With the passing of my father, Robert J. Reintgen, I have been moved to share with family and friends thoughts and insights that are important in my heart. There is no doubt to me that many do feel fear and trepidation concerning these things, as the truths involved in certain subjects of life and mortality always carry with them personal emotional attachments. We do not enjoy entertaining such thoughts. If at all possible, and often at any cost, we avoid contemplating them. We especially avoid discussion of them with others, even our own loved ones and those closest to us. Those we may perceive knowledgeable concerning these issues we tend to avoid in conversation, or at least steer and control the topic of discussion. We keep them unengaged and at a distance. We do not like the emotions associated with the impending realities of life and mortality.
This letter will allow me to traverse that distance and speak to you concerning these matters of the heart, in a safe and unintimidating way. You will be in control. You may continue to read or not read, it will be up to you. I wish I would be invited to sit down personally with each one of you, with the intended purpose to simply discuss these important matters, but I know that will never be the case. So I write, and you may choose to read or not, and we’ll leave it there.
I do not write anything here with the purpose of intentionally offending you, although I know some of it may. Dealing with realities and truths concerning life involves a certain understanding of the human condition that we all partake of. It does no good to mince words, there simply is no utility in that. A true perception and evaluation of our actual state before God is vital for the correct solution or answer to be found. Yet often the emotions rush in and we become defensive, refusing to admit, and even denying, the reality.
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
My main point is that all men will stand before God. In His presence is where the accounting for your life takes place. It will not take place at some far removed distance from Him. A further point I make is that if there is a God, then this God is holy and righteous. An unholy and unrighteous god has no business judging man. But I believe your conscience has already impressed upon you these very points. Even if outwardly you profess there is no God, or that He is not holy, your conscience is telling you otherwise. The simple truth that your conscience will bear witness to is that we will, one way or the other, be brought to give account of ourselves before God. The question personally for each of us is, how will you be able to stand in His presence? And what is it you are depending on for this?
I will speak mostly from the word of God, applying it as the truth we seek. I do my best to keep clear of man’s thoughts and man’s teachings, which lead either to religious superstitions or agnostic humanistic philosophies. By superstitions we fall short of actually knowing God, and depend on outward rituals and traditions of men to comfort our minds and quiet our consciences. By philosophy we shut God out, and make man the superior being of the universe. Either way it is not the truth of the word of God, nor are we prepared by these two opposite extremes to stand in His presence. Most of us may remember what was written above the stage in the auditorium in the old Latrobe High School – “the truth will set you free.” It was only years later that I learned that it was Jesus Christ who spoke those words. Yet the passage needs a fuller reading:
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Jesus is God, the Word of God, who took on human flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-4; 1:14). The above passage tells us this – His word is truth as God knows and is the truth. This truth from Him alone sets free. If you have not been set free by Jesus, the Son of God, then you are a slave to sin and in that state. Sadly, this is true whether you know it or not, or whether you deny it for yourself personally. You will not remain in the house eternally, but will be set out (apart from God). Only the Son makes anyone free.
It is not only Scripture which makes known to us that there is sin and misery in the world. All you have to do is look around or listen to the news reports. There you easily see sin and misery growing and developing. Even if Scripture or a Savior did not exist, if we are honest with ourselves, we see these things. The world in general is in ruin. Man knows well that iniquity and defilement are in him. Nobody is really satisfied with his portion here below, because his heart and conscience are ill at ease. There is a biblical principle between God and man that existed at the beginning and has been true ever since God placed man in the garden of Eden. We all have the sense of this overriding principle. It is called the principle of responsibility and goes something like this:
Responsibility attaches itself to every creature that can be conscious of a relationship with God, the Creator. Whenever there is awareness of this relationship, there is obligation in it to God. The Creator expects obedience in the creature, and therefore looks for the production of this fruit or result.
