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Jesus Nation (2009)

 
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Lost and the Good News

By Joe Stowell
Author of Jesus Nation

CBN.comA Nation at Risk

His name is Ben, and he rules the island. He's intelligent, crafty, and slick. No one quite knows his full intentions, but it's clear as you watch the blockbuster TV show Lost that he is dangerous and that his intentions for anyone who ends up on his island are not good.

The survivors of Oceanic Air flight 815 set up camp on the beach where their plane has crashed only to realize that they are not alone on the island. Hoping that the islanders will be their ticket to rescue, they find instead that the intention of Ben and "the Others" are not to help them but to lure them into Ben's schemes. Eerie supernatural noises and strange dark sightings begin to strike fear into their otherwise brave hearts, and it quickly becomes apparent that until the survivors are rescued, they are going to have to live in hostile territory in wise and careful ways. Most importantly, they will have to stay tight in loyal and supportive relationships given the danger that they face. Because, worst of all, they are stuck there.

It's hard to think of a more compelling picture of what we are up against when we finally realize that we belong to the Jesus Nation. We are all survivors of the worst crash landing in all of history: the fall of mankind and creation. There is a dark force who roams freely around our "island." He's a lot like Ben: intelligent, crafty, and bent on using anyone in his reach to advance his schemes. But the danger is not always overt.

On the show, "the good life" with Ben stands in sharp contrast to the meager rations and resources that the survivors have to share among themselves. It appears that these islanders hold all the cards, so it wouldn't have been surprising if the survivors had wanted to join them. But the wiser ones resist the temptation, instead focusing on maintaining their unique identity and living wisely in light of the eventual airlift rescue that they keep looking for.

Of course, we have a similar history.

Our "Island"

In the beginning, our "island" wasn't a hostile place at all. God made the universe as a backdrop for a splendid garden called Eden, a massive stretch of land that became home to the earth's first inhabitants. As spectacular as this Garden was, the most wonderful experience of all was that God, its Creator, in all his glory, actually walked in it with Adam and Eve, not as a taskmaster or grand inspector but as a friend. He had made Adam and Eve in his image so that there could be the joy of uninterrupted and intimate companionship between God and his creation. And it was perfect! No sin. No domestic quarrels. No bad hair days. No fear. No pain. No sorrow. No loss. Just Adam, Eve, and God in perfect harmony in a fabulous place. Satisfying? To say the least! It's hard to imagine—actually impossible to fully imagine.

I love beautiful gardens and the sight of green rolling hills and valleys washed with sunshine and warm breezes. Martie and I have thoroughly enjoyed walking through some of England's most brilliant gardens. Believe me, the fragrances, colors, and designs of these well-manicured layouts are beyond description. You've got to be there to appreciate the experience. And this is after the fall of the universe with all the inflicted damage of the fallout of sin (see Romans 8:18-23). So I often reflect, If our world and all of God's creation is so stunning now, think of what it must have been like in Eden.

For instance, think of the joy of those rare days when there is deep, satisfying joy in just being with friends or family. You can't beat the laughter, storytelling, warmth, and love, but the next morning, you have to go to work; yesterday is only a good memory. Think of the richness of such experiences going on forever, without your having to go to work! Think of those times when God has seemed so near to you, when his Word has been so fresh and rewarding and his fellowship so sweet. But then life goes on, and the distance of God seems immeasurable. There was none of that distance in the Garden. He was there 24/7, and a soul-satisfying intimacy with the Creator was a full-access privilege.

Until the day that the Evil Lord of Destruction—Satan—slithered onto the scene and wound his seductive self around the branches of the tree to tempt Eve with the forbidden fruit.

The Crash

Strangely enough, the serpent was able to talk Eve into the distorted idea that she didn't have enough. That she needed more. That the God she had so enjoyed was really a stingy slave master, who wanted to hold her back and make sure she never enjoyed all that he did.

She fell for the lie, and so did Adam (see Genesis 3). Instead of the upgrade in satisfaction and self-fulfillment that they had been promised, their loss was of phenomenal proportion. I've often wondered what happened when they reached for something more and ate. The moment was cataclysmic. Did the warm breeze stop blowing? Did the birds stop their singing? Was there an eerie quietness that signaled a new and darker day? Did the animals run for cover? Did the flowers droop? I don't know. All I know is that on that day, everything changed. And the stealthy serpent slithered away, leaving the pair not with the promised new and improved life but with regret, shame, alienation, and guilt.

It was a high-stakes gamble, and they lost—everything. In their shame they realized that the openness and uninhibited joy they'd had in each other was now an awkward, look-the-other-way nakedness that they had never noticed before. So they fashioned coverings of fig leaves, which they wore as public demonstrations that something had changed in the Garden. Big time!

I guess God could have washed his hands of it all or pressed the cosmic delete button and started all over again. But, amazingly, he loved this awkward, fumbling, failing couple who had now made a complete mess of everything.

Genesis tells us that God walked through the Garden calling their names as they hid in the bushes like little kids who had just thrown a baseball through the picture window and broken the treasured vase. But he was persistent, and they finally came out of hiding, pointing fingers and making excuses. God would have none of it. He sacrificed an animal to clothe their shame with its covering and announced that life would never again be the same for them—or for anyone or anything else, for that matter. Then he expelled them from the Garden, erased their access code, and put angels with flaming swords at the entrance to ensure that they didn't ever try to gain reentry. But he wasn't trying to get even. The Tree of Life was still standing in the Garden, and God knew that if they ate of it, they would live forever in their twisted condition. His love for them couldn't stand the thought.

He had a better, more redemptive plan. Before the eviction notice, he gave them a promise. He promised that someday from the offspring of woman there would be born a victor, a champion, who would crush the head of the destroyer (see Genesis 3:15). And, as Scripture later would affirm, not only would he restore fallen people to God, but the whole creation would be recast into an eternal Eden, locked into righteousness without the possibility of failure or a repeat of the fall . . . forever! A "new heaven and a new earth," as Scripture exclaims (see Revelation 21:1-9). Where, "God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore. . . . And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new'" (Revelation 21:3-5). Eden will be restored!

But we're not there yet.

The Rescue

Between Eden destroyed and Eden restored, God has been working his redemptive plan to rescue the lost. Throughout history he has been gathering a people for himself. And as he gathers them, he forms them into nations. First the nation of Israel, and second the eternal nation, his church, which Peter calls "a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9).

The first nation was comprised of a particular people, the Jews. It was the assignment of this nation to show the other nations God's glory and to safely steward the seed of the Messiah, the promised victor, to his birth at just the right time. As Paul tells the Galatians, "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Galatians 4:4).

Unlike the first nation, this second nation is eternal. And right now as you are reading this book, the Jesus Nation is gathering people from every tribe and tongue as it makes its way to Eden Restored. Jesus is the King, and we his followers are his nation—a journeying nation that is designed to display the power of Jesus' victory over sin, death, and hell in real space and time. We live to experience and express the revolutionary difference that the ways of Jesus effect in our lives.

When we understand what it means to belong to his nation and to become what he intends us to become, we will no longer need to be bewildered with life on this island.


Taken from Jesus Nation by Joe Stowell. Copyright © 2009 by Joe Stowell. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publiishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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