A Relational God

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.

Yours Truly

Forgiven

I have done some really stupid things in my short existence here on earth… some of them I have chocked to immaturity but no matter how much I excuse others,  they have got a hook in my conscience and can bring me to a place of shame with just a fleeting thought. And yet most days, I strut about guilt-free, not carrying the weight of my careless past around. More often than not, I feel FORGIVEN. I say more often than not because there are a few days where a random event triggers memories from my past and with the memories come a twinge of condemnation. But even then, I still feel FORGIVEN.

Over the past few weeks, I have come to the realization that forgiveness is not free and should not be taken for granted. It always comes at a cost both to the forgiver and the forgiven; a cost which is manifest in expectations.

As we continue with our series on the Lord’s Prayer (sorry for the hiatus), I have had time to ponder over the next section:

Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Matthew 6:12 GNT

Two expectations of the one who is forgiven are that:

  1. He or she does not become a repeat offender.  John 8:11: “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Now go and sin no more.” BSB. Jesus expectation of the woman caught in adultery was that having been forgiven, she’d not put herself in that position again.
  2.  He or she would replicate such forgiveness.

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” Matthew 18: 23- 35 NLT

The expectation of the forgiven is that they will, in turn, become the forgivers.

Forgiveness needs to be given freely and often. It is to be given without any demands of the offender; knowing full well that the offender may require to be forgiven for similar or other offences over and over again.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times! Matthew 18:22 BSB

It seems like a difficult task and frankly a futile one. Why forgive with the understanding that you can be hurt again? Another lesson from weeks of pondering is that forgiveness is not easy. It is easy to say to someone who owes you money, “Don’t worry. It’s all good!” only if you can afford to do so. Cancelling another’s debt  (sin, offence, trespass is likened to debt in scripture) like the King in the story above did can only come from one place: abundance.

It is not the abundance of things that I speak of; cos life does not consist in an abundance of possession (Luke 12:15). Rather I speak of the abundant life that Jesus promises: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10 ESV). This abundant life is the impetus for forgiveness. When God forgives you of all your wrongdoing, and you walk about guilt and condemnation-free, that’s winning the lottery of abundant life! You’ve got it good. You’ve been made and so you can afford to freely cancel other’s debt.

That’s not even the best part. The best part is that as we forgive others, God forgives us too. For those who love science, that’s a positive feedback loop! The more you forgive, the more you are forgiven and the more you are forgiven, the more you forgive. It sounds glamorous, I know, but forgiveness is far from glamorous. It is painstakingly difficult.

The reality of it all is this: To whom much is given, much is expected. The expectation of the forgiven is to become a forgiver. And if there’s anyone who has been forgiven much it is me! And so for me, forgiveness is not a choice. It is God’s expectation of me. And I know I can count on God’s spirit to fill me abundantly with His love and grace in my time of dryness so I can graciously forgive as God has forgiven me.

Give me this day my daily bread, O God,  so out of my abundance of love, and grace, and truth, and mercy, I can confidently say to those who offend me, “Don’t worry. It’s all good!

Yours Truly.

 

Picture from Clear Sky Group. (2018, November 23). The importance of forgiveness in recovery. Retrieved from https://clearskyibogaine.com/the-importance-of-forgiveness-in-recovery/