by: Staci Stallings
Sorry about the interruption. Life took over for awhile there!
Back to our discussion…
I want to introduce now, or reintroduce for some of you, a concept that my understanding of God and His Plan keeps going back to. It is so foundational, so fundamental, that I can never stray very far from it. Then we’ll go back to our verse to look at it more indepth.
For an indepth look at this concept, you can check out the Bible study I wrote about it called “The Two Trees.”
For now, here’s a very brief overview of the concept.
In the Garden of Eden, there were two trees. The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I call them the Tree of God and the Tree of Me. We were meant to eat only from the Tree of God, trusting Him to provide all that we need. However, Eve and then Adam ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (the forbidden tree) and thus hurled us all into a mindset of “I have to do it myself. It’s all up to me.”
You may recognize this as that Fallen Mind/Fallen World operating system. It is the system based on shame and fear.
What I want to point out today is the different “soils” these two trees are rooted in because this thoroughly transformed my way of thinking over the weekend.
Take a long look at this illustration from the book “The Two Trees.” In the book, I walk you through what each part of it means, but what I want to focus on today is the thing that I just added this weekend. The two phrases at the very bottom — Relationship with God and Rules.
How do you know which tree you’re eating from? How do you know which operating system is working in your life or in a current situation?
Look at those two foundations. Which is more dominant? A relationship with God or the rules?
We need only look at a few verses from the Bible to see the importance of understanding which “side” you’re operating from.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Romans 7:4-6 from The Message Bible says, “So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.”
Go and read ALL of Romans 7 at Biblegateway. If you have time, read it in several translations.
What it says over and over again… the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Me is based on the Law, on the RULES! It tempts us to believe that if we can just follow the rules closely enough, that WE can gain salvation on our own, and living that way will never, ever work.
I read something last night that said all rules do is beget more rules.
And you know this for yourself. You start out with a general rule like, “I’m going to eat healthier.” Then we break that into small micro-rules. ”Apples are good, bananas are bad.” Then we start dividing up WHEN we can eat. ”Don’t eat after 7 p.m.” ”Eat six meals a day 3 hours apart.” Then we get into figuring out exactly how much protein we need and how many carbs and how many calories and how much exercise…
Do you see how a good “rule” starts to metastasize into micromanaging everything?
That’s what happened to the Pharisees. They started out with 10 Commandments. TEN general rules that show God’s standard. And what happened?
By the time of Christ, those 10 rules had become over 700!
Not only that, but the Pharisees wore the rules on their wrists in little boxes!
They put effort upon effort into rule-keeping and rule-making and completely forgot about their relationship with God. Why? Because rules put our focus on ourselves — on ME. Not on God.
In fact, the Pharisees didn’t even recognize God when He showed up!
When I start revolving my life around the rules rather than around God, guess what? In short order, I’m a mixed up, messed up WRECK! On the Good side of that tree, I become self-righteous, judgmental, and arrogant. On the Evil side, I become angry, vicious, and hateful.
Guess what? Both are miserable, rotten places to live!
The truth is rules have never saved anyone. In fact, most of the time, rules tempt us to do stupid things just to show them we can (rebellion… Adam & Eve… living on Tree of Life quickly morphing into the Tree of Me with ONE BITE!).
The antidote for this is to cross the Jesus bridge that stands between the two sides and start forming and nurturing a RELATIONSHIP with God. Get curious about Him as you would about a new friend. Ask other people who know Him well about their relationship, knowing that your relationship with Him will be utterly unique. Then start getting to know Him and letting Him get to know you.
Oh, the freedom!
Oh, the joy!
Just wait… from here forward, life gets a whole lot more fun!