Greetings again Friends! Wherever you are in the far-flung corners of the world, may the peace of Easter be with you and your loved ones. Our heart goes out to the many men, women, and especially children, who are experiencing terrible suffering in central Europe, most especially in Ukraine, and other less known parts of the world.
“He isn’t here! He has risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying.” (Matthew 28:6). Those are the most impactful words in the Christian faith, for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity. Even though Jesus told His disciples of His impending death and resurrection, they found it too incredulous to be believed. The Gospel of Luke tells us Jesus’ conversation with the disciples, “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, insult Him and spit on Him; they will flog Him and kill Him. On the third day He will rise again. The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what He was talking about” (Luk.18:31-34). Jesus predicted His death three times as the Gospel of Mark attests. (Mar. 8:31; 9:31; and 10:32–34).
On another occasion He spoke about it metaphorically, comparing His life to a temple, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19; Matt.26:61; 27:40; Mar.14:58) His hearers thought He was talking of the physical temple, not realizing He was making reference to Himself. (1 Cor.3:16) Yet again, He said this about His life, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father” (John 10:18). As the second Person of the Tri-Personal God (Trinity), Jesus possessed both human/divine nature in Himself upon His human birth. Athanasius of Alexandria said, “Nothing except the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a greater miracle or wonder in human history. God becoming flesh in human history is the greatest marvel.”
The prophet Isaiah gave His messianic name, Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Isa 7:14; Matt.1:23). By taking our fallen humanity upon Himself in the incarnation, He crucified our once sin-conditioned and rebellious humanity upon His cross, and glorified it in His resurrection and ascension once for all time.
When they heard from others that Jesus had indeed risen, it left them speechless. When He miraculously appeared before them, they were left gasping for breath. Jesus told one doubting disciple, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed” (John 20:29). You can read the inspiring account of Jesus’ resurrection at Matthew 28:1-10. The resurrection responds to the ancient quest for answers to the question of life, death, and the afterlife. Ancient philosophers, theologians, and sages have long sought to unlock the answers to the afterlife.
Yes, the Christian life is a life of living faith. Paul stated the anchor upon which the Christian faith is centered and upon which it revolves: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor.15:17). Indeed, powerful words concerning the Christian faith. The Cross would be meaningless if Jesus had not risen. The resurrection is the foundation upon which the Christian faith is built. Therefore, the very essence of freedom is founded upon faith in Christ and His work of Messiah. We cannot believe the Cross (death of Jesus Christ) and deny His resurrection. They are both one and the same expression of His Messiahship.
His life and all the prophecies concerning His calling as the Messiah would have all been fiction, a fabrication, if His resurrection from the dead had not happened for real. If it were not for the resurrection, mankind’s fate would have ended in the grave and no further. Mankind’s future of receiving the divine gift of immortality and continue as an everlasting species created in God’s eternal likeness would not be possible. (Gen.1:26-27, 5:1; Eph.4:24; John 3:16)
And to comprehensively secure the work of His Messiahship, we see the final act of Jesus’ ascension into heaven where He returns to the Father and is made to sit at His right hand as humanity’s High Priest forever. (Act.1:9-10; Heb.4.14-16) As our glorified human/divine High Priest, what Jesus did as Messiah as the Immanuel in His earthly life and ministry had not stopped at the Cross when He died.
In truth, He continues the work of Messiah, but now in His resurrected/ascended High Priestly role in heaven today where He forever mediates on humanity’s behalf before Almighty God, our heavenly Father. And Paul expresses this mind blowing truth of our reality in Christ, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:6).
Did you see that? Paul says when humans are baptized, we affirm a certain reality to our faith in Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, that is, we have been made to also ascend with Him when He ascended back to His Father in heaven. (Eph.2:6-7) Human believers are always present with Jesus in His never-ending mediation as our eternal High Priest keeping mankind in right standing with God forever. For the Scriptures say, “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb.4:15-16).
God tells us He is the source of life – life originates and exudes from His divine Trinitarian Being. He is the fountain and spring of life. (Gen.2:7; 1 Sam.2:6; Act.17:25) If that is so, how and where did death originate and enter human existence which made the resurrection to immortal life necessary? The answer is the subject of our post today, “The Cross.” The Cross is the symbol of reconciliation and peace with the holy God from whom eternal life is received as a gift. (John 3:16-17)
Death was imposed upon humanity as a penalty for sin which began in the Garden of Eden. (Gen.3:1-6; 11) The Bible categorically states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.6:23). When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, sin entered our human existence, and death followed. God told our first parents, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen.2:17). Satan deceived them and they disobeyed. Then God asked our first parents, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen.3:11).
Since death could result only from sin, God said to our first parents, “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen.3:19). This could not have been uttered before they sinned, but only after sin entered their lives. If death followed Adam’s disobedience, then what was Adams’s makeup and composition before he sinned? It is clear God made him from the dust of the earth. (Gen.2:7) But was he subject to death from his creation, before he sinned?
When God created Adam, it would have been contrary to His Love nature and who He is to have subjected him and his wife to death in any way, shape, and form. The Scripture tell us God created humanity in His image and likeness. (Gen.1:26-27) God’s likeness and image is eternal life…death is anathema to the everlasting God and non-existent in His divine realm. (Lam.5:19; Psa.9:7; Exo.15:18; Psa.66:7) The totality of the environment in Eden was wrapped up in one element which defines who God IS: life, life, and life without end! Everlasting life that’s manifested in His divine nature of Love and Freedom. Death is the exact antithesis of who God is in substance and reality in His divine nature.
