[Hump day of the conference is here. By now we’re settling into the routine, being challenged by the talks, being stretched by the strand material, being encouraged by the workshops, and growing new friendships across churches. Your prayers for the delegates to continue being sustained for the remaining week is appreciated!]
Day 3 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna: What’s Your Problem? [Genesis 3]
What’s wrong with us?
So what’s wrong with the world? In the news this week: murder, animal abuse, global unrest. Every day is like this – the news filled with terrible events. Derek was chatting with a friend and they concluded that they both knew something was not right with the world. ‘There’s lots of brokenness out there… but do you think there’s any brokenness in you?’ That’s a rather confronting question, especially when trying to build a new friendship!
But we all know that there is something broken in all of us. The self-help industry is massive, as a reflection of the problem. But whether the problems are ‘out there’ or ‘in here’ they all have the same starting place.
At the end of Genesis 2 we have a picture of perfection. But then 3:1 opens up with a sinister plot with perfection. The serpent is ‘crafty’ which in Hebrew rhymes with ‘naked’ (ie the nakedness and goodness and perfection of Adam and Eve). Here in this verse is the sinister music of the antagonist coming in.
1 – Eve doubts God’s Word.
It begins with questioning. He starts by questioning the motives of God. He is the introducer of chaos – and begins by asking, ‘Did God really say…?’ He’s not introducing himself, and then asking a genuine question of inquiry. His words are a sneer. The fall of mankind did not begin by logic or rationale, it started with a sneer.
If you want to make a Christian feel stupid, don’t start by questioning their logic. You undermine how they feel. You question their faith.
A few years ago Lawrence Krauss debated William Lane Craig – but the debate was not about logic and reason and rationale. If you watched him on the night it was all about disdain, sneers, used to communicate his point.
Why do people move away from God and faith in Jesus? Rarely is it logical or rational. It is often started with embarrassment about what we believe, doubt, having our faith sneered at.
Notice also that when the Serpent speaks he removes God’s personal name ‘Yahweh’ from the equation. He asks ‘Did God really say…’ And then disastrously Eve copies this way of speaking.
You know there’s a breakdown in your relationship with your children when they start calling you, ‘Mr Hanna.’ I’m not Mr Hanna, I’m your dad!
When Eve copies the serpent’s language she creates distance between herself and God. Into that space, doubts creep in. And that’s the way it is with us as well. Questions arise about God’s goodness. Why would he have that tree there and tell me to not eat? Why would he make me a sexual being and then tell me to remain pure? Why would he open up an opportunity for me and then close the door? Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Instead of a relationship of trust with God we start to see all the rules and restrictions.
2 – A lie.
The serpent lies. He changes God’s word – and suggests that God’s word was unreliable and that God has a hidden agenda: to keep you subjugated, a slave, ignorant. If you eat the fruit you will be like him.
And that’s what God says happens in v22 – they have become like him. They have become like him in knowing what is right and wrong. But now in their fallenness, they could not distinguish which was the right choice. Choice now became enslaved.
Imagine looking at something that will kill you as if it would bring you pleasure. Independence from God is based on the lie that you’ll have more life (not less) apart from God – but that choice that appears to bring you pleasure will actually kill you.
We know that we live in a sex-saturated world where it’s increasingly difficult to talk and share the opinion that the Bible says that while sex is good it is reserved for men and women in a committed monogamous relationship. But the questions raised on this truth is to doubt God’s goodness in this plan – why would God restrict me from this pleasure with anyone I wish?
Back to Eve – with God held at a distance the whole world is now seen in a new light.
3 – Eve break’s God’s command
Halfway through v6 she takes the fruit and gave some to her husband, they ate, their eyes were opened, they were ashamed, they hid from each other.
This wasn’t a mistake. She didn’t just eat the wrong fruit in a moment of confusion. It was a deliberate decision. When she believed the lie that God was not for her, withholding goodness from her, she grasped for it herself. That’s what sin does – we doubt God’s goodness and attempt to seize the goodness of life for ourselves. Sin is born in a mindset that God does not have your best interests at heart. That he is holding something back for you – which is for your good. But if you take it you’ll have more than what you have now, you’ll be more content.
