Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Our Redeemed Image (Part 1)

In the beginning God created man in His image, after His likeness (Genesis 1:26). God, Elohim, is plural. You see, God's essence is one of other centered love, connection, wholeness, and safety.  We were created in His likeness, bearing his same characteristics; in other words, we were created to live the kind of life that He does within Himself. We were created to walk intimately with both God and the rest of humanity in all truth and wholeness; we were created to be naked (completely vulnerable/exposed) and unashamed (no insecurity or pretense).

Satan came into the garden and did the one thing he could to undermine God's children, he tactfully placed a lie at the core of what made us His. 'Did God really say?. . . You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil (Genesis 2:1,4-5).  Already bearing God's likeness, humanity believed the lie that Satan presented, and the lie produced in them thoughts and actions that went against their true nature.  We call those thoughts and actions sin.

The lie came to Adam and Even, imparting a very powerful belief at the core of their being; the belief of 'I am not'.  For the first time they had reason to question God's goodness, and began to wonder if He was holding something from them. It gave birth to pride in them, a new experience, where they felt entitled to have what they thought they needed. This lie of 'I am not' birthed sin in them. They eat of the fruit of the tree, and immediately lose their innocence. They cover themselves up because now they have been introduced to the shame of doing something wrong. Out of that shame and insecurity Adam lashes out at both God and Even by blaming them for the mistake, 'The woman you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate (Genesis 2:12).' Sin then, led to death, which is the opposite of the life were created to be in. All human suffering, shame motivated actions, idol worship, and depravity stem from the believed lie, 'I am not'.

It is this lie that still dictates much of the world today, and much of our lives. I am not good enough, I am not beautiful enough, I am not smart enough, I am not strong enough, I am not popular enough, I am not spiritual enough. . . the list can go on and on.  What is your, I am not?

We never actually lost our God-likeness, but we fell into a lifestyle of functioning out of lack. We began behaving and feeling like children of the devil rather than children of God.  We can tell we weren't created for that kind of life because of how destructive those thoughts and actions are to the world and our own well-being. Again, God's image never left us, but we adopted a way of living that waged war against the life of our design.  Instead of feeling secure we feel ashamed, instead of focusing on others we focus on ourselves, instead of having empathy we have jealousy, instead of giving we take, instead of gladness we are angry. Sin birthed all of these in us, because sin is actions/thoughts/emotions that are outside of the life of our design; they blind, numb, destroy, and kill our capacity to be whole. That sounds a lot like Satan's life goal, to 'kill steal and destroy'.

God never forsook us, but continually worked within and through our blindness to reveal Himself and our true selves.  It culminates when God Himself comes to Earth in human form; Jesus, the image of the invisible God. God's ultimate plan to reach us in our blindness, to reveal Himself to us, and in so doing to introduce us back to the life we were created to live. He starts telling stories about coins bearing Cesar image, 'give to Cesar what belongs to Cesar, and give to God what belongs to God.' He talks about the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. He talks about the treasure hidden in the field that the man gives everything he owns to redeem. These parables and more we will look at in the next blog.

There is no doubt, when we see Jesus we see the Father, but we also see something else. As we gaze upon Him we are suddenly transformed from glory to glory into His likeness (2 Cor. 3).  As in a mirror we see ourselves made in His likeness, and the life of our design is revealed in us through Christ. The Holy Spirit testifies with ours spirit that we are God's children, He teaches us, reminds us, and reveals Christ in us, the hope of glory!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What's The Big Deal About Sin Anyway?

Sin, a word that seems less and less relevant in the world today. It is a concept viewed as primitive, unnecessary, and or too harsh.  Outside of the religious world, and even sometimes within it, sin is re-named or not directly talked about. Yet sin seems to be such a key component for us in understanding God through the Bible; sin is a big deal in the Old Testament, with Jesus, and with the rest of the New Testament.  Even grace preacher Paul took a very hard stance when it came to sin. So what do we do with it? We certainly don't want to throw it out just because we don't like the context sin has been delivered in.

There are two ways of looking at sin that really stem from two different ways of looking at God. The first, is to see sin as merely wrong because God said it was. This perspective assumes a few things. First, it assumes that God is controlling, that He is set apart from the natural world, and that He demands our obedience.  It therefore also assumes that we need to do something in order to placate this god, to position ourselves in a certain way in order to get his blessing or avoid his punishment.  It perceives a God that is primarily about legal justice, a distant score keeper in the sky that only involves himself with us once we score high enough; or when he decides to pull out the whip to punish us. This perspective is pervasive both outside and inside 'Christianity'.  I put that in quotes, because I think that Christianity is truly about the breakdown of that entire perspective, but we will get to that later.

The first way of looking at sin is right in the fact that God has told us that certain things are good and bad, right and wrong; but it falls short when interpreting why those are labeled as such. We find the reason behind sin in the second perspective, which I would like to say is the Christian perspective.  In this understanding god isn't an egotistical solitary deity demanding our obedience, but a relational God that is completely other centered.  A God who is whole, lacking in nothing, and who's very essence desires all goodness, truth, and fulfillment.

Depending on which God we start with, we come up with a different understanding of sin. The solitary disapproving god makes sin to be a ladder we must climb in order to get into His good graces. The God of love, truth, and wholeness however, reveals sin to us because He wants us to know how to avoid hurt, suffering, relational disconnect, shame, and all sorts of other negative consequences in our lives. This loving God starts as 'for us', the distant god starts as 'against us'. The distant god hates sin because his own ego is injured, the God of love hates sin because of what sin does to His children.

In our world today 'sin' is an ugly word, but talking about healthy and unhealthy behavior is very acceptable. There is a large movement, in even secular society, that pursues wholeness, well-being, healthy living, and intentional loving relationships. Just scroll through your Facebook news feed and you'll probably find 50 articles about healthy living in one area or another. Never has a culture been so focused on learning how to make the best of their lives. Surrounded by options, our society is desperately trying to figure out how to live balanced, whole, and happy lives; and that is what the conversation about sin is really about, which makes it very applicable in this day and age.

People don't want to enter into a conversation about sin, because they believe in the distant god that demands their 'proper' behavior in order to gain his approval.  Unfortunately much of the 'Christian' world has played a role in reinforcing this idea of a solitary deity in the sky. We need to regain a more holistic and relational understanding of God so that we can properly understand why sin is such a big deal as the bible makes it out to be.