***This is a snippet from chapter 1 of my book “Think and Grow In Grace.” The chapter is titled “What is grace.” ***
If you have ever stepped foot in a church, I’m sure at some point you have heard the term “Grace” preached from the pulpit. If not, I feel it necessary to offer the definition of grace. After all, this book is about thinking and growing in grace. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grace is defined as unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virtue coming from God; a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance.
In Christian circles, grace is defined as unmerited favor. The kind of favor synonym to receiving good even though our behavior is not deserving of kindness. Much like one committing a crime that is deserving of punishment. Instead, all charges are dismissed because the judge has decided to show mercy by giving you a second chance. Now, that’s grace!
For this chapter I would like to take the time to unpack God’s initial plan of grace and general overviews of how and why grace originated and societies need for grace starting with the book of Genesis and eventually resting firmly upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. This chapter will also explore several synopses pertaining to The Garden, The Fall, The Law, The Savior, and The Redemption. From there, the remaining chapters will focus on specific topics relating to common place realities of life.
The bible says in Genesis 2:4-9, When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. 6 Instead, springs[a] came up from the ground and watered all the land. 7 Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. 8 Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. 9 The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The earth before man inhabitant, was a blank canvas. In God’s infinite wisdom and love for man, God knew the earth’s present state was not hospitable for His creation. If man was to thrive and take dominion of what God the Father created, the confinements of earth must reflect God’s love and goodness.
God’s love and goodness not only stood for the physical attributes of the landscape, but consist of God allowing man to have free will. A free will that would eventually lead to man’s fall. A free will that would set the trajectory of society for absolute condemnation as a precursor to humanities need of a savior.
I believe God’s intention for the Garden of Eden was to create a place where the creator could interact with man having the pretense of the created encompassing God’s likeness and image. Everything God made was good. Therefore, creating man in His image and likeness fulfilled the ultimate display of love by God as He chose man to be a physical representation of Him.
This physical representation of God beautifully materialized enamored in grace, blessings, and dominion for man to reign over every place he possessed. For God said in Genesis 1:26-31, “Let us make human beings[a] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,[b] and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings[c] in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” 29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened. 31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.
From the content of the scripture, we see the character of God as being a loving father whose overwhelming goodness towards man wanted all that was good and prosperous for man to have above and beyond all that man could ever ask or imagine. In fact, God’s grace was proactive by considering everything man would ever need by making provisions for man.
So, the very nature of God is to embody the created with grace before man developed the nature to sin or even experience the blessings. One could venture to say God’s nature is to see and believe the good in the likeness of His image. The good in which God said he would continue to pour out His blessings that placed the charge for man and woman to go forth and reproduce the likeness and goodness of God throughout the earth.
I would like to touch on another aspect of God’s character which is trust. The element of trust that is unconditional in nature.
God’s character seeks to reveal the best of who we are in Christ.
Unconditional in nature because the attributes of God’s character consist of being Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence. This Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence God gave the full extent of His love by trusting what He created with His best, for love gives and love gives from a position of trust. A trust that rest on the foundation of grace for man did nothing to earn God’s trust or goodness, God’s trust and goodness was simply given to man.
Even though an all-knowing, all powerful God knew man would fall, God continued to pour out His love, blessings, and grace upon man. Humanity will never fully understand God’s ways for Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Therefore, we are to fully receive from God all that is good and gracious without injecting the task of trying to figure it out. Just receive and receive aggressively.
The fall of man begins with the bible stating in Genesis 3:1 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.” How is it the serpent could out maneuver man when God gave man dominion over every living thing in the garden? For God said in Genesis 1:28, “Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Perhaps, the serpent was Satan whom the Bible describes as the Father of lies (John 8:44) who speaks his native language. One could only speculate regarding the nature and abilities of the serpent. In fact, the questions and speculation are infinite. However, for now the focus of Think and Grow in Grace will be on the amalgamation of God’s grace and life challenges.
