Long Forgotten Enemies: Least of These [Part II]

She grinned a toothy smile as she turned away that left me not a drop of sweat short of uneasy. It was missing substance–not to mention actual teeth–and there was a faint though unmistakable smell of alcohol about her.

I don’t think she had any inclination–in fact I’m sure of it–as to who I might be. But I knew who she was. From the moment she walked in to the second she said her name my brain was wracking itself for an explanation to the familiarity–and then it hit like a thunderbolt. I knew who she was.

But I guess you still don’t.

All you really need to know is that dealings between herself and parties I was inseparably involved with had gone bad – police and court had been involved. It had never come my direction, but the drama surrounding those events had left enough of a lasting impression to well justify the unease I was now feeling–even if it was perhaps slightly silly.

In spite of my discomfort, no incident took place. She finished her business, left, and I went on about my evening. But as I sat back down something triggered in my brain. I can’t say it was anything short of the breath of God that whispered the thought in my being–the least of these.

Wait a minute, Jesus.

I don’t like what You’re suggesting here.

I struggled with the implication–till of course, he brought to mind that I’d been talking about this very thing just the other day.

But I can’t even think pleasant thoughts about her, Jesus, she’s the worst of the worst.

Isn’t that the point?

I’m thinking sobering thoughts. I don’t have it in me to love. Not really. Not like that. If Jesus does, he’s so much higher than I’ve ever really actually dared to believe. Sure, church taught me Jesus loves everybody. But church also taught me Jesus loved totally hands-off. I guess the parts of the Bible where Jesus actually touched people–the worst of the worst of his society–made them uncomfortable. They make me uncomfortable, too, because if Jesus did that, and he loves through me, he wants me to touch people the way he did. Not only the nice, fair, clean-smelling people.

Well Jesus, if that’s what you want from me, you’ve got a lot of work to do in here still.

All that’s going through my mind right now is “Love your enemy; pray for those who persecute you.” I can’t think of any personal enemies off-hand, but I know I’ve never classified even the woman I saw tonight as an enemy. I want the liberty and power in that kind of love. I guess this is my starting place and the nudge to take the first shaky step.

Jesus, I want the power to love even my enemies. It is the one thing that will turn the world up-side-down. Tonight I put my discomfort and ultimately, my anger and unforgiveness towards this woman into your hands – I do not want them any longer. I lift her into your hands and I stand with you for the life and salvation of even her. Touch her life with every ounce of the love you’ve always shown to me, your son; may her way lead her to joy, righteousness, and incomparable rest in your fullness.

And Jesus?

Show me who’s next.

Grace Opportunities

Well this is the time of day when you ought to be getting excited–I know I am, it’s peak-thinking time! Alright, alright, most of you are probably off in the land of Nod by now and I can’t say I’ve had too many fantastic thoughts running through my mind any time of day for the last couple months. Yeah that’s right, the last couple months. I’ve been channeling most of my creative energy into drawing. I say ‘most’ but I haven’t had much energy to begin with–I guess I need to get back into the Word!

Alright, so enough with the prelude, something’s been tossing around my head today and it all came together when I went out for coffee with a friend. It’s roll-up-the-rim time at Tim Hortons and as we were getting ready to go we took a look to see what we’d got. He didn’t get anything, but I got a free coffee. And I shrugged and threw it out.

Now I’m going to stop my soul-thought right now, because in that moment and even as I reflect back now all my mind wants to do is make up excuses as to why I didn’t cash in on my free drink. “Well I never go to Tim Hortons anyway / I don’t play roll up the rim seriously (does that even make sense?) / I’ve never done this before, what the heck to I do with it?!” Those were the kinds of things running through my mind. But as I was reflecting back on it afterwards I had a thought. I don’t cash in on most of the opportunities God gives me–and my soul makes excuses for me to feel okay about it. How many of you can say “Amen” to that?

How many can but don’t want to admit they can say “Amen” to that?

