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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:St. Albert Canadian Reformed Church
 St. Albert, Alberta
Title:The Beginning and End of your Misery
Text:LD 3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 8:1,3,4
Hymn 26:1 (after Apostles' Creed)
Reading - Genesis 3; Romans 5:12-21
Psalm 14:1,2,5
Sermon - Lord's Day 3
Hymn 73:1,3
Hymn 16:1,4,5


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ, it can be said that the end of something should never be forgotten. Without a proper end, we are left hanging, we are left disappointed. No one skips the last chapter of a book, having read from chapter one. No one works on a jigsaw puzzle for hours upon hours and then walks away, with only the last few pieces to go. If we start something, we usually want to finish it. We can’t forget the end.

In Lord’s Day 3, we take a closer look at the beginning of our sin and misery. Where did it come from? Why are we the way we are? How did it all start?

The first chapter of our sinful state is in the Garden of Eden. There our first parents, Adam and Eve, were deceived by the serpent. They disobeyed the command of God, and so brought on themselves and also us the wrath of God. Our sins and misery can be traced to what happened in Genesis 3; this is an event of a long time ago, but one that affects what we do every single day. Such is our beginning.

But we cannot leave it at that. What is the end of this situation in which we find ourselves? We are sinful, but we need to say more. In Lord’s Day 3, the church is instructed about the sad "beginning" of her misery, in the Garden of Eden, when mankind fell into sin. But don’t forget the rest! We’ve read the first, we must read also the last chapter in this story!

In Lord’s Day 3, the church is also taught about the blessed "end" of her misery: new life in Jesus Christ. It is only a short line at the end of the Lord’s Day ("unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God"), but it is a line loaded with meaning. This is the glimmer of hope for our hearts of darkness. This is the hope for the end of our misery, begun long ago – all is not lost! I preach to you God’s Word as it is summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 3 under this theme and points:

                              The beginning and end of our sin and misery:

    1. from the original creation
    2. to the old creation
    3. to the new creation

1. the original creation: Something is wrong with you, and something is wrong with me. In Lord’s Day 2 we come to the conclusion that we cannot keep God’s law of love for him and for our neighbor; rather, we are inclined by nature to hate God and neighbor. But why are things this way? What happened that we are so incapable of living before the face of God without constantly failing?

Let us begin with an example. In this day and age, we purchase many things. Not only do we buy a lot of goods, we also expect a high degree of quality and value for those things that we acquire. If the computer we bought a few months ago constantly freezes and flashes us a blue screen, we take it back. Manufacturer’s error! We return the faulty merchandise and expect, if not demand, a refund or a replacement. This is how we’ve been trained to think.

So what about mankind? Was it God who created man so wicked and perverse? We certainly have a lot of "performance errors" (if they can be called that); we "freeze up" when we are supposed to do good. This is simply the teaching of the Bible that the Catechism summarizes in these Lord’s Days on our sins and misery: We naturally and constantly fail in the task of obedience God has given us. But is this a manufacturer’s error? Was it God who made a mistake in putting us together? The Catechism makes clear this is not the case: "On the contrary!" We are the way we are not because of something that God did or did not do, for we were created good – even perfect.

 Man and woman were the special objects of God’s creativity in the Garden of Eden. The LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. This was unlike anything God had done; previously He had "simply" given the word, calling things out of nothing, and there it was… Now God focused on man, and in making him expressed amazing attention and wisdom. It was even a "two-step" creation, as God first formed our shape from the dust of the earth, and then breathed into him.

But the creation of one human was not enough, for a helper was needed for man. And again, the creation of the woman is marvelous in its uniqueness: God took one of the man’s ribs and made a woman from the rib he had taken from man. With man and woman together as an amazing crown to his entire creation God could say, "This is very good!" As the Catechism says, the original man was good.

Yet not only was the method of the creation of mankind unique, also the character of it was. Man and woman would stand apart from the rest of creation for another reason: they were both made in the image of God. All of creation testified to the creative power of God, but man alone reflected God himself. Man was physically the creation of God, but was also spiritually the LORD’s handiwork. They were made in true righteousness and holiness; that is, they had the basis of a right relationship with God right from the start. They did not need to cower in his presence, but could stand before him with confidence. Nothing impure kept them separate from God – He was holy, and they were holy. The original man was righteous and holy.

Man and woman were also created with the ability to know God. They alone, of all the creatures, as bodies and souls, would be able to have a special relationship with their Creator. God walked in the garden not with the animals, God talked in the garden not to the plants, but God communed with man. The LORD revealed himself to only Adam and Eve. The original man knew God.

And God gave his special creation the ability to demonstrate the only fitting response to this divine grace: Love. We do not have a long account of what it was like in Paradise, about how man and woman related to God and how they thought of God. But this was perfection: Man and woman, without sin, heard the voice of God and walked with God. What other response to the LORD could they properly have? The original man loved God.

