Every Heart

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  Genesis 3:8 (ESV) 

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day about cancel culture. The first person says, “I hate cancel culture.” The second one answers, “The very first Bible story is God cancelling two people over an apple.” I wanted to put in a good word for God here.

What this meme defines as “cancelling” was God closing the doors of the Garden and not allowing Adam and Eve back in. They had just sinned, separating themselves from God, causing a rift in the relationship. And they showed a distressing tendency to continue on that path, refusing to admit their responsibility in the matter, pointing fingers at each other.  

God did not want them to eat of the tree that would give them eternal life in that state. They would have been eternally separated from God and his love for them. Isn’t that the definition of hell? It was an act of mercy and compassion banning them from the Garden and locking them out. He was giving them a chance; he was giving them time to turn, time to realize what they had lost. Until God would come back into another garden and open the door again by offering Himself up as the atonement. 

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. John 18:1-3 (ESV) 

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. John 19:41 (ESV) 

You are invited to turn around and come back into the garden and walk again with the One who loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.  

“God now fills the recovered garden, and we may without fear walk and commune with Him in the cool of the day.” — A.W. Tozer 

Come back  Salvation

Image, hand-colored lino print by Sheila Bair. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved. 

Such As We Ought To Be

Can you hear God’s voice thundering through eternity? “There is now no condemnation! She is just as she ought to be!”

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies (renders and declares us just, innocent, righteous or such as we ought to be). Who then is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus who died (a violent death, perished, was slain, was separated by dying)-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:33-35a

Two things about these verses really resonated with me. First of all, the concept of justification. The Greek word translated “justifies” has two facets – to render and to declare or proclaim.  For someone who heard for so many years daily (at least) about what I “should” or “ought to” be and do – and tried so hard without success to satisfy those expectations – the realization that God has rendered and pronounced us “such as we ought to be” is amazing grace. It is rest.

The render part means cause to be or become, to make. He caused us to become the righteousness of God by Jesus’ death on the cross.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

But the meaning of the Greek word also includes the concept of declaring or proclaiming. To declare or proclaim is different from rendering. It is to blow the trumpet, shout it to the heavens and to our enemies what Jesus did and that now we are right with God. Can you hear God’s voice thundering through eternity? “There is now no condemnation! She is just as she ought to be!”

Jesus rendered and proclaimed. He shed his blood on the cross in our place, he also shouted out “It is finished!” The difference between rendering and proclaiming is the difference between victory on the battlefield and the triumphal procession of the vanquished.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15

The second thing that caught my heart in these verses is the idea of separation. Jesus was separated by dying from the agape love of God so that we would never have to be separated.

Astonishingly, the TDNT has this to say about agape love:

This term has neither the magic of eros nor the warmth of phileos. It has first the weak sense “to be satisfied,” “to receive” …

E. Stauffer in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

Let me just say that I don’t think it is a weakness of God’s love that he is satisfied with us and receives us as we are. That is what so many, what the world, craves – acceptance. And that is what we have by the death of Jesus on the cross.

Recently, a dear friend pointed out something I had not seen before in Galatians 3:13-14

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

What is the blessing given to Abraham? I always stopped there and in my mind thought of this blessing as riches and prosperity. He was a rich man right? But what is this blessing? It is the promise of the Spirit. The Presence of God. That I might be a friend of God too, as Abraham was.

What is this “curse of the law” from which we were freed by Jesus death on the cross? If we go back a few verses in Galatians we see it.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10

The curse of the Law is all the “shoulds” and all the “oughts” that we can never fully satisfy. Jesus vanquished them all, and by the free gift of grace, satisfied God completely, that we may be received as friend of God, as child of God – “such as we ought to be.”