Chosen for Paradise
(Adapted from the full book Chosen for Paradise by John Crowder, available HERE)
God’s predestined intention for you was to lavish upon you the eternal wealth of His goodness. You were created as an object of love. Jesus was not twisting His Father’s arm to love you on the cross, acting as a sort of divine lightning rod to absorb the wrath of a schizophrenic deity. That vengeful, legalistic view of the atonement is a modern invention, and not the message of the early Church fathers. The Father was not venting His wrath on Jesus. The Father was venting His love through Jesus. The Trinity was manifesting Its eternal heart of love for you - making clear that the choice of God is positively for you – even when you were estranged from Him. Jesus was never the whipping boy of a legalistic Father who demanded the scales of some obscure cosmic justice be paid ... with a resounding “Too bad!” for those who don’t catch the message this side of their deathbed. No, God is pure mercy. True justice was His demand that you be restored to your rightful place as an heir of your Father’s kingdom. Rather than absorbing the brutality of a capricious deity, Jesus was absorbing the sinfulness of mankind and all its inherent ramifications – destroying our disease in His own broken servant body on the cross. This He did on behalf of humanity.
He who descended is the very One who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe (Eph. 4:10).
In the incarnation, God bound the created order to Himself. We are all enveloped in Him, as is all of creation – whether we realize it by faith or not. The scripture hints at the possibility that all might come to know Christ, but the mystery remains open ended. Leave room for mystery. We are saved through trusting Jesus, not by figuring Him out.
God cut all but Jesus out of the salvation business. He excluded everybody so He could include everybody. Salvation was never conditioned by our performance – including the “drumming up” of faith. Humanity cannot create or manufacture union with God. We can only discover it. One thing for certain is that we are no longer outsiders. Jesus Christ went to the altar and accepted you into His life. Kudos to our Arminian brothers for at least recognizing a beautiful gift of participation in this divine dance with the Trinity. But this salvation was decided for us long before we ever responded to it. Election is God’s solid choice for mankind in Jesus.
To truncate this Message of election to a tract on Heaven and Hell is to sell the Gospel far short of its inherent worth. Our Orthodox brothers in the East are perhaps right in the suggestion that Heaven and Hell are merely our human language to describe what it’s like to be in the presence of God ... we all go to the same place, but to some His fire of love is manifest as torment because some demand to reject the inescapable love of God. We are not created to swim upstream of this infinite torrent of love and fight against it. But rather to receive it and give it freely. To be carried along by the unforced rhythms of grace.
In any discussion on election, let us be slow to draw presumptions on the eternal fate of those, whose temporal lives seemed so full of bitterness, hatred and rebellion. Their hardening was to an expected end, that He might show mercy. The cardinal rule in modern American evangelicalism is one must say the sinner’s prayer before he dies. But this fundamental truth seems to be curiously missing from the Bible. There is room for hope for all men when they meet their Maker. Perhaps we’ve underestimated Jesus in this whole equation. As Martin Luther wrote in a letter to Hans von Rechenberg, “God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future.” Time will be the tell. Let us not be dogmatic where the scriptures offer a double-sided coin of mystery.
In the beginning, God created Adam and put him in a garden called Eden. Eden means "pleasure" or voluptuous living. You were created for a life of divine pleasure. Chosen for paradise – to drink from that River of Pleasure that flows at His right hand. This always was and always will be His intent for you. And that Paradise is found only in the revelation of His Son, the unity of God and Man, Who is Eden incarnate.
It was always the eternal plan of God to unite Himself to humanity. To experience the bliss of other-giving love. Therefore, God permanently identified Himself with the human race in the incarnation. “His purpose was to make all history work out towards one culminating moment, when He could bring every movement in the whole universe, spiritual as well as material, to a head in Christ” (Eph. 1:10, WAND). God could not stomach being alone. Because He is Love, He could not fathom an existence apart from you. In the incarnation, He fully embraced the human condition. God and man both find their ultimate fulfillment in the Gospel.
You are more than a created object. You are His very divine, immortal offspring. Otherwise God would be an idolater to love you so. The scriptures tell us that God literally threw Adam into an ecstasy (tardemah), and out of his side came forth a bride. In the same way, you were chosen and brought forth from His broken side, the Last Adam, in the ecstasy of His Passion. Brought forth from His very life-giving breath, you bear His very image, worth and affection. Christ is not unequally yoked to His Bride. You are no vessel of dishonor – no chamber pot, no wretched spider or worm. You are flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone. This is the True Self.
The new creation in Christ is not an alternative plan devised by the Godhead after the first Adam failed. God was not wringing His hands, going back to the drawing board after Adam botched life in the Garden and ate the forbidden fruit. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus was not a hurried tourniquet applied to stem the Adamic bleed. Adam’s fall never caught the Lord by surprise, and His incarnation was not a Hail Mary pass – no last ditch effort to rescue as many as possible from the unforeseen devastation of the fall.
