|B&H Publishing Group
|5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.59(d)
|3 Months to 18 Years
About the Author
Michael Snetzer serves as Recovery Groups Pastor at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. He received his Masters in Counseling from Dallas Baptist University. For seven years he served as a counselor at the Center for Christian Counseling. He has served on the pastoral staff at The Village Church since 2007. He has worked part-time at North Texas Christian Counseling since 2012. He has three children: McKenna, Ava, and Greyson. He and his wife, Sonia, were married in 2007.
Read an Excerpt
Good. Gone. Bad.
Genesis, Creation, and Fall
This world is busted up.
Ask a parole officer. Ask a social worker. Ask a foster parent. Ask an oncology specialist. Some people's jobs keep them so far out there on the front lines, they see what's messed up about our society and human existence nearly every day. They see sexual predators soliciting nine-year-olds on the Internet. They see teenagers slicing thin lines into the skin on their inner forearms. They see bruises and broken marriages. They hear from a whole bunch of bald- faced liars. Blood and guts and death and disease. It's awful.
And in case you're not around a lot of people in professions like those, just ask a pastor — because outside of police officers, firefighters, and paramedics, we're often the first ones on the scene at emergencies and other moments of personal loss. We've been inside homes where the grief is so intense, where the pain is so hot to the touch, all a person can really do is just sit there and hold people, cry with them, wait it out. We've seen and (in Michael's case) personally experienced the dark realities of meth addictions, car crashes, jail cells — all kinds of lifestyle junk and near-death experiences. We've counseled with guys who've lost work, with teens who've lost their virginity, with families who've lost nearly every penny they ever had, even with people who seriously don't know where their next meal is coming from or where they'll be spending the night tonight.
How much time you got? We could go on all day.
And when it's not falling apart in front of some of us, it's falling apart in front of all of us — another school shooting, a missing child, another swath of tornado destruction, or a terrorist strike. If we're a safe enough distance away, we tend to move on in a day or two, once the CNN crews pack up from their remotes and leave the disaster site. But every time it hits again — and it always does, it always will — we're reminded just how close the next waves of sadness and despair really are. They're never much further away than a breaking news flash, a phone call, or a phantom pain in our side.
Sometimes, though, it's not the unexpected and extreme that show us how broken this world is, but more of what we might describe as a low-grade gnawing, deep in our gut, an inability to ever be totally satisfied by any event or experience that happens to us. Weekends and vacations are great — but never quite long enough. Live music concerts are big fun, take us to a whole other place — but then they're over, moving on to the next show in the next city. Fourth-quarter comebacks are crazy exciting. Cheers, jumps, and fist-bumps. But then the stadium clears out, the announcers sign off, and by the end of the day, we're home packing our sandwich and apple for work tomorrow.
So even if you're the kind of person who constantly keeps the glass half-full of optimism, there's still a limit on how high you can raise the water line of expectation — not and keep living in reality.
Our days will always be dammed up somewhat by the limitations of our own energy, by random intrusions of difficulty and conflict. We'll be forced to deal with unwanted obligations, with holdover consequences from past mistakes, with imbalances in our weekly schedules. We'll never be able to clear the harbor of every spiritual battleship threatening to take us down and blow us out of the water. And though we try not to look, we cannot keep the drug needles and dead bodies from washing up on shore every day with the morning headlines, even if we plug our ears with the squealing sounds of our preschoolers' play dates and our iPod playlists.
What's even more upsetting and discouraging is that we will pollute things even further with our own putrid mess of sins and habits, some of which we've allowed to bob along in the surf around us for years and years. Sure, we've tried dredging the lake from time to time, utterly disgusted with ourselves, doing our best to clean out what we've allowed to embed underneath. But the fresh water never seems to stay fresh for very long. We'll foul it up with something, if not with something else.
Bottom line, when we're not living in constant danger, seems like we're dealing with consistent disappointment — in ourselves, in others, or just in general.
And surely, we think, it doesn't have to be this way.
Surely there's more to life than this.
All right, let's hold it here, because what we want you to see in that very statement — in that feeling — is how this desire in your mind for something more and better is not the depressed ramblings of a bad mood, but is truly a God-wrought invention. It comes straight from your Creator. This discouraging take on things is in reality a gift from the One who made you. You can try dulling it with sleeping pills and police dramas if you want, but you'll be stamping out a fire that's actually supposed to be burning inside you. Because if you're looking at this world — and at yourself — and you're convinced that neither one of them is the way they're supposed to be, then you're being given an important piece of bad news.
And here's why you need to pay attention to it.
In order for good news to be good — like the gospel is good (literally means "good news") — it must invade bad spaces. When you receive a clean test result, for example, from a panel of lab work your doctor ordered, that's some good news, isn't it? — even better if you'd been preparing yourself for possibly the worst. When you ask someone to marry you, and they say "Yes, yes, I want to spend my whole life with you," that's good news too — because the alternative answer sure would've made for one nasty rest of the weekend.
