Who Needs Salvation?

crossing the chasm

We all need salvation. Scripture says so. I explored this a little bit in my Killing Shalom post. In that post I share Scripture that leads people into the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ. What I didn’t explore in a lot of detail was why we need a savior in the first place.

 

Adam and Me

Simply stated, Adam and Eve were the first created human beings. When they willingly sinned, they introduced a sin nature into the fabric of their psyche. This sin nature then became ingrained into their DNA; and by default, it is ingrained into our DNA as well. (See my post on Image for a little more background on this.)

When they intentionally sinned, they tarnished humanity’s desire to seek after God. This tarnishing built into them the desire to seek fulfillment outside of God. It also led them into a type of pride where they fancied they could become like God. This is the same sin the got Lucifer booted out of Heaven.

 

Sin Nature and Depravity

Because of the tarnishing of this aspect of God’s image, we now have hard-wired into the fabric of our being a sin nature; that is, an intentional, ongoing rebellion against God. Humanity is now depraved in the sense that while humanity for the most part is not as wicked as it could be, humanity is still utterly incapable of reversing this stain of sin without an intermediary

This sin nature has been passed down through the generations (see Romans 3:21-26 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). This is why Radmacher says that “because the human race is ‘in Adam,’ everyone is spiritually dead, and, if this is not corrected, the ultimate result is eternal death” (Salvation, 2000, p. 7).

None of us escape this sin nature and this natural separation from God. The only way to span the chasm between God and man is by faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Mind the Gap—Spanning the Chasm

Thankfully, Jesus spanned this chasm by tearing down the wall of separation between humanity and God. Scripture states that at the death of Jesus, God tore the temple veil from top to bottom (see Matthew 27:51-54, Mark 15:33-39 and Hebrews 10:19-20). It is symbolically significant that the veil is torn from the top down. If I tore the veil, which is really a heavy curtain or a tapestry, I’d tear it from the bottom up; provided I had the strength to tear it all. However, such a tear would be, obviously, man-made and therefore insufficient. Being torn from the top down, however, indicates it is God doing the tearing of the veil. It is God that is opening up access to Himself through the accomplished works of Jesus Christ. We no longer need a priestly intermediary, we now, by faith in Christ, have direct access to God. Jesus is now our High Priest (see Hebrews 4:15).

 

No Prerequisite but One

And entering into a salvation relationship is by simply placing our faith in Him. It has nothing to do with our politics, our lifestyle, our hobbies or interests; it is on the basis of our faith in Christ: do we, or do we not, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Romans 10:9-10 is very clear:

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Notice how there are no rules, no sprucing ourselves up or other hoops to jump through; God is saying come as we are and enter into His saving grace through faith in Christ. A sincere heart genuinely seeking salvation in Jesus is welcomed with open arms. Once a person receives salvation, they now have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. The Holy Spirit can now transform their lives, becoming more and more like Christ! Godly fruit can now be produced in a person’s life in such a way that God’s light and love now shines to those around them, drawing even  more out of the darkness of sin and into the light of God’s saving grace.

So what are you waitin’ for? C’mon in!

Advertisements

Killing Shalom

 

I believe sin is the willful disregard for the things of God. It includes the intentional denial of God’s existence, the intentional disobedience to the commandments of God, pride, and placing anything above God (such as self, money, family, fame, status, etc.) As we explored last week, sin actually originated in Heaven. What’s more, we are all sinners but Jesus is our antidote to sin:

For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [atonement, payment] by His blood, through faith. (Romans 3:22-25, NKJV).

But how else can we define sin?  Plantinga states that, “in short, sin is culpable shalom-breaking”[1]. Additionally he states that “sin is blamable vandalism” against God’s design of shalom and is thereby “an affront to their architect and builder”[2]. These quotes help me begin to ponder a wider definition of sin, but they are incomplete without Plantinga’s definition of shalom which “means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts naturally employed”[3] (emphasis in the original). Sin, as Plantinga presents it, is a willful or intentional thought or act that somehow disrupts someone’s or something’s flourishing. This is somewhat of a flimsy summary without a concrete, though somewhat minor, example.

