Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Rayola Kelley

       One of the greatest challenges for the Church is to establish and maintain one source of truth. There is a plethora of opinions and conclusions, but there is no agreement in any of it. As a result, man is establishing his own truth, rather than coming under the authority of God and His Word as the source to all truth.

       We have numerous interpretations about different beliefs. However, much of it is a matter of opinions and personal interpretations, and not the truth of God. Sadly, many people build their lives upon, or align their ideas or beliefs to these conclusions. They are actually establishing their lives on shifting sand (Matthew 7:24-27). They will not stand and withstand when the real trials of life begin to challenge their perception and understanding.

       This brings us to the debate over the credibility of the Word of God. Instead of becoming subject to the spirit and truth of the Word, many are making the Word subject to their personal beliefs, agendas and purposes. This translates to people either debating the validity of God’s Word because of unbelief, or determining its meaning according to personal theology.

       The challenge today is to maintain the integrity of the Word by recognizing its authority above all personal conclusions, beliefs or religious influences. The only way we can recognize its authority is to believe what it says about its Author. The Author of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). His purpose for maintaining the intent of it is to ensure the salvation of souls. There are three ways in which the integrity of the Bible is maintained:

1)     First of all, we need to recognize that the Bible reveals the character, heart and desire of God. The character of God is that He is holy. The Holy Spirit will not step outside of this holiness in His work or activities. His responsibility is to honor the heart and plan of the Father, which is reconciliation with His creation, especially man. This plan of reconciliation involves redemption. Redemption was God’s way of buying man back from the dictates of sin and it consequences of death. We know the price was His Son, Jesus Christ. As a result, the Spirit speaks of the Son and His redemption through conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment. Today, the Father draws, the Spirit convicts, and Jesus invites the lost sheep to drink of the eternal, living water. Therefore, the main theme of the Bible is redemption. The mystery that was hidden in God’s Word, and is being revealed is that God manifested Himself in the flesh. In the flesh, He was offered up as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. You can see these three elements throughout His Word (John 1:29;5:42-47, 16:7-14, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19;  2 Timothy 3:16).

2)     The second aspect of the Bible is the spirit or intent of it. There can be debates about certain facts or points of information. But, the spirit and intent of the Bible remain constant. Since it is a spiritual book, its intent is to reach the spirit of man and awaken that which is dead to God to see the need for salvation. The spirit or intent of the Bible never changes. However, man changes it as he demotes God in His character and work and exalts man in his responsibilities and burden in regard to salvation. In fact, man always frustrates the grace of God (Galatians 2:21).

3)     The third aspect of the Bible is that it is written to certain people, but it is written for the benefit of edification for all who partake of it. For example, the Old Testament is written to the Hebrew people, but God’s attitude and dealings with His people serve as valuable examples to us to meditate upon and learn from (1 Corinthians 10:2-3). When you consider the New Testament, the letters are written to church bodies or individuals who are struggling with different issues of life. Although people may vary and change in their cultural practices, God and man never vary or change from who they are. God remains holy, and due to man’s selfish disposition, he often finds himself opposing God in rebellion and independence. This remains true regardless of man’s culture, unless man steps outside of his ways and practices and allows God to have His way through His Word. Granted, the culture of those days may have determined how the problems or issues expressed themselves in the lives of the people, but the reality is we contend with the very same issues and problems today. The source of the problem remains the same. It is sin influencing and working within the selfish disposition, upon the carnal mind, and through misdirected and idolatrous affections of man. When you manage to get past the influence of sin upon every aspect of man’s perverted perception, fleshly ways, and unregenerated disposition, you will find unbelief.

       As I contend with people, I find that in many cases their selfish disposition is reigning from behind a religious cloak. Behind the disposition is total unbelief towards the Word of God. Sadly, unbelief reigns supreme in most people’s perception of God and His Word.

       At the core of this unbelief is the lie that finds its origins in the Garden of Eden. This lie continues to lead people into the same darkness. It has three stages and three parts to it. The purpose of these stages and parts is to lead people into total unbelief towards God and His Word.

       The first part of the lie is meant to simply question the integrity of what has been said. Ultimately, the lie questions whether God really said what He said. As you consider the possible approaches to God’s Word from the premise of this lie, you will realize that the first part of the lie throws doubt on the record established by God as to whether He really said it. The second part of the lie nullifies what He has said, rendering it as a lie. The third part of it puts doubt on His character. He is either fickle, a con, or powerless to carry out His Word. Yet, the Word is very clear about whether God means what He says: Consider Romans 3:3-4: “For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”

       The lie that ultimately won out in the Garden of Eden is clearly alive and well when it comes to God’s Word. It constantly plays out in man’s logic about the matters of life. For example, “God cannot possibly mean what He says about this matter because He is loving. Therefore, He will understand why His Word is not applicable in this situation, and overlook my discrepancy of going contrary to it.” Ultimately, such logic will allow individuals to stand justified in their own eyes, but when it comes to God, they will be as Adam and Eve, stripped and exposed in their delusion and rebellion.

