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Thursday, October 29, 2015

First Steps are Important

The first step is important. People have a baby’s first step recorded on their smart phone and email or text them to friends and family by email and text message and even share them with complete strangers on social media. Without that first step there can never be the second, third and millions of steps which follow.

In the process of becoming a child of God there seems to be a first step that has been emphasized and yet seldom considered in any depth to understand how to get to the root. We are told that “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God ;”( Romans 3:23) but we never are shown clearly what that means. Therefore we are left to our own devices to determine what sin is. So instead of coming to an understanding of the nature of sin we find examples and use them as a definition. In that case we are relegated to the big 4; stealing what belongs to someone else, killing another human being, sexual immorality however we end up defining that, and then lying is the fourth. Some do go a little farther and include thinking about doing those things as sin.

So we are told in Sunday school (where they still have that) that Jesus died to save us from our sins. And frightened children come home and tell their parents that they must be baptized because they need to be saved from their sins. But they have no idea what those sins are. They certainly haven’t stolen, killed or been involved in immoral sexual behavior (people of the opposite gender are icky). But they are sure they have sinned because the teacher read to them from the Bible that “all have sinned.” I am sure there are exceptions to this illustration, but generally speaking you will see the point that I am making is valid, I hope.

So, what is this “sin” that we are all guilty of that has caused us to fall short of the glory of God? And how can understanding the answer to this first question help me to stop falling short of God’s glory?

The word Genesis means beginning, so since we are considering this to be a first step the beginning would be a good place to start. In the first chapter we can read how God created the whole universe with his words.  God spoke all of the physical that we can see and more into reality.  That’s a whole other topic. Then in chapter 2 we can read beginning in verse 8 how God planted a garden in “Eden”. Here again we find that the Bible translators didn’t translate. The Hebrew word for Eden is pronounced “Eden” the translation is “pleasure”. Of the 19 or so translations that I look at, only the Douay-Reims Translation agrees with several commentators and says,And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed.”  

God provided all that man needed for his pleasure in this garden. Just take a moment or several to think about that.

I really like caramel and my wife likes dark chocolate. I enjoy seafood but my wife prefers chicken. What does this have to do with sin? Not a lot, but it does have to do with pleasure. One of the pleasures that God placed in the garden was a freedom to choose. When we choose the course that is right we have great pleasure but when we choose the course that is wrong we quickly come to sorrow. This is simple to illustrate in several life situations. In this “paradise of pleasure” all of the choices but one were within God’s will. Everything was a delight to behold, unimaginably wonderful foods were everywhere, and physical pleasure had no boundaries. Included in the pleasures was the pleasure of choosing to do God’s will. The pleasure of allowing God to decide what is best for me and what I should avoid. The only way that it could be possible to choose one way over another is for you to have at least two options. In this case there were thousands of options and only one had been labeled as “the wrong option”. And yet with a little help from a clever salesman that is what they chose.

That option was not a pear, a plum, an apple or a pomegranate. The option was the option to choose to decide between what is good and what is evil. The option was and is to place my will above and before God’s will. Here is the root of all sin. God’s will or my will; we are presented with the same choice as Adam and Eve.

Every day all day long we are presented with choices. Unfortunately because of that first choice, to choose other than God’s will, we often have several wrong options and only one or a few right options that are in agreement with God’s will. How do we possibly learn to choose properly?

This is what following Jesus is really all about. Jesus was tempted in every way the same as we are tempted and yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). God’s Word promises that, “there is no temptation that comes to you or me except what is common to all men and God is faithful and will not permit us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear ( 1 Corinthians 10:13). Does this mean that I will never sin again? I don’t think so. But it does mean that there is always a way open to me where I can learn to choose to do God’s will and not my own.

God’s will certainly involves healing the sick and possibly doing other miracles but it is not likely that we will get to be a part of that while we are still becoming angry with our brother or sister because they didn’t pick up their dirty clothes. I must learn to be faithful to do God’s will where it is clear to me. Then I can learn to be involved where my will is so easily confused with God’s.

As I choose God’s will in more and more situations of life I gain power over sin. As a born again follower of Jesus I always have the power to choose and God will always show me the right choice and give me the power to choose His will in the moment if I will cry out to him in my time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Let us each one continue to faithfulness
2 Corinthians 3:10