Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back to the Garden: Thank You Joni Mitchell

Editor’s Note: I realize that this is a lengthy post. This is an excerpt of a book that I am currently writing. I hope you enjoy it. I would welcome your comments. Thank you - Chris

In the late 1960s Singer Joni Mitchell wrote a song that became an anthem for the counterculture of that time. The song “Woodstock” spoke of the freedom for which people of that generation were searching. It spoke of the rebellion of that generation, my generation, from the morals and beliefs of our parents. This is the generation of “Make Love not War”, the Summer of Love, Charles Manson, Anti-War Rallies and Riots, and of course the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, itself. “Woodstock” is a song that spoke to an entire generation but there was an interesting lyric in the last chorus of the song:

"We are stardust, billion year old carbon
Caught in the Devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the Garden”

This, of course is a reference to the loss of the Garden of Eden through Adam’s failure and fall to sin and death. That loss was a devastating event in human history. But is it lost forever? Can it ever be regained? I believe that there is a way for us to regain the Garden

.Where is the Garden of Eden today? It’s non-existent; it’s no longer there. If it survived until the time of Noah, it was buried under the debris and silt of the judgment of God and we will never see it physically, as a part of this world again.

I read an article about the Mount Saint Helens eruption of 1988. When that mountain erupted, nearby, Spirit Lake was buried under over 150 feet of ash. The river once again was dammed by the debris and silt, of the explosion, and formed a new lake. All of the topography, the Spirit Lake Lodge and everything else are buried in the sand 150 feet below the bottom of the “new” Spirit Lake. It will never be seen again unless someone attempts to excavate the bottom of the lake. Can you imagine the depth of something buried beneath the silt of a world-wide flood? Even if we could locate the place where the Garden stood, we would never be able to reach it. The Bible describes where it was located.

Genesis 2:10-14
10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads.11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.12 And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there.13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush.14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

We see the river named the Euphrates and we think it is a reference to the Euphrates River that flows through Iraq. But if the entire world was covered by water the topography of the earth must have been changed by that. It seems absurd to think that the Euphrates would have survived. New rivers would have been created by the changes in the land after the flood. So this river may resemble the Euphrates but not be the Euphrates River of the Garden of Eden. It would be difficult to pinpoint the location of the Garden with the evidence given in the Bible. We can’t just go stand on the land that once was within the perimeter of the Garden of Eden. If I were to speculate it seems likely to me to think that the Garden may have resided in the land that God gave to His people. The land that later became Israel.

Because of the sin of Adam and the subsequent corruption of the purposes of God for mankind, the Garden was forever changed. It was no longer a place where God’s love and provision for mankind was seen. Because of the curse on Adam for his sin, man would forever have to toil for what God had freely provided in the Garden. Through Adam’s sin we lost the nurturance and provision of God in the Garden and eventually, the Garden, no longer serving a purpose, was destroyed and lost altogether. In the last chapter I wrote about all that God had given us in the Garden.

There were seven things that were provided to mankind by God that made the Garden of Eden what it was, a paradise for humanity. We have seen how these things demonstrated to us God’s character and love for us. I want to briefly review them in this chapter so that we can fix our minds once again on all that God did for us.

The first thing He gave us was dominion over the earth. We were given to rule over all of the earth. Every animal, every plant, in fact, all of the world was given to our control. We were to go forth, multiply and subdue the earth. This was the plan of God for the creation that was made in His image. Remember, we were the only creation formed by His hands and the only creation to have His Spirit breathed into us. We are different from every animal that resides on this earth and God gave their care into our hands.

The second thing we had been given is His provision for our every need. God created us and God knew what we needed in order to have a meaningful, productive and enjoyable life, so He met our every need. He provided for our physical needs: The need for a place to live and for food to eat. The garden was created for us and He told us to eat of every tree of the garden except one: That they had been provided for our comfort and to meet our need for nutrition.

The third thing we had been given was meaning and purpose for our lives. God gave Adam a job, a purpose within the Garden to keep it and to tend it. It was up to him to insure that the needs of the Garden were met. It was given to him to subdue the entire earth; to expand the garden, if you will, to make all of the earth a place of God’s provision for those who would come later.

The fourth thing He provided was companionship. He gave us each other. Eve was created as a helpmate to Adam. He couldn’t go forth and multiply without her. She was the instrument of procreation that God gave to Adam. In the first chapter of Genesis as God looks over His creation the only thing that he saw that wasn’t good was that man was alone, so He created Eve to meet that need for companionship for Adam.

