Month 2:29, Week 4:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:58 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50, Omer Count - Shabbat #6
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 4 June 2016
Futile Religion II
The Confusing of the Two Trees
Continued from Part 1
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and mishpachah - I hope that you had the opportunity to read through the 5th, 6th and 7th chapters of the Gospel of Matthew which I asked you to study if you had the opportunity.
The Most Important Thing in the Gospel
What we are attempting to do in this short series of studies that cut to the chase when it comes to identifying what the most important thing is in the Besorah (Gospel) so that we get to the point of divine life and living without wasting time searching in the long grass. I reaslise there are times - often, some would say - when I go into great detail about things but it is also important that in our attempts to dig out the meat of the Besorah (Gospel) we never miss its simplicity either. Last week we were addressing the serious issue of why so many believers are experiencing spiritual defeat in their lives, irrespective of their denominational or doctrinal beliefs, and not understanding why.
The Answer in the Two Edenic Trees
We shall find our answers, as I intimated last week, in the Garden of Eden:
The Tree of Life is Yah'shua
"And out of adamah (the earth, ground) made Yahweh-Elohim to yitzmach (spring up - see Gen.2:5 - NOTE Messiah is tzemach, the Branch - Zech.3:8) kol etz (every tree) that is pleasing to the sight and tov (good) for food, the Etz haChayim (Tree of Life) also in the midst of the gan (garden), and the Etz haDa'at Tov v'Rah (Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, representing moral autonomy - cp. Gen.3:22 & Ex.9:20-21)" (Gen.2:9. OJB).
The first tree - the Tree of Life - represents the Chayim (Life), which is Yah'shua (Jesus):
You cannot find Elohim (God) the Father apart from Yah'shua (Jesus). The Etz Chayim is therefore Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)!
"I am the Derech (Way) and the Emet (Truth) and the Chayim (life). No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6, NIV).
Yah'shua (Jesus) is the Etz Chayim or Tree of Life
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is Satan
The second tree is the problematic one. Adam and Eve, representing humanity, were allowed to eat of the Etz Chayim (Tree of Life) and any other tree in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden) except the forbidden Etz haDa'at Tov v'Rah (Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) which represents a false chayim (life) apart from Messiah that leads to Death. It is therefore appropriately also called the Tree of Death, the source of death being the fallen malak (angel), Heylel, known also as Lucifer ([false] light-bearer) and haSatan (the Adversary). This is the tree that mankind continues to eat from.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or Death
Trusting vs. Knowledge
Notice that the good tree is not called 'The Tree of [the Knowledge of] Life' and notice that the bad tree is not called 'The Tree of  Good and Evil'. This is a key distinction. The other distinction is that the Tree of Death includes an intimate acquaintance with evil (wickedness) which the Tree of Life does not. The third point I wish you to notice is that both trees are connected with goodness. The Tree of Death is not the 'Tree of the Knowledge of Evil' but the 'Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil'. A source blatantly evil would tempt no man having an acquaintance of goodness to partake of it because he would be instantly repelled by it. Therefore it is a mixture of that which man is familiar with - goodness (which is from Yahweh) - and evil (which is from Satan). Herein lies the key problem - the mix.
The Real Choice is Not as One Might Suppose
Satan's trick is to persuade man that life consists of a choosing between the two parts of his 'Good-and-Evil' Tree - a Good Cop/Bad Cop choice, in fact - as opposed to choosing between the wholly good and Singular Tree of Life and the Split and Mixed Tree of Good/Evil or Death. Water is good but cyanide is poisonous whether you drink it neat or mix it with water. The only safe thing to drink is water without the deadly Potassium Cyanide compound. Likewise, the only safety for man in the spiritual realm is pure goodness, and the only access to that is from the Source of Pure Goodness, Yahweh through Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). Not that Satan possesses any goodness - all he can offer is a knowledge or mental/intellectual understanding about good and evil. He has no chayim or life in him at all and obtains it through violence and theft. He is the Universe's ultimate parasite, one of the reasons he pays us so much attention and attempts to persuade us to part with it through disobedience to Yahweh's mitzvot (commandments).
The Standard vs. the Counterfeit
The Tree of Life is the Standard and the Tree of Death is the counterfeit. Access to the Tree of Life is solely through sincere and honest belief, emunah (faith) or trusting in Yah'shua (Jesus) but access to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or Tree of Death, is not through emunah (faith) or trusting in Satan! No, no, nobody would be so foolish, once presented with Satan in his full revelation of evil. Access to the Tree of Death is by not believing, not having faith in, or not trusting in Yah'shua (Jesus). And you all know that the biblical concept of faith, believing or trusting - represented by the Hebrew word emunah - is not something passsive. It is very much active, meaning that it leads to actions or works or deeds that are in harmony with Yahweh's divine Torah (Law) and mitzvot (commandments) - moral and ethical in particular, which is why I said earlier that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is rightly viewed as moral autonomy or independence. It is to trust in yourself and those demonic powers posing as yourself, having deceived you into believing they are you once you have admitted them through faithlessness and disobedience - your thoughts, your feelings, your physical urges.
