Read The Fine Print!

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READ THE FINE PRINT

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.”
Genesis 3:1-5

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In the narrative of Eve’s temptation, usually we assume that part of Satan’s lie was in telling Eve that she would ‘become like God.’ And we can begin to use this verse as a denunciation of the fact that we are not in fact gods, nor should we be compared to God in any way.

But unfortunately, I think that this line of argument misses the point altogether about what this verse is actually trying to say.

I say this because when God re-enters the narrative and learns of the fallen state of Eve, and Adam, among the things He says, He includes something pretty interesting.

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
Genesis 3:22

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God is actually confirming that this portion of Satan’s temptation was I’m fact true.

In some way, mankind had become like God. Except, mankind clearly did not receive what they believed this to mean. We have not become like God in the sense of His power, His wisdom, His sovereignty, His omniscience, His omnipresence, or His immutability. So what then does it mean to become like God in knowing good and evil?

I think that in order to understand this, we need to fully comprehend the dichotomy between God and Satan. You see, in the Christian worldview, God and Satan are not polar opposites like the Ying and Yang of some popular beliefs. God alone is the only eternally existent One who is good.

Sure, people can do some pretty good things from time to time. But maybe half the reason why we feel the need to celebrate it is because we know how rare it is for human beings to be anything close to intrinsically good – all the time.

Yet the God of the Bible is a God who is described exactly like that. Every choice He makes, everything that He purposes, every thought in His heart – is absolutely pure and perfect.

Likewise, anything God creates therefore is also good.

But also in this worldview contains the free will that God gives to His creation so that they may serve Him out of the same genuine love He had for them, rather than on account of some sort of robotic pre-programming. If free will did not exist, neither would real love.

However, when we do not function in the way we were created to function, or in other words, if we do not do the good in which we were created to do, this is what the Bible calls sin. And all sin is in fact a sort of ‘falling short’ of the perfection of the God created order in which this world was created to function in.

Satan is a good example of the heights from which one can fall from their God-created perfection in that he was created with both wisdom and brilliant beauty. But rather than use these gifts to glorify the One who made him, Satan instead used his wisdom and beauty to seduce others after himself rather than God. Satan desired the worship that is due to the sole Creator of the universe alone.

This is where he initially fell short of the glory for which he was created, and by doing so, he is now forever disconnected from the life of the One who alone has the power to restore all perfection. But Satan, being cut off from all true light and life, and now darkened in his reasoning due to this, actually looks to subvert God’s authority by the very same rebellion which has now caused all of humanity to fall short of God’s intended perfection for them as well.

And herein lies a clue to what it means to know ‘good and evil’ and become ‘like God.’

To become like God in knowing good and evil because by the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means that we have now fallen prey to a fixed moral state – but instead of having a fixed moral state of good, like God, we instead have one that much like Satan, also resists and rebels against God.

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We only begin to understand this revelation in the New Testament after the Apostle Paul makes a scathing indictment against all humanity when he says:

As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Romans 3:10-18


Even the Apostle Paul, though he tried with all his strength and religious zeal in all of his own human effort to live for God in pure and perfect good found that:


For
I do not do the good I want to do, 

but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.
Romans 7:19

This fixed moral state in our attempts to be like God has proven futile and powerless to accomplish any self accomplished righteousness like the false religions of the world lay claim to. Some may still actually live in the delusion that they are in fact accomplishing it; but those who are of a more sane disposition can clearly and truthfully see, that NONE OF US is anywhere close to the perfection that we’d all like to be. (Notwithstanding, of course, those whose bar for righteousness is way too low – which is why God gave us ‘His’ law, so we could understand the terms under which we fall short.)So Satan was in fact telling the truth that we would become like God in that we would also have a fixed moral state, and the Mosaic Law bears witness to it, but he forgot to mention that the fixed moral state we would have would be like his, and all that falls short of the perfection we were created to be.

And life and eternity would be utterly desolate and meaningless if God gave no thought but to leave us as we are.

Instead, the Gospels inform us that He wrapped Himself in human flesh; left the throne of Heavenly Glory, and entered into a sin-infected world where He lived a sinless life in perfect obedience to the Father. Fulfilling every prophecy of the Messiah at his first coming, and by offering Himself on the cross, at the very hands of the creation He had created, He demonstrated the immeasurable love He indeed has for each and every one of us, even though we in our darkened, imperfect, starkly visioned glasses, can barely even see the glory of the One who gave everything to deliver us from this body destined to death and hell for it’s useless imperfection.Which is why when the Apostle Paul understood this despairing condition, was so full of hope that he said:

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:25

Breathe that in for a few moments.

Let the immense weight of that truth wash over you for more than a few seconds.

Meditate and give it the chance to reach deeply into your soul and imagine the immeasurable joy that a verse like that should impart into your life.

And this is why it is written:

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2

Are you beginning to see why it’s called the Good News?

God’s Holy Spirit comes to live in us by believing His Son has done what we could never accomplish, and accounts to us all righteousness so that we may be found worthy to stand before Him by His grace!

When grace really reaches the depths of our hearts, surely we’ll never be the same again!

So if you’re feeling the full weight of your own insufficiency and inadequacy in your life today, let me introduce you to a love beyond comprehension.

Which is why I implore you,

Trust ♔ Jesus!

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Is Justice Possible?

IS JUSTICE POSSIBLE?

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The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God
Micah 6:8

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I reclined in the barber chair getting my hair faded as I listened to the barber just a few chairs over exhaust his frustration over a recent situation concerning his car.

Apparently, he had taken his car to the mechanic to get the codes checked and removed and heard that if his service charges were in excess of $450.00, he could simply ask for a conditional pass, just pay the $105.00 fee, and be on his way.

As he sat in the auto shop’s waiting room, the mechanic returned from the back to inform the barber that the machine was showing five codes and that he needed to pay an additional $25.00 per code to have them removed.

He openly expressed to us all at this point that he inwardly already believed that the mechanic was out to rob him, so he really struggled to keep himself composed as he asked how this was possible.

The mechanic informed him that there was a coil-pack for the spark plug that needed to be replaced and that it was $90 for that alone.

Aggravated, he called his friend who he knew worked at an auto parts store, then left to get the part from him and returned, still playing along from what he described, but believing that he was being duped and was intent to show the mechanic up. So he insisted that when the mechanic replaced the coil, that he absolutely must keep the old one for him so that he could see it.

Something occurred at this point in their discussion that resulted in a shouting match between the barber and the mechanic. Whether it was simply the offence of being constantly accused by the barber, or just the mere attitude of their dealings, whatever it was, the mechanic refused to work on the car any further and refunded the $200 he had already taken, at the barber’s request.

As I sat that day listening to the retelling of the events from the barber point of view, he included far more information about the story itself than anyone would normally be privy to in such a case.

When I considered his words, I found myself unable to clearly identify if he was in fact the victim here for a number of reasons:

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First of all, the mechanic was not present to give us his account of the events that had recently taken place. For all we know, the entire story could’ve been fabricated and we are only privy to the angry barber’s version of the events. From his attitude and a number of comments he made, it seemed like he was out to make the mechanic look like the worst person ever. This is a very common tactic used in all realms of debate from the political arena’s right down to malicious gossips. Discredit, discredit, discredit! It’s usually largely relied upon by those who want to divert others away from the real truth of a matter, but also just to exhaust anger and frustration. 

Secondly, both before, after, and even during the telling of the story, the barber continually made references to money and his love and desire for it. There had been a recent lottery winning on the news and he was commenting of all the things he would do if he had won. This could lead to him easily misinterpreting the events due to his propensity towards maybe wanting to save money and looking for a way out of the expense. This is also a common bias that we don’t readily acknowledge in the way we interpret events. What motives do we have for something working out a certain way?

Thirdly, someone in the barber shop was inquisitive enough to ask the question, ‘how much did it cost for the part in comparison when you got it from your friend?’ I noticed however that at first, the barber hesitated to answer. Then he took another minute, which came across like he didn’t want to say, but then he finally said $30. Strangely though, he immediately moved right along to his ranting about other parts of the account. This was most suspicious because this detail would’ve probably served as one of the best indicators that the account was in fact true if he could prove in some small way that the mechanic was at least dishonest in part, but the barber didn’t seem to see the importance in it. He didn’t mention it himself, and quickly brushed over it when mention of it did come up.

Forth, he now identified that the mechanic was white (the barber being black) as he began to tell a side story to which he found a correlation between this and another occasion from the past when a man had tried to take his deposit for a business deal gone wrong. “The mechanic was also white, and when they look at me, they don’t see anything but my skin” he said. At this point it revealed a deeply seeded and racially charged hurt embedded in his heart where I could now see how his entire account could be called in to question. This small seemingly unrelated statement actually worked against his case by revealing a very serious bias in how he interpreted any dealings with people of the opposite colour due to this hurt. This also could’ve explain the negative attitude he had as he described the account, and it definitely seemed like he walked in to the mechanic shop that day with a chip on his shoulder already anticipating the worst.

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Trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, I recalled a very wise proverb which teaches not to draw early conclusions:

In a lawsuit the first to speak always seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.
Proverbs 18:17

It was here that the startling reality of just how impossible it can actually be to determine true justice came rising up to the surface when I asked myself a very simple question:

What if he’s telling the truth?

