“The Answer” is one coherent and consecutive article and best read from the beginning. But in order to find later more quickly the single sequences the Subtitles are listed here.
Two Trees, God’s Answer,
and our Choice
God is love, (s. 1 Jn 4:16), and God is eternal. Thus also his character and his principle of love are eternal and unchangeable. In this love He wanted to share; and so He created the angels and the inhabitants of the universe. In his selfless love, He created them as intelligent beings with the freedom to decide. And selfless love generates trust and love in return.
But then one of the angels selfishly turned his back on everything, and questioned God, his character and his principles. God tried to win him back, but in the end He had to let him and his followers go, because love does not force. But even though this angel would have died because of his separation from the life- giving God, still God kept him alive so that he, who had become Satan, could prove his own norms. And by this the truth would come to light – since the questions about God were still present ... and the universe was now torn into two camps.
By creating the earth and men, God began to answer those questions. God created men in his own image and He loved them deeply. In Eden He planted for them the Tree of Life, which symbolized eternal life and God’s love. As their Father He was with them, and He gave them his special day as a sign and picture of this bond and fellowship with them. (s. Ezek 20:12,20). His Day should always remind them that He as their Creator is their Father, and that they are his beloved children. (s. Ex 20:8,11; Mal 2:10).
Like everyone else in the universe, they had the freedom to decide. Satan therefore demanded to be allowed to approach them with the two choices. But only on one single tree – the tree of knowledge of good and evil – Satan was allowed to enter Eden. God warned the two people, that this tree is a deadly tree. And so they had the choice between the Tree of Life and the tree of death. How would they decide?
Tragically, they decided not to believe God, but to believe Satan’s lies ...
Satan asserted to these people that God was not trustworthy but a tyrant who oppressed them; they should set up their own standards, and they would be like God – immortal.
By their decision to believe him, men started a succession of events which quickly changed their picture of God and change their character. Suddenly they had fear; fear of God, fear that they no longer would be loved but rejected, and fear that they will die.
These are the three fears, which were handed down to us through all generations until today. These fears are found all over the world, as well as the various attempts to solve them: attempts to appease a wrathful deity, attempts to be accepted and to receive value, attempts to work hard in order to receive a good hereafter ... or – in face of the (made up) hell and the wars in the name of god – seizing a last attempt and solution in totally repressing and ignoring such a severe and fearsome deity.
These three fears can be compared with the three components that mainly form and mold the personality of a man – the own ego, the experiences in life, and the role models and the ideas of God. All three of them were adversely affected by the Fall of Man, and thus led to the three fears.
To conquer these fears and to change people to the positive, God has one important means: the truth.
That we might lose our fears God had to prove how He is really like, so that we might trust Him, turn to Him, trustingly confess to Him our burden of guilt and let Him change us.
Jesus came to show how God is really like. In Him, God showed the truth about himself and his workings, so that He could save us, may cost it what it wanted ... and the high cost was his own life.
The truth testifies of itself. God does not ask for blind obedience. We are free to ask honest and sincere questions if we really want to know the truth. (s. Is 1:18; Jer 6:16; Jn 16:19). The truth does not have to fear the questions; truth will be always revealed to be truth. It is the lie that must fear the questions, because then it may be revealed to be a lie. Therefore Satan tries to oppress questions. But God wants us to get to know how He is really like; He wants to bring the truth to light. Truth is the way out of fear.
Therefore the question left to God is: Can He answer these fear-questions? Can He prove that He is trustworthy and truly loves us?
Yes, He can and He did:
1) The Fear of death
Jesus testified on the cross: God is not the one who kills a sinner, but the sin and the separation from God, which Jesus took upon himself, killed Him. And sin and separation from God are those which also kill us. (s. Rom 6:23).
In addition, there is no eternal hell: Jesus described death as sleep. (s. Jn 11:11-14). He himself lay in the tomb sleeping the sleep of death; and after his resurrection He said that He was dead, He was not with the Father. (s. Rev 1:18; Jn 20:17).
