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paradise lost

There is a longing for paradise within each of us . . . some sense that the world we were created for has been lost. Pain, suffering, and brokenness exist wherever we look, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would say that this world is what it ought to be. 

While this world gives us 'puzzle pieces' (e.g., beauty, purpose, intelligence) that hint at where ultimate satisfaction can be found, we are unable to put this 'puzzle' together from our own limited and finite perspective. Ultimate satisfaction is therefore elusive without a better perspective. Yet God in His mercy gives us the perspective that is necessary through His Word, the Bible. Like no other work in history, God speaks to the condition of the human heart with remarkable clarity in His Word. The relevance of the Bible across thousands of years speaks to the trustworthiness of it's Author, God Himself. The Bible gives us God's explanation of who He is as God, who we are meant to be as those created in His image, and what is coming next. God has good answers that can satisfy the deepest longings of our heart in His Word (Ecclesiastes 3:10-12).

Below is an outline that can lead you to the greatest joy in both this life and the next: knowing God.

1 God | overflowing goodness

Main Truth: Life flourishes under the authority of God’s good design.

In the beginning, God created the heavens, the earth, and everything in it. When He finished, He said that it was “good” (Genesis 1:1, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). He created man and woman in His own image and gave them authority to be fruitful, multiply, and extend His goodness throughout the earth (Genesis 1:27, 31). Life was “very good” as our first parents, Adam and Eve, walked in right relationship with God and one another according to God's good design (Genesis 1:31, 2:27). God also gave them instructions not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He warned them that if they did, they would die (Genesis 2:16-17). Yet our first parents were tempted in the garden to question God’s good design (Genesis 3:1).  

Key Scripture: Genesis 1; Genesis 2:25; Colossians 1:15-20; John 10:10; Revelation 4:11

2 rejection | our way over god's

Main Truth: Sin is the result of a failure to trust God’s good purpose in favor of our own.

When we reject God’s good design, we sin. The joy of walking in right relationship with God and one another was broken when Adam and Eve doubted God’s Word. They sinned when they believed that something created could give them greater happiness than what the Creator God had said (Genesis 3:1, 5-6). Every person who has ever lived—with the exception of one—is born with the effects of what is called original sin (tendencies, desires, and dispositions; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10-12, 23). Original sin puts us on a self-centered trajectory that quickly manifests itself in actual sin (thoughts, feelings, and choices; Romans 5:12). Sin is a rejection of God’s good design that has devastating consequences.

Key Scripture: Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:10-11, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23

3 Consequences | life apart from God

Main Truth: Life apart from the fullness of God’s goodness is both the present and eternal consequence for those who reject His good design.

God will give us what we most desire . . . both now and forever. Adam and Eve and all of their descendants were (1) separated from God’s best and (2) would die because they chose to treasure sin more than they treasured God (Genesis 2:17). We are all guilty of sin and rightly deserve the punishment of death (Romans 5:12, 6:23). There is nothing unjust or unfair about the consequences of our rejection of God’s good design, and there is nothing that we can do to pay back our debt to God (Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 2:1-4; 8-9).

Key Scripture: Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:1-31; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 1 Timothy 2:5-6

4 Redemption | salvation in no one else

Main Truth: Jesus Christ is the only way that anyone will ever be saved from the consequences of their sin (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

Perhaps the most beautiful words ever spoken were “But God.” Outside of a merciful intervention on His part, we would have no hope of being counted as righteous before Him. The apostle Paul writes, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). While we were His enemies, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, who knew no sin to become sin for us so that we could be reconciled to God (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 Peter 3:18). In what has been called the great exchange, Jesus received the punishment for our sin and gave us His righteousness. Our only hope of being reconciled to a Holy God and the good life we were meant is through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

 

There are five basics that we must understand about why Jesus was able to reconcile us to God:

1. Birth-Jesus, who has existed forever as God (John 1:1), humbled himself by taking on flesh (Philippians 2:7; John 1:14) was born of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-27) in fulfillment of prophecy (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7) to bless the nations (Genesis 12:3).

2. Life and Teaching-Jesus lived the life that we were meant to live in perfect relationship with God and man. Although Jesus was tempted in every way, He fulfilled the commands of God by living a perfect life that was without sin (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15). Jesus fulfilled well over three hundred Old Testament prophecies. Jesus’s life and teaching is the standard for all people of what life was meant to look like,  (John 10:10) and the miracles that he performed gave evidence that He is God and that His kingdom was being inaugurated on earth. Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life on behalf of sinners.

3. Death-A God that does not punish sin would not be just. Therefore, God had to punish sin. Jesus was pierced, crushed, chastised, and executed on a Roman cross as the punishment for the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:4-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus, as the only perfect and righteous person who has ever lived, was the only man who would ever be able to become a proper substitute for the sins of others (Exodus 12:5, 21; John 1:29; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 9:25-27). He satisfied God’s wrath for our sin through His sacrificial death (Genesis 22:9-14; Leviticus 17:11; Isaiah 53: Psalm 22:16; Daniel 9:24; Hebrews 2:17). He destroyed death once and for all and set free those who live in the bondage of their sin (Hebrews 9:28). Jesus paid the penalty for sin that sinners could never afford.

4. Resurrection-Jesus rose victoriously from the dead on the third day, proving that death had been defeated (Isaiah 25:7-8), and that life would be restored to all who trust in Him (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 17:30-31). Jesus destroys death and restores the abundant life we were meant for to all who trust Him.

5. Ascension/Reign-He appeared for forty days to over five-hundred people before ascending into heaven where He now reigns as King (Acts 1:9-11). He will one day return unexpectedly (Matthew 24:44). Jesus now reigns as King and will one day return to judge the living and the dead.

