Dear church,

We are in a season of new beginnings. January is like that. It is a mark in time by which we can start new things – a new workout plan, a new diet plan, a new financial plan, a new Bible-reading plan. January is a time to start a new plan in an effort to make things better. We want better health, better finances, better spirituality – you name it.

Of course, in our new beginnings, we can’t erase our pasts. We can’t mask over the fact we already are a little out of shape, a little overweight, a little in debt, a little out habit. The trend is set, and our new beginnings are our way of trying to break free from that trend. 

The genealogy in Genesis 5 is a new beginning. The firstborn son of the first couple turned out to be a failure. All the way down to Lamech, Cain’s line was one of hatred and murder (4:23-24). Sin had entered the world, and it was wreaking havoc. 

This new genealogy, however, started with Seth. Here was a new beginning, leaving Cain behind. Perhaps things would be different. Perhaps the chain of sin could be broken.

We know this is not how it would work out. A certain man named Noah rounds out this genealogy, and we know sin did not wind down. It only grew, even in this new beginning. 

It is so very sad, and it speaks to the seemingly unbreakable nature of sin. It cannot be conquered by humanity. No matter how many new beginnings we have, sin will be an ever-present part of our lives. It always will be “crouching at the door” (4:7).

Perhaps this chapter is a reminder to us to live lives that are wary toward the things that tempt us to sin. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith …” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

To be sober-minded and watchful means we remain very aware of the things we stream on television and the websites we visit on our computers. We are careful about the places we go and the people we spend time with. Satan knows who we are. He knows our tendencies. The desires of our hearts are not always for life and truth. 

And so we “resist” – firm in our faith. This is why the church is so important to our lives, and why I feel sorry for those who have abandoned it. The church and its members – all of them sinners! – help us learn to resist. 

Our particular church is a very open kind of place. It is encouraged and even expected that members share with one another, that brothers and sisters speak out about God’s Word and where it is directing us. We are expected to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). This is what we do when we gather, and I am grateful for it.

We know the force and power of sin in the world. Our own genealogy, no matter where we start it, is full of sinful people who do sinful things – and so this is us. 

And we want to resist, firm in our faith. And we learn it is faith that wins out in the end. Seeing the hopelessness of our condition and the wretchedness of our genealogies, God personally entered the stream of human existence and made a way for our exit from this world of oppressive sin. It was a free gift of grace, and we accept it by faith (Ephesians 2:8).

If we ever wonder what we can do in the face of sin, it is this: Stay firm in your faith. Believe God and his promises. Don’t listen to the world’s lies, to Satan’s fables. Do not lose hope. Keep striving after God, one day at a time, from January through December.

Genesis 5 gives us a glimpse of God’s desire for us. We get a forerunner in the faith – the very first of these we find in the long sweep of biblical history. “Enoch walked with God.” The chapter says it twice: “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.”

How is it that this could happen? Bible scholars have long argued about this passage. Suffice it to say for now that Enoch had faith. Faith was his defining characteristic – according to the Bible. 

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:5-6).

And so we, too, wanting to please God, remain firm in our faith. Today might be a day for you to make a new beginning in faith. This is the only way to break free from the constant stream of sin and death that makes up the genealogy of human existence. 

We must put our faith in Christ – the one who sets us free.

Chris

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