If someone came up to you and said, “What’s God’s story?” what would you say? I think most of us could share a little bit of it. Well, God the Creator made the earth, made people and then we sinned and then He sent Jesus to forgive us of our sin so we are forgiven by Jesus’ death on the cross for us, we can have eternal life and then we can live forever. Now that is basically God’s story but there is a whole lot more to it, is there not? That is the thumbnail version, but there is so much missing from that. It is kind of like the movie “Patriot.” The movie was about the revolution of 1776 and how a man inspired us to throw off and defeat the British and gain our independence. Although this is true, does that describe the whole movie? Or is there more? I remember watching that movie and my heart resonating with so many scenes--of the challenge of having to say good-bye to his wife, of seeing his son killed, of seeing people locked inside a church and burned to death. Scenes all through that movie moved my heart because it was more than a collection of simple facts. It is the story and interrelationships that go along with the facts that resonate with our souls and our spirits. One of my favorite movies is “Field of Dreams.” And what is that movie about? What is the story? Oh, yeah, a guy has issues with his dad and plows a cornfield into a baseball field and all to resolve his issues with his father. But is that all? Or is there more? The more is the emptiness that is inside, the challenge that he is facing, that he does not really know he is having this angst about him because of his relationship with his father. There is something missing and he cannot put his finger on it. And in that scene when the father says, “Hey, want to have a catch? You want to play some catch?” It just resonates through my soul. He wanted to have that kind of open, relaxed, loving, sharing life relationship with his father. You see, it is those little details that move our hearts and it is the details about God’s story that move our hearts.
If you were going to make a movie about God’s story, what would you leave out? It is tough and so we really cannot make a movie about God’s story. Number one, it would be way too long. My bladder can only stand about three hours and then I am about ready for more popcorn or something. God’s story is meant to move us personally one step at a time and things build on each other. It has taken thousands of years and a three hour movie just would not be adequate. We are going to take a look at God’s story by focusing on the beginning and the end. Turn to Genesis chapter two. In Genesis we have the beginning of the story. And the beginning of the story is pretty important because it tells us what God intended, how things started out and what God intended for the story to be like.
If you knew the story of Dave, the story of Dave started out in 1951 on a farm in Moosejaw, Sascatchewan where the land is flat and the soil is fertile and the horizons are endless. And the story of Dave would end, maybe, in 2020, Lord willing. And it may say something like, “Dave Strem succumbed to injuries suffered while skateboarding down Thrill Hill.” And that would tell you something about me, would it not? Do you see how the beginning and the end can tell you something about the individual? But without the middle you do not really grasp who that person is. Genesis 2, starting in verse 7, says, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east in Eden and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees to grow out of the ground, trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food and in the middle of the garden was the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And a river watering the garden flowed down from Eden and there it was separated into four headwaters.” And then it gives the details about those rivers. And then verse 15 says, “And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to work it and to care for it.” And then He gives them the command about not eating from the tree of good and evil and then verse 19 says, “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air and he brought them to the man to see what he would name them. So the man gave names to all the livestock and the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam, no suitable helper was found.” So then we have the story of the creation of Eve. It says, “And the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. And while he was sleeping, he took one of man’s ribs and closed the place with flesh and then the Lord God made woman from the rib he had taken out of the man and he brought her to the man and the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman for she was taken out of man’ and for this reason a man shall leave his mother and father and be united with his wife and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”
Let us hold off there for awhile. Let us make sure we have a clear picture of how God intended for life to be. What did God intend man to live like? What was his intention. If there were no more verses and we lived forever as God intended, what would we be doing? What is God’s intention? Well, there is about four things I want to highlight for you. First of all, it is a peaceful scene alongside a river. Secondly, there are people who are living in harmony with one another and with God. So you have the nice riverside scene and there are people living in harmony with God. Where do we get that from? We get that from reading that God went to the garden and talked with Adam and Eve every day at the same time–they came to expect His visits. They were living in harmony with God, but that harmony was disrupted and we see the results of that around us everyday. And also harmony with one another, between Adam and Eve. “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” Togetherness. And it says they were naked and not ashamed. Now, naked here has more to do with than just showing off skin. Nakedness here is indicating an openness, an acceptance, a lack of judgment, a lack of embarrassment, lack of “here I am and so what.” I am willing to open and share my whole self with you. There is this openness and intimacy that is implied, there is not covering up, there is not shying away and hiding but there is this close relationship.
Then we find something surprising. People are engaged in meaningful labor in partnership with God. This is a surprise for most of us because we get this picture of heaven, this picture of eternity and think that we are just going to lay out on clouds and listen to harp music. It is a time of rest and not doing anything. You get to hang out and just be worthless. That is not God’s design. Look at what it says. “He took man and put him in the garden to work it and take care of it.” This is part of God’s pre-fall plan. They were to take care of the garden. Look at verse 19, “And God brought the animals to man to see what he would name them.” Why in the world did God do that? Why did God bring the animals to man to see what he should name them. Was He tired? I mean, He has had a long week. He had not done anything for eternity in the past, suddenly gets really busy for six days and He is out of energy and says, “Adam, can you take care of this for me?” No, He is not tired. He is not too busy. He is not simply delegating to get out of work. He is partnering.
As a father, I remember my kids with their pets. If you want your child to “own” something, you need to let them name it. There is a sense that God is giving to man saying, “Here, this is yours. This whole earth has been created for you, Adam. The stars and sun, the moon and skies have been created for you to give you time and seasons. Everything that I have done here is for you and here it is. What do you want to call it? It is yours. You get to name it.” Understand that? Does it make sense? Because He is giving him all these things. He is partnering with man in managing the world. God longs to partner with us, with you and with me. It is part of His original design to partner with us in managing this world. We are not toys. We are partners. We are not ants scurrying around with no purpose. We are partners with God. Now we can either do our own thing or we can live and work in partnership with Him as He intended. From the very beginning God has been looking for partners who are up to the task of working with Him in managing this world.
So you have the river, you have the people living in harmony with each other and with God, plus there is meaningful labor with the Creator of all things. Not idleness but purpose and fulfillment. And then fourthly, we have a tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of life. This is about God’s provision for us to have an ongoing life with him. You do not have to be around death very often to see that something is very wrong with it. We are not designed to just live for 10, 20, or 30, 40, 50, 60, 80 or 90 years and “poof” that is it, we are gone forever. If you have had a relationship with anyone who has died, you know there is something wrong, there has to be something more than just the short period of time we have here. We are designed to live in relationship with God and with each other forever. Without that, this whole thing just does not make any sense and is not worth it. But ‘forever’ makes it worth it.
Now let us go to the other end of the Bible, Revelation. Verse one of chapter 22: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life as clear as crystal flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Down the middle of the great street of the city on each side of the river stood the tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.” Now, doesn’t that sound cool? We have gotten very spoiled. We get apples year ‘round. We can get oranges year ‘round. We can get kiwi year ‘round. All kind of fruits grown in other parts of the world. But realize, until modern times you would get bananas if you lived in a banana area only. You would get peaches for one month a year and peaches do not stay good very long. In Revelation we read where we get to have fruit every month because that is the way God designed it. A continuous supply of delicious fruit for our enjoyment and survival.
