Introduction Agony to Ecstasy

Introduction – Agony To Ecstasy

AGONY TO ECSTASY!

Table Of Contents

INTRODUCTION

SCRIPTURE: GENESIS 1-3; ROMANS 5:12-21

TEXT:

"For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17 NIV)

INTRODUCTION:

Genesis 1-3 are three of the most important chapters in the entire Bible. Perhaps the word "Relationships" best describes these chapters. Within the brief compass of three short chapters, we are introduced to some of the most basic and important facts of life:

  1. Man's unique creation,

  2. Man's intimate fellowship with God.

  3. Man's innocent relationship with woman,

  4. The sanctity of marriage,

  5. The fact of objective moral law,

  6. The nature of temptation,

  7. The tragedy of sin,

  8. The mercy of God.

PROPOSITION:

Man was created for greatness – to fellowship with Almighty God. Man lost his greatness – through disobedience against God's clearly – stated law. Man can regain his greatness – through Christ, the "second Adam" whose work on the cross crushed the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).

THE AGONY WHICH SIN BRINGS TO MAN CAN BE REPLACED WITH ECSTASY WHICH CHRIST BRINGS TO MAN.

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OUTLINE:

I.    CONDITIONS BEFORE THE FALL

A. Lucifer's Fall

B. God's Created Order

C. God's Creation of Woman

D. God's Assigned Task to Adam

II.   CONDITIONS DURING THE FALL

A. Man's Creation

B. Man's Unique Freedom

C. Man's Fatal Temptation

D. Man's Tragic Fall

III. CONDITIONS FOLLOWING THE FALL

A. Mankind's Lost Greatness Through Adam's Fall

1. Sin's Immediate Consequences

2. Mankind's Ray of Hope

3. Mankind's Universal Death

B. Mankind's Restored Greatness Through Christ's Righteousness

1. The First "Adam" and the Second "Adam"

2. The Bright Side of the Dark "Fall" of Mankind

3. The "Much More" of the Last Adam – Jesus Christ

CONCLUSION:

Because of God's creative power, mankind was born for greatness; because of mankind's willful disobedience, that greatness was lost; because of Christ's redemptive love, mankind can regain its greatness!

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Conditions Before the Fall

Conditions Before The Fall

Chapter One

Conditions Before The Fall

AGONY TO ECSTASY!

PART ONE

What is Man? Is man an "angel" or an "ape", a "wonder", or a "worm"? Man is neither an "angel" nor an "ape", neither a "worm" nor a "wonder". Man is a creature made in the image of God, the "crown of God's creation", the "object of God's special love". This God-breathed creature was made for greatness but he has lost his greatness! Whatever else can be said of man, this can be said with certainty: "What man is now, he was not intended to be at the time he was created!" Man has lost his greatness! Man was created to fellowship with God forever – to enjoy uninterrupted peace, unalloyed joy and intimate love! Man was created by God and for God! But man was also created with a free will! We humans are not robots! As Suzanne de Dietrich so clearly states, "The thing that makes us uniquely human is that, unlike the other creatures; we are able to say 'yes' and 'no' to God. Man does not do the will of his Creator by necessity. The stars in the sky follow their prescribed orbits, the animals of the field obey their instincts, but man has this unique and frightening ability – he can refuse to be obedient to his Creator. For God does not want slaves, but sons". (God's Unfolding Purpose; page 36)

Man's freedom of choice allows man to ascend to the highest heights of moral development or to descend to the lowest depths of moral degeneracy. It is both frightening and fantastic to be a creature of freedom!

Genesis 1-3 are three of the most important chapters in the entire Bible. Perhaps the word "relationships" best describe these chapters.

God's relationship with Himself (the doctrine of the triune God is first introduced here – "Let us make man in our own image");

God's relationship with created nature ("God saw all that he had made, and it was very good");

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God's relationship with the seventh day ("And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done");

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God's relationship with Man, the "crown of His creation" ("So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them");

Man's relationship to work ("The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" ) ;

Man's relationship to woman ("The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh'");

The serpent's relationship to the Woman ("Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?");

Woman's relationship to the Man ("She also gave some of the fruit to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it");

Couple's relationship to Sin ("Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves");

Guilty couple's relationship to God ("Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden");

God's relationship to guilty Man ("So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken".

Within the brief compass of three short chapters, we are introduced to some of the most basic and important facts of life:

  1. Man's unique creation,

  2. Man's intimate fellowship with God,

  3. Man's innocent relationship with woman,

  4. The sanctity of marriage,

  5. The fact of objective moral law,

  6. The nature of temptation,

  7. The tragedy of sin,

  8. The mercy of God.

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PROPOSITION:

Man was created for greatness – to fellowship with Almighty God. Man lost his greatness – through disobedience against God's clearly-stated law. Man can regain his greatness – through Christ, the 'second Adam', whose work on the cross crushed the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).

THE AGONY WHICH SIN BRINGS TO MAN CAN BE REPLACED WITH ECSTASY WHICH CHRIST BRINGS TO MAN.

I. CONDITIONS BEFORE THE FALL

We can only imagine what it was like in the beautiful Garden of Eden, before the terrible fall of Man. Perfect health, exquisite beauty, undisturbed peace, unalloyed joy – perhaps these descriptions imperfectly picture the glory of Eden.

A. Lucifer's Fall

However, while all appears to be perfect in Eden, there is the presence of one in Eden whose purposes are far from righteous. Genesis 3:1 introduces this evil personality. "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, "You must not eat from any tree in the garden"?'"

From whence came this tempter, in the form of a serpent? The Bible does not fill in all the details as to his origin. Neither does the Bible tell us why the serpent was permitted in the Garden. We can only speculate, but the following explanation is at least interesting to consider. Some think that when this world was created and fit for habitation Satan (before he became "Satan") was placed in charge of it, and it was then, as Isaiah declared, that Satan said in his heart – "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the 'Stars of God' (other ruling powers); I will sit also upon the Mount of the Congregation, in the sides of the North. I will ascend above the clouds; I will be like the MOST HIGH:" and that it was for this presumptuous

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act that the "Pre-Adamite World" became a chaos, and "without form and void", as described in Genesis 1:2. This would justify the claim of Satan that this world belongs to him, and that he had the right and power to transfer the 'kingdoms of the world' to Christ, if He would only acknowledge Satan's supremacy. Matt. 4:8, Matthew 4:9. And it accounts for the persistent war Satan is waging against the Almighty to retain his possession of the earth.

"When Satan became unwilling to rule the Original earth as a subordinate, and determined to rule it independent of God, he put his own will in opposition to the Will of God. That was "Treason". That was SIN. There was the origin of sin. In thus exalting himself against God 'Lucifer' became 'SATAN' for 'Satan' means 'ADVERSARY'. To justify himself he accused God. In accusing God he became the 'DEVIL' for 'Devil' signifies 'Accuser'. Thus 'Lucifer' became both 'Satan' and 'Devil'. This answers the question – 'Why did God make the Devil?' He did not make him, he made himself." (The Spirit World; Larkin; page 11, 12)

Larkin continues, "As long as Satan chose the 'Will of God' there was no 'Evil' in the universe, but the moment he chose to follow his own will, then he fell, and by persuading others to follow him he introduced 'Evil' into the Universe. The root of sin is SELFISHNESS, and when Satan said – 'I will ascend into Heaven (from the original earth over which he was ruling), I will exalt MY THRONE above the 'Stars of God' (other ruling powers)…. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I WILL BE LIKE THE MOST HIGH' (Isaiah 14:12-14), then Satan was guilty of TREASON, and started a REBELLION AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD that will never cease until he and all his followers are cast into the 'Lake of Fire' to spend Eternity". (Ibid; page 14)

B. God's Created Order

The above-mentioned ideas are only speculations. We cannot be dogmatic in our ideas regarding the origin of evil or regarding the rationale for the presence

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of Satan in the Garden of Eden. It is possible that Genesis 1:1 refers to the originally created earth, whereas Genesis 1:2 refers to the devastation of the earth as a result of Lucifer's rebellion against God. A 'formless' and 'empty' and 'darkened' world hardly meets the description of God's glorious creative powers. The Creator God is a God of order and fullness and lights – not disorder and emptiness and darkness! It is possible, then that Genesis 1:1 refers to the Original (Perfect) Earth, that Genesis 1:2 refers to the Chaotic (Fallen) Earth, and that Genesis 1:3-25 describes the Present (Restored) Earth.

E. Stanley Jones convincingly argues for the existence of God. A universal order argues for a universal Mind. "How could this universe come by chance into a cosmic orderliness that stretches from the molecule to the outermost star, and controls everything between? And how could this orderliness just happen to stay by chance through millions of years? That would be a stark materialistic miracle universal chaos by chance gives birth to universal order! The one who believes that must spell his 'chance with a capital 'C' and mean by it – God. How long do you think it would take for you to throw up a font of type into the air and have it come down by chance into a poem of Browning? I asked a printer that question and he replied, 'Both you and the type would wear out first'.

"Someone has figured out how many chances to one it would take for the world to have happened by chance, and the figures go round the world 35 times. 'A preposterous figure', says Dr. Millikari, the scientist. Sir James Jeans had figured out that it would take a hundred million years for a hundred thousand monkeys, pecking at random a hundred thousand typewriters, to happen by chance upon the plays of Shakespeare, and then, after they had happened upon the arrangement of the letters, they wouldn't know what the letters meant!"

"When I pick up a book and see that there is intelligence in it – that sometimes does happen!

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then I know that behind that intelligence is an intelligent mind expressing itself through that intelligence. When I look at the universe, I find that its responses to intelligence can be intelligently studied. Intelligence has gone into it – into its very structure. Then the simple conclusion must be that behind that intelligence, which is built into the structure of things, is an intelligent mind, and since that built-in intelligence seems to be universal, I will have to spell it in capitals – a UNIVERSAL MIND." (Abundant Living; page 5)

"The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world." (Psalms 19:1-3, Living Bible)

When Genesis uses the word 'Day' in reference to God's creation, does it literally mean 24 hour days as we know them or does it symbolically represent eras of time? This is a question which has been unfruitfully debated for a long time. The important thing is not how or how long God actually took to create and to organize, but the important thing to realize is that God actually is the Creator of all things. The orderly universe is not an accident or chance happening. It is the intelligent handiwork of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork." (Psalms 19:1) It is much more difficult to believe that the orderly universe is the product of accident and chance, than it is to believe that the orderly universe is the amazing product of an intelligent and personal God.

