Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lost and Found – Gospel 101(a)

Masaccio, Brancacci Chapel, Adam and Eve, detail.

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What was lost in Eden?

Generally, we think of Eden as the place where humanity lost its innocence, and of course that's true. But there's more to it than that. Eden was the place where humanity lost its God-centeredness, and only when we understand that will the Gospel make complete sense.

After all, what's the connection between a bite of fruit and the repetition of a "Sinner's prayer?" How does one supposedly make up for the other? Is it even possible that one could make up for the other? (If you’ve followed this blog for long, you know where I stand on that question!)

How does the Gospel restore what Eden saw fade?

Eden declared the glory of God.

If the heavens declare the glory of God now, even after the fall of man (Ps. 19:1); if all of creation still speaks of God’s eternal power and divinity (Rom. 1:20); if the knowledge of our Creator’s existence still lies embedded in every depraved soul (Rom. 1:21), then how much more were God’s attributes magnified in the perfections of Eden and in the eyes of innocent humanity? Eden was created for man, but Eden wasn’t about man. It was about God’s goodness, and man’s extraordinary privilege of enjoying that goodness to his heart’s content. His glory was their joy.

And Adam and Eve didn’t want it any other way.

You see, they met with Him, face-to-face in the garden. They knew He was their greatest joy. They knew He had made all of the lesser things that they also took pleasure in. And they knew that He was in charge of them. Adam worked because God told him to. And because no sin yet warped his soul, he enjoyed his work thoroughly.

God was their center. God was their source. God was their purpose. God was their all.

It changed when, at the suggestion of the Fallen One, they decided to look elsewhere for their happiness. And mankind has been looking elsewhere for its happiness ever since.

Somehow, the Gospel is the answer to man’s problem. And though I grew up under solid Biblical teaching, I have to confess that the Gospel never made sense to me. It seemed so arbitrary, this method God chose to make things right. It seemed like it came out of left-field, and it bore no discernible connection to my need. I was miserable in my life, and doomed in my death, and by faith I had to believe that Jesus had somehow applied His death to me in order to give me life. Okay, I’d believe it, but it seemed so bizarre.

Sure, I knew that He was punished in my place. But that didn’t make sense to me either.

If I were dying of thirst in the Badlands, and someone came up and told me, “Don’t worry. A couple of thousand years ago, thousands of miles away, someone died to give you water! When you die, you’ll have all the water you want. Do you believe that? Get up and get back to living if you do. Be happy!” Would that really meet my need?

I might be able to believe it, but I couldn’t see how it would help my parched throat now. And if anyone had wanted to help me, why would they do it that way? It just seemed so disjointed.

How is a two thousand year old gospel, or the events surrounding that old wooden cross, supposed to relate to me today? Why did He choose to save me that way?

When I dared to ask, the answer I generally got was, “Don’t question it. Just believe it.” But questions are good things, if they lead us to seek our answers in God.

In God.

As John Piper so aptly says, God is the Gospel. (Though I’ve never read that book, I’ve absorbed enough of Piper over the years to feel pretty sure of what he means by that phrase.) As Eden was about God, and as Heaven is about God, so the Gospel is all about God as well. And the Gospel that revolves around God is the only one that makes sense.

As Oswald Chambers reminds us, “Eternal life is not a gift from God. It is the gift of God.” In the Gospel, God gives us Himself.

How? What does the Gospel give us that nothing else could? I can think of a few points offhand (which sounds like it could turn into a series if I’m not careful…)

Like nothing else could, the Gospel gives us:

  1. Who God is
  2. What we are
  3. What is the deepest need of our soul
  4. How to have what we need

Yep, this is going to need at least one more entry to complete.

What are your thoughts? How does the Gospel give God to us? Why is it important that we believe it…so important that the fate of our eternal souls rests on it? Why is God so big on belief? How is the Gospel relevant to our needs…not just in an abstract way, but very practically? How does it restore what we lost? I look forward to your comments.

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1 comment:

WhiteStone said...

Love the post ... and I'm anxious to read the next!

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