Come into the kingdom

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Matthew 19:16 niv

Last time we considered that to be born again, the process of leaving behind the old life of sin and a heart that chooses to follow Jesus, begins with a miracle and Jesus tells us that to receive this miracle we need to believe.

Belief is a strange concept because it has many facets to it depending on who we are and how we were raised.  The dictionary states that belief is trust, faith and confidence but it also states that faith is complete trust and confidence and a strongly held belief.

So these two words are intertwined in our society but often with little thought of how this works out in our everyday life.

As we considered last time we were created to worship and love God but in our rebellion, we worship and love ourselves.

Eternal life

To be born again is to receive and accept the promise of eternal life that Jesus has provided for us on the cross.  This is the mark of a changed heart and heart that desires now to worship and love God, this is the outworking of belief.

However, is eternal life something you have considered as something you want?  For many of us we are content to live in the here and now.  Our society is currently built on living life by getting out of it as much as we can while we can.  We try our best not to consider what is to come at the end of these days as it is too depressing or we try to prove that this is it and there’s nothing beyond our few years on this planet.

In the New Testament there was a young man who approached Jesus asking him what he needed to do to get eternal life, at face value this man was asking the right question it seemed that he wanted to genuinely know how to receive eternal life.  Once again, Jesus focuses in on the heart attitude of the person asking the question.  Jesus replies ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” Matt 19:17 niv

Jesus knows that this young man’s issue isn’t anything to do with gaining eternal life as the young man’s heart attitude is one of someone who thinks he has already done enough to warrant access to eternal life.  He thinks he has earned his way to heaven already!  And as a young man it is pure arrogance to assume that at that stage of your life you believe that you have done enough and have nothing left to learn.

 The two issues here were the young man thought:

  1. You could earn your way to heaven
  2. He had already done enough to merit access to eternal life

Life lessons

Often this story of the rich young man in scripture focuses in on the ‘rich’ aspect of the story.  After all Jesus brings up the subject in verse 23 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Once again Jesus gets to the heart of the problem. Jesus doesn’t have a downer on rich people, he’s not saying that if your rich then you will never receive eternal life Jesus is saying that whatever you love the most, will hold your love and gain your worship.

Jesus goes onto explain to the disciples that to believe in Jesus is to give up everything else that holds your love and worship.  What a big ask, how is it possible in these corrupt, sinful hearts to even begin to be willing to give up everything that we have held dear and worthy.  Just as the young man resolved he became sad and went away.  The young man was unwilling to love Jesus more than he loved his wealth, his standing in society, his everything.

Treasures in heaven

In our lives we have a glimpse of the goodness of God, of all that he has provided for his created people however Jesus came and showed us that the true treasures are found in heaven; are found beyond the small glimpse we have now.

There is nothing worth having now that stops us from gaining the treasures that are to come.

And the greatest treasure for each of us is the treasure that our souls are crying out for…..

……..God himself.

Every time we pursue a dream to be better and greater than someone else – our souls are crying out for God’s greatness.

Every time we demand something to quench the compulsions to eat, drink and be merry – our souls are crying out for God’s provision, or comfort or peace.

Everything in us and everything we need is purely met in the character and personhood of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is belief.  This is faith.  This is what being born again looks like. And in the words of Jesus

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt 19: 26 niv.

Come into the family

Photo by Jake Colvin on Pexels.com

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3 niv

In our last musings we were considering being children of God, that because Jesus offered his life on our behalf we could come into relationship with God and it is our sin (our refusal to trust God) that separates us from that relationship.

Here we see the dilemma that humanity has.  Our souls were created to worship and love God, our hearts desire is to worship and love self and our bodies follow our hearts desire but our souls are crying out for God.

No wonder we live mixed up, confusing lives at times.

So how do we go from living outside of God’s original plan to living within God’s original plan?

The only way

There was a guy in the New Testament who realised there was a dilemma between how he was living and the life Jesus was describing.  This wasn’t any old guy he was a member of the Jewish ruling council, so a pretty high up chap.  He was also a Pharisee, a rule maker and a rule keeper for the Jewish people, he was someone who knew the law of God and how to keep it.

However, there was something that unsettled this man’s confidence in his standing in the community.  He took his responsibilities seriously and wanted to do the right thing by the people he was leading and there was something in the words of Jesus that caused him to not be able to sleep.

