I love to teach people how to find life and hope in Jesus. This is my understanding of God's purpose in liberating people through forgiveness: the discovery of life and hope in Jesus Christ. That is my understanding of God's work and business in the New Testament.

I love to help struggling people. My understanding of the foundation responsibility of spiritual leadership: people building. What is the primary focus of people building? Relationships.

This is my understanding. (1) The better people understand God, the better people will understand God's purpose for life. (3) The better people understand God's purpose for life, the better their attitudes, priorities, hearts, and values become. (3) Better attitudes, priorities, hearts, and values enable people to love like God loves. (4) That love teaches them how to produce and nurture godly relationships.

I am confident I can assure you of two things after death. Each of us will die, each of us will have a conversation with God, and each of us will explain to God why we used life as we did. When that happens, I am confident one thing will not happen and another thing will happen. (1) God will not measure your life by using prevailing Church of Christ positions. None of your explanations will begin with this phrase: "I did this because the Church of Christ said..." (2) God will measure your life by your understanding of His work in Jesus Christ. Your responses will be based on your understanding of Jesus.

I want to devote the next few Sunday evenings to encouraging and challenging us to let our faith in God make some major growth steps. This evening I want us to examine God's grace by considering some of the early Genesis stories.

  1. May I begin by asking a simple question: "What do you think about grace?"
    1. I would be shocked if one person present did not have some form of reaction to grace.
      1. Some Christians genuinely do not like the concept of grace.
        1. When Paul did mission work among people who were not Jews, many Jews (both Christians and those who were not) deeply resented teachings about God's grace.
        2. There still exist Christians who resent the concept of grace; I heard a mature member of the church declare, "I wish the church had never heard anything about grace."
        3. Christians who resent grace commonly consider grace and obedience as natural enemies.
      2. Some Christians think grace is God's only expression of love.
        1. To them, the existence of grace gives us the right to be irresponsible.
        2. To them, God's grace is such a dominant reality that nothing else matters.
      3. Most Christians experience struggle as they try to understand God's balance between God's grace and our personal responsibility.
        1. Very few Christians locate that balance at identical places.
        2. We struggle to trust the interaction of God's goodness with our sense of responsibility.
        3. Any honest Christian acknowledges God's grace is not a simple concept.
      4. God's grace is something that is to be more accepted than understood.
        1. We need to leave God's decisions in God's hands.
        2. We need to be very careful about limiting God.

  2. In your understanding, what basic lessons should be learned from Adam and Eve's garden of Eden experience, Cain's murder of Abel, and the situation when Noah built the ark?
    1. Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden:
      1. God created Adam and Eve to be husband and wife as they shared a unique form of companionship.
      2. God placed them in a special garden home that perfectly provided for every physical need.
      3. They were instructed not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and they plainly understood if they ate they would die.
      4. Evil deceived them.
      5. The consequence of disobedience was the loss of their garden home, the loss of ideal relationships, and specific consequences to each individually.
    2. The Cain and Abel conflict:
      1. Both offered sacrifices to God.
      2. God was honored by Abel's sacrifice, but not by Cain's sacrifice.
      3. Cain was a very self-centered, vain, selfish, angry man.
      4. He vented the anger he felt for God by killing his brother.
      5. After Abel's death, God interacted verbally with Cain in one of the most unusual, fascinating interactions recorded between God and a human.
    3. Noah's pre-flood world:
      1. Humanity degenerated into such complete evil that God regretted making people.
      2. Only one person was receptive to God--Noah.
      3. With an incredible level of trust, Noah began to build an enormous boat to prepare for an event that had never occurred in history.
    4. In those three stories, what are the obvious, simple lessons to be learned?
      1. Adam and Eve:
        1. How long did they live in the garden before they sinned?
        2. Were children born prior to their sin?
        3. How do you explain all the flesh eating animals that did not eat flesh?
        4. Were dinosaurs living then?
        5. Were Adam and Eve physically like us? Did they have belly buttons?
        6. What fruit did they eat when they disobeyed God?
        7. Did God lie? They did not die.
        8. Are those the obvious, simple questions we should ask to learn the obvious, simple lessons?
      2. Cain and Abel:
        1. Did Cain know what kind of sacrifice he was supposed to offer?
        2. Did he deliberately offer the wrong sacrifice?
        3. Did Cain knowingly disobey God?
        4. What was the mark God placed on Cain?
        5. Are those the simple, obvious questions we should ask to learn the simple, obvious lessons?
      3. Noah:
        1. Had Noah ever seen rain before?
        2. Was Noah a super godly man in a totally evil world?
        3. What was gopher wood? Would the boat sink if Noah used some other kind of wood?
        4. Where did the flood occur? Did all people at that time live in that area?
        5. Did the flood cover the surface of the earth in that region killing all people, or did the flood cover the entire world?
        6. Are those the simple, obvious questions that reveal the obvious, simple lessons we should learn?

  3. "David, what do you see as obvious, simple lessons that are basic to our faith in God?"
    1. I see three obvious, simple lessons that are fundamental to a correct view of God.
      1. Simple, obvious lesson # 1: the destructiveness of evil.
        1. Evil is the most destructive force in human existence.
        2. Nothing a human will ever encounter is as destructive as the power of evil.
        3. With Adam and Eve:
          1. Evil perverted God's entire creation.
          2. It destroyed the ability of anything to serve its intended purpose or to be truly good.
          3. It destroyed human relationship with God as He designed it.
          4. It destroyed human relationship between man and woman as God designed and intended it.
        4. With Cain and Abel the power of evil escalated its destructiveness.
          1. It destroyed a human life.
          2. It produced a human being who was totally selfish (to the point of murder) and who desired absolutely no association with God.
        5. In Noah's pre-flood day, the power of evil controlled the minds of people.
          1. They had no good motives.
          2. They had no good intentions.
          3. They made the world intolerable to God.
      2. Simple, obvious lesson # 2: every person is accountable for his or her thoughts, decisions, and actions.
        1. Eve was.
        2. Adam was.
        3. Cain was.
        4. The people of Noah's day were.
        5. Noah was.
      3. Simple, obvious lesson # 3: God is a God of grace.
        1. While Adam and Eve endured incredible consequences for their thoughts, decisions, and actions, God's grace permitted them to live.
        2. While Cain endured incredible consequences for his thoughts, decisions, and actions, God's grace protected Cain from a death at the hands of other people.
        3. While the people of Noah's day endured incredible consequences for their thoughts, decisions, and actions, God's grace did not eradicate humanity.
    2. Those three simple, obvious lessons are the foundation of the fundamental struggle humanity has today.
      1. We are not afraid of evil because we do not regard every in any form or expression to be destructive.
        1. The knowledge of good and evil destroyed God's creation.
        2. Jealousy and selfishness destroyed a human life.
        3. Corrupt motives and ungodly intentions destroyed the world.
      2. We do not believe that we individually are accountable for our thoughts, decisions, and actions.
        1. We are convinced that we will find a way to blame someone else or to "slide it by."
        2. We are convinced that other people's failures will make our failures trivial, explainable, and unimportant.
      3. We do not trust God to be a God of grace.
        1. We understand there are limits to human goodness and kindness.
        2. We conclude that God's goodness cannot surpass human goodness.
        3. We tend to reject a goodness that we do not understand.

My conclusion is very simple. The person who does not understand (a) the destructiveness of evil, (b) the accountability of the person, and (c) God's grace will fail to do one of two things. He or she will not come to God because he or she feels no need for God. Or, he or she will not trust God.

If we do not understand those three lessons, faith will not be liberated.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 14 January 2001
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