9 Where This Leaves Us
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Adam’s sin unleashed a flood of evil into the universe—a flood so great that only almighty God could confront the toxic deluge.
Sin’s widespread metastasis
C.S. Lewis wrote, in his book The Problem of Pain:
[The Fall of Man] was not, I conceive, comparable to mere deterioration as it may now occur in a human individual; it was a loss of status as a species. What man lost by the Fall was his original specific nature. . .
This condition was transmitted by heredity to all later generations, for it was not simply what biologists call an acquired variation; it was the emergence of a new kind of man—a new species, never made by God, had sinned itself into existence. The change which man had undergone was not parallel to the development of a new organ or a new habit; it was a radical alteration of his constitution, a disturbance of the relation between his component parts, and an internal perversion of one of them.
Our present condition, then, is explained by the fact that we are members of a spoiled species.”
We’re all in the same sinking boat
So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it:
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner–of–the–year,
litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.
This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.[i]
Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.[ii]
This was now a problem between God and the serpent, with man caught in the middle. While man opened the floodgates, he could never have the known the dimensions of the problem he created—a problem that locked cosmic superpowers in a duel to the death in which only one side could emerge the victor. This was winner–take–all, with no possibility of a negotiated settlement or of dividing up the spoils. Adam was way over his head here, as evidenced by his belief that his fig leaves, hiding places, and blame–evasion schemes would have the slightest effect in such a war of the worlds. Consider the cosmic–scale challenges that lay before him.
Sin had to be put away
Not covered up or hidden—but obliterated. We struggle to grasp the extremity of this divine requirement because we don’t yet understand the extreme menace that sin represents to every living being. How could we?
Imagine this. How would you explain to fish who were born in the Ganges River in India that the river in which they were born is polluted? Remember, this is the river where “close to a billion gallons of raw sewage gushes into the Ganges each day, much more than the existing sewage treatment facilities can handle, turning the river into little more than a slow–flowing sewer.” Those native fish have never known clean water—they would have nothing to compare it with.
Similarly, we’ve all been born into a sin–infused world, with nothing to compare ourselves against morally except billions of other sinners—Mother Teresa and Billy Graham included. But ultimately, the real “gold standard” of comparison against which we will all be measured is the perfect holiness of God himself—now that’s a challenge! Jesus raised the bar about as high as it can get, when he stated unambiguously:
“Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”[iii]
To help illustrate our global “sin issue,” consider the similarities between the physical disease of cancer and the spiritual disease of sin:
- Like cancer, sin metastasizes (spreads) without limits and kills mercilessly.
- Like cancer, sin can’t be negotiated with, accommodated, or appeased. It does not reside peacefully with its neighbors, and it seeks to kill everything to which it is exposed.
- Like cancer, sin can lie undetected for years before manifesting its true nature.
- Like cancer, sin can be nearly impossible to differentiate from its healthy neighboring cells.
- Like cancer, sin only requires a few errant cells to begin an infection that consumes the entire host body. A true cure requires complete eradication—not just a reduction of numbers to a manageable level.
One could ask, “Ontologically, is cancer a ‘thing?’” After all, isn’t it just an abnormal multiplication of normal cells in the body? Cancer only becomes a “thing” when this abnormal multiplication forms a tumor made up of billions of those abnormal cells. That is when it becomes lethal and goes on to spread to surrounding tissue.
Likewise, is sin a “thing?” Does sin float around in the universe on its own? Sin is not a “thing” that has violated a moral code, theological concept, or abstract principle. Like cancer, sin requires a host, and that host is a cooperating (actively or passively) man or woman. Then, when conditions are right, the man or woman “gives birth” to sin by disobeying God in any one of a thousand forms. We learn from scripture that this is because we are predisposed to do so because of our inherited “sin nature.” We can’t help it. But that fact does not get us “off the hook” for the consequences of our own actions. Here is how Paul described the life we inherited from our forefathers—every one of us:
It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.[iv]
Once inside a human host, sin morphs into a multi–headed hydra (like metastatic tumors), taking on a life of its own, seeking to destroy everything in its path. Sin’s lifecycle is only complete when it joins with its host as an active malevolent force with its own mind, intellect, and intention. This explains why Satan was so focused on getting to Adam and Eve. Through them, he could infect the whole of the human race as early as possible.
So why isn’t the extreme peril of sin more evident to ordinary people in our modern cultural context? Sadly, to increase the appeal of Christianity to the masses, many mainstream denominations have dumbed down the central message of salvation and morphed it into a social gospel that sounds more like a pop psychology self–help seminar than a matter of life and death. H. Richard Niebuhr put it this way:
We have made Christian faith the story of how a God without wrath brings men without sin into a kingdom without judgment, through the ministration of a Christ without a cross!
People need life not rules. Churches that fail to deliver what Jesus promised are suffering the consequences of empty buildings and widespread irrelevance in a culture that isn’t easily fooled by pretense. And the life we all need begins and ends with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not empty religious posturing:
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”[v]
Now, imagine if an oncologist, after discovering a malignant tumor in a patient, simply chose to ignore or to cover it up? Or worse yet, he placed the patient on a regimen of diet, exercise, and various physical rituals. This is religion at its heart—an attempt to solve an eternal problem through temporal means. Cancer requires a radical response to the presence of a deadly peril. So it is with sin. Don’t settle for religious Band–Aids.
The evil serpent needed to be killed
In the original Hebrew language, the serpent’s head was going to be bruised, meaning fatally injured. That old serpent needed to be defeated and killed—not just avoided or, worse yet, appeased. Like cancer, the serpent had no limit on his ambitions to eventually rule the universe. Of course, Adam could never confront the serpent because, on the fateful day he chose the serpent’s will over God’s will, he had unwittingly become the serpent’s slave.
Doing war with the serpent called for “cosmic horsepower,” and it would take a few thousand years for God to unfold his plan to rid the universe of all evil. But here is a glimpse into the serpent’s future as recorded in the book of Revelation:
The Woman gave birth to a Son who will shepherd all nations with an iron rod. Her Son was seized and placed safely before God on his Throne. The Woman herself escaped to the desert to a place of safety prepared by God, all comforts provided her for 1,260 days. War broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought the Dragon. The Dragon and his Angels fought back, but were no match for Michael. They were cleared out of Heaven, not a sign of them left. The great Dragon—ancient Serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, the one who led the whole earth astray—thrown out, and all his Angels thrown out with him, thrown down to earth. Then I heard a strong voice out of Heaven saying,
Salvation and power are established!
Kingdom of our God, authority of his Messiah!
The Accuser of our brothers and sisters thrown out,
who accused them day and night before God.
They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb
and the bold word of their witness.
They weren’t in love with themselves;
they were willing to die for Christ.
So rejoice, O Heavens, and all who live there,
but doom to earth and sea,
For the Devil’s come down on you with both feet;
he’s had a great fall;
He’s wild and raging with anger;
he hasn’t much time and he knows it.”[vi]
I saw an Angel descending out of Heaven. He carried the key to the Abyss and a chain—a huge chain. He grabbed the Dragon, that old Snake—the very Devil, Satan himself!—chained him up for a thousand years, dumped him into the Abyss, slammed it shut and sealed it tight. No more trouble out of him, deceiving the nations—until the thousand years are up. After that he has to be let loose briefly.[vii]
Note the total absence of any mention of Adam the first in any of these confrontations. These battles were fought by unimaginably powerful angelic beings with the Son, the Messiah, at the head of the army, defeating all opponents by the power of the “blood of the Lamb.”
