True Freedom

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17)

Adam and Eve were created totally free. I believe that for too long we have missed that point because of the lies passed down generationally that have been infused into the human psyche by their choice to exchange freedom for a bunch of empty promises by the great exploiter. But in truth our first parents had no restrictions whatsoever limiting their freedom up to that point.

Of course the question instantly arises, “Didn't God restrict their freedom or at least inhibit it when He threatened that if they ate of that one forbidden tree that they were certain to die?” This seems like a legitimate question on the surface, but upon closer examination it is seen as based on faulty assumptions and misunderstanding of true freedom.

Embedded within this question are seeds of doubt that can produce the fruit of rebellion within our own hearts. In truth God's warning to Adam in no way was a restriction of freedom. And more important to note, His warning was in no way whatsoever a threat as so many have incorrectly assumed. As long as we allow ourselves to believe that the death God was warning them about in any way was going to be initiated by Him, we fall into the very same trap of deception that caused our first parents to plunge the entire human race into abject slavery to the great abuser.

God in no way was threatening our first parents when He warned them of the dire consequences of choosing a different source of life through an alternative way of living. Far from it, God in His warning was doing everything possible within the parameters of freedom to preserve their current state of complete freedom and happiness. As long as they continued to live in simple trust in their Father's heart and remained in harmony with the principles of life which undergirded the smooth operation of all creation, they were secure from being exploited by their cunning enemy. The warning was for their protection, not to restrict their freedom. God alerted Adam that He had provided everything they needed and extravagantly more, but there was another being not far away who did not have their best interest in mind but who was waiting in stealth to steal everything they had been entrusted with and, if given opportunity, would go so far as to even kill them.

(As an aside, it was the warning of sure death from embracing another option other than the only source of life that was at last fully demonstrated publicly in the death of God's own Son. God's warning to Adam and Eve was exhibited by God Himself on the cross as the sins of all humanity were allowed to crush out His human life. He did this in order to reveal to the watching universe the payment that sin will inflict on its victims so that all would be motivated to choose to trust in God instead of placing their trust in Satan's lies.)

How seldom do we view the warnings of God as a protection for our freedoms. Because we have lived all our life in a world permeated with false assumptions about God as being the source of our problems and a threat to rob us of happiness, we often view the words of God with presuppositions that He is the one we need to be afraid of and who is the threat that must be avoided or appeased.

It was this inversion of how we perceive God's heart toward us that plunged the entire human race into darkness about what is really going on. And this darkness has not yet lifted from our own hearts even though we like to claim that we walk in the light today. This is true because as long as we harbor any notion that the threat of death for sinning will be imposed on the lost by an offended God, we still cling to at least some of the lies that caused wickedness in the first place and this endangers our own souls.

It is not bad behavior that brings us under the curse of sin, contrary to the nearly universal belief of all who live on this planet. Wrong behavior is merely a symptom of the real problem hidden deep inside. Rather the true problem of sin is in the infection of mind and heart brought about by the lies about God's attitude towards us; that is what keeps us in darkness.

Clinging to these lies under a canopy of religion only renders them more diabolical and insidious, which means many of us are in far greater danger of remaining deceived than many who have openly rejected God altogether. The open atheist and unbeliever are quite often more honest in their reaction to lying reports about God than are the highly religious, for at least they think sensibly enough to see that what they have been heard about God is inconsistent with the principles of life and truth they know intuitively, and they cannot bring themselves to embrace such nonsense.

"But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you." (Matthew 21:28-31)

I am beginning to realize that those we often label as open sinners or godless atheists may in fact be closer to the kingdom of God than are many of us who are immersed in religion. Religion has become one of the most potent methods of the enemy to deceive us about God, for religion using the name of God too often accomplishes the very same work that the serpent did with Eve.

Someone recently pointed out that what we find happening in this encounter between Eve and the serpent in the garden was the conducting of the very first seminary. There we find the first exegesis on God and a teaching experience about theology which in turn produced the first sermon appeal ever given – delivered by Eve to her husband. (But lest we jump to evil surmising and assume this is further proof that women should be subjected into inferior positions within the church, remember that it was Adam who was given the original explicit instructions about the tree before Eve had even come into existence. Therefore Adam was really the one who bore the greatest responsibility of guilt for both their choices because he chose to sin with a clear understanding of what was going on while Eve had been exploited through deception and seduction.)

