Monday, August 4, 2008

Until all is very good again...

Let’s go back to the Garden. God has created all things. Day by day he’s added more and more beauty and wonder to his new invention. Time comes into being. Darkness, light, water, sky, sun, moon, stars, dry ground, fruits and vegetables. Fish, frogs, lions, chickens, lizards, camels, platypuses, sheep and gerbils. And man – one male, one female. God looks at all he’s made and he says what? It’s good. It’s all good. It’s very good! That’s what God says about what he’s made, all that he’s spoken into existence.

And don’t you agree? I think he did a bang up job on creation. What I see when I stop and look around is stunning, magnificent, gorgeous, attractive, good!

So our Creator is done with his work. What does he do next? He gives his highest creations, his image bearers, things to do. He commands the man and the woman to be fruitful, to increase in number, to fill the earth and subdue it. He instructs the man to name the animals, to rule over them all, to tend the garden.

Reproduction – and by implication, marriage between one man and one woman – was part of God’s original plan, his good plan. Caring for the earth and working it was too. Domesticating animals. Watching over them.

And while God has given Adam and Eve all these things to do, I don’t want you to think of him as a cruel task master. The work he gave them to do was enjoyable. It wasn’t burdensome or hard. They didn’t even break a sweat. They didn’t have weeds to deal with. Work in the early days of the earth was pleasurable, good.

Life with God was good too. God liked hanging out in Eden with the man and the woman. He walked with them. He talked with them. Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God. It was wonderful in every way. No guilt or shame to separate them from him. No fear or doubt to cloud their conversations.

Friends, we lost a lot when the original pair sinned. Listen to God’s words to them following their fall.

Genesis 3:16-19, “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’

“To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.’” (NIV)

Not much fun in reading those words. They’re full of pain and dominance and toil and death. All that was good was damaged by the fall. Do you hear me? Everything changed when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. All that was good was damaged, bent, distorted, cursed. Man’s soul was not the only thing to die.

Childbirth, part of the “be fruitful and increase” command, was no longer all joy. Yeah, the end result is still fun – a baby – but the getting there’s not so great. Am I right, women?

Marriage, which God had created for harmony and helpfulness, was harmed. Women, you can thank Eve for the argument you had with your husband Monday. Men, you can thank Adam for that misunderstanding you had with your wife Thursday.

And let me add something here. All human relationships were damaged in man’s fall into disobedience. It’s not just marriage that’s in desperate need of repair. Friendships are not as close and intimate as they were designed to be. Your boss and you don’t get along as well as God intended you to. Parent-child interactions are more volatile than they would be. There’s less trust between you and me than there would be if we weren’t part of a fallen race.

Work, part of the good God had given to man, was stripped of its pleasure. How many of you love your job? Anyone? How many of you love everything about your job? No one, right? There are things I find not so enjoyable about my work. Surprised? Don’t be. I have to deal with the results of the curse same as anyone, same as all of you.

The physical world, over which God had appointed man as ruler, was affected. All the beauty that we see isn’t as beautiful as it once was. That rose in your garden isn’t really all that pretty compared to what it was supposed to be. That lion you see on Animal Planet isn’t as majestic as his first relative was. All around us created things are breaking and rotting. Everything we see is failing, dying. It’s all cursed. We don’t know what beauty is. Not really. We’ve never seen the real thing.

But we will. That’s what I want you to hear today.

Jesus, on the cross, became a curse for us. That’s what the Bible says. Galatians 3:13, “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.” (NIV)

So we who are believers are free from the spiritual effects of the curse right now. We have a restored relationship with God. We can have better relationships with others. We have work to do for God.

We are free from the spiritual effects of sin and will someday soon be free from the physical effects as well. We will be raised from the dead. We will have bodies, physical bodies that will never die or age or get sick or be in pain or be injured. Yes, our bodies will be different, but at the same time, they’ll be much the same. Our friends will recognize us and we’ll recognize them when we meet up on the New Earth.

The New Earth! Jesus blood on the cross broke the power of the curse over all things – ALL things! All that was very good in the beginning will be very good once again. Relationships will be very good. Animals will be very good. Plants will be very good. Dirt will be very good. Stars will be very good. Pepsi will be very good. (Ok, I may be wrong about that one. The water of life flowing from the throne of God will likely be my new favorite drink. But about the rest, I’m sure all those things will be very good. They’ll be very good for eternity.)

If all this is not true, then Satan wins. His victory is great if God cannot restore and renew to a good state all he fashioned and formed in the beginning. The curse is eternal if man and animals and relationships and work cannot return to God’s ideal.

The effects of the fall are already reversing. You and I can be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Our spirits which were dead because of sin are now alive in our Savior. Someday soon the rest of the curse will be dealt a fatal blow.

Until then, we eagerly await the Lord’s coming and final victory over Satan and sin and death. We love each other. We care for the earth. We worship God.

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