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June 11, 2023

Failure Figures: Adam

Failure Figures: Adam | Week 3

We’ve got a pretty great worship team, don't you think? For those of you who may not know me, my name is Chris Absher. I'm one of the campus pastors here at Grace. I want to give you the public service announcement, in case you missed it in any other way, that this is the first weekend of Pastor Chip's sabbatical for the summer. How many of you would agree with me that after almost 13 years of doing what he does, the guy deserves a little bit of time away, wouldn't you say?

Now, look, you all just said you agreed with this, you thought it was a great idea, and we have it on camera that you clapped. Okay? So, he's going to be away for the summer. I promise he's coming back in August, but we're going to continue this weekend in this sermon series called Failure Figures which we began a little while ago.

I want to start by telling you about a famous figure that you probably know, but I'm going to give you some information about them, and then I'm going to give you a chance to take a second and guess who this person is. So, here is some information about this guy. This is a very famous person. He is a musical artist, he has 13 number one hits, and eight Grammy Awards. He's the third best-selling musical artist of all time, and the American Academy of Music called him the artist of the century for the 20th century. That being said, that's sort of the great part about his career. But his career ended be when he died early. He died in the middle of a scandal around some things that he maybe did or didn't do. He also died 400 million dollars in debt. That's 400 million dollars, not 400 dollars. Four hundred million in debt. So, take just a second and think of who this person might be. Have you got your guess?

The person that I'm talking about is a guy named Michael Jackson. Now, maybe you got it. Did anybody get it? Just curious. Oh, we’ve got a lot of people that got it. So, Michael Jackson is this figure. Maybe you've listened to his music. Maybe you went to a concert. Maybe you just know about him. But if you're like me, a story like Michael Jackson, which has all this great potential but then it all falls apart, just doesn't sit well with me. Because, let's be real, the kinds of stories that we love are the rags to riches stories where they ride off into the sunset, everything's so great, the silhouette of the guy and the girl kiss in the setting sun, and then the credits roll, and they live happily ever after. But a story like Michael Jackson's is not really like that. Sure, maybe it was kind of rags to riches in the beginning, but his story is really a riches to rags story. It doesn't end the way we want it to. If you're like me, I'm waiting for like, “Okay, there's another chapter in the book where this is all going to get fixed, or maybe there's a part two to the movie that's going to come out, and it's all going to end better.”

Because these kinds of stories that end on this low note, that end in tragedy, or just don't end the way we think they should kind of bother us, and we struggle with those kinds of stories. But the strange part is there are all kinds of stories throughout scripture that have that same kind of feel to them. We get all these figures in the Old Testament that fail, mess up, don't get it right, disobey, and don't listen. All these things happen, and we're left with, when we read the Bible — and maybe you've asked these questions: What do we make of these stories? What are we supposed to do with these stories? What do they teach us? What do they have for us to learn from them?

That’s why we've been asking some questions in this sermon series. What’s really the point of these stories? The big idea we've been working with in this series is that the failure of every Bible hero makes us realize we're not enough on our own and we need someone greater. When we read these stories, we start to see ourselves in people like Saul, we see ourselves in people like David, Adam, Aaron, and all these different people. We see ourselves in them, and we start to realize, “Man, none of us have it together enough on our own. We need somebody else.”

We start to read these stories, and we're prompted to long for somebody who can get it right. So, what I want to do this weekend is talk about a failure figure named Adam. You probably know Adam's story. It comes in Genesis. You’ve probably read it a thousand times. But what we're going to do is look at it very, very carefully. Let me just tell you my goal for this weekend. This is always a goal of mine. A goal of mine this weekend, in particular, is that maybe even just one person, when we've done what we're going to do today, will go home and say, “Man, the Bible is awesome. It’s so cool. I want to study these things for myself. I want to search these things out for myself.”

