God So Loved The World That He
PLANTED TWO TREES IN THE EARTH
Darlene Davis ©
“Which love is the greater one we can receive: that which is forced upon us or that which we give by free-will choice?” This is the question I found myself asking people over and over during a mission project. Without exception the answer was always the same, “That which is freely given by choice.” So why did I ask that question? Because I had a message to share.
Some time ago, while reading Genesis one, I noticed something I never noticed before and it solidified my understanding of Christ and Him crucified. Reading through Genesis one, I began underlining every instance in which God looked with approval on His work. At the end of each day’s work, scripture records that God surveyed all He did that day and He “saw that it was good.” All, that is, except for one day.
As I marked each occurrence, it suddenly dawned on me that God proclaimed the work in each day “good” except for that of day two. Looking back at day two, I asked, “Lord, why did You proclaim each day’s work good except for that one.”
Reviewing the passage, “Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day” (:6-8).
Meditating on that in light of my question, I recognize that water is water. Whether it is in the form of mist, steam, ice or liquid, it is all H2O. All water is alike.
My thoughts turned to verse 26 of Genesis 1, where, when God created humans, He said, “Let Us make man (humankind) in Our image, according to Our likeness….male and female, created He them.” Throughout scripture we find that God desires an intimate relationship with the people of His creation, people He created to be like Himself.
Thinking on these things, I looked back to creation-day one. There God calls only the light good. I realized that God did not say that the expanse separating the like waters was good because of sadness. God knew from day one that the darkness of sin would enter the world to separate Him from the beings He created for the purpose of relationship.
So I asked God, “All of this being true, Lord, why did You put that tree in the midst of the Garden?”
With that question, understanding flooded my soul, and I personally realized for the first time something I’d heard many times but had never seen it in scripture myself until that instant. Jesus was never plan B, He was always plan A.
The first tree
We are told in 1 John that God is love. That is His very nature. Love is useless without someone on which to pour out that love. And a love not returned is sad. The thing I have come to understand is that God placed that tree in the center of the Garden with a command to not eat of it, not to be mean, but to set in place the plans leading to the fulfillment of His ultimate purpose: creating living beings like Himself who love Him by choice as He loves them.
Now, we are also told in the book of James that God does not tempt us to evil. That being true, why would He place that tree there where Satan could use it to tempt His loved ones away?
I believe His purpose in placing that tree in the midst of His people where it could be used by Satan was to give His loved ones a choice. Remember, a love by choice is always better than that which is by force. Deuteronomy records that our choice is life or death, good or evil, the blessing or the curse. As I think on this, I understand that there is one other thing that Deuteronomy passage does not specify, but that is ours to choose nonetheless: to love, believe and trust God—or not.
In 1 Corinthians 13 we are told that love trusts; that love always thinks and hopes the best of the one loved; and that love never fails. To choose to love God is to choose to trust Him, to believe in and have hope in the fact that His motives and purpose is always right, true and good—for our good, to give us a hope and a future. This is the choice God provided for Adam and Eve: to choose for themselves whether to love, believe and trust Him wholeheartedly and above all else.
But get this: God is all knowing and He knew that Adam and Eave would fail to choose life, good, blessing, love, yet He still chose to plant that tree. Why?
I believe it is because not only did God know that they would fail, He knew that they MUST fail. Why? Because God was not just building a home where He could live with Adam and Eve. God is building a Kingdom of many people, descendants of creation with whom He desires to live in love and harmony. All who enter in must have chosen to be there out of a personal love relationship with the Creator.
So we see that the tree in the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, continues in the heart of mankind, giving a choice. That garden failure is followed by thousands of years: God allowing each human born to choose to love or not, and in the process, letting mankind learn that we cannot be good enough to please Him in our own strength and that it takes a lot of perfect sheep being sacrificed daily to cover our own sin.
The second tree
After allowing plenty of time to pass in setting a precedent revealing our lost-ness and inability to save ourselves, God planted a second tree, the tree of Calvary on which hung the Perfect Lamb of God. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him and chooses Him can have eternity with God.
You see, true death, the death that God speaks of when He tells Adam and Eve, “In the day you eat of it, you will surely die;” that death is the eternal separation from a loving God who longs to have an intimate relationship with us. That death began for all mankind the day Adam and Eve chose to hate God through disbelief and lack of trust.
