ECHOES FROM EDEN
THE MIDST OF THE GARDEN
"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also IN THE MIDST OF THE GARDEN, and the of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:8-9).
How shall we speak of God's great and wonderful in man except in the language of parables? God prepares an exceedingly beautiful and fruitful garden for man, whom He has created with His own hands. Precious stones, rare odors, refreshing streams, trees full of fruit and splendid colors surround that first man. Who can speak of the marvelous REALITIES there initiated except in the language of pictures? Pictures are not lies: they denote things, realities, they let the things that are meant shine through. Against the back ground of the picture of the Garden of Eden it is related how man was put into this garden in order to live in it and how two trees stood in the middle of the garden: one the tree of live, the other the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And upon these two trees IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GARDEN the destiny of man was to be decided. There were, indeed, three kinds of trees in the garden. There was the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and then all those other trees denoted as "all the trees of the garden." Man began his sojourn upon earth living in the realm of "all the trees of the garden." But man's future experience and destiny were to be decide by his relationship to the two trees in the middle.
Two trees in the middle. First of all there is the tree of life. It is clear from the context that man was not forbidden to eat of it. It was there, revealed, offered, available: LIFE in the presence of God! For this reason the tree of life is mentioned very simply in Gen. 2:8-9. It was IN THE MIDDLE - that is all that is said about it! The life that comes forth from God is in the middle. This means that God, the source of life, is in the middle. In the middle of the world which is at Adam's disposal and over which he has been given dominion is not Adam himself but the tree of God's eternal and incorruptible life. Adam's life was to come from the middle which was not Adam himself but God. This means that with GOD AS HIS CENTER man would have life. It means that man was created with the wonderful capability of LIVING IN THE SPIRIT and WALKING AFTER THE SPIRIT. "For...to be SPIRITUALLY MINDED is life and peace" (Rom. 8:6). One of man's inherent potentials was to know God as the source and center of his life.
But, like the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil stands IN THE MIDDLE of the garden. To this tree is attached the command not to eat of it upon penalty of death. Death in the middle. Within. In man's very nature. Thus it is declared with unquestionable certainty that man was also created with the capability of LIVING IN THE FLESH and WALKING AFTER THE FLESH. "For to be CARNALLY MINDED is death" (Rom. 8:6). One of man's inherent potentials was to know Self as the source and center of his life. But alas! Self would not bring life, it would mean death. Man could make the world, the physical realm, the bodily senses and appetites his center but death would be found to dwell in that center. Life and death were in the middle. Two trees, two realities IN THE MIDST of the garden of man's experience and being.
But how could Adam grasp these mighty realities? How could Adam, living as he did in the "soul realm" of "all the trees of the garden" understand what divine life is when he had not yet tasted of the tree of life? How could Adam comprehend what death is when he had never yet experienced anything of its dread power? How could Adam even know what difference there is between life, good, evil, sin, and death, living as he did in the unblemished innocence of his child-like beginning? As well explain the mysteries of biology or astronomy to a new-born infant! Could all of this really mean anything more to Adam than empty words? No, Adam could not be expected to understand such awesome things, but under the gracious and skillful hand of God he would be instructed and taught.
THE PURPOSE FOR THE FALL
It needs to be perfectly clear and forever settled in our minds that God makes no mistakes, because He is omniscient. He is never taken by surprise nor is He ever forced to alter His plans, for He is immutable. He never fails in His purposes, because He is omnipotent, glorious in power, fearful in praises, doing wonders. It is only foolish and ignorant men who picture God in heaven taken by surprise at Adam's sin, pacing up and down Hallelujah Boulevard wringing His hands, hastily trying to concoct some new scheme by which to rectify an unforeseen and unfortunate situation. I find nothing but pity for those preachers who purport to be the ministers of Christ yet posses no more spiritual understanding than to teach that Adam's sin took God by magnificent purpose. God didn't plan it that way, they say, but that's how it turned out! If this be so then God is not omniscient, God is not omnipotent, and God is not immutable.
It was the Mighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of ALL THINGS, who in the beginning proclaimed, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion" (Gen. 1:26). This wonderful purpose of God to make man in His own image had been settled in the divine councils of God from eternity. The blessed Lamb had, in the determination of these councils, been slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8); the names of all the redeemed of earth had been written in His book of life before the foundation of the world (Rev. 17:8); and all the blessed Sons of God, predestinated to be holy and without blame before Him in love, predestined to be CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF THE SON OF GOD, were selected and chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-5). This is profound and mysterious truth, impossible to fully comprehend apart from the Spirit of wisdom and revelation from God, but it does show us that God is omniscient, that nothing took Him by surprise, that the fall of man was not an accident, that GOD PLANNED IT FROM ETERNITY before the worlds and ages were ever framed.
