TREE OF KNOWLEDGE
20By the law is the knowledge of sin. (Rom 3)
The Old Testament (and the New as well), is filled with consequences, either promised or fulfilled, for going against God's will. There was no law for those who lived before the flood other than to avoid the tree of good and evil ("trouble"). They couldn't access the tree itself, but what the tree represents was always at their disposal.
What did the tree represent?
I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God. Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness. .....Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols. Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; (Ezek 20:19-25)
We have two issues here I'd like to point out. First, the laws and the Sabbaths given to the Jews were for a sign between them and God. The laws had a second purpose (the first is the point of this story, which is that God gave them (us) statutes that were not good, things not to do), a purpose which was to distinguish the people of God from the world. That sign is not needed for us who are under the New Covenant. We have a new sign. In fact we have two new signs that mirror the signs given to Israel:
And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, (Acts 7:8)
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. (Gen 17:7-11)
The Jews, from the time of Abraham, were given a sign, a physical sign that kept them separate from the rest of the world.
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Deut 30:6:)
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom 2:28-29)
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:31-33)
We are given the same sign as was given the Jews, only our sign is inward, on the heart. A heart that hasn't been tenderized and broken, that hasn't had the Covenant written on it, isn't part of the family of God (Psalm 51:16-17):
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35)
Our outward sign is not the law as it was with Jews, but rather it's the love we show for one another. But instead of love, we do as did the Jews, we rebel and point an accusing finger at one another and condemn them to hell for disagreeing with our own concept of God's will. If it's in our nature to love, we can't condemn, we can't hate. If it's in our nature to look down our nose at others, then what the churches teach, that is the view that all others outside our walls are wrong, then Satan has access to our ear and can tell us hating is ok with God and that's what He wants us to do. If our nature is to refuse the evil and strive (hunger and thirst) after righteousness, then Satan is unable to cause us to hate in spite of all his arguments.
Jesus further said:
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Mat 22:40)
The law hasn't been done away with, it's been overcome, it's been fulfilled. Jesus didn't fulfill the law so that we don't have to obey the law, He fulfilled the law so we aren't bound by the law anymore and can fulfill the law and overcome it as He has overcome the law.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 5:24)
When we stand behind our denominational walls and consider ourself better than all others who bear the Christian name tag, are we not being "wise in our own eyes" and listening to Satan when he tells us that we can be as God and know good and evil without having to pay a price? Do we really believe we can get away with doing what only God can do, which is to judge His servants? (Mat 7:1-2)
When Adam ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil he caused a change in the relationship between him and God. Up until this point God was the center of attention, He was the one who was being served, and the one being listened to. He was the instructor and Adam was the one thirsting to know what God has to tell him. When he ate of the fruit of knowledge he, Adam, then became the one with knowledge. He no longer desired to be with his Lord and Creator, his Instructor. He left off from being God-centered to being self-centered. He became aware of his own faults, of his body and his own nakedness, and tried to conceal both his nakedness, his total openness, (his "integrity") with something he had constructed himself, an apron of fig leaves. We do this in our churches and in our belief systems. We create doctrines that tell us what we want to hear, and that let us do what we want to do without any worry about consequences. And we use the very same Words of God to create these fig-leaf doctrines that God uses to tell us to not do what we have set out to do. This is what the serpent did in the Garden (as he did with Jesus in His wilderness testing), he used God's own words, with a gentle twist, to tell Adam and Eve it was ok for them to do what God told them not to do.
[A note might be appropriate here: While Jesus corrected Satan's quotes of the Bible, Adam didn't even question Satan, and Eve's feeble attempt to correct him was faulted. We have to be convinced of the truth of the Bible, and know it well if we want to take on Satan (who knows the Bible all too well) in his own playing field. The Pharisees and scribes knew the words of the Bible perfectly, but they didn't know the meaning of the Word because their understanding of the Word was darkened by their knowledge of doctrines and traditions, which superceded the Word of God.]
Adam was given two responsibilities. He was created for the purpose of tilling the land, that is, to care for God's creation. He was to be others-centered. When he chose to eat of the fruit of knowledge he departed from that obligation and began to care for himself rather than the Garden he was to attend to. He became an unprofitable servant. He had become useless for the job which he had been created for. When our toaster begins to malfunction or it stops working altogether, what do we do with it? Do we fight it while it continually burns our toast? Do we place it on a shelf and use it for a decoration? Do we change its function and turn it into a door stop? No, we throw it out and replace it with something that serves our purpose. This is exactly what God did. He cast the unprofitable creation out of His Garden, and began anew. He "created" a person, Jesus, who would serve Him the way He desired, and who was others-centered as Adam was to have been. And through Jesus, and through His Holy Spirit, God is creating a "man," a family who will also serve Him, who wants with all their heart to be with and to serve Him, and to fulfill His will by serving others instead of themselves.
