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Separated By Sin

This morning we want to continue to count the cost of sin. Well, actually, that may not be entirely true. We probably don’t WANT to count the cost of sin. If fact, I think most of us would much rather not talk about sin at all!

Talking about sin is unpleasant. It’s depressing. It’s discouraging. But it’s also necessary. To ignore the topic of sin is to ignore the reality of the world in which we live. 

As we talked about last week, sin and its consequences are unavoidable. We have all experienced the shame, the guilt, and the fear that comes when we do wrong. We know what’s it’s like to have broken relationships. We know what it’s like to endure the struggle and the pain of this life.

That’s the reality we all experience. But of course, that’s not the reality that God intended for us. We were reminded last week that the world that God created was very good. As John MacArthur put it….

When God completed His perfect creation it was very good because there was no disorder, there was no chaos, there was no conflict, there was no struggle, there was no pain, there was no discord, there was no disease, there was no decline, there was no death. ~ John MacArthur

That’s the very good world that God created – a world free from all that junk. But that’s sure not the world that we find ourselves in today. The curse of sin has tainted and twisted God’s good creation – and we all suffer the consequences for it. We suffer because of sin in the world and we suffer because of the sin in our own lives. 

We saw two weeks ago that we are born as slaves to sin – slaves to our own selfish inclinations. As a result, much of the shame, guilt, fear, broken relationships, struggle and pain we experience in this life – we bring upon ourselves. Not all of it, of course, but much of it – because we act selfishly and we fail to love one another and we fail to love God. We fail to be accurate reflections of God’s goodness and glory. 

And as a result, we suffer the consequences of our own sinfulness. And we talked quite a bit about that last week – about those consequences of sin, and today I want to dig into that a little more – specifically regarding the consequence of death. And again, I know that’s not a real uplifting topic to talk about – but it’s the reality that we face.

We read Romans 6:23 last week which says:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

So today we’re going to continue to count the cost of sin – or as this verse puts it “the wages of sin” – which is death. But don’t worry – we’re also going to look at the second half of that verse and see how the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. We’re going to see how Jesus came to make right the wrongs – and to restore God’s good creation and to free us from the slavery of sin and to give us life.

To begin today, like last week, I want us to start in the beginning. Not only was the Garden of Eden the location for the origin of life – it was was also the location for the origin of death.

The very first mention of death in the Bible is in Genesis 2:17 where God warns the very first man, Adam, against eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Let me back up to verse 15 to give you the context. It says…

15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” Genesis 2:16-17

Now this shouldn’t be a confusing passage. It seems pretty clear from these verses that eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would lead to death. God told Adam right from the beginning, that if he were to eat that fruit, he was sure to die. It seems pretty plain and straight forward, right?

But here’s the thing: When we get to the next chapter, and we see Adam & Eve doing exactly what God told them not to do – eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – we kinda expect to read something like “Adam & Eve took one bite of the fruit and immediately fell over dead.” That’s what we might expect. That would make sense based on God’s warning in verse 17.

But that’s not what we read in chapter 3.

We read through that part last week and you’ll recall that Adam & Eve didn’t fall over dead when they ate the fruit. There was certainly many other consequences but we really didn’t see any evidence of Adam & Eve clutching their throats, gasping in their last breath, and collapsing to the ground. That’s not in there at all.

In fact, if you jump down a couple chapters, we read this in Genesis chapter 5 verse 3:

When Adam was 130 years old, he became the father of a son who was just like him—in his very image. He named his son Seth. 4 After the birth of Seth, Adam lived another 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Genesis 5:3-4

So what’s the deal here? Was God bluffing about that whole death thing? Why do we not see Adam & Eve keel over dead when they ate the fruit that God had warned them would cause their deaths?

Well, first of all, I’ll point out that (for the sake of making a point) I conveniently left out verse 5 from that passage we just read. The very next verse after the part about Adam living long and having lots of kids, says this: 

5 Adam lived 930 years, and then he died. Genesis 5:5

So we do see Adam keel over and die – albeit not for a very long time after the fact. And to us, living for 930 years and then dying hardly seems like a consequence – it almost seems like a miracle to live that long. But remember that had Adam not sinned, he would not have to face death at all. From what the Bible indicates, without sin, Adam could have lived forever.

So the timing of Adam’s death isn’t really the issue – the issue is more the fact of Adam’s death.

God said that Adam would die if he ate the fruit – and that is exactly what happened.

But I think there’s a lot more to God’s warning about death as the consequence of sin than just Adam’s body eventually giving out 930 years later. That was certainly part of it – but the consequence of death reaches even beyond that.

Our dictionaries today define death as the end of one’s life. It’s termination. It’s the conclusion. But that’s not really an accurate understanding of death. In the Bible, death is never really seen as the end of someone.

Death was always seen as separation.

Specifically, death is the separation of soul and body. When your body ceases to function – your soul separates from it. Your soul doesn’t end – it’s doesn’t cease to exist – but it is no longer connected to your physical body. That’s death. It’s when your soul separates from your body.

We see this idea throughout the Scriptures. Let me give you a couple of examples:

In Genesis 25:17 we read about Ishmael. It says…

17 Ishmael lived a total of 137 years. He breathed his last and died; then he joined his ancestors. Genesis 25:17 NET

Isn’t it interesting how they phrase that? He died – and then he joined his ancestors. You certainly don’t get the idea that Ishmael no longer existed – but rather, his soul separated from his body and then went on to join the souls of who had died before him.

Solomon says this in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 12, verse 6:

6 Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. 7 For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

Now there is a lot of poetic imagery in there, but in essence, Solomon is saying remember your Creator now – while you are young – before you get old and die. Because when you die, your body will be separated from your soul. Your body will return to dust from which God created man in the first place and your spirit or soul will return to God.