Does this ring true for us? When we struggle with sin in our lives, when we feel distant from God – that we find it harder to believe that the things God says are good for us we do not believe. But instead we believe that the things that are not good for us will actually bring us contentment – and we walk down that path in unbelief.
The real problem is in our hearts. It begins with our distance from and distrust of God.
The scene after the eating of the fruit is somewhat tragically comical. They hide and then deny. God comes into the scene and Adam and Eve flee. He calls out to them and their shame comes out. What do they do next? They rationalise their behaviour.
When God asks what they did – Adam blames Eve for their actions, then Eve passes the blame onto the Serpent. No ownership, just passing the buck.
God curses them in reverse order: the serpent first, then Eve, then Adam. The curses for the woman include pain in child rearing and conflict in her relationship with her husband. The curses for the man include hardship in work, and ultimately death. They both then get booted out of the Garden. Everything has unravelled from Genesis 2.
How could this have all be avoided?
Well, for one – you could have gotten rid of the tree. Did God set up the situation for failure?
One of the faculties that God has given to mankind is the ability to choose – the capacity to make decisions (as a result of being made in the image of God). And one of the choices God lays before his morally capable creatures is to choose between living in relationship with me, or to choose to live apart from me. We can often get caught up in the tree – but if you do you’ll miss what is being said here.
Notice that the character who is prominent in the first half of this story is noticeably absent in the second half of the story. Where was Adam in all of this? He was right there. In 3:1 the ‘you’ on the lips of the serpent is plural. He was there. He was silent. In Genesis 2 he was given the task of watching the Garden – to guard the Garden. We often blame the tree for this disaster. But really, the blame is on Adam. As soon as the words came out of the serpent’s mouth he should have whacked him. His job was to guard the garden. We shouldn’t be getting rid of the tree – we need a better gardener, a better guardian. A better guardian who will defend God’s honour and Word, and one who will secure our future.
Paul says this in Romans 5:12ff. The first Adam brought destruction. But the second Adam, through his death for us, gives us the (free) gift of life.
Reflections for us…
First, you have to stop being your own guardian. Sometimes when we’re watching sports on tv we can easily think we’ll do a better job – easy to do that from a distance. We can do that with Adam as well – thinking we would have done a better job. But seriously, we would fail just as much. We need to trust Jesus.
Second – we live in a world of wide and expansive choices. And while it’s not unique historically – that we can choose so many different avenues to walk down with all its allures to live in ways other than God intends for us, and with its pressures, and with its temptations to modify God’s word to suit our lives – it is probably fair to say that we have far more choices than ever to do that with. And unless we have dealt with our hearts beforehand we will not be able to tackle these choices in right ways. We need to be convinced that the God who created all things is also our loving heavenly Father who has done so much for us to live in relationship with him. We need to see that Christ is the better guardian and our Saviour. We need to see that we need to draw nearer to him rather than draw nearer to this world.
“There is a difference between believing that God is holy and gracious, and having a new sense on the heart of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. The difference between believing that God is gracious and tasting that God is gracious is as different as having a rational belief that honey is sweet and having the actual sense of its sweetness.” – Jonathan Edwards
We need to taste that God is good – otherwise, we will continue to see the lies of this world as sweeter.
[I think I’ve heard sermons on Genesis 3 more than any other passage of scripture, and still today I was challenged to see the depths of my brokenness and sin, and encouraged to see the goodness and grace of Jesus.]
Evening Session | Peter Jensen: Where Am I? [2 Corinthians 4]
Purpose and meaning
Psychologists have looked at the issue of death and dying. In Australia, there is a phobia about death – and so we do not talk about it. The Funeral Industry has also changed in relation to that – now death is a celebration event. People eulogise at funerals as well. Peter went to a funeral of a 30yo which had 16 eulogies! As though they wanted to speak him back into life!
