It is hard to believe that all the natural disasters, diseases, and cruelty in the world are a direct result of two people eating a piece of fruit, isn't it? But in this message, Stephen reminds us that the crime committed in Eden was far more devastating.
“Stolen Apples & Turkish Delight”
In the early 1600’s, a Puritan theologian named John Owen served the church with great wisdom and doctrinal clarity. In one of his works entitled, Sin and Temptation, he wrote, “However strong a castle may be, if a treacherous party resides inside, the castle cannot be kept safe from the enemy. [The truth is] traitors occupy our own hearts, ready to side with every temptation and to surrender to them all.
Citation: 2005 Preaching Today.com: John Owen, Sin and temptation (Bethany House, 1996)
John Bunyan, another English preacher who lived in the 1600’s, put that truth into an allegory where Diabolus battled against the city of Man-Soul, trying to enter one of the gates of the city. Each of the gates related to one of Man’s senses and as long as Man refuses to open one of the city gates, he is kept safe.
It is true, that the greatest traitor to our spiritual health and well-being – the person who will sell us out to the tempter – the betrayer who will open the doors of the castle gates and welcome in the enemy – is the same person who stared back at you this morning when you looked into the mirror.
The appetites of our flesh – Paul refers to as the god of the human belly (Philippians 3:19) – the god of our appetites, the indulgences and sinful desires of our flesh; the pride of our hearts; the lust of our eyes . . . these are the traitors living within the castle walls of all our hearts.
And by the age of 21, the castle of average American heart has been taunted and enticed and baited and exposed to the flirtations, one estimate surmised, of 300,000 commercials . . . telling us that we need something more, something better, something newer, something different . . . in fact, as the Las Vegas commercial brazenly offers to it’s customers, “you can come to sin city and worship the gods of your appetites and never need worry “Whatever you do here, will stay here.”
What a lie.
The truth is, whatever you do will haunt you . . . it will hurt you . . . it will hound you . . . it will hunt you down . . . don’t be deceived – your sin will find you out!
I came across a new commercial to encourage those who are intent on pursuing the gods of their bellies – I read just recently an article from msnbc.com which advertised a new line of greeting cards for an untapped market for people, if you can believe it, who are involved in adulterous relationships. It’s called The Secret Lover Collection and is, “committed to providing a greeting card collection with empathy and understanding, without judgment, to lovers involved in a secret relationship.”
The founder of this new collection, Cathy Gallagher, said that the greeting cards will be marketed subtly; there won’t be a big banner that says, “Infidelity” . . . but the cards will be displayed under labels like, “Love Expressions,” and “Intimacy.” Card messages will even include romantic lines for Christmas time that read, and I quote, “As we celebrate with our families, I will be thinking of you.”
Adapted from Alex Johnson, “When You Care Enough to Risk Everything,” msnbc.com 8/17/05
What horror is bound up in those sentiments . . . for everyone involved. The gates of the castle have been opened to the enemy by the traitor within.
And sin will be merciless.
The writer of Hebrews referred to sin as “the passing pleasures of sin.” Listen, the pleasure of sin doesn’t just pass away – it passes into something else – something unexpected: sorrow, oppression, despair, guilt, sickness, slavery, death. (Hebrews 11:25)
Adapted from Kurt Bruner/Jim Ware, Finding God in the Land of Narnia (Tyndale House, 2005), p. 30
I don’t think any writer ever illustrated the lure of sin and the promise of freedom and delight and satisfaction that sin would bring, than C. S. Lewis.
In the Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis illustrated in living color the tantalizing power of the evil one and enticing promises that never come true.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund – one of the four children who find their way through the wardrobe and into the winter-land of Narnia – finds himself alone, unexpectedly in Narnia.
He hears bells and sees a woman approaching in a sleigh. He is struck by her stunning beauty, as well as the luxurious white fur garments she is robed in.
At first he is a little alarmed by the coldness in her expression, but then she offers him a warm drink and then asked him what his favorite thing to eat was – to which he responded, “Turkish delight!” And instantly she created a beautiful round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which Edmund opened and found inside several pounds of Turkish delight which was more delicious than any other he had ever eaten.
Edmund wolfs down the entire box . . . telling the Queen all she wishes to know and feeling very proud of himself.
