Romans 13:8 ‘Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law’.
Love isn’t something we have to grapple with to find it, to crave it or to demand it. We already have love because we are created in God’s image, the key is how do we spend our love and where do we focus our love.
Last week we saw that our first expression of love needs to have it’s focus on God, for he is worthy to be worshipped and glorified. It is actually for our good to worship God, it turns our hearts away from serving ourselves as god, which is treason and deserves the death penalty.
Today let us consider the second part of last week’s verse ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. Here we see that we don’t just place ourselves in the position of being god of our own lives but we actually live as if others should regard us as god of their lives too.
This is the root of all conflict and war. You are not doing what I demand you to do.
When you stop and think about it, it sounds absolutely ridiculous, doesn’t it?
As humanity we are going around attempting to live in a world that was not of our making, that we had no hand in creating but we expect others to worship and love us as if we did. Every single person who does not love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength are doing that very thing….we are declaring ourselves as god.
We see this reflected when we feel we haven’t been loved enough or we believe others don’t love us as we should be loved, instead of loving we begin to hate. We hate how others treat us, we hate others for not loving us enough, we become embittered towards others and spend our lives rejecting them even if they weren’t the ones who rejected us in the first place.
Bitterness is the hate that grows inside and hardens the heart to the ability to love.
Once again, this moment in time requires God’s intervention; we once again need a moment of reorientation.
This comes in the words of this verse ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. The god self, the sinful self, the hardened heart cries out that’s impossible, why should I love my neighbour when they don’t do that for me’.
Once again God is asking us to do something that is impossible for us to do. But it is only impossible because we believe ourselves to be god of our own lives and we believe that we are the god of the lives of others.
Once God is in his rightful place in our hearts and that he is the God we serve, worship and love, then we or reorientated to love others. Can you see the beauty of God’s solution, can you see how every single person on this planet would be loved, no one would be missed out, everyone would be working towards one another rather than away from each other.
Instead of mini-me worlds colliding into each other we would all be reorientated into God’s environment, then we would begin to see that we are actually held together in the circle of God’s love, protection, provision etc.
In Jesus there becomes no barrier between us and God but also there becomes no barrier between each other. In Jesus we become brothers and sisters of one another, we grow in our desire to put one another first, we grow in our desire to bring comfort when one of our family is hurting or help reorientate those who are losing focus on God’s love.
But it doesn’t stop there because we also grow in our compassion to a broken self-focused world colliding into each other through their demands and expectations, because we recognise without the love of Jesus we too would still be caught up in a world of self.
Luke 10:27 He answered ‘Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.
Love is an interesting concept isn’t it? In our world we speak of love as something romantic, something that makes us feel fuzzy and warm inside. Love is expressed in ways of needing others and by meeting that need through our relationships. It is something we all crave but it something near impossible for us to do.
Well actually it is super easy for us to do, it is what we do every day of our lives; the essence of our being is to love. Unfortunately for humanity this is directed in the wrong places.
Many of us struggle with low self-esteem; we feel inferior to others and others seem to relish in their power over us. Our solution to this is to try and love ourselves. The media and our world view both encourages and advocates this principle ‘Find your me time’ ‘If others don’t love you it’s because you don’t love yourself enough’ ‘Once you love and accept yourself others will love you too’ ‘those who don’t love you, well it’s their loss’.
However, our bible verse and much of the bible says love isn’t the problem; it is the misdirection of love that is the problem. What we actually need is a moment of reorientation; we need God to intervene into this misunderstood moment in our lives.
As always God turns our broken, mixed up world upside down; the truth is God is turning our world the right way up, the way we were meant to be, the way he originally planned for humanity to love.
The reason we love, the reason why love is on the agenda is because God is love, we are the product of God’s love, we are created in his image therefore in us is love.
The problem is we first and foremost love ourselves. We expect it, we demand it, we fight for it, we hate it when we don’t get it and we hate others for not giving it to us.
The solution to our love problem is to love God first. Mmm that’s hard for our hardened broken hearts to hear, its hard for our self-focused hearts to even want to consider. But God doesn’t stop there, we are not only to love God first but we are to love him with every ounce of our being. Oh no we cry out, is that really possible? Well you are right to worry because it is impossible for us to love as we are meant to love.
So why would God expect us to love him so fully if it is impossible for us to do that?