The Standard (Messiah) and the Counterfeit (Self Controlled by Satan)
The Simplicity of the Gospel
The Besorah (Gospel) - the Message of the B'rit Chadashah (New Covenant) or Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) is very, very simple indeed, so simple, in fact, that a small child can understand it. This is the message. Yahweh's criterion for accepting us is based on an elementary pass/fail system. We pass and are accepted by Him if we are found to be in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus). We fail if we are found to be outside of Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus). Human beings have no problem understanding this very basic emet (truth) until they start eating from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Once people start doing that, confusion ensues. That is because a consequence of eating of this forbidden truth is that it distorts the simple emet (truth), like a faulty mirror, making it difficult to comprehend.
The Two Parts of the Tree of Death
We shall understand this better by dividing the Tree of Death into its two constituent parts - good on one side, and evil on the other. You will see I have divided the tree in the diagram into light and dark zones. If a man eats from the evil side of the tree and commits evil deeds (like murder, adultery, theft, bearing false witness, etc.), what does Yahweh do to him? He rejects the one whose deeds are unrighteous because he has fallen below His Standard of being in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus).
Good Works Apart from Messiah are Dead
But what if a man eats from the good side of the Tree of Death and does many good works, as you will find many nominal Christians, atheists, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers and others doing? What will Yahweh do? Will he accept him and his good works? No, He will not. How can He possibly accept them? What has he done wrong, then? He has added his works to Yahweh's standard of being accepted, which is to be in Messiah! Since these works, good though they may be, are apart from Messiah - not done through Him - the man has committed acts of self-righteousness!
How the Nominal Believer Rationalises
At this point, the one who has been eating from the Tree of Death - let's say he is a nominal believer - will retort: 'But Yahweh commands us to do works of righteousness in the Bible!' Yes He does, but who is He talking to in the Scriptures? Pagans? No, He is talking to Israelites, to Covenant-Believers. He has also said:
Man's Works Like Filthy Rags
"We are all as the tameh (unclean thing), and kol tzidkoteinu (all our righteous deeds, works) are like beged (filthy rags, a soiled menstruation cloth); and we all fade like the aleh (leaf); and avoneinu (our inquities) like the ruach (wind), have taken us away" (Is.64:6, OJB).
Yes, Yahweh commands righteousness in us but every self-generated righteous deed is like a bloodied menstruation rag to Yahweh! That is because we, of ourselves, apart from Yah'shua (Jesus), are incapble of generating righteousness from a pure heart because our default nature is that of the Tree of Death - the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When good and evil come from the same tree they are TREATED ALIKE by Yahweh and are REJECTED as an unclean thing.
Outward and Inward Realities
Here is the problem - OUTWARDLY good deeds look similar whether they are produced by someone partaking of the Tree of Life or the Tree of Death. A nominal Christian, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, New Ager or Shamanist can outwardly do the same kind of deeds as a Believer in Messiah, like helping someone in need. And whilst this is not the same as doing evil it is still apart from Messiah, and the One whom Yahweh has set-apart is not recognised or credited as the source of that good deed by Him. Indeed these people will either be crediting Allah, one of the Hindu gods or (more usually) themselves as the initiator of the good deed:
"The lailah (darkness) and the ohr (light) are both alike to Thee" (Ps.139:12, OJB)
One of the Greatest Deceptions in Christianity
Doing evil is a sign of disbelief that Elohim (God) exists or will judge, but doing good is a sign of unbelief in Yahweh's Standard of acceptance. We prove that we do not believe in Elohim (God) at all when we add to His Standard. Indeed, we are touching on one of the greatest deceptions in Christianity. Of course Yahweh wants us to do good works, that goes without saying, but what makes a work fitting is not the content but the origin. If the source of the good work is emunah (faith) as Yah'shua (Jesus) expresses Himself through us, then it is acceptable, and the glory goes to Him and the Father. Here is a work produced by emunah (faith) which is acceptable. If the source of the good work is belief in ourself, then the good work is unacceptable, because the glory is going to self and not Elohim (God)! We were created to bring forth good works through and for the Creator, not the created!
The Offence When Self-Works are Exposed
"In our tefillos (prayers) recalling before our Elohim (God) and Avinu (Father) your work of emunah (faith), your labour of ahavah (agapé-love), and your perseverance of tikveh (hope) in our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)" (1 Thes.1:3, OJB).
