THE IMPORTANCE OF OBEDIENCE (LESSON 1)
(A similar lesson to this one can also be found at Overcoming Temptation and Lust - Lesson 3)
This month we are talking about obeying God. And for this lesson, we are going to go back to the beginning. We are going to take a look at Adam and Eve and discuss their disobedience, because things haven't really changed all that much from their time to our time. We are still making some of the same mistakes that our great grandparents did.
But before we go there, I wanted to ask you guys a question: did you know that there is a war going on and that you are right in the middle of it? As a matter of fact, you are the main target. There are unseen forces trying to destroy you. And you are either making it easy and aiding in your destruction, or you are fighting against these forces by being obedient and shielding yourself with the power of God.
Ephesians 6:12 tells us, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Obedience isn't just about following God's commands because it's a nice thing to do. It is about getting directions from your Captain so that you can overcome the powers that you are wrestling against, Satan's attacks.
And Satan has been using the same technique on generation after generation. So we are going to go back to Genesis to see him in action.
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But first let's take a look at God's instructions to Adam. Genesis 2:15, "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
Adam and Eve had it made in the shade. God had provided for them everything they needed. But there was one thing that God wanted them to have nothing to do with, because if they partook of this one thing, it would bring death. All they had to do was be obedient and everything would have been fine.
God has also provided much to us. We have liberty and freedom and opportunities to experience many wonderful things. Psalm 84:11 tells us, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." But similar to Adam and Eve, there are certain things that God warns us to stay away from. In the Bible we find our instructions from God, those things that He wants us to have no part of.
Now back to Adam. When God warned Adam of the forbidden tree, Eve hadn't even been created yet. Let's read about when Eve comes into the picture. Genesis 2:21-25, "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a Woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."
Adam and Eve are in the garden. God has given them much to enjoy. They don't have a care in the world. And they had nothing to be ashamed of. Where there is obedience to God, there is no shame.
But now the warfare is about to begin. Let's see how our enemy operates. Genesis 3:1-3, "Now the serpent was more subtile (sly) than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die."
Now, what was Eve's first mistake? She's spending time with the enemy debating and focusing on something that is strictly forbidden. Satan's first tactic is to try to get you to start thinking about those things that are forbidden. And a lot of times we make the same mistake that Eve made and instead of getting as far away as we can away from that snake, we stand there listening to what he has to say.
How many of you have been inviting into your life those forces that are at war for your soul? What kind of programs do you watch on TV? What kind of music do you listen to? What kind of movies do you watch? What kind of magazines do you read? What kind of people do you spend time with? Are these people and things honoring God, or are they trying to get you to eat, touch, taste, and experience things that God has forbidden? Maybe you think, "Well, I'll just hear what he or she has to say," or "I'll just take a peek." But let's see what happens when you stand there too long gazing at a serpent. Genesis 3:4-5, "And the serpent said unto the woman, 'Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
God warned Adam that if he touched this forbidden thing, it would bring death. Here Satan lies and tells Eve just the opposite. Satan says not only will she not die, but that she will gain knowledge and be like a god.
Satan and the dark powers of this world, which are at war with us, always lie. They will do whatever it takes to get you to fall. What are some of the world's lies? "Alcohol makes you have more fun. You become more social." "Smoking cigarettes makes you look cool." "Everybody is having sex with everybody. It's no big deal." "Abortion is no big deal. It's not a baby. It's just some tissue." "You don't have to get married. A marriage certificate is just a piece of paper." And the longer we listen, we begin to believe the lies. Let's see what Eve did next:
Genesis 3:6-8, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he ate. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." (Although people like to blame Adam's downfall on Eve, if you refer to 1 Timothy 2:13-14, you will see that Adam sinned with his eyes wide open.)
Adam and Eve had a choice, and they chose to be disobedient. And did you see what happened? Satan partially told the truth. Adam and Eve did become wiser. But he didn't tell them about the price they would pay for this newfound wisdom. Now all of a sudden, with no one else around them, they were ashamed. They covered their bodies. And next, as we will read, they hid from the Lord.
How many of us have been disobedient to God's commands because we wanted to gain knowledge, we wanted to experience certain things, and now we are ashamed at the things we have done and we wish we could forget the acts we have committed? Maybe you were disobedient regarding keeping your body a holy temple, and now you have knowledge of what it feels like to be drunk or stoned. Or maybe you were disobedient regarding waiting until you are married to engage in sex, and now you have knowledge of what it feels like to have had sex with people who were not your spouse. Or maybe you did something dishonest like lying or stealing, and now you have knowledge of what it is like to lose your freedom or the trust of your parents. All knowledge is not good knowledge. And the shame, regret, and consequences that come from certain acts can far outweigh the temporary thrill of being disobedient.
Let's look at how Adam and Eve reacted when God wanted to spend time with them. Genesis 3:8-10, "and they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And then the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because, I was naked; and I hid myself."
At one point Adam and Eve enjoyed being in God's presence. Now because of their disobedience, they are ashamed to face God. I bet Satan was laughing his head off when he saw how he had tricked Adam and Eve into doing something that made them hide themselves from God.
How many of you have hid from God because you knew you did those things that were displeasing to Him? Have you ever been too ashamed to face God? You felt that you could not pray or go to church or read your Bible because of your sin. You thought to yourself, "I'm a hypocrite. I'm not worthy." Well, that is what disobedience does. It puts a wall between you and God.
But God will forgive you if you come to Him with a sincere heart. God asked Adam, "Where art thou?" It is not that God did not know exactly where Adam and Eve were. But God wants us to seek His face and come to Him and confess our sins. Have you ever known that someone betrayed you and you would have forgiven him or her if only they admitted what they did? Maybe right now God is asking, "Where are you?"
Now, let's see how Adam and Eve tried to blame others for their disobedience instead of admitting what they had done and asking God for forgiveness. Genesis 3:11-13, "And he (God) said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this thou hast done? And the woman said, the serpent beguiled (deceived) me, and I did eat."
These two tried to blame everybody: the serpent, each other, maybe even God. But we need to take responsibility for our own actions. It is true that Satan tempts us, but we ultimately have the choice to either follow Satan or follow God. We always are either serving God or serving our own fleshly desires.
And know that where there is disobedience, there is a price that ultimately must be paid. The Bible tells us "Be sure your sin will find you out." And even when you confess your sins to God, there will still be casualties. Although you may not physically die and you are forgiven, a price is still paid in one way or another. Let's see the price that Adam and Eve had to pay.
Genesis 3:22-24, "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
Adam and Eve were kicked out of the beautiful garden that God had created. And now they would have to labor and work hard and eventually die. Sin entered the world, and things have never been the same since. Adam and Eve experienced great loss because of their disobedience.
We, too, lose something precious every time we are disobedient. We may not immediately die, but we still lose. We lose the ability to enjoy things in the way that God created us to enjoy them. We can lose our freedom. We lose our dignity. We lose our health. We lose the trust of others. We can lose our family. The list goes on and on.
So the question now is since you know that you are at war, are you going to stay armed for battle by being obedient to God's word, or are you going to continue to let the enemy defeat you and steal those things that God has in store for your life?