It is interesting to note that Scripture teaches us that Jesus (the second person of the Holy Trinity) is the creative power of God. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is implicitly taught in Genesis 1:26, as seen in the use of the plural pronoun "US". "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in Our likeness, and let them rule, etc." As the

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second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus was involved in the creation of the universe: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him ill things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:1-3) Paul wrote, regarding Jesus: "Christ is the exact likeness and, in fact, Christ Himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can't …. (Col. 1:15-16 a Living Bible). The writer to the Hebrews declares the same truth: "Now in these days He (God) has spoken to us through His Son to whom He has given everything, and through whom He made the world and everything there is." (Hebrews 1:2, Living Bible)

It is true that no man can prove the existence of God, but it is also true that no man can disprove the existence of God. God's existence is a basic assumption in the Bible. The Bible says, "The fool hath said in his heart 'There is no god." It is by faith that we assume the existence of God, and it is also by faith that we declare that this world is the product of God's creative powers and genius. Notes the author of the letter to the Hebrews: "By faith – by believing God – we know that the world and the stars – in fact, all things – were made at God's command; and that they were made from nothing!" (Hebrews 11:3, Living Bible)

C. God's Creation of Woman

The creation of Adam in God's own image was the 'crown of God's creation'. As God is a Trinity, so man too is a trinity, that is, man is a tri-unity. Man has a body, a mind, and a spirit. Man is 'three in one' – a tri-unity, just as a spirit. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – a tri-unity (trinity).

Why was Eve created? Genesis 2:20b-24 (Genesis 2:20-24) states: "But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the

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Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones flesh of my flesh, she shall be called "woman", she was taken out of man'. For this reason a man will leave his father and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

What can be said about woman's creation?

(1) Woman was created as an "equal" to man. She is neither inferior nor superior to man, but is his equal. Equality is symbolized by the fact that she was created from one of the "ribs" of Adam. A rib is close to the heart of Adam. She was not created from a foot bone which would symbolize inferiority. Neither was she created from a shoulder or head bone which would symbolize superiority. The equality of woman with man is especially emphasized in the New Testament. Wrote Paul to the Galatians: "We are no longer Jews or Greeks or slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the same we are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28, Living Bible)

(2) Woman was created as a "suitable helper" for man. Notes Charles Swindall, "On four distinct occasions He passed His approval of His creation.

... God saw that it was good ( 1 : 12) 
... God saw that it was good ( 1 : 18) 
... God saw that it was good ( 1 : 21) 
... God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good (1:31)

But what do you notice about God's statement regarding Adam in Genesis 2:18? God's statement …. it is not good….

This is the first time in all the Bible that God says 'something is NOT good. What is not good? God declares it isn't good for man to be alone. This isn't just a passing comment. In the original Hebrew, the language in which the Old Testament

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was written, the negative is most emphatic, therefore, it appears first in the phrase. Literally it says, 'Not good, is man's aloneness…' God, the Creator, saw man, His creature, in an isolated, alone-condition. He announced that Adam's solitary state was not good. God cared about Adam's 'aloneness'." (Strike The Original Match; page 17, 18)

Most men are not complete without a companion – a loving wife. This is not to say that singlehood is a curse, for God is able to compensate for those who are single. Many a single or widowed person has found the companionship of God to be more precious to them than the companionship of a human companion, during their moments of loneliness.

In saying that woman was created to be a "suitable helper" for man, no feminine inferiority is implied. It is true that a woman is to be in loving submission to her husband, for the husband has been given the awesome responsibility of leader and head of his home. The 'head-ship' of the man does not imply superiority and the 'submission' of the wife does not imply inferiority. There is equality between male and female, but there is divinely-created order for the home. Husbands are lovingly to lead, wives are gladly to submit, and children are willingly to obey their parents. Ephesians clearly states these truths: "A man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband obeying, praising, and honoring him. Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed him in authority over you." (Ephesians 5:33-6:1, Living Bible)

(3) Woman was created for the fellowship of love and to demonstrate the meaning of the I-Thou relationship between God and Man. Notes Suzanne de Dietrich, "God is, in his very nature, the one who gives himself. Thus a solitary individual cannot really reflect the God of

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love. Only a human couple, in the kind of unity that the family represents, can reflect something of what God is really like. Nothing could emphasize more clearly how wonderful it is to be a human being than the favor that God confers on man and woman, of being able to give themselves fully to each other, as he gave himself to them, and of being able, by means of this mutual giving, to create new life. Later on we find Paul taking up the same theme: 'Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her' (Ephesians 5:25)". (God's Unfolding Purpose; page 35) "The Christian reader will be struck by the fact that it is the man-woman community which is to reflect God. God does not create man in isolation. He creates him as a community, as man and woman. The Trinitarian God is a fellowship of love and can only be reflected on the human plane in a loving relationship. Only a human 'we' can reflect something of the divine 'us' … The man-woman relationship is the first nucleus of the wider community which is to be called into being. The I-Thou relationship between God and man is to be reflected in the I-Thou relationship of man and woman." (Suzanne de Dietrich; The Witnessing Community; page 22,23)

D. God's Assigned Task To Adam (Blessedness of Work)

Genesis 2:15 states: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Work itself is not a curse from the fall; it is the agony and the stress associated with work which is a curse. God created a 'good world' but not a "completed world". God willed to create a world in which man would have the opportunity to manifest creative abilities. From the raw products of the world, man is to create! Man and woman are to be co-creators with God in bringing children into the world. Man is to create a beautiful garden. by laboring. Man is to create cities and to create nations. Man is a co-creator with God!

It is true, according to Genesis 3:17-19, that the ground was cursed after Adam disobeyed God.

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Therefore, work is more difficult now than it was before the Fall. As one man notes, "In Eden, Adam tilled and tended the garden as the Lord had instructed him because he wanted to; although he perspired and needed rest, necessity and desire were one thing to him. In exile Adam worked because he had to. He toiled as before, but the joy had gone out of it, and only necessity was left." (Christianity Today; Aug. 27, 1971; page 7)

"However, even now after the Fall of Man, work can be transmuted from a mere necessity for earning a living into an opportunity for realizing personal self-hood and personal fulfillment. Through the redeeming grace of Christ, man can come to see work as a means of making and fulfilling himself, and not merely as a means of earning a livelihood. God created a world filled with raw products which man is creatively to work on, and through working on them, to make himself. "The highest reward that a man can receive for doing his best …. is not what he gets for his work, but what he becomes by it." (Sermon Builder; Sept. 1971; page 23)

What is the Biblical understanding of "work"?

  • Work was a blessing given to Adam, long before he fell into sin. He was to dress and tend to the Garden of Eden. He was to prepare his own food from the trees of the garden (Genesis 1:29-30);
  • Work became more difficult following the "Fall", since consequence of the Fall was thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:17-19);
  • Work now provides opportunity for one to perfect his own character and to glorify God.

If work is basically a good thing (in spite of the fact that work is often fraught with difficulty because of the "Fall"), how then should a Christian youth choose his life's work? Notes Elton Trueblood, "The world is one, secular and sacred, and the chief way to serve the Lord is in our daily work."

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A person should look at work as an opportunity to perfect his own character, that is, work should result in one becoming a more disciplined person – a disciple of Jesus Christ. Notes one, "There is no salvation from work; there is only salvation in work work, that is, caught up in discipleship." (Christianity Today; Aug. 27, 1971; page 8)

The work we do must contribute to God and to man and to the world, and not take away from any of these relationships.

A Christian youth, in choosing a job, must choose that type of work which will best benefit others and which will best glorify God. Rather than being self-centered, a youth must be God-centered and others-oriented when he decides what, professionally-speaking, he will do with his life. That Is, a youth must see his job as a vocation or as a "holy calling" from God. Notes Elton Trueblood, "The concept of vocation changes radically and crucially the way in which a young person approaches his life work or preparation for it. Apart from this concept his major questions often have to do with probable income, personal advancement, manner of living and choice of location. There is no doubt that many now choose their work with these specific considerations uppermost in their minds, for it is the 'natural' way. However, one who chooses in the light of vocation has a wholly different standard. His central interest is not in money or professional advancement, but in how he can make the best strokes to help clean up the mess of the world before it is too late. His motto is, 'Work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work.' The young person 'who has caught the vision implicit in the idea of vocation looks out at the world and tries to see how its need can be matched by his own latent powers. This, as millions know, is the way in which Albert Schweitzer determined to study medicine after he had already proved himself successful in another profession. The man who lives by the principle of vocation has substituted concern for advancement." (Common Ventures; page 88, 89)

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Trueblood continues, "Our happiest moments are not those in which we ask how to be happy, but rather those in which we so lose ourselves in some creative task, which seems to us important, that we forget to take our own emotional pulse. When we plant trees, write books, build houses or make roads, we often find that we have been having a wonderfully good time and that we are not immediately driven to do something to have' fun'. We had had, all along, something better than anything which commercialized and self-conscious entertainment can ever provide." (Ibid; page 93)

"The worldly-minded man says that leisure is man's true end, and so he builds one labor-saving device after another, shortens the workweek, lengthens the pay and vacations, and waits for the day when machines will do all the work." {Christianity Today; August 27, 1971; page 7} And yet, with increase in leisure and commercial entertainment, there is an increase in boredom, which is another way of saying that life does not consist in the abundance of "leisure and entertainment a man can consume, but rather in the amount he can give to his fellowman by means of the creative labors of his hands. Happiness comes not by grasping but rather by giving. Man is built to work, not to be idle.

Scriptures look upon the idle man with scorn:

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise." (Proverbs 6:6)
	"A son who gathers in summer is prudent, but a son who sleeps in harvest 
	brings shame." (Proverbs 10:5)

Note 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 Living Bible.

In spite of the fact that, since the Fall, the ground has produced thorns and thistles and, in spite of the fact, that man must work by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:18-19), work is meant to be seen as a blessing from God and as an opportunity for man.

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CHAPTER 1

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Whatever else can be said of man, this can be said with certainty: What man is now, he was not intended to be at the time he was created!"

  2. What is the most frightening capacity with which Man was created?

  3. Name several of the "Key Relationships" which are revealed in the first three chapters of Genesis.

  4. Based on speculation, what feasible explanation can be offered to explain the reason for Satan's presence in the Garden of Eden at the time of Man's creation?

  5. From a logical viewpoint, what evidence is there that this Universe is the result of creative genius, not the product of accident or chance?

  6. Cite Scriptural references that indicate that the second Person of the Trinity i.e., Jesus Christ – was involved as creator of the world.

  7. From a careful study of Genesis, chapter 2, what three statements can be made regarding Woman's creation?

  8. Is there evidence from Scripture (Genesis 2:1-25) to indicate that "Work" was not a result of the Fall of Man, but that "Work" was a part of God's original plan when He created Man?

  9. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Even though joy had gone out of Work, following the Fall of Man, even now after the Fall of Man, work can be transmuted from a mere

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    necessity for earning a living into an opportunity for realizing personal selfhood and personal fulfillment."

  10. What factors should a Christian youth consider (in contrast to those factors that a non-Christian youth considers) in choosing a job or a profession in life? Why?

  11. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Our happiest moments are not those in which we ask to be happy, but rather those in which we so lose ourselves in some creative task, which seems to us important, that we forget to take our own emotional pulse."

  12. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Life does not consist in the abundance of leisure and entertainment a man can consume, but rather in the amount he can give to his fellowman by means of the creative labor of his hands.

