Service: The Church as the Family of God

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Family

In our last exercise, Service: The Church as the Body of Christ, we were introduced to the concept that the Church, like the human body, is composed of three parts serving on three different levels, with each part being delegated a specific role to fulfill in its service for Christ.  As…

  • The corporate Body of Christ, the Church is to reach outward into the world; bringing the good news of Salvation to the lost in order to bring them into the Family of God;
  • The corporate Soul of Christ, the Church is to reach inward to the members of the Family of God; loving and encouraging them while helping them grow toward spiritual maturity; and,
  • The corporate Spirit of Christ, the Church is to reach upward into the unseen spiritual world; waging war against the powers of darkness who are doing everything in their power to promote the worship of their leader, Satan, and to keep the will and kingdom of God from being established on the earth.

Since we covered the basics of the Church as the Body of Christ last time, and since we will wait until we get to the next level of exercises on Spiritual Warfare to tackle the role of the Church as God’s Spiritual Army, this exercise will be given over to a discussion of the role of the Church as the Family of God.  In order get it going, the first thing we need to do is establish just what a Family is, and how it is supposed to function.

God's Family Plan
What is Family? 

It used to be that if asked to define the term Family, most people would respond in the same way—that a Family, the most basic of all societal groups, is made up of a Father, Mother, and their children; with such extended members as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins sometimes added into the mix.  But, in today’s culture, with its escalating divorce rate and proliferation of lifestyle choices, the term has too often come to mean whatever an individual wants it to mean, or whatever his or her circumstances dictate.  So today, in addition to what is known as the Nuclear Family just described, some of the other definitions in use are…

  • Single-Parent Families…where a parent lives with dependent children, alone or in a larger household, without a spouse or partner;
  • Blended Families…consisting of members from two (or more) previous families;
  • Co-custody Families…where divorced parents share legal responsibility for their children; children who either live alternatively with both parents or permanently with one while having regular visitation with the other;
  • Cross-Generational Families…where grandparents or aunts, uncles, etc, either raise the children or play major roles in their lives;
  • Adoptive Families…where one or more of the children has been adopted;
  • Foster Families…where one or more of the children is being cared for legally but temporarily by a family that is not their own;
  • Bi-racial or multi-racial Families…where the parents come from different racial groups;
  • Gay or Lesbian Families… where one or both of the parents’ is gay or lesbian;
  • Immigrant Families… where the parents have immigrated to another country as adults; and,
  • Migrant Families… who move regularly from place to place looking for employment.[1]

To be sure, many of these are deviations from the ideal established by God at the time of Man’s Creation, documented for us in Genesis 1:27-28 in the following way…

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

This standard was later confirmed by Jesus when, as the Pharisees questioned Him as to the legitimacy of divorce, Jesus replied…

…from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:6-9).

Established by God and confirmed by Jesus, the divine standard, then, calls for 1 Male + 1 Female + their Children to equal a Family.  However, with the introduction of sin into the world following Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, deviations from this ordained norm not only became a possibility but also a reality.  As we now know, had there been no sin, there would never have been any abuse, neglect, adultery, divorce, or death to make the aforementioned deviations possible—and, the Family would have functioned and flourished in the way that God had intended it to do.

Family
How is the Family Supposed to Function?

When considering how God intended for the Family to operate, it is imperative that we keep the following things in mind…

  • Being created in the image of God means that God intended for Men to be reflections in the flesh of His Masculine Principles, while Women were to be the reflections of His Feminine Principles;
  • Additionally, it was God’s intention that Men and Women to come together in sexual union so that they could reproduce the life He had so graciously shared with them—something they would not be able to do on their own; and,
  • As the masculine and feminine representations of God in the flesh, God meant for Men and Women to model before their children and the world the unity and selfless love shared by the members of Godhead themselves; becoming, in effect, living illustrations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for everyone to see.

As long as the members of any given family are living in right relationship with God and in obedience to His will, not only they but everyone around them will be able to witness God being lived out in the flesh—with…

  • The Man/Husband in the Family demonstrating the love, leadership, strength, guidance, provision, and protection of God the Father;
  • The Woman/Wife in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, wisdom, nurture, gentleness, grace, empathy, and sensitivity of God the Holy Spirit [2]; and,
  • The Children in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, and obedience of God the Son.

However, God’s imaging purposes for these families were not to be limited to their being illustrations of the divine community known as the Trinity; it was also His intention for them to serve as earthly illustrations of the nature and workings of the much larger heavenly family known as the Church.

Family


The Human Family as a Pattern for the Church
 

The fact that the earthly family was meant to be a living illustration of God’s heavenly family will become clearer to us once we have compared each according to their…

  • Origins or creations;
  • Missions or mandates; and,
  • Means or methods of carrying out their missions.
Families of God

A Comparison of Families

From this illustration, we see that when God created the First Adam (1 Cor. 15: 22, 45) and his bride, He did so in such a way that it would serve as a prophetic picture of the Second Adam and His Bride, the Church.  For Adam, referred to in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Luke 3:38 as “the son (with a small “s”) of God,” was meant to foreshadow the eternal Son (with a capital “S”) of God, Jesus Christ, in that…

  • He was without sin (at the time of his creation);
  • He was lord over God’s creation; and,
  • He was without his companion and helper.

Therefore, God set about providing him with a helper through a unique creation:  first putting Adam into a deep sleep, God then opened his side and removing a rib or bone from it, He fashioned from it a female counterpart specially designed for Adam.  This process, on a prophetic level, was to be a picture of what God was going to do through the Second Adam when, as Jesus was dying on the Cross, He fashioned His Bride, the Church, around the “bone” taken from the wounded side of Christ—that “bone” being the Disciples.

