Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Tree of Life or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

And the serpent was more subtile…Gen 3:1

Subtlety is a characteristic of satan. He likes to undermine faith with craftiness and innuendo. Such that I find is the subtile nature of religion. So many people defend their religion or ‘faith.’ The presidential race has been pushing it to the forefront. Radio talk show hosts are defending it. Most of them have the attitude that ‘practicing your religion, no matter what it is,’ is the “be all to end all.” To them, you’re a good person if you ‘practice’ your religion.
People call the Boy Scouts a “Christian” organization. I would characterize it as a ‘religious’ organization. The scouts don’t care what ‘religion’ you practice, just so long as you practice some form of belief in a god. Hindu, Vishnu, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, or pick whatever religion you want, the scouts don’t care which one.
I believe satan is perfectly happy if we argue ‘religious’ beliefs and not focus on Jesus. Religious beliefs have way of making one feel superior to others. Religious beliefs give one a sense of ‘righteousness.’ Religious beliefs are like the subtile deception in the garden when satan, the serpent, said to Eve, “…you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Gen 3:5.
How many religions claim “godliness” because its members are in good standing? How many times have we heard that someone is a ‘godly’ man because of the way he acts or follows the tenets of his ‘faith’?
The subtlety of religion is that it can lure one away from the “simplicity that’s in Christ Jesus” into an attitude of being “as gods, knowing good and evil.” One can end up thinking that “I’m not like ‘those’ people,” or “I don’t do those things” and because someone talks a good game and looks successful and invokes that ‘name of the Lord,’ we think they are ‘godly.’

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone that says to me, Lord Lord…but he that does the will of my Father. Many will come in that day and say, ‘Did we not prophesy and do many wonderful works in Your name?’ I will say depart from me, ‘I never knew you.’

But there is a difference between ‘knowing about Jesus’ and ‘knowing Jesus.’ I want to know Jesus more deeply every day, but I struggle with being faithful as opposed to being ‘religious,’ or doing the ‘right thing’ because it is ‘the Christian thing.’ I seek to love as Jesus loves.
But is it really what we do that is important? Matthew 25 talks about the sheep and the goats. The sheep did, while the goats didn’t do…but what the sheep did was an out pour of love, it wasn’t rules and regulations that they were following. James said it well when he said, “If you love, you do well.”

John 6:29 “Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

What is the purpose of religion? It modifies people’s behavior. It is a means of control. Religion tells its adherence that if they don’t fall in line, then you are out of ‘the will of God,” and you could face the vengeance of the Lord.

Galatians 3:24
Therefore the law was our tutor [to bring us] to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

It’s a tutor to remind us that we need Christ. It is NOT what saves us. For if the law saves us Christ died in vain. Once Christ enters into your life by when you call upon His name in faith you are saved. Christ makes you acceptable to the Father. Christ makes you righteous. Christ makes you an adopted son or daughter of God. We are all created by God, but we are not all God’s children. (That is another subject completely. Read John Chapter 1 for a word about The Word.)
Now consider what Paul told Timothy.

1 Timothy 1:8-11
But we know that the law [is] good, if a man uses it lawfully;
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

I think this is where most people get confused. The law or religion will modify your behavior, but IT WILL NOT SAVE YOU. It may make you a ‘better’ person in the eyes of religious people and the world, but it won’t save you. It may keep you alive for a few more years because you, “don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t date those that do,” but it doesn’t make you acceptable to God. Just because you can behave yourself in the sight of man doesn’t mean that you are righteous in the eyes of God. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they knew the letter of the law but they didn’t know the spirit behind the law. They knew what the law said, but they didn’t know what love required.
Another thought I had was that it was the religious leaders that were the most adamant about having Jesus sacrificed, and it was the religious leaders who were being ‘righteous’ that were bearing false witness or encouraging the false witnesses against Jesus.

Romans 8:1-4
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Galatians 5:18
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

We are saved by grace through faith, not by works, lest any man should boast. All religions fight with each other because they think they have the better ‘temporary’ solutions to man problems. Religion can try to modify your behavior to make this a better world, but it doesn’t make us acceptable to God. Our righteousness is as filthy rags. Only Jesus death on the cross makes us acceptable to the Father. When we place our faith, hope and love on the Only Begotten Son of the Father, the eternal Word - the Word who is God (see John Chapter 1) - then we are saved.

But if you think because you get someone to behave the way you think they should behave and convince them that is what God wants, you may have just created a well behaved person still destined for an eternity separated from God. Doing good works doesn’t equate to knowing God. Jesus wants to know us because He loves us. Satan convinced Adam and Eve that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make them like gods. They ignored the tree of Life which would give them eternal life. The tree of Life is Jesus.

Introduce someone to Jesus, the tree of Life, and help them to know Him and the wonderful Grace of God that’s found in Jesus Christ and watch how Jesus will transform them into the person He thinks they should be, and they will inherit the Kingdom on God through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.

Be blessed,

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