Paul speaks plainly of this predetermined purpose of God to bring forth Sons in His own image, saying, "Blessing be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm! Even as He chose us - actually picked us out for Himself as His own - in Christ before the foundation of the world; that we should be holy and blameless in His sight...for He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in according with the purpose of His will...making known to us the mystery of His will - of His plan, of His purpose. And it is this: In accordance with His good pleasure which He had PREVIOUSLY PURPOSED and set form in Him, He planned for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth...so that we first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of His glory!" (Eph. 1:3-5,9-12, Amplified Bible).
It is very essential that those who walk with God in this hour should keep this truth of God's ETERNAL PURPOSE ever uppermost in their thoughts. If we fail to comprehend the certainty of God's very first statement concerning mankind, "Let us make man in our image: and let them have dominion," we will undoubtedly lose our way in the frightful nightmare of sin and darkness that has followed on the heels of that inspired proclamation. The entrance of sin in Eden's fair garden neither destroyed nor aborted this wondrous plan to bring forth human-divine Sons in the image and likeness of God Himself. Did not God take to Himself all the responsibility for the fall of man when inspiration penned the words: "For the creation was subjected to frailty - to futility, condemned to frustration - not because of some intentional fault on its part, but BY THE WILL OF HIM Who so subjected it. Yet with the hope that creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption and gain an entrance into the glorious freedom of God's children" (Rom. 8:20-21).
God has some great and magnificent plans for those who become His Sons. "He that overcometh shall INHERIT ALL THINGS; and I will be His God, and he shall be My Son" (Rev. 21:7). "And if children, then HEIRS; HEIRS OF GOD, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8:17). "It has been solemnly and earnestly said in a certain place, What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You graciously and hopefully care for and visit and look after him? For some little time You have ranked him lower than and inferior to the angels, You have put EVERYTHING IN SUBJECTION under his feet. Now in putting everything in subjection to man, He LEFT NOTHING OUTSIDE OF MAN'S CONTROL. But at CROWNED WITH GLORY AND HONOR..." (Heb. 2:6-9, Amplified Bible). "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit WITH ME IN MY THRONE, even as I also overcome, and am set down with My Father in His throne" (Rev. 3:21).
In these verses we watch but a flickering glimmer of the glories the Spirit intended to convey when He by inspiration guided Paul's hand to pen these sublime words: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us, and conferred on us!" (Rom. 8:18, Amp. Bible). We see God's purpose - to bring many Sons to glory, a family of Sons brought to their highest conceivable destiny as co-sons and co-heirs of the universe with His own Son. He had this in mind before the creation, from before the foundation of the world, and this meant one thing - that the Sons must be mature, capable Sons, not a bunch of irresponsible little children, but knowing their destiny and able to fulfill it. That means training and development from innocent little children to Sons, and thus to Sons who can represent their Father and share His business with Him. And this is the history of the human family!
There is one facet of mature experience which is often missed, yet it lies at the roots of capability on any level and none can be sure of himself and his proficiency in any profession without it. Learn this one truth and a great thou shalt surely know! Glorious and perfect was Adam our father in Eden's lovely garden, yet one thing was missing from his glory and perfection without which no man could ever fulfill the wonders and potentials inherent in being in the image and likeness of God. Adam for all his wisdom did not know good and evil. For that very reason he fell prey to the shattering calamity of his temptation. Because he did not know evil, he did not know good either, for nothing in this world is either big or small, beautiful or ugly, hot or cold, black or white, up or down, alive or dead, good or evil, except as it stands in contrast to that which is opposite to it. He who lacks the knowledge of both good and evil will fall an easy prey to the devil and this vital knowledge, alas! can ONLY BE GAINED BY THE EXPERIENCE OF GOOD AND EVIL. Innocence is beautiful, indeed, but innocence, knowing nothing of experience, falls an easy prey to every harm and danger before it. How we all love the simple innocence of little children, but how swiftly do they in their innocence stick their finger in a light socket or dash into the street in front of the speeding traffic! Innocence is sweet but it is fraught with all kinds of dangers. Because of this very thing the beloved Paul wrote in wisdom that "strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14). Thus in making man in the image of God, the first great step must be to bring him to the knowledge of both good and evil. For the Lord God said, Behold, THE MAN HAS BECOME AS ONE OF US, to know how to distinguish between good and evil, and blessing and calamity" (Gen. 3:22).
