Proof of God’s Grace #2: Resurrecting Grace
In this series of posts we are looking at proof of God’s grace (Planned, Resurrecting, Outrageous, Overcoming, and Forever grace ). In the previous post we looked at Planned Grace. In this post we are looking at…
The Bible teaches that people need resurrected or brought to life spiritually because they are spiritually dead and don’t go to God apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Why is this the case? And where does the Bible teach this?
People do not turn to God apart from the Spirit’s intervening grace of regeneration because they are dead (Eph. 2:1-5), slaves of sin (Rom. 6:20), deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9 cf. Gen. 6:5; Ps. 51:5), and blinded by Satan so they don’t see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4ff).
In our natural state since the Fall we are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). We follow “the course of this world,” “the prince of the power of the air,” and “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2). That is how “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh” (v. 3).
Set Us Free
polluted and poisoned.
Our resounding plea:
“Set us free.”
We are writhing and reeling from the Fall.
Our affections wander and wane,
our struggles remain.
O’ Lord set us free.
We fettered our shackles,
we tossed the key.
But O’ Messiah, set us free.
Designer Sex (part 1)
Our starting points have big consequences, good or bad. Even when buttoning our shirt. If we get the first button wrong we’re going to be misaligned all the way down. And hopefully we catch the problem before we walk out of the house.
It is the same way with sex. It is crucial that we understand from the beginning what God, the designer, intended. We must consider what the Bible, God’s Word, says on the subject.
God’s Good Creation: Designer Sex
What is “Designer Sex”? It is sex the way God intended it to be. It’s not cheap, disrespectful, or damaging. Sex the way God designed it is very good.
“It is tremendously moving to think of God’s original one-flesh companionship. Adam and Eve, before the fall of Eden, had the marvelous capacity of being totally naked, physically and emotionally, with no shame or fear. They reveled in a childlike trust and curiosity—laughing, instinctual honesty, respect and zest for life. It was naked and unashamed with no performance anxiety, inhibitions, pain, or selfish skill deficits. What a relationship and sex life they were able to have as they truly ‘knew’ each other, inside and out!”
God designed man and woman to be together and enjoy each other in harmony with each other and Himself (cf. Gen. 2:18, 24-25). Designer sex, sex the way God intended it to be, is beautiful and God-glorifying.
God lovingly, brilliantly, creatively designed sex. “Doesn’t that tell you a lot about who God really is? Among other things, it tells you that He is ingenious.” God is not trying to keep us from fun when He tells us about the intended design for sex.
Sex, as it was created to be enjoyed, was very good. There was nothing wrong or shameful about it. However, that’s not always the way it is anymore. Something happened.
The Fall: Romance Ruined
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed, and were able to enjoy unhindered wedded bliss. After the Fall, however, all sorts of problems erupted. Adam and Eve hid from God and each other, as they clothed themselves in shame. They had relational disharmony as they blamed each other.
Men and women today still feel the effects of the Fall. The world is now broken. It is not how it was intended to be.
As a result of the Fall people, even political candidates, say such terrible and disrespectful things as: “when you’re a star… you can do anything… Grab ’em by the @*$#!.” God created all people with worth, not as objects to be groped and used.
Pornography is a cogent example of the broken world of sin that we all now face.
“Porn is unbelievably devastating. It holds out an ever-increasing promise of satisfaction while simultaneously, gradually removing the ability to be intimate. Porn makes sex purely physical, and when it becomes purely physical, it loses the glory God has designed it to have. You lose that glory even in marriage when sex becomes purely about the physical act of intercourse.”
This is not “designer sex.” It is sad and leads to all sorts of brokenness.
What we face today represents unique pressures and challenges unprecedented in the history of man. When the author of Ecclesiastes said there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9) he didn’t mean literally. The technology and social media we have today are new but it brings to light the same problems humanity has always had. So, in that sense, there is “nothing new under the sun.” We are fallen. Our hearts need fixed. The external pressures may change but the inner reality of sin remains.
Pornography is not just bad from a biblical perspective it is empirically bad as well. A recent article says, “After 40 years of peer-reviewed research, scholars can say with confidence that porn is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality—for the worse.” The article goes on to say that “Extensive scientific research reveals that exposure to and consumption of porn threaten the social, emotional and physical health of individuals, families and communities, and highlights the degree to which porn is a public health crisis rather than a private matter.”