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Conditions During the Fall

Conditions During The Fall

Chapter Two

Conditions During The Fall

AGONY TO ECSTASY!

PART TWO

II. CONDITIONS DURING THE FALL

A. Man's Creation

Man is different from all other creatures because he is made in God's own image. "And 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 soul." (Genesis 2:7) God is a Tri-une Being of intelligence (Omniscience), and so man is created a rational being. God is a Being of temperament (Love), and so man is created an emotional being. God is a Being of action (Omnipotence), and so man is created a volitional being with the capacity to act. God, whose dominance is supreme, has shared that dominance with mankind.

Look at Man's dominance. God is Creator and Lord of the earth, but God put Man in charge of the earth. Man must exercise his dominance over the earth with a constant sense of his stewardship before God. (Genesis 1:28, "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. '") God gave man dominion over all things, not to abuse the world of nature, but to govern and creatively to use the world of nature to serve mankind and to glorify God. Man is not to use his call to domination over the world as an excuse to exploit the world's natural resources, such as lumber, coal, oil and the soil. God is the giver of all good and perfect gifts. Man is to receive those gifts gratefully and selflessly. God's creator-hood reveals His grace and love.

B. Man's Unique Freedom

We are looking at the nature of Man from various perspectives, as recorded in the early chapters of Genesis.

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Look at Man's limitation. God placed one limitation upon Man. "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'" (Genesis 2:16-17)

This tree represents God's sovereign knowledge which belongs to God alone. Man must depend completely upon God and not try to assert himself as God's equal. The tree reminds Man that God alone is all-knowing, and that Man must acknowledge his utter dependence on God, who as Creator, is infinitely greater than the creature.

Look at Man's freedom. Only as man could freely choose to obey and to serve God, could man's love for God be proved and developed. A slave is forced to obey and serve his master even against his will. The attitude of the slave's resentment for his master is vastly different from the attitude of love with which a son willingly performs duties for his father. Only the son, who has the power of choice, can prove his love for the father.

Love could not be tested without the presence of a standard by which to determine obedience or disobedience. God's commandment forbidding Man to eat from the tree was the standard by which to either praise Man for his obedience or to condemn Man for his disobedience.

Obedience or disobedience means nothing if there is no objective standard by which to judge. The tree in the Garden provided that standard, making possible the exercise of Man's frightening freedom!

Notes Elton Trueblood, "Always men have broken laws; that is nothing new. What is new is the acceptance of a creed to the effect that there really is no objective truth about what human conduct ought to be. The new position is not merely that the old laws do not apply, but rather that any moral law is limited to subjective reference ….. If

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there is no objective right, then there is not even the possibility of error, and intellectual and moral confusion are bound to ensue ….. Failure to honor particular moral standards is one thing; rejection of the very idea of an objective moral standard is another." (A Place to Stand; Elton Trueblood; page 15-16)

Is it not ironical that our contemporary society which prides itself for its moral freedom and its total liberations from any so-called legalistic restraints, is the same society that is withering and dying socially and even physically? Note the "AIDS" epidemic which threatens to destroy the very fabric of our society! Thousands will die because they want to throw off all moral restraints and do their own thing. With the denial of an objective moral standard by which to judge the rightness and the wrongness of a moral decision, there does not come a corresponding moral freedom. Instead, there comes intellectual confusion and moral bondage. When everyone does that which is right in his own eyes, social chaos and anarchy are the eventual consequences.

God's command regarding the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden symbolizes forever God's objective moral standards by which we will be judged for obedience or for disobedience. Later in history, the Ten Commandments provided God's objective Moral Standard (Exodus 20). The New Testament introduces an even higher objective moral standard: "Pay all your debts except the debt of love for others never finish paying that! For if you love them you will be obeying all of God's laws, fulfilling all His requirements. If you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself you will not want to harm or cheat him, or kill him or steal from him. And you won't sin with his wife or want what is his, or do anything else the Ten Commandments say is wrong. All ten are wrapped up in this one, to love your neighbor as you love yourself; Love does no wrong to anyone. That's why it fully satisfies all of God's requirements. It is the only law you need." (Romans 13:8-10, Living Bible).

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Wrote James, "If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself', you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers." (James 2:8-9, NIV)

Man is free to choose because there is the presence of an objective moral standard (or law). Without such an objective moral law, there would be no such thing as right or wrong. In such a situation – the situation of moral relativism – everyone does what seems right to him, and in such a situation, no one has any authority to judge the actions of another person or another group of persons (a nation). It seemed "right" to Hitler to eliminate the Jewish people. If there is no objective moral law – i.e., if there is no law such as "Thou shalt not murder" and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" then no one can justly condemn Hitler's actions on the basis of moral injustice and "sin"!

If the Genesis story of Man's Fall teaches anything clearly, it teaches most clearly the fact of God's objective moral laws, with attending rewards for obedience and attending punishment for disobedience! To deny the fact of objective moral law is not only to reject the revelation of Holy Scripture, but it is also to forfeit all possibility of clear intellectual understanding and moral freedom!

C. Man's Fatal Temptation

Consider Man's rebellion. Man, possessed with the freedom to choose, determined his own destiny. Man yielded to the subtle temptation of Satan and was enticed by Satan's allurements.

Satan implanted the seeds of doubt into Eve's heart. Appealing to the gratification of Man's desire, Satan succeeded in getting Man to overstep his God-imposed limitation, and thus to challenge God's sovereignty.

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Satan, whose own fall is attributed to the drunkenness of pride (Ezekiel 28:1-10), became the instigator of Man's pride, which caused Man's fall. When Man ate of the tree, he declared his independence of God and his desire to "run his own life".

When Man invaded God's territory of personal knowledge through eating from the tree, Man yielded to the temptation to play the part of God. Man's relationship to the Creator was made to be one of servant to master. Man attempted to usurp God's mastership when he yielded to Satan's evil suggestions.

Let us look again at the nature of man's temptation. "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, "You must not eat from any tree in the garden?" The woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, "You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die." 'You will not surely die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and was pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." (Genesis 3:1-6)

What approach did the serpent take in plotting mankind's fall into sin? Satan was successful in causing Eve to question God's Word (Doubt), to overstep God's clearly-defined limitations (Disobedience and Rebellion), to gratify selfish desires (Self-centeredness).

It must be said that there was no sin in Eve being tempted. In fact, what was from Satan's viewpoint a temptation intended to destroy the woman was from God's viewpoint a test – intended to perfect

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the woman. Eve had an opportunity, during the temptation, to demonstrate her loyalty to God and to mature her walk with God. But Satan's temptation of Eve was fatal, for Eve yielded to the temptation. Look more carefully at this fatal temptation.

(1) Questioning God's Word (Doubt)

"Right away the serpent insinuated a doubt into Eve's heart: 'Did God (really) say …. ?' (This is like the doubt insinuated with the words 'If you are the Son of God …. ' in the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, as reported in Matt. 4:3-6) A deadly chink is opened up in the creature's love for his creator. And into this chink a little wedge is thrust in the form of the assertion: 'You will not die. For God knows that when you eat (the fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil' (Genesis 3:4-5)." (God's Unfolding Purpose; Suzanne de Dietrich; page 37-38)

(2) Overstepping God's Clearly Defined Limitations (Disobedience)

Temptation tends to magnify man's desires for the forbidden and to erase the clearly-defined boundaries of God's laws. Satan seeks to befuddle the mind and, at the same time, to stimulate the lower desires of human nature during the hour of temptation. The forbidden tree did not look so forbidding after Eve began to rationalize! The Bible says, "There is a way that seems right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death!"

To the man who has learned to rationalize, it "seems right" for him to live with a young lady who is not his wife, or to date a young lady who is still married to another man, or to "fudge" on his income tax returns, or to tell a "white lie", or to take a "pleasure trip" on Sunday when he should be worshipping at church, or to glance at the center page of a "Playboy" Magazine when no one is looking, or to use the tithe money to pay an overdue bill, or

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to watch an "educational program" on television instead of spending time praying and reading the Bible!

(3) Gratification of Desires (Self-centeredness)

This temptation to Eve was fatal, for the temptation appealed to the desires of body, soul, and spirit. "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it." (Genesis 3:6)

(a) "Good for Food" (Appeal to Body)

Sin can be defined as fulfilling a legitimate desire in an illegitimate way or at an illegitimate time. It was not wrong for Eve to desire food, for food is a basic necessity of physical life. But it was wrong for Eve to desire the fruit of this specifically forbidden tree.

There are many physical desires, all of which are God-given and legitimate. For instance, there is the strong, God-given, physical desire for sexual gratification. But seeking to fulfill this legitimate desire in the wrong way (through adultery or through homosexuality) and at the wrong time (before marriage), results in sin.

When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger after a forty-day fast, it was an attempt on the part of Satan to get Jesus to fulfill a legitimate desire (satisfaction of physical hunger with food) through illegitimate means (by Jesus' use of His extraordinary power to perform a miracle at a time which was incompatible with Jesus' mission of full identification with mankind).

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(b) "Pleasing To The Eye" (Appeal to Soul)

The forbidden fruit was not only good for food (physical appeal), but it was also pleasing to the eye (aesthetic or soul appeal). Man is created to appreciate beauty. To appreciate the beautiful in life is not sinful. Seldom does Satan offer that which is ugly and repulsive to a person. Satan seeks to deceive people by appealing to their aesthetic nature in order to get them to partake of the forbidden. Much of the so-called "sex therapy" today is based on the desire of man for the beautiful, the shapely, the attractive, the affectionate, the romantic. Just as the fruit on the forbidden tree was most beautiful to behold, so there is much of the forbidden today that appears as beautiful. That which does not belong to us, and that which we are tempted to covet, appears as emotionally appealing and as aesthetically attractive. Someone else's beautiful woman, or beautiful house, or beautiful car, or attractive job – these are some of the more obvious objects of covetousness, all of which can (like the fruit in the Garden) appear to be most "pleasing to the eye". Many are ensnared in sin because of the aesthetic attraction of the temptation. Again, seeking to fulfill a legitimate desire (enjoyment of a beautiful object or subject which appeals to our aesthetic nature) in an illegitimate way or at an illegitimate time is what constitutes sin.

(c) "Desirable for Gaining Wisdom" Appeal to Spirit)

The fruit was appealing to the Body, for it was "good for food". The fruit was appealing to the Soul (or aesthetic nature), for it was "pleasing to the eye". Also, the fruit was appealing to the Spirit, for it was "desirable for gaining wisdom".