The business world is always looking for people who are proficient. Proficient means: Highly competent; skilled; an expert. No one is born proficient in any field. Proficiency is attained through training and discipline, through experience that comes trial and error. Proficiency does not come by ignoring that there is a WRONG WAY of doing a thing, still less in denying that there is a wrong way. Proficiency comes by having known the wrong way, having tried it out, having learned and proven once for all that that way doesn't work at all. Then the RIGHT WAY can be established AS BEING RIGHT when the wrong way has been proven to be wrong. An electrician, to be proficient, must know that you don't connect wires together that way, but this is the way it must be done. If he does not discern the good and evil in wiring up a thing he may be electrocuted. No chemist can be confident in his laboratory until he knows that you don't mix this chemical with that chemical lest you create a poisonous gas or a destructive explosion. You must know the wrong way and have it proved wrong, before you are secure and confident in the right. There is no room for innocence here is proficiency!
And here we have God's perfect wisdom in the birth of the human race, and in the placing of them in a garden, in a condition, in a state of being, in which BOTH LIFE AND DEATH, good and evil were set IN THE MIDDLE. Through this interplay of good and evil God would bring His vast company of Sons to maturity. They must discover that to be in the image and likeness of God they must be conscious that there are alternatives and make their choice - and ultimately their right choice through having first made the wrong one, and having tasted the consequences. And the wonder of our all-glorious God is that He knew this was the way His predestined family of Sons must take, from wrong first and then to the right; and He knew the anguish and suffering that entailed for them. He knew it, but He could not turn from it, so we find our first parents in their garden, and placed in the midst two trees, the one to give life and the other death. Why did not the Father just put them there conveniently with only one tree? It doesn't seem very kind of Him to put the two! Why could we have not just eaten of the tree of life and lived forever in the incorruptible life and nature of God? Because we would have been holy without knowing WHY we should be holy! God not only wants us to know who we are but WHY WE ARE WHO WE ARE. God could have left us in innocence protected from evil and sin, but we could never have inherited ALL THINGS and reigned with Him upon his throne in that condition. Who would make an innocent child President of the United States? Who would make an untrained, undisciplined man pilot of a 747 jet? We would have been a crowd of helpless babies who knew nothing and could do nothing! No, Adam and Eve must first discover themselves, learn their potentialities for both good and evil, life and death, misuse themselves - and then they are ready to become reliable ones.
And at that tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle the deceptive voice of that "old serpent, the devil" came to them, and what it did for them was to awaken them to discover what it is to be a Self. Enormous awakening with its vast potentialities. Through those tempting suggestions to have what she would like, Eve discovered that she was a SELF. Suppose there were just God and you in the universe and you were good and, we know, God is good; how could there be two things to choose? There certainly could be, and both of them seem pretty good too. You could choose God and that certainly would be good; and, on the other hand, you could choose yourself, and that usually seems good and might not seem so very bad before there was a sinful fall. When God originally created man he was good; but man could not develop in wisdom and stature unless they had the power of choice. The choice was simple: they could choose God or themselves first. The instant they chose themselves that was selfishness and self-will, because the highest good and life was promoted by the choice of God and sin and death entered by the choice of Self. Selfishness is the root of all sin, it is in every sin that there is. You cannot name one that does not have selfishness as a root, and yet it looks so innocent to choose one's Self! There can be a selfish and hence a sinful ambition to attain even great spirituality. Evil is always mixed with some element of good, and that is why it is so deceitful.
The whole world system today is the product and manifestation of SELF and SELFishness of man. As fire depends on fuel and as man's breath depends on air, so also does the whole system of this world live on the self-centeredness and carnal desires of men. I can truthfully say that every industry on earth, a;; the technology, every war that has been fought, and even the years of learning in schools and universities have in mind the ultimate benefit of Self. Frail man not only wants to gather things about himself for his own comfort and security, but he wants to be the center of his own little universe. The more things and power he possesses, be it on the job, in the politics, or in the church, the greater his universe seems to be and the greater his desire to add to it. He never discovers that he has enough, but, because he find that what he does have does not bring him the satisfaction he thought it would, he seeks to add more and more to it, hoping the extra he adds will bring contentment and fulfillment. Why do men who possess millions in earthly possessions go on adding more and more millions and billions to them? Why do men who have power seek more and more power? Simply because there is NO LIFE IN SELF. Life is only in God and things possessed apart from God cannot ever satisfy. The wages of sin is death, says the Word. It could also be said that the wages of Self is death. Man has made HIMSELF the center and there is death in the middle of the garden.
