Six things, lost in the garden but regained in Christ
|As I am new to the Writing.com format, please feel free to make comments on the formatting of this piece . . . love to all - Dr. Jay
LOST AND FOUND . . .
Gifts of God
Lost in the Garden,
Regained in Christ.
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be
pities more than all men. But Christ has indeed been
raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have
fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the
resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For
as in Adam all die so in Christ all will be made alive.
(1 Corinthians 15: 19 - 22)
Two men -separated by hundreds of years and millions of lives- as different as life and death themselves, yet no man ever lived without being touched intimately by both. The first man, created by the second, rushed headlong into death in a vain attempt to become what only the second could be. The second ran heart-strong into life by emptying Himself and taking on the form of the first. One sampled forbidden fruit, finding only the rancid taste of death. The other gave Himself over to death and purchased, forever, the sweet taste of eternity.
In this short collection of articles, we will take a look at several things lost in the Garden -at a time many people call the “fall of man.” It was a time when Adam and Eve, God’s perfect creation, were forced to give up the joys of paradise. It was also a time when God, in His ultimate wisdom and mercy, set bout through Jesus to give back the things that were lost and to add to them all the joys of Heaven.
PART ONE - LOST, THE TREASURE OF TOTAL TRUTH
The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals
the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God
really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the
trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit
from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must
not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not surely die,”
the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you
eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,
knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the
tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable
for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave
some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Of all things lost on that dreadful day, perhaps none have been so hard to regain as truth. Maybe it’s because truth takes so much time. Facts must be investigated and proven; thesis and theory, trial and error, conclusions set in concrete. Opinions, on the other hand, are much easier to find.
I still remember - from my formative years- the old Art Linkletter Show. Since I was a child myself, my favorite guests were always the children. In a segment called “Kids Say The Darndest Things”, (I could watch it, but if I said the title out loud, my Mom would probably wash my mouth out with soap...in fact, if she reads this chapter...) a group of youngsters were asked to explain some unexplainable idea or comment on some question of the universe clearly out of range for someone of their years and experience. The answers were often funny, sometimes sad and , now and then, full of uncommon insight. Of course, more than anything else, they were WRONG!
That was OK. No one expected them to know the answers. These weren’t world authorities. They were grammar school kids looking at the world through grammar school glasses. But that was years ago.
By now, those “kids” have kids of their own. Grammar school glasses have long since been traded for college degrees and grown up jobs. Did they ever find the answers they -and Mr. Linkletter- sought? Call me a pessimist, but I doubt if they have.
One of life’s little constants seems to be that no one ever has all the answers. As for me, I stand with those who have forgotten most of the questions. Fortunately (?) there are always plenty of people willing to help me remember my lack. People I don’t even know keep offering answers to questions I never knew I had. Maybe you recognize the feeling. Adam sure did!
Even in the original garden experience, there were more than enough bearers of bad advice. In fact, they fell into many of the same categories as do their modern day counterparts. We’ve all met someone like them; but please allow me to reintroduce just a few.
The Expert Salesman . . .
Some people have only two sure goals in life: to convince us of our problems and sell us on a cure. We all know them:
Snake oil salesman:
People pushing products that don’t perform.
Prophets of doom and gloom;
Warning us to change our personal hygiene
before it’s eternally too late.
The garden had its own version of the “expert salesman”...Satan in a snakeskin suit (I wonder if his boots were genuine cobra). You might call him the original King of the Commercial. Jesus calls him the Father of all Lies (John 8: 44 - 45); but no matter what you call him, he pulled off the greatest hoax in history. He got his foot in the door of a garden of pure perfection and sold the cure of death to a people who had no pain. “How could this be?” you ask in amazement.
The first order of business was to convince Eve of her deep and abiding - though totally unknown- need. This he accomplished by suggesting that being made “in the image of God” was, at best, a second rate experience. To be truly happy, Eve must become “as God.”
Sure, it was a lame argument. None of us would have dialed the toll free number on our screen or given out our credit card information over the phone; but Eve had never met a salesman before. (My wife and I own a beautiful set of encyclopedias, bought very early in our marriage, from a man I’m sure was wearing cobra skin boots). By the time Satan finished his pitch, Eve was convinced of two things: God was holding out, and she was missing out. By then, selling the “cure” was a cinch.