Of course, the wicked Queen just wants Edmund to lure his brother and two sisters back to Narnia with him so that she can kill them all – thus eliminating the threat to her rule which, according to legend, could only be overthrown by 4 human kings and queens from earth.
But the Queen entices Edmund with the promise that if he brings his siblings back to Narnia and delivers them to her, he will not only become her prince and eventually become the King of Narnia, but he will have all the Turkish delight he could ever want!
If you fast forward the story to the moment when Edmund returns to the Queen and tells her where she can find his brother and sisters, you discover that insightful moment when he asks her for more Turkish delight and she refuses and instead gives him a piece of dry bread.
What a picture of the devil who never keeps his bargains . . . he never delivers on his promises.
David the Psalmist wrote that it is at the right hand of God – the presence of God – where there are pleasures evermore. (Psalm 16:11)
Satan, pictured in the wicked witch, is the ruler of Narnia.
That’s why in the description of the land of Narnia, you read that classic line from C. S. Lewis, “It is always winter, but never Christmas.”
What could be worse to children . . . always cold winter, but the one good thing about winter is Christmas, but Christmas never comes.
For Narnia is the under the curse of the wicked Queen . . . it is the land of cold wind and barren land and frozen ponds without ever any appearance of gifts and lights and laughter and joy.
Let me quickly mention one more scene of temptation. It occurs in The Magician’s Nephew, after Aslan, the great Lion who serves as a picture of Christ; tells Digory to go to the top of a distant hill where he will find an apple tree. Digory is commanded to bring Aslan one of the silver apples – but not to eat any of them himself. Evidently, the apples not only smelled so sweet to a hungry boy, but were capable of providing immortality and restoring health forever.
Following Aslan’s instructions, Digory traveled to the hill, found a golden gate and a silver sign that further warned that the apples must never be eaten for oneself – they are intended for others. To eat one for yourself was considered stealing.
But when Digory stood before the tree, the delicious smell overwhelmed him – his mouth began to water and his hunger intensified. He longed to taste the fruit and tried to convince himself that it would be all right. Why, the thought, “what possible harm could there be in eating one for myself?”
Adapted from Bruner/Ware, p. 14
He resisted the temptation, and plucked one apple only and tucked it into his coat. But when he turned back to leave, he came face to face with the White Witch. Her mouth was stained with dark traces of juice from the apple core she tossed aside. He runs from her.
Listen as I read from C. S. Lewis’ own script,
“Why do you run from me? I mean you no harm. If you do not stop and listen to me now, you will miss some knowledge that would have made you happy all your life.”
“Well, I don’t want to hear it, thanks,” said Digory. But he [really] did!
“I know what errand you have come on,” continued the Witch . . . “You have plucked fruit in the garden yonder. You have it in your pocket now. And you are going to carry it back, untasted, to the Lion; for him to eat, for him to use. You simpleton! Do you know what that fruit is? I will tell you. It is the apple of youth, the apple of life. I know, for I have tasted it; and I feel already such changes in myself that I know I shall never grow old or die. Eat it, Boy, eat it: and you and I will both live for ever as king and queen of this whole world. . .”
C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia (HarperCollins Publishers, 1955), p.93
Does that sound remotely familiar?!
Turn to Genesis chapter 3 – to a Garden called Eden – uncursed Narnia to C. S. Lewis.
In Genesis chapter 3, Adam and Eve will face the enticement of the evil one whose mouth was already stained with the dark traces of rebellion and defiance.
Before we look at this scene, you need to understand that this tree in the garden was not placed there to tempt them to sin as it was to testify of their surrender to God.
Sin ultimately is a statement that you are convinced:
-that what you want is better than what God delivers;
-that what you need is more important than what God offers;
-that what you feel is superior to what God allows;
-that what you decide is more clever than how God directs;
Sin is ultimately a statement that of insurrection. We know better than God.
What we feel and need and want and decide and do is sovereign.
What does God know?
Into the innocence of fresh creation the satanically embodied serpent comes and he delivers the first statement of doubt regarding the word of God.
Notice verse 1b. “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
The serpent is such a gentleman . . . so tactful in his deceptive words.