THE ECCENTRICITY OF SONSHIP
"And they (Jesus and His disciples) went into an house. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, He is beside Himself" (Mk. 3:19-21).
From the world's standpoint the most pathetic life in the history of the world is the life of the Lord Jesus. Those who study it find out, every day, a fresh sorrow. Before He came it was already foretold that He would be "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3), but no imagination had ever conceived the darkness of the reality.
It began with one of the bitterest kinds of sorrow - the sorrow of an enforced silence. For thirty years He saw, but dared not act. The horrible wrongs He came to correct were there. The hollowest religion ever known - a mere piece of acting - was being palmed off around Him as the religion of the living God. He saw the poor trodden upon, the sick untended, the widow unavenged, His Father's people backslidden and scattered, His truth misrepresented, and the whole earth filled with hypocrisy and violence. He saw this, grew up amongst it, knew how to cure it. Yet He was dumb, He opened not His mouth. How He held in His breaking spirit, till the slow years dragged themselves out, it is all but impossible to comprehend. Then came the public life, the necessity to breathe its atmosphere: the temptation, the dullness of His disciples, the Jew's rejection of Him, Gethsemane, Calvary. Yet these were but the more marked shades in the darkness which blackened the whole path of the Man of Sorrows.
But in the Scripture already quoted from Mk. 3:19-21 we are confronted with an episode in His life which is not included in any of these; an episode which had a bitterness all its own, and such as has fallen to the lot of few to know. It was not the way the world treated Him; it was not the Pharisees; it was not something which came from His enemies; it was something His friends did, yea, something His kinsmen, His very own family did. When He left the carpenter's shop and went out into His Sonship ministry, His friends and family were watching Him. For some time back they had remarked about a certain strangeness in His manner. He had always been strange among His brothers, but now this was growing upon Him. He has said much stranger things of late, made many strange plans, gone away on curious errands to strange places, has gathered around Him a motley group of men, performed many strange miracles, and now, when He should be eating and resting, he gives no thought to Himself but turns to minister to the multitude pressing into the house. What did it mean? Where was it to end? Were the family to be responsible for all this eccentricity? This sad day it culminated. It was quite clear to them now. He was not responsible for what He was doing! It was His mind, alas! that had become affected. He was beside Himself. In plain English, He was mad! The Amplified Bible says, "And when those who belonged to Him, His kinsmen, heard it, they went out to take Him by force, for they kept saying, He is out of His mind - beside Himself, deranged!"
An awful thing to say when it is true, a more awful thing when it is not; a more awful thing still when the accusation comes from those we love, from those who know us best. It was the voice of no enemy, it came from His own home. It was His own mother, perhaps, and His brethren, who pointed the terrible finger at Him - He was beside Himself - He was mad. There should have been one spot surely upon God's earth for the Son of Man to lay His head - one roof, at least, in Nazareth, with mother's ministering hand and sister's love for the weary Worker. But His very home is closed to Him. He has to endure the furtive glances of eyes which once loved Him, the household watching Him and whispering one to another, the cruel suspicion, the laying hands upon Him, and finally, the overwhelming announcement of the verdict of His family, "He is beside Himself".
What makes it seemly to dig out this harrowing memory today, and emphasize a thought which we cannot but feel lies on the borderland of blasphemy? Because the significance of that scene is still so intense. It has a peculiar lesson for us who profess ourselves to be followers of Christ - Sons of God - a lesson in the counting of the cost. Christ's life, from first to last, was a dramatized parable - too short and too significant to allow even a scene which well might speak to the younger Sons to pass by unexplored. When Jesus announced to His disciples that when the blessed Spirit of truth should come "He will show you things to come," He did not mean simply that the Spirit would reveal to men that California will fall into the ocean or that the oil in Middle East will be seized by the Communist. He was patiently pointing out to His disciples that when the Spirit of truth should come in blazing glory into their lives He would TAKE THE THINGS OF CHRIST and show them unto them, for He continued, "He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (Jn. 16:14). The "things to come" would not be such earthly things as the rise and fall of empires, wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences, economic collapses and the like, but rather the glories of the REALM OF SONSHIP in which Jesus Himself walked of which His disciples understood so pitifully little.