Adam had life to its fullest and broadest divine expression that a human can experience at the highest physical level ever possible! Adam existed in God’s presence, the Source of both spiritual and physical life. Adam did not know what death was, it had no meaning with him, although he was warned of it. (Gen.2:17)
It is said of the patristic writers that Eve and Adam lost “something physically real” namely, the ‘glorious garment’ with which God had clothed them. Adam and Eve possessed a human form of ‘extrinsic immortality’ in Paradise whereby they could fellowship with their Creator who existed in ‘intrinsic immortality.’ After their fall, they were unrobed of their ‘glorious garment’ (‘extrinsic immortality’) and realized their “nakedness.” (Gen.3:7) Although Adam was created from the earth, the ‘glorious garment’ or ‘extrinsic immortality’ gave them a form of human immortality reflecting God’s eternal image, for it was impossible for the Everlasting Creator to have fellowship with them as pure physical humans otherwise.
God alone possesesses ‘intrinsic immortality’ in Himself, and He alone has the power to confer ‘intrinsic immortality’ to humanity. This, He has promised to mankind through His Son. For the Scripture tell us, “Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (‘intrinsic immortality’) (John 3:16; Rom.6:23; Rom.8:11). (Jesus is the total embodiment of life in its fullest expression, without a hint of death, even on a physical mortal level as Adam existed in Eden.
Nevertheless, Adam’s ‘glorious garment’ (human ‘extrinsic immortality’) contained an imbedded weakness – it was powerless in the face of sin which brought death. For the immortality Adam and Eve possessesed was ‘extrinsic’ not ‘intrinsic’ immortality. When confronted with sin, Adam’s garment vanished. (Gen.3:7) It was a human form of ‘extrinsic immortality’ nonetheless, with a vital caveat they were warned about – death. (Gen.2:17) But as we shall see, God has promised to bless and clothe humanity in another garment which will bring true ‘intrinsic’ immortality which no sin has power over.
So, with sin having entered Eden through disobedience, the dark cloud of death had cast its long shadow over them and manind as a whole, and it was not possible for death (sin) to co-exist with life (God) in Eden. So, it was only after sin entered and severed the divine/human Love relationship, that God uttered, “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” not before, for “the wages of sin is death” (Gen.3:19; also Rom.6:23). Paul echos this original Adamic decree, saying, “It is destined for people to die once, and after this comes judgment” (Heb.9:27).
Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296–298 – 2 May 373) contends Eve and Adam were not created either immortal or perfect. They needed to prove themselves – this is part of what many of the church fathers understood as having free will to mean. We are left to postulate as to what exactly was the pre-fallen state of existence of Adam and Eve? How long did this pre-fallen condition last – how long did they live in Paradise before their banishment from Eden?
The Genesis account of creation and the fall of man was very brief and dearth of detail, thereby patristic writers have made expositions and perspectives which convey vital aspects of the creation account and the fall of man. By inference, nuance and undertone, we can conclude assuredly that since our first parents was created to reflect God’s eternal likeness in His divine Love from the start, that they did remain true to their divine Love image for some extended period of ‘time’ prior to the fall. (Gen.1:26-27)
It is relevant to keep in mind that ‘time’ was immaterial as long as they were adorned in their ‘glorious garment’ of ‘extrinsic immortality’ which equipped and sustained them with the Almighty Eternal God. It was only after they sinned that their ‘glorious garment’ vanished and realized they were ‘naked.’ They became mere mortals and the clock of time began its countdown for them and humanity. (Gen.3:7) Today, according to the passage of ‘time,’ historical and documentary records, archeology and other evidence, we are about six to seven thousand years removed from that world-shattering and calamitous event of Adam’s fall.
Prior to this, they ate from the Tree of Life which sustained them in God’s Love and the ‘glorious garment’ with which God covered them. If we assume the fall occurred immediately after their creation, as is commonly postulated, that would presume the enemy (Satan) is mightier than the Creator, which would be absurd and sacrileges to say the least. (Isa.45:21-24; Isa.44:8) No, our first parents were sustained in God’s image and Love-likeness for a very long while before their eventual fall.
Eden was God’s paradisal garden empowered in the Spirit’s energized cocoon-like shielded environment where our first parents lived sheltered lives in God’s Love and safeguarded them from the inhospitable external physical world. Later, due to their sin of disobedience, they were banished to live in it. Eden was no backyard orchard, but was God’s gift to and His place of dwelling with Adam and Eve and humanity. In it, God taught them right from wrong through ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,’ and guided and sustained them in His Love and way of life through ‘the tree of life.’ (Gen.2:8-9)
Over a long period of ‘time’ they had assumed enormous ‘human knowledge and intellect’ through the ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ was not an evil, sinful tree. It increased our parents fund of knowledge of good and evil. Be that as it may, it was human knowledge and basically emboldens the human spirit of self-reliance instead of divine-reliance, which the devil exploited. (Prov.14:12; Gen.3:1, 6-7) Then there was the ‘tree of life’ which taught them God’s way of life, and where they received the Spirit’s (Love) energy and true life, most importantly divine-reliance. God tested their freewill (freedom) to choose between the two trees.
