† Itís us and our good he is concerned about, not himself. He speaks to fill us with the righteousness he achieved for us when he died.† He speaks to show us the power of his resurrection, because rising victorious over sin, death, and the grave he raises us up also to a new and better life, and he is even now working on reforming in us his image Ė to replace in us the image of God and his love that we lost when one man sinned.
††††††††††† That one man and what we inherited from him led to certain death.† So letís renounce him and his ways.† Letís get off his losing team.† And letís strive to hear and to follow in the footsteps of the One Man who gave himself that we may inherit the kingdom in which we will live and reign with him for ever.† In Jesusí name.† Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria!