The Schemer & His Schemes

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Lead Pastor Wes Terry preaches on "Spotting the Counterfeit" out of Genesis 3:1-6. This message is part of a series entitled "The Fall: Sin, Shame, Provision & Promise." The sermon was preached on February 26th, 2022.



Today we’re kicking off a new series in the book of Genesis entitled “The Fall.” It’s a series about Sin, Shame, Choices and Consequences. (Everybody’s favorite topics!)
Thankfully it doesn’t stop there, we also see the grace of God’s provision and the hope of God’s promise to restore what was lost and preserve his people even in their failure.
D.A. Carson says there is “no chapter of the whole that is more universally despised in our culture than this one.”
It’s a source of mockery by skeptics and haters. Talking snakes, red apples and cartoons of a naked Adam and Eve get commonly deployed when discussing this chapter. (I remember getting grounded for drawing a naked picture of Adam & Eve in the back of the Baptist hymnal in Roby!)
As universally despised at this chapter may be, it is foundational to understanding human brokenness in this day and age.
We live in a world of brokenness, injustice and pain.
We live in a world where people promise to heal that brokenness, get rid of injustice and the problem of pain.
These people often debate and disagree over how that problem ought to be solved.
Until you understand our problem in light of Genesis 3, you’ll have trouble understanding God’s solution in Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is a message of Good News. But before we can celebrate the good news, we need to understand the Bad News.

How Temptation Comes

The bad news is “WE ALL sin and fall short of God’s glory.” That’s the main idea behind Genesis 3.
This morning I’d like to explore the reason WHY. Why do we sin? Why do we fall prey to temptation?
So the title of today’s message is “The Schemer & His Schemes.”
We all struggle with temptation but when’s the last time you slowed down long enough to analyze how it comes about?
Have you ever considered why you're able to overcome some temptation but not others?
There’s an answer to that question and it’s located in Genesis 3.

Paradise Given & Lost

Before we read our passage let me give you some context to the chapter.
Genesis 3 comes right after Genesis 1 and 2.
You might think of Genesis 1-2 as Paradise given and Genesis 3 as Paradise Lost.
In Gen 1-2 God creates everything good according to his will. He makes man and woman in His image, gives them a mandate to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth (Gen 1:26-28).
Genesis 2 zooms in on that dynamic and shows God’s creation of the first two humans: Adam and Eve.
Genesis 2 ends with Adam and Eve married, naked and totally unashamed.
Genesis 3 brings a wrecking ball to the communion and intimacy both vertically and horizontally.
Let’s pick it up in Genesis 3:1-7
Genesis 3:1–7 (ESV)
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

From Whence Evil Comes?

Right out of the gate we’re introduced to a new character: The Serpent. The question that immediately comes to my mind is “Where did YOU come from?”
Up until this point there was only Adam, Eve and God’s glory in paradise. So if God made everything good, where did the evil come from?
Philosophers and thinking people have wrestled with this problem in every generation. If God is all powerful, and all knowing and all good then why is there so much suffering in the world.
Another way to ask it, “from whence does evil come?”
Genesis 3 provides an answer to the problem of evil.

What Is Evil?

It’s important to understand that the Christian view of evil is different from many other views
Christianity is not a “dualistic” religion where evil and good are like to equal but opposite forces seeking after balance. (doaism)
According to Scripture, there is “not such THING” as evil. Evil is “nothing” as in “not a thing.”
There’s not dark force floating out there in the ether called Evil that’s fighting against the good.
Evil only exists because GOOD exists. Evil is the privation of or deviation from the good.
Evil is not an anti-God or some force equal with God. Evil is rebellion against God. God is the supreme standard of all goodness and any privation or deviation from that standard is what we call evil.
We cannot understand evil nor would evil be a category in our minds were there not a prior category and reality called “The Good.”

Answering Atheism

It’s common for atheists and agnostics to object to Christianity because of the “problem of evil.” If God is so good, they say - then why is there so much evil in the world?
That’s a really powerful question at an emotional level. But it’s also an insincere question if someone is fully committed to naturalistic atheism.
If you see the world through a purely naturalistic lens then there is no such thing as evil because there’s no such thing as good. Good and evil are mere categories to describe our subjective tastes and preferences.
The ontology of good and evil on naturalism become entirely subjective. There is no good that transcends human opinion and subjectivity. Evil is equal to your least favorite type of ice cream.
So their frustration is valid but their solution doesn’t work.

The Power of Choice

Ultimately, evil originates because of the will. Volition and the ability to choose necessarily create the ability to choose wrongly.
The fact that God endowed his creation with the ability to love also entails their ability to not love. THAT is the origin of evil.
God is not RESPONSIBLE for the creation of evil. He’s not morally culpable. At every point in the creative process he acted with righteousness and perfection.
Evil originated because we took God’s gift and used it wrongly. The origin of Evil comes from the corruption of choice. First with Satan’s rebellion against God. And now, in Genesis 3, with Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve

How Temptation Comes

So granting that evil exists as a privation or rebellion against the good, how does Satan tempt us towards evil?
Before we get to the particulars of Satan’s approach I want to first point out the shrewdness of Satan’s schemes.
Genesis 3:1 (ESV)
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
Notice how Moses describes the serpent as being “more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”
It was common in ANE culture to view the snake/serpent as an animal of protection. Even in English literature dragons are seen as a source of protection, intellect and power.
The Hebrew word translated “crafty” isn’t a negative word nor does it imply evil or something rotten. It just means cunning, clever, shrewd and prudent.

Satan’s Shrewdness

I think this is important to point out. It’s the shrewdness of our tempter that makes us susceptible to temptation.
The Bible describes Satan as an “angel of light.” That means he doesn’t broadcast his temptations as “rebellion against God.”
It’s our ignorance of his schemes that gives him influence in our life.
That’s why Paul encourages the Ephesians to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Eph 6:11)
This word translated “Schemes” is similar to this neutral Hebrew word for “crafty.”
The idea is that Satan uses cunning, nuanced and sophisticated methods to draw you away from God’s will for your life.”
Temptation to sin doesn’t always feel like an invitation evil. It can actually seem like an invitation to something good. Something righteous.
That’s why Paul warns again and again, “Don’t be outwitted by Satan.” Don’t be unaware of his “schemes.” (2 Cor 2:11)
He may look innocent but he’s a dangerous foe.
C.S. Lewis said Satan’s best weapon is to convince us that he doesn’t exist.

Satan’s Schemes

So the shrewdness of our tempter makes us susceptible to temptation. But what are the schemes of this shrewd tempter?
We see the first strategy at the end of verse 1.
Genesis 3:1–3 (ESV)
...He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
I think it’s important to note her how temptation DOES not come. Notice the Serpent doesn’t use physical or personal force to MAKE Eve disobey God.
Satan has a limit to his power over man. So no the Devil did not MAKE you do it! Satan cannot MAKE you do something you don’t want to do.
There is no coercion or force. Satan uses a different approach.
Satan has THREE primary vehicles to deploy his schemes in your life.
Your reason
Your desires
Your fears
Satan will never force you to do anything. He will, however, persuade you to do things you thought you’d never do through deceptive arguments, personal enticements and intimidation.
He doesn’t force your will. He changes your mind through these three channels. We actually see all three in this passage.

Appealing to Reason

The first is an appeal to reason.
In Genesis 3 Satan appeals to Eve’s reason by planting seeds of doubt. (questioning God’s Character and God’s Word.)
There’s an explicit attack on God’s Word but there’s an implicit attack on God’s goodness.
In each case, Satan sows a seed of doubt. Temptation to sin always starts with a crisis of faith. It starts with the question, “did God really say?”