We may live outwardly denying any responsibility to the Creator, we may even deny we are created beings and that there is a Creator. We may want to make ourselves out to be the god of the universe, and that all of creation, even man, came about by chance. However, our consciences cannot do this unless they are somewhat hardened, or else we are oblivious to the creation around us, its intricacies and complexities. Man was created by God in the image of God and everyone’s conscience tells him he is responsible as a created being and will answer for himself. The word of God explains, as nothing else can, how Satan worked long ago in the world, and reveals the consequence of sin in man’s relations with God.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
Everyone should be familiar with this story; it was told or read to us probably numerous times when we were children. Some of us have even studied it later on, for one reason or the other, in our adult lives. In this letter I have to make certain assumptions about your awareness of God as the Creator, man as a created being, God’s creation as it was at the beginning, and the existence and presence of the devil in the form of the serpent. I realize that if you say that there is no God, then you’ll say there is no devil as well, no garden of Eden, no heaven, no hell, etc., and man came about by chance. You may even laugh and mock at the above reading. If that were the case this letter would need to go in a different direction to answer your infidelity. However, I still maintain that every human conscience is aware of and entertains the thought of one God as the Creator, and man as a created being in a relationship of responsibility to Him, even though we may make all serious efforts to deny this relationship, deceiving ourselves and possibly others.[But I will also interject this – most of us could do an initial reading of this letter in twenty minutes. Do you have this much time to spare? Then go back and slowly re-read and do a serious consideration of it, maybe even finding the scriptures quoted in your bible. This you should be able to do in forty minutes or so. Again I ask, do you have this kind of time to spare for such an important subject as this?]
The first thing the serpent did was to bring in something between the creature and the Creator, in order to put himself between God and man. This was subtle and cunning, and would prove ruinous if successful. The only thing which makes us happy is that there should be nothing between ourselves and God.
Satan begins by producing distrust in God. We see this in his words to Eve. He stirs man’s will into lust and disobedience. He never leads one to think of the goodness of God, nor of man’s responsibility to obey the Creator. The woman well knew that she ought not to eat of the tree, and that consequences would result. Yet she ate, and gave to her husband to eat (v. 1-6). Thus sin is the self-will of man acted out, as opposed to the will of God obeyed. Eve and Adam, assisted by the serpent, showed a will of their own. Unbelief sprang up which doubted God, and the words the Creator had said. By this means Satan made a breach. He persuaded Eve that God kept something greater for Himself and His own happiness and pleasure, something He deliberately chose to keep from them. The serpent made out like God feared that His creature should be too happy and blessed. But Eve was wrong in listening to Satan. She shouldn’t have listened to the voice which insinuated it was alright to distrust in God.
God has warned man of the consequences of sin, saying to Adam, “in the day that you eat of it you will surely die.” But Satan, who seeks always to deny the righteousness and truth of God, says to the woman, “you will not surely die; for God does know that in the day that you eat of it, then your eyes will be opened, and you will be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Nor was this altogether untrue. The fall has rendered man much more intelligent relative to good and evil. Yet Satan had lied and also kept the real consequences of man’s choices away from him. With sin, death came in – “…you will surely die.” The whole human race was placed under the slavery of sin, and the fruit of it was mortality.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men…”
Also Satan hid from man that he would be separated from God by his actions. The devil never mentioned that man would now have a bad conscience.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”
Adam and Eve acquired a knowledge that exposed their nakedness, which they attempted to conceal from their own eyes and from each other. Things that are close to us appear more important and desirous than what is still far off. This is the common outcome of immaturity – a child has a hard time waiting for anything, even what is better. The forbidden tree being near to Eve, and the judgment of God being distant, she took of the fruit, and ate.
So the deceit of the serpent tells them they will not die, and that the threats of God are empty. His mode of operation is always to conceal the warnings of God of judgment. Men then go on to do what Satan and their own lusts urge them on to do. Isn’t this the plight of man? We put off any thought of God’s judgment, it is far away. We don’t actually think we will live forever, but we always act like it concerning this particular matter. We joke about pearly gates and Peter meeting us, but it is a façade behind which our anxieties and fears are hidden and suppressed. We discard God’s words, God’s warnings, so that such things are not nagging on our conscience, so we may go on enjoying the current pleasures of doing our own will in sin. Although we may not realize it, we follow the advice of Satan. We establish independence from God, and reason we are not really doing anything wrong or that bad.