Key Scripture: John 14:6; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21; Romans 5:8; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6

5 response | my way or god's way

Main Truth: God gives us what we most desire. The cross is God’s divine summons for us to turn away from our sin and turn back to Him. The difference between those who will one day find themselves in heaven and those who will find themselves in hell comes down to a simple choice between two options: seeking our satisfaction in and of ourselves, or finding satisfaction in God that is from everlasting to everlasting. 

 

God saves all who come to Him through Christ. Jesus makes it very clear that "whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). He leaves us with only two ways to live:

My Way—Reject the sacrifice of Jesus on your behalf and continue to live for yourself. Living for yourself is the path to Hell, a place that Jesus called a “place of torment” and referred to as a place of fire over 20 times (Luke 16:28). The righteous and just wrath of God remains on those who reject the merciful provision of His only Son, Jesus Christ, on their behalf. There will be no mercy for those who reject the means that He has ordained to be saved. 

God's Way—Turn from your sin and live for God. Trust that God's way is good by repenting of sin and believing that Jesus is whom He said He was, that He died for your sin, and that He rose again on the third day that you might have life. If you turn from your way and turn towards God's way (repentance) and place your faith in Jesus as your Savior and your Lord, God will set you free from the bondage of sin and grant to you eternal life forever! (John 3:3; John 6:27; 1 John 5:12; Matthew 12:30; Acts 20:21; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 3:9; 1 Peter 1:3)

If you have never repented of your sins, trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord, and submitted to the authority of God, do so today. The Devil's favorite word is “tomorrow,” but today "is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). While a simple prayer cannot save you, prayer is a great way to begin to turn from your sin and turn toward God (repent). If you would like to turn from your way to God's way, you can begin by praying this prayer:

God,

You are perfect and holy and good.

You and you alone are worthy of all glory and honor and praise.

Yet I have run from you and your good plan, rejecting your ways for my own.

I am sorry for sinning against you, and acknowledge that I rightly deserve your judgment.

Though I do not deserve your mercy, 

you have, in your mercy and love, offered me forgiveness through your only Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus paid the debt that my sins owed.

I ask you to forgive me on the basis of His sacrifice for my sins.

At this moment, I turn from my selfish ways and entrust my life to you.  

I place my trust in Jesus, believing that He lived the perfect life I was meant to live,

died as the punishment that my sins deserved,

rose on the third day,

ascended into heaven after appearing to over five hundred people,

and reigns forever over all of creation.

I ask you to come and make your home with me now,

that I might find lasting joy in your presence

and live for your glory, forever and ever.

In Jesus's Name

Amen.

Key Scripture: John 3:36; Matthew 10:28; Mark 8:34-35; John 14:6; Romans 10:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:15

6 Restoration | a new heart

Main Truth: All who trust Christ will begin to enjoy the life that God designed them for.

God the Holy Spirit replaces our affections predisposed to the desires of the flesh (thoughts, feelings, choices) by giving us a new heart whose affections are for Christ's glory (Ezekiel 36:36-37; John 3:3-8). The Holy Spirit crushes the power of sin, sets us free from the tyranny of self, and reconciles us to a holy God by imputing Christ's righteousness to us. God enables and empowers us to live for His glory As we begin to enjoy God’s abiding presence with us, God enables and empowers us to live for His glory both now with the hope of living with Him forever in eternity.

Because we live in a fallen world marred by the consequences of sin, all of our earthly problems will not go away when we trust Christ. Yet, when we trust Christ, we know that our greatest problem has been solved. We trust that there is nothing that God is doing that is not for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28-30). The command to be fruitful, multiply, and thus extend God’s goodness throughout the earth is given again by Jesus in the Great Commission (Genesis 1:28; Matthew 28:18-20).

Key Scripture: John 1:12-14; Romans 8:2; John 10:10; Revelation 21:4

Next Steps | abide, worship, share

If you have repented and trusted Christ, there are some things that you will want to begin doing to further enjoy your new relationship with God.

Step 1: Begin spending time in God's presence. Find time each day to spend time talking to God and reading His Word. God's Word is His revelation of who He is. Knowing who He is will help you to know who you are and who God designed you to be. Begin praying to God. Prayer is simply communicating with God. God uses prayer to help us understand His will, which leads to our greatest satisfaction.

Step 2: Find a healthy church family to worship and do life with. One of the greatest joys of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is becoming a member of the family of God in a local church (Romans 8:16-17). Finding a healthy church family that you can begin to worship and fellowship with is critical to your growth as a Christian. A healthy church will prioritize the following values:

Authority and Inerrancy of the Bible as God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21): A church/pastor that does not see the Bible as their ultimate authority will make decisions based on their own thoughts and feelings rather than on what God has specifically revealed.

Expository Preaching: The preacher must be preaching God’s Word rather than his own ideas. A healthy church will typically preach through entire books of the Bible rather than preaching on different topics. 

Discipleship and Accountability: Healthy churches will value making “disciples” and teaching them all that Christ commanded (Matthew 28:19). Some form of discipleship will be found in every healthy church, whether that be through one-on-one discipleship, small groups, Bible studies, or Sunday School classes. Conviction will come as you sit under the preaching of God’s Word and begin to read God’s Word daily, but growth will occur when you confess your convictions to other believers and allow them to hold you accountable.

Step 3: Share the good news that you have received with others. God saves us from our sin, gives us His riches in Christ, and calls us His children. Yet He also gives us the remarkable privilege of sharing our joy in Him with others (John 10:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Pray for and then share the good news that you have received with those that you love (1 Peter 2:9). There is salvation in no one else other than Jesus Christ. 

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