He was 19 years old and his world had fallen apart. Up to that point he had lived a relatively uneventful life. But at the age of 19 his mother died of cancer and his father was killed in an automobile accident. In his own words “I took a bad situation and made it much worse.” Within a few years he found himself homeless sleeping under a pier.
It was at that point that Andy Andrews began to read biographies of famous people that he borrowed from the library. His quest was to answer the question “Is life just a lottery ticket, or are there choices one can make to direct his future?” After reading over 200 biographies Andrews determined there were seven characteristics that these “successful” people had in common. “What will happen,” he mused, “if I study these seven common denominators and harness them in my own life?”
Now a best selling author and in demand motivational speaker, Andrews is living proof that the principals he discovered could work and do work. Last year I read his book “The Traveller’s Gift” where he outlines the seven decisions in the form of a novel. The main character, David Ponder, visits seven historical figures who provide him with insights into those decisions. After reading the book and loaning out copies more times than I can count I came to the happy realization that makes the day of any preacher and that is “This will preach.” So over the next seven weeks we will be looking that these seven decisions from a biblical perspective and see what we can learn from them.
It started out innocently enough, but then again it usually does. They were the first couple and they had everything they could ever want. They lived in a beautiful garden in fellowship with their creator. We don’t know exactly where the Garden of Eden is or was Although some have tried to guess, first of all the Garden was situated in an area called Eden, so the Garden was not all of Eden, just a part of Eden. The garden we are told was filled with trees and not just any trees we are told they were beautiful and they produced delicious fruit, which tells us that God wasn’t just concerned with the practical but also with beauty. And if we pull down a map here, we are also told that the Garden was watered by a river that eventually became four rivers, today we know about the Pishon and the Tigris and the Euphrates, we don’t know where the Gihon may have flowed but with the other three we can guess that Eden may have been about here. However with the changes that would have happened to the geography after the great flood we really don’t know. We’re not even a hundred percent sure what the climate was like, but considering we are told in Genesis 2:25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. We have to assume that it wasn’t Nova Scotia weather.
And after God had created them he had given them pretty explicit instructions of what he wanted them to do he said in Genesis 1:28 we read Genesis 1:28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.” Which considering they were running around the Garden naked probably wasn’t that much of a stretch.
And God also told them what they weren’t supposed to do Genesis 2:16-17 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” So they are supposed to make babies and fill the earth but they aren’t supposed to eat the fruit from just one tree out of all the trees in the garden. Good work if you can find it. I mean that seems like a pretty good gig to me.
But you know what happens then, yeah the devil crashes the party. Adam and Eve are in the process of doing what they supposed to do and not doing what they weren’t supposed to do. And Satan arrives and says “Yo kids, what’s happening?” And they say “Not much we’re just hanging around the garden working at making babies and not eating from that tree.” And Satan says “Excuse me if I’m being nosy but how come you aren’t eating from that tree? That’s a great tree as a matter of fact it’s probably got the best fruit of any tree in the garden.”
“Well” says Eve “God told us not to eat from that tree because he said we would die if we did.” “That’s a crock” replies Satan, “The only reason He won’t let you eat from it is because it’s the best fruit in the garden and he knows that if you eat from it you’ll be just like him. Besides a loving God wouldn’t let you die just because you ate one little tiny piece of fruit, go ahead, Bon Appetit.”
You know the story, Eve took the fruit took a big bite and said “This is delicious Adam, you should really try it.” And he did. And those two bites signalled the end of the world as they knew it. Their innocence was shattered and mankind was steered unto the path of sin. I read once that the trouble wasn’t the apple in the tree it was the pair on the ground. And yes I know that it doesn’t say apple anywhere and the climate probably wasn’t cold enough to grow apples, enough already.
The story of the first man and woman and how they disobeyed God and set the stage for their descendants is found in the book of Genesis the first book in the bible.
The book of Genesis reveals how creation came about, and allows us to see and understand that the God we worship isn’t simply the God of the little nation of Israel but indeed is the creator of all that is. Genesis provides the framework and sets the stage for the rest of the Bible.
