The Need for Restoration (3)
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2.16, 17
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1.28-32
The fear of death
The entrance of sin to the world brought death. Death is not the way the world is supposed to be. People live in the dark shadow and constant fear of death (Heb. 2.15). Death is the great terror that looms over the world. We know it’s inevitable, but we try to postpone it by every means, resort to euphemism when we have to talk about it (“passing away”, “crossing over”, and the like), and shudder to think of our own end-of-being. The reality and inevitability of death rob us of the joie de vivre which is supposed to be ours. We can never be entirely or consistently happy, because the ugly stare of death catches our glance in every place.
Death is the greatest proof of sin, and the strongest provocation to hope for something other than death as our final disposition. That is, death is the great reminder. It reminds us that sin is fatal. And it reminds us that we are not made for death. Why would we try so hard to postpone or avoid it, if death were just our proper end? Why would we fear that for which we have come into existence to know? And why would something in us hope against hope that there might be some cure for our malady, some exit ramp before we come to the bridge-out chasm that plummets to eternal nothingness?
Death is not the way it’s supposed to be. Fearing death is not the way it’s supposed to be, either. Because in Jesus Christ, victory over death and the grave has been achieved, and the spoils of that victory are being daily distributed to people for whom death holds no terror whatsoever. Having reconciled us to God, Jesus restores us to life as God intends – a modicum of which we enjoy in this life, while the fullness of it remains for a new and fully restored creation.
We who have overcome death and the fear of death are called to bring that sense of freedom and release to the world – the huddling souls, groaning creation, fractured societies, and crippled cultures of our death-stalked world. Jesus is spoiling the kingdom of death and restoring life to everything He touches (Matt. 12.22-29; Rev. 22.5). And we are right there in the mix with Him!
The calling card of death
The path of death is the path of the lie. The lie is the calling card of all those who are enslaved to death. As Paul explained in Romans 1.18-32, all who turn away from the knowledge of God – which is firmly embedded in their souls – do not not worship. People are made for God and therefore for worship. In worship we do not grovel before God; we participate in Him, in His beauty, joy, life, and power. We are made for God and made for worship; those who will not worship the God Who made us in His image, will worship another god, one of their own choosing, one that, in some form or another is merely an extension of themselves. Rejecting God, they become their own god, attended by lesser deities of happiness, prestige, and ease, to which they give themselves with all the devotion of a Celtic monk.
Rejecting God, people embark on a black brick road to a non-existent city, all the while failing to notice that their journey leads them deeper and deeper, day by day, into the blackness and hopelessness of death. God strains and strives to discourage their resolute decline (cf. Gen. 6.3). Only reluctantly, Paul says, does God “give them up” (vv. 24, 26, 28) to uglier depths of sin, degradation, disillusion, despair, and death. He speaks to them through all that He has made, and they hear His voice (vv. 20, 21); but because they will not obey Him, they hasten on their journey toward death, taking on more of the trappings of sin and death in every facet of their lives.
Jesus came to plug this spiritual and moral Charybdis. He overcomes the gravity of death by the power of life. Jesus reaches to all who will take hold of Him, and He lifts them out of destruction into life and restoration. And He does this by those He has rescued and restored, that we might rescue and restore others in His Name and by His power.
All whom Jesus restores from death He brings increasingly into full and abundant life – life the way it’s supposed to be, for a world that’s supposed to be everywhere glorious and good.
Saved for life
Jesus has not saved us from the downward spiral of sin and death that we should continue in it, or that we should be content for it to continue swallowing neighbors, cultures, societies, creation, and the entire vast cosmos. As He works to restore us from sin to righteousness, death to life, fear to peace, and despair to joy, so He sends us to the world of sin to carry on His work of reconciliation and making all things new.
The Christian who can look at the dying world and simply say, “Good riddance! Bring on the rapture”, has not understood his reason for being. God so loved the world that He gave His best Effort and Energy to save it, through the life, death, resurrection, and reign of our Lord Jesus Christ. Dare we do anything other or less than that? All our best time, talents, treasure, and strength, being devoted unreservedly to God, He intends that we should invest in restoring the reconciled world.
No, we shall not succeed in this calling until Jesus returns to cast the devil and death into the eternal abyss. But as death and lies signal to the world that all must dissolve, decay, and die, so the life and truth that we have in Jesus Christ are intended to show the world how it’s really supposed to be – and how it one day will be when the Kingdom comes in all its fullness.
Jesus is making all things new, and thus He shows that death has no hold on Him. He calls us into this project and has appointed us to carry on His work by restoring the reconciled world to ever-increasing measures of its original goodness and glory – one person, one task, and one objective at a time.
1. What is “the lie” that Paul mentions in Romans 1.25? How does “the lie” affect the world?
2. Why is it important that we understand that people who do not worship God do not not worship? How might you be able to show that to such a person?
3. In this death-ridden world, God is both “giving up” (Rom. 1.18ff) and “making all things new” (Rev. 22.5). Explain.
Next steps – Transformation: What will you “make new” today?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.