In fact, there was only one tree they were commanded to stay away and not eat. They had liberty to eat from many other trees. (Gen.2:16-17) The tree of good and evil represented human knowledge, much like how humans acquire knowledge today, then through experience and experimentation receive and increase human understanding. The drawback was and still is, it stoked the spirit of self-reliance as harbinger of the autonomous life independent from God. (Prov.16:25) And that is exactly how the devil tempted our first parents in Eden.
On the other hand, the ‘tree of life,’ represented the Love of God, and life of interdependence and relationship with the divine will. We must understand all forms of bondage and slavery results from living automously apart from God promoted by Satan by way of his catastrophic original sin. (Isa.14:12-14)
The wisdom we draw from the two trees is we can make our human plans, but in the end it is God who determines our steps towards genuine freedom and success. So, we yield to the divine will in all our human efforts, rather than the human self-will as end in itself that becomes a god we submit to in place of God’s Loving will. God’s Love, as represented in the ‘tree of life,’ leads to freedom, interrelationships, goodwill, and will never promote slavery and bondage in any shape or form. (Isa.61:1-2; Luk.4:18)
We saw that the ‘glorious garment’ with which God had clothed our first parents was the source of the form of human immortality they possessed in Eden. After they disobeyed and sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, their celestial garment by way of their human ‘extrinsic immortality’ spontaneously vanished. Suddenly they saw and realized their nakedness. Yes, their “nakedness” revealed a change they never knew nor experienced before, now they were mere mortals and subject to deterioration and eventual death as God had warned. (Gen.2:17, 3:19)
The ‘glorious garment’ which sustained them with a form of ‘extrinsic immortality’ had disappearedon by reason of sin’s power over it. In the divine Edenic enviroment where God’s everlasting presence existed with our first parents, “nakedness” means to be stripped off the ‘glorious garment’ which sustained them in God’s presence. All their needs and wants, both spiritual and mortal, were supplied through the tree of life and the ‘glorious garment’ which sustained them immortally, which was subject to the mercy of sin’s power.
Then God shared the promise of the Messiah’s coming with our first parents, but directed it as a prophetic statement of intent of good over evil, right over wrong, uprightness over wickedness, at the serpent (Satan) saying, “I’m declaring war between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound His heel” (Gen.3:15, MSG). This was the first prophecy of the coming of the Messiah and Savior. Not only is this a prophecy of Jesus’ birth, but it is a prophecy of His work, His life, His Cross, His resurrection and ascension.
By saying, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel,” God is declaring and proclaiming the good news of the defeat of Satan’s evil plan for mankind at the hands of Jesus His Son, our Savior, and Redeemer, and embrace us as His Loving children. This was the first mention to our first parents and humanity of God’s plan of redemption. The mission of Jesus as humanity’s Savior was to restore mankind to his predestined and celestially ordained place in God’s divine plan that was lost in Eden, and much, much more, as we shall see the role of the Messiah, the second Adam played out. (1 Cor.15:45-49)
In promising the coming of the Messiah and prior to their banishment from Eden, God clothed them with the garment of animal skin to cover the shame of their nakedness. (Gen.3:21) So, the Cross and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was first preached to Adam and Eve, humanity’s first parents. Up to now, Eden had never known death, for God’s divine existence was the life and environment of Eden. Death is anathema to God. However, after their fall (sin/nakedness) the garment of animal skin tells of the death of an animal or two in order to make garments to cover our parent’s nakedness.
We realize that Eden was the most beautiful and miraculous place upon earth. Eden was no ordinary backyard garden, all kinds of life forms existed in it. God had brought the animals and life forms before Adam so he would name them, “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name” (Gen.2:19). It showed that these life forms possessed a pet-like existence with Adam and Eve in Eden. These life forms in Eden were neither wild nor ferocious, but were gentle, benign, and responsive to human touch and cognizance.
The animal skin conveys to us that the life of animals were slained and ‘sacrificed’ to symbolize the future work of restitution of the prophesied Messiah necessary to save and cover the sin (nakedness) of all mankind. It was to picture the substitutional sacrificial system Moses would later institute in Israel to picture the future Messiah and His sacrificial death to atone for humanity’s sins and be spared from the ensuing death penalty and be adorned with godly life. (Rom.6:23; Gen.2:17)
Their ‘extrinsic immortality’ (‘glorious garment’) that had furnished their every need and want both spiritual and mortal in divine Eden, was no more. Now, God said, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen.3:19). They were banished to live outside Eden where the miraculous life they had always known and experienced had disappeared along with the sheltered life in Eden. (Gen.3:24) Beyond Eden they now had to work and earn their living. The miraculous life of Eden was lost forever.
Yes, this symbolic substitutional death of animals in Eden foreshadowed the substitutional death of our Savior Jesus Christ as Redeemer upon the Cross to cover and protect humanity from sin and death. (John 3:16-17) Paul would say much later, “These things (sacrificial system) are a shadow of the things to come; the reality, however, is found (fulfilled) in Christ” (Col.2:17, italics my emphasis). What happened was symbolic, this first substitutional sacrifice in Eden was the first prophetic and symbolic act of the Messiah to come who would give His life as a sacrifice to cover human sin (nakedness). And this was fulfilled by Jesus’ death upon His Cross.
Paul would say, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Rom.5:12, 17). Then, Paul goes on, “For if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Rom.6:5). Yes, humanity’s destiny is to inherit the identical resurrection to human immortality Jesus initiated through His own resurrection. (Rom.8:11, 29; John 5:21)
Yes, God gave us His Son so that through His death on the Cross we will not have to face death, and through His resurrection we will receive immortal life. (John 3:16-17) Let us turn to the Cross.
This is where we pick up the story of Adam’s fall in Eden, and the transition to the Second Adam’s (Jesus’) story of restitution, redemption, Love and Freedom. (1 Cor.15:45) The primary meaning of the Cross of Jesus is to inherit the gift of freedom from the power of death which came through Adam’s fall. The Cross is about forgiveness and freedom from the imprisonment of sin, wickedness, rebellion through autonomy from God, the devil had established and consigned humanity since the fall of Adam in Eden.
It was upon the Cross that Jesus, the Son of God in human/divine form, was crucified and shed His blood and died for the atonement of all human sin in perpetuity. Athanasius affirms in his treatise, “On The Incarnation”: “If Jesus was only a man His death would not cover the sins of the world nor would He return to life.” Jesus Christ was no ordinary human being, He was the prophesied ‘Immanuel’ (meaning, “God with us”). (Isa.7:14; Matt.1:23) He is the second Person of the Tri-Personal Godhead (Trinity). (Matt.28:18-20)
The Bible speaks of Christians “carrying your Cross daily.” (Luk.14:27) This act conveys the message to humanity that by “carrying Jesus’ Cross daily” we may exist in a state of ongoing forgiveness and renewal so peace with God is attained and maintained continuously. Jesus said, “Anyone who does not carry his Cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple” (Luk.14:27). It is at the foot of the Cross that the journey to ultimate immortality begins. He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt.11:29). Yes, there is the yoke of Jesus’ Love, freedom and eternal life, or the devil’s yoke of sin, injustice, captivity and death. (John 3:16)
However, the immortality Jesus brings is not going to be the ‘extrinsic’ form of immortality the first Adam had by way of the ‘glorious garment’ which was powerless in the face of sin, but the true ‘intrinsic’ human/divine immortality instituted by Jesus Himself by His own resurrection and ascension, thus clothing us with the New Garment of Himself. (John 6:47, 3:36; 5:24) Note, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal.3:27). Paul added, “Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom.13:14). Yes, note the new Glorious Garment is none other than Jesus Christ Himself who has lifted mankind to eternal life.
So, in the Father’s glorious presence, humans undergo this deathlike experience of disrobing the sin-conditioned old self from Adam, and stepping into the new life of being robed in the glorified life and garment of His Son, Jesus. (Rom.8:29) “For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies” Paul asserts. (1 Cor.15:53).
Adam’s ‘glorious garment’ was powerless in the face of sin and vanished instanly when our parent’s disobeyed God. (Gen.3:7, 17,19) However, the Garment of Jesus Christ’s Person possesses power over sin and will never vanish away for He is the Messiah. He has been appointed High Priest so He would forever mediate and consecrate mankind before God Almighty in perpetuity. (Heb.4.14-16; 2:14-18) Paul made an inspiring conclusion about our destiny in Christ as the human species, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Cor.5:21, NLT).
I draw our attention to the parable of the wedding banquet Jesus told His listeners. “The kingdom of heaven is like a King who prepared a wedding banquet for His Son.” The King “noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Then the King told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness” (Matt.22:11-13). The wedding clothes is metaphor for being clothed in the Garment of Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and wellspring of immortality.
Paul gives us insight into this, saying, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you” (Rom.8:11; 1 Cor.15:51-53). Let us continue our journey with the Second Adam and His work to bring humanity out of Satanic incarceration and into true liberty and eternal life.
The ultimate purpose of Jesus and His Cross is aimed at one gaol – divine Freedom in Love. True freedom is the flipside of God’s divine nature of Love. The two are the same divine substance and indivisibly one. There is another word for freedom: success! Freedom and success are flipsides of one coin. Today, we hear so much about freedom and freedom fighters because of the conflict in central Europe between Russia and Ukraine. Today, we hear of the war erupting in Europe, and this is the picture of freedom lost.
We need to understand where this concept and natural urge for freedom originates. It is humanly inherent and instinctive because mankind assumed the likeness of our Maker who is both Love and Freedom in nature and substance. (Gen.1:26-27; 1 John 4:8; Gal.5:1; John 8:32; Rom.8:15) We treasure freedom because God made us to be like Him in His divine substance.
Be that as it may, freedom is not free but it took the life of Jesus, God’s own Son, to purchase our freedom by dying for us upon His Cross at the hands of fallen humans inspired by Satan. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” Paul asserts. (Gal.5:1, 13). However, freedom as a divine commodity from which a way of life is fostered and lived can be subjective based upon personal free will and preference. Today, there are 7.9 billion human beings that populate our earth, and counting. There are historical, emotional, cultural, and other societal inclinations in play which conspire to shape our freedom perspectives one way or another. Our free choice and perspective does not have to stand alone from others, there can be groupings of individuals with the identical points of view.
Although freedom is divinely endowed in humans, free will and free choice (freedom) has to be authenticated for its integrity and impartiality. To a person who is egomaniacal, freedom is viewed through a totally different lens compared to another person’s view of freedom.
Yet, over and above all that, freedom has to ring true and tested, before we can give subjective judgements as to its weight and import in relation to life’s journey for its integrity or deficiency, its success or emptiness. Recall, freedom and success are the flipsides of the coin of truth. Why is this vital? Because the Bible says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). To be free is synonymous with success, as freedom answers to truth.
So, our freedoms and successes has to be tested for its authenticity through the gauge of truth. Truth is the scale by which the freedoms we espouse are weighed and substantiated. Only then, we can be certain our freedom and success is true and worth its weight in whatever significance we like to assign it. Yes, freedom and truth go hand in hand. I said earlier another word for freedom is success, and that they are flip sides of one coin. Now, we see the coin is the coin of truth!
Whatever activity we experience and encounter, the one aim of life is to achieve freedom and success. However, if we fail the test of truth then freedom and success will be elusive and unattainable. We may have the appearance of self-assurance and so-called success, unwittingly though we remain in bondage still. Things may seem robust and favorable, but it still must sustain the burden of truth. Life must stand the crucible of truth so freedom and success can be achieved and life becomes a joy to live.
Whether it is the freedom of religion, or one’s political persuasion, personal fiscal/financial freedom, freedom of expression/speech, the personal freewill to choose, the freedom to assembly without fear, the right to petition, a system of liberty to pursue and receive justice, the freedom to live in peace and prosperity, the individual’s freedom to marry for love, etc. However subjective these perspectives to freedoms may be, they must stand the burden of truth. And truth, in turn, will always stand the test of time itself. In other words, truth is eternal just as Love is and will endure forever, and so does the freedoms which have been validated by truth and Love.
Then, that leaves us with the predominant question of all, what is truth? The answer is crucial and just as impactful because it clears any doubts about whether our freedom perspectives, subjective though they may be, do indeed ring true and bring about the liberty and success we hope it articulates. Or, is it just a ‘false flag’ which leads us down a blind alley and ends nowhere? The devil has always deceived humans and led them down blind alleys and only come to realize too late we never did move, let alone advance, from where they were in the first place – being incarceration and held in bondage to Satan. Sadly, the freedoms we may have assumed we acquired had just turned out to be another side of the picture of our captivity, and like a puzzle we have yet to work out. Regrettably, there we remain in bondage still. But take heart, the Cross of Jesus is our Creator’s answer to the quest for life, freedom and truth.
When God gave His Son to become humanity’s Savior, Jesus came with a message from the Father which settles this question about truth once for all. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6, italicized for emphasis). Here, we see the Bible tell us that truth is grounded and consolidated in the Person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. God has not hidden truth in some philosophical idea which humanity is supposed to seek out like some buried treasure. We are not to pursue truth like a Juan Ponce de Leon personality who sought the fountain of youth.
God has made it simple and easy for humanity to comprehend truth – God has gift-wrapped truth for us in the Person of His Son. Truth is absolute, it is reposed in Jesus. (John 14:6, 1:14) Truth is not some abstract notion we juggle in the mind and imagine it will materialize from nothing. No one can deny that God is the ultimate embodiment and repository of truth, and Jesus is the second Person of the Tri-Personal Godhead (Trinity) where truth is housed and abides from eternity. (Matt.28:18-19)
John further attest to this wonderful revelation, “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17, italicized for emphasis). How would humans come to determine and find the truth if God had not revealed it to us in such a plain and straightforward manner? We would be lost in a sea of concepts, conjectures, and ensuing confusion in our never-ending search. And sadly, peoples the world over, in bygone epochs and eras, have ended up with superstitious beliefs and weird and bizarre conclusions, as many have done so. We are grateful beyond measure for God’s extravagant grace and revelation in His only Son.
Like a beautiful rose with its equally exquisite petals, we see truth’s unfolding wonder and move in the path of the next petal in truth’s evolution and revelation: faith! We have seen that the aim of the Cross is singular and unique – freedom! It means freedom from all forms of bondage we can imagine, principally freedom from death – and since death is the end-all, it means perfect liberty. The Scriptures had foretold of humanity’s restoration from death to life through Jesus Christ. (Psa.49:15; Hos.13:14; John 3:16; Heb.2:14-18)
Paul reiterates this wonderful future for mankind, and writes, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor.15:55-56). We see here how Jesus is the truth for He answers to the human nemesis, death, then brings about the opposite of death – immortality. (John 3:16-17) That, in a nutshell is the ultimate meaning of truth, freedom, and success!
Although freedom is subjective for every human being, we can determine if each of our ideas of freedom is truly genuine and does bring true liberty. To know that, we are required to weigh it on the scale of truth. We have seen truth is defined as the personification of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) Each petal of the truth (Jesus) unfolds into the path and act of sanctification of Jesus’ faith in our person, our existence as humans. (Rom.3:22; Gal.2:20, KJV) What would be the meaning of life in all its manifestation if the final answer would always going to be the grave (death) and no further. So, we see why Jesus is the truth. Through His Cross He frees us from death and brings humanity true life. And it’s faith that brings all the pieces in God’s truth together in Christ. (Heb.11:1, 6)
Jesus came to reveal the Father to all mankind, who is the ultimate repository of truth. He said, “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Luk.10:22). Here, Jesus is making known His eternal trinitarian existence with the Father in the one triune Godhead.
