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On 11 May 2000 a lady found a new e-mail message on her computer, which simply said, "I love you". It looked innocent enough, perhaps even romantic. Like most of us would, she clicked to open the message, and the so-called "Love Bug" was born. With lightning speed it raced around the world, bringing politics and business to a halt. It was a deadly computer virus that caused millions of computer software programs to crash. It was only a one little, but it caused so much contamination. But it’s not the first time that a single virus has caused so much grief to mankind. In fact, it’s a kind of replay of a deadlier virus that hit Planet Earth more than six thousand years ago polluting the first human couple, Adam and Eve. Despite God’s warning not to click on to Satan’s message, they did so with appalling consequences for them and through them to all mankind. That virus is called "Sin".
Ephesians 6.10-12 Especially, "schemes of the devil..."
Here Paul explains the realities of evil in this world. How different this is from popular ideas about evil. There is a comical view of evil -- the character who wears a red suit and carries a pitch fork. Then there is the Hollywood view of evil as we see in the Star Wars movies: Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and (for the serious Star Wars fans...) Darth Sidious. You can picture these figures dressed in black with haunting faces and piercing eyes. But is that a realistic picture of evil?
It is not. Evil is more likely to be found in comedians, actors, singers, politicians, or even pastors. St. Paul said, "Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11.14). Evil is found wherever we are led away from God.
Paul also speaks about the "schemes of the devil." The Greek word is "methodia" or the "methods" of the devil. What are these? Probably the most important is that of deception. The word "devil" means "deceiver." He is so adept at this that he is not at all afraid to use the Bible. In fact that is one of his favorite schemes. In the Garden of Eden he tempted Adam and Eve beginning with God's word and causing them to doubt it and finally to disobey it. In the wilderness he tried to tempt Jesus by quoting Scripture.
AUGUSTINE AND THE FOUR STATES OF MAN
In the 5th century AD, St. Augustine wrote about the "4 States of Man":
* The first state of man (the haec sunt prima) is "living according to the flesh -- with reason making no resistance." This can be seen in so many ancient cultures and religions (and unfortunately more than a few in our own time) with their human sacrifices, their idols, their pagan ceremonies, and even cannibalism. Human life -- without power -- was lightly regarded. Animals, especially domesticated animals, were often valued more highly than human life. Reason often vanishes when weighed against lust and self-gratification. Even today, this seems to be coming full circle.
* The second state of man is "recognition of sin through the Law . . . but sinning knowingly." It was so important for Satan to remove the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and courtrooms. It was critical for him to "separate church and state." So long as people knew the Law, it would not be so easy to ignore the Law. Without the reminders of the Law, we easily return to the first state of man. Does any of this sound familiar?
* The third state of man is "faith in the help of God -- but he perseveres in seeking to please God." Man has begun to be moved by the Spirit of God. We are already standing with one foot in the hell which we have created, but in the "third state", man knows it. So he still struggles against his own sinful nature because he has not yet been fully healed.
* The fourth state of man is "the full and perfect peace in God." This we find in harmony with Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see how far we have departed from God.
Augustine adds, "The will of man is always free, even and particularly when it can no longer will to do evil." But Adam and Eve were not gods, "and their 'free will' would not have sufficed, even in paradise, to merit immortality. Divine assistance was needed. Their immortality could only continue by their continued relationship with the Divine. So how much more do we need God's help since our fall?"
Augustine continues, "Even the good merits and qualities which people may display toward one another are gifts from God. Every good quality comes from His grace. God's mercy is the ground of salvation. Therefore, let no man boast. Out of faith spring hope and love. We hope only in God -- not in men and not in ourselves." ("The History of Doctrines", Reinhold Seeberg, p. 366)
Dorothy Sayers wrote, "If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace."
Christmas was not celebrated during the 1st 2 centuries after Christ’s life on earth. In AD 245, when a group of scholars attempted to pinpoint the exact date of Christ’s birth, a church council denounced the endeavor, declaring it wrong to celebrate the birthday of Christ "as though he were a King Pharaoh." In spite of official disapproval, various attempts were made to pinpoint the nativity, resulting in a confusion of dates. Among the earliest: January 1st, 6th, March 25th, and May 20th. By the middle of the 4th century, December 25th was associated as the birthday of Christ. Pope Julius formally named December 25th as the day for Christmas in AD 349.
December 25th was widely celebrated day in the Roman world. On that date, citizens observed the Natalis Solis Invicti (the Birthday of the unconquerable Sun) in honor of the Sun god, Mithras. The festival took place just after the winter solstace of the Julian calendar. Many modern Christmas customs, such as decorating a house with greenery, exchanging gifts and enjoying festive meals, originated with this pagan celebration. Scholars believe that pope Julius selected December 25th as the date of the nativity in order to win followers of Mithras as well as giving Christians an opportunity to honor Christ on his birth date.
In 17th century England, puritans objected to Christian celebrations because they had no clear biblical basis. As a result, in 1643, the parliament outlawed Christmas, Easter, and other Christian holidays. However, December 25th was so popular as a festive day, that by 1660, the citizens reclaimed it. Their neglect of the religious aspects of December 25th resulted in a growing secularization of the holiday.
The Christmas tree tradition was started in Germany in the late 15th century. At that time a popular play depicted the expulsion of Adam Eve from Eden, by a fir tree hung with apples. Soon trees were placed in the homes of Christians who interpreted it as a sym...
