Thursday, May 3, 2018
Sabbath - Part Three - The Tree of Strife
Having read the previous chapter, you should be starting to get a glimpse of how truly foundational is this issue of the Sabbath. It is tragic that such deception and darkness has overtaken the body of Christ until the meaning of Sabbath has been reduced to a set of doctrines regarding the cessation of labor during one day of the week. The only understanding among the majority of the saints is that Sabbath refers to some desire that the Father has that mankind should not work one day out of seven. For most Christians, the true significance of Sabbath remains hidden.
As we have seen, Sabbath actually refers to man dying to all personal initiative. It pertains to man being truly governed by Yahweh so that all of his actions and all of his words have their origin in Him. Sabbath is man ceasing from his own labors and entering into a state where every moment of life is in harmony with the revealed will of the Father. This requires that man must always be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit, for it is the Spirit of God that discloses to the saint the mind and will of the Father.
I Corinthians 2:10-12
For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God.
When Yahshua walked the Earth He said that He was always beholding the Father. He did not begin His earthly ministry until the Spirit descended upon Him and abided with Him. Yahshua is our example and it is to Him, and the pattern of obedience in which He walked, that we are being conformed (Romans 8:29).
For this reason it is essential that the saint who would walk in true Sabbath rest should be in constant communication with the Spirit of God. Unless we know the mind and will of the Father, moment by moment, we cannot walk as He would have us. In the 8th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, Paul tells the saints in Rome that those who are mature sons of God are led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14).
In every decision, at every turning and crossroads, man is not to have any initiative of his own. He is not to decide the course he would take. Man is not to be led by his own passions and desires, by the leading of his soul. Man is to have no will in any matter other than to know the Father’s will and to do it. This is to be his highest aim and single objective.
It will necessarily and frequently occur that the desires of our souls will be in contradiction to the revealed will of the Father. Sometimes the gulf between our soulish desires and the Father’s desire will be exceedingly great. In these times we are to put to death the desires of the soul that we might follow obediently the course the Father has determined for us. This is the subject of Yahshua’s following discourse.
Then said Yahshua to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”
The life Yahshua is speaking of is the soul life of man. It is the mind, will, and emotions of man. Man’s mind can contrive many paths to walk down that seem good and acceptable. Man’s emotions can passionately urge the pursuit of a particular course. Man’s will can determine to walk down paths of his own choosing. Solomon stated that “there is a way that seems good unto a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25). The apostle Paul also spoke of the necessity of turning away from the desires of our flesh that we might walk the path that the Spirit guides us down.
For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
How did man come to be in this state where present within him is an innate sense of good and evil that is out of harmony with the mind of God? The opening chapters of Genesis reveal the answer.
When Adam, whose name means man, was originally created he did not have an innate soulish sense of good and evil. Adam received his guidance and his understanding of what was good from God. We are told that God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and He gave him the charge to tend it. We are also told that God caused many trees to grow from the ground, some of which were good for food, but the fruit of one tree was forbidden.
And Yahweh God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground Yahweh God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing 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... Then Yahweh God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. And Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die."
At this point in Adam’s life, he had no internal sense of good and evil. He neither had this capacity in his soul, neither did he have the indwelling Spirit of God to make known the will of God to him. Adam walked with God and communed with Him on an external level. The Father made known His will to Adam through means of this relationship. It is revealed a bit later that it was the manner of God to walk in the Garden and to meet and speak with Adam there.
And they heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden. Then Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"
Adam, in his original created form had no sense of good and evil present within him. All of his ways were determined by communication with Yahweh. Yahweh spoke to Adam and made known to Adam that which He would have him to do. Both good and evil were made known to Adam by direct communication with Yahweh God. Yahweh told Adam the things that were good and desirable; Adam should tend the garden and eat of its trees. Yahweh also told Adam what constituted evil. There was only one thing that was described as being outside of the will of Yahweh. Adam was not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Things were very simple for Adam. If he did the things Yahweh commanded him to do he was walking in obedience and adhering to good. If Adam did the one thing Yahweh commanded him not to do he would be walking in disobedience and this would be evil. Both good and evil for Adam were made known through direct communication with Yahweh. In this we see that good equates to doing Yahweh’s expressed will, while evil is doing that which is not His will.
