8Jesus said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, (Mat 16:)
We, being human, feel we must have the answer for everything. I think it's something our Creator instilled in us from the beginning. But lots of things God has provided for us are not necessarily for our use, but rather for our avoidance.
This sounds like a strange and contradictory statement, but actually it's not. Consider how we install parachutes and oxygen masks in airplanes. We place air bags in cars. We keep a supply of pain pills in our medicine cabinet. And we carry a spare tire in the trunk of our car. Why? Why do we have these things? Do we have them because we want to use them? Maybe we go to the extra trouble and expense to have them around because we like to look at them? Of course not. In fact we hope to never have to use any of these things we have gone to the trouble to be certain we have on hand. "Look George, we've had these fire extinguishers hanging around for months now and never used them. Let's take them and spray them around the house just so they don't go to waste." "Good Idea Martha, and while we're at it let's eat up this big bottle of sore throat medicine that's about to expire. We don't want them to waste them you know."
I don't think so.
There's a lot of things we have and that we do, not because we want to have and use them, but because they might be useful in the future, or they might help us in other ways.
We get what we give. A parent, unwittingly to be sure, is in the process of teaching a child its first word. And because it's his first and only word, he uses it to the max.
Because the world is such an exciting and enthralling place to the child, a second word is added to his or her vocabulary. That word is "why?" Why can birds fly, but dogs can't? Why is the stove hot? Why is the sky blue? What happens if I touch this or pull on that?
Before the days of magnetic refrigerator doors many a child had been found (often too late) locked in a refrigerator in an effort to see if the light really did go out when the door was closed.
It is my opinion that we have robbed today's child of this adventure by thrusting on them the TV and the computer that we force them to sit before and be spoon-fed information, sights and sounds. The TV has turned from being an occassional source of relaxation and entertainment into a schoolmaster, a baby sitter, and a way of keeping the child out of mamma's way. This is not only a function performed in the home, but in the schools as well, where the child is supposed to be exposed to the challenges of life and learning job skills. Questions are given answers even before they are recognized as questions, quenching the learning process before it has even had an opportunity to be rooted.
In the beginning a child's questions are cute and they are necessary. After a time however the questions not only become annoying, but they often become routine. This is true of some children more than with others. Some children ask questions because they truly want to know and to understand their environment or the endeavor they have undertaken. Others however merely use the word as a tool. "Why can't I go hunting with Jimmy?" "Why can't I have a big screen TV in my room?" "Why do I have to brush my teeth?" Why becomes a means of trying to get out of doing what we are told to do, and to get something we're not supposed to have.
This is not only true of children, but of gray-haired adults as well.
At this same time God planted the tree of death. This tree He called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We might think if this as the "Why?" tree. Whenever we have a question, which is something we have from the time we're born, which tree do we go to for the answer? Do we go to the tree of life? Of course not. We go to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. "But isn't that a bad thing to do? Isn't the tree of knowledge evil?" We might think so, but in fact, that is not necessarily so. Remember, the tree is the tree of the KNOWLEDGE of GOOD and evil. Does this mean that trying to learn good things is bad? It just might be.
The serpent played a little word game with Eve that fateful day of their downfall. It is all too obvious that both Adam and his wife had many questions they wanted to ask, but they apparently did not wish to ask these questions of the One who had the answers, but instead sought answers elsewhere. One might think: "Let me see, which would most likely have the answer to the questions I have? Maybe God? Hmm. Maybe a tree of knowledge? Or maybe even this serpent over here. Let me ask the serpent and see what he thinks about it."
An odd scenario? Yes, but not far from the truth as it turns out.
Did the serpent lie to Eve? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the serpent told her what he sincerely believed. After all, how would the serpent have known what God told Adam unless he had been hiding behind a bush somewhere at the time? Besides, in reading of the event it seems all too clear that Adam was right there with Eve during her exchange with the serpent, quietly lending his approval (see Numbers chapter 30 for God's opinion on just such an event).