“And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of nations.” What does that mean? What does the healing of nations mean? It means “make them well.” Nations rise up against nation to cause wars. The healing of nations is that mankind will live in harmony with one another. That actually, Christian Palestinians will love Christian Jews will love Christian Iraqiis, will love Christian Iranians who will love Christian Americans, who will love Christian Canadians. There will no longer be a split or enmity between nations. So we have people living in harmony with each other and with God again and no longer will there be any curse. “The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. And his servants will serve him.” His servants, God’s servants, you and I will serve Him as we begin partnering with God to accomplish His purposes in creation. “And they will see his face and his name shall be written on their foreheads.” Again, speaking of living in harmony with God. Does that mean we will walk around with nametags on our heads saying, “God?” No! What it means is we will be able to look at each other and see that we belong. That on our faces the radiance of God will shine because we are his sons and daughters. Over here we have Fred. Over here we have Glen. Over here we have Mike. Over here we have Mary. Fred, Glen, Mike and Mary in heaven, we will see them clearly as children of God. We will not know them for what they do or where they work. We will know them because it is written all over their faces they belong to Jesus. There will be harmony between man and God.
And then verse five: “There will be no more light. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun and the Lord will give them light forever and they will reign forever in heaven.” They will reign forever and ever. What does that mean? It means partnering with God. We are to be God’s partners in managing His creation. Doing what God wants to be done. Partnering with Him. Not doing stuff on our own, but partnering with God in filling what He has created in all of His Creation. Partnering with God forever in meaningful labor. Actively participating with God to manage the world. So, here we have the same scene–people living in harmony with God and one another, people engaged in meaningful tasks in partnership with God, and the tree of life which we are guarded from now lest we live forever now and be stuck in this corrupt condition. I do not want to live 900 years in my present condition. In the state that I am in, there is stuff inside that needs to be changed. I want God to change me and then I will be fit and eager to live forever with Him. That is His promise.
So we have this scene of the river, the people in harmony, the people partnering and living with the tree of life. So that means that right now you and I are living “between the trees.” That is what we are doing in our lives and its existence until we get to the other side, until we break out of time and are allowed to live timelessly with Him. So let us talk about time for a minute. Scripture portrays God as having lived forever. When did God start? I started 1951. When does God’s story start? We have to go a long way back, before that tree. Get on the other side of that tree. Scripture portrays God as living forever. He always has been and always will be. Right straight through that tree off the other side and past the walls. He is boundless. There are no borders on God. He is outside of time. For now, we are created to live inside of time.
Turn back to Genesis chapter one. Anybody have a watch? What time is it? Let’s say it is noon. Tomorrow, what time is it going to be at this time? What is going to be different? The earth is going to have gone around its axis one time. The sun is going to have to come up and go down, basically. See, we measure time by the planets around us. We measure a day by its rotation. We measure a month by the lunar cycles. We measure a year by earth’s rotation around the sun. Recognize that has all been given to us by God. He has put us in time. Look down at verse 14, chapter one. “And God said, ‘Let there be light in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.’” God put the celestial bodies in place and they are orchestrated to travel in their astride places for our benefit of keeping track of time.
There is one element that is not mentioned there and has even to me greater significance about how God has provided for us and God has left His very fingerprints on our lives. That is the week. How do you measure a week? God gave us six days in which to do labor and the seventh for rest. And we are to keep track of that seventh day. In the ancient world the idea of a day of rest was unique to Israel. All commerce and worldly cares were to stop so that the body could recoup itself and God could be the focus of their attention. There is no other rationale I have ever found that I can think of that says why we celebrate a week, seven days. That seven days carries through every month regardless of how many days are in the month. It carries through every year regardless of how many days are in a year. That is another one of God’s imprints on us.
Go back to Revelation. Look down at verse 5 in chapter 22. It says, “There will be no more night and there will be no more light of a lamp and no light of the sun for the Lord God will give them light.” What does that mean? All of a sudden in heaven you do not measure time by the sun, moon, and stars. Somehow in heaven we have stepped out of time into some kind of timelessness, or at least a new, but so far unstated, measure of time. I do not really understand it.
What God does in heaven is for us, not for us to have to do for ourselves. Do we recognize that Jesus never talked about eternal life in the future? When Jesus talks about eternal life, He talks about it in the present active tense. Turn back to John chapter three. John 3:16. “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but HAVE eternal life.” And the “have” here is not the future tense. It is the subjective tense. It means, if you do this, this will happen in the present. It is the present subjunctive. Look down a bit farther down to verse 24. John 3:24, “I tell you that whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me HAS (present active tense) eternal life and will not be condemned. He is crossed over (past tense) and has changed.” If you have accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior, you have moved from death to eternal life.
Do you know you have eternal life right now if you have accepted Christ as Savior? You have eternal life right now. It starts when you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior. It does not start when you die and go to heaven. It starts now. That makes what I do and how I live more important. If I am going to get a mulligan when I get to heaven, I can do whatever I want to do in my life now. And this indicates what I do here and now somehow affects and is carried into my eternity. That means I have to be careful how I live. I need to be careful about some things. I need to look back and recognize what God intended for me to live like when He created me and remember what God expects of me in heaven forever. When I live with Him in eternity, what does He expect of me? Well, I guess He expects me to live along the river, I like that part, in harmony with one another and with Him and to engage in meaningful labor and partnership. God expects me, God has commissioned me, God has commanded me, Jesus died and taught me, and Paul repeatedly tells us to live in harmony with one another, here and now.
There is also this sense that what we do now impacts our lives after this life. Jesus told the parable of the talents. He said he that is faithful in little will receive much. Not necessarily in this world, for this world is often not fair or exact in giving out reward and punishment, but in the kingdom to come. Imagine, maybe you do not have to imagine, that perhaps a single mother struggling all through this life and struggling to survive week after week but always trying to do the right thing. Feeling like she got the boot of life on her throat and trying to get through it and make ends meet and care for the people she loves and do the right thing when things are coming against her all the time. But she is trying to be faithful and do her best. She has little, but she is being faithful in what God is calling her to do. God may say, “I know what happened and the hole you fell into and how you tried for so long to get out and you are faithful in doing what you are called to do as much as you could. You have been faithful, come and get your reward, I have much for you.” Most of us do not want that position in life. And yes, some negative positions we find ourselves in are the result of the things we have done to encourage it, but once we find ourselves in those positions there is a good way and a bad way to respond.
We see someone who has it all together, who has a good job, discipline, all things in a line and success in this world. But using it for only their own glory and benefit. That person has created their own rewards and can expect nothing from God in the hereafter. God will say, “I gave you so much and you did so little with it. I do not have anything more for you. Because you were not faithful with what I gave you, why should I give you anymore?” Where is your heart and where is your life? If you got much use it faithfully to His purposes. If you have little use it faithfully for His purposes because He will reward your life. And you will have an eternity to look back and be thankful that you followed Him. You see, how we live now has great ramifications for what we are going to enjoy and how we look back on our lives, and how we are going to look at each other. Live with a vision of what God wants for us and we will grow closer to Him here and now.