In the gospel of John Chapter 3 we find this guy Nicodemus approaching Jesus at night, whether that was because he didn’t want the other leaders or congregation to know what he was doing or whether he just couldn’t sleep because deep down he knew there was something he needed to understand but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

Wham! Jesus spoke the truth he needed in the very first sentence he spoke to Nicodemus ‘no-one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again’.  As always Jesus gets to the heart of the problem, this was the unknown dilemma that Nicodemus was grappling with.

As Jesus shares the truth of this statement with Nicodemus we as readers are drawn to one of the most quoted words of the bible v16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

What is your response to this statement?  Do you accept it, do you reject it or do you understand it?

Interestingly at this point we are not told of Nicodemus’ response what we do know from his interaction with Jesus, that through all his years of learning and teaching of God’s word that there was something missing at the core of his understanding, there was something crucial that he needed to learn and it began with his heart.

Do you believe in miracles?

Whether we know anything about the word of God or whether we have spent a lifetime studying it there is something we too need to get to grips with.

V12 “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

We don’t know everything we need to know!  There is something missing in our understanding because it involves heaven and as Jesus goes onto say there is only one among us who has come from heaven and that is Jesus himself.

So, what does it take to be born again?

A work of heaven, the work of God……a miracle.

Maybe you ask how do I gain this miracle, how is this possible for me to be born again?  Jesus really wants Nicodemus and us to understand what part we play in this process as he mentions the same word 7 times through this passage…….

Believe!

Children of God

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Luke 15:7 ‘I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent’.

Over the past few months, we have come from Genesis through to Revelation seeing the promise of the offspring to come and the fulfilment of paradise that he brings. Along the way we have explored who God is and who we are in relation to the promised offspring.

The more we consider Christ the more we see that our identity is tied up in who He is and what he came to accomplish.

Whoever we are, we are all somehow transfixed on our identity. From an early age we explore ‘what am I going to be when I grow up’ it seems to be one of the first questions that an adult asks us and for many of us our frustrations revolve around the fact we have no idea.

Amazingly the loss we feel inside regarding our identity is found throughout scripture. For me this is one of the convincing realities of scripture, if God made us then He alone will know who he made us to be and the purpose he had in mind when making us.

Doesn’t this bring assurance to your heart, that if God created us then he must have had a purpose. We are more than we appear. In our culture today we go from extremes either our logic defines all we see around us and the greater thinker we are the more power we think we have to decide how others should live however on the other extreme we have relegated humanity to lowest of the low willingly degrading one another.

In our verse today Jesus had been challenged by the teachers and authorities of the law to take sides between those who are worthy and those who are not. These teachers of the law thought they had the right to define who belonged and who didn’t. In Jesus wisdom he would use a story to challenge wrong thinking by challenging the heart of the person asking the question.

Jesus challenges that same thinking today, who defines who we are and our purpose for being here? Is it ourselves, can we really pick and choose who we want to be? What gives us that right? If we came into existence through accidental fusion of chemicals then what does it matter? However, if we came into existence, as the bible says, through the will and power of God then surely, He is the one who defines who we are and what we are here for.

I don’t know about you but I find today’s verse so reassuring on many levels. ‘‘I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents’. Why would Jesus say this, why is there rejoicing in heaven when we realise that we have gone away from the original purposes we were created for?

Jesus is telling us that God himself is rejoicing because his child has returned to Him. This is the core identity of us all, that originally we were created to be the children of God, to belong to Him, to be guided by Him, to enjoy Him, to be loved by Him, the benefits of having God as our Heavenly Father exceeds anything we can ever imagine. The longing we all have whether a lack of satisfaction, a yearning for something more, the grass is greener on the other side feeling all stems from the loss of our Heavenly Father.

Our souls know there is something missing, someone missing just as a child who has been adopted has a yearning to meet their birth parent, our souls have a yearning to come back to the one who made us, to become the child we were created to be.

What are we repenting of? The desire to live life the way we want without thought for the one who gave us the gift of life.

And what do we get in return? A Father who knows us better than we know ourselves, a Father who gives us identity, a Father who provides without question, a Father who gave his Heavenly Son so that his earthly children can come back to Him.

Then and only then do our souls find the peace they have been looking for and our whole being lives a life filled with satisfaction, fulfilment, and purpose.

A time to come

Photo by Lukas Rodriguez on Pexels.com

‘Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’

6 He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.’  Revelation 21:1-8 niv.

So where is this place? What is so great about this future place after all don’t we have everything we need here?

Paradise

We all live in a world that screams to us of brokenness, something isn’t quite right.  We see this in the suffering of the vulnerable, we see this in the destruction of human life, we see this in the destruction of God’s creation.  We demand God fixes it without any thought to our role in it.  We attack one another because we see things differently; we insist that as humanity it is down to us to fix it but we can’t even get everyone to agree what the problem is.