All that was needed to undo the injustice and remedy Eve’s purported problem was a bit of beautiful fruit. And SURPRISE! it just happened to be on sale.
It looked good. It tasted good (a trait for which remedies are not usually known). It was good to make one wise. And, just think, it had been hanging there all along; waiting for someone to come and enjoy. (Satan did everything short of sticking a tag on the fruit that read “99% Fat Free”).
To make a long story short, Satan put the bite on Eve... Eve put the bite on the fruit; and the King of Commercials went home with his pockets full of new found pride and power. Meanwhile, back in the Garden, Adam was coming face to face with his very own bearer of bad advice.
Family . . .
Ever notice how many members of a family tend to have a lot in common? Not just genetic things like blue eyes and knobby knees; but very visible spiritual traits as well. When you spend as much time together as families do, you can’t help developing some of the same attitudes and habits. That is, if you know what’s good for you.
In most families - and among many close friends- there exists a certain unwritten law we’ll call the “Be Like Me” Syndrome. It is one of the ways people learn what to do (and not to do) in order to get along with everyone else in the house, group, society, or situation. It goes something like this:
I like me.
I like the things I do.
If you learn to be like me,
I might learn to like you, too.
Sometimes the “Be Like Me” Syndrome can have a very positive effect. Children learn right from wrong. Brothers and sisters learn how to get along with the rest of the world by learning how to get along with each other. Good role models breed good behavior in those they encourage to “Be Like Me.” In face, the Apostle Paul uses something like the syndrome when he encourages the church in Corinth to “imitate” his lifestyle in Jesus:
Even though you have ten thousand guardians in
Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ
Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
(1 Corinthians 4: 15 - 16)
Paul knows that his relationship with God is firm and unwavering. It just stands to reason, if the Corinthian church will do as he does, they can enjoy the same kind of relationship. Unfortunately, along with a great potential for good, the call to “Be Like Me” can often result in disaster.
From birth, children are accused of being just like their parents; and quite often, these accusations are true - for better or worse. Experience has taught us that abusive parents tend to raise abusive children. Alcoholics (perhaps for genetic reasons) tend to raise alcoholics; and most of us have seen the ad campaign that proclaims “Parents who use drugs have children who use drugs.”
It’s easy to see, while it is possible, family traditions and expectations don’t always make it easier to be obedient to God. Too often, young people are forced to choose between loyalty to the family group and a strong desire to serve the Creator.
Some have left home and family for God’s sake. They take Jesus at His word when He said,
“if anyone comes to me and does not hate (love less) his
father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters,
even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine. No one who
does not carry his cross and come with me can be a disciple
of mine. (Luke 14: 26 - 27)
Still others have been disowned by parents and family members who cannot understand or accept their desire to serve God. Unfortunately, though, far too many give in to the “Be Like Me” mentality of the family group and, by doing so, cast aside the opportunity to become a part of a much greater family unit; The Family Of God.
Friends . . .
I once received a colorful key chain inscribed with the words “Friends are the Family You Make for Yourself.” It reminded me of something Solomon said in Proverbs 18 about a friend that sticks closer than a brother (God grant us more friends like that)! It also reminded me of the powerful Be Like Me(s) of friendship.
Jr. High is one of the most wonderful (and most frustrating) times for our children. After years of simplicity and play, the bodies they thought they could always trust seem to take on a mind of their own. Even the most gifted and physically attractive teens can lose themselves in the confusion. In a effort to regain a sense of self confidence, they will often fall into line with ways of thinking, acting, talking, and dressing they would never have chosen had the hormones not come home to roost.
Oddly enough, while these young people are struggling to find themselves, they often form some of the greatest friendships of their lives. Others who are fighting the same battles answer their need for acceptance. Often, this can be the most difficult time in life for their parents. At a time when they can sense the frustration and longing in their children’s lives, their advice (no matter how tenderly it may be given) is often passed over for the infinitely more up-to-date views of a twelve-year-old, blue-eyed blonde.
