“You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door.”
James 5: 8-9
James 5: 7-12
“If only I’d known!” “Hindsight is a wonderful thing.” How many times have we used expressions like this when we have rued certain actions and contemplated how we would have acted differently if we had known the end from the beginning? In this short passage James identifies a perspective that can alter our lives and behaviour; it could have been written to us considering our current context. He is reminding us that we do know how things will end, Jesus Christ is returning (vs. 7, 8 & 9). His return will be wonderful, amazing and awe inspiring; it will also be frightening. The whole world will see Him, there will be new heavens and earth and for those who belong to the Lord eternity continues. There will also be accountability, judgement and no more chances of reconciliation (Revelation 21: 1-8, Matthew 25: 31-46). These are truths we contemplate and celebrate at Advent, truths that should impact our lives in the present.
There is a call for patience with a practical illustration (vs. 7-8). In the locality where James was writing there would be two main periods of rain, the fall rains after the crops were planted and the spring rains before the harvest, both were essential. At Advent we celebrate Christ coming to us and paving the way for new life now, we become the firstfruits of the Church (2 Thessalonians 2: 13). We know He will come again for the spiritual harvest (Matthew 9: 35-38). The farmer tends the crop, which is valuable, but knows that patience is needed for the miracle of growth in between the rains. In this now and not yet of the Kingdom of God we know that we are valuable to Him but need to have patience while we wait and as His work is done (Mark 4: 26-29). The Lord’s incarnation, second coming and salvific work are thus likened to the falls of rain and harvest.
In this time, when there will be suffering, alongside patience we are to watch our words. Grumbling against our fellow believers is simply not right. It may be understandable due to pressure, stress and differences but the Lord watches, hears and will hold us accountable (vs. 9). We can find encouragement in the example of prophets and figures of faith who faced similar difficulties but persevered. It is a common fault for each generation to think they know better or have experienced worse than previous generations. We are therefore encouraged to consider previous saints and persevere (vs. 10-11). Finally we are again challenged to guard our tongues. The capacity of the tongue to spoil everything is huge (covered in earlier blogs); as we wait with patience we are to speak with patience (vs. 12). The Lord is full of mercy and compassion (vs. 11); may we reflect His love.
To Ponder: Do you have hindsight or foresight in life? How might knowing the truth of the Lord’s return impact your life, conversations and relationships today?
Pray: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, bring us to the dwelling your Son is preparing for all who love you; give us the will each day to live in life eternal; let our citizenship be in heaven with the blessed, with the whole company of the redeemed and with countless angels, praising, worshipping and adoring your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ who sits upon the throne forever and ever. Amen
Praise: Holy (The Wedding Day) The City Harmonic
From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable Stuart Townend
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6: 19-21
James 5: 1-6
On the surface these seem to be extremely harsh words for the rich and wealthy, however if we unpack their meaning we find deeper truths. Firstly it seems that James is talking about non-believers who are rich, he does not once refer to them as fellow believers or brothers. Secondly he is speaking into a context where many Christians were poor and being exploited by the rich. So, perhaps his aim is to reassure the poor that God is aware of what is going on and the guilty will not escape accountability. I am sure that he is also encouraging those who are without not to envy those who have. Remember the earlier sections of his letter where he points to equality of all in the Lord’s eyes (1: 9-11). Having highlighted these issues it is important to note that exploitation still very much exists today, the gap between rich and poor is ever increasing. These words are therefore more than worthy of hearing and heeding. Within them there are three traits that we would all do well to avoid.
The first is that of storing up our wealth; hoarding (vs. 2-3). When we moved here from England we reduced all our belongings to half a container; it felt genuinely liberating. That said probably a fifth of what we brought over still hasn’t been used. Hoarding is something seems to be a trait in the West. The Lord would have us share what we have with those who haven’t and to instead store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 5: 42, 6: 20).
Secondly there is the trait of overindulgence (vs. 5). God gives us blessings and good things to enjoy (John 10: 10, 1 Timothy 4: 4-5) but if we go beyond this and make ourselves the centre of all matters without reference to God or the needs of others we can easily slip into extravagance.
Finally James points to injustice (vs. 4 & 6). Exploitation of the poor in the pursuit of profit is rife in our world today. Below standard wages and child slavery are wide spread ensuring bigger profits and cheaper products for the consumer.
James twice points to a day of accountability that will come for all of us (vs. 3 & 5). Looking to our quoted verses above it is clear that the Lord seeks our hearts and for us to have Him as our ‘treasure.’ When we realise our ‘rich’ state in Christ we will want to share with others both our physical and spiritual wealth.
To Ponder: Where would you say that your treasure lies; listen to your heart for confirmation? Do you see areas of hoarding, extravagance and injustice in your community or indeed yourself; what might you do about this?
Pray: Lord Jesus you became for us sin that we might become the righteousness of God, you became poor that we might become rich. In our blessed state enable us to see and meet the needs of others, both in the material and spiritual. May you be our treasure that we truly desire to share with others. Amen
From 2 Cor. 5: 21
Praise: The Goodness of God by Bethel Music
The unsearchable riches of Christ
Over the last week as I helped prepare the gifts for the Angel Tree program, I was constantly reminded about the great gift I have with God’s presence in my life. As I continued reading through the book of Jeremiah, I was quickly reminded of this gift once again.
In the book of Jeremiah we see that Jerusalem was under siege form the Babylonian army and the Lord told Jeremiah that he was about to hand over the city to Babylon. Surely it seemed to God’s people that he had turned against them for good. But the Lord had more to say about the future of his people:
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I will certainly bring my people back again from all the countries where I will scatter them in my fury……..I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put my desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy in doing good for them. (Jeremiah 32:36-27, 40-41)
‘I will never stop doing good for them,” God said. In fact, he said that he finds joy in doing good for them.
Jesus also spoke of God as a father who enjoys doing good for his children:
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11: 11-13)
Here Jesus gets specific about the “good gift” God wants to give his children that will bring them so much satisfaction and bring him so much joy – the Holy Spirit. And what does the Holy Spirit do? Jesus said, ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth……He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me” (John 16: 13-14).
God finds joy in doing good for us. And his greatest gift to us is Jesus. He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us to understand and embrace Jesus. This good gift is a sign that he will never withhold anything good from us. “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? (Romans 8:32).
Prayer – Gracious God, could it really be true that you find joy in doing good for me? The enemy wants to tell me that I cannot expect this goodness from you. But then I look at Christ. The Holy Spirit speaks to me of Christ. And my heart is captured by your overflowing goodness. AMEN.
Song: Goodness of God (Bethel)
“Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”
James 4: 15
James 4: 13-17
The two deep truths in this short passage that I wish to focus on have been shown to be stark realities in our current circumstances; the arrogance of assumption and the fragility of life. We have gotten used to planning ahead with utter confidence that what we state will occur will indeed occur as we ordain or desire. Connected with that is our frustration, even anger, if things do not turn out as planned. There is nothing wrong with planning, good planning is wise and sensible. The potential problem links to the underlying issue of control that can grow into a subtle arrogance within us. It can lead to a self-sufficiency that says we do not need God. If the pandemic has shown us anything it shows us how quickly our supposed control on life and situations can be thrown out of the window. We were created to live in a relationship with God, enjoying Him and giving Him glory. In this life God calls us to submit to Him and trust in His will. James says that to live without this relationship, denying His existence, is a position of arrogance (vs. 16). He sets this issue in the context of making money and carrying on businesses (vs.13). Again, nothing wrong in either activity, both are essential to society. The issue is of doing so without reference to God. This truth however is relevant in every aspect of our lives.
To emphasize his point James highlights the fragility of life and the fact that our lives are in God’s hands (vs. 14-15). I used to live near an estuary with marshland and bird life. I loved walking there with my dogs early in the morning because in amazing arrays, mist would form and dissipate over the waters; truly beautiful. James likens our lives to such mist, beautiful but brief, vanishing very quickly. We are reminded of this truth in harsh ways at the moment, but there is hope; very real hope. Instead of being self-sufficient and going our own way for the brief period of our existence we are called to live for God and His will (vs. 15). This submission blesses and leads to eternal life; yes, life forever in the relationship we were created for. Failure to live this way can lead to the ‘sin of omission,’ (vs. 17).
Life is a beautiful gift and it is meant to be far more than a brief ‘mist.’ Instead of allowing our lives to be burnt off by the sun why not let the Son, Jesus Christ, work in us allowing the Father to burn off the dross of our lives so that the beauty of our lives becomes eternal; ever growing, ever blessing. In this sense there is no worry for tomorrow because eternity is taken care of; a big picture that gives hope in the finite and challenging realities of today.
To Ponder: Consider these truths and perhaps read Matthew 6: 25-34. How can your plans, principles and fears better reflect God’s will and the reality that He can hold your future?