Between the Trees: God's Timeline
God designed man to live in relationship with His creation forever, to manage it, to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue the earth. But then in Genesis three we find it all falls apart. Let us look at Genesis chapter three. Here we have the story you are probably familiar with, but let us look at it again because there are some new things I want to point out to you. It says, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord had made and said to the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat of the tree in the garden?’” Satan will come to you and attempt to build confidence and trust with you by affirming the things you can verify but then lie or distort the things you cannot. “Did God say you cannot eat of any of these trees?” God told Adam not to eat from the forbidden tree but notice what Eve says. In answer to the serpent’s sarcasm (“really?”) she says something God never said–“It’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.” Notice what was added–“or even touch it.” Can’t you just picture it in your mind. “Eve, you shall not surely die. Let me show you. Grab one, touch it. See, you have not died. God is lying to you. He does not want you to become like him because he is prideful and selfish. Now go ahead and take a bite.” Satan is the father of lies. He will tell you the truth about things you can verify, but the things that are unknown, the things you cannot test, he will tell you whatever he wants that will lead you down his track. Did Adam and Eve instantly die? Well, no. I mean, it was not a poison apple. They did not keel over dead at that point. But they did begin the dying process and distanced themselves from God. And it was only by His mercy that they did not die instantly or suffer eternal separation from Him.
“For God knows when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. Then the woman saw the fruit of the tree was good for food.” The serpent is essentially saying, “God really does not know what He is talking about. That is, you can make a better decision on this than He can. You can be independent. You can have wisdom on your own. You do not have to rely upon God’s message, upon God’s words for direction and guidance.” And how many times do we figure out our lives apart from God’s words? “You can be wise in the ways of the world. You can figure it out on your own.” But what does the Word of God tell you? I can tell you, as you follow God’s Word, your lives will be fruitful and you will have wisdom that goes beyond your years. God’s Word is true and reliable. But that is exactly what Satan is saying it is not. The more you rely on God’s Word the less Satan can lie to you. When we add or take away from His word the more opportunity is created for Satan to lie and deceive us.
Notice how sometimes when you are engaged in a conversation, you get taken up with what you are going to say next and how it is going to work out and how you are going to respond. But if you are standing alongside the conversation, you can really hear and sense what is going on. And Adam just stood there. So, they are both as guilty as the other. Remember Adam said, “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was created out of me.” Bone is a symbol all through Scripture of strength. Men, women, both have strengths and weaknesses. She is strong like I am strong but she is also weak like I am weak. And they prove it as they both go down the tubes hand in hand.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord as they were walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” The harmony they had with God has now been broken. They are running away. They are hiding from God. They are also hiding from each other. Nakedness, here, is not simply about skin. It is about complete openness with each other. They heard the Lord as He walked in the garden in the cool of the day and they hid from the Lord among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called to man, “Where are you?” When God cannot find us, recognize God calls. When we are not in God’s presence, God is wanting us to be present with Him. God calls us to Him. All throughout, we will find again in Revelation that God calls to us all who wish to come. He calls. He says, “I want you here.” It is not, “Well, I am fine all by myself and if you want to live your own life that is fine with Me, I do not care.” God does not fold His arms and turn His back on us. He is calling out to us. His heart is for us. He wishes that none perish but all come to a saving knowledge of Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Go down to verse 12. God says, “What have you done? You have not eaten of the tree, have you?” And man, in all his boldness and all his courage to face up to his responsibility says, “The woman you gave me did it.” Two things here. One, he is blaming her. She did it. Two, he is also blaming God. “The woman you gave me.” “God, you set me up on this thing.” He tries to shun his responsibility. And in all of life don’t we tend to do the same thing? We make all kinds of excuses of why we have done things. We justify our actions based upon the perceived wrongness of the other person. But their wrongness does not change our wrongness. If someone does something wrong to you, it does not give you the right, the privilege to be stupid and dumb and sinful yourself. I want you to recognize that. An eye-for-an-eye philosophy does not apply to sin. “She sinned against me and so I get to sin against her.” No, it makes you both sinful. Adam and Eve both were responsible for what they did, the part they played in the fall.
Read down to verse 17 and see the curse. We see how the good thing that God started, ends. It says, “Cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil you will eat of it all your days. It will produce thorns and thistles for you. You will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground. From it you are taken, for dust you are and to dust you shall return.” Now this is interesting. It says, “the plants of the field.” Literally in the Living New Testament it talks about that as being “the grains” and that is what it comes out to in the Hebrew if you look at it. It talks about the grains of the field. Did Adam, in the Garden of Eden, have to plant wheat and corn? Adam in the garden, did he have to plant wheat and corn? Now, that is a lot of work. I grew up on a farm and just growing a little bit of corn is hard work. When we are in Guatemala we see those guys tending to a 20 by 20 foot yard of corn and the work they have to go through to hoe that soil, to haul water for it, to make that corn grow is great. But that is not the way it was in the Garden of Eden. What did they eat? They were given all the trees of the garden for food. If you wanted peaches, nectarines, tangerines, oranges, pears, whatever other fruits were actually available, they were there for the picking. They were given all that fruit for food. Recognize, what do we eat the majority of now? We eat some fruits and some vegetables, but how much grain do you eat? With just about every single meal, you eat something that comes from wheat flour, barley flour, or corn. All your breads, all your pastries, even tacos. All these things come from that and that takes great work and that is exactly what God is talking about. “From now on your primary food supply is going to have to be worked for,” He tells them. It is not just going to grow on a tree.
Notice that in the garden of the resurrection, it talks about fruit being available all year round. Every month giving the fruit in its season. So it is not just apples or oranges once a year and then you are out of luck. But you have your choice. Everything always in season. Also, it says nothing about weeds and scrubs. You may have to prune a few trees but will not have to worry about hedges or weeds.
Notice in verse 21 notice that the Lord made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. The word there is “covered them.” And they had made clothing of fig leaves but God, at that point, kills an animal because of them. That act was meant to show them that their return to God is based on the sacrificial death of another in their stead and also it was to impress on them the seriousness of what they had done–an innocent animal had to die because of them (and that should have broken their hearts and made them sensitive to sin). Without the shedding of blood there is not forgiveness. The first prophecy of the ministry and death of Christ was given to Adam and Eve and was foretold in that first shedding of blood to clothe their nakedness. We live in a fallen and broken world. I am continually reminded of the depths of human sinfulness. I have stopped being shocked but continue to be surprised every week at the brokenness of mankind. We are broken in our anger, in our hatred, in our selfish disregard for the welfare of others. It is a broken world. And death and disease are part of that brokenness.
But the good news is that it does not end there. That is not the end of the story. Turn over to Revelation chapter 22 and let us be refreshed. In Revelation 22, we see a similar picture. See if you can pick it out. Chapter 22, verse one says, “Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne and from the Lamb, down the middle of the street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month and the leaves of the tree were used for the healing of the nations. No longer would there be any curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city and his servants will serve him. They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads, harmony there will be. There will be no more night and they will not need a light or a lamp or the light of the sun for the Lord God will give them light and they will reign forever and ever.” There will be, again, a river. There will be, again, harmony between mankind and God and between man and man. They will partner together with God. They will be His servants and they will reign with Him forever. And right there in the very center is a tree of life. All that has fallen God intends to bring back into harmony and partnership with Himself.