The Jr. High crowd isn’t the only group that suffers from the Be Like Me(s) of friendship. And, as we get older, the stakes tend to get higher.
“Pete” and “Repeat” have been friends most of their adult lives. Actually, somewhere along the way, they ceased being merely friends and became brothers instead; and like real brothers, they’ve had their ups and downs.
For the most part, the fellowship has been spiritually uplifting for both of them. Through bad grades, bad economic times, and bad relationships, they hold on to grace and faith; and the Lord remains the center point of their relationship.
There have been times, though, when the dreaded syndrome has gotten the best of Pete and Repeat. As two young men with plenty of time and no particular place to be, they are often faced with the challenge of creating their own fun. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes they don’t.
Pete tells of a time when the search for something new led him and Repeat to a place known affectionately as the “Old Lone Star Drive-In.” Unfortunately, the Lone Star had only one claim to fame: it showed XXX (yes, that’s the dreaded triple X) movies.
Along the way, Pete stopped to pick up some dinner at one of the fine local establishments. Then, food in hand, they drove maturely through the gate. They were REAL MEN! Mature Adults! Great food, good friends, and fine entertainment; “It just doesn’t get any better than this!” At least that’s the way they felt going in.
The feelings of triumph were short lived. The filth on the screen took very little time to rearrange their thinking. In fact, Pete said “By the time we finished our drive through fish and chips, we’d had all we could stand... it felt like a lifetime.”
Needless to say, they looked at things a bit differently as they drove out of the Drive-In. They weren’t REAL MEN! Not Mature Adults! Just two more friends who paid good money for bad entertainment so they could “Be Like Me.”
Meanwhile, Back in the Garden . . .
Unfortunately for Adam, the woman that approached him that day in the garden held all the influence of both family and friends. Tell the truth; did the Be-Like-Me Syndrome ever find a stronger spokesperson than a spouse? Who else knows all the right buttons to push? Who else has so many opportunities to practice?
God didn’t choose to give us the details of any conversation that might have taken place between Adam and Eve; Just the facts. “Eve gave the fruit to her husband with her and he did eat.”
Oh Adam! This may have been the only time in history when the Jr. High Battle Cry (Everybody’s doing it”) held some weight.
His family said, “Be Like Me”
His Best Friend said, “Be Like Me”
...And he did eat.
FOUND - FREEDOM, TRUTH, and THE LAMB OF GOD
As a young boy, I developed the detestable habit of lying. Mind you, these were no run of the mill “little white” fiblets; nor did they only occur now and then. These were Texas-sized, barnburner, “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire” type lies.
My all-time favorite lie was one I told often to family and friends. I told them I had lived in Hawaii before I was born. I would go into great detail about my tropical, prenatal paradise. Although I have repented of the lie, I still dream of visiting the “shores of home” some day.
My Dad (often referred to as Solomon by my friends) coined a semi- famous proverb on the subject. “Son,” he said, “You’d rather climb a tree and tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth.” I didn’t completely understand his point; but I was sure it wasn’t a compliment. So, with a great deal of effort, lies became less and less a part of my conversation. Two passages from the New Testament (Both more easily understood than “Solomon’s” proverb) helped me learn to avoid and detest untruth in any form or degree:
When Satan lies, he speaks his native language (Jn. 8:44).
All liars will have their place in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone
Of course, all people who give bad advice should not be tagged as liars. Many are simply misinformed. While sincerely seeking the truth, many of us have been taken in by the Devil’s diversions. The name Saul of Tarsus (Paul the Apostle to you and me) comes to mind. What a misguided man he turned out to be. Misguided, that is, until one special day on the Damascus road when Saul came face to face with the truth.
As (Saul) neared Damascus on his journey,
Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around
him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice
say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied,
“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told
what you must do (Acts 9: 3- 6).”
The blinding vision that drove Saul to his knees that day was not some watered down, reconstituted version of truth; this was the “Truth Become Flesh.” This was the God/Man; so totally enlivened by truth that He was able to boldly tell His Apostles, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). Jesus is total truth.
