East of Eden, this trance in which were caught. Serpents all around, lies within, lies without. Death, death, unspoken though it be, prevails. Prevailing misery, wrapped in supposed ecstasy. Whisper, whisper; slither near, they speak the lies into my ear. Sell it all, the order built tall, fails. Embrace it all, accept all, end null. Trudge on and live and die, for what do we expire? Only all we desire. Endless cycle of misery, never free. Eat the apple, embrace the noose. Slither near, oh yes, my dear. Come here, constrict me. Worthless cycle, the viper of this world, strikes fast yet the venom kills slow. How strange, but the hand that feeds me, bites me. Diluted profit, fruitless field, this the futility that we yield. Strive for the Garden, yet we embrace the curse; oh, the contradiction that is humanity.
East of Eden, for a season, the King will soon return. Every foe vanquished, for every thorn a rose. The King, He soon shall reign! Then, the refrain, forever remain, “life, life!” The serpent is gone, we sing a new song forever of our Savior. We ate of the tree, He died on a tree to be the curse we created, and with His death, death’s defeated.
Just a word and all wonders wrought,
God announced, and behold, it was all good.
Creation had communion with the Creator,
God walked in the Garden.
Yet with Adam the serpent did conspire,
and brought the world into mire.
Beckoned to the grave,
The curse burst upon the scene,
but in the midst a seed of hope was seen.
Yes, long of told
the Scriptures told ,
of a King who’d come.
In His wake,
death shall quake ,
and the deserts they shall bloom.
Yet, many men came and went,
was the hope of promise spent?
Many lambs, prophets, priests and kings,
yet none with true salvation in their wings.
Darkness for a time,
no prophet’s voice was heard.
Yet in the darkness,
I light it shone,
and it would overcome the darkness.
Behold, O’ world, your Prophet, Priest, and King,
Jesus the Promised seed and Lamb.
The curse brought in shall be expunged;
yes, replunged upon the Son.
Christ was crushed as promised,
but in His crushing, crushed Satan, sin, and death.
Yes, He was cursed to reverse the curse.
He felt our plight to set all things right.
Yes, creation Creator collided
yet we did not hide
for God He brought no wrath,
there was no blood bath,
the world did not implode or explode into non-being.
Instead, angelic greeting:
“Peace on the earth,
goodwill to men” because the Great I AM is come.
Our Lord, Messiah, Savior in a crib.
Prince of Peace,
Bright and Morning Star,
He who lay the foundations of the earth,
laid in a manger.
The Infinite born,
a swaddled babe.
Yes, He that holds the nations in His hand,
grasps His mother’s hand.
He that calls the stars by name,
spoke no name,
He formed Himself
in His mother’s womb.
He upheld the nails
that held His hands.
He died for you,
He became poor
to restore our riches.
Yes, He felt our plight
to set all things right.
He was born to die,
that we might live.
salvation in His wings.
Man once again will be in the Garden
because God’s Son walked from Gethsemane to Golgotha.
No more brier prick or thorn to stick.
All shall be made new.
When our King all subdue,
all shall be made new.
All foes to be forgotten.
Forever banished now.
Satan’s role will be revoked,
the Lord Messiah come.
The demons tremble in His wake;
the blind see,
soon the groaning’s cease.
This is the time in between,
the already and not yet.
The Kingdom has come, but not consummated;
it shall be slightly belated.
Peace on the earth,
goodwill to man,
God’s eternal plan in fruition.
The Kingdom has come in God’s Son,
the lion to lay down with the lamb.
No tent or temple,
for the LORD tabernacled.
Yahweh is Messiah.
born the balm,
for the vacuum of our souls.
Yes, the myth came true in the manger.
God is no longer a stranger,
but makes Himself known in His Son.
Jesus, Joshua’s namesake, true!
The LORD our Savior come!
He was, and is, and is to come.
All things consummate(d) in Him.
(click here for audio)
True beauty and art subvert the lie whispered in the Garden that roars in cacophonous echo today: “You shall be like gods!”
We walk the path that was blazed by our forebears; we autonomously seek for meaning in ourselves. Yet, periodically we stand before a sunset or Mozart or some other masterpiece and our autonomous walk is halted and we know, we intimately know, and even bask in the fact that we are not god and our good is not in autonomy, it is outside of us. We need. We need God.
In the book of Genesis we read of societal progress. There are advances in technology and the arts. Yet, the problem remains: We have sinful hearts. Thus relationships and truly the world remain fractured. Like humpty dumpty; we can’t put it back together again. The answer to my problem, humanities problem, and the world’s problem is external to us.
