In the Beginning (Coming Home Part 2)
This is Part 2 of a 4 Part series, Coming Home – An Essay on How to Relate to God.
In the beginning…
In the early pages of the Bible, we get a glimpse of what it was like at the beginning, when Adam, the first man, walked in intimate fellowship with God. Their relationship was one of trust, delight, openness, respect and admiration. Work was different from today, with Adam tenderly and lovingly caring for God’s creation. It was productive and satisfying, completely free from stress, anxiety, corruption or ethical lapses.
But sadly, paradise was short-lived. The impact of what happened has touched the lives of each of us.
The biblical account goes on to tell us that mankind inherited a fatal defect when Adam gave in to temptation and rebelled against God. At the heart of his rebellion was Adam’s choice to walk independently from God, rather than in the open, dependent relationship he had initially. The intimate bond was fractured. From that point, beginning with Adam and Eve’s own children, man’s nature was ruled by violence, greed, jealousy, hatred and rebellion. The Bible calls this sin. Its result: death.
The Old Testament is an account of man’s struggle against sin and its consequences. God established temporary methods to cover for this now-fallen nature, but these methods did nothing to change that nature. It remained the same. Nor has it been improved by the passage of time, or increasing education, or scientific discovery or economic prosperity. Man’s basic, or “fallen” nature is unaltered from the time of Adam.
First clues concerning the remedy
Shortly after sin entered the human race through Adam, God foretold the coming of One who would remedy the fatal defect. He then identified a people group, the Hebrews, as the family from whom this person would come. Over hundreds of years, Hebrew prophets gave insight into the One who would restore the fractured relationship.
Then, a unique prophet named John was born. He sounded forth a call urging people to change the way they were living (repent) and to receive forgiveness for their sins. By the thousands, people responded and were baptized as evidence they had turned away from their defiled way of living. John came to prepare the way for the One who would complete the task. He took people as far as he could, but clearly stated that at God’s initiative, One would come after him Who would go to the root of the problem, the sin nature itself.
When people repented for their wrongful way of life, their hearts were prepared to deal with sin, the underlying problem. The true significance of Jesus – the One who was God’s perfect representative in human form – is that he, and he alone, had the credentials to deal with the root.
Jesus was like Adam in certain ways. Both men were born free from the defect of sin. Both were tempted and capable of falling into sin. But here the two took radically different directions. While Adam succumbed to temptation, Jesus did not. He led a perfect life, serving as an impeccable example of how man should live.
So steadfast and pure was Jesus’ attitude, character and conduct that he went to his death completely free from sin. Because of this he qualified as “the perfect sacrifice for sin.” When Jesus’ blood was shed in that agonizing and humiliating death by crucifixion, or being nailed to a cross – normally a death allotted to common criminals – he satisfied God’s requirement for a complete and permanent sacrifice for sin!
On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” He wasn’t referring to his life only, but to the problem of sin. Jesus had become God’s remedy.
Jesus was then raised from death and reunited with God, his father, who bestowed on his son the supreme high honor of headship over everything on earth and in heaven. Jesus was made both Lord and Christ – positions he holds today. “Lord” refers to his rulership. “Christ” refers to his capacity to save. He and he alone became the savior of mankind.
Bridging the chasm
Maybe it’s the engineer in me, but a concept I’ve found helpful is this: Adam’s fall resulted in a wide separation between us and God. (I picture a formidable gorge, or chasm – the kind that pioneers faced in their westward pilgrimage across the U.S.)
The Old Testament people looked longingly toward the land beyond the chasm, but couldn’t get there. Then God sent his son Jesus as a bridge to the other side. Through Jesus’ obedience the mission was accomplished, and for the first time the way was opened for every person to leave their past, cross over and be reunited with the Father.
The implications for us
Jesus, as savior, has as his highest priority to draw all men and women, young and old, to himself. He intensely loves us and wants us to be complete in our relationship with Him and with his father, God. But he cannot do it apart from our acknowledging and working through the sin issue, for sin forms the chasm that separates us from God.
To deal with sin – or to complete the “transaction” I mentioned earlier in the business analogy – one needs to make a straightforward, yet life-changing decision. It is to ask forgiveness for our sin, and surrender to Jesus, the Lord. When a person yields to Jesus, God responds in the most intimate way – by literally and completely releasing us from sin – the root of the problem. Jesus becomes my Lord, my savior.
By surrendering to Jesus, we cross over the bridge. Sin no longer separates us from God. This is described by the Apostle Paul, an early convert to Christianity and proclaimer of truth about Jesus. “He (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of the Son (Jesus).” Thus a complete change of residency occurs! We come home spiritually.
Not only is the person who comes to Jesus in this way freed from sin, but that person also receives a new nature – the nature of Jesus himself. Again to quote the Apostle Paul, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
In reality, we have experienced a second birth. The first was a natural birth, which came with a fallen nature. The second is a spiritual birth, free of this basic defect. It is a brand new start. We become a new person!