In Revelation (Ch. 10-11), there is a pause in the action between the 6th and the 7th trumpet. Trumpets 1-5 are wake up calls to help people focus on Jesus’ return. The 7th trumpet is the announcement of His arrival and the end of the world.
We are given a quick pause so that God can show us what we need to do to prepare for the end of the world. During this time, He shows John 3 things. First, John gets a private message that he is not supposed to write down (10:4). This was personal message for only John and it shows that the first thing you need to survive the end of the world is a personal connection to God, Himself. We find this in prayer and meditation.
The third (yes, I skipped) thing we need to survive the end of the world is found in the beginning of the next chapter (11:1-2). John is told to measure the temple and that those outside the temple would be trampled. The temple he is measuring is one that is made of living stones (I Peter 2:5). This is a symbolic way of saying that we need to have a connection with God’s people (the church) if we want to make it through the end.
The second thing we need to survive is found back in chapter 10 (10:10-11). It is a little book that open to everyone that desires to read from it. John is told to eat the book and then vomit it back up. Symbolically, it is saying that John is to make the Bible (the book open to anyone) a part of his very being (like food that we eat). He is to fill himself so full of the Word of God that it overflows out of him - in his words and actions.
There are two things in the Bible called the word of God. The first is the Scriptures (Heb. 4:12) and the second is Himself (Rev. 19:13). This is not a coincidence. You can not really know Jesus if you ignore HIs message to you. You need to read it for yourself and study it - and in the process, you get to know (not just learn about) Jesus.
However, many people don’t read the Bible for themselves - they say things like “it’s boring” or “I don’t understand it”. This is because they are trying to read it as a book and by themselves. The Word of God is meant to be read WITH GOD, not about God. Jesus said (Matt 13:3) that not everyone could understand his message when he speaks to them. That is because they are trying to understand without trying to connect with hIm. So the parables that he spoke were just empty stories. But the people who walked with Jesus and had a relationship with him understood what he was trying to say because they understood him. This continues into the reading of the Bible. If you just read it occasionally or second hand (like when you are told to read it in a Bible study), you are not walking with God and you are missing what the Holy Spirit is saying to you.
You have to CONSUME the Bible and make it a part of your life - and let it overflow out of your hear - or you are missing the meaning.
When you do understand the words, it brings a form of power (not from you) that can transform the world.
Hebrews 4:12: For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and sprit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The Word of God has the power to lead people to peace. This is world changing.
But, some have used the Bible to bring chaos and hate. This, again, is because they have not understood the message of the gospel.
A good way to really understand what God is saying through His word comes from one of the best known songs of King David (Psalm 119:105) - Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
If Jesus is the Word of God and He is standing on your feet to light your path, then He must be embracing you (that is the only way he could keep from falling off). In short - the Word of God is meant to be a Hug from heaven. It is meant to bring love and peace, not hate and condemnation. It is meant to wake us up and change us, but never to break us or destroy us.
This is discipleship.
We have been talking about how we progress with our faith. First, through Jesus, we are able to remove all the baggage that has weighed us down and kept us from being the person God made us to be. We are transformed into creatures of light so that we can step into the very throne room of God without begin destroyed by His purity. In the throne room, we find that we are not only accepted by God, but we are adopted as His children. Finally, we are given the help of the Holy Spirit to continue to live in such a way that we remain worthy of the name “Children of the Most High God”.
The Holy Sprit’s task is to help us create a world of peace - both with God and with the people around us (especially other Christians since they are trying to do the same thing). This connection of peace with other people is a huge deal to God. It is stressed many times through the Bible.
One of the interesting titles that the Holy Spirit is given, that shows his role in developing peace between Christians, is found in the book of Revelation: From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. (4:5). To understand this imagery, you need to understand the Jewish culture of the time and the symbols that have already been found in Scripture.
The ‘seven sprits of God’ (sometimes called the ‘7-fold Sprit’) is an image that God wants us to picture when thinking of the Holy Spirit. In the Jewish culture, the number 7 meant ‘perfection or completeness. In other words, to say the Sprit of God is 7-fold is to say that this is the complete and perfect Holy Spirit.
But why not just say the ‘Holy Spirit’? Why split the image into 7 parts?
