August 20, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Alright, right off the bat, let me try to answer three questions that are already being asked about this whole sermon series. The first question is: Why are we doing this sermon series about relationships in general? And I’m going to be honest with you. That’s an easy one, because the counseling that I do as a pastor (In fact, every pastor that I know says basically the same thing), if you were to put counseling into categories, the stuff that we’re going to deal with over the next few weeks is by a landslide, far and away, the things that are typically asked in a counseling session. I’m not talking 51% of the conversations that come up in counseling in my office. I’m talking 91% of the questions that I get asked in counseling are the kind of things that we’re going to address as a church together. That’s why we’re talking about these subjects.
And why are we dealing with mature information? Several people have already pushed back and said, “Jeff, I thought we were only supposed to talk about Jesus. I thought we’re only supposed to talk about the Gospel. Why are we saying stuff in this room that little children probably shouldn’t hear?” Now, I’m just going to be honest with you. Where the church has been silent on these issues, where pastors have been silent on these issues, we have inadvertently given the impression to the community that Jesus doesn’t have anything to say about this. -that the Bible doesn’t talk about these things, that these areas that we’re going to discuss are areas that the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t have any authority over. And basically, the church has given up a lot of territory here in the areas of marriage and divorce and homosexuality and sex and singleness and just in relationships in general. What we’re going to try to do is reclaim some of that territory for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, the format today is question-and-answer. You send some questions in right now while were going along. Those questions will populate, and towards the end of the sermon, we’re going to try to answer some of your questions. Already in the first service, we got a lot more questions than we could answer in the first service, but some of your questions, we’ll try to answer live, and then we’ll try as a team of pastors to answer all of your questions by the time that the series is over with, if not on the stage, then certainly in a video of some sort.
Today’s sermon is about all relationships. I’m talking family, I’m talking marriage, I’m talking work relationships, your relationship with your best friend… And today’s sermon answers this question: Why is it so hard to go deep with somebody else? And when I do go deep in a relationship with somebody else -It doesn’t matter if it’s my best friend; it doesn’t matter if it’s my spouse or somebody that I work with- how is it that I often get hurt really badly by those relationships?
So, in order to set the groundwork for where we’re going to go today, let’s go back to the beginning, and I mean all the way back to the Garden of Eden, to discuss why it’s so hard in human relationships. Here’s the picture of perfection. When God originally created human beings and he created human beings to be in relationship with one another, it was easy, and those relationships were perfect. And here’s how the Bible describes the first human relationship:
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. 23 “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’” 24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. 25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.
God’s original design for human relationships is the last word on the screen. Say it out loud –one. His original plan for relationships is oneness. This is your relationship with family, your relationship with friends…They are supposed to be step-in-step with one another. -think together in oneness. The idea that the Bible is painting for us in Genesis chapter 2 is that God created a jigsaw puzzle with two pieces: Adam and Eve. And when these two pieces are together, the puzzle is one. If you separate them in any way, the puzzle is no longer one. It doesn’t mean that Adam stops being Adam and Eve stops being Eve, and they didn’t have their own personalities. Rather, it means that their personalities perfectly complemented one another. In fact, I think what you’re seeing on earth in the Garden of Eden is a glimpse of what’s been happening forever in Heaven.
‘See, God is in perfect harmony with His Son and with His Spirit, and when God creates this paradise called the Garden of Eden, He puts Adam and Eve together, and they’re in perfect harmony together. They are one, and there’s no separation between those two, no pain, no problems in the Garden of Eden. And, they’re able to be totally honest and absolutely transparent with one another. Verse 25 says it this way: “Now the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
This is the moment where you can basically let your guard down. You can show the other person exactly who you are. Because Adam is perfect, because Eve is pure, because they’re both totally innocent, there’s nothing that’s separating this relationship, and I believe, had it not been for the first sin in the garden, all human relations would have functioned very much like God the Father functions in relationship with His Son and with His Spirit. -totally distinct persons in the Trinity but still in perfect harmony and in oneness with each other…until the serpent entered the equation.
‘See, when the serpent enters the equation, he starts to tempt Adam and Eve. God gives Adam and Eve one set of instructions. “There’s only one rule. You can do whatever you want. You can have whatever you want. I placed one tree in the garden. There’s one tree that you’re not supposed to eat from. If you break this one rule, it’s going to cause you to die.”