The serpent successfully brought into questions the boundaries God gave man and woman relating to not eating of the tree in the middle of the garden (Genesis 3:1-7). Perhaps, the serpent in a subtle way challenged the authority God gave man as well when God said you have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
Or, could the seeds of pride taken root as the created reasoned away the authority and dominion God generously bestowed upon them which lead to contemplation that surely God must have gotten it wrong as if relates to the trees in the middle of the garden. There was unbelief and trust in God’s guidance much like expressions of not being strong in God’s grace which brings into question God’s goodness and the validity of Jesus’s finished work on the cross.
The challenge to validity or unbelief may sound like this, “This is too good to be true.” Or, much like the serpent questioned, “Did God really say?” Unfortunately, the fall of man was wrapped within the disguised of a seemingly innocent question that was concealed with lasting consequences that brought about our need for a savior.
The bible describes the serpent as being crafty. I must agree with the term as well for the serpent touched every emotional need Adam and Eve could experience. For example, when the serpent said, “You will surely not die…for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Perhaps, this emotional need is best explained by examining Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. By definition, Maslow Hierarchy of Needs is richly grounded in the theory of psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” recorded in the Psychological Review. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity.
The observation of humans’ innate curiosity according to Maslow consist of the following:
- Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
- Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.
- Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
- Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
- Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
The emotional need of Self Actualization which is the need to achieve one’s full potential to include creative activities, I believe the prospect of being like God in wisdom was appealing to Adam and Eve even though God made them in His likeness. Adam and Eve saw first hand the goodness and majesty of all that God made. So, one can only imagine the desire for such power.
Then, there is Esteem needs which compliments the need for feeling accomplished. As if it wasn’t enough that God gave Adam and Eve dominion in the garden, the serpent’s deception created in Adam and Eve a blurred sense of vision for God’s plan for them. I might add God’s good and perfect will for them.
As it relates to the need for intimate relationships and friends, this rest squarely within the realm of the need for Belongingness and Love needs. It was not enough that God spent time with Adam and Eve in the garden, the serpent painted the picture of their life being one of lack because there was one thing missing, which was the contents of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Subsequently, the serpent convinced Adam and Eve that the time with God all mighty was still lacking.
Then, there is the element of Physiological needs. Physiological needs pertain to the need for food, water, warmth, and rest. As the text reveals, the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good and pleasing to the eye and desirable for obtaining wisdom. A wisdom that would make them like God. This Physiological need was to be satisfied by eating of the tree.
Finally, we have the Safety need which caters to the need for security and safety. I believe this need Adam and Eve saw as a need that would be satisfied by becoming immortal and all powerful like God. One thing is clear, when we lose sight of God’s promises and provisions, we often fall for the counterfeit promise of something better or more enduring then the eternal goodness of God.
What the serpent revealed is the deception of a lie that suggest God’s provisions are not enough. That the God whom created you in His image and likeness is not enough. That His grace in which God declares is sufficient, isn’t enough. That the finished works of Jesus dying on the cross, buried and raised on the third day was not enough.
Therefore, my self-effort must compensate for the deficiencies of my creator. Deficiencies perceived in my mind that God’s timing and ways could not align with what I am dealing with at this very moment. At some point, we all wrestle with the perception of what we feel is in and of our best interest apart for God’s wisdom and timing. For Adam and Eve, this perception changed the course of their lives and the course of human history.
Subsequently, the choice Adam and Eve made to eat of the fruit immediately brought upon a spirit of condemnation, shame, fear, and guilt for Genesis 3:7-10 says, “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So, they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. 8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man[a] and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So, they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
Condemnation became like the yeast that worked its way through the whole dough. In rapid succession, God’s likeness that was bestowed upon Adam and Eve fell. First the dominion God bestowed upon them, in their minds was reduced to no confidence in their God-given authority. The freedom and beauty of their nakedness succumbed to shame. Even though dominion and freedom where important, I believe their intimacy with God was most Vital. For the intimacy and bond they shared with the Father suddenly conformed to the pain of distance.
I love how despite man’s down fall, God the Father pursued man as stated in Genesis 3:8, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” God’s love is unconditional even in the mist of our faults.
Something I would like to point out that I find to be profound is how we run to the thing that caused the most pain and how that very thing cannot remove the pain. The bible says when Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord as He was walking through the garden, they hid from the Lord among the trees of the garden. The tree could not vouch for them nor could the tree redeem them of the consequences of their decision. The only thing that would eventual make the wrong right would be the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
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