As I have walked with the Lord for many years and the ever increasing wonder of the glory of God's Christ has unfolded to my wondering spirit, I have come to realize that not only did our Lord speak in parable, but His whole life from the time of His birth in Bethlehem to His ascension into heaven was in itself a parable and a mighty sign of wonders which were to come in the lives of those apprehended to live and walk in that blessed realm of Sonship to God. His glorious life was a heavenly life and those who have been born of His Spirit and washed in His blood are called upon to walk even as He walked all the way into the fullness of God. In the light of this truth I now declare that the wonderful life of the first-born Son was in itself a parable, expressly prefiguring the life and walk and experience of all those Sons of God who should follow after Him.
In this marvelous parable of parables, the life of the Son of God, is found this remarkable story of how His own family seized upon Him to take Him away by force because, said they, "He is mad!" And I declare to you that from the world's standpoint, the charge is true. It is useless to denounce this as a libel, a bitter, blasphemous slander. It is not so - it is true! There was no alternative. Either He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, or He was beside Himself. A holy life is always a phenomenon. A life which lives and moves after the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven is always a wonder. The world knoweth it not. It is either supernatural or morbid. For what is being beside oneself? What is madness? It is eccentricity - ec-centr-icity - having a different center from other people. Webster defines eccentricity as: Not having the same center, as two circles; not having the axis exactly in the center; out of the ordinary; deviating from the norm, as in conduct; unconventional. Here is a man, for instance, who devotes his life to collecting objects of antiquarian interest, old coins perhaps, or old editions of book, or perhaps nothing more sensational than stray dogs or cats. His center is odd, his life revolves in an orbit of his own, his center is different from those around him, therefore his friends say, he is eccentric.
Or here is an engine with many moving wheels, large and small, cogged and plain, but each revolving upon a central axis, each turning is a perfect circle. But at one side there is one small wheel which does not turn in a circle. Its motion is different from all the rest, and the changing curve of its motion is unlike any ordinary line of the mathematician. The engineer will tell you that this is called "the eccentric," because it has a peculiar center.
Now when Jesus Christ came among men He found them nearly all revolving in one circle. There was but one center to human life - Self. Mattered not whether it was the merchant peddling his wares, the king in the palace, the thief by the road, or the priest in the temple. Man's chief end was to glorify himself and enjoy himself forever. Then, as now, by the all but unanimous consensus of the people, this present life and this present world were sanctioned as the legitimate object of all man's effort and energy. By the whole gravitation of society, Jesus - as a man - must have been drawn to the very verge of this vast vortex of self-indulgence, personal ease and pleasure, which had sucked in the populations of the world since that fateful day in Eden. But He stepped back. He refused absolutely to be attracted. He put everything out of His life that had even a temptation in it to the world's center. He humbled Himself - there is no place in the world's vortex for humbleness. He emptied Himself - gravitation cannot act on emptiness. He became of no reputation - there is no place in the world for namelessness. So the prince of this world came, but found nothing in Him. He found nothing because the true center of Christ's life was not to be seen. It was with God. The unseen and the eternal moved Him. He did not seek His own happiness or gain, but only THE WILL OF THE FATHER. He went about doing good. His object in going about was not gain, but to do good.
Now all this was very eccentric. It was living on new lines altogether. He did God's will. He pleased not Himself. His center was to one side of Self. He was beside Himself. From the standpoint of the world and the flesh it was simply madness. Think of this idea of His, for instance, of starting out into life with so visionary an idea as that of doing good with no price attached - no offering plate, no books for sale, no monthly news-letter telling about all the needs of the work, no gadgets offered to those sending in an offering of $5.00 or more, no special blessings or prophecies pronounced on those who "obeyed God" in contributing $20.00 to the Kingdom, no brochure on how to make out your will and leave your estate to the Lord's work. Jesus did not operate in worldly methods and techniques. Man was not His center, God was His center. His trust was not in God's people, His trust was in GOD. God was His source of life and supply.
Yes. Jesus was eccentric. He had a different center from other people. From the world. From the world's viewpoint He was beside Himself, mad. Think of this absurd notion that He had come into the world to usher in a Kingdom in which God's will would be done on earth as it is done in heaven and that God's mind would direct all things and bring every nation under the blessedness of heaven's perfect order; the simplicity of the expectation that the world would ever become good; this irrational talk about meat to eat they knew not of, about living water; these extraordinary be attitudes, predicating sources of happiness which had never been heard of - Blessed are they that mourn, the meek shall inherit the earth, blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, if a man shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. love your enemies, bless them that curse you, take no thought for life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Madness! Then these paradoxical utterance of which He was so fond, such as that the way to find life was to lose it, and to lose life in this world was to keep it unto life eternal. What could these be but mere hallucination and dreaming! It was inevitable that men should laugh and sneer at Him. It was unusual.
