A few years ago I was in Lebanon on mission. While there I was invited to give a talk to a group of men in a drug rehab center. I spoke to them about God’s love, after which I led them in a brief time of ministry. It was a very powerful session where God’s presence could be tangibly felt, and I knew that he had done something with the addicts, because those who weren’t sobbing looked like they had been hit on the head with a brick. Many of them testified how they had felt the love of God during this time.
Just before concluding the session, I told them to share what they had experienced with others, especially those who were hurtful towards others. I explained that the reason most of us hurt other people is because we are hurting. If we cease to hurt, we will cease to hurt others, and God’s love was the only way to attain this healing. Now, as you are probably aware, Syria borders Lebanon, and for years a group called ISIS have been torturing and killing people. I suggested it wouldn’t hurt for them to talk to these people too because they also needed to experience God’s love.
There was an old man sitting at the back of the church and I noticed he was getting increasingly agitated as I was talking. It wasn’t long before I discovered why. He was the gatekeeper, and as we were exiting the premises, he stopped our car and asked us to roll our windows down. Looking directly at me he said, “Certain Muslim leaders tell their children to kill ours while they sit at home doing nothing. You are just like them, telling our children to go and face them knowing that it might mean their death while you sit at home doing nothing.” I didn’t say anything—I know when to keep quiet—but when I reached our residence I went straight to Jesus in prayer and asked him what that was all about. “Are you trying to tell me something?” I asked.
“Aneel,” he said, in the quiet voice I had learned to recognize. “You are a brave man and you have preached in countries where they can put you in jail for what you say, but you have never preached in a country where they can cut your head off for what you say.”
“Why are you saying this?” I asked. “Do you want me to go to Syria?” And in the same quiet voice, he replied, “Yes.”
I didn’t hesitate. Many years ago I had promised that I would do whatever he asked, including dying for him, and if this is what he wanted, then so be it. I immediately started making preparations to go to Syria. Needless to say, everybody around me was very upset.
A week later, somebody asked me, “Aneel, aren’t you afraid you will die out there?” Without giving it any thought, I replied: “Why should I be? In Christ I am already dead.” But later, when I gave it some more thought, I realized the profundity of that statement, which contained only half the truth. The full truth is this: “In Christ I am already dead, but in Christ I am also alive and I will be alive for eternity.” And this basic truth of our faith, so simple yet so deep, suddenly brought clarity about so many things that had always seemed opaque, and answered so many questions that I had asked over the years as I journeyed with Christ. This series of articles will attempt to explain these things.
I don’t usually preface my articles with a story about how they came to be—I leave that to popular writers like Stephen King—but as there are lessons to be learned from this story too, I decided to incorporate it into this article. Let us now get to the heart of the truth about death and eternal life.
A Pharisee named Nicodemus once went to meet Jesus and a very interesting conversation ensued between two. Jesus told the man, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Surprised, Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’” (John 3:3-7).
Although the term isn’t used here, this transformation that God’s grace accomplishes in a person during baptism is what is often referred to as being “born again”. But being “born again” implies a death that precedes it, and this needs to be properly understood if we are to be able to lead the abundant life that Jesus says those who are born again will lead.
From Life to Death
Let us begin at the beginning. The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. God spoke into the darkness and created light. He created night and day. He created land and sea and sky. He created trees and plants. He created birds and animals and fish. He created seasons. And when he was done creating everything, he created his masterpiece—man and woman—fashioned after himself.
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).
This was the crowning point of creation, when God created man and woman, in his image and likeness. The full image of God is the male and female together, created different but equal, with intellect, emotions, volition, and spirit. He placed Adam and Eve, as the first man and woman were named, in a lovely garden called Eden, where the trees were beautiful to look at and whose fruit was delightful to eat. He gave them dominion, not only of the place but also over all of creation, with the promise that they would enjoy eternal communion with him in Eden. There was only one little thing he asked of them in return.
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16-17).