The answer to this is found in Revelation 1. John sees a Menorah (a candlestick with 8 candles). He is told that the 7 of the candles are the churches and that the light that burns on the candles is the Holy Spirit. (the 8th candle is used to light the other candles and this is represented by Jesus himself). This is to symbolize that God has placed the Holy Spirit into His Church on earth. Though there are many different kinds and locations, they all lit by His Holy Spirit.
Revelation gives us a couple of other things to think about when talking about God’s church.
First, in Revelation 4, John enters the throne room of God and finds the church in front of God’s throne - meaning it is part of God’s plan. But to get into the throne room, John has to walk through Jesus - the door (which of course symbolizes how Jesus is the only way to God). Standing in front of the door (in Revelation 1) is the candle that represents the church and the only way to get to the door is by walking through the light. This is a strong message from God that the church is an important part of our story. He does not want us to try and walk this path alone, we need to walk it together (which is how we find peace).
Second, in Revelation 2-3, we see that Church’s are not perfect. Just because they call themselves Christians and are walking in the light of the Holy Spirit does not make the Church infallible. The churches are made up of broken people who are working hard at finding the peace God brings. We are all trying to find the right path with God and we all fall down. The point of the church is that we help each other stand, not expect perfection. When we are working together to reach God’s throne room, we find a perfection that only God can bring - but when we expect Christians to be without problems, pains, mistakes, or anything else human, we put a burden on each other that is not realistic and can drive people away.
The Holy Spirit wants to guide us to a peace between us, God, and each other. He does this by using an imperfect organization which makes us have to work together to stand.
So what do we do if our church is broken?
First - you should trust the Holy Spirit to guide you. He brought you to that church, so ask Him what He wants you to do there.
Second - you should help people stand in their brokenness and seek others that will help you stand. Look for those that encourage you and remember that those people that are not encouraging are in a broken place. Give them grace.
Third - again, trust in the Holy Spirit to guide you. He wants you to be at peace - and maybe the reason the church you are at is broken is because He needs you somewhere else and is moving you.
The point is - don’t give up too quickly on a church. Can you speak peace there? Is it speaking peace into your life? If so, stay. If you are being pulled from God, ask God to pull you back and put you in a church that speaks peace into your heart.
This is discipleship.
We know that in order to have peace, we must be the person that God created us to be. That person stands in the very presence of God because they have have been accepted as a child of the Living God.
We also know that in order for a person (who is born in darkness) to be able to stand in the presence of God (who is light) that person must be transformed into light also. This is done through the work of Jesus who takes our darkness and replaces it with His light.
These two acts can be seen in two of the three sacrifices of Leviticus.
The first sacrifice is called the “Sin Offering” or the “Atonement offering” or the “Purification offering” - all of which mean the same thing, that we are not worthy to enter the presence of God because we are “unclean” or “unholy”. So the first sacrifice takes care of this problem by cleansing us and using the blood of a substitute offering (the lamb) to make us acceptable before God. This is the work of Jesus.
The second sacrifice is called the “Burnt Offering” because it is the only time the entire offering is destroyed in the fire. This symbolizes a special meal - the best of what we can offer - given to God (our King) as a tribute to declare our obedience and allegiance to only Him. This gives us entry into the very throne room of the Living God. This is where we find peace and this is our ultimate goal — to be near God.
But what then? What happens when we have gained access to God?
The third sacrifice shows us what we need to do next - live righteously before God and with each other. This is called the “Fellowship Offering”. It consists of two parts. First, after the sacrifice is killed, all the fatty parts (considered the best parts) are put on the altar and burned up as a tribute to God (as with the Burnt Offering). Then, the rest of the meat is put on a grill (not the altar) and cooked. When it is ready, it is shared between the offeror, the priests, and anyone else that is nearby. It is a BBQ meant to unite believers is “fellowship”.
If the first offering corresponds to our connection with Jesus, and the second offering corresponds to our connection with God, the Father, then this offering should correspond to our connection with the Holy Spirit. This would suggest that the work of the Holy Spirit should lead us fellowship with God and with His people. This is shown in 1 John 1:7 - But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins.
We will talk about this break down later, but I want to focus on the idea of walking in the light. When we have passes through the first sacrifice and been transformed into creatures of light, we will WALK with God.
The concept of walking with God has been through the Bible. The most striking example is Enoch (Gen. 5:24) Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took Him.