Sexual malpractice and malfunction is a result of the Fall. Pornography zooms in on the effects of the Fall and shows its full despicable form. It is the debasement of what God created to be intimately enjoyed by two covenant partners.
When it comes to sex the Bible is not prudish. It “is fully aware of desire, seduction, rape, polygamy, homosexuality, adultery, and sex after age ninety. And that’s just Genesis.” The Bible does not ignore sex. The Bible does not say it’s not a problem. The Bible doesn’t try to fix the problem by saying, “All desire is demonic.”
Yet, as we will see the Bible does instruct us when it comes to sex. Partly because the author of the Bible, ultimately God, knows that “Sexuality is… a powerful force in our lives, with tremendous potential for intimate bonding or harmful behaviors.”
Desires are not innately demonic but they are dangerous. “Ask Tiger Woods. Ask Bill Clinton. Ask Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Ted Haggard.” Ask the first two pastors I had as a kid.
A healthy view of sex understands that it is not bad. Indeed, God created sex as good and it is good when enjoyed as God, the Creator, intended. However, we live in a fallen world and sex is often not carried out the way that God designed and thus leads to innumerable problems.
We need to understand how God, the Grand Designer, intended sex to function.
 See Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say “I Do”, 22.
 See Kevin Leman, Sheet Music, 14-15.
 Douglas E. Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 4.
 Stephen and Judith Schwambach, For Lovers Only, 127.
 We live in a very sexualized age. I know in one sense that there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). I know there are pornographic Egyptian hieroglyphics that have been discovered and that there are old Roman bathhouses with pornographic morals on the walls. Yet, never before has porn been so accessible. It’s not just found under your uncle’s bed or in the attic it’s constantly in your hand, just a click away. Here’s some statistics: 90% of children between the ages of eight and sixteen have viewed pornography. The average age of exposure to internet pornography is eleven. The largest consumer of internet pornography is boys ages 12 to 17 (Greg Gibson, Date Different, 80).
The porn industry is one of the biggest industries and has the largest presence online. In fact, porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.
Internet pornography is also very potent. I’ve read that it’s as addictive or more addictive as heroin or cocaine. Social media very often, even if it’s not officially labeled pornographic, is teaching and influencing how we think about sex and act out sexually.
 Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 90-91. He goes on to say, “and you certainly forfeit this glory when you engage in sex outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is deliberate disobedience against God’s commands, which are for your good and therefore it is a deliberate forfeiture of your spiritual well-being, as well as your sexual well-being.”
 For example, Dr. Kevin Leman says, “If you are having sex before marriage, you are ultimately threatening your own happiness and marital satisfaction. The research couldn’t be clearer” (Kevin Leman, Sheet Music, 17-18).
 Actually the word porn is from the Greek word porneía (πορνεία), which is often translated sexual immorality.
 Gail Dines, “Is porn immoral? That doesn’t matter: It’s a public health crisis” in The Washington Post.
 Douglas Sean O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy, 58.
 See Ibid.
 Douglas E. Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 4.
 O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 33.”Eros alone is not evil, but eros outside of God’s ethics is” (Ibid.). Gary Thomas says, “Sex is a powerful tool. In a healthy marriage, used appropriately, it can be nothing short of glorious. As people who believe God is the Creator of our bodies and our sexuality, we should be eager to embrace His good handiwork. But know this: the more powerful the tool, the more training and caution you need when learning to use it” (The Sacred Search, 201)
The Contradiction that is Humanity
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.
O’ for the Crash
Guided by misdirection
I fall to the grave
In false glory
The story goes on
Repeated with repugnant nausea
O’ for the crash
To hold and make new
O’ for light
O’ dawn blaze
Inflame my gaze
No more night
Set it to flight
Desecration and De-creation via the Red-Light District
I was in Germany for my job a few years ago. I got to wander the streets of Nuremberg with a few friends. It was a great time until…
Until my friends just happened to stumble upon the red-light district. I saw a woman, made in the image of God, standing naked in the arch of a door offering herself up for purchase. It was very sad.
…Imagine a dozen roses being trampled underfoot and ground into the pavement. Or your families heirloom vase being thrown crashing to the ground. The intended beautiful design gravely marred and belittled…
We didn’t walk down the street.
