Loving God More Than I Love Myself Jonathan Rue Genesis 3:1-7 Loving God More Than Anything Else Series 7/25/10

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1 Loving God More Than I Love Myself Jonathan Rue Genesis 3:1-7 Loving God More Than Anything Else Series 7/25/10 We are beginning a new series tonight called, Loving God More Than Anything Else. IMAGE Loving God More Than Anything Else Series Graphic And I want to take a few moments here at the beginning to talk about the series before we jump into tonight s text. What this series is about is God s desire to be God. God s desire to be God I don t mean that in the sense of his being He already is God in the being that he is. But what I mean is that God desires to be recognized as God, to be treated as God, to be worshipped as God. This means that because God is Ultimate over all of the universe, he desires to be ultimate in your life. He wants to be ultimate in your life God wants to be recognized as ultimate by you. He wants to be the highest thing in your life the most important thing. God wants the top spot. But he has lots of competition in our lives. There are so many other things that are competing for our devotion and for our affection and for our attention and for our worship. There is no end to things that try to steal our affections from God and replace him as the highest love in our lives. When something else takes the top place in our life- what the Bible calls that is idolatry. Idolatry = loving something more than God 1

2 Idolatry means that we love something else other than God more than we love God. Tim Keller is a pastor of a large church in Manhattan and he wrote a great book called Counterfeit Gods. Image Counterfeit Gods We have copies of this in our bookstore, it s a small book but it s really helpful in understanding the nature of idolatry in scriptures and in our lives. I recommend that you pick up a copy of that as we spend the next six weeks looking at this theme of idolatry. Tim Keller says this about idolatry: What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. --Tim Keller So, an idol is not just an object made of gold or painted wood that we bow down to. An idol is anything that so absorbs our heart and imagination that it becomes the most important thing in our lives. As we go through the next six weeks we re going to look at what are some of the common things in our lives that try to steal our heart away from God. It could be your girlfriend or your boyfriend. A central relationship in your life that becomes so important to you that life doesn t even feel worth living if you were to lose that. It could be success or money, or doing well in your career. It could be your image how people look at you. Whatever to you has become the most important thing in your life that you would do anything to preserve and to keep that could be an idol. And idols can begin as really good things, but when we make them god things ultimate things then they turn into bad things. So your love for kids or you husband could become an idol. Your need to feel like a good, moral person could turn into an idol. Your dream to become a singer or missionary or video game designer could become an idol. Tonight we re going to look at the beginning of idolatry. Where does idolatry start? It begins as a movement in our hearts that turns us away from God and toward ourlselves. All idolatry begins as an increasing love for ourselves that 2

3 grows to eclipse our love for God. So whatever final form or expression our worship may take in the world, the root of idolatry is love of self. We see this in the beginning of the Bible, back in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve commit that first famous sin of disobedience to God. We can see in this story a clear progression toward love of self over love of God. I ve called tonight s talk: Loving God More Than I Love Myself. Before we open up God s word to Genesis let s pray. TITLE Loving God More Than I Love Myself Jonathan Rue Genesis 3 Loving God More Than Anything Else Series 7/25/10 We often think of idolatry as something that people do who don t know the true and living God, Yahweh, the God who revealed himself most clearly to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Yet the overwhelming majority of what the Bible speaks about idolatry is not to those that don t know God. It s not to the primitive tribes slaughtering chickens and carving totem poles. God speaks most often about idolatry to Israel, his chosen people. God warns his people not to place anything above God. In the famous 10 Commandments, the first two commands are about idolatry. Exodus 20:2-7 (TNIV) I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. So we see the first two commands are concerning God being in highest place and a warning against turning to idols. 3

4 So look at our first two commands: First 2 commandments: 1. You shall have no other gods before me. 2. You shall not make any idols. Notice that the first commands doesn t say that you shall have no other gods instead of me. God doesn t say that. He says, you shall have no other gods before me. Don t place anything higher than me. And don t manufacture anything and make it most important in your life. This is a consistent message in the Bible. In the New Testament, when Jesus is asked: What is the most important commandment? He says, Mark 12:29-30 (TNIV) The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love God more than anything else. Make him first. Give him the highest place. Worship him and Love him with everything that you are. So idolatry is not just bowing down to some metallic figurine, idolatry is a matter of placing something higher than God in our heart. And we see how this happens at the beginning of the Bible in the story of Adam and Eve. We see in their story how slip into idolatry. We see how to make a god. How to make a god Please open your Bibles to Genesis chapter 2 with me. God is created the earth in chapters 1-2. He has made land, water, trees, animals and humans beings. And it is all really good. Genesis 2:8-9 (TNIV) Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 4

