In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey identifies that one of these habits is “Begin with the End in Mind”. Covey suggests that we visualise what we want people to say about us at our funeral. In the visualisation, we ask questions such as what character we want people to see in us or what difference we would like to make in people’s lives. These questions will help us touch on some deep, fundamental values crucial to living an effective life before our funeral.
Once we have settled on these deep fundamental values, we will clearly understand our destination. This end will determine how we live our daily life. We will do things consistent with the character that we desire to cultivate. When we begin with the final destination in our mind, we will better understand where we are now and the steps we need to take to reach our goal.
Since God has created us in his image (Gen 1:26-37), God gave us this ability, to begin with the end in mind. God himself also demonstrated his ability to start with his goal in mind. While we do not know everything about God’s purpose and plan, God has revealed his end in mind concerning his relationship with humanity.
What is God’s goal in mind? In Revelation 21, when the author saw “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Rev. 21:1 ESV), the author heard God speaking from his throne, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:3 ESV).
These words reveal the end that God had in mind. When we reread the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, this truth will deepen some of our understanding of Scriptural teaching. In Genesis 1-2, God’s goal was to dwell with humanity when God created this first heaven and the first earth. When he created humankind in his image, his end was that humanity would be his people, and God himself would dwell with them as their God.
When God planted a garden in Eden and placed Adam in it, God intended to make this garden the dwelling place of God and humanity. Eden was meant to be a place of intimacy between God and Adam. We know that God visited the garden regularly. When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid when “they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden” (Gen 3:8-9). Previously, when God visited the garden, they did not hide. They interacted with God without a barrier. There was intimacy between God and humanity.
Intimacy fragmented when Adam and Eve broke God’s law (Gen 3:1-7). Despite this fragmentation, God called out to them when they hid from him (Gen 3:9). Although God confronted Adam and Eve and spelt out the consequences of their disobedience, God had a plan to restore the intimacy between God and humanity.
After confronting Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God sent the couple out of the garden. In banishing them from Eden, God barred them from the tree of life (Gen 3:22-24).
On the surface, this seems like God was punishing them, yet when we look at this banishment from God’s end in mind, this was mercy and grace.
When Adam broke God’s law, death entered the human race (Gen 2:17; 3:19; 5:5). By barring the couple from the tree of life, sinners do not live forever as sinners. God could deal with the penalty of Adam’s sin by coming into the world as Christ to pay for Adam’s disobedience and ours (Rom 5:18-19; 1Pe 3:18).
Based on Christ’s death and resurrection, God no longer condemns all who are in Christ (Rom 8:1-4). Although God no longer condemns us, the presence of Adam’s disobedience remains in us. Sin’s presence in our bodies continues even after we believe in Christ. The reality that believers still die indicates that Adam’s sin is present in us. The death of our bodies is necessary to remove Adam’s sin.
God will remove the presence of Adam’s sin when we die and resurrect physically. Our resurrected bodies will be like Christ’s glorious body (Phi 3:20-211). Adam’s sin is no longer present in our resurrected bodies. When we receive our resurrected bodies, God will dwell with us, and we with him.
Meanwhile, while we wait for our resurrection, believers are to resist the presence of Adam’s sin in their bodies. When Christ died for us, we too died with Christ to the enslaving power of Adam’s sin (Rom 6:6-7). In crucifying with Christ, God set us free from the controlling power of Adam’s sin.
Thus, we receive the appeal to consider ourselves dead to Adam’s sin (Rom 6:11). This appeal implies that we can resist the attempt of Adam’s sin to use our bodily parts such as our hands, legs, mouths, eyes and ears to commit disobedient acts (Rom 6:12-13). We need to rely on the Spirit to curtail any attempt prompted by Adam’s sin to use our bodily parts to disobey God. Although God no longer condemns us, he desires that we resist any temptation by Adam’s sin.
If we do not resist the temptations of Adam’s sin, we will reap the earthly consequences of breaking God’s standard. For example, Adam’s sins may tempt us to serve God with rebellious attitudes and actions. While God does not condemn us, we will suffer the loss of our rewards (1Co 3:10-15). In some extreme cases, God may even destroy their earthly lives (1Co 3:16-17). Therefore, believers are to resist Adam’s sin even though God no longer condemns us.
Since God welcomes us despite our struggle with Adam’s sin, this struggle is an opportunity to draw near to God. If we do not run to God in our battle against temptations, we will unwittingly run to the devil. On the other hand, we should go to God boldly with all our struggles and ask him for grace to resist temptations (Heb 2:17-18, 4:14-16). If we fall into sins, we should go to God with humble boldness to repent and realign with him, seeking more grace to oppose future temptations (1 John 1:8-10).
However, no matter how much progress we make in sanctification on earth, our godliness cannot add to Christ’s righteousness or save us. God no longer condemns us solely based on Christ’s righteousness (1Co 1:30-31). Since God already has his end in mind, God will glorify all he called according to his purpose; those whom he called will love him (Rom 8:28-30).
What is God’s purpose? God’s purpose is that his dwelling place is with all he called. God desires to live among those who love him. They will accept him as their God, and he will make them his people. God will free his people from death vis-à-vis Adam’s sin (Rev 21:3). God will accomplish all his purpose; in God’s mind, he has done it
Since God does not lie and cannot lie (Num 23:19), and if you are a believer, God understands you better than yourself. We can all come with humble boldness to God no matter how good or bad we are doing in living out our trust in Christ. Our imperfection is not a barrier to God but an opportunity for us to be intimate with God, seeking his grace to change and grow in Christ. Don’t be weary in coming to him with your imperfection.
If you have not invited Christ into your life, God desires you to come to him, no matter what you have done in the past. When we believe that Christ died for us and God resurrected him on the third day to give us eternal life, Christ will come to live in you, and you will live in him. God will never condemn you in Christ. Don’t hesitate.
Cheng Eng Hwa