That’s alright, because I’m not here to shame anyone about their shortcomings. They’re my shortcomings too. And this is so ridiculous! I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff? I know I do. So what is it that stops me from receiving from God? He’s there going “Hey, free coffee right here, I got your free coffee” and I’m like “Psh. I don’t drink coffee, dude.” And He says “Well alright, I’ve got a free hot chocolate right here (though I really think you should try the coffee!)” and I’m like “No thanks dude, I don’t need that.”

And I already know, deep down, why I don’t take opportunity. I’m afraid.

Fear is a fine paradox; it drives us. But it doesn’t take us anywhere. It might take you backwards, back to where you were last comfortable. But never forward. So my soul makes up all kinds of fine excuses as to why. “Oh, I don’t want to make a scene and look foolish / I’m not comfortable doing that / What if that’s just my own thoughts I’m hearing / I don’t want to intrude on anyone / What if I miss it!?”

What if you miss a Godly opportunity?

Peter just about missed out on an opportunity. Grab your Bibles and take a look at John 13 (I’m going to be reading from the New King James tonight):

13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Now let’s give Simon a break – he didn’t understand what was going on. Jesus knew that. But if Peter didn’t get it with Jesus kneeling right in front of him with nothing but a towel on ready to wash the filth from his feet (and I’ve heard feet weren’t a pretty sight back in those days), how much more can we expect to understand everything God is longing to do for or give us? Peter flat-out said no.

But oh, the grace of Jesus. He knew pebbles don’t move anywhere fast on their own.

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” John 13:8b

And then it clicked. Or maybe it didn’t – I don’t know if Peter immediately understood it all – but he trusted Jesus, and if Jesus says ‘you won’t have any part with Me unless…’ then you better believe Peter’s gonna make that ‘unless’ happen in a heartbeat a thousand times over if his body will handle the heat! Alright, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but I see Peter as a pretty radical guy, and it shows all so clearly in his response in verse 9:

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”

Peter was all over that thing. I don’t know what made him say no–maybe he didn’t think Jesus ought to be doing that, maybe he was offended. He didn’t understand what was going on, but Jesus knew, and when Peter realized that his relationship with Jesus was jeopardized you better believe he changed his mind right quick and then some! And Jesus was like “Whoa, slow down dude, we’re still cool if I just get your feet from now on.” Man, Jesus and Peter were tight.

There’s something deeper I want to explore here, along the same lines as what I began with but a little bit deeper. See, I don’t believe Jesus was just telling Peter about physical cleanliness or servitude, I think Jesus had something more in mind, which he alluded to in verse 10:

“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean … “

This is new covenant stuff right here, and it’s something that I’ve seen people have a hard time grasping as they’re transitioning from old to new covenant thinking. See, Peter had been with Jesus throughout His entire ministry. Luke’s account of their meeting has Jesus just striding up and saying, “Hey guy, let me get in your boat and push me out into the water so I can preach to all these people here,” and afterward, “Hey guy, take your boat out and throw the nets in the water.” And Peter’s response? “We worked hard all night and didn’t catch anything–but if you say so, I’ll do it.

What? Just like that? Yeah, really. Check it out in Luke 5, cause I’m just going to paraphrase this. And by the way, when Peter’s nets filled with so many fish he had to call for help to bring them all in, he repented right there. He said “Lord, leave me, I’m too great a sinner for you to be around!” And Jesus was just like “Don’t be afraid Dude, from now on you’re gonna be fishing for people!” and just like that, Peter was hooked; as soon as they landed he and James and John who were his fishing buddies left everything to follow Jesus:

 1 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.        

