Keeping company with the book of Matthew, I read through Jesus’ string of parables (in chapter 13). I landed on the last one, the one about the dragnet bringing in good and bad fish, at the end of the age, and sorting out the bad fish (the ones that represent the unrighteous of mankind) to cast them into a furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I sat with the thought of how I come to confidence that I am of the good lot, the ones spared from hell and given to God in heaven.
Months ago, my tenderhearted son asked us if we ever wrestled with thoughts of whether or not we were really saved. I think any honest Christian would say that they periodically have to work through the temptation to doubt we are truly His. It says somewhere to “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you- unless indeed you fail the test.” (2 Corinthians 13:5). I suppose wrestling through all that is a holy thing.
Smiles and I both told Simon how we work through those periodic doubts. Though the process was a little different for both of us, we landed at the same, exact place… We know we are saved because we trust in Jesus’ accomplishment at the cross! It’s as simple as that. Our wrestling brings us, time and again, to the foot of an ancient, sacred cross! We are free because of it. And bound for glory!
Yesterday, the hubs and I were talking to someone who grew up Amish, and “got saved” at 36 years old. He isn’t the first I’ve heard talk like this, but I always wondered why, if the Amish are known for professing faith in Christ, are they considered by so many who were once a part of that religion, to be unsaved? We asked our new friend.
He spoke of the old and new covenant, but using the two trees in Eden’s garden to exemplify. He spoke of Jesus as the tree of life and pointed out that the matriarch and patriarch of humanity were banished, because it was not yet the time when they could feast on Jesus… but now is. Yet, the Amish tend to be very attached to the knowledge of good and evil. They know about God, about His Law, without knowing Him as a companion.
For the past year-ish, I have also been thinking much about the Garden of Eden. The very first thing to die, after partaking of the fruit they were forbidden, was their innocence and their communion with the Almighty. Every day, God would come to earth, to take a garden stroll with His creation. How lovely! I mean, serious, think about how amazing that would be to just walk around a lush, impeccable garden with God Himself… every, single day! As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, they were found hiding from God, hiding behind fig leaves. Their innocence stolen by their disobedience.
When I ponder the cross, I see that curse reversed. Jesus died to forgive us. Yes! Absolutely and Amen! That was the reverse of the shame that entered at Eden’s betrayal! But He also died for communion! So that we could get back to knowing and enjoying our Maker.
As my ex-Amish friend spoke, I thought of all the Christians I know who seemed enslaved to the same mindset. One of cumbersome obedience to reading the Word of God, because they have yet to discover the richness of His voice through eternity’s pages. Prayer seems like a responsibility rather than a privilege. God listens to us!?! Seriously, what an honor! And He listens because we, who are the true Church, have trusted in His shame-abolishing work at the cross. Once the shame is destroyed, the freedom to enjoy His presence is restored.
My friend said something else worth noting. He said that it’s all about identity. Do we believe we are servants or beloved sons and daughters? Jesus said He made us co-heirs. He said that He made those who do the will of His Father to be His family (Matt. 12:50) and what is the will of His Father? That we believe in the Son (Matt. 7:21, John 6:29 and John 6:40). Our belief in Jesus and His sacrifice on Calvary makes us family to God!
For about 13 years of my life, I believed that God loved good boys and girls. Meaning, if I performed well enough and never lied, I’d be in heaven. For the next 6 or so years, I flipped God the bird and ran into all sorts of paralyzing sin. Sin is a cruel slave master. I discovered why He said not to eat that fruit. For the 7.5 years to follow, I wrestled with intense guilt and shame. The lingering effects of a life of debauchery. Yet, at 25 years old, I discovered grace, and you couldn’t pay me all the riches in the world to turn back! Through grace, I discovered that God didn’t just pay off the bounty on our heads, when He died at the cross. He purchased restoration for us. Communion with us. Intimacy for us. We don’t have to hide in shame, because He has already seen all the wrinkle-folds of our ugliness, and He washed us clean of them at the cross. Now, we can run, naked and free, like they did in the Garden (spiritually speaking, I don’t want you to get arrested!). And we can have savory walks with Him, in the cool of the day, through the Holy Book, prayer, community with others who love and adore Him! He invites us to His table to dine with Him. The greatest benefit of a feast is not the food, but the company around the table. And His table is just the sweetest!