On that bleak and dreary day in the garden, an utter lie in the form of a serpent brought sin and bondage to an unwary world. But it was God’s One-of-a- Kind Son, “Full of Grace and Truth” (Jn.1:14), who has taken on the form of a sacrificial lamb to give us back the freedom we need to come boldly before the throne of grace.
If you abide in my teaching, you are truly
my disciples. You will know the truth, and
the truth will make you free. (Jn. 8:31-32).
Free from the chains of sin; Free from the power of death itself; Set free from “Be Like Me” to be like Him.
PART TWO - LOST, THE AGE OF SWEET INNOCENCE
Then the Lord God made a woman
from the rib He had taken out of the man,
and He brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh; she will be called woman
because she was taken out of man.” For this
reason, a man will leave his father and mother
and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh
The man and his wife were naked, and they felt no shame.
(Gen. 2: 22 - 25 NIV)
Some stories never seem to grow old; stories like The Wonderful Wizard of OZ. It’s hard to believe, but L. Frank Baum penned that literary masterpiece almost 100 years ago. Even the classic movie version of 1939 has been around long enough to be forgotten; but, after all these years, people are still naming their little dogs “Toto” and calling their mother-in-law the “Wicked Witch of the West!”
Why not? There remains a little of Dorothy and her friends in all of us. Wouldn’t most folks love to go from boredom to adventure, vanquish the evil, locate the good, wear nice shoes and get home to tell about it?
Unfortunately, since that dreadful day in Eden, the troubles of this world have been a bit harder to melt into history than were the witches of OZ; and by the time the world stops spinning around, we wake up to find we’re a long way from the innocence of our garden home.
Special Friends . . .
Over the course of my life, the Lord has blessed me with a number of wonderful friends. In fact, one of the greatest joys of ministry if the friendships we gain along the way. Around the corner or on the other side of the world, we share a common goal, a common love.
Rodney is one of the most special friends God has given.
Everyone is known for something. Some are known for important gifts to science or medicine. Others become household names because of their ability to entertain or play professional sports. Some are just remembered for their “style”. Rodney is known for his bright, winning smile and his innocent, uncluttered love.
Rodney has Down Syndrome. Like so many other special men and women, Rodney holds a steady job, functions well within his family and community, and cares deeply about his Lord. In fact, there are times I can’t help but feel a bit envious of my friend. I wonder what it must be like to live in a grown up body - to function in a grown up world- and still enjoy the innocence of youth.
Unfortunately, our society seems to place innocence at a very low premium. While the age of modern communication has made our lives so much simpler in so many ways, it has also flooded us with more information in a day than our great-grandparents might have received in a “month of Sundays”. As a result, we Americans have come to treasure highly the right to know. Doctors, Lawyers, and especially the media have spent a great deal of time and money to convince us of the dangers of “not knowing”.
It seems there are few things we fear so fiercely as the unknown; and since innocence involves a certain degree of “not knowing” it rubs hard against the grain of our anti-ignorant society. Those of our number who might still enjoy a certain measure of innocence are constantly bombarded with the same old argument used by Satan, so long ago...”You’re missing out on the good stuff... but if you eat the fruit, you’ll know.”
The assumption seems to be that not knowing is somehow wrong; even semi-sinful. No one can be all they need to be in our modern materialistic world until they gain all the facts. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Just ask Adam and Eve, charter members of the Naked and Unashamed Nudist Colony. Knowing ruined their lives. It might just do the same for you and me.
Boys Call Them Briefs . . .
I remember, clearly, that awful day in third grade. For me, it was the beginning of “knowing”.
It was late summer, 1970, and my family had recently moved from Birmingham, Alabama, to our new home in Mesquite, Texas. Daddy was to begin work with the Garland Road Church of Christ (now known as Highland Oaks); so Mrs. Speck had a brand new student that fall.
Making friends was never a problem. The Texas kids were friendly and I was far from shy. Unfortunately, when you’re in third grade, even your closest friends can make life miserable. On this particular day, my classmates were going to give me my first taste of a brand new medicine. We’ll just call it an anti-ignorance pill. It sure was hard to swallow.
The date, the day of the week, the general time of day; all these trivial facts have slipped away with time. The conversation itself remains hazy as well. Just one word comes back to haunt me, like a phantom from days gone by....Panties!
