Man’s Problem, God’s Cure -- Final Thoughts
By Colleen Donahue
A SUMMARY OF WHAT WAS MEANT TO BE
God made all men and women in his very own image (Genesis 1:27 / Genesis 5:1). We were meant to live by the life of God's Holy Spirit -- represented by the tree of life. The Holy Spirit is the essence of God and able to produce God's character inside each of us. Our lives were meant to be like God's life with the Holy Spirit enabling us to communicate and fellowship with God. God's Spirit within us would keep us in right standing with God and therefore we would be able to have continuous relationship with him.
God wanted us to be part of his family. Our right relationship with him enabled us to be called children of God and therefore to live with all the rights that children have. As his children, we were to count on God for all that we needed to live -- food, clothing, shelter and protection. More than that, our rights as his children meant that we would have all the love and satisfaction that we could ever yearn for, because our Father would give us all that we needed.
As his children-- his heirs -- we were given the earth to rule over (Genesis 1:26). We were made to rule this world and make it an extension (a colony) of Heaven. That was the job that God gave every one of us. We were to live forever in partnership with Him enjoying all that he had made for us. And best of all God himself wanted to enjoy our company forever. Does this sound like paradise? That was what was originally intended by God for us.
His only stipulation was that we would choose his life for our own. At that early beginning of time he gave Adam and Eve free will and made a choice for them that was simple and clear. They could eat from any tree in the garden --including and especially the "tree of life". But there was one tree that they weren't to partake in. That tree was called "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." That was their choice. They could eat of the tree of life and have God's Spirit to make them like God, able to fellowship with Him forever OR they could eat of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil". In eating from that tree they were making a decision to have all the facts (good and evil) about the world so that they could make their own decisions apart from God. And that is the basis of all sin. It's living our lives apart from God and without His Holy Spirit.
A SUMMARY OF WHAT WE LOST
When sin entered the world all men from Adam and Eve on lost their right standing with God. We became fatally flawed right from birth. The proof of this is that no one needs to teach a child to be selfish or do wrong. They will just naturally do wrong because it’s in their nature to do so. This original sin, set in motion by our first parents, created an inheritance that none of us could have wished for – a perverted nature bent on living independent from God, serving ourselves and ultimately destroying God’s world.
Losing our right standing (or righteousness) with God meant that we lost our relationship with Him. That was why Adam and Eve hid. Sinful man cannot stand before a holy God. The guilt and shame and filth of our lives cause us to want to get as far from God as possible.
When we lost our relationship with God we then lost our rights as his children. We are still God’s creation and offspring but we are more like the prodigal son living far from God’s love, provision and protection. We are “on our own” to make life work.
When we lost our rights as God’s children we then lost our rulership over this earth. Man was given this world to rule over and make it a “heaven on earth”. Instead we transferred our rulership to Satan who now rules as “prince of this world”. His aim is to make it a “hell on earth.”
HELL ON EARTH
That “hell on earth” actually didn't take all that long to materialize. Around the time of Noah, "everyone did what was right in their own eyes" and God had enough. He made the decision to destroy everything and everyone -- except for Noah and his family – a few people who did love God and served him faithfully.
God made this decision because men refused to treat Him as a loving Creator who owned and controlled the world. They also refused the miraculous life of the Holy Spirit that he had offered men through the “tree of life”. Men became like little gods trying to control and make things go the way they wanted them to go. And when you have a lot of gods running things you have a lot of collisions. If that goes on long enough we eventually tear ourselves apart.
And so the world was destroyed and God started over with Noah and his family. But remember Noah and his family were still from the original stock of men birthed by Adam and Eve. Therefore original sin was still being passed along and soon men once again were choosing their own path over God’s.
Today the world has this same attitude towards God, except that there are many more billions of people colliding. By all rights God should destroy us again except that he made a promise to Noah: “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” (NLT Genesis 8:21-22) As long as the earth is meant to remain, you and I won't be destroyed.
A SECOND CHANCE
God planned a "way" of giving us all a second chance while still remaining a just and holy God. In a cosmic miracle, God put all of us into Jesus at the cross to be destroyed when he was destroyed (Romans 6:6). No, we didn't die physically. Only Jesus lost his physical life. But the old carnal nature that keeps us sinning, died when Jesus died. His son’s death therefore is a reprieve for every man and woman.