We definitely know that here and now isn’t paradise, deep down we know we were made for more than this.  Inside many of us, at one time or another, we experience an emotion of lacking, an insisting there must be more to life than this.  This is often the root of addictions – looking for something beyond ourselves an unachievable satisfaction. A unquenchable appetite for more.

When Jesus was on the cross there was a thief next to him who recognised Jesus as the King of all and in that moment, Jesus promised he would be with him in paradise.  That promise holds true for everyone willing to do what the thief did?  Recognise his own sin and turn to the one who can deal with it.

There is much the bible has to say about Heaven, the place beyond the here and now, the place where eternity with God will be guaranteed.  The place where only goodness and love will be shared.  No more tears, no more pain, no more evil.  Everything we cry out for in our demand for justice.

So what is stopping us from making that step? Of turning to Christ the Saviour of our souls.

For some of us we have views about God and the world we live in but we aren’t prepared to investigate who God is for ourselves. Maybe we’re afraid of the unknown or maybe we’re afraid that God will demand too much of us.

Whoever we are and where ever we are on the journey of life, for now we need to read God’s word and ask God to show us who He says he is not who other people say he is. When we do that we learn to put our trust in Jesus as we come to understand why he had to die on our behalf and why his resurrection brings us the promise of new birth. Then we will see that we need Jesus because his is both the perfect human and our Creator God. Because he is both humanity and beyond humanity as Creator, then he alone can bring us into the promised land.

When we are convinced of God’s truth about himself and we commit our lives to living in light of who Jesus is rather than the darkness of our sin and the sin we see in the world we live, we will begin to see the world as God sees it, we will begin to see others how God sees them.  In the words of the blind beggar in John 9:25 and the wonderful words of Amazing Grace ‘for I was blind but now I see’.

We will then know what we have been rescued from and we will begin to grow in a desire and a willingness to know more of what the future holds. And we will want others to know the hope that we have as Christ lives within us, through the presence of the Holy Spirit who guides and directs our lives and together we will learn how to become ready for paradise… 

……the place God has planned for us to live with Him, forever.

Now and not yet

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

Full Justice

As society we constantly demand justice, we don’t want anyone to get away with anything which we particularly deem unforgiveable.  There is something within us that cries out against the injustices we see in the world.  But, there seems to be a divide between our expectation of others and God’s expectation of us.  Somehow, we don’t want justice aimed towards ourselves only towards the real evil in the world.

The reason many of us find this area difficult to consider is that we haven’t accepted certain aspects of God’s character.  For God is both Judge and Redeemer at all times.  His character doesn’t change depending on the circumstances or people involved.  He is fully Judge and fully Redeemer.

In our humanity we find this an unlikely possibility.  From a young age we learn a lot about opposites from hot/cold to black/white.  Why are we so obsessed about opposites?  Is it just a learning tool or does it go much deeper? There is a possibility that it could impact on our world view and how we relate to one another.  It certainly does impact on our view of God and our willingness to relate to Him.

God works in absolutes because He is also Truth.  All truth begins with Him and comes from Him. This is why he can be all things at all times, he doesn’t switch off one aspect of his character to enable another aspect to be effective. That is how and why God is both Judge and Redeemer, He makes the charges against sin and provides the payment for his humanity.

Through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus we see the judgement of the Judge and the payment of the Redeemer. God is ‘Just’ that justice is part of who he is and he cannot and will not be separated from his character of justice, just as he can’t and will not be separated from his character of goodness and love.

It is because of God’s love for mankind that he insists that justice will be declared against all evil in mankind’s hearts and the world around us, so that evil and its consequences can be destroyed.

Father God does not want us to be held captive by sin because it always leads us further and further into darkness and further and further away from Him. God’s very best for his creation is Himself.

Even though Jesus died on the cross and destroyed sin we do not today see God’s complete judgement merited out. Why?  Because he’s waiting.

Not yet

Why would a God of love ‘wait’ can’t he see the need of the poor and needy, doesn’t he want to stop all suffering for all the innocent people in the world?  Does he not see what evil people are doing?

Of course he does, of course he cares and of course he loves the people he has created.

God is waiting for all the people who are going to put their faith and trust in him.  He is waiting for the one who refuses to come into the kingdom because they are worried that they are not acceptable to him, He is waiting for the one who is anxious that they have made too many mistakes to be able to be loved by him, he is waiting for the one to realise that the world doesn’t have anything to offer beyond who he is, he is waiting for the sceptics who say science and faith don’t go together…..He is waiting for you.