God’s claims for righteousness had to be met
Adam had created a bigger problem between himself and God than he could ever have imagined and, in the process, brought fire down on his own head. God was unambiguous when he said to him, very early on:
“You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree–of–Knowledge–of–Good–and–Evil. Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.”[viii]
Essentially God was saying that if they turn away from his will for their life and eat of that tree, someone’s going to die. And so far as Adam was concerned, that someone would be him. When it comes to justice, righteousness, and the law, God’s requirements are unequivocal. And, closer to home, these very same conditions extend beyond Adam to every human being born after him, including you and me. Paul explained the dimensions of this hereditary spiritual condition which we learn extends to all humans ever born:
You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it.
Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death–dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead–end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death–dealing sin and this generous, life–giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life–gift, this grand setting–everything–right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?
Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.[ix]
Note carefully the need for a savior, a deliverer—one who was not part of the sin problem—to rescue Adam and his progeny from suffering divine wrath for having trampled underfoot God’s clearly specified righteous requirements.
Death had to be abolished
Our modern culture widely accepts the definition of “death” to be the cessation of life accompanied by the end of conscious existence. The Bible sets forth two stages of death. The first, when the soul/spirit departs the body, with the material remainder returning to dust [corresponding to the common definition]. However, the Bible holds that conscious existence continues eternally within the soul/spirit following separation from the body. The only question that remains is where the soul/spirit goes afterward. Scripture offers only two alternatives, Heaven or Hell. Here is one of many defining verses on the subject:
I saw a Great White Throne and the One Enthroned. Nothing could stand before or against the Presence, nothing in Heaven, nothing on earth. And then I saw all the dead, great and small, standing there—before the Throne! And books were opened. Then another book was opened: The Book of Life. The dead were judged by what was written in the books, by the way they had lived. Sea released its dead, Death and Hell turned in their dead. Each man and woman was judged by the way he or she had lived. Then Death and Hell were hurled into Lake Fire. This is the second death—Lake Fire. Anyone whose name was not found inscribed in the Book of Life was hurled into Lake Fire.[x]
All men are destined to exist consciously forever. They don’t just disappear but remain aware throughout eternity…somewhere. That “somewhere” is the big question and lies at the very heart of why Jesus Christ came down from heaven to secure a place of eternal safety from death’s icy grip for those who choose to follow him:
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”[xi]
Jesus pledged his life to reversing the effects of Adam’s terrible misadventure, which resulted in the sting of death threatening every human being ever born. Of course, Adam could never have addressed this ghastly prospect on his own—he brought it about in the first place. Arthur Custance commented on the natural death aspect of Adam’s newly discovered mortality:
Genesis 2:7 records that Adam was warned of the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit when he was told that “in the day thou eat thereof thou shalt surely die.” The original Hebrew here is interesting and literally reads “dying thou shalt die.” There is some question as to the precise meaning of this phrase but it would be quite appropriate to render it “in the day thou eat thereof, thou art a dying man.” He did not die that day but he became that day a dying creature, a mortal man. Although he survived another 930 years, he was already under sentence of death. Prior to this he was not subject to natural death: he had enjoyed a physical immortality which was contingent on his preserving it by not eating the forbidden fruit. He lost this privileged condition, and by disobeying a seemingly simple prohibition, introduced some mortogenic factor into his body, as Eve had also already done shortly before; and by natural generation this acquired character, mortality, was passed on to all his descendants, and so “death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12).[xii]
Custance went on to explain that the process of death for every human being literally begins the moment they are conceived:
Conception is the beginning of death; for it is at the time of conception that the immortality of the seed, or more precisely, of the body which is to house it, begins to be surrendered. So that Psalm 51:5 is perhaps more literally true than we have customarily allowed: “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This is not because the act of procreation is sinful in itself but because it marks the point of entry into the stream of human life (as it is conveyed from germ plasm to germ plasm) of that particular form of poison which was introduced from the forbidden fruit and which in Romans 5:12 is termed SIN and to which is attributed the entrance of death. Thus mortality is passed on by inheritance from generation to generation, and if we are permitted to take this passage literally, it is passed on through the male seed, “by man,” and not through the seed of the woman.
Custance elaborated on death as being both an event and a process. In addition, over the biblical period, man’s lifespan, which was relatively long at first, began a slow and steady decline to its present length of “threescore and ten”:
Death has been imposed upon man as a penalty. At first its effects were delayed, but after the Flood those effects were greatly accelerated for reasons now understood in part. Today we die at an age which to them would have seemed comparable to the death of a mere infant. While we may expect to live for three score and ten, they did not even reach the child–bearing stage till they were one hundred and thirty years old or thereabouts! This death of which we speak involves the separation of two components, and takes place when the spirit leaves the body irretrievably. The departure of the spirit is best described as an event. The dissolution of the body is best described as a process. Death is therefore both event and process.
Today’s cultural attitude toward human death treats the subject as a natural process, no more momentous than the passing of an animal. But the Bible records the entrance of death as an unparalleled tragedy—not originally intended by God nor welcomed by man. Death is the opposite of the very nature of God, who is the author of life. Custance pointed out that Martin Luther had much to say on this:
In his commentary on Psalm 90 Luther deals at some length with the tragedy of death which for man he calls “a genuine disaster.” It seems that in most evangelical circles today the fact has been almost entirely overlooked. The Theory of Evolution has made its case so forcefully that many have abandoned their former position and come to accept the animal origin of man’s body, demanding only that his soul be a special creation.
But this is to surrender an essential aspect of man’s uniqueness, namely, that he was created immortal. If this is true, and the Word of God most assuredly proclaims it in no uncertain terms, then man cannot have received his body by evolutionary descent because the primate stock from which it is proposed to derive him consists of a line of animals for whom old age and death seem clearly to be natural and programmed. For man death is neither natural nor is it programmed, save as a penalty.
Luther wrote in his commentary: (Luther’s Works: Selected Psalms II, edited by J. Pelican, St. Louis, Concordia, 1965, vol.13, p.94, 95, 96.)
This Psalm reveals in striking fashion that the death of man is in countless ways a far greater calamity than the death of other living beings. Although horses, cows, and all animals die, they do not die because God is angry at them. On the contrary, for them death is, as it were, a sort of temporal casualty, ordained indeed by God but not regarded by Him as punishment. Animals die because for some other reason it seemed good to God that they should die.
But the death of human beings is a genuine disaster. Man’s death is in itself truly an infinite and eternal wrath. The reason is that man is a being created for this purpose: to live forever in obedience to the Word of God and to be like God. He was not created for death. In his case death was ordained as a punishment of sin; for God said to Adam: “In the day that you eat of this tree, you shall die” (Genesis 2:17).
The death of human beings is, therefore, not like the death of animals. These die because of a law of nature. Nor is man’s death an event which occurs accidentally or has merely an aspect of temporality. On the contrary, man’s death, if I may so speak, was threatened by God and is caused by an incensed and estranged God. If Adam had not eaten of the forbidden tree, he would have remained immortal. But because he sinned through disobedience, he succumbs to death like the animals which are subject to him. Originally death was not part of his nature. He dies because he provokes God’s wrath. Death is, in his case, the inevitable and deserved consequence of his sin and disobedience.
