In an age where everything is being questioned, redefined, deconstructed, and turned on its ear, we (Christians-believers) shouldn’t be surprised that what God says in the Bible is on the chopping block too, probably even more so. As we have discovered in our study, disputing what God says is nothing new. The serpent or the devil did it in Genesis 3 when he challenged what God said to Adam and Eve about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and we’re still doing it today, and the devil loves it.
Even though Eve knew the truth or what God really said in Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, “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 from it you will certainly die.”, it didn’t stop her from entertaining and ultimately choosing the devils alternate interpretation of what God said. She even reminded the devil of what God said in Genesis 3:2-3, but the devil’s craftiness, his ability to distort the truth and plant seeds of doubt, was too much for her. He created an itch that she just had to scratch.
“God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 NIV
Desire is a powerful thing. Who wouldn’t want to be “like God” knowing all things and being in total control. It’s like asking us if we want to be superman, and the serpent-devil counted on Eve’s basic instinct of want and desire to push her over the edge. If he could get her to think, ponder, or entrain the idea long enough, he knew she wouldn’t be able to resist. He also added two other important ingredients to his recipe of temptation: doubt and distrust. When he says “God knows…” in Genesis 3:5, he’s saying, “Eve, you can’t trust God. He’s withholding important information. He is lying to you!” It’s a perfect elixir that goes down easily.
It is basically the same process of rationalization that Paul is talking about in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, a passage that we started looking at last week.
3For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV
In the New American Standard Bible translation, it translates the “itching ears” portion as “wanting to have their ears tickled” or ”what they want to hear”. The devil told Eve what she wanted to hear. His strategy was customed made to appeal or “suit” her desires, and being her own god was a more suitable choice than obeying another. Why be a slave when you can be the master?
It turns out that only one rule, not eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was too much for Adam and Eve, so it shouldn’t be surprising that all of mankind has a hard time accepting and obeying God’s commands and requirements. Following Christ and obeying God is not easy. It requires sacrifice, loss, surrender, and self-denial, things that we don’t like to “put up with” or endure.
“24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25 NIV
Cleansing of the soul, mind, body, and spirit is a central theme of the Bible. Our purification or purging has to go all the way to the core of our being, heart and soul.
“8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8 NIV
Like Eve, we are willing to accept and easier alternative. One that we can control. One that “suits” us. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) that we started talking about last week is a perfect example of a more suitable and acceptable alternative to what God says in the Bible, and it is just one of many.
Again, here are the basic tenets of MTD:
- A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
It’s easier to believe or accept “a god” (MTD Statement #1) rather than “the God” of the Bible because we don’t have to pick sides. It’s an easy choice. God becomes generic and it doesn’t matter which god we choose whether it’s the God of the Bible or the ones “taught by most world religions” according to MTD Statement #2. However in Exodus 20:3, the first of the ten commandments, it says, “You shall have no other gods before me”, NONE. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself”, MTD statement #3, is contrary to Jesus’ requirement of self-denial in Matthew 16:24. Loving God and others, the greatest commandment, is our central goal, not winning or pleasing ourselves. Loving God and others are where our true fulfillment, contentment, and joy comes from. Happiness is okay, but it can’t endure all circumstances like joy and contentment. Joy is greater!
Last week we basically, covered MTD statement #4, but if we read Psalm 139, we discover that God is “acquainted” (Psalm 139:3) with all of our ways. He knows everything about us. He made us with great care, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). He knows when we “sit down and when we rise up” (Psalm 139:2). He knows our thoughts and how many hairs we have on our heads (Luke 12:7). Does that sound like someone who is not particularly involved in our lives?
The final MTD statement, “good people go to heaven when they die” is not mentioned or supported anywhere in the Bible. Jesus tells us in John 3:16 that we have to believe in Him before we can receive eternal life. In John 14:6Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”, so there is only one way and it’s through Jesus. Jesus also told Nicodemus in John 3 that in order to receive eternal life he must be “born again”. When asked by the rich young ruler “what must I do to receive eternal life?” in Matthew 19:16-30 Jesus told him to “obey the commandments” and to “go sell everything that you own and follow me”. Jesus’ response wasn’t acceptable or suitable to this man, so he walked away in disappointment. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear, and Jesus didn’t make it easy for him.
Like Eve we’re not always willing to “put up with” (2 Timothy 4:3-4), tolerate, or endure what God really says because it’s hard to obey and live by. However, not all of what God says is difficult and even the hard stuff is not meant to rain on our parade or make us miserable. Everything that God says is for our good and protection, but the grass always seems greener on the other side.
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC