December 22, 2015

Stumbling at the Tree

Disney's Animal Kingdom captures my attention these past few years in so many ways. Imagineer Joe Rohde's design intrigues me. Particularly the Tree of Life. I could stand there and just stare at it! I'm always reminded of the Garden of Eden whenever I take a stroll through the Oasis Gardens. Beautiful! Lately, I've been reminded of something totally different...and I don't like it one bit.

Are you just like me? Do you seem to get caught in the same old things over and over again? You know, those snares that seem to take you down. The traps that cause you to think you'll never conquer some bad habit, some old fear. Get in line.

It's been years and years since I first begun reading the Bible. Since it's the greatest story ever told, I am always uncovering new truths each time I read. Such a gift! Just recently I saw for the very first time something I had never realized in one of the most famous passages in the Bible. It is so powerful in its simplicity that I am surprised I do not apply this truth more often.

In the first two chapters of Genesis, we see what God intended the world to be: beautiful, peaceful, purposeful, and relational – God with his creation! It was good- very very good! This is where He creates our world and blesses it.

Chapter 3 is where things fall apart- in the Garden of Eden- and the world becomes what we now experience. Let's look at it.

Now the serpent was more crafty (note: some translations say “cunning”) - than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it."

Let me paint the picture here:

Beautiful garden, a beautiful day, Adam is lazily looking around- probably admiring his wife’s beauty. In fact, he’s probably too absorbed by her naked body to think about what is happening… probably doesn’t even initially notice the serpent.

Eve’s already next to the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, probably admiring it and thinking about it- and totally oblivious to what was to come. She may even be a little bewildered by a creature that speaks. A conversation takes place. Eve ponders what was said and makes a decision to eat from the forbidden fruit. She hands the fruit to Adam, and he eats too.

How did things go south for them?
The enemy had a strategy that still works well today. Sadly, all too well- on me, on you, and on just about everyone I know.

Satan’s successful plan is a progression. One step at a time, he lures us in. It begins with questioning God’s word. Look at verse 1- “Did God really say?”

He questioned whether it was a sin to eat, wearing Eve down bit by bit, planting seeds of doubt regarding God’s goodness- "Why would a good God deny you?" you can almost hear him saying. Boy, I get this- and buy into it myself sometimes.

But then in verse 4 – “You certainly won’t die” / when you eat, your eyes will be open like God’s" . Here the serpent denied the inevitable consequences and danger of sin, wearing her down again. He's selling the advantage of sin very slyly by offering a falsehood: the half lie and half truth always equals total deception. 

Then, he boldly suggests it's to her advantage to sin. Let's be honest: This is exactly where I fall most often and maybe you as well. This proposed advantage helps us justify our own sin nature and the lies we tell ourselves. 

The offer is made, and Eve considers taking the bait.

But here is where Eve blows it. She has a chance but never runs from the serpent. She doesn’t go back to God for clarification. She blindly takes the serpent’s word as truth. Eve makes the decision alone without consulting Adam, who God gave her for truth and support. Her eyes fixates on the benefits of eating (good for food, pleasing to the eye, gaining wisdom). Instead she indulges and passes on the "blessing" to her husband. 

Here's the challenging application:

Truth Number 1: If we don’t run away from temptation, we must face a battle that is even bigger and harder to deal with!

Truth Number 2:  With everything we are told/read/watch, we must go back to God for the truth.  This includes:

1-  What we tell ourselves  - "I won’t get stuck in it"
2-  What we hear from our wives, friends, and others
3-  What the media reinforces all around us- the benefits of sin

Truth Number 3:

We need to know what the word of God says, and we need the support of the people around us when we are tempted.

Choosing to do rightly will be a constant battle- especially if we know what we want to do is wrong! It’s a control issue! We love to be masters of our own destiny. It’s not just about sin- its about obedience and allowing god to direct our lives.  Sometimes it is just ego! We don’t want anyone telling us what to do or we are impatient and will not choose to wait for God's best. We do not want to wait for god to take action- so we do it ourselves, what we think is best- even if its against his wishes. “Human wisdom” versus trusting God.

Truth Number 4:
Most importantly of all- let me say this again- most importantly of all:  Besides displeasing God, the saddest part about taking things into our own hands is the truth that it limits us from ever seeing God take care of our lives. Read that last line again. He wants to be that personal with us, but our own refusal to submit to his ways or his commands lead us to a life much less satisfying... and then we wonder where God is when we need Him!

We constantly battle giving over control, and we rationalize our sin while we pursue knowledge of God. How can we expect God’s blessing if we knowingly indulge in sin?

From Lord of the Rings.

So Satan wears us down with his schemes, but we also can help him win! How is that possible?

Truth Number 5:

We flirt with sin, thinking we are in control, and we end up giving the enemy a foothold.

Our biggest mistake is revealed in how Eve handled herself. Notice the opening of this passage reveals the serpent didn't lead Eve to the Tree. She was already there!

Instead of going about the garden enjoying all that God had given, being thankful and satisfied with God's goodness, she fixates on the tree itself and the forbidden fruit she cannot have. She flirts with it, obsesses over it, perhaps even thinks about how close she can get to it without falling!  We do the same thing! 

Truth Number 6:
Knowledge without relationship and obedience is not Christianity!

The focus of real faith remains on relationship with him not what He does for us. Adam and Eve traded  a pure relationship with God for knowledge like God!

The Pharisees, those religious leaders of the ancient Jews, had all the knowledge anyone could want about God. And Jesus told them they were phonies and frauds! They looked good on the outside but inside, they were dead. And they were leading people in ways of death instead of life. 

For some of them, this was hard to hear as they truly desired to please God and desired others would please him. But they flaunted their knowledge, desiring the respect and fear or men. Status was so important to them.

That sweet baby grew to be a man with a mission!

Here they were, the spiritual leaders of the day, and they could not recognize God in the flesh - Jesus- when they saw him.

Back to Chapter 3 of Genesis: "...then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the lord god as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 

Thankfully, God looks for Adam and Eve, and later we read the episode in the Garden ends with hope and a sacrifice by God on our behalf. A foretaste of what God would provide by sending Jesus to die for our sin while on the cross. God in the flesh dies on our behalf so we can live... and later rises from the dead to prove his conquest over death and sin.

All this is a reminder that God pursues us- even after we are in sin! Satan desires to use guilt and anger to push us away from God,  but our loving God draws us near, wanting us to change direction.

Let's put this to application- We’ve got the Ten Commandments as our guide to living a life that pleases God. We seriously add to our troubles and displease Him when we break them. It's always good to take a look at these and evaluate where we are and how we are doing.

Ask yourself:

·       What are my idols?
·       Where am I involved in sexual sin?
·       Do I covet what other people have? etc.

Or is it just an issue of control- Wanting to do what you want?

Is it pride? "No one will tell me what to do!"  Or is it just flat out disobedience. Has God told you to do something and you have refused?

If you are a follower of Jesus, admit where you are, and give it all back to the only God who loves you and gave His life for you. If you're not, consider who He is by what He has done on your behalf. 

Peace with God. It's available this Christmas and only through the gift of Jesus. It's offered to you. What will you do with it?

(Most photos copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

No comments: