This post isn’t for everyone.
It’s for the people who sense that something is wrong with this world.
It’s for those who grieve over the hurt they see around them and regret their part in it.
You’re right, there is something wrong and you’re a part of the problem.
You also need to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.
The Bible tells the story of what’s wrong with our society and it tells us how to cross over into a new society governed by trust and love.
First, here’s what went wrong:
Our original ancestors were given the opportunity to live in paradise. In paradise, they enjoyed perfect harmony with their environment and each other in God’s presence. At some point they chose selfish ambition over peace and intimacy.
They would now suffer an existence characterized by alienation from God and from each other.
As these early ancestors reproduced, their brokenness multiplied along with their progeny. In time, hate-filled and violent people would populate the earth.
Noah and His Family Crossed Over
Rather than allow continued degradation, God declared that he would destroy the evil society by means of a massive flood:
So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:7-8)
We’re not told why, but God selected Noah for special treatment while everyone else faced impending doom.
You’re probably familiar with the rest of the story. God instructed Noah to build a massive, water-tight wooden box which would hold male and female representatives of humankind and animals. Then a flood destroyed all life outside of the great wooden box. After the waters receded, all the inhabitants came out and repopulated the earth.
In the ark, Noah crossed over the waters into a new society.
Sadly, selfish ambition came off of the ark in the hearts of Noah and his family.
Abraham Crossed Over
As Noah’s family reproduced, his descendants formed a new evil society which the book of Genesis describes like this:
At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.
They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” (Genesis 11:1-4 NLT)
These people made selfish ambition a corporate enterprise. They came to realize that they were stronger together and came up with ways to cement their corporate identity. To establish permanence beyond their individual lifespans, they would build a great city. They also planned to memorialize themselves through an impressive achievement, the tower. These monuments to their corporate strength would also maintain it by keeping everyone together.
God disciplined these people for pulling together around selfish ambition. He confused their languages and scattering them to the four corners of the earth.
In the next chapter of Genesis, God calls a man to become the antithesis of Babylon’s arrogance:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3 NLT)
Abram was from a city called Ur which was located in the region of Babylonia. God called him to leave the corrupt society of his nativity to wander in an unknown land. To reach Canaan from Ur, Abraham had to cross over the Euphrates River. From then on, he and his descendants would be know as “Hebrews” which means, “the crossed over.”
Because he trusted God enough to cross over from dependency on humankind, God would give Abraham everything the people of Babylon had attempted to seize for themselves. In addition to that, God would use Abraham as a vehicle to bless everyone on earth.
Moses Crossed Over
After four hundred years, God’s promise to make Abraham’s descendants into a nation came true. The Hebrews, whom God had taken to develop in Egypt, multiplied into the hundreds of thousands. They were now a nation that would be known as Israel.
Fearing a revolt, the Egyptian king put the Hebrews under forced labor. In time, they called out to God who sent Moses to rescue them from slavery.
Through Moses, God inflicted a series of ten plagues on Egypt until the king let Israel leave his country. After they left Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness for a couple of weeks finally making camp next to the Red Sea.
Then the king, regretting the loss of his large slave labor force, marshalled his army and pursued them into the wilderness. When he caught up to them, the Israelites were terrified. God told Moses to lift his staff over the Red Sea and it parted. Israel walked through the sea on dry ground, but the Egyptians were all drown as God released the sea upon them in the midst of their pursuit.
From then on, Israel’s old masters had no control over them. They were free to serve the one true God and to depend on him for everything they needed. Moses and Israel crossed over the Red Sea from an evil society to a life of God’s guidance and provision in the wilderness.
Like with Noah’s family, selfish ambition came through the water with Israel. In time, they started to think just like the people of Babylon. They demanded that God give them a human king so they wouldn’t have to trust God to deliver them from their enemies. Throughout their history, they continued to reject God until he finally sent them back to Babylon as prisoners of war.
John the Baptist Crosses Over
Because of his promises to Abraham, God returned Israel to their own land after seventy years in Babylon.
Even though they had been through so much, Israel continued to chase selfish ambition. By the first century C.E., the leaders in Jerusalem had become puppet leaders for the Roman Empire. They talked about following the will of God, but they didn’t do it themselves. When push came to shove, those Israelite (now also known as Jewish) leaders would do anything to protect their grip on power.
At that time, God sent a man named John into the wilderness to speak a message of correction to Israel. He told them that they needed to change their ways because God was getting ready to come to them. The people who listened to John’s message were baptized by him in the Jordan River. This baptism was a crossing over from the compromised and corrupt religion of Jerusalem into a pure devotion to God.
Jesus Crosses Over
Though he was born to a virgin as the Son of God, Jesus lived an ordinary human life until he was around thirty years old. Then he went out to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
At first, John didn’t want to baptize Jesus because he knew that he didn’t have any sin to turn away from. Jesus urged John to comply, because it was God’s will for him to be baptized.
When Jesus came up from the water, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven called out, “This is my beloved Son. I’m pleased with him.” At his baptism, Jesus crossed over from carpenter (the trade he learned from his earthly father) to Christ (the calling given to him by his heavenly Father, God).
Jesus Christ went around teaching everyone and performing miracles. He called out the hypocrisy among influential religious people of his day. The respectable people hated him, but the outcasts loved him and followed him everywhere.
When Jesus came to Jerusalem, the religious leaders felt threatened by him. They schemed to have him executed by the Romans on a cross.
Jesus had told his disciples that this would happen. When Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, heard this prediction, he called Jesus aside and said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus responded harshly to his concerned friend, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:22-23)
At his death, Jesus crossed over in a way that nobody else had until that time. By submitting to a wrongful death, Jesus let go of all selfish ambition and trusted his life fully into God’s hands. He didn’t just cross over through water. He crossed through death.
Because of his obedient trust, his Father resurrected Jesus never to die again.
Jesus’ Followers Cross Over
Fifty days after Jesus rose again, the Holy Spirit came from heaven with a loud rushing wind onto 120 of his followers who were praying in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit gave them the ability to speak in languages which they hadn’t studied. People from all over the city gathered to hear them. Since it was a special holiday in Jerusalem, Jews were present from all over the Roman Empire. Everyone heard these followers telling about God’s wonderful deeds in their own native tongues and they were amazed.
Then, Peter stood up and told everyone how God had sent Jesus to be their perfect king, but they and their leaders had rejected him and had him crucified. Peter also told them that God had given proof that Jesus was the Son of God by raising him from death and by pouring out the Holy Spirit.
The people in the audience were crushed by this news and asked what they should do. Peter responded,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call. Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” (Acts 2:38-39, 40b)
Peter called them to cross over, through baptism, from participation in their corrupt society to life led and empowered by God through the Holy Spirit.
This same invitation is open to you today.
Just like Noah and his family or Moses and the Israelites, God wants you to leave behind your way of life and cross through water to a life led and empowered by his Holy Spirit.
Unlike Noah’s family or the Israelites, you must leave your selfish ambition behind, because baptism in Jesus’ name requires that we trust God like Jesus did. That means we “die” to our desires, our dreams, our egos, to ourselves, so that we can live and, if so called, die for the will of God. We become spiritual Hebrews who’ve severed our unhealthy dependencies to wander as strangers in this world, listening only to our God and accepting the blessings he has promised.
The ultimate among those blessings will be eternal life in a renewed earth filled with goodness and free from pain when Christ returns to judge the world.