                      – Luke 5:1-11

Faith in Jesus followed by repentance for sin. That’s how the new covenant works. That’s how sinners become saints, disciples, set apart. See, I think this moment is what Jesus was alluding to as he was preparing to wash Peter’s feet, because this is the moment when everything changed for Peter. This is the moment when he repented, and because of his faith in Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith – God counted him righteous from that moment on. He got his bath among the miracle catch. And because God considered him righteous, the only further cleansing Peter needed was his feet–the part of him that connects him with the world, that place in him where the flesh still has a foothold (I’m just laying the heat on the puns tonight oh boy!). Because the truth is, all Peter’s sins were forgiven by faith when he repented, and in deed at the cross when Jesus paid for everyone’s sins – past, present and future. His future sins were forgiven because he was going to sin in the future–until Jesus comes back to deal with the world there will still be sin trying to gain a foothold in your life. The only thing left for Peter was to remain in relationship with Jesus, and to let Jesus do whatever cleansing was needed. Notice, Jesus washed Peter’s feet for him. Peter didn’t even have to repent of his dirty feet, Jesus just did it, because Peter already repented that day in the boat. And Jesus didn’t give him a full re-baptism either, even at Peter’s request. It wasn’t needed!

How many of you believe your future sins are already forgiven? How many of you don’t think that could be right? In perspective, how many of you think that Jesus must suffer death again and again each time you sin, so that your sins can be forgiven? Does that seem right? See, when Jesus gave up his spirit he said, “It is finished.” Either he paid for all your sins, or he didn’t pay for any. Either he paid for the sins of the future, or your sins aren’t covered by his blood. Think about it; you are now 2000-some years into Jesus’ future; if Jesus’ sacrifice didn’t cover future sins, not even your past sins would be now covered by the blood of Jesus. But Jesus suffered for all your sins–past, present and future. I cannot emphasize this enough; all your sins are forgiven.

BAM.

But some will pass up such an opportunity of grace just as I threw out that free drink, or pass up the opportunities God brings me daily. They will make excuses, saying that they have to repent again before their sins will be forgiven. Brother let me tell you, after you repent the first time for your sins, repentance is no longer an issue. I’m not advocating a once-saved-always-saved attitude, don’t misunderstand, but like Peter, you don’t have to turn again from your sin – you already abhor sin! That’s why it’s on your conscience now! You don’t have to have your whole body washed because your spirit is now the Spirit of Christ. All that you now need is to accept and trust the active work of the Spirit of God in your life. Your body is already clean, it’s just your feet that are a little messy, and that’s okay because Jesus is ready and waiting, kneeling at your feet to wash the daily grime off. Keep saying you’re sorry; everyone needs to hear and say that more often. But know that your sins are already forgiven, and it’s not about what you do anymore, it’s about who you know, and who you know will change what you do. Who you know will change that soul-man to desire to do the things that please God instead of doing things against God.

So here’s your opportunity. Will you take it? It’s not about you anymore, it’s about Jesus.
Jesus will deal with the sin in your flesh – just let him wash your feet.

Grace for John de Stogumber

I might not have mentioned that I didn’t read the preface.

That’s right, I hadn’t forgotten Joan of Arc just yet! I’m not going to take any time giving you an overview of the story of Joan of Arc, you can find that on Wikipedia. I am going to share some of the profound things I took away, particularly from the character of John de Stogumber. But first, a small quotation from the Epilogue (not necessarily a spoiler, but you’ll appreciate it far more after having read the play yourself, which you can do here):

CAUCHON [kneeling to her(Joan)] The girls in the field praise thee; for thou hast raised their eyes; and they see that there is nothing between them and heaven.

DUNOIS. [kneeling to her] The dying soldiers praise thee, because thou art a shield of glory between them and the judgment.

THE ARCHBISHOP [kneeling to her] The princes of the Church praise thee, because thou hast redeemed the faith their worldlinesses have dragged through the mire.

WARWICK [kneeling to her] The cunning counsellors praise thee, because thou hast cut the knots in which they have tied their own souls.

DE STOGUMBER [kneeling to her] The foolish old men on their deathbeds praise thee, because their sins against thee are turned into blessings.

THE INQUISITOR [kneeling to her] The judges in the blindness and bondage of the law praise thee, because thou hast vindicated the vision and the freedom of the living soul.

THE SOLDIER [kneeling to her] The wicked out of hell praise thee, because thou hast shewn them that the fire that is not quenched is a holy fire.