That's a goal of mine. So, what we're going to do this weekend is look at a portrait of two different people. Adam. Who is Genesis saying that Adam really is? What was he supposed to do? What's his job? Who was he supposed to be? And then we're going to look at a portrait of Jesus. What is it the New Testament writers are really telling us about who Jesus is? When we get to the end, we'll make it super practical with some take-homes about what this means for you and what this means for me.

So, I'm going to ask you to kind of buckle up for a second. This is going to feel a little classroom-like for a little while. One of our values at Grace is classroom. We believe in challenging one another towards continuous growth in every meaningful area of life. So, I'm going to ask you to kind of put the thinking cap on, let's go to the Word of God together, we’ll learn some things, and then we'll make it really practical for all of us.

So, to get started, we’ve got to paint a portrait of Adam. Who is Adam? Who is he supposed to be and what was he supposed to do? So, here's what we learn about Adam. A couple of things.

In Genesis 2:15, once Adam's been created, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden…”

He put Adam there with a really particular purpose.

“…to work it and keep it.”

He puts him in the garden. Maybe you're like me, and, when you read this, you imagine, “Okay, Adam's got the little shovel, a rake, and the gardening gloves on. His hands are dirty, he's planting petunias, and this is Adam's job.”

But this is not what Genesis is really talking about because this language, “work it and keep it,” these words in Hebrew are used all throughout the rest of the Old Testament to describe the work that the Levites would do in the temple. Go read Numbers 1-4. The Levites are supposed to work and keep the temple. So, what is the author of Genesis telling us? Well, the author of Genesis is making a point that Adam's supposed to be a priest. He's supposed to be in this garden where the presence of God is, and he's supposed to work it and to keep it. There are going to be some other things that make us realize Adam is supposed to be this priest-like figure, and we'll get to those in a second, but the very fact that he's supposed to work and keep the garden should tell us something about Adam. He was supposed to do priestly work. He was supposed to be in the garden, in the presence of God, working and keeping it. But then we learn some other things about Adam that are important.

We learn in Genesis 1:26, as God is creating Adam, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”

Now, you've probably read that verse a thousand times. You've read articles or seen people talk about what the image of God is. What is the image of God? Well, there's all kinds of speculation about what it could be. Some people say that the image of God is our rationality. It's our ability to reason through things, to use logic, and to figure things out. Other people say that the image of God is our relationality. It's our ability to relate to each other, to have relationships, to have emotions, to have friendships. Maybe that's the image of God. Other people say the image of God is our creativity, our ability to take this thing and this thing, and pull them together, and make something new.

Maybe there's some truth to all of those things, but that's not what the author of Genesis has in mind when he says that man was made in the image of God. Here’s how I know that. In all the Ancient Near Eastern writings that we have from when Genesis was written, every time a temple gets built for a god, or a god builds a temple in the literature, number one, they build it in seven days. It’s kind of interesting because there's seven days in Genesis. Maybe God's building himself a temple to live in with His people. But not only are they built in seven days, but once they're done, an image of that god is put inside the temple to represent that god.

So, what's happening here? The creation of the world has been done, and now Adam, who's the image of God, is put inside the Garden of Eden. Why? Because he's supposed to have dominion. He's supposed to represent God. He’s supposed to have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the heavens, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. Adam's supposed to be God's co-regent over all of creation, having dominion, having power, and having authority because he's made in the image of God. He's put in there to rule and have dominion. So, it seems like the author of Genesis is telling us that not only is Adam supposed to be a priest, but Adam's also supposed to be sort of a king, a ruler, someone who has authority, or someone who has power. But not only is Adam both of these things — remember, no suitable helper was found for Adam, so we learned the story of the creation of Eve.

It says in Genesis 2:21, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.”

So, I need you to imagine what we see with Adam here, that he's this priest, he's this ruling king with dominion and authority, and here he is in a garden with a mark on his side. This is Adam. This is who he's supposed to be, this priest who works and keeps the garden in the presence of God, who's supposed to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth with other image-bearers. He's supposed to have dominion and authority. He's got a mark on his side, and he's in this beautiful garden with Eve. This is who humanity was supposed to be.

