God is the ultimate storyteller, and the Bible is God’s epic tale.

We’re seeing that story unfold in Genesis as we’ve already traveled through an amazing six days when God created the heavens, the earth, the oceans, plants, animals, and then finally you and me — and then we witnessed the terrible fall when sin entered our world and our lives, leaving the Lord no choice but to drive out Adam and Eve (and by extension, all of us) from the garden of Eden.

No doubt you’re keenly aware that human beings are adept at messing up the good things God gives us. But since God is love — and exhibits more love than we could ever comprehend — He is all about saving us. Bringing us back into the fold. Redemption.

In fact, we see the Lord began to weave together His grand story — which culminates with Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross — in Genesis itself. In the third chapter, God tells the serpent who initiated the fall of humanity that he “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.” It’s the very first reference in Scripture to what Jesus will do in the future: Although the son of God will be beaten and scarred and put to death (bruising his heel), Christ’s act of sacrifice will crush Satan (bruising his head) — and it’s an ultimate defeat. Now and forever.

But the Lord is just getting started telling his story. In Genesis 4, as we saw Sunday, the Lord introduces us to the offspring of Adam and Eve. You know their names well: Cain and Abel.

This next part of God’s epic drama digs deeper into the fallen human heart — specifically Cain’s. In many ways Cain is a lot like us. While God speaks to Cain (can you imagine that?) and gives him every opportunity to have a relationship with him, Cain holds back what he’s willing to sacrifice to the Lord. You can relate, right? We’re often unwilling to live within God’s boundaries in the belief that we can show ourselves a better, more exciting time, and then we go our own way and fall on our faces in sin. Perhaps Cain also believed that if he sacrificed the “really good stuff” to the Lord, he’d be left with nothing — despite the fact that God created Cain and everything around him. It’s all the Lord’s anyway, isn’t it? So why was Cain (and why are we) so reluctant to give back to God what he already owns and simply entrusted to us for a short time?

The result is that God doesn’t accept Cain’s paltry sacrifice — and it’s further complicated by the fact that the Lord loved Abel’s sacrifice. And now we have the fraught emotions of jealousy and anger entering God’s story. Comparing ourselves to others. Feeling sorry for ourselves. But it wasn’t as though the Lord tossed Cain on the garbage heap — God corrected and counseled him and gave him an opportunity to approach him in the right way: “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.’” (verses 6-7)

But instead Cain transferred his anger at the Lord to his brother Abel and killed him. His own flesh and blood. Of course, as with all sin, murder never makes things better; it only makes them worse. And Cain felt the full brunt of his sin’s consequences.

Like Cain, many of us struggle with anger. And while Ephesians 4:27 tells us that being angry in and of itself isn’t necessarily sinful, it’s a dangerous emotion because it can open the door for all kinds of damage and, indeed, evil. Anger can be so hazardous to us that the Lord commands us further in Ephesians to not let the sun go down on our anger — to resolve it quickly, that very day in fact. Perhaps the most telling illustration is the rest of the Ephesians verse which implores us to not give the devil a “foothold.”

Anyone who’s scaled a rock wall or took part in outdoor rock climbing knows what that means. For climbers, a foothold is more or less a new lease on life. It’s a long way up the rock, and you might be tired — but if you can rest all your body weight on a little sliver of stone, you can hang out a while and resume your climb when your energy returns. Footholds are valuable in such endeavors. And they’re valuable for Satan, too. He’s so committed to destroying us, in fact, that he’ll search high and low for that little, tiny spot — that opening, that point of vulnerability — where he can dig in and stay as he continues his climb into our lives.

Indeed, Cain’s sin cost him just about everything, as he told the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” But God’s story continued on amid Cain’s brokenness — and more people filled the earth as the years passed, and certainly brokenness continued among God’s creation.

But Genesis 4 ends in a very hopeful way. The narrative turns back to Adam and Eve, who had another son, Seth, who in turn had a son named Enosh. And we discover that “at that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

We sin. We suffer for it. And hopefully we cry out to God in those moments. Often the Lord uses the darkest times to get through to us, to jump start our relationships with him. Sometimes it’s painful, but as anyone who’s gone through such moments, the pain is worth the restoration of a relationship with God.