God does not want death; He wants to heal us and save us. (s. Ezek 18:23; 1 Tim 2:4). And if we let Him save us and if we follow Him, He at the return of Jesus will resurrect us from the grave and give to us eternal life. (s. Jn 6:39). We need no longer to fear death; it is just like a sleep. God has the power to resurrect from the sleep of death. He has triumphed over death.
2) The Fear of being worthless, being unloved, and of rejection
God has created us after his own image, and by this He is our Father and we are his children (s. Gen 1:27; Mal 2:10).
When the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable went far away, and separated from his father squandered the inheritance and wasted his life, he always remained the son the father longed for. (s. Lk 15:11-24).
Wherever you are, whatever you do, you can never lose your value in God’s eyes. His love and acceptance are unconditional. No matter what happens He will always love you, always longing for you and always waiting for you – waiting that you come to Him so that He can to save you. He wants to spend eternity with you.
3) The Fear of an unknown God
He has removed the basis for this fear by coming to this earth himself. Jesus became a man and showed throughout his life how God is like. (s. Jn 14:9-10; 17:4; 18:37).
He lived love and testified of the love and acceptance
- for the adulterous woman, who was dragged before Him to be condemned and judged, and whom He did not condemn, but simply asked her not to sin any longer (s. Jn 8:1-11);
- for the disciples, who quarreled over the their ranks at the last supper; whom He – being the King of the universe – then washed their feet ... a service of slaves none of the disciples was willing to do (s. Lk 22:24; Jn 13:2-15);
- for the thief who was crucified with Him and who at first mocked Him, but then turned around by watching Jesus and his behavior on the Cross; and to whom as an answer to his plea Jesus promised paradise. (s. Mt 27:44; Lk 23:39-43).
Everywhere Jesus testified of the unconditional acceptance and love of God ... “For if you see me, you see the Father.” (i. Jn 14:9).
The remaining question is: What kind of a picture do we have of God? Do we believe Jesus and his evidences? Or do we believe human assumptions? God does not want anyone to be lost. (s. Jn 3:16; 2 Pet 3:9). But He will never force anyone. He loves us, and He frees us form sin, guilt and fear. That is hope. We do no longer have to be slaves of our feelings and our sins, of our norms and our selfishness.
Jesus’ answer to the question of how to become free is:
“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.
If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.“
(John 8:32,34,36 Nasb)
By recognizing and accepting the evidences that Jesus revealed, we get the right picture of God and the truth about Him and his love. This builds trust in God, and this trust brings it about that one can entrust one’s guilt to God, and that one can let Him enter into the center of one’s heart and one’s life.
The choice of one of the two trees will also result in two different consequences in a person’s life. Of course one cannot always draw everything black-and-white, since all men long for – or once longed for – love, and when they give in to the conscience and to the love that God has placed in every human child, they will also love. At the end, however, only two sides will remain, and God longs to give us the good side.
We have the choice between the Tree of Life, which is God and his perfect love, to which we already have access today; or the tree with the principles of the adversary.
What principle, which person do we trust more? Do we trust God and his offer, or Satan and his offer? God wants to help us to become free; and when we look at Him, it influences us and our life positively.
It is a law in the universe that we become like the one we admire and worship. (s. 2 Cor 3:18). This begins with children imitating adults and does not cease with us.
We have the freedom to choose God as a model and to trust Him on the basis of evidence. Only then will we follow his instructions, lessons and commandments from our hearts, because then we begin to understand, how correct and good they are.
We are free to decide to let ourselves be healed by God of our past, our dispositions and our selfishness. He is the perfect physician. And He can heal. He only needs that: our trust.