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There is an insatiable quest for knowledge and wisdom in our world today. To gain wisdom is to gain a most wonderful possession – a possession which will protect you throughout your life. The writer of Proverbs considers the possession of wisdom to be all-important: "Wisdom is more precious than' rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her …. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice si1ver . . . . For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But who ever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death." (Proverbs 8:11, Proverbs 8:19, Proverbs 8:35, Proverbs 8:36)

Surely, to desire wisdom is a good thing. Eve cannot be faulted for wanting wisdom, any more than she can be faulted for wanting physical food or aesthetic enjoyment. What was wrong was Eve's attempt to find wisdom through a forbidden means (by eating the forbidden fruit). As in the case of Eve, there are many today who wish to be wise and understanding, but who are attempting to find wisdom and insight through forbidden means – such as spiritism and witchcraft and horoscopes and mediums. Others seek to be wise through the study of worldly philosophy or psychology. Still others seek to be wise through their involvement in false religious systems – cultism or the occult or oriental religions. All of these above-mentioned examples are "forbidden fruit".

'What, to the world, appears as "wisdom", is to God as "foolishness", and that which is the essence of true wisdom – the "cross of Christ" is utter foolishness to the world. Wrote Paul, "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand mi-

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raculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (1 Corinthians 1:21-35)

Seeking wisdom is a natural and legitimate desire. But seeking wisdom in the wrong ways and in the wrong places is both folly and sin. Say "No" to the "forbidden fruit" of the world which promises to make you wise if you eat of it. Christ alone is the source of all true wisdom! "Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, it is written, 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

It is not religion or philosophy or education that can give you wisdom; it is Christ alone who can make you wise unto salvation! Boast alone in Christ who is the Wisdom of God!

D. Man's Tragic Fall

Notes Suzanne de Dietrich, "The third chapter of Genesis tells, in story form, of a three-fold break in relationship: between God and the human couple, between man and wife, between man and the world that surrounds him. The essential theological truth revealed in this chapter is that all the tensions and disruptions of mankind go back to a fundamental disruption produced by the will to autonomy of the creature as over against the Creator. 'You will be like God.' (Genesis 3:5) In snatching at equality with God, in wanting to be their own masters and to stand in their own right, woman and

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man destroy the child-like trust that makes them open to God's love and purpose and to one another. Lust for power has entered the world and will henceforth be at the root of all antagonism between sexes, between brothers, between groups, nations and races. Having lost our at-one-ness with God, we become like self-centered tops, turning round and round upon ourselves. We do this as individuals; we do it collectively on a world scale." (The Witnessing Community; page 23)

Adam disobeyed a direct command. God created Adam with a free will, and with the ability to love. Love is the property of free will. As was noted in the introduction of the message, "The thing that makes us uniquely human is that, unlike the other creatures, we are able to say both 'Yes' and 'No' to God. The stars in the sky follow their prescribed orbits, the animals of the field obey their instincts, but man has this unique and frightening ability he can refuse to be obedient to his Creator. For God does not want slaves, but sons." (God's Unfolding Purpose; Susanne de Dietrich; page 36)

Love must be tested. God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Genesis 2:17)

Adam disobeyed a direct command and overstepped his God-imposed limitations. Adam took things into his own hands, and set himself up as a "little god". Adam's sin was the sin of playing the part of God.

Adam's sin is the central sin of all humanity — the sin of making one's self into a god, placing self and selfish desire at the center of one's universe.

"The person who plays the part of God makes himself into the center of his universe, whether that universe be large or small; he seeks his own glory rather than the glory of God, he wants to 'run his own life'; instead of recognizing it as a gift from the hands of God. In briefest terms, he wants

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to be his own master rather than God's servant; he wants to dominate rather than to serve." (Ibid; page 38)

Notes Donald Joy. "Since our first parents' crime was treason – for the purpose of putting themselves up as their own masters – the infection shows up in us in much the same way. Its symptoms are violent independence, selfishness. self-assertiveness pride – anything which puts oneself on the throne". (The Holy Spirit and You; page 84-85)

Noted Donald Demaray, "What do we mean when we say the nature of sin is pride? We mean that man commits no wrong which is not traceable to pride; to put it another way, every sin man commits is the product of a desire to protect ego or self. Murder, adultery, stealing, falsifying, and any and every sin that man has ever committed or ever will commit is the result of pride. It was so with Adam and Eve. It has been so with every man since that time." (Basic Beliefs; page 51)

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CHAPTER 2

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What evidence is there that man is uniquely created in God's own image?

  2. Practically speaking, how is man to exercise his God-given dominance over the earth and at the same time practice his God-required stewardship in the earth? Cite practical examples of how this dual responsibility is carried out by sensitive believers.

  3. Why did God place a limitation on man's freedom in the Garden of Eden, according to Genesis 2:16-17?

  4. Was the exercise of man's will in the Garden of Eden an authentic exercise of freedom, or was it simply an apparent exercise of freedom which was really predetermined by a sovereign God?

  5. What is the most distinctive feature of man that makes him a creature uniquely created by God, different from all other creatures of the earth?

  6. What made Satan's temptation in the Garden of Eden so appealing to our first human parents and what is there about that first temptation that is common to all subsequent temptations which all humans face?

  7. What is the essence of all sin, as seen in the actions and attitudes of Adam and as seen in the actions and attitudes of all of Adam's fallen race?

  8. Do you agree or disagree with Donald Demaray's statement: "Every sin man commits is the product of a desire to protect the ego or self." If you agree, then share some illustrations demonstrating the truth of this statement.

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God’s Purpose in Creation and Redemption

God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption

Chapter Four

God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption
God's Greatest Creative Act 45 Free To Be Sons, Not Slaves! 52
Frightening Freedom! 46 Forgivness From Sins 53
Man's Lost Greatness 47 Free To Be United, Not Divided 54
Brilliant Ray Of Hope 48 Free To Be Confident, Not Fearful 55
Man–Creature Of Freedom Or Fate? 49 Discussion Questions 56
God's Positive Purpose Revealed 50 Discussion Questions (Continued) 57
A Positive Response To A Positive Purpose 51    

Genesis 1:26-31, Genesis 2:7-14

God's Greatest Creative Act

The greatest creation of the personal God, of whom we have been thinking in the last chapter, is Man. Man may not be the strongest animal or the fastest animal or the largest animal, but Man is the only animal who asks ultimate questions and who seeks ultimate meaning in life. Man is unique because man was uniquely created. God said, "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness". (Genesis 1:26)

That man is a self-conscious, self-determinative creature is clearly revealed in the Biblical account of Man's creation and fall. (Genesis 1-3) The nature of man, as revealed in these chapters, can be seen from various perspectives, all of which we must examine: (1) Man's Dominance; (2) Man's Limitation; (3) Man's Freedom; (4) Man's Rebellion; (5) Man's Fall; (6) Man's Hope. The Genesis record states Man's unique creation, reveals Man's deliberate wrong choice, and unveils God's merciful provision for Man's predicament.

When Genesis uses the word 'Day' in reference to God's creation, does it literally mean 24 hour days as we know of them or does it symbolically represent eras of time? This is a question which has been unfruitfully debated for along time. The important thing is not how or how long God actually took to create and to organize, but the important thing to realize is that God actually is the creator of all things. The orderly universe is not an accident or chance happening. It is the intelligent handiwork of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork." (Psalms 19:1) It is much more difficult to believe that the orderly universe is the product of accident and chance, then it is to believe that the orderly universe is the amazing product of an intelligent and personal God.

Man is different from all other creatures because he is made in God's own image. "And 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 soul." (Genesis 2:7) God is a Tri-une Being; Man is a Tri-une being as well. God is a Being of intelligence (Omniscience), and so man is created a rational being. God is a Being of temperament (Love), and so man is created an emotional being. God is a Being of action (Omnipotence), and so man is created a volitional being with the capacity to act. God, whose dominance is supreme, has shared that dominance with mankind.

Look first then at Man's dominance. God is creator and Lord of the earth, but God put Man in charge of the earth. Man must exercise his dominance over the earth with a constant sense of his stewardship before God. (Read Genesis 1:28) God gave man dominion over all things, not to abuse the world of nature, but to govern and creatively to use the world of nature to serve mankind and to glorify God. Man is not to use his call to domination over the world as an excuse to exploit the world's natural resources, such as lumber, coal, oil and the soil. God is the giver of all good and perfect gifts. Man is to receive those gifts gratefully and selflessly. God's creatorhood reveals His grace and love.

"Creator God, help me to be creative, not destructive, in the use of the raw materials of creation which you have put under my control."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is the Giver and I am the Receiver of all good things. I will henceforth live gratefully!

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Genesis 2:15-25

Frightening Freedom!

We are looking at the nature of Man from various perspectives, as recorded in the early chapters of Genesis.

Second, look at Man's limitation. God placed one limitation upon Man. "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17)

This tree represents God's sovereign knowledge which belongs to God alone. Man must depend completely upon God and not try to assert himself as God's equal. The tree reminds Man that God alone is all-knowing, and that Man must acknowledge his utter dependence on God, who as creator, is infinitely greater than the creature.

Third, look at Man's freedom. Only as man could freely choose to obey and to serve God, could man's love for God be proved and developed. A slave is forced to obey and serve his master even against his will. The attitude of the slave's resentment for his master is vastly different from the attitude of love with which a son willingly performs duties for his father. Only the son, who has the power of choice, can prove his love for the father.

Love could not be tested without the presence of a standard by which to determine obedience or disobedience. God's commandment forbidding Man to eat from the tree was the standard by which to either praise Man for his obedience or to condemn Man for his disobedience.

The fact of Man's freedom is well described by Suzanne de Dietrich: "The thing that makes us uniquely human is that, unlike the other creatures, we are able to say both 'yes' and 'no' to God. Man does not do the will of his Creator by necessity. The stars in the sky follow their prescribed orbits, the animals of the field obey their instincts, but man has this unique and frightening ability–he can refuse to be obedient to his Creator. For God does not want slaves, but sons". (God's Unfolding Purpose, pg. 36)

Obedience or disobedience means nothing if there is no objective standard by which to judge. The tree in the Garden provided that standard, making possible the exercise of Man's frightening freedom!

"Thank you for my freedom to choose. My freedom of choice allows me to ascend to the highest heights of moral development or to descend to the lowest depths of moral degeneracy. Help me to choose the Right. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is both frightening and fantastic to be a creature of freedom. I will exercise this freedom responsibly!

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Genesis 3:1-13

Man's Lost Greatness

Fourth, consider Man's rebellion. Man, possessed with the freedom to choose, determined his own destiny. Man yielded to the subtle temptation of Satan and was enticed by Satan's allurements.

Satan implanted the seeds of doubt into Evils heart. Appealing to the "gratification of Man's desire, Satan succeeded in getting Man to overstep his God-imposed limitation, and thus to challenge God's sovereignty.

Satan, whose own fall is attributed to the drunkenness of pride (Ezekiel 28:1-10), became the instigator of Man's pride, which caused Man's fall. When Man ate of the tree, he declared his independence of God and his desire to "run his own life".

When Man invaded God's territory of personal knowledge through eating from the tree, Man yielded to the temptation to play the part of God. Man's relationship to the Creator was made to be one of servant to master. Man attempted to usurp God's mastership when he yielded to Satan's evil suggestions.