So let us heed the words of the One who is the apex of God’s story in the Bible — Jesus — who told his followers to “seek first the kingdom of God,” and then all the other things we need in life and fret over will be added to us. And we can call out Christ’s name right now — he’s made himself completely available to his children, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He never takes a coffee break, and he’ll never hang up on us.

Dial that number, beloved.

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The Bible has a lot to say about increasing the quality of your personal life. And believe it or not, we can begin to see that topic unfold in the third chapter of Genesis, which we took a deeper look at Sunday.

Genesis 3 isn’t a pleasant chapter. It’s all about how sin entered the world and how death in its many forms was the consequence. But we also discovered that understanding how to live our best lives also means knowing what the opposite looks like.

Spiritual death. In verse 7 and 8, after the man and woman eat the fruit, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the coolof the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

Something good and pure was changed in an instant to something inappropriate. The man and woman saw something they hadn’t seen before, and it can’t be undone. All of us can relate to that. Neither can we undo things we’ve seen that we shouldn’t have seen, nor can we undo things we’ve done that we shouldn’t have done. Like us, the woman and man gave into the temptation to “be like God” and do things their own way, and sin entered the picture and suddenly created a death experience where there had been none — and created a sin nature inside each one of us where there had been none. And what did they do next? They sewed fig leaves together to create loincloths to cover themselves — and they hid from God. Which says a lot about how sin causes us to hide not only from God but from each other. So that no one will know who we really are. Sin is the death of intimacy.

Spiritual life. But there is a solution! Romans 5:17 talks about what happened in the garden — and who came to wipe sin away: “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

When we come to Christ, we have spiritual life. Despite our sin natures, despite our tendency to be like God, despite our selfishness that we live with all the time, Jesus gives us a new life — and the road toward a better quality of life, starting right now.

Emotional death. Verses 9 and 10 tell us “the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’”

The man and woman began life as naked and not ashamed. But when they sinned, they were ashamed of their nakedness. Shame is different than guilt. Guilt is the result of doing something wrong and knowing you need to apologize and ask forgiveness. But shame is much worse. It says, “You’re a bad person, you don’t deserve any love.” It’s damaging to us. The man and woman also hid because they were afraid — and many people live their lives driven by fear. It’s all a terrible case of emotional death.

Emotional life. But there is a solution! 1 John 4:16-19 says “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”

By abiding in God through faith in Christ, emotional healing can take place in our lives. Fear is cast away. And our new lives in Jesus means shame has no place within us.

Still, verses 11 through 13 show that the man and woman — and indeed all of us — have a long way to go! Notice how they respond to God when he questions them: “He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”

Does that sound familiar? The man and woman blame each other and other forces for their downfall. The man blames the woman, and the woman blames the serpent. But sin didn’t have to occur. They both made their own choices. And they responded the way we all do at times: Instead of owning up and examining our part in sin, we tend to blame other people and other things.

Relational death. Next God tells the serpent and the woman the bad news. To the serpent God says he “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.” This points to a future event — the crucifixion — but signals also that while sin is still present, the penalty for sin is paid for through Christ.

To the woman God said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” This describes what we all know too well: Interpersonal conflict. Control issues. Domination. Specifically, in marriage. We all know the tendency is for relationships to go bad — and that’s part of the curse that sin created.

Relational life. But there is a solution! 1 Peter 4:7-11 commands us to “be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms: if anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God; if anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

God wants to empower us through Christ to increase our quality of our lives with respect to relationships! And we do so by living sacrificially, giving to each other, speaking words of life to each other. All of us must understand the grace God provides and apply it to our lives so that we may experience what God wants us to have.

Economic death. Next God tells the man the bad news: He will experience pain and sweat as he toils through “thorns and thistles” just to be able to eat — and will do so for the rest of his life. That’s also something we all can relate to. We all have to work, and work can be very challenging, whether it’s the task at hand or the people we encounter as we struggle to get through our days.

Economic life. But there is a solution! Ephesians 6:5-8 says, “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

When Christ lives within us, we have a new purpose as we work. Jesus is our boss. And his burden is light. And we’re freed up to have a new vision in our jobs — an eternal vision that’s part of our sanctification as we work for the Lord and not merely for others, not merely for a paycheck.

Physical death. Verse 19 says that God told Adam one day he will “return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” No sugarcoating needed. The presence of sin means physical death is now an inevitability. And it awaits all of us.