Doubting God’s Character

Something interesting that I’ve never noticed before is how Satan uses the name of God in this question.
If you remember back to Genesis 1 the name of God is always translated “Elohim.” (a generic reference to god and the plural form at that).
In Genesis 2 we see the addition of Yahweh (a special reference to God’s covenant name. It emphasizes God’s love for man and his power to save).
Genesis 3 opens with a reference to Yahweh Elohim but when Satan speaks he takes away God’s covenant name.
I see this as an implicit attack on God’s goodness. He’s planting a seed of doubt as to whether or not God really loves Eve and is committed to her good.
Today the crisis of faith sounds something like this.
“Well even if there was a God it’s not the God of the Bible…”
“God isn’t personal or concerned about what I do with my life.”
This kind of apathetic deism is actually gaining traction in our world today. It’s the starting place for a cascade of unbelief down the road.

Doubting God’s Word

After doubt God’s character he moves on to questioning God’s Word.
Did God “really say?”
This is Satan’s primary method of attack. The Bible is FULL of warnings against “false teaching.” Most of the instances are actually warnings to be on guard against false teachers who come from WITHIN the church.
They are wolves in sheep's clothing. Satan masquerades as an angel of light. Often times the questioning of God’s Word seems prudent and reasonable.
Today people question God’s Word against the backdrop of human authority, human experience, modern science, personal preference, etc.

Satan’s Question

Notice how Satan goes about it.
First there’s an exchange of moral authority. Eve becomes the authority over God’s Word instead of God’s word being the authority over Eve.
Second, there’s an exaggeration of God’s prohibition. “Did God say you can’t eat of ANY tree in the Garden?” (Gen 3:1)
God never said that. In fact, God said quite the opposite. Gen 2:16 “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden...”
Satan took God’s prohibition around ONE thing and added extra rules and fences on top of it. It’s the age old problem of legalism except in this instance Satan is exaggerating God’s prohibition to make him seem unreasonable.

Eve’s Response

Satan exaggerates God’s prohibition and suggests an exchange of moral authority. Eve’s response to Satan’s question doesn’t help matters much.
Genesis 3:2–3 (ESV)
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
Eve’s Response makes three alterations to God’s original two commands.
She added a restriction that God never gave. “nor shall you touch it...” She made God’s word more stringent than it originally was.
She watered-down the permission and penalty that God did give.
Gen 2:16-17 “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””
She changed “you may surely eat” to “you may eat.”
She changed “you will surely die” to “you will die.”
She majored on the minors and minored on the majors.
By mentioning the location of the tree in the “middle” of the Garden she elevated it’s importance above the other trees God had made available for them.

Application: Perverting Scripture

If you take Satan’s question and Eve’s response together they actually form a pretty good list of how God’s Word gets twisted in our day and age.
Satan uses the following four methods to cast doubt on God’s Word.
Individualism - An exchange of authority to the individual.
Legalism - Making personal preferences equal with God’s Word
Liberalism - Watering Down God’s Word to accommodate our thinking
Extremism - Exaggerating God’s Word and making mountains out of molehills.
The other thing that’s interesting to me is that Eve doesn’t seem surprised by this conversation with the Serpent.
If a snake started talking with me I’d be shocked! Instead this seems to be a conversation that had maybe been going on for a while.
And with each of these four strategies Satan often plays the long game. Small compromises over a long period of time until you finally abandon all confidence in the reliability of God’s Word.
Satan never comes out guns blazing. He generally works like a crockpot. Low heat, slow and steady until the meat gets soft and the integrity begins to soften.

Appealing to Fear & Desire

After appealing to Eve’s reason Satan deploys two additional schemes. Notice where Satan takes the conversation in Genesis 3:4.
There’s an enticement on Eve’s desires and a exploitation of her fears.
Genesis 3:4 (ESV)
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
Notice what Satan is doing here. “You will not surely die!” He’s casting doubt on God’s Word around the consequences of sin.
Eve had already removed the word “surely.” Now Satan is just affirming her weakening of God’s Word.
That is followed by verse 5 which adds an additional layer. After questioning sin’s consequence he then questions God’s character.
Genesis 3:5 (ESV)
5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So he moves from softening fear to strengthening desire. Satan questions God’s character and exploits Eve’s desire.
Hey Eve, don’t you want to “be like God?”
Don’t you want to “know things” that only God knows?
Don’t you wish you knew the secrets of the universe? God-like knowledge?!
This is always Satan’s strategy. First he softens our fear of God’s judgment then he strengthens our desire for personal gratification.