The fifth thing He gave us was standards by which to live. This was done to give Adam and Eve the opportunity to demonstrate their love for God through their obedience to His command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is in the creation of standards that free will is introduced. Free will is the opportunity to show your love and respect for the creator through obedience to His standards or to reject that same creator through disobedience. Sadly, Adam and Eve rebelled from God’s standards through the free exercise of their will. Adam’s great sin was that he knew of the standard of obedience and chose to disobey and thereby reject God.

The sixth provision of God in the Garden was fellowship with Him. God created man in order to have fellowship with Him. That word fellowship means to have a relationship with God; to be of one mind with Him; to have mutual love and respect. In this way God was meeting the need that is in all of us for a relationship with Him. This is man’s greatest spiritual need.

There was a personal interaction between God and Adam. God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them. Through their interaction, there was relationship. I can picture the delight on God’s part as Adam carefully examined each animal and named it.

We took our daughters Elizabeth and Emily to McDonald’s when they were very young, probably not much more than a year old. This is that wonderful time of discovery in children and we were delighted often by things they would say, or the way they would react to things that were new to them, as almost everything was. As we gave Elizabeth the little toy that was part of her Happy Meal ®, which was a Beanie-Baby® Giraffe, she gasped and said, “A Moomas!” Of course her mother and I had never heard of a Moomas, so I asked her, “What sound does a Moomas make?’ “Moomas!” she replied as if I should have known that. We were delighted and this has become one of our favorite stories as the girls have grown and I still to smile every time I tell it.

What made that moment such a delight was her excitement at discovery and the kindling of her imagination and I believe God must have been delighted at Adam’s naming of the animals for the same reason. It speaks of the relationship between them.

The seventh provision was eternal life. Adam and Eve were created to be eternal beings. They were able to eat of every tree in the Garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, including the tree of Life. That tree was the reason they were banished from the Garden after they had sinned.

Genesis 3:22
22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—

God created them and gave to them to subdue the world. He intended for them to populate the earth and remain alive at the same time. God never mentioned death until He gave the command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It wasn’t until they sinned that death came into the world. It was God’s intention that they would live forever.

Romans 5:12
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

So the Garden was created for us. It is a demonstration of God’s love and personal care for us. We can see the personality of God in this. In all ways He has acted as a loving and responsible father, providing for all the needs of His children. What responsible father who loves his children today is not willing to sacrifice to make sure that his children’s needs are met. What loving father would not look to meet the needs of his children, even before his own needs are met?

When you travel on an airliner they give instructions for what to do in the case of loss of cabin pressure. One of the instructions is that you put your own oxygen mask on before you put it on your child. Do you know why they tell you that? Because the nature of a parent is to make sure the child’s needs are met before their own. The airlines want to make sure that you put yours on first, so that you won’t faint as you put it on your child’s face. It is to protect the parent. If you put yours on first and the child faints you will still be able to put the child’s mask on. But if you faint the child will not be able to put yours on. This is necessary because we naturally seek to meet the needs of our children. God naturally seeks to meet our needs as well.

Matthew 7:9-11

9 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?10 “Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

So God had given us all that we needed to be healthy and happy in the Garden. He met every physical, emotional and spiritual need. But there is a risk in that as any parent knows, and that risk is found in the possibility that the children will turn away from the values and moral principles they have been taught and turn instead to the values of their own flesh. There is a risk that they will turn away from all that we desire for them and turn to that from which we have tried to protect them.

How many parents have been hurt and disappointed as their children strayed away from the things they held dear and turned instead to drugs, illicit and immoral relationships, or crime? How many parents have cried out as their children overdosed, were savaged and abused in a relationship, or lived out their lives in prison? Imagine how God felt when Adam chose to place his desire for his relationship with Eve over his desire for a relationship with God. How did God feel when Adam chose suffering and death over the love and provision of God? He probably felt like any parent who has experienced the same thing with their children.

The Garden of Eden was a manifestation of all that God desired for His children. But because they desired a loss of innocence, (Eve was tempted because she wanted to be like God knowing good and evil); they lost it all, forever. All that God had done is lost to us, through sin. Now that we have reviewed what God had done by giving us the Garden we are prepared to answer the question before us: Is the garden lost forever or is there a provision by which we can once more enter in?