Also we take leaves to cover our nakedness. We do our utmost to hide the evil which has happened to us. We cover it over as if it isn’t there. But when God is revealed, when God shows up on the scene, He is the light and all is brought out in the open. God draws near to Adam as if nothing had occurred. The nearness to God, which would have been a delight for man previously without sin, becomes a source of immense fear and terror. God’s very presence is unendurable.
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
They were successful in veiling their nakedness from their own eyes, but they were terrified at the voice of God, and attempted to hide from Him. This is what man continues to do – making every attempt to hide from God. And we have learned to use more than just the cloak of darkness. Often we use the very things that God has created for our blessing to hide behind – the trees of the garden. Things that are innocent and good in themselves we use in vain efforts to conceal ourselves, or what we’re doing from God. But we cannot hide from God, not ourselves, not our actions, not even our thoughts:
(God’s Perfect Knowledge of Man)
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
5 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Adam was fearful when he answered God from his hiding-place. Adam knew something was wrong and that all was different. Before, he enjoyed the visits from God, walking and communing with Him in the garden. But now he saw his own nakedness, his own fall and ruin, and he was hiding. Conscience trembles at the presence of God. Every hope of enjoying the pleasure of sin is taken away when His voice is heard. Man is self-convicted of departure from God because of sin. God eventually drives out the man from the garden (Gen. 3:24); but man had himself fled from God’s presence first. Man’s own conscience told him that he could not stand before God any longer. Our consciences tells us the same thing – we cannot stand before God. This is evident by God calling out to Adam, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). Man had departed from God, banished by his own conscience before God drove him out. From that time, every man had added his own sins, accruing his own guilt. How can we then complain of unrighteousness in God? – if our own hearts condemn us in a similar fashion, even before God’s sentence is pronounced on us? With Adam at the beginning, the relations of man with God were broken, and in a manner irreparable, as far as man is concerned. “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10).
What Adam sinks into next is self-justification, but this is as wrong as his hiding from God. “And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat? And the man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:11, 12). How man has fallen! Adam, the head of creation stooping, in order to excuse himself of his sin, to cast the fault on his wife—yes, even on God Himself! And do we not follow these same examples? To blame something else, someone else, even God? “It is not our fault” becomes the response of self-denial and self-justifying man.
How debasing is evil once it is allowed! And there is no slavery more degrading, none so immediate and all-corrupting in its results as that to sin. The hardest thing for a person to do is to confess his sin truly and thoroughly. Judging oneself is only the fruit of grace through faith. A bad conscience dreads God and the consequences too much to confess, while, all along, it knows its sin too well to deny it. But God will bring all sin out in the open, and trace it to its source.
“And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
16 To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
Do you have complete confidence in God, and in His love for you? Does God accept you? If this were so you would be very happy and your conscience clear. But Satan is working, and his power consists in producing distrust through deceit, and this where there was at first happiness and intimate relation with God. He takes advantage of men who trust in their own will and their own efforts for their happiness. Men distrust God. They distrust the will of God. They are not willing to confide the care of their happiness to Him, nor do they know how to do so. They do not know how to trust in God’s mighty love in Christ. And so the devil does as he always has – he persuades men that God is too good to condemn them because they are sinners. Man, in spite of his sins and his conscience, hopes and persuades himself that he will not be condemned. These deceptions come from the voice and influence of the serpent.