The bad parts of what we see and feel around us serve a purpose in God's mission to recreate something that's been lost and destroyed. They keep reminding us of realities we'd just as soon forget, yet He uses them as goads to lead us toward an even fuller universe of truth.
Bad news is the backdrop against which good news really shines.
So let there be darkness.
And let there be light.
In the Beginning
And it was good.
The triune God of the universe — Father, Son, and Spirit — existing forever in perfect contentment with one another, overflowed with love and affection onto the canvas of creation, and brought into existence everything that's ever been.
They didn't need to. Didn't need you. God wasn't bored out of His mind or wondering what He wouldn't give if He could only find somebody new to talk to and hang around with. Wasn't that at all. On the contrary, the magnificent Three in One, in celebration of their fullness and perfect fellowship, delighted Himself/Themselves by speaking the powerful words that accomplished the creation of all things.
And it was ... good.
What an understatement.
The act of Creation itself reads in the original language of the Old Testament with a pulsating cadence, almost like a musical rhythm: God created, God created, God created, it was good. A beautiful harmony, reflecting perfect union within the Trinity, became interlaced throughout star systems and soil samples, from the most mammoth and mountainous things to the most microscopic and mysterious things, congealing into a cosmos that was spectacular not only by its size and beauty, its grand colors and shared cohesion, but also by a tangible quality that noticeably pervaded it.
His world was at perfect peace.
And then into the musical score of Creation, He inserted a well-timed rest. An intentional pause. Not stopping the music, but accentuating by silence the beauty of what was playing, putting space between the notes and bringing clarity to the whole work.
Perfect peace. Perfect harmony.
Try to imagine it. Here. On this blue planet. The same one where perhaps you kick off your shoes after work and peel open a lonely can of ravioli and a Diet Pepsi for dinner. The one where you wake up stiff from a cross-training routine, feeling older than ever, moaning yourself out of bed with whatever's grown knotted up in a ball overnight. The one where sexual lusts can sail through your head when you swear you were just stopping to fill up your tank at the gas station. The one where your kids need braces and glasses in the same year — the same year your company stops giving cost-of-living raises due to budget cuts.
"Surely it doesn't have to be this way. Surely there's more to life than this." Yeah, no kidding. But know this: there was a time when the first man and woman never contemplated such an abstraction. Nothing in their world was dead or dying around them. Nothing was ominous or unsafe. Nothing was leaking or running late or costing too much or hard to do. God was perfect, creation was perfect, they were perfect, everything was perfect. And life was just there to be lived within the unbroken freedom and shame-free fellowship that existed between mankind and God. What else? Why not?
That's how it was. That's how He created it.
The original man and woman needed God, yes. But not because they were fallen and sinful. They needed Him simply because they were human. He created us from the very beginning to live in a loving, dependent relationship with Him.
Got it? That was the plan.
A lot of times, when we start thinking about God and redemption — especially as believers who continue experiencing trouble with ourselves — we focus on our conscience-dragging depravity, the things in us that need change and recovery. We concentrate on how sinful we are. Which is true. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick," the Bible says (Jer. 17:9). You won't hear us dodging that doctrine for one second. We're born bad. But only in proper context can this key bit of biblical theology be considered "foundational" ... because man wasn't depraved and depleted at the beginning. Sin wasn't there, even on Day Seven. The Word of God begins where our understanding of the gospel needs to begin: amid the flawless glories of Creation.
Sky. Sea. Air. Water. Seed. Plants. Garden. Food. Birds. Animals. Beauty. Trust. God. Man.
Whenever we feel the absence of peace — whenever our unmet longing for joy expresses itself as anxiety, or depression, or fear, or anger, or enslavement to any number of defeating sin patterns or addictions — the emptiness we're feeling and trying to fill is for what our relationship with God, by His loving choice, was always meant to be. Our angst comes from the underlying implications of Ecclesiastes 3:11, where the Scripture says God "has put eternity into man's heart."
Our souls, in other words, possess a dim memory of Genesis 1 and 2. And we miss it. We crave it. We need it. The desire for relating in authentic Garden of Eden transparency and openness with God is what causes such dark shadows of disappointment to lengthen behind everything else we touch, taste, attempt, and take on, in desperate attempts to try getting it back.
What we "groan" for, whether we realize it or not — along with all the rest of our now fallen world — is for the Genesis ideal, the "revealing of the sons of God," living in peace, perfection, and pure harmony with our Creator (Rom. 8:19). We want Creation restored. We want life to be what we know it can be ... and we want it yesterday. That's where the nagging dissatisfaction of our heart comes from. We're not what we should be. We're not what we long to be. We're not what mankind truly was in the beginning with God.
