Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hope at Halloween

Heading off to my home church in a bit for a few hours of kids, costumes, games, and candy, candy, candy.

Following is something I wrote for parents to take home at the event.

Hope at Halloween

This is not an effort to explain Halloween or even an attempt at trying to untangle its possible and varied roots. A simple internet search would probably provide more answers to these questions than we could imagine. Rather, this is prepared in order to demonstrate the contrast between the darkness that so enshrouds much of mankind and the light found in Jesus Christ.

We live in a world where death is the certain end for all, and yet there are many who have no concept of hope for what lies on the other side. It is no wonder that at times like Halloween there is a fascination with the afterlife and things of darkness. It is a time when zombies run wild and little witches carry caldrons to be filled with candy. But it is also a time when we see little pirates, princesses, frogs, puppies, and space explorers. For many it is merely a time to play dress up for a day and have some fun without all of the other fascinations.

Here at Calvary Crossroads we have tried to provide a safe and fun environment for children and their families to come together and have a good time. But in doing this we are also reminded that only God holds life in His hands, and apart from His Son, Jesus Christ, we are spiritual zombies.

In the Bible we read, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:1-2) The apostle Paul reminded his readers that this is who they were. At some time in the past they “were dead in [their] trespasses and sins.” 

The roots of this death go back to the Garden of Eden where man and woman (Adam and Eve) were placed by God to have a relationship with Him unbroken by anything between them. They were sinless and enjoyed a regular relationship with God. But there was a condition. “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”” (Genesis 2:15–17, NASB95) 

Created to know the perfect goodness of God, God had given Adam one prohibition which was not to eat of the tree that would introduce him to evil. Jumping to chapter 3 of Genesis we read that this state of perfection did not last. We read that Eve was deceived by the serpent, Satan, and she ate from the forbidden tree and then she gave the fruit also to Adam who was with her and he ate too. Immediately upon eating they knew something had changed. When God came to them to walk in the garden they were ashamed of their nakedness, which they had not observed in that way before, and they covered and hid themselves. God called out to them and asked them what they had done. Replying to God, they tried to pass the blame and shift responsibility for their own actions.

After speaking with them God responded by passing judgment on all involved. Speaking to Adam last, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17–19, NASB95) Man who was created without sin or the knowledge of death was now introduced to harshness in life and the judgment of death. 

“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22–24, NASB95) 

Adam and Eve did not physically die that day, but they were removed from their place of enjoying God’s presence and became spiritually dead. And reading through Scripture we find that this was not just the condition of Adam and Eve.  With their sin this became the enduring condition of all of their children for all generations. It became the nature of man to be born spiritually dead and his destiny to experience physical death.

“But wait a minute,” you might respond. “It doesn’t seem fair that God would cause all of us to die because of what two people did thousands of years ago. Can’t He get past it and move on?” This would be a very legitimate question if it were that simple. If only the sin happened in the past at the hands of someone else and no one ever followed in their tracks. But I think we all know that this is not so. Being born spiritually separated from God we all do things that even according to the standards deep within us we know are wrong. We are all guilty of sin before God, and as such have proven ourselves unworthy of anything from His perfect hands. 

This is where the good news comes in. This is where we can look at a time like Halloween where so many are entrenched in death and darkness and look to our God to bring about light and life. God loves us so much that He did not leave us to this death. He sent His Son to bring us back into a relationship with Him, and to give us the life which had been lost in the garden. 

Just a few verses later in his letter to the Ephesians believers Paul added, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4–9, NASB95) Maybe more simply put we can look to the words of Jesus who said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB95) 

If you have not yet accepted God’s great gift of life, won’t you consider doing so today. It is very simple. Just talk to God. Take Him at His Word (trust). Admit to Him your need because of your own sin and inability to save yourself. Believe that He really did what He said He would do. And Call or Ask Him to forgive you of your sins because of what His Son did for us. And the Bible tells us that He will do it. 

“...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9–10, NASB95) God does not lie.

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