I know that many of you have questions about creation, how long it took and if we should take the account in Genesis 1 and 2 as a literal account of the creation process or as an allegory. Bad news, you’re not getting the answers here today. You want to read about it just let me know I have a library full. But here is the reality, God created all that there is and man was a specific intentionally act of creation.
You may want to believe that you evolved from plasma but that’s not the way it happened. And if you think it requires a lot of faith to believe that mankind was created by God then take an actual look at what evolutionists are asking you to believe. They want you to believe that suddenly a something became a living creation and that one celled whatever eventually, by chance and by golly evolved into you. A living breathing miracle that has the capability to turn food into energy, to get rid of the waste that we don’t need, to reproduce and to come up with complex convoluted theories like evolution. You ever wonder how long did it take in the evolutionary process in order for reproduction to work? And shouldn’t that have stopped everything if it didn’t happen right away. But we aren’t going to talk about that today.
So where were we in the story? Oh yes, Eve has been tempted by the devil to disobey God and she in turn tempts Adam and it is literally the bite that changes the world. With that bite their eyes were indeed open and they were overcome with shame and tried to cover their nakedness. Up to that point there had been no shame, no sense of right and wrong. I don’t know if there was any magical power in the tree of knowledge of Good and evil or if it was the simple act of disobedience that made them realize the difference between doing what they should do and what they shouldn’t do. Regardless of what caused it to happen their innocence was no more.
1) They were in the Wrong. The directions that God gave were very simple: “Ddon’t eat from that tree, you see that tree over there? Don’t eat from it, get it?” And I’m sure that they nodded and said “Got it.” It wasn’t rocket science; there was no ambiguity about the command. “Did he mean we shouldn’t eat from it on Saturday or we shouldn’t eat from it on Sunday?” “Did he mean we shouldn’t eat from it at all or that we could eat from it as long as we didn’t eat from it to excess?” or “Maybe he meant that we could eat the fruit that was rated ‘g” but not the fruit that was rated ‘AA’ or ‘R’ and we’d have to exercise our own judgment on the fruit that was rated ‘PG 14’.”
God has given us a book that tells us what he wants us to do as well as what he doesn’t want us to do. In it’s simplest form it is the Ten Commandment but there is more then that, throughout the book you discover verses like Galatians 5:19-21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
It’s not like God has a whole list of unwritten rules that he is expecting us to follow listen to what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
And so regardless of what some people want you to think there are things that are right and things that are wrong in this life.
2) They knew it was Wrong. When Satan showed up and began his temptation he asked Eve “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?” and listen to what Eve said Genesis 3:2-3 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. It would appear that she had a pretty firm grip on what they weren’t supposed to do, now notice what else she adds God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.'” God hadn’t commanded them not to touch it; he just told them not to eat the fruit. For that matter they could have cut the tree down chopped it up and used it for firewood and been done with temptation.
In our lives how much of the wrong that we do is done in ignorance? How often can we honestly say “I didn’t know that was wrong.”? “You mean I shouldn’t have cheated on my wife, stole from my employer and lied to my parents.” “Who would have thought that was wrong?” Duh. You. We choose to do wrong.
Parents did you ever have a situation where one of your children did something they knew was wrong and then they hid from you? Because they knew that they had done wrong. I’m not sure if they thought they could hide forever or just until you got over being mad. That’s what happened with Adam and Eve.
God came looking for them and they hid, broke fellowship with God. Up to this point Adam and Eve enjoyed being in the presence of God but all of a sudden his Holiness revealed their disobedience. But why did they hide? Because they were afraid. But afraid of what? Genesis 3:9-10 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
Was it being physically naked that made Adam afraid, it would appear so because the first thing they did was to cover themselves. But these two had been walking around buck naked since day one and it hadn’t bothered them, why now? I think that Adam and Eve were overcome with shame and they covered themselves physically because they couldn’t cover themselves spiritually.
Have you ever noticed that little children have no qualms about running around starkers? Indeed they seem to enjoy it. But there comes a time when their innocence disappears and they feel compelled to cover up. You say “That’s cultural Denn.” To a certain degree, yes. But even in cultures in much warmer climates where in the past they wore considerably less than would be considered acceptable by western standards most still wore something.
