The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9
For years, it never dawned on me that there were two trees of significance in the Garden of Eden, but I’ve discovered their equal importance.
After Adam and Eve fell for the serpent’s deception and ate of the tree of knowledge, the Lord said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Gen 3:22). After he drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen 3:24).
Knowledge can be a very powerful asset, but left to itself, it leads to death. The tree of knowledge has always been pleasing to the eye and easy to eat. It’s brimming branches hang low, so we can fill ourselves to the degree we desire, with either good or evil. But Jesus came to set us free from ourselves and the original deception: you can rule your own destiny…you have no need to be under God’s authority…God doesn’t really love you since He is denying you. . .be the master of your own ship.
(Jesus) Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NKJV
Jesus, being God Himself, willingly submitted Himself to His Father in heaven. “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)
I can know everything there is to know about Jesus without there being a surrendering of my will to His Lordship in my life, which He demonstrated toward His own Father. I can study the Bible for years and say I believe and yet, I can still be spiritually dead in my soul. As James warns, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder” (James 2:19). Demons know and believe in Jesus, but that accounts for nothing.
Jesus also warns, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt 7:22-23).
I can know everything there is to know about the President of the United States. I can watch all his speeches, read his books, study his moves, campaign for him, work in his office, share stories about him with others, but does that mean he knows me personally? If I were to try and approach him in public, what would happen? His secret servant agents would likely whisk me away to a small cell.
On the other hand, what if our families knew each other and we exchanged Christmas cards and spent holidays together? Would I not be able to approach him freely? So it is with Jesus. You may work for Him, attend His churches, read His Words, heal and cast out demons in His name, but does He know you? Have you fully surrendered your will to His? Have you allowed your kingdom to go, so His can come in your heart?
As Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) Paul willingly approached the tree of life, being struck down by the flaming sword of death to self. He identified himself in the death of Jesus, as he said, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. . . I’ve given Him full access to myself. My life is His.”
The tree of knowledge deceives people into believing they are saved without the need of being struck down by the flaming sword of life. The enemy wants nothing more than to keep us from approaching the tree of life. The lie remains the same, “You can have Jesus without the need to surrender yourself.” However, Jesus makes our need clear in Matthew 16:21-25:
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” The temptation to master His own ship. . ‘you don’t have to lay Yourself down’. . .
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
I grew up in church, I could tell you the Bible stories and sought to be good and veer from evil. But, I was no different than the Israelites, “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Isaiah 29:13 The Lord convicted me that I had never fully surrendered myself to Him , I had knowledge, but no life.
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Rev 2:7
I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to eat of the Tree of Life in heaven. Until then, I wear a tree necklace to remind myself to not merely seek knowledge, but life. When I study the Bible, I pray the Lord would reveal to me the LIFE that is to be found. If I’m merely looking for knowledge, then I fear I’ll miss the spiritual life Jesus longs to impart to me.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)
What about you? Have you approached the Tree of Life, identifying yourself in Jesus death and resurrection? Have you yielded your will to Him? If not, what is preventing you?