Man’s death is truly an event sadder and more serious than the slaughter of a cow. This becomes most evident when one takes into account the propagation of evil. Moses says: “Thou causes men to die.” “Men” refers to the entire human race. Moses includes in this one word “men” all the offspring of our first parents. Therefore, that which was created for life is now destined for death. This is the result of God’s wrath. So the entire human race plunged from immortality into eternal death.[xiii]
Righteous authority needed to be reestablished over the earth
In the first chapter of Genesis, God announced to all powers in the heavens and on earth that, as an extension of God’s own image, Adam would be given direct authority over the earth and all that was within it. This made him a unique species indeed:
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”[xiv]
What Adam could never have known is that when he sided with the serpent in rebelling against God’s authority, he forfeited his God–given authority over the earth and handed it directly to the serpent, who had become Adam’s new authority figure. At last, the serpent ruled the earth and its accompanying atmosphere. This explains why, thousands of years later, the Apostle Paul was to refer to Satan as “the prince of the power of the air”:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.[xv]
The serpent was now in charge of the world and, until challenged by a superior power, would have remained so forever. The opening salvo of the future war to take the earth back is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, and Jesus proved more than Satan’s equal in the exchange. Listen in:
Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”
Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”
For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”
Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single–heartedness.”
The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.[xvi]
Jesus never denied that the things Satan offered to him were his to give. But Jesus knew that, to break Satan’s power, he could never play by Satan’s rules. The whole of Jesus’s life was spent in carrying out God’s plan, on God’s terms, put in place before the foundation of the earth:
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
I will open My mouth in parables;
I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”[xvii]
Man’s conscience needed to be cleansed once and for all
C.H. Mackintosh described man’s condition after the fall as “degraded, powerless, Satan–enslaved, conscience–smitten, terrified creatures.” Absent divine intervention, this would be his condition all the way to the present day. That awful sense of being alienated and estranged from some form of higher power has haunted mankind down through the ages. Archeologists regularly find that, accompanying any ancient human settlement, there is nearly always evidence of ritual–worship, complete with altars and implements used in offering sacrifices to the gods. The need to appease and/or gain favor with unseen spiritual powers seems to be universal—all clearly the result of the equally universal consciences that uniquely distinguish humans from all other life forms including animals or plants. C. S. Lewis commented that, although painful and often marked with great anguish, this revelation of our vulnerability and personal peril is often the door that leads to salvation. In Mere Christianity, he wrote:
It is after you have realized that there is a real moral law, and a power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with the power—it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.
Regrettably, that frenetic impulse to cleanse ourselves spiritually can lead to baffling, confusing rituals:
Once every 12 years, 100 million Hindus take a pilgrimage to Allahabad, India, where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet, and immerse themselves in the water hoping to cleanse their sins. Because the Ganges is worshipped for its divine connection to the Hindu gods, many leave offerings to float along the river’s surface, including the dead, hoping to speed along the cycle of the after–life.[xviii]
Contradictory? Millions returning repeatedly to one of the world’s most polluted rivers to rid themselves of the stain of sin, only to return home conscience–smitten once more. That pervasive, haunting sense of not being right with God has filled mental institutions, drug and alcohol recovery programs, prisons, jails, and psychiatrists’ couches for as long as humans have been around. God knows that. And he also knows that such soul–deep dysfunction can’t easily be washed away. It requires “cosmic cleanser,” and that is where the blood of Christ comes in:
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
For this reason, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.[xix]
Imagine for just a minute what a difference it would make to your tired soul if you could know for sure that you are forgiven, that you are free of all obligation to a higher power, that there is a permanent peace between you and your God. Never again would you need to look over your shoulders in fear. Ravi Zacharias wrote:
The assurance of Heaven is never given to the person. And that’s why at the core of the Christian faith is the grace of God. If there’s one word I would grab from all of that, it’s forgiveness—that you can be forgiven. I can be forgiven, and it is of the grace of God. But once you understand that, I think the ramifications are worldwide.[xx]
In summary, the matters listed above were light years above the First Adam’s “pay grade” to address or even comprehend. Besides, he was part of the problem, rendering him incapable of being part of any solution. If ever a man needed a savior, it was Adam. But before any man is ready to hear from God, he must come to the end of himself, as Adam finally did.
Adam and Eve went on to multiply and, in their gene pool, down through the ages, was a fatal attraction to the same sin committed by their original parents. In his book The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, Custance observed:
The first man and woman as they came from the creative hand of God were physiologically perfect and began their existence without any mutated genes. Almost at once, when sin had entered, gene mutations would begin to appear. It is estimated that something like 10 gene mutations take place in each new generation. These become cumulative, since each generation inherits a quota of the new mutations and adds those taking place in themselves.
In a paper published by the American Scientific Affiliation, Walter Lammerts and John Sinclair observed:
As long as a perfect world existed, complete balance was possible. But with the entrance of sin, a vicious unbalance began leading to a more and more imperfect relation of the gene system with the environment both internal and external. Even the very basic system of gene reproduction by chromosome division and transmission became subject to flaws and imperfections. Hence we witness the large number of mutations which are mostly defective in one way or another.
The USC Norris Cancer Report described advanced research on DNA repair conducted by Guo–Min Li, PhD, as follows:
Li’s latest work has revealed that in addition to mutations in mismatch repair genes, abnormal epigenetic modifications also impair the mismatch repair system, leading to tumorigenesis.[xxi]
In other words, genetic mutations interfere with the body’s natural biologic repair processes, resulting in the development of cancerous tumors.
With the more recent development of genetic sequencing, it is possible to predict which diseases we might be predisposed to, due to the kinds of mutations referred to above. Sadly, a more serious predisposition seems to have infected all of humanity spiritually. It represents the single most dangerous preconception of man, and nothing short of the Holy Spirit of God can pierce its leaden fog and enlighten our darkened minds to its deadly lie. Because of our conflicted views regarding the character and goodness of God, we tend not to trust his absolute rule in our lives and are therefore driven to the inevitable control and manipulation that follows a declaration of independence from him.
Adam and Eve had been comfortable in God’s presence, before their fateful fall. But afterwards, this was no longer true. Where they used to feel like they belonged among the heavenly host, now they felt strangely earthbound, like a bird who had suddenly lost its wings.
My way or the highway!
By Paul Anka
Sung by Frank Sinatra
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way [xxii]
The insistent refrain in this song, one of Frank Sinatra’s most famous, underscores the most consistent characteristic of C. S. Lewis’s “spoiled species”: the need to take control of our lives and to not surrender it until our very last breath. Although that may seem admirable in most worldly circles, it is the most foolish attitude imaginable in a universe that is literally infused with the presence of an actively engaged benevolent Creator.
Recall that, after the fall, Adam and Eve were driven by forces within themselves—forces that they were experiencing for the first time—driving them to take control of their lives. Note the immediate response to their newfound awakening:
- They realized that they were naked, with the accompanying guilt, shame, and fear.
- They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings to cover up their acutely perceived nakedness. (Remember Eden–gate?)
- They hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, now sensing the awful terror of judgement.
- And finally, they resorted to manipulation. They accused God and each other of bringing this on:
The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.”[xxiii]
And Eve added, “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.”[xxiv] Here, in bold relief, we have the birth of the “victim mentality,” shifting responsibility and believing that God would buy into their game.