As a believer have you ever been ashamed to be in the presence of God because of disobedience in your life? Perhaps it was during your own quiet time, or during a worship service or maybe during communion. They knew that what they did was wrong and it caused a tear in their relationship.
3) They wouldn’t admit it. Even though they did what was wrong, and they knew it was wrong they refused to accept responsibility for what they had done.
Genesis 3:11-12 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Boy does that sound familiar. It was the classic “Some Other Dude” defence.
Someone said If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.
And so they refused to accept responsibility for what they had done instead;
A) They Blamed Others
Lady Nancy Astor said “In passing, also, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance he laid the blame on a woman.” Nancy Astor was the first American to hold a seat in the Parliament in England but you probably know her as the lady who said “Mr. Churchill if I was your wife I’d put ground glass in your tea” to which the Prime Minister responded “Madam if you were my wife I’d drink it.”
Let’s go back to Genesis 3:11-12 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
How often in our lives do we seek to blame others for our behaviour and seek to blame others for the failures in our lives? And so we say “It was because of my parents or my teachers or my friends. They led me astray.” Motivational speaker Dr. Robert Anthony claims “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” And so you don’t need to change if it was someone else’s fault that you sinned. Very seldom do you hear someone say “I sinned, it was my choice, nobody forced me tempted me or enticed me, I did it because I wanted to.”
B) They Blamed The Devil And what was Eve’s response to Adam’s charge? Genesis 3:13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” It was the classic “The Devil made me do it.” Defence and the poor Devil didn’t have a leg to stand on.
Yes the Devil will tempt us to do wrong; yes he wants you to fail as a Christian. But you don’t have to. One of the greatest promises in the bible is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
The bible never says that we won’t be tempted, but it does say we don’t have to give in to temptation. There isn’t anything that you will be tempted to do that somebody else hasn’t already been tempted to do and yes some did give in to that temptation, but many didn’t.
All Adam and Eve had to do was whistle and God would have been there and turfed the Devil out on his ear. But no they were enjoying the conversation. And you know and I know that when we are being tempted that if we actually stopped and prayed about the situation things would probably go in a different direction, but then again maybe that’s what we are afraid of. It was English writer Margaret Oliphant who said “Temptations come, as a general rule, when they are sought.”
But you know the story could have had a different ending because 4) There Was Another Answer If we went back to Genesis 3:11-12 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
“Yes,” Adam admitted, and then if instead of trying to shift the blame I wonder what would have happened if he had of said “I was wrong and we are so sorry, next time we will call out to you and we’ll resist temptation.” Do you think God would have forgive Adam and Eve? I do. And while that might be a hypothetical question what happens when we sin isn’t, the word of God promises us in 1 John 1:8-9 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
So how do we tie this into the Traveller’s Gift? The first decision is the “Responsible Decision”. Which is simple the decision to accept responsibility for the choices you have made and the choices you will make. When the scripture tells us But if we confess our sins to him that means that we have to accept responsibility for our behaviour before God.
In the book it was President Harry Truman who presented the first gift to David Ponder when he told him “The buck stops here.” If we are to succeed in our personal and spiritual life we will need to make the decision to quite passing the buck and quit blaming others for where we are.
The temptation in our life is to say “why me?” the real question should be “Why not me?” Each of us are where we are today because of choices that we made somewhere along the line. The decision to study in school or slough off, the decision about where we would further our education and what courses we would take, the decision of who we would marry. Some of you may be thinking Well I didn’t want to get married, we had to.” Well that involved another choice didn’t it. Every addiction began with a choice, you may be thinking “I don’t have a choice, I have to do it.” But you made the choice at the beginning the choice to try whatever it is you are addicted to.
And when accept the responsibility for where you are than you have acknowledged that not only do you hold the past but you also hold the future. God gave us the gift of our free will because he knew that if we choose to we could make the right decision.
This week will you resist the temptation to blame people and circumstances for where you are today? And will you take responsibility for your behaviour and your choices?