Noah walked with God. Abraham walked with God. Moses walked with God. And so did many other people through the pages of scripture. But what does it mean to “Walk” with God.
Paul said: The Righteous man shall live by faith. (another translation says “walk by faith”- Rom. 1:17). Righteousness means to “live right”. In other words, if you want to live your best life you need to filter everything through the lens of faith. You have been washed by Jesus and now walk with God - this should color everything you do and everywhere you go. For example, you could ask yourself if the things you watch on TV would be something you would watch if Jesus was sitting in the room with you - or you could say: “What Would Jesus Do”.
Paul also said: For we live by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:7).
This is not an easy path to walk because there are so many things that can distract us from being focused on God - that is why Jesus offered us this help (John 14:26): But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
The Holy Spirit wants to help you walk righteously.
This is discipleship.
Forgiveness is when we let go of all the weight that is dragging us away from God. We forgive others so we can let the pain go. We forgive ourselves so that we can become the person we were created to be.
There is an old folk tale about a chicken hawk that found an egg. Chicken Hawks are notorious for stealing other bird’s eggs, hatching them and raising the young as their own. Oh, and Chicken Hawks cannot fly. This particular chicken hawk hatched the egg and out popped an eagle. The eagle grew up with the chicken hawks and since that was all he ever saw, he thought he was an eagle. One day, he looked up and saw an eagle fly by and he thought to himself, “boy, I wish I could fly. But I am only a chicken hawk.” And spent the rest of his days walking on the ground, never realizing that he was meant to fly.
This is what sin does to us - it clouds our thoughts and makes it so we never realize who we were made to be.
it is an infection. Paul said: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). In other words, Adam’s sin infected the entire world - its in our blood and the only way to get rid of it is with a blood transfusion. It has to be taken out and new blood put in. Paul also said: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). Peter said it this way: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19-20)
In the law of Moses (Lev. 16), we see a unique part of the sacrifice of atonement. Every year, the people of Israel would stand before God and admit that they were not perfect - and that they had made mistakes, but that they wanted to restore their relationship with their God. So during the burnt offering, the high priest would have two lambs. The first would be killed so that the people could see the blood and be reminded that they are getting a ‘blood transfusion’ and being changed to meet with God. But then the priest takes the other lamb and confesses the sins of the people while he is holding it. And then he gives it to a man who takes it into the deepest part of the wilderness and releases it. It carries the guilt and baggage of the people far away - showing them that their sins have been removed.
Jesus was both lambs for us. On the cross, He bled to give us a blood transfusion. And then he was the scapegoat that carried our sins away from us.
This gives us two very important things to remember:
This is why we need Jesus and why we need to take very serious what He has done for us. It is not to be taken lightly because not only is your eternity at stake, but you are causing pain to the one that loves you enough to take the pain for you.
This is discipleship.
We have been talking about the need to create peace by showing mercy and grace to those that have made our lives difficult. When you develop these principles, you then have to practice forgiveness - letting go of those things that need grace and mercy. This leads to peace in yourself and in others.
But what happens if you don’t let go?
Jesus said: “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46) which implies that everyone that is born will live forever - some in Heaven and some in Hell - but for everyone there is eternal life.
CS Lewis expands on this idea when he said: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.”
Through his writings CS Lewis suggests that the choices we make right now have eternal consequences. What you fill yourself with will determine if you will be a “god” or a “monster”. There are things that bring us closer to God: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23) and there are things that move us farther from God: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9-10) - note this is not a complete list, but only a list of a few things that men have come to call ‘sin’ and have caused people to stumble in life.
CS Lewis suggests that when you fill yourself with good fruit (such as peace) - it grows over eternity until it transforms you more into the image of God. But when you fill yourself with bad (such as anger) - it also grows over eternity until it transforms you into a monster. Since so much of the bad is crowding into our broken lives because of a broken world - we have to let Jesus take it from us — we have to let it go and become the person God created us to be.
Paul expresses this in the the verse that follows his list of ‘sins’ (above) when he says: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 6:11). He was saying that when we unite ourselves with Jesus, God takes away these things that way us down. We are free from those things that make us stumble - but we need to be careful to let them go and NOT return to them.