Lessons on God’s Desire for Mankind

God has shown us who He is through the creation of the Garden of Eden. He is a loving and thoughtful father. Even in the moment of judgment for the sin and rebellion of mankind, His thoughts were for reconciliation. He didn’t think to Himself, “That’s it; I’m done with these people.” His thought isn’t toward destruction but reconciliation. His thought is to bring the seed that would bruise the head of the serpent.

Genesis 3:15
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
In this scripture God is planning how He will deliver mankind back into a relationship with Him. This is the nature of God. In the book of Isaiah, God, when speaking through the prophet about the sin of men says, Come let us reason together.”

Isaiah 1:18
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

This is an attitude of reconciliation. If God had desired to destroy mankind He would have killed every human being in the flood. But instead He left a remnant to continue His creation. In His judgment on the serpent He left the door open to reconciliation with mankind through the seed of the woman, who would redeem mankind and reconcile us with God. This is God’s way. He’s always left the door open for repentance and reconciliation.

This principle can be seen in a personal ways as well. In the early church there was a woman in Thyatira, a part of the church, who was leading the church away from the worship of God and into false religion. The worship of false gods in pagan societies often included sexual immorality within their services. The church leaders had allowed this to continue, and did not judge the teachings, the doctrine or the immorality. God judged the sin but before He acted on that judgment He gave her an opportunity to repent of her sin and blasphemy.

Revelation 2:20-21
20 “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.21 “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Time was given to see if Jezebel would repent, she didn’t and then the judgment of God came on her. God desires reconciliation. Even the rapture and the tribulation to follow is God giving time in a last ditch effort to see men repent. God doesn’t want to lose any of mankind to sin and hell.

2 Peter 3:9
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

God is a gracious God. He doesn’t think like we do. How many of us would have had no thought for destroying mankind? Bill Cosby used to tell a story of his father’s discipline. As his father would intervene on his and his brother’s rowdy behavior he would speak these words, “I brought you in this world; I’ll take you out. And it don’t make no difference to me. I’ll just make another one, look just like you.” This is how people think, we want justice. We’re not always concerned with mercy. God requires justice, but His justice is always tempered with mercy. He didn’t have to preserve a remnant. He didn’t have to send a redeemer. But He did. He doesn’t have to create another Garden of Eden for us. But He will. God will create for us another kind of Garden of Eden and He will call it the New Jerusalem.

Revelation 22:1-3
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

This Garden will have a river of the water of life, it will contain the Tree of Life and there shall be no more curse. This is like the Garden of Eden of Adam’s day. There is no need for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because we have already eaten from it. God will dwell with His people once more as He reigns from the Throne of God. That word Jerusalem translates as the Vision of Peace. We will dwell at peace with God. Our faith makes us a friend of God. Abraham believed God, he was a man of faith and the Bible tells us he is a friend of God.

James 2:23
23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

Our flesh or the carnal nature of man, the sin nature, puts us in enmity with God. In other words as we are in our flesh or involved in sin we make ourselves enemies of God.

Romans 8:7
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

We are at war with God. The New Jerusalem is the promise of peace with God. It is the same peace with which mankind resided with God in the Garden of Eden.

Lessons from the Commands of God

In order to understand how to “get ourselves back to the Garden,” we have to understand how we can once again achieve what we lost to sin: What was stolen through the deceptions and temptations of Satan and the rebellion of Adam.

God had given Adam a standard by which he should live. It came in the form of a command, “Of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good an Evil you shall not eat of it: (Genesis 2:17).” This command was intended to preserve their innocence. The entire third chapter of the Book of Genesis is devoted to the loss of the Garden. It begins with the temptation of Eve. It speaks of Adam’s sin and the resultant shame. Finally, it explains the judgment of God and the expulsion from the Garden.

The first six verses of the chapter are the details of what transpired, as first Eve then Adam, fell into sin. We see that Eve was deceived by the serpent that in eating the fruit she could be like God. Then Adam has chosen Eve over God by eating of the fruit as well. But what was the loss that was incurred in the sin. What was the natural result of eating the fruit?

Every sin carries with it, natural consequences. These are the results of that particular sin. For example, the natural consequence of smoking tobacco is Lung Cancer. The natural consequences of an action will many times tell you if that action is sin. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. So if an action will lead to those consequences, that action is more than likely sin.

