For the last number of weeks I have been sharpening the kingdom edge of the sword of the Word of God in these blog postings. My intention has been to focus on what the Bible says about civil government, and what we have discovered has been shocking to many of us.
However, I can always tell by the restlessness in my heart when it becomes time to switch our focus to the other edge of the sword—the gospel of the unconditional grace of God—and that time is now!
Some Christians emphasize and think only about the gospel of grace (our personal relationship with God, Who is “above us”), while some preach only the kingdom (what the Bible tells us we are to be doing in the world, what is “beneath us”), assuming “everyone understands the gospel.”
But the sword has TWO edges, and both edges get dull over time. We are told again and again in the Bible to “REMEMBER what God has done.” I believe we MUST have two razor-sharp edges as we swing the sword both ways if the whole Word of God is to be fully proclaimed.
The gospel of grace frees us from the allure of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that has gripped us. This temptation compelled us to try to live by climbing the imaginary ladder of trying to obey the perfect law of God. We have been set completely free from that addiction at the cross, and we are in the process of learning to experience that reality in real time.
When Jesus cried, “It is finished” as He died, He meant it. Our unchanging relationship with the God who is “above us” was firmly and finally established. There is no ladder to climb to please Him, because we already do!
As we grow more and more comfortable with this idea, there will come a time when we will lift our heads up from examining, cultivating, pampering and concentrating completely on our individual “tree” and notice we live in a vast “forest” we have never recognized. We will say, “Wow, how do I relate to that”?
God will smile and say, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask that very question. Welcome to the family business of ruling over it! And here’s how you will do so…” With your wife at your side as your helper (if you are a married man), God then will gradually open your eyes to the family, church, and civil government, His ordained institutions for extending His rule over the earth.
This kingdom message has been our emphasis in these blog postings for the last several months. I have tried to always come from a free, do-what-you-want-to-do, only-when-you-want-to-do-it grace foundation, but the emphasis has been “kingdom.”
However, this morning I was thinking while lying in bed before I got up, and I realized anew how addicted I am, even though I know better with my head, to the forbidden fruit of discerning for myself whether my actions are “good” or “evil.” Everything I do is immediately followed in my mind with “How did that go? Was it a successful time or was it not what it could have been?”
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve never had thoughts like that. After God created them, they lived in complete dependence upon Him. They knew nothing else but to trust Him for their provision, for direction in their daily tasks, for literally every aspect of their lives. They lived completely by faith in the mysterious One who had created them.
To question what God said never entered their minds; it was not on their radar screen. To act independently of God was an option that had never occurred to them. They were completely content to be man as God created man to be—to live by simple, dependent faith in the One who was “above them” and greater than they were. They never asked “why?” of any of His directives, and never doubted His love for them nor His ability to care for them.
They had no concept of “right” and “wrong,” of good and evil. “Right and wrong? What’s that?” they would have said. These are issues that concern a judge–God, the judge of all the earth. Ethics and morality, what is right and what is wrong, or, in other words, “the law,” were not in man’s realm at all. Adam and Eve had nothing to do with these questions; these were matters that existed totally in God’s sphere of concern. Adam and Eve knew nothing of a “law” that they “ought to, needed to, or should” obey. They knew nothing but to trust their Creator who had given them life.
As a result of this simple faith, they very naturally did what God said as they continued to trust in their Creator. Obedience to God was not a goal or an objective for them at all, but a very natural, spontaneous, unconscious result of their faith. They never even thought of anything but doing what God requested.
According to the sovereign plan of God, that all changed in the Garden at the Fall, and man entered into a life of independence from God—the ability to now decide for himself—what he should do and how he should live. We, the fallen descendants of Adam, live with the result of his fateful decision in our own lives. We are addicted to—unconsciously compelled to live by—trying to obey God’s law, or, by self-consciously defying it, both of which constitute living by it!
We know we are sinners, but we naturally try to remedy that problem ourselves by constantly trying to shape ourselves up. It’s as if “the fruit of the Spirit” has become “the fruit of my own efforts.”
The remedy in the Bible is too simple: it involves moving from trying to trusting; from obedience to faith; from the effort of “ought to, need to and should” to the effortlessness of “want to.” Next week we will look at how our minds are renewed to begin to break free from our addiction and to begin to live by faith alone, just as Adam and Eve did before the Fall.