One may ask: why did God make this prohibition? Because he did not want us to be puppets; he wanted us to choose to obey him of our free will. He could very well have made us like the animals, without freedom of choice, but he wanted us to be different, and it is this difference that makes us so special and gives us our main identity, something we will look at later in this article.
With a warning like that, you would think Adam and Eve would ensure that they stayed miles away from this tree, but what’s forbidden always seems appealing, and they did the opposite. Always waiting for an opportunity to destroy what is good, the devil seized the chance to tempt Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will 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” (Genesis 3:1-5).
The devil used a two-pronged strategy to get Adam and Eve to sin. It’s a strategy he continues to use to this day so we might want to take a look at it. He posits two things. One: God is not good. Two: God is a liar.
The argument he makes in the first instance is that if God were good, he would not hold anything from us. He wouldn’t restrict us from anything because restrictions limit and frustrate us. So because he keeps things from us he cannot be good. Look at the forbidden fruit. As Adam and Eve could well see, it was good. So why the prohibition?
The second argument follows from the first. Since God does not want us to have things, he has to frighten us with the threat of punitive action should we choose to go ahead and have what he forbids. The devil tells Adam and Eve, however, that this is not true because God is a liar. Look again at what the devil tells Eve: “God says that you will die if you eat of the fruit, but you won’t die. Instead you will become like God!” It is very tempting to be like God, and Adam and Eve couldn’t resist. Pride took care of the rest and it led to the fall.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:6-8).
Eve succumbs to temptation and eats the fruit. She then compounds one mistake with another by making her husband eat it too. Not that he needed much persuasion. The fact that he was right beside Eve the entire time and made no attempt to stop her from eating the fruit suggested how much he wanted to eat it as well!
Notice the pattern here, which is common with all sin. First, comes the rationalization. The fruit was good to eat. It was beautiful to look at. It would make one wise. So what harm would it do to eat it?
Second, comes the disobedience. Eve eats the fruit and Adam does so too. Realize how easily both of them could have had a little word of counsel with God—after all, he walked in the garden with them—but they didn’t want the counsel; they just wanted to do what they wanted to do!
Third, comes the consequence. Their relationship with each other was instantly damaged, with the openness they shared utterly destroyed, shame and guilt taking its place. Worse, their relationship with God was destroyed as well. Whereas all this time they had been able to walk in amazing fellowship with God, they now tried to hide from him.
This spiritual separation from God was the death that he had warned them about, and this had other consequences.
Slavery to Sin
But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:9-15).
It is interesting—and illuminating—to note that following Adam and Eve’s disobedience, it was God who came looking for them. When he questioned them, they did what everybody confronted with sin does—pin the blame on somebody else. The man blamed the woman (and God for giving him the woman!). And the woman blamed the serpent. The serpent, of course, was to blame for tempting them, but by giving into temptation, Adam and Eve placed themselves (and us) under Satan’s dominion. And humankind was doomed forever. Or was it?
God had already made provision for a Savior. Satan used one woman to introduce sin into the race. God would use another woman to bring salvation, and her offspring would crush the serpent’s head underneath his feet, achieving victory for all time. His name is Jesus.
But in the meantime, everything in the fallen world would change. The woman would suffer pain in childbirth and be subservient to her husband. As for the man, painful toil and physical death awaited him. What was once freely available, would now be obtained through the sweat of his brow, and in the end, he would die, his body mixed with the soil he worked.
The fig leaf wasn’t going to be adequate to cover their nakedness either. The Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21). God killed animals to clothe his fallen children, and by doing so taught them many things. He taught them how awful sin was in the sight of God and how there could be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.
Why cannot God simply forgive? Because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). God is just and he cannot allow a sin to pass without administering justice. Why is blood required to be shed? Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). Because the life of the flesh is in the blood; given for making atonement for on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement (Leviticus 17:11).
God also demonstrated that a substitute could die in their place. The animals would be the sin-bearers who died instead of us, and in the years that followed, these sacrifices were made time and time again (see Leviticus 1-6).