Fifth, recognize Man's fall. Man's disobedience to God led to Man's fall. Man failed to stand the test and thus prove his love for the Creator. Man fell from the height of splendor to the depth of despair, from the beauty of perfection of the vileness of distortion, from the joy of fellowship to the anguish of separation, from the freedom of innocency to the bondage of guilt, from the strength of health to the weakness of disease, from the glory of life to the corruption of death, from the richness of an heir to the poorness of an outcast, from the fullness of knowledge to the shamefulness of ignorance.

Sin replaced innocency with guilt and caused man to clothe his nakedness. No longer could man reveal himself as he really was, but he was compelled to hide his true identity.

Sin also caused man to run from God's presence and hide. (Genesis 3:8) No longer could Man enjoy intimate fellowship with God, but Man instead became an alienated, estranged rebel afraid to face God.

Neither was willing to accept personal moral responsibility. The man blamed his actions on the woman and the woman, in turn, blamed her actions on the serpent. The transgressor often scapegoats, blaming his actions on his background or friends or society or heredity. Man seeks to sooth his conscience through rationalization, but God cannot be fooled.

"Legitimate physical appetites were exploited by Satan to cause Adam and Eve to sin. Help me, God, to obey you and never to allow my appetites to rule my life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With every right moral choice, there are wonderful moral results!

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Genesis 3:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-18

Brilliant Ray Of Hope

Sixth, see Man's hope. Immediately following Man's fall, a brilliant ray of hope shown over the horizon of Man's history, revealing God's future plan for Man's salvation. That ray of hope was found in the curse God pronounced on the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman; also between your offspring and her offspring; He will crush your head and you will crush his heel". (Genesis 3:15)

This prophecy refers to Jesus who was born of the virgin Mary, a descendant of Adam and Eve. Al though Satan inflicted injury on Jesus the Son of God, through crucifixion Jesus crushed and destroyed the works of Satan through His redemptive death on the cross, and proved to be victor over Satan through His glorious resurrection. (Hebrews 2:14-15) Man's bondage to Satan was broken through the conquering power of the resurrected Lord. Through the seed of Eve, Man would be reconciled or brought back to fellowship with God. Through Christ, Man would be "born again" and receive a new nature.

What general conclusions and applications can be drawn from a brief study of Genesis 1-3?

(1) God is the Creator of all of life; therefore, God has the right to rule in each man's life. Each person is responsible to use his body and soul and mind for God's glory. To abuse one's body, mind or soul is to sin against one's creator.

(2) Man's call to domination over the earth is not a call to careless exploitation, but to responsible stewardship. The God-granted power to dominate can become a temptation to 'lord over' other people and to exploit the world's resources for selfish use. Man's lordship over the earth is subject to God's lordship over all of created matter.

(3) Satan often tempts man by calling into question the truthfulness of God's Word. (Genesis 3:1)

(4) Sin can be defined as disobedience against the known laws of God and rejection of the revealed love of God. Because God, by nature is just, wrong moral choices always result in tragic moral consequences. The penalty of sin is death.

(5) Because God is a loving redeemer by nature, He has provided a redemptive plan for mankind's salvation.

"O God, because of your creative power, I was born for greatness; because of my willful disobedience, I lost my greatness; because of Christ's redemptive love, I can regain my greatness. Thank you! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God has promised, He has provided, and what He has provided, I will receive–Redemption! Glory!

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Ephesians 1:5-14

Man–Creature Of Freedom Or Fate?

We said in the last devotional that, because God is a loving redeemer by nature, He has provided a redemptive plan for mankind's salvation. In seeking to understand God's redemptive plan for mankind, one of the best Biblical chapters to study is the first chapter of the book of Ephesians. Particularly in the first 14 verses of this amazing chapter, we see exposed both the positive purpose of God in redemptive provision and the positive freedom of man in personal faith and salvation.

In looking at both the free provision of God and the free appropriation of salvation by Man, some of your basic questions should be answered. "Are you a creature of freedom or a creature of fate? Are you free to determine your own eternal destiny or was your eternal destiny fixed by some divine decree before the foundation of the world? Did God only choose to save only certain human beings or did God choose to save the entire human race?

We must spend some time seriously examining the truths of Ephesians 1. This chapter tells us that the positive purposes of God have been wonderfully revealed to mankind. The ordination of God's eternal purpose is understood in terms of sonship through Christ (verse 5). The operation of God's progressive purpose is understood in terms of unity in Christ (verse 10). The consummation of God's perfected purpose is understood in terms of total redemption through Christ (verse 14).

Think first of the ordination of God's eternal purpose. "His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!" (Ephesians 1:5, Living Bible) Sonship through Christ is God's eternal ordained purpose. Was it God's eternal purpose only to ordain a limited, fixed number to become adopted sons or was it God's eternal purpose and intention to adopt all persons as his children? Who does 'us' refer to in Ephesians 1:5? A chosen number of individuals, determined by divine decree, or the total corporate human race? If only a select number by divine decree, then how can we say 'in love' He predestined? Is divine love consistent with a divine decree to damn those to destruction who were not chosen for adoption as sons?

From a serious study of the book of Ephesians (and all of scripture) we conclude that God predestined (or determined) that 'us' should include the entire human race. God predestined the entire human race to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. God's will is that all persons be saved. God does not will that any should perish! (Read 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16-17; Titus 2:11)

"O God, I am beginning to see that the entire human race is the object of your special love and that you long for all to be saved from sin. Your free gift of eternal salvation is now being offered to everyone. You favor the entire human race and never arbitrarily select to save only some. Thank you for the revelation of your saving purposes for mankind."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The God who wills to save all is able to save all–including me!

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Ephesians 1:5-14, Ephesians 2:13-18

God's Positive Purpose Revealed

In the last devotional we noted that the ordination of God's eternal purpose is understood in terms of sonship through Christ. He can say next that the operation of God's progressive purpose is understood in terms of unity in Christ (verse 10). "This was his purpose: that when the time is ripe he will gather us all together from wherever we are–in heaven or on earth–to be with him in Christ, forever." (Ephesians 1:10, Living Bible)

God's eternal purpose is that all persons should be adopted as spiritual sons (verse 5), but divine intention and purpose to adopt all as sons could only be made possible through the blood of Christ (verse 7), which atoning blood makes possible man's release (redemption) from sin's bondage and relief (forgiveness) from sin's guilt. God's eternal purpose to save the human race could not be realized without the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. "So overflowing is his kindness towards us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved." (Ephesians 1:7, Living Bible)

That which God has ordained (universal salvation) becomes possible through Christ's accomplished work on the cross (unlimited atonement). Because Christ died, God's eternal intention can be fulfilled, namely, the salvation of all mankind. Christ's atoning sacrifice places all persons in a savable relationship.

But even though all persons are in a savable relationship, all persons are not automatically in a saved relationship. Christ's atonement makes possible the salvation of all, but only personal faith in Christ makes actual salvation operative. Although Christ died in order to reconcile all, all are not personally reconciled to Christ. God's eternal purpose–universal salvation of mankind–only becomes God's realized purpose as persons personally receive Christ's salvation.

If Ephesians 1:5 speaks of the ordination of God's eternal purpose– sonship through Christ–then Ephesians 1:10 speaks of the operation of God's progressive purpose in time–the uniting of all persons to Christ. It is God's purpose to unite all persons in Christ. (Ephesians 2:13-18)

Ephesians 1:14 speaks of God's perfected purpose consummated–namely, the total redemption of those who are God's possession. "His presence within us is God's guarantee that he really will give us all that he promised; and the Spirit's seal upon us means that God has already purchased us and that he guarantees to bring us to himself." (Ephesians 1:14, Living Bible) Christ provided an unlimited atonement, making forgiveness and redemption possible for all (verse 7). God's grace has been lavished upon the human race (verses 7b-8a). God's objective intention is to save the human race corporately (verses 11-12).

"God, how wonderful to know that you are not vindictive in your general treatment of mankind, nor arbitrary in your specific choice of men for salvation. You have sent your Son to seek and to save the lost–and that includes all persons of all times! Thank you for the revelation of such loving purposes!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's objective intention to save all mankind marks me as a savable person because of my human genealogy and as a saved person because of my spiritual regeneration!

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1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16-17; Titus 2:11

A Positive Response To A Positive Purpose

We have noted that God's objective intention is to save the human race corporately. The Bible clearly declares this truth: "God longs for all to be saved and to understand this truth". (1 Timothy 2:4, Living Bible) "He isn't really being slow about his promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way. But he is waiting, for the good reason that he is not willing that any should perish, and he is giving more time for sinners to repent." (2 Peter 3:9, Living Bible) "For the free gift of eternal salvation is now being offered to everyone; and along with this gift comes the realization that God wants us to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures and to live good, God-fearing lives day after day." (Titus 2:11-12, Living Bible) "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3;16, Living Bible)

But while it is God's intention to save all, it is only those who hear the Gospel ('word of truth') and who believe the message of salvation that become a part of God's new race of people (the body of Christ). Those who hear and believe (verse 13a) are those who receive God's promised Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who is responsible to fulfill God's saving purpose in the lives of those who respond to God's saving purpose.

After we personally placed our confidence in Christ and in His saving message, we were "stamped with the promised Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance, until the day when God completes the redemption of what is his own; and that will again be to the praise of His glory". (Ephesians 1:14, Phillips)

So, in light of our study of Ephesians 1 thus far, we must again ask: "Is man a creature of fate or a creature of freedom"? Man is made in God's own image and as such, is free!

(1) God freely chose to save mankind corporately, even before the time when mankind (in Adam) freely chose to fall into sin!

(2) Christ freely chose to come to earth to voluntarily die for the sins of mankind, thus placing all mankind in a savable relationship through Christ's unlimited atonement.

(3) Each person can freely choose to accept or to reject God's salvation. Man is free to accept or to reject God's salvation, but man is not free to accept or to reject the consequences or results of right or wrong moral choice. To choose positively–that is, to choose Christ–is to choose forgiveness and redemption and ultimately a heavenly inheritance which is presently guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who seals the believer's heart.

"O God, your positive purpose is salvation for every person, made possible because of the atoning blood of your Son. Help me to make a positive response of faith in Christ, in order that I may enjoy personal salvation! Thank you for your powerful provision and for the possibility of a powerful appropriation!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God has positively intended and positively provided, I will positively enjoy–salvation from all my sins!

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Ephesians 1:5-8; John 1:12; Galatians 4:4-7

Free To Be Sons, Not Slaves!

We have looked at God's positive purpose revealed: (a) God's eternal purpose ordained–sonship through Christ (Ephesians 1:5); (b) God's progressive purpose operative–unity in Christ (Ephesians 1:10); (c) God's perfected purpose consummated–total redemption through Christ (Ephesians 1:14).