One would think that
“Auschwitz destroyed… the idea that European civilization at least was a place where nobility, virtue and humanizing reason could flourish and abound… It seems remarkable that the belief in progress still survives and triumphs… People still continue to this day to suppose that the world is basically a good place and that its problems are more or less soluble by technology, education, ‘development’ in the sense of ‘Westernization.’”[i]
However, today’s problems, like that of all history past, is not solved by advances in technology or even any sort of knowledge or morality. It is solved by a Savior. It is Messiah Jesus that will once and for all eradicate sin and suffering (see e.g. Rom. 11:26-27; Heb. 12:23; 1 Jn. 3:2; Rev. 3:12; 21:1-8, 27; 22:3).
When we control the measures to make a utopian society the way we think it should be, it fails. Whether we control “the stirrings” (e.g. The Giver), emotions (e.g. Equilibrium), everything (e.g. The Lego Movie), or the socioeconomic structure (e.g. The Hunger Games) the result is not paradise; it’s a sort of hell, at least for many. We messed up utopia, we can’t with our fallible minds design a new one. Only our Lord can. He has the only infallible and incorruptible mind. He perfectly balances justice and grace. And He alone can make us and all things new.
So the recent movie and classic The Giver does more than entertain. It teaches us a profound truth, one we would do well to remember: There is no utopian society outside of Christ. We can’t fix it. There have been many botched attempts throughout history. They lay died with their victims.
“Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team…” As catchy as The Lego Movie song is, it is not exactly right. Everything is not awesome, not yet. However, it will be. But not from our own doing (Notice I am not saying we shouldn’t work for social justice. We should! Yet, it will not bring the ultimate and forever peace that we long for.).
Heaven comes down (Rev. 21:2). We don’t, nor can we, build it here. I am with you and Miss America in saying I desire world peace, yet it won’t ultimately come until our Lord does. When our Lord comes He will wipe away all evil, pain, and tears, not some charismatic leader or government (Rev. 21:1ff). Jesus will make all things new. Jesus will bring utopia.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come!
Sin is not good. But Jesus is. He will bring the shalom we all desire. Live for Him.
[i] N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, 22-23.
Sin Leads to Enslavement
Sin is like Gollum’s ring. It enslaves and destroys. It looks so good but ends in lava.
Truly, “What we revere, we resemble, either for ruin or restoration,”[i] and we all revere something. So “when we speak of ‘worship’ …we are not speaking about an activity of one’s life, but speaking of the activity of one’s life.”[ii]
Thus, “What distinguishes us (as individuals, but also as ‘people’) is not whether we love, but what we love. At the heart of our being is a kind of ‘love pump’ that can never be turned off—not even by sin or the Fall; rather, the effect of sin on our love pump is to knock it off kilter, misdirecting it and getting it aimed at the wrong things.”[iii]
Yet when we aim at the wrong thing, worship the wrong thing, and thus deprive God of His glory, He deprives us of ours[iv] and we end up empty and doing all manner of wickedness. This is woven into the fabric of the universe, our very existence.
We will worship. That’s not the question. The question is who or what will we worship and to what end. What will be the result?
One catechism asks, “With what design did God create man?” The answer: that we should know God, love and glorify Him, and so be happy forever.[v] Truly “God is to be worshipped, not simply because he demands to be, but because this is the proper destiny of his creation.”[vi] Worship is inevitable.[vii] It will and is happening. The question is not will you worship but what? And what will it lead to?
Will it damn you and lead to enslavement; or will it bring eternal shalom and human flourishing (i.e. true cross-cultural human flourishing not the mere individualistic perception of flourishing) (recall Rom. 1 and 6)? Is it true or is it false?
When we worship the LORD we are going with the grid that is innately ingrained within us since the beginning. This is innate within us but it is strangely not natural. We have been dispossessed of where we were, where we should be. Yet, it is where we should be. The worship of the LORD God is true and right but it also works, it is the way it was designed to be (and thus it not surprisingly works that way).
We were made for ineffable joy and thus we not surprisingly seek for it. The thing about the joy we seek (sehnsucht) is that it’s not quite like our hunger, thirst, or other desires; it cannot be filled within the earth. So, apparently, we with our longing seek to fill it with that which cannot fill it. We think that, similar to our other “thirsts,” it too can be quenched here on earth through tangible means. Yet experience, many wise people, and Scripture have exhorted us that that is just not the case. There is a greater thirst within us, yet also a greater quenching. There is joy unimaginable, though now not wholly obtainable.
So, hear Romans 6:20-23: “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at the time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Thus, sin is not good because it enslaves and leads to death although it promises life and fulfillment.
[i] G. K. Beale, We Become what we Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.).
[ii] Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 20.
[iii] James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 52.
[iv] cf. Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 29.
[v] Longer Catechism of the Eastern Church , question 120.
[vi] Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 39.
[vii] cf. e.g. Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 230, 231.