Our ability to love God comes from the fact that first and foremost God loved us first. One of the most famous verses in the bible tells us ‘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’ John 3:16.
The direction of our love begins with our love for God because the direction of his love began with his Son the Lord Jesus and because of his son God’s love is extended to us. You see held within these words are the power of God’s love. God expressed his love for humanity in his sacrificial giving of His Son to live as humanity and to take humanity’s rightful place on the cross of judgement because humanity behaved as if they were God, as if they”re the sole focus of love.
In our demand to be loved we are saying we are God, we should be the focus of everyone else’s love, we expect others to serve and worship us.
In our desire to love ourselves; to find our me time, we are declaring that God must fit into our view of who He is rather than us fit into His view of who we are. The only solution is to accept God’s Son who declares God is Sovereign over our lives and He alone is worthy to be worshipped and glorified.
Eph 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
By invitation only
One key thing as human beings, we truly don’t understand is that we are not entitled to know God or be known by God.
Now I can hear your objections ranging from ‘I’ve lived such a good life I will go straight to heaven where all the good people go’ or even ‘I’m not a murderer or a sex offender so I’ll be ok’.
In our humanness we imagine that we are the most important person/people in the world, and we cannot imagine not being number 1 in God’s kingdom or maybe second place! Once again I hear the objections ‘ ‘You can’t be speaking about me I give loads of money to charity’ to ‘You can’t be talking about me I always sacrifice myself for the benefit of others’…..
Next time someone annoys you think about why you’re upset. In that moment ask God to show you what your heart attitude is. Maybe it’s ‘I don’t ask for much it’s the least God can do for me’ or ‘how dare they treat me like this after everything I’ve done for them’.
Despite our darkened scarred hearts that cause us to see the world and eternity through skewed thinking, Father God loves all those he has created and has provided a blessed rescue plan for each of us.
All we have to do is accept his invitation, his invitation to belong to his family, to be adopted into the kingdom of God where Jesus is not only the King but also our brother, the kingdom where God isn’t just the Creator but our Father God.
In other words, despite deserving the punishment of death God gives us the position of child with all the inheritance entitled only to Jesus. The cross is where God’s grace and mercy meet.
The only question left is are you ready to accept the invitation?
Letting go and letting God
Unfortunately for us, also at the heart of every human, is the inherent desire to control our own circumstances and our own surroundings. We are our own world, so it is our natural impulse to trust what we see and only accept what we experience. However, the worst part of having a heart that puts us at the centre of the universe is that we can not have two masters, God will never compete for ownership because he is the only Creator.
In the letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul makes it clear that God loves us so much that his provision was planned before the beginning of time. For many this seems to be an incredible stumbling block rather than the provision of salvation God intended it to be.
To receive and accept this invitation all we have to do is let go of controlling our own lives and accept God’s foreknowledge of us and his future impact on our everyday lives. How do we do that? Stop trusting in ourselves and our own abilities and through the acceptance of what Christ has done for us, trust in God.
Something to celebrate
It hard for us to consider there is more to life than what we see with our own two eyes. There seems to be an inherent lack of trust in our hearts not just towards God but towards one another. For some of us this can stem from difficult relationships or experiences. In the corrupt, sinful heart of each of us is a heart that is cynical; unwilling to change, unwilling to learn, unwilling to admit error, unwilling to consider life beyond us.
In the book of Ephesians chapter 1 the apostle Paul is introducing the newly founded church to the concept of who God is and what he has done for them. Seems a bit strange why would he need to tell a church, who already believes in Jesus what Jesus has done for them, surely once they are born again that is enough, that is all that is needed to live the life Jesus promised.
Well Paul knows people really well because he knows himself really well.
Paul knows that as people we are vulnerable to keep looking to what we can see and trust what we experience which results in forgetting God’s promises and fulfilments because we forget to look up, we forget to continue to trust.
Paul wants the church to remember who they are and fully understand what God has done for them as this will form and continue to form the basis for their faith and trust in Jesus.
As we have seen today and over the last few weeks, to put our faith and trust in Jesus and walk the life of following Jesus takes a miracle. That miracle will take hold in our lives when we have hearts that recognise our need of being rescued from the clutches of sin and have hearts that sing out in praise to God for being rescued.
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.
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:
You could earn your way to heaven
He had already done enough to merit access to eternal life
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…..
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.
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…….
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.
‘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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.