But there is another eternity available to us. That is to see the tree of Calvary, and choose life! This is to choose to love God by believing all He says to be true about Jesus. It is to choose to rely on, trust in, and lean on the Christ of the cross of Calvary; trusting and being confident in the fact that through Him we have eternal life with God renewed. But get this: as God sets this tree before us, He says, “Come and eat of its fruit.” The fruit of the cross of Calvary is life eternal with God in Christ; it is cleansing from all sin; it is power to become one with the tree, bearing the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Through this vital relationship with God found in Jesus Christ, we are reborn spiritually and set in right standing with God again. The separation is bridged, the gap closed by Christ. Never again can we be eternally separated from God by sins grip. Once we sincerely and fully choose Jesus as our hope of salving grace, never again will we die the death brought into existence by Adam and Eve’s failure to choose life – and love.
The Proof? The Wisdom of God Revealed
How do I know that this was God’s plan all along? THE PROOF BEGINS by looking at the end of creation week. At the end of the week we are told that God “saw ALL that He had made, and behold, it was very good”: ALL includes the expanse—the time of separation that gave mankind a choice.
Scripture tells of the wise builder does not begin to build without first making sure he has all he needs to finish the work begun. It tells of the wise king does not go to war without first figuring if he has sufficient resources to win the war. God is wisdom. He counted up all He needed to build for Himself a Kingdom of people with whom He can have an intimate love relationship. He saw the war that was necessary to secure that Kingdom. And He paid the price by deliberately and strategically planting two trees so we could have a choice—to love and live with Him—or not.
Both of these trees call us to the same choice that Joshua set before Israel, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Scripture tells us that today is the day of salvation. Why is it important to choose today? Because we have no guarantee of a tomorrow.
In Tanzania, not long before writing this, a team of believers shared Christ with a Tanzanian man, who joyously and sincerely prayed to receive the gift of Jesus on Monday. On Tuesday, they ran up a hill in response to the screams of a woman, and they watched that man’s earthly life fade away. On Wednesday they rejoiced with Christian brethren there, knowing that they will see this man again in the eternal Kingdom of God, and they shared Christ with over a hundred of his friends and family. We never know when our last breath will come, and the opportunity to choose will be behind us. “Choose today Whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord” ~ Joshua 24:15.
Gift To Receive
God holds Jesus out as a gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
In John 6:51 Jesus said of Himself, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Jesus gave His life for the whole world. All of sin—the sins of an entire world is paid for in Christ. Now He is a gift, held out by the hand of God for all who will believe to take and have for all eternity. But a gift remains the property of the giver until the one it is offered to chooses to reach out and take it for his own.
Choose you this day. Today we have two trees to choose from. Will we continue in the way of Adam and Eve, choosing the tree of the knowledge (intimacy with) the good and evil of this world, struggling in our flesh to find significance and to reach the god called “desire”? Or will we choose the tree of Calvary on which a sacrifice of love was made, giving opportunity to enter into an eternal love relationship of intimacy with the only true God and Father who gave His Son so that we might know Him intimately for all eternity?
How does one reach out and receive the gift? It starts by acknowledging the truth that God spent eons revealing: that all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23); that we are incapable of earning our way to heaven because of our tendency to fall to sin’s ways, thus we need the provision of God to give us that way.
With true and sincere repentance, desiring to turn from sin to walk in righteousness with God, we must believe and acknowledge that Jesus died as a perfect sacrifice for our sin, and that God raised Him to life again, the propitiation—full price required to pay for our sin, and that He has seated Him at His right side on the throne of glory as Lord and King of His eternal Kingdom. Then we must acknowledge that only Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, just as He proclaimed—that no man can come to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). Once we acknowledge these facts, then we can reach out by faith and ask God to place the gift of Jesus into our hearts, giving us the eternal life He died to provide, and giving us power over our own sin, equipping us to follow in Jesus’ example, making Him Lord of our lives.
Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as LORD, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
“Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Peter 3:21-22, NASB).
Go to someone you know is a believer who has chosen Love of God through Christ and tell them of your decision. They can help you know what to do next.
Verse 11 of Romans 10 promises, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” You can have assurance of eternity with Christ. It is promised to those who believe. God is big! Nothing is to great for Him and all things are within the realm of His possibilities. He is trustworthy. You can take Him at His word.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (The words of Jesus in John 5:24).
Spiritual growth is a result of true salvation: seek to grow in the Lord through prayer and Bible study. God gives His Holy Spirit to teach and instruct our hearts. He gives us His God inspired word, to instruct us in righteousness. He gives us each other, the family of God and Church of the Living God, that we may encourage one another in this life, helping one another to spiritual growth and to a stable commitment of faith.
