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Lesson 1: The Missionary Nature of God *

Introduction: Put yourself in God's place. Assume you created humans and they turned against you. Would you go to heroic efforts to save them? Or, would you just scrap the current crop (God did warn them that sin caused death - Genesis 2:17) and create a new crop of humans? How many times have you scrapped a project and started anew? For some reason God did not start anew with us. He determined to rescue us from sin, and that provides a learning opportunity for us with regard to missions. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Creation

    1. Read Genesis 1:20-23. What did God create on the fifth day of creation? (Swimming and flying creatures.)

      1. What did He command them to do? (Create more.)

    2. Read Genesis 1:24-25. What did God create next? (Animals who live on the land.)

    3. Read Genesis 1:26-27. God next created humans. How are we different than the previous creatures God created? (We are made in the "image" and the "likeness" of God. We are created to rule over the all of the animals.)

    4. Read Genesis 1:28. What command does God give to humans? (To create more and to rule.)

      1. Step back a moment and consider this. What would you guess was going through God's mind when He said and did these things? (Have you ever heard of the character "Mini Me?" God appears to be creating lesser gods. He is the Creator and Ruler. God gives humans the ability to create and the authority to rule.)

  2. Two Trees

    1. Read Genesis 2:8-9. What trees did God place in the middle of the garden where humans live? (The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.)

      1. Read Genesis 3:22. What does this teach us about the tree of life? (If you eat from the tree of life, you will continue living.)

      2. Are Adam and Eve forced to come near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? (If they want to continue living, they come to the tree of life to eat. That would put them near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.)

    2. Read Genesis 2:15-17 and Genesis 3:1-3. What stands between humans and eating from the forbidden tree? (Only their choice.)

      1. Do you recall the story about the chauffeur interview? The person hiring the chauffeur asks "How close can you drive to the edge of the cliff? The most skillful answers, "Three inches." But, the person hired answers "I would not drive anywhere near the edge of the cliff." Why did God put humans so close to the edge of the cliff? Why make it so easy to make the wrong choice?

      2. Some people say, "choosing God is not that easy. Some Christians make it too easy." Is it fair to make it easy to reject God, but not easy to choose to accept God?

      3. Next, let's more deeply explore the choice.

  3. The Choice

    1. Re-read Genesis 3:2-3. There are two trees in the middle of the garden, but Eve doesn't mention the one by name. Do you think that God gave it the name "tree of the knowledge of good and evil?"

      1. Is the very name of the tree a temptation to find out more?

    2. Read Genesis 3:4-5. What is the temptation? (Selfishness. To be like God.)

      1. We previously discussed that humans were made like God. How is this different? (They would know about evil.)

      2. Look again at Genesis 3:3-4. What else does giving in to this temptation require? (Disbelieving and distrusting God.)

    3. Read Genesis 3:6-7. In one sense, the wrong choice is very easy: just reach out, pick the fruit, and eat it. Is any part of this choice hard? (Yes. You have to believe a strange animal and disbelieve God. You have to be dissatisfied with your current situation.)

    4. I just wrote a legal brief that involved "choice architecture" and "channel factors." Choice architecture is about structuring choice. Assume you start a new job and your employer has a retirement plan to which you can contribute. The employer can structure your choice to automatically deduct retirement money from your paycheck unless you opt out, or the employer can require you to opt into the retirement payment program. Do you think the way the choice is structured makes a difference? (It makes a huge difference! When you have to take some action, only 20% sign up. When you are automatically enrolled, and have to opt out, about 80% continue to make the payments.)

      1. "Channel factors" are events that help to direct your decision. Building a fence around the forbidden tree is a channel factor. Putting the tree of life next to the forbidden tree is channel factor. How did God set the channel factors?

      2. What do you think about the way God structured the choice of Adam and Eve regarding sin? (Unlike you and me, they had to opt into sin. However, God made it easy to opt in by using channel factors: the placement of the tree, easy to access to the fruit, and allowing an advocate for sin to be present.)

      3. One of the arguments against God is that He is unfair and coercive. What does this discussion about choice architecture and channel factors teach us about God and free will? (He does not coerce us to choose Him. Instead, we wish God would have made it a little more difficult for Adam and Eve to make the wrong choice!)

    5. I tried to shelter my children by sending them to Christian schools all the way through to college. I think that was exactly the right decision. What does God's example with Adam and Eve say about my decision? (God structured the default choice to be "no sin," but then created channel factors to make it relatively easy to sin. Our children are born into sin. To try to get as close to a "no sin" default as possible, our children have to be given a solid Christian education.)

  4. The Rescue

    1. Read Genesis 3:8-11. Does God know the answers to these questions? Why ask them?(Notice that God pursues His new sinners. He engages in a conversation with them about their sins.)

    2. Read Genesis 3:12-13. Are these new sinners easy to rescue? (They will not accept responsibility for their sins. Adam blames God!)

    3. Read Genesis 3:21-24. Some say that God does not punish sin. Instead, sin creates its own punishment. What do these texts teach us?

    4. Read John 3:14-15. Eve was tempted by a snake. Moses lifted up a snake in the desert to save those bitten by snakes ( Numbers 21:9). Two questions:

      1. Why create a figure of a snake to save the people?

      2. Why is Jesus lifted up like the snake? (Moses lifted up the snake so that the people would face their sins. Remember this was the problem in Eden, not accepting responsibility for sin? When Jesus was lifted up on the cross for our sins, it showed humanity the horrendous consequences of sin. It makes us face our sins.)

    5. Read John 3:16-17. Why did God engage in heroic efforts to save humans instead of just scrapping them and starting a new crop? (He loves us. His goal is to save us and not condemn us.)

    6. Read John 3:18. What are our choices? (To believe or not believe in God. Recall that Eve believed the serpent and disbelieved God.)

    7. Read John 3:19-21. What drives the choice that humans make? (Whether they love darkness or whether they come into the light.)

      1. How hard is it to come into the light? How is this choice structured? What are the channel factors? (Notice John 3:21 "it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." God died for us. God defeated sin for us and rescued us. God has done the heavy lifting! However, we have to opt in when it comes to salvation.)

    8. Friend, will you decide right now to believe God and not Satan? Will you opt into living your life "in the light" and turn away from loving the darkness?

  5. Next week: Abraham: The First Missionary.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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