January 31: The Hope of Life in the Midst of Death

For the past couple of days we have been reminded of the entrance of death into our world. God, in his love for mankind, provided us with the liberty to choose if we would love and trust him. Of course we know what happened. Adam and Eve chose to reject the one true God and rather to listen to the god of this age- the serpent. He tempted them to use knowledge to become good like God, rather than to freely receive God’s gracious life in order to be good like God.

As we also said yesterday, sin is a real thing. It is something that is released into the world and must be carried by someone. In the Old Testament the word for forgive is the Hebrew word nasa. Nasa means to carry, to bear up, to lift, or support. Who will carry Adam and Eve’s sin? Who will bear them up? Who will support them under the weight of this shame and death that they now bear?

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In Genesis 3 we see three things that God does to answer this question. Three things that will give them the hope of life in the midst of death.

Genesis 3:15. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 

First, God promises an offspring of Eve that will crush the offspring of Satan. In the verse above, God is speaking to the Serpent (Satan). One day there will be an epic battle for the souls of mankind. A human offspring will rise up and crush the head of sin and evil. Yes, it will bring a wound (bruise his heal) to this man, but in the end, the man will defeat sin and death. He will put death to death, destroy Satan, and abolish sin. This is hope for life; a great promise that we believe is fulfilled in the life of Christ himself. He is the offspring of Eve who crushed the head of our mortal enemy while being “bruised” on the cross.

Genesis 3:21. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Second, God temporarily covered their shame when he made clothes for them out of animal skins. This, of course, required a blood sacrifice. This sacrifice would prefigure all the blood sacrifices yet to come. The sacrifice of animal blood would allow God to cover humanity’s sin until the ultimate blood sacrifice could be made by Christ on the cross. This too is hope for life.

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Genesis 3:22-24. Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Third, God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden and away from the Tree of Life. But how is this hope for life? If humanity were to take from the Tree of Life they would receive eternal life, but eternal life trapped in a dying self. Before man can have eternal life, he must first have true forgiveness.

At the beginning of this blog post we said someone has to carry our sin in order for there to be forgiveness. Someone has to take sin’s punishment and defeat it. Who will do this? God’s answer is God- Jesus Christ the God-man is that person. He is the new Tree of Life, offering his life and his hope to all who would take and eat.

January 30: The Signs of Death

God made us for life. His very own divine life. But we chose death. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose the Tree of Knowledge and its death over the Tree of Life and its promise of supernatural eternal life. In choosing the Tree of Knowledge Adam and eve rejected God as good. They did, in actuality, gain knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil, but this knowledge immediately revealed their own sinfulness.

Genesis 3:7. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. 

Their eyes were opened.

Opened to what? To sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, their eyes were opened to the force of sin that they had just released onto the world.

You see sin is a real thing. Sin is not just an imaginary concept. It is not only a social construct. It is not just the internal battle between the Id and the Superego. It is an actual reality that is released on the world with rippling effects. It is something that must be carried and absorbed. Carrying our own sin is what we call dying (and someone else carrying our sin is what we call forgiveness). Sin doesn’t just go away. It cannot be ignored. And the only way it can be dealt with is to deal with it’s consequence- death.

And just as God predicted, Adam and Eve immediately began dying. The signs of death become evident right before our eyes, on the pages of Genesis 3.

 

Genesis 3:7. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Shame. Before sin Adam and Eve were naked an unashamed. Now they are naked and ashamed. They no longer see each other as safe. And they don’t see God as safe. They have failed both God and each other. They can feel the reality of sin. It will actually hurt God. God will now suffer because of their act. And that is shameful.

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Genesis 3:8. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Hiding. Adam and Eve try to hide from God. This is a clear sign of spiritual death- a fear of the presence of God.

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Genesis 3;12. The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 

Blame. Rather than carry the sin themselves, they will need to offload it to someone else. Adam targets Eve, and Eve will target the Serpent.

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Do you see these signs of death and dying in your own life? Where do you see shame, hiding from God, and blame? Are you dying or living? Are you imaging God or is that likeness blurred by shame? Are you running to him or running from him? Are you confronting your sin or blaming others? Most importantly, have you allowed Christ to carry your sin and destroy its consequence of death? Have you received his life?

To live is Christ. Without him, we will slowly carry our sin to our grave.

January 29: The Tree of Death

We have said a lot about life so far in our journey together. When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them life- Imaging. Intimacy. Impact. Desire. Working. Protecting. Love. Liberty. Glory.

He also offered them life beyond the biological or natural life that they were created with. This supernatural life was offered through the Tree of Life. In fact, God offered them a choice. They could choose his life through the Tree of Life, or they could choose death through the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Genesis 2:9. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:16-17. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

One tree offers life. The other tree offers death. Having a choice is a sign of life. But the choice itself could kill them.

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Choosing the Tree of Knowledge will separate man from God and from his divine life offered freely by grace. Eating from it will therefore bring death. This would not be immediate natural death. Adam and Eve did not fall over dead as soon as they ate from this tree. In fact, their eyes were opened. They got what they wanted- the ability to determine right from wrong, and of course with this knowledge came the knowledge of their own wrongdoing and thus great shame.

Genesis 3:6-7. 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 its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

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Ironically, in an attempt to know good and evil they missed out on the indwelling goodness of God through his life offered in the Tree of Life. They might know good from evil, but they are not themselves good. They have rejected the very thing that would have made them good and worthy of eternity with God, God’s own goodness. His life. His grace. His free offering was rejected for a works based system of determining right and wrong. Today we call these systems religion. Or law.

And law brings death.

This is what we are all up against. Fighting death. Resisting it. Physically and spiritually. The life our ancestors rejected, the life to be found in the Tree, is still graciously available in the Person.  Jesus is our Tree of Life. He became so on the tree of death. The cross. Are you ready to live from his life? Or do you still need some more time in the system? The system of right and wrong? The system of death?

