Still believing the lie
The early chapters of the creation account within Genesis testify of Elohim and the life-producing power of His very words. Further along in the story, we reach the creation of mankind and the subsequent “fall of mankind” in chapter 3. Lucifer, disguised as a beguiling serpent, deceives Eve to believe that she is missing out on some “special knowledge” which eating from this tree, namely, the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”, which God command that they should not eat, could provide. She caves as well as her husband, and the rest is certainly history from there.
Now for those who still perpetuate the blame game first modeled by the Eden pair, with statements such as “boy, do I sure have a mouthful for Eve when I get to heaven” (why don’t we ever blame Satan?), I would dare to say a good majority within the Seventh-day Adventist church are still believing the same lie and eating the same fruit, just in a different manner. “Your eyes will be opened, and you shall be like gods, knowing both good and evil.” I really do not have the time to break down all of the issues within that satanic statement, but quite covertly, Satan seems to make being like God based off of how much you know. And we, influenced by our doctrinally-devoted heritage, inspired by our information-driven society, and instructed by our knowledge-based approach to the Bible, believe him.
It can be said that our denomination often mistakes the Bible for a “how-to guide to holiness”, rather than what it truly is, a love letter guiding us to the heart of God. Such a perspective views the Word as being no more relational than a State Driver’s license manual or the owner’s guidebook that came with your mini-fridge! In fact, the widely accepted acronym for the Bible, “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”, clearly demonstrates this. We have become accustomed to viewing spiritual things conceptually or primarily as an intellectual pursuit. And if we can just know enough, if we get the right knowledge, we can be “like God”.
A knowledge of “good and evil”
A lot of our preaching and teaching, therefore, reflects this by offering a “knowledge of good and evil”. It merely tells of what is good and what is bad. For example, God is good or “the law” is good or the “health message” is good or the Sabbath is good. And sin is bad and Satan is bad and smoking is bad and “shacking up” is bad, and ultimately all of that stuff is true. There is nothing false about those statements, but they are often left untied to a *relational understanding* of God and His covenant with the human race. Then, based off of this information, a lot of sermons then go on to offer the “do’s and don’ts” of Christianity. Thus the old adage “if you know better, you do better” could be the banner under which a lot of our ministry takes place. We look for a change in behavior, we want to see manifestations that someone is actually a Christian. We are a “results-oriented” people. Now again, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this when emphasized properly. The life of the Christian should show results, however, often we have emphasized results over relationship. We have emphasized progress and production over Person (Christ).
This approach would diagnose the primary problem of mankind as a moral one. In other words, this perspective states that the greatest issue for the human race is one of behavior and all we need to do is modify or change or fix that behavior and everything will be good. This would be defined by some as “moralism”. So knowledge of what’s good and evil tells us the “what” of Christianity, and the “dos and don’ts”, tell us the “how”. This predominantly logical/moralistic approach is what I believe the average Adventist receives on any given Sabbath morning.
However, here is the issue with such an approach, the primary problem of mankind is not a moral one. Our most pressing issue is not one of knowing or thinking aright. It is not an intellectual problem. It is also not primarily a behavioral problem that a list of rules can be used to fix. Our primary problem is that we are DEAD! Of course not physically, but dead with regards to our reception and response to the Christ, to His Gospel, and to spiritual things.
The Gospel first finds us dead in sins, not just being on the wrong side of an argument! From the very beginning, God told Adam and Eve they would die the day they ate of the tree. Paul says in many places that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. The ministry of Christ would be incomplete without His death and His victory over death manifested in His resurrection! The second death is what He came to save us from. The Gospel is not first and foremost about a God who came to uniformed people and gave them information.
So then, if our primary problem is death, why is it that a lot of churches and denominations and sermons only offer us a “knowledge of good and evil” when what we really need is the “Tree of Life”!? Why do we keep giving people facts, knowledge, and information thinking that it will give them Life!? It cannot! It will not! To quote the author Tullian Tchvidijan in his book Jesus + Nothing = Everything, “Christ did not come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people alive.” The Gospel speaks of a Risen Savior who has made us alive with Him through His death on the cross!
Life is Christ
Well then, what is Life? Christ clearly states in John 14 that He Himself is Life! Therefore, we know that Life is more than just existence, blood flowing through the veins or air passing through the lungs, but truly experiencing Christ, a living Person, and having an intimate relationship with Him. Enjoying *divine union* and fellowship with Him. Being daily secured and assured in His unconditional love and acceptance! Resting in this relationship built on trust and confidence in Him, despite the circumstances! Such divine union is no doubt characterized by an illuminated understanding of God and spiritual things, invigorating and enlivening our obedience, not just our willpower on steroids.
Do not hear me saying that there is no room for doctrine or information in the church, there is. Do not also hear me saying that the life of the Christian shouldn’t be characterized by relational obedience, it should. But to primarily prescribe these as the solution to humanity’s problem, never! A relationship with Christ, trusting His heart when unable to trace His hand, is the oasis of the Christian life.
Therefore, our worship experiences and Bible studies and sermons and AY’s and service opportunities and discipleship models and evangelistic methods must offer Life and not just a “knowledge of good and evil” because one is Christ and the other is just knowledge about Him. One is transformation and the other is just information. One has power and the other is dead and weak and lifeless. We must therefore preach Life, not knowledge! Live Life, not facts!
(Gen. 3, John 3:3-17, 6:53-58,63, 14:6, Eph. 2:1,5, Col. 2:13)