But God has proved, by condemning to death His own Son, He will not tolerate sin and that sin’s wages are death. It will be judgment after death for all who believe not in the Son (John 3:17-18, I John 5:9-12, Heb. 9:27). The conscience being bad, all the effort of man is to hide from himself his nakedness before God. Man makes every attempt to rid the world of gross and outward sin, drunkenness, murder, robbery. He seeks by laws and by philanthropic efforts to blot out the exterior effects of sin which shock the world. But these things only hide the true condition temporarily. They are but the outward adorning of fig-leaves over the root problem – man is fallen in Adam, he is lost and utterly depraved. The outward means men use for covering over their true condition means nothing when God’s light comes in and man finds himself in the presence of God. The efforts only serve for the moment to conceal from ourselves our nakedness and misery. They are the trees that help us avoid thinking of the righteous condemnation God has pronounced on our sinful state, from that day long ago in the garden.
Our present condition is not only that we are born with Adam’s sin, but our sins now have come between our consciences and God (I John 3:20). We wish for something to hide us from God. We employ what we could call innocent things. The trees were innocent enough for Adam, but what use does he make of them? To hide behind them from God. God had given man to be head over the created world, but man now perverts it all to escape from the presence of God, pretending to be innocent in such an application of what God created as good in itself. When the voice of God awakens the conscience, one wishes still for something to hide us from Him; but this is impossible.
God says to Adam, “Where are you?” He no longer has anywhere to hide. If God comes and says to you the same, would it be your pleasure and delight to be in His presence? It is only God who, by imputing nothing to the believer, takes away all guile from the spirit (Ps. 32:1-2). But if you hide away from God, how do you then stand for your soul? God had not yet driven Adam from His presence, while still he had fled away from Him. Conscience tells us that, if we have sinned and He is a righteous God, there are no leaves or trees to hide us in His presence. Man is miserable in his conscience, and he cannot be happy in sin, save only that there is no God. All the hope of unbelief is that there is no God.
Adam wished to excuse himself, as if he had lusted after nothing on his own—he pretends to having only followed the voice of his wife, and this little fault is the only thing he is guilty of – instead of keeping the commandment of God. But if there was no lust in us, no sinful act would result. He had disobeyed the word of God, for which he was responsible.
In the midst of all the goodness of God, who has given His Son, Jesus Christ, for poor sinners such as us, if we have no confidence in God, this is the proof that our sins and guilt remain. If our sins are not all forgiven and gone, all having been “justified”, then we have no peace with God, no confidence to stand in His presence (Rom. 5:1). But the testimony of the gospel is that God is willing to justify “freely” any poor sinner (Rom. 3:23-26). God’s will was that Jesus would come from heaven into this world, becoming a man, in order and for the purpose of becoming the sacrifice before God (requiring His death and shed blood), which would allow God to freely justify your and my sins away (Heb. 10:1-12, Phil. 2:5-8). As is applied, through faith, to the believer by God as truth concerning redemption, Jesus was delivered up because of our offences (sins), and was raised because of our justification (Rom 4:24-25). Jesus died for us, for our sins. He was raised from the dead as proof that the believer’s sins have all been removed (justification). But what God is willing to freely give does you no good if you do not have it, if you have rejected this glorious redemption that is in Christ Jesus (John 3:18, 36).
No matter how one’s lack of confidence and peace with God may be manifested, is not this ingratitude and distrust of Him? Eve listened to and believed Satan, instead of listening to God and believing Him. And this is just what man is always doing, while he hopes for salvation and eternal life, though he sins. All the efforts you make to be happy prove you are not. The immediate effect of God’s presence in your hearts and consciences would be to stop your pleasures. If all your pleasures are found to be incompatible with the presence of God, what will they be for you in eternity? Will they bring you to the foot of His throne, this One who is holy and righteous? The godless pleasures and things you hide behind only show Him that you have passed many innocent hours far from Him. What is there but disobedience, distrust, falsehood, self-will, unless it be a still worse thing, the state of soul which wishes to divert its thoughts away from the presence of God?
