Did God Really Say That?
Did God Really Say That?
Today, we are starting a new series that’ll take us through most of the summer, called: “Did God Really Say That?” And while this is technically a new series, like a good wine it pairs very well with the Story of God, because that question is in chapter 3 of the Story of God, as you heard read just a minute ago. Today, I’ll introduce the series and set it up for you so you know where things are headed over the next couple of weeks.
Full disclosure, the method I’m about to embark on over the next three months is not one I hope to do very often, which is base a sermon series on a book instead of on the Bible. But hear me out -- I read a book a few months back called “The Gospel According to Satan,” and thought it was so good that I thought I would like to take it further than just reading it for myself, because after studying the Story of God, the gospel, for nine months, we are told again and again in Scripture to be alert. To be on our guard. To be watchful. To stay awake. To put on armor. Why?
We live in a world of counterfeit gospels that are everywhere we turn. And here’s how you can recognize a counterfeit gospel: If I asked you to fill in the blank, “If I only had _______ I would be happy”, how would you fill in that blank?
Sometimes we fill in that blank with our political position. If only we had this President or that President. Or maybe it’s broader than that, and you would be happy if things in our country went back to normal and the world would just get along. Or maybe it’s much more personal and pointed – I’d be happy if my kids just obeyed the first time I asked. Or maybe you’re the kid, and you’d be happy if your parents would just cut you some slack and be patient with you. I’d be happy if my wife this or that, my husband this or that. I’d be happy if my job this or that, my boss this or that, my school this or that. And every commercial you see, every advertisement, every billboard is filling in that blank for you. “If only you had clear skin”; “If only you had this car”; “if only you at this restaurant”, etc etc.
None of those things are bad to want. Nothing wrong with wanting a raise or switching jobs, or having clear skin. There’s nothing wrong with building a new house, buying a new car, getting a new job. But, to expect anything other than Jesus to make you happy is to believe a different gospel.
And we’re not the first generation to have that problem. The apostle Paul begins his letter to the Galatian church in the New Testament with this: “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Ever since the words of Genesis 3:1-7 that were read for us this morning, there has been a counterfeit gospel, a distortion of the true good news, and the counterfeit gospel begins with the words, “Did God Really Say That?”
For Eve in the garden, it was, “Did God really say you couldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?” While we don’t get many clues about the tone of voice, or verbal posturing of the serpent, he seems incredulous. “You’re kidding me, right? He didn’t say that. I can’t believe someone would put you in charge of the garden, tell you you’re made in his image, and then not let you touch any trees out here. I would say it’s because he’s holding you back. He knows you can be just as wise and intelligent as he is. He knows as soon as you eat that fruit, you’ll see things the way he does, you won’t need him, and you’ll have all the wisdom you need. ”
And then here comes the distortion; the counterfeit gospel, “You won’t die. You’ll actually be more alive than ever when you stop tripping around following someone else. Your life is yours. You can make it what you want it to be.”
And she bit on it. Literally.
For you and me, as Midwestern Americans in 2020, the counterfeit gospel is pretty much the same distortion, even if it sounds a little different. It still questions and accuses God just the way the first one did. Let me give you 8 examples, each using one of the lies we’ll be talking about this summer, coupled with the counterfeit gospel for each one.
- Did God really say suffering is part of the Christian life? Why would God save you from sin, then turn around and let you go through hardship and pain? Shouldn’t life be easier when you follow him? And then, when you become a Christian you have to change everything. Why would God make someone a way he doesn’t want them to be?
- Counterfeit gospel: God made you the way you are, and He wants you to be happy, so just have fun and love who you love! If you experience pain, it’s someone else’s fault.
- Did God really say hell is real? How could a God of love send people to burn in fire forever just because they didn’t believe the right thing? Doesn’t sound very loving to me!
- Counterfeit gospel: Hell is either just a state of mind, not an actual place, or if it is an actual place, it’s not forever. Maybe people are punished for a little bit, but everyone ends up in heaven in the end.
- Did God really say Jesus is the only way to heaven? That seems pretty exclusive. What about Muslims? Jews? Hindus? Buddhists? Some of them are really good people. Are you saying they are all going to go to hell unless they worship Jesus, no matter how much good they did?
- Counterfeit gospel: What’s true for you may not be true for everyone else. So you do you. Find something that makes you happy and stick with it. If it’s Jesus, that’s fine. But don’t tell me I have to. All roads lead to the same place anyway.
- Did God really say we have to blindly obey him? Does that mean we are just pawns in God’s chess game, and we have no say in the matter? Is it really true that God might ask me to do something I don’t want to do, go somewhere I don’t want to go, or do something I’m not good at?
- Counterfeit gospel: No way. Your life is what you make it. You are smart, you are talented, and you can be whatever you want to be if you put your mind to it. If we’re talking chess, you’re anything but a pawn. You’re special! When times get tough, just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and keep going. You can’t stop me.
- Did God really say our sin separates us from him? I thought sin is just a mistake, like spilling milk on the kitchen counter right? I mean it’s serious, Jesus died for our sin, but it was a little overkill.