Another example is that continually placing yourself in unnecessary danger is a sin, because the likely outcome of that action is death. During the temptation of Jesus the Devil told Him to jump off the roof of the temple, but what was Jesus’ reply? It is written, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” (Luke 4:12) By this we know that eating the fruit was sin, and of course, God told them that the result of eating the fruit would be death. But for an interesting insight into what was lost through the eating the fruit look at the last verse before the sin.

Genesis 2:25
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

They were naked and unashamed. They were innocent. When my twin daughters were little, they were routinely bathed together, because it was easier for their mother. She would put them both in the tub, with their little rubber ducks, and they would play and giggle and have a wonderful time. They were innocent; there was no shame in their nakedness. The same was true of Adam and Eve. But look at the verse immediately following the eating of the fruit.

Genesis 3:7
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Before they had knowledge of good and evil, there was no shame in their nakedness. They didn’t know any better. They were innocent and what was lost in that sin was innocence. As our daughters have gotten older they no longer bathe together. If it is even mentioned that they might have to change clothes in the same room they both say, “Eww.” Innocence is lost, forever. The same is true of Adam and Eve they have lost their innocence. Innocence is a legal term meaning, according to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary: Blamelessness, freedom from legal guilt. In their innocence they were free from guilt and the shame that attends guilt. It isn’t until they understood what was right and wrong that guilt was imputed to them.

When a person commits a crime they have to be judged as to whether or not that are fit to stand trial. Fitness in this case means whether or not they understand their actions and the consequences of those actions. If they cannot understand the elements of the trial then they are judged as not fit to stand trial. They are innocent by reason of insanity and they will be committed to a mental institution. They cannot receive the death penalty for crimes committed in mental illness. They didn’t understand the wrongness of their behavior. This is Adam and Eve before they ate the fruit, they are not mentally ill but they have no understanding of right and wrong. When they ate the fruit understanding dawned and innocence was lost.

There is another legal term used in the Bible. That word is to justify. The word justify is defined as to pronounce free from guilt or shame. In this case justification simply means that we are once more made innocent. This is important because we are justified by Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. In other words we are made like we were before the sin.

Romans 3:23-26
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

We are made innocent, justified, through the blood Jesus shed on the cross for us. There is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. We had lost innocence through sin but Jesus shed His blood to purchase innocence for us. As sinners we think that God’s commands are to limit us. But His commands are designed to protect us.

Through my own experience I have recognized the truth of this. I had allowed myself to come to the very brink of destruction and suicide. But in coming to salvation and patterning my life after the commands of the Bible I’ve been changed.

My life had a veneer of success. Outwardly, I seemed to have it all together. I had all the trappings of success, a nice place to live, a hot car and a high-paying job. My neighbors would point me out to their teenaged sons as an example of what hard work and diligence could achieve. But what those parents couldn’t know was that on the inside. I was lonely and miserable; I had no satisfaction in my life at all. I had destroyed relationships. I’d used women. I’d lied and cheated to achieve my position in the company. I destroyed other people’s careers, all to get what I wanted. I was lonely, miserable, drunk and contemplating suicide when I came to salvation.

I began to read and study the Bible and it changed my life because it changed my perspective about how to live my life. I remember one phone conversation, with my father, where he told me, “Be careful. Don’t allow that to control your life. Keep some distance and perspective.” His fear was that I was taking it all too seriously and that I had joined some kind of cult. My reply was, “I am discovering that if I will live my life like the Bible says that I’m going to be happy.” I had recognized that most of the ugliness of my life stemmed from me trying to get what I wanted.

It is a truth that if you avoid sin you will avoid much of the ugliness in life. I can’t tell you that there will be no hurts and heartache in your life. You can’t avoid the things that will overflow into your life through the sin of other people. But you will not be contributing as much yourself.

We will never completely overcome sin in our lifetimes, only Jesus was sinless. But certainly, we can eliminate a great deal of it, by carefully living out the commands of God. We can’t avoid sin altogether because we’re human, but by studying and applying the Word of God to our lives we can stay aware of the sin that is there and we can overcome a great deal of sin, this way. Through self examination and looking closely at our decisions and actions we can be aware of the disobedience and rebellion, and recognize the need for repentance. Change is a process that takes place over our lifetimes. The key to change is self examination and repentance.

Repentance is crucial to regaining the Garden. It’s laying aside the rebellion and disobedience that caused us to lose the Garden in the first place. It’s reasoning together with God, and receiving the justification that comes from the sacrifice of Christ. In repenting and being justified we regain that lost innocence and we step into the Garden once again.

But there is something which precedes repentance. In order to repent, you must have the faith that Jesus came to suffer and die so as to redeem us and bring us into a right relationship with God. In other words, we have to believe. If you don’t believe that Jesus is who He said He was you won’t repent. Why? Because you won’t see any benefit to yourself.

For example, in our recent presidential election, the primaries resulted in two men campaigning for the office of the President of the United States. Within the Republican Party there was concern that Senator McCain was not the right candidate. He spoke as if he was a great conservative, but his actions, in many ways, demonstrated a lack of conservative thought in a number of the issues facing our country. Because of that, many conservative voters, who were looking for a strong conservative voice, felt that he wasn’t who he said he was and when it came time, many of them chose not to vote for him.

If we recognize that we need to reconcile with God but don’t believe that Jesus came to the earth for that purpose, or that he isn’t able to provide that substitution for us we won’t see a benefit to repenting. You don’t ask the Easter Bunny to forgive your sin, because you don’t believe that he has the capacity to do that. So faith in Jesus is necessary in order for us to repent. Faith is a necessary component to justification and returning to innocence

Abraham was justified by faith. God considered him righteous by his faith.

James 2:23
23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

Abraham believed God, he had faith in God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. God took his faith and put it in his account as righteousness. In other words, God saw his faith, and determined that that faith was righteousness and placed it in his account for the day of reckoning. When He goes to consider Abraham’s fitness for Heaven, He will look at Abraham’s account and see righteousness and Abraham will be judged on that. Because of that faith he was called a friend of God. He was no longer at war with God. Salvation comes through faith like Abraham had. If we have faith in Jesus Christ we also will be saved.

Mark 16:16
16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

What is believing? Of course, believing is being convinced of something. But when you have beliefs you must act accordingly. One of the reasons that the United States Government overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, was because President Bush was convinced that there were weapons of mass destruction. He was certain that because of that, the entire world was in danger, and he acted on that belief.

If you believe the Gospel, then you must act accordingly. If you believe that what is written in the New Testament is the word of God, then you must act on the commands as if they are the will of God.

Matthew 7:21-23
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Jesus is telling us that it is not enough just to be convinced of Him, but that we must act out on that belief. He is saying that we must live the will of God. Jesus is speaking to the believers in His day and hour, because those are the ones who prophesy in His name. They are the ones who have cast out demons and have done wonders in His name. He told us that those things are the signs that follow them that believe. But if they don’t live out the will of God then they’re to depart from Him. It is those who do the will of God, who will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Faith, therefore, leads to repentance, and repentance requires change. I often meet people who say, “I believe in Jesus. I believe in God,” but it is evident from their lifestyle that they aren’t living the will of God. They have continued to live in sin. There is no change present in their lives. They haven’t repented, because there is no change. So they aren’t justified. Justification requires both belief and repentance. Abraham acted on his belief in God by leaving Haran for the place that God would show him. Since God was calling him out of that place, following the call of God is living the will of God. He acted on the God’s command to leave Haran. He started a new life on that day. In a sense he was reborn, because he was a different man than he had been before God called him.

John 3:3
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

And this is the reason that it is necessary for the church to preach on sin. It’s necessary to provide an opportunity for people to examine their lives and the decisions that they’ve made, and bring their lives into conformance with the will of God. The church must provide direction, to assist people, in living out the will of God for their lives. It isn’t enough just to believe. When you come to a place of real repentance you are ending the old life and starting the new. It is like the moment that you are born. You have a clean slate, a fresh start, a new life. You are once more made innocent and have gotten back to the garden. To see how you have regained the Garden, you need only to look at the promises of Jesus.

Lessons on Getting Back to the Garden

The Christian life is a reinstatement into the Garden of Eden. If you believe that Jesus is God who became man for the expressed purpose of dying on the cross to reconcile you with God: If you have repented of your sin and restored innocence to your life, through His justification of your sin: If you are living the calling and will of God for your life then you have regained the Garden. I know that life in our times doesn’t seem all that idyllic: That the place in which we are living doesn’t seem like a paradise. The world has been corrupted by sin, and sin remains in the world. But the principles that were true in the Garden are a component of the Christian life. Those same principles are in effect in our walk with God.

The first principle visible in the Christian life is dominion. In the tenth chapter of Luke, we see that Jesus has appointed seventy disciples to go and preach the Gospel. They are to go into the cities and villages and preach the word of God. He has also given them instruction for their behavior

Luke 10:3-9
"Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.4 “Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.5 “But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’6 “And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.7 “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house.8 “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.9 “And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Jesus tells them something that is very important here. He tells them to heal the sick. Is this because He sent only doctors to preach the Gospel? It is because, they as believers, are able to heal the sick. Later in the chapter He tells them something else.

Luke 10:20
20 “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Do not rejoice because spirits will do what you command, but rejoice because you have received salvation. Why is this important in the return to the Garden? Because it establishes that in receiving Salvation we have been given authority over the spiritual world. What is authority in the spiritual world? It’s dominion. We have been given dominion over the spiritual world. Jesus even states I give you authority…

Luke 9:1
Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.

One definition of authority, according to Mirriam-Webster Dictionary is power to influence through command. That means that we are able to command healing because of the authority that is given to us. This is dominion over sickness. Another definition is the person-in-charge. If you have authority you are in charge. The centurion in whose servant is sick tells Jesus, “I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, if I say to this man go he will go…” (Matthew 8:9) He is the man-in-charge, he has authority.

The definition of dominion is supreme authority. So Jesus through salvation has established dominion and authority back into our lives. Just as we had dominion in the garden we have dominion now.

The second principle at work, in the Christian life, that was found in the Garden is that God provides for our needs. God has promised us that he considers us to be valuable and that He will provide for our needs.

Matthew 6:31-33
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

God still understands our needs and if we seek the Kingdom of God all of these things will be given to us. He is making the promise that he will meet our needs, but there is one other thing required.

Mark 11:24
24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

When we believe that God can and will meet our needs, those needs will be met. That’s faith; it’s trusting in God for His provision. Adam and Eve had to trust God for their provision and we must trust Him as well.

You might think I don’t have great faith. People are like that. When things aren’t going right we have a tendency to worry. We try to make things happen for ourselves. But it only takes a little faith to see God produce on His promises.

Matthew 17:20
20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

A mustard seed is a small seed. You can buy them as a spice in your local grocery store. They are maybe a 1/16th of an inch in diameter. So this verse is telling us that we only need a small particle of faith to see God provide for our needs.

Several years ago, I was laid off of my job. I’m not young and the prospect for a new job seemed like a faint hope. Nevertheless, we attended Bible Conference and wanted to support what God was doing through the fellowship of which we are a part. As always on Thursday night of the conference, young people are launched out to begin international works. People are being ordained to enter the mission field. My wife and I have always been excited about the possibilities of reaching the world, so we have a tendency to give as much as we can to support these new international ministries. Now, I had been laid off of my job. I didn’t see the possibility of a new job in the near future. We had little savings and so the future looked bleak. I confess that I had been worrying about what would happen to my family.

But as it came time for offering I wrote what I thought was a big check, considering our circumstances. As I finished writing the check, my wife leaned over and said, “God gave me a number,” meaning that God had told her what amount to give. In that instant, God spoke to me as well. I knew what number He had given her. I also knew what I had written. So I tore up the check I had written and wrote another for the amount that God had given both of us. I remember praying as the offering basket came around, “God I don’t know what we’re going to do in the future. But …here I go.” This isn’t a prayer of great faith. I wasn’t saying, “Thank you God I know you’ll provide for our future.” It was a weak prayer whispered on shaky breath. The basket came by and I dropped in the check.

And God met every need for us that summer, because three weeks later I received an unexpected check, for exactly ten times the amount of the check I’d written and dropped in the basket. God knew our needs and met them because of the mustard seed-sized faith that I had demonstrated.

The third principle at work in the Christian life is the restoration of fellowship with God. We are reconciled with God.

Romans 5:10
10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

That word reconciled means that we have come back together. There was a separation that had taken place but that we have joined back together. We often hear of this taking place in marriage relationships. A marriage is an intimate relationship between two people. The Bible tells us that we cleave to one another. In other words, that we are joined together in such a way that to separate us would damage one or both of us. Welding produces this kind of adherence. When you weld two pieces of metal together the welding process, actually, makes them one piece of metal. If you then go to separate them, the process used to do that causes damage to the metal. The same is true of marriage. Divorces are ugly, damaging processes that usually end up with one or both parties bitter and angry.

When a couple separates, they sometimes, often through the intervention of a counselor, can solve their marital problems and reunite them. This is called reconciliation. They have come back together. It speaks of a change that has taken place. They had been in conflict with each other but they have now reconciled.

The same is true of our relationship with God. We were separated, in the loss of the Garden. When God, as a result of their sin, cast Adam and Eve out of the garden He separated Himself from all of mankind. After sin, there was conflict between the righteous, holy God and carnal, sinful man. The Bible tells us that when we are living in our carnal nature, we are in enmity with God.

Romans 8:7
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

In simpler terms, we are enemies of God. We have seen that sin is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. These are the things that define carnality. Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines carnality as of or relating to the body. The things that we do to satisfy our senses are the manifestation of our carnality; our physical appetites, our emotional appetites. When these things are the most important things in our lives we’re enemies with God.

In the loss of the garden we were physically separated from the presence of God and because of the sin we became enemies with God. Our relationship with God was in need of reconciliation. And that is why Jesus came to earth.

Romans 5:8
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were enemies, Jesus came and died for us and in the process of His death reconciled us with God. The relationship is once again restored. The separation has been removed and we have direct access to God. This was graphically demonstrated for us during the crucifixion.

In the book of Exodus God gives a command to Moses to build the tabernacle of meeting. In that blueprint he called for a room to be built that would house the Mercy Seat. This is a part of the Ark of the Covenant from where God would meet with His people.

Exodus 25:21-22
21 “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you.22 “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.

And He instructed that a veil be made that would keep the people from entering that place of God’s presence. This room was called the Holy of Holies, and when God gave instruction for the construction of His Temple He also included this room and the attendant veil of separation. So this separation with mankind was maintained throughout all the years between the removal from the Garden and the crucifixion of Christ. But in the moment of His death that veil was torn in two.

Matthew 27:50-51
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

The veil was torn in two from top to bottom as if a pair of hands had grabbed it and ripped it. Once again, there was direct access to the presence of God. Through His death we were reconciled with God and fellowship with Him is possible.

The fourth principle of the Garden is that our lives have meaning and purpose. God provided this for Adam as He gave him the job of tending the Garden. In our Christian lives we also are given a task, which gives meaning and purpose to our lives. That task is to preach the Gospel.

Mark 16:15
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

It always amazes me that God has given us an opportunity to be a part of His plan for the salvation of mankind. After all we caused all the problems with God’s original plan for us. We have shown ourselves to be completely untrustworthy; and yet we are “Plan A” to reach our generation. God is allowing us to draw others to Him.

I spent a number of years, in my career, as an executive level manager. Over the years I gained a lot of insight into the management of people. I understand what motivates employees. I realize the vulnerability of employees to errors and misunderstanding. I always looked for an employee who had a track record of success before placing them into any mission-critical position. This is vital to the successful outcome of any endeavor. But look at what God has done. He is using the creatures who couldn’t handle one simple command in the Garden of Eden to be the lead in His plan for the salvation of their generation. In fact, they are the only plan for the salvation of their generation. “There is no Plan B.” He has restored us to a purpose. That purpose gives our lives meaning.

Finally, there is the principle of eternal life. Adam and Eve were created to be eternal beings. In the creation there was no death. But because of the sin that took place in the Garden, death came into the world and we have suffered from the affliction of death since that time.

Most of us have experienced death. Through the loss of a parent or a friend or neighbor we have experienced the sting of death. No one is happy about the loss of a loved one and no one looks forward to experiencing death themselves.

In Beaumont, California, in 1997 a ten-year-old boy was kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered. His kidnap and death carried international headlines, as the case remained unsolved until August 2005, when an Idaho convict confessed to his murder. The entire nation grieved for the loss of this child and his funeral was broadcast nation-wide. The death of one child carried with it the grief of an entire nation.

All of this is part of the curse of sin. “From dust you came and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) But as we enter into salvation we are promised eternal life once again. Whoever has faith in Him, and acts on that belief and faith, by repenting and entering into a relationship with Him will have everlasting life.

John 3:16
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

If all of the conditions of salvation are met then all of the principles of the Garden of Eden will be at work once more in our lives. If we will believe that Jesus Christ is God who became man for the expressed purpose putting Himself in our place and receiving the punishment of sin that was meant for us. If we put that faith into action, by admitting that we are sinners, and ask forgiveness in real sorrow. If we accept that forgiveness, repent and change, by laying aside sin and living within the commands and the will of God. Then we are restored to the Garden of Eden.

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