THE EXECUTIONER [kneeling to her] The tormentors and executioners praise thee, because thou hast shewn that their hands are guiltless of the death of the soul.

CHARLES [kneeling to her] The unpretending praise thee, because thou hast taken upon thyself the heroic burdens that are too heavy for them.

Now, none of those statements won’t be half as profound if you haven’t read the rest of the book to understand everything behind the characters making them (so go read the book!) but I’m just going to focus in on a few of these characters and shed some light on why I found their stories so profound.

Let’s take a look at this John de Stogumber character. Stogumber was zealous for his English blood, for the church and, as he supposed, for God–but mostly for his English blood:

“We were not fairly beaten, my lord. No Englishman is ever fairly beaten.” [p89]

“Englishmen heretics!!! My lord: must we endure this? His lordship is beside himself. How can what an Englishman believes be heresy? It is a contradiction in terms.” [p96]

Scene IV is where we first meet John de Stogumber in a conversation between himself, the Earl of Warwick and Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais. The Earl of Warwick comes with a purely political perspective: Joan must be burned. Still, he pities her and claims to hate the severity of burning. He will spare her if he can. Peter Cauchon is of a similar mind but comes with the perspective of The Church; he will strive for Joan’s salvation–but only to save his own soul. Stogumber, on the other hand is adamant; Joan is a sorceress and must die:

“Certainly England for the English goes without saying: it is the simple law of nature. But this woman denies to England her legitimate conquests, given her by God because of her peculiar fitness to rule over less civilized races for their own good. I do not understand what your lordship means by Protestant and Nationalist (terms used in reference to Joan): you are too learned and subtle for a poor clerk like myself. But I know as a matter of plain commonsense that the woman is a rebel; and that is enough for me. She rebels against Nature by wearing man’s clothes, and fighting. She rebels against The Church by usurping the divine authority of the Pope. She rebels against God by her damnable league with Satan and his evil spirits against our army. And all these rebellions are only excuses for her great rebellion against England. That is not to be endured. Let her perish. Let her burn. Let her not infect the whole flock. It is expedient that one woman die for the people. … I would burn her with my own hands.”

Although the motives of Warwick and Cauchon are far from pure themselves, John de Stogumber will have nothing short of a burning. But although even up to her trial and execution poor old John holds to his belief vehemently, something happens when he witnesses the execution of Joan. He gets a hard reality check:

WARWICK. Hallo: some attendance here! [Silence]. Hallo, there! [Silence]. Hallo! Brian, you young blackguard, where are you? [Silence]. Guard! [Silence]. They have all gone to see the burning: even that child.

The silence is broken by someone frantically howling and sobbing.

WARWICK. What in the devil’s name–?

The Chaplain staggers in from the courtyard like a demented creature, his face streaming with tears, making the piteous sounds that Warwick has heard. He stumbles to the prisoner’s stool, and throws himself upon it with heartrending sobs.

WARWICK [going to him and patting him on the shoulder] What is it, Master John? What is the matter?

THE CHAPLAIN [clutching at his hand] My lord, my lord: for Christ’s sake pray for my wretched guilty soul.

WARWICK [soothing him] Yes, yes: of course I will. Calmly, gently–

THE CHAPLAIN [blubbering miserably] I am not a bad man, my lord.

WARWICK. No, no: not at all.

THE CHAPLAIN. I meant no harm. I did not know what it would be like.

WARWICK [hardening] Oh! You saw it, then?

THE CHAPLAIN. I did not know what I was doing. I am a hotheaded fool; and I shall be damned to all eternity for it.

WARWICK. Nonsense! Very distressing, no doubt; but it was not your doing.

THE CHAPLAIN [lamentably] I let them do it. If I had known, I would have torn her from their hands. You don’t know: you havnt seen: it is so easy to talk when you dont know. You madden yourself with words: you damn yourself because it feels grand to throw oil on the flaming hell of your own temper. But when it is brought home to you; when you see the thing you have done; when it is blinding your eyes, stifling your nostrils, tearing your heart, then–then–[Falling on his knees] O God, take away this sight from me! O Christ, deliver me from this fire that is consuming me! She cried to Thee in the midst of it: Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! She is in Thy bosom; and I am in hell for evermore.

