I’ve been dwelling on the gospel lately: what it is and what it means. If you just glance at it as it rolls by like hills on a road trip, you’ll be robbed of the full force of the truth. Sure, creation, fall, redemption, restoration—the gospel—it’s important on Sunday morning, but what about on a Friday afternoon? Oh, friends, we need a new map. This is, after all, our own adventure—we find ourselves somewhere in the middle of this epic, oscillating between the fall and redemption phases. Let’s pull the van over, grab a picnic, take off our shoes, and see what the hills feel like under our bare toes. Come plop yourself down into the middle of each gospel stage and poke around a bit. Smell it, taste it, get its substance under your fingernails.
I’m not sure how long this garden has been my home, but I can’t fathom being anywhere better. I have a strong, healthy, capable body. My soul knows deep, deep down that it is holy, spotless, safe, and free. I’ve never experienced fear, never felt embarrassment. I am naked and unashamed, brimming with the dignity my Creator wanted for me, exulting in His wonderful design. Oh, how I resemble Him! He and I are intimate friends, and we discuss life on a daily basis. I know my purpose—it gives me an overwhelming sense of excitement to creatively live it out. God has given me the most remarkable creature on the planet to enjoy and worship Him with. Respect marks our marriage, and we’re both completely satisfied. We don’t even know what a disagreement is. We’ve been given a position of power over everything on earth, and we serve our Lord in a way that’s naturally characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. At the end of the day, we lie down in gladness and experience the quiet strength of a heart at peace with God, one another, the rest of creation, and ourselves. I couldn’t possibly be more content.
Ponder: What’s your favorite facet of the creation phase? Why?
The garden isn’t my home anymore; death is. My own sin and that of my spouse has wrecked everything good, and bitterness poisons my soul. We’ve traded God for an idol—being like Him—and lost any sense of peace or joy we ever knew. Our relationship is filled with destruction, blame, and desperation. Destruction and foolishness have taken up residence within me, and I harbor contempt for anything good. I’m naturally suspicious now and constantly at war with myself, with God, with others, and with creation. I’ve been bound by sin, trapped by death, gagged by decay. My dignity has been replaced with depravity, beauty with brokenness. Emotions I couldn’t even dream of before—rage, lust, confusion, apathy, terror, despair—have become my constant companions. I’ve lost any sense of purpose; life has become tedious. I’m thwarted at every turn, and I’ve replaced God’s image with my own. Worst of all, I have become intimately acquainted with the Lord’s judgment and have nothing to look forward to but an eternity of death.
Ponder: Which aspect of the fall phase hits home most with you right now? Why?
My heart’s about to burst with the news: I’ve been rescued! God (can you believe it?!) set things right for me. I’m no longer powerless to sin, death, and hell. The Lord gives me new mercies each morning and a voice for justice and goodness in a world that is still writhing in its wounding. I am broken but beautiful. Every day I grow more in grace—receiving it and extending it—though I’m constantly at war with my rebellious tendencies. I live in a rhythm of repentance and reconciliation, waiting for glory. Oh, how I wait! I survive on God’s promises. Even when I give in to sin, hope meets me there in the dark, urges me to remember the cross. I’m being chased down by Love and have no desire to get away unscathed. He blesses me beyond the curse. I’m given glimpses of what the fulfilled promises will be like, but I’m so limited in my understanding and ability to reflect God well. I wrestle with the old life of shame and worry and power mongering, but it has no permanent chains on me anymore. I’ve been forgiven and can forgive—even others, even myself. Most of all, I’m growing in awareness of my own neediness, my own dependence on the Lord and His people. We gather together, imperfectly reverberating His character down through the ages, holding our breath for the promises to come true.
Ponder: Where do you find hope in the redemption phase? Why?
I can’t even express how happy I am in this moment, this moment that will stretch into eternity. Christ has won, and now there’s no stopping the celebration! I’m finally fully free—from pain, from fear, from sin, from sadness, from my past, from physical limitations, from shallow thinking. Death has died once and for all, and I get to walk in the perpetual blessing of God forever. Countless saints worship with me, all clamoring to proclaim His goodness and victory in their lives. We look forward to millennia of late night conversations about the Lamb. I’ve been given a new body that’s beyond the reach of decay. I’m confident in my purpose again and joyfully surrender to it. The struggles, the strivings have ended, and more than ever before, I’m swallowed up by a profound sense of peace. God lives and breathes and moves among His people, and we need no lamp because His presence lights up all of creation. The world sighs with relief. And I know that I am forever home.
Ponder: What are you most looking forward to in the restoration phase? Why?