Why does God give us a choice? Have you ever asked this question? I have, and I've heard others ask it as well. God already had servants who would serve Him faithfully and do what He wanted them to do. These servants are called angels. If being served and praised was God's only interest then He had all He needed. But God is wanting people, those of us who He has created with choice, to choose to serve him unselfishly. He wants those around Him who will not only sacrifice for Him, but who will sacrifice themselves for other of His creation. In order to obtain such a people He had to provide for that person to do what serves one's own interest rather than what is in the interest of others. To accomplish this purpose God planted a very attractive "worldly" element where the man could access it whenever he wanted. But the hope was that the man would rather be with God then to partake of the tree of worldly knowledge (Psalm 7:9; Jer 17:10; Rev 2:23).
In this modern world we have a very large and lush tree that is always before us and calling our name in a sweet, innocent voice. And the tree becomes bigger and more attractive, and often even cheaper to partake of as time goes by. Have you ever stopped to consider how much of your paycheck is spent on worldly things such as what we call junk food, sodas, coffee, electronic gadgets, entertainment, and even our car and other of what we consider "essentials" that our grandparents probably got along fine without? How much do we spend on ourself? Now, how much do we spend on those without? How much are we investing in the tree of life? How much are we investing in that tree of worldliness that will lead to our doom? Are we really the Christian we purport to be? Or are we by any chance delving in the pool that Jesus called hypocrisy?
What is most important to you? To get the answer to this question, just check out your monthly budget and your time schedule. That should give you a pretty good picture of your true interests, as well as your real nature.
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth. (1Cor 10:23-24)
"All things are lawful to me." How our flesh loves to hear this. Imagine telling a thief that he is no longer under the law so he can do anything he wants to do and the law can't touch him. How about a mass murderer? Yet this is how many of the churches, the Christian world, reads this passage.
The problem we run in to is that the words are there, the words that say we are free from the law. If we want to leave it right there, we can go out and rob all the banks and pick all the pockets we want and God tells us it's ok. But in my Bible there are over a thousand more pages, and they add a bit more to the story.
Notice the last word in the passage above. It appears as if we're to lust after the wealth of others, that is, to want what they've got. But take another look at the word. Notice that it's in italics. That means the word isn't actually in the Bible. The word has been added for clarity, as the translators consider clarity to be. If we read this as it is in the Greek we have: "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's." Now, instead of wealth, let's add a word such as "comfort," or "health," or "peace of mind," or "happiness." Does this change the picture at all? By looking at the passage in this light, instead of desiring to have what another person has, I instead want to give what I have to that person so they will have what I want instead of the other way around. As the saying goes: "It's all in the way you look at things."
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Gal 5:13-14)
The picture has changed. Now we find that the liberty we've been given is not so we can rob others, but so we can love others as ourself. As Riley would say "What a revolting development this is!" (You youngsters under 60 probably have no idea who Riley (The Life of Riley) is, but I hope you catch the message.)
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2Cor 3:17)
Did you get the picture? Liberty is where the Spirit of the Lord is. Therefore, where the Spirit of the Lord is not, there remains the law. Does this ring true to you?
Everyone believes, because they've been taught, that they have the Spirit of the Lord because they've been baptized. We know this isn't true because we can point our finger at churches full of people who've been baptized and believe they are filled with the Spirit of the Lord, and we say of them that they are not what they believe themselves to be. And while we point at them, they've got their finger aimed right at us.
How can we tell if we have the Spirit of the Lord, and thereby are living under grace rather than the law?
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Gal 6:7-8)
If we're sowing to our flesh, then we are still under the law. If we're sowing to our Spirit at the expense of our flesh, then we're no longer under law but under grace. If we're under grace, then the Holy Spirit is guiding us and we can't feel comfortable looking at ourselves and adding to our own fig leaf apron at the expense of our naked and hungry neighbor.
The law. How can we be under grace and still be subject to the law?
I live in the United States. The government of this nations has laws I must follow wherever I go in these United States. If I could find a small piece of land in this nation that doesn't belong to any state, I would still be under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government.
I live in a city. This city has laws that I must abide by. If I move outside this city, I'm still under the laws of the county in which this city sets. In other words, wherever I go in this world I'm under some form of law.
When I move to another city and / or state, the laws I lived under no longer apply to me unless I return to that city, even for a brief period of time. I'm now under a new set of laws I must abide by. If I visit another city I can't disobey the laws of that city because the city in which I live has laws that go contrary to the laws of the city I'm visiting (or even passing through).
I am now under the law of grace. The law of grace does not free me from the overall laws of God. The pre-flood residence of this earth were living under grace in that they had not been given any laws they must abide by. Even Abraham had no laws to live by other than the laws of the land in which he lived, and that of circumcision which he was given much later in his life. Laws did not exist until the days of Moses. The fact that the people of the world was without Godly laws did not prevent them from being destroyed by God (the flood) because of their being lawless and going contrary to God's will.
We of the Church have moved from the law of the Jews to the law of liberty. This move did not take us out from under God's law, but rather it takes the law that has existed from the beginning of creation off a stone and places it on our heart. The law has not changed, only the manner in which we perform the functions of the law has changed. Our sacrifices are no longer that of an animal, but it is that of our selves, of our words, of our works, and of our love for our God and our fellow man. The Lamb has been slain. Now we must place ourself on the alter of sacrifice, and this daily, constantly, in our acts and even in our thoughts. Our life is not our own under the New Covenant, it belongs to God. We're now waiting to be redeemed having been purchased on the cross. But we're not to fill our waiting time with our own idle activities, but rather we're to be doing the work of our Lord, which is our heavenly calling.
Freedom from law is not given to the lawless, it's given to those who have an even stronger and stricter law written on their nature.
Jesus said: "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30). When the prince of this world came to Adam he found a great deal that belonged to him. And he has a lot that belongs to him buried in me as well. It's the job of the Holy Spirit to bring that devilish nature to the surface so I can see it and deal with it, prune it from my character. Our goal should be to reach a point where we can say as did Jesus "the devil (and I, my ego) have nothing that belongs to me. I belong to God only."
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 1:3-4)
This brings us back to the previous passage where Ezekiel tells us that there are people calling evil good, and good evil, and rewarding the wicked. Where might we find such people do you suppose? I've found a few, have you?
Adam chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He desired to satisfy his flesh instead of his Spirit. He wanted to have what God has rather than be content with what God has given him (Gen 3:5, 33). In the wilderness God made an effort to drive that Adamic instinct out of the people He had chosen to be His own, His children and heirs, those He was bringing back into His Garden to care for it, the job Adam had forsaken. But the people wanted to have their flesh appeased rather than their Spirit expanded. They wanted to have God serve them rather than to serve their God and their Redeemer. So God allowed them to die in their lusts rather than to bring another Adam back into His Garden. He said, and He proved, that He would rather allow His Garden to go to thorns and the beasts rather than to bring in the very type person He had ejected long before.
Today we still believe that God is going to bring us into His presence without our having taken on the nature He demands of us. Yes, there are people who fully believe this is so. God makes it abundantly clear that He doesn't agree with our doctrine.
Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; (Ezek 20:25)
God gave the nation of Israel things that were not good. He gave them the law, a list of things not to do, just as he gave Adam. The list of not-to-do's were a bit longer than that Adam was given, but it only takes the breaking of one law to become a law-breaker.
Why did God give Adam a law in the first place? Why did He plant a tree that could cause Adam to stumble? Why did He give the Israelites all the laws? We read:
(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed ["put on ones account") when there is no law. (Rom 5:13)
If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. (John 15:22)
Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; (Ezek 3:20)
We don't like to accept it, but Jesus came, not only to deliver us from our own sin nature, but to be a stumbling stone for the righteous. And indeed the righteous of His day stumbled over Him, as the righteous today are continuing to stumble over Him.
We were given the law in order that there would be sin in the world, not so we can avoid sin. When we see the law, as well as the words of Jesus and the writings of the Apostles, we are able to find in ourself those things God wants out of us. If we ignore those laws, and believe we're acceptable the way we are, then we place ourself in jeopardy all the while we feel so good about ourself.
How then are we to understand the difference between living under the law, and living under grace?
And if by grace, then is it no more of works [works of the law]: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Rom 11:6)
Long ago there was a book written that was then, and I suppose still is, quite popular. That book was called Tarzan. Tarzan was born (and orphaned) in a jungle and had never learned human ways or values because he had never been exposed to them. He was raised by wild beasts who's nature he adapted in himself.
As an adult Tarzan was taken to civilization where, after a period of adjustment, he then became a part of the new world he found himself in.
During the 50's another book was published called the Lord of the Flies. This story tells of some choir boys who found themselves stranded on a deserted island without any adult supervision. After a time the boys took up sides, one side becoming hunters, thereby adapting to the conditions they found themselves, and the other (ending with only two remaining) who refused to become part of the wickedness of his environment. Over time those who had become hunters tasted human blood so-to-speak, and turned their nature on those who would not become part of their culture. It was either us, or you're dead. Not everyone in the hunter clan agreed with this calling, but they were afraid to buck the system. Does this remind you of anything you've seen in history? Does it bring to mind Catholicism during the Roman Empire? How about people such as Martin Luther? Maybe a nation under Hitler? How about Jesus and His followers?
Today we point fingers of accusation at those we disagree with. In the coming years it will be guns in our hands rather than fingers, and those who disagree with what is happening around them will be afraid to do anything but ride the waves of the day for fear the waves will turn on them if they buck the system.