In light of God's positive purpose revealed, let us now look at man's positive freedom exercised: (a) freedom to be sons, not slaves (Ephesians 1:5-8); (b) freedom to be united, but divided (Ephesians 1:9-10); (c) freedom to be confident, not fearful (Ephesians 1:11-14).

In first considering man's freedom to be sons, not slaves, we must look at three aspects of this truth: (1) adoption as sons (v.5); (2) redemption from bondage (v.7); (3) forgiveness from sins (v.7,8a).

Freedom to be sons of God speaks of spiritual adoption. Even before the foundation of the world, God determined to adopt us–the human race–as His children. The mark of God's ownership is stamped deeply on the soul of every human being. God claims the right to be our Father, and we His children. "He determined in His love before time began to adopt us to Himself through Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 1:5 Barclay's translation)

God has destined us to be sons, not slaves! To be called children of God is to be called the objects of God's special care, love, and attention! "What is man that thou art even mindful of him?" But, just think, "What is man that thou art willing to make him a son of the living God!" "We were absolutely in the power of sin and of the world; and God, through Jesus, took us out of that power into His power; and that adoption cancel sand wipes out the past and we are made new. We have passed from the family of the world of evil into the family of God." (Daily Study Bible; Ephesians; Barclay; pg. 93)

Freedom to be sons speaks also of redemption from spiritual bondage. What is the relationship between redemption and adoption? Perhaps Galatians 4:4-7 best shows that relationship. "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir." The meaning of redemption is 'to loose.' The powerful blood of Christ is the answer to the powerlessness of men who are in the grip of sin! "It is still true of Christ that by His power He can liberate men from this helpless slavery to the things which attract and disgust them at one and the same time ." (Daily Study Bible; Ephesians; Barclay; pg. 94)

"O God, release me from the bondage of sin and make me a captive of your love. Free from sin, I am free to serve you. I bow low before you in order that I might stand tall before everything else. I am redeemed from being a slave of sin in order that I might be adopted as a son of God! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The shame and humiliation of my sin is replaced by the dignity and status of my position as a son of God!

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Colossians 1:20-23

Forgivness From Sins

Adoption as sons (v.5), redemption from bondage (v.7), and forgiveness from sins (v.7,8a)–all were ways of declaring the wonderful truth that man is free to be sons of God rather than slaves of sin. We have looked at adoption and redemption. Let us now look at forgiveness.

What is the relationship between redemption and forgiveness? Redemption from sin means deliverance from the slavery of sin, but there is also forgiveness of the sins themselves. Deliverance from what I am–a slave! Forgiveness for what I have done–sin!

Wrong moral choice (sin) always leads to wrong moral consequences (bondage). Christ not only releases one from the consequences of wrong moral choice, but Christ forgives one for the wrong moral choice which led to bondage in sin. Not only does Christ release the prisoner of sin, but Christ relieves the prisoner of the guilt of the crime which resulted in imprisonment. The present bondage is broken (redemption), and the past guilt is resolved! Not only are bad habits broken but a troubled conscience is cleansed! Forgiveness means relief, and redemption means release, and both are made possible through Jesus' blood. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us." (Ephesians 1:7-8a NIV).

Why does God redeem us? Why does God forgive us? Is there something about us that makes us worthy or appealing to God? Never! God redeems and forgives because God chooses to redeem and forgive, not because we are worthy! We cannot earn or deserve or purchase God's favor. God's grace– unmerited favor–is initiated totally by God. God loves us, not because we are lovely, but because 'God is love.' The very nature of God is love, not a sentimental love, but a suffering love. We are redeemed and forgiven 'through his (Christ's) blood.' (Ephesians 1:7) Love which bleeds is love which saves!

God could neither redeem man from the bondage of sin's consequences, nor forgive man for the guilt of wrong moral choices, without the atoning blood of Christ! It is not an eternal divine decree which is the instrument of man's salvation. It's instead the shed blood of Jesus Christ which is the instrument of man's salvation. The will and pleasure of God was to save humanity from sin, but this divine intention in eternity could only become realized in time if Christ should choose to consent to the Father's request that He die an atoning death on Mount Calvary! Christ had to die, not in the sense of absolute necessity, but in the sense of redemptive necessity. Only through the blood of Christ could God's holy nature be honored and man's salvation be guaranteed. Even though God the Father requested God the Son to come to earth to die for mankind, in reality, there are not three parties involved in this transaction (God, Jesus, Man), but rather there are only two parties involved in this transaction (Holy God and Sinful Man). For when Jesus died, God died!

"O God, I see now that your justice was maintained and your love was demonstrated at the same time when Jesus died, for, when Jesus' blood was shed, God's life was poured out! God, you took the penalty of sin upon yourself when Jesus died, for 'God was in Christ,' both dying for sin and at the same time reconciling sinners to Himself! Thank you! Thank you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: 'The blood, the blood' – this is my plea, this is my salvation!

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Ephesians 4:1-7

Free To Be United, Not Divided

Christians are called to unity. for God is a unifying God. Christians are free, not to divide, but to unite men around Christ. Not free to be independent, but free to be interdependent. Not free from social concerns, but free to meet social needs. Not free from authority, but free under authority. One is free when he fulfills the purpose for which he was created. Christians are created to unite all things in Christ.

A brick is not free when it is thrown aside, never to be used in a building. It is 'free' when it finds its place and purpose in the wall of a building. A large 'work horse' is not free when it is never harnessed to work. Rather it is free when it is given opportunity to pull a load. thus fulfilling its purpose for existence.

A Christian is not free when he is given no responsibility. A Christian is truly free when he finds his purpose in creation and in the Church of Jesus Christ. When he is 'carrying his share of the load.' When he is using his spiritual gifts within the Church. When he is functioning as a healthy and cooperative member of the Body of Christ. He is free when he is in love and unity with other members of God's family. God's purpose is a corporate purpose. A Christian therefore is free when he is seeking to unite all things and all persons around the feet of Jesus. When he is involving himself in helping God to realize His ultimate purpose for His world. "For God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan. and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ. that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him." (Ephesians 1:9-10 Phillips)

A Christian is free when he is involved in helping to fulfill God's Master Plan for the human race–"to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (v.10 NIV)

When a Christian involves himself in bringing God and men together and in bringing men together. with men in loving understanding, then that believer is helping to fulfill God's purpose of uniting all on earth around the feet of Jesus! Christians are to put their arms around sinners and draw them to the Saviour (2 Corinthians 5:2). Christians are to love one another (1 John 4:7). There should be no place among Christians for the sectarian spirit–that spirit which results in dividing true Christians because of secondary issues of doctrinal distinctives. Criticism, divisions, carnal jealousy, and competition–these are the results when Christian groups elevate secondary issues rather than unite together because of their common love for Christ! Whenever Christians manifest any spirit other than love. they are hindering the cause of Christ and frustrating the purpose of God which is "to unite all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth." (Ephesians 1:10 RSV)

"O thou unifying God, help me to maintain 'the unity of the faith in the bond of peace.' Broaden the circle of my inclusion of those fellow Christians who agree with me in the essentials of the faith but who disagree with me in the secondary doctrines of the faith. Deliver me from the sectarian spirit that results in destroying fellowship among Christian people. In Jesus' charitable Name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: While I am contending for the 'essentials of the Faith.' I will not become contentious among fellow Christians who choose to differ from me in the 'secondaries of the Faith'!

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Psalms 37:34-40; Ephesians 1:11-14

Free To Be Confident, Not Fearful

How can you have confidence that you are included in Christ? You can have confidence that you are a Christian and on your way to heaven, if you have responded in faith to the Good News of salvation (v.13). It is not enough to hear the Good News. You must also believe the Good News. That is, you must put your faith totally in God whose plan for human salvation has been revealed through Christ. Believing is trusting God, taking God at His word, transferring your trust from yourself to God alone, for God alone has a plan for human salvation.

Confidence is based not on denial of sin, not on human ability or human accomplishment. Confidence is based on human confession of personal sin, and acceptance of 'the word of truth,' the 'gospel of your salvation' (v.13). There are those who appear to be very confident, very self- reliant, and self-assured ('towering like a cedar of Lebanon' – Psalms 37:35 Living Bible). These persons seem to manifest no doubts, no fears. Often they are brash and bold and brazen. They seem to have the 'world by the tail.' They enjoy intimidating others with their confident words and actions. It seems that such people make all the right decisions. They boast that they are self-made persons.

But such confidence is an illusion! Such confidence is built on a crumbling foundation! Such confidence is the product of spiritual ignorance–a lack of understanding of God's master plan for history!

What is the basis of confidence? Understanding the "purpose of his (God's) will." (v.11) What is the purpose of God's will? That each person, as a part of the corporate human race, recognize that he is chosen and predestined in Christ to be saved from sin (v .11). That each person, as a part of the corporate human race, realize that he individually is chosen to accept God's salvation. That each person who accepts God's salvation be confident that the "best is yet to be." Why? Because heaven is the inheritance of the believers, guaranteed to believers by the promised indwelling Holy Spirit (v.14).

Ephesians 1:11-12 speak of God's objective intention to save the human race corporately. This divine intention to put the human race corporately into a savable relationship is made possible through Christ. Ephesians 1:13a speaks of individual human response to God's plan of salvation. Those who respond to God's plan of salvation are those who first hear the word of truth (that is, after hearing the 'word of truth,' these persons believe the message of salvation which is made possible 'in Christ.' Hearing and believing the 'word of truth' results in receiving God's promised Holy Spirit who gives assurance of a future inheritance. Ephesians 1:13 b, Ephesians 1:14 speaks of God's gift of assurance and confidence to the believing heart. The believer's confidence is related to the past, present, and future–in his understanding of God's past saving intention (v.11), in his relationship to God's present saving power (v.13), and in his assurance of God's future heavenly inheritance (v.14).

"O God, I see that my confidence does not originate in the fulfillment of my own self-centered will, but in the fulfillment of your eternal will–the salvation of mankind through Christ. If one is not saved through Christ, he has no basis for confidence and every reason for doubt and fear. I put my trust alone in the saving Christ!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God intended in eternity and what Christ provided in time, I will receive by personal faith–salvation from my sins and reconciliation to my Saviour!

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Discussion Questions On 'God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption'

  1. What evidence is there that man is uniquely created in God's own image?

  2. Practically speaking, how is man to exercise his God-given dominance over the earth and at the same time practice his God-required stewardship in the earth? Cite practical examples of how this dual responsibility is carried out by sensitive believers.

  3. Why did God place a limitation on man's freedom in the Garden of Eden, according to Genesis 2:16-17?

  4. Was the exercise of man's will in the Garden of Eden an authentic exercise of freedom, or was it simply an apparent exercise of freedom which was really predetermined by a sovereign God?

  5. What is the most distinctive feature of man that makes him a creature uniquely created by God, different from all other creatures of the earth?

  6. What made Satan's temptation in the Garden of Eden so appealing to our first human parents, and what is there about that first temptation that is common to all subsequent temptations which all humans face?