To Pray: Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to heaven that He might rule over all things as Lord and King: keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at His feet; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
To Praise: Resurrecting Elevation Worship
I know who holds tomorrow sung by Melinda Hill
Scripture Reading: While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’ “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:4-15
As I was winding down my career in project management, and before I joined the staff at St. Aidan’s, I dabbled at being a background performer, an extra in films and TV shows that were being filmed in and around Winnipeg. It was something I’d never done before and it was fun seeing how films were made. All the planning and logistics that go into making a movie were very reminiscent of managing projects. There was also something exciting about being a part of the action in bringing a story to life, seeing it practiced and performed, and finally experiencing the audience’s reaction when the final production was performed. It’s that last part that’s thrilling because you don’t know how people will respond until it actually happens.
Living a faithful Christian life is a lot like the process of film acting. God is both the executive producer and director, the script is the Bible, and we are the actors. We meet with the living God as the Spirit guides us in understanding his word. We study and meditate on Scripture verses and passages. We grow both in our knowledge of God and in recognizing his plan for our lives. Up to this point, however, it’s just rehearsal because as important as it is to develop our relationship with God, at some point, we need to live out our faith on life’s stage.
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus teaches us that we can respond to His word in a variety of ways. One person might receive His Word in very shallow way, and allow the devil to steal the word away from them. That is, they heard the Word of God but they never respond to it, they are indifferent to it. The next person might receive it somewhat deeper than the first, but abandons the Word when life gets hard. They believe for a while but then fall away. The third person holds onto the Word a while longer, but eventually, life’s worries and pleasures take precedence over the word. The soil in this case symbolizes the person who worries too much, or seeks wealth and pleasure in this life at the expense their relationship with God. Initially, they hear the gospel and respond in some way. They might even attend church, but they show no spiritual growth and this person never produces any spiritual fruit.
It’s the fourth type of soil, or person, that Jesus holds up as the ideal. These are the people who hear God’s Word and let it do its work within them, “and by persevering, produce a crop”. This soil symbolizes true Christians because they do produce spiritual fruit. They follow Christ as the example of how we are to live out our faith on life’s stage as a genuine response to the Good News of the Gospel.
Like the people in the parable, we who have heard the Word are called to be fruitful. The Bible is meant to inform our approach to the world and to rouse us to take action to build God’s kingdom. How we live out our faith will look different for each of us, but we are all directed by the Word of God. Praise be to our God and King!
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
James 4: 7-8a
James 4: 1-12
Conflict is a reality within our lives which is not always negative; if handled correctly conflict can lead to growth and improvement. A good number of us do not like such discord and will often work to avoid it, however there are a few of us who relish conflict and actively seek it out. There are many models within the academic, health and professional worlds that have been developed to manage conflict. One that I learnt and utilize directs us to Confront conflict, Understand it, Discuss it, look for Solutions to it and put Actions in place to deal with it.
In today’s passage James confronts conflict within the Church head on pointing to quarrels, covertness and fighting (vs. 1-2). He helps us to understand the cause of this antagonism by reintroducing the source; our hearts (1: 14, 4: 1b, 3). Even when we try and bring the Lord into the situation, answers do not always come because our motives are wrong; we seek our good, our wishes and not God’s glory (3). James takes the discussion to a deeper level explaining that our hearts our married to the world’s principles which are opposed to God as are the principalities and powers that exist (vs. 4 & 7). Wonderfully solutions are given to us. God gives us His Grace and His Spirit to forgive us and help us overcome the old nature and spirit within us (vs. 7-8). We are to submit to God and resist the devil. In this submission we grieve the poverty of our spirit and humble ourselves (again, something of the Beatitudes here). This in turn leads to joy and a deeper closeness to God (vs. 9-10). This change in our hearts should lead to action. We should not slander our brothers and sisters nor judge them or our neighbours (vs.11-12). God’s work in us will produce fruit if it is authentic.
The restrictions on our lives and freedom is leading to conflict in our world, society, communities, families and churches. In some ways this can actually be a time of opportunity to show God’s power and love in reality. If Christ’s body could obey God in the way James details, true witness, encouragement and hope would flavour our lives and give glory to God. Growth and blessing could come out of conflict; do we have the wherewithal to follow in Christ’s footsteps? Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
To Ponder: is there conflict in your life and circumstances? What does you reaction to it reveal about your heart and motives? Apply the C.U.D.S.A model with James’ directions to your situation. What actions is God calling you take?
