I’ll never forget a time, years ago, when God startled me with these words, “Son you don’t really understand the Gospel.” I found myself very upset by this. You have to understand why this offended me. I was an evangelist. Though young, I had already led thousands to the Lord. In my mind, I knew the Gospel, and to a degree I did. The truth was that I had a “but” Gospel. A “but” gospel goes something like this:
- God is good, but…you have to balance His goodness with His wrath.
- God loves you, but…. if you’re not careful to live a holy life He will punish you.
- God forgives you, but… don’t mess up because your sin will cause Him to hide His face from you.
- God heals, but…if He chooses not to, embrace it and learn what He wants to teach you.
- God wants to prosper you, but…. He may choose for you to be poor for His glory.
For many, God is good, but He is really not that good. Unintentionally, we have created a schizophrenic God with a schizophrenic Gospel. It’s impossible to trust someone that you don’t really believe loves you. This false concept of God has caused many to run from Him, instead of running to Him. So many sincere Christians going to church, Sunday after Sunday, have never heard the Gospel.
Eugene Peterson’s Message paraphrase says it so beautifully:
“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?” Romans 10:12
Sadly, not many Christians have heard the true gospel and therefore, have a difficult time operating in faith. Of course, you cannot have perfect trust in someone that you don’t think really loves you. But God does love us, He is always good, and even, actually especially, when we are not!
How You View God Matters!
Recently I came across this statistic: The average person has 70,000 thoughts come through his mind every single day. Out of those 70,000 thoughts, for most people, 75% of them are negative. Think about that- 57,000 negative thoughts violating your mind, influencing your beliefs and poisoning your perspective- every day. King Solomon was onto something when he wrote, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he (Proverbs 23:7).”
The lies that we believe about ourselves that in turn contaminate and destroy our health, our emotions, and relationships, stem from the lies we believe about God. God created us in righteousness. This word carries with it the concept of being in harmony with our creator and experiencing life the way it was intended. In the Garden, when that trust was broken, all hell broke loose. This is what took place.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was [a]pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves [b]coverings.
8 And they heard the [c]sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the [d]cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Genesis 3:6-11
The primary word for sin in the New Testament is a word that means to miss the mark or fall short of the bullseye. But to properly understand sin, you have to define the bullseye that we fall short of. It is here that our religious brains take us into bondage. When I ask groups this question, it is common to hear the mark defined as “being perfect” or “keeping the law.” We have made sin simply about right and wrong and following the rules. But God is a heart God and keeping the rules alone will never bring us into relationship with God or earn His favor.
For me, scripture is clear that the bullseye is having a relationship with God that leads us into the abundant life that we were created to experience. Therefore, sin is not a broken law, but it is a broken relationship. Sin is falling short and missing the mark of the relationship that you were created to have with God. This goes right along with how Jesus defined eternal life in John 17:3.
“And this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3
Eternal life is not only experienced when we die, eternal life is the quality of life we can have and experience through intimately knowing God here and now. It begins now and goes on into eternity.
You also need to notice that this sin or missing of the mark started off with a lie about God, which led Adam and Eve into believing a lie about themselves. The lie was this: Satan implied that God is not as good as He says He is, and that He was holding something back from them. Satan in essence said, “You are not who God says you are, and God cannot be trusted.” The root of all sin goes back to believing a lie about God’s heart toward us. That lie caused Eve to question her identity as a daughter of God, as well as His love for her. You must understand, Eve was already like God; she was created in His image. The Devil brings the same accusation against God’s people today still, just as He did back then. He tries to get us to find fulfillment apart from our identity in Christ. The moment that Adam and Eve believed the lie, they were filled with a sense of emptiness, and that emptiness led them into open rebellion and disobedience against God and His word.
The first emotion that they experienced after eating the fruit was not lust or rage or any other thing we commonly call sin. The first emotion that they felt was fear- specifically fear of God. For the first time they discovered that they were naked and became aware of something lacking. Instead of running towards their Creator who was calling for them, they ran away from Him and hid themselves.
Next, they sowed fig leaves together in a futile attempt to hide their nakedness. The KJV says that they “made aprons”. The problem with aprons is that they only cover your frontside but leave your backside shamefully exposed. This is much like self-righteous, man-made religion, which puts on a nice covering on the front, but leaves you exposed when you don’t live up to its self-imposed rules.
God spoke to them, and after killing an innocent animal to make them clothing, they were forced to leave the garden. Notice that, although they were forced to leave the garden, God did not separate Himself from them or abandon them. In the next chapter you have God talking with Cain and Abel as a person talks to his friends. Their sin did cause separation from God, but the separation came from their end and not from God.
Our restoration back to Eden and back to God’s original plan starts with seeing God the way that He really is, the way Jesus portrayed and demonstrated Him. Only when our false view of God begins to change will our self-perception change. We will begin to view ourselves as loved by God. When this takes place, faith flows freely.