Do you recognize that our fall has not just broken us, but has doomed all of creation to death and destruction, as well. It says in Romans, “All of creation waits eagerly in expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” “For the creation was subjected to this frustration not by its own choice.” The trees did not sin. The river did not sin, but all of creation suffers because we are not yet perfect. A sinful people must live in a broken world to show them the fruits of their actions and the necessity of seeking God’s ways and future. Verse 22 of Romans 8 says, “We know that the whole of creation has been groaning as in pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And not only that, we ourselves were the firstfruits of the spirit grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons.” A complete release from suffering and pain will require a new world and new creation. And that is exactly what God promises in Revelation 21 and 22. With our brokenness, disease and death are temporary. It is only in our lives here and now that we experience it. That will not be part of eternity. No arthritis in eternity. No Alzheimers in eternity. These are things that will done away with. In general, they are part of the fruits of our rebellion of living without God. Those who may get these diseases, although often our unhealthy living can contribute, may not be any worse of a person than those who do not but in general, these diseases and sufferings are a part of our collective experience because of our rebellion against God. Our broken world resembles our broken hearts and lives. And only God is the one who will redeem both. Not us, not Satan, not anyone else! We started living in harmony and in partnership with God. We end up living in harmony and partnership with God. And that is why I have titled this series, “Living Between the Trees.” Because the life we are now living, the years you now have are spent between creation and eternity. We are living between the tree of life that was in garden and the tree of life that will be in the eternal city where God Himself will shine His goodness and mercy on us.
So from the very beginning, God has been looking for people who will walk and talk with Him in a holy and honest manner. Jesus is our Savior, but He also demonstrates for us how to live and shows us what happens if you are ‘souled’ out to the Father. Jesus’ heart was dedicated to glorify, to honor, to live in harmony and fulfillment and partnership with God the Father. Jesus was ‘souled’ out to the Father. Do you live your life in harmony with what the Father has for you or have you set out on your own, trying to find your own way in this world?
You see, all of this depicts what is called the “scarlet ribbon of redemption.” God had in His mind from the very beginning what He wanted men and women to be. But they chose to go their own way, instead. God said, “I have to fix this and I will fix this and I will fix it for eternity, but in the meantime, you have to live between the trees and make your choice of who you want to follow and how you want to live.” All of life is about deciding, will we partner with God, or not? Will we chose to live with Him in harmony or will we chose to follow our corrupted desires of pride and arrogance and lust instead? God has a plan and we get to be part of it. We are significant because He cares about us, and for no other reason.
Your life, literally, at this point in time, is hanging by a thread over eternity. Will you chose it or will you chose to deny it and say, “I am not sure that is true. I am going to trust something else. Anything else but the truth.” Anything else but the truth is a lie. God asks us a direct question. “Do you want to have a relationship with me? I have planned life wonderfully. I will complete life wonderfully. I want to have a relationship with you and I have sent my Son that we can have that relationship together. Will you choose to have that relationship?” Your choice decides how you will spend eternity, with God or without Him. With God as He designed it or with Satan with the lies he has told you. It is your choice. It is your freedom of choice the same way Adam and Eve had freedom of choice. Make the right choice. Jesus is the answer. Your life is significant. He cared enough about you to come and die for you. He cares enough about you to provide the way of salvation.
Between the Trees: The Message of God
Turn to 2 Timothy chapter three. We are looking at God’s creation, at God’s plan through the ages, what God has done in the past, what God is going to do in the future. God has a plan and we are part of working out that plan today. The years we have on this earth are planned by God and are looking forward to something that is going to last forever. That is what we believe. That is our supposition. This is the truth of God’s Word. That is what we have found to be real and look forward to seeing that reality come to us in coming years. But not everybody in this world looks at it that way. In fact, Scripture is very clear in 2 Peter chapter 3 that some will say, “Ah, go away. That is just a pie-in-the-sky dream.” 2 Peter chapter 3, verse 3. “You must understand that in the last days,” (which is talking about today. This may not be the last day. It may be a month, it may be a year, may be ten years from now, but these are the last days.) “Scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, where is this coming that you Christians promised? Ever since our fathers died, from the very beginning of time, everything goes on as it has since the beginning. But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s Word the heaven’s existed.” Notice, they deliberately forget. They choose to forget that long ago by God’s Word the heavens existed and the earth was formed, that He is the former of it all. “And He formed it out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged was destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But don’t forget this one thing, dear friends. With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come and it will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”
In our world, even in our country with the freedom of speech that we have and the other freedoms we have, we are barraged with scoffers who say, “Everything has been the same for as long as we can look back in history, how can any of these things take place?” They cannot believe that anything would be different than it is now. What has started now, what is going on now is just a continuation of eons of past ages and will continue on in some form like this in eons in the future. For them there will be advancements and someday Star Trek will be real and we will roam the galaxies because we see how smart we are and how much we can do. Those are the scoffers and we are barraged by that daily. In fact, we are made to feel somewhat ignorant and old fashioned if we believe God created the heavens and the earth and there is going to be a judgment time. But God’s Word is very clear on these subjects.
Turn over to Romans chapter 12, verse two. Romans 12:2 talks about the purpose of this message and the purpose of this series we are doing. It is called “Between the Trees” and the focus on it is to change your way of thinking, to give you a new perspective on the days and the years you have on this earth, a new perspective on your life, a new perspective of what life is all about, a new perspective of where you came from and where you are going. It is not something that is reserved for somebody that looks like you in heaven sometime in the future. You have, Christ says, in the past tense, eternal life. It is something that is present in you now. And the things that you do, the things that you say have impact for eternity. And so to change our minds is what Paul is talking about to the Romans and which I am talking about to you now. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way that you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” Did you catch that? Do not copy or do not let the world squeeze you into its mold by the things it says, by the philosophy it has, by its definitions of life, the purposes of our existence, but rather let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do. Does that not sound good?
How many would like to know what God wants you to do? Do you not wish He would just send you a letter or spell it out step-by-step. I do not want to roam around trying to guess. "Lord, would you make it plain to me what you want me to do?” Well, number one, He has written you a whole book about what He wants you to do. Are you married? He wants you to stay married. He wants you to love your wife. He wants you to love your husband. He wants you to raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He wants you to obey your parents. He wants you to respect one another. He wants you to bear with and pray for one another. He has given you a whole list of things He wants you to do. And we say, “Well, Lord, what else do you want me to do? Is there anything else I can do instead?” No, it says “these things.” It is not a multiple choice question here. God says, “These are all things on your list that I have that will be a blessing to your life and I call upon you to live this way in your world. Then you will know what I want you to do and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect my will really is.”
I have been married for almost 34 years. You know, it has been really hard to live with Katie sometimes. You laugh at that. Would you laugh if I said it is really hard for Katie to live with me? See, you understand that. And even though it is hard, God commands me and commands her to get along, bear with, forgive each other. Exercise loving kindness to one another. Be patient with one another. Submit to one another. That is not just a command to the wife. It works both ways. It means “walk in step with. Learn to get along with each other.” Getting along with Katie has been the most rewarding thing in my life.