Genesis 45 tells the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph has just revealed himself to his brothers. They had sold him into slavery in Egypt and now he was second in charge of the entire country. Joseph now sends the brothers back to Palestine to tell their father, Jacob, that he is alive. He gives the brothers this command before they leave: “Do not Quarrel on the way!” He told them this because he knew that the brothers were on the way to confront their father who they had deceived - They had convinced Jacob that Joseph was dead and Jacob had been in mourning for 20 years. Now they had a 9 day walk and they would very likely use this time to argue about who was to blame. This could cause great division within the family - and defiantly would destroy their peace. So Joseph stresses to the brothers 2 things: 1. That everything that happened - good and bad - was part of God’s plan, so everything is forgiven. And 2. If they want to move ahead as a family, they needed to let it go. By forgiving each other and themselves, they could become a united and peaceful family, that celebrates the protection of the son, and grows into the strong nation that God needs them to be. Jesus told the disciples a similar thing - “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
We need to let go of the weight people put on our arrows - but we also need to let go of the weight we put on ourself.
Carl Jung once said: “What if when Jesus said to love the least of these my brothers and sisters, he meant yourself?”
It is sometimes harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others - but it so important that you do. You need to show yourself mercy - don’t punish yourself for past mistakes that you cannot change. And show yourself grace - give yourself space to make mistakes and not be perfect. And mostly - live forgiven: believe that you are loved - GOD MEANS IT when He said it. Let go of yesterday so that you can move into a beautiful tomorrow.
This is Discipleship.
We have been talking about Mercy and Grace.
Mercy is not giving someone something they deserve. In other words, not punishing someone when they have done something wrong. Jesus showed us mercy from the Cross when He took our place so that we did not have to die for our sins. We show mercy to others when we do not retaliate when they attack us - we turn the other cheek.
Grace is the opposite side of this - it is giving someone something that they do not deserve - such as when a teacher gives extra credit to help you raise your grade. Jesus showed us grace from the cross when He took our sins and gave us new life. We show grace when we give someone the benefit of the doubt after they have done something to hurt us - when we choose to think that the person is good, but in a bad state of mind and that they did not mean to hurt you. So you let the issue pass by.
These two concepts are not easy - and they are not meant to let people walk all over you. They are meant to promote peace. If a person continues to hurt you after you have given them grace and mercy, then something is wrong. They are not learning peace. It is very likely that you are enabling their sin - and that what you thought was mercy and grace was not the mercy and grace they needed, so you look for a different path - sometimes they need a little ‘tough love’ such as showing grace in NOT giving someone money to continue a drug habit.
These two concepts are also cornerstones to one of the most important principles of God’s plan - Forgiveness.
Forgiveness is letting go of those things that keep your arrow from hitting the mark. It is more than just telling someone you forgive them - it is letting go of the reason you needed to forgive them.
I once read the story of two monks that went for a walk outside their monastery. As they traveled, they came to a river in which a woman was standing next to the water. She was trying to figure out how to cross without getting wet. The older monk offered her assistance and carried her safely and dryly across the water. On the other side, he sat her down and she went on her way. For the rest of the walk, the younger monk was angry and would not talk to the older monk. When they arrived back at the monastery, the older monk stopped the younger and asked him what his problem was. The younger monk shouted, “We are monks and we are not allowed to touch women. Yet, you picked up that woman and carried her!!! You broke our laws!!!!” The older monk laughed and said, “Oh, I see the problem. I put the woman down back at the river, but you are still carrying her.”
It is so easy to become overwhelmed with all the things we carry that we don’t need to. We hold onto the hurts and guilt that amass over our lives. We must put them down.
In John 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well. Through their conversation we learn that she has lived a very broken life - having been with many different men - and that she was living a life of shame (which is why she was at the well in the heat of the day instead of the cool of the morning when the other women arrive). She was hiding because of her shame. Jesus not only points out to her that he knows every part of her brokenness - but that he loves her just the same. When she understands she is acceptable to God - even after all her mistakes and pain - she lets go of all the fear and guilt and runs to the rest of the town to tell them that she was free and that they can be free also.
Brennan Manning (one of my personal heroes) once said that when we arrive in heaven, God will not ask us how many times we went to church or how many Bible verses we memorized. He will ask us one question and one question only - “Did you Believe me when I said that I loved you?” The problem with so many of us is that we will have to say “no” because we have been holding too tight to our shame, guilt, pains, and baggage. We don’t believe we are worth God’s love, so we drown in our own human failings. And Jesus is patiently saying “Let it Go. Give it to me. Be forgiven because I love you.”