In our home, it was the only name underwear had known. With a mother and two sisters as my daily companions, you might begin to understand. I’m not quite sure what my dad called them. He may have been a boxer man or a brief guy (I don’t think the world had reached the compromise of boxer-briefs back then) but he didn’t do the laundry; mother did. She would always let me know when my pile of clean “panties” was ready. Sure, mine were Fruit of the Loom, white cotton, little boys’ panties; but in third grade, who really cares what you call your underwear...right?
At the mention of those “panties”, my caring, compassionate classmates just couldn’t stop laughing. It was a real equal opportunity laugh. Everyone; boys and girls alike were reeling with laughter and pointing at the boy who wore panties.
None of my classmates would remember, I’m sure; but that’s the day I made my crash landing into the wonderful world of “knowing.” Deep inside, a fear was forming. The fear of being different. The fear of being the only one who didn’t “know”. These fears, along with the unhappy prospect of looking foolish again, were enough to make a change in me.
I learned to laugh at all the right jokes - whether I understood them or not. I even repeated them to my friends (who would laugh as if they understood). I doubt if many did; but together, we grew gradually away from our innocence, each one pulling the others along. And now we know.
We know broken relationships. We know divorce. We know the “gay” lifestyle, unfaithful marriage partners and the reality of AIDS. And, along with knowing, we’ve learned the heartless art of indifference. Daily doses of murder, rape, hunger, and abortion are filtered through the callused eyes of “knowing”.
But the human spirit, as breathed by God in the garden and given again, in Christ, was never meant to live in the gloomy depths of “knowing”. Like our good friends Dorothy and Toto, we’ve eventually had enough of witches, wizards, and yellow brickwork. At some point, we must abandon our quest for more and begin to realize the true value of less. Is knowing God - being known by God - really enough?
“Blessed are the pure in heart,” said Jesus. “They shall see God.
FOUND - A WHOLE NEW WAY OF THINKING
Is it possible, then, to regain the innocence of youth? Having entered the world of the “knowing”, can we ever truly hope to rediscover purity of heart; and if not, how can we hope to see God?
While “unknowing” may seem to be a realistic option (short of radical surgery, how can we ever forget?), the writers of the New Testament do offer some hope for a return to purity of heart. Just as Adam and Eve made the choice that brought impurity into the world, the Apostle Paul lets there be no doubt that he sees the return to purity as a daily, personal choice.
In his letter to the Christians at Philippi, he outlines a godly game plan for just such a return to purity of heart.
Finally brothers, whatever is true,
whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable - if anything is
excellent or praiseworthy - think about
such things. Whatever you have received
or heard from me, or seen in me - put into
practice. And the God of peace will be
with you. (Philippians 4: 8-9).
PART THREE - LOST, THE ULTIMATE IMAGE OF GOD
If our vision of God remains unclear, perhaps it is due to a lack of right thinking. Satan would like nothing better than for Christians to give up on goodness. Some already have.
Surrounded by headlines and newscasts filled with man’s destructive and sinful side, many have already resigned themselves to the “way things are.” They forget two important details:
1. Ladders usually run both directions. The same rungs we passed on the way to the bottom are waiting to take us back to the top. If thinking about the impure will drag us down, concentrating on the pure can lift us up.
2. The God of peace will be with you. No one has to travel the pathway to purity alone. While Dorothy was surrounded by newfound friends, on her way to the wizard, the Child of God is not escorted toward purity by the heartless and brainless, but by the God of peace and purity Himself.
May I challenge us all to look beyond the realm of what “seems to be” and catch sight of our living, ruling savior? Each of us must make an ironclad effort to search for the good things God Himself has placed in this world. Good books, wholesome videos, Christ-like friends, all have been placed here to aide our journey. In fact, with far less effort than is needed to worry about the “way things are”, we can begin to enjoy life as it could be, should be, and will be.
And the Lord God commanded the man,
“You are free to eat from any tree in the
garden; but you must not eat from the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil, for when
you eat of it, you will surely die (Gen. 2: 16 - 17).