As for their Mission and Means for accomplishing them, they are virtually the same; for, both types of families were created for one purpose:  to reproduce the life of God, both the physical and the spiritual, as a means of bringing the will and purpose, and the glory of God to the ends of the earth.  Given the significance of this Mission to time and eternity, it should come as no surprise that the number one priority of God’s enemies would be the corruption and destruction of the Family, both the earthly and the heavenly ones—which is something we will learn more about in our next exercise.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Bill Gaither reminds us what it means to be part of “The Family of God”…

 

[1] Edwards, Julie Olsen. “The Many Kinds of Family Structures in Our Communities.” Based on the author’s work with Louise Derman-Sparks in Anti-bias Education for Children and Ourselves NAEYC 2009.

[2] This is not to say that men cannot be nurturing or that women cannot be leaders or providers, etc.  These statements are merely meant to be generalizations of Godly ideals.

Service:  The Church as the Body of Christ

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Exercising through Service

Getting Stronger and Reaching the World

In our previous exercise, we began a new level of workout routines dealing with Service; and, during the course of that introductory routine, we learned how, through our service for Christ, the good works which He began are still being done in the world today.  Then, as we searched for a definition of the word, especially as it relates to us as believers, we discovered some of the Terms of Service which must be adhered to, if any enduring work for Christ is to be accomplished.  These are…

  • Service must begin at the altar of worship, where we surrender our wills to God’s will;
  • Service must be motivated by our love for Christ;
  • Service must proceed from clean hands and pure hearts; and,
  • Service, like that which Jesus performed—and, other than our post-salvation, personal MDLA, or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—must be done in cooperation with other members of the Corporate Body of Christ, or the entity better known as The Church.
We Are the Church Together

Not a Building but a Body of Believers

Too often, when we hear the word Church, the image that comes to mind is of a building.  However, the real Church of Jesus Christ is not and was never intended to be an architectural structure or an organized institution, into which the Children of God could retreat in search of protection or insulation from the world.

Rather, it was designed by God to be the collective and universal spiritual manifestation of Christ on the earth; one in which Christ is no longer limited to serving through just one physical body, living in one time and in one place.  Instead, with His Presence and Power multiplied many times over in the lives of Believers scattered across the globe, the works that He once did during His Incarnation are now being replicated worldwide by the members of His spiritual body, the Church.

In order to grasp this concept a little better, we must realize that, even though God loves each one of us individually, Christ died for each one of us individually, and we are each saved individually, at the moment we receive our Salvation, the Holy Spirit is busily and quite imperceptibly baptizing us into the Collective Spiritual Body of Christ; positioning us within that Body wherever He deems best, and assigning specific roles or functions to us that we are to carry out within the Body

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.   For the body does not consist of one member but of many…as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose ( 1 Cor. 12: 12-14, 18).

Before getting into what those roles may be, though, we first need to learn how God intended for the Body of Christ to operate.

In one of our earlier exercises, Sanctification: Regeneration Perfected, we learned that when God created Man, He fashioned him with an individual or Personal Body, Soul, and Spirit, so that…

  • Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world;
  • Through his Soul, he could relate to others on both emotional and intellectual levels; and,
  • Through his Spirit, he could relate to God and learn how he could use his will to bring God’s will to pass on the earth.

In much the same way, God’s design for the Body of Christ called for it to have a Corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit,  so that…

  • Through its Body, the Church could relate to and carry on the work of Christ in the world outside of the Church;
  • Through its Soul, the Church could relate as a Family to those within the Church, ministering to them and their needs in love; and,
  • Through its Spirit, the Church could serve heaven as an Army of Spiritual Warriors; one united in its mission to overthrow the Enemy of God, take the territory previously held by him, and bring the Kingdom and the Will of God to rule on the earth in his place.

In short, God’s intention for the Church of Jesus Christ is for it to…

  • Function externally in the world as a unified Body, under the direction of its Head, Jesus Christ;
  • Relate internally to its members as a Family, under the loving guidance of God the Father; and
  • Serve eternally by advancing the Kingdom of God through Spiritual Warfare, under the command of its General, the Holy Spirit.
In the World

…Being in the world but not of it


The Church as a Body
 

Since God’s purpose in creating mankind was to obtain a spiritual family of holy sons and daughters; and, since He was not willing…

…that any should perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…

…God purposed that His Church, in its function as a unified Body, would reach out to those in the world who had not yet to come to repentance—that is, those who have yet to be adopted as His children.  In fact, forty days after His resurrection, as He was preparing to go back to His Father in heaven, Christ charged His disciples—those who would soon become the Church—with this very task in the Great Commission…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20).

As for how Jesus intended the soon-to-be Body of Christ to fulfill this charge, it was to be accomplished by its members…

  • As they lived before the world according to the kingdom principles He had taught them in the Sermon on the Mount; and,
  • Through acts of service empowered by the giftings of the Holy Spirit, which would soon be bestowed upon them.
The Sermon on the Mount

Jesus Teaching the Principles of Kingdom Living in the Sermon on the Mount


The Body and Kingdom Living
 

After choosing His disciples, one of the first things Jesus did was to gather them together and give them an introductory lesson in Kingdom Living.  This lesson, called the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5-7), must have been tremendously unsettling for them because in it, Jesus was establishing as their new standard for living, a set of principles which completely contradicted everything they had been taught was true.  That’s because, in the culture of that day—much like in our present day—they had grown up believing that being healthy, wealthy, religious, and without any apparent problems were all indicators that one had been blessed by God.  But here, in what has come to be known as The Beatitudes, Jesus was declaring that for the Children of God, the very opposite of this was true; that the ones who would be blessed by God are…

the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matt. 5:3-11).

