Saturday, September 26, 2009

What Happened in the Garden of Eden?

GE 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

GE 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

GE 3:4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

GE 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

This passage contains some very fundamental and vital truths for us to understand. It explains how the world is the way it is, and why we are the way we are. It also contains the key to understanding a hidden principle in each of us, of how we live and function in our daily lives, that most of us are unaware of, but when understood can unlock the mystery of why we are here on this planet, and what our destiny can be.

Satan told Adam that when he ate that fruit, he would not die. Instead it would make him like God - his eyes would be open and he would know the difference between good and evil. Adam ate it. Did he die? No. Did his eyes become open? Yes. Did he acquire the knowledge of good and evil? Yes. Did he become like God?

So was the devil telling a lie or telling the truth? I have shared this in several places over the years. At this point, when speaking or teaching in church or a seminar, I would ask for a show of hands. Usually about one third of the congregation or class would say the devil was telling the truth. Another one third would say he was telling a lie. The other one third would not be sure and prefer not to answer – perhaps this might be indicative of how subtle and deceptive the devil is and how confused we are!

I think the devil told Adam a half truth. Half truths are more dangerous than outright lies. Half truths are distortions of the real truth. When I was a lawyer, I always found that the best liars in court are those who tell half truths. When a person tells an outright lie, it is easy to catch them out in cross examination. Truth is always consistent. Lies are always inconsistent. Every time a person tells a lie, he would have to tell another lie to cover up for the first lie. Then on further cross examination, he would have to tell yet another lie to cover up for the second lie, and this goes on. In the end, through a series of questions from the cross examiner, and a series of lies the witness would give in reply, he would have painted himself into a corner, and inevitably the first lie would be exposed. Not so with those who tell half truths. It is difficult to tell how much of what they say is true and how much is a lie. That is the subtlety and deceptive nature of half truths.

The world today is full of half truths. Ancient religions have half truths. Modern forms of eastern mysticism have half truths. Modern secularism and other philosophies that are espoused and taught by so many modern day “gurus” are full of half truths. That’s what makes them so appealing. A good example of a half truth taught universally today is in the popular teaching of belief in self. It is known by different names : self confidence, positive thinking or self actualization. Another one is global peace and harmony through tolerance and respect for all religions and philosophies. More subtle are the half truths in the Church today (see below).

All half truths actually began in the garden of Eden. Satan in effect told Adam, “No, you will not die, but you will live ..” and in there was the half truth of all half truths. I believe that though Adam did not die, yet something in him did die – that part of him that enjoyed sweet communion and relationship with the Lord died. But just like Satan said, something else became alive in him – something that entered into Adam from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Indeed when Adam disobeyed God and asserted his independence and ate the fruit, what came from that tree into Adam is what the apostle Paul calls the flesh or carnal nature or the self-life. That tree is also a tree of life – the self life. That self-life is lived out in the ability to distinguish and discern for oneself good or evil, right or wrong and to weigh out pros and cons, independently of God. It is human wisdom – thinking and reasoning not from God’s perspective, but according to man’s perspective. When Adam had his own knowledge of good and evil, and right and wrong, he no longer needed to consult God. The self does not consult God. Instead the self uses its own wisdom to discern and determine everything for itself, and act out its decisions.

Satan also said, “ .. you will be like God ..” Did he become like God? I think he did. Not exactly like God; but something like God. Another half truth. Because he now weighed out everything for himself and made his own decisions, in effect he became his own god. That same human wisdom and self-life has been passed down to all mankind. What happens when you plant an apple seed? You get an apple tree. What do you find on an apple tree? Apples. What’s in an apple? Apple seeds. What’s in an apple seed? A whole forest of apple trees! Adam’s self-life or carnal nature has passed down to all of us. We're all our own gods. We were born with it. God is not the Lord and Master of everything in our lives. We are. The truth is, we are independent of God.

Even for Christians, for the most part, God is relegated to the role of a servant. He is there to bless us. We go to Him only when we can't handle things ourselves. He's there to help us out. We live out our lives according to what we think best. We may have accepted Jesus as our savior, but we look at God as having the responsibility to protect us, bless us, straighten out the kinks, remove the obstacles, smoothen out the creases, make life comfortable for us and get us to heaven. And what is prayer? As my favorite author AW Tozer said, prayer for many Christians, is giving God advice. Basically we run our own lives the best way we know how, choosing what we think is good and avoiding what we think is evil. Someone once said that the simplest and most profound prayer that everyone needs to pray is, “Lord, You are God, and I am not.”

Half Truths in the Church

There is something else that is intriguing in the Genesis 3 passage. Why did Adam listen to Satan? In 1 Tim.2:14, the apostle Paul said that Adam was not deceived; but Eve. In other words, Adam knew what he was doing. He went in with his eyes wide open. He took the fruit because he wanted to be like God. Why? Here we can learn another vital principle of how the devil works. I believe Satan was appealing to something that was already implanted in Adam by God – the desire to be like Him.

Let’s ask ourselves : “What is God’s highest desire for man?” You’re right! To be like His Son Jesus! To be like God. Satan knew this and worked on the very thing that God had already intended. No wonder that Genesis 3:1 begins the account with how crafty or subtle the serpent is. This should teach us a lesson. So often Satan will work on the very things that God desires of us, to get us to do those very things, but not within God’s timing or God’s ways or plans, but in our own timing, way, wisdom and strength, and independently of God. And so often it will appear in every way to be right and in God’s will, even appearing to give God glory, but it will be one of the works that will be burned up as wood, hay and stubble on the final day of accounting.

One of the most obvious half truths in the church today is the health and wealth or prosperity gospel that is being preached. There are already sufficient literature that exposes its unbiblical principles, so I need not go into it. But I think I need to point out that the health and wealth gospel is but only one example. Another example is how we measure success in ministry. Success is measured in terms of numbers and size – how many church members, how many staff, how big the church budget and bank account, how big the church building, what sound system we use, how “effective” our programs, how many people attending meetings, how many raising their hands to be saved, how many healed, how many church planting teams, how many outreaches, how many bible colleges, how many missionaries sent out or supported, how glossy the newsletter, how professional the management and reporting, how many orphanages, how much this and how much that.

But God’s measure may be very different. Let’s pause for a moment and ask, how many disciples did Jesus have at the end of His life? Only four : three Mary’s (Mary His mother, Mary Magdalene, and Mary wife of Cleopas) and one John, at the foot of the cross. All others abandoned Him. Imagine if we were there at Golgotha watching the whole thing. Would we say that Jesus’ ministry was a success or a failure? You know and I know what we would think. But what do you think His Father would have said to Jesus? Now that we have the benefit of time and the New Testament, we know the Father would have looked at His Son and said, “Son, You were totally successful and did exactly what I desired.” Indeed God looks at things and measures things quite differently from the way man does.

There are many other half truths in the church. I shall not get into them. The main point here that I wish to convey is that we, especially those of us in leadership, need to be so aware of how Satan works – if he cannot succeed in distracting us from God’s plans and purposes for us, then he focuses on the very things that God puts into our hearts and he distorts it, to get us to pursue after what is really a counterfeit of the true and pure. Unless we have the discernment of the Holy Spirit, unless our hearts are pure and humble and we are constantly communing with and listening to the Lord, we will easily fall into the trap of the enemy. We will plan, strategize, preach, promote, recruit others, expend time and energy and funds to build what we think is for God’s kingdom, but is not. And it will one day collapse when Jesus comes again. How will we know? Simple. Ask the Lord. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Prov.3:5-6

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