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When God's Grace Meets Human Sin

June 24, 2018 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Genesis: Beginning the Journey Home

Passage: Genesis 8:20–9:29

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What happens when God's grace meets human sin?

I don’t know about you, but I mess up a lot. I make a lot of mistakes. I sin against other people. None of us are perfect. All of us make mistakes. We all sin. We all hurt other people. We all mess up. We all disappoint others. And at the same time, others are always disappointing us. Others are messing up in ways that affect us. Others hurt us and sin against us. Others make mistakes that we have to deal with.

This means we all have many opportunities to respond to the mistakes, sin, and shortcomings of others. We have all experienced people responding well to our mistakes and people responding poorly. I’ve written a few common ways people respond to the mistakes of others on the whiteboard. We are going to take a few minutes to write how we react when others respond in this way to our mistakes. What do you feel? What do you think? What do you do?

Negative:

  1. “I told you so.”
  2. Lecturing: “This is so typical of you. You always do this. You never do this.”
  3. Distance.

Positive:

  1. A hug.
  2. Look you in the eyes and say: “I love you.”

whiteboard-reactions-to-our-sin.JPG

  1. When you look at these two lists, which one do you experience the most from others
  2. When you look at these two lists, which one do you cause people to experience the most
  3. Which one describes how you think God reacts to you?

Series Introduction
As we continue our “Beginning the Journey Home” series in the book of Genesis, we are in the middle of a section that is impressing upon us how bad sin is. At the same time, we are seeing God’s grace in action.

Sermon Introduction
Last week, we covered Noah and the flood. God washed creation clean, but this week we will see how God reacts to the sin and selfishness still in humanity.

The big question this passage answers is: what happens when God’s grace meets human sin? What happens when God’s grace meets human sin?

“Grace” means getting what you don’t deserve. If someone gives you grace or shows you grace, it means you get what you don’t deserve. It means you get the opposite of what you deserve.

In this passage, we will see how God reacts to sin. As we answer this question, keep this in mind: 1) how does God respond when I mess up? 2) How do I respond when others mess up?

What happens when God’s grace meets human sin?

Last week, we saw that after thousands of years of humanity rejecting God as their Creator and King, he administered justice just like he warned he would do. He sends a flood to remove humanity from the earth. But he saves Noah and his family along with the animals on a giant boat.

After a year in the boat with his family and a bunch of animals, Noah steps out of the ark onto dry land into a new creation. He has just been through a crazy experience. Everyone has drowned except his family and him. What’s the first thing Noah does after he leaves the ark and steps back onto dry ground after a year? He worships. Verse 20 says:

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:20)

“Burnt offerings” were a type of sacrifice where the whole animal was burned up. In some sacrifices, you would get the meat back to eat it. But this sacrifice was extremely costly because you gave up the whole animal in worship to God. It was an expression of complete devotion and gratitude and it makes sense why Noah is doing this. God flooded the earth but he was saved! Noah is bursting with thanksgiving as he leaves the ark. We have even more reason to devote ourselves to God and be filled with gratitude because we’ve experienced an even greater salvation in Jesus.

Let’s see how God responds in verse 21:

21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22)

God reacts with pleasure to Noah’s act of worship which shows us that we can please God with our acts of worship. Whether it is our worship on Sundays or our worship through how we live our lives, we can please God.

The first thing God says is striking. He says: “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Nothing has changed about humanity. Noah and his family are just as sinful and selfish as everyone else. But despite this, God promises to never send a flood again even though he will have every reason to do so. God gives humanity the opposite of what we deserve. The flood was what we deserved. We rebelled against God and rejected him as King so God executed justice. God warned that defining good and evil on our own terms would lead to death and he kept his word.

Everything we read in this passage is in spite of human sinfulness. We deserve something totally different from what we get. We get the opposite of what our actions deserve. That’s why this passage is all about grace.