Physical life. But there is a solution! 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that since Christ has been raised from the dead, so we will be. Because of Jesus, physical death is merely a passageway to eternal life. Rather than a massive full stop, it’s now a blip on the screen. No more need to fear death for those who believe in Christ!

Eternal death. Verses 20 through 23 tell us that God blocked Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life which would allow them to live forever in their sinful state and drove them out of the garden of Eden. No more opportunity for eternal life.

Eternal life. But there is a solution! 2 Timothy 1:10 says “but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Believers in Jesus have eternal life!

Genesis 3 is full of negative stuff. It’s about death. The dire, eternal consequences of sin. But while that is all very bad news, we can praise God that he offers us good news in its wake — the ultimate solution through his son Jesus, who came to wipe sin away, adopt us into the family of God, and grant us not only eternal life but also a much better quality of life we can start to experience right now.

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“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”—1 Peter 5:8

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”—John 10:10 

Satan wants to take away our joy, kill our relationships, and annihilate our hearts. That’s why he’s called “the enemy” in the Bible.

But you’ve probably noticed that he rarely accomplishes any of his evil in overt, obvious ways. Instead Satan is subtle and tricky and deceptive. And that’s why we need a plan to combat the devil’s sneak attacks.

On Sunday we looked at one of the most famous passages of Scripture: Genesis 3 — the fall of humanity. The moment sin entered the world. And the very first verse of the chapter gets right to heart of Satan’s methods, noting that “the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”

First off, God created the serpent. Not only that, the serpent was part of the Lord’s creative process that he deemed “very good” in Genesis 1. Which goes to show that Satan uses good things to get us into trouble. Even “very good” things. Indeed, 2 Corinthians 11 points out that Satan “masquerades as an angel of light.” And what looks better or more inviting than such an entity?

That is, until he starts speaking — and getting us to ask if God really knows what he’s doing.

In next verse of Genesis 3, the serpent strikes up a conversation with the woman — while the man was right there with her, as a matter of fact — and started to throw doubt into her head: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” The woman’s first mistake was entering the conversation in the first place: she answers the serpent’s question — and then it all goes downhill from there. The serpent convinces the woman that God is wrong — or perhaps that the Lord didn’t mean what he said or in the way she thought. Doubt creeps in. Conflicting voices. And maybe, just maybe, there’s more fun and interesting stuff to be had by eating of the fruit of this tree — and we’ll “be like God” and know good and evil.

That’s the kicker, isn’t it? When it comes right down to it, that’s where all sin begins and ends, right? We don’t just want to be like God; we want to be God. To be in ultimate control. To do what we want when we want and with whom we want. We’re hopelessly addicted to living as if we have the power. That we’re the captains of our ships. The drivers behind the wheels of life. But every time it’s the same outcome: A shipwreck — and a crash and burn.

And that’s exactly what happened when the man and woman ate of that tree: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Boom. Just like that. Paradise and perfection in a garden with not a care in the world — and then we somehow manage to mess it up in an instant. And impact of the man and woman’s sin is felt to this very day while we, too, toil and struggle and sweat — still looking for a way of our own making. To go it alone without God’s help. To taste fruit that’s no good for us in the end.

Again, it’s key to realize that the fruit looked good! Outwardly there wasn’t anything wrong with it that the man and woman could detect. The only thing is that God knew the facts and told them so. But just like with us today, often what God says — what we know to be true — falls on deaf ears. We don’t trust God to meet our needs. We think he’s holding out on us. And before we know it, Satan has enticed us into sin using something that looks good, seems to offer pleasure, fun, good times. Therefore, it’s a wise idea to ask yourself, “What does Satan use in my life to start the conversation?” (Then don’t have it!)

And did you notice that the first question Satan has for the woman is about God? Satan loves to talk to us about God, about religion. Problem is, the devil doesn’t want us to pursue a relationship with God. No way. That doesn’t work for Satan. Because once we’re intimate with the Lord, it becomes much harder for Satan to entice us away from God’s embrace. Instead the devil will try to start one of those familiar chats: “Did God really mean that?”

The answer, of course, is yes. And it gets back to that age-old falsehood that the Lord is some cosmic killjoy who’s only interested in us following a bunch of rules and then bashing us over our heads when we break them. Seriously — does it make any sense for God to go through the effort of creating an entire universe for us and for our enjoyment just so he can be crabby and mean and petty? There would’ve been much simpler ways for God to scratch that itch if that were indeed his nature — and we know it isn’t.

