“. . . NO LONGER MY OWN,”
Today’s Scripture Reading
The snake was the most intelligent of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?”
The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s trees but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’”
The snake said to the woman, “You won’t die! God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for themselves.
During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God in the middle of the garden’s trees. The LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”
The LORD God said to the woman, “What have you done?!”
And the woman said, “The snake tricked me, and I ate.”
The LORD God said to the snake,
“Because you did this,
you are the one cursed out of all the farm animals,
out of all the wild animals.
On your belly you will crawl,
and dust you will eat every day of your life.
I will put contempt between you and the woman,
between your offspring and hers.
They will strike your head,
but you will strike at their heels.”
To the woman he said,
“I will make your pregnancy very painful;
in pain you will bear children.
You will desire your husband,
but he will rule over you.”
To the man he said, “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and you ate from the tree that I commanded, ‘Don’t eat from it,’
cursed is the fertile land because of you;
in pain you will eat from it every day of your life.
Weeds and thistles will grow for you,
even as you eat the field’s plants;
by the sweat of your face you will eat bread—
until you return to the fertile land,
since from it you were taken;
you are soil,
to the soil you will return.”
The man named his wife Eve because she is the mother of everyone who lives. The LORD God made the man and his wife leather clothes and dressed them. The LORD God said, “The human being has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Now, so he doesn’t stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever, the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to farm the fertile land from which he was taken. He drove out the human. To the east of the garden of Eden, he stationed winged creatures wielding flaming swords to guard the way to the tree of life.
When we pray the Wesley Covenant Prayer, we must recognize, as we discussed in the previous day’s reflection, that we are created in the image and likeness of God. We are spiritual, moral, and relational beings, designed with purpose and designed to experience a life full of meaning. We are to reflect God’s good way, which is to love all those we come into contact with or come into contact with us—wherever we might live, work, study, or play.
The second part of the prayer, moving beyond our self-revelation in the words I am, is the description, “no longer my own.” In fact, as we all know, we were never really our own. We belong to God for God’s purposes. This is the truth embedded in “I am.” This admission, that we are God’s and not our own, is often in direct conflict with the inner desire we harbor in our nature—to act independent of God’s will. We face this conflict daily, sometimes multiple times a day.
For me, one thing immediately comes to mind: money. You may have heard this another time or two in your life, but John Wesley is credited with saying, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” Sometimes in my life, although I am better about this than I ever have been before, by the grace of God, I forget that Wesley’s statement has two other key aspects beyond earning all I can. If I didn’t practice automatic giving through electronic funds transfer, I could easily get offtrack and find it difficult to save and to give. Although, for me, giving is easier than saving because I find deep meaning in charitable actions.
Truthfully, like all of those around us, we struggle daily to turn our trust away from self and toward God. The freedom we have, having been created as beings with the ability to choose, is God’s way of sharing God’s love with us. God loves us so much that in that love, God gave us the ability to love God back, or not. This is the fundamental struggle within all of humanity—to love God and let God be the god of our life, or not.
The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3 gives us a picture of what all humans are like. (Genesis chapters 1 and 2 give us a picture of what the world was like before the fall of humanity, let’s not forget.) Distracted by and drawn toward what is “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6 NIV), Adam and Eve chose to exercise their freedom of will and, in doing so, usurped God’s authority through the eating of the fruit. This self-centered action of eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, from which they knew they were not to eat, was a deliberate action to do their own thing. Eating the fruit was a measured way of putting their trust in their own selves, their own understanding and reason, rather than in God’s order.
The decision to disregard God’s order, as you know, had tremendous implications for Adam and Eve. No longer were they allowed to live freely in paradise, in the garden of Eden; they were expelled from it. God, in God’s amazing grace, continues to provide, protect, and love as only God can, but their life of peace and intimacy with God was now twisted with shame and blame. This shame and blame led to other self-interested wickedness and, over a period of time, God’s heart was broken and God becomes sorry that God ever created human beings and put them on the earth. We know from Genesis 6:5-6, which says, “The LORD saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil. The LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and he was heartbroken.”
Christians who choose to surrender their own will and return to God's will live out the prayer that they are "no longer our own". Christians who faithfully do this are making a conscious effort and taking immediate action to let God's will and mission for this world be the prevailing purpose for their life. It is in that purpose where meaning is discovered and consistently experienced. The end of the story is not a broken world in which God is grieved that God created humans and put them on the earth. The end of the story (as we see in Revelation chapters 21 and 22) is paradise restored. The end of the story is actually the beginning of a new story, a new earth, that is marked by peace and wholeness as opposed to disharmony and brokenness. Our Christian hope projects the belief that, one day, the world will know no brokenness, only wholeness.
Revelation gives us a glimpse of a paradise restored:
Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the city's main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing it's fruit each month. The tree's leaves are for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more. They won't need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shine on them, and they will rule forever and always.
This admission that "I am no longer my own" in Wesley's prayer gives us a new or renewed vision for our life, a vision of a paradise restored in which God dwells with God's people and one in which there is no more darkness, only the light of God. When we pray, "I am no longer my own," we resist the urge to have our individual desires and interests prevail. In their places, we surrender ourselves to God's good work of restoring the world toward its intended wholeness and work attentively to represent God with our entire lives.
If I am honest with myself, how do I answer the question, "Do I live as my own?"
With what three areas in my life do I have a hard time trusting God?
Teach us to trust you, God. Help us to use our freedom of will to allow you to truly be the only God in our lives. Help us to resist what is "pleasing to the eye" so that your will might be done. Amen.
Make a list of at least three struggles of self-interest that keep you from trusting in God more fully. Share three struggles with family, friends, of others in your small group. Ask them to hold you accountable to purge them from your behavior or lifestyle.
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