We know the tragic occurrence that took place in the Garden of Eden. We are told that the serpent came and deceived Eve. He tempted her to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree. What he revealed in the temptation is highly important.
"For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Let us examine these words closely. The temptation that Satan brought to Eve was the temptation to “be like God,” and the particular attribute that was characterized as unique to God was the ability to know “good and evil.” Up until this time neither Adam nor Eve were able to determine good and evil themselves. There was only one who determined good and evil, and this was Yahweh. What Yahweh declared to be good was good, and what He declared to be evil was evil. He alone could make such judgments. He alone had the authority to determine what was allowable and what was forbidden, what was righteous conduct and what was unrighteous conduct. Yahweh alone could determine what activities should be performed, and which should be abstained from.
In all of creation, Yahweh did not create a single being that was endowed with the authority to determine for itself good and evil. All created things came forth from Yahweh, and for all things to be at rest they had to be in a state of perfect harmony with His will. No created being had the authority to will things of its own initiative. All things found their will in the mind of the One who was the Creator.
What the serpent offered Eve was the ability to do something that was reserved for the Creator alone. Eve could determine her own way. She could decide for herself what activities were good and which were evil. She could, within her own being, find the ability to govern herself.
Some saints have the mistaken idea that the tragedy of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was that evil activities came forth. They look at Cain murdering Abel, they look at the selfishness, lying, coveting, adultery, and all manner of evil that came upon the Earth and they say, “This is the great evil of eating of the forbidden tree.”
The great evil was not these things. The great evil was that man began to look within himself to perceive what was right and wrong. Man ceased to always look to Yahweh to discern what His will was. Man now had his own initiative and a will that was severed from the will of God. It was not that man began doing bad things that was the great tragedy, it was that man began to have a will of his own that initiated things apart from the mind of Yahweh.
If man had eaten of the forbidden fruit and then he had always chosen to follow that which he determined to be good and right, he would have been just as much of a transgressor as one who always chose to follow the course that his soul told him was evil. It didn’t matter whether man was doing good or evil. What mattered was that man was now finding his sense of what was good and evil in a place other than the mind of Yahweh.
This is the intent of the scripture we previously looked at from Matthew chapter 7. Yahshua said that many will come to Him on the day of judgment saying, “Didn’t we do many good things in Your name; we cast out demons, we prophesied, we performed miracles” (my paraphrase), but He will respond that they are lawless and they will not enter into the Kingdom of God.
It matters not whether we choose a path of good, or whether we dedicate ourselves to do evil. If that which we do is based upon our own soulish sense of good and evil then it is detestable to the Father. Only those who do the will of the Father in heaven will enter the Kingdom of God, and we will only know the will of the Father as He reveals it by His Spirit.
We must die to that part of us which was quickened and made alive when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree. We must return to a place where “knowing good and evil” is again only an activity of Yahweh. We must quit being “like God,” usurping His authority in determining what is good and evil, and we must seek to always know His mind.
It is not the evil deeds of the soulish man that are such a subtle snare to the saint of God, it is the innate and fleshly knowledge of what is good. The saint, thinking that he can determine good himself, looks within his soul to find the path he should walk down. His mind may see no evil in the path he has chosen. It may appear wholly decent and good, even godlike, but this is the very peril of the fruit from which Adam and Eve ate. The serpent spoke to Eve and said, "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God..." (Genesis 3:5).
When the serpent deceived Eve, he knew the temptation would be set before Adam to choose a path of independence from Yahweh. Adam need not look to Yahweh to tell Him what was good and what was evil. Adam need not always seek to know the mind and will of God. Adam could determine these things within his own being. He could choose his own path. He could follow his own righteous inclinations and think himself righteous for following a course of his own choosing.
The saint of God does this as he sets himself to perform activities that seem good, but which he has no specific command from the Father to do. The saint can do something that has the appearance of righteousness, such as prophesying or casting out demons, but it is only truly righteous if the activity was initiated by the Father.
Paul informs the readers of the book of Hebrews that the one who has entered into the Sabbath rest of the Father is the one who has ceased from his own labors. It matters not whether the labor is good or evil, if it did not originate with Yahweh, it is man’s labor. This is striving. This is the fruit of eating of the forbidden tree. What the serpent actually set before Adam was the temptation to violate the Sabbath rest of Yahweh. Man, from the fall of Adam, has been in a state of strife for he has been willing and initiating many things that the Father did not command.
The great tragedy today is that the body of Christ has not discerned that it is this innate sense of good and evil that they must die to in order that they might perceive by the Spirit what the good and perfect will of God is in their lives. Most saints have not discerned that they must die to the habit of looking within their soul to find the path they should walk down.
Rare is the saint who can separate the voice of the Spirit from the voice of his own soul. When the saint looks within to see what he should do and he is met with the soul’s answer of the good path before him, a path that eschews evil, he decides that this is the path he must choose and that he must look to God to help him walk this path. Such a saint fails to understand that he must die to the good he finds within his soul that he might discern the voice of the Spirit and find empowerment to walk the path God would have him walk.
This is a most important matter, and one that cannot be stressed too much. I would guess that one out of a hundred thousand decisions made in Christendom today are actually at the leading of the Spirit. All else arises from the soul of man. Look to yourself. Are you listening to the voice of your soul, or the voice of the Spirit of God? Do you recognize that there is present in your soul a sense of righteousness that does not have its source in God? Have you falsely supposed that the sense of right and wrong within your soul is in harmony with God’s will for your life?
The saint of God who has been born again of the Spirit must learn to discern the difference between the voice of his own soul and the voice of the Spirit. Many, failing to discern that there is a soulish sense of good and evil present within them, wrongly assume that they are walking according to the will of God when they have only consulted with their own soul and they have not yet discerned the witness of the Spirit of God.
It may seem to some that I am belaboring this point, but it is a most critical point, perhaps the most critical matter in all of the Kingdom of God, yet it is not perceived by the majority. Consider the way the apostle ends his treatise on entering into Sabbath rest in the book of Hebrews. Some have felt like he was suddenly changing topics in the following verses, but they are all of a consistent theme.
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
In order to enter into Sabbath rest we must be able to separate between the voice of the soul and the voice of the spirit. We must refuse the good course the soul brings to mind that we might follow the leading of the Spirit of Christ. We only enter into Sabbath rest as we cease from the works that arise from the soul’s sense of good and evil.
Let us end this chapter by taking another look at Yahshua’s words, the words of the One whom we are to imitate.
“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
Yahshua’s life was an example of perfect Sabbath rest. He initiated no activity of His own. He only went those places the Father directed Him to go by the Spirit. He only performed those deeds the Father revealed that He should do. He was even perfect in His speech, only speaking what the Father commanded Him to speak. He did the will of the Father in heaven.
It should be noted to the one who would contend that Yahshua did command His disciples to cast out demons, heal the sick, etc., that a very important matter preceded this charge. Yahshua was not giving His disciples a general command for them to participate in these activities as they saw fit, according to their own understanding. He desired that they be led of the Spirit in all that they did. He commanded that they should walk even as He walked, and He always did that which the Spirit revealed to Him to be the will of the Father. We find in scriptures that when He commissioned His disciples to go forth and minister as He had ministered that He very notably commanded that they were to receive the Spirit before they began to minister.
When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Yahshua came and stood in their midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord. therefore Yahshua said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”
"Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."
Yahshua did not begin His ministry until after the Spirit descended upon Him and rested on Him. In the same way, His disciples could not begin their ministry until after Pentecost when the Spirit was given to them. Why was this so?
It is the Spirit that discloses Yahweh’s mind to us. The saint cannot know what the Father would have them do until they receive the Spirit. Yet many do not know this is the reason the Spirit has been given to them. They often fail to see the necessity of the Spirit guiding them into all of their activities for it seems easy enough for them to determine what their activity should be. The scriptures state that the saints of God are to do those things which the Father has prepared beforehand for them.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Yahshua the Messiah to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The saint of God who would turn away from the tree of strife, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, must return to a place where they are discerning the mind of the Father. He no longer walks with man in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the evening. We must have another way to discern His mind. The way He has provided is the indwelling Spirit of God who searches the mind of the Father and makes His will known to us.
Those who would enter into the 7th day of creation since Adam must come to a place of rest in their being. They must enter the Sabbath rest of God by ceasing from their own activity and works. They must do only that which the Father reveals by His Spirit.
This is an excerpt from the book Sabbath.
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