He wanted nothing of the religion of the Pharisees. He held nothing but contempt for the organized religion of that day, for the blinding traditions of the learned and prestigious Rabbis, the distorted and false doctrines of the Pharisees who walked about with the most imposing and pretentious titles, clothed in elaborate and gorgeous vestments, loving the chief seats in the Synagogue, and binding upon the people heavy burdens, grievous to be borne, with all sorts of rules and regulations. Because He was a SON, Jesus' center was in nothing of earth, nothing of the physical world. Unlike other religious teachers He gives us no detailed instructions about what we are to do or not do; He does not tell us either to eat or drink, or to refrain from eating or drinking certain days and seasons. He built no church buildings nor did He initiate any building programs, but He did say, "The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father... the hour cometh and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH" (Jn. 4:21-23). He did not set up any form of ecclesiasticism, of any hierarchy of officials or any organizational structure, but He did say, "Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are BRETHREN. And call no man your father upon earth: for one is your father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters (leaders): for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Mat. 23:8-10). The blessed realm of Sonship is an UNSTRUCTURED REALM for it is not of earth, but of heaven; not of physical things, but of the Spirit and the Truth.
Jesus never concerned Himself with external structures of organization, hierarchy, buildings, programs, ceremonies, nor any other carnal thing. He ministered LIFE, REALITY, SPIRIT AND TRUTH. Period. He was unusual. He would not follow the methods and techniques of the world. He would not go with the multitude. And men were expected to go with the multitude. What the multitude thought, said, and did, were the right things to have thought, said, and done. Anyone who thought, said, or did differently, his folly be upon his head, he was beside himself, he was mad! It never ceases to amaze me how deep-seated and deep-rooted within the masses of Christendom are all the things which Jesus denounced, and how scarce are the REALITIES which He spoke and manifested in the world. Because the average Christian today has been brought up with a orders, sects, denominations, creeds, assemblies, doctrines, meetings, communions, baptisms, programs, campaigns, pastors, choirs, rituals, ceremonies, offerings, drives, conferences, elections, board meetings, committees, invasions, Sunday Schools, Bible Schools, church buildings, fellowship halls, stained glass windows, robes, special numbers, special speakers, and etc. etc. etc. etc.. But after they have spent a whole lifetime of this feverish "church activity," how many people are there who have ever taken time to wait on God long enough TO HEAR HIM SPEAK AND DIVULGE HIS WILL TO THEIR SEEKING HEARTS? I declare to you of a truth that any man or woman who will take the time to seek God and God alone, hungering and thirsting after God's mind and God's eternal will - that man will find himself drifting away from all these aforementioned things and from there on THE MIND OF CHRIST will be his program, his quest, his eternal joy.
I can tell you of certainty that every man lives like Christ produces the same reaction upon as did the first-born Son. This is an inevitable consequence. What men thought of Him, they will think of you and me. The servant is not above his Master. If they persecuted Him, they will persecute you. A Son is simply different from other people. Time has not changed the essential difference between the spirit of the world and the spirit of Christ. They are radically different. And from the world's standpoint Sonship is eccentricity. For what is Sonship? It is the projection into the world of a people who live out the very same LIFE OF CHRIST that Jesus lived. The LIFE OF CHRIST is not the historical story of a man walked the earth two thousand years ago. The LIFE OF CHRIST is the Spirit of Jesus lived out in those who are members of His body. This is what makes the Sons of God eccentric. There is no sanctioned place in the world as yet for a life with God as its goal, and self-denial as its principle.
Let all who would be followers of the Lamb upon Zion's holy hill know that Sonship is no milk-and-water experience. It is a fire. It is a sword. It is a burning, consuming heat, which must radiate upon everything around. The change to the Christ Life is so remarkable that when one really undergoes it, he cannot find words in common use by which he can describe its revolutionary character. He has to recall the very striking phrases of the New Testament: "A new man, a new creature, a new heart, a new birth." His very life has been dissolved and re-crystallized around a new center!
Let a man depart from iniquity, let him depart from the myriad traditions of religion and make CHRIST AND CHRIST ALONE the center of his life and he will soon discover that the impression his friends receive from him now is the impression of eccentricity. The change is bound to strike them, for it is radical, central. They will call in unworthy motives to account for the difference; they will say it is a mere temporary fit, and will pass away. They will say he has shown a weakness which they did not expect from him, and try to talk him out of his novel views and curious life. This, in its mildest form, is the modern equivalent of "He is beside himself." And it cannot be helped. We have a different center.