…Nuremberg is a beautiful city. The city from all I could tell is thriving. Yet it has places, I suppose like any city, where the thin veneer has washed away and the anti-creation is showing. Where the inner man is as visible as the graffiti on the walls…
Here’s a poem I wrote later that day:
Strained by tears that she wears inside
Never to hide
Ever inspected for beauty
Yet coldly rejected
Infected by the strain
The strain of prideful lust
Her bosom embraced but not with kind face
Ever the look of lust
She is a mere possession
A brief obsession
To use and then discard
Disregard that she’s a person and use her for your end
clothed in agony,
the only veil she knows
She roams the streets
Anything for the right price
O’ but this woman that we deface
Is more than a nice face
Men may have her
and hate her
but for her,
Christ He died!
Jesus cries, Daughter!
You are my daughter, no whore!
I will embrace and wipe your tears
I will love and calm your fears
O’ my child, for you I weep
I long to tenderly clothe you
To clothe you with love
To you, show the meaning of true love
When Jesus our King returns
Clean will be the streets
The Storyline of Scripture
Spoiler alert. If you don’t want to know the resolution to all the twists and turns of the plot line of the Bible do not read on!
Jesus is the hero of the story. He saves the day. As Michael Emlet says, “If you read the Bible from cover to cover you realize that it narrates (proclaims!) a true and cohesive story: the good news that through Jesus Christ God has entered history to liberate and renew the world from its bondage to sin and suffering.”[i] He goes on; God “pursues the restoration of his creation at the cost of his own life. He is making all things new (Rev. 21:5)! That’s the simple and yet profound, life- and world-altering plotline of the Bible.”[ii]
The Bible is chiefly a story about God’s glory being displayed through the recompense of all things wicked, redemption of those made righteous, and finally, the reconciliation of all things in Christ.[iii] The Bible is a true story about God making the world, man messing it up, and God becoming a man to fix the world by not messing up. It is a story of Eden—exile—repeat. It is not until the true Adam, the true and righteous Son of God comes that this process is put to an end. All of Christ’s predeceases fell short; Adam, Noah, Abraham, Saul, David, Solomon, and the lambs, priests, and prophets could not fill Christ’s role.
From the beginning of time and the beginning of God’s word, the Word has been a prominent character in the script (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1). At first, the promised offspring (Gen. 3:15) is vague, in fact, Eve rejoiced because she thought she had the offspring (4:1) but it was all for naught for Cain was of the offspring of the serpent and killed his brother. However, now we have seen that which even the prophets longed to look (Matt. 13:17), we know that all Scripture finds its fulfillment in Jesus who is the long-awaited Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
When Jesus came the first time, He had no beauty or majesty. When He comes again His face will shine like the sun in full strength (Rev. 1:16). We were cast out of the garden in the beginning but as Jesus said to the thief on the cross, we will be with Him in paradise in the end. Jesus is the linchpin among all the cogs of Scripture. “The trajectory of the arrow shot from the Hebrew Scriptures finds its target (fulfillment) in Jesus of Nazareth.”[iv]
The storyline of the Bible can be understood as creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. We can see the gospel in the storyline of the Bible. God loves us even though we have rebelled against Him. He has provided forgiveness for us through Jesus Christ and if we repent of our sin and trust in Him we will enjoy Him forever in heaven.
Through the creation part of the narrative we see that God made everything (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1-3) and it was good (Gen. 1:4; 10; 12; 18; 21; 25; 31). There was no sin, no death, and no problems before man sinned. Man had perfect fellowship with God.[v]
However, the plot thickens. A cosmic problem is introduced. Through Adam’s fall, we see the collapse of the creation, which explains why everything is no longer good. Man disobeyed and rebelled (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:6) and this brought spiritual and physical death (Gen. 2:17; 3:19), pain (3:16-17), difficulties (3:18-19), and separation from God (3:23-24). This is the bad news. We deserve death and hell.
But there is good news. This is not the end of the story. Even at the beginning of the story, God promised that He would send someone (that is, the Messiah/Christ) to defeat the “bad guy” (that is Satan) of the story (cf. Gen 3:15). In a similar scene, seen throughout the Bible, man’s nemesis is once again at it with him. Satan is tempting not Adam but the second Adam in the wilderness (Luke 4). However, unlike Adam in paradise, the second Adam does not give into the serpent’s temptation although He is in the desert. Jesus was tempted in every way that Adam was, and we are, yet He did not sin (Heb. 4:15) and still He bore our sin upon Himself.
