Sunday, July 2, 2017

GOD'S IMAGE: The Full Measure of Our Creation - Chapter 3

“And thus they become new creatures”

You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'
– John 3:7

The fall brought about the need for redemption. The Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus brings mankind back into the presence of God.[1] Adam and Eve lived with God in the garden, so why would God be interested in providing them with a chance to eat forbidden fruit and thereby giving way for their fall, just to sacrifice his son in order to get them back?
After being driven out from the garden, Adam and Eve received the word of God and were obedient to it.[2] As a consequence of this, they were given further light and knowledge by an angel. They were baptized by water and subsequently “with fire, and with the Holy Ghost.” To Adam, God said, “Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons.”[3] Here, Adam and Eve were born again. Because of the addition of light and knowledge and their increased ability to comprehend the things of God, they could prophecy and rejoice in their fall and God’s redemption.[4]
                      God created us without the characteristics of the fall and a desire for the acts of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”[5] All of this, or anything that is beneath or outside of the image of God, wasn’t put in us by him. It has to be put off if we are to fulfill our purpose and fill the measure of our creation. This is repentance. An essential part of repentance is to understand who and what we are and what parts of us that we shouldn’t identify with and definitely must not value or prefer above the characteristics of God, which are our inheritance. Being born again, like Adam and Eve were, means that we give up what we, deep down, are not. We were created in his image, fell and now need to be reborn into what we initially were designed to be.
Why, then, didn’t God just let Adam and Eve stay in the garden? They were right there, and now we have to get back there? The gain, after having experienced this dark and dreary world, is that we will have a clearer view of what we are saved from and who and whose we are saved to be. This knowledge changes everything. Without it, God’s glory wouldn’t be so great, for what can be greater than raising a fallen, dead and lost mankind unto light, love and life eternal? For God, the fall was a chance for glory and an increase in love, and for mankind, a chance to anew become one with God, but this time with the experience, wisdom and humility gained by tasting both sweet and bitter, spirituality and carnality and highs and lows.
As a response to the pharisaical objection to the fact that Jesus “welcomed sinners and ate with them,”[6] Jesus shared the parable of the prodigal son. The son who came to his senses and chose to return learned that nothing, except his own pride and attachment to his sins, could keep him away from the arms of his father. From his own experience, he knew of his father’s love, and that no matter what he had done to sin against heaven or his father he would receive the honor of feeding on the fatted calf and being clothed in a robe and a ring. This is a story about the benefits of falling and returning. It’s also another witness to the fact that
that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.[7]
Spiritual rebirth is the process by which we move from our fallen state to a state of redemption. “Entering the kingdom of God” is the image used in scripture for expressing the end of this initial ascension from the fall. Jesus said that, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless “they are born of water and the Spirit”[8] or “be converted, and become as little children.”[9] In another instance, again employing the imagery of a child-parent-relationship, Jesus cautioned that, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”[10] Whatever imagery used to describe the need for repentance and interaction with the Spirit of God, the scriptures are adamant that it happens. Mankind must be born again.
                      Even though God is the father of our spirits, he wants to give us new birth so that we, like Adam, can be called a son or daughter of God. Children rarely carry their own agenda. They follow their parents wherever they go. They do ask, “are we there yet?” but they seldom propose a different route than the one chosen by their parents. This is one of the characteristics of those who are born again.
                      The reason to be born again is the rebirth itself. We sometimes set our sight on heaven and the return to God’s presence in the eternal world. To once again become “good”[11] in the sight of God, however, we need to be created anew by him and, metaphorically, be brought back to paradise, or have the paradise within us restored. Another way to express this same idea is that when we are born again, God takes up his residence with us and we become a part of heaven here on earth. Only those who during this life are made partakers of heaven will be allowed to enter therein.
                      In the Book of Mormon we read of Alma the younger. He was brought to an awakening of his awful situation by an angel of the Lord and fell to the earth as if dead. In this state, he repented and was taught by the Lord.
And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.[12]
The wording is strong and unequivocal–we must be born again! In the spiritual rebirth, our carnal and fallen state, the natural man, is lifted off of us and we are changed to a state of righteousness. God lets his spirit change us and make us into new, righteous and redeemed creatures. This rebirth is not of our doing, but a gift from God. We must be born of God, becoming new creatures!

[1] Helaman 14:17
[2] Moses 5:1-8
[3] Moses 6:64-67
[4] Moses 5:9-12
[5] Galatians 5:19-20
[6] Luke 15:1
[7] Romans 8:38-39
[8] John 3:5
[9] Matthew 18:3
[10] Mark 10:15
[11] After the creation of man, God called his creation “very good.” Since then, God has invited us to again come into his good graces.
[12] Mosiah 27:24-27

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