Then, the serpent gets Eve’s attention, and the serpent gets Adam’s attention, and in Genesis chapter 3, Adam and Eve carry on this conversation with the serpent. Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the tree that they’re commanded not to eat from, and immediately, I want you to see what happens in Genesis chapter 3, verse 7.
7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
Now, those of you in this room who know the Bible pretty well, tell me who they’re covering themselves from. Who are they hiding their nakedness from? Say it out loud. They’re hiding from each other. In fact, the Scriptures are very clear on this. In just a few verses, God comes down to Paradise to be with Adam and Eve. God knows that they sinned already, and they’re so ashamed of what they’ve done, they dive into the bushes to hide from God. But these fig leaves, this shame is to hide their nakedness from each other. Eve immediately realizes that she’s naked, and she doesn’t want her husband to see her nakedness anymore. Adam realizes that he’s naked, and he doesn’t want to be exposed to his wife anymore, because of the shame of what they’ve just done.
This sin impacts every human being that follows after Adam and Eve. Ultimately, something broke inside Adam and Eve, and now all of us have been broken, and none of us has a perfect relationship anymore. There’s something I’ve been wrestling with for a long time: Did the serpent know what he was about to do to Adam and Eve? There’s no question he knew what this temptation would do to their relationship to God, but did the serpent know that he was getting a two-for-one deal? Did he know what it was going to do to their relationship with each other? – because this is the moment that Adam and Eve could no longer be comfortable, totally transparent with each other anymore. Now, they decided to protect themselves even from the most intimate of all human relationships.
I. Problems in relationships
Today looks at the consequences from this moment, and today tells us that there are problems in relationships, there’s pain in relationships, ultimately relationships are perverted and distorted, because of what our first parents did. Every human being in every culture at all times has been impacted by this. So, as we go along today, in order to give you the sentence that I think will describe not just the sermon today, but the entire sermon series over the next 10 weeks, here’s something I think you should put in your mobile app. Type this in the personal notes, and email it to yourself. Would you please write this down? -because it’s absolutely true of me, and I don’t even need to know you to know this is true of you also: The heart of every relationship problem (if you want to get to the very essence of what wrong in all human relationships), the heart of every relationship problem is always (notice there’s no ambiguity here), the heart of every relationship problem (write this down) is always a problem of the heart.
And by this, I mean your heart. It’s always true of all people at all times. We inherited a broken and wicked heart. We got this as an inheritance from the first mother and the first father of humankind, Adam and Eve, way back in the Garden of Eden.
We’re going to look at three parts of the problems in relationships, and here’s the first thing that I want you to see about this heart problem: These heart issues that cause all problems in relationships -ultimately those are heart problems. So, Adam and Eve have committed the first sin. God has come down to the Garden of Eden to walk with them. God starts to tell Adam, “These are the consequences for you sinning, Adam. This is the consequence, Serpent, for the sin that you just committed.” And in Genesis chapter 3, verse 16, God tells Eve, “This is the consequence for what you just did, Eve.” Here’s what the Bible says:
Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.”
What the Bible is describing today in the most intimate of all relationships is a control issue, and control issues are heart issues. The heart of every problem is always a problem of the heart. The word desire and the word rule or control is found in the next chapter, in Genesis chapter 4. In Genesis chapter 4, Cain and his brother, Abel, go out to offer sacrifices. Abel offers a better sacrifice, and Cain gets mad. -so mad that he kills his brother. And God knows what Cain did. So, God meets with Cain, and God punishes Cain for what Cain just did.
Murder is the very next sin that we read about. There’s no ramp-up to it. It just goes straight to murder by the next chapter in the Bible, and here’s what God says to Cain in Genesis chapter 4: “Cain, sin is inside of you and sin desires to control you. If you don’t control sin, Cain, sin will control you. If you don’t rule over sin, sin is going to rule over you.”
This is the language that God is using with Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3. “Eve, here’s the truth. This is going to be true of you, and I’m convinced it’s true of all women who will ever come after you. In marriage, you’re going to want to be in charge, but you’re not going to be in charge. You’re going to want to call the shots, but you’re not in control. I’ve made him in control.”