But according to psychologists, we manage our fear of death by focusing on purpose and meaning in life. Attempts to deal with our phobia: take selfies and celebrate life, attend church, do whatever we can to empower us against death.
What is said here is true. In the Australian community there is an intense fear of death and all sorts of ways to bolster the mind against it.
When Peter asks professionals about what is happening with the soul of the country the same message comes out again and again: people detect in Australians anxiety. You may live a wealthy life, have a good job, but you’re anxious. Anxious because of disease? No – an underlying angst in the Aussie soul. We create a sense of permanence and meaning in life to try and cope with our fear of death.
This turns into loneliness, especially in old age – architects are evening working out how to build retirement villages for loners. But this sense of loneliness will be massive. The destruction of the family, collapse of organisations and communities. And even the communities, like clubs, that we attend are not real places that help – especially with the alcohol and gambling/pokies that infest these areas. But alcoholism and gambling addiction is an outworking of this anxiety/phobia of death.
And since we have invented for us a godless world we find ourselves in a timeless life. A life without time, a life without purpose. And while we try to construct meaning they are shallow, or ultimately meaningless.
The people that Peter speaks to also note that with the anxiety there is also a sense of entitlement. When patients hear from a GP that there isn’t much that can be done, patients respond with rebuff – there must be something you can do because Google told me you could!
All of this comes from a deep sense for a hunger for significance and a hunger for meaning. We fill the gaps with work, play, sex – but for what if there is no purpose in life?
But there is a gospel. A gospel which gives us purpose and therefore meaning.
The promises of God
We know that in the beginning God made everything good. Yet man reached for autonomy – aut (self) nomos (rule) – and that ruined everything. But into this catastrophe God still speaks. The narrative goes forward, and we see someone like Noah who receives a covenant in the rainbow, and various other figures who receive other covenants. Fundamentally the promises of God are all about this: I am going to re-establish my kingdom through the reestablishment fo my people and bring them into my heavenly rest, into a new age in which every blessing will rest upon their head. I am going to save the world and the Kingdom of God will be restored.
One of the key promises was to Abraham and the threefold promises: people, land, blessing. Another key covenant/promise is to David – with a Davidic King to rule eternally. Then through the Prophets, like Jeremiah, in which the promises of God will now be written on the heart of his people.
So what are promises?
First thing about promises: every promise ever made is about the future. Every promise is the attempt to control the time that comes to us and shape them in our way. The second thing about promises is that they are always verbal. God’s promises are always verbally made. The third thing about promises – how do they impact upon someone? By faith. But you see, one of the problems with this is that most people can’t keep their word. So a ‘promise’ is not a strong thing in human parlance. But God always keeps his promises.
So when in the Bible his promises don’t seem to be going well he reiterates them and builds on them, and continues to promise that his Kingdom will come. There will be a day when all comes good, when he reigns again. Isaiah has extraordinary pictures of what this will be like. The Bible is filled with all sorts of promises within the bible.
The structure of the promises of the bible push its narrative along. So whenever we see a promise in scripture we see a goal and a purpose in life – and then we have a purpose: to be there when the Kingdom comes. And one day we will stand before God in judgement – that’s his promise as well – and every deed we have done, and every deed with did not do when we should have done it, will be judged. The goal of our lives is to get that tick of approval from God in the end.
[Peter at this point turns to the whiteboard and draws a diagram of biblical history. Check out the audio to hear his explanation of the ‘present evil age’, the coming of Jesus, ‘the last days’, and ‘the age to come’.]
God’s great ‘Yes!’
2 Cor 1:20-22. All of God’s promises find their resounding YES in Jesus. The good news is that we don’t have to look anywhere else to work out where God’s promises are fulfilled.
The battle against evil and the evil one has been won already – on the cross. The greatest moment in history has turned everything around.
“If William Shakespeare walked into the room right now we would all stand, but if Jesus Christ walked into the room we would all kneel.” – Charles Lamb
Jesus is so wonderful, so central to everything in God’s purposes and plans.