WARWICK [summarily hauling him to his feet] Come come, man! you must pull yourself together. We shall have the whole town talking of this. [He throws him not too gently into a chair at the table] If you have not the nerve to see these things, why do you not do as I do, and stay away?

THE CHAPLAIN [bewildered and submissive] She asked for a cross. A soldier gave her two sticks tied together. Thank God he was an Englishman! I might have done it; but I did not: I am a coward, a mad dog, a fool. But he was an Englishman too.

WARWICK. The fool! they will burn him too if the priests get hold of him.

THE CHAPLAIN [shaken with a convulsion] Some of the people laughed at her. They would have laughed at Christ. They were French people, my lord: I know they were French.

WARWICK. Hush! someone is coming. Control yourself.

– Scene VI, p141-142

De Stogumber had become so wrapped up in his own self-righteousness that he fairly went mad when Joan was nearly acquitted entirely, neither had he been happy to learn that the customary torture was not to be performed on Joan. But when he stood in the crowd as she was burning, his house of cards came collapsing in on him and he saw everything as it was. He saw the Law staring him down and knew he was fit for hell.

And it changed him.
John de Stogumber, chaplain to the cardinal, came to the end of himself, and received a revelation of grace. We find him in the epilogue, a much different man:

The door opens; and an old priest, white-haired, bent, with a silly but benevolent smile, comes in and trots over to Joan.

THE NEWCOMER. Excuse me, gentle lords and ladies. Do not let me disturb you. Only a poor old harmless English rector. Formerly chaplain to the cardinal: to my lord of Winchester. John de Stogumber, at your service. [He looks at them inquiringly] Did you say anything? I am a little deaf, unfortunately. Also a little–well, not always in my right mind, perhaps; but still, it is a small village with a few simple people. I suffice: I suffice: they love me there; and I am able to do a little good. I am well connected, you see; and they indulge me.

JOAN. Poor old John! What brought thee to this state?

DE STOGUMBER. I tell my folks they must be very careful. I say to them, ‘If you only saw what you think about you would think quite differently about it. It would give you a great shock. Oh, a great shock.’ And they all say ‘Yes, Parson: we all know you are a kind man, and would not harm a fly.’ That is a great comfort to me. For I am not cruel by nature, you know.

THE SOLDIER. Who said you were?

DE STOGUMBER. Well, you see, I did a very cruel thing once because I did not know what cruelty was like. I had not seen it, you know. That is the great thing: you must see it. And then you are redeemed and saved.

CAUCHON. Were not the sufferings of our Lord Christ enough for you?

DE STOGUMBER. No. Oh no: not at all. I had seen them in pictures, and read of them in books, and been greatly moved by them, as I thought. But it was no use: it was not our Lord that redeemed me, but a young woman whom I saw actually burned to death. It was dreadful: oh, most dreadful. But it saved me. I have been a different man ever since, though a little astray in my wits sometimes.

-Epilogue, p153-154

“Well, you see, I did a very cruel thing once because I did not know what cruelty was like. I had not seen it, you know. That is the great thing: you must see it. And then you are redeemed and saved.”

Isn’t that so GRACE for you, to say nothing of the purpose of the Law! Stogumber puts it like no other; he did not know what cruelty was until he saw it. Neither do we see sin until the Law reveals it in our lives. And you must see it, and then you are redeemed and saved–grace. And he was. How I wonder what would be the response of the disillusioned could they but receive a revelation like Stogumber’s. Salvation would come to every house.

And then there is his final blessing over Joan: “The foolish old men on their deathbeds praise thee, because their sins against thee are turned into blessings.” And that’s just how incredible our God is, that He could transform all our mistakes to blessing.

