Sunday, March 25, 2012

Two Trees

Two trees.
I have to admit, when I saw the title of this sermon, I thought... yeah... okay. I mean, exactly what can be preached about the trees in the Garden of Eden? We all know the story, right? God told Adam and Eve they could eat from any tree, except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They ate, they died, they left.

However, something interesting was brought out in this particular teaching. Do you realize that God never told them they couldn't eat from the Tree of Life? There were two trees, indeed, as well as dozens of other trees and herb bearing plant. Vegetarian's delight, I'd imagine. The only tree they could not eat was the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So, can we safely presume that they ate of the Tree of Life? Might that explain why they lived to be 900+ years old? Each generation after them lived less and less, until by the time Samuel was conceived, his mom was just a regular aged lady.

I have to admit, with these studies underway, I find myself intrigued about the Creation story. Can you imagine a garden with all the wonderful fruit trees? Absolutely no sand spurs? Imagine the floral fragrance. Imagine the bees buzzing around. Heavenly! I wonder what the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil looked like? According to Eve, it was pretty to look at, the fruit looked delicious (how'd she know it was good for food? She'd not eaten of it at this point??) and a tree to be desired to make one wise. Ahhhh.... there's the downfall. The other trees in the garden were just beautiful and delicious. This particular one had the power to make one wise (not really--it was the tree of knowledge, not the tree of wisdom). Hence the temptation.

Once Adam and Eve took that fatal bite, there was no going back. Have you ever done something, that the moment you did or said it, you wished with all your heart you could undo the damage? I'm betting that's what Eve felt. However, nothing she could do could erase the fact that she'd just killed her husband and herself, and consequently, all her children after her. Even though God banned them from the garden, as well as the Tree of Life, He still had mercy on them. Even though they now knew they were naked, and it was their own fault, God didn't leave them there in that condition. No, He made some clothes for them from animal skins. He could have done like so many of us have done, "Well, serves you right! You made the choice, live with it!" But God isn't like us, thankfully. He sees right through our pretentious life and sees our nakedness, our wretchedness. The animal skins covered their shame, but on this side of the Cross, in the New Covenant, our shame has been not covered, but taken away.
Why was this done?
Simple. God loves you.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Why the anger towards New Covenant?

I have to admit, I've been pondering this question for a few days. I heard a minister ponder this, as well. The New Covenant is God reaching down to man, and taking the burden of proof off of us. Because of love, God reconciled the whole world to Himself through Jesus' sacrifice. Love. The thing that motivates God to do everything He does. Why the anger when we read about God reconciling us to Himself, not counting our sins against us?

Could it be pride?

Is the reason we get our feathers ruffled, because we're thinking that "they" (they being the ones who sin 'more' than us) gets a free pass just like us? Do we get miffed, thinking we had to work for God's grace, but others didn't? How dare God love Hitler with the same intensity that He loves Billy Graham! Where's the justice?

What about Eternal security? Why does this get the charismatic community riled up? What is the reason to get mad when, out of love, God sends the Holy Spirit to live in us, when we come to Him by faith?

Could it be pride (again?)

There's a doctrine that states God forgives our past sins when we come to him for salvation, but then it's up to us to keep ourselves forgiven. I bought into that as a young child. After all, Christians are supposed to be 'good' people, right?

Ahhhh, therein lies my mistake. The Christian life is often taught as a good versus bad kind of thing. If this is our understanding of the Christian life, we've missed the boat. Sure we could live like the devil, but there's a clincher--if we are indeed God's, then the Holy Spirit lives in us. He's just not lying dormant in our souls, awaiting our arrival to heaven, but rather, He's working His will in us. Before the Holy Spirit came to live in us, we were dead to God. Christ came to give us life, and life more abundantly; compare this to "Christ came to help us behave better"  Anyone, with enough discipline, can learn to behave. There are a few people I know who are very moral, to the point of someone mentioning "What a fine Christian he is!" Only to find out that the person didn't believe in the existence of God. Yet, he was a moral, upstanding individual in his community.

When a person comes to accept Christ, something happens at that very point. The Holy Spirit resides within. He's not just visiting, but He's living. Because the Holy Spirit lives, we live. To not have the Spirit is to be dead. An empty body, at best. The body functions, walks and talks and eats, but no Life is within. It is this Life, the Holy Spirit, the Grace of God, that teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness. Yes, we'll find ourselves entangled in sins' snares at times, but we won't be left there. The Holy spirit urges us on to live peacefully with our neighbors, and to love others as God has loved us.

Have you noticed that no one time have the "Ten Commandments" been mentioned? We're motivated by love; and not by fear. Sometimes, however, due to erroneous teaching, sincere Christians get mixed up and feel that we need the Ten Commandments to be our guide. If we have to depend on the Ten Commandments to be our guide, then we're basically telling the Holy Spirit that He's doing a cruddy job, and is not able to carry out His work in us, unless the the Laws engraved on stone, are part of the deal.

Are there people who joyfully embrace Grace as a license to sin?  Sadly, yes.  "It doesn't matter what we do, because we're under Grace, not Law". But I implore you, gentle reader, do not paint us all with the same brush. If people will stop jumping to conclusions, you'll find that some people are allowing Grace to work in their lives and are learning to say, 'No!" to ungodliness. You'll find that some people actually take it to heart where the Apostle Paul implores people to not use their freedom to gratify the flesh, but rather,  to serve one another humbly with love.

So, I ask you, now that you know a little more about living in God's grace, do you still find it offensive?