Now

God’s kingdom is nothing like we expect, God’s kingdom is completely different to everything we know and have grown up to know. We make demands for the now when in fact God, through Jesus is changing us for the not yet.

Amazingly when we do see that God is for us and that he loves us so much that he provided his Son as the sacrifice for our sins, then we are fully accepted into his kingdom now.  There is nothing else that we can bring or do that makes us more acceptable to God the Father apart from putting our trust in His Son.

However, we do not get all the benefits of that kingdom yet.  We gain much including the gift of the Holy Spirit (which I will expand on later blogs) but there is so much more to come.

I often think that this side of heaven is like a pregnancy, a place of change, a place of growth and a place of learning.  Just as a baby in the womb learns of its surroundings and of its own identity there is something beyond it.  It can hear something humming in the background, something that sounds like a voice, but the baby isn’t quite sure.  There is a connection with something other than itself.

This is a little like those of us who haven’t heard about Jesus.  We get a sense there is something beyond ourselves but we’re not quite sure what it is.  Or those of us who refuse to believe that there is more beyond humanity, even though the world screams to us of a creation of design.

For those of us who have come to put their trust in the Lord Jesus as their Saviour and Friend our greatest desire is that all those who don’t know Jesus will get to know Him and learn to live in the now by living in the not yet.

The great sacrifice

Photo by Patricia McCarty on Pexels.com

The sacrifice needed to destroy sin and death would be provided for by God himself as shown throughout the Old Testament.  We see this particularly in the moment Abraham offered his Son Isaac to die (Genesis 22). God promised he alone would provide the sacrifice, this is a statement from God that mankind in and of themselves cannot provide the sacrifice needed to destroy sin. There is nothing, as we saw at the beginning of this series, that humanity can do to undo the disastrous results of rejecting God and his rule over our lives.  As, we thought about a few weeks ago, the payment of sin would come at a great cost, the price would be God’s one and only Son.

The separation of the Trinity caused darkness to come over the earth…..this moment when darkness thought it had won, this moment that the devil thought he had at last destroyed all that God loved especially his own Son, for the devil there could be nothing better. In that moment of darkness the devil thought he had destroyed all God had made and treasured, however it would prove to be the downfall of the devil himself for it was in this moment of darkness that the judgement of the devil was carried out and the sin he instigated would be nullified , forever.

Humanity would be bought back and restored to their original goodness and in that moment when Jesus cried out ‘it is finished’ and died on the cross he declared it had been accomplished.  Confirmed when the curtain in the temple was torn it two.  The curtain symbolised the separation that happened in the garden between God and man and it would take an act of God to tear it down (from top to bottom) Matthew 27:51 niv.

On the day the curtain was torn in two, as Christ willingly took that separation on himself, he announced the final judgement on the devil resulting in the death penalty against the crime of sin which God declared in Genesis 2.  As the curtain was torn in two God confirmed the penalty had been paid and all who put their trust in Jesus would now have direct access to God not only has Creator but now as Father.

What we can not fully grasp or understand is the horror of the separation that Jesus experienced on the cross.  Jesus had never experienced separation from God the Father or God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was always part of the Trinity, the place of all goodness and glory.  The moment Jesus took the sins of the world onto himself he willingly took our place and took our separation, the separation that Adam and Eve experienced.  This separation is something we haven’t experienced.

We already live a life separated from God it is all we have known, for us the new life offered by Jesus is what seems scary and unknown.  So our thinking becomes skewed and we doubt the words of God because they seem too good to be true. But the problem lies within us rather than in God and his word.

For without Jesus’ humanity to go to the cross, His divinity to overcome death and his relationship with God to return to heaven we will be separated from God forever. 

And if you think eternal separation from God isn’t that bad consider all that is evil in this world and how much worse it will be without God’s goodness because without the light from God all that will be left is darkness.

Eternal Life

Christ’s life, death and resurrection provided a separation from sin whether that be inherited from Adam and Eve, our own sin or even the sin of others that causes us much heartache.  Instead of being ruled by sin, in Christ we’re now ruled by his righteous life, a life to be lived differently to the past.  From a life of darkness into a life filled with light and eternal purpose.  Through Christ we gain an undeserved place of a right relationship with God.