LIVING BY THE TREE OF LIFE
"These are in the world." "The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not the world." "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." "Even as He is, so are we in this world." (Jn. 17:11,14,16; I Jn. 4:17).
If Jesus was not of the world, why was He in the world? If there was no sympathy between Him and the world, why was it that He lived in it, and did not remain in that high and holy and blessed world to which He belonged? The answer is, The Father had sent Him into the world. In these two expressions, "In the world" and "Not of the world," we find the whole secret of His work as the God-man, the Son of the Father.
He was IN THE WORLD in human nature, because God would show that this nature belonged to HIM, and not to the god of this world, that the human nature was created to receive the divine and incorruptible life of God and in this divine life to reach its highest glory. He was IN THE WORLD in fellowship with men, to enter into loving relationship with them, to be seen and known of them, and thus to lead them back to Father. He was IN THE WORLD to struggle with the demonic and fleshly powers which rule the world, to overcome them and open up the way for those who should follow to overcome; to learn obedience, and so perfect and sanctify human nature.
He was NOT OF THE WORLD, but of heaven, to manifest and bring nigh the life that is in God, from which man had become alienated through wicked works, that men might see it and long for it. He was NOT OF THE WORLD, founding a Kingdom entirely heavenly in origin and nature, entirely independent of all that the world holds desirable or necessary, with principles and laws and a spirit the very opposite of those that rule in the world. He was NOT OF THE WORLD, witnessing against its sin and departure from the Spirit of God, its impotence to know and please God. He was NOT OF THE WORLD in order to redeem all to Him, and bring them into that new and heavenly Kingdom which He revealed in His Sonship.
This glorious life of Christ on earth, "In the world" but "Not of the world," is the very essence and reality of THE TREE OF LIFE in the Paradise of God. "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the TREE OF LIFE also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:8-9). This Tree of Life was in all reality "In the world" but "Not of the world." It was accessible to man but had absolutely nothing to do with the realm of earthiness, for it was heaven's own divine life made available to man. In the Tree of Life God invited man to find Him as the source and center of life that in union with Him God would be at once both the indwelling power of life and the environment in which man would live, and move, and have his being. In the Tree of Life man would be full of light, abounding in heavenly wisdom and knowledge, fearful in power and dominion, ethereal as a spirit and shining in the image of God. The fruit of this wonderful Tree would indeed make man radiant with the resplendent glory of God as was Jesus, the second Adam, at the transfiguration, whose face shone as the sun and His raiment was as the light. In this Tree of Life the effulgent perfumes of the heavenly realm would be fragrance and life to man's nostrils. He would taste spiritual realities and touch spiritual things. The wisdom and power of God Himself would be wide open to him and he would walk in the presence and glory of celestial realms. The gates of that realm would never be shut by day or by night. Man would need to eat of no other tree nor drink of any the water of earth. Man would have "meat to eat" that no other creature in heaven or earth knew of and "water to drink" that none other had ever tasted. The heavens would be opened over his head and he would walk in the glory of the presence of God the Almighty.
THIS was the glory of the Tree of Life in Eden! And what was that glorious Tree? "In the beginning was the WORD, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ...in HIM WAS LIFE; and THE LIFE was the light of men" (Jn. 1:1,4). This life-giving Tree, the LIVING WORD OF GOD, Christ, was from the beginning "In the world" but yet "Not of the world." When Eden's gates clanged shut behind our banished foreparents, that blessed Tree of eternal life was never again seen by the wondering eyes of mortal man until the day in which Jesus stood upon the earth and declared: "I am the LIVING BREAD which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread which I will give is MY flesh, which I will give for the LIFE OF THE WORLD" (Jn. 6:51). The reason Jesus came forth as the visible expression of the Father, the Tree of Life re-planted, was so that there might be a focusing, a manifestation which would become a MEETING PLACE for us to come to know God, and become one with Him, as it was in the beginning. It is IN CHRIST JESUS that GOD AND CREATION MEET, COME TOGETHER, AND ARE MADE ONE. Christ WHO IS OUR LIFE has come and has been planted in the garden of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, that all may come and eat and drink and have life.
