The Great Divide, Part 2

In  PART 1 of this three-part blog, The Great Divide, we looked at God divided from Himself. I wrote how the abandonment that Jesus felt by His Father was not real but rather the result of the shame of humanity He experienced due to taking on the sins of the world. The great divide we often assume took place with Jesus on the cross, and God, the Father, was felt but not actual.

In this entry, we will consider God's division from humanity. Most of us can identify with a great divide between ourselves and God due to our sins, yet I propose that this feeling is not a spiritual reality based on the Biblical narrative. This idea can be somewhat jarring for those who grew up on the Four Spiritual Laws way of evangelism. Some of us may remember seeing an illustration of an enormous chasm with us on one side and God on the other with no hope of bridging the canyon. The typical image includes a cross placed as a bridge between the two sides of the cliffs, allowing us to run across to God. Our unmovable heavenly Father now finally allows us to draw close because of the death of His Son. While this reality may be felt powerfully by us because of our genuine shame, we must understand this is not an accurate Biblical image.

In contrast to this understanding of God's distance from sinners, Paul tells the unsaved that God desires for all humanity to reach for Him and find Him, understanding, "he is actually not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:27) This one sentence summarizes much of the heartbeat of the entire Scriptures. From the start of the Bible, we see this beautiful oneness of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit creating humanity as an expression of great love and intimacy. The desire of God from the start was to enter into a covenant with His people where we would be His people, and He would be our God. While sin changed our understanding of that love we once knew so purely, God never changed in His desire for our company, and the entire Bible is a story that documents His patient reaching for us despite our hardness. As I mentioned in my previous post, the understanding that sin cannot be in the presence of God is theologically incorrect. The Bible actually tells us of a God who chooses to enter into our sinfulness to make His love known through forgiveness and redemption.

Imagine then, if you will, a different illustration. God is one side, speaking words of love and identity over us. We are on the other side, not with a chasm between us, but a wall that prevents us from knowing and receiving His love, meant to heal our sin and redefine our existence. Our experiences of shame erect this wall. The wall was made brick by brick by our sins and by our interactions with a humanity broken by sin that has left us feeling wounded, hard, protective, and unworthy.

Jesus comes to us as God to take on our sin and identify with our walls of shame that keep us from His Father. In this way, we can see the depths of Jesus' love in His words, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" He empties Himself, identifies with our weakness, and experiences our every temptation, and though He knew no sin, he became sin. (Philippians 2:6-8,  Hebrews 4L14-16, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

After receiving His gift of forgiveness, there is this kind of dual experience best articulated by God in Jeremiah 23:23, where He asks, "am I a God who is not close at hand and also far away?" We are aware of His closeness, and yet that closeness makes us keenly aware of the distance parts of us still feel. Though, in an instant, His forgiveness obliterated the power of the wall of shame, there is this reality of working this out with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). It typically takes us a lifetime to dismantle shame's wall brick by brick as we learn to replace conformed thinking (Romans 12:2) with the depths of His love and the new reality we are freed into living; a life of great intimacy with Him.

In time, we come to believe that the only division that exists in reference to our sins and God is the fact that He takes the shame from our sin and casts it from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), He remembers them no more for our sake (Isaiah 43:25), treads them under His feet and casts them into the deepest parts of the sea (Micah 7:19).  

Believer, your God is not far from you. He has never been. Instead of being repelled by your sin, He identified Himself with it and entered into its depths to remove the guilt and shame that has kept you from knowing the everlasting lover of your soul, meant to heal you, rearrange you and make you new.

In the next and last post on the theme of Great Divide, we will look at humanity divided from itself.
Vincent Donnachie, Pastor

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