5 We re getting a picture of what God has created. The goodness of the Garden of Eden and it says in verse 15 it describes a boundary that God lays down: Genesis 2:15-17 (TNIV) The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die. Now immediately after this God says that it s not good for the man to be alone, he creates a helper, the woman. So there is the picture of the both of them living in the garden and God has given them an abundance of good fruit and vegetation by which to eat from and yet He s made one tree- the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil - off limits. He s created a boundary. He is very clear, saying; Do not eat from this tree. You may eat of all of these other trees, but don t east from this one God is laying down a marker- don t go past this line. Now, we get to the part of the story I want to focus on today in Genesis chapter 3. Genesis 3:1-7 (TNIV) Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden? 2 The woman said to the serpent, We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die. 4 You will not certainly die, the serpent said to the woman. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 5

6 And so this is the infamous story of how Adam and Eve fell. How they sinned against God. And what is interesting about this story is that it is a story of idolatry. A story of rebelling against God as God. There are three movements in this story that lead Adam and Eve into idolatry; that lead them to make a new god for themselves. The first thing that we can see is that when the serpent enters in and begins to speak with Eve, the serpent deceives her about who God is. By the way, I don t know what this scene actually looked like. I don t know if this is a symbolic story about Satan speaking to Eve s thoughts or if there was actually a serpent that spoke. I don t know. But what I do know is that Eve was influenced by some agent of Satan, outside of herself, and that she was deceived. And this is the beginning of idolatry. If you want to fall into idolatry, start by being deceived about who God is. Be deceived about who God is In Verse one, we see the serpent tries to cast doubt on what God said, and when that doesn t work, the serpent outright lies: Genesis 3:1-4 (TNIV) Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden? 2 The woman said to the serpent, We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die. 4 You will not certainly die, the serpent said to the woman. So the serpent tries to just cast doubt: did God really say that? But Eve responds, Yes! That exactly what He said. If we eat of that tree we will die. So that tactic doesn t work. Eve has too much faith in God to be taken down by a little doubt. So the serpent switches gears and says Well, that not true. You won t die. God is a liar. He can t be trusted. God doesn t know what He s talking about. The serpent lies about the nature and the character of God and Adam and Eve buy into it. They believe the lie about God. They stop believing that God is good; that God has their best interest in mind; that God knows better than they 6

7 do. They buy into the lie that what God says is not true, that God cannot be trusted. That the word and promise of God is not reliable. Have you ever been in a situation where you really were disillusioned and confused by God? Have you ever been through a circumstance where you really thought God was leading you towards? Something you really thought God was doing something in your life? And then it ended up looking completely different than you thought and not in a good way. God, What happened here? I thought you led me into this job and I just got fired, what are you doing in my life God?! Why did you allow us to get pregnant only to take the baby six months down the road in a miscarriage?! Why did you lead us into engagement only to have him break it off? Why did you give us all the green lights, all signs GO about a major life change and then when it actually came, everything fell apart?! Why did you call me to move across the country, but not help me sell my house here? Have you ever seriously questioned what God was up to in your life? Have you questioned his goodness? Have you doubted his reliability; that He is a God that can be trusted? I grew up in a wonderful Christian home with godly parents and I always had a deep inward sense that life was supposed to go a certain way. I was supposed get to do ministry with my father, who was a Vineyard pastor. My dad had me skip the 6 th grade, not because I showed any academic ability, but because wanted me to get done with school faster so I could travel with him and preach with him. Then when UI was 14 years old, my dad died of cancer. Life changed. In addition to the grief of losing a parent, I had to make sense of a new life that no longer had any track mapped out to it. Well a few years after that, I started dating a girl in the church. And of course I immediately over-spiritualized it and was certain that this was from God. This girl loved Jesus and wanted to do ministry and I thought, This is God s will for me. This is God s new plan for my life. Then she broke up with me and I was devastated. I felt betrayed by God. I was angry at him for this girl breaking up with me. What are you doing God? Why did you lead me into this only to rip it away from me? 7

8 Well, God didn t speak to me about that break-up. He was silent and I had to wrestle with my question, my doubts, my anger with God. But if God had spoken to me, he would have said, Jonathan, I know that you cannot imagine this right now, but I have somebody that is a much better fit for you. But she doesn t in California, she lives in Ohio. And you re going to have to wait 10 years to meet her. And it s going to be worth every minute. You ll thank me later. I thank God for my wife Staci. I had to wait until I was 30 years old to marry her. It was worth the wait. It was hard to trust God that he knew what he was doing while I was going through the hell of dating. But I can see it now. Now the moral of this story is not be patient and God will give you a smokin hot godly wife later. The point is never lose faith in the goodness of god. Some of you are still waiting to meet your spouse. You re looking, you re dating, and you re miserable. But never slip into believing the lie that God doesn t know what he s doing, so you ve got to take things into your own hands. That s idolatry. It s setting yourself up higher than God. For those of you that are single and desire to be married (which I realize is not everyone that is singe), it s not important whether or not you can see the big picture of what God is doing, it s important that you trust God and keep him in the highest place higher than you re desire to be married. The difference; the game changer, between going down the road of Adam & Eve and staying connected to God is what you do when you don t understand. It s not whether or not we question what s going on, what God is up to. We re perfectly free to question God. But when we thoroughly don t understand Him; do you still trust? Do you still believe that God is reliable? That God is good? That God is who he says He is? So, idolatry begins by us becoming deceived about who God is and then it blossoms into a desire to become like god. Have a desire to be like god We see this in verse five when the serpent says: Genesis 3:5 (TNIV) For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God... You will be like God. Now this is a perfectly natural desire to have in the sense that we want to share in the characteristics of God. But, that s not what the serpent is saying here. 8