Seek spiritual growth
Prayer is simply talking to God as one friend talks with another. You may feel awkward at the first, but believe that He is listening and that His Spirit will instruct you as promised, and He will do it.
Jesus, in John 10, tells how His sheep—his followers—hear His voice and they follow Him, and a strangers voice they simply will not follow. That is a promise we can walk in. We can call to Him in faith, trusting Him, in the power of His Spirit, to make us aware of His truths and His directions, and to keep us from following falsehood. I can tell you from personal experience that God is faithful to His promises, this one included.
Though not many have heard His audible voice, He promises to reveal Himself to the true seeker, those who search for Him wholeheartedly. He will impress His truths upon your heart, confirm them through His word and the encouragement of fellow believers, and with time, you will recognize His presence “speaking” into your life, causing you to know and recognize Him as you commune together through prayer.
Through Bible study
Grow in the knowledge of His Word: Jesus promises that when we become His, He sends His Holy Spirit to teach and instruct us, to empower us to live righteous lives that honor Him, to grow and mature us and do a work of transformation in us. This work is greatly aided as we trust God’s Spirit to bring understanding of Scripture and as we read His word daily, allowing Him to instruct and direct us through its teachings.
The best way to grow in knowledge of God’s word is to read through His word. It is recommended to begin reading in John following this pattern.
- Read John through Revelation
- Read Matthew, skip to Acts, and read through Revelation
- Read Mark, skip to Acts, and read through Revelation
- Read Luke, skip to Acts, and read through Revelation
- Read John through Revelation again
- After reading the New Testament through 5 times in this fashion, then go to Genesis and read from the beginning to the end. Once you have done that, start the process again.
This allows the reader to know the New Testament more fully before reading the Old Testament, which enables us to see the correlation of the two and how God was working a plan. Plus it protects from discouragement: for the Old Testament believers were under Law, which was hard. God’s discipline is more readily seen in the Old Testament than is His grace.
We are under the grace revealed in the New Testament, though we can still fall under the disciplining hand of God, who disciplines us in love as a Father disciplines a son. God’s discipline in our lives, teaching us right from wrong, according to New Testament teaching, is a sign that we are a child of God.
A thorough study of the New Testament helps us to get a firm grasp on God’s grace in Jesus and the love that is coupled with His discipline before we face His disciplinarian characteristics expressed in the Old Testament. It is much easier to understand and face the disciplinarian characteristics of a Father once we are assured of His unconditional and incorruptible love and grace. And, as I am finding, we more readily realize the grace and love that was coming to the world in the discipline sent during pre-Christ days when we understand the ways of God found in Christ.
Through fellowship of the believers
Another vital need in growing spiritually is to get involved in a true Bible teaching church. Find someone you know believes these things about Jesus, and find out where they go to church. Start there in your search of the place God would have you make your church home and family. Get involved in Sunday School class and Bible study groups as often as possible. There you can not only learn scripture, but the things going on in Bible days that help us to understand the scriptures. And it is in church, among fellow believers, that deep, abiding relationships and ministry begin.
Which brings us to another important reason for getting involved in church, and especially the small group settings provided there: we need fellowship/family. God created us for Himself, for a people with whom He can have a relationship. Inherent in that is the fact that God created us to need companionship—thus we need each other. The company we keep truly does make a difference in the character we exhibit. We need each other, and if we have been involved with people who live lives in clear opposition to God, it is important to begin today to distance ourselves from those associations and develop relationships with people who have characteristics that will influence us for good: people who understand God and His ways and who work daily to emulate Jesus.
Through focused learning about God
Apostle Paul is recorded in the Amplified version of scripture to have said, “For my determined purpose is that I may know Him…” (Philippians 3:10). God not only created us to need companionship, but He placed in us a space to be filled with companionship that can only be filled by Him. Thus we are back again to the need to grow in our prayer life. Through prayer, intimate communion with God, we grow to know Him, and He is faithful to fill that empty place within us. The Amplified Bible continues Philippians 3:10, explaining that the knowledge of God we seek is progressive, here a little, there a little, as we grow to perceive, recognize, and understand God more strongly and in ever deepening intimacy. Only with God possessing His rightful place as our companion can we experience the deep, true peace and rest of wholeness that all the world is looking to find.
I pray God’s BLESSings for you as you seek to grow in your relationship with Him. I pray the Lord BLESS you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace. Numbers 6:27 promises that, with this prayer of BLESSing, we invoke God’s name on those we give it to, and He will BLESS them.
Let it be as You have said, O Lord. Amen!