In the past couple weeks I have been listening very closely to God about what it means to have a relationship with him. God has been speaking with me regarding this and it all starts in a garden. For those of you who missed last week’s post, this is coming from my realization that I do not know what it means to be in relationship with God so I asked God to teach me. I do so with the understanding that in order to persevere in my faith , I need to see clearly who Jesus is, and what he has done for me. So, let’s go to the garden…
In the beginning, God created humanity to have a relationship with Him. The full embodiment of the Godhead created Adam and Eve to be in the image and likeness of God and gave them creative power and dominion over everything (Gen 1: 26-30). God made humanity different from the angels- who are God’s messengers that do His bidding. He created beings who were a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory (Heb 2:7- 8) and filled them with many of His abilities and attributes so that he could relate with them on a different level- not as servants like He would the angels but as friends. He made humans with the ability to create beings in their own image and likeness like God had done; to call things into existence by speaking just like God had done; to have power over created things like God does; and He gave man the ability to take care of things, and to nurture and cultivate things just like God can. He even topped it all by giving humans the ultimate key to relationship with Him: CHOICE. (Relationship is all about choice- you choose who you want to be in relationship with and how much you want to give to that relationship. You choose whether people you meet will become strangers, acquaintances, friends, lovers, etc. The only thing man did not choose was to be created- because that choice lay in the hands of the Creator and that still remains true today for us as humans with the the ability to procreate, children do not choose to be born, that choice lay in the hands of the parents, the creators- but I digress). So on a daily basis, God came down and spent time in fellowship with Adam and Eve in the garden He made for them. Until one day, Adam and Eve chose to no longer be in relationship with God and chose disobedience over obedience; and the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil which is death over life. And that day, everything else broke. Humans still had everything that God had bestowed upon them in creation- the ability to create, nurture, to have dominion and to bring into existence things that are spoken- but what had changed was that because Adam and Eve chose death- everything that humans have created and done since then is tainted by the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the internal struggle of good and evil was reproduced in every human after that day.
In the meanwhile, humans were created by God, for relationship with God and God’s plan is to reconcile and restore humans back to that original place of relationship in the garden where God would come down and dwell with his creation and He promises to do this in the fullness of time:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelations 21:1-4 NIV
However, in order for humans to return to this place of relationship with God, they had to make a choice to reject the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil which is death and choose life. But how? Humans have tried for many millennia to find their way back into relationship with God but cannot on their own because everything we do comes from the nature and likeness of Adam and Eve which is not the same as the nature and likeness of God. For us to get back in relationship with God, our nature and likeness must be changed back to the way it was in the beginning because the only way to be in that kind of relationship with God as Adam and Eve had in the garden is to be in the image and likeness of God as it was in the beginning.
God had to remove the option of death so that the only choice left to make was life for anyone who is ready to make that choice. The only way to do that was to take on death itself by dying. In order to do this, God had to assume the human nature with its struggles between good and evil (which is death) and life. God in human form as Jesus (also known as Emmanuel which means God among us and with us), chose life for all, just as Adam and Eve had chosen death for all. He did so by being the sacrifice of death in the choice of life and death so that as many people who want to be reconciled to God no longer had the option between death and life- only life. This is what we call being ‘born again’- it is the act of choosing life over death and by so doing, taking on the image and likeness of God so that you can go back to being in relationship just as you were created to be.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons [and daughters] to glory, it was fitting for God, for whom and through whom all things exist, to make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. For both the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. Hebrews 2: 9-11NIV
So in last week’s post, I admitted that I did not understand how God can keep forgiving over and over again and when His love would run out. There is still a mystery there but that does not negate or diminish the fact that Jesus revealed the depth of God’s love for humankind by taking our place and dying for us. It is this love, this yearning to restore relationship that is activated every time I pray for forgiveness of sin and choose life- even if it is 1000 times per day! This is why God can forgive me unconditionally because every time I renounce sin, I am choosing a relationship with Him and I am choosing life and that is all He desires- that no one perish but that all come to choose life, even everlasting life. He wants a Revelations 21 ending for everyone of His creation- to be back in relationship with Him forever as was intended in the beginning. And this is the simple gospel.