  7. What were some of the immediate consequences of the fall of Adam and Eve, and in what ways are these consequences the consequences which modern-day persons face when they sin?

  8. How do you interpret Genesis 3:15, as this verse relates to God's provision for lost mankind's restoration?

  9. After noting the general conclusions and applications from a study of Genesis 1-3 (which are listed in the chapter), which points (if any) revealed some new insights to you? What further additional insights and applications, from your own study of these chapters, can you share with others?

  10. From a careful study of Ephesians 1 (along with the insights shared in the chapter of this devotional book), how would you answer the following questions? "Are you a creature of freedom or a creature of fate? Are you free to determine your own eternal destiny, or was your eternal destiny fixed by some divine decree before the foundation of the world? Did God choose to save only certain human beings or did God choose to save the entire human race? (Cite as many scriptures as possible to document your answers.)

  11. According to Ephesians 1:5, what has always been God's unchanging plan for 'us'? Does 'us' refer only to certain favored human beings whom God has chosen or selected, or does 'us' refer to the entire human race? Is there any solid scriptural basis for believing that God has chosen only some in the human race to be saved, and that He has condemned the rest to be eternally lost? What scriptures can you cite to show that God wants to save every human being from sin and for heaven?

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    Discussion Questions On 'God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption (Cont.)

  12. Could God's perfect will to save the entire human race have been possible without the atoning work of Christ on the cross? Note Ephesians 1:7.

  13. If it is God's perfect will that all persons come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) then why does not God exercise His sovereign power to force all humans to repent of sin? Does God have a 'permissive will' as well as a 'perfect will,' resulting in God allowing sinners to refuse to repent of sins, even though He desires that all sinners repent? Is it a demonstration of God's sovereign power that He refuses to coerce man, and instead allows each person to exercise his free will in positive acceptance of or in negative rejection to Jesus' universal provision for human salvation?

  14. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Even though all persons, because of Christ's unlimited atonement, are in a savable relationship, all persons are not automatically in a saved re1ationship."

  15. What personal conditions must be met by the sinner in order for God's universal saving purpose to be personally realized in the individual sinner's life? Can you show from scripture that God offers the gift of saving faith to all persons, thus making possible the salvation of the entire human race?

  16. What is the relationship between God's universal saving purpose, Christ's unlimited atonement, and a person's individual appropriation of salvation?

  17. According to Ephesians 1:5-14, list three different ways in which man's positive freedom is exercised and demonstrated.

  18. Spiritual sonship (according to Ephesians 1:5-8) is the result of what three spiritual realities?

  19. According to Galatians 4:4-7, what is the relationship between redemption and adoption?

  20. What is the relationship between redemption and forgiveness?

  21. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christ had to die, not in the sense of absolute necessity, but in the sense of redemptive necessity, for only through the blood of Christ could God's holy nature be honored and man's salvation be guaranteed."

  22. What is a 'sectarian' spirit, and how does such a spirit violate the teachings of scripture, especially those in the book of Ephesians (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 2:14-22)?

  23. According to Ephesians 1:13, how can you be sure that you are a Christian and on your way to heaven? What does it mean 'to believe,' as used in this verse?

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Realize ‘Rationale’ for Stewardship

Realize ‘Rationale’ For Stewardship

Chapter One

Realize 'Rationale' For Stewardship
"Make Me More Like God" – Part I 12 Worship God Through Your Work! 18
"Make Me More Like God" – Part II 13 The Little Red Hen Story 20
The Stewardship Of Work 14 The Musing Of A Very Generous Giver… To Some Causes 22
Reward For Work Well Done Is More Work To Do! 16 Questions 24

Genesis 1:26-31

"Make Me More Like God" – Part I

If God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the gold and silver in every mine, can create a vast universe with a spoken word, can cause the earth to burst forth with fruitfulness… then why in the world does He need me to give??

God has answered that question in very explicit and detailed ways. In fact, we don't get past the first chapter of Genesis without an answer to the question. In Genesis 1:26 He says: "Let us make man in our image after our likeness and let them have dominion." God's expressed desire was to have a family and that those family members would be created in His image and in His likeness. What He expressed indicates that His children in His "image" would be a reflection of His Glory and His Characteristics. To create children in His "likeness" suggests that they will be compatible with Him.

God then suggested that this family, in His image and likeness, would have "dominion" or "have rule over" the earth and all its resources. These words are synonymous with "stewardship." God placed His family members in a position of "stewards" over His creation with the provision that their faithful stewardship over God's resources would be a reflection of His image and His likeness.

We are very much aware that the image and likeness was marred by the breakdown of stewardship responsibilities on the part of Adam and Eve. To put it very simply, they appropriated for their personal use and enjoyment some of the resources God had placed under their "stewardship" but had reserved solely for Himself. They had very clear instructions as to the results of their disobedience in using these God-reserved resources. They also discovered that their wrongful decision led to their own impoverishment and separation from God. Consequently, the "image" of God in His family was destroyed.

God, in His love, desired to restore that image of Himself into His children. Since that image could only be restored through a new or second birth, God gave His son, Jesus Christ, to make it possible for man to be born again and, by that new birth, restore the image of the Father.

"Dear Lord, thank you that You gave the best You have so that I could become more like You. Let Your image be seen in my life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The only image of God that many will see is in my life.

– Edward Rickman –

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Romans 8:28-32

"Make Me More Like God" – Part II

God's plan in creation was restored through Christ with the added responsibility and privilege of being "stewards" of the message of hope, life, and restoration for the whole world.

The church was given the privilege and responsibility of disciplining those in whom God's image was restored, to also produce "Christ-likeness" in them. Since "likeness' is developed by being together and interaction with each other, God has provided the graces of worship, devotional, and fellowship experiences for our benefit.

He continues to give His children "rule over" or "dominion" over the resources of life. This "stewardship" is the area where we exercise our obedience to Him and allow His "likeness" to be fully developed. The only way I can become like God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is to become an obedient giver.

The Word is so clear! "For God so loved the world that He Gave His only begotten Son." The Son, Jesus Christ, is also a Giver. He is the giver of life, hope, salvation, strength, sustaining, and intercession. Every attribute of His personhood suggests "giving" of Himself.

Consequently, I cannot be like the Father until I become like His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the express image of the Godhead, bodily. I cannot be like the Son until I become a giver. As someone has said: "You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving." I would add that you cannot be like Christ without giving.

Human nature longs to receive, to possess, and to appropriate all we can for our own benefit. To become a "giver" requires a new discipline of grace within us that is motivated by a desire to be like Christ. The discipline of giving is sometimes hard because it is antithetical to our natural and normal response. But the benefits of this discipline and grace of giving are absolutely phenomenal.

That's God's purpose! That's God's plan! To make us like Himself in His image and in his likeness. And the only way to be like Him is to be a giver.

"O God, make me more and more like You in every discipline of my life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When you give, you are more like God than at any other time.

– Edward Rickman –

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Genesis 1:27-31; Genesis 2:15, Genesis 2:19-20

The Stewardship Of Work

What is your attitude toward 'work'? Do you see work as a 'necessary evil', the penalty for being a man? Do you see work as a mere nuisance or 'intrusion'? Is work to you an unbearable load, an 'unending drudgery'? Do you see work as something to be 'avoided'? There are some people who avoid work because of their indolence and indifference and laziness. Or are you a person who 'worships work' (a 'workaholic')? Each of these attitudes toward work are non-Christian (unbiblical) attitudes.

What is the Christian attitude towards work? In brief, Christians are to see work as a gift from God. It cannot be denied that, because of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, work has become more difficult (Genesis 3:17-19). Man works by the 'sweat of his brow' to make a living. And anyone who tries to raise a garden knows all about the thorns and thistles which grow faster than the bean plants. But even though the challenge and affects of work have been changed since the Fall of Man, the fact still remains that work was a part of God's original intention for man – even before the Fall. Our scripture reading for today points this out. Work was given to man by God before man fell into sin. Work is not a penalty from God for being a man. Because God intended that the creatures who were made in His own image (humans) should work, we must conclude that work is 'sacred'. God created work for man's good!

Work is man's opportunity to perfect God's good creation. God created a good world, but not a perfected world. God created 'raw products' in order that man may use the raw products to produce a completed product. God is the great Creator. Man is created in God's image and likeness. Therefore, man is a 'little creator', created by God to create good out of nature's raw materials. Following His several acts of creation, God declared His actions as 'good', but not 'perfected'. It is left to man to perfect God's incomplete world. Work is one way in which man experiences the purpose of his unique creation – namely, to glorify God by being creative. The result of man and God working together in creation is fellowship. Man is totally dependent upon God, but God has chosen to be 'dependent' upon man as well, if God's creation is to be completed! God did not create finished products. He leaves this up to man! God could have created ready-made houses for man to live in, but, instead, God gives man trees from which man builds houses. God intends fur man to subdue the earth, that is, to use the raw materials to create good and useful tools and products. However, man is not to exploit the earth's resources. To waste the earth's resources and to pollute the earth's atmosphere is to sin against the Creator who intended the earth to be a blessing to mankind, not a curse!

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"Lord of all creation, carefully guide me in the exercise of my God-granted power to dominate over the earth. Save me from the temptation to 'lord over' other people and to exploit the world's resources for my own selfish use."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Man's 'lordship' over the earth is always subject to Christ's 'lordship' over all of created matter. He alone is the 'Creator' and the 'Sustainer' of life!

– Ron Christian –

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2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; Ephesians 4:28

Reward For Work Well Done Is More Work To Do!

Work is a gift from God. God created work for man's good. Work is man's opportunity to perfect God's good creation. It is also true to say that work is a 'sacrament to God', i.e., your daily work is the chief way for you to serve God! The work you do must contribute to God, to your fellow men, and to the world in general. Your work must be unselfish in its motive. The unique work you choose must contribute to the 'upbuilding' of the entire community of which you are a part. (It is for this reason that Christians should not sell or deal with spirituous liquors or with tobacco, for neither of these things contribute to God or to man, and neither make for a more beautiful world). With these clear Biblical principles in mind, how should a Christian choose his 'life's work'? Notes Elton Trueblood: "The concept of vocation changes radically and crucially the way in which a young person approaches his life work or preparation for it. Apart from this concept his major questions often have to do with probable income, personal advancement manner of living and choice of location. There is no doubt that many now choose their work with these specific considerations uppermost in their minds, for this is the 'natural' way. However, one who chooses in the light of vocation has a wholly different standard. His central interest is not in money or professional advancement, but in how he can make the best strokes to help clean up the mess of the world before it is too late. His motto is, 'Work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work.' The young person who has caught the vision implicit in the idea of vocation looks out at the world and tries to see how its need can be matched by his own latent powers. This, as millions know, is the way in which Albert Schweitzer determined to study medicine after he had already proved himself successful in another profession. The man who lives by the principle of vocation has substituted concern for advancement." (Common Ventures of Life; pgs. 88,89)

While it is true that a Christian must not become 'unbalanced', resulting in becoming a 'workaholic', it is also true that a Spirit-filled Christian gladly 'embraces' work and responsibility as a God-given gift. He knows that the reward for work well done is more work to do (i.e., greater responsibility in working as a 'little creator' with the Master Creator – the Lord God!). Work is an occasion for joyous creativity. "Our happiest moments are not those in which we ask how to be happy, but rather those in which we so lose ourselves in some creative task, which seems to us important, that we forget to take our own emotional pulse. When we plant trees, write books, build houses or make roads, we often find that we have been having a wonderfully good time and that we are not immediately driven to do something to have 'fun'. We have had, all along, something better than anything which commercialized and self-conscious entertainment can ever provide." (Elton Trueblood; Ibid; pg. 93)

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"Father, help me always to remember that happiness comes not by idleness but by working, not by grasping but rather by giving. In the name of the Master Carpenter."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Life does not consist in the abundance of leisure and entertainment that I can consume, but in the abundance of loving service I can give!

