So many religions. So many choices. Some of the nicest people I have ever known have been Buddhists. If life was a “nice contest,” they would win every time, hands down. I’ve also met some pretty cranky Christians. If life was a “human merit and demerit” contest, many of them would come in dead last. But the problem we have is not whether we are nice or cranky. The problem is at the level of our very natures as descendants of Adam and Eve. It’s not about our behavior (although our behavior demonstrates symptomatically the level of our problem), it’s about what makes us tick. We need a nature change, a complete species transformation so fundamental as to switch forever our relationship with God and, concurrently, to profoundly alter our eternal prospects. Being nice and behaving well is certainly commendable and, heaven knows, this brutish world could use more kindness. But, absent this spiritual transformation, our good behavior will only have made us better citizens of earth—we will remain completely unfit to be citizens of heaven.
“Old Time Religion” Still Rocks
There is a reason that Jesus Christ chose to use the now much–maligned term born again as the only way out of this cosmic dilemma. He was not given to excessive hyperbole. He picked his words carefully. Unless we get back to the state of our birth and start over, we’re eternally done for. The problem is solvable, but you must overcome any objections you may have about there being only one way. There is one problem, and only one way out of it. Here is a tantalizing clue to God’s ingenious plan of salvation from Chapter 7 of our book:
Adam and Eve disobeyed a direct order of God and ate of the “Tree–of–Knowledge–of–Good–and–Evil.” The resultant effects upon their formerly carefree lives were immediate and devastating. Among them were a searing sense of guilt and shame which drove them to fashion clothing out of fig leaves to cover up their nakedness. But then God comes along and instructs them to take off their makeshift coverings and to put on coverings that he provided from God’s own hands. The next thing they saw were blood soaked animal skins from freshly killed innocent creatures who, up that moment, were just “minding their own business” in the garden. Thus, the principle of substitution—the innocent for the guilty—was introduced in a garden that had never seen death before. We have every assurance from this that Adam and Eve are in heaven today because they had the good sense to accept these coverings from God and put them on—finally they listened to God and obeyed his instructions and were saved from their own misadventures.
This ancient story forms the heart and soul of the Christian faith. God’s means of redeeming the human race has never changed. It runs through the Bible from cover to cover. Please, read on…
The First Adam received life, the Last Adam is a life–giving Spirit. Physical life comes first, then spiritual—a firm base shaped from the earth, a final completion coming out of heaven. The First Man was made out of earth, and people since then are earthy; the Second Man was made out of heaven, and people now can be heavenly. In the same way that we’ve worked from our earthy origins, let’s embrace our heavenly ends.[i]
Our title, My Origin, My Destiny, summarizes the most radical and yet least understood promises to mankind in the entire Bible: your eternal destiny is directly linked to your physical and spiritual origins—that is, to your genetic heritage all the way back in time.
In the physical world, we have no control over our origins (our parentage, place of birth, or social status, for example). As recently as two centuries ago, even in advanced cultures, people’s origins pretty much defined their destinies, absent the extremely unlikely intervention by a member of a higher class legally adopting them. In England, if you were born of a coal miner, you were destined to be a coal miner; if you were born of landed gentry, your future was correspondingly blessed with sociological, educational, and economical advantages that the lower classes could only dream of. In some parts of the world, antiquated caste systems of hereditary social stratification still seal the fate of hordes of “low–born” children to lives of indentured servitude to the day they die. Millions of children the world over are born into conditions of grinding poverty that perpetuate their parents’ disadvantaged status in life. Likewise, we descendants of Adam and Eve were born spiritually destitute and, absent divine intervention, will die that way.
But suppose there was a way to intervene in this otherwise determinative process to change origins and to produce an entirely different outcome. We’re not talking about the natural realm here but the much more important and longer lasting supernatural realm. Suppose God could intervene and adopt us into his family, placing us in line for unimagined blessings. Suppose he could remove us from one family tree and transplant us into another—from “low–born” to “blue blood” in a single stroke.
Scripture divides all mankind into two “spiritual species”—either you are, from a positional standpoint, “in the First Adam,” or you are “in the Last Adam.” The stakes are high in this. If I choose to live my entire life in the First Adam, the condition of my natural birth, the eventual eternal outcome will be spiritual shipwreck. If, however, I choose to accept God’s offer to switch my spiritual origin so that I will be included in the Last Adam, the result of my supernatural rebirth, my eternal prospects become instantaneously and irreversibly transformed beyond my wildest dreams.
Today’s prevailing postmodern worldview stands in glaring opposition to the Bible’s unwavering focus on the preciousness of each individual person. Am I the blind and arbitrary product of time, chance, and natural forces, or am I the “special creation of a good and all–powerful God,” as Randy Alcorn put it? The course of our lives and our eternal destiny hang in the balance over this crucial issue. But first, I must be willing to face a rather inconvenient truth…
In his book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis wrote:
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.
This book cuts through the murkiness of religious dogma and gets to the heart of the Christian message—that we, all of us, are born with a “species problem” and that we need the direct spiritual intervention of God to solve it. We are not inventing anything or uncovering secret codes. We are just setting forth the no–frills truth with denomination–neutral instructions on how you can take that narrow road for yourself and connect with God to achieve your true, life purpose.
The Basic Premise of This Book
Unless you just arrived here from another planet, as a fellow earthling, you were born with a species problem. Though you may be ideally equipped for this rather brief life on earth, you are in no way equipped for life in heaven—absent divine intervention. The Apostle Paul stated the problem this way: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”[ii]
To illustrate: in orbit, an astronaut needs a special spacesuit to move around outside of his space vehicle or he will immediately perish. Likewise, you and I can never survive the “atmosphere” of heaven without being appropriately outfitted.
That “outfit” is ingeniously provided in the form of Jesus Christ himself who, upon the physical death of each of his believers, acts as a kind of interstellar star ship to transport and deliver us safely into the heavenly realms. And, best of all, we remain safely embodied within him for all eternity.
When Jesus Christ 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 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, and diminished prospects of an enslaved people. 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.
God is recruiting volunteers now to join him as family members and partners in the loving fellowship of those taking part in “a tremendously creative project, under unimaginably splendid leadership, on an inconceivably vast scale, with ever increasing cycles of fruitfulness and enjoyment,”[iii] as Dallas Willard put it.
Further, we don’t have to wait to die to commence this heavenly life, but, upon being born again (the requisite “ticket” to board), we experience inner spiritual transformation that immediately revolutionizes our lives in the here and now.
Tickets to ride are free of charge, and anyone may apply—not just religious or exceptionally good people. But before proceeding, consider this penetrating question posed by Willard: “One should seriously inquire if to live in a world permeated with God and the knowledge of God is something you truly desire.”
If you do, God promises to create a whole new spiritual you, not only fashioning you into a greatly improved citizen of earth but also making you into a fully qualified citizen of heaven.
Do you want to be a truly fulfilled person? Here is authentic fulfillment: becoming the kind of person God created you to be—a person who is “fully alive,” as Willard put it. C. S. Lewis wisely observed, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”[iv] Interested?