- Counterfeit gospel: Sin is just something I do, it’s not part of me. God has grace and loves everyone! So when you mess up, just relax and move on. It’s all good. God knows you didn’t mean it, and just because you screamed at the kids today doesn't mean you don’t love them. Yeah sure, you looked at porn, or said something you knew you probably shouldn’t, but it wasn’t that bad, and god knows you didn’t mean it.
- Did God really say Jesus died to settle God’s anger? God’s not an angry God – he’s a God of love, isn’t he? God so loved the world that he gave his only son… doesn’t seem angry to me!
- Counterfeit gospel: The cross was to show that you are so valuable to God that he sent Jesus to die so you could be in heaven with him. Jesus was picturing you as he died on the cross, because he loves you so much.
- Did God really say we are weak and nothing good lives in us? Did he really say that no one is righteous? What about mother Teresa? Gandhi? MLK? Billy Graham? My grandpa. They were all good people that are in heaven now, right? They did a lot of good in the world, and I find it hard to believe that no one is good.
- Counterfeit gospel: God helps those who help themselves. If you’re a good person, God will notice and thank you for all you gave to him. So if you want him to really take notice of you, you better read more, pray more, serve more.
It’s really hard for me not to just go back and correct all of those, but that’s what we’ll be doing as we look at each of those one at a time this summer and seeing the true gospel answer against those counterfeits.
But even as you listen to that, you recognize those counterfeits, don’t you? You’ve heard some versions of them before. You may have even heard a few that you still believe, and you’re like, “wait! You say that’s not right???”
The whole purpose of this series is that, even though 1 Peter 5:8 says your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour, very rarely does he show up like a lion, roaring on about eating you for lunch. What he does is show up in the lyrics of a “Christian” song. He shows up on a meme or a post on Facebook. He shows up in a verse of the day taken out of context. He shows up in a “faith-based” movie or book. And the way he devours us isn’t by taking a bite out of us – it’s by simply accusing God of being ridiculous. Did God really say that? Sounds a little silly.
Now, the thing I wrestled with this week was if I should start this series off by taking the time to talk more about Satan and demons. To give an overview of what we’re talking about when we use those words, to explore our enemy a little bit. But here’s the trouble: Scripture doesn’t give us much information about Satan. Quite frankly, even some of the Bible verses people have used from Scripture to try to answer the questions of where Satan came from, how evil got started, etc, etc, probably aren’t about Satan at all.
Even Moses who is writing Genesis 3 doesn’t seem to care that you have those questions. He knows the serpent is a deceiver, that he is opposed to the things of God, and even that is reading between the lines! He doesn’t come right out and say it. Chapter 2 of Genesis ends with everyone happy, naked, and innocent, and chapter 3 starts – “now the serpent was the most cunning animal the Lord God had made…” and off we go. So for those of you who wrestle with those questions of evil and where it came from, I think if it would be helpful for us to know the origins of Satan and evil, God would have made it clear. But what we do know is that Satan uses a similar tactic with most temptations:
- Questions God – Did God actually say that?
- Accuses God – Wow. If he said that, He’s not who you think He is (good, loving, powerful, etc)
- Get the focus on you – Think about what you want and how it’ll make you feel. I mean he wants you to be happy, right? He wants you to experience pleasure and beauty and fulfillment, doesn’t he?
- You do it
- Accuse you – How could you do such a thing? You’re the worst mom in the world. You’re the worst kid in the world. You’re pathetic.
Feeling that shame, Adam and Eve dive into the bushes to cover their nakedness. By contrast, look at God’s words to Adam and Eve after they dove into hiding. V9 So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
Satan leaves us with “how could you?” And God comes saying, “Where are you?” God comes calling us into the light. He’s not an angry Father looking for blood. He’s a gracious Father to Adam and Eve, knowing blood will be spilled one day on a cross. God knows that even this sin is covered by the blood of his Son Jesus, who would take God’s anger on himself, who would open the door to the presence of God, make a way back to the perfection of the garden, and by His Spirit, shine the light of Truth on the lies we’ve believed, calling them what they are, and exposing Satan for the liar he is. God could come for Adam and Eve that day, knowing their guilt, knowing their shame, because the day was coming when the sin debt would be paid in full. Look at the question itself! “Where are you?” implies I want to be with you! I want to know where you are so I can be there.
So as we begin this series and start uncovering some of the twisted truths we’ve been believing, you are being fought over right now in the unseen world as we speak. Right now two voices are fighting for your heart.
One voice says “You do you. You deserve it.” And the other says “Where are you?” One says “How could you do that?,” the other says “come to me and find rest.”
The good news of Jesus is that he is more than enough for any person who will come to him by faith, and trust him with their lives. Our sin isn’t just against each other. It’s not simply a mistake. Our sin is rebellion against the Holy One, the God who made us. Behind our sin is the unbelief that God is good, that he is in control, and that he is perfectly righteous. But the good news of Jesus is that the same death that covered Adam and Eve’s sin back in the garden is the same death that covers yours and mine, if you’ll receive it. And I pray that God will call many to salvation today.