The method followed was standard. The sinner was required to bring an animal (a bull, goat, lamb, turtledoves or pigeons, depending on their position in society—the higher the position of responsibility the greater the sacrifice) to the priest. This animal would have to be without blemish. The offender laid a hand upon the animal, thereby identifying with the animal, and in some metaphysical way transferring his sins onto the animal, which was then killed, dying instead of the offender. The priest would then collect the blood and sprinkle it around the altar and the sanctuary, after which the worshiper would cut up and skin the animal. After the priest had arranged the various parts on the altar, the entire animal was burned as a sacrifice.
These sacrifices were made year after year, but eventually, God would send his son Jesus to die for us—as the perfect and ultimate sacrifice.
The Lamb of God
One day, about 2,000 years ago, a man named John was baptizing people in the wilderness for the forgiveness of sins, when he looked up and declared: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The “lamb” was Jesus, God’s Son, sent to die for humankind because he “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).
How does this work? Remember the animal we were required to place our hand on when making a sin sacrifice in the days before Jesus? This may be a simplistic way of explaining it, but it should make it easy to understand. When we are baptized, we do the equivalent of laying our hand on Jesus as we did on the animal, identifying with him, and transferring our sins onto him. When Jesus is crucified, we are crucified with him, our sins nailed to the cross with him. When he dies we die with him. As Paul writes in his famous letter to the Romans, all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death (Romans 6:3).
From Death to Life
Now here is the kicker. When Jesus rose from the dead we, too, rose to new life, no longer slaves to the devil and in bondage to sin, but restored to oneness with our Father in heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it succinctly: Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; John 15:1-4) (CCC1988).
Peter writes: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4).
So what’s new?
So what is this ‘newness’ and how does it happen? In the first three chapters of his letter to the Romans, Paul describes the unbreakable and unshakable hold that sin has on us as we are all “in Adam.” Despite our best efforts we cannot seem to be able to live a life pleasing to God. We lead degenerate lives. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1NIV).
This hold, however, breaks when we are baptized “in Christ.” Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians writes: So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We still look the same on the outside, but inside our sinful nature has been fully replaced with a new person, a being who stands righteous in the eyes of God the Father, because of the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ when he was crucified on the cross.
Our old self was crucified with Christ. Paul emphasizes this several times in his letter to the Romans. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6). Then again, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:19-20).
Many believers continue to succumb to sinful desires because they assume that they are helpless to overcome them. However, this isn’t true because when we accept Christ as our Savior, not only does God free us from sin, he empowers us to remain freed from sin by living in us—if, of course, we permit him to.
A new heart comes with the new nature. Speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, God said: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
The new heart comes from God. He transplants the old heart which has become hard and calloused through years of hurt and rejection, giving us a new heart that receives the tremendous love of God. This love soon results in a deep desire for Christ and the things of God. We begin to realize, with absolute certainty, that Jesus is the truth we have been seeking all along, and now, having found him, we want to know all there is to know about him. Then we discover that the more we know him, the more we love him, and the more we love him, the more we want to know him, leading to a steadily and continuously deepening relationship.
This love also makes us want to lead a life pleasing to God because we realize that there is nothing that will bring us more happiness than to make the person we love—and who loves us—happy. As weak and concupiscent human beings we might still sin, but it is no longer the involuntary and shameless act that it once used to be. Now sin is accompanied by deep regret and deeper revulsion, and a firm resolve not to return to it. And God helps fulfill this resolution. This he does through his Holy Spirit, which is bestowed upon everyone baptized in Christ.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to live this “new life” and also to bring others to the knowledge of it. Jesus, himself, proved an example of what happens after receiving the Holy Spirit. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).
Jesus then proceeded to heal the sick, drive out demons, teach and preach and do other great works, in fulfillment of the prophesy by Isaiah who had said: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
A little over 2,000 years ago, Jesus went into the temple, picked up the scroll of Isaiah, and read this passage. Then he put the scroll down, looked up at his listeners and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). To say something “is fulfilled” means it has already been done. Which, in turn, means that all that Jesus has fulfilled is all part of the “new life” that we now have; our inheritance.