Not surprisingly, since we are direct descendants of Adam and Eve, the same script is playing out in most of our lives, as well. Life in a sin–saturated world has a way of dishing out plenty of reasons to run and hide from our own sins and the sins of others. Regrettably, most of us have experienced broken trust from parents, friends, and loved ones. And this has taught us to be wary of anyone outside of ourselves. Some of us have even been subjected to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from the very ones who we expected to protect and nurture us. As a result, we have developed sophisticated survival techniques to simply reach adulthood intact. Yet that very system of protection becomes our worst enemy in later years as we struggle to restore trust in others and to release the burden of needing to control everyone and everything around us.
The walls that we erect for our own protection end up imprisoning us, sealing us off from others who want to extend their love, however imperfectly, and who cannot understand why their efforts are so often summarily dismissed. What worked for survival for many of us, in our earlier days, no longer functions in our adult years. Worse, it isolates us in a prison of our own making. Sadly, for many, we take our system of protection against untrustworthy people and extend it to God himself. While painting him with the same brush as our untrustworthy fellow humans, we wonder why he seems so distant.
God longs to be closer, if we’ll just let him. He never intended that we live our lives on our own, limited to our own resources in an often–hostile world. In his classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers advised:
Put Trust in God First. Our Lord never put His trust in any person. Yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, and never lost hope for anyone, because He put His trust in God first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for others. If I put my trust in human beings first, the end result will be my despair and hopelessness toward everyone. I will become bitter because I have insisted that people be what no person can ever be—absolutely perfect and right. Never trust anything in yourself or in anyone else, except the grace of God.
In another section of his book he concluded:
There is no such thing as a private life, or a place to hide in this world, for a man or woman who is intimately aware of and shares in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. God divides the private life of His saints and makes it a highway for the world on one hand and for Himself on the other. No human being can stand that unless he is identified with Jesus Christ. We are not sanctified for ourselves. We are called into intimacy with the gospel, and things happen that appear to have nothing to do with us. But God is getting us into fellowship with Himself. Let Him have His way.
God’s Righteous Protocol
Imagine if you were to attempt an unscheduled and unannounced visit with the president of the United States. You go to Washington, DC, take a taxi to the White House, and knock on the front door (assuming you could get that far). Of course, you can’t just walk up to the most powerful man in the world. The next thing you know, you’re staring at the business end of an array of loaded firearms held by ill–tempered men who are in no mood for trivialities. There is a protocol for doing such things. You must be known and be acquainted with someone in authority who can vouch for you. You would need to be covered with all the proper credentials, vetting, and approvals. It’s the same in any country.
A new way of approach
So, what makes us think it’s any different when we attempt to approach the creator and sustainer of the universe? Could it be that there is a protocol for approaching God, as well? Now I am not talking about God’s overall approachability in response to prayer or petition—he always hears and always welcomes our heartfelt contact. But welcoming us into his home would be another matter altogether. We are talking about “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see.”[xxv] Could we get away with just dropping in on him?
In the seventh century BC, the great Jewish prophet Isaiah was given a terrifying vision of what it would be like to come into the presence of God in his temple as a mere man. It was frightening, but it ended well:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Master [God] sitting on a throne—high, exalted!—and the train of his robes filled the Temple. Angel–seraphs hovered above him, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew. And they called back and forth one to the other,
Holy, Holy, Holy is God–of–the–Angel–Armies.
His bright glory fills the whole earth.
The foundations trembled at the sound of the angel voices, and then the whole house filled with smoke. I said,
“Doom! It’s Doomsday!
I’m as good as dead!
Every word I’ve ever spoken is tainted—
And the people I live with talk the same way,
using words that corrupt and desecrate.
And here I’ve looked God in the face!
The King! God–of–the–Angel–Armies!”
Then one of the angel–seraphs flew to me. He held a live coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with the coal and said,
“Look. This coal has touched your lips.
Gone your guilt,
your sins wiped out.”[xxvi]
Isaiah got a rare glimpse of God’s holiness and, with it, an idea of where he stood in comparison. The only remedy for Isaiah’s sinful condition was fire—a perfect picture of the combination of God’s judgment of evil and soul–deep cleansing.
In another such human–divine encounter many centuries later, the Apostle John got a taste of God’s holiness and his instinctual reaction was remarkably similar to Isaiah’s:
It was Sunday and I was in the Spirit, praying. I heard a loud voice behind me, trumpet–clear and piercing…I turned and saw the voice.
I saw a gold menorah
with seven branches,
And in the center, the Son of Man,
in a robe and gold breastplate,
hair a blizzard of white,
Eyes pouring fire–blaze,
both feet furnace–fired bronze,
His voice a cataract,
right hand holding the Seven Stars,
His mouth a sharp–biting sword,
his face a perigee sun.
I saw this and fainted dead at his feet. His right hand pulled me upright, his voice reassured me: “Don’t fear: I am First, I am Last, I’m Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death’s doors, they open and lock Hell’s gates.”[xxvii]
I don’t know about you, but I would be very hesitant to just walk up to someone described as “the Son of Man, in a robe and gold breastplate, hair a blizzard of white, eyes pouring fire–blaze, both feet furnace–fired bronze” without an invitation. The message is clear—men are infected with sin; God is holy. For any human to enter God’s presence directly, at a minimum there must be a soul–deep cleansing and a complete change of status. And these were true men of God, biblical prophets who are revered by millions to this day. Compared to them, how do you think the rest of us would measure up?
Next, we go to the most common trap that so many fall into, especially those given to a religious mindset—trying to reach heaven on the strength of our “good deeds.” A “fool’s mission” if there ever was one.
So, why “the Law” in the first place?
So, what place does the Law of Moses have in putting ourselves “right” with God?” What if we lead a good life, behave ourselves morally, and do our best to be a good person? Doesn’t that count for something to offset any sinning we may have done? Didn’t God give us his rules and leave us to live up to them?
Sorry. To begin with, if this is the way you choose to approach and ultimately please God, the deck is stacked against you along at least the following lines:
There are literally hundreds of these laws
It isn’t just the “Big Ten” with which you would have to deal. Most school children know about the Ten Commandments. First given to the Jews under Moses, they have been continuously reproduced from their original stone tablets in wood, papyrus, and paper over the past five millennia and, lately, even in pixels. But that’s only the tip of the biblical iceberg. The Jewish Law covered the entire first five books of the Bible (known as the Torah), and Jewish scholars codified a total of 613 laws that also were to be observed by the faithful Jew as derived from the Torah. This collection was referred to as Mitzvot d’Oraita (Commandments from the Torah).
As the Jewish Virtual Library states:
The Ten Commandments are the first ten of the 613 commandments given by God to the Jewish people. They form the foundation of Jewish ethics, behavior and responsibility. These commandments are mentioned in order twice in the Torah—once each in the Book of Exodus and the Book of Deuteronomy.[xxviii]
But technically, there were still more rules to live by. Not to be outdone, the Jewish rabbis generated hundreds of laws of their own over the centuries. These came to be known as Mitzvot D’Rabbanan (Laws Instituted by the Rabbis). Many of these laws were concerned with temple worship and cannot even be observed today because there hasn’t been a temple or sacrificial system operational in Jerusalem since 70 A.D.
Finally, in addition to the laws just mentioned, there is an extensive array of Jewish customs, known as the Minhag, that were also considered binding upon observant Jews.