But all other work, whilst it may be great for inter-human relations, is not acceptable to Heaven, because it is based on unbelief and self-righteousness. Those who are accustomed to eating from the Tree of Death just don't get it when you tell them that whilst what they are doing may be good for social harmony between men and that it in no way makes you right with Elohim (God)! Indeed, it may make them angry because it offends their pride, which is of self. It doesn't matter that they may be doing their good works for their 'god' if they themselves arrogantly decide what His Standard should be. And Yahweh's Standard is not, never has been, and never will be, salvation - or being put into right relationship with Him - by good works. That is Gnosticism and all religion save the true Biblical emunah (faith) is gnosticism, the belief that your good works will save you provided you do 'more' good deeds than bad ones. That is why all false religion is the 'same' and why it is possible to marry them all together, as is happening now, into the Anti-Messiah's (Antichrist's) One World Religion. It is utterly impossible for the true emunah (faith) to have anything to do with it because the true emunah (faith) is either in or through Yah'shua (Jesus) or it is dead.
Repenting Tax-Collectors and Sinners
Yah'shua (Jesus) recognised that the tax-collectors and sinners, who had all eaten from the evil side of the Tree of Death, would often be given to making teshuvah (repenting), because they could recognise that they had done wrong - they knew it and so did everybody else around them. This is represented by Arrow #1 in the diagram that follows. Many of these, stirred by Yah'shua's (Jesus') preaching, turned to Him in self-surrender and began trusting Him as the Messiah, as represented by Arrow #2. (Arrows #3 and #4 show the steps to apostacy - first by crediting self with good works and then, finally, by turning to evil deeds).
The Tree Home of the Pharisees and Torah-Teachers
Yah'shua (Jesus) did not, however, hold the same tiqveh (hope) for the Pharisees and Torah-teachers (Scribes, teachers of the Law). The tax-collectors and sinners would enter the Kingdom before before those who had eaten from the good side of the Tree of Death and could not see that they really needed to make teshuvah (repent) as much as the others. Their 'good' deeds did not lead to surrender to Yah'shua (Jesus). No one around them would testify to how unacceptable and truly repulsive
their good works were and self-righteousness really were because they feared their power and legalistic claims to be Yahweh's authentic representatives. You see, there is a deep blindness that comes from eating from the good side of this most forbidden tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Death - Satan's Tree.
The Condemnation of Those Who Pursue the Tree of Death
Yah'shua (Jesus) makes no bones about how He and His Heavenly Father feel about those who add to Elohim's (God's) Standard of acceptance:
Fraud and Lust are an Evil Fruit
"But woe to you, scribes (Torah-teachers) and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes (Torah-teachers) and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes (Torah-teachers) and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves" (Matt.23:13-15, NKJV).
Why did Yah'shua (Jesus) speak so strongly against these religious leaders? Because their changing Yahweh's Standard of Acceptance resulted, as we see from this last passage, in fraudulence and lusting after the things of this world. With one hand they were doing good and with the other, evil. Yah'shua (Jesus) said that they were "fools and blind!" (Matt.23:17, NKJV). And religious people are still doing the same kinds of thing today. They not only rob but also make lists and methods for men to follow which cause them to neglect "the weightier matters of the Torah (Law): justice and mercy and emunah (faith)" (Matt.23:23, NKJV). "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel" (Matt.23:24, NIV). "You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence" (Matt.23:25, NIV). Men may appear righteous because of their judgment toward others, but in reality they are "whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean" (Matt.23:27, NIV).
The Tree of Hypocrisy
Can you understand now why, in so many ways, the deception from eating from the good side of this tree worse than doing evil? Hypocrisy always results and Yah'shua (Jesus) reserved His harshest words for religious hypocrites. That's why, in so many ways, nominal Christians are worse than those who espouse other religions or no religion at all.
The Tree of Jumping Through Hoops
Again, let me reiterate, the Besorah (Gospel) is very, very simple, unlike life at the Tree of Death which is very complex indeed. You have to jump through all kinds of hoops to live its religion. That famous passage from the Gospel of John really summarises it neatly:
The Scripture According to the Tree of Death
"For Elohim (God) so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes (has emunah/faith) in Him shall not perish but have eternal chayim (life)" (John 3:16, NIV).