But how does truth (Jesus) reveal itself to us, so we may test the integrity of our perceptions of freedom and success? The simple answer is through faith! We are to place our trust and faith in a Person who said He is the repository and Personification of truth. (John 14:6) Jesus alone has to answer to our cause for freedom and true success, He alone is the test and scale upon which our freedoms are weighed, tested, and sanctified in Him alone. (John 14:6)
The prophet Isaiah quotes the Messiah as fulfilling His divine purpose in this manner, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isa.61:1). Yes, “To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” – in short, Jesus and His Cross is the path to complete liberty! This speaks of freedom first from the spiritual prison and captivity Satan has incarcerated humanity since the fall of Adam, which unravels into every manifestation of freedoms humans can possibly imagine. (Gal.5:1, 13) In short, we’ll be living the ‘miraculous life’ Adam lived on an ongoing basis in Eden in God’s presence before the fall, only now in a much more holistic and sense of eternity, no longer temporal, nor subject to sin and death.
Paul said this about freedom, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,” echoing Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus we saw above (Gal.5:1). But what kind of freedom is it, what yoke slavery are we delivered from? Jesus said this about Himself, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Freedom from what? Paul asserts, “Jesus the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Rom.8:2).
So, the freedom Jesus brings is total liberty which deliver us from all forms of bondage, both spiritual and physical, arising from sin and rebellion under the devil’s influence. Recall, this is the same punishment and curse for sin decreed upon Adam’s fall in Eden, and passed down to mankind as a whole. (Gen.3:19; Rom.5:12, 17) All forms of bondage we experience as humans results from the fact that we are incarcerated as Satan’s slaves to living autonomously without God in sin and obstinacy.
We are abject failures, more so deceived, at comprehending the far reaching and devastating effects of sin. Sin has become so routine and normalized it has become a way of life. This is the most devastating form of slavery into which humans are presently incarcerated. It is a spiritual prison with human repercussion and consequence akin to being trapped in a curse we have unwittingly come to embrace which only Jesus’ Cross possesess the power to free us.
Paul explains the interplay of faith and its role in the truth which frees humans from bondage, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal.3:23-29).
What is the purpose of faith? It gives you and I the conviction to trust God’s testimony about His Son Jesus as mankind’s Savior and Liberator and who is the very Spring from whom freedom flows to humanity. The Bible states clearly, “For this is how God Loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Immortality is the ultimate answer to freedom and success. Faith gives us the assurance about Jesus’ role as the prophesied Messiah. Paul tells us, “We are to walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Cor.5:7) Further the Scriptures says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb.11:6).
There are many people who do not believe and have yet to receive Jesus Christ and remain lost. The Scriptures declare, “For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom.10:9-10). So here, Paul lays out how we confess with our mouths our faith and conviction in Jesus as the very Son of God and Messiah. Faith is the lifeblood of the Christian life.
I want to share a parable of Jesus with you. Try to imagine a tree so bounteous which brings forth all kinds of fruits hanging from its leafy branches. Let us call it the ‘tree of freedom.’ The tree is a metaphor for liberty in all its glory. This is a unique tree because it bears all manner of fruits, not just a single variety. It bears apples, oranges, mangoes, plums, apricots, even pineapples, grapes, bananas, and as many variety as one can imagine. People from all walks of life flock to feed from the delicious, highly beneficial and tasteful fruits.
The variety of fruits represent all the many different perspectives of freedoms and successes to which humans espouse and pursue. The trunk of the tree (vine) can be likened to the main ‘conduit of freedom’ that represents Jesus, who is the truth. Recall, without truth freedom and success is unattainable, for Scripture says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
The sap flowing in the Vine (Jesus) which provides the life-giving nutrients enabling the tree to produce all variety and abundance of fruits is the power of God’s Spirit flowing through Christ, the Vine. (John 16:12-15) Jesus said, “I am the vine (primary tree trunk); you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, italics my emphasis). He said further, “I am the Real Vine and My Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of Me that doesn’t bear grapes (fruits). And every branch that is grape-bearing He prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken” (John 15:1-3, italics for emphasis).
This tree, its branches and fruits, represents humanity with all the dreams and successes made possible through the divine Freedom and Love. What would be the meaning of the fruits of our lives in all its expression if the final answer for them is in the graveyard of the dead. What would have been the point of life itself if the epitaphs on our gravestones is the only picture we see throughout life. So, we see why Jesus is the truth. We have seen people build monuments to perpetuate and protect their legacies, however, nothing escapes death.
We see Jesus is the answer to genuine freedom and true success. Through His Cross He frees us from death and brings humanity true life. And it’s His faith that brings all the pieces in God’s truth together in Christ. (Heb.11:1, 6) I repeat Paul’s declaration, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor.15:55-56).