“Eve, can you really be sure that God said you can’t eat from any tree? Did He really say all that? How can you be sure . . . you know, you weren’t there when He said it, right?”
That implication would be true. She wasn’t there . . . God delivered the truth to Adam ion chapter 2 verse 17 and then created Eve in verse 21.
God may have repeated the prohibition to Eve, but we at least can be sure that Adam had delivered the truth to her because she repeated most of it back to Satan in chapter 3.
And here, I believe is the brilliant strategy of Satan; if he can get Eve to act independently of Adam – if he could get her to question the words of Adam, maybe he could get her to disobey the obvious word of God.
From that day until this day, one of Satan’s most powerful tools is to put a question mark where God has put a period.
“Eve . . . are you really sure God said all of that?”
What she should have done was tell the Serpent to hold the phone and call for Adam.
That’s what my wife does when salesmen call – and they always ask for the wife.
My wife’s too nice to hang up on them . . . I don’t have any trouble with that.
The problem is Eve doesn’t hang up! She actually enters into a dialogue and loosely paraphrases the prohibition of God. “Well, we’re not supposed to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, or even touch it or we’ll die.”
In fact, she exaggerates God’s word, which never prohibited anything other than eating it. She hints at what may have already become a growing frustration. “We can’t even touch it!”
How like Eve we are! We focus, not on what we have, but what we don’t have. Not on what we can do, but what we can’t do; what we can enjoy, but what we can’t enjoy.
“That one tree . . . we can’t even touch it . . . or we’ll die!”
At that moment, Satan knew he had the upper hand and immediately moved from doubt to denial.
Verse 4. And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die!”
For the first time in this perfect history and perfect environment and beautiful arrangement, someone has uttered the unthinkable.
God is telling a lie.
Surely that must have been shocking to Eve! But no word from Eve of, “How dare you!”
Ah, now, see a subtle smile grow on the serpent’s darkly stained mouth.
He quickly moves from spreading doubt and stating denial into speaking delusion.
Adapted from John Phillips, Exploring Genesis (Loizeaux Brothers, 1980), p. 57
v. 5. For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Listen, Satan not only calls God a liar, but he goes even further to attribute to God evil and selfish motives.
“Eve, the reason God doesn’t want you to eat that fruit is because you’ll become God too . . . and he can’t take another god in the universe. He’s envious of His throne . . . He is at heart a coward who is afraid of losing ground on His divine turf.”
The Lion only wants the silver apples for himself! Eat it, Eve and it will pay off, big time!
Isn’t that the essence of sin?
The Serpent is really saying, “Listen, God doesn’t have your best interests at heart. He’s really a rather petty God. If God really loved you He’d never withhold that thing or that person from you. He’d never keep you pinned down. I can’t imagine God not allowing me to do what’s best for me . . . I mean, what kind of God is He?
Listen to me, Eve, and you will get all the Turkish delight you ever wanted!
Instead of running, Eve stands before the tree and studies the fruit – she will make up her own mind now.
Verse 6. “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food” – in other words, what’s so bad about this fruit – it’s edible . . . how’d she know? Perhaps she watched an animal come up and bite one off – we know of no animals that were commanded not to eat from it; perhaps the serpent himself took one and bit into it, in Eve’s presence . . . he didn’t fall down and die; or maybe it was simply the sweet smell of the fruit. And she was hungry.
This is the lust of the flesh – what could be wrong about something that is good to my body?
My body says it’s a good thing . . . so it must be good!
Look further; “and that it was a delight to the eyes,”
It was beautiful fruit – it had an appeal to the emotion – it was not only the lust of the flesh, but the lust of the eyes.
How can something be wrong when it feels so right . . . it seems so good.
Didn’t God create it too?!
Eve saw further that it was “desirable to make one wise.”
This is the pride of life . . . how can it be wrong when I believe it is reasonable and logical and sensible!
She reached for the silver apple . . . she dug into the Turkish delight – and the Serpent cheered, for now she belonged to him.
And Eve gave to Adam and he ate it too (verse 6b.)
He wasn’t deceived . . . he simply chose companionship with Eve over fellowship with God.
Things began to move quickly for Adam and Eve . . . as winter began to descend on Eden, they made three discoveries:
First, they discovered physical shame.