God’s intention for creation was that mankind would increase, and would rule and master the earth. God said to man and woman, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it… (Gen 1:28). This was their task: As beings created in God’s image, they were God’s appointed representatives on earth; they were given the mandate of developing creation to his glory. This was a beautiful future – a long-term plan, an eternal project of living with God on his world and working to serve him. The original man was to praise and glorify God.

In the beginning, man and woman were accepted by God in fellowship. To be sure, they remained only creatures who lived by grace in the presence of an awesome Creator; they did not deserve what they had received – but God, in creating them, had guaranteed that they could live with him. They were his handiwork, so there was nothing in them that offended his holiness.

Yes, the original man was privileged, beyond comparison. They had received life, glory, companionship, a glorious task, ability, and a relationship with their Creator and God. At the same time, they had to get to work; Paradise was more than just sitting on the grass, watching the clouds and eating bananas. He had to work. And he also had to obey; man and woman were not created as robots, who served God automatically and without question.

For the LORD gave commands that had to be followed: to increase, to rule and to subdue the earth – and also: to refrain from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. Compared to the big tasks of governing and mastering creation, the command to stay away from the one obvious tree was simple. It should have been simple. But the perfect creation became the ruined creation, the original became the old.

2) the old creation: We read Genesis 3 earlier – a familiar chapter to us. Yet no matter how often we read it, the details of what happened on that day thousands of years ago remain crystal clear.

We read the story of Genesis 3 with the perfect vision of those who look back at a past event. "We can see it coming" right from verse 1, when Satan, in the form of a wily serpent, approaches the woman. He begins to sow doubts in the mind of the woman about what God had said, and even points out the benefits of disobeying the command of God not to eat from the tree. Eve hardly puts up a fight against the tempting of the serpent, takes of the fruit and eats, and then gives it to her husband. And the realization of their guilt and impurity is immediate.

So whose fault was it? The buck was quickly passed. The man pointed at the woman, and in the same breath accused God himself, "The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree."

But the woman pointed at the serpent, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." Indeed, Satan had interfered in that perfect setting of Paradise. If he hadn’t shown up, none of this would have happened! But notice that the Catechism here does not mention Satan – he comes up in the next Lord’s Day, but not here, emphasizing that the sin was no one’s fault but Adam and Eve’s. They were enticed, tempted, instigated, led into sin – but it was still they who sinned. As reflections of God himself they had been created in perfect righteousness and holiness. They were able to resist, but they did not.

The account of the fall is so clear in our minds not only because we’ve read it so often, but also because it provides such a good description of our temptation and sin. We don’t have to defend ourselves against talking snakes, but Satan daily whispers to our hearts, and our sinful nature urges us on, and often we obey. Sin has not changed since the time of Adam and Eve.

For in Genesis 3 we see pride at work in sin: "you will be like God." Our first parents were tempted with the opportunity to be like God, and they went for it. They were proud, for they thought they deserved better, they thought they deserved the best. And that temptation is the same today, to be like God. None of us would dare to say when sinning, "I’m doing this in order to be like God," but all of us have that natural tendency to look out for only ourselves. The world revolves around me and my desires, doesn’t it? Our natural selfishness is simply a desire to be a "little god." Why should I listen to God’s commands – this seems right, and this feels good!

And the picture of unbelief in Genesis 3 is mirrored in our lives every day. The deceiver tried to undermine what God had said, and succeeded: "Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ " Instead of holding onto God’s words, which were perfectly clear, Adam and Even allowed Satan to cloud and obscure them with doubt. And still today, unbelief is closely related to the essence of every sin; we know what God has said in his Word, for his commands and promises are very clear – but do we believe, and do we act like we believe, that God is the righteous Lawgiver and Judge? Rather, we show contempt for him, just as Adam and Eve did. The first and natural reaction of every human to any command is: Why should I listen to you?

Further, the sin of Adam and Eve shows, as our sin does every day, total ingratitude. We have seen that they were given so much: Created in God’s image, in fellowship with him, entrusted with a wonderful task and future – yet they scorned it all, held out their hand in defiance, and said, "Give us more! We want something better!" This is the cry of sinful mankind, and to us it should sound sadly familiar.

The commandment of life was broken, and nothing Adam and Eve did could stop the immediate avalanche of deadly results. Their sin meant they had fallen – fallen far from the blessed heights of original man, created in the image of God. Instead of truly knowing God, they became ignorant of God; what ignorance: they thought they could hide from him! Instead of loving God, they showed hatred for him in disobedience. Instead of living with God, they were expelled from the Garden, that place of close communion with the Creator. Instead of praising and glorifying God, they brought only sadness and anger to their LORD.