And, it would be these seemingly weak, insignificant, and oftentimes marginalized members of society, as they learned to live out the Kingdom Principles Jesus highlighted in His Sermon—principles such as…

  • Kingdom Living requires more of us than surface level righteousness; it requires true righteousness which begins in our hearts and then proceeds outward;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we love our enemies, blessing instead of cursing them;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we treat others the way we would want them to treat us;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we replace outward demonstrations of piety, designed to impress others, with giving, praying, and fasting done in secret; and,
  • Kingdom Living requires that we cease judging others and that we forgive them instead, just as God has forgiven us…

…who would become the salt of the earth and the light of God in a darkened world, and so spiritually emboldened that they would later be spoken of by the Thessalonians in Acts 17:6 in this way…

These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.


The Body and Spiritual Gifts
 

Surely, living according to God’s Kingdom Principles—that is, living lives radically different from the cultural norm—would prove to be a great way for believers to pique the interest and attract the attention of those living outside of the Body of Christ; however, just getting their attention would not be sufficient to get them saved, and moved from the outside to the inside of the Body of Believers.  To make a transfer like that happen, from the world’s kingdom to the Kingdom of God, the involvement of the Holy Spirit would be required; which is why, just before His ascension Jesus ordered His disciples

…not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

[For] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and [after that] you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

It would take the power of the Holy Spirit, working through individual believers, to produce Acts of Service like the ones Jesus performed, and in the way that God had ordained–which was, with the members of Christ’s Body working together, using the Spiritual Gifts assigned to them at the time of their Salvation.

 

Spiritual Gift

The Holy Spirit Gives Gifts to All


Spiritual Gifts,
unlike the natural talents we are born with or the skills which we develop on our own throughout life, are the special spiritual abilities or enablements given to believers for the purpose of growing and building up of the Church, the Body of Christ.  The Apostle Paul explains them far better  than I could, here in these passages from three of his letters… 

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (1 Cor.12: 1, 4-6).

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor. 12:7-11). 

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:4-8). 

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Although we will go into more detail about these Gifts of the Spirit in a future exercise, to summarize what we have learned so far about Service and the Church, we now know that…

  • as the members of Christ’s Body model the character and behavior of Christ before the world—the character developed in them as the Fruit of the Spirit, and the behavior epitomized in the Kingdom Living Principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount; and…
  • as, the members of Christ’s Body reach out to the world through their Acts of Service—service which has been initiated, coordinated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit

…the world will be reached with the Gospel, the family and kingdom of God will be expanded, and the function of the Church as the Corporate Body of Christ will have been realized.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Unspoken reminds us that if we are to do the works of Christ, we will need the Holy Spirit to “Start a Fire” in our souls…

 

 

Original image of the Sermon on the Mount courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Sanctification: Restoring the Soul through Worship

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A Sanctified Soul

Sanctification Restores the Soul of Man

So far, through our exercises in Sanctification, we have learned that part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to restore our emotions through Prayer and our minds through the study and application of the Word of God; a ministry which brings our hearts into alignment with that of the Father, and transforms our minds into ones more like Christ’s.  However, this part of the sanctification process only takes care of two of the components of our souls—leaving the third one, our all-important and powerful wills, for the Spirit to deal with.  And deal with them, He must; because unlike our emotions, which are simply expressions of how we feel, and our minds, which merely reveal what we think, our wills through their actions express what we want and who we really are.

Also, through these workout sessions, we have learned that it is God’s will for us is to be saved from our sins and be adopted into His family; as sons and daughters who have not only been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but as ones who have also been conformed or remolded into His image.  This means that we are not only to become like Jesus in His character, but we are also to share in His mission and ministry here on the earth—which, as He stated in John 4:34, 5:30, and 6:38, was to do the will of His Father

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work;
I can do nothing on my own…because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me; and,
I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Your AssignmentSince doing the will of the Father was at the heart of Jesus’ mission, and since becoming like Him is the goal of our Sanctification, it stands to reason that doing the will of the Father must become the mission in our lives, as well.  This, however, is something that is a lot easier said than done!

That’s because, before coming to Christ, our wills and the actions they precipitated were dominated by our flesh—which is to say, by how we felt and by what we thought.  If our bodies hungered for or lusted after something—regardless  of whether it was appropriate or beneficial; or, if our minds harbored certain thoughts about anyone or anything—regardless of whether they were true or not—our wills would initiate actions geared toward satisfying those feelings and vindicating those thoughts.  In short, before our Salvation, with no access to or Godly input from our dormant spirits, our wills were like puppets whose strings were being pulled by our baser human instincts; instincts concerned with the pleasing and preservation of our unregenerate and ego-dominated selves.  But, all this began to change the moment we said yes to Jesus and were Born Again.
 

Salvation and the Will of Man

The goal of and long term impact of Salvation on our wills has been well described by Watchman Nee in his book The Spiritual Man, where he remarks…

What is salvation?  It is none other than God saving man out of himself into Himself.  Salvation has two facets:  a cutting off and a uniting with.  What is cut off is self; the uniting is with God.