The Bible says in verse 7. Then the eyes of both of them were opened – Satan’s promise did come true – their eyes were opened – but not to some delightful discovery but to their shame – they knew that they were naked.
What was wrong with that – they’d been naked all along!
Let me remind you that God clothes himself with the garment of light (Psalm 104:2); that Jesus Christ at his transfiguration shone with brilliant light (Matthew 17:2); that Moses’ face shone so brightly after having been in the presence of God, that he had to cover his head with a cloth (Exodus 34:35).
I agree with John Phillips and others that Adam and Eve, having been in the presence of God from the moment of their creation shone with a covering a light. When they sinned, the light went out – the death of their spirit caused the adornment of light to be extinguished and their physical bodies to display prominence that immediately revealed to Adam and Eve their loss and their shame – they were uncovered.
And the first thing they did was “what?” they fashion another kind of covering to make up for the loss of their original covering, which I believe was light.
2) But in this act, they discovered as it were, secondly, the effort of self-made religion.
The latter part of verse 7 informs us that Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to make a covering.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the first religious act of human history.
This is the first effort to cover over an awareness of sin. There’s something wrong . . . there’s something amiss . . . we must remedy the situation ourselves. Let’s cover ourselves with leaves!
God will come later and death will occur for the first time in human history as he takes innocent animals and kills them and fashions their skins into coverings for Adam and Eve – teaching them the very basic principles of atonement for sin.
The shedding of an innocent’s blood to atone for the sins of the guilty.
A picture of the coming Lamb of God who will be slain – The Innocent One, dying to forever atone for the sins of the world (I John 2:2). The Redeemer of mankind, crushing the head of the serpent, yet being wounded by the same (Genesis 3:15).
Ladies and Gentlemen, your presence in church this morning may be an attempt to cover over your guilty conscience . . . it might be nothing more than a fig leaf.
Putting money in the offering plate . . . another fig leaf!
Singing in the choir . . . attending a Bible class or maybe even teaching one – fig leaves.
Self-righteous attempts to salve your conscience and make yourself look and feel better . . . nothing more than a collection of fig leaves.
Have you trusted in the cross-work of the Savior on your behalf – admitting your sin and your spiritual nakedness before Him? And asking Him to forgive you and save you, clothing you, not with your efforts, but with His righteousness.
Satan said, “Eat the fruit and you will discover who you really are!” Oh, they are discovering alright.
They have discovered shame . . . and futile cover-up . . . finally,
Thirdly, they discovered new emotions of guilt and fear.
Notice verse 8. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
This was not the sound of God’s voice – but the literal sound of God walking. Evidently, God had taken some form that could be seen and sensed and probably touched by Adam and Eve.
I remember as a child playing with my brother in the room we shared, when we were supposed to be tucked into bed . . . and suddenly we heard footsteps on the stairs . . . then a creak in the floor by our bedroom door. Our vertical leaping ability was amazing – we could literally leap from a sitting position on the floor, into our beds and under our covers in one jump. Our hearts thumping . . . as the door creaked open and we pretended to be asleep.
Here are Adam and Eve, crouching behind a tree, trying to keep their fig leaves from rustling . . . hoping God won’t find them.
Then God spoke – “Where are you?” (v. 9)
Can you imagine? This is the very first question recorded in human history!
“Adam . . . Eve . . . where are you?”
Does He not know?
Oh, He knows the very tree they are hiding behind. He is simply then and now, inviting sinners to accept his invitation. He is the original and only true seeker. We rebellious sinners run from God . . . He seeks us out.
Jesus Christ delivered His redemptive purpose, “I have come to seek and to save those who were lost.” (Luke 19:10)
And there we crouch with hands sticky with Turkish delight and faces stained with the juice of stolen apples.
This is the fullest Christmas story . . . these are the true Chronicles of Christmas . . .
The creation of mankind –
The corruption of mankind
. . . but hope . . . for there is –
The condescension of a Savior for mankind.
Why must the Lion of Judah come? Because earth is in the grip of winter; it is continual winter, without ever the joy of Christmas . . . ah, but, Mr. Beaver says to the children who’ve stumbled into the drama of Narnia, “Aslan is on the move.”
Already there are signs of a coming rescue . . . there are evidences of springtime, a resurrection and a new creation.