Fruit of the Spirit Tree Scripture Art based on Galatians 5 image 1
All the matured, ripened, and delicious fruits on each of the branches received the life-giving nutrients and vitality from the tree trunk or vine. The tree trunk (Vine/Jesus) is the primary conduit for the nutrient-rich sap (Holy Spirit) enabling the branches to bear fruits signifying freedom in its all-inclusiveness. The Vine/Jesus (tree trunk) and the sap were nourished by and in the soil which the Farmer (God the Father) had tended to and fertilized through the Spirit’s power, drive, and inspiration. As we saw, these fruits symbolize each of the freedoms and successes of life we espouse and treasure in totality and perfection. And since they have ripened and become a source for nourishment for us and our neighbors, it proves they have been tested by the truth, namely, the Vine or tree trunk which represent Jesus Christ, the truth! (John 14:6)
Paul explained to us the meaning and magnitude of the ‘sap’ within the tree which provides the necessary nutrients enabling the branches to bear much fruits. Paul taught the Corinthians about the Love-fruits of the Spirit which represent the ‘sap’ of the tree of freedom. (1 Cor.13:1-13) He said, “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without Love” (1 Cor.13:3, MSG). In other words, as humans we amount to nothing if our lives are not inspired and controlled by Love and Freedom.
The Holy Spirit is the personification of God’s Love in humans. So, the ‘sap’ of the freedom tree is God’s divine Love, flowing in the Vine and personified in the branches (humans) by the presence of the Holy Spirit through the ‘fruits of freedom’ Paul taught the Corinthians. Paul further said, “Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor.3:16). (To read about the Love-fruits of the Spirit which represent the ‘sap’ in the Vine (Jesus), you may go to my post, titled, “Gifts Are Magnets of the Love Personality” at: http://bulamanriver.net/27435).
The life we live as Christians is a life of living faith. Yet, even the faith we need is a gift from God, not our human faith that’s inadequate in spiritual matters where it’s constrained by our limited human senses. What is needed is the very personal “faith of Jesus.” Note, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no distinction among people” (Rom.3:22, KJV). Did you notice, there are two faiths mentioned here, the “faith of Jesus,” and the human faith – “unto all and upon all them that believe.” We utilize our human faith, inadequate it may be in the spiritual realm, to trust in the all-powerful “faith of Jesus,” that’s living and miraculous. As we receive Jesus as Savior, we inherit His living Personal faith empowered in the Holy Spirit. (Rom.10:9-10; Act.2:38)
(The “Love-Fruits of the Holy Spirit” are shown in detail below in the appendix. You may read my Post titled, “The Saving Living Faith of Jesus” at: http://bulamanriver.net/21946.)
It is this ‘tree of freedom’ that was hewn down to make and erect the Cross upon which wicked humans impersonating the hands of the evil one, took and nailed Jesus’ upon it. So, we see the Cross of Jesus, hewn from the ‘tree of freedom.’ Upon this Cross Jesus took all mankind’s sins and acts of rebellion and nailed them and put them to death, so we may experience true Freedom and Love.
Let me recap the subject of of this post, “The Cross.” The Scriptures say that the purpose of humanity’s creation is to attain and inherit the “image of God.” (Gen.1:26-27). But what is that image? The Bible says it is the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Listen to Paul’s words, “For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom.8:29). Jesus is the new Glorious Garment in which humans will be clothed. (Gal.3:27; 1 Cor.15:53)
By saying, “His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters,” it is affirming Christ took our fallan humanity, redeemed it through His Cross, and inaugurated (firstborn) human immortality through His resurrection so we become God’s children forever. The Scriptures tell us, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36). Mankind will exist in God’s very substance of Love and Freedom for eternity. This is the ultimate purpose of The Cross.
We earlier read the parable of the wedding banquet. It is the wedding of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, to His bride, comprising all humanity who have been made immortal. In the scene from the book of Revelation, we see the Father’s wedding gift for the marriage of His Son. This is what John saw in his vision, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev.21:1-5).
Yes, a new heaven and new earth, and the most astounding city whose streets are marvelously paved in gold. Truly, what a gift, what an awesome sight to behold, what a fantastical future awaits humanity. (Rev.21:21; 9-27)
Petition: Friends, as I have closed my post in the past, I customarily give our readers the opportunity to give their lives to our Maker. I thank you for investing your precious time with me in the sharing of the good news of Jesus who is our hope and has enabled us to live the Triune Life*. Jesus is alive today as our High Priest in heaven seated at His Father’s side, and ceaselessly mediating for us. I hope that in your heart of heart you will receive Him as your personal Savior, receive God’s Spirit, and be part of living this glorious Immanuel humanity made children of God forever.
You can privately and quietly pray the prayer below in your heart. I am asking you to pray this prayer as a human being Christ died for, regardless of your background. All are inducted into the one mankind Jesus saved, not into any religious sect or denomination, or divisions one may espouse – but into the glorious humanity that Christ is preparing as the holy temple for the holy God, the Creator’s dwelling:
Prayer: “Almighty God, Father of all humanity, forgive me of all my sins for I receive Your Son, Jesus, as my personal Savior. In Your incalculable grace, grant Your promised celestial life in Your Son through Your Holy Spirit, and open my eyes to the wondrous gifts you have conferred upon me and all humanity. May Your Love guide and protect me and my Loved ones always, and bring us all into Your beloved and divine Kingdom. I praise and thank You, Amen.”