Charles Spurgeon the great theologian called this moment The Great Exchange;

“He wore my crown of  thorns. I wear His crown, the crown of Glory. He wore my … nakedness when He died upon the Cross—I wear His robes, the royal robes of the King of kings! He bore my shame, I bear His honor. He endured my sufferings to this end that my joy may be full and that His joy may be fulfilled in me! He laid in the grave that I might rise from the dead and that I may dwell in Him.” -Spurgeon

This is the gift of new life that the Lord Jesus has provided for us, God’s undeserved grace. There is nothing we can bring, there is nothing we need to bring just a willingness to trust in the truth of the word of God that declares Jesus is Lord of all.

This side of heaven we cannot fathom the wonders in store for us but as we continue on this journey together let us learn at least one thing from Adam and Eve that all along they had a choice. To believe God of all Creation or the devil of all destruction.

The question we need to ask ourselves is ‘are we willing to put our faith and trust in the God of all creation, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So that we become children of God and become part of the Heavenly Family, the Kingdom of God, or do we still think that equality with God is something worth grasping?

Why do we do it to ourselves, why do we consider equality with God something that is even possible?  How often do we think we have authority over God?  How arrogant is mankind?  How full of pride we are when we refuse to consider our true standing in the universe, rather than the one of authority over ourselves and others, we think we have.

What we do have, is a choice to either accept the separation that Jesus took on our behalf or experience the eternal separation from the love and provision of God forever.

We see  through the perfect life of Christ, His sacrificial death on the cross, His confirmed resurrection and His witnessed ascension that Jesus declares that He is who he says he is, did what he said he did and will do what he says he will do.

The great separation

Photo by Joshua T on Pexels.com

John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’. niv

God who separates

As we saw at the beginning of Genesis God orders things through separation, light from darkness, waters from waters, waters from expanse, land and seas, animals and humanity.  This act of separation is the perfect judgement of a perfect God.  God knows why he created and how he wants creation to respond.  Without creation responding in the way it was created then there wouldn’t be order or a visible design but there would be chaos.  Nothing would know where it should be or how it should respond.

There is another aspect to God’s perfect separation, God’s perfect judgement against sin.

Once sin entered the garden God declared his judgement on the devil, who brought sin into the garden, and God’s humanity that accepted the sin being offered.  God’s declared judgement would be just, it would be final, it would be paid for but it would be different.

Genesis 3:14-15 God’s eternal judgement against the devil and sin declares there will be no salvation for him. God knows the devil is the father of lies and that no good is found in him.  The promise of the offspring is the promise that the devil, whose whole character is defined by sin and whose heart is fuelled by sin, will one day be destroyed…..forever. The devil would pay eternally with his life for the penality of sin.

There is a promise within God’s judgement against the devil, a promise for humanity, a promise of hope. God declared that an offspring would come to destroy the devil, the originator of sin, it is here that holds a promise for humanity.  Now spiritually separated from unity with God therefore now mortal beings, there will come a time when the separation from the Father would come to an end and that the shame and guilt of their sin, which had caused Adam and Eve to hide from their Father God, would one day come to an end Genesis 3:15 and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[a] and hers; he will crush[b] your head, and you will strike his heel.” niv

Adam and Eve understood that promise that’s why they thought the offspring would come from them,they needed relief from the shame and guilt. But as we thought about last week, sinful man can not run away from their guilt and shame because they can not provide the perfect offspring, the one needed to fulfil God’s judgement against sin. Unknown to Adam and Eve, held within God’s promise, is that the debt of humanity’s sin would be paid by God himself.

Adam and Eve had no idea that the consequences of their sin would affect generations and generations of humanity to come. From now on humanity had to walk a different path, a path filled with physical torment, hardship and doubts.  Humanity were now on a mortal journey, a separation from eternal peace and unity.  

Adam and Eve had no idea what areas of life they would experience death, the death penality God had declared would be the consequence of eating the fruit. Unknown to them death comes in many ways spiritually, physically and emotionally.

What they now knew is that there would be three areas of separation that Adam and Eve had to face;

The separation of the perfect relationship Genesis 3:16 ‘Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you’.

The separation of the perfect relationship with creation Genesis 3:17 ‘cursed is the ground because of you….’.

The separation of the perfect relationship with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) Genesis 3:22 ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.  He must not now be able to reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever’ therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken’. niv

These consequences were far reaching including difficulty in childbirth and difficulty in providing food for themselves through toil and hardship. However, there was hope, there was a future hope, a provision by God to enable humanity to once again come back into the perfect relationship with God and that promise would be fulfilled through a human baby but not just any baby!

Creation undone

The horrific truth is that in the moment that sin was accepted by Adam and Eve, the greatest consequences was it undone God’s perfect creation. God created life and sin brought death just as God had warned.

