I speak and write a lot about the concept of relationships. The Bible itself is really just a gigantic story about relationships. When we understand that what God is after is a restoration of a relationship we messed up, the desire God has to save creation becomes a bit more clear.
Imagine a Relationship
Imagine a scene for a moment if you will.
- First, God speaks all of creation into being. He creates the stars and earth then populates the earth with all sorts of animals, plants, and living things. He then creates mankind, his most cherished creation, giving us authority over all things in this new earth he has just built. We have a perfect relationship with God. Nothing stands between us. All God asks in return for heaven-on-earth is that we choose to maintain this relationship.
- Second, mankind decides to sin. Rather than placing all our trust in God, we decide that we want to sin in the garden of Eden. God is a loving god but is also a just god. The loving part of God wants to rebuild the relationship but the just part of God can not permit sin to go unpunished. We are cast out of the garden of Eden and a wedge is placed between God and man.
- Third, we walk the earth for centuries constantly moving between acting in obedience to God and straying away from God by worshiping idols and finding new ways to live sinful lives. This creates more and more space between God and man.
- Fourth, God decides to give us a standard which helps us understand how far we’ve strayed from God. We had gotten so accustomed to sinning that we needed something in writing to help us remember what a perfect relationship with God really is. This gives us the Torah and with it the knowledge of the perfect standard which we are incapable of keeping in absence of God.
- Fifth, we live according to God’s standard for a time, but eventually stray away, falling back to our own devices. Following God is too hard; it isn’t ‘fun’ or convenient. God gives us warning after warning and pleads with us to return to a perfect relationship with him through the prophets and through many miracles. Still, we decide to go in our own direction.
- Sixth, God sends us a way to both be covered for our just punishment due to sin and for God to restore the perfect relationship of love with all creation. This way is through Jesus Christ, someone who is fully man and fully God. Being fully God, he is infinite in his holiness, righteousness, and purity. Surely if God’s infinite glory paid the penalty for sin, it would be sufficient to cover our sin infinitely across all generations, all people, and all sins. Through Christ, God’s justice is achieved by paying an INFINITE price for sin capable of covering whatever sin we might incur. This draws a life-line between God and man that had been severed ever since the fall of creation in the garden of Eden. God was restoring the relationship.
- Seventh, Jesus ascends to heaven. With the gift of grace through Jesus Christ which paid an infinite price for our infinite sin, we were fully equipped to be a shining light to the world. With that said, the fallen world had decided to go a different direction and was sure to resist God. Therefore, God decides to send himself to earth another time in the form of the Holy Spirit, also called the ‘advocate’, to live within us, encourage us, and strengthen us as we face the temptations, trials, and difficulties of this world. This pulls the relationship between God and man closer than it ever has been before. This is where we are today; directly tied to our Creator through a divine cord which points us back towards perfect unity with God.
- Finally, this God decides that enough is enough. All that will choose to return to Him have done so and the work of Jesus’ disciples is over. He restores his kingdom by creating a new earth and a new heaven. In this new world, God and man are once again in perfect unity. The relationship that was once broken is now restored.
This picture is the picture of a creation made wonderfully and beautifully by a loving God. The creation chose to walk away and ever since then God has been guiding us back to him. All the pain, struggle, and heartache was never meant to be forever. Despite ourselves, God chose to prove that the divine relationship he shares with us is more powerful than any temptation on earth.
Reuniting with an Old Love
Christ’s entire ministry is about the reunification of God with his creation. We can see this clearly in Jesus’ last prayer before being arrested to be crucified.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
What is the most phenomenal about this prayer is that Jesus prays it knowing what he is about to suffer. He takes a significant amount of time before his death to pray for the relationship between God and man and that through his death, Christ would unify us back to the father. In that same situation, I’m sure almost all of us would be prayer pretty exclusively for the horrible, brutal death we were about to face. Christ knew his purpose and instead prayed to the Father that we would open our eyes and turn back to God.
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” (John 17:22-24)
When we reflect on the prayer of Christ, we are barraged with language talking about glory bestowed onto us. But wait… aren’t we the sinners that are the reason he’s dying in the first place? Did we somehow become non-sinners? No, no, we’re the same old sinners, but through the infinite grace of Christ paid on the cross, we would become glorious through unification with God. This is important to note because sometimes people read the Bible and see the image of this arrogant God pursuing his own glory. In reality, that perception is halfway correct; God is pursuing his own glory because his being is the only being worthy and deserving of glory. What people miss, however, is that God also wants perfect unification with us. What we see in the last few verses of Christ’s prayer is Jesus talking about us being glorified because when we unify with God and chose God over the things of this world we glorify God and through our unification get to experience glory as well. It’s like saying I help a friend with his business and a part of his thanks for helping him is letting me become a part owner. I’ve made him wealthy, but I get to share in the wealth I helped create because I am now ‘unified’ with my friend. When we glorify God, we get to share in the blessings because we are reunited with Him.
Implications of the Relationship
When you consider the importance of unifying with God, it becomes pretty easy to see why there is no other way to everlasting life than through Jesus. Christ is the pathway to the Father through his death on the cross. If we want to share in the blessings of grace, we must follow and unite with God. That unification doesn’t leave a lot of room for unifying with God but also remaining tied to this world. That’s not how it works. That’s kind of like saying you want to create a magnet that is attracted to a north pole, but also still a little attracted to a south pole. That’s simply not how science works and it’s not how God works. Once we unify with God, we push all of the worldly things driving our behavior to the side and acknowledge that God reigns supreme over every other temptation, desire, or pursuit.