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November 2016 (Vol. 61, No.9)

Dear Saints of Grace congregation,

  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. His creation was perfect in every way without the slightest defect, deficiency, or blemish. When mankind and all the rest of creation fell into sin, what God brought into being completely changed. Like the movie Beauty and the Beast the fall of the crown of creation propagated down through the rest of the visible kingdom.

  The fall from perfection can be visualized as the complete destruction of a house by fire. Suppose you designed and built the perfect house and desired to show it off to your parents, but as you went to get them and bring them back to your masterpiece, someone burnt the place to the ground. Your folks arrived, and they try to be polite. They are, however, unable to make heads or tails out of exactly what you were trying to achieve. The damage was not slight but catastrophic. What happened to God's good creation in the Fall has left us with something that only reveals the eternal, awesome, and powerful attributes of our Creator. None of the original goodness, beauty, and overflowing abundance of the Garden of Eden remains.

  "God is good" is a doctrine we confess by faith and not by sight. Looking at the universe or the mountains or the oceans or any of it, and trying to make heads or tails out of a loving God is as impossible as attempting to understand what your son was up to when he designed this pile of ash, smoke, and rubble.

  The distance between our current lives and those first days in Genesis, however, is even greater than just the original Fall. There was another catastrophic event which has removed us even further from God's original home for Adam and Eve. The Flood brought to an end the "world the way it was" after sin. The place we live in now and inhabit today is two steps removed from Eden. The first drop is the big one, original sin, but the second, though smaller, is still on a scale unlike anything that has happened to the physical world since. We are two destructive events removed from the life Adam and Eve first experienced. The Apostle Peter spells this out in 2 Peter 3:4 - 7, "...all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation. For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was detroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved..."

  Two steps down is no good. The Fall and the Flood have brought us to this current physical reality which has placed a blinding distance between us and who God really is. We do not need any faith to recognize that the world is frightfully cold, indifferent, scary, destructive, and filled with death. It is only the eyes of faith that are capable of clinging to a belief in another world and a loving God who is now two steps removed from our sensory perception. Thankfully, two steps down does have a two-step reversal. We begin to regain our spiritual eyes.

  The resurrection of Christ is the first "step up". When Jesus rose from the dead so did we, and the death that He no longer dies has become our inherited reality. Easter morning is the first step back to where God is taking us. The second step is His coming in glory to judge both the quick and the dead. On that day what has been started through faith in His resurrection will be revealed completely, and the Christ who now is, will finally be seen by us as He is, and as a result we will see ourselves as we really are. When Christ who is our life is revealed then we also will be revealed with Him in glory. For it has not appeared as yet what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him just as He is.

  What is the point to all this? Two steps down and two steps up. Where is the value? How does this theology comfort and inform us today? If one tries to approach the universe and find in nature the God of nature, that person will not find love, forgiveness, grace, hope, comfort, the cross or any of the essential elements of saving faith. No one can look at the world and reach any salutary conclusion about God and His Christ. Creation tells man something about God but none of the important stuff. You will, however, find out more about a man by listening to what he says rather than looking at what he has built. And that is even more true if you are looking at the house he has constructed after the fire and the flood. A Creator directly associated with this current universe is telling us He is bitter, callous, intimidating, lethal, and in the end, moving all things toward an isolated, cruel, lonely death. The "two-steps down" Creation informs us that there is a God and that He is big, powerful, creative, even God-like, but that's about it. And what "GOD-like" means is left for us to fill in the blanks as experience informs us. That little bit of knowledge about Him is dangerous and provides absolutely no relief. It leaves folks so desperate in their search for meaning they end up clinging to nonsense like evolution or "having sympathy for the devil".

  The comforting and valuable part of this essay is the "two-steps up" part. Suppose one were to look at the Holy Christian Church in its current state and try to draw some conclusions about God and His people? Just like the physical world (but in reverse order) God's church is removed from its ultimate condition. An outsider, a non-believer, for example, has not participated by faith in the resurrection of Christ, and all of us are awaiting His Second Coming. Hence, both Christians and non-Christians, the entire human race, are either one or two steps removed from what His church really looks like and what it says about its Creator.

  That's the value of theology. We do not have to look at the world for answers about the true nature of God, and we do not look at the present condition of the Holy Christian Church to understand our status and standing before Him. This current age is in a state of constant flux and is characterized by decay and death, and is, therefore, not the domain of eternal truth. Our eyes deceive us. For even at our best, human discovery is flawed. The Word of God, on the other hand, does not deceive us. It is not flawed and is not a place of constant change. We do not discover things about the Word of God. All things are revealed to us through it. Revelation, not discovery. Believing, not seeing. Listening to what God says both about creation and the new creation is where one is assured, by His grace, of the truth about all things. The Word not the world is telling us the whole story. Hearing what the Bible says is like getting the story straight from the horse's mouth. Looking at the night sky or even looking at the church in its lukewarm, proud, flawed, and unenlightened-fanatical condition is like getting God's story one or two steps removed. We have in the Word of God a privileged view of reality, and this prvilege is blessed inside information. And inside information is powerful, comforting, and a great relief to souls in distress. God is our only refuge. The nearness of God is our only good. His Word is a strong tower into which the rightous run and are sheltered and enjoy their Christ. Christ is our warrior and champion, our sanctuary from the storm in the face or a world and a strife-ridden church that are not telling the whole story.

  The peace of God be with you,