       It is vital that we recognize the three points and stages that always surround this lie. Let us examine them: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman. Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? The first part of the lie is the most quoted: “…Yea, hath God said…? (Genesis 3:1). The first stage of the lie is that a question mark is subtly being presented as to whether God really said it or not. This is to condition a person to accept the false reality that is being established, in order to accept the crux of the lie. As you consider the subtlety of the lie, it is being made to look harmless. All lies stipulate the ways of death. Everyone who questions what God’s Word says, fails to see that such unbelief contains the deadly bite of the serpent that will ultimately lead to death.

       Now that a person has come under the seduction of the lie, the second part of it can be presented. This part of the lie is an outright frontal attack against the truth. It declares that God really did not mean what He said. In fact, this is the crux of the lie that has been hidden by the subtlety of the first part of the lie: “You shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4).

       In the first stage, God’s Word is questioned, which opens the door to logic. Eve must now logic with the father of lies to set the record straight. Logic always becomes the open door for seduction. After all, one cannot logic with the father of lies or with his lies. Eve did not have to defend the record of God through logic. Rather, she needed to stand on the record as being true, and rebuke Satan for perverting it and flee from his deceptive temptation. Man’s logic will always take the authority and power out of God’s Word, making it appear insignificant or harmless. In fact, you will always find man’s logic wherever there is debate and deviance away from the integrity of God’s Word. But, we are not to walk by our logic, but by faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

       The second part of the lie actually takes the bite out of God’s Word. You will surely not die. At this point, God is becoming the liar. He is misrepresenting the situation. However, God means what He says. He warned them if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would die. This is not an idle warning, but the harsh truth. But, at this point, the focus has changed from the consequences of death to a mockery of truth.

       Is this not true about all sin? When a person wants to give way to sin, he or she must downplay the consequences of it by changing the emphasis. This is the second stage of this lie. Satan was implying the issue was not about death at all. It was about something else. In fact, at this point, God’s warning actually begins to seem foolish.

       What people fail to realize is that all spiritual ruin does not come from God, but from the fruit of sin. When people partake of the fruit of sin, they are partaking of death. In other words, death is the result. For example, God made paradise for man, while Satan tempted man to partake of and experience death by eating of the fruit of the knowledge of sin and death. God’s instruction to not eat of the tree did not contain death, rather His instruction was the means to establish life and protect Adam and Eve from partaking of that which harbors the fruits and consequences of sin and death.

       This brings us to the third part of the lie:  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). This last part of the lie is nothing more than false accusation being leveled at God’s character. Satan was implying that God was not trustworthy in His motives and intentions, and that he real reason God did not want them to eat of the tree is because they would be as He is, knowing good and evil. In essence, he was saying that God is no different than we are. Satan’s reasoning implied that God did not want Adam and Eve to know because it would be a means of competition. He was accusing God of wanting to keep them ignorant in order to maintain His position as Supreme Ruler.

       Satan’s final accusation against God’s character is also the premise on which many people justify their sin and leads to the third stage of judging God. Unbelief harbors much suspicion towards God. This suspicion takes root in people’s heart when they begin to think God is actually keeping them from something that would be pleasurable and beneficial to maintain His preeminence in a matter.

       Sadly, this is how people regard God when it comes to partaking of sin. They feel God is keeping them from something that is wonderful, and they begin to see Him as outdated, unfair and ridiculous. They begin to logic away His warnings, admonitions and instructions. In the end, they partake of the fruit of sin and death. This fruit opens the door for darkness to invade their hearts and minds. At times, they even try to put some fig leaves over their spiritual nakedness and the emptiness that is consuming them. Sadly, the voice of God becomes fainter and fainter in the background as He calls out: “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9b).

       Where are you in your life in God? Is the lie of the garden winning out in your life or are you walking by faith towards God and in His Word? If you are walking in love and by faith, it means you are expressing such a walk by obeying His Word.

       Next month, we are going to consider how the lie in the garden and the unbelief of man is affecting many Christians’ attitudes towards the Word of God. As you will see, the great lie that serves as the foundation to unbelief is very much establishing people in erroneous and destructive attitudes towards God and His Word.

        If you would like to learn more about how God’s message is being undermined in the Church, you can obtain my book titled Challenging The Christian LifeTHE PRESENTATION OF THE GOSPEL is one of five books in volume five.