In “Mercy-seats, boxes and Sin” I tried to paint a picture of what “the atonement” really means in simple imagery. God supplied the imagery in the form of an ark or gold-plated box. You should read that post for more explanation or just go ahead a dive right in here.
Paul talks about the Spirit and the flesh. Religion takes that concept and twists it into “New laws” or “New covenant rules” or the “law of Jesus” or whatever works to incite fear, desperation and hopelessness. One of the most common responses to the suggestion that Jesus sets us free from our sin is “what about Romans 7?” That is such a broken record. Simple answer is Jesus rescued Paul from the box! But I would like to also suggest that there is something about our nature and capacity for doing bad stuff that Paul needed to highlight. Paul however was free from religion so his perspective would have included the redeeming and restorative work of Jesus. Paul understood and believed that Jesus set us free from the power of sin. Paul taught us that the good news of the revelation of God in Jesus is powerfully supernatural to save us from our Adam nature. He also recognized that our desire to hold on to our Adam thinking and trust in our Adam wisdom was deadly and destructive. He told us we needed a renewed mind, a new mind of Christ and a new nature as a new creation. Yep, Paul was free from Boxlandia and was trying to call us out of the box.
In the mercy-seat post I suggested that we could be in the box or outside the box. The box is the ark in this illustration. Inside the box are reminders of the “powers of sin” in our fallen human nature. When we insist on staying in the box we will not experience the glory of God that is outside the box. We won’t see our reflected image in the mercy-seat of Jesus. We won’t see ourselves looking back as we peer into the beauty of Jesus. We won’t be engulfed by the radiant glory of the source of glory as manifest in the love demonstrated on the cross. Are you dazzled by my expose’? OK in simple terms, it sucks in the box because there is just you and reminders of your fallen nature. Outside the box it is awesome because you are with awesomeness Himself.
The fear of religion keeps us in the box. Our selfish independence and refusal of God’s goodness keeps us in the box. Let me see if I can explain.
The manna is a reminder of a journey in the wilderness. God did provide but they complained a lot. The daily need for daily needs can consume our thinking. “I need to save for retirement. I need to pay the bills. I need to get a better job. I want a bigger house. I want a new car. I have to have the new iPhone.” Give me give me we cry. When I suggest that God takes care of that stuff (even supernaturally) I get the “that’s not real” response or “you don’t understand practical things” declaration. That is one outside the box tapping Morse code to one in the box.
Then there is the religious touch of manna. “You know brother that we need to go through the wilderness because God needs to teach us suffering…” You often hear of the wilderness experience as a requirement. It becomes a badge of honor. The best one is when I hear that God doesn’t speak to you for seasons. Why not? Where did He go? Maybe, just maybe the box is in the way and the muffled noises we hear are Jesus saying “come out here, it is awesome because I am awesome.” No instead we cling to the words of the fallen Adam and insist on our box. Jesus has a better way.
The broken tablets of the Law of Moses speak for themselves but maybe we need a refresher. When I see a speed limit sign and I am in the box I am reminded of all the penalties of breaking the speed limit but am stimulated to see how I can stretch the “law” and get away with it. When I see the “do not touch, wet paint” sign, what happens? Come on, this is easy. What do I do when I hear “you will not under any circumstances look into this room because you are not allowed to see what is in this room” what does your mind do? Now add an unhealthy dose of religious fear and insistence on “it says it, so I believe it, so that settles it.” What do you get? Shame and remorse and condemnation and all-consuming cancerous gut wrenching guilt that drives you to the “I just don’t care anymore” place. Are we being honest? In the box, trapped with our Adam self, we are miserable next to the law.
How about the budding rod? We don’t like authority. We don’t like being told what to do. We all “have a better idea” than the boss. We consider his options as stupid and ours as revolutionary. The government sucks. The president doesn’t know what he is doing. Congress is out the lunch, literally. We think in our heads “am I the only one who sees how simple this really is?” Now add some old fashion fundamentalist religion and we toss in the “and thus says the Lord” for good measure. Religion will “curse” leadership. Religion will “prophesy” destruction. Religion will call down fire from Heaven. At the same time, the same religious leaders will insist that they are right and anyone who disagrees is a heretic or blasphemer or son of perdition or (my favorite since they said it to Jesus) Beelzebub. Am I making this up? There is freedom waiting just outside the box.
When we step out of the box we find Jesus looking back. We get to leave our fallen-nature reminders behind and embrace the glory of God in the Holy of Holies. It is more than a metaphor. It is real.
Imagine yourself outside the box. Imagine a stream of thinking where there is no such thing as “good and evil.” Don’t freak out, it will be OK. Now when you look at someone, without the knowledge of good and evil, what do you see? You see the person as God designed. Your judgment is gone. Your desire for vengeance or human justice or any of that stuff is gone. It is like holding your newborn baby. It is an amazing experience and what it looks like to be outside the box.
Imagine yourself outside the box and there is plenty everywhere. You look here and there and you see provision stacked up everywhere. You have zero fear of being hungry or in need. Everything that is provided is perfect and directly from the hands of God. You lack nothing but instead you have infinite resources to help others.
Imagine outside the box your creativity is unbounded. In this place you can see things, imagine things and claim things as creations and see them come to life. You are an artist, a composer, a dreamer, a creator. You are with the one who created everything and you partner with Him in His creation.
Getting us out of the box is what Jesus does for us. He takes us by the hand and pulls us out of the box and then covers our fallen-nature with Himself. He says “out here it is awesome.” It is for now. It is our salvation. It is our past, present and future. His reality is ours today. If I put it off for “Heaven” what will I miss for now?
Yes we will go through the wilderness but we will be in the Holy of Holies not in the box. In this place we can see like He sees and are surrounded by His glory. We will be challenged by the “world” since it doesn’t understand “outside the box.” We will be pressured to come back into a fallen reality. We won’t have every toy we think we want but will find unbounded joy in the things we do have.
Here is a quick practical example. Adultery. In the box all those reminders of my fallen nature will drive me into a logic that says “it is OK.” Think about all the reminders. “The law says no so I say yes.” The “thrill” of the rebellion makes us drunk. The “I need my needs met” dominates our thinking. Outside the box what do I see? The reflection of me illuminated by the glory of God in the polished perfection of Jesus. I see the other person for who God made them to be. I can’t cheat on my wife because I love her. I can’t compromise another woman because I love her. I see solutions to my marriage issues. I see my needs met in meeting the needs of my wife. I see the glory of God and His creative power to raise the dead. Nothing is impossible. Nothing is hopeless. Nothing is outside His goodness to make good.
If you find yourself in the box, its OK, we all step back into that place now and then. The good news is Jesus. He is always there ready to pull you out. Our intended location is in His presence. It isn’t a far away concept for a later time. It is what Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven. It is here now in us. We can choose the box or His glory. Don’t let religion keep you in the box. Don’t submit to fear. Don’t let an argument based on human wisdom and a fallen nature keep you from the arms of Jesus. Let Him save you now. Let Him rescue you now. Step out of the box It is time to escape from Boxlandia!