You can see how, in the Bible, death isn’t seen as a termination – but rather as a separation. And this is true even outside of physical death. The idea of death isn’t just the separation of soul and body – but it can also be used to describe the separation of two people.

For example, in the story of the prodigal son, we see this rebellious young man demand an early inheritance from his father and then he leaves home. He abandons his family and travels to a far away place to seek his fame and fortune. As you know, eventually, his money runs out and he’s living in misery and so he decides returns home.

Of course, his older brother isn’t very happy about his return, but look what the father says…

32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15:32

The father here is clearly not talking about physical death. I don’t think the father thought his son physically died and was resurrected. But rather, he was dead in the sense that they were separated from one another and the father didn’t know if they’d ever be reunited again. The father had experienced what seemed like the death of his son – because there was that sense of permanent separation.

And I think that understanding of death is most certainly an element of the death that God warns Adam about. Not only would Adam experience physical death – where his body and soul would be separated – but Adam would experience relational death – where he would be separated from God and others.

And we talked a bit about that last week.

We saw how sin caused separation between Adam and Eve – as they played the blame game – neither one taking responsibility for their actions. Their relationship was damaged and there was no longer that unity and togetherness that they once had. Sin had caused separation.

And certainly their relationship with God was damaged too. You’ll remember that they first thing they did was to try to hide from God. There was a separation there too.

This was all part of God’s warning that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – they would surely die. They would experience separation on all kinds of levels.

And that’s equally true for us. Our sin leads to separation. It separates us from one another and it separates us from God. It creates distance between us.

You can probably think of all kinds of examples in your own life where your sin or someone else’s sin has caused separation between the two of you. 

It’s hard to trust someone who has lied to you. 

It’s hard to be close to someone who has hurt you. 

Sin separates us from each other. It creates barriers and walls between us.

And sin also separates us from God. Isaiah 59:2 says…

It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.

    Because of your sins, he has turned away

    and will not listen anymore. Isaiah 59:2

This could be a whole other topic for another day, but God’s holiness and righteousness can not allow sinful people to be in his presence. There can’t be unity between darkness and light. Our sin separates us from God.

That’s why the Bible tells us that we are dead because of our sin. Our soul may still be connected to our body – but there is still a separation between us and God. 

Paul writes to the Ephesians:

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. Ephesians 2:1

These guys weren’t physically dead – but they were spiritually dead – separated from God because of their disobedience and their many sins.

And that’s actually the state that we are all born into. We are born with a sinful nature – we are born separated from God – we are in essence, born dead.

That’s why the Bible teaches that we must be born again. Jesus Himself says in John 3:3…

3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Jesus is saying that unless we can become reconnected with God – unless we can somehow remove that sin that separates us – we have no hope of being with God. We will remain dead – we will remain separated from him forever.

The Bible teaches that we have this one lifetime – however long that may be – to get reconnected to God – who is the source of our life. As we said last week, our physical bodies begin to die the moment we’re born. We are physically on a journey towards death – and there is nothing we can do to stop that. But God has given us that window of opportunity – this lifetime that we have – to reconnect to Him through Jesus Christ. In John 14:6, Jesus said…

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Jesus is the way to life. He’s the way to true life – to eternal life. Faith in Jesus is how we get to be born again – how we get reconnected to God. The Apostle John writes this:

11 And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

1 John 5:11-12

Without Jesus – we are quite literally dead men walking. We are spiritually dead and physical dying. But with Jesus, we become spiritually alive with the assured hope of physical resurrection.

This is why Easter is so significant!  Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, died on the cross for our sins. He experienced the separation of soul and body – as well as the separation of God and man as he took all of our sins upon himself. 

And think about how significant that was for Jesus. Jesus had spent an eternity past in perfect unity and harmony and togetherness with God. In all eternity past, there was never a moment or hint of separation between Jesus and God the Father.

But as Jesus was dying on the cross, he took our sin upon himself and He experience that separation. We read in Matthew 27:45…

45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:45-46

Boy, you know, sometimes you wonder if God understand the heartache and the loneliness and the emptiness you feel? I can assure you – He understands. 

Jesus experienced every aspect of death so that you could experience every aspect of life. Ephesians 2 verse 4 says…

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-6

In other words, Jesus took our punishment of eternal death – eternal separation from God – and He paid that price for us. On that day, some 2000 years ago, Jesus defeated sin and he defeated death. Those two things no longer have a hold over us if we put our trust in Jesus.

We can be born again spiritually – because we can be reconnected to God – the source of life.

We can also be born again physical so to speak – because God has promised that just like Jesus experienced physical resurrection from the dead – we too will experience physical resurrection from the dead. I love what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:52….

52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is your victory?

    O death, where is your sting?”

56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:52-57

You know, it almost sounds crazy to think that you and I will one day die, but then be raised back to life. That our souls will be rejoined to our bodies (but bodies that have been transformed into new immortal bodies that will never die again.) That sounds crazy! 

But that’s exactly what Jesus already did. He died and was raised to life, his body was transformed and He will never die again. 

This is the core of what we believe as Christians. If we’re wrong on this, we’re wrong on everything. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14….

14 If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless….

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

24 After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. 25 For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. 26 And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:14, 20-26

This next Sunday we are going to celebrate Easter. We are going to celebrate that Jesus not only died for us, but he also rose again to new, eternal life – the same new, eternal life that he offers to each one of us. 

The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you have not yet accepted that free gift of eternal, resurrected life – I would encourage you – I would plead with you – to consider accepting that gift even today.

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