All of this is told to us in Genesis. This was us. This is who we were supposed to be. But, of course, you know the story, probably. I know the story. None of this lasts very long at all, right?

Because we learn, in Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and…”

No, “Eve, don't do it.”

“…ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and…”

No, “Adam, don't do it.”

“…he ate.”

They disobeyed God.

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Let me tell you, fig leaves and loincloths are a big step down from priestly garments, crowns, and being all that God had called them to be. Because of their sin, because of their disobedience, there was a consequence. Sin always has consequences. Sometimes we think we get away with sin, sometimes we think it's hidden, that it didn't hurt anybody, but sin always has consequences.

This was the consequence: “Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden…”

Adam gets sent out from the presence of God, from the place where God dwells in this garden, from the work he was supposed to do of working and keeping the garden. Adam gets sent away from all of that because of his disobedience.

“…to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Adam can't get back in. He's denied. He has to be outside the presence of God, outside the garden, not where he's supposed to be. He has to be away from the presence of God and the work that God had given him to do. So, in just a few short chapters of Genesis, here's what's happened: This was the expectation, that we'd have these priests and rulers with marks on their sides, in this beautiful garden, working it, keeping it, being the image of God, being fruitful and multiplying, and filling the earth with other image-bearers of God.

This is who we were supposed to be. This is the expectation, but the reality is very different. By Genesis 3, no more are we priestly. Instead, we're clothed with animal skins because God had to sacrifice an animal to clothe Adam and Eve. So, that's been taken away. Our crowns are cast off. We don't have dominion anymore. The animals and the birds, we don't have dominion over any of it anymore. Adam's going to have to, instead of working and keeping a beautiful garden, battle the ground. It’s thorny and it’s not going to yield anything easily.

We said Michael Jackson had his riches to rags story. This is the riches to rags story of Adam. This is the riches to rags story of all of humanity. We’re left trying to figure out who can be the one that might get us back to all the things God had created us to be. The rest of the Bible is trying to help us answer that question. One scholar put it so well that I thought it would just read it to you.

“The rest of the Bible can be seen as a search for the serpent crusher.”

Who is going to be the one who, after we've been cast out of the garden, all of these things, and were not who we're supposed to be because of sin and disobedience, crushes the head of the serpent? Because in the midst of all this, that promise was given, in Genesis 3:15, that somebody was going to come who could do it. Somebody was going to come. In the rest of the Old Testament, we're looking for that person. Will it be Noah? Will it be Daniel? Will it be David? Will it be Saul? Again and again, they fall, they fail, and they mess up. The pattern — I don't know if you've ever read Genesis to Malachi, just sat down and tried to read as far as you could, but do you know that pattern that you see where there's sin, then there's punishment and exile, then there's repentance, then there's deliverance, but then there's sin again, and the cycle repeats itself. We’re left looking for the person who can break that cycle.

[Child heard crying in congregation]

I'm just as upset about the whole thing as that one, and you should be too. We're left looking for that person. Who is the guy who's going to change everything? So, now that we've got a portrait of Adam, we’ve got to look at a portrait of Jesus. What are the New Testament writers really telling us about who Jesus is? There are no surplus words in scripture. Who is Jesus? So, we're going to look at Jesus’ portrait here, for just a second, and learn a couple of things about Him.

In Hebrews 8:1-2, it says, “Now the point in what we're saying is this: we have such a high priest,”

Now, remember, Adam was supposed to be the high priest, the one who is in the presence of God, who sort of bridges between heaven and earth. You might remember, a couple of weeks ago, Eric Smoot. Didn’t he do a great job, by the way? Would you give it up for Eric? I'm going to tell him you clapped. He used this to talk about how this is what the high priest was supposed to do: Bridge the gap, be in the middle between heaven and earth, where the presence of God is. This is who Jesus is, our great high priest. Not only is He just a high priest, but the author of Hebrews makes it a point to tell us that He’s seated.