Trash_pic

This is a simple illustration of something we have all seen, and quite possibly have done: litter. If I litter, something like throwing trash onto a beautiful landscape, I’ve now willfully disturbed nature by introducing a man-made artifact into the natural beauty. I have littered; I have juxtaposed God’s creative beauty with my personal refuse. I have opened the door to an animal or bird mistakenly eating a littered item and possibly getting sick or dying because of it. I have also marred the aesthetic beauty of the area, thus diminishing another person’s joy of what could have otherwise been a peaceful spot of solitude and praise toward God.

I have disrupted the shalom of an otherwise pristine beauty. This blemish now retards the flourishing of both the natural realm and the relationship to other humans because they now to have to endure this blemish. This other person may be the one to fix the blemish in an attempt to restore the area to its near natural state. How do they do this? By picking up the ugly trash I left behind. Once they pick it up, they have to properly dispose of it. This person is now not only enduring the blemish, but is now having their time impacted due to fixing someone else’s vandalism.

I realize this example does not rise to the same level as adultery or murder, but it is a subtle and important, though not readily recognizable, example of shalom disturbance. It illustrates the tarnished interior of the functional aspect of the image of God discussed last week. It is the insidious nature of sin working in simple areas of our lives where we willfully disturb shalom. As this willfulness grows, it expands into greater expressions of shalom-disturbing acts. So take this simple example of littering into other areas where we begin willfully harming humanity.  If littering is shalom disturbance, thus sin; then how much more of a “shalom disturbance” are the easier to recognize sins such as lying, rape and murder?

But lest we lose hope, this flawed aspect of our image of God can begin to be rehabilitated through Jesus Christ:

“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29.)

Christ died for our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:3.)

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38.)

[1] Cornelius Plantinga, Jr Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be: A breviary of sin (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p. 13.

[2] Ibid., p. 16.

[3] Ibid., p. 10.

 

Image

Image_2

What is my image? Is it what I portray on social media via my computer? Is it what the mirror reflects? Is it what other’s think of me? Hmmm.

 

In God’s Image

Scripture states that God created humanity “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27; see also Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9). But what does this mean?

When I was a freshman at the great institution of conservatism known as the University of Oregon, I thought that maybe the image started as an ape, thinking I could marry creation and evolution. It didn’t take too long to realize this was wrong-headed. But I still had no answer.

Erickson states that “the biblical picture of humanity’s origin is that an all-wise, all-powerful, and good God created the human race to love and serve him, and to enjoy a relationship with him” (Christian Theology, 2013, p. 439). I don’t dispute this, but I’m still unsure about the image of God in humanity.

 

Two Aspects

Anthony Hoekema concludes that God’s image in humanity has two aspects: what humanity is and what humanity does. What humanity is can be called the structural aspect and what humanity does can be called the functional aspect.

The structural aspect relates to “the entire endowment of gifts and capacities that enable man to function as he should in his various relationships and callings” (Created in God’s Image, 1986, pp. 70-71). And the functional aspect is how humanity engages in life, whether that is engagement with other humans, or with the environment or with God. Thus, returning to Hoekema, the functional aspect means humanity’s “proper functioning in harmony with God’s will” (p. 72, emphasis mine). So the structural aspect means we were originally built to function properly and the functional aspect is do we actually choose to function properly. This makes sense to me, but let’s see if I can illustrate this a little differently.

server_room.jpg

Servers and Metaphors

Metaphorically, it helps me to think of this like a large building. The building is more than a foundation with concrete and rebar. It has interior rooms with specific functions in mind (e.g., conference rooms, single-person offices, reception area, cafeteria, large areas for cubicles, etc.). It has wiring for all different types of technology, and it has heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment. All of this comprises the structure of the building. Often, the technology is centralized in a “cool room,” or as in my workplace it is called the ‘server room,’ where all wires originate and where many servers are in place and are ready to handle the computing needs of the building’s occupants. Similarly, much of the other physical attributes, central HVAC and plumbing equipment are often housed in an area known as a physical plant or utilities areas. These are all representations of endowments bestowed by God into the structure of the human.