What is self? …were we to say self is self-will we would not be too far from the mark… [because] man’s essence is in his volition…

Salvation, then, is to deliver man from his created, natural, animal, fleshly, and self-emanating will…

The gospel is to facilitate the union of our will with God.  Anything short of this is failure of the mission.  God aims his arrow of salvation not so much at our emotion or our mind, but at our will, for once the latter is saved, the rest are included.

[For] …God intends to destroy the life of the soul but not its function, so upon being joined with the Lord in life, He launches forth to renew our soul with its various parts in order that our soul may be one with our new life and consequently one with His will.[1]

In the face of such a challenging, time-consuming, and (on our parts) painful prospect as the transformation of our self-absorbed wills into ones totally given over to the pursuit of God’s will, we might find ourselves wondering if it wouldn’t have been better for us, instead of being endowed with the capacity to choose, to have been pre-programmed for obedience by God.  Surely, this would have been much easier on everyone involved; and yet, if God hadn’t designed us in this way, we wouldn’t have been created in His image and would therefore not be eligible to be adopted as His children.  For us to be like God, then, we would have to be free to choose to act in ways that He would; ways such as…

  • Choosing to do what’s right, rather than what’s expedient;
  • Choosing to do what’s in the best interests of others, even at the expense of our own interests;
  • Choosing to speak nothing but the truth, even if we are the only ones doing it; and,
  • Choosing to believe God and take Him at His Word, even though we can see no evidence of His existence; and even when our thoughts and feelings do not concur.

The failure to make this last choice—which is really the first one we each need to make—is what caused our first parents, and eventually us, to be at odds with the will of God in the first place.  For, as Genesis 3:6 relates it, in spite of the fact that Adam and Eve had been told not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

…when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Sadly, when Adam and Eve were given an opportunity to prove that they would carry out the will of God, they failed the first test of “Sonship,” which was obedience to their Father.  Rather than complying with His will, they allowed their own to succumb to the desires of their flesh, and to be seduced by the promises of self-achieved divinity being offered to them by Satan, the one whose will has always been in direct opposition to God’s.

On this, Watchman Nee comments again…

We may say that there are two massive contradictory wills throughout the universe.  On one side stands the holy and perfect will of God; on the other is arrayed the defiled, defiling, and opposing will of Satan.  In between subsists the sovereign, independent, free will of man.[2]

The War of the Wills

When overwhelmed by the countless mundane issues in life, it is very easy for us to lose sight of the fact that the driving force behind everything that takes place in our lives is this unseen, on-going conflict of wills between the one Righteous Ruler of the Universe and the evil imposter who is seeking to overthrow Him.  The evil imposter is none other than the powerful fallen angel, Lucifer—who is also known as Satan, “the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2),” and “the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).”  His bio, in Ezekiel 28: 12-17, reads like this…

You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were in Eden, in the garden of God…an anointed cherub…blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you…

So I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor…

His arrogant ambition and the self-centered nature of his will are also noted for us in Isaiah 14:12-14…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Daystar, son of Dawn!  How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

You said in your heart…

I will ascend to heaven;
…above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the height of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.

His opponent, of course, is God—the Sovereign, All Powerful, All-Knowing, Holy Being who not only…

…created the heavens…formed the earth and made it…[and] formed it to be inhabited;
…speak[s] the truth…[and] declare[s] what is right (Is. 45:18-19);
…gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist (Rom. 4:17);
…is light and in [whom] is no darkness at all (1 John 1:50;
…is love (1 John 4:10)….

…but is the One who could, at any time He chooses, destroy His impudent adversary with just one word from His mouth.  Instead, in His wisdom, He continues to allow him to “…prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).”  And, why is that?  Because in this cosmic battle of wills, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each—relatively speaking—puny and seemingly insignificant human being who lives on this planet; and, is determined every time he or she is faced with the choice of doing what will satisfy his or her own selfish desires, or what will be pleasing to God.

Screwtape

Screwtape’s Perspective on Humanity

In the classic apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis provides us with additional insight into the nature of this war of wills through the instructional letters that seasoned demon, Screwtape, writes to his nephew, Wormwood, a lowly demon-in-training.  Here, in a slightly abridged version of one such letter, we learn that in the view of Satan and his minions

…Humans are amphibians– half spirit and half animal…As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for as to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks…As long as [they live] on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty…

…To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy [God] wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us (demons) a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.

He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because he has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy (God) wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. 

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy [God] does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation.

Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs– to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtue as we do to vice.

He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys…[3]

 

Servants to Sons

God’s Desire is to have Sons who Choose to do His Will over their own


Worship and the Will of God

Although he didn’t refer to it as such, the act that Screwtape is describing when a child of God chooses to obey the will of His Father—even in the face of any thoughts, feelings, or circumstances to the contrary—is something that God looks upon as Worship.  For, in spite of what we have been conditioned to believe, worship isn’t so much about what we do as we gather together in church on Sunday morning; it is more about what we do when we leave church and, going back out into the world, we come face to face with the people and situations that Satan likes to use in an attempt to get us to abandon God’s will in favor of our own.  It is then that, as we are strengthened by the Spirit and reminded that…

God is God, and we are not;
He created everything, He owns everything, and He established all the rules by which His creation operates;
He knows everything, is everywhere, and has all the power;
He is holy and always does what is right; and,
His thoughts or ideas, and His ways of doing things are better than ours; and,
He can always be trusted to do what is right, not only for us but for everyone else, as well…

…we can lay aside our will and what we want, and choose to do what Jesus would do, if He was there in our place.  This, in fact, is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when, in the face of the Cross and in spite of His own human desires, He surrendered His will to that of His Father, so that His Father’s would be done on the earth.  What we learn, then, from His example, is that worshiping God simply means living surrendered to Him, in any and every circumstance in life, and anything less is not true worship.