Our inheritance encompasses many things and we would do well to know what these are because they have the power to transform how we lead our lives as Christians. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). A lack of knowledge about what Jesus has secured for us by his death and resurrection permits Satan to continue stealing what is our inheritance as Christians. So what is our inheritance?
We have been redeemed, saved, restored and forgiven. We have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, made pure and holy. We are blessed. We have been healed by Jesus’ stripes. We are set free, made strong, and given complete victory over the enemy. And we are inducted into God’s family, becoming children of the Father, a friend of Jesus, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.
I have divided these into five categories, and also written a song [see Box: The Blessed Lamb of God] that will help us to remember these truths of our faith—and declare them—until they become an integral part of our belief system. Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). These declarations of faith will help us in reprogramming our minds from the lies of the world to the truths of heaven.
I’m redeemed, I’m saved ...
Redemption is the process of restoring man from the bondage of sin to the liberty of the children of God through the merits of Christ. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7). Redemption involves both God and man. On God’s part, divine honor has been repaired and divine wrath has been appeased. On our part we have been delivered from the bondage of sin and our relationship with God has been restored.
After we are redeemed from our sins, the process of salvation begins with the grace of God touching a sinner’s heart and calling him to repent. This is an ongoing process of loving God, loving neighbor, living a righteous life, and repenting when we sin, but when we accept Christ as Savior, we are saved. Consequently, we are able to declare: I’m redeemed, I am saved, I’m restored, and I’m forgiven.
I’m washed, I’m cleansed ...
Speaking for God the prophet Isaiah wrote, Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool (Isaiah 1:18). This happens when we are washed in the “precious blood” of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
This blood is the physical blood actually shed by Jesus Christ on the Cross, but is also the sacramental blood present in the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. And it has the power to wash, cleanse, purify and protect. In the Old Testament, we saw the blood of animals being used for these purposes, but as the author of the letter to the Hebrews asks: For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! (Hebrews 9:13-14).
There are many prayers that are part of our devotion to the blood of Jesus including this one that may be familiar: May the most precious blood which flowed from the most holy wounds of our loving Lord Jesus pour over us, to wash, cleanse, purify, heal, guide, and protect us from all evil, harm, sickness, and bless and make us as holy as we can be. We ask this in the holy name of Jesus and through his most precious blood and his most holy wounds. Amen.
This is also why we declare: I am washed, I am cleansed, I’m pure, and I’m holy. At this point, one might say: “But I sin, how can I be holy?” Don’t declare what you do; declare what Jesus has done. You’ll soon see the difference.
I am blessed, I am healed ...
The psalmist declares with joy: “you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows: (Psalm 23:5). How much more should our cups overflow with the new life? Paul declares that “the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 18:16-17). Yet, few among us live lives befitting heirs of God, which is perhaps the reason Paul prayed this: I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19). Then he continues. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (3:20). This should make us a grateful people, constantly thanking him for his blessings, instead of always harping on how we have so little.
And not only has he blessed us, he has healed us as well—in soul, spirit, heart, mind, and body. The prophet cried: Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). This is not just spiritual healing the prophet speaks about, but also physical healing. Soon after he began his ministry, Jesus in quick succession healed a leper, a centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:16-17). Why, then, are so many of us sick? There are several reasons. One reason are the obstacles that prevent the blessings of God from flowing in our lives. Consider the sun in the sky. It is always shining. Yet, there are times in the middle of the day when we might look up and not see it there. Why? Because there are clouds that block it from view. God is like the sun. He cannot stop blessing any more than the sun can stop shining. Yet we don’t experience them because there are blocks on the way, the biggest being unrepented sin, unforgiveness, and the belief that we are in control over everything. Eliminate these blocks and see how blessed we start to become. The first heals the soul; the second heals the heart; the third heals the mind. Physical healing almost automatically follows.
Another reason is we expect God to heal us on our own terms. He won’t. He is God. He will heal us on his own terms, and that might involve us doing some pretty weird things. Think of the healing of Naaman as one such example (see 2 Kings 5). Think of the healing of a blind man as another (see John 9:1-12).