Jesus became man so “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power over death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Jesus’ heel was “bruised” at the cross but through that same cross, where He received the bruising, He struck the serpent with a definitive death blow to the head (cf. Gen. 3:15). From the cross, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” In Jesus’ death, the devil, and death are defeated! He has delivered us from the domain of darkness (Col. 1:13). He disarmed the demonic rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them through the cross (Col. 2:15).
Jesus is the promised one (Luke 24:27, 44-46; Acts 13:23, 27; 17:3; Rom. 1:2-4; 1 Cor. 15:3-4;) who brings the redemption of all things (cf. Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:20; Titus 2:14; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7, 10). He secures for us an eternal redemption by means of His own blood (Heb. 9:12). Jesus Christ is the solution to the problem; He takes our sin, our problem, upon Himself on the cross. This is the good news; Jesus is the good news! Jesus reversed the curse of sin by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). Jesus was cast out of the garden so that we could be welcomed back in. Through the one man Adam we all have condemnation yet through the one Man Jesus Christ the grace of God has abounded for many (Rom. 5:12-21). We deserved to be crushed under God’s wrath because of our sin but instead Jesus was crushed in our place (Is. 52:13-53:12). Jesus is the solution to our problem of sin, the sole solution (Jn. 14:6; Act. 4:12). Jesus is the Lamb of God, without blemish, that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; Heb. 9:14)!
Jesus is the good news but the good news is not static it goes on and on and on; those in Christ live happily-ever-after. In contrast, God “will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers” (Matt. 13:41) and cast them into the pit of eternal fire (Rev. 20:14-15). “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:9). However, for those in Christ the story of history will have a happy ending (Rom. 8:29-39).
I concur with what C.S. Lewis says in The Last Battle,
“We can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”[vi]
I believe we, upon arrival to the new Eden, will exclaim with Lewis’ Unicorn:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it to now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia [“old creation”] is that it sometime looked a little like this.”[vii]
Through Jesus the Christ we have the unwavering hope of a new creation (2 Peter 3:13). “The creation was subjected to futility” in Adam (Gen. 317-19) but in Christ “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:20-21). As Isaac Watts put it in “Joy to the World,”
“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found.”
The problem (all of them!) will be fixed and there will be no more sin (Rev. 21:27; 22:3; Matt. 13:41). Everything will be more right than it was ever wrong. We will see that God did, in fact, work all things together for good (Rom. 8:28). Christ will make a new creation and we will be like Him (1 Jn. 3:2; Rom. 8:29; 2 Peter 1:4). “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49). God will fulfill our deepest desires and we will finally love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength when we receive our glorified bodies (Deut. 30:6; Jer. 31:33-34; 32:40; Phil. 3:20-21)! There will be no more pain or problems and God will wipe away all our tears (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). We will once again be in Paradise, the New Jerusalem, and we will have fellowship with God (Rev. 21:3)!
However, this story by its nature, by the fact that it claims to be true, does not leave us alone but calls for a response. We can receive this story or we can reject it outright. God can rewrite us, as it were, into His marvelous script or He can cast us, the unruly “cast,” into hell. We must respond to this story, will we respond rightly? Will we strive to obey the God who reveals Himself? Will we turn to Jesus in faith and repentance?
This is the gospel, the story of all the woes of existence finding their solution in Christ.
[i] Emlet, CrossTalk, 41. A true and cohesive story contained within sixty-six books written by numerous people (with one divine author) in various languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) over thousands of years! God’s word about the world being reconciled through the Word is truly amazing!
[iii] James M. Hamilton Jr. says that “in the broadest terms, the Bible can be summarized in four words: creation, fall, redemption, restoration” (God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 49) but the “ultimate end” of everything is “God’s glory in salvation through judgment.” He goes on to say, “The created realm (creation) is a spectacular theater that serves as the cosmic matrix in which God’s saving and judging glory can be revealed. God’s glory is so grand that no less a stage than the universe—all that is or was and will be, across space and through time—is nescessary for the unfolding of this all-encompassing drama” (Ibid., 53). See also John Piper’s book The Pleasures of God and Jonathon Edwards’ The End for Which God Created the World.
[iv] Emlet, CrossTalk, 47.
[v] Perfect in sense but not like it will be in the new creation; Adam and Eve related to God as creation to Creator and we will relate to God in the new creation as the redeemed to the Redeemer. So we will enjoy a consummated perfect fellowship with God.
[vi] C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: NY: Harper Collins, 2002), 228.
[vii] Ibid., 213.