What a sad moment, a day of horror, a day of undoing all the beauty found in Genesis 1 and 2, all the goodness undone in their lives.

This is the truth of sin.  Even today we see this truth unfold before us.  Sin promises so much and still leaves us wanting more.  Sin turns us into liars and thieves ‘I’ll only have one more’  ‘They won’t miss this they have so much themselves’.  But then we are caught out when guilt and shame is our trophy.  Just as Adam and Eve did, we try to cover over our sin or justify it…’well it’s not hurting anyone’; ‘if I didn’t have to do without I wouldn’t be tempted’!

Can you see Adam and Eve’s sin is also our sin, we have inherited the same language and the same excuses…..it’s her fault, it’s his fault…..or worse still God it’s your fault.

Whether we realise it or not sin is destructive not just to the ones who have sinned but to the people and the world around them.  Like Adam and Eve, in our sin we play the blame game… Genesis 3:13 ‘The woman whom you have to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree and I ate’ Genesis 3:13 ‘The serpent deceived me and I ate’. 

Our sin goes far beyond the boundaries of our own lives.  We have no idea of all the consequences of the sins we engage in. But worst of all it separates us from the light of God, the place of safety and security, the place of life itself.

A Kingdom restored

In our passage today from John 1:1 we see creation language used in Genesis ‘In the beginning’.  This is not accidental God wants us to know that the one that has come to redeem (buy back) mankind is the one who was there at the beginning ‘God who made heaven and earth’.

As you follow through the gospel of John you will discover the promised offspring, the one spoken of in the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament) the one who would provide the great separation, the separation from sin needed to restore humanity to the holiness of God, to restore creation and restore God’s blessing.

The promised one who would be both divine (the authority to judge) and human (the ability to die).  In the Lord Jesus we discover that on the cross Jesus provided the greatest separation of all.  That for all time from that moment and forever more Jesus, God the Son, would take the death penalty of sin (declared in Genesis 2:17) onto himself so that the curse of humanity (Genesis 3:16) could be destroyed so that all who believe in Jesus can return to the relationship we were always created to have with God the Father (John 3:16).

The separation needed to bring humanity back is one filled with grace and mercy for us but it would come at a great cost to God himself.  It would mean separation from His own beloved Son.

The redemption of humanity

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So what does God do when humanity itself is harmful to God’s creation?  Did God not anticipate this flaw?  Did God himself include this flaw within humanity?  Is it now God’s responsibility to destroy humanity to protect the rest of creation?  Isn’t that what the serpent said God meant?

Mankind’s greatest weakness

In Genesis 3 we see a conversation between the crafty serpent and the woman God created.  At face value it appears that Eve is doing a good job of putting the devil in his place, it appears that she is defending God’s position.

The only trouble is by choosing to engage in a conversation in the first place with the serpant is actually Eve’s greatest downfall.  She thought she knew better!  Her pride in her own knowledge of God is what let her down, which opened her heart to being deceived.  Eve didn’t stop to think, she didn’t refer back to her husband who had been called by God to lead creation, she didn’t refer the serpent back to God.  Eve was no match for the devil but she didn’t need to be.

As we saw in Genesis 2:16 God had given the instruction about the tree to the man before the woman had been created.  It was Adam’s responsibility to ensure that the fruit of the tree wasn’t eaten.  This instruction from God was for the protection of humanity for humanity can-not become equal with God.

There was much wrong in both Adam and Eve’s response to the serpent but it was the act of choosing to listen to the serpent that was the problem.  Genesis 3:6 ‘so when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of it’s fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate’. esv.

Eve ‘saw’ which meant she had considered all that the devil had shown her and agreed with him that it would be good for them to be complete in their knowledge of all things.  In that moment the thought became the desire. What she didn’t consider is everything they already had was all that they needed. However Adam’s choice went further to wanting equality with God, Adam rejected God himself; for Adam had choosen a relationship with his fallen wife rather than his Creator and then blamed God for creating her.

Psalm 34:8 gives us a glimpse into the solution that was before Adam and Eve ‘Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good’.

The result of their choices that day was not only in the death of humanity but in the death of humanity’s relationship with God…..or so the serpent thought!

God’s sacrifice

God knew this moment in time was coming in fact this was God’s plan to rid heaven and earth of the devil and sin.  How? By using the weakness of humanity to overcome the pride of sin!  You can just imagine the big grin on the serpents face when he slithers off after doing his worst.  However, in the moment of Adam and Eve’s sin (belief that equality with God was possible and rejection of a relationship with God) two things happened.

Adam and Eve hid and God came seeking!