And I love this character, because out of all of them, his is the most felt transformation. He stands out to me as the one who was the most changed, and in the end more righteous than all the rest because of his allowance to the grace of God. The man with the greater sin loves that much more after he has received forgiveness, but also the man who is more than passive in his repentance. Many others such as the Earl of Warwick felt justified enough in that The Church made Joan a saint, but not John de Stogumber; he may have become only a gentle, white-haired and possible slightly senile old man, but on the day the fire was lit to burn Joan of Arc, a Holy fire was kindled to consume him also, spirit and soul for a God of unending grace.

Reunited With I AM (The New-Covenant Sinner)

One question in various forms I’ve heard over and over again is, “So you’ve done away with the law – now you can freely do whatever you want without consequence because grace means tolerance?” The thought is that discontinuing observance of the Law is the same as being without moral and free to do every wrong.

I respond to this testing question with a resounding “No. No. No!” I am not preaching freedom to do anything you like! If you’ve ever read James, you’ll see that grace does not now allow us to live in sin and still inherit life. Paul did not preach this belief that grace licenses us to live in sin and lawlessness either.

A regularly-quoted scripture showing this is Romans 3:31 which says, “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Now, many people jump in with this verse alone to prove that the old covenant Law is still in effect, but they miss the rest of the chapter in which Paul declares that the purpose of the law is to show sinners how sinful they are, and that they need Jesus Christ’s free gift of righteousness to be righteous before God. The Law was never intended to make us righteous but to show us our unrighteousness. Does Romans 3 prove that the Law is done away with to those who keep the new covenant? Not necessarily, but I’ve covered scriptures that do in previous posts so I won’t go into detail on it here–that’s not where I want to focus today. Suffice it to say, the Law was meant for those still outside of the new covenant, to guide them to the new covenant.

So now we’re getting in on the new covenant, Jesus has saved us, cut away our sinful nature and we find rest abiding in Him. Do we now do whatever we wish? Certainly not! Then are we still living in accordance with the Law? Some may see it that way, but no; we live in accordance not with the Law of the old system, but rather with the Spirit of God.

Let me take you back a while – a long while – to understand this. We’ll look right back to the garden of Eden when God placed Adam and Eve on the earth and directed them to rule and reign. This is something I’ve had on my mind for a few days, and shared briefly the other day. I’ll go a little more in-depth here.

In Genesis 2:15-17 we find God’s commission and command to Adam: 15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God gave Adam charge of the garden and gave him a command: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat … “

Genesis 3 tells the saddest tragedy we all know – the fall of man, the moment of sin’s entrance into a perfect world. We’ll take a look at verses 1-13.

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

                                                  –  Genesis 3:1-13

Here’s my first question: where is the sin in this picture? I’ll tell you this, the problem was a lot bigger than Adam’s wife eating a bit of fruit. We see the real root of it in the serpent’s first words: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”He brought into question God’s knowledge and understanding. And when Eve confirmed that God had, indeed, said this, the serpent came back with “You will not surely die.For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And that certainly was what the tree would give Eve – a concept of right and wrong. But we see the sin in the next verse, the rebellion and separation from God’s instruction in the next verse:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

So when the woman saw. What did she see? That the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. This is, I believe, where it all took place. Eve chose to disregard the instruction of God (based, might I add, on His understanding of His own creation) and trust her own understanding of how things were. She disregarded God’s understanding and chose her own understanding, which seems to have been rather limited. She deviated from God’s direct instruction and took her own perspective from what the serpent had said; that the tree was good food, pretty, and desirable to make her wise. And so, having chosen to rely on her own understanding rather than the understanding of the Creator, Eve at the fruit–and then gave some to Adam who was right beside her, and he ate some too.

And did the tree work? You bet. Suddenly they realized they were naked–and afraid–and they made clothes out of fig leaves to cover themselves.

Suddenly they realized something was wrong–something was missing. And they happened to notice they were naked – that must be it! Let’s fix up some fig leaves, maybe that will help our situation. But then God came along, and they hid from him. Alright, what? They hid from God.

I laugh a little at this – Adam and Eve were so innocent. First they hid from God, and then when God called for him, Adam goes “Hey, I’m right here… hiding from you…” The wave of knowledge and emotions that must have hit them that they had no idea about…

Verse 10 says Adam heard God’s voice in the garden and he hid, because he was naked and afraid. What has happened here? Adam and Eve are in the garden, they’ve realized they’re naked. They’ve probably realized a lot more than that but don’t have any idea what all these other things they’re experiencing even are, they’re practically children. Adam knows two things: he is naked and he is afraid. Why afraid? Probably because now he has a concept of right, wrong, and consequence, and that the wrong he’s done will be followed by consequence – death. (whatever that is?) And not only is there a sense of right and wrong but there is a sense of inadequacy, the real problem behind the nakedness. Why inadequacy? Because they chose separation from their Beginning and End. Choosing to step away from God meant choosing to step away from their completeness in Him. It may have only been a small thing–the choice to disregard one instruction–but the sense of separation it brought them, having never before felt any amount of separation from God, must have seemed massive. Oh, to be so innocent, so sensitive to such separation!

So to finish out verses 10-13,

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

There’s one more effect of the tree; neither Adam nor Eve could give God a straight answer.

God: “Adam, where are you?”
Adam: (doesn’t really answer the question;) “I heard you coming; I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
God: “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree I told you not to?”
Adam: (still avoiding the question) “The woman that you put here with me gave me the fruit and I ate.”
God: (now to Eve) “What have you done?”
Eve: (definitely avoiding the question;) “It was the serpent’s fault, he tricked me into eating it.”

They couldn’t outrightly admit to God that they had eaten from the tree. Adam even completely overlooked God’s question of who had told him he was naked. Now as a brief aside, who did tell Adam he was naked? Was it the serpent? If so, it’s not recorded, but I’m sure the serpent didn’t need to tell Adam that. It was the tree that opened their eyes to their own nakedness, and this is the nature of the old covenant Law also, that it opens our eyes to our inadequacies. Keep that in mind for later. Now, I don’t know how things were back in the garden, but I can guarantee Adam and Eve’s circumstance would have turned out a lot different if they had come right back to God to say “God, we ate from the tree and now something’s terribly wrong and we don’t know what to do, we’re scared, please help us.”

But it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, they continued to rely on their own understanding of what was happening to them, rather than going back to the Creator to get His assessment of the situation. At this point perhaps we can derive a basic definition of sin; since God is, in essence, life, and sin leads to death (the wages of sin is death) then the core of sin in action must be willful separation from God, from life. This was the root of Adam and Eve’s problem when they chose to go by their own understanding rather than God’s instruction.

To say more I would have to begin repeating myself. So going back to Adam’s nakedness and the Law, the purpose of the Law was to show us our sin, as Paul teaches in Romans 3:19, 7:7-10 for example. The law’s purpose was to give us knowledge of sin versus the perfection of God, just as the tree’s purpose was to give knowledge of good and evil–the difference between ‘sinful‘ and ‘sinless’. So we see that the Law and the tree had the same purpose. The law was given to show the people of Israel that sin was still an issue, otherwise they wouldn’t later understand the need for Jesus to come.

But the Law wasn’t given as the solution. God did not give the Law as the solution to the sin problem! He gave His only son to do that. When Jesus died, He restored our right–which Adam lost–to approach God freely and blamelessly. Because our original position with God is now restored, we live in a similar state to that which Adam and Eve held in the garden. No, the world still is not perfect – yes, there still is sin and satan’s judgement has not been passed. But God has called us righteous and blameless through the blood of Jesus Christ, and if we believe in the name of Jesus then that is what we are. On our acceptance of Jesus’ free gift for us, we receive the Spirit of God who dwells in us, and we abide in Christ through God’s spirit. The Spirit of God produces good fruit in our lives–the works which James declares keep our faith alive–and we live once again complete in our Creator.