A child wants to hear what he or she wants to hear. The child is not interested in truth, just approval for whatever they have set their mind to do. We never outgrow this inclination, or at least I must confess that I haven't outgrown it. We go to the person who is most likely to give us the answer we desire. And if we don't receive the answer we hoped for, we try somewhere else. And if we still don't hear what we want to hear, we ignore what we heard and pretend like we heard just the opposite of what was said. Adam and Eve knew that God would not tell them what they wanted to hear, so they lent their ears to someone who would tell them what they wanted to hear.
We still do the same thing, and we call this behavior "religion."
Why would God plant a tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden if He didn't want His creation to eat of it? Does that make any sense to you? Have you ever wondered about this? I have.
Remember the parachute and the fire extinguisher? Were they placed at our disposal for our use? Yes, they were. They are there for us when we need them, when we are prepared for them. Is a fire extinguisher of any use to someone who doesn't know how to use it? Is the parachute of any value to a person who doesn't know how to put it on, or who is afraid of heights? Of course they're not. We must first learn how to use the equipment. And the better we are at using the equipment the better use we will be able to make of them. A two year old may have the keys to the car, but those keys will do the child no good (or worse, they will be a hazard) to the uneducated and immature child.
Is it possible that the tree of the knowledge is there for our use, but not until we learn how to use that knowledge? Jesus had knowledge concerning all things. His desire was only to serve the Father and to please the Father. Whatever knowledge He might have had concerning evil (which obviously He had because He taught us the pitfalls of possessing and practicing such evils) did not influence Him or detract Him from His purpose. Remember, Satan was turned loose on Jesus at Jesus' weakest moment in effort to deflect Him from His purpose. Did Satan try to get Jesus to blaspheme God? Did he try to talk Jesus into stealing or lying? No. Satan only tried to get Jesus to sightly divert His attention from His main purpose and to please Himself for a moment. This tactic had worked on the first Adam, why wouldn't it not work on the second Adam?
What was Jesus' purpose that Satan tried to get Him to forget for just an instant?
28Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (John 8:)
30I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:)
Jesus kept His mind on doing the will of His Father, not on His own interests or pleasure. When we take our eyes off the Head and place them on the feet for even a moment, we lose our way. Jesus is the Head, we are the feet, the body of Christ. It's hard to keep our mind on the Head when our feet hurt, or when our belly (lusts and desires) rumbles with hunger; but as Jesus did, we must look beyond our circumstances and work toward our goal. Jesus said:
50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Mat 12:)
If we do as Jesus did, then we are part of the family of God. What does that say for those of us who fail to keep our mind off ourselves and on the will of the Father? Even more, what does this say of those who believe that it isn't even necessary to work toward pleasing God?
Is it possible to live up to the standards required to be a child of God? I hope it is for you, but for me I'm far from successful in this endeavor. That's why I'm so thankful that God provides a system of repentance and forgiveness for those of us who are not good at doing what they're told to do (Luke 17:3-4; Mat 6:14-15: 18:22). I hope someday to grow beyond the 'talk and the attempt' stage and not be in need of constant forgiveness. I can only hope for this, and keep trying.
An example of this is Adam and Eve. Before they partook of the forbidden fruit they were very comfortable with what they had in the Garden, and they enjoyed being with their Creator. After their bite into forbidden knowledge, they immediately began to hide from God, to cover up their "nakedness" and crime with fig leaves, and to blame someone else for their failures. They were as spoiled fruit which cannot be placed back into the barrel of good fruit. They must be discarded. We find this principle being taught in the parables of the tares and the dead tree branches that will be discarded and burned. We also see this taught by Paul when he told the Corinthian Church to expel those sinners who were corrupting the Church. The bad cannot be mixed with the good.
Does it sound as if God does not want us to learn good? After all, the tree is also the knowledge of good as well as evil. I don't think God is concerned with us learning good. We don't have to learn good, we just have to do good. And if we don't have any evil knowledge in us, then we have no evil in us (1Cor 10:23; Romans chapter 7). And if we only have good in us, then we will do what God tells us to do, which of course is to be good, and to be loving, which is the production of good fruit (Mar 22:36-40).
God tried to teach this principle to the Hebrew children when He brought them out of Egypt. Did they learn? Have you learned it yet? I'm trying to learn it, not in words, but in practice.
God gives us our daily bread. We see that Jesus, when asked how we should pray, told His disciples to pray for daily bread (Mat 6:11). There are all too many of us who are not satisfied with bread, we want our daily cake and ice cream. And we feel cheated and upset with God when we don't get what we feel we deserve. We see this with the Hebrew children in the wilderness. They continually rejected what God provided for them during their training, their testing period (Ex 16:4; Psalm 66:10; Gal 6:4). And because of this discontent, what should have been a few month's worth of proving and conditioning turned out to be 40 years of the same without the promise of a reward for their efforts. We humans place expectations on God and demand that they be met. If we don't get what we want, we complain and murmur. We forget that it's God's prerogative to place expectations on us, not the other way around.
Children have a natural curiosity, as was discussed earlier in this article. Because of this curiosity they are inclined to pay attention to, and to be interested in what they are taught. We see this in older adults as well who have decided to go back to school and take up a trade or in some other way increase their education. For myself I find that most of my learning has been from the age of 65 up, and that I am much more teachable now than I have ever been in my life. Part of this is teachability is due to an understanding of my limitations that I lacked before, and I have found ways to work around my inabilities. But a large part of my own ability to learn comes from having a strong desire to learn certain subjects. Those things I'm not interested in I have difficulty learning, just as would any other person (I am assuming here).
Having been a teacher of adults I have found that there are others besides those with a desire to learn who take classes. There are those who want to show off what they know, and how much smarter they are than the teacher, who also take adult classes. These of course learn little because they think they already have all the answers. I understand these people all too well I'm afraid because I too am that way. I have to fight the impulse to be a know-it-all if I want to learn anything at all.
It is said that a degree, that is a certificate of completion showing a person has learned all that a certain school of thinking says they should learn, is like the extra curl on the tail of a pig. It may look distinguishing, but it really serves no purpose at all. In fact education can be a debilitating attribute. A person with an education is inclined to only know, and therefore only believe, what they have been taught to believe. They have not been taught how to think, nor how look for truth for themselves. They only have what they have been given, and no more. A child who studies religion in India is likely to be a very knowledgeable Hindu; a child in Iraq to be a Muslim; a child in Russia an Atheist; and a child in America a Humanist. We know and we believe what we are taught. And this a danger when plucking fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We no longer even hear of the good (which is looked down upon in this modern culture), and the evil is praised and exalted.
In Physics we learn that everything tends to fall to its lowest level. It is no different in the realm of the Spiritual.
A parent extends his or her concern to their family. That is a natural occurrence, but not necessarily one that takes place in all families. Parents rarely have learned how to take care of themselves, leastwise a child or two needing constant care and asking a ton of seemingly nonsensical questions. Grand parents usually have the time, the patience, and the understanding needed to instruct a child, having made all the mistakes during their parenting days. However, since those mistakes were made on what now are the parents of the grandchildren, the child is not trusted into the hands of the grandparents. Is this true in all cases? Of course not, but it is a natural progression where such a progression is applicable.
We don't want to bother with having to give a reason for everything we say or do. We just want and expect immediate and unquestioning compliance to our demands. This is human nature. Wouldn't you suppose that such would be God's attitude as well? I should think if anyone has the right and the expectation that people would jump to attention at His every Word, it would be God. Does God issue commands without explanation? As it turns out the word "because" takes up pages in the concordance of the Bible. God, as He did in Eden, tends to give a reason for everything He says and that He does. He makes sure we fully understand His reasoning for what He expects and demands of us. And He carefully and completely describes what will happen to us if we do not follow the commands He gives us. He leaves us without an excuse when we are chastised or judged (Rom 1:19-25; 2:15).
We have been given all that we need to understand the will of God. It's not due to a lack of knowledge we fail, its due to an abundance of ignoring what God wants of us, and just plain not caring.
Let's say you've found an explanation for why some animals are clean and others are not clean. Let's say you fully understand why these rules no longer apply. Assuming this, please explain these for me if you can:
In the book of Leviticus we read that if the body of an unclean thing, and just about all things are unclean, like the fly for instance, or a cat or a dog, touches an earthen vessel (such as your dishes and decorative flower vases) it must be broken and discarded (Lev 11:28-33). Or how about this: a person is not to mingle seeds of different kinds in a field, nor to wear clothing made with different types of fabric (Lev 19:19). Does this make any sense to you? I wonder what God would say of the synthetic materials we wear today, and our plastic dishes.
What happened to those who tempted God, the ones who tested Him? And what do you suppose happened to those who tempted Jesus with their questions as they tried to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him?
[Author's Note: I hope you read the above Scripture carefully and associated it with the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There is a great deal said here. Some people read this as justification to continue sinning, just as long as they are baptized. I should hope you did not do so. Paul says we are born into a body of death. God told Adam he would die if he disobeyed Him. Adam died Spiritually the moment he disobeyed, thus becoming a body of death. And Adam knew he was no longer Spiritually covered, that is that he was exposed, naked to the world, so he hid himself and made an artificial covering to take the place of what he had lost.
We are still in the process of covering up and making excuses for our sins rather than dealing with them. And unfortunately far too many churches are lending their support to just such a behavior. Light and darkness can not live in the same place. Neither can good and bad dwell in the same house. The Spiritual and the carnal are incompatible. We are carnal, but our extreme effort should be to rid ourself of the carnal nature (as distinguished from the flesh, our outer covering) so that the Spiritual, that is God the Father, can dwell in us comfortably.
Light exposes darkness. The law, which we are inclined to dismiss as passé, is designed to be a light that exposes sin and shows it for what it is. It, the law, is our "schoolmaster," to the carnal nature we were born with. (Gal 3:19-29 - Note, pay careful attention. The law, that exposes sin, brings us to Christ. Once we have received the Holy Spirit the law is dead to us because we have life within us working, taking the place of the law (1Cor 6:12-13). The elements of the law are just as valid as they had always been, but we are being guided by something much stronger, and much more demanding than the carnal law. Sin is still trespass, and it is abhorred by God. The difference is now, under grace, we have a process of repentance and forgiveness that did not exist under the old law. Once we've seen the light, and we have been shown that sin is against God, and that it is death, then we become responsible for ridding ourself of that fault. This is the struggle Paul is describing here. Far from justifying his sinful nature, Paul is describing what he (as well as each of us) go through in order to sanctify our "temple" and prepare it for the indwelling of the Spirit of God.
Paul is not saying that Jesus has taken this struggle from us as so many people would like to believe, instead he is saying that because Jesus has overcome the flesh, He has made it possible for us to overcome as well (Rev 3:21; Rom 3:21; Heb 10:19-23). It is those who struggle to overcome their carnal nature, to once again be pure enough to reenter the Garden of Eden, to pass through the vail and the Cherubim of fire, who will live with the Lord and the Father. To not see that having become a Christian is to have taken on this struggle, this internal battle with the flesh, is to deceive one's self and be worse than an Infidel ("Infidel, untrustworthy, unbeliever, heathen" ]
26For if we sin wilfully AFTER THAT WE HAVE RECEIVED THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, THE LORD SHALL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE. 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:)
17For the time is come that JUDGMENT MUST BEGIN AT THE HOUSE OF GOD: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18And IF THE RIGHTEOUS SCARCELY BE SAVED, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1Peter 4:)
25And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, AND COUNTETH THE COST, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (Luke 14:)
24Know ye not that they which run in a race RUN ALL, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1Cor 9:)
5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6And to knowledge temperance ("Self-control"); and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his OLD sins. 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, GIVE DILIGENCE TO MAKE YOUR CALLING AND ELECTION SURE: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2Peter 1:)
It is my opinion, drawn from my own experience and study of the Scriptures, that if a person is not truly searching the Scriptures for the truth that God has provided, instead settling for something comfortable, then they are not actually being led by the Spirit of God. However, if a person has "signed on," that is, if a person has been baptized into the body of Christ, then they are under the laws that govern the body of Christ, and will be judged accordingly. Isn't this what you read in the passages above? This being the case, are you running the race you have entered? Or do you think by merely sitting on the sidelines entitles you to the honors and the rewards due those who run and win the race?]
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