A FEW WEEKS AGO, when looking at what to preach today, I came across some notes in the margin of my Bible. It’s my handwriting but I don’t remember who preached the sermon or led the class or taught the seminar.
So, unfortunately, I cannot give credit to whomever offered these three points of what I’m calling “Steps to Failure,” based on this story. When truth is distorted into doubt.
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THE FIRST HUMANS are created and are placed in a delightful garden. Eden is a place of beauty and bounty. Harmony, love and plenty are built in. The delightful garden has all they can possibly need.
The couple, Adam and Eve, are free to roam anywhere in the garden. They eat the fruit and produce. Well, except for the fruit from that one tree — the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God tells them to stay away.
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HERE’S WHAT HAPPENS.
■ First, validity of the truth is questioned. The serpent asks, “Did God really say that you must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?”
Questioning the validity of something can come from another person through conversation, something we read, words we hear. Questioning truth can come from our own minds. “Does that really mean … ?” ”Do I honestly believe … ?” “Is it possible … ?” This story plays out in our lives over and again. Validity is questioned.
■ Then doubt creeps in. The serpent says, “You will not die, if you eat the forbidden fruit.” So, here you are. You no longer know what to believe. Once you were certain, the fruit is off limits — death will occur. But (there always seems to be a “but”) you are no longer certain about something; especially about how good or true God’s word is. Maybe God is not telling the truth. Maybe what he said means something else. Maybe I won’t die if I eat that piece of fruit. There is no longer the conviction you once had.
■ When truth is questioned and doubt begins, suspicion of motives moves in. The serpent asks, “Why is God keeping that tree for himself? Why doesn’t God want you to eat the fruit?” What is the real reason God keeps us from that fruit? Can it be … if we eat, we will be like God? God just want us to be his servant. God just wants to boss us around. God just wants to have power over us. God cannot be trusted with our best interest in mind because God want us to be dependent on him. Bound to him. Under his control. He doesn’t want us to think for ourselves.
■ Truth is questioned. Doubt is cast. Motives are theorized. Finally, there are thoughts of freedom. Then Adam and Eve say to one another, “If I eat the fruit, I will no longer be dependent on God. I will be wise and free to make my own decisions.”
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GOD’S TRUTH: Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Their new truth: The tree is good for food. The fruit is a delight to the eyes. They desire it. They want to be like God.
They eat. Instantly they are wise — they are wise to their rebellion. They are wise to their nakedness. They are wise to their separation from God. They learn separation from creation and from each other. They are wise to their mortality.
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THEY HAVE ALL they can possibly want and need, but they are not content. They want more. Ultimately, they grab for more. They claim what is not theirs. They take what is forbidden.
They search for freedom. They find bondage. Instead of harmony they find division. Instead of love they discover hurt. Instead of plenty they learn greed. Instead of freedom they find shame.
Instead of feeling satisfied, instead of feeling full, instead of feeling content, they lose everything and are wise enough to know the pain of that loss.