Experiencing Eden Through the Reality of the Cross
by MANDY SAELER
The garden was brimming with life at every turn. A variety of birds were sweetly singing, their harmonies blending together into a melodious backdrop. Lush greens filled the view in every direction and the scent of ripening fruit lofted through the air, offering an irresistible invitation to enjoyment. Above it all, the sun shone down with a pure brightness that enveloped the land with tangible warmth and well-being. The truest reality of joy filled every sense — all that the eye could see, in everything the ear could hear, and all that the heart could hold.
Perfect beauty, goodness, and delight. All was well … until the day something changed.
A grove of fig trees sprawled their branches low and wide, the large leaves offering a skirt of shade around the tree trunks. A woman stepped into the shade and, rising on her toes, pulled a low-hanging branch within reach to strip its leaves. One by one, they gently swished to the ground.
The low tone of her husband’s hushed voice caught her ear as he too stepped into the shadow. “Did you find what we need? Do you think this will work? … Come on, over here…” Stooping to gather the large fig leaves she’d stripped from the branch, the woman hurried to meet her husband at the base of the tree. In the cover of the lofty branches, they set to work piecing the leaves together.
A short while later, a breeze rustled through the grove, causing the branches to sway to a familiar melody. It was then that the man and woman heard the voice calling through the garden, “Where are you?”
They knew His voice well. And usually they welcomed His presence … but with an exchanged glance and eyes wide with fear, they remained still and hidden in the grove. While the sweet song of the birds and the breeze continued, His invitation tugged at their hearts. They longed to walk with Him, just as they had every day at this time…
When the man could no longer avoid the question lingering on the air, he emerged from the trees to meet Him. Lowering his head and diverting his eyes from the gaze that was upon him, he muttered, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid … and I hid myself.”
Introducing Sin and Shame
The Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve. The forbidden fruit and the fall. It’s a familiar scene from the Bible that we’ve likely mused over many times. Like me, did you ever wonder what the Garden was like? Or what the fruit from the trees in Paradise must have tasted like? Or what it was like to walk with God in the cool of the day?
And yet, the echoes of Eden aren’t so far from our own reality. While we haven’t tasted the fruit of Paradise or heard the voice of God upon the wind … have you ever hidden?
Have you ever done wrong and been found out? Have you known the weight of guilt and shame? In this way, the echoes of Eden are a part of the “coming to Jesus” story that you and I share.
I remember when God was drawing my heart to Himself. Conviction weighed on me, rounding my shoulders with guilt and marring my face with a furrowed brow — just as I imagined Adam and Eve’s demeanor in this Garden scene. Like Adam and Eve, eventually, God’s invitation drew me out of hiding to confess my sin and expose my shame. And in my broken state, I was met with mercy and love.
While the king and queen of that beautiful garden fell into sin and begat their seed and the coming generations to death … God knew all along that the fragile humans He’d created would falter and cave to the proposition of the Serpent. Adam and Eve hid themselves and covered their shame, but little did they know that God already had a better plan to unfold. In the fullness of time, God would restore fellowship with the creation He dearly loved above all else.
And it is that plan that grants you and I the opportunity to come out of hiding and awaken to life in Christ today.
The Invitation to Reconciliation
All these years later on the other side of the Garden and the Cross, rather than hiding in groves and covering ourselves in self-made righteousness — God has freely invited us to be reconciled to Himself. He has made provision for us to be hidden and covered in a way that is pleasing to Him — and that is to be hidden in Christ and covered in the sacrifice of His life. And the glorious part of the story is that He’s done this so that He can again walk with His treasured creation — you and I! God has restored the fellowship that so delighted His heart … and that we were made to experience and enjoy with Him.
The invitation? A life hidden with Christ and covered in His righteousness — ultimately, the opportunity to be reconciled to God and glorify Him with our lives!
The response? To put off the shame-sewn covering of self-made righteousness and put on the covenant-sewn covering of Christ’s love.
The offering? Your life for His.
The exchange? His Life for yours.
Although many of us have lived amid Christianity for many years — it is possible that we’ve never truly identified ourselves with these core truths of the Gospel. In this article, it is my hope to resurface these truths to refresh our hearts in the reality of what God says about us and who we are in Christ. When we know who He says we are, we can come out of hiding and, instead, take refuge in the One who laid down His life for us. Jesus offered Himself so that we might walk with God again. And that, my friends, is the beginning of true life!
Responding to the Invitation
“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
Being “hidden with Christ” is an expression that comes from Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul reminded the church that they were hidden in Christ and had been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. He urged them to put off their former works of darkness and, by faith, regard themselves as dead to sin. He emphasized their responsibility to do so and to live true to their identity in Christ and all that He accomplished on their behalf.
In a letter to another church, Paul exemplified this and actually testified of his own hiddenness in Christ, saying, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
This was Paul’s declaration of identity in Christ, and it is also yours and mine.
Consider this expression of faith in Christ’s work on the Cross and insert your own name into the blank. I encourage you to read it through a time or two. And then re-read it again, declaring this truth out loud!
______ has been crucified with Christ, it is no longer _______ who lives, but Christ who lives in _______. The life which ______ now lives in the flesh, ______ lives by faith in the Son of God, who loved ______ and gave Himself for ______.
Regardless of what you feel or don’t feel as you read and speak these words, this powerful Gospel truth is an anchor to tether your soul upon. When you “receive” Jesus Christ as your Savior — this is the reality that you are “receiving” — and yet, so many of us have lived years of our lives without engaging with our new reality. And today is the day that can change!
Recognizing that our sinful nature has been crucified with Christ means that we no longer have to live under its rule. When we are tempted towards selfishness or any sin, we can abruptly declare to our soul, “I’ve been crucified with Christ!” And just what does this mean? It means that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. By faith, my sinful nature was crucified on the Cross and went into the tomb with Jesus. When He rose to life, I rose to newness of life with Him! Oh glorious day!
And now, this life that I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me! (Paraphrase of Galatians 2:20.)
You are hidden in Christ and this is your reality. I encourage you to take a moment now and open your Bible to Romans 6 and read verses 1–14. These verses are a profound expression of identifying with the death of Christ and what it means for us as believers!
Presenting Yourself as an Offering
And so what is our reasonable response to this reality? God’s Word says it plainly, “…give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Rom. 12:1 NLT).
In response to His extravagant love, we offer up our bodies and our very lives in worshipful surrender. The prayer of Betty Scott Stam, a missionary to China, expresses it beautifully. If your heart is in agreement with these words, I encourage you to pray them as your own:
Lord, I give up my own plans and purposes, all my own desires, hopes and ambitions, and I accept Thy will for my life. I give up myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships; all the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me now and seal me with Thy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, for to me to live is Christ. Amen.
Embracing His Life
Hidden in Christ, the crowning wonder of this Gospel reality is that we give Him our nothing and He gives us His everything — His very Spirit to live in us, love through us, and enable us to glorify God in our bodies.
This is the Good News that seals an eternal smile upon our hearts: I no longer live, but Christ lives in me!
While we once hid in shame among the trees of the garden, because of what Christ has done for us, we are invited to come out of hiding and to be met by love. A love that removes our sin from us, shatters our strongholds of darkness, and turns our shame to radiance. Hidden in Him, our marred humanity is covered in His perfection and we are invited to draw near to the Living God. We are invited to walk with Him and talk with Him, sharing in unhindered fellowship with the One who loved us into life.
This is the invitation, dear sister — and it’s for you. Hide yourself in Christ, receiving by faith what He’s accomplished to be your own reality. From your hiding place in Christ, you have been reconciled to God — so respond to this glorious reality by laying your life at His nail-scarred feet and live. Live together with Jesus, and stay so close to Him that you abide in the shadow of the Cross with the joy of the empty tomb in your heart. And experience a taste of Eden on this earth as you enjoy fellowship with the Living God.