Protection Not Punishment

Genesis 3:22-24
When God removed Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, it is often assumed that it was punishment because of their disobedience to God. But is that really the case? We see in Genesis 3:16-19 that God does indeed pronounce curses upon Adam, Eve, and the earth itself. Not only was death the result of disobedience to God, so were decay, suffering, and pain. Then, towards the end of the incident, God removes them from the garden. But why? He had already punished them. Fortunately, God tells us. They had already eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As a result they were going to die. They were now in a state of separation from God in need of a redeemer. Their nature had changed. That’s what God is saying in v. 22. What would have happened if they had eaten from the tree of Life? God says that they would have lived forever. Isn’t eternal life the gift that God has for us through Jesus? Yes it is. However, if Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life in their separated, unregenerate, unredeemed state, they would have lived forever in that state, unable to be redeemed, unable to be regenerated, and unable to be restored to a right relationship with God. So it would seem that God wasn’t angry and kicked them out of the garden. Instead He was trying to protect them from themselves and any possibility that they would never be able to be in His presence again. I wonder how often we perceive what God is doing as punishment, when it is really protection from ourselves.

Psalm 5:1-3
God hears us. It’s so simple yet so huge. He hears us all the time, but sometimes we are in a place where we feel like we need to get His attention. Here the psalmist asks God to consider what he is meditating on. The word means to chew on something like a cow chews its cud. It feels that way sometimes. We get stuck on something in our hearts and minds and we chew on them. It can feel lonely. We can ask God to listen in and chew on them with us. Other times we can cry out to God because He is the only one we can cry out to and it does any good. Sometimes we just can’t wait and it’s the first thing we do. Have you ever thought of your prayer as a sacrifice? In other places we are told to “lift up” our prayers in the way sacrifices were lifted up to God. Granted, early morning prayer can feel like a sacrifice! But it is something the Lord wants from us. It isn’t about the action, it’s about the heart behind the action. Sacrifices are an external representation of what’s inside of us. At the same time it can take discipline to get into the habit. But if we see it as an offering to God done out of our love for Him, perhaps our concept of prayer will change and we will want to do it more. What does the Lord hear from you first thing in the morning?

Matthew 4:25
It would be easy to be cynical and read this as people just looking out for their own needs and not really caring about Jesus. Apparently that didn’t really matter to Jesus, not at this point anyway. He healed, cast out demons, and encouraged people anyway. But why did they come to Him from all over? What was the draw? Was it a flashy show? Was it the cool vibe Jesus put off? Was it the multimedia? These are the things we try to do today to get people into the church. We try to draw them in with our own strengths. Granted that God gives us gifts and talents to use to bring glory to Him. There isn’t anything wrong with great music, presentation, or any of that. But that shouldn’t be the thing that draws and keeps people. What was it about Jesus? His ability to change lives. I’m not downplaying healing or exorcism. Those are significant things that I would love to seem more of. But most people don’t need those things. They need their lives transformed. They are hopeless, depressed, angry, drug addicted, porn addicted, lonely people who are looking for love, meaning, and redemption in all the wrong places. This is what Jesus does. He transforms lives. Is that what people see in you? Is that what they see in your church? What are you putting all of your energy and resources into? The power to change lives is what the gospel is all about.

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