But "in the beginning" is where we need to start ... because we'll always find it hard to understand our dysfunction unless we understand what it means to function. We won't be able to make sense of our chaos and disorders without seeing what true order with God really looks like. We can never grasp the extent of our depravity until we recognize the excellencies of our created dignity.
And this is what God has chosen to redeem for us.
Through His grace.
Through the gospel.
So just sit there for a second. And look at it. Realize, from revisiting Genesis 1, that God has already shown us how He can take what is formless, dark, and empty — which, perhaps, is exactly the way you feel right now — and breathe His precious life into the most lifeless of situations. Making it ... good.
Not by enrolling us in a program. Not by pinning us down, cold turkey. Not by impersonally, insensitively telling us to clean up our act — to think better thoughts, to choose better behaviors, to channel better emotions, to tap into the better angels of our nature. He does it simply by an act of His loving will, by introducing us to the relationship we need with Him.
Empowering us to make changes. Today.
For what's broken in us — what's aching for recovery — is beyond our ability to fix. And from the moment it broke, all attempts to redeem it by ourselves are doomed to futility and failure. We need God. Or else. Not just once. Not just to get His signature on our heavenly hall pass. But forever.
We will never get over needing Him.
So, behold, it was good. Very good.
And then it broke bad. Very bad.
Genesis 1 and 2, meet Genesis 3.
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Gen. 3:8)
There's probably not a more heartbreaking verse in all of Scripture.
(Read it again, in case you skimmed over it.)
Adam and Eve had been placed within the pristine wonders of Eden, invited by God's design into a life of no shame, no hiding, no fear, no secrets, no need for sneaking around, nothing at all to worry about. They'd been given pleasant work to do. They'd been given each other, without so much as a stitch of clothes between them. And they'd been given an abundance of food options to choose from, with only one, single, very distinct exclusion — the one tree whose fruit, if they ate of it, could be counted on to kill them.
That was it.
And by observing that one clear-cut rule, within the bounty of blessing that was teeming all around them, they were set up perfectly for a life of blissful unity, along with the effervescent joy that was intended to flow from their being obedient to God. "Take off. Have fun."
But that tree — that one prohibited tree — kept looking better and more desirable to them than all the others put together.
We're pretty sure you know the story. The Serpent (Satan) slipped a line to the woman: "Are you sure God said you couldn't eat from any of these trees?"
"No, just not from that one. We can't even touch it, or we might die."
"Aw, come on, that's not true. He just knows, if you can get the knowledge that comes from that tree, you'll make a better god than He is. He's holding out on you, girl."
Adam, by this time, had come bumbling over from ... who knows, naming another animal or something, wanting to check out what was going down in this other part of the garden for a while. And instead of stepping in to protect his wife from an obvious liar and intruder, instead of jumping on that snake with whatever came closest to looking like a shovel blade from his toolshed, he just stood by while she sank her teeth into the first sweet taste of destruction. Then, not wanting to appear unsupportive apparently, he shrugged his shoulders, went along, and dug in too.
The next sound you hear in the Garden of Eden is the heaving, lurching, ear- splitting shatter of shalom, of God's peace, screeching violently out of phase with the pitch-perfect rhythm and harmony of His original creation. Outright rebellion had been declared against the King of glory. And suddenly, these experiences we know all too well now ourselves — guilt, regret, panic, disbelief, nervousness, blame, self-hatred, hypocrisy — all came shuddering through Adam and Eve's bloodstreams for the first time in their lives. Like ice water. And both of them ran. And hid. And hoped to God they'd somehow gotten away with it.
And so began our historical obsession with finding and sewing fig leaves. With dressing up our disobedience and hoping nobody notices. With doing whatever we can think of to remember that song we can almost still hear in our heads but can never quite seem to pull it out of our long-term memory.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Recovering Redemption"
Copyright © 2014 The Village Church.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction Cover Versions,
Chapter 1 Good. Gone. Bad.: Genesis, Creation, and Fall,
Chapter 2 Attempted Redemption: A Morality Play in Four Acts,
Chapter 3 Full Recovery: The Gospel of Jesus Christ,
Chapter 4 Struggling Well: True Faith in Real Life,
Chapter 5 The Benefits of Belief: Justification and Adoption,
Chapter 6 Turn Here: The Navigation of Sanctification,
Chapter 7 The Perfect Storm: Guilt, Shame, and Aftershocks,
Chapter 8 God Is Great, God Is Good: Fighting Fear and Anxiety,
Chapter 9 Keep On Tugging: Pulling Up Roots, Putting Down Stakes,
Chapter 10 Go in Peace: Reconciling and Amending,
Chapter 11 Feel the Heartburn: Confronting and Forgiving,
Chapter 12 Pleasure Seekers: Persevering in the Pursuit of Joy,
Epilogue Making Much of His Name,