This is discipleship.
There is a classic episode of MASH in which Hawkeye (the camp jokester) has played a prank on his best friend BJ. Non Hawkeye is expecting a prank back - and he spends the entire episode waiting for it happen. He becomes paranoid and starts acting crazy as he expects a prank at any moment. But it never comes. BJ plays the ultimate prank on Hawkeye - Mercy.
Last time we spoke about ‘Grace’ - which is giving something that is not deserved. This is seen when we are offended by someone, but we give them a pass knowing that they are fighting battles that we don’t understand - so we show them love in hopes that they will show us love and give us a pass when we offend them. It is a major step towards promoting peace.
Mercy is the opposite side of this coin. It is NOT giving someone something that they do deserve. It is NOT punching them in the nose when they offend you. It is NOT seeking vengeance for a pain that the world said you deserve justice for.
This is what Jesus meant when he said: “Blessed are the MEEk” (Matthew 5:5). Meekness is not weakness - it is strength under control. It is knowing you can do damage, but choosing NOT to.
Jesus showed us both Grace and Mercy when He took our sins on the cross. He showed us Mercy by not executing us for our sins and He showed us Grace when He gave us new life.
Grace and Mercy are wonderful things - but they are not meant to be a free pass to do whatever we want. It is meant to be a wake up call.
Just as sin and the law are meant to show us when we are missing the mark — grace and mercy show us how we are affecting others. When we know we deserve punishment, but we don’t get it - and when we don’t deserve peace, but we get it, it can be a shameful thing. It makes us look inside and think about who we truly are.
Romans 12:20 - “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
By giving people that hurt us both grace and mercy - we are doing what they do not expect and what they know they don’t deserve. It does two things:
This is the heart of forgiveness.
This is the beginnings of peace.
This is discipleship.
Just before i was sent to the Middle East during Desert Storm, my commander met with my unit and to tell us what to expect. He finished by saying, “This isn’t a floor we stand on, its a frying pan and we are all in it.” What he was trying to say was that we had a hard road ahead of us and that no one was better than anyone else. The officers were going to face the same dangers as the unlisted men. No one was any better than anyone else.
This same message can be seen throughout the Bible. From the time Adam left the garden to the time Jesus healed the leper, we see that life is hard and no one has it easier than anyone else. We are all broken and we all face the same challenge - survival.
Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
By understanding that everyone is struggling to become the person they were created to be, we can find comfort in knowing that we are not alone.
However, some have used this knowledge to try to lift their own status. They say things such as: “At least I am not as bad as...” They try to make themselves feel better by lowering the status of someone else.
Luke 18:9-14 - To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The Pharisee was trying to gain ground with God by saying their was worse people in the world - but this failed in God’s eyes because to God it is not about what we do or don’t don’t do - it is about who we are becoming. An arrow that is shot an inch off the mark may be closer that an arrow that is a mile off the mark - but it is still a miss.
You may try to jump and touch the moon - and you may even climb to a high mountain so that you are closer to the moon, but in the end, you will never reach it because you are bound by the forces of gravity. In life, the forces of a broken and sinful world keep us from touching God - and it doesn’t matter how much effort you put into it.
The fact is - without a rocket, no one can touch the moon and without Jesus, no one can touch God — no matter how good you live your life.
When you understand this connection, you can start to understand true relationships - Love.
John Bradford, in the 16th Century, is credited with making a comment when he saw a group of prisoners. He said, “Therefore, but by the Grace of God go I” - meaning that if the circumstances of his life were different, he might have ended up a prisoner himself. He could not condemn or judge these men because he knew that they were no different than himself. Instead, he felt compassion for them.
Moses told the Israelites that the law commanded them to be kind to foreign people that lived in their country - because they had been foreign people living as slaves in Egypt. They knew what it was like to be treated badly - so they should do better.
Leviticus 19:34 - The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
We know what it is like to have a bad day and to get frustrated and to say things we didn’t really mean - so why should we hold it against someone else who is having a bad day, getting frustrated, and saying things we know they will regret? By realizing that people are trying - and sometimes failing - to find a way out of this frying pan, we can give them grace (something they don’t deserve - forgiveness, patience, and a second chance). And when we make this a part of how we treat others, they will often return the grace on us - creating peace in our worlds for a time.
