Undoing Adam’s Failure

13 03 2011

Prayer.  Fasting.  Almsgiving.  These are the classic disciplines of the Lenten season.  But when we pray, we should always pray with Scripture.  In Evangelical circles, it is often stressed that a healthy relationship with God requires daily Bible reading and study.  I don’t disagree, but beyond reading and study, a disciple of Jesus should also know how to pray the Scriptures.  The Psalms are the obvious example of Scripture that we can pray, but even with Biblical narratives (like Genesis or the Historical Books) and discourse (like the Prophets or the Epistles) one can also learn to pray.  The key is to remember that the Scriptures are God’s words to His people, AND that  prayer is not only talking to the Lord but also listening to Him.  By allowing Him to speak to us through the Scriptures, we can enter into dialogue with our Heavenly Father through the Holy Spirit.  These holy conversations will steadily transform us as we practice them frequently and steadily improve at listening.  So, this Lent, practice praying the Scriptures!

Now for my Lenten confession:  It’s frightening to count up the paltry amount of time I actually spend with Scripture.  As part of my Lenten discipline then, I hope to increase my time reading, studying and praying the Bible.  And during this Lent I will endeavor to record some of my engagement with God’s word by posting my thoughts here.

The lectionary readings for this first Sunday in Lent (from the Revised Common Lectionary) are these:

  • Old Testament Lesson:
    • Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
  • Psalm
    • Psalm 32
  • New Testament Lesson:
    • Romans 5:12-19
  • Gospel Lesson:
    • Matthew 4:1-11

These Scriptures remind us that the message and focus of Lent is really NOT how horrible we sinners all are (as true as that may be).  To focus on ourselves is a hopeless and despair-filled endeavor.  The focus of Lent is renewal, new life; and the One who has brought about this blessed new reality for us hopeless rebels. It seems I constantly fall back into sinful ruts– thought patterns, as well as patterns of behavior.  I know all too well that I cannot break myself out of these hellish cycles and deep, dark ruts with human resources alone.  Only the Second Adam can offer me real, lasting help.

“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.”  (Romans 5:17)

Look at Adam back in Genesis 3.  He stood by and allowed his wife to be manipulated by a scrawny little snake.  Don’t believe for a moment that Adam had skipped off to the nearest bush for a bathroom break  when the serpent slithered up to Eve and spoke his lies.  Genesis 3:6 indicates that he was with Eve.  And even if it can be argued that he was not there for the serpent’s spiel, he could have stopped his wife when she offered him the fruit.  But I have little doubt that Adam was fully aware of what the serpent had told his wife (because I believe he was right there to hear it).  But at precisely that moment when he should have stepped up as the man God created him to be he goes silent and passive.  He should have lovingly corrected his wife.  Even better, he should have told the serpent to shut up and leave– and if the serpent refused, Adam should have beat it’s little brains in with the nearest stick!

We all know he didn’t do any of those things and we get to enjoy the continuing consequences of his actions– especially as we mimic Adam again and again in our own lives.  But here’s the good news proclaimed especially at the beginning of Lent:  Jesus does what Adam should have done, and therefore so can we!

I love that scene from the Passion of the Christ where Jesus stomps on the head of snake as Satan whispers his temptations in the garden (imagine that, we’re back in a garden just like Genesis 3!).  Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 and undoes what Adam allowed to happen.

This can be viewed most clearly in the Gospel lesson from Matthew 4, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.  By the power of God’s Spirit and Word, the Second Adam rebuffs the devil’s temptations and half-truths and leaves the desert victorious and ready to begin his earthly ministry.

But the old Liar is still at work.  Most of us read that and assume we could never resist like Jesus did– being the eternal Son of God and all comes with some advantages, right?!  We all feel too much like the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve– we fail and fail and fail again.  But this is a lie.  If we have been baptized into Christ then we possess the power of his death and resurrection, if we choose to make use of it.  If we claim that we trust Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and our ticket to heaven, then it is also possible to trust that Christ is in us and we need not succumb to the devil’s tricks and fleshly temptations.  It truly is within our reach to follow Jesus rather than Adam and Eve.  To believe otherwise is to have already bought the serpent’s lies– which means the battle is over before it’s begun.  I’ll safely guess that our Enemy prefers this to engaging in one-on-one combat with each of us.  You’d think he was intimidated by those in whom Christ resides!

If you’ve recently allowed the Evil One to knock you down, Lent gives you the opportunity to get back up and enter the fight once again with renewed confidence and optimism.  For we are now sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of the Second Adam– the One who danced on the head of the serpent.  Glory to Christ forever.  Amen.

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One response

13 03 2011
Rich Wollan

Here’s a hymn I meant to include in the original post:

Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days

Lord, who throughout these forty days,
For us didst fast and pray,
Teach us with thee to mourn our sins,
And close by thee to stay.

As thou with Satan didst contend,
And didst the vict’ry win,
O give us strength in thee to fight,
In thee to conquer sin.

And through these days of penitence,
And through thy passiontide,
Yea, evermore, in life and death,
Jesus! with us abide.

Abide with us, that so, this life
Of suffering overpast,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last! Amen.

(by Claudia F. Hernaman, 1873)

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