After the Fall, sin became ingrained in the heart of every human being. Man could not choose good, man could not do good. Long before the Canons of Dort were written, "total depravity" was well-known on this earth; in Genesis 6 we read, "The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil, all the time" (v 5).

Now you might say: This all happened a long, long time ago. Paradise is a long way from here. So how can we be blamed for what happened there? How is Adam’s guilt for sin our guilt? Yet Adam and Eve’s choice affects us all. As our first parents, they disobeyed God and so brought on not only themselves, but all of their descendants, the weight and the curse of sin. Adam stands at the head of the human race, and like a hereditary disease, has passed sin on to each of us his children. We share in his guilt and corruption simply because we are humans. As Paul says, "Through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners" (Rom 5:19)

As our first parents, Adam and Eve’s choice of disobedience affects all of mankind. But just as we’ve seen, Adam and Eve’s choice of disobedience is not that unfamiliar to us. Who does not choose self over God? Who does not prefer lawlessness to obedience? Adam and Eve’s choice is confirmed by us, every day again.

The glory and blessed position of the original man, was damaged terribly in the rebellion in Paradise. The original creation became the corrupt creation. Paul has a title for us, the corrupted creation of God; he calls each of us, men and women, children and adults, the "old man," which, when Paul uses it, is a hopeful title in itself. For what is old will pass away, what is old will be replaced by the new.

3) the new creation: Genesis 3 is a chapter of willing sin and stinging guilt. But it is also a chapter of earth-shattering grace. Adam and Eve had thrown their fists up against God, and said, "We shall do as we please. Keep your blessings!" Adam and Eve deserved nothing but quick destruction, but received mercy upon mercy. After their sin, cowering in guilt and shame, God did not wipe out his special objects of creation and image-bearers, but sought them out in mercy: "Where are you?" (Gen 3:9)

As we confess so beautifully in the Belgic Confession, Art. 17, "When God saw that man had… plunged himself into physical and spiritual death and made himself completely miserable, our gracious God in his marvelous wisdom and goodness set out to seek man when he trembling fled from him." These are words full of grace: "Where are you?"

For God knew where they were. For God knew what had happened. And God would not give up. The words He speaks next describe the whole program of the rest of history: Satan would be crushed, while the seed of the woman would triumph! Good would win over evil, God over the devil! Despite his own hopelessness, there was hope for man.

Man the sinner, man the rebel, man the ingrate, was going to be rescued. For where Satan had interfered, Christ stepped in. Where Satan had brought death and misery, Christ brought life and salvation. The seed of the woman was the one that would sprout and grow strong, though clothed in weakness. The seed of the woman would suffer and die in the place of those who deserved the same. The curse that should have fallen on the old man, on you and I, fell instead on the one man who was perfect and righteous.

Yes, we are old and dead in our misery and sin. As the Catechism says, we are so corrupt… but then, that "unless," glorious in its simplicity and wonderful in its promise – "Unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God." Can that which is dead be made alive? Can that which is old be made new? Only through Jesus Christ! Paul says, "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Cor 15:21-22).

We pray that the Spirit of God will do his powerful work of changing our hearts from death to life, but the Spirit can only work in us on the basis of Christ’s one sacrifice. Christ had to first pay the penalty for our sins and misery – and He did! Adam failed, but Christ succeeded – in obedience. "For as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous" (Rom 5:19).

Having ransomed us from the devil with his blood, now our Lord sends his Spirit to change our hearts. Today the Spirit is at work in you and me, bringing us from death to life, helping us in laying aside the old creation and taking on the new. Paul says it, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor 5:17).

Beloved, in Christ now we are a new creation! So let us live like the new people that we are! We do not need to run trembling from God like our first parents did, but we can stand before him in confidence. We can go to him with boldness in blood – Christ’s blood. So then, go to him and live before him, in constant prayer and steady faith!

Yes, always remember from where we have come. Remember our beginning in Adam. Alone, we deserve death. But remember also the gracious end of our misery: We no longer stand alone before God, but we stand with Christ our Saviour.

Beloved, again: Live like the new people that you are! As Paul says, "You were taught… to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph 4:22-24).

Beloved, as you look at your life, strive to put out the old, and bring in the new! Don’t make excuses for sin, don’t point fingers at others, but put away your old sin and temptation and everything that entangles. Put away those habits and thoughts that belong to the old way, and live as one renewed!

By God’s grace today already we see in our regenerated hearts and lives the beginning of the end of sin. Now also look forward to the last day, when the old order of things will be fully passed away. Dear friends, how great our joy on that day will be, for then we shall hear the Saviour proclaim the final end of our misery, "Behold, I am making all things new!" (Rev 21:5) It will be paradise… restored! Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2005, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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