How good and pleasing is the will of God in your life? You might say, “Oh, I had to do some things I did not want to do.” But when you care about someone the rewards are well worth the effort--to have someone to share your heart and share your life with. When we do whatever we want without regard for the other person we destroy lives. My life would be destroyed. If I did that her life, my kids’ lives, all kinds of things would crumble around me. How good to know, how good and pleasing it is to do the will of the Lord because it protects us from ourselves. That is why He gives us these commands. They are good for us. Parents, the same way you give your kids good commands. “You need to eat these carrots, you need to clean up your room, you need to stop beating up your brother.” Why? Because you are mean? No, it is because we know it is good and pleasing for their lives. Your heavenly Father knows much better what you need and will also give you the strength and ability to exercise your will and choose His way.
We are talking about getting God’s perspective on our lives and seeing our lives through His eyes rather than the world’s eyes. Our lives are barraged by the world’s opinions and messages, more so than any other time in history, I believe. I spend a lot of time watching Discovery Channel and you hear time and time again, a hundred thousand years ago. Three billion years ago, billions and billions, all these things about how old life is and how big our galaxy is and basically the format ends up telling you: “You are insignificant in all of existence. You really do not matter much.” I have to tell you, that is not the picture God gives us of our lives. And when you start looking at the world through God’s eyes and take His truth as the truth of what life is really all about and who we are and how God has orchestrated this globe that we live on, it changes dramatically how we look at ourselves, at our family, at one another, at our neighbors, at our world, at our community and at eternity.
We have been looking at Genesis and Revelation and seeing from Genesis chapter two and Revelation chapter 22 there are extreme similarities because God finishes what He starts. God completes what He begins. He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, the first and the last and He has a plan for us. He created us on purpose. He created this whole galaxy, everything that we know as life and existence He created--on purpose. He created everything not simply for Himself, but He created everything with us in mind, as well. Now, that may sound like an arrogant statement but it is not. God made Saturn and Pluto and the Milky Way galaxy and the sun and the stars and goldfish and all these things for us. He built the world for us and said, “This is for you. It is yours to manage.” We are, if you will, the crown of His creation. Now, I look at me and say, I am insignificant compared to the planets and the stars and the sky.” I am insignificant compared to that in size, but not in worth. You know, you are worth more than any star in the galaxy. You are worth, to God, more than any galaxy. A galaxy, He can speak out in a whisper, in a moment, but you, you are a different story. He creates us and breathes life into us and gives us the freedom to choose to be partnered with Him. Galaxies have no choice. You are precious beyond measure to God because you can relate to Him in a special way that the rest of creation cannot.
It is not proud to take God at His word, or by His actions, that men and women are special to Him. The sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ gives us value to God. Before the foundations of the world the Lamb was slain (Revelation 13:8). From before the foundations of the world we were valuable to God.
Read excepts of a paper written by Forrest M. Mims III in The Citizen Scientist as he reports on someone who holds a radically different view:
"There is always something special about science meetings. The 109th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science at Lamar University in Beaumont on 3-5 March 2006 was especially exciting for me, because a student and his professor presented the results of a DNA study I suggested to them last year....
But there was a gravely disturbing side to that otherwise scientifically significant meeting, for I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola. The speech was given by Dr. Eric R. Pianka, the University of Texas evolutionary ecologist and lizard expert who the Academy named the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist....
One of Pianka's earliest points was a condemnation of anthropocentrism, or the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe. He told a story about how a neighbor asked him what good the lizards are that he studies. He answered, 'What good are you?'
Pianka hammered his point home by exclaiming, 'We're no better than bacteria.'
Pianka then began laying out his concerns about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth. He presented a doomsday scenario in which he claimed that the sharp increase in human population since the beginning of the industrial age is devastating the planet. He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore the planet before it's too late....
Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.
He then showed solutions for reducing the world's population in the form of a slide depicting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War and famine would not do, he explained. Instead, disease offered the most efficient and fastest way to kill the billions that must soon die if the population crisis is to be solved.
Pianka then displayed a slide showing rows of human skulls, one of which had red lights flashing from its eye sockets.
AIDS is not an efficient killer, he explained, because it is too slow. His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population is airborne Ebola ( Ebola Reston ), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However, Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal organs.
After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, 'We've got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that.'
With his slide of human skulls towering on the screen behind him, Professor Pianka was deadly serious. The audience that had been applauding some of his statements now sat silent.
After a dramatic pause, Pianka returned to politics and environmentalism. But he revisited his call for mass death when he reflected on the oil situation.
'And the fossil fuels are running out,' he said, 'so I think we may have to cut back to two billion, which would be about one-third as many people.' So the oil crisis alone may require eliminating two-third's of the world's population....
He spoke glowingly of the police state in China that enforces their one-child policy. He said, 'Smarter people have fewer kids.' He said those who don't have a conscience about the Earth will inherit the Earth, '...because those who care make fewer babies and those that didn't care made more babies.' He said we will evolve as uncaring people, and 'I think IQs are falling for the same reason, too.'
With this, the questioning was over. Immediately almost every scientist, professor and college student present stood to their feet and vigorously applauded the man who had enthusiastically endorsed the elimination of 90 percent of the human population. Some even cheered. Dozens then mobbed the professor at the lectern to extend greetings and ask questions. It was necessary to wait a while before I could get close enough to take some photographs....
Yet five hours later, the distinguished leaders of the Texas Academy of Science presented Pianka with a plaque in recognition of his being named 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist. When the banquet hall filled with more than 400 people responded with enthusiastic applause, I walked out in protest....
Let me now remove my reporter's hat for a moment and tell you what I think. We live in dangerous times. The national security of many countries is at risk. Science has become tainted by highly publicized cases of misconduct and fraud.
Must now we worry that a Pianka-worshipping former student might someday become a professional biologist or physician with access to the most deadly strains of viruses and bacteria? I believe that airborne Ebola is unlikely to threaten the world outside of Central Africa. But scientists have regenerated the 1918 Spanish flu virus that killed 50 million people. There is concern that small pox might someday return. And what other terrible plagues are waiting out there in the natural world to cross the species barrier and to which scientists will one day have access?
Meanwhile, I still can't get out of my mind the pleasant spring day in Texas when a few hundred scientists of the Texas Academy of Science gave a standing ovation for a speaker who they heard advocate for the slow and torturous death of over five billion human beings."
Do you recognize the godlessness of such a view? Atheistic evolution is a godless, soulless viewpoint, or dare I say, religion.
In eternity we will relate to Him with all our hearts. We will be His servants and we will be in His presence and we will reign with Him forever. We are not created to sit around and watch TV for eternity. That is not a definition of heaven. We are not created to sit around and play harps. We are going to praise Him, but not simply praise Him with singing. We are going to praise Him with our very lives, by our beings, by being what He created us to be and doing what He created us to do. The biggest praises my children give me is not what they say to me on Father’s Day or on my birthday. The biggest praises they can give me is by the way that they live, by what they do, by what they value, by what they care about. That is what praises a father most, having children that honor what you honor, that love what you love, that care about what you care about. Of course, sometimes, human fathers should not be praised or followed. Some are downright nasty and evil. It would not be wrong to tell your children that if as their father you ever tell them to do something bad, they have an obligation to follow God instead. We are not to follow our parents into drug addiction or alcoholism or theft or domestic violence, or a myriad of other behaviors that are wrong. Honoring your father and mother does not mean following them into sin. But with God, we can follow Him everywhere because He is good. In eternity we will praise Him because we will have harmony with Him and we will be focused on what He is focused on. We will know His righteousness and good character and will rest in His goodness.
Heaven will have people engaged in meaningful labor and partnership with God and in the middle of it all will be the tree of life. What God conceptualized in His mind will be completed in the end. What He starts, He finishes and this is all part of God’s plan. And everything that we know as life in this day and age, everything that we see, everything that we experience in life, everything we can fathom is all stretching from one tree to the other tree. It is this period I am calling “life between the trees.” We are living between the tree of life in the Garden of Eden and the tree of life in eternity. This time frame between is when we are choosing where we want to be. Do we want to partner with God or do we want to be independent from God? Will we choose Him? Will we accept His sacrifice that He has given us on the cross?
This time is characterized by what some have called “the scarlet ribbon of redemption.” God in this time period is about redeeming us, bringing us back to relationship with Him like He designed for us to have in the Garden. Bringing us back to a right relationship with Him. It is a time of redemption, a time of choice, a time of choosing to be restored and having a right relationship with Him so we can be with Him for all eternity.
How is this all going to shake out? God has a plan. Isn’t it interesting that civilized history seems to spring up right around the time of Noah’s ark? All of recorded history, from the Mayan people to the Chinese to the Sumerians to the Egyptians to the Aborigines down in Australia, all seem to spring up right around the time of Noah. We are told and it is described in Scripture how one son went south, one went north, one went west and until this last week I never heard any explanations of where the Chinese came from? It says where Japheth, Shem, and Ham went but where did the Chinese come from? There is one study that has been done that says there are some similarities that are found in the first dynasty of China in 2,500 B.C. with the man of Noah. It says in their legend that there was a man who knew the divine. What in the world does that mean? Now, we are going through all kinds of translations and stuff to get this, but it certainly can make sense. What God has done can fit with scientific research, with history, with geology, with geography, with populations.
I want you to consider what I am calling “the science of religion.” Many of the theories and doctrines that the field of science gives us are not strictly based on scientific discovery. They are based upon the interpretations of the observations and the pre-existing systems that are already in place. I say this because there are belief systems that contribute to the conclusions that scientists come up with. Atheistic evolution says that life was spawned and then developed by random chance. And it has to be random chance because their first assumption is that there is no God. They are looking for answers that do not include God. Now, I am not badmouthing science per se, but only those scientists who have determined before investigation that there is no God. What I am saying is that they have a belief system as well.
Either the world was created or the world was not created. Either it was created or it just happened. And since creation requires a God the only option they have is a godless progression based on luck and pure chance. They say that science has all the answers. But they refuse to see the evidence that points to the need for an organizing mind that has arranged all the 'fortuitous’ circumstances that has resulted in life on this planet. Science does a decent job of telling us how things work (investigation of what already exists) but it fails when it comes to the “whys”. In a rudimentary sense, science is and should be viewed as humankind studying and coming to understand the universe God has created. And in that discovery comes benefits and blessings that can be applied to our daily lives.
God does not want to leave us in that sense of fruitless purposelessness and a sense of “what is there in life?” that atheism (no God) and paganism (many false gods) bring. In Acts 14 it says it very clearly. “We have come to you to bring the good news that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God who made heaven and earth, who made the sea and everything in them. In earlier days he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but he never left himself without a witness. There were always his reminders such as sending you rain and good crops, giving you good food and joyful hearts.” If there is no purpose to your life, then there is no reason for you to be here. There is no reason for you to stay married or to raise your kids or to be nice to somebody else. It makes really no difference because there is nothing else, no way to measure, there is no judgment, no accountability. I do not like those kinds of conclusions. They are soul-deadening.
True science supports the scriptural account of a Creator. In other words, it is a reasonable and logical conclusion based on the facts that a Creator exists and is responsible for the vast universe we live in and the complicated planet we live on. There are scientific dilemmas that insiders debate daily. There are things that some scientists say go together but do not. One of the biggest is that there is no evidence for macro-evolution. There is a need for macro-evolution within the atheistic system but based just on the discoveries and facts made so far there is no evidence for it. Micro-evolution says within each creature there is a range of adaptive abilities that allow it to survive changing circumstances. Some rabbits have adapted to Florida weather and some have adapted to Alaskan weather and if either rabbit changed places rapidly it would most likely die. But if a pair did survive their offspring would develop the ability to survive in the new environment--the generations that followed would ‘adapt’ to the changing circumstances. But realize, they are still rabbits. It is not a matter of the rabbit becoming a reindeer. God created His creatures with the genetic ability to adapt to their environment, within a given range. We see evidence for that everywhere. They adapt according to the genes God put in them. But once a rabbit, always a rabbit. Once a monkey, always a monkey. Once a bird, always a bird.
What lacks evidence is macro-evolution. There are no missing links. The term “missing link” actually gives the wrong picture. There are missing chains. Missing chains! You see, there is not one hook between me and a chimpanzee. There is a great gulf. There are a lot of things that need to change. That is what I am saying. There is not a link that is missing. There is a whole chain that is missing. Macro-evolution exists as a theory because atheistic evolution needs for it to exist. It was not developed based on the evidence!
One of the last things I want to say. I have a burning candle in front of me. Does someone want to tell me how long that candle has been burning? When was that candle lit? You have no idea, do you? Most candles I have seen are about 12 inches long so based on how long it is now it has probably been burning for about an hour and a half. Umm, but there are so many more candles that are not 12 inches long. If you have made that assumption and made a reasoned calculation based on it you would be incorrect. You really have no idea because you have no idea how long that candle was when it started. In fact, you know enough about me that I am the kind of guy that would have six-foot candle just to throw you off or instead of having the candle there burning, would actually have an oxygen tank down below it so it would be burning pure oxygen that would be streaming up to it rather than burning the wax so it would burn forever--a different environment. Or that it is not really a candle at all. It is an oil candle which means the outside looks like wax but it is not. It is just a hollow tube that has a wick sticking out of it and hollowed down inside so it will not get any shorter. Until you investigate and get all the facts you cannot know the truth of this matter. If we base conclusions on faulty assumptions then our conclusions will be false. It is the same with Carbon-14 dating. There are assumptions that have to be made. That comes out of the idea that everything is as it always was. Everything in all of history. But is that true? Science has discovered that catastrophes and upheavals have characterized the earth. The usefulness of Carbon-14 dating and other methods of setting long-term dates are untrustworthy. We were not there to measure the rocks or item in question when it was created so we cannot determine with certainty how old it is or how long it has been decaying. Many of these issues are open to further investigation. The Christian faith based on a Creator God Who sent His Only Begotten Son to redeem sinners back to Himself still endures and can be rested in unlike the changing discoveries and conclusions of science.
The bottom line of all this is that you are important to God. You have a time frame that He wants you to use for impact as part of your eternal life. Your life with God starts now and He wants to partner with you now. He has given us a real perspective on life and He is taking us somewhere. Make sure, number one, you have that right relationship with Him. You have accepted Christ as your Savior as part of that redemptive process because that is the number one thing to do and then secondly, the life that you now live, you live in Christ which means you have your life transformed according to His priorities. Paul said, “The life I now live I live in Christ who lives in me.” Can you say the same thing?
Between the Trees: What Does it Mean Now
What does all this stuff mean for us? What does eternity past and eternity future have to do with my life this week when I am going to work, when I am in class with classmates, when I am having struggles in my marriage, when I am tempted, when I am tried? What difference does this make in my life? What does it mean?
We started off looking at Genesis 2. God intended for us to have a right relationship with Him, to live in harmony and fellowship with Him, but we know the story. Adam and Eve decided not to walk with God, the same decision that we would have made had we been there. Because the same way in which they fell, we fall ourselves. In 1 John it says it a different way. It talks about there being three different types of temptation. Remember when Satan talked to Eve, it says she saw the fruit was appealing to the eye, that it was good for food, and it would make her wise like God. She saw that it was appealing to the eye and said, "I want that.” Are there things in your life that you see and say, “I want that.” And something in your mind that says, “That is going to make me happy” even though God says it is not good for you. You may enjoy it for a while, but it is not going to satisfy your life. We also see the lust of the flesh when she saw it was good for food. But not everything that looks good is good for us. Not everything that we want is healthy for us. Things may be legal, but they may not be beneficial for us. And the third part of that sin was the pride of life. The serpent promised that it would make her wise like God contrary to the ways God already promised to make her wise. That she would be able to say, "I do not have to respond to God’s authority over my life.” Basically she is telling God, “You are not the boss of me. This is my choice. I get to make this choice.”
Anybody been around two year olds lately? I remember doing children’s church in California. I remember like it was yesterday. One kid stood up in class while I was trying to get them to sit down and do the things they were supposed to do and he screams at the top of his lungs, “You’re not the boss of me!” I was thinking, “Well, your mom and dad say I am,” but there was no arguing with the kid so I showed him who was boss. But those words by that young boy shows us that there is something in all of us that does not want to submit to someone else’s authority. That word “submit” is laden with just an undergirding of resentment, is it not? To be accountable to someone else. To have to live up to and follow through on something when we do not want to. But I tell you, all the things that God has said for us to be accountable to are good for us. The commands of God, the directives of God are for our health and well-being. It is for our good that He gives us these things. It is for the development of goodness in us that He gives us these things.
Let me give you an illustration. Do you find yourself doing things that are wrong just because you want to? You can fill in the blanks, but you find yourself doing things that you know are wrong, having wrong priorities in your life, using your time or your resources in wrong ways because it is going to feel good. Do you not wish that somehow God would turn a switch in your mind to help you understand that what you are doing is not simply wrong but it is stupid? You know it may feel good for now, but it is not going to be good long term. If I get away with it, with my wife or with my boss or with my parents, I am not getting away with it with me or God. What you do in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. Whether your wife or husband or parents find out about it or not, you know about it and it defines who you are in your sight and also in God’s sight. Do you not wish that God would just turn on a switch to let you know that, and that you would have the ability to say “no” with a smile? You would say “no, I am not going to do that” and feel good about it and not have to wrestle with it.
Right now most of you reading this are probably dry. You have not wet your pants. Now if I make you sit long enough that may become more of a challenge, but right now you have learned how to control your bladder and you do not think that is any big thing. I learned as a child that when I wet my pants it is embarrassing, yucky. I decided I did not want to do that. You may not even remember how old you were when you decided you did not want to do that. You may have been four years old when you said, “I do not want to do that anymore. I want to be a big boy. I want to grow up. I do not want to have to wear a diaper. I do not want to walk around with wet pants.” Now, that seems kind of trivial. But see, God, I believe, is going to give us the wisdom and ability to see all the other things that we choose to do that are rebellion against Him that are not for our best, the things that He defines for us as silly as wetting our pants. I am not going to cheat on my wife. That is just going to mess up everything. That is not even a temptation for me because that is going to destroy my whole life as well as my character. I am not going to do that, as simply as I choose not to wet my pants.
Will it not be good when we will not have to wrestle with our sin nature? You will not have to wrestle with jealousy over other women or envy or all those kinds of things or wishing you had a faster car or better clothes or just make up the list however you want it. Will it not be nice to be rid of all that? And that is what God is going to do for us when He changes us at the transformation. But we have to give Him permission by saying, “Lord, I want to be conformed to your image. I want to have your strength in me to say “no” so that those things are not even temptation for me anymore.” That is eternity future. Right now we still wrestle with those things and right now God wants us to know that we all will always wrestle with those things until we get to that point and the only hope we have of getting to that point of being right with God and being able to be there, is the cross of Jesus Christ. Except for the cross of Christ, we are all condemned and ostracized from God.
Do you ever think, “Would it not be great if God would just do such and such and then we would know that He is really there? If He just showed Himself in a miraculous way. If only I was there are the parting of the Red Sea, then I would know and I would not have to have faith anymore. I would know.” But consider Abraham. Abraham was called a “friend of God.” He had a personal relationship with Him and yet Abraham rebelled against God. During Moses’ day, God said, “Let me lay it down very clear for you. I will make some rules. I will make some very simple rules. I will give you ten of them and I will let you know they are important. I will make it vitally clear.” So even with guidance there was still rebellion. Even with those rules, man displayed his rebellion against God.
Later we see David. David, after faithfulness during a lot of trials was described as a man after God’s own heart. God loves those who have hearts that are tuned to His and David had a heart that was tuned to Him. But even so, when he was about 55, 60 years old, when he was really smart and should really have it all together, with experience to know what is worthwhile and what is not worthwhile in life, took the worst tumble of his life. With the lust of the eye, he sees a naked Bathsheba taking what she thought was a private bath and calls for her to visit him at the palace. There, in that palace, he commits adultery with her. “I am bored and I want her” ruled his thinking. “I am the king. I can have whom I want. Besides, who will find out.” No matter what God has done, man’s heart has rebelled against it.
Even though Jesus, God in flesh, walked with mankind, they still rebelled against Him. And then we go a little farther, 400, 500 years after Christ we have God’s Word written down for us so that we can really understand the whole plan of God and turn and look at and dwell on and really understand it and get directions for living and Paul’s exhortations and the promise of what is going to happen in the future. We have it written down. But we still find ourselves rebelling against Him. No matter what, the only way is God’s grace and God’s mercy in sending His Son. And that is the core of God’s provision for us.
Now look at Revelation and see how it says it. Revelation 22, verse one says, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life as clear as the crystal river flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.” I want you to focus on that last word. “Flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Suddenly the Lamb appears. The Lamb is Jesus Christ. We know from Colossians that He was before all things and was there with God the Father creating all things. It was God in Christ creating this world. It was by His mighty hand that all things were created. But here it defines Him not only as the Creator, but as the Lamb, the sacrifice, the Savior of our world. “And down the middle of the great street of the city on each side of the river stood the tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit [meaning more than we can ever want, plenty], yielding its fruit every month and the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.” Nations are finally going to get along. I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but I know because I have read the Book, there is not going to be peace until the New Jerusalem comes. The Palestinians and Israelis will never get along for long term. And so I will pray for individuals, pray for the moms, pray for the fathers, pray for the kids who are losing family members. We are looking at the individuals because nation is going to rise up against nation, repeatedly. But then there will be peace among the nations. No longer will there be a curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in that city. And His servants will serve Him. There will be partnership with God in what God wants done in the world.
According to God’s plan, there will be partnership with Him. “And they will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads.” Again, harmony with God. Four significant things are given for us in these verses--the river, the harmony, meaningful activity and partnership with God, and the tree. And the question is, What do those things mean to us now? What is the significance of those things in our lives? These things come together for us in terms of what we are about while we are living here and the river signifies God’s source of strength and life for us, His provision for us, that He gives us everything we need for life and godliness, for living and for dwelling on this earth. He provides for us. The very ability to enjoy what we have comes from Him.
Secondly, the harmony represents our peace with Him. We are to live in peace with one another. Micah 6:8 makes it very clear. “He has shown you what God requires of you. He requires of you to live justly, love mercy, and live humbly with your God.” That means simply to do the right thing. God makes it pretty simple. Do the right thing. It is going to be better for you. It is good to treat others well. Secondly, to love mercy because there are going to be people all around you who do not live justly and are going to hurt you. People can hurt you not just physically, financially or relationally, but you can also let them hurt you emotionally and spiritually when you harbor bitterness and resentment against them. God says to live justly, but also to love mercy because if you do not, they will make you into bitter, resentful people that are not godly. As Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, forgive my sins as I forgive those who sin against me.” And finally we are to walk humbly with our God. "To live justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with God." It is not a long list of do’s and don’ts but it is profound in its simplicity.
Thirdly, God calls us to be in active partnership with Him. I want you to look a little farther down in Revelation, down to verse 17. Because God gives us something very specific for us to partner with in Him in this passage. Verse 17 says: “The spirit and the bride say ‘come'." It is an invitation. It is a welcoming. The spirit and the bride say “come.” The spirit refers to the Holy Spirit who wants to draw all mankind to God. God says, “I am here for you. Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden. Come and let me give you rest. I care about your life. I want you to know that I am with you through all the things going on.” But you recognize it says not just the spirit saying come. Who else says come? Is this one of the beasts or something? Who is the bride? The bride is the church of Christ. Remember in Ephesians 5 where it talks about us and gives instructions. “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. To present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless.” We are the bride of Christ. Now, what does that mean? What is your wife? Why did God give you a wife? As a life partner? As a helpmeet? Someone to work together with? Someone to live together with? Someone to share life with? And Christ is saying, "I want to share my life with you. I want to partner with you in this life. I want to be your life partner. I want to partner with you, with your hearts and your lives. I want to work together in everything that needs to be done.” So it says, “The spirit and the bride say, ‘come'." We are to be inviting, welcoming people into the family of God saying, “Come. Come to Jesus. Come to life.” And it is not to make “church people” but to make children of the kingdom. It is to make Christians. It is to help them know who Jesus is and to walk with Him.
Trinity Evangelical Free Church is not God’s kingdom. God’s church is much bigger than the fellowship of believers here. But we are all part of His bride, an essential part as we join together. God wants to partner with us in reaching Eustis, Tavares, Mt. Dora. He wants to be involved with us. Us as individuals and us together because look what it says in the next verse. “The spirit and the bride say, 'come'. And let him who hears say 'come'." Those who hear this Revelation message, God invites you to say “come” to somebody else so that he or she can understand who God is and His plan for his or her life. You want to see them have the truth so that they can govern their own lives with God and His ways in mind. And that they can escape the eternal damnation that awaits all who are opposed to God--the unforgiven.
I was having lunch with somebody recently and they were talking with the waitress and the waitress was kind of down in the dumps about some stuff going on in her life. Her mother was very sick and did not know whether she should put her in a rest home or not. The mom wanted to stay where she was but can not care for herself. The decision was just tearing her up. And then the fights with the brothers and sisters who have different opinions. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about because you have gone through or are going through it. And this guy at lunch said, “Well, can I pray for you?” And this lady said, “Yeah.” She wants all the help she can get. And right there in a restaurant prayed a two to three minute prayer. “Lord, help her to have the strength and understanding. Lord, give her some peace. Give her some wisdom. Show the road that she should be taking on this. Help her to get along and communicate this effectively with her brothers and sisters. And Lord, be with that mom and help her through this time, too.” And that girl’s spirit was tremendously lifted. That was basically saying, “Come. Come on to God. God has hope. God has help for you. Let me show you. Let me tell you about it. I will tell you about it as I am talking with God about it.” And then this guy had the audacity to say, “By the way, do you go to church anywhere? You ought to come on over to Trinity.” Not that we are simply trying to build a kingdom here, but he knows what is going on here and he thinks God is here and thinks God has some real help for her here. That is good. That is the body of Christ. That is individuals saying, “Come.” And it can happen in a restaurant with a waitress. It can happen with a schoolmate at school. It can happen with another parent talking over the back fence who does not know what to do about her teenager with the things that they are thinking about and do not know how to deal with it. Can I pray for you? Very simple. Partnership with God. And it is not inviting them simply to come to church but inviting them to come to God. God is here, but also God is with you right there wherever you are.
Then fourthly, we see a tree. What is the purpose of the tree? The tree is to remind us of God’s purpose, what He started in the beginning. The tree of life represents His sustenance of our continuing life. He breathed life into Adam and then gave him the tree of life to help sustain his physical life. The tree seen in Revelation will do the very same thing. Not only will it sustain us but it will be a continual reminder that He loves and provides for us. That we can rest in His provision. We do not have to fight over available resources or horde them out of greed or fear.
Look what it says back up in verse 12. “Behold, I am coming soon and my reward is with me and I will give to every one according to what he has done.” There is accountability. "I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Christ is saying, "I have been there at the start. I will be there at the end. What I started, I will finish. “Blessed are those who wash their robes that they may have right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” Blessed are those, happy are those. God has provided the way to be clean and as Timothy says, “It is not because of our righteousness but the mercy he has given us through the washing and rebirth of the Holy Spirit.” Through that provision, not through our own effort or merit.
But then on the other side, verse 15, outside are the ‘dogs’. "Dogs," sounds king of harsh, does it not? But according to the damage they do, it is not. Let us go on. “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolators, and everyone who practices falsehood.” When it talks about dogs, it talks about those who live like animals with no moral compass, no moral conscience, just do what they feel like doing, following their emotions and hormones, following their fallen, sinful instincts rather than doing what God has instructed for them to do. Outside are those who do not understand God’s purpose, who just live for the moment and do not consider a judgment before God in the future. And God says, “In the same way, you were like them until you received Christ as your personal Savior.” In the same way we were like them, so we are not to get high and mighty and say, “Well, we are so much smarter and better,” but recognize that God has saved us by His grace.
We must know that we are accountable for the way in which we live. We started off in a beautiful place. We will end in a beautiful place. God has given us provision to end up with Him in that golden city. Make sure that you live in that light. Live in His provision each day. Live in His peace, partner with Him and walk according to His purpose and understanding.