You may withdraw yourself from the presence of God while grace lasts, but you cannot when this time is over and God comes to judge you. Satan will help you to hide all your life; your best friends following the world will help you also to keep away from the presence of God, to forget and deny it. But this will certainly not go beyond the time of grace which is granted you. Therefore, while it is called to-day, if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. If you hear His voice in this letter, He is drawing you to Jesus Christ, His Son (John 6:37-40; 6:44). Eternal life is in the Son, He is the bread of life (John 6:35). He who has the Son, has life (I John 5:10-12). If you have Jesus Christ, the Son of God, then you have life.
God knew that Adam had sinned and departed from Him. God knows that you are a sinner. He knows that it is the subtle deceit of Satan, which would make men his prey. But there was an answer to all this misery, of which Satan didn’t know, any more than poor, guilty, fallen man – the revelation of the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15). The question is really between the serpent and the second Man, Jesus, the Seed of the woman—no longer between Adam, the first man, and the serpent. It was neither a promise to Adam and Eve from God, nor a hope of improvement in their children. But God pronounces judgment on the enemy, and in the midst of it the revelation is made of the Savior – Jesus Christ, the second Adam, Seed of the woman. It was the woman who had ensnared the man to be ruined of the devil. God says the woman’s Seed shall bruise the serpent’s head, but He is bruised Himself first. What grace, yet righteousness! What humiliation, yet victory! If Adam exalted himself as a robbery to be as God, He who was God emptied Himself to be a man, and became obedient unto death, as the other was disobedient unto it (Phil. 2:6-11).
To lost Adam, the first man, there was, and could be, no promise. All the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus Christ, the second Adam (II Cor. 1:19-22); but the promises become the possession of every believer. Faith finds and enjoys the promise, not sin and unbelief. To Adam and Eve God only speaks of the actual consequences of sin (Gen 3:16-19). It was in judging the serpent (Gen. 3:15) that He reveals the coming Seed of the woman, and the way of His victory. Therefore unequivocally, the only hope of lost man is in this revealed Savior. Before he is driven out of the garden he hears of what Jesus was to suffer in destroying the power of the devil. Yet not a single indication of repentance appears in Adam after his sin. He showed his fear and terror of God, cowardly selfishness to his wife, as much dishonesty in his own case as dishonor done to God. But God occupies Himself only with His counsels (plan) of grace in Jesus Christ, the future Seed of the woman, who would eventually come, and whose person and work and glory are developed in all the Scriptures.
But victory over Satan in the cross of Christ is no longer in any sense a promise. For us it is an accomplished fact. Man had thought in his heart that God did not love him. But we see that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16). Man believed that God withheld what was good for him, through jealousy or envy of his happiness. But now I hope you will understand these truths which are an outcome of the cross and death of Christ, an outcome that every true believer holds as precious truth in their hearts:
31 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
God is not holding back anything from the true believer. He does not spare His own Son, but gives Him up to die as the solution for all that man has done and is guilty of in sin, and then, for those who believe, instead of withholding, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things! Those were Satan’s lies, the idea that God did not love us and that He was keeping something back. For we see the suffering second Man, the woman’s Seed, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the true God, and eternal life, who became man to die for sinners and destroy the works of the devil. Yet is the unbelieving heart so perverse as to refuse its confidence in the God who gave His Son? Jesus, instead of fleeing from God’s judgment, went to meet it when the hour came for the cross, and took on Him the burden of our sins, instead of listening to the voice of man or Satan. “The cup which my Father giveth me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11) By His death He annulled the devil who had the power of death, and gives the believer perfect confidence in God, all fear of death being gone. His love puts the believer in peace and relationship with God, unscarred by difficulties, now that his sins are forgiven, clothed with Jesus Christ instead of nakedness or fig-leaves (Gal. 3:26-29). The believer has nothing but grace to stand in and God’s glory to look forward to, since Jesus Christ bore the judgment for him.