Now here’s the crunch: Jesus removed the sin separation problem and invited us back to God; this is the new covenant. The tree of Life–the other tree in the garden that we so easily forget about–was there to provide eternal unification with God. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant and brought in the new – essentially uprooting the tree of knowledge and replanting the tree of Life for all to eat from. And it isn’t that the tree of knowledge wasn’t good–God declared everything he had made to be good. It was that the tree of Life was so much better, and of so much more importance. The Law is of no purpose to the one who believes in Jesus. It is and has always been about our reunification to I Am through Christ, and since Christ’s death, we are united with God in Christ through His blood.

So what does sin look like in the new covenant? Choosing again our own knowledge, as Adam and Eve did in the beginning, and stepping out of unity with Christ. That doesn’t mean stealing, killing, committing adultery and all the rest are now justifiably right, it means that we get to the root of the problem now, while all those things were only ever the after-effects–mere evidences–of the original sin separation problem begun by Adam and Eve in the garden 6,000 some years ago.

The final question is, where then does that leave our morals? At the root of the tree of knowledge. All Adam and Eve had to know about right and wrong was that God knew and would do what was best for them. In essence, by stepping into the new covenant we put the knowledge of what’s right and wrong back at the throne of God where it belongs, and put our entire trust in God to direct us step by step in what is best for us.

I think part of what makes this so difficult for others to understand is that I live this in theory; this is the goal I aim for, and while the work of the Spirit leading me to perfection is not yet complete, and I can’t honestly say I live moment-by-moment with 100% of my trust in God’s knowledge of right and wrong for me, I’ve come a long way, and at the end of the beginning of the story, I’ll be right back where I belong. But this IS the good news, that the focus is no longer on my knowledge of right and wrong but on God’s knowledge of what is best for me, since Christ made it possible for me to be once again completed in my Alpha and Omega, Creator God.

Living Under Grace – Realtime

This week I have been continually reminded how legalistic and pseudo-covenant my thought process and way of going about things is and has been. That’s right; I haven’t even arrived.

I began talking with an old friend again recently. It has been a number of years since we last talked, and because of a regrettable end with her, for the last several years I’d been rather afraid to speak to her. However, circumstances brought us back into contact recently, and it all came to the surface in me again. And I realized something. For the last six years I’ve been holding on to a guilty conscience. What’s more, for no reason other than my own shame. And it held me back considerably, so that when I began talking with her again, I held a fear complex, feeling as though I needed to make something of myself to be acceptable.

Of course, upon bringing all this up, she was quick to put me at ease, and I was able to put that six-year-old ghost to rest. But it really made me think; if I am under grace, why do I hold on to all these feelings of guilt over things in the past? Even things that shouldn’t be that major, that have likely long-since been forgotten by everyone else involved? The nature of grace says I don’t have to carry feelings of guilt any further than the cross and that “I forgive you, Son.”

But I do. I was brought up in such a way that I do. I learned it, though I never would have known it for what it was. Praise Jesus I am coming out of pseudo-covenant.

I was reminded this morning about something that happened a couple of years ago now. I had just failed big time and I was crying out to God. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went down, but it was something like this:

Me: “God, I need your purity, mine’s no good…”

God: “Of course you do. It isn’t about your purity, it’s about mine.”

Whatever the discourse, God made it clear to me then and there that all I could ever do to be pure wasn’t going to be nearly enough, I needed to put on His purity.

“Wait a minute!” I wanted to say, “That can’t be right!” And although I embraced His words that day, I never really understood what He was directing me to. That’s why it was such a huge revelation to me this morning when this came to mind; because now I get it.

All I can ever do to be pure, to be righteous, to live rightly, isn’t nearly enough. I can’t do it. But that’s okay. Because when Jesus Christ died on the cross to settle my debt with God’s perfect justice, He offered me His robe of righteousness. Now He calls me righteous, and pure, because of His holy righteousness and purity.

Now, does that mean I’m licensed to do whatever I like because I’m covered with the blood of Jesus and all my sins are forgiven and forgotten? Of course not! Because under the new covenant, God has written His laws in my heart and mind. Grace is no permit to live in sin and still be called righteous; but it is the omnipotent enabler that says “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more!”