Pray: Almighty God, in your Grace, and by your Spirit reveal the condition of our hearts and help us to understand our motives. Enable us to submit to you and seek your forgiveness as we humble ourselves before you. Turn our grief to joy and our hearts to you that we may live in unity within the Body of Christ to your glory. Amen
Praise: Purify my Heart (Refiner’s fire)
My Faith looks up to Thee sung by the Vagle brothers
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
James 3: 17-18
James 3: 9-18
Picking up on our Mission Impossible from Wednesday we are immediately faced with an example of which I suspect we are all culpable; praising God one moment then criticizing fellow human beings made in the image of God the next (vs. 9-10). Our inability to control our tongue is something I believe that we are all conscious of but perhaps we wonder why we find it so hard? We began to answer that question in the last blog; what we say flows out of our hearts. James digs deeper into this causal factor with vivid imagery; does salt water flow from a fresh water spring, can a fig tree bear olives (vs. 11-12)? The latter example reminds me of the Lord’s words that a tree will be known by its fruit (Matthew 12: 33). If we want to know the type tree we can look to the fruit, if we want to know a person, or indeed ourselves, we can spend some time listening to the words spoken.
We cannot change our hearts, which is why taming the tongue is Mission Impossible for us. For God though, nothing is impossible (Matthew 19: 26). James points to the problem and the solution as he describes two types of wisdom (vs. 13-16). One type of wisdom is worldly and produces fruit such as envy and selfish-ambition which damage our hearts and results in disorder and evil practices. The other type of wisdom comes from heaven and produces humility and the fruit of a good life evidenced in word and deed.
Jesus is for us the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1: 30). He came from heaven to make peace with God in the hearts of human beings. If we give Him our hearts He will produce in us a harvest of righteousness (vs. 17-18). Our lives will be transformed both immediately and gradually.
I have mentioned a number of times in St. Aidan’s that in my last vocation if there was something on fire people came to look and oftentimes crowd control had to be put in place. James talked about how the tongue can be a spark that sets our lives on fire in an evil and negative way (vs. 6). Imagine instead that our hearts and therefore tongues were set on fire by the Wisdom of God with His love; how our lives would be changed and our witness impact others. We would in turn become peacemakers who harvest fruits of righteousness. Others would then know that we are branches on the Vine of Jesus Christ; they would know that Christ lives because of the fruit of our words and deeds. Oh that the Father’s Church would so burn with the passion of Jesus Christ.
To Ponder: What does your tongue reveal about the condition of your heart? How might the peace of Christ change this?
Pray: Blessed are you Sovereign God, ruler and judge of all, to you be praise and glory for ever. In the darkness of this age that is passing away may the light of your presence which the saints enjoy surround our steps as we journey on. May we reflect your glory this day and so be made ready to see your face in the heavenly city where night shall be no more. Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Praise: Let the flame burn brighter by Graham Kendrick
Shine Jesus Shine sung by Graham Kendrick
Throughout the Old Testament, God obligated himself with promises of what He will do such as I will bless you, I will give you many descendants, I will protect you, I will come to live with you and I will give you a new heart. While God fulfilled some of what He promised to do for his people during the Old Testament period, much was left unfulfilled. However this was not a failure of God’s promise or plan, but rather God’s plan being enacted.
The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. (Jeremiah 33: 14-15)
God had planned that his “I wills” would be fulfilled when David’s “righteous descendant” would come and complete his work on the cross saying, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
But even on this side of the Cross we recognize that we still have not received all that God promised. Christ’s work as Redeemer is finished, but His work as Restorer remains unfinished until all who are His are perfected. Christ’s work as Savior at the Cross is finished, but his work as Sustainer is unfinished. His work as Atoner is finished, but his work as Advocate is unfinished. Christ’s work as Sanctifier is both finished and unfinished. Those who are in Christ are positionally sanctified at regeneration, progressively sanctified as the Spirit provides the power to walk in increasing holiness, and will be fully sanctified in the holy presence of Jesus Christ. Christ’s work of putting away sin from “within” the believer is unfinished. Christ’s dying to destroy sin’s penalty for his own is finished, but His living to destroy sin’s power over his own is unfinished.
So we now stand between Christ’s statement of “It is finished!” that He spoke at the Cross, and His declaration of “It is done,” which will come at the consummation of his Kingdom when all things are made new (Revelation 21:6). On that day we will begin enjoying the ages to come, secure in all the fulfilled promises of God.
Prayer – Holy God, I am certain that the good work that you have begun within me will continue until the day that Jesus Christ returns. Help me to finish the race strong until “It is done”.
Revelation Song: https://youtu.be/D-zk-E55dRk
“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”
James 3: 2
“For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12: 37
James 3: 1-8
Dear Reader, your mission should you decide to accept it, is to tame your tongue. This message will not self-destruct but will be a stern reminder of the difficulty of the mission. You can select a Team (as in the Mission Impossible series), some have already been chosen for you. God in His love and mercy has provided us a powerful counselor in the Holy Spirit and an eternal Saviour in the Lord Jesus. The Church is called to make up the rest of your Team.