Yes, it’s only a reprieve. Jesus died for the whole world in the sense that the whole world could have a second chance to receive back the gift of life that God originally offered to us – His Holy Spirit (called in Genesis "the tree of life"). That’s why this is referred to as a universal atonement. Jesus paid for (or atoned for) our rejection of God, manifested by our sins, that should have brought us immediate death.
You and I are alive here on earth because God has nothing but love towards us at this moment. Whatever we have done last week, yesterday and even today God has already received payment for that through Christ’s death. So he has no reason to condemn you and I. And that’s why God is justified in allowing us to be here on earth and not destroy us.
A SUSPENSION OF THE DEATH PENALTY
Tragically we take this suspension of the death penalty as being our full justification in God’s eyes. It is not. The only thing that will justify us in God’s eyes is if we do what God originally asked us to do --- receive from the tree of life, receive His Holy Spirit. We are not right with God until we “eat of this tree of life.”
We cannot substitute our belief, or mental assent, to God’s plan in place of actually receiving the life of His Holy Spirit. That’s an unreal justification and it will never bring us any peace. Real justification comes when we do what God asks us to do which is receive the life of His Holy Spirit. All that Jesus’ death can do is to keep us from being destroyed at this moment. It gives us time to receive the Holy Spirit and it’s that which will enable us to live forever.
HOW DO WE RECEIVE?
We receive by faith. Let’s look at Romans 3:26b-30a: “…and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. ………he makes people right with himself only through faith….” NLT
Again in Philippians 3:9b it says: “I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” NLT
We don’t just believe in a concept. We have to actually receive the life that has been offered to us by faith. This life is the only thing that can make us like Jesus and that is why we need to receive the life of the Holy Spirit. God justifies us and allows us to continue living so that we can receive the life of His Spirit who alone can sanctify us.
There are many who call themselves Christian today who have never actually been born of the Spirit. They talk about “accepting Christ” in the same breath that they might say they accept Mohammed or believe that our world revolves around the sun. They have entered into a mental belief in justification but have never actually been justified in God’s eyes by receiving the Holy Spirit into their spirit at the new birth. "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2) If we haven't we have nothing inside of us that makes us love God and His will.
The proof of this is found in the two kinds of Christians that we see. There are Christians who know all the right things, go to church, sing in the choir, and give generously BUT they do not act like Jesus. Then there are others who don’t know it all but they have received the Spirit of Jesus (the Holy Spirit) into them. They have such a gentle, soft, and teachable spirit that you immediately sense that they are brothers and sisters.
God knows that just having physical life is not enough. That life will die out after 70 or 80 years. That’s why he wants us to receive His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will impart to you God’s mind and heart. Eventually He will impart to you a supernatural body that will enable us to live with Him and the trinity family forever.
The moment that we receive the Holy Spirit into ourselves, we become justified in God’s eyes. We then experience a sense of peace with God because our relationship has been restored. We are only justified when we eat of the “tree of life” (or the Holy Spirit) .
Sin is living independent of God by rejecting the Holy Spirit. So, once we receive the Holy Spirit we can’t continue to reject him and live independent of God. Once we receive Him we must lean and depend on him utterly. It's then that our heart begins to be like God’s heart. We become once again children of God – our relationship and our rights as God’s children are restored.
THE NEW BIRTH
Believing that you are justified in being alive here on earth, does not mean that you have received the life of God’s Spirit. The new birth is the action of three things. Two of those things happened at the cross and the third is what we receive during our lifetime.
1. Our PAST sins were forgiven when Jesus died.
2. Our PRESENT was dealt with when the old carnal nature (we were each born with) that keeps us sinning, died with Christ.
3. Our FUTURE can be different because God offers us the Holy Spirit to indwell our own spirit and therefore we no longer have to sin.
When we receive the Holy Spirit this is the culmination of being born again.
It is no good trying to substitute believing, being sorry, and trying harder for repenting and actually receiving. To receive the Holy Spirit means that you have to make room for him. He will not dwell in a heart with pride or sarcasm or criticism. That’s why you need to repent.
Repentance is turning around 180 degrees and walking in the other direction. It means you stop doing the things that the Holy Spirit has showed you are wrong. Once you submit to the Holy Spirit, you’ll find your life more and more one of victory. Once you set your will to do HIS will then the Holy Spirit gives you the grace to obey and walk free from sin.
It doesn't mean that you’ll never deviate from doing absolute right, because we have imperfect minds and unbalanced emotions. But if your will is set to obey the Holy Spirit, it will mean that you won’t be walking in conscious disobedience to God.
ARE YOU SAVED?