– Ron Christian –

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Proverbs 6:6; 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

Worship God Through Your Work!

Man is not to worship work, but man is to worship God through his work. How do you worship God in your work? First, by communing with God as you carry on your daily work. To 'pray without ceasing' is to commune with God as your closest Friend throughout your day, through all the changes and chances of life. This certainly includes the forty to sixty hours you spend working at your 'secular employment'. Although your conscious mind must be on your work, you subconscious mind can be saturated with God! Susanna Wesley (the mother of John and Charles) had a prayer: "Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in Thy presence." Remember, God is with you just as much as you work on Monday as when you worship on Sunday. Work and prayer are simply two ways in which man and God cooperate together to change the world.

Not only can you worship God in your work by communing with God throughout the day, but also you can worship God in your work, secondly, by allowing God to be your partner in all of your work. One modern-day businessman who took this truth seriously is Stanley Tam. When he started his business several years ago, he determined to make God his 'senior' partner. No decisions would be made without consulting God, his 'senior' partner in the business. Not only did God honor his commitment by allowing Stanley Tam to build a large and financially-successful company, but God gave Stanley Tam unusual opportunities, through his expanding company, to witness to many persons. Stanley Tam had the joy of winning scores to Christ, right in his executive office! Whether you are an employer or an employee, you must allow God to be your partner in all of your work.

Third, you can worship God in your work by sharing God with others as you work. When opportunity arises, you can joyously and humbly share your testimony for Christ with your fellow employees. You can 'share' Christ by your example, i.e., by the way you work conscientiously for your 'boss' and by the way you act and react around your fellow employees.

"It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting an anvil, sawing a beam, white-washing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in His grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives Him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give Him glory too. He is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean they should." (Gerald Manley Hopkins)

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"Lord of all 'pots and pans' make me a 'saint' by washing up the plates!" (Brother Lawrence)

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The' religious' and the 'secular' is 'sacred', for the whole earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 6:1

The Little Red Hen Story

One day Little Red Hen was scratching in the farmyard when she found a grain of wheat. Being a good manager and looking forward to the future she said: "Who will plant the wheat?" The answer from the duck, the dog, and the cat was negative: "Not I." "Very well then," said Little Red Hen, "I will." So she planted the grain of wheat.

After sometime the wheat grew tall and became ripe. "Who will cut the wheat?" Asked Little Red 'Hen, The reply was the same as before from the duck, the cat, and the dog. In fact, the same answer was given when it came time for threshing the wheat, taking the wheat to the mill to have it ground into flour, and making the bread. So Little Red Hen did the work.

But the response was different when the warm bread was taken from the oven. "Who will eat the bread?" The reply was, "Oh, I will!" said the duck, and the dog, and the cat. But they didn't receive a taste of it; and Little Red Hen in turn shared it with her chicks.

That's an interesting story, isn't it? Does it bring back memories from grade one or two?

I don't know, but maybe Little Red Hen wasn't a good organizer, or motivator, or dynamic enough in this situation. I don't know what kind of a personality she had since she didn't seem to be able to get the assistance of the cat, and dog, and duck, to help her in the many duties of her household. Had she been more efficient and proficient her nerves would have been less taunt and her body aches hardly noticeable.

Perhaps the duck and cat and dog in conference among themselves hinted that – "Yes, we should help Little Red Hen in this project; it is worthwhile;" – – but their consciences were soothed by the fact that was not their things. Swimming, chasing mice, or hunting rabbits were more enjoyable.

What do you think?

Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:9 says, "For we are laborers together with God." Those are interesting words: l-a-b-o-r-e-r-s   t-o-g-e-t-h-e-r   w-i-t-h   G-o-d.

Laborers: work, toil, exertion. A sign in my high school chemistry room read: "laboratory – if you use the first five letters and less of the last seven, you'll succeed in this class."

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TOGETHER: one company; hand in hand; one heart; one mind.

WITH: a relation of proximity. In a local church together; by prayer and communication to God's ambassadors, the missionaries, in other lands.

GOD: our supplier, director, superintendent.

One cannot do the job of building the Kingdom of God alone; we need each other. But it is God's kingdom we are building. Let us be faithful and cooperative in fulfilling God's call upon our lives.

"Our Heavenly Father, with thanksgiving we express our desire to labor with You and others in the building of your kingdom! Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I will, by God's grace, do my best to work in any way with others for the building of God's Kingdom.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Luke 6:27-38

The Musing Of A Very Generous Giver… To Some Causes

It's the time again! The "Offering plate" is being passed. Somehow you don't feel inclined to give. The leadership is not performing to your satisfaction. The programs seem to be missing the mark. There's the feeling that your fellow travelers are pretty discouraged. The young people are really turned off. Many people are losing their jobs, and even yours isn't all that secure. You certainly don't sense the satisfaction you wish you did.

It seems so unreasonable that I should give such a high percentage of my income away. It costs so much to maintain a home these days. Kids are so expensive too. The prices of everything are going up continually. There just isn't enough to go around.

Perhaps if I had more of a voice in how my giving is spent, I'd feel better about it. Some of the decisions about spending are absolutely ridiculous. I really don't understand why they can't be considerate of the feelings of those of us who want our money spent with more discretion.

Another thing that bothers me – I never get a report of how my giving is actually used. I don't know how much of it is spent on salaries or maintenance or paper. I don't even know how much of it is being sent overseas.

And then, when I think about the benefits that I personally enjoy from my giving, it's hard to come up with a very long list. I really don't feel very generous.

Actually, when the "offering plate" is passed on April 15, I'm inclined to pass. The only problem is that the "offering plate" is being passed by the IRS!

You know, "it 'really makes a 'difference in my decision to give when I find out who is passing the "plate". I wonder why that is. I wonder why I suddenly become so willing to give up to 15.62% of my income for the Social Security Tax and another 18 – 35% of my income for Federal, State, and Local Taxes when April 15 rolls around. Why don't I just pass this opportunity by?

Perhaps I can rationalize this whole business of giving. After all, I am a citizen of this country and I do live in this locality. There are a few benefits that I enjoy. Let's see, if I give my 15.62% of my income to Social Security for 45 working years and I average $50,000 a year in income, I'll have contributed $351,450. I can expect to get at least $12,000 – $15,000 a year benefit for as long as I live. Of course if I don't live too long, the government will get to keep all the rest. That proves a great sense of security!?!?

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Or does it?

For all those other taxes I pay I get roads to drive on, police protection, fire protection, and several other tangible benefits. I haven't quite figured out all the intangible benefits, but I'm sure they exist.

When I consider that my citizenship here is only short and temporary (on the average 72-75 years), I guess I can handle that type of giving. After all, there's a price to be paid if I don't!

"Dear Lord, help me to realize that my eternal citizenship is just as important (yes, much more important) as my temporary citizenship."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Giving without a choice often becomes a priority over giving with a choice which demonstrates where our greatest allegiance lies.

– Edward Rickman –

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Questions

  1. If God owns everything in the heavens and on earth, then why does He need for you (as one of His creatures) to give of your financial resources to Him? (Note Genesis 1:26-31)

  2. What 'graces' has God provided through the church to aid in God's goal of restoring the 'image of God' in mankind and of producing 'Christlikeness' in human beings?

  3. Tell why you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "The only way I can become like God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is to become an obedient giver." Is it true that every attribute of God's personhood suggests 'giving' of Himself! (Note John 3:16) Is it true that you cannot be like Christ without giving?

  4. Tell why you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "The discipline of giving is sometimes hard because it is antithetical to our natural and normal human responses of selfishness."

  5. Put the letter 'F' by those statements which are 'unbiblical' (i.e. false), and put the letter 'T' by those statements which are 'Biblical' (i.e., true):

    1. __ Work is a 'necessary evil', the penalty for being a man.

    2. __ Work is a mere nuisance or 'intrusion', to be avoided as much as possible.

    3. __ Work is an unbearable load, an 'unending drudgery', all because the first human couple fell into sin.

    4. __ Work is an 'escape' from the responsibilities of one's home life, and provides a temporary relief from marital conflicts.

    5. __ Work is a gift from God, a part of God's original intention for man, even before the Fall in the Garden of Eden.

    6. __ God created work for man's good, and therefore work is 'sacred' and is something for which all persons should give thanks to God.

    7. __ Work is one way in which man experiences the purpose of his unique creation – namely, to glorify God by being creative.

    8. __ Work is man's opportunity to perfect God's good creation.

    9. __ Work provides man the opportunity to fulfill God's intention that man should 'subdue' the earth and use earth's 'raw materials' to create good and useful tools and products.

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  6. Why is the wasting of earth's resources and the polluting of the earth's atmosphere considered a 'sin' against the Creator?

  7. Why is it true that man's 'lordship' over the earth is always subject to Christ's 'lordship' over all of created matter?

  8. If the unique work which you choose to do must contribute to the 'upbuilding' of the entire community of which you are a part, what are some types of work in which you should have no involvements?

  9. What biblical principles should a Christian be committed to when he chooses his 'life's work'? If probable income, personal advancement, manner of living, and choice of location should NOT be the factors in making a decision for one's 'life's work', then what should be the 'main consideration' in a Christian's choice of his 'life's work'?

  10. Have you found that the following statement accurately describes your personal experience of "true happiness'? – "Our happiest moments are not those in which we ask how to be happy, but rather those in which we so lose ourselves in some creative task, which seems to us important, that we forget to take our own emotional pulse."

  11. List at least three ways in which you can worship God through your work.

  12. In consideration of 1 Corinthians 3:9, what specific talents, abilities, spiritual gifts, and training do you have which would enable you (as a 'member of Christ's Body') to be an effective laborer in cooperation with other fellow Christians in the church and in the world at-large?

  13. In light of the fact that a rather large percentage of your total income is given involuntarily for Federal and State and Local Taxes (and Social Security Tax), does it seem reasonable for you (as a believer) to voluntarily give at least 10% (a tithe) of your income to God's Kingdom work?

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