Is your confidence then in the God who gave His Son to save the poorest of sinners? This confidence inspires and strengthens obedience. Nothing to the believer is more precious than God’s love in Christ, which makes him prefer His will to all Satan can offer or to that which the human mind can imagine.[ I add the following to complete the teaching on Genesis three (3). It was not part of the original letter above to family and friends, but it does seem to fit in place. You may use the above letter, and what is below, to share the gospel with your family and friends. It is not my teaching, but rather God’s, or the Spirit of God’s, and I do not think He minds if you use it. I would not understand anyone who is taught the word of God by the Holy Spirit thinking that the teaching he has been given is his to possess, and would be upset if someone else used it. Only God is deserving of recognition and glory. All we are, as believers, is earthen vessels (II Cor. 4:7). We are privileged to have the treasure in us, in the earthen vessels, so that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.]
Heb. 9:22 “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”
In the latter part of this verse we find an exclusive and distinct biblical truth—that without shedding of blood there is no remission.
The consequence of man’s sin against God was the fall of the human race in Adam and his separation from God. This is not just a general condemnation of all men, but is also the personal situation of all individuals before God. Man hid from God with fig leaves and trees, but God had to drive man out of the garden. In the flaming sword placed in the cherubim’s hand in Eden, after man’s disobedience, we find his forced separation from the presence of God (Gen. 3:22-24). Now being out of paradise, we see the existing fact – we are in a state of exclusion from God. And the question now is, have we any access to God—to His very presence, to walk and commune with Him, to stay in His presence and worship Him?
It is not only that we are out of paradise, but that we stand in all the accumulation of our transgressions. In the first act of sin we find that the will of man is disobedience to God; and every act of his since has been treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath.
When and if our conscience is awakened by God, we learn how productive of fruit our evil nature is. Then we see that all is gone (when man lost his innocency, it was lost forever), and we find there is no competency in us to enter into association with God. That which was man’s privilege in paradise has been lost, and we find ourselves not only born in the evil of sin (Ps. 51:5), but daily accumulating transgressions. Can we then enter into the place of God’s holiness? – this is the all-important question. Let me ask you—Is there nothing your consciences acknowledges as needing remission? Murder and theft, etc., which are the consequences of the condition man is in, through transgression, are admitted by all as evil. You may see the blessing of moral conduct, yours and others, as giving happiness on earth, but we can discern nothing beyond this. “On earth” is not the presence of God. When we look within the veil where God is, so to speak, it is altogether different than temporary happiness on earth. Our not offending or wronging our neighbor may produce temporal happiness, but the revelation of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ awakens the mind to a new line of questions and thoughts—your personal fitness for the presence of such holiness. And when our consciences are truly awakened by God, this question is soon settled – we find it utterly impossible. And so the question is not whether we find happiness in the world as it is, but how we may be made competent to be associated with Christ in the glory He is in when He appears. Does the world know anything about this? Is this what they look for? Is this what you are looking for? Do you think that being civil and nice to your neighbors is all that is necessary to speed you into the presence of God to live forever, when your time of grace has ended? The world is a witness to itself that it is far from God and will only come under judgment from Him.
God’s testimony is, “There are none righteous, none understand, and none seek after God.” (Rom. 3:9-20) But suppose we have received an understanding to know Him that is true, then still the question is—How are we to stand in the presence of the glory? Can one in a sinful condition live in His presence? Can we say we are fit to be partakers of the glory? There is nothing in the world or on the earth fit for this. It is useless to plead the highest morality, or the most refined amiability – they are not the things to qualify us for heaven, glory, and living with God. We may find the character of evil all around: all are guilty, for all come short of the glory of God. The evil of the root from which it springs may be easily discerned in the fruits.
Now there must not only be a renewing, but a complete purging of the conscience. We must insist on this: that without the shedding of blood there is no remission. All other ways are the efforts of man to depreciate the righteousness of God— the substitution of something instead of God’s way of salvation. We cannot be presumptuous and subversive of the great testimony of God – that without the shedding of blood there is no remission. The accumulated sins of our evil nature must be put away. The Spirit of God can have no part but bringing us to the knowledge of the hatefulness of sin, and the necessity of the blood shed. And whenever the soul is awakened to what sin is in God’s sight, there cannot be peace until the Spirit, which shews the necessity of holiness, and reveals that of God, teaches us that nothing but God’s own efficient act can put away, by the shedding of the blood of Jesus, the sins which God testifies against.
