GNB 101

September 13, 2022

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God for this is your true and proper worship [or your proper service to God.] Do not, therefore, conform to the pattern [of thinking] of this world but be transformed [into the pattern of the Kingdom of God] by the renewing of your mind. It is then that you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; that is, what is His good, pleasing and perfect will for us all.” (Romans 12.1-2)

TODAY’S REFLECTION:

We know, of course, that Paul’s proposal and admonition which begins in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 12 has its roots in the preceding chapters upon which we have not reflected. And while we should, Paul allows us to operate not by assumption but by summary, so that we can receive the full warning and urging which he offers in Chapter 12 and following. That summary statement is “in view of God’s mercy.” And we do not have to read the preceding chapters, but we should, to understand the impact of that summary statement. We have experienced “God’s mercy” whether we identified it as such or not. I am speaking of those times when the consequence of a decision or the failure to make a “right” or “better” decision is experienced. Not only is it experienced but we realize after we have gone through it the consequence was not nearly as problematic as we anticipated while we were going through it. You know what “times” I am talking about, right. Those times when you said to yourself, “Well, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.” After a few more of “those times,” we may have the tendency to believe “it won’t be nearly so bad this time.” As we pursue the “nearly not so bad” consideration, the lure is to believe “we” were more in control of the situation and the “not so painful outcome.” Not only do we consider it and allow it to become the benchmark for future “iffy” or “accidental” happenings based on not so good reasoning, we begin to be seduced into thinking “it will always be this way.” Let me offer a quick glance back into our spiritual history and offer a similar scenario. That’s right, I am speaking of the dialogue between the Serpent and Eve. Slithering around the branches of the God-forbid Tree in all his presumptuous splendor, the Serpent draws attention to himself and the fruit which suggests “equality with God is something to be grasped.” Did that phrasing catch you by surprise? It is the same phrasing used by Paul in his teaching on the efficacy of Jesus’ ministry as servant to all recorded in Philippians 2.6. It went like this, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to grasp His own advantage; rather, He made Himself [what is seen by the world as] nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself [in greatest service, that of authentic love] by becoming obedient to death— even [and especially] death on a cross!” The temptation was certainly there to be and to do otherwise. It was there for Jesus at the end of forty days in the wilderness following His decision to accept His Father’s call to enter into redemptive ministry at the age of 30. The rise of His cousin John as the Baptizer for the repentance of one’s sin was the sign of “now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their countrymen.” His baptism symbolized, in His words, “the fulfillment all righteousness.” It was no accident that Jesus stepped onto the scene of transforming Israel by the renewal of her mind with the “very Word of God in spirit and in truth.” Being baptized by John was one thing. Forty days later, putting the cause of that baptism to the test was another. The difference between Eve’s encounter with Satan as a serpent and Jesus’ encounter with His fallen heavenly “brother” was not gender-oriented but readiness-oriented. Eve was not prepared for the moment. It was meant for Eve to be submissive to her helpmate, Adam, who in turn was to be submissive to his creator and sustainer, God. Adam was intended to keep Eve from all manner of harm and evil. Eve was to trust in Adam’s word as if it came, and it did come, from God. Their relationship at that point in their lives was one of faith. But, it was untested faith. Jesus, on the other hand, was in the world because of His faith in God His Heavenly Father and His Father’s faith in Him. So, when the showdown in the wilderness came at the end of Jesus’ forty day sojourn, Jesus was ready. How was He ready? We have to go back to day one of that sojourn to answer that question. When Jesus came up out of the Jordan in baptism and in calling, the Holy Spirit was upon Him. He was anointed for this ministry and it led Him immediately into the wilderness. Jesus was never alone and on His own. He trusted the Spirit which led Him just as the Spirit was obedient to God who guided Him. What wasn’t obedient and led by God was Satan who waited patiently for Jesus to be at His weakest in human form. He believed in that moment Jesus would also be His weakest in the form of God. But, Jesus had a prompter who reminded Him of the very power and the promise of God’s previously spoken word. It laid out the plusses and minuses of human life and the provision which God offered in response to the challenges His people would face. Jesus was “forewarned” and thus “forearmed.” And so are we!

