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We are all made in God’s image.
No-one is made to be evil. We are all made to do good and want the good. That’s what it means to be made in God’s image.
However, with our free will, we make either good choices or bad choices, right ones or wrong ones. We then live the consequences of those choices, and they define us.
We are not born children of God; we are born creatures of God. We become children of God through spiritual rebirth.
Nor are any born children of Satan; they become children of Satan by their choices.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was raised in Nazareth and grew in favour there with God and man. He was popular in Nazareth as a boy and a young man. The Nazarenes liked him. When he was invited to read in the synagogue in Nazareth, it was because the rabbi and the elders liked him. Everyone in Nazareth liked him. He had no seeming enemies there.
And yet those same people, the ones he grew up with and grew in favor with, the ones who graciously invited him to read scripture in the synagogue, the ones who all liked him, turned on him in an instant and tried to kill him by running him off a cliff. How is this possible?
There are only two sides in the spiritual battle: you are either with God, in which case you have God’s Holy Spirit guiding you, or you are not with God, in which case you have the unholy spirits guiding you. There is no third side.
The day that Jesus came out as the Messiah in Nazareth and was then run out of town in an attempt to kill him, the masks slipped from the faces of the Nazarenes. The “I am virtuous” masks slipped, and the ugly reality of whose children the Nazarenes actually were became all too apparent. They may have been born God’s creatures, they may have had the appearance of being godly, but by their actions they showed themselves to be children of Satan.
The “I am virtuous” mask-wearers are all around the children of God all the time. There is no place on Earth where the children of Satan are not. As born-again believers, we live with that reality. We live with the reality not only that the children of Satan are all around us but that they can be guided and prompted by the unholy spirits to run us off a cliff at any time. This is not a comfortable reality for us to live with, but it is what it is.
Even so, Jesus said we are spiritually and physically protected within God’s Kingdom on Earth by God’s Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus easily passed through the Nazarene mob trying to kill him, we can easily pass through the “I am virtuous” ungodly mob that can turn at any time and tear us to pieces. As long as we remain within God’s Kingdom, we are protected. Only when it is time for us to go home will the physical protection be removed, as it was for Jesus, as it was for Stephen, as it was for Peter and James and Paul and for every other child of God throughout history, whether known to us or not. We are protected spiritually and physically within God’s Kingdom until it’s time to go home, and then the physical protection is removed.
This should be a comfort to us, to know that as children of God we’re fully protected by God’s Holy Spirit during our time on Earth. We need to live conscious of that reality and not let the children of Satan intimidate us. Jesus walked fearless throughout his ministry years, even with a bounty on his head. There wasn’t one time when he was afraid. His fearlessness was rooted in his trust in God and in the knowledge that he lived and moved within God’s Kingdom and so was protected spiritually and physically by God’s Holy Spirit. We likewise need to unconditionally trust God and his perfect protection so that we, too, can move fearlessly through the world until it’s time for us to go home.
This is all I know: Before I was born again, I hated that book. I wanted nothing to do with it and I didn’t want it around me. The few times I tried reading it (for a class assignment), I could not. The words ran together and seemed to be written in a foreign language. I did not speak God.
After I was born again, the first thing I reached for was a Bible, like a newborn reaching for a teat. I read all four gospels in one sitting. It was the first time I’d heard the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank God he spoke English.
While I was reading through the gospels, God showed me what had happened to me. I read: “And seven devils were driven out of Mary Magdalene”, and God said: “That’s what happened to you, only there were a lot more than seven.” Then I understood: I was a Jesus freak. That’s the only way I could frame it: “Jesus freak”. As a former atheist, I had no other reference point. Over time, I learned to call myself a “follower of Jesus” and “born again”. But for the first while, I was just a Jesus freak.
Since the day of my rebirth, I have not let go of that book. It’s always within arm’s reach or in viewing range. I have a Bible by my bed and one by my computer, and another halfway between my bed and my computer. There are two more in my closet, carefully wrapped in clean white plastic bags. I read them so much, the pages fell out. I taped them back in, but then the covers fell off. Sometimes you just have to let go, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out. So I keep them swaddled in plastic, next to my swaddled dolls.
I read the Bible every day. Sometimes, I read whole books within the Bible, and sometimes I read only a few lines. I let God guide me as to what I should read. And then every once in a while I’ll read the whole Bible again, from cover to cover.
No matter how many times I read it, I never tire of it. Just like the first day, it feeds me. It’s always fresh. It’s always new. I always see something I hadn’t seen before. How is that possible? How can you read the same words every day, and yet every day see something new?
If God said: “You can have only one earthly possession”, I would have a Bible. There’s something about that book. It’s just a book, but it can’t be just a book. If it were just a book, I could have read it as easily as all the other books I read when I was an atheist. But I couldn’t read that book. I didn’t want it anywhere near me. The words all swam together. If it were just a book, those things would not have happened.
This is all I know: “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” I’m a Jesus freak. You can tape pages back into a book, but you can’t stop the cover from falling off. You can learn something new from the Bible no matter how many times you read it. And the Bible is not just a book.