Hidden even within the collapse of mankind’s utter failure was a latent plan to redeem us from that very fall, revealed at the appointed time in the person of Jesus. It was always His intent that out of the old, the new would spring forth. That the seed must die in order to bear fruit. Although evil was allowed to run its course and mar creation, His ultimate predestined purpose was to restore that very creation to something far better than Eden. To return us to the very image of our Creator. Long before Adam ever fell, Christ was the Lamb who was slain from the very foundation of the world. Christ was always the original purpose of the Father. Incarnation was not a patch over fix. It was always the intention of the Godhead from eternity past to step into our humanity. Don’t be duped into fearing the G.O.D. preached under so many steeples who amounts to nothing more than a twisted human aberration cast upon the scriptures.
Our Father of infinite freedom allowed His creation to explore to the hilt the delusional idea that there is any existence whatsoever apart from Mr. Existence Himself. He allowed us to run into the bushes in a delusional attempt to escape His presence – to pretend there was a place He didn’t exist. But separation never existed from His perspective – in our blindness, the illusion of separation only existed from our end. How much more can we now relish the work of Christ – the Chosen One elected to wake us up from that Adamic fallacy Who became the sacrificial ram in those bushes to cleanse us of a guilty conscience? Forever we shall cherish the reality that He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
All of creation resounds with this glorious good news, that we have been included in the life of God.
The end of the story culminates with a backdrop not unlike the beginning. Again we see a Garden and a River and the Tree of Life. Behold the predestined plan of God: Deity united with humanity. The intent and purpose and scope of the Gospel. God and man forever meshed in unending unity.
He is the Delight of paradise. And to Him, we are the delight of paradise. Unlike the solitary monad god of religion, who doesn’t mind being alone – who was alone for all eternity – the Father of Jesus is a God of pure, unadulterated other-giving love. God in relation. In the circle of the Trinity, there is no performance orientation. Jesus is not working off a checklist making sure he has obtained the Father’s approval. There is no pretense, no insecurity in this relationship between Father, Son and Spirit. You’ve been swept into this circle of unconditional love from time immemorial, predestined in Him – existing in His heart and imagination from before time began.
You will never run fast enough, jump high enough or bow low enough to please the solitary sky god who doesn’t care whether he is alone or not. But the Abba of Jesus is a far cry from that mythical divine solo being of our fearful fallen imagination. He thrives on the face-to-face interaction of spending Himself on the object of His love.
Our questions have been all wrong ... Never was there an issue of “Am I chosen?” As if God’s choice for us was ever in question. The answer to that question is not found in the depth of our conversion experience, the sincerity of our own personal repentance, or the tears and travailing we have spent trying to mend our own sinfulness. Not in some questionable list of good deeds we’ve accumulated to prove our acceptance in that circle. Nor was it ever a question of a whimsical arbitrary lotto wheel in the sky, “Whom shall He choose?”
The answer is seen most clearly in the heart of the Father, demonstrated in the sacrificial love the Son on our behalf. And the Spirit is awakening us to this love every day. As T.F. Torrance succinctly wrote, “Unconditional grace is too costly, for it calls in question all that we are and do, so that even in our repenting and believing we cannot rely upon our own response but only upon the response Christ has offered to the Father in our place and on our behalf.”
God has never veered from His original intent for humanity. The ancients longed to look into our day, to marvel at the ever-increasing glory of our sonship. The Last Adam has restored all things. We are merely rediscovering what always was. And at the final resurrection, we shall fully see that which was accomplished from the womb of the dawn. Our adoption existed in Christ long before we stumbled into the darkness of the first Adam.
It seems to me no wonder that most theology is apophatic (telling us what God is “not like”). So much processing takes place regarding sin, the law and our own fallen, subconscious, twisted projections – because we’ve cast a god in the shadow of our own false personalities. When all we have known is darkness, it seems difficult to comprehend the light breaking through our dimly opening eyes. We have barely understood our separation from that darkness. If we haven’t known what we’re separated from, how on earth will we know what we are separated to?
But there is an inherent knowing deep within mankind – no matter how suppressed or ignored it may be. A distant remembrance … an echo of the light of Paradise from which we came. Perhaps in the coming days, that light will be less and less explored through the medium of book and sermon and human instruction, as invaluable as these resources are to us along the way. It will be embraced in the raw, naked ground of contemplative experience with the living Jesus. Perhaps in the full brightness of this Day, we’ll see that the shimmer of light that’s been glancing through the shadows all along was none other than Christ in you, the hope of glory.
You’ve been elected for the unfathomable destiny of enjoying Him forever.
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John Crowder, 5/4/2016