With that in mind, then, we need to submit to and embrace the work of the Holy Spirit as He continues the work of restoration in our souls, so that in every situation our attitude will be…

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (Ps. 95:6).

Worship the Lord

 

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The song of a soul restored…

 

 

[1]  Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man (Richmond, VA: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Incorporated, 1968), Book 3, 81-83.

[2]  Nee, Spiritual Man, 77.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), chapter 8.

In His Coming…

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In celebration of the birth of our Savior, I put together this little video to remind us of the many wonderful things that Christ’s coming(s) have meant and will mean for us in the future.  You can find it here in the Video Vault or on YouTube at the His Truth, My Voice channel.  Merry Christmas from His Truth, My Voice!

Beginning Again

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When our last Vignette ended—that one being, Vignette #8 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story—it did so on a very high note.  That’s because Noah, his family, and his animal passengers had all emerged safely from the confines of the Ark; the vessel where they had been sequestered for the preceding 370 days, while the rest of the world perished in the Flood.  What made this event all the more memorable was the fact that as soon as these weary ocean-goers were on dry land again, the first thing they did was offer a sacrifice of worship and thanksgiving to God.  And, it was in response to this, that God…

  • Blessed Noah and his three sons;
  • Charged them with the responsibility of multiplying and repopulating the earth;
  • Instituted a new set of rules by which they were to live; and,
  • Promised them that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood, no matter how sinful man might become in the future.

No doubt, these blessings, charges, instructions, and promises went a long way to reassure and encourage Noah and his family about their future; however, I am just not sure how far they went in minimizing the size of the task immediately confronting them—which was to begin life all over again in a new and a very different world.  To help us put the enormity of this task into perspective, let’s take a moment to consider some of the challenges that were waiting for Noah, the moment he was back on solid ground.

The Immediate Challenges Facing Noah

1. The Environmental One  

We begin with the Environmental Challenge because the drastic changes in the climate and in the landscape would have been the very first things that Noah and the others would have noticed when leaving the Ark.  Having left behind a world where there was a temperate year-round climate, and then stepping out of the Ark into the cold, brisk winds, swirling around in the upper levels of Mount Ararat, would certainly have been a novel experience for each of them—and one which must have sent chills through every one of Noah’s 601 year-old bones!

Plus, as they stood looking down from their lofty mountain perch on to the barren plane below—which, in its pre-flood existence would have been filled with people, trees, shrubs, and lots of green grass—they must have all shivered at the bleakness of  the scene which lay before them.  Just try to imagine what it must have been like for them as they stood there, scanning the landscape and, as far as their eyes could see, there were no sights or sounds of life anywhere!  (Although the Bible doesn’t mention this, there may very well have been both human and animal remains still lying around—that is, unless they had all been buried under layers of silt deposited during the Flood.)

If the Ararat mentioned here in Genesis, was part of the same mountain range which is located in the eastern part of present-day Turkey, perhaps the view that Noah beheld was similar to the one which can be seen of the region today.  If so, seeing how little there is to work with even now should help us have a better understanding of the enormous challenge that Noah was facing, as he set out to begin his life all over again in this less than inviting environment.

Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat Today

2. The Personal One

This, then, brings us to Noah’s Personal Challenge—which was, to try to find an answer to the question of “What do I do now?”  You see, before the Flood, although we don’t know if it was a house, a hut, or a tent, Noah did have a home; he also had an occupation—which was building the Ark; and, as a “preacher of righteousness,” he had a ministry, too.  Sadly though, following the Flood, he had none of these things to fall back on.  Instead, after a lifetime of faithfulness and obedience to God, Noah found himself homeless, jobless, and without any ministry prospects—and, just…

  • How was he supposed to build a home without any trees? Did they pack a tent or bring some extra lumber along?  Did they bring furniture with them, too?  Or, did they continue to live in the Ark for some time after the Flood?
  • How was he supposed to make a living?  With no other people to serve, or businesses or farms to run, how was he going to provide for his family?
  • Who was he supposed to preach to? The only people there were already “saved”!

Wow–what a midlife crisis this must have been for Noah!

3. The Societal One 

Although the first two challenges would have been more than enough to deal with by themselves, probably the most difficult one to meet would have been the third one, the Societal Challenge.  That’s because, at the time Noah and his family left the Ark, there was no society to speak of—except maybe, the remnants of the old-world one which they had brought along with them.  And, from what we can gather about that one, it was a society in which people didn’t eat animal meat; and, because there were no governmental structures in place during that time, it was one in which the people were accountable to no one but themselves.  Yet, here at the outset of their experience in the new world, God was instructing them to discard their previous ways of doing life and to replace them with a whole new societal structure…

  • One in which they, as the former preservers and protectors of animal life, would now begin preying on these same creatures for food; and,
  • One in which the human conscience would no longer be looked to as a means of curbing man’s sinful nature. Instead, God would be delegating authority to man—that is, to them and their descendants—to act on His behalf to insure that human life was protected and justice was properly meted out.

But, how do you go about creating a new type of society when there are only eight people in it?  I guess, the best way to do it is to put the head of each family in charge, and then make him responsible before God for the behavior of those within his immediate household—which, as it seems, is exactly the way it worked out.

The Long Term Challenges for Noah’s Descendants

Given all that they had to deal with upon their entry into this new world, it was probably just as well that Noah and his sons remained unaware of the massive global changes that appear to have taken place while they were in the Ark.  For, not only had the climate and the topical landscape undergone major transformations, but the geology and substructure of the earth seems to have changed so radically during this period that life on the planet would forever after be affected.  The most history-altering of these changes were…

  • The Continental Drift;
  • The Creation of Tectonic Plates;
  • The Development of Fossil Fuels; and,
  • The Formation of Other Fossils.

In order for us to gain a better understanding of these changes and their on-going impact on our lives today, let’s put our lab coats on and take a brief look at some of the science associated with them.

1. The Continental Drift 

Continental Drift

The Theory of Continental Drift

As you may recall, back in “But Noah…” we were introduced to the concept of the early earth’s land mass as being one supercontinent called Pangaea—a continent which subsequently broke up into the seven continents that we are familiar with today.  The US Geological Survey article that was quoted from at the time stated that…

The belief that continents have not always been fixed in their present positions was suspected long before the 20th century…[but] it was not until 1912 that the idea of moving continents was seriously considered as a full-blown scientific theory — called Continental Drift — introduced in two articles published by a 32-year-old German meteorologist named Alfred Lothar Wegener…

But at the time Wegener introduced his theory, the scientific community firmly believed the continents and oceans to be permanent features on the Earth’s surface. Not surprisingly, his proposal was not well received, even though it seemed to agree with the scientific information available at the time. A fatal weakness in Wegener’s theory was that it could not satisfactorily answer the most fundamental question raised by his critics: What kind of forces could be strong enough to move such large masses of solid rock over such great distances?[1]

While an answer to this question wasn’t to be found at that time—at least, not one which would have been “acceptable” to the scientific minds of the day–one was eventually developed which would conform to their evolutionary mindset; a development explained by the Earth Observatory of Singapore in the following way…

The main idea of Wegener and others was that modern continents formed a single landmass in the past. This idea was supported by simple observations like the fact that South-American and African coastlines fit so well, or that we can find the same fossils in similar sedimentary rocks on both continents.

The theory needed an explanation for the continental drift, a kind of engine that would implement the motion of tectonic plates. The continental drift was strongly criticised during the first half of the 20th century, until WWII: during the war, the latest radar technology was used to map the seafloor. Rapidly, evidence pointing to seafloor spreading and effective plate motion was accumulated.

After the war, marine geology was developed…[and the] Plate tectonics theory was then widely accepted among scientists because it relied on hard evidence and could explain most of the modern geological structures (ocean basins, mountain ranges, rifts etc).[2]

Stuart E. Nevins elaborates on this in an article for the Institute for Creation Research

Twenty years ago geologists were certain that the data correlated perfectly with the then-reigning model of stationary continents. The handful of geologists who promoted the notion of continental drift were accused of indulging in pseudoscientific fancy. Today, the opinion is reversed. The theory of moving continents is now the ruling paradigm and those who question it are often referred to as stubborn or ignorant….[Today] The popular theory of drifting continents and oceans is called “plate tectonics.”[3]

2.The Creation of Tectonic Plates 

As previously stated, when the technology which could examine the ocean floor became available, it was soon discovered that the crust of the earth had, at some time in the past, been broken up into large plates.  It was also learned that these plates were and still are in the process of shifting.  However, in keeping with the evolutionary assumptions of the scientists, the theory they put forth “…supposes that [the] plates move very slowly—about 2-18 centimeters per year.  At this rate it would take 100 million years to form an ocean basin or mountain range.”[4]  But, is this consistent with what the Bible has anything to say about the matter?

Again, according to Mr. Nevins

The Bible framework for earth history makes no statement about continental splitting, so it is unnecessary and unwise to take a “Biblical” position on the question. When God created the land and sea, the waters were “gathered together unto one place” (Genesis 1:9), which may imply one large ocean and one large land mass.

If continental separation did occur, the only place within the Bible framework where it could fit would be during Noah’s Flood. The cause of Noah’s Flood is described in tectonic terms: “all the fountains of the great deep broken up” (Genesis 7:11). The Hebrew word for “broken up” is baga and is used in other Old Testament passages (Zechariah 14:4; Numbers 16:31) to refer to the geologic phenomena of faulting. The mechanism for retreat of the Flood waters is also associated with tectonics. Psalm 104:6, 7 describes the abating of the waters which stood above the mountains; the eighth verse properly translated says, “The mountains rose up; the valleys sank down.” It is interesting to note that the “mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4), the resting place of the Ark after the 150th day of the Flood, are in a tectonically active region at the junction of three lithospheric plates.

If continental separation occurred during Noah’s Flood, a host of problems in the tectonic dilemma can be solved…The cause for the ancient breaking up of continents can be explained easily by the enormous catastrophic forces of Noah’s Flood which broke the lithosphere into moving plates which for a short time overcame the viscous drag of the earth’s mantle.[5]

3.The Development of Fossil Fuels 

Although the development of Fossil Fuels was not one of the immediately visible changes brought about by the Flood, it was such an important one that it would eventually become a major factor in the lives of Noah’s descendantsFor, as kids.britannica.com defines it…

 “…a fossil fuel is a general term for buried combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth’s crust over hundreds of millions of years.” [6]

In other words, these are the fuels which are being used today to heat our homes, propel our vehicles, and keep all of our industries producing.  And, where did they come from?  According to Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, they most likely came from the living matter that was buried under layers of dirt and water at the time of the Flood…

Evolutionists speculate that hundreds of millions of years of slow processes must have been involved, but the details of such processes are very uncertain. Coal and oil can be produced in a matter of hours in modern laboratories under appropriate conditions of heat and pressure. Recent studies by creation scientists have proved that at least the great coal beds (and even diamond mines) contain modern radiocarbon, so must have been formed recently.

Although evolutionists ridicule the idea of a world-destroying hydraulic cataclysm in Noah’s day, that phenomenon really does provide the most reasonable explanation for all these phenomena. “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6).[7]

The Formation of Coal

How Coal is Formed

4.The Formation of Other Fossils 

As for the formation of Fossils themselves, Dr. John D. Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, explains that they…

…are typically found in sedimentary rock, almost all of which were originally deposited as sediments by moving water. Subsequent processes hardened them into sedimentary rock, as overlying pressure squeezed the water out and the grains were cemented together. Often plants and animals were trapped, being buried in the sediments. As the sediments hardened into sedimentary rock, the dead things hardened into fossils…

The standard evolutionary view is that from time to time over the eons, a calm and placid sea covered what is now the continents. Over the millions of years of living and dying and coming and going the fossils were preserved as sediments slowly collected on the ocean bottom. But is there a better understanding? Let’s summarize.

Marine fossils are found in rock layers which give testimony to dynamic water processes having deposited them….Rather than demanding the conclusion of long ages of uniformity and evolution, the fossils speak of a time when the oceans fully destroyed the continents, employing catastrophic hydraulic and tectonic forces—a flood on a scale not witnessed today. Just such a flood was witnessed in yesteryear, however, and recorded for our edification in Genesis. It was the great Flood of Noah’s day.[8]

What This Means for Us Today 

During this rather lengthy “pause for critical analysis,” we have discussed a number of changes thought to have taken place during the Biblical Flood.  I say “thought to have taken place” because, of the ones we have mentioned, only two have been specifically addressed in scripture—those being, the addition of meat to man’s diet, and the delegation of authority from God to man to institute the earliest forms of human government.

As for the change in climate, which would have taken place once the vapor canopy had been removed at the onset of the Flood; and the change in landscape, which most likely occurred when the underground waters were released from their chambers, bringing about the creation of tectonic plates and the division of the land into continents—these are implied in several passages of scripture, particularly those found in the Creation Story and in those describing the mechanics of the Flood.  And, of course, the formation of fossils and the development of fossil fuels were changes which would have been unknown until long after the Bible was written.  However, the scientific sources cited in our analysis all seem to agree that these changes took place at some time in the past–they just don’t agree on when, where, and how long they took.

While we might be inclined to think a discussion of this nature, about an event as ancient as the Flood of Noah’s day, would have no bearing on our lives today, nothing could be farther from the truth.  For, as you can see from the following chart, each of the changes just mentioned has had a lasting impact on the world in which we live today…

Impact of the Flood

All of these changes should serve as a witness to our modern world, not only of mankind’s past judgment but also of the one to come.  For…

  • Our shortened lifespans;
  • The volatility of the planet on which we live;
  • The abuse and corruption of human government all around us;
  • The exploitation of the earth’s resources for personal profit; and,
  • The audacity of those who use God’s creation to justify a denial of His existence and the Truth of His Word…

…should be daily reminders to us that life is fragile and can be taken away at any given moment–something stated so succinctly in the following verses…

The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is yet toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.  Who can consider the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:10-12)

[For] just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.  (Matthew 16:27)

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the Ark, they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:38-39)

While the changes brought about by the Flood were many, there was still one that it failed to make–but, to find out what it was, we will have to wait until Vignette #9, which is just about to begin.

Smiley Face with Earphones2No matter how bleak things may have looked to Noah when he exited the Ark, as Michael Gungor reminds us, God was and still is in the business of making “Beautiful Things” out of dust…

[1] US Geological Survey, This Dynamic Earth:  Historical Perspectivehttp://wwwusgs.gov, (August 7, 2012).

[2] Earth Observatory of Singapore, Brief History of the Plate Tectonics Theory, http://www.earthobservatory.sg/faq-on-earth-sciences/brief-history-plate-tectonics-theory.

[3] Stuart E. Nevins, M.S. 1976. Continental Drift, Plate Tectonics, and the BibleActs & Facts. 5 (2).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] http://kids.britannica.com/search?query=fossil+fuels&ct=ebi&searchSubmit.x=0&searchSubmit.y=0.

[7] Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.  Evidence for Creation: Those Fossil Fuels. http://www.icr.org/article/6349/.

[8] John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2004. Where Are Fossils Found?. Acts & Facts. 33 (7).

 

Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Trees

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Apple and the snake1

The Initial Seed of Evil

Previously, in Vignette #3, we watched sadly and helplessly as Adam and Eve deliberately chose to disobey God by eating from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This one errant action on their part was all that it took to introduce Evil, with its accompanying fear, shame, deceit, alienation, and death, into what was then an ideal world.  Later, in Vignette #4, we saw how, after the passage of time and with the addition of their sons, Cain and Abel, that initial seed of Evil sown by our first parents had taken root and blossomed into the kind of bitterness, resentment, misunderstanding, self-righteousness, and anger that would lead to the first murder in the world.

So, what we want to do now, as we pause once more between Vignettes to critique this most recent part of God’s One Big Story, is to learn how things could go from bad to worse in such a relatively short period of time, and the lessons that we can take away from it today.  To do this, though, we first need to spend a few minutes acquainting ourselves with a few of life’s most basic and important principles—these being, the principles of sowing and reaping, and the nature of the two trees that are at the heart of all of life.

Sowing and Reaping

Because the majority of us have not, and probably never will have, any connection to anything agrarian (other than eating the produce we pick up from the local market), it may be difficult for us to understand how important sowing and reaping is in God’s plan for our lives.  And yet, we can begin to see their significance when we stop to consider that:

  • In John 15:8, Jesus said, “In this am I [God] greatly glorified in that you bear much fruit”;
  • In the Creation Story found in Genesis 1, we are told at least ten times the all living beings were designed to reproduce “according to their own kind”;
  • God told Noah in Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease”;
  • All of Israel’s God-appointed religious feasts and festivals were connected to an event in the agricultural calendar; and,
  • All of the major events in prophetic and redemptive history are associated with some part of the sowing and reaping process; with that process being described by Jesus in the following way:

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom.  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.  Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  He who has ears, let him hear (Matt. 13:37-43).

Reaping the Harvest

Reaping the Harvest

From this, it should become apparent that life itself is just one long cycle of sowing and reaping, the purpose of which is to produce more life and/or fruit for the glory of God.  A seed is sown, it is fertilized, watered and supplied with light by the sun; it takes root and after some time, it grows to maturity and reproduces the fruit which will either nourish some other living being, or provide the seeds needed to reproduce itself once again.  In theory, it is a very simple process; however, when it comes to sowing and reaping, there are a few principles that must be taken  into consideration, if we are going to be prepared for the harvest that we will inevitably receive.

Therefore, we need to remember that..

  • Although one seed will produce just one plant, that one plant is likely to produce a lot of fruit—so we will almost always reap more than we sow;
  • The seed we sow will not spring up into a plant overnight but it will take time, sometimes a lot of time, to grow to maturity—so that while our harvest will not be immediate, it will be sure and will come at the appropriate time; and,
  • Whatever seed we sow, it will bear the image of the original—so that the fruit produced by any seed we sow will be of the same kind and nature as its “parent,” with that kind and nature being passed on to all future generations of that seed.
You Reap What You Sow

You Will Reap What You Sow

But what do these principles of sowing and reaping have to do with our Story?  Well, in short, everything—which is something that we will come to see, after we learn a little more about the two trees at the heart of the Story.

The Nature of the Two Trees

Of course, the two trees to which I am referring are the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; trees which were planted by God in the center of the Garden of Eden for a very specific purpose. As we learned in Another Learning Interlude, this Garden was the designated place of meeting and fellowship between God and Man; where, if Man was going to continue his fellowship with God, he would have to live in obedience to Him, even when tempted to do otherwise.  God’s purpose for positioning the Trees at the heart of the Garden, then, was to test Man’s heart, and to demonstrate if he would choose to obey God and be blessed, or disobey Him and reap the consequences.

As for the trees themselves, and why Adam and Eve would choose the one over the other, I don’t think their choice had anything to do with one tree being more attractive than the other for, in a description of all of the trees in the Garden, Genesis 2:9 tells us that…

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.

So, given that all of the trees were equally attractive and good for food, what was it that made the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil so appealing; and why would the first Man and Woman choose to eat from it instead of the one from which they could freely eat?  For a better understanding of this, let’s consider what these Trees represented to Adam and Eve—and what they represent to us, as well.

The Only Two Ways Available to Men

In His provision of the two Trees, God was presenting Adam and Eve with the only two Systems of Faith that would be available to mankind, and was confronting them with the choice that both they and we have to make at some point in our lives—the choice to either put our Faith in the Works of the Flesh and try to earn our salvation on our own terms, or to to do things God’s way and put our Faith in the Sacrificial Work of the Lamb of God as the only way of securing our salvation and eternal life.

If we were to analyze these two Systems of Faith in the following way, we would discover that…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

…Is rooted in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God—which are listed in Isaiah 14:13-14:

I will ascend into Heaven.
I will be like the Most High.
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.
I will also sit on the Mount of the Congregation.

…Produces SAP of Selfishness and Pride.

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

The Way of Works and Death

…Produces Fruit for Me and My Glory.

While…

The Tree of Life…

…Is rooted in the same desires that characterized Jesus, the promised Messiah in Psalm 40:6-10:

I delight to do Your will.
Your law is within my heart.
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth.
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation.
I have proclaimed the good news of [Your] righteousness in the great assembly.

Produces SAP of Submission and Praise.

Tree of Life

The Way of Faith and Life

Produces Fruit for God and His Glory.

From our analysis of these two systems, it should be easy for us to see that the reason the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so attractive to Adam and Eve was because of its overpowering appeal to their flesh—that is, to their latent selfishness and pride, and to their desire for self-glorification.  Unfortunately, because of their decision to eat from this tree and to go the Way of Works, they doomed every one of their descendants (with the exception of Jesus Christ) to enter this world already committed to this same system–which, as we have learned, is nothing other than the Way to Death.  However, because of God’s gracious provision of a Sacrifice to atone for or to provide a covering for their sins, both they and all those who would after follow them would have the opportunity to opt out of this system of Death, choosing instead to go the Way of Faith—which is really the only Way to Life.

As for how sowing, reaping, and the nature of the two trees affected the children of Adam and Eve, this will be more clearly seen next time, as we take a closer look at the Story of Cain and Abel, and inspect the fruit that didn’t fall too far from the tree. 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

As we reflect on these things, let’s join Unspoken in “Call It Grace.”