The big question this passage answers is: what happens when God’s grace meets human sin? The first answer is: Even though we deserve eviction, grace lets us stay. Even though we deserve eviction, grace lets us stay.

Earth is a home God created for us, but we are bad tenants - really bad tenants. We don’t listen to our landlord. In fact, we often do the opposite of what he tells us to do. We are making a mess of the place and are hurting other tenants. We deserve to be evicted, but God graciously gives us the opposite: he lets us stay in his good world even though we don’t deserve it.

This points forward to an even greater act of grace. In Genesis God allows us to stay in his creation, but we still can’t see him face to face. We are not living in his presence. But Jesus makes it possible for us to be in God’s presence once again. If we trust in Jesus, he gives us access to God and we will be able to see God face to face and live in a whole new creation with him.

Often we evict people from our lives who are difficult to deal with. We distance ourselves from people who hurt us, annoy us, and who always need something from us. But we can give those people the same grace God has given us. This is why one of our Community Practices is Living as Family. None of us are perfect. If you get close enough to the people sitting next to you, they will hurt you and annoy you. But we show God’s grace to a world that desperately needs it by letting people stay in our lives even though it may not always be the easiest.

The big question this passage answers is: what happens when God’s grace meets human sin? The second answer is: Even though we deserve death, grace pays the penalty. Even though we deserve death, grace pays the penalty.

After God smelled the pleasing aroma of the sacrifice, he promises to let us stay. The Old Testament uses this smelling image to describe how sacrifices satisfy God’s justice. God is just, which means he doesn’t sweep crimes under the rug or ignore law breaking. He would not be good or loving if he did. So when we break his law and rebel against him, we deserve the penalty. But God taught his people, Israel, that an animal sacrifice can stand in their place. If they bring an animal that is clean, representing innocence, then it can take the penalty of death that they deserve. It dies in their place. In this way, the demand of justice can be satisfied.

But we should wonder: how could that actually work? How can an animal really stand in the place of a human? How can an animal take the penalty I deserve? Well, it can’t. The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament point forward to the true sacrifice of Jesus for sins. On the cross, Jesus stood in our place. He was clean - he had a spotless record. He never sinned, never broke God’s law, never rebelled against God. And yet, he took the penalty we deserve. Because he did that, we can be free of the penalty for our sin and enter into God’s presence. If we are to be dealt with according to justice, we are guilty and condemned to death as enemies of God. But Jesus died as an enemy of God even though he was not so that we can be forgiven. Through grace, we get what we don’t deserve.

Our tendency is to hold people’s actions against them. “They should have to pay for what they have done.” We make people pay in lots of ways: we avoid them, we stop talking to them, we are impatient with them, we talk badly about them to other people. The list goes on. But giving people what they don’t deserve means we pay for what they have done by forgiving them. That’s grace.

What happens when God’s grace meets human sin? The third answer is: Even though we deserve chaos, grace creates order. Even though we deserve chaos, grace creates order.

In Genesis 2, God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Here, he tells them that same thing but with an addition. “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth...and don’t kill other people.” It’s sad that not murdering others is now a necessary instruction.

Ever sin since entered the world, it’s in our nature to be against other people. We are bent on destroying each other and have created a world of chaos where we fight each other, push each other down, and kill each other. But God does not want it to be this way, so he warned Noah about killing others and says in chapter 9 verse 6:

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:6)

Every person you have ever met, gotten mad at, hated, ignored, or made fun of is made in the image of God and that means they should be treated with worth and dignity. Sin does not undo this fact.

It’s easy to treat people as they have treated us. But God calls us to treat others as we would want to be treated. When you treat others as they’ve treated you, it is a never ending cycle of drama, hurt, pain, and anger. Instead of entering into the chaos of treating people like they’ve treated us, God calls us to treat them like we would want to be treated: as people made in the image of God with dignity and worth.

What happens when God’s grace meets human sin? The fourth answer is: Even though we deserve distrust, grace gives us purpose. Even though we deserve distrust, grace gives us purpose.

God recognizes that the intention of humanity’s heart is evil from youth. We are bent toward loving ourselves rather than loving God and loving others. And yet, God still gives Noah and his family purpose. He tells them to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. God has every reason not to trust them with this purpose, but he gives it to them anyway.

The same is true for us as followers of Jesus. God sent Noah into the world with a mission and Jesus sends us into the world with a mission. He knows we are going to stumble and fail and make mistakes and be unfaithful at times. And yet Jesus sends us into the world to tell others about him and to teach them how to follow him. What a great responsibility and privilege! We have been entrusted with a mission and purpose even though we deserve only distrust.

It’s easy to only trust people who are going to be perfect and once someone shows they aren’t perfect, we stop trusting them. God gives responsibility to people who he knows will mess up and we can show that same grace.

What happens when God’s grace meets human sin? The fifth answer is: Even though we deserve rejection, grace commits. Even though we deserve rejection, grace commits.

Chapter 9 verse 8 says:

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:8-11)

When two people get married, they enter into a marriage covenant by making vows and promises to each other. In the Bible’s covenants, the same happens. God makes commitments and calls the human partners in the covenant to commit to him. Here, God is the only one who makes a commitment. It’s one-sided. He promises to never again flood the earth and destroy all living things. Even though we deserve rejection, God commits to let us live in his creation. He lets us live in his kingdom even though we reject his kingship. That’s grace.

God knows the people he is committing to are going to continue to be selfish and unloving, but he does it anyway. In every relationship, we need to recognize that the other person is going to be selfish and unloving but we can show them grace by committing to them anyway. There are people in our lives who perhaps deserve for us to give up on them, but grace commits to the good of the other even though they don’t deserve it.

What happens when God’s grace meets human sin? The sixth and final answer is: Even though we deserve shame, grace covers us. Even though we deserve shame, grace covers us.

Noah has been described as a righteous man who obeys God, but at the end of chapter 9 he plants a vineyard, gets drunk, then lays naked in his tent. The Bible does speak against drunkenness, but the focus here isn’t on Noah’s actions. It’s on his son’s. His youngest son, Ham, goes into his father’s tent and sees his dad drunk and naked. Then he calls for his two older brothers to come check it out.

Ham’s actions are left vague, but what’s clear is that he is doing something he shouldn’t be doing and wants others to join. His father’s drunk nakedness is a spectacle to Ham. He wants to point and laugh and ridicule his father with his brothers. But Shem and Japheth refuse. Instead, they go to great lengths to not see their dad naked. They take a garment and walk backwards to cover their dad up. They still treat their dad with respect and dignity.

When Nik and I were meeting for our Gospel Fluency Group, we saw a picture of God’s tenderness and compassion for us in this act. In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve sinned, they were naked, felt ashamed, and hid. But God covered them with animal skins. When Jesus encountered people filled with shame whom others mocked and ignored, he treated them with compassion, dignity, patience, and tenderness. Jesus doesn’t rub people’s noses in their sin. We deserve to be ashamed - to feel naked and exposed - but God covers us up. Jesus clothes us with his righteousness.

When we see other people’s sin, It’s easy to respond with judgment and gossip. It’s easy to look down on people. It’s easy to say, “Can you believe what so and so did” and act as if you have never done anything like that. It’s easy to make a spectacle of people’s sin and foolish mistakes and invite others to join in with you. But that is not grace. God covers us up; God treats us with dignity; God wants to restore us. We can show the same grace when we see other people’s sin.

Because God is gracious, we get what we don’t deserve. Every person who has ever lived after Noah is allowed to live in God’s creation even though we don’t obey him as our Creator. That’s grace. And God has given us a sign that assures us it’s true: the rainbow. Of course, there were rainbows before the flood but God gave it a new meaning. When we see the storm clouds, we are assured by the rainbow that they are not a threat of judgment - they don’t mean another flood is coming. God will be true to his promise.