Why does that matter? Why is that important? Because all of the priests of the Old Testament, do you know what they never did? Sit down. Because when they were on duty, there was another sacrifice to make, more sin to atone for, another thing to do, another thing to handle, and they never sat down because the work was never done. What the author of Hebrews is telling us is that the work that Jesus has done, it's finished once and for all. This is not a high priest who has to try again and again. This is the real and true high priest.

So, Adam was supposed to be a high priest, but we learned that the author of Hebrews is telling us Jesus really is the high priest that we've been looking for. Just like Adam was made in the image of God and supposed to have dominion and authority, Jesus, in Colossians 1, is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. What's it saying? All power and authority and dominion has been given to Jesus because He’s in the image of God. And so perfectly is He the image of God that He can say to His disciples, in John 14, “Have I been with you so long? You still don't know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”

Jesus is really, truly the image of God. Adam was supposed to be the image of God, but his sin and disobedience mean he was cast out. But Jesus really is the image of God. So, just like He was a priest, He’s also got power, authority, and dominion. He's a king. It's all been given to Him. But we also learned a couple other things, in the gospel of John, about Jesus. This is where I want you to know that there are no surplus words in scripture. They're all there to teach us something about who God is.

So, this is what we learn in John 20:14. This is once Jesus has resurrected and He’s outside the tomb.

“Having said this, she [Mary Magdalene] turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’”

What are we seeing? We’ve got a priest and a king who's in a garden again.

Just a couple of verses later, it says, “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.”

Remember that Thomas hadn't seen Jesus.

“Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”

I love that line. Can you imagine someone just popping up in your living room, and the first thing they say is, “Peace be with you! Peace be with you! It’s all good. It's me, Jesus.”

“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’”

Why is that there? Because we've got another picture of Jesus who's a priest, He’s a king, He was just in a garden, and now He’s got a mark on His side that He tells Thomas to put his hand into. So, what are the New Testament writers telling us? They're saying, “The long-awaited serpent-crusher has finally come. This is the real McCoy. This is the real deal. This is Jesus, the priest, the king, with all power and authority that's been given to Him. He's got a mark on His side from where He was wounded so that we could have life. The serpent-crusher has finally arrived on the scene.”

I tell you all of that for a couple of reasons. Number one: I hope that makes you just like, “The Bible's awesome.”

It's so amazing, and it is the inspired Word of God to you and to me. This is not made-up stuff. This is how you just know that Scripture is the inspired Word of God. I hope that in even hearing a couple of these things, maybe you’d say, “Man, I'm going to wipe the dust off that Bible that’s been a coaster on my coffee table for the last six months, and I'm going to read and study these things for myself.”

But, of course, all of this is not just an exercise to gain some knowledge. We also have to ask the question, “What does this mean? What does this mean for you? What does this mean for me if Jesus really is the serpent-crusher, if He really is the one who's come to do all of these things that Adam was called to do?”

I'm going to leave you with three things to chew on, to think about, and to process and work on this week. So, here's the first thing I would tell you, having looked at all these things. From the beginning, the biblical story makes us long for someone better. From day one, we're supposed to see that all of these people are not enough. David's not enough. Noah's not enough. Samuel's not enough. The prophets are not enough. We're looking for one who would be the true priest, the true king, the true gardener, who could set everything back to right. That's what scripture does it. It makes us long for someone better. So, if that's the case, then when we read the Bible, we should pay attention to the longings that it forms in us. Remember, if you go and read the Old Testament, you see the pattern, again and again. Sin and disobedience, then there's punishment and exile, but then there's repentance. Then there's deliverance, then there's sin again, and then the cycle just repeats itself over and over and over again. It makes us long, saying, “God, please, would You just send somebody who could set things to right? Can You just send somebody who can take us back to how we were supposed to be in the Garden of Eden?”

