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1 Corinthians 2:12-13
It all started in the Garden of Eden. Satan asked Adam and Eve a question. “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Then he proceeded to cast aspersions on God, suggesting that he was not loving, that he was trying to keep Adam and Eve from having something good. He was setting them up to make a choice about who they would listen to, God, or Satan.
All humans have been faced with this same question ever since. To whom will you listen? God spoke to Cain and warned him that his feelings of jealousy would master him if he didn’t master them first. He chose not to listen to God’s warning and became the first murderer. In our first Lesson, Moses fulfilled his duty as God’s prophet and reminded the people that they would be faced with this choice through out their lives. If they continued to choose to listen to God, they would be allowed to live in the land. If they chose to listen to other gods, the imaginary gods of the Canaanites, they would end up losing the land the Lord was about to give them. He encouraged them to choose life by loving the LORD your God, by listening to his voice, and by clinging to him.
We all know that the Lord, the one and only true God, the one who has rescued us from the slavery of sin and is leading us to the promised land of heaven- we know that he is the one to whom we should listen. But, we also know that it’s easier said than done. Adam and Eve failed. Cain failed. Israel failed. We all fail every day. Why is it so difficult?
Satan and the world are really good at making what God says is good look bad and making what God says is bad look good. The Devil said, “That forbidden fruit looks really delicious, but what makes it even better is that it will enable you to know good and evil.” That sounded really good to Eve. But the devil left out one important piece of information. It’s not good to know evil. It’s really good if you never know or experience anything evil. That’s why God said don’t eat. Satan made the bad look good and the good look bad and Eve fell for it. She listened to Satan instead of listening to God.
Satan knows that we are most vulnerable when we are feeling down. He convinces people that drugs or alcohol will cheer them up and make them feel better. But it turns out that when the effects of the drugs wear off, or when you wake up hung over, you feel worse than you did before. He convinces people that pornography will fill something that’s missing in their life. But it only ends up destroying relationships with real people and often leads to abuse, trafficking and, in some cases has even let to serial murder.
Satan’s ally is the spirit and wisdom of the world. As we have seen in the last ten years or so, anything can be justified as loving in the wisdom of the world. The world says abortion is showing love for a mother who can’t afford a child. It’s loving for the aborted child because, in the world’s wisdom, it’s better to be dead than unwanted. It’s unloving to call homosexual activity a sin, or to hold that there are only two genders, male and female. No one wants to be called unloving or judgmental, especially Christians who know that they have been called by God to show love to everyone.
We know that we should listen to God, not to Satan or the wisdom of the world, but it’s easier said than done. You see, Jesus points out that, sometimes when we think we are listening to God, we really aren’t. We don’t really understand what he is saying, or we twist what he is saying to suit ourselves.
Jesus wants to make this clear in our Gospel reading. Four times he says, you have heard that it is said. And what follows, what they had heard, was true. It was a quote from Scripture. You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not divorce, you shall not break a vow. So, what was the problem? Human reason stepped in to soften the force of God’s commands. It’s Okay, human reason says, if I hate someone, or hold a grudge, as long as I have not murdered them. It’s Okay, human reason says, if I lust over what I see in movies, or on the internet, or in pornography, as long as I don’t actually commit adultery. It’s Okay, human reason says, to get a divorce because we just don’t like each other anymore and we just can’t get along, as long as it’s legal. But what does Jesus say?
Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of hell fire. Everyone who looks at a woman (or a man) with lust has already committed adultery. Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to be regarded as an adulteress. And whoever marries the divorced woman is regarded as an adulterer.
We know that we are to listen to God and not to Satan, not to the world. We know that we are not to make excuses to get around the condemnation of God’s law or twist it so that we think it doesn’t apply in our case. But the truth is, that we often fail, just like Adam and Eve did, just like Cain did, just like Israel did, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day did. How can we ever be saved!
Paul says, What we received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we might know the blessings freely given to us by God. By God’s grace alone he continues to let us hear his voice in the word and sacraments. By God’s grace alone the Holy Spirit continues to show us that the blessings of God are freely given. We don’t have to guess what God wants. He has revealed it to us in his word. We don’t have to wonder how we can ever be saved, how we can ever be forgiven for all the times that we choose not to listen to what God tells us. He has revealed to us that the way of salvation, the greatest blessing he could ever give, comes to us through faith, not by anything we do, not be listening to what he says perfectly, which no one can do. He has reveled to us that Jesus always listened to his heavenly father. He always resisted Satan’s lies about what is good and what is bad. He never twisted God’s word to fit his desire. He always knew and followed not just the outward application of God’s laws, but everything God intended regarding the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. He showed us what love really is by willingly taking our place and accepting the punishment we deserve for all the times we have chosen not to listen to God. The world considers believing that a person is saved because a Jew named Jesus lived, died and rose again, to be utterly foolish. But by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit has brought us to believe that salvation by grace through faith in Jesus is pure wisdom from God.
Paul quotes Isaiah, what no eye has seen and no ear has heard and no human mind has conceived—that is what God has prepared for those who love him. He says, we speak about these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual truths with spiritual words.
When Paul and the other Apostles tell us about what God has done for us in Jesus; when they tell us about the glory that he is preparing for us in heaven; even though we can’t fully conceive of what it will be like, we can be assured that what they say is true. These are things no one could know unless God had revealed it to them. There are things that are contrary to anything human wisdom would come up with. These are not things that Paul and the Apostles made up. These are things that were taught them by the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised when he said that he would sent the Holy Spirit to remind them of all that he had taught them and to guide them to make sure that what they taught and wrote was God’s truth.
When Satan tried to do to Jesus what he did to Adam and Eve, how did Jesus respond? He said, it is written. Most importantly he listened to God instead of listening to Satan or the wisdom of the world. He did that in our place and his perfection is credited to us through faith. But he also reminded us of what we are to do every time Satan seems to be asking us, “did God really say?”; every time the wisdom of the world seems logical, or even loving; every time we are tempted to say, “yes, but what you say doesn’t apply to me because…” When those things happen, Jesus reminds us to do one thing. Open God’s word and search the Scriptures to make sure that we are listening to what God says, not to what Satan or the spirit of the world says.
What Moses told Israel is still true today. In his word, God sets before us life and death, blessing and curse. May we always respond as Peter did and say, Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life. Consider all that God has done for you in Jesus. Listen to him. Choose life.