Many people have a perverted view of God’s attitude and thoughts toward them. They think God is angry with them and that they have to earn God’s love. So let us have a look at God’s eternal love for us! Let’s start with this understanding; Jesus did not come to change God’s mind about man, He came to change man’s mind about God.
When we consider God’s love, we understand that God’s love is unconditional, and this love is described in 1 Cor. 13. His love is so completely opposite of our understanding of love in this world, and it has become so skewed that many have seen love actually as conditional vs. unconditional. God IS love! Unconditional and fully acceptance of us as we are! This unconditional love that the world is searching for, and religion has added conditions to, so that they may gain God’s acceptance and blessings, is the only way we are innocent in Christ.
If we can understand the origin of the law, and perceive God’s position of unconditional love through Adam’s failure, we can perceive more accurately our innocence, and our sure foundation for God’s super-abounding grace in our lives. I have found in my grace walk, that many Christians have what I describe as “religious scar tissue” in their thinking process. A scar results from the healing of a wound, which can produce scar tissue and can cause pain and future complications from an old wound. We are dealing with an old wound here, as old as mankind. Whether it is worldly thinking or religious thinking, it all stems from a perverted view of God’s attitude and thoughts toward mankind. As long as this scar tissue remains, there will be complications on our part concerning our total acceptance of our innocence and righteousness, which has been given to us as a result of the finished work of Christ Jesus.
Now when we consider the cross, and what Jesus has accomplished, we generally agree that because of the cross we were forgiven and given His righteousness which has restored our innocence. In Grace we receive that as unconditional love. Our forgiveness is provided without continual self-effort to have to continually ask for forgiveness. Instead we declare our righteousness by faith. Many times there are still a lot of religious scar tissue here, as you will see shortly. Now the religious view of the cross is salvation based on our works, and our attempt to qualify for God’s acceptance and blessings. If we obey we are blessed, and if we do not then we are punished. This is law-based Christianity.
I want to help those who are learning the grace walk, but are dealing with the effects of old wounds producing future doubts and causing them to question their innocence. The combining of grace and law produces mixture and confusion. The world is attracted to this good news of God’s grace. As for the religious, when the law drives them to the end of themselves, that is where they find His love and grace with open arms. It was always there, but at the end of ourselves we discover we need a savior.
We cannot save ourselves by our own works. Works based religion does not see the need for a savior; they try to be righteous by their own efforts, or self righteousness.
Jesus Came to Show Us the Father
It has helped me tremendously to go to where the failure of man started, and look at it from Love’s perspective. This helps remove the religious scar tissue which causes pain and complications.
The scar tissue usually inflicts pain after the wound seems to be healed, in this way; we could liken it to unresolved issues about our Father’s love that resurface when we find ourselves in a crisis. We begin to question ourselves because of the uncertainty of our Father’s full, unconditional love for us. We might ask ourselves: “What must I do now to fix this?” “Is this a test from God?” “Have I displeased or angered God somehow?”
God was not and is not angry at man, rather He was angry with sin; and He separated sin from the man where any anger was concerned. Do you hate the friend who has an internal disease, or do you hate the disease but love the friend? This perceived anger or displeasure from God toward man is the primary damage caused by religious scar tissue. It is also propagated by religion. We are even subtly led to believe that God is still angry, but Jesus went to the cross to appease God for us, because God needed someone to pay. And Jesus is the only one standing between us and an angry God. Not so! For God so LOVED the world… God was IN Christ reconciling the world to himself…Jesus came to show us the Father and if you have seen Me, He said, you have seen the Father.
When we see Jesus, in His love and compassion, we have seen the Father in His love and compassion. Jesus introduced us to the Father and His unconditional love, a love that could not be fully revealed, nor experienced in the Old Covenant setting, although God’s love for humanity was the same then as now; for God is love. Jesus came to reveal our misunderstood loving Father to humanity. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has not changed, and He is love, and He was and is forever love, unconditional love. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one love (agape), no exceptions. An interpreter interprets from a language that one does not understand, to a language that the one receiving the interpretation can understand.
This interpretation from God to man, through Jesus, is the language of love. John 5:19: ”Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” Jesus interprets the Father to us.” He came to reveal the Father’s love for us, and His love was demonstrated to us on the cross! Rom 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God has ALWAYS loved us, and Jesus revealed the Father’s love for us. He did all of this, to re-introduce us to ourselves. Understanding this, I believe, will heal religious scar tissue that continues to find its way into our thinking, because of our “angry God” mentality.
The Garden of Eden
Let’s look at Gen. 2, where it all started. Here in the garden, Adam lost his way. Before Adam fell, he was highly favored and all the wealth of this earth was drawn to Adam and spewed out at his feet from the river Pishon; he did not have to dig for the gold or onyx, it was laying there on the ground. The Garden of Eden means happiness, paradise, and pleasure.
This was a place where he could have fun, enjoy life and everything was richly provided for him. God created man and was well pleased with him.
Somewhere, it seems we thought that God unconditionally loved man, but put His love on hold when man fell. God then became angry, even furious, until Jesus bore His anger on the cross. How can this be? God IS love and He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever more. Is this true? What really happened in the garden? If we can catch this through the lens of grace, I believe it eliminates the religious scar tissue embedded in our minds. This is a scandal to the religious mind. Let’s look closer.
Tree of conscience. Gen. 2:9 & 16-17 TLB “At the center of the Garden of Eden (pleasure) He placed the Tree of life and the Tree of conscience, giving knowledge of good and bad. But The Lord gave the man this warning: ‘you may eat any fruit in the garden except the fruit from the tree of conscience for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad. If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.’”