And to be frank with you, there are plenty of women who could honestly say, “Yes, but I could do a better job leading this family than he can.” -and that’s absolutely true. It’s just not biblical. In fact, many women would say, “I’m a much more spiritual person than he is.” -and that’s absolutely true, but that man is still the leader of the house, and what God is saying to Eve is, “Here’s the deal, Eve: You’re going to have to wrestle with this inside your heart for the rest of your life. You’re going to want to call the shots, but I placed him in charge in this relationship, and in fact, what you have to do is to wrestle with you, Eve, about submitting. -because submission is not going to be easy for you, and the heart of every relationship problem is always going to be a heart problem. Even the control problem is going to be hard to deal with, Eve.”
In our society, this isn’t popular to say, but the truth is that we wrestle with control issues all the time. A lot of what I hear when couples come in my office is a struggle over control. Who’s really in charge of the finances? Who really makes the decisions when it comes to raising children? And the truth is, you’re supposed to handle this as a team, but when the team is divided, the Scriptures are very clear on this. He is spiritually responsible, which means God holds him accountable for what happens next in the family, and ladies, you will probably struggle with this.
Any time a relationship doesn’t fit together, there is a fracture, and if you do nothing, that fracture will become a crack that, if left alone long enough, will become the Grand Canyon. You have sin in your heart like that person has sin in their heart, and if you don’t work at it, if you don’t fight for it, there will be problems in marriage that will become Grand Canyon-wide…if you don’t work on it.
II. Pain in relationships
This isn’t the way God created it to be. It’s the consequences of our first parents’ sin, and you and I bear the guilt for this as well. Here’s the truth: relationships -because there’s problems in relationships- they also carry pain with them, and this kind of pain goes really deep. This kind of pain hurts really badly. I’ll be honest with you. I would rather be shot in the leg than deal with heartache, because that pain hurts a lot more and it takes a lot longer to get over. I’d rather walk with a limp physically than to deal with a limp in my heart because of what somebody has done to me who I loved deeply.
Let me show you how this thing went south in a family relationship in the book of Genesis. This is Abraham when he left his family’s home and he took his nephew, Lot, with him. Abraham treated his nephew, Lot, like his own son. He was better to Lot than Lot’s own father was to him. For many years, Lot was Abraham’s son, because Abraham was an old man who was unable to have children, and then Lot burned him bad, and I just want you to imagine for a second that you’re Abraham. -when your nephew, who you loved like your own son, turns on you and stabbs you in the back. Genesis chapter 13 -This is before God changed his name to Abraham. He was still being called Abram there, but just so everybody knows some talk about, we’ll just call him Abraham today.
Lot, who was traveling with Abram, had also become very wealthy with flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents. 6 But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. 7 So disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. (At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.) 8 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
Can you hear the pain in Abraham’s voice from what’s happening? Don’t act like Lot has no guilt here. Lot is allowing this thing to happen. ‘Chances are, Lot is encouraging the guys that worked for him to do this. And they’re going about it by doing this to Abraham’s people, and pretty soon, Lot wants what Abraham has. The guy who was treated like a son turns on Abraham, and I’m convinced Lot breaks Abraham’s heart here. Abraham is basically saying, “We’re not supposed to act like this. We’re close family. Family doesn’t act like this. But I tell you what, Lot. Since you’re set on this, here’s what we’re going to do.” -and in Abraham’s culture, this was unheard of. ‘That the old man, the prominent member of the family, humbles himself the way Abraham humbles himself.
So, Abraham says this (verse 9), “The whole countryside is open to you, Lot. Take whatever choice of the section of land that you want, and we will separate. I guess that’s what you want, so we will go our separate ways. If you want the land to the left, then take the land to the left, and I’ll take the land to the right. If you prefer the land to the right, then I’ll go to the land to the left.”
Do you hear the pain in Abraham’s voice when he’s making this statement? “Lot, how could you do this to me? Lot, I treated you like my own son? I loved you like a son! -and you’ll choose money over me? Okay, Lot. I guess we’re going to have to go our separate ways, and I tell you what, I’m hurt so bad, you can have whatever you want, and I’ll just take the leftovers.”
That’s how pain works in a relationship. Lot has a heart problem. Lot’s heart problem has now started to impact his family, and now, there’s no getting it back. And because relationships all deal with the heart-level, the pain in relationships goes deep on the inside. The truth is, the deeper that you go, the more transparent that you become with somebody, the more they have the ability to hurt you really badly. I’m serious when I said I’d rather be shot in the leg than have to deal with heartache. -Because I can handle that kind of thing better than I can handle the pain that happens in here. –‘cause that pain is probably going to stick with me for a long, long time, and I know it happens to you too. There’s no getting over the pain that happens inside someone’s heart when you’ve been stabbed in the back by somebody that you love deeply.