Any time I ever heard this question my immediate response was “saved from what?” But this question is answered clearly in Zephaniah 1:14-18. If you take the time to read these verses you’ll see that this is really bad news. Verse 18 ends by saying that God will make a terrifying end of all the people on earth. In other words once again there will be a time of judgment at the end of time. It is called “the day of the Lord” or “the wrath to come” or “the last judgment”.
Will you be saved from this? If you don’t believe in the wrath of God or His certain promise of judgment then you won’t be saved from it. If you don’t feel a sense of danger, then who needs a savior? The reality for the impenitent is that God does not have a wonderful plan for you. (See Amos 5:18-20 / Zephaniah 1:14-18).
If we are to be rescued from this day of wrath then we need a Savior. Jesus is that Savior who came to rescue us. “Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.”
1 Thessalonians 1:10b
For those of us who realize the reprieve Jesus wrought for us on the cross and receive God’s Spirit of life into them, this final judgment will be a day of light and joy because they will be forever with their Lord. But for the unbeliever, the day of the Lord will be a day of darkness with no light in it at all. It will be the start of an eternity of unending torment.
APPROPRIATING THE CROSS
The power and influence of sin has caused our bodies, hearts and minds to be “fallen” – utterly corrupted. Sin has infected absolutely everything so that there is no good found in fallen people. Even our best works have a taint of some sin. There is nothing worth restoring of our old nature. That is why when Christ died he reached down the centuries and took all of us into himself on the cross so that our old nature could be destroyed (or rendered powerless) Romans 6:6. Putting us into Christ was God's answer to the dilemma of how to destroy the evil in us while preserving a way to start over.
This crucifixion of our old nature gives us the opportunity to start over with a new birth. And that new birth occurs when you and I receive the original gift of God which is the life of His Holy Spirit. Full justification occurs the moment I embrace all that Christ has done for me on the cross. All that he is becomes mine, which includes his righteousness.
A double transfer took place at the cross. Jesus became BLACK with the imputed sins and guilt of all mankind while we as men became WHITE with the imputed righteousness of Jesus. And this new, clean nature of Jesus makes us fit and ready to receive the life of God’s Spirit into ourselves.
That is what it means to be born again. We get to start all over with a new nature that is free from having to sin. We start over having the righteousness of Christ as our own. Because the Holy Spirit now lives within us, he is constantly sanctifying us, making us holy, and making us like Jesus. The Holy Spirit is our “live-in teacher” sharing with us all the truth of God and directing us day by day.
SAVED FROM GOD, BY GOD AND FOR GOD
We need to be saved from God’s wrath because it is a sure promise that the final Day of Judgment is coming. Even if you aren’t sure you believe that would you not consider that it might be better to be safe than sorry? Would you at least be open that it might be true?
If we think that God is a mean ogre looking to wipe us out then just consider this -- the whole plan to save us came by Him. The Bible says that “All this (being able to start over as a new creation) is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ……God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
The last thing God wants to do is see any of us die in our sins. He has made a way for this not to happen but he cannot violate our free wills. We have to freely embrace the work Christ did on the cross and then receive the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus) into our lives. When this occurs we can get back on track and start over. How is it that we can start over?
* Well first of all we now have Christ’s righteousness which means we are once again in right standing with God the Father.
* Secondly, it means that we now have our relationship with God restored and we are at peace with Him.
* Thirdly, with our relationship intact we are now his children – prodigal sons and daughters that have returned home. This means that we regain our rights as children of God.
* Finally it means that we can once again take over the rulership of this earth and begin to make our part of it a “heaven on earth”. In this way we are saved for God – i.e. to do the work that He prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
PRESS ON TO FULL SALVATION
Let us not be content to just know that our sins are forgiven. Let us receive the Holy Spirit of God and then press on to take hold of all that God has for us. Christ’s death and the receiving of His Spirit means a complete new start. We no longer have to tolerate sin, sickness, poverty, or curses. We no longer have to live in the world system controlled by Satan. We can opt out and choose to live in the Kingdom of God by the life of God’s Spirit within us – guiding us moment by moment. The clock can be turned back when we receive the Holy Spirit and allow him to transform us. We can once again live with the Garden of Eden experience.
Let us not be content to just take and keep all of this “good news” for ourselves. Let us learn to communicate this to others so that we can obey Christ’s clear command: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
The gospel is the best news that any man or woman can hear. That is why it is called the gospel or "good news". It's God's plan to remake men and women the way they were originally created to be. It's the equivalent to getting a new start in life and no one is too old to start over!