What is striking about this discourse with a snake is something often overlooked when we read this story. But let me try to bring it out with an illustration.

A number of years ago I went home to visit with my dad and stepmother. Since this was my stepmother that my dad had married when I was around 16 after I had been gone from home for several years, she did not know me that well.

My relationship with my dad at that time was not the most congenial, though we could get along superficially most of the time. But there were things about me that troubled them, like the length of my hair, my having a beard and other things that just didn't fit their preferences. An incident happened one day that I found extremely unusual and made me feel very awkward.

My parents and I were sitting around their dining room table and the conversation turned to some of the things they viewed as faults of mine. But this time instead of looking at me or speaking directly to me, they began discussing me with each other while acting as if I were not anywhere around. I'm not sure I had ever experienced something like this before, and I didn't know quite how to react. Here I was, sitting right in front of two people talking to each other about me all the while pretending that I didn't hear or was not even present.

Transfer that awkward situation to what happened in the garden long ago, for Eve was having a conversation with a snake about God while acting as if God was nowhere around and could not hear the discussion. But that is really quite strange, for He was right there and present all the time. Even though unseen, God was not far off in heaven but was present everywhere with complete awareness of anything and everything being said. Yet Eve seemed to forget that God was available in real time, so instead of taking the disturbing, insinuating assertions of this strange intruder who was challenging the words of God and turning them over immediately to God who was quite available to participate in the discussion, she presumed to try to handle the conversation on her own. Of course the results were worse than tragic, but it all could have come out very differently if she, or even Adam, would have chosen to bring God into the conversation.

How many times do we attempt to defend God without letting Him become directly involved in the conversation? Do we fall into the same trap of thinking that we know enough about God to speak on His behalf without first checking with Him before offering our opinion? We might learn a vitally important lesson from this tragic encounter of Eve that it is never safe to dialog with God's enemies without first allowing Him to have the first word. This is why Jesus told us He was making His Spirit available to us – for the express purpose of letting God take the lead in revealing the truth about Himself instead of leaving it up to us. It didn't work with Eve and it will never work with any of us. Only as we learn to be totally dependent on God's Spirit and simply make ourselves an available channel of His grace can we see victories that would otherwise turn into catastrophes.

One of the most important issues that must not be missed in this story is identifying correctly the real source of the threat that God had warned them about. What was the real reason for their loss of freedom? Was the curse that subsequently fell on the world an artificial imposition of punishment by God for disobeying His command? Or is the deeper truth behind this story related to a natural principle that was violated? By abusing their freedom and choosing to embrace lies about their Creator, both Adam and Eve voluntarily forfeited their dominion over everything they had been given with the entire planet, to a sinister con artist who immediately kidnapped their minds and bound them as his slaves, stripping them of all their privileges and freedoms. Except for the intervening grace of God our first parents would have seen their last day of existence that very day.

For too long we have assumed that it was God who stripped away their freedom and imposed punishments against that first couple for disobeying His explicit command. But this mistaken notion about the cause of the curses is simply part of the confusion that we continue to have as a result of the obscuring of the face of God in our minds. Because we still have not been restored to a true knowledge of God and the real light of truth about Him that was lost there in the garden, we continue to parrot false assertions about Him received from the great deceiver, that sinister abuser who seduced us into thinking that God is our obstacle to freedom, not sin.

Until we move beyond our simplistic definitions of sin as just breaking rules, we can never mature enough to see the more sinister nature of how sin itself is the actual threat to us rather than God. As long as we insist on defining sin primarily as broken rules requiring punishment, we will agree with the great accuser who was the first to trot out this argument.

In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice. When men broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven. Because he, after his rebellion, had been banished from heaven, Satan claimed that the human race must be forever shut out from God's favor. God could not be just, he urged, and yet show mercy to the sinner. {DA 761-2}

This paragraph not only reveals that punishment for sin was Satan's idea originally, but it also exposes where our mistaken assumptions about justice came from. The idea that justice is defined in terms of rewards and/or punishments is all wrapped up in the symbology of the tree from which our first parents ate and became enslaved to fear, losing a correct view of God. True justice is not about punishing people for wrongs committed but rather with restoring things back to their proper function and design. This is what is called restorative justice as opposed to the counterfeit version so widely embraced today called punitive justice.