Christ's Personal Touch
Christ was there in creation to be close to us. We can see in vs. 7: "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." This was a close, personal touch. We are formed clay. The word picture in the original language is a potter at his wheel forming a vessel. I never paid much attention to it before, but Roger Lee brought this to my attention a couple of years ago. We were walking across the parking lot, and out of the blue Roger said, "I've been thinking about something, and you know what? Man is the only part of God's creation that He touched to create."
Everything else came into being solely through the spoken word of God. But God came close in a special way to create mankind. God got His Hands dirty, so to speak.
We see this again in vs. 21-22, when God created Eve:
21. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.
22. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
I like that personal touch of God bringing her to the man. That was the Lord. It was the pre-incarnate Christ. And He didn't have to do any of that. I am sure that He could have spoken man into existence just like He did the rest of His universe. But the Lord wanted that close, personal touch. Christ was there to be close to us.
Adam Clarke was a sales clerk in a store that sold fine silk to people of the upper classes in London. One day his employer showed young Adam how he could increase sales and profits by stretching the silk as he measured it out. Young Adam Clarke looked his employer straight in the eye and said, "Sir, your silk may stretch, but my conscience won’t."
Dr. Larry Petton
A pastor went out visiting his church members on a Saturday afternoon. At one house, it was obvious that someone was home, but nobody came to the door even though the preacher knocked several times. Finally, the minister took out his church business card and wrote out "Revelation 3:20" on the back of it and stuck it in the door: The verse says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with me."
The next day at church, surprisingly, the pastor’s card turned up in the offering plate. Below the preacher’s message was written the following quote from Genesis 3:10: "I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself."
HOW MUCH IS THAT?
Now I can’t find this in the Bible, but perhaps you’ve heard the story that before Eve was created, God was talking with Adam. He said, “You really need a helper, don’t you?” And Adam answered, “Yeah, I really do.”
So God said, “What if I make a woman? She’ll be perfect for you. She’ll be beautiful. She’ll rub your back at night, & your feet in the morning. She’ll plop grapes into your mouth. She’ll prepare all your favorite meals without fail. She’ll clean up the kitchen & take care of the kids. You’ll never have to do a thing, just sit around & be the king of your household.”
Adam said, “Boy, that sounds great, but...
One of golf’s immortal moments came when a Scotsman demonstrated the new game to President Ulysses Grant. Carefully placing the ball on the tee, he took a mighty swing. The club hit the turf and scattered dirt all over the President’s beard and surrounding vicinity, while the ball placidly waited on the tee. Again the Scotsman swung, and again he missed. Our President waited patiently through six tries and then quietly stated, “There seems to be a fair amount of exercise in the game, but I fail to see the purpose of the ball.” (Campus Life)
Blessed are the merciful. I learned the truth of this Beatitude from Henri Nouwen, a priest who used to teach at Harvard University. At the height of his career, Nouwen moved from Harvard to a community called Daybreak, near Tornonto, in order to take on the demanding chores required by his friendship with a man named Adam. Nouwen now ministers not to the intellectuals but to a young man who is considered by many a useless person who should have been aborted.
Nouwen describes his friend: “Adam is a 25-year-old man who cannot speak, cannot dress or undress himself, cannot walk alone, cannot eat without much help. He does not cry or laugh. Only occasionally does he make eye contact. His back is distorted. His arm and leg movements are twisted. He suffers from severe epilepsy and, despite heavy medication, sees few days without grand-mal seizures. Sometimes, as he grows suddenly rigid, he utters a howling groan. On a few occasions I’ve seen one big tear roll down his cheek.
“It takes me about an hour and a half to wake Adam up, give him his medication, carry him to his bath, wash him, shave him, clean his teeth, dress him, walk him to the kitchen, give him his breakfast, put him in his wheelchair and bring him to the place where he spends most of his day with therapeutic exercises.”
On a visit to Nouwen in Toronto, I watched him perform that routine with Adam, and I must admit I had a fleeting as to whether this was the best use of his time. I have heard Henri Nouwen speak, and have read many of his books. He has much to offer. Could not someone else take over the menial task of caring for Adam? When I cautiously broached the subject with Nouwen himself, he informed me that I had completely misinterpreted what was going on. “I am not giving up anything,” he insisted. “It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship.”
Then Nouwen began listing for me all the benefits he has gained. The hours spent with Adam, he said, have given him an inner peace so fulfilling that it makes most of his other, more high-minded tasks seem boring and superficial by contrast. Early on, as he sat beside that helpless child-man, he realized how marked with rivalry and competition, how obsessive, was his drive for success in academia and Christian ministry. Adam taught him that “what makes us human is not our mind but our heart, not our ability to think but our ability to love.” From Adam’s simple nature, he had glimpsed the “emptiness that desert monks achieved only after much searching and discipline.
All during the rest of our interview, Henri Nouwen circled back to my question, as if he could not believe I could ask such a thing. He kept thinking of other ways he had benefited from his relationship with Adam. Truly, he was enjoying a new kind of spiritual peace, acquired not within the stately quadrangles of Harvard, but by the bedside of incontinent Adam. I left Daybreak convicted of my own spiritual poverty, I who so carefully arrange my writer’s life to make it efficient and single-focused. The merciful are indeed blessed, I learned, for they will be shown mercy.
Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1995), 119-121