The second thing I would tell you under this is that the stories of scripture are far more about them reading us than us reading them. You heard Pastor Chip talk about this last weekend. We don't stand over the Bible, as Christians, and get to dissect it, pick it apart, and make it say what we want it to say. As Christians, we stand under scripture, it's authoritative over us, and it works like a mirror where we look in it and we say, “Man, I'm like Adam. I disobey. I'm like Saul. I don't listen, or I listen to the wrong voices. I'm like David. I'm like all these other figures in scripture. Their failure is just like me, and it makes me long for somebody who can set things back to right.”

The second thing I would tell you is, looking at all of this, I believe that God, then, is sovereign over the story of history. If that's the case, that makes Him sovereign over your story, over my story, too. So, here's what I mean by that. Either the authors of scripture just made all this stuff up about a priest and a king in a garden with a mark on their side, and they just made that up and thought that would be a handy-dandy way of making some cool ties, or those things really have basis in reality. Those things really happened. That's really who Adam was, and that's really who Jesus was. If that's true, then God has been orchestrating history to redeem us all along. It means He’s sovereign over history. And how does that work? I don't know. I don't know the answers to all those questions. How can God be sovereign, and we be free? I’m not sure we can answer all those questions, but scripture tells us that that's the case. But if God is sovereign over the story of history, that makes Him sovereign over your life and mine, your story and my story, which means there are a couple of things that are true. If God's sovereign over your story and my story, then we don't always understand each chapter of our story, but we know that the author is good. Maybe you came in here this weekend, and you have so much going on in your life that you're like, “I don't know how to make sense of any of this stuff. I have no idea how God could be working any of this stuff for my good, or for the good of anybody. I just don't know how that could be possible.”

But if God is sovereign over your story, even if you don't understand the chapter that you're in right now, we can believe and know that the author is good, and that He’s working everything for good, even the trials and tribulations, which is what Romans 8:28 is all about. He's working even the trials and tribulations for your good. We can believe that because God is sovereign, and we can trust His Word. But also, if God is sovereign over your story and my story, then no matter what we see around us, we know that the end of the whole story is good. We can go read the end of the book. We can read Revelation 21-22 where we know that a new heaven and a new earth is going to come where there's no more suffering, no more pain, and we’ll be with Jesus. Every tear gets wiped away. We know the end, and we win. Right? That's who we are.

So, I tell you that to say that no matter what you see around you in your personal life, in your family life, in what's going on in the world, if God is sovereign, then we know the end of the story is good, and we know He’s got what it takes to get us there. Right? He's got what it takes. He’s God, we're not, even when we don't understand.

The third and final thing that I would want to leave you with is this: If you're here this weekend, if you're a believer in Jesus, believers in Jesus have a lot of gardening work left to do. Let me tell you what I mean by that. Remember that because of the consequence of Adam sin, he's cast out of the garden. No longer is he all that God had called him to be. He's not able to work and keep the garden. Essentially, Adam lost his job. He's not going to be the person God called him to be or do the things God called him to do. But if Jesus is our great high priest, all power and authority has been given to Him, He was in a garden, He has a mark on His side, He saved you and invited you back into the presence of God, the veil of the temple has been torn, and we have access to God again — if all of those things are true, then that means we got our job back. We get to be the people of God, the ones who reflect Christ to those around us, the ones who are the first to forgive, the first to ask for understanding, and the first to be generous. We're the ones who get to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth with other image-bearers of God, and tell people about the one named Jesus who came, finally, after all this time, and He took our stories, which were riches to rags, and turned everything around for you and me.

I just think that God has given Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton, Venice and Parrish — this is the garden area that God has given Grace Community Church. If you're a believer in Jesus, then we got our job back. There’s work to be done, and there are people to reach. We’ve got to tell them about the one who really is the serpent-crusher. The one who came who was the perfect high priest who’s seated. The one who has all power and authority. The one who has woundings in Him, in His own side, to save you, to save me, and to save others.

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