Have you ever stopped to reflect more about the tree of knowledge? It was actually called the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What does that mean, exactly?
Not too long ago I was listening to a teaching by one of my favorite men of God, Dudley Hall, titled “Grace is Hard”. What he mentioned in that brief teaching goes hand in hand with other jewels I had gleaned from a few other sources, such as Rick Joyner’s book titled “There were Two Trees in the Garden”, as well as a wonderful animation clip titled “Holiness”that was created by The Bible Project team. I believe a combination of highlights from these are worth sharing, as it really helps to put ideas surrounding grace, holiness, and purity into perspective!
So Dudley was telling us that grace is hard because we are descendants of Adam & Eve, and because they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they caused every one of us to eat from this tree! The seed of doubt planted by Satan was simple: You can be like God, knowing good and evil. You wouldn’t need God then because you would know how to guide your own life, making your own choices.
What happened in the garden as a result is that life became all about us being good. Because we can’t measure our thoughts, we measured our actions instead. Those actions are based on behavior, identifying what we now define as good and bad. As a result, we think a person can be good by simply eliminating evil, and we assume God loves us more if we measure more for good on the scale than we do bad.
This is why part of what is going on in our culture and society today seems so bizarre, because over the last decade or so the acceptable standard of measure identifying good and evil has been completely turned on its head. Now people are calling bad what used to be known as good, and vise-verse, and when the measuring stick is redefined, it confuses us immensely. We become directionless, scattered, and left with a feeling of hopelessness.
But here is something critical that we don’t often think about, which I believe was brought out well in Rick Joyner’s book about Two Trees, and that is that the root for both good and evil are part of the same tree! This is why Jesus mocked the Pharisees when he told them that based on the way they were living life, if your right eye offends you, then cut it out! In the same manner, if your right hand offends, cut it off! But the point He was making was, when all is said and done and you’ve cut off all offending parts, you still have not eliminated evil.
So how is it then that Jesus is able to step outside of this trap of believing that the good and evil within us as a result of the fall are separate? Jesus birth was immaculate, and the life He lived was without sin. This means He never ate from that tree! Remember, there are two trees in the garden. Jesus represents the tree of LIFE, not the tree of knowledge of good and evil! Everything that is truly good comes from above, from the Father of lights (James 1:17), not from within. Good is what He is and gives, not what we do.
Satan would love nothing better than to turn upside down how we weigh evil and good. If both are rooted in the same tree, you may be wondering what difference it might make at that point. It is because one thing he knows for certain is that God the Father is Holy, and thus cannot allow sin in His presence. Satan knows that sin has been clearly defined as evil, and has up until now built his deception around getting us to believe all we needed to be was the opposite. If he is successful at getting us to redefine sin as good, then he thinks he has a chance once again of being successful at keeping us from experiencing the presence and love of God. Before, black was black and white was white, and identifying sin was as easy as identifying evil. But with sin these days no longer being so clearly defined, we can once again be deceived into thinking we are pure enough. Satan’s goal is the same, that we will discover our need for a savior and the key to life too late, and he would then have the victory.
So if both good and evil are rooted in the same tree and we know then that good alone can never eliminate evil, how does Jesus solve the problem of a Holy Father who cannot allow sin into His presence? That is where I believe the animated clip titled Holiness by the Bible Project team really comes into play well. This team does such a great job at explaining what Holiness is, and why God is unable to allow sin into His presence. It is because He knows that His presence crushes, destroys, and obliterates sin. Because of His love for us and His deep desire that we should know Him and experience His love, He does this for our own protection, because He knows as long as we have sin in our lives, we would not survive His presence.
This is why it was so critical for priests in the Old Testament to purify themselves before they entered the Holy of Holies, because the presence of God was there waiting for them. If they were impure, they could die. The Old Testament does a wonderful job at helping us to really grasp the concept of clean and unclean. If we touch anything that is unclean, we become unclean ourselves. The unclean defiles the clean, causing the pure to become impure.
Twice we see something different taking place within the Old Testament, however. The first is with Isaiah, when in his vision, he recognizes himself as impure. “Woe to me” he says (or as one translation puts it “mourn for me”), because he knows he is standing in the presence of God. An angel comes then and touches his lips with a burning hot coal, and guess what happens? Rather than Isaiah’s uncleanness transferring to the coal, the purity from the coal is transferred to Isaiah instead! Another time, the prophet Ezekiel has a vision of himself standing at the temple, and he sees water coming out from it. The water turns into a river that flows into the Dead Sea. But instead of the Dead Sea swallowing up the river, the life-giving river transforms the Dead Sea!
The visions of these two prophets gives us hope because then, several hundred years later, we see those visions come to reality through the life of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ ministry, we see Him touching the sinners, the sick and unclean. But because Jesus is holy, instead of the person he touches making him unclean, we see how He is able to transfer His purity over to the unclean person instead, and they are healed.
This is the curve ball that Satan hates. He knows Jesus represents the tree of Life, and all that is holy and pure. As Dudley Hall so adequately puts it, through Christ we have been purified so that we can be reconciled to God the Father. Through relationship with Jesus, we can be free to enjoy! Free to enjoy work, take care of the garden, enjoy fellowship with Him, and all those wonderful things He had created for Adam and Eve to experience. In that process it may be that people will take notice and say about you “that’s a really good person”! But you didn’t set out to be a good person, you set out to be reconciled to God the Father through Jesus Christ, and restored back to what God intended, which was to enjoy HIM. As a result, somewhere along that line, you started to do good works.
The next time you catch yourself thinking “I don’t measure up, I could never be good enough”, or possibly the opposite “Define evil, I measure up just fine!”, think about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Then remember the other tree in the garden, the tree of Life. Ask yourself, what tree is your statement rooted within? Jesus wants to restore you to relationship with God the Father, and through His death on the cross offers us His purity so that we can become reconciled, and stand in the presence of Holy God! What tree will you choose to be rooted in?