Sunday, January 24, 2016

Two Groups

We're back again to examine what happened when God spoke to the serpent and put enmity between it and the woman. What I want to show you this morning is that this event is the beginning of a major theme of the Gospel.

So, listen again to what God said to the serpent.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3.15
As I explained last week, Satan - who is represented by the serpent - and Adam and Eve were joined together as a single group in their rebellion against God. But God intervened. He separated Adam and Eve from Satan. He made the one group into two. In doing that God began a war between them. That was all from last week. This week I want you to see that this warfare, this conflict between these two groups, is a basic theme in the story of the Bible. Everyone from that day to this fits into one or the other of these two camps. And we are all fighting against each other. It's the offspring of the serpent against the offspring of the woman.

So, Cain fights against Abel, Goliath fights against David, the rulers of Babylon fight against Daniel and his three friends, the Pharisees fight against Jesus. Throughout the unfolding story of the Bible it's the offspring of the serpent fighting against the offspring of the woman. And if you think about it, this is the basic point of the capstone of the Bible, the book of Revelation. The history of the world, from what happened at that tree to the return of Jesus is the story of the enmity between these two groups.

Now, let's take a look at these offspring. Thinking about them even just a little will result in lots of questions. Here’s one. Aren't all people offspring, that is, physical descendants, of Eve? And how can people like Cain and Goliath be offspring, descendants, of Satan? This is another case of where the Bible uses what might be called poetic language. Don't understand 'poetic' as meaning 'loose or inaccurate language'. Poetic language can often convey more truth than straight prose. So, while Cain, Goliath, the rulers of Babylon and those Pharisees are physically children of Eve, in another, non-physical sense they are not. In that other sense they are children of Satan. You can see this in a conversation Jesus had with some Jewish men. He said to them,
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. 
Those men were the offspring of Satan. But the point here isn't about biology. It's about loyalty, family loyalty. Jesus is quite clear. The loyalty of those men was to their father, Satan. In contrast, those who are the offspring of the woman have a very different family loyalty. They have God as their Father. What distinguishes the two groups is loyalty. So, the question to ask when you are reading about someone in the Bible is, 'Where is his loyalty?' And that is also a very helpful question when it comes to understanding the people you deal with each day. Which family is this person a part of? Where is his loyalty? Is it given to Jesus or to Satan? There is no other alternative.

Now, this loyalty isn't something set in stone. Loyalties can change. People can switch their loyalties. So, Cain begins as a loyal offspring of the woman. As you'll see when we get there, God appeals to him as such. And yet, as his murder of Abel makes clear, he rejects God as his father. He switches his loyalty. He has a new father. He has become an offspring of the serpent. A good example going the other way would be Saul, a vigorous opponent of the Gospel, who became Paul, a zealous preacher of that same Gospel. Paul was adopted by a different Father. Here, an offspring of the serpent became an offspring of the woman. His loyalty was changed.

Next question: What are these two groups fighting over? Here, it will help to go back to Genesis 1. When God created the man and the woman He said this to them:
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
The man and the woman were given dominion over creation. They were given authority to rule under God. But at that tree they lost that authority. At that point, dominion became Satan's. We know this is true because Jesus acknowledged it. Listen to how He described Satan.
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.
And remember what 'the ruler of this world' offered Jesus.
And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.”
Satan had authority - the authority that was originally given to Adam and Eve - and he was prepared to share it with Jesus.

In response to all of that what did Jesus preach?
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.
Here, Jesus is simply saying that He has come to wrest authority from Satan and restore proper rule, God's rule. Jesus has come to wield dominion, under God, in the way that Adam and Eve were supposed to. Jesus has come to be Lord.

And that's what the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent are fighting about. It's the Church against the world, fighting for dominion, fighting for the rule of the world. That's what the fighting was about for Cain and Abel, David and Goliath, Daniel and rulers of Babylon and Jesus and the Pharisees. And it remains the same for you. Jesus has come to restore the rule of creation to those to whom it belongs: those who are loyal to their heavenly Father. Jesus has come to restore dominion and share it with you.

Now, let's talk about victory. What does it look like? What it looks like is obvious. Victory is a world where there are no longer two groups. There is only one group, and that group is composed of all those who are loyal to God. He is their Father. The rebels are completely defeated. Or as Paul puts it,
Then comes the end, when [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
Jesus wins. Satan loses. Dominion is restored. That's victory.

Now, how does Jesus do that? How does He achieve that victory? God explained. Listen again.
… he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
God paints a picture. What do you see in the picture? You see a foot stepping on the head of a serpent, crushing it. It's a picture of a fatal blow. But this happens at a cost. The serpent strikes that foot, inflicting his poison by his fangs. This is a really good picture of what happens at the Cross. Jesus strikes Satan with a mortal wound. Satan is dying. And one day he will be completely vanquished, never to trouble anyone ever again. But at the same time, Jesus also suffers a deadly wound. But as Easter revealed, it was not the end of the story. Jesus is raised from the dead to be Lord with dominion over all. And that's how victory is won.

So, what have I done? I have told you a story. It's the story of the world. It's a story about conflict. And you are in that story. You are in the midst of that conflict between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent. It's the Church against the world. That explains why I've told you before that you live on a battlefield. And understanding that changes things.

Life was dramatically changed for millions on 1 September, 1939. That's the day that World War II began. Much of the world was quickly engulfed in warfare. So, people living at that time had to make huge adjustments. Before all the fighting started, parents looked at their children and thought about them growing up, getting married and enjoying the benefits of family life. But no more. Foreign armies had invaded and killed. And now they ruled. So, those children might still get married and such, but the priorities had changed. People understood there was an enemy to deal with and to be rid of. They were living in the midst of a war.

You are living in the midst of a war. And while some aspects of normal life continue, the priorities are different from peacetime. There is an enemy to deal with and to be rid of.

Explaining what that might look like would require its own sermon. But here is one theme for you to ponder. The key issue is loyalty. You are to be loyal to God, your Father. Work to understand what that loyalty looks like, especially in the little details of life. And then, work to maintain and develop that loyalty. Expect Satan to attack you. One way he does that is by trying to get you to be disloyal in the little details of life. He does this hoping to build on it so that you will become4 disloyal in the big things. It all starts with little compromises. Work at being loyal.

And consider this. There will be casualties. It's a war. That will mean that there may well be dreams that will be dashed. A life of relative ease may suddenly become one filled with hardship. And there will be those whom you know, dear friends, Christians, who will change their loyalties. They will no longer be loyal to Jesus and His Church. They will listen to the lies of Satan and believe them. These are examples of casualties. Be prepared for them.

And yet, the final victory is assured. The key battle has already been fought and won. Jesus won it on that Cross. So, as you continue to wrestle against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world and the spiritual forces of evil hold tight to this fact. You are on the winning side. It will cost you to get to the end of all the battles. That is certainly true. But as you endure to the end you will get to enjoy the glories of victory.