2 Cor 4:1ff – we get to see the glory of God. Glory has the idea of heaviness, of weightiness, of significance. Where do we see it? In the face of Jesus. Where do we see the face of Jesus? In the preaching of the gospel.
And yet…the great ‘Not Yet’
4:7ff – While we have glory, and see glory, Christians are not relieved from pain and suffering. The New Testament does not pretend that Christian living is easy street. 4:8-10 makes this clear – this world, this life, is filled with suffering and pain. And we shouldn’t be surprised.
4:16ff – the outer-self wastes away – but our inner self is getting changed and transformed from one degree to the next towards glory. That’s our great hope.
And so…the life of faith
We live by faith. 2 Cor 5:4-7 – while wasting away the life now is by faith. How do we live? By trusting Jesus. Trusting the promises of God – that we will be resurrected, that we will see Jesus, that we will be suffering free.
Living by ‘faith’ has been so mangled today by false teaching – especially the prosperity gospel. Faith has become the means by which one attains freedom from suffering, pain, and freedom to live prosperously. Faith is something we have and make.
No. The power of our faith is in accordance with the power of the person we put our faith in. It’s not the quantity of your faith, but the person in whom your faith rests matters. This is why the prosperity gospel’s version of faith is eschatologically flawed – attempting to take all the things in the ‘age to come’ into ‘the present age’. Paul speaks of wasting away. Stephen was martyred. There’s no escape for them in their faith.
2 Cor 4:17-18 – the glory we receive will be huge. If we saw ourselves in glory we would be tempted to bow down in worship. We will win. Nero put Paul to death. But now we name our dogs Nero and our children Paul – so who won that?
Who are we? We are great scum of the universe sinners. But we are saved. Redeemed. Where are we now? Between the first and second coming. Redeemed, renewed, and waiting for redemption and renewal. Yes, we might be afraid of death – but Jesus promises to walk with us through that valley, and then we will see him face to face and we will be glorious: reflecting his glory.
[Gosh… if you’ve missed Peter’s talks so far you need to make it to the last one. That was stunning. A wonderful gospel-centred reminder that in the midst of our fears and feelings of being rubbish Jesus lifts us up and will get us to the end. Come Lord Jesus, come quickly that we may see you!]
Question and Answer | Peter Jensen, Derek Hanna, Christopher Lung
How can our generation avoid misreading our culture?
Peter: You will fail, that’s ok. But this sort of conference (ie Ignite) that we didn’t have is essential. The books you’re getting are first grade. So you are better resourced then we were. Furthermore, it is important that we are all thinkers and thinking through the implications of our faith with others, so we don’t go off track. And finally, we have to have the courage to stand up for Christ – especially at university where people take for granted that the secular way is the only way to think.
Why did God allow sin to exist and happen in the first place? Were we created with an evil heart or a heart that was not perfect?
Derek: The person I’d want answering this question is Peter!
Peter: That is one of the most perfect illustrations of original sin! One of the key thing in asking questions is to ask what the Bible says. God has made his revelation to us for the things we need to know – but many questions we have, which are legitimate to ask, sometimes are not answered in the Bible. So it is better to say ‘we don’t know’ because it’s better than to speculate. In terms of the origin of sin – we don’t know. Why did God allow it? Again we don’t know. But in permitting it he has taken it and created out of it something even more wonderful than was there before. And it cost him the death of his own Son in the process.
Derek: Often the challenge we have is we want a clean cut answer, and pull the data out of the Bible that we want to fit the model we want it to fit. And when it doesn’t work we pull something out, anything out, that fits with what we want. At that point, we are telling God how he should act and be. So we need to keep being people that allow God to speak and answer the questions he deems important, and not be people who ram things into place.
Ben: How would you answer that for a non-Christian? Often this is a genuine barrier for them.
Derek: We do need to allow God be God – and to deal with God as he has revealed himself.
Peter: Also remember that a non-Christian asking the question about evil also has a problem in defining why it exists and what it is. So we should be thoughtful about how to ask questions back to them.
I have a mate who has his life altogether and doesn’t need God. How can I respond to him?
