Back at the Tree — You Will Be Like God, Knowing Good & Evil
Lent is a time of repentance. Repentance requires us to name and confess our sin. Naming sin is the first and perhaps most transformational step in our Lenten journey. We are in a day where the very concept of sin is anathema. In response, we, as followers of the Jesus of the cross, must not be conformed to the standards of this world. The church of Jesus Christ must continue to be a confessional church, or it is not worthy of the name it bears.
To help us on this journey of confession and repentance, we are using the four remaining weeks in Lent to go back to the scene of the original sin and consider where and how we might be reenacting that sin in our own lives. Here is our text for these lessons.
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’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:1-6)
We are focusing on four statements the enemy made that led to this catastrophic failure on behalf of the first couple:
- “Did God really say?”
- “You will not certainly die.”
- “Your eyes will be opened.”
- “You will be like God.”
Week #4 – “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The trap has been set. The prey has moved from the periphery to the center, right where the adversary wants her. She’s walked with him step-by-step into his snare. It started when she considered whether God really meant what he said in his warning and command about the forbidden tree and its fruit. It continued when she pondered whether there may actually be no consequence to disobeying, maybe they won’t really die. It found a place in her heart with the further idea that there may be something more, something God had withheld from them. Did he keep them blind when they thought they were seeing? Maybe, just maybe, there was more to Eden than what the creator had provided. What if her eyes could be opened?
With so much ground already lost, Eve was helpless against this final, insidiously tantalizing proposition from the enemy. All that was left was to offer Eve what she was already likely pondering in her heart. It was the allure of control. It was the offer of an escape from the simple, childlike trust that God had required of them, replacing it with the opportunity to know good and evil, and to choose for themselves which path they would take. We must not miss the downward spiral that starts with doubting God’s word, moves to a denial of the consequences of sin, breeds in us a desire to take for ourselves what only God can give, and ends with a descent to the impotent and pathetic throne that we sit on believing that we can control our life in place of God.
There is a common teaching in evangelical theology that there is one throne in our life, and either God sits on it, or we do. I think that is a misnomer. The throne that God sits on when we have surrendered our lives to him, when he is the Lord of our life, is a glorious, gracious, loving, abundant, magnanimous throne. From that throne we experience life in all its fullness as Jesus promised us in John 10:10. On the other hand, the throne we seek to occupy when we grasp lordship for ourselves is not even to be compared to this glorious throne. This is a dilapidated and rather pathetic throne, hardly worth its name. From it we rule with fear, self-deceit, anxiety and ultimately, hopelessness.
This is the promise of secular humanism that tells us there is no God so we must save ourselves. Believing that lie, the world around us is filled with lost souls trying to rule their life from their own little throne and wondering why they are so angry, disillusioned, discouraged, and depressed.
Even more devastating are the churches and pastors who fail to challenge this ruling pride that lies in the hearts of all of us. So countercultural and radical is this preaching that far too many recoil from it and opt for the more palatable, syncretic view that one only needs to accept Jesus as savior but not necessarily as Lord. And so, we sit comfortably on our pathetic little thrones with our heavenly life insurance policy tucked neatly inside our jacket.
This Lenten season, as we draw near to Holy Week, we must confront the temptation to play God and grasp for control. It starts with identifying where we might be on this downward spiral. This is a path that leads to death, so we must take it with the utmost seriousness. It is this path from which Christ came to rescue us. At his cross we are both broken and rescued.
As we close this Lenten series, let me ask you as boldly as I can to examine your hearts. The same enemy from Eden whispers in our ears every day, enticing us with the same temptations. Are we listening? Consider:
- Where are you doubting God’s word, or falling to the temptation to shape it to fit your own viewpoint? Where have you listened more to culture than Scripture? Where have you allowed the enemy into your mind with his question, ‘Did God really say?’ Stop today. Repent. Let Scripture speak for itself and pray for a heart of absolute obedience regardless of the cost. (Hebrews 4:12)
- Where have you denied the consequences of sin and allowed it to remain comfortably in your life? Where are the dark places, the closed doors in your spirit you refuse to open and let the light of Christ expose and heal? Where have you bought the lie that, ‘You will not surely die’? Stop today. Repent. And invite the Holy Spirit to come in and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
- Where have you chosen to go your own way, relied on yourself, and trusted in your own understanding believing that you can do it without Jesus? Where have you stopped trusting that God has supplied you with all you need if you will just abide in him? Where have you sought to have your ‘eyes opened’ through your own works, rather than relying on God alone? Stop today. Repent. And pray for the Holy Spirit to fan the flame of absolute trust in God, a God of love, grace, and abundance. (Galatians 2:20)
- Finally, where have you grasped at control of your life believing you can choose right from wrong apart from God’s guiding hand? What in your life and work remains unsurrendered to Jesus Christ? Where are you still playing the lord of your life, refusing to step off your sad little throne. Stop today. Repent. And pray for the courage and humility to lay everything before the one true throne, the throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16)
I pray you have been blessed, challenged, and encouraged by this Lenten series. May this be your Lenten hymn as we prepare to walk with our Savior into Holy Week.
I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all.