Something’s not right in Eden. The newscast speculates on the cause.
Back in the spring we had an incident involving the teenage girl that lives in our house. Long story short; she had, basically, decided that all I had done for her in the past two years wasn’t good enough and that she could do her own thing. That my rules weren’t worth respecting, much less obeying.
We find a similar situation in the Garden of Eden. God spent six day creating paradise. Then he put man and woman in it to live in and enjoy. The only rule was “you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” (Gen 2:17)
Like a parent laying out the ground rules to a child, God made one specific rule for Adam and Eve to follow. The problem was that, like children so often do, they disobeyed. They sinned.
The problem is we don’t like to recognize disobedience. We try so hard to legalize it, or to make it ok. I could spend hours talking about the types of disobedience, but I’m going to try to lump it into three categories: 1) Blatant Disobedience, 2) Selective Disobedience, and 3) “Justified” Disobedience.
1) Blatant Disobedience
I think the best example of this kind of disobedience is seen in the story of Jonah. We all know the story. God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah proceeded to go in the completely opposite direction. Instead of doing God’s will, Jonah decided to get as far from God as possible. This led to a mess. If Jonah hadn’t suddenly grown a backbone his disobedience would have lead to the deaths of an entire ship’s crew. Jonah was at least man enough to separate himself and not lead others to share in his demise. But in the end God still got to him. Jonah found himself sitting in the belly of a whale. Where he met a talking cricket and a wooden marionette boy –wait, that’s not the story, is it? Jonah came to the realization that Blatant disobedience leads to a really nasty place.
We do this don’t we? We decide that “God don’t know what he’s talking about,” and try to go our own direction, only to find that we are taking ourselves –and sometimes others– to destruction.
2) Selective Disobedience
We all know that David was a man after God’s own heart. He loved God and strived to keep all of His commandments, until, one sleepless night. (2 Samuel 11) David couldn’t sleep and went for a walk on the roof (like we all do when we can’t sleep). Suddenly, God’s chosen King became a simple Peeping Tom. Suddenly David was an avid follower of the 9 commandments. “Surely, God wasn’t serious about that whole ‘Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” thing. Surely 90% obedience is better than no obedience at all right? This lead to adultery (80% obedience), then bearing false witness (70%), murder for a grand total of 60% obedience. If you ask my kids a 60 on an exam is failing. It’s failing on God’s book also. 2 Samuel 12:11-12 says “This is what the LORD says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you from your own family: I will take your wives and give them to another before your very eyes, and he will sleep with them publicly. 12 You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight.’ ”
God wants complete obedience, not just obedience that allows us to follow as we choose. Choosing to follow God a la carte leads right back to wrong side of God’s courtroom. Do we really want to pin our hopes that God grades us on a curve?
3) “Justified” Disobedience
This is the more common form of disobedience among people. We start to find a reason, or a verse we can take out of context to justify our sins. I’m reminded of a story our church’s youth director likes to tell about one of his students. One Wednesday night, during youth meeting, one of the kids piped up with a statement. “Hey Byron, did you know Jesus says it’s ok to smoke bud?” Byron knew that this student was new to any kind of church environment and so he decided to see where this led. The kid went on to quote Genesis 1:29 (God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food.) So here was a kid who had never been in a church before, quoting the Bible out of context to satisfy his desires.
It’s not a once in a life time occurrence, this type of Disobedience is the oldest in the book. Remember Genesis 2:17? (you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.) Ok now read how the serpent and Eve started playing with God’s commandment in Genesis 3:1-7: Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden ‘?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die. ‘ ”
4 “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit 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 knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Do you see how in verse 1, the serpent misquoted God and introduced doubt. Then in verse 2 Eve misquoted the command, leading to confusion, doubt and eventually the fall of man. It’s so easy to use doubt and misinformation to justify disobeying God.
Disobedience is another word for sin. That is all there is to it. God provided everything Adam and Eve could ever want, and they only had to follow one command. They failed. The next thing they did was go and hide. They knew that they had done something wrong, but they didn’t know what to do next. We are lucky enough to have more information, thanks to Jesus. We know that we are sinners, and we also know that through the grace of Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins. We know that it is our nature to be disobedient and sinful. But it is also nature as followers of Jesus to be more like Him, perfect and sinless; obedient.
So the bad news is we are going to sin, and sin separates us from God. Next time, we are going to see how God works to bridge that gap.
Eden, Earth – And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
“The Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.” (Genesis 2:15)
So God created responsibility. It’s one of those things that we all have in our life. It has been around since the beginning of time. And everyone handles it differently. Some people dive into it head first, some people take it on, then delegate it to others, and some just shirk it completely.
This is something that we see in the world every day, but it is also something that rings true in the “Christian world” as well. Jesus gave us a new task right before ascending into Heaven. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.”
I’m going to be honest with you. As I write this I’m sitting in a hospital room while my step-son Damon is preparing to go into his second surgery in six days. His appendix burst, and he had to have emergency surgery. Now, five days later, we have found out that they have to go back in and go after an abscess that has started growing. As a parent, watching your kids go through something like this just sucks.