Welcome to the celestial life of Love in God’s holy, eternal Family. (1 Tim.6:19) Then keep in touch with God’s Word for you by reading and studying your Bible, and visiting this blog and website and look at various subjects listed in our ‘archives’ that may be relevant for your situation – go to: http://bulamanriver.net. You can email me with your questions at the address shown below.
May I take this occasion to wish you and you families and loved ones a solemn and joy-filled Passover and Easter.
Personal Blessing: Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessings of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you always. May the Spirit enliven your spirit and make all things concerning you possible as you live the “Triune Life”* Be strong in the Lord’s joy.
Farewell for now!
Appendix: *The “Love-Fruits of the Holy Spirit:” *the fruit of patience, *the fruit of kindness, *the fruit of contentedness, *the fruit of modesty (unboastful), *the fruit of humility, *the fruit of honor, *the fruit of unselfishness, *the fruit of calmness and dignity, *the fruit of forgiveness and compassion, *the fruit of delighting in good and shunning evil, *the fruit of tolerance, *the fruit of responsibility, *the fruit of enduring hope, *the fruit of steadfast perseverance, *the fruit of joy, *the fruit of peace, *the fruit of goodness, *the fruit of faith, *the fruit of gentleness, *the fruit of self-control, *the fruit of zeal and spiritual fervor, *the fruit of friendship, *the fruit of sharing and generosity, *the fruit of prayerfulness, *the fruit of hospitality, etc. (1 Cor.13; also Gal. 5:22-23; Rom. 12:9-21).
*”Triune Life”: Relationship with God has no meaning without Love. By its very nature, Love cannot endure in solitary existence. So, when God said “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness…” He was revealing Himself as existing in His trinitarian existence. That is, His Tri-Personal Being as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Gen.1:26; Matt.28:19; John 14:10, 16; 16:7) The Hebrew word for ‘God’ in the creation account is “Elohim.” It describes God in His plurality, as the Trinity – the Tri-Personal Godhead, which other scriptures attests. (Matt.28:18-20; 1 Pet.1:2; 2 Thess.2:13; 2 Cor.13:14) So, God is Trinitarian in His Love nature. He is also clothed in Freedom. For the three Persons of the Trinity are three distinct and free Persons in the triune Godhead. Love and Freedom by nature is relational as God is in His Tri-Personal Being. Hence, a human being was created a relational being.
Adam was solitary and incomplete until God made Eve. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone (solitary). I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen.2:18, italics mine). So, God gave Adam a family to raise composed of a father, mother, and offspring, to reflect Himself in His plural Being. The Bible states that the Church’s or humanity’s destiny is to marry Christ, the second Person of the Triune Godhead, in the new age to come which will be an everlasting relationship. (2 Cor.11:2; Eph.5:23-27, 32; Rev.19:7) The Bible is abundantly clear about God’s nature and declaration of Himself in His relational Triune Being from the past, the present, and the future. God has never lived as a solitary Being, but a Tri-Personal Being.
It’s noteworthy to understand that Eve was not created an individual creation from the dust of the earth as was Adam. She was not created apart from Adam as an individualized separate human being, instead, she was taken out from Adam’s side to show she was biologically one and indivisibly part of Adam. Eve was not detached (solitary) from Adam, but intrinsically inseparable from Adam’s innermost humanity. When Adam saw Eve, he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Gen.2:21-23) God created humanity to reflect Himself in His unified Tri-Personal Being (Trinity).
Each one of us was created as an indivisible relational human being incubated and given birth from Adam’s mold as one species, for God created humanity to reflect the eternal likeness in His triunity. We are born for relationships with the divine triune Love as our guiding principle. All this show that humans were created to be indivisibly one to reflect God’s Tri-Personal image of Oneness (Trinity), not solitary separateness. When God sent Jesus His eternal Son, He became human in order to unify humanity spiritually to the Triune Being of God through Christ once for all time. Hence, when the prophet Isaiah proclaimed Jesus’ coming, He was given the prophetic name, Immanuel. (Isa.7:14) The name means “God with us” (Matt.1:23). Humanity is ‘organically’ one with the Triune God through Christ, just as humanity is one with Adam.
Most religions believe God as some solitary being. The true God is not solitary by any means, He is the one Triunity in His Tri-Personal Being. God consist of three Persons in One divine triune Godhead. They exist in One “homoousion” meaning consisting in one substance, or “consubstantiality.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in One hypostatic union, One substance, like Eve was biologically part of and never physically separate, but of one substance from Adam, for she came out of Adam. Likewise, humanity is made of one spiritual substance with the triune God through Jesus Christ who took our humanity upon Himself and joined it to the divine triune existence forever.
The three-dimensional Triune Life/Love is opposed to living the one-dimensional solitary life of the fallen humanity inherited from Satan through Adam’s rebellion. For additional information about the Triune Life: http://bulamanriver.net/?p=8036. Also at: http://bulamanriver.net/9092.
**Bulamanriver: To read the different facets of the life of the Bulamanriver, you may obtain a copy of my book, “Bula” Man-River, from Amazon.com; xulonpress.com, barnesandnoble.com, and other online book stores. All proceeds will go towards furthering the work of Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.
Mission Statement: Read the Triune Love Mission, Vision, and Value statements at: http://bulamanriver.net/8664
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.
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