I recently started riding a bike. To clarify, it is my bike, but I recently got it and started riding it. The desire to have it and do this started as I stared out our hotel room window during Hurricane Irma. I felt cooped up, stifled, and wanted to do something freeing – to feel free. So I found a couple of really good bikes for my wife and I in an online marketplace at a great price, and now I find myself riding around our small town early a few mornings each week.
This morning I started to notice something I hadn’t really paid attention to on my previous rides… signs. Signs in parks and along bike paths, near picnic tables and fishing spots. All of them were negative… No Swimming, No Climbing, No Jumping, No Pets, Warning: Stay Off.
Now, I get the need for boundaries and safety. Rules are important, without them people do sometimes stupid stuff and get hurt. But I started to think about all the children that pass those signs and read them. They are all in places that are supposed to be fun and freeing, but they are all telling those same children they can only have fun or be free with limitations. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
In Genesis 3:11, God asks Adam and Eve a very specific question… “Who told you that you were naked?” They had just disobeyed Him by eating from the tree in the middle of the garden – the one He said not to eat from. I don’t imagine He posted a sign next to the tree… He simply told them. “You can eat from every other tree, just not that one.” (emphasis mine) Now He comes to walk with them like He did every evening, and they are hiding. From God. In a bush.
God had created them and clothed them in glory, given them the command to be fruitful and the awesome charge that they were to have dominion – to be in charge. Adam had named every animal and became the caretaker of this glorious place God had created for them to live. And then in the desire to satisfy their own curiosity or fill the lust of their flesh, they ate the fruit of the one tree they were told not to… and they lost it all. That one act has had a lasting impact on every living thing – man or beast, plant or seed.
Since that moment, we have been doing all we can to reclaim the narrative. To somehow prove we are more than the failures of our ancestors, and that we can be greater than what history records. We want to impact the world around us, rather than let the weight of it have a crushing impact on us. As a matter of fact, the word impact means “the effect or influence of one person, thing, or action, on another”. We don’t just WANT to be influencers, it is actually the same desire God placed deep in the heart of Adam when He first created him.
Scripture tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The word workmanship is the Greek word poema, where we get our English word poem. A poem is a weaving together of thoughts, ideas and emotions. The picture this verse paints for me is that there was a given moment in time when God had all of these thoughts, plans, ideas and emotion which He spoke out, and the result was that I was created. The same happened for each and every one of us. And part of what He spoke were the good things He created for us to do – the impact He wanted us to have on the world around us. It started with Him.
As Adam and Eve learned, the depth of the impact we were created to make is also directly tied to the depth of our relationship with Him. Acts 4:13 tells us, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Their courage and boldness could be seen – they were making an impact – but what was also noted was the SOURCE of that courage – their closeness to Jesus.
We read about the failures of Peter before this, but you don’t read about them after this. What changed – and what gave him the ability to leave such a mark on the people and places he encountered after this – is that HE had been changed. The breath of God had been breathed on him and in him, and the signs in his life telling him what not to do and where not to go had been torn down. Now Peter could make the impact he was created to make, but in a way Adam had missed – through surrender and a desire for more of Jesus’ fellowship than a moment of satisfying his flesh.
I’ve been created for dominion and to make an impact. I wish I could say I’ve always chosen the fellowship over the fruit, but I can’t. Peter learned this, too, and it is what caused him to write, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)
But it’s not about simply BEING good – no, it is about realizing without that goodness people will never see the One you have been created to have relationship with… and you’ll never fulfill your destiny. “They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.” (1 Peter 2:8)
Lord, help me live my life always yearning for the fellowship, and never reaching for the fruit.