I’m no stranger to sitting in hospital rooms with my kids. My first month as a parent was spent in a NICU in Hershey, Pennsylvania. My oldest daughter, Courtney, was two months premature. That was a life changing day for me as a man. Courtney was born through emergency C-section, and taken directly to the NICU. I was told to stay with her mom while they finished closing her up. When the surgery was over the Pediatric Specialist met me and told me that things were better than expected and in about an hour I needed to go to the 9th floor and do the “NICU Orientation.” I picked at lunch, took an elevator ride with a famous football coach, then I arrived at NICU. If you’ve ever had to deal with NICU (and I pray you never have to go through this), you basically have to scrub up and dress for surgery. It’s a super clean environment. So I put on my gown, booties, mask and surgeons cap, and walked onto the NICU floor. They lead me to a plexi-glass box with two little opening. Inside was this little ball of pink wrapped up in a blue and white blanket, it looked like some kind of sci-fi scene. You know the one where the alien life form is kept in containment, and at any moment it would unleash terror on the world.
Anyway, I sat down in the chair and opened the access. I remember running my finger over her forehead and down her nose. They had her swaddled, but had one of her hands sticking out because of the IV in her arm. I remember rubbing my fingers across the knuckles of her fisted hand. She opened her hand, and wrapped it around my finger. She then opened her eyes, looked at me and sighed.
Never in my life had I ever had such a moment of clarity. It was real now. It was no longer about me. Everything I did from then on was about my family. From that moment on, I took my responsibilities with purpose. For years I had claimed to be a man, but at that moment on January 2000, I understood what it meant to be a man.
Adam and Eve went through the same thing. They had been given a responsibility, but they didn’t understand the gravity of their duties until they had made a horrible mistake. Their “come to Jesus” moment happened after they realized just how grave their responsibilities were. Thankfully my “come to Jesus” moment as a father didn’t come after I had made a horrible mistake.
But as a Christian, that’s another story.
I “got saved” when I was in the second grade. We went to a revival at our church, and on a Tuesday night, I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me. I remember during the invitation I fought with myself as to whether I should go down and talk to the pastor or stay in my pew. When the invitation was over I broke down in tears. My preacher, Brother Dwayne, knew exactly what I needed. We sat down, and talked about some verses in Romans. Then we said a little prayer. I asked Jesus to into my life, and I became a Christian.
For years I talked the talk. I told people I was a Christian, I was at church almost every Sunday, doing what God had “called” me to do. I was a seat warmer. I had actually rationalized that God didn’t have a use for me, and that my calling was to show up and give the teacher someone to teach to, and the preacher someone to preach to.
Then one morning….
My daughter Courtney was four. My other daughter was two, and I was still married to their mother. As a father I was doing all I could to support my kids. I was shoving them off to church in hope of their salvation, then going home and doing things I shouldn’t be doing. Their mother was diving deeper and deeper into things and dragging me along with it. Then one morning I got up to go to work, and happened to look at myself in the mirror. I threw up. I was disgusted at my own site. Here I was praying for my girls to become Christians, and be more like Christ, and I was living a life opposite of that.
After a day at work trying to figure out what was wrong, I finally came toe to toe with the Holy Spirit, and did He lay down the smack down.
Just like in the Garden, God started with a house cleaning. I told my wife that I was not going to be a part of her smut anymore, and that I did not want it in my house and around my kids anymore. She laughed. After a few months of struggling, I found myself in divorce court. I got custody of my two girls, and a fresh start. I became more involved with God. I began reading his word. I began to get involved with my church. God reintroduced me to my best friend from high school, who was going through a very similar situation. She had left an abusive relationship with her three kids. A year later, she and I got married. We placed our lives on God’s altar. We live in a three bedroom house with 5 kids. I can tell you it has not always been easy. We have had our share of hardships and battles. But knowing that God has a plan, and that by following him that plan has a happy ending, it is worth it.
You see, like Adam and Eve, when their responsibility became real to them, God gave them two promises. One of these was to Adam: (Gen 3:17b) The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor. God promised a lot of hard work. The second promise is found in Gen 3:15 (I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. This was God speaking to the serpent, Satan. It was God promising that Jesus would come and defeat Satan.
As Christians, God has made us the same type of promises. Matthew 7:13-23
“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name? Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!
God promises us two things: One: salvation for those who follow him; and two: a lot of hard work.
From personal experience, I can tell you there is more to being a Christian than filling a pew and saying a prayer. It is a lifestyle, a commitment, a responsibility, that we should take on with an eternal gratitude.
I know that this week’s devotional is more like a testimony, but I figure it’s time to open up a little about just who I am, and where I am on the path to being a servant of Jesus. I would like to say what a joy it is to get have the opportunity to share what God lays on my heart. I’m not a perfect Christian; that is a goal I’ll achieve when they set my funeral. In the next few months as we dive deeper and deeper into the Bible, I hope you will continue to join me as we follow where God leads.
Addendum: Damon got to go home four days after the surgery and is now home. As of this posting he is back in school and acting like nothing has ever happened. Only the scars remain. God’s grace and healing power are amazing.
Brocke Lively is a lifelong Texan from a little town called Olton.
Brocke and his wife, Lela, have 5 kids, 2 dogs, 5 cats, 2 chickens, and what seems like a revolving door of neighbor kids coming over to play. As a father, Brocke recognizes that how he lives his life, and how he worships God not only reflects on his own salvation, but ripples to how his kids worship God.
Brocke attends a small town church where he is known as an on-call substitute Sunday school teacher. He recognizes that his church family is also a large part of who he is, and who he want his kids to grow up to be; God-fearing followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.