The shedding the blood brings it to the actual power of death—the taking away of the life of him whose life is given; and why? Because there is the forfeiture of life, and therefore the necessity of the life being given, the blood shed, to blot out the sin. And here we find Christ stepping in. All the believer has is entirely shut up in Christ, in whom we have a new nature whereby we can delight in God, and not forgiveness only. And this the consequence of the work of Christ alone, shedding His blood before God, offering His life as a ransom to God, presenting that which was adequate for the purpose, but without which there is no escaping the consequences of sin. “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” (Isa. 53) The blood was shed, but it is manifested as His own voluntary act. At the same time His side is pierced that we might know the act complete. This is presented to our faith as the required thing, and which could be done in no other way – without the shedding of blood there is no remission. Christ had no associate, no companion in this work. He was alone. Yet now forever the work is done. And the revelation of it by God to the soul is salvation. This is a transaction between God and the Son; the thing done is the ground of remission of sins to everyone who believes.
I have no peace or confidence in anything in which I take a part or in that which I do. But this is that in which Christ acted alone – the work of redemption. Man’s part in it was only providing the nails which kept Him on the cross that crucified Him. Is it, I ask, by any act to be done now by you that your peace may be obtained? No! It is simply by the blood which has been shed by Jesus Christ, the putting away of sin by the sacrifice of His death, which can give peace and confidence through faith.
If we realize we are ourselves morally dead in trespasses and sins, and that without the full forfeiture of life there is no remission, we shall see, as regards the cleansing of the conscience, there is nothing that can help us but the blood of Christ. But who provided this? It was God. It was the act of God to provide Himself a Lamb, by the shedding of whose blood the conscience of those admitted into the holy presence of God is effectually purged (Heb. 9:12-14).
Can’t you see paradise is lost, and disobedience and sin are here, and yet you will attempt to do something to force your way back to God? What hope can you have if you are not washed in the blood? The ground you stand on is worse ground than that which excluded man from paradise. How is that? You have the increased weight of accumulated sins. All this brings is the treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath. If we neglect or despise that blood which cleanses from all sin, are we not guilty of counting His blood as an unholy thing? He who seeks God’s presence and passes by Jesus, going to God in his sins, passes by the blood, rejects the testimony of God, and despises Jesus. You remember Cain and Abel. This is what Cain did and why he could not be accepted by God. Cain passed by the blood and brought vegetables. The arrogance of Cain was that he thought he could stand before God in his own work. My prayer is that you are not counting on the same thing.
If God is dealing with you now, it is through His grace. First, He will quicken your conscience so that you will be aware of your state of sin. You will comprehend that God is a holy God, and that you are a sinner. You will understand that you cannot possibly stand in the presence of this holy God, whenever that time may come. You have been making your best attempts at hiding from God, but now you realize that nothing you have ever thought, or said, or did, was ever actually hidden from His sight. You become uncomfortable with avoiding God any longer, for you know that the day of your judgment will eventually come. Your uneasiness is almost more than you can bear. You must know what God has said, what God has done as a solution to your problem. He has provided a Savior who, on the cross, bore your judgment. His blood was shed and He died for your sins, bearing them all away. By your faith in Him and His work of redemption, you have the forgiveness of your sins – every one of them. Guilt attaches to our sins, but if they are now all forgiven and borne away, guilt has been removed from our conscience. Justified from our sins, we now have peace with God (Rom. 4:25; 5:1). Peace with God means we can now stand in His presence.
This is not all there is to know about your redemption, but the forgiveness of your sins, removal of guilt, and having true peace with God is a great start.