This is a true story. You know, perhaps one of the most powerful men to ever walk on Planet Earth besides the Lord Jesus Christ was the Emperor of Rome, Gaius Julius Caesar. Caesar became so powerful, that even his closest friends feared him, because of the amount of power that this man had. His closest friends were so terrified about him (What happens if he uses that power against them?), that 60 of Caesar’s closest friends conspired against him to kill him. They met together on March 15th in the year 44 BC, and they all met together in the Pompey Theater in Rome and decided to assassinate their leader. These 60 men formed a circle around Caesar. Each of the 60 men had a knife drawn and were ready to stab their leader to death, because they were terrified about this man. Caesar was a powerful man; Caesar was a fighter, and when this circle of people, his closest friends and confidants, started to converge on him, Caesar put up a fight. In fact, the records say that he put up a fight so much, that he broke out of the crowd, though he was stabbed a couple of times, and he fell down the flight of stairs trying to make his way out of the door of the Pompey Theater.
He hoped that the people of Rome, his citizens, would see what was happening and stand up and defend him. At the bottom of the stairs, Caesar is bloodied, and he’s been stabbed multiple times. Then he sees the person that he loves deepest also with a knife. This is literally where we get the phrase “stabbed in the back” from. His closest friend, Brutus, is part of this group of 60 men who decide to assassinate Julius Caesar. And then Caesar utters that immortal phrase, “Et tu, Brute?” – “You too, Brutus?” And that pain was so bad, that Caesar stopped fighting and died from 23 stab wounds at the base of those stairs in the Pompey Theater in Rome. Caesar said, “I can’t believe, of all of the people, that you would turn on me too, Brutus.” -and that caused Caesar to have no fight left in him anymore.
III. Perversion of relationships
That pain, the pain that happens in relationships, that will wound you deeply. Here’s the truth: There’s no way to avoid this pain. The only way to avoid pain in relationships is just to avoid people altogether. If you’re going to open up your heart, you’re going to expose yourself to the pain, and somebody’s going to hurt you. It’s just part of the fallen, sinful world that we live in, and you’re going to hurt somebody else, because at the end the day, our hearts have been twisted. Our hearts have been distorted. Our hearts have become perverted…with sin. And all of the problems in relationships, all of the pain in relationships, it all comes to this.
There’s a crystal-clear verse in the Bible that tells us the essence of every problem in every relationship. It ultimately comes from a perversion at the heart-level. It’s found in the book of James, and this is James, the pastor of the church of Jerusalem, writing to the people of the church about the relationship problems in the church. James chapter 4, verse1:
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
James is making this is absolutely clear for us. There’s no way around this today: The heart is the problem. The pain in relationships, it comes from a heart problem. The problems in relationships, they all come from heart problems, and until the heart is fixed, that pain and those problems will not go away. James says there’s a war going on inside of you, and until you settle this war going on inside of you, it’s never going to change the relationships around you.
I think if James were standing right here today, he would say this: If you have problems in your marriage, and you have problems in your friendships, and you have problems at work, and you have problems with your neighbors, I can tell you the common denominator in these problems. It’s you. And until you get fixed, your relationships are not going to get fixed. You’re just taking those problems with you and in every other relationship around you. Get you fixed, and then the relationships can start to mend, but until you fix you, there is no hope for the pain, the problems, and the perversion in relationships. -in all human relationships, in your family, in your marriage, with your children or grandchildren, at work, with your neighbor, with the people on the other political party from you… Those problems are ultimately because there’s a war going on inside of you.
Q. I struggle with Temptation, what do I do about it?
Q. Why did God put the tree in the garden of eden?
• I want to start a relationship with Jesus today. I turned from my sins and to Jesus for the first time this morning.
– I have allowed sin to affect my relationships. Pray for me to work on my heart this week.
+ I will take the initiative and try to fix a broken relationship this week.
- In what relationship have you invested the most time and energy?
- When you were a child, did your parents argue in front of you? If so, what did you learn from the way they argued?
- Why is it embarrassing to admit publicly that you have relationship problems?
- When someone hurts you badly, why is it so hard to forgive them?
- Can you have a good friendship with someone who has very different goals, moods, or lifestyle than you?
- Besides your relationship with Jesus, what human relationship needs your time and energy this week?
- Pray that our human relationships would honor Jesus and edify each other this week.