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I then began to consider all of the evidence that he had provided against himself in reverse:

4. What if even despite his racially charged comments and hurts from the past, he still managed to correctly interpret the events just as he accounted them and the mechanic was out to screw him? Should he not receive justice?

3. And what if the reason why he stumbled when asked the comparative cost question was simply because it was not the focus of his thoughts and he just isn’t one of those sharp witted guys who are so quick to reply like others? Should that mean that his testimony be deemed invalid?

2. And what if his references to his love of money are very much real, but were not a factor in how he interpreted the events because after all, he did take the time to drive all the way over to the mechanic, and even to go purchase the part. Surely he knew that spending money was going to be involved on this occasion. Should his thriftiness be construed as guilt?

1. And lastly, what if he lacked the cardinal virtues of others to be able to adequately present himself, his case, or his recollections in a clear and concise manner so as to properly convey the details to others? What if he always had bad mannerisms or wasn’t an eloquent speaker? Should he be denied justice on account of his education, upbringing, or lack of virtuous behaviour?

Is that Justice?

Upon a closer look, it turns out that justice is far more elusive than the simplistic ways with which we have often liked to treat it when we make our literally ‘black and white’ statements favouring our favourites, embracing our biases, and disregarding the real work of pursuing the merciful heart of the God of all justice.

As the people of God – those who lay claim to His Name and are quick to quote His Word – we should be a people who are deeply concerned with seeking merciful justice for all people – not just those who are self important, popular, or from whom we might have some advantage in agreeing with.

For in neglecting to seek mercy-filled justice for others, we too might one day find that the salvation we most dearly depend upon – the merciful justice of God that we deserved that was instead placed upon our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ – is also withheld from us.

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In Matthew 18, Jesus once told a parable of a man whose exceedingly great debt was cancelled when he pleaded for mercy from the King, only to then go out and beat his own servant who owed him nothing even close to the same amount he had just been forgiven.

When the King heard about it, he called his servant before him once again:

“You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”

In anger his Master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all that he owed.

Matthew 18:32-35

Jesus concluded the parable by saying this:

“This is how my Heavenly father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:35

In essence, Jesus is saying “how could someone who was forgiven so much, if you are indeed a recipient of God’s forgiveness, then go out and cast judgment instead of mercy over others? In seeking the heart of justice we must first recognize that all true justice begins with God. 

But even though we are speaking this way, dearly beloved friends, in your case we are confident of things that are better and that accompany salvation.

Which is why I implore you,

Trust ♔ Jesus!

Up In Smoke…

UP IN SMOKE

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I was thinking back to when I was once wrapped up in the world of drug use when I recalled hearing various defences from self-professed Christian who used marijuana who even used the Bible to support their use of it.

“It’s all natural” they would say.

But after actually reading the Bible, I realized that I couldn’t agree more!

Only, I think that what we each mean, are actually two different things.

You see, In Genesis 2, when God places man in the Garden of Eden, He says to him:

“You are free to eat from any TREE in the garden; but you must not eat from the TREE of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die”

Genesis 2:15

God’s intention in His original design was that humanity would receive their sustenance from the fruit of the TREES.

However, in Genesis 3, when God revealed the CURSE upon mankind due to eating the fruit of the ‘one tree’ that He admonished them not to eat of – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He says:

Cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil you will eat if it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.

Genesis 3:17-19

Did anyone catch that?

Getting your sustenance from the PLANTS was actually part of the CURSE.

Eating the fruit of the TREES was God’s original intention and BLESSING.

In the same way that the curse is the very reason why the natural man now finds work painful and can’t do it with the same joy we once had in our labours like we did before the fall, getting our sustenance from plants is also part of the curse of a fallen nature; the ways of the ‘natural‘ man, not the born-again ‘spiritual‘ man.

But since we know that the law is spiritual, and eating or drinking does not in fact bring us any closer to God who has purchased us by the blood of His own Son through His brutal death on the cross, and resurrected us to life through His resurrection power living in us, the spiritual man now reconciled to God can experience all the benefits of that perfect relationship with God once again.

But by rejecting God’s Son, those still under the curse will still seek the sort of consolation that plants offer, while those who have been redeemed will once again find their enjoyment in eternally lasting fruit… The fruit of the Holy Spirit!

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But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Galatians 5:22-23

Sure, someone might argue that ‘all things are lawful,’ but remember that not everything is beneficial.

So the next time someone offers you mere leaves… Remind them that Christ died to bring you something far better… A life bearing fruit, pleasing to Him!

Trust ♔ Jesus!