This is discipleship.
In the world of archery, you need several things - a bow, an arrow, a target, and a pointy hat with a feather coming out of it.
The goal of the archer is to use the bow to launch an arrow into the target’s center while looking good in a stylish hat. The closer to the center, the better the shot. When an arrow misses the center, the term used is “sinning”. The archer will say that he ‘sinned to the left” or “sinned to the right”. Using this information, he will adjust his technique before shooting the next arrow - hoping that the next one will hit the mark.
The term “sin” has been stolen by Christians to refer to the idea of missing the mark with God. It is meant to show us that we need to adjust our lives back to God.
To understand how we should view sin, we first remember that everyone was created by God to be His children. When Adam sinned, mankind had to leave God’s presence because we were no longer in His target area. And this is why God hates Sin.
Psalm 11:5 - The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.
(Note: God does not hate the person, but He hates the violence within the person because it moves the child He loves farther from His arms).
So He gave instructions - He told us how to choose to move toward Him.
Just as there were two trees in the garden - through scripture, we see a choice in location that symbolized our choice to move towards God or away from God. When the Bible talks about someone going East (such as Able - Gen. 4:16) or Babylon (which was East of the promised land where Tower of Babel was - Gen. 11:1-9), it is saying that people are ‘sinning’ away from God. But when it talks about the promised land or Mt. Zion, it is talking about people choosing to move towards God.
The ‘target’ we are aiming for is God, Himself.
But there is so much that distracts our flight. It is impossible for us to hit the center without help - we are broken arrows. No one can do it.
Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
This is why we need Jesus - who knows the way to the target and He never misses. He not only helps us ‘shoot the arrows’, He helps us consider how we have ‘sinned’ and how we can correct so that we shoot better next time.
The key is - we need to shoot again (In Christian terms, this is called ‘Repenting’).
The lie from Satan is that since we missed the mark (‘sinned’), we are no longer good enough for God and need to just give up. The truth - You can never miss the mark so badly that Gods cannot bring you back.
When you give up, you are actually saying that you will accept the path of the last arrow you sent. It may start little off the mark, but the longer it ‘sins’ the farther from the mark it gets. You cannot continue on that path and hit the mark. You have to stop, and reshoot again from the beginning (repent).
Jeremiah 8:6 - I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle
Acts 2:38 - Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
We will miss the mark again and again - but when we get up ‘repent’ and trust God - we will get closer every day because we will be more like Christ every day (the one who never misses).
Helping each other do this is discipleship.
A few years ago, I went to a conference with a group of young adults. During one of the evening sessions, we were entertained by a painter with a huge canvas. Since watching paint dry is not the most exciting activity, the artist kept our attention with loud music and low lighting while he used his hands to create with glow in the dark paints. It looked like a mess that a child would make trying to paint with his fingers. Finally, as the song came to a rousing end, he stepped back and spun the picture so that it was right-side-up and we saw that, what looked like a chaotic explosion of paints was in reality an upside down portrait of Jesus.
What a perfect picture of our lives. Absolute messes until we meet the artists that turns us right-side-up so that we see who we were made to be - Children of the Living God.
In Scripture, we see that God created mankind in His image (Gen. 1:27) and we find out that He also takes a personal interest in each one of us.
Psalm 139:14 - For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Matthew 10:30 - And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
I Peter 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you
Not only did He personally create you - He has made a plan for your life.
Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Psalm 139:16 - Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
And He made a plan for your eternity
Romans 8:17 - Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Revelation 3:5 - The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
God was written a story and it is all about you and His love for you.
But not everyone is part of this story.
Revelation 20:15 - Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
This is because God did not just want to plan to tell your story without giving you a choice for an outcome. He wanted you to choose to be a part of this story. He does not want robots, He wants children to love. This is why He placed the two different trees in the garden with Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam had a choice to remain in God’s story, or to leave the story. By choosing to stay, he was showing his love for God.
When Adam ate the fruit, He was leaving God’s story to try and create his own story - a task that was too hard for him, and so it became a mess. God had to write a new chapter in our stories to show us the journey back to him. He put Himself into the story to show us the way.
John 10:4 - When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice
John 10:7 - Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
John 14:6 - Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
But we must choose to follow Him. - Joshua 24:15; John 3:16; Matthew 7:13-14 (when you find it - show it. This is Discipleship