No that can’t be possible, surely God’s rightful judgement was that they had eaten the fruit therefore they should have ‘certainly’ died.  Shouldn’t they have been destroyed on the spot? Wouldn’t that be what the serpent would demand?  What the serpent couldn’t understand is that God in his judgement provided grace.

Yes judgement would come, death is the result of the sin but the Creator has made the provision for the wages of sin that his created humanity did but there would be no provision for sin itself.  Sin was declared the enemy that day and no provision would ever be given for sin or the devil their destiny was eternal damnation and destruction.

Genesis 3:15 ‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head and you will strike his heel’.

This is the declaration of judgement on the father of lies that from the woman (humanity) there will come one (her offspring) who will be hurt by the devil (strike his heel) but who will ultimately destroy sin and death (crush your head).

Consequence of sin

Life was never the same for Adam and Eve after that fateful day when they were deceived and turned away from God.  They were certainly filled with shame and guilt and tried to sort out the mess themselves but it was too late, the horrific separation had begun because sin had entered their hearts, they had to be banished from the garden therefore a spiritual death had occurred, their relationship with God had been marred.

There was also a physical death to come as no longer creation and humanity worked together in harmony, from that moment on creation would be humanity’s toil rather than pleasure.  This in turn resulted in the relationships of all future men and women would be one of control and demand for equality, rather than working together in perfect peace and unity. 

The other tree

Genesis 3:22 tells us of the tree of life which Adam and Eve could no longer have access to because if they did, they would be eternally dying which would result in eternal suffering.

This means God was never withholding anything from Adam and Eve they always had had access to the tree of life which represented all that they needed or would ever need.  Up until the moment sin entered their hearts they had all they needed to live life to the full but instead they chose to have equality with God rather than love from God.  God’s provision had always been there and his protection continued as he stopped them eating from the tree of life in their state of sin……we see that the judgement of God is also the grace of God for the people who were created to be loved.

Hope for the hopeless

Genesis 3:20 ‘Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living’. Genesis 4: 1 ‘Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.  She said ‘With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man’.

In these words of these fallen humans they were so desperate to see the promise of God fulfilled in them. After all they had got it wrong surely God had given them the opportunity of putting it right, surely this new born son is the one who God had promised would destroy the devil, sin and death!

No instead their son Cain became the first murderer of his own brother.  No, the hope for humanity didn’t lie in the hands of humanity but in the hands of God himself.

In the Old Testament we see these three things at work:

Humanity looking and longing for the offspring that was promised on that day, the day humanity tried to have equality with God.

And God’s continued declaration of his promise to humanity that an offspring would come and if humanity put their trust in Him then they could come back to the perfect place that humanity was always created to be……..in the arms of God.

Thirdly that God himself would provide the sacrifice needed to redeem mankind and pay the price for the sin they had committed and this would be the place we ultimately see judgement and grace working together.

The rebellion of humanity

Photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels.com

At the first wedding you get a real sense of a wonderful gift has been received, a longing has been quenched and a partnership has begun.

Above all these wonders the greatest wonder for humanity is that the God who created them finds joy in them and desires to care, protect and provide for them.  He is not a God who demands or takes, he is a God of relationship, a one sided relationship of giving to his creation.

God is the source, the life, all that creation and humanity needs to flourish and grow.

All that God did through the creation story was to provide a perfect kingdom for a perfect people for a perfect relationship with Him and one another.

You couldn’t ask for more!

The rebellion

So how could it end so badly?  Where did mankind go wrong?  For many people they ask why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place?  Wasn’t the tree the problem rather than the serpent?

There were many trees that served many purposes including trees for food; there was only one tree that was out of bounds ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’.  This tree stood as a ‘standard bearer’ a decree that humanity may have been created perfectly but they were not God, they were created in His image but there was a distinction between the created and the Creator.

This tree declares that God alone is not only Creator but also judge of all that he has created, God alone can decide what is good and what is evil, only God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) can and will cast judgement on what is good for his creation and what is harmful.  God’s good just judgement is for the benefit of the humans he has created not for their harm, God’s judgement destroys all that is harmful to His created ones as he is also the perfect Protector.

Sin enters in

Genesis 3:1 ‘Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made’.

What was the serpent’s purpose that day?  Why did God allow Adam and Eve to enter into the presence of the serpent, couldn’t he have stopped them meeting?

This is where we must submit to the wisdom of God, this is the place where we need to consider that there is much about God and his purposes that are beyond our understanding. We need to accept that in our humanity there is limitation.  In comparison to God humanity is weak.