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree
was good for food and pleasing to the eye,
and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she
took some and ate it. She also gave some to
her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized they were naked; so they
sewed fig leaves together and made coverings
for themselves. Then the man and his wife
heard the sound of the Lord God as He was
walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and they hid from the Lord God among the
trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to
the man, “Where are you?” He answered,
“I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid
because I was naked; so I hid (Gen. 3: 6 - 10).
Webster defines death as “termination, the permanent cessation of all vital functions” Someone/something is dead when it no longer possesses the most important qualities that made it alive. In physical death, it may be the absence of heartbeat or brain activity. In spiritual death, it is the loss of the very thing that makes man truly alive; The life giving Spirit of God.
The “Differentness” Dilemma
Inventory List......One Pretty Painting
Total Price..........................Millions (if it were for sale)
What painting could be so precious? The numbers just don’t seem to “add up.” My wife, Becky - who just happens to be a talented artist - has several beautiful creations hanging around the house for all to see. She gives them away on Christmas and birthdays to people she wants to honor. So far, though, no one has offered her large sums of money for any of her paintings.
Would it help to know that the priceless painting in question is the image of a lovely lady named Mrs. Francesco Del Gioconda? Maybe not. Perhaps it would help to know the artist’s name: Leonardo Da Vinci. It was his mastery that brought “La Gioconda” (A.K.A. Mona Lisa) to life. The way I see it: all Becky needs to do is paint the perfect picture, be dead a few hundred years, and I can retire!
For now, let’s take a look at another artist’s inventory list. This one I think we’ll recognize:
1. A pile of dust.......................Parts on hand
2. Moment of Eternity..............Priceless
3. Breath of God....................Thrown in Free
Total Cost...............................The death of the artist’s “one-of-a-kind” Son.
But why would the creator of the universe pay such a high price for His own creation? Again, we’re faced with numbers that don’t seem to “add up”. And, unfortunately, millions of people from all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs are convinced they never will. Such is the blinding nature of sin.
The less we know about God, (the ultimate artist) the more difficult it becomes to see the real worth of His handiwork. So here we are; creations made by hand of God, in the very image of God; who cannot seem to find a trace of God in our earthbound, sin-shackled lives.
The question that begs an answer is, “How can so many otherwise intelligent ( and good looking) people be taken in by such a ploy?” We simply don’t see the big picture. By dealing in subtle shades and half- truths, sin has a way of making us believe God no longer cares. While showing us the grand gulf of difference between the earthly and the Divine, it hides the vibrant truth that “God is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:27).”
And Satan loves the game! Ever since Adam and Eve hid from God in the undergrowth of the Garden, the old serpent has been convincing God’s creation to hide away from the very One who knows them best and only wants what’s best for them.
Adam - and those like him - hides from God because they see only their “differentness.” Jesus came to show us the way to regain the likeness of God.
The Tale of the Twins . . .
Picture, if you will, the first of a well-matched set of twins; separated only by a slight shift of eternity. He crouches silently between the well- cultivated rows of the garden; hoping against hope that God will decide not to take His afternoon stroll. Beside him, breathing the short, shallow breath of fear, sits his lovely wife. They may be holding hands; but more likely they are clinging to the flimsy fig leaf fabric of their new wardrobe.
Their thoughts are racing as they gather close against the fertile dust of Eden. They are keenly aware of their sin, acutely ashamed of their nudity, and God is the last person in Heaven or Earth they want to see. Eternity - in full bloom just a moment ago - is now all but forgotten. In its place are deepening despair and an increasing sense of their own “differentness.”
Now, scroll forward through the centuries to our present age. Here we find the other of our twins, struggling to see through the same cloud of differentness and despair. He is a man in whom these dreaded “D’s” had found a ready victim.
Abused by those older and stronger than himself, he became convinced at an early age that he was a “born homosexual.” And, as many victims do, he sought relief from his pain in the very places and among the very people who had caused it.
The party life became his life and he learned well how to play its games. Although he had a great talent for music and art, his lifestyle led to ever-increasing feelings of being separated not only from God, but from the mainstream of society as well. Like so many others, his attempts to find acceptance kept dragging him farther away from the searching voice of God and deeper into the tangled underbrush of fear.