There is a most wonderful statement made concerning Christ in the Song of Solomon. The Shulamite proclaims of Him: "As the apple among the trees of the wood, so my beloved among the Sons. I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste" (S. of S. 2:3). The word, "apple," in this place, means orange, pomegranate, citron, as well as apple, and is applied in the Hebrew to this entire family of fruit trees. Though one searched through all the forest of earth, he would not find one fruit tree; and though one searches through the whole forests of unregenerated humanity, there is not one tree there that can bear any fruit excepting that which is poisonous and bitter. Before the Shulamite found the one fruitful Tree, Christ, she searched throughout the forest, seeking life, seeking food, seeking fruit; but upon no tree did she find anything but leaves.
How she searched though the forest to find a tree that had fruit on it. How she looked around for a tree that could give and sustain life. Weary and worn, discouraged and hungry, she went from forest to forest, from tree to tree. She looked for peace, but she found it not; she looked for joy, but she found it not; she looked for a "Daysman" among the forest of men, but she found none. Neither in man's theories and teaching, nor in their philosophy and traditions did she find life. Neither in her own works nor in those of any other did she find rest. How she traveled and looked for reality and could not find it.
At last, by the grace and guidance of God, she came upon Him who is the only "Apple Tree" in the whole forest of humanity; the Tree upon which all kinds of fruit grow. She came and tasted and found that the Lord was good. She has partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Life; she has found fruit, refreshing and sweet, both nourishing as food and satisfying to thirst. She has found the Tree upon which there is every manner of fruit, and fruit all the time; eternal fruit, righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Then there is wisdom, love, understanding, power and every fruit that prepares one for the glory of God.
Many precious brethren are perplexed that we no longer find any desire to fellowship with them in their religious ceremonies and rituals, in their so-called "holy days" and festive seasons, in their carnal ordinances and pitiful programs, in their static creeds and petty doctrines, in their fleshly board meeting and organizations. They wonder why we don't run from meeting to meeting, from seminar to seminar, from campaign to campaign, to hear every preacher, and teacher, and prophet, and healer, and miracle worker who posses through town. I do not want to beat about the bush in what I am saying, but I want to speak my earnest convictions with clarity and assurance. I find that even the Christian bookstores with their endless shelves of book filled with spiritual Pablum, if not with spiritual nonsense, have become a stench to my spirit. I tell you of a truth that I find the vast majority of the Christian radio and television stations, with their religious racketeers, showmanship, Jesus rock and confusion of tongues to be nothing more nor less than ambassadors of the kingdom of Babylon. Those things satisfied once, but now I have tasted of the fruit of a tree more delicious, satisfying, and life giving than all - CHRIST HIMSELF!
Paul had revelations so great he could not even hint at what they were about, so startling and glorious that he fell as dead before the wonder of them, but he still cried out with deep desire, "THAT I MAY KNOW HIM..." (Phil. 3:10). It is that FULL, inward revelation of HIMSELF that we follow after. This is an imperative MUST, and it is this very thing that is causing us to turn from the chambers of Babylon, yea, and to lay down our own lives also, that we might know HIS LIFE in fullest measure. It is this which, as the parable states, "is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Mat. 13:45-46). Ah yes, we gladly offer up all that we have, that we might receive HIM, and all the fullness of redemption which is resident in Him, our Tree of Life.
It is not only to find the one Apple Tree, but it is to take up our abode under its shadow. It is not only to taste of its fruit, but it is to eat and be filled with all the fruit that grow upon this divine Tree; it is to feed upon Him continually until we are filled with all the fullness of Christ, until we are strong in Him and in the power of His might. Oh wonderful Tree that dwelt in the bosom of Father from eternity! Oh marvelous Tree planted of old in Eden's lovely garden! Oh precious Tree planted among men as the Son of the Father, planted by the power of the eternal Spirit, of whose fruit millions have partaken, and whose fruit is ours as we partake of it through faith! Oh eternal fruit, gathered for the eternal Kingdom, as He brings many Sons to glory and brings them home to His Father's house! How sweet is this fruit to our taste, how satisfying is every morsel of which we partake! And we can feed to the full for the fruit is ever growing, ever being revealed to us, always perfect, and never passes away.
How we rejoice that we have proven there is fruit upon Him; and by feeding upon Him and Him alone, we too bear fruit to His glory. He is our Storehouse, He is the only fruitful Tree, and we can get nothing outside Him, but we can get everything in Him. The more we feed upon Him, the more we abide in Him. The more He feeds and nourishes us, the more He becomes manifested in our lives to the glory of God.
There is none other like Him among all the sons of men, neither among the archangels in heaven.
J. PRESTON EBY
J. PRESTON EBY
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