Chris: In one sense there’s not much you can do if he believes he’s fine. If he was at church and believes this then they fundamentally misunderstand the gospel. Keep trying and praying for them. And keep asking questions.
The resurrection of Jesus: Jesus didn’t need to be resurrected as God but as a man. Does that mean that the eternal God died – there was a break in the Godhead?
Peter: No. Jesus in his divinity did not die – for God cannot die. In his humanity he died. But we also have to be careful not to divide the humanity and divinity of Jesus. So remember the astonishing thing is that when Jesus died and was raised he did so like us – as one of us. He was resurrected as man, and continues as man. Wonderful!
We were created by God to be relational beings – is that because God is relational. And how does sin impact our relational component?
Derek: Being made in the image of God is to be relational – and that is a reflection of God’s triune nature – eternally relational within himself. And he has transmitted that to us – so when we are in community we reflect this nature. Was it God’s intention? Well, we can only extrapolate what is revealed in the text. We can sort of see it in Genesis 1 – without ‘relationship’ being the only thing about imaging God. In Jeremiah the people of God are spoken of as a Bride, and this image is picked up also in the New Testament as well – the corporate body is described as the singular ‘bride’. This doesn’t reduce our individuality but encourages us on our communal nature.
Peter: How does sin impact our relational nature? It does – every day. For instance – one of the main differences between Christianity and Islam is that Christianity says that ‘God is Love’. Islam cant’ say that. We can because of his triune nature – he has objects of Love in order to love – love requires an object. Peter notices in his conversation with CEOs that CEOs talk to each other not about relationships but about their jobs. Our western culture has so focused and emphasised individuality – and that’s an aberration.
What’s the importance of becoming a member of a church? Why not just attend?
Chris: As a Pastor it leaves a good annual report for me (!). I’ve noticed in my younger generation that there’s a distinct disinterest in formalities such as signing up to become a member of the church – or even marry and sign a document to be married. So we’re losing the idea of losing these commitments. So the rate of people wanting to be baptised and become members happens but is slower. A good analogy is with marriage. Having a public marriage ceremony publicly and officially says to the world that this is the person who I’m committed to. So with membership – it’s a sign of commitment. For Millennials, this is a particular struggle that we face.
Holy Spirit questions – can a Christian ever be at risk of losing their salvation and the Holy Spirit? If those who have walked away were they ever really Christians? And how can the Holy Spirit dwell within me when I don’t feel victory over sin?
Peter: What does the Bible say about whether Christians can fall away? The Bible is full of strong warnings about falling away. So does that mean that real Christians can fall away? Yes… but no. The warnings are there so that real Christians will heed them. Jesus tells the parable of the sower and warns us that various people have the appearance of faith but end up fading away. We also have the promises of God in scripture that once he has us in his hands he will not let us go. So as far as we are concerned we need to watch out for the warnings in scripture – take them seriously. Do not rely on past performance. As the Holy Spirit dwells within you he will use those warnings to keep you going.
In Christian maths it works out that God keeps us 100% and we follow him 100%.
True believers will make progress in their faith – but you will never reach sinless perfection in this life. It is always a struggle. What happens often is that as you grow more like Jesus you become more conscious of sin in your life. I often look back in life and realise that I have sinned in ways I didn’t know then. And as I progress in life I keep remembering that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour.
What was going through your mind (Peter) as you were hearing scathing comments on ABC’s Q&A – and how did you manage to still speak the gospel.
Peter: First – I have never been more prayed for. People all around the nation were praying for me. If indeed God used it then it was through the prayers of God’s people. Second – before the program began I made a clear aim to love the people on the panel. I did not view the panellists as enemies out to get me. They were not out to get me, or you, they have a quarrel with God. So by his grace he enabled me to love them. Yes, they were a bit rude but what was going on in their hearts and minds that led them to act that way? Third – in response to God’s prayer the host, Tony Jones, asked me for a final word. In God’s timing, I remembered John 3:16 – and heard later that two people were converted through that. Praise God for that.