If you trust in Jesus, you get even more grace than this. On the cross, Jesus completely paid the penalty for your sin. The sign of assurance that the threat of judgment is gone is the cross. When the dark clouds of guilt and shame and accusation begin forming in the sky of our lives, we must look to the cross as assurance that there is no threat of judgment. Why am I not condemned? Jesus was condemned for me on the cross. Why am I not dead? Jesus died for me on the cross. Why am I not forsaken? Jesus was forsaken for me on the cross. Why is God not against me? God was against Jesus for me on the cross. Why am I not under wrath? Jesus bore God’s wrath for me on the cross. Why am I not rejected? Jesus was rejected for me on the cross. When you start thinking, “God doesn’t love me. God is against me. God doesn’t accept me,” look to the cross as your assurance of God’s grace and love.

Your enjoyment of God’s grace is directly connected to your acknowledgement of your sinfulness. Some of us need to be convinced of how bad our sin is. If you don’t think sin is that bad, you will think that you deserve God’s love and salvation. If you don’t care much about grace, you probably don’t care much about sin. If you aren’t marveling at God’s grace, you probably aren’t mourning your sin. You need to be convinced of the “even though” ‘side of all the statements made today. You don’t deserve love, forgiveness, and salvation. You deserve eviction, death, chaos, distrust, rejection, and shame.

Some of us need to be convinced of how good God’s grace is. If you feel heavy and burdened by your sin, hear the good news that God is gracious so you can be free of sin’s penalty! When God’s grace meets your sin, you are welcomed, forgiven, protected, commissioned, and covered. You don’t deserve it and yet you have it.

But there’s more. Yes, God shows grace, but the intentions of our heart are still evil. We are broken on the inside. This passage leaves us hungering for a transformation. Will humanity ever be fixed? The answer is: yes! Jesus gives us a new heart. Jesus not only frees us from the penalty of our sin but he free us from the power of it as well. That’s the only way we can show other people grace like God has shown us: because Jesus has transformed us from the inside out.

When it comes to following God’s law, rules, and standards, people usually fall on two opposite extremes. One says: rules (standards, laws) will save you. The other says: no rules (standards, laws) will save you. The first says you will be saved by following the rules, the second says you will be saved by breaking them. Neither is correct and grace is far better.

Imagine your house was broken down. It needs painting, things don’t work, the carpet is a mess, windows are broken. The rule-keeper will walk into your house and point out everything wrong with it. With a condemning tone, they will tell you how bad you are and how ashamed you should be that you have let your house get this broken. But they won’t lift a finger to help fix it.

The rule-breaker will walk into your house, see everything that is wrong, and say, “It’s ok that everything is a mess. There is nothing wrong with it. The brokenness is beautiful. You can leave it the way it is if that’s how you want it.” This person won’t judge you or condemn you, but they also won’t lift a finger to help fix what’s broken.

Grace on the other hand walks into your house, sees everything that is wrong, and says, “This is a mess. This is bad and we need to do something about this. I’m going to help you fix what’s broken here and I’m going to pay all the costs. Don’t worry about paying me back. I’m not doing this because you deserve it. I’m doing this because I love you and want what’s best for you.” That’s grace. God doesn’t leave us in our brokenness. God doesn’t just condemn our brokenness or say it’s ok that we are broken. He pays the price and puts in the effort to fix us and heals us and restore us to what we are supposed to be. That’s grace.

Conclusion
There are many who say the God of the Old Testament is a God of anger and judgment but Jesus is all about love and grace. Passages like this make it clear that God has always been a God of lavish grace, who gives us what we don’t deserve.

More in Genesis: Beginning the Journey Home

December 9, 2018

Jacob and the God More Powerful Than Him

December 2, 2018

Jacob and His Sons Fail to Walk with God

November 18, 2018

Jacob's Search for Acceptance