Eating from this tree started an awareness of guilt, shame and condemnation. It began ruling the day, and the only way to attempt freedom from these feelings was for Adam to, “in his own effort,” pay a debt, by becoming good enough to try to qualify himself to be accepted and loved by God. He began trying to earn acceptance, love and blessings from God. This was impossible. Hence the law system was born, or introduced, so to speak, by the choice of Adam and Eve. God is love and He is only good! Not good and bad, but only good!
Just as all men became exceedingly sinful through one man Adam’s disobedience but did not know it until the law revealed it, so all men became exceedingly righteous through Jesus’ one act of righteousness but they do not know it until the gospel reveals it. (Mirror Bible intro to Romans.)
Adam’s Twisted Perception
After Adam partook of the tree of conscience, what did God do? He came in the cool of the evening to be with Adam, as He usually did. Where was Adam and Eve? Hiding because they were ashamed!
Adam’s perception became twisted. Let’s look at two areas where it was twisted.
Adams view of God: God still loved Adam, and came to him for their time of fellowship, yet Adam’s perception of God became “twisted”. He now viewed God as a hard person, judging him, a person who hated him. Adam’s shame and guilt caused him to try to hide from God.
Adams view of himself: Adam thought of himself as a person who needed to pay for his mistakes. He now thought he had to earn God’s goodness. Things were no longer free, and he became a debtor. He saw himself as an object of God’s wrath. Whenever we find ourselves with a debt we cannot pay, condemnation and guilt are sure to follow.
God had to satisfy Adam’s sense of justice. It was Adam who was obligated, and wanted to pay. Because of his guilt, Adam would always be looking for a way to pay a debt he could never pay. Adam’s sense of justice was to pay out of guilt. True forgiveness demands nothing. God freely gave His son, and He never expected anything in return.
‘So you see sin is the father of all religions. It demands that you make a payment. So God allowed man to have a religion, a system of law for man to “try to make right” his relationship with God; to render him a temporary solution to a problem he created for himself. Man thought by this manner he could bring himself to God by “installment” – an annual subscription.’ (Simon Yap)
Hebr.10:1-4: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”
Many people have a poor image of themselves, because of their concerns and view of their beginning. Although their identity and value is not based on their beginning in life, who their parents were, if they were rejected, abandoned, orphaned, abused or any other occurrence of life. These things can leave a mark in our lives, which along with our wrong belief of God and His eternal love, can cause religious scar tissue in our minds. The point is that even if we never experienced any of these events in our youth, if we don’t have a clear understanding of God’s love from the beginning through eternity, then in a time of crisis, the scar tissue begins to bring us back to the painful memories of an angry or insensitive God. One who doesn’t trust us, or suddenly switched from unconditional love to conditional love and now must put us to the test, to see if we qualify for His blessings. This is nonsense. Perfect love cast out fear, because fear has torment! Perfect love is God’s eternal, unconditional love and acceptance of us. When we feel unloved by God, it is as though that “wrong believing” scar tissue flares up and tries to draw us back to a conditional view of God’s love. It is here, where we find ourselves by returning to the law again, trying to appease God or fix things in our own effort. That is not His love, His love continually and gently leads us to His rest, no conditions, no strings attached, no obligation. God has always loved us, and because God so loved the world; (He is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore), God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Eph. 1:4 Mirror, “He associated us in Christ before the fall of the world! Jesus is God’s mind made up about us! He always knew in His love that He would present us again face-to-face before Him in blameless innocence.”
I believe an understanding of God’s unconditional love from the beginning, is vital for us to be established, strengthened, and settled in this gospel of grace. It also helps us to understand the height, depth, length and breadth of God’s love for us, filling us with all the fullness of God.
Eph. 3:16-21 (Murdock) that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit; that in your inner man the Messiah may dwell by faith, and in your hearts by love, while your root and your foundation waxeth strong; and that ye may be able to explore, with all the saints, what is the height and depth, and length and breadth, and may know the greatness of the Messiah’s love; and that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able, by his almighty power, to do for us even more than we ask or think, according to his power that worketh in us; to him be glory, in his church, by Jesus the Messiah, in all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
If we have not settled that ALL sin debt was fully paid at the cross, then we will be un-settled, un-established and without strength, returning to our own efforts (the law) to try to pay a debt again. Love forever paid the debt, we can rest in that. Sometimes we face contradictions in life that can challenge our beliefs. It is during these times that we need to be established in His love, because His love is the only thing that will cast out fear. Focus on the crisis and the fear meter goes up, focus on His love and the fear is cast out. This is the very reason we need to be settled in His love. His love brings victory in our contradiction; confusion about His love will inflame the “scar tissue” and attempt to return us to the law to save ourselves.
I don’t think we can exaggerate God’s grace. I love the way 2 Cor. 9:8 states this in the Mirror translation; “It is impossible to exaggerate the dimensions and detail of the grace of God! Plunge into the extravagance of grace where He exhibits the extreme dynamics of His bountiful dealings with us! We are already advantaged far beyond any calculation of personal merit to be totally self sufficient at all times in every possible situation that we might face! The overflow thereof amply supplies the needs of others in many creative ways to do good!” Now that is unconditional love!
I believe the grace revolution is awakening us to the absolute goodness and love of God, and the truth that God has always highly valued and loved man. Let’s not let the old way of thinking inflame the scar tissue of an old wound back to an angry God mindset. It is a distraction from the truth, and disturbs our peace and rest. Israel failed to enter His rest because of unbelief. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest. Experience His love and let it fill you to overflowing. Receive His abundance of grace and gift of righteousness (love gifts) and reign in life through one Christ Jesus.