Erasing Makes A Mess

I worked for an unscrupulous manager when I was growing up.  He would fill out the schedule in pencil and, when it suited him the most, he would erase time slots and fill it out again.  Thankfully, the GM was smart, and when I showed him the faint outline left by the erasing it was obvious that the data was altered.

I used to use erasable ink pens until I learned that no amount of swiping would make the surface completely clean.  Maybe technology has changed, but when I was a child, writing something in an erasable format was like putting something on the internet… there was no way to get rid of it.  Like a dirty chalkboard, you can make out bits and pieces of what was previously documented there.

This is why I’m thankful that Jesus didn’t erase our sins.  He took them.  If He had just forgiven us, there would still be a remnant or stain.  And in our minds we would know what we have done.  It’s hard to live through guilt.  Jesus took our sins.  More specifically, He bought them.  They had a price and we couldn’t afford it.  Jesus stepped in and heaped them all on Himself in our place.

I know a lot of people who won’t begin or further a relationship with Jesus because of their past.  They feel that God is all powerful, but He can’t forgive them.  They think that they have messed up too many times.  They use phrases like too much, too late, or too hard.  The gift we have been given pretty much means that we don’t have a past anymore.  We only have a future.

Jesus found a way so that when someone comes along and scratches the surface of our lives, they don’t find the person we used to be.  That person is gone. We are new with Christ.  That doesn’t just mean we act different, it means we ARE different.  We have a full new history of grace, forgiveness, and salvation.

Satan would have you believe that if someone comes along, they can perform that trick the detectives use on TV shows with a pencil on a post it note to uncover your secrets.  God’s truth is that you have no secrets… His Son paid for them all.  The temptation is to retreat in your sin.  The gift is that you have no sin.  Not if you accept the gift of Christ crucified and live in a relationship with Him.  So please allow me to encourage you to stop letting your sin keep you from Christ, when it is Christ who keeps your sin from you.  Stop trying to erase the sin, when He will fully take it all.

IMG_1922

Advertisements

God’s Work During ‘the Fall’

 

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image” – Gen 1:26

We are made in the image of God.  That thought alone should spawn hours of reflection.  I would like to offer that we are capable of one thing that God is not… sin.  And God, is of course, capable of some things we are not.  Most suitable to this discussion… forgiveness.  True forgiveness where the price is paid and the slate is washed clean.  The type of forgiveness where it never happened.  Too often we read into how forgiving God is, and only come out with how sinful we are.  And this may be why God reminds right off the bat, where we come from.

Satan would tell us we come from dirt and used bones.  God’s word says we come from God and the breath of God breathed into us and gave us life.  And thus we have the devil.  Half truths, lies, manipulated context.  So effective at deceit he started the fall of mankind.  I tend to read quickly past the fall as its clearly not man’s most shining moment.  Similar to the story of Noah where God is so upset He regrets ever making us and claims we have nothing but evil in our hearts.

Yet there is hope for every one of us, and if any part of the Bible teaches us this hope, I think where it all began does it the best.

So the Lord God said to the serpent… – Gen 3:4

To the woman he said… – Gen 3:16

To Adam he said… – Gen 3:17

First we get an unintentionally comical scenario where God shows up on the scene after things got out of hand.  Immediately 3 hands shoot out from their respective sides and illuminate blame to an opposing party.  Satan nodded at man who had the core just under his feet.

The man spits out quicker than his tongue can handle that the woman was to blame for she offered it.  Shaking off tree leaves and apple stems she yells that the ‘snake’ put her up to it.  How would this play out in people’s court?  God has His own way of justice.  All of them were guilty.  Three crimes had been committed, all of them against God.  God dealt with them swiftly, yet justly.  God was with them when they didn’t see Him and He knew how to respond to their action.

Even though they walked and talked with God, they assumed He had His back turned.  We know better.  We have the opportunity to live knowing God is a part of every moment of our lives.  He breathed into us life, and He is a part of our every breath.  Live like He is with you, you will be judged and rewarded based on that.

 

they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” – Gen 3:8

“Who told you that you were naked? Gen 3:11

“Where is your brother Abel?” Gen 4:9

After each sin, God asked them about it.  Parents likely already know the reasoning.  God clearly knew the answers to His questions, yet He asked anyway.  This is where we get Cain’s famous response, “Am I my brothers keeper?!!”.  You have likely seen internet memes expressing innocence over obvious guilt.

explode

While we can laugh at the absurdity, consider God’s point of view.  And just like a good parent, He withholds summary until each party has a chance to speak.  Each one blaming, lying, making excuses, and when He has heard enough, He passes judgement.  You notice no words are recorded of the event after God starts talking?  Not until after they are out of the Garden and officially living, post Eden?

I like to ponder the why of that as well.  My current best guess is that we get a chance to come clean, one chance.  I know many parents who dole out weaker punishments when the truth is told up front.  After all, we are made in the image of God.  What do you think?

“With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Gen 4:1

Here we have Eve commenting on the birth of Cain.  This is the very first story we get after they are kicked out of the garden.  And remember, painful child birth just happened to be her punishment.  What is her response to exile and pain?  Praising and thanking God, of course.  Because God’s punishment was just and because He still loves mankind unconditionally, He is able to see past the mistakes.  Outside of the garden, life went on.  Just because we see Eve as the ruin-er of all good things, doesn’t mean that God does.  He lovingly created her.  And He wants her to be happy.

We see that back in the creation story when God did all that He did in the garden.  Beautiful trees, ample food, diverse creatures, and finally woman… all for Adam’s delight.  That feeling of love, protection, and comfort didn’t end with a mistake.  All it did was set in motion the next plan to save humanity.  Once you grasp your mind around what God does for us, how He made us, and how much He loves us… it’s easy to see how Eve is able to praise God for a painful experience outside of the safety of the garden.