Thus, in the same metaphor, the functional aspect means our building’s operations. Does the HVAC respond properly, or does cool air come on when the controls are set for heat? Does the plumbing work when faucets are turned on or do they leak, spray, or clog up? Is all of the technology working properly or are there computer crashes and power fades? In other words, are the building’s functions operating in harmony with the wishes of the building’s architects or are they malfunctioning?

Herein is the pertinent difference between the structural and functional aspects of God’s image in humanity. When humanity fell into sin as explained in Genesis 3:1-7, humanity still retained the image of God in the structural sense but lost it in the functional sense. Why is this? Because humanity willfully stopped functioning in harmony with God’s will. In a malfunctioning building, the structure itself remains intact, but the inner functionality, the functional aspects of building operations, are in disharmony.

 

Conclusion

So while humanity still retains the image of God, it is tarnished, damaged and in need of rescuing. The reason is because humanity has willingly chosen to depart from the original design of its Architect. But why do we need rescuing and how do we get rescued? And what are we rescued from? Well, those are other posts!

Please stay tuned…

By the way, I’m posting a day early because I’m going on a fishing trip with my youngest and Grandpa!

Original Sin’s Origin

Apple_Bite

Sin. The word evokes a myriad of responses in people. You’re probably feeling some emotions right now. Maybe you’re thinking of your sins or thinking that you don’t have sin or are afraid I’m going to get “all-preachy.” Well, I’m not going to wax preachy, even though I have ample experience with sin, because I want to briefly explore the origin of the so-called “original sin.”

 

Origin…where?

Through most of my life, I have heard the phrase original sin as referring to the fall of humanity documented in Genesis 3:1-7. Often times children’s books use this phrase as do some theology books I’ve read. I may be splitting hairs, but Genesis 3 depicts humanity’s first sin, but, to my recent surprise, it is not depicting the original sin.

Maybe you already knew this, but the original sin occurred in Heaven. As Anthony Hoekema states, “sin did not originate in the world of human beings but in the world of spirits” (Created in God’s Image, 1994, p. 122). This understanding never really occurred to me until sometime earlier this year. But it makes sense; how could Satan tempt Adam to sin if he was not already acquainted with it? It’s hard to spring a trap when unfamiliar with it; but once there’s familiarity, setting and springing the trap becomes easier.

 

Citations, please…

So where does the Bible document this original sin? The Book of Isaiah documents the fall of Lucifer in 14:12-21. The name Lucifer means “day star” but he became Satan which means “accuser, adversary”, after his rebellion against God. One interesting aspect in this section of Scripture is Lucifer quoted as saying, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the throne of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation” (v. 13, emphasis mine). While there are other meaty aspects in this section, the emphasis I call out here is on the nature of self-worship, self-aggrandizement; in a word: pride.

Revelation 12:7-12 speaks to Satan, the post-sin name for Lucifer, being thrown out of Heaven by Michael and his angels. Verse 9 says, “the great dragon was cast out, the serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.” This same Satan, the deceiver of the world, is the one that shows up in Genesis 3 deceiving humanity into disobeying God. And he’s still deceiving humanity today.

 

So what…

Having a deeper understanding of the actual origin of sin will help us be more aware of it in our own lives. Whenever we are drawn to elevating ourselves and our desires above God, we are sinning. As I ponder this and look at the wide work of sin in my own life, much of it swirls around that pesky little-g god of “self.”

Even in Genesis 3 we see this because Satan fooled humanity into thinking that it could become like God. How much does this still hold true in our current era? How strong is the temptation of ‘self’ in our own lives?

As we ask these questions with a fuller understanding of the origin of these temptations, we will be better equipped to lean more deeply into God by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit strengthening us to withstand these temptations (see Ephesians 6:10-18). But not recognizing them runs the risk of driving our lives deeper into their deceptive mire and empty promises.

 

Next week…

Next week we’ll look at the image of God in humanity and what part of it was tarnished when humanity fell in the Garden of Eden. In the meantime, feel free to leave me a comment; just please keep them civil and constructive.  Oh, by the way, Genesis 3 says nothing about an apple!