You would have to keep every law perfectly
If you were to choose to get to heaven by observing the Law, keep in mind that you would have to do it perfectly—for your entire life. The Apostle James puts it like this:
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.[xxix]
To illustrate, even if you perfectly observed the Law all your life, but on your death–bed you slipped and told a little white lie, you would be as guilty as someone who had lived a totally sinful life. The law is a respecter of no man, and its terms are nonnegotiable.
The law wasn’t even offered to Gentiles in the first place
Unless you are a true observant Jew, you were never given the law by God. We see the Ten Commandments occasionally on government buildings and take it for granted that anyone can adopt them for themselves. But what about this statement by the Apostle Paul:
Therefore, remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so–called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.[xxx]
Paul is pointing out that the way Gentiles and believing Jews are brought near to God is not by observing the law but by “the blood of Christ.” Thus, Jews (who had the Law but never kept it) and Gentiles are made fit to approach and to please God through the work of Jesus Christ on their behalf—not on anything they may have done to observe the law, live a good life, or be moral.
Just to be clear, we are not saying that living right is somehow not good. To the contrary, God wants us to be good, but not as a means of washing away our sins. Being “good” is a natural result of entering into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, not a means of establishing the relationship in the first place. The laws God gave were good, and they distinguished the Jews from the decidedly pagan and primitive nations around them. But the Law was never intended to remove the stain of sin from their souls—that is where sacrificial blood came in.
And herein lies the clincher. Even if you managed to navigate the labyrinth of hundreds and hundreds of laws, and you managed to live up to them perfectly, you would still find yourself facing the door to heaven marked “Do not enter.” That brings us to the biggest point of all.
The Law was never intended to save anyone
It couldn’t. Although it was good as an ideal, the Law was incapable of placing us into a righteous state before God, not because there was something wrong with the Law, but because there was something wrong with us—the fatal flaw lying in our “sinful flesh:
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.[xxxi]
God was prescribing a new way of living that would produce in us a spiritual walk that was not only pleasing to God but also would be energized by the Holy Spirit—not by our own ill–advised attempts to live up to the law.
Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.[xxxii]
The Law acted as a warning to all of us that our so–called works are no more meritorious than “filthy rags” when it comes to cleansing us from our sins. God’s purposes are centered upon Jesus and his work on our behalf. To point away from him to ourselves as a source of merit is a blasphemous insult to God’s grace. Listen to Paul’s words on this:
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.[xxxiii]
The Galatian believers fell for the fallacious notion that human works somehow figured into the equation of justifying a sinful man before God. Paul would have none of it:
You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.
Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up![xxxiv]
The law’s purpose is to reveal our sin not remove it
Think litmus paper, which measures the acid or base level of a liquid—it measures the value but does not change the composition. God’s Law displays his divine requirements for holy living but provides no power to fulfill them. The intent is to silence our denials, minimizations, and rationalizations and to bring us to our senses when it comes to personal culpability:
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.[xxxv]
To illustrate, precision machine shops utilize a device called a gauge block to make highly precise measurements as follows:
“Gauge blocks were invented in 1896 by Swedish machinist Carl Edvard Johansson. They are used as a reference for the calibration of measuring equipment used in machine shops, such as micrometers, sine bars, calipers, and dial indicators (when used in an inspection role). Gauge blocks are the main means of length standardization used by industry.”
Similarly, God’s Law provides a moral standard against which we can measure our lives to see how we compare. Again, the intent is not to encourage us to get better on our own but to honestly observe the glaring daylight between the crookedness of our lives compared the perfect straightness of God’s holiness and to encourage us to abandon all attempts to earn God’s favor in that way. But be careful here. Don’t blame the litmus paper or the gauge block—they simply show us what is there in the first place.
The Law is intended to point us toward Christ and away from bondage
It is bondage to try to live up to an impossible moral standard on our own. Yet millions are embarked on that fool’s mission every day, perhaps not specifically chasing the Law’s requirements per se but still pursuing one of a thousand ways to please God by their good works. We are incurably religious and too proud to admit that there is something so wrong with us that we need a savior to fix it. We want to be our own savior, but alas, we are part of the problem, so how could we also be part of the solution? We need outside help, and it has been provided—if only we’ll open our eyes and look:
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore, the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.[xxxvi]
Like young school children, we need to be tutored and guided, first of all, to our lost condition before a holy God, and most importantly, to our need for a personal savior:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.[xxxvii]
When Jesus uttered the words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,”[xxxviii] he was offering the only available guaranteed path to heaven and freedom from condemnation. The Law only brought death. God wants us to live under an entirely new law—one which brings eternal life.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.[xxxix]
Some may call this narrow–minded and exclusive, but ask yourself, if you were somehow exposed to the deadly polio virus and your doctor said to take the Salk polio vaccine, would you think he was being narrow–minded? Even if he said that it’s the only medical solution possible, would you go around looking for something else? Why? With a solution to your problem staring you in the face, why look for alternatives? So it is with God’s solution to our sin problem. One way. God has no Plan B here, folks.
Where is our outrage over sin?
Suppose you were a Martian landing on earth for the first time. And, in your initial encounters with earthlings, you find yourself confused by a widespread paradoxical behavior pattern that shouldn’t be seen in such a supposedly advanced civilization. On the one hand, all the information that these earthlings need to live wisely is right at their fingertips (literally, thanks to technology). But only a handful of these highly educated inhabitants actually do live wisely. Their world is still characterized by perpetual wars, rampant social unrest, genocide, abortion, addictions, family dissolution, child abuse/neglect, pornography/objectification, human trafficking, poverty, exploitation, occult spiritual practices, violence, mass murder, terrorism, and more.
Everyone seems to be pushing and shoving their way to the top, yet few have any real idea where they are going—their ultimate destination, that is. Most are focused on short–term objectives, even though they know that their stay here is unlikely to exceed seventy or eighty years (and that’s if they’re lucky). Most of these earth–dwellers, either individually or collectively (as families, tribes, or nations), care minimally for others but are willing to go to great ends to take care of themselves. As a Martian, you are astounded at this ongoing global display of repetitive self–destruction as it gets passed along to successive generations who seem blind to their own bleak history. You ask, “Doesn’t anyone ever learn? They have all that technology and knowledge, so why repeat the same things over and over?” There seems to be a collective blindness, and the only explanation for this appears to be that it’s in the genes.
Our Martian observer would also learn that humans the world over have ready access to the most widely circulated, most quoted book in human history—the Bible. But astoundingly, as successive generations “advance” in technology and sophistication, they increasingly view the Bible as antiquated and not applicable to modern times. Sadly, it becomes the most widely unread and unstudied book in their library. What follows is a self–inflicted, endemic shortsightedness, condemning them to repeat history.
For instance, right there in that “book of books,” the word sin gets 1,176 mentions—814 times in the Old Testament and 362 in the New Testament. Yet the subject of sin never comes up in the daily lives of earthlings—either because it is considered politically incorrect, or perhaps, more to the point, because it might intrude upon people’s lives in an uncomfortable way.