It's so simple but whenever we find ourselves in Tree-of-Death Land, we quickly start adding to Yah'shua's (Jesus') words like this: "For Elohim (God) so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever does not sin, lust, or have an evil thought, whoever reads the Bible, always attends church/assembly, never yells at the children, prays, memorises Scripture, does not own a radio, witnesses to his neighbours, has spoken in tongues, has had a conversion experience, and is continually pure will not perish but have evelasting life." Of course we don't actually say that but we certainly mean it by our behaviour. Can you see the difference between eating the two trees? The Tree of Death obliges us to add an endless list for our acceptance by Yahweh, and we in turn put this huge bundle on others's shoulders to carry, one which we ourselves cannot.
That Dangerous Teaching
When you eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you start advancing a very simple but dangerous teaching like this: You did evil, now do good. You'll find this teaching in Mormonism ("for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all [the good] we can do" - 3 Nephi 25:23), Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Wicca, Jehovah's Witnesses and every other world religion, past and present. Satanists study the evil side of the Tree of Death to gain more knowledge of evil and many Christian and Messianics study the good side of the tree to get more knowledge of good, but there is no lasting difference between the two. What is the teaching of your church or assembly telling you to do in order to be accepted by Elohim (God)?
If someone goes off to Africa to preach to tens of thousands of souls, but does it for their own benefit, glory and exaltation, whereas someone else, responding to the leading of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), decides to help an infirm neighbour by volunteering to mow their lawn, which do you think involved trusting in Messiah and eating from the Tree of Life, and which involved eating from the good side of the Tree of Death? Eating from that Tree of Knowledge blinds because the great works that people do as a result of it will, according to Scripture, be burned up at the end (1 Cor.3:15). All that is not in Yah'shua (Jesus) is vanity.
The Works of Those Who Eat of the Good Side of the Tree are Revolting
Why Believers Live in Defeat
The reason so many believers live in defeat is that they have swallowed the lie of the serpent that they have to do something more than be in Yah'shua (Jesus) to be loved and accepted. That is not to say, if they have spiritual issues or are not being properly obedient to Torah, that they are permitted not to bother with these things. It is to say that Yah'shua (Jesus) accepts us where we are, based on our emunah (faith) and trusting in Him, provided we respond with teshuvah (repentance) when the Ruach (Spirit) tells us to get into action. Yahweh is very patient, merciful and long-suffering, just as a true parent is toward a child. Our problem is that we tend not to be so patient, merciful and long-suffering toward others which in turn may make them believe that they have to do this or that in order to be loved and accepted.
His Mercy Endures Forever
I don't suppose we will ever really know how much we have procrastinated or prevarocated in our discipleship or how leniently Yahweh has in actual fact dealt with us. 41 times in Scripture we are told that Yahweh is good and that "His mercy endureth for ever" (1 Chron.16:34, KJV). I cannot truthfully grasp that because I know how strict He is too, yet there it stands.
Being Led by Yah'shua
"The voice of simcha (joy), and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise Yahweh of hosts: for Yahweh is good; for His mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of Yahweh" (Jer.33:11, KJV).
I have much more that I want to say about this subject but we shall end here for today. To be, and remain, in Messiah is to be led by Him hour by hour, day by day. What does He want you to do today? Will you respond in obedience? And if you don't know what His will for you is, because you are unable to find Him to make contact with Him, then your priority must be seeking Him until you have found Him. Then you will be eating at the Etz Chayim, the Tree of Life, whose fruit is infinitely more satisfying that the deadly fruit of the Tree of Death whose reward is short-lived and ultimately poisonous.
The Chayim and Grace That Save
It is the chayim (life) of Messiah that saves us, not our good works, as it is written:
"For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to Elohim (God) through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His chayim (life). And not only that, but we also rejoice in Elohim (God) through our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), through whom we have now received the reconciliation" (Rom.5:10-11, NKJV).
"Elohim (God), who is rich in mercy, because of His great ahavah (love) with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Messiah (by grace - undeserved loving kindness - you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus), that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace (undeserved loving kindness) in His kindness toward us in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus). For by grace (undeserved loving kindness) you have been saved through emunah (faith), and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Elohim (God), not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) for good works, which Elohim (God) prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph.2:4-10, NKJV).
"Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace (undeserved loving kindness)..." (Heb.13:9, NKJV).
We are saved by Yahweh's unmerited favour, His undeserved loving kindness, His grace, through His Son's sacrifice of His chayim (life) for us. That is why we trust in, not our good works, to be right with, and acceptable to, Him. That is the Derech (Way) of the Etz Chayim (Tree of Life), it is the way of the saved and of the Remnant. This is the Besorah (Gospel) that we preach and have always preached. So go in His grace and chayim (life) until we meet again tomorrow. Amen.
Continued in Part 3
 Michael Wells, Sidetracked in the Wilderness: Find the Way Back to a Victorious, Abundant Life (Devotional Life Press, Littleton, CO: 1991)