But, let’s not forget this was about Eve who did not have such a background and experience with God’s Word and God’s Spirit. The best revelation of both was the knowledge of the creation of all there was. That creation happened at God’s command, His Word, by the Holy Spirit, who was under God’s command. Adam and Eve were the top of the created food chain on earth. But, they had no understanding of anything beyond the earth. Even their experience with God was not heaven-oriented. God walked with them and talked with them. He was “Immanuel,” God with us. And if “God is with us, then who can be against us.” Except they had no adversarial experience either, so Satan’s appearance to Eve as “the most beautiful creature in all the Garden” had legitimacy of “being with God, too.” Except, the serpent was not “with God.” The serpent was against God because the serpent was merely the image projected by the Cast Out Lucifer, Satan the Accuser. And what did the Serpent challenge Eve with but that fateful question which is of the type alluded to at the beginning of this reflection. That question was “Did God say you must not eat from any tree?” It is the question of prioritizing and investigating one’s options. It was the lure into separatist thinking. As Eve declared what she knew to be true, Satan was able to then plant the seed of doubt. That doubt came from “If God said any tree but this one, then God must want this tree for Himself. You are not good enough to eat from this tree. You might become just like God and know something you do not know now.” Ah, the lure of “something more we do not know of as if it was being kept from us.” Some things are better left to themselves. But, Eve had no basis for making such a decision and fell prey to “it looks good enough to eat and therefore must be good for me, too.” Let’s watch and listen to every commercial presented across the media spectrum. Aren’t they driven by that very maxim? This will give you something good for you that you do not yet possess! It is within your grasp of self-will and determination. We can include other kinds of choices such as entertainment, food, sex and sexuality, friends and politics to name a dangerous few. The human response becomes, “It isn’t so bad, I didn’t die from it and it won’t kill me.” The chemistry of doubt and foolishness surges through the mind, then the body and then the relationships connected to that body. The truth is that only by the mercy and grace of God do we have the possibility of living through the experience. But, we are called to live through it with the intention of getting back on track to what is “good, pleasing, holy and proper- God’s perfect will for our lives.” Jesus could see what Eve, and Adam, could not. Jesus could see God as Father. Adam and Eve did not have that same vision. They saw God as something then to be feared because the knowledge of good and evil dug a chasm between them they could not span. Their response was to “cover themselves” and become camouflaged by the world around them. Their hope was that God would not see them and thus they would be spared the burden of their despair and fear of God keeping His word “surely you will die!”

And death is the consequence of unrepentant sin. Sadly, sin is a part of our fleshly DNA. We did not choose it. It is the sad gift that has been handed down from generation to generation since the day of Adam and Eve. But, there is a solution to the problem. The solution is Jesus Christ who shows us “the way, the truth and the life” which becomes apparent with the renewal of our mind. What we can’t do for ourselves, God can do through Jesus Christ. He can remake us, reform us, renew us, revive us, redeem us and reconcile us. He desires to do this because He still loves us and does not “will” the death of anyone, including the Serpent. But, we can will it for ourselves by denying what we know to be true and believing there is another way. We, mighty ones of God, know there is no other way than that of being a disciple of Jesus the Christ. And this we can do because it is offered to us to do in light of “God’s mercy.” So, in those times when we think we escaped a dire consequence by our own “good fortune, blind luck or skill,” think again. Give credit to where credit is due. If not for the “grace of God,” then we would surely be lost and never found. Let us repent and be transformed into those whom God has determined us to be in spite of our human condition of sin-fection. We might then say, “I, though found in the form of being very human, did not believe that being only human was a thing to be grasped for my own advantage. Instead, I will put on the true divine form as that of a servant to God and be willing to take on death by whatever form it comes for the glory of God and the good of all around me.”

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Father, You have done what is in Your nature to do- love us back into authentic life with the truest of love. We are grateful because we do know the consequences of sin is the kind of death we do not know by experience but imagine because our experience tells us there are worse things in life. You have offered us the substitutionary sacrifice so that we may have life and have it to the fullest. We receive it now. We allow it to define who were are truly meant to be in the image of the One who laid down His life for us. He is our way, our truth and our life. To God be the glory now and forevermore. AMEN.

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