Sound familiar? It should. It’s a well - worn path. Each of us has been there at one time or another. Our sins may be as different as our personalities, but they all lead down the same trail. It’s a trail lined with the huddled forms of others, like ourselves, who are looking for a suitable spot to hide away from a God we know will find us, a pathway filled with the footprints of failure and fear.
Jonah followed this trail - on a ship bound for Tarshish. Moses left behind some sandal prints, of his own, on the way to holy ground. And what of Saul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; or the disciple who ran naked into the night instead of standing strong in the garden?
And what about you? What about me? We’ve certainly spent our time on the trail. We carry the reminders of the brambles that scratched us and the rocks that made us stumble.
It doesn’t have to be this way! After all, this pathway does have an off-ramp. Now and then we run across an empty place where fellow failures used to lie. Broken twigs and bent branches tell of a time when some soul hid from God. But the footprints go no deeper. Instead, they turn in stride and head back toward the light of day. Our modern day twin finally found that light.
After some twenty years of asking all the wrong questions, God’s grace supplied some real answers. In the pages of God’s eternal truth, the second twin found his invitation to royal adoption. As he came in from the underbrush, he began to realize his differentness was never meant to be. Washed, cleansed, and renewed, he began the process of being recreated into the sameness of his Creator.
Just as God breathed the breath of eternal life into Adam, He breathed the Spirit of Life into our friend. He, and others like him have become living testimonials to the truth of Romans 8: 13 - 15:
If (we) live according to the sinful nature, you will die;
But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the
body, you will live, Because those led by the Spirit of God
are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes
you a slave again to fear But you received the Spirit of Sonship
And by Him we cry Abba, Father.
FOUND - THE SPIRIT OF TOTAL "SAMENESS"
Abba, Father! Quite a far cry from cowering in the underbrush of fear, isn’t it? And having God as our Father is no mere formality; nor simply a spiritual legality. It is the adoption of transformation. It is the end of the search for sameness.
In human adoption, couples may search for years to find a suitable child. Some never find a “perfect” match and -for better or worse- will not accept anyone who does not possess the particular physical, mental, or social, traits they are seeking. After all, no matter how much love you may have for a child, you can never change his genes. No one will grow out of his skin color, hair color, or natural body traits.
But when God began offering His adoption of sameness, He also set about the task of recreating His new sons and daughters to be like Him. And who better than the creator to produce such change?
First, He rids our lives of all those things that made us different. He takes away the sin that made us afraid and replaces it with the righteousness of His “one of a kind Son.” Suddenly clean, free, and unashamed, we stop cowering from the presence of God and learn to come boldly before the throne of grace (Heb. 4).
With our differentness destroyed, God begins the longer process of making those changes that will reform us into our new image: HIS IMAGE.
He does this, at least in part, by way of special genetic surgery. God rebreathes into His re-creation His wonderful gift; an all-new, spiritual gene pool. We call Him the Holy Spirit; but as our earthly gene pool causes us to grow into the form and likeness of our parents, the Holy Spirit pushes us upward into the spiritual likeness of God.
When I was very young, my Dad worked full time in local church ministry. He has been blessed with a wonderful singing voice and was often honored with the opportunity to lead the congregational singing during worship. Because of these things, the adults where we worshipped knew daddy’s name quite well. Few of them, however, took the time to learn mine. In their minds I was always (and may always be) “Little David.”
Who could blame them? I have always been a carbon copy of the original. I have my daddy’s eyes, hair, skin tone, and glasses, just to name a few things. As I’ve grown older, the similarities have grown right along with us; and while there was a time when I might have cringed and corrected anyone who called me by any name other than my own, I have come to appreciate the true honor of being called by my daddy’s name.
So it is with our Heavenly Father. Once God has given us His Holy Spirit - a true portion of His Divine Self - we can begin to enjoy the recreation that makes us like our Father. Differentness is gone. Sameness and salvation have come.
And isn’t it great to be called by our Father’s name?
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit
of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled
faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into
His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from
the Lord, who is the Spirit
(2 Cor. 3:17-18 NIV)