When we live in the wild there are no laws. We follow our own nature, and our nature becomes our law. If we are a tiger, then our law says it's ok to kill those weaker than ourselves. If we're a rabbit or a deer, then our nature is to avoid those who see us as their dinner.
In the wild there is no policeman to tell us what we can or cannot do. If you and I enter the jungle, the wild, then we must be aware of the lawlessness of the world in which we find ourself. It does no good to flash a badge and say we represent another law, any more than a policeman from Timbuktu could try to force us to obey the law of the land he represents.
As long as we remain in the wild, we have no law we have to obey. We have total liberty. We can do as we please. But should we decide to venture into what we call the "civilized" world, we have to learn that we are no longer under the law of liberty, but the law of the land.
A few years ago a movie came out called Jungle 2 Jungle with Tim Allen. In this story Tim discovered he has a son who had been born in the wild and was unfamiliar with civilization. The boy was taken to civilization where he was an oddity to the people who he encountered, and the world around him made no sense at all to him. The "things" of this new world did not fit his understanding in any way. Another new thing the boy encountered was something called "laws." The only law the boy knew was that of survival. Now he found many other laws that went totally against his nature. We discover this for ourself when we visit other countries we're unaccustomed to. If we, those of us in America, were to visit England or Japan we would find ourselves trying to adapt to driving on the wrong side of the road. Our car, if we brought our own with us, would not be constructed in such a way as to make this new system of laws easy to follow. When we bring a dog into our home we find we have to train it to be unlike what its nature calls it to be. A dog or a cat is by nature a free spirit and a hunter. It has no laws. When it wants to eat, it eats whatever it wants to. When it needs to go to the bathroom, it does so where and when it likes. If it wants to chew up the sofa, it does so. That pet has to be trained to be everything it doesn't want to be. And so it was with the Hebrews in the wilderness. They had to have all the Adam, the curious part of their nature that causes them to want to feed their selfish nature, taken out of them if they hoped to be a part of God's plan.
God planted a Garden where He placed the man he had created. While the man remained in the Garden he had total liberty. He was under grace. Everything was lawful to him. He could do as he pleased. When the man decided to use that liberty to do what was not "expedient" for him, something that would please his own nature rather than the nature of God, he fell under the law of the world, and was cast into the world he had chosen to explore.
In the world there are things that are designed to satisfy our selfish nature. The world caters to our selfish nature because when we please our self, we are pleasing those who desire for us to take part in what they have to offer. When we play in the world's playground we are under the rules the world has established. There are laws we have to obey. When we come to a stop sign, we have to stop or risk the chances of having to pay the consequences of having broken the law. We have no liberty when we're in the world because the world is not designed in such a way as to allow a person their liberty. If the world was to allow everyone to do as they please the world would become chaos and an unfit place to live. This modern generation, having been brought up under the banner of the Hippie movement where everything is supposed to be free hasn't learned this concept. The leaders of our land, and of our churches, are swaying to the tune of everyone is the same, everyone should get to do as they please, and everything including sex and other immoralities should be free. Because we're following the Pied Piper as he enchants us to the cliffs of oblivion, our supposed freedom will become our grave stone.
We enjoy eating of the fruit picked from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But that fruit, we will discover, has a worm in it that will do us much harm. The world holds many attractions that appeal to our lusts. And from birth we are without the element that tells us to avoid those things that appeal to us. At one time the churches taught us, those of us in the churches, to avoid the attractions of the world. Today the churches not only allow these things, and avoid saying anything against them, but they use those very elements in their churches and call for people who desire such worldly elements to fill their pews.
When we're in the world we have to obey the laws of the world. We are under the law while we're in the world. As Christians we're to be a foreigner to the world. We're to be citizens of another world, that is, the world of the Spirit. We're to be led by the Spirit and to take no part in any aspect of the world. This we supposedly agreed to do when we took on the Christian label. As Spirit-led citizens of God's world we are not under any law. But when we as foreigners participate in the activities and the attractions of the world we're to avoid, we are no longer being led by the Spirit of God, nor are we under the law of grace; we have chosen to be under the law of the land, of the world, of Satan's domain.
Liberty is liberty only as long as we live in the land of liberty. If we set foot in the world, we become a part of the world and we are no longer under the freedom afforded us by grace, nor under the protection that grace offers.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal 5:1-4)
If you stay out of the pool you'll have no fear of drowning.
God has given us choice. His desire is that we want only to follow Him, to listen to Him, and to please him rather than ourselves, just as Jesus did. He allows us to think whatever we like, that He wants us to serve ourselves in spite of all His warnings against such a concept. When the final day of reckoning comes each of us will discover how much validity our beliefs hold, some of us to find ourselves having fallen short of the grace we placed our trust in.
7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Gal 6:)