Walking The Roman Road – Lenten Season 2019
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:1-11 NIV).
Breaking the Alliance
The serpent was disgusting, his slithering form a transparent mask, his voice a whining caricature of human sound. But he was no fool. His attack would be subtle beyond words and Gabriel feared for the man and the woman.
Eve was walking near the center of the garden where the Tree of Life grew. Its leaves were a beautiful dark green, its fruit delicious beyond the imagining of it. But it was not the Tree of Life that had caught her attention. She was staring at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, her curiosity a passing thing, with no evil desire to mar her interest. It was simply not important other than the recognition that her Father had asked her not to eat from that Tree on pain of death. Not that death meant anything to her, but to displease her Father was punishment enough.
She would have walked on, her entourage of forest creatures keeping pace and providing company for this impromptu tour of her kingdom, but then she noticed the serpent coiled around the trunk of the tree.
She should not be alone. Gabriel thought. Where is her head, her man? He should protect her, together they might overcome the tempter. Divide and conquer, the oldest strategy, the surest results. No, the serpent was no fool. But God had allowed this encounter and the choice would be hers to make and later, also the man.
The serpent spoke and Eve stopped, her eyes growing wide.
“You have spoken,” she said.
“It is so,” came back the reply, the unblinking eyes betraying nothing.
“Has Adam given you a name?” Eve asked with kind concern, already accepting the strangeness of this conversation as part of the wonderful creation of her Father.
“No, I need no name for I will decide my own identity.”
“This is most strange.”
A questioning look came into Eve’s eyes for a moment and the serpent decided to press his attack at once before too many questions were asked.
“Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?”
The question was an accusation, the accusation sweeping and deceptive, making God look unrealistic to forbid them to eat from all of the trees in the garden. The serpent was already planting doubt in the wisdom and love of the Creator, though this first attack was designed to be easily overcome.
Eve noticed the black pulp of the forbidden fruit staining the serpent’s mouth and she was immediately concerned. The serpent had entwined himself upon the lower branches of the tree and was reaching for another fruit.
He should not be there, Eve thought to herself. He should not be eating from the forbidden tree. Did he not know the will of the Father?
Concerned, she responded, “we may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, ‘You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.’”
The serpent noticed the additional words Eve had spoken out of concern for what he was doing. God had not mentioned anything about touching the tree. Already one person’s disobedience was threatening the safety and peace of others. Already worry was taking root and additions to the law were being added as a further safeguard from disobedience. Lucifer was learning key strategies that he would use time and again in the temptation of this race of men. He decided to press on in the confusion of the moment with a direct approach.
“No! You will not die!” It was a direct contradiction of God’s clear command but the serpent rushed on, hoping to cover his brashness with further argument. “God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.”
It was the art of deception in its purest form. He had told her the truth but not the whole truth. It was true that if she ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil she would learn of things she had never dreamt of before. But that was not the issue. The question was one of surviving the knowledge, surviving the disobedience.
He had caught her interest and the seeds of doubt grew quickly in the virgin soil. He had cast doubt not only on the clear word of God but also on God’s character.
Was God trying to keep some good thing from them? Was this fruit something that her man as King of the earth was entitled to have? Should she try it first to make sure it was all right and then give some to Adam?
The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it.
She gave some also to her husband who had come up behind her. He held the fruit in his hand, looked into her eyes and realized what she had done.
“We will be like God,” she said in response to the question in his eyes.
He hesitated only long enough for the desire to take root in his own heart and then he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked.
“This world is a dangerous place,” I said. “But not for the reasons you might think.”
John was there with Sofi this time and my wife had joined us for our weekly get together after the Alpha Course session. We were all sitting on the sofa and chairs in the living room with hot coffee in our hands. We were starting to get to know each other quite well. Sofi was no fool either. She could think. Her background was Catholic but she knew her Bible.
“What kind of danger are you talking about?” John asked. “Wars and famine and stuff like that?”
“Well, yes, but there is an even greater danger that is mostly God’s fault.”
“God’s fault?” Sofi said. “You want to blame God for all the evil in the world?”
“No, not for the evil,” I said, giving a dramatic pause. “Just for the danger.”
“Ok, spill it already,” my wife said, giving me a look.
“Ok, ok,” I said. “What I am saying is that God had to create a truce of sorts, putting off his final judgment of death for Adam and Eve in order to provide a context for the battle with the Evil One for the souls of man.”
“A context?” John said.
“Yes. A time and place for God to fight back. Ultimately, every man and woman must make an accounting for their lives but, in the meantime, certain things must be accomplished. God’s Master Plan must go forward and the Evil One must be defeated. God would not give up his creation or his people to the Evil One without a fight.”
“Maybe they didn’t die right away,” Sofi said, “but we still all got cursed.“
“Even the serpent was cursed by God,” my wife said.
“Let me read that to you from the Book of Genesis,” I said. “Because you have done this, ‘Cursed are you above all livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:14,15 NIV).
“Our first parents created an unholy alliance with the Evil One,” I said. “They traded faith and trust in God for doubt and unbelief. It was safer to decide things for themselves than to trust in the love of a Father who, according to the serpent, was holding back good things from them. Although they had not intended to choose the serpent over their Father, they chose the same path as the Evil One and so created the unholy alliance with him that would be their downfall.”
“Not good,” John said.
“That unholy alliance was not broken with the setting up of this truce but it was made difficult to maintain. It would be constantly challenged. The Devil knows that he has no authority on the earth that he cannot deceive man into giving to him. Therefore, the curse upon the serpent was to create enmity or friction between the two allies and predict his final doom at the hands of one of the offspring of the very woman he had deceived.”
“You mean Jesus?” John said.
“But why is this truce so dangerous?” John asked. “I think I missed something.”
I looked at John carefully.
“Do you remember the first question you asked me about God?” I said.
John just shook his head.
“You asked me how could a good God allow so much evil in the world.”
“Yeah, I remember,” John said. “And you gave me this crazy answer. You said because God loves us.”
I just looked at him and he stared back his mind working. I could almost see the moment when he worked it out.
“The truce,” John said. “God had to institute a truce in order to save us but he couldn’t get rid of evil at the same time.”
“Exactly. God has to put up with evil in order to save us. That’s why the truce is so dangerous.”
“But I still don’t get it,” Sofi said. “You said that God created the danger which I suppose is the truce, but not the evil. I see why evil is dangerous but not why the truce is dangerous.”
“Because everybody thinks that the truce is normal,” I said.
Sofi and John just sat there thinking.
“What’s the greatest barrier to people coming to know God and learning about Jesus?” I didn’t wait for an answer. “This conviction that everything is normal and that everything is as it should be. Godlessness is normal, in fact, most people consider religion to be old-fashioned. Evil is put up with and death is considered natural. Nothing is further from the truth.”
“So the truce allows wickedness and evil on the one hand and on the other it kinda lulls people to sleep thinking that everything is fine,” John said.
“Right. When, in fact, this world is abnormal and even downright absurd. Humans are not dust in the wind, but rather the most valuable possession of a God who is determined to save them.”
“Once you see it from that point of view, it starts to make sense,” Sofi said.
“Jesus basically broke that alliance and relationship we have with the Devil and gave us the chance for a new relationship with God,” I said. “Sort of like an opportunity to go back to the way things were, with some differences of course.”
John was amazed. His eyes were opened and he saw things in a way he never thought about before. I could see it on his face.
“And our job is to tell more people about it,” he said. “Like you guys are doing with us.”
“Right,” I said. “And make new friends along the way.”
We all laughed at that. That was one thing that was certainly coming true.
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, thank you so much for breaking my alliance with the Devil. I can say that it wasn’t my intention to side with him against you but my actions speak louder than my words. Yes, he decieves us but we are willing partners in his rebellion. Forgive me, Lord, for making it necessary for you to die on the cross. Thank you for that service. You have redeemed my life and I am a new person. Thank you for a new alliance with you that cannot be broken. In your name I pray. Amen.