Two Gardens

Sometimes my soul groans with how messed up this world is. All around I see people who are hurting, broken, wounded by sin. But our world won’t even acknowledge the idea of sin – we call it a mistake, a bad decision but sin? No – that’s some outdated notion that post-modern people have outgrown. And what is even worse, is that we now call sin good, and celebrate it with pride.

But if we put down the smart phone for a few minutes, and allow ourselves to face that deep groaning in our hearts, we come face to face with the awfulness of sin, both in ourselves and in those around us. We can try to talk ourselves out of the truth but we know, deep down, that this is not how it’s supposed to be. This world we live in is marred by evil and pain and death.

In Genesis 3, the first man and woman were faced with a decision much like what we face every day. Do I trust God or not? Do I believe that what He says is true or do I go my own way, believing that maybe He is holding out on me? After all, that was how the serpent deceived Eve in the garden – by causing her to question God’s goodness towards her. So she took the fruit and ate, and gave some to her husband and he ate. And in that instant, they lost all the goodness of fellowship with God and with each other. What had been perfect was now marred by their rebellion against the God who created them and loved them. And so, all of us since then have been born into a state of rebellion against God and all that is good.

You may object. How is it possible that children – babies – are born in a state of rebellion? If you are a parent you know that you did not teach your kids to say no when told to do something, to hit or bite when they want their own way, to steal, to scream and demand when they see something they want. It’s the inherent state that we all enter the world in. We are selfish creatures who have no problem loving ourselves (pop psychology not withstanding). We easily put our selfish needs and wants first. Its others we have trouble loving. That day long ago, in that garden everything became twisted and wrong.

The amazing thing is that our holy God, who cannot look on sin, had a plan to take care of our problem long before it ever happened on that fateful day in the garden. From eternity past, He loved us and implemented the perfect plan to bring us back from our ruined state. In fact, on that day in the garden, God made a promise of such importance that it resonates to this day. He promised the deceived and now broken woman that He would take care of her. He told the deceitful serpent that “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise Him on the heel…”Gen 3:15.  You see the payment for sin is death. The man and woman knew this when they rebelled against God.

I know that sounds odd to post-modern ears. But this is the best news ever told. The serpent’s seed, Satan, will no longer win the day. His head will be crushed – but in the process, the woman’s seed, or offspring, will suffer a terrible blow to His heel.

There was another day. It was a dark and terrible day, when the offspring, or seed, of the woman, took up His cross and walked to His death. This perfect man took the wages of sin on Himself because of His great love for all of us. He lived a life in perfect harmony with God the Father. He never rebelled because He was born of a virgin and was therefore free of the genetic, inherited trait all the rest of humanity is cursed with – sin. That day, His heel was bruised by the nails of the cross. He suffered in our place and paid the penalty of death for us. We owed God a debt of perfect righteousness or we pay the penalty of death. It was a debt you or I could never pay even if we had a million lifetimes to try.

But God had a plan. He would pay the price Himself through His own Son. How do I know that God accepted His payment on my behalf – and yours? Jesus dead body was taken from the cross, and laid in a tomb in another garden. But He didn’t stay there. He was raised from the dead on the third day. And now He ever lives to make intercession for His people. Those who by faith turn from their sin and rebellion and believe in Him.

Who is this? He is Jesus the Messiah. The Son of God who was fully God and fully man. The one who loves you and gave Himself up for you.  Will you turn from your sin and believe in this wonderful One who God promised so long ago? You see, God did not leave us without hope.  That day in the first garden, He already planned to set us right again. In the second garden, He fulfilled His promise. But you must believe to become part of His family. Will you?

How Do I Contend for the Faith?

The book of Jude was written to appeal to believers to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Why? Because, certain persons have crept in unnoticed. These persons are the subject of the majority of the message written by Jude. He describes their lifestyle so we can have a standard for evaluating those who claim to belong to Jesus, especially those who claim to be teachers and preachers in the church.

Of course, our evaluation should always be done with grace and mercy, recognizing that the best of us can have a bad day or season in our lives. But Jude is very clear about how to recognize false teachers, so we need to be prepared to obey God’s Word and contend and keep on contending, when necessary. And that can be scary. I want to be kind and gracious but sometimes, we are taught here, we must contend. Vine’s dictionary says that to contend means signifies “to contend about a thing, as a combatant” (epi, “upon or about,” intensive, agon, “a contest”), “to contend earnestly,” . The word “earnestly” is added to convey the intensive force of the preposition.

It takes courage to contend, to be a combatant for the gospel. But Jude doesn’t leave us without encouragement for the battle. Here are some of the things he tells us about true believers:

V 1 –     We are the called

            We are beloved in God the Father

            We are kept for Jesus Christ

V 3       We have the faith once for all handed down to the saints

V 4       Our Lord and Master is Jesus Christ

V 17     We remember the words spoken beforehand by the apostles

V 20     We are beloved

             We are to be building ourselves up in the faith

            We are to be praying in the Holy Spirit

V 21     We are to keep ourselves in the love of God

            We are to be waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life

V 24     He is able to keep us from stumbling

            He will make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy

And these things are where courage and strength for the battle from. He will never leave us or forsake us. Our job in the now is to obey Jude 1:22-23.  “ And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

Will you mercifully encourage the doubting? Will you snatch others out of the fire by telling them the true gospel? Will your mercy be tempered with fear because you want nothing to do with the pollution of the flesh? We live in a time where anything goes and people are being told, by these people who have crept in, that God accepts all sin and loves them as they sin. Thankfully, He does love us in spite of our sin, but the gospel calls us to repentance and obedience. Truly, we need to know God’s Word well. That is where we will learn the truth that we must contend for.

So gird up and get your armor on. God has provided everything we need to contend earnestly for the faith.