Something else is seen here that is important to note. It is very easy to get drawn into the trap of denying obviously false information while missing a subtle assumption. By masking an insinuating lie with an obvious one, the enemy gets us to buy into a hidden assumption and thus catches us with his subtle logic just by engaging in the discussion. This is the technique that the serpent successfully employed with Eve. In our case the subtle assumption we buy into is that God must inflict punishment for every sin committed. This is one of the most tenacious assertions of the enemy that has become one of the most fundamental assumptions of nearly every religion on earth including Christianity. This supplanting definition of justice so widely accepted is seen in the above quotation where Satan insists that to be just God must punish the disobedient.

This diversionary tactic is one of the most subtle skills of the enemy, for by putting forward an obvious untruth to instantly rivet our attention, a most subtle insinuation can be embedded within it that we completely overlook. This is the primary technique used by magicians, to draw our attention in one direction while we miss what is happening somewhere else. Yet it is in the subtle insinuation where the poison lies, for in seeking to refute the blatant lie we inadvertently embrace the hidden logic that was obscured by the diversion.

Notice this technique in the words of the serpent to Eve. There is the obvious lie that is designed to focus her attention and get her to engage with him. But the subtle insinuation is filled with all sorts of implications about a God who is not trustworthy, the real poison hidden within the question.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1)

Crafty is almost an extreme understatement. Humans are no match for the extremely superb skills of the most brilliant brain ever created. This is exactly why God did not provide Adam and Eve with all the information and arguments to refute the logic of the enemy. God knew that they were not prepared to face off with the most devious mind in the universe, so to retain their happiness and freedom and even their lives, God simply warned them to stay away from interacting in any way with the enemy. And to help protect their freedom He restricted access of the tempter to only one spot in the entire world. At the same time this provided them freedom to choose whether or not they would be loyal to their heavenly family or whether they would reject their Creator in favor of another master.

Without the freedom to be disloyal there is no real freedom at all. But likewise, without freedom from threats by God of reprisals for turning away from Him, there would still be no real freedom.

God's warning to them should in no way be construed to imply that the resulting evil and death would be initiated by God Himself. To imply that or even infer it is to support the lies of the evil one and to continue to promote dark views of how God feels toward us.

Paul later explicitly spelled out the origin of death, yet we still seem to miss the point.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

This is an exact parallel to what we find happening in the Garden of Eden. There is seen two options, one called a Tree of Life which parallels Paul's reference to the gift of God, and the other the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that represents the entire competing system of reward, punishment and judgment between the two as invented by God's enemy. When you place these two passages side by side it becomes clear that death comes only from sin which comes from the tree of knowledge/judgment, not from the other tree. (Knowing good and evil results in condemnation, not from God from from internal dissonance.)

It is never God who takes away our freedom but rather God's enemy who robs us of the truth about God, thus incapacitating us from being able to trust Him with our heart. As long as we hold to God's unaffected love and His complete absence of any threats to enforce our obedience, we can enjoy the freedom of living in the light of eternal life. But when we are infected with lies about God's attitude towards sinners and think there must be a mixture of fear along with enticements of rewards to get us to obey Him, we are still indulging from the tree that brings death and remain unfitted to live in the intense presence of pure Life alone.

In summary, God's warning to Adam was simply an alert as to how to remain completely free and in joyful intimacy with their Creator. As long as we believe that the death warned about by God was in no way threatened to originate from Him, we too can live in true freedom and begin to know His rest.

We are living in the last days of the battle involving lies about God, and there is a fresh explosion of light as the real truth about God lost in Eden is about to engulf our entire planet. After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory. (Revelation 18:1) I have come to believe that this glory that will illuminate our entire planet is the breaking open of the truth about the singularity of God's character of love in sharp contrast to the many deceptive opinions about God promoted by religion.

The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them. {COL 415}

I am set free to follow God's ways and live in harmony with His methods when I am born again – a restoration recovering me from the death my first parents brought into this world.

I am also free to continue to believe lies about God and reject the glory of the truth about Him that is beginning to flood this world in our day. But like what happened to Eve and then Adam, if I exercise my freedom by embracing lies about God instead of trusting His love, I vacate the very freedom provided to me at such enormous cost by the Son of God on the cross.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)


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