The book of Galatians summarizes the fruit, or result, of sin, which characterize the lives of people who are under sin’s dominion. Written two thousand years ago, the list is not unlike reading today’s newspaper headlines:
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic–show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all–consuming–yet–never–satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small–minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.[xl]
Our Martian friend wonders why it is that these people get outraged over neglected spotted owls, a personal slight, a rude driver on the freeway, or the loss of a coveted entitlement, yet quietly resign themselves to the far greater issue of sin which saturates every area of their personal, cultural, public, and political lives. He might exclaim, “Don’t they see the havoc sin is wreaking in their lives? Can’t they read what the Bible says about its human toll? It’s right there in black and white!”
- Sin is the opposite of God, and it personally offends his holiness and character.
- Sin is what draws down the wrath of God in righteous indignation.
- Sin is what places every man and woman in grave personal peril unless remedied by a radical salvation.
- Sin is what required the son of God to leave his heavenly perfection and to suffer unimaginable horrors to break its death grip on mankind.
- Sin is what viciously drove the nails into Jesus’s hands and feet, cruelly pressed down a crown of thorns upon his head, and left him to slowly suffocate hanging from a rugged cross, naked and alone.
- Sin is what caused the son of God to be separated from his heavenly father as he “became sin” for us.
- Sin propelled the heavenly rebellion of Satan and his angelic followers, infecting the cosmos and destroying the peace, order, and joy of the universe.
- Sin is what destroyed the joy and peace of God’s first children, introducing death and destruction for them and for every human being since.
- Sin separates everything it touches—It separated Adam and Eve from God, Adam from Eve, and Eve from Adam, and it has alienated man from man ever since. Sin caused the now–universal separation—at death—of the soul from the body, and even worse—at spiritual judgment—of the soul from God eternally.
- Sin brings chaos, entropy (the state of disorder), and confusion.
- Sin pollutes the earth and brings decay, famine, natural disasters, drought, weather catastrophes, and pestilence of every kind.
- Sin lands people in courtrooms, lawsuits, prisons, and addiction recovery programs.
- Sin leads to slavery and domination by dark spiritual forces in the invisible realm. It opens the door to Satan and his demons.
- Sin, at its heart, in the New Testament Greek language, is anomia, meaning “lawless—refusal to be controlled.” It is the root for our word animosity.
- Sin is so serious that it required the death of the son of God on the cross to break its power over us.
- Sin always bears fruit for death. The “reap what you sow” principle works every single time.
- Sin blinds us to its evil powers, deceiving us by its apparent charms. Sin blinds spiritually lost men and women to the way of salvation, and sin robs believers of their rightful peace and joy of their salvation.
- Sin invites a deadly conformity with the world, blinding us to the need to escape the world’s seductive influence.
- Sin blinds believers to their identity in Christ, bringing discouragement, defeat, and sometimes outright despair.
- Sin blinds believers to the truth that “they have died to sin,” inviting the believer to try to make deals with its presence in their lives—sometimes actually creating a “sin budget” in acknowledgment of its continuing power over them.
- Sin blinds believers to the kindness, compassion, and grace of God in delivering us from the Law, with its accompanying necessity to present a “righteousness of their own.”
- Sin can bring on the disciplining hand of God in a believer’s life.
Need we go on?
Closer to home, my work at the Rescue Mission has often resembled being immersed in a human Petri dish of dysfunctional behavior. The common denominator among all the individual stories is pain—often self–inflicted. The near–universal reaction to this pain and wounding is to blame others (to see oneself as a victim). This, in turn, usually results in resorting to the fleeting comforts of drugs and alcohol. After all, they need their meds, don’t they? The trouble is that, like a fishing lure, there is a “hook” buried deep inside every pill, bag, needle, or booze bottle, and that hook leads to the iron grip of addiction.
And there is a dirty little secret under it all. The cure is not in a bottle or a shrink’s couch, although such measures might provide a temporary respite. The cause of every pain in your life is sin. Either your own sin, or one that was committed against you by someone else. In his book, Grace: The Power to Change, Dr. James Richards wrote:
If I realize that sin is what brings pain into my life; if I realize that truth is the source of all fulfillment and joy; if I realize that I have in my power to experience the good things of God by my decision making, then I will make my decisions from a totally different motive base. I realize that what I choose to believe and do affects my joy and pleasure in this life—and I will decide for truth.
Make a list of every pain in your life. Then link it to the belief or behavior that is bringing that pain. Do everything you can to see the belief or behavior that is bringing that pain. Then list all the pleasure that could be derived from walking in truth.
I have seen people get up from the counseling table free from life–dominating problems after just one session by implementing this simple procedure. Once you see the source of pain as it really is, and the source of potential pleasure that comes from operating in truth, you will make an absolute decision in your heart for righteousness. When the decision is made, the grace [ability] of God will flow forth from your heart to make you able to live what you have decided.[xli]
God is not the great “cosmic spoilsport” that we think he is. He wants us to draw lines with sin—not because he arbitrarily wants us to give up everything that we think is fun, but because he knows from personal experience that sin brings us pain, sorrow, and eventually, death. He made us. He knows us. Would you pour water in the gas tank of your car? Surely, you know better. And, if you’re not sure, you can always read the owner’s manual. You, as a creation of God, have an owner’s manual to refer to, as well—the Bible. God is “the manufacturer,” he “designed” you, and he “produced” you. So, who better to know what’s best for you, pray tell?
For a moment, just listen to God’s voice, the voice of reason in a world gone mad. Again, from the book of Galatians:
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.[xlii]
The “problem” between God and man, in a nutshell
The popular television series Father Knows Best ran on network television from 1954 to 1963 and is a classic example of American pop culture at its best. These were more wholesome days, when dads were still honored and children were polite and courteous. There was no talking back, open rebellion, or blatant disrespect. I know, I know, the show was admittedly idealized, but it painted a picture of how order, chain of command, and respect for authority might look in a healthy family structure. How different this is from today’s chaotic and confusing mishmash of gender mixing, anarchism, divorce, and alienation that marks (and even scars) so much of modern family life.
It’s been the same since the dawn of time, beginning with Adam and Eve’s refusal to yield to their heavenly father’s rule in their lives. They resisted their father’s word then and, like people today, refused to take his word as final. They thought they knew more than God did. Sadly, in the face of their refusal to listen, God had to just look on, knowing that it didn’t have to be that way. Parents, does that sound familiar?
In endowing mankind with a free will, God took a big risk. In his book, The Sacred Romance, John Eldredge wrote:
The wildness of giving us freedom is even more staggering when we remember that God has already paid dearly for giving freedom to the angels. But because of his grand heart, he goes ahead and takes the risk, an enormous, colossal risk. The reason he didn’t make puppets is because he wanted lovers. Remember, he’s inviting us up into a romance. Freedom is part of the explanation for the problem of evil. God is the author of some storms; but he is the author of the possibility of all storms in giving us freedom. And we opened Pandora’s box.[xliii]
The trouble is that Pandora’s box is still open, and its effects are being felt to this very day. This is no remote mythological tale locked away in some dusty history book. This is our history, our origins, and our problem. That explains why God is so anxious for us to respond to his offer of deliverance.
The Global Predicament Created by Man
- Our “State” of sin (Federally). Adam did us no favors. Here is the bad news: he sinned for us. (That’s what federal means.) We, who had no part in his actual sin, are considered legally as guilty as he is. And, apart from divine intervention, we will perish spiritually. What do we have to do to perish? Absolutely nothing! It’s an accomplished fact.
Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one–of–a–kind Son of God when introduced to him.[xliv]
But the good news is that Christ died for us—also federally, that is, on our behalf. We, who had no part in his redemptive work on the cross, can be legally pardoned and can partake of the incomparable benefits of Christ’s resurrection—that is, if we are born again. Consider these scriptures:
You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it.[xlv
There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ.[xlvi]
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one–of–a–kind Son of God when introduced to him.
This is the crisis we’re in: God–light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God–light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God–light so the work can be seen for the God–work it is.[xlvii]
- Our inherited sin nature. Adam also passed along a fatally flawed “birth package” in the form of a now–fallen human nature. That is, a nature that has a built–in propensity to sin—spring–loaded to the “sin position,” so to speak.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.[xlviii]
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.[xlix]
Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin–miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call![l]
- Our resultant enslavement to sin. That Bob Dylan line, “You got to serve somebody,” comes to mind. When I “serve” sin, by giving in to its seductive demands, we end up enslaved and even addicted. I become conditioned to respond to its incessant pleas and become powerless to resist. Some verses:
So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule–dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths.[li]
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?[lii]
- Our sinful actions: Against conscience. It’s one thing to break the rules unknowingly, and another to go against our conscience and plunge ahead into the abyss of rebellion. Living God’s way is so much better—exponentially better. But we need the horsepower to do that, and that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in:
If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.
When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.[liii]
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.[liv]
- Our sinful actions: Transgressions. A transgression is basically defined as stepping across a line that God has specifically prohibited in his word. Such sins are particularly serious because the transgressor knows better, but forges ahead anyway. The “spiritual bill” we accumulate in a lifetime of these transgressions needs to be paid by somebody, and none of us can pay it ourselves:
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.[lv]
- Our universal need. As we mentioned in our first chapter, unless you were born on another planet, you are a descendant of Adam and Eve and therefore you come under the following summary statement about the spiritual condition of mankind. This is true of every one of us. No exceptions:
So, where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it:
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner–of–the–year,
litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.
This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.[lvi]
- Our legal exposure. Absent a divine intervention, we are stuck—stuck under a crushing load of broken laws and legal warrants that are separating us from God and leaving us, upon death. spiritually homeless. And although our condition appears to be asymptomatic, it is only matter of time before “we must pay the piper.”
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh…[lvii]
- Our separation from God. Scripture is unambiguous about this:
But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.[lviii]
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.[lix]
- We have no way home. Home being our eternal heavenly destination:
The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.[lx]
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.[lxi]
- We face death and it faces us. Human beings are often referred to as mortal. In its original language, the word mortal literally meant “death doomed.” From the moment of our conception forward, it is inevitable that we must face death at some point. The Bible explains that this was the most severe consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin against God—they unknowingly introduced the presence of death into God’s perfect and death–free original creation:
In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law–code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God![lxii]
It boils down to this: we—each one of us—need to be made “fit” for heaven. Whatever the solution is to the radical spiritual problems listed above, it must go much deeper than merely changing my behavior. It must plunge down into the core of who and what I am as a person. The solution must have the power to rearrange my life from one of living in cosmic treason and voluntary isolation in living for myself (effectively declaring myself god of my universe). It must lead me to join “those few” who are living the God–life in voluntary, joyful cooperation with the One who runs the universe. In his book, Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard quoted Tolstoy:
“There are two Gods,” Tolstoy once said. “There is the God that people generally believe in—A God who has to serve them (sometimes in very refined ways, say by merely giving them peace of mind). This God does not exist. But the God whom people forget—the God whom we all have to serve—exists, and is the prime cause for our existence and of all that we perceive.”[lxiii]
Escape to a future of unimaginable possibilities
How often we fall for the lie that we must save ourselves, keep ourselves, and hold out until the end. Talk about missing the point. True spiritual salvation has been God’s idea all along. The genius of God’s salvation is that it was accomplished entirely within the Godhead, with no help from man whatsoever. We can’t add to it or subtract from it, no matter how hard we try. Our salvation was commissioned by God the Father, carried out by God the Son, and conveyed by God the Holy Spirit. Our part is to simply be willing to become personal beneficiaries of its limitless blessings. No wonder they call it good news!
We close this chapter with an illustration. In an op–ed in The Wall Street Journal, entitled, Finding Our Place in the Stars, Sohrab Ahmari wrote:
The movie “Interstellar” depicts a not–too–distant future in which an unspecified environmental calamity has covered the Earth in dust, wiping out crops and threatening mass extinction. Cooper, a former astronaut and engineer forced to take up farming in this America of diminished possibilities. “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars,” Cooper says. “Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”
In “Interstellar,” salvation lies in unlocking the mysteries of the cosmos. “Higher–dimensional beings” in the movie point Coop and his daughter, Murph to a hidden base where remnants of NASA, led by Professor Brand and his daughter are preparing a last–ditch effort to resettle humanity on one of several potentially habitable planets in a galaxy beyond our own.
The hope is to make it to a wormhole—a sort of shortcut tunnel through different regions of space–time hypothesized by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity—near Saturn, presumably opened up by the same evolved beings, and from there to star systems where humanity might put down new roots. [lxiv]
This popular and exciting story perfectly captures the notion of God’s salvation. In Interstellar, a global environmental catastrophe has occurred, and the world is dying. As a result, mankind is threatened with extinction, unless a new and safer home can be found. Those who manage to escape to this new home are “saved” from a slow death. Not everyone on earth realized the danger. Most of the population just tried to adjust, survive, and remain where they were. Only a handful [the heroes of the story] really “got it” and embarked upon the uncharted and perilous journey to solve the problem instead of just postponing its inevitable consequences.
In the Bible, a global spiritual catastrophe has overtaken the earth and everything in it, through the entrance of sin. As a result, the world is dying, and mankind is threatened with extinction. But comparatively few people realize the danger and, just like in the movie, they adjust, survive, and remain where they are. Something had to be done, and man was helpless to assist. If anyone was to save the world, it would have to be by someone from the outside. So, Jesus Christ left his heavenly comforts behind and came to be our spiritual “Interstellar” starship. Here is how the story of our rescue begins:
He [Jesus] had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.[lxv]
It could be said that Jesus Christ was [and still is], as a little child once said, “God with skin on him.” As we explained in Chapter 1 of this book:
“When he entered the human experience, he did not come as a scrubbed and robed theologian or philosopher. He came as a common laborer from the backwoods of Galilee, with the callouses and scars befitting a carpenter. He wasn’t raised in princely comfort or educated in the higher disciplines. He was raised in the dusty streets of a tiny hamlet that was under the brutal boot of a tyrannical dictatorship. He understood the violence, cruelty, injustice perpetuated upon an enslaved people, along with their resulting diminished prospects. That is what made his message—one of a future kingdom where justice would reign—so appealing. At the same time, his practical, down–to–earth teachings seemed to make sense of everyday life in a world that defied reasonable explanation.”
Although his words astounded a nation, his miracles defied all known rules of nature, and the power of his presence silenced all opposition, those things had little to do with his purpose in coming to this deeply troubled earth in the first place. Quite simply, Jesus Christ came to this earth to die—to offer himself up as a living sacrifice. Had he not done that singular thing, his coming would have left us all where we started—lost and under the sentence of death.