Satan’s Basic Argument

Again - Satan doesn’t force our hand, he softens our will through an appeal to our reason, our fears and desires.
He doesn’t tempt them to disobey God’s command outright. Like a shrewd salesman he indirectly enticed the woman to do what seemed most reasonable.
He casts down on God’s goodness, God’s wisdom and God’s design.
Listen to his basic argument.
God is jealous. He’s not serious about punishing anybody. He’s just afraid somebody else might get the same power He has. A jealous Monarch holding onto power.
Sin is good. This forbidden fruit he commanded you not to eat actually holds the keys to what you really want: God-like knowledge and self-assurance.
The time is now. You don’t have time to wait. Quit putting off the inevitable. Ready. Shoot. Aim.


The craziest thing is Satan wasn’t completely wrong!
His arguments feel persuasive because he leverages half-truths, hidden-premises and fear-based exploitation to persuade us of the lie.
It was a half-truth because the forbidden fruit WOULD give them special knowledge and make them like God.
God himself acknowledges this in Gen 3:22 “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil...”
So Satan wasn’t lying about the knowledge. He was lying about whether or not possessing that knowledge was ‘for their good.’


That’s the hidden premise. They may receive special knowledge but having that knowledge would not result in something good!
God-like knowledge of good and evil is not good if you are not God.
It’s sounds good. It feels good. God’s possession of his knowledge actually IS good. But we’re not God and neither were Adam and Eve.
When you try and sit in a chair that belongs to God alone you’ll be destroyed by the weight of that responsibility.
It’s the difference between a doctor knowing about a disease because of his expertise and training and a patient knowing about a disease because he’s suffering underneath the weight of it.
God knows the difference between good and evil because of his omniscience. We can only discover the difference though our participation IN evil.
God-like power comes with God like responsibility. When Adam and Eve tasted that responsibility they hid in shame.
Genesis 3:8
8 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.
We will explore this theme next week but not every invitation to be like God is a good one. God-like ability entails a god-like responsibility.
The day Adam and Eve ate of that fruit was the day they woke up to their shame and inadequacy.

The Aftermath of Temptation

Which leads me to my final point about temptation and that’s the aftermath. The aftermath of temptation is always the same - accusation.
Satan uses temptation to draw you in then switches to accusation to keep you enslaved. Temptation is a hook. Accusation is a prison.
With temptation he makes sin seem light and easy. With accusation he makes sin feel heavy and hard.
Temptation makes committing sin seem inevitable. Accusation makes overcoming sin feel impossible.
Temptation leads with “Go ahead. It’s not a big deal. He’s a forgiving God. He’ll forgive you...”
But as soon as you give yourself to sin he switches the lyrics to a different song. “How God could forgive a wretch like you? Cursed are the ones who can’t abide! You’ve lost everything and you’ll never find it again.”
They are both lies that attack the two core truths of the Gospel.
We are far worse off than we could even begin to imagine (Law).
We are far more loved in Christ than we could ever date to hope. (Gospel)
To that first truth (worse off) temptation says the opposite, “you’re not that bad… God is not that serious/good… he just wants to enslave you.”
To that second truth (more loved) accusation says the opposite, “God could never love a sinner like you. You’re a worthless human who will never measure up and can never be redeemed.”
Temptation brings you into the pit. Accusation keeps you living there.