As we begin our Mission James highlights a harsh reality, those who teach will be held doubly accountable, they should practice what they preach. I found this standard was applied to me as a Police Officer and now as a Priest but I would argue that this principle applies to all believers. The world looks at the Church and her representatives in this way. How often do you see the Church judged in media outlets, how often has someone quickly picked up on an error you have made and called you out because you are a Christian? If we never err in our speech, we will be able to exert almost perfect self-control (vs. 2). The word James uses here is the same where he described how perseverance completes a work in us (1: 4). In effect he is saying we would have real and near perfect maturity if we could control our tongue.
If we are beginning to feel encouraged, we are quickly put in our place. The tongue is described as powerful and destructive (vs. 3-5). It corrupts from within and can cause untold damage to people and situations. It is incendiary, restless and full of poison (vs. 6-8). Many creatures can be tamed but no human being can tame the tongue…Mission Impossible.
Why is James being so negative? Simply because we as human beings cannot tame our tongues; they are the outflow of our hearts. So, we go back to the principle of perseverance (1: 4) and the truth that only the Lord can give us a new heart (Ezekiel 36: 26). We then need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling so that we begin to act in the way God wants and wills us to (Philippians 2: 12-13). This is our act of worship on a daily basis. Overcoming sin, death and being reconciled to God is Mission Impossible for us yet look at what God has done for us in Jesus Christ!
To Ponder: Consider all your words from yesterday. How did you build others up, how did you pull them down? It is painful to look at ourselves in this way but it is the first step to confession, forgiveness and putting matters right with others. What steps do you need to take now?
Pray: Dear Lord, in your grace forgive us for words that have hurt, been unwholesome and not reflected your love. By the power of your Holy Spirit help us to imitate our Saviour so that our words benefit and build others up. Encourage us to persevere so that your work in us will bring you glory. Amen
Praise: Here I am to Worship sung by Chris Tomlin
The Servant Song
Bible Verse: “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.” 2 Corinthians 1:6
How many times have we been driving along when we see someone changing lanes without signalling, or making a turn from the wrong lane? I’ve even seen an accident happen because someone’s magic turn signal had failed to create an open spot in the lane they had tried to move into without looking. Sometimes people drive as if the rules of the road didn’t apply to them. They drive as if the traffic laws were merely traffic suggestions. But what if we all drove with an attitude of unrestricted freedom on the roadway? “No one is going to make me drive within the confines of these road lines”, we might think. “If I feel like zigzagging across lanes, I will. If I decide to take a shortcut across someone’s front lawn, that’s up to me. No one is going to hem me in with their restrictive laws.”
This same attitude can be seen across North America when it comes to Covid-19 restrictions. Just this past weekend we saw anti-mask protesters yelling that their rights and freedoms were being infringed upon and they screamed obscenities at the people trying to enforce the law and even at those who disagreed with them.
These laws for driving or for the pandemic precautions are obviously meant to protect us and others on the roads, or in our collective community health, particularly those who are most vulnerable. But we shouldn’t be surprised at such human chafing against the rules because it has been happening since the beginning of time.
In Geneses 3, the serpent’s strategy is to cause the woman to question whether God’s rules really are for her benefit. “He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say . . .’” The serpent said that because he knew that when we hear something that doesn’t quite seem to square with the integrity of the source, we say, “Did they really say that?” Satan’s tactic here is to begin to sow doubt, to cause the woman to question whether God was being too restrictive. Even as she defends God, the Eve shows signs that the seeds of doubt about God’s goodness have already taken root. “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’” (3:3). God had restricted eating, but he never said anything about touching. This was Eve’s added restriction. She slightly alters God’s original command because what God actually said to Adam was, “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” (2:16-17). With this minor change, we can see the start of humanity becoming fixated on God’s restrictions.
Restrictions are often viewed today as harsh constraints, but as we know from scripture, and from painful life lessons, unrestricted freedom leads only to chaos and destruction. Unlimited freedom has always been the weapon wielded by dictators, emperors, and despotic rulers down through the ages, and always resulted the suffering of the peoples who had no freedoms. Unlimited freedom for some meant no freedom for others. Laws such as the Ten Commandments were given by God so that we would honor God the Creator and keep from bringing harm to ourselves, to our communities, and to God’s creation. God forbade Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so they could avoid the ultimate consequence of disobedience, which is death. Unlimited freedom is actually bondage to sin and separation from God.
Our best interest has always been served by freedom within limits, within defined boundaries. Remember the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. His life, death, and resurrection bought the ultimate freedom for all who turn to Him. In our submission to Him, we are freed from the wages of sin, which is death, and free to experience the abundant life He brought. Praise be to our most merciful Lord God!
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.