Then, following his death and burial, God pulled off “the great escape,” by raising Jesus from the dead and, in the process, breaking the power of death, Satan, and Hell. Hell couldn’t hold him, he was sinless, and when the Holy Spirit raised our savior from the dead, he raised us (believers) in Him. Sound preposterous? You can’t make this stuff up:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [lxvi]
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.[lxvii]
Somehow, in the genius of God’s own counsel, he made a way to free us from the deadly “gravitational force” of our hereditary identity in Adam the first. He made it possible to be released from “the surly bonds” of our earthbound lives and enabled us to fly up “and touch the face of God.”
Although our identity with the First Adam brought us death, our identity in the Last Adam (Jesus Christ)—through faith—brings us life. If we place our faith in Him (our spiritual “Coop”), God considers the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to be our death, burial, and resurrection. It’s as though God takes the believer back in time two thousand years and “places us” into Christ as he is dying and as he is later being raised from the dead. Now that’s the ultimate time machine!
Jesus Christ himself becomes our “interstellar starship,” through resurrection, allowing us to go where he goes. Furthermore, we are astounded to discover that we are already equipped for this “space and time travel” as though we were born that way (actually, born again that way). And as we escape earth’s gravity, we find ourselves locked on a course toward God and his kingdom. We take our place among the “multidimensional” inhabitants of God’s kingdom and glory.
A final appeal
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel once famously warned, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference…and the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” In this book, you have been exposed to important biblical truths that defy neutrality. In our Titanic illustration, a decision was called for that involved unknowns, risks, mocking, and rejection by friends. Those few who abandoned ship and rowed off in rickety lifeboats eschewed vacillation and procrastination and bet their lives on their instincts. Something wasn’t right, and they knew it. Time was of the essence, and this was no time for indifference. They lived to tell about it.
Aren’t you glad that God wasn’t indifferent? He could have been, you know. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Wiesel said:
And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.[lxviii]
Adam and Eve made the mess, and God would have been within his rights to simply step aside and remain silent. Despite being personally rejected, God made mankind the center of his universe in that moment and went to (literally) excruciating ends to provide deliverance from a sure calamity. He put his own skin in the game, by clothing himself in flesh and placing himself in harm’s way for you. He interfered. He invested. Had God remained neutral, the enemy would have surely prevailed and we, all of us, would have perished ignominiously.
We are all familiar with the famous quote by Irish statesman Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
God doesn’t expect that much from us; but he wants us to meet him half way at the very least. If he wasn’t indifferent in providing the means of rescuing us from the consequences of our own folly, how can we justify being indifferent about jumping on board with him? Coasting is a downhill process and, when it comes, to your eternal soul, don’t rest another night until you have stepped up and declared your position. To not decide is to have decided. To borrow Elie’s own words, “We must always take sides.”
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.[lxix]
In case you hadn’t noticed, you are being cordially invited to take part in the most exciting cosmic adventure of all time. God is graciously offering to bring you into his eternal family, transform your life in the here and now, and make you feel right at home in the hereafter. This is not an offer to work for God as a servant or employee but an invitation to become part of the family, bonded in love and mutual submission—something unheard of in our broken world. This offer requires a personal RSVP on your part—and there is a “use by” date. To see how you can have these things for yourself, read on to the next chapter.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind–swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew—
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
—John Gillespie Magee Jr.
Notes: Chapter 9. Where This Leaves Us
[i] Romans 3:9–20 The Message (MSG)
[ii] Romans 3:23–26 MSG
[iii] Matthew 5:48 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
[iv] Ephesians 2:1–4 MSG
[v] John 10:9–11 NASB
[vi] Revelation 12:5–12 MSG
[vii] Revelation 20:1–3 MSG
[viii] Genesis 2:16–17 MSG
[ix] Romans 5:12–19 MSG
[x] Revelation 20:11–15 MSG
[xi] John 14:1–6 NASB
[xii] Custance, Arthur C. “The Seed of the Woman.” 3rd Ed. Edited by E.M. White, R.G. Chiang. Doorway Publications, Canada. Pt. 1. CH. 2 Death: event or process. p.19–30.
[xiii] Custance, Arthur C. “The Seed of the Woman.” 3rd Ed. Edited by E.M. White, R.G. Chiang. Doorway Publications, Canada. Pt. 1. CH. 7 Human death: a process of tragedy. p.82–93.
[xiv] Genesis 1:26–28 MSG
[xv] Ephesians 2:2–3 NASB
[xvi] Matthew 4:1–11 MSG
[xvii] Matthew 13:34–35 NASB
[xviii] “World’s Most Polluted Rivers.” The Weather Channel. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.
[xix] Hebrews 9:13–15 NASB
[xxi] “New faculty member pursues DNA repair research,” USC Norris “Cancer Report,” 2016 Issue 1.
[xxii] Songwriters: DUPRI, JERMAINE/SEAL, MANUEL LONNIE/RAYMOND, USHER My Way lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, S U I S A, COOPERATIVE SOC. OF MUSIC AUTHORS & PUBLISHERS
[xxiii] Genesis 3:12 MSG
[xxiv] Genesis 3:13 MSG
[xxv] 1 Timothy 6:15–17 NASB
[xxvi] Isaiah 6:1–8 MSG
[xxvii] Revelation 1:10–18 MSG
[xxix] James 2:10–11 NASB
[xxx] Ephesians 2:11–13 NASB
[xxxi] Romans 8:3–4 NASB
[xxxii] 2 Timothy 1:8–10 NASB
[xxxiii] Galatians 2:21 NASB
[xxxiv] Galatians 3:1–4 MSG
[xxxv] Romans 3:19–21 NASB
[xxxvi] Galatians 3:23–26 NASB
[xxxvii] John 5:39–40 NASB
[xxxviii] John 14:6 NASB
[xxxix] Romans 8:1–2 NASB
[xl] Galatians 5:19–21 MSG
[xli] Richards, James B. Grace: The Power to Change. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1993. Print.
[xlii] Galatians 5:22–23 MSG
[xliii] Curtis, Brent, and John Eldredge. The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997. Print.
[xliv] John 3:17–18 MSG
[xlv] Romans 5:12–14 MSG
[xlvi] 1 Corinthians 15:22 MSG
[xlvii] John 3:18–21 MSG
[xlviii] Ephesians 2:1–3 NASB
[xlix] Romans 8:5–8 MSG
[l] Romans 6:6 MSG
[li] Romans 7:4–5 MSG
[lii] Romans 7:21–24 MSG
[liii] Romans 2:12–16 MSG
[liv] Galatians 5:16–24 NASB
[lv] Colossians 2:13–15 NASB
[lvi] Romans 3:9–20 MSG
[lvii] Colossians 2:13 NASB
[lviii] Ephesians 2:11–13 MSG
[lix] Romans 5:10 NASB
[lx] 1 Corinthians 15:47–50 NASB
[lxi] 1 Corinthians 15:16–19 NASB
[lxii] 1 Corinthians 15:56–57 MSG
[lxiii] Willard, Dallas. “The Heart in the System of Human Life.” Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002. N. pag. Print.
[lxiv] “Finding Our Place in the Stars.” The Wall Street Journal. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 July 2015.
[lxv] Philippians 2:5–11 MSG
[lxvi] Ephesians 2:4–7 NASB
[lxvii] Romans 6:3–7 NASB
[lxviii] “Notable & Quotable: Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Speech.” WSJ. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2016.
[lxix] 2 Corinthians 5:20–21 NASB