The following is a written version of my Club Talk given at Friendswood Young Life on Feb 19, 2007.
A Christmas Story
I want to tell you a story.
I was about 8 years old—it was Christmas time. Put yourself into your 8-year old brain, and remember Christmas. For me, the calendar revolved around 3 important dates: Easter (chocolate), Halloween (candy), and Christmas (presents). Nothing is more exciting than Christmas.
I have two older brothers, and they came to me at the peak of the holiday season, saying “Hey Stephen, we’ve got a piece of information that you really want.”
“What is that?”
“We know exactly where Mom has hidden all of the presents.”
My brain went into overdrive. This was an astounding piece of information. Here was my opportunity to check that my mom had purchased everything necessary. I could compare the contents of this stash with the list that I had made to be sure that between Santa and Mom and Dad I would get all that I needed.
“Where? Where? Where?” I asked.
“Go into Mom and Dad’s room, into the closet, in the back corner on the right. Move some clothes out of the way, and you’ll find a black trash bag.”
At this point, there was a little angelic dude sitting on my shoulder saying: “No, Stephen. Don’t do it.” But that guy is so easy to ignore. Especially when the cool guy on my other shoulder was screaming: “Rock on!”
I went into my parents’ room, into the closet, to the back corner on the right. I moved some clothes and there it was. A light shone down from heaven; cue the “Hallelujah Chorus”—a black trash bag!
I opened the trash bag to examine its contents. It was all there: baseball cards, Nintendo games, [[Wikipedia:He-Man]] action figures (including a [[Wikipedia:Skeletor]] to go with my Castle Greyskull action set!).
After examining these things for a while, I closed the bag, moved the clothes back in place, left the closet, left my parents’ room, and resumed my normal activities.
Later that afternoon, I saw my mom walk into her room. I wish I had never seen her walk out. When she emerged, she didn’t look human anymore. Her face was all contorted in a wicked sort of way. Her left eye had disappeared! It was now covered almost entirely by eyebrow. Her right eye was wide open and glaring—a bit like Mad-Eye Moody from Harry Potter.
“Who has been in my closet?” she asked in a semi-human voice.
My brothers looked at each other, and then simultaneously ratted me out: “Stephen.”
What could I do? Nothing but bear the brunt of Mom’s wrath. I was grounded from Nintendo (what an awful fate!), and sent to bed without supper.
I moped into my room, and switched off the light. Sadly, it was impossible to tell that I’d switched off my light because the sun was still shining. I could hear kids playing in the streets, riding their bikes, shooting hoops, laughing. All I could do was pound my head against my pillow and wish that I could somehow start the day over.
After that incident, for a long time, I felt a terrible pain in my stomach whenever I had to talk to my mom. Our relationship had changed. I was a pretty good kid, and she had trusted me. But now, I had to earn back her trust. By listening to the cool guy on my shoulder, I had temporarily severed my relationship with my mom.
That sick feeling in my stomach was the result of separation from someone I loved.
Some folks are Christian, and they speak in this “Christianese” kind of language that is sometimes difficult to understand. I try not to speak that language—I avoid it like the plague. But there are some words that you gotta understand. One of them is “sin.”
“Sin” is kind of an ugly word. It just sounds bad. But what does it mean?
Sin, by definition, is what separates us from God. Sin is anything that creates a gap or a roadblock between us and God. When we do dumb stuff, and it makes us feel bad—that’s sin. We have separated ourselves from God, and the severing of that tie does not feel good.
When I separated myself from my mom, I felt awful. When I separate myself from God, I feel awful.
The reality is that we all have sin. Sin is a human condition—it’s part of our make-up. Humans are genetic beings. Our parents pass genes on to us, and that’s why we have brown eyes, or red hair, or silly looking toes.
Unfortunately, another thing they passed on to us was sin.
The Bible records the first sin in chapter 3 of the book of Genesis—it’s the very first book in the Bible. Up to this point, things had been pretty groovy. God had created the world and everything in it. God said that it was pretty cool. He’d created man (Adam) and woman (Eve), and they lived in this far-out place called “The Garden of Eden.”
Now, the Garden of Eden was sweet. Adam and Eve could do whatever they wanted there. God told ‘em to have some fun. They got to run around and climb trees, name animals, surf. Whatever. Eden was a groovy place.
There was only one rule.
God: “Do you see that tree over there?”
God: “That’s called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Y’all can do whatever you want here in Eden, but please, pretty please, do not eat the fruit that comes from that tree. When you do—bad stuff’s gonna happen. Okay?”
So, this wasn’t a problem for a while. Adam and Eve did cool things in Eden, hung out with God. It was sweet.
Until, one day, a serpent came walking into the garden (they had legs…promise). And that serpent tricked Eve and got her to eat some of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And worse, she got Adam to eat some of it too (stupid man).
This is what Genesis 3:7–8 (ESV) says happened after they 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. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
So they eat the fruit (“yum!”), and instantly realize, “Ack! We’re naked. We’re shameful!” So they cover themselves up. When God comes walkin’ through the garden, they hide.
Why do they hide?
Their disobedience has separated them from God. I imagine that Adam and Eve had that sick feeling in their stomachs. So they decided to play a little Hide-and-Go-Seek with God.
This is exactly what we do. And we are always going to lose when we play Hide-and-Go-Seek with God. Always.
This sin was then passed on to every single human being that ever lived. Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain and Abel. What happens? Cain kills Abel. Why? Because he’s got sin.
Sin is like this disease that just gets passed on from generation to generation. And all of us have it.
A Quick Proof
I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, Stephen, so the Bible claims we’re sinners. Do you have any proof?”
Lots of it.
Look at the world we live in. It’s horribly screwed up. We’ve got war, we’ve got murder, we’ve got sexual harassment. There’s all kinds of really rotten stuff going on.
You might say: “Okay, but those atrocities are generally committed by people that aren’t stable. What about normal dudes and dudettes like us?”
Consider a child. If you walk into a room to find a 5 year old and a broken lamp, and you ask, “Who broke that lamp?” What is the child’s response?
“I don’t know.”
This is a lie. A child is going to do what seems most beneficial. A child is not going to do “the right thing” without being taught what that is.
Sin is a disease. We’re all born with it. It is pervasive. We’ve all got it.
Is There Hope?
So, if you’ve run with me this far, you should understand two major ideas:
- Sin is what separates us from God.
- We all have sin.
Therefore: We are all separated from God.
You see, we are built with a need for God. We need Him. But we’re separated from Him. What an awful state of affairs! How can we overcome that separation? What can we do?
We can do nothing.
In the coming weeks we’ll talk not about what we can do, but about what Jesus has done. Jesus is our hope. Jesus is our solution.