9 The serpent is describing being like God as being on the same level as God. Being as smart as God, being a co-equal with who God is. The serpent is convincing Adam & Eve that is it possible for them to be co-equals with God. That they don t have to remain as mere creatures at the mercy of the creator. They could actually rise to become like God himself. Think about working under a terrible boss at work. You don t trust him, he doesn t have you re best interest in mind, he doesn t care about you, he s just using you to make himself look good. He makes you work long hours and weekends, and threatens you. What is the natural desire of someone working under that kind of regime? I want to be my own boss. I m through working for the man, I want to make the rules, I want to set my own hours. I don t want anyone telling me what to do. That s what the serpent is convincing Eve that she can do: become her own boss and call the shots because it s possible for her to be like God, on his level. They way that the serpent says this will happen is that Adam & Eve would be able to define what is good & evil. Think that you define what is good and evil So he says in verse five: Genesis 3:5 (TNIV) For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. What he doesn t mean is simply an ability to discern right from wrong, because Adam & Eve already have that. That ability is elevated all throughout the whole of scriptures. Adam & Eve knew that they should not eat of that tree. That that was wrong. That God had said, That tree is off limits. What the serpent is talking about is not just a discerning ability between right and wrong but an ability to define what is good and to define what is evil. To be able to decide themselves about what is right & wrong; Moral Autonomy. Apart from God, and what God thinks that they are elevating themselves up to the place of God by being able to say- God, You re wrong. I disagree with you & I know something better than you. I am going to redefine what I think is right. So what does this look like? When do we place ourselves as God? Higher than God s place in our lives? We do this when we say, 9

10 God I know that you want me to be sexually pure & keep myself for marriage, but I ve got a better idea. I just really love my girlfriend, my boyfriend. We have a special connection. We know that we really want to be together, there s something deep between us God. So, we re going to go ahead and have sex. God I know that you tell me not to marry outside of the Christian faith, but boymy fiancé we have something special. Our love is indescribable and so, we re going to go ahead and get married. We re going to have a great marriage anyway. I think I know better than you God. God, I know that you want me to have integrity in the workplace, but my job places certain demands on my life and for me to excel and succeed in my workplace, I have to cut corners. I have to lie, I have to cheat. I have to look the other way, and so I want to succeed. I have bills to pay and I am going to do what I have to do, God. God, I know that you hate divorce, but my husband is driving me crazy. All he ever does is work, we fight constantly, and I just don t love him anymore. It s better for everyone if we re not married anymore. There is situation after situation that comes up in life that we place ourselves and our ability to define what is good above what God says. We blow past his boundaries for our lives and what we are doing is the same thing that Adam & Eve did. We a placing ourselves on par with God and saying- you know what, we know better. I know better. I know better than God almighty, I know better than God s word, I know better than what my Christian friends and my church says. So, I m going to blow past it all, and I m going to do my own thing. This is the beginning of idolatry, the root of all idolatry; of elevating ourselves to the place of God. A biblical scholar names Christopher Wright wrote a great book called the Mission of God. Image Mission of God In that book he says this: Not that humans have become gods, but that they have chosen to act as though they were defining and deciding for themselves what they will regard as good and evil. Therein lies the root of all other forms of idolatry: we deify our own capacities, and thereby make gods of ourselves and our choices and all their implications. Christopher Wright So, the root of all idolatry is this prideful thought- that I can be like God- knowing and defining what is right and what is wrong. Defining what is good and what is 10

11 evil. And then this gets played out in a million different ways when we then begin to choose in creation what we think is good. And we being to worship the created things. There s an irony here that get s played out A great reversal happens: God, who should be worshiped, becomes and object to be used; creation, which is for our use and blessing, becomes the object of our worship. Christopher Wright So when we place ourselves as God that can define what is good & evil we use good for our own purposes, our own preferences, and we end up worshipping the things that we think are good in creation. The problem with that is that God always does know better. Our idols will always fail us. They might feel good in the short term but they always fail. The only being that can occupy the highest place is God. We are created for relationship and we are created to obey the living God of the universe. 11

12 Loving God More Than I Love Myself Jonathan Rue Genesis 3:1-7 Loving God More Than Anything Else Series 7/25/10 God s desire to be God He wants to be ultimate in your life Idolatry = loving something more than God How to make a god Be deceived about who God is (v. 1-5) Have a desire to be like God (v. 5) Think that you define what is good and evil (v. 5-6) 12

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