Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Gospel - From the Beginning

My dear readers, 

There's been a lot going on in my life since I last posted here, but mainly, God has been working in many ways, both large and small. 

It's been challenging and overwhelming at times, all shaping me more into who He's called me to be and to do what He's called me to do. 

Recently I've been privileged to co-lead a new Bible Study as we begin an official Women's Ministry in our church. 

#RealWomen #RealImpact came about from a simple 'meet for coffee' with two other women I am blessed to serve with at Impact Church NOVA. As we met that morning, it very quickly became abundantly clear that the Holy Spirit was working specifically in each of us three, speaking to us and prompting us to begin our Women's Ministry in earnest. 

3 hours passed and we left that Starbucks with a full 6 week outline in hand including lesson topics, breakout group activities, retreat plans and committed dates on our calendars. 

We began to meet the first Saturday in June and we've seen God do some wonderful things in the hearts and lives of the women we're meeting with - in short, He is amazing! 

Today, I'm sharing Week 1 of #RealWomen #RealImpact with you. 

It's a look at The Gospel from a different perspective. One that begins, well, at the beginning and leads us to The Word made flesh. 
My prayer is that it speaks to you and challenges you as you continue your adventure with Christ. 

The Gospel - From the Beginning

The Bible, as we know, is God’s story. It’s a compilation of His love letters to us in one book. 
This book has stood the tests of time and challenge. It’s a book that remains both a lighthouse and a lightning rod because of the truth it contains. 
All attempts to discredit its truth have failed because it is ultimate truth. 
Infallible truth. 
And it’s pages are woven together with a singular thread - the blood of God’s son Jesus. 

All books have a beginning, a middle and an ending. 
And a compelling storyline to keep you engaged from cover to cover. 
The Bible is a story of perfection and failure and restoration and failure and redemption that’s possible because it was written by a God who loves His creation and has a beautiful purpose and plan for the lives He’s created. 

No matter how many times His creation fails Him, God still loves, still pursues, still redeems. 
And there is no missing that storyline as we read of His love revealed in the pages of His word. 
This video is a wonderful summation of His love for us: 

The Story of God from Josh Sliffe on Vimeo.

So, there you have it, our salvation, our restoration - 
God’s perfect plan for us is reflected in the entirety of His story from beginning to end. 

**Let's start at the BEGINNING and look at some scripture together. 
  • Genesis 1:26
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”
  • Colossians 1:15-17
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.”
  • John 17:5
“Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:9
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
  • John 1:1-5
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

**Scripture clearly shows us that Jesus - the Messiah, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Sacrifice; was, is and always will BE. He is one third of the Holy Trinity - God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

So, why did Jesus have to die? 
What is the purpose of his blood? 

To answer that - we need to look back at the Garden, back to Adam and Eve and the serpent. 

God, even though He created Adam and Eve to walk in perfect communion with Him, God created them with FREE WILL
They always had a choice between good and evil; obedience and disobedience. 

  • Deuteronomy 11:26-28
“Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from him and worship gods you have not known before.”

**God planted the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and told them it was the one tree they could not eat from.

  • Genesis 2:16-17
“But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.””

**You would think being told you would DIE would be enough to keep you from doing the thing you’re not supposed to do. 
Especially when the one telling you is the one who created you. Isn’t it reasonable to assume He knows more? But in our sin nature, our human nature, we don’t like being told what not to do, do we? 

God also created the serpent and placed him in the garden: 
  • Genesis 3:1a
“The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made.”

**And as the story goes - his first victim was Eve: 
  • Genesis 3:1b - 6
“One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.”

**Once the serpent deceived Eve, tempted her to eat of the tree and she shared the fruit with Adam, we know what happens next - scripture tells us that “their eyes were opened, and they felt shame at their nakedness.” (Genesis 3:7)

**Sin never takes us unaware - built into each of us the choice to do good or do evil - FREE WILL - just like Adam and Eve discovered when they disobeyed the one command God had given them. And you have to wonder why? 
They had it pretty good. 
Perfection in their Garden home. 
Communion with God. 
The perfect man. 
The perfect woman. 
How rough could it have been?
But verse 6 tells us that Eve “wanted the wisdom it (the fruit) would give her”. 

Aren’t we always tempted by what we don't have, by what we are told we can’t have? 

The serpent made it sound so good. His words offered her something new, something extra. 
We always do want more, don’t we?

And when we give in to our temptation, we are left with the consequences. 
We end up asking ourselves the very pointed question -

“What have I done?” 

And it’s followed by blame, regret, shame and fear. 
Nothing good, ever. 
  • Genesis 3:13
“Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?””

**Eve blames the serpent - “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”
But Eve didn’t eat simply because the serpent deceived her, she ate because she wanted what he told her it would give her. Remember?
  • Genesis 3:4-6
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.

**Eve believed the serpents’ lies because they sounded good to her - enticing her with what he knew she wanted. 

With that single, simple act of disobedience, Eve set in motion our redemption story. 

When she went after what she wanted instead of obeying God, it resulted in drastic, life-altering (life-ending) circumstances. 

First, for the serpent: 
  • Genesis 3:14-15
Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
    more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
    groveling in the dust as long as you live.
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
    and you will strike his heel.

Next, for the woman (Eve):
  • Genesis 3:16
“Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
    and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
    but he will rule over you.”

**It is so compelling that God directly addressed Eve’s desire for special wisdom, His curse was directed at the very heart attitude that caused the break in their intimacy with Him. 

Lastly, for Adam:
  • Genesis 3:17-19
“And to the man he said,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
    whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
    All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
    though you will eat of its grains.
By the sweat of your brow
    will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
    from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
    and to dust you will return.””

And without a perfect, sinless sacrifice we all face eternal separation from God.

So, the answer to our question - 
Why did Jesus have to die? 
What makes Jesus this perfect sinless sacrifice?

Jesus is fully God, yet fully man. 
He IS God. 
Jesus is living, eternal and holy.  
His death, and resurrection sets him apart from any other sacrifice that could be made. 
No one but God himself could make a way for us to return to Him. 

Jesus not only died for our sin - the sin that is unavoidable because of what took place in the Garden;  Jesus - because He is God - raised himself from the dead and provides a hope that no other faith, sect or religion can boast. 
Our salvation is in THE living Christ. THE Son of God. 
THE Word made flesh. 

“The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.” 
- John 1:4

With a Courageous Heart, 

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