 

 

 

January 28: Made For Glory

Over the past couple of days we have been focusing on glory. God is glorious and shares that glory with his creation, primarily us. God made us with glory within and for glory to be received.

Psalm 8:5. Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

Exodus 33:18. Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”

To be image bearers, that is, to be alive, means that we have a deep longing for glory. Look at Moses’ prayer above. When God told Moses that he would no longer travel with the Israelites because of their sin, Moses petitioned God and begged for his presence to stay. “Show me your glory!” he cried.

We are meant for God and for his glory. We shrink within ourselves when we don’t have it. We are made to receive his glory and to declare his glory.

1 Chronicles 16:23-24. Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Yes, we are made for glory. In fact, we are glory junkies. Everything we do, we do for glory- to gain it or relive it.

But the life of Christ in us ends the need for recycled glory. We find glory in Christ and in his indwelling life. To live is Christ, therefore to live in Christ is glory. His purpose, his love, his respect, his presence, his acceptance, his accomplishments are all shared with us. He is meaning, purpose, weight, beauty, and significance.

Colossians 1:27. Christ in you the hope of glory.

Over the next couple days we will continue to explore the connection between life, glory, and Christ. And we will jump into Genesis 3 and our fall from glory.

January 27: The Glory of God (part 2)

We can’t understand life without connecting it to glory. And we can’t understand glory without connecting it to God. All glory (weightiness, significance, beauty, meaning) flows from God. God does everything for his own glory.

God created for his own glory.

Psalm 19:1. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

God made mankind for his glory.

Isaiah 43:7. everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

God saves us for his glory.

Ephesians 1:12. so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

But remember, God didn’t create us and save us in order to get glory that he was lacking. He made us and saves us to share the glory that is overflowing from him. He made us to give him glory because that allows us, like him, to share glory in love.

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So remember, that God is a Trinity. This means that the three persons of the Godhead are constantly seeking to glorify the others. God is no egomaniac. Nor is he needy. But as a Trinitarian community, he is constantly seeking the glory of himself as an expression of the love within himself. So the Father glorifies the Son and Spirit. The Son glorifies the Father and Spirit. And the Spirit glorifies the Father and Son.

John 17:1. When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.

(If you have time keep reading John 17; it’s all about the shared glory of the Trinity.)

Jesus came to earth to display the glory of the Trinity. He came to glorify the Father. The greatest display of God’s glory would be seen on the cross. And through the resurrection, he would share that glory with us.

John 17:22. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.

Now we can image the glory of God as was intended since the Garden of Eden. Now we can live in and from glory, because “to live is Christ.”

January 26: The Glory of God (part 1)

Everything we have said so far has been leading up to this topic: glory. And we can’t go any further in trying to understand life or the life of Christ in us without understanding glory. Life is all about glory. Imaging God, working, protecting, intimacy, impact, desire, love, liberty- they are all about glory. Glory within and glory given.

But what is glory? Glory is weightiness, value, significance, beauty. Everything that God created has some degree of glory. This is glory within. The mosquito has glory, but the horse has more. A portrait has glory, but a person has more. We have glory, but God has more.

Glory within flows outward as glory given. Because of God’s overflowing glory within,  he has shared his glory with his creation. And his creation reflects that glory back to God.

Psalm 19:1. The heavens declare the glory of God. 

Psalm 8:1. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

Psalm 8:5-6. Yet you have made man a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hand.

God’s glory is his invisible characteristics- like his holiness and goodness. But God’s glory is also made visible. God’s creation is one of these visible manifestations of his glory. But so is the beauty, radiance, light, color, fire, and angels that surround him at all times.

Isaiah 6:1-3. I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Ezekiel 1:26-28. And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27 And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face.

Revelation 4:3-6. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

To live is to have and share glory, and “to live is Christ.” Christ is the greatest glory in creation. He is creator (glory giver) and creation (glory receiver) and savior (glory sharer). Without him we stumble through life seeking lesser glories that can never satisfy.

Won’t you stay with me over the next few days as we explore God’s glory, our pursuit of glory, and the all encompassing glory of Christ?

 

January 25: What Freedom Isn’t (part 2)

God created us for life, for love, and for liberty. Without freedom we cannot truly love and therefore we cannot truly live. But, as we said yesterday, we must understand what our liberty really is (and isn’t). It isn’t the predominant cultural narrative of the freedom of the self and, as we will see today, it is not the freedom of the American Dream.

America is all about freedom. Freedom is how we define ourselves. We have a Declaration of Independence. We have a statue of liberty. And we even have a big bell.

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But the freedom America offers is actually another form of bondage. Just like most things in life, it offers us a new list of pressures and politics that bind our wills. The freedom of the American Dream enslaves us to this dream. Have you achieved it yet? Why not? The Dream in itself becomes a law that all Americans must live up to.

American freedom is also more directly connected to law keeping. Like Moses who led the Israelites to freedom, and then gave them the law, we too were led to freedom by George Washington and then given a law to follow. The idea of America tells us that we can only be free through the law. The American law is what we believe will produce peace and prosperity. But again, even these things become a law to themselves and produce death in us.

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Now this is not to say that there should be no law, and yes, a civilized society benefits from a just system of laws, and these are a gift from God just like the Mosaic Law was. But no law can bring ultimate freedom. In fact the law always gives way to sin and death.

2 Corinthians 3:6. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

True freedom comes from love, and no law can produce that. But Christ can. And he did. The freedom he offers is not the freedom of the American Dream, nor is it the freedom of the authentic self. It is the true freedom that comes from the death of self and the death to sin. It is the freedom only pure grace can give through a substituted life.