Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 29 December 20:
Genesis 3:1, 4-6 — “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?… You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Adam and Eve knew right from wrong before eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They understood God’s prohibition against eating from the tree and that obeying God was good and disobeying Him was bad. God gave them this prohibition personally and also explained the consequences of disobedience, which was death. (Gen. 2:16–17) The only knowledge Adam and Eve lacked was practical knowledge of evil – they had never experienced it because they had never disobeyed God.
Adam and Eve didn’t really have a knowledge problem, they had a heart problem, a love problem, and a pride problem. They knew God’s command, but they didn’t really care so they looked for a reason to justify disobedience. To justify their sin, Adam and Eve (cajoled by the serpent) did the unthinkable – they questioned God’s character, His motives, and His integrity — “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4, 5)
Eating the fruit of the tree was a choice to defy God, to challenge His authority, and to become an independent, self-serving decision-maker seeking self-determination apart from the will of God. (See Proverbs 1:29-32) This was no small mistake, it was direct rebellion against the Almighty and rejection of His perfect love and will. This was a rejection of God Himself. This was cosmic treason. Jesus explains later that all sins, even the seemingly insignificant ones, render us guilty of the greatest sin of all, failing to honor God as Lord and to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 5 and Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)
There is no small bite of the apple. We marginalize sin because we first marginalize God. We justify our sin by rejecting the justice of God, just as Adam and Eve did in the garden. We play sea lawyer with God’s word and create for ourselves loopholes and caveats for disobedience which don’t really exist. The more we stretch God’s word to suit our desires, the more complicated and ‘sophisticated’ we claim our theology to be – “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?” (Ezekiel 34:18, 19)
Then, when we take a bite of the fruit and experience the consequences of sin, we make excuses, claiming ignorance, blaming others (Genesis 3:12, 13), even blaming God – “The woman you gave to be with me…gave me the fruit.” Armed with our excuses, we rationalize (rational lies) our behavior, and we presume upon God’s mercy and grace – “I’m really not that bad…. My sin is really no big deal…. God must understand and forgive.”
When we marginalize God and marginalize sin, we also marginalize His grace through Christ’s blood – The Good News no longer seems all that good, perhaps even irrelevant. Only when we appreciate the wages of sin can we appreciate the riches of Christ. “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29)
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) The first step to reconciliation with God is respecting Him as God and seeing Him first as “Holy, Holy, Holy.” (Isaiah 6:3) As Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7). Proverbs 1:29 says this is a conscience choice.
The next step is to see our sin as God sees it, to be overwhelmed by the grief of it, to truly mourn over it, and to repent of it. (see Matthew 5:3, 4 and Matthew 3:2-8). Only then are we in a position to be truly ‘Amazed by Grace,’ as described in the old familiar hymn.
- Matthew 5:3-4 — Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- Matthew 4:17 — From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
- Acts 2:38 — And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- 1 John 1:9- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The next step is to receive and enter into God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not through effort or ‘good deeds’ but through faith in Him and Him alone for our salvation. The only thing more shocking than our sin is God’s imaginable love and forgiveness — “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) Sin defiled God’s “good” creation, and brought mankind spiritual, eternal death and separation for God. In Christ however, we have New Life, we are redeemed, and through Christ we are restored to a ‘right’ (righteous) relationship with God:
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
- Romans 5:17, 19 — For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ…. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
- Romans 8:1 — There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- John 1:12-13 — But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Now this is the kind of Good News that, when fully appreciated, should cause us to shout with joy from the rooftops! What we do with the Gospel reveals how much we really value it. Who we share it with reveals how much we really love God and others (The Great Commandment).
Yesterday, we saw that, before the fall, God made mankind His stewards or managers of His physical creation. In Christ we have been given a new stewardship of His Gospel. We have been entrusted with His message of reconciliation. This is our primary mission. How are you doing? If you are not having trouble containing your excitement about the Gospel, and if you aren’t overcome with a sense of urgency to share it with others, pray to God to give you a fresh perspective.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19 — All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
- 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2 — This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
- 1 Peter 4:10 — As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace….
- 1 Corinthians 9:17 — For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.
- Colossians 1:25 — of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,
- 1 Timothy 1:4 — nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’” (Matthew 2:1-2) “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” (Matthew 2:3, 4)
We are called and should be compelled by love to share the Gospel with as many as possible, but Jesus warned us many won’t see the Good News as good at all but rather as a threat to their imaginary sovereignty over their lives – “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:17) In Matthew we see two responses to Jesus by two groups of people, the wisemen and Herod with his priests and scribes. Both groups knew about Jesus and who He was, but one group sought to worship Him and the other sought to destroy Him. Everyone will choose for themselves whether or not to follow Jesus and whether to seek first the Kingdom of God or to pursue their own kingdoms on earth. Choosing not to decide is still a choice.
Jesus said those who truly love Him will love their enemies. (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27) Jesus called us to share the Gospel with our enemies, knowing we would face persecution in the process – “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (Luke 10:3) “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) Who do you need to share the Gospel with today?
- Romans 1:16 — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4 –For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures
- 2 Timothy 1:8-14 — Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 Dec 20: Make your New Year’s resolution to share the Gospel with others “as of first importance.” (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4)