Overcoming Evil With The Cross

So how can you overcome evil and the deception of the tempter? The only thing powerful enough is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When Satan begins to tempt you as to the triviality of sin and the jealousy of God - take your eyes and fix them on the cross.
THERE you will see Jesus DYING for you sin and God’s love DEMONSTRATED for you even when you were undeserving.
THERE you see see Jesus crying out “My God My God why have you forsake me and be reminded that your sins have SEPARATED you from the God you love.”
When Satan begins to accuse you with your brokenness and shame all you need to is put your eyes on Christ’s cross.
THERE you will see “no greater LOVE has anyone than this - than that He lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
THERE you will see “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Overcoming temptation begins with the cross and embracing accusation ends with the cross. It in both truths of the Gospel are made painfully clear.
So if you’re here this morning and your flirting with sin let me encourage you to fix your eyes on Jesus.
If you’ve fallen prey to temptation and you feel hopelessly lost. Let me encourage you to fix your eyes on Jesus.


Finally I want to close with some very practical application for keeping temptation at bay.
One of the great graces of God is that he never allows temptation to enter your life without also giving you a way of escape. (1 Cor 10:13)
I want to give you fouir preventative measures and three for after it comes.

Extinguish Self-Pity

The first preventative measure is to extinguish self-pity through contentment and gratitude.
Eve opened herself up to temptation because she let herself get to a place of self-pity and discontentment.
Perhaps this is how she got to a place of softening God’s gracious permission and adding rules where there were no rules and softening sin’s consequence because she wasn’t happy with what she had.
Over and over again in the NT God’s people are called to “be thankful.” This is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is called the  Eucharist which literally means in Greek “Thanksgiving.”

Listen to Your Heart

The second preventative measure is to listen to your heart.
What I mean by that is keep a close watch on the inclinations of your heart.
One of my favorite passages in all of Scripture is Proverbs 4:23.
Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
You say, “how do I know what my heart is feeling?” According to Jesus just listen to what your mouth is saying.
Especially those things you say followed by “I’m just kidding...” (but were you really? You gotta think it to say it.”
Constant criticism, frustration, meanness, etc are symptoms of a heart that isn’t rejoicing in the Lord.
Every now and then you need to do a little heart surgery and ask the question, “Did anything get lodged in my heart that is making me susceptible to attack from the enemy?”
Remember, he’s a master schemer and he knows you better than you know yourself.

Abide in God’s Word

The fourth preventative measure is to Abide in God’s Word.
David said, “I’ve hidden your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
Eve wasn’t ready to overcome temptation because she wasn’t sticking with the truth of God’s Word.
The Bible says to let the “Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Col 3:16)
Jesus said “If you abide in me and my words abide in you then you can ask whatever you wish...” (John 15:7)
So many people fall prey to false teaching because they aren’t familiar with Biblical truth.
If you aren’t spending daily time in God’s Word or plugged into a small group where you’re growing in knowledge then consider making a change today.
I can’t address this without also mentioning the importance of Christian community. God’s Word comes alive when you engage his Word alongside his people.
The Spirit of God uses the Word of God through the People of God to grow you in grace.
Surrounding yourself with God’s people as you center yourself on God’s Word is key.

Remove The Hook

Finally remove the hook. One of my mentors once warned me that Satan isn’t in a hurry to ruin your life. He will wait until the time that the most damage can be inflicted.
While he waits what he often does is place little hooks in our mouth for snagging at a later time.
Little hooks of lust and or sexual compromise.
Hooks of greed and discontentment
Hooks of insecurity and doubt, problems of self-esteem
Hooks of anger and resentment, a root of bitterness in the heart
Hooks of pride and arrogance, ego and selfish ambition
He allows this hooks to just set in your mouth - you probably know it’s somewhat of a compromise but you’ve never felt enough conviction to take it out of your mouth.
Today - I’m begging you - get rid of the hook!
Hebrews 3:12 (ESV)
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
Repent now before it’s too late. Repent now before Satan snags the hook of temptation and reels you into a prison of accusation.
The altar is open, let’s respond to the Lord.
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