Oh doesn’t that stir something inside?  Doesn’t your heart cry out ‘No I’m not weak, I refuse to accept that I can not understand all that there is to understand and even if I can’t then there is someone out there that has the brain capacity to understand all these things.  After all isn’t humanity at the top of the food chain?

The serpent in his pride knew how to tempt humanity to turn away from God, speak to their pride. The serpent has only one purpose…..to destroy the relationship between God and humanity and he will do all it takes to achieve this goal.

The serpent was jealous of what God had created, the devil himself had done what he encouraged Adam and Eve to do, he demanded equality with God. Even though the devil is supernatural (beyond the world we see) he was also a created being.  However, the devil was not content with his standing before God and desired equality with God which resulted in Him trying to overthrow God Isaiah 14:12-14 niv.

The result was Satan was reduced to a slimy snake but this slimy snake was still supernatural, was beyond the limitations of humanity but never equal to God.

Choices, choices, choices

The moment the snake met the man and woman it was to be the beginning of his downfall, the beginning of his destruction.

This crafty being had no comprehension of the true power of God because he didn’t care about the purposes of God, the devil was on a path to destroy all that God loved which clouded his judgement and ability to see beyond himself, when in reality all he was doing was laying the foundations to his own destruction.

Can’t we see some similarities to our mindset in how we think of God and his purposes?  Can we see how our view of God is marred by our pride to be more than we were created to be or for some of us to be less than we were created to be?  In what ways is our thoughts skewed by what we think rather than how God thinks?

God told the prophet Isaiah to declare that ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’. 55:8-9 esv.

God’s solution to this dilemma is found in Colossians 3:2 ‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’.

This is the place of humility, this is the place of submission, this is the place where we are given a choice to believe that God is beyond his creation but at the same time can be known.  This is surely grace beyond our understanding.  Scripture is filled with declarations of this truth including Psalm 8:4 ‘what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?’. esv

God created humans to be in relationship with Him for that is His best for us. The questions we need to ask is are we willing to trust Him?

If the serpent was telling the truth that fateful day in the garden surely there was no hope for Adam and Eve and all creation should have been eliminated from the face of the planet.

However, there was something that the serpent never understood and that is how wonderful God is, how beautiful God is, how loving God is, how gracious God is, how God himself is the source of all life without him life can not be. In fact, there is much the serpent doesn’t know because the serpent doesn’t care.

How about us?  Do we care to know who God really is rather than believe the lies of the devil?  Are we willing to allow God to show us the way to him so that we can come to know the wonder and joy of knowing God?

Come back next week and discover what God’s plan had been all along.

The wonder of humanity

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

For some of us we wonder why on earth did God make human beings? After all if it wasn’t for human beings then much of the world would still be perfect.

That is because we haven’t fully understood God’s purpose in creating human beings.

Genesis 2:7 ‘Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being ’niv.

When you look at the ground do you consider your beginning?  Do you consider that from the dust you were made by a Holy God?  What power; what wonder; that God could make such a complex being out of what lay on the ground, the most basic component of creation.  But did you notice that this human being not only was created from dust or ground (Hebrew word idamah) but God himself breathed his own breath into the lungs of this new person.

This is truly the wonder of humanity, that to give life God actually breathed into the nostrils of this new human, the very breath of God brought life to man.

But the wonders don’t stop there v 8’ Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed’ niv.  Here we see the provision of God for the man he had created.  As we continue to read, we see that this provision wasn’t just to be tended by the man but was to be for the benefit of the man.

There was one stipulation v 16 ‘And the LORD God commanded the man ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’ niv.

Oh there is much that could be said and has been said about this moment in human history but before we move on to that we notice that after the stipulation God goes into more detail about Adam’s role and responsibility, the naming of the animals.  What a beautiful picture of a God who cares, God himself brought the animals before Adam for him to name.  God was officially placing the care and responsibility of the animals into Adam hands, Adam was officially the human leader of the garden of Eden.

However, for this man there was something missing v20 ‘But for Adam no suitable helper was found’ niv.

There was a longing in Adam to share this responsibility with someone suitable, someone like him. Unknown to Adam God had already planned the perfect partner and this partner was so perfect that Adam sang a song of praise and thanks to God, the world’s first love song;

This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man’
(esv)

Adam is so grateful to God for giving him the perfect partner, the very person he needed to help him fulfil the responsibilities God had placed in his hands.

Here we see the beauty of the marriage relationship, a partnership orchestrated by a loving, caring and providing God, to live out and serve His purposes so that all creation will be cared for.

Perfect isn’t it?

%d bloggers like this: