“That’s apples and oranges!” Maybe you’ve said or heard that to communicate that two things really shouldn’t be compared. Yet, apples and oranges aren’t completely different. Some might even argue they have more in common than not.
The two trees in the garden of Eden, on the other hand, were completely different. Yet, one of Satan’s subtle lies is to suggest that they – like all of God’s commands and prohibitions – are really just options on the buffet. The Lord would really like us to go with the Manager’s Choice, but He is more concerned with us having freedom and personal satisfaction in whatever we choose. You might think I’m exaggerating, but have you ever hear someone describe hell as a place where the wicked go (and want to go) to party together forever?
I have. More times than I care to count.
After a quick look at the limited buffet, for them the choice is clear: “choice!” The tree of the knowledge of good and evil seems empowering and exciting. Door #2, the tree of eternal life, seems to have too many unknowns, except that it’s an eternity with a God who is either pompous or insecure to restrict us to the immaturity of ignorance forever. Right?
Not at all.
But Satan is crafty. He appeals to the appearance of freedom for “real” intimacy and power. That’s one of his most powerful lures. He knows the Lord created us for intimacy with Him and power in the world. The thought of a shortcut with no accountability can be intoxicating. But the mystery behind door #2 is the real prize. “Total freedom” is a poisonous apple, yet it still has powerful appeal.
As a youngster back in the 70s, I remember when political conservatives changed one of their monikers from being “anti-abortion” to being “pro-life”. As a much more positive statement, it seemed like a sure winner for the political buffet. But abortion advocates quickly topped that by their more frequent appeal to being “pro-choice”. Choice was proposed as even better than life itself, and most people seem to agree. Having complete freedom is one of the most basic appeals that manifests in a range of choices from assisted suicide and changing one’s sexual identity to the hundreds of types of toothpaste and fashion designs. Human nature wants the fruit of “complete” freedom: freedom from God.
So, does door #2 in Eden mean that God wants to be a dictator? Again, not at all.
Notice a few key facts about the Lord’s fruitful design for our eternal joy in Him.
First, God walked with Adam and Eve on a regular basis. How do we know that? Well, when you’re in your house, how can you tell the difference between the sounds of your family members’ footsteps or those your pet’s? You’ve heard them on a regular basis, right? That’s how they recognized the sound of His footsteps in Genesis 3:8. From the very beginning, the Lord was deeply personal with His people and encouraged their intimacy with Him.
Second, notice that He placed Adam (and later Eve) in Eden to work and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). But the only paradise bearing fruit was Eden itself, which also had four rivers going from it into the rest of the barren world (Genesis 2:5ff). From the very beginning, the Lord provided incredible opportunities for His people to exercise power. They were to take His example of Eden and reproduce it (and themselves, of course) as He walked with them into the rest of the entire world.
What are we to learn from this about God’s heart toward our knowledge, freedom, and joy? The Lord’s design was never to keep us ignorant or immature in any way. Adam and Eve were to (and we are to) grow in knowledge and intimacy and power by relationship with God Almighty over time. Understanding the difference between good and evil is not a bad thing. Scripture is clear that discerning between good and evil is a mark of spiritual maturity. (2 Samuel 14:17, 1 Kings 3:9, Isaiah 5:20 and 7:15-16, Jeremiah 4:22, Amos 5:14-15, Hebrews 5:14, 1 Peter 2:14, etc.) Wanting to define “good” apart from God is the bad thing. All we have to do is to look at our world and ask, “How’s that working for us?”
Look at Galatians 5:13-26. It’s easy to see the results of “freedom” without God compared to the true freedom God’s people have in Christ. Seeking the fruit of knowledge of good and evil independent of Him leads only to the neglect, abuse, or distortion of intimacy and power (verses 19-21). But seeking the fruit of eternal Life by trusting in the One who walks with us – Christ Himself – leads to the fruit of His Spirit and a growing goodness of intimacy and power (verses 22-23).
Listen to the Apostles warning in verse 15 of that chapter. We will either feed on God’s Spirit for eternal fruit of joy in Him, or we will feed the desires of our flesh and eat each other alive.
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