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear”. Gen 4:13

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. Gen 4:15

In the actual process of casting punishment against Cain, Cain speaks up.  God responds in a way that should shock most of us.  He is, of course, speaking to an angry God, after just committing the worlds most gruesome crime to date.  God hears his concern and counters the murderer’s concern with a mark.  The mark promises that Cain goes unpunished by the rest of the world.   This tells me two things.  First, God’s punishment is more about discipline.  The root of that word is to disciple.  He isn’t interested in exacting vengeance, it’s about lovingly teaching and molding His people.

He could have just killed Cain, but He chose not to.  He could have allowed the world to enact their own justice, but He forbade that.  And that brings me to the second point.  God’s judgement… is enough.  The world has no place butting in and passing their own rulings along the way.  This fits nicely with the very straight forward scripture that says, “do not judge”.  The world does not need another judge.  The world needs God’s love.

What does God ask us to give, spread, and share?  Love.  It’s the greatest command.  Does God, anywhere in the Bible ask us to help Him bring about justice in the world?  nope.  But He does, on many, many occasions tell us that the key to all of life is to love EVERYONE.  I think we can see that here when God so graciously marked Cain to keep the nosy, holier-than-thou’s away from him.

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. Gen 4:4-5

God has personal opinions and choices of His own.  He preferred Able’s offering to Cain’s.  Cain was not wrong in His offering, but God liked the other better.  We truly are made in His image.  We often beat ourselves up over choices when God ultimately leaves it up to us to decide.  God isn’t a vegetarian.  That doesn’t make Cain a sinner.  It just means He preferred the meats.  Whether you choose dancing, singing, poetry, mechanic, uber driver, etc, etc, etc.  You aren’t wrong.  As long as you obey the laws where the laws are at.

The next verse quickly explains that Cain has His reward for doing what is right.  But Cain was jealous because Able pleased God’s senses as well as His will.  The litmus test isn’t where, when, who, or how.  It’s about obeying God.  And we can do that in almost any locale, with almost anyone, etc.

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.  Gen3:7

The final definition of choice.  Sin desires us.  We forget spiritual warfare is so real.  It’s not a sin to be a vegetarian.  It’s a sin to kill others who aren’t.  And when we make those choices… we let sin win.  Sin isn’t a bench warmer.  It isn’t a spectator.  It’s the main event.  If the most devastating opponent and we must give it the respect it deserves.  When we give in… it gets us.  We are the reward to evil when we don’t rule over it properly.

So there we have the fall of man.  Just a few verses, often summarized as a single act that engaged God’s boot to swiftly kick us out of the garden.  Yet if we pause on each verse we see a loving Father preparing those ‘in trouble’ for the next phase of life.  (and aren’t we all ‘in trouble’?)

Opting out of Grace does not Mean God Can’t Forgive

There are frequently two incorrect assumptions many assign to God.

1.  I’m not good enough.

2.  My sin is too great.

First, you may notice I said we assign those assumptions to God.  That was not a typo.  We may be sulking in our own history of mistakes, but we are effectively saying, “I have dug a hole so big even God can’t reach me!”

Do you really believe that is possible?  Are we so great that our mishaps can limit our creator?

Secondly, lets revisit what God did to forgive our sins.  He let His Son live a homeless, nomadic life on earth, allowed him to be mocked, tortured, and killed, and put all of our sins on Him in our place.  Do we really believe that after all of that, His plan to save US had a flaw?  Are we so clever we found a loophole?

When you claim your sins are too big, you are also saying God is too small.  And incidentally, you are kind of saying the whole death on a cross thing was a bit of a dud.   Equally so, if we assume our merit, in any way, affects God’s relationship with us, we have a gross misunderstanding of God’s plan from the beginning.  Jesus came to save the sinner… of which we all are.

We cloak our statements so it sounds like we are so bad and unworthy…. but what we are really saying is that God can’t.  Or God won’t.  That line of thinking has a problem with tense.  God did!  It’s already done. The price has already been paid.  To know that Jesus already died for your sins and then to believe you are exempt from that salvation is to call God’s plan a failure.  You think you are saying, “no, I failed… ME!”  but that is exactly why you have been forgiven… because we all fail.  We all seek forgiveness… and God will give that grace-filled forgiveness to any and all who ask sincerely.

Why would He go through the agony of letting His Son die…  Why would Jesus go through the whole of it… if it wasn’t a complete package deal?  Did God tell Him, “sorry, Son, the liars and thieves can be saved but the adulterers and murderers are on their own?  No.

No matter how sick, how disgusting, how repulsive you find yourself… Jesus bought those attributes from you.  There might be something holding you back or keeping you from letting go of those sins… but nothing held Jesus back from dying for them.

So instead of shrugging off your Savior and condemning yourself… try asking for a little grace.  Grace is that thing that NONE of us deserves, but He gives it to us anyway because He loves us.  You don’t require MORE grace than anyone else.  We all need grace.  And to all who ask, all will receive.

One final reminder… One of Satan’s biggest lies is in the mirror.  Its how we perceive ourselves.  God loves us and wants us to be with Him.  He payed dearly so we could be with Him.  If you are feeling unwanted, useless, unworthy, or unloved… you are being deceived.  God follows His own commands, of which the greatest is, to love all.

Here is the sad summary… you can choose not to accept grace.  Many do.  But it isn’t because it wasn’t offered.  Can you get so hungry that food won’t help?  Can you get so thirsty that water won’t work?  Can you be so poor that you turn down money because it will just make things worse?  I hope those all sound ridiculous to you.  Because it seems quite silly to God that you would find yourself in a predicament that He can’t solve or forgive.