A third reason is the fact that we are constantly confessing our ailments. The instant we feel any pain in our bodies, we complain about it very vocally. When we visit the doctor, we seem very eager to tell everybody what he has said is wrong with us. There is power in what we say. God didn’t think the world into existence, he spoke it into existence. As people created in his image and likeness, what we say has power too. This is one of the reasons why we are being asked to make these declarations of faith: because there is power in declaring them. So, let us declare blessings instead of curses, healing instead of sickness.
I am free, I am strong ...
Two of the strongest weapons the enemy has in his arsenal are fear and guilt, and it is the rare Christian who isn’t attacked by one or the other. Let us take note of Paul’s words to the Colossians: And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2:13-15).
When God forgives us, he erases the record that stands against us. Sin creates a legal debt, but God cancels that debt by issuing a verdict of not guilty because his Son has paid the price. So let us not feel guilty about sins truly repented for. However, if this isn’t enough to assure us, consider these things that God has said at various times in the course of history. God treads our iniquities underfoot, casting our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). God blots out our transgressions and will not remember our sins (Isaiah 43:25). This “forgetting” of our sins is confirmed in Hebrews 8:12. He removes our sins (Psalm 103:12) and covers them (Romans 4:7-8). So, then, no reason for guilt.
And there’s no reason for fear either, because the enemy has been disarmed. Not only that, Jesus has given us authority to trample over him. “See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
So let us declare that we are free, we are strong, we are totally victorious.
I belong to God’s family
And finally we come to our identity. In Genesis 2:21-22 we find God giving man a partner to live with him and help him. This gave them a sense of belonging, or acceptance. Then God blesses them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). This gave them a divine purpose, or significance. Then God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29), providing for man’s needs, ensuring his safety and security.
After the Fall, death entered the world, and while man and woman did not perish instantly, they would not live for as long as God had intended. They died spiritually as well, separated from God. Acceptance changed to rejection resulting in a desperate need to belong. Significance turned to a sense of unworthiness resulting in a need for self-worth. Their sense of safety and security vanished, resulting in a need for control.
This was our legacy. We tried to compensate in our own way. Our need to belong led us into all sorts of relationships. Our need for self-worth led us into a search for power, prestige, success and glory. Our need for safety and security led us into attempts, often manic, to acquire wealth and property. Unfortunately, as most of us know, these don’t do anything other than compound the problem as they introduce a greater measure of fear, anxiety and stress into the mix because of the transient nature of these things.
Christ changed everything. By dying for us as a sacrifice for our sins, he restored the harmony in our relationship with our father in heaven, consequently giving us the acceptance, significance and security that we craved for. How?
The gospel of John begins with the words declaring that to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God (John 1:12). This makes us children of God, with all the rights of a child. And as we saw earlier, the Spirit of God, himself, bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).
Jesus also calls us brothers and sisters and the author of the letter to the Hebrews makes a note of this (see Hebrews 2:11). Christ also calls us his friend (John 15:15). If being a son of God and a brother/sister or friend of Christ isn’t enough, we are also temples of the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know,” Paul asks, “that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). And through this Holy Spirit within us we have direct access to God (Ephesians 2:18) who accepts us completely and totally.
Being a child of the Father, a brother/sister of Jesus, and a temple of the Holy Spirit also makes us significant, in that we are not ordinary people. Jesus, who was divine became human so that we, who are human, can become divine. The Catechism confirms: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (CCC460).
But our significance not only comes from who we are but what we are chosen to do. Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14), great truths that show us that we are once again people of great significance.
Jesus also tells us that we have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16) and we can do this in great abundance because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
And in everything we are now secure. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, a brilliant theological treatise of the faith, he writes of how we are secure in God. He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:32-35,37—39).
Free from condemnation (also see Romans 8:1-2), assured that all things work together for good (see Romans 8:28), and established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22), we can be secure and confident that the good work God has begun in us will be perfected (Philippians 1:6). So let us declare with boldness that we are children of God, friends of Jesus, and temples of the Holy Spirit.
All thanks to the Blessed Lamb of God.