God sets limits for amazingly loving reasons — and gives us the power to stay within those limits — so we can live our best lives possible and be in the best positions to have an incredible, exciting, adventurous relationship with him.

That’s why it’s so important to teach limits to young people — it helps them learn to handle disappointment and to find contentment within them. If, on the other hand, we give children no limits, they will find their pleasures and identities outside of them.

Proverbs 14:12 reads, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Such was the fate of the man and the woman in the garden when they decided their way was better than God’s way.

May we daily live in the awareness that Satan is right around the corner and ready to lay his lies and distortions on us. May we daily live with humility knowing that not only is God’s way infinitely better, but it’s also anything but life sapping. In fact, the Lord’s way is life giving — and if we’re willing to listen to his “no,” he has an eternity full of “yes” just waiting for us. And we can embark on that abundant life right now.

Just be careful who you’re talking to.

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Marriage is under attack today and has been for a long time. There’s no arguing that. But while we can easily point to outside forces such as our anti-God and I-want-to-do-what-I-want-to-do-when-I-want-to-do-it culture, plenty of negative forces are at work within married people themselves that undermine their unions: Neglect, busyness, laziness, selfishness. Too many people aren’t doing the work they need to do to keep their marriages strong.

So, let’s take a look back at what we learned Sunday as we examined more of Genesis 2 — specifically that God created marriage and four principles we can use to keep them not just alive but thriving.

Principle #1: God created marriage. He designed it for us. And if you believe God created marriage, then doesn’t it stand to reason that we should follow his plan and his design and his instructions for marriage? You’d better believe it.

Principle #2: God designed men and women to be companions. In our previous study in Genesis, we talked about God’s personal touch as he created man — whom he formed from dust like a potter forms clay on a wheel until it’s something beautiful and useful. Indeed, the Lord’s touch is deeply upon his human creation. But when all other possibilities for the man’s companion were exhausted, God got creative again. Verse 22 tells us that while the man slept, the Lord took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

With that, the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” God again was very personal in his creation of the woman — and the word “made” in this context actually means “built,” as in the process of building an altar. A sacred process! And the Lord built the woman to be the perfect complimentary companion for the man — and were designed to fit together not just sexually but also emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Principle #3: God designed men and women to be united in “one flesh.” Verse 24 reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This verse is talking about sex, plain and simple — and God designed it! But most folks look at sex as a biological function that can be reduced down to pleasure. But that’s like changing a lightbulb in the rain. Lightbulbs weren’t designed to operate around water, and the likelihood of getting zapped is quite high. Sex is very much the same way; we can argue until we’re blue in the face that it’s just physical, but God designed as something much more — it’s a spiritual activity. And when we relegate what’s ultimately a spiritual activity to the lesser rung of the physical, we’re messing with God’s system.

The Apostle Paul warns us about this in 1 Corinthians 6 and refers back to Genesis as well: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’”

Sex is actually devotion — a uniting of two spirits with Jesus right there with you. That might sound strange, but it’s true. When he sees a married couple enjoying sex — the context within which he designed it — that pleases him. Just as God stated his creation was “very good,” Jesus says sex in proper context is a wonderful work of creation.

Principle #4: God designed marriage for deep intimacy and closeness. Verse 25 reads, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Obviously, this verse is saying that neither the man nor the woman was embarrassed to be unclothed around each other — but it’s also saying way deeper things that that. In marriage, we’re also unclothed from our emotions — and our mates are supposed to be so close to us that they know more about us than anyone else. It means husbands and wives accept each other and are there for each other, differences and all.

Maybe you’re telling yourself that these principles don’t describe you — that you’ve been hurt and damaged by others … maybe even as part of a marriage. Well, God is not surprised by your reaction! It’s OK. In fact, the Lord is holding nothing back. In Genesis 3 we’ll discover that this wonderful creation God put together was, in fact, damaged by human beings. Our disobedience brought brokenness into the marriage relationship, into family relationships, and into our relationships with God.

The Good News, however, is that the Lord is in the business of redeeming us and restoring us — all of us, no matter where you think your life is right now, or if you’ve convinced yourself that your life is beyond repair. Maybe you’ve experienced extreme and horrific loss. The Lord knows about it. And he has an eternity’s worth of incredible gifts for you in the midst of that pain and loss that he wants to give you starting today. Count on it.

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