At the two trees the two basic principles face each other:
The love described here portrays God’s character and principle. His kind of love is the highest principle. There is no better or higher principle. This means if one moves away from this principle to a different norm, one can never go up and reach a higher level or knowledge, as Satan claimed at the tree (“your eyes will be opened and you will be like God”). Another standard does not even remain at the same level of this highest principle. Even if one deviates by half a degree, one moves inevitably downwards, and his character changes to the negative. This process may be slow and not immediately identifiable. But in the example of the first people we can see that after their fall their selfless character had changed after a short time, so that they pushed the responsibility for their deed onto others, and they were afraid. Therefore moving away from God’s principle is always a way down, as the arrows show. This is the logical, inescapable consequence.
But moving upwards to God and his love means to become healed! The direction goes up with the arrows. God can change us and renew us. The listed attributes are changed to the positive side. God can free us from the negative attributes which burden our lives – He can free us to love!
The Good News are therefore: To change to the side of God and to connect with Him means to receive life – at the end the eternal life – for God himself is the source of all life.
How can Satan drag us down?
We all possess the freedom to decide; therefore no one can force us to leave God or his principles of love. Satan, of course, would like to violently force us to leave, and he tried and tries to do this already through people and institutions. But he can only with one thing work effectively and reach his goal in our hearts: by creating distrust through lies.
On the other hand: How can God bring us up and elevate us? We know He has the power to heal and at the end to raise us from death. But He too cannot force anybody to follow Him and to love Him. He anyway doesn’t want to, because love cannot be forced from anybody, only voluntarily given love is love indeed. And for doing this God leaves us the freedom. Only through one thing can He help us and receive our willingness to be healed: only by gaining our trust by the demonstration of his love.
He also cannot force us to let go of our sins. But if we take responsibility, recognize our mistakes and weaknesses, repent and confess them before God, then He can set us free. We are then in the process of change, we grow to Him, and He can give us courage, peace and joy. This breaks the chain, with which Satan makes us to be losers. And instead of receiving eternal death, we will inherit eternal life.
‘The Way of Life leads upward for the wise,
so that he will escape the death below.‘
(i. Prov 15:24)
So we are at the way-fork of decision. Do we want to be healed of self-centeredness and sin? We have the whole power of the universe at our side, if we choose to listen to Jesus and to be healed.
God loves you unconditionally, no matter what you have done. He listens to you, when you speak to Him, when you confess and when you ask for forgiveness. He knows everything anyway already, He knows your most secret thoughts ... but He has accepted you, already long ago. He is faithful.
Jesus called his disciples friends. (s. Jn 15:13-15). He said this before they left Him when He was taken captive. And He said it, though He knew that they will let Him down and abandon Him. He knew that they would sleep in the garden of Gethsemane instead of supporting Him in his most difficult decision of his life to accept the cup of death. And He knew that Peter would deny Him during the trial where He would be condemned to death. (s. Mt 26:36-75). Nevertheless, He loved them unconditionally and made it clear to them beforehand, so that they would not despair because of their failure, and be crushed by it.
And He loves us just as unconditionally, even though He knows all the dark corners of our inner being. But He did not come to judge and condemn, but to save. (s. Jn 3:17). Although He cannot save us unconditionally; in order to save us He needs our decision, our turning around and our willingness to listen to Him and follow Him. But whoever is teachable is curable. Thus He frees us from our dark corners and leads us to a changed life.
Knowing all of this, we should also do one thing: We should forgive ourselves! And we do not need to ask for forgiveness several times for the same thing, for ‘if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness’, (1 Jn 1:9 Nasb), and He helps us to set things right, where we wronged others. So since God has forgiven us, why do we hold something against ourselves? Since God fully accepts us, how can we reject ourselves? If Satan wants to put in our minds that we have no value and are not esteemed, we always shall object these thoughts with the fact that we possess God’s full unconditional acceptance and that we have an immensely high value for Him ... He gave his life for us!
“Comfort, comfort my people,“ says our God.
”Speak kindly to their hearts and call out to them
that their servitude is finished and that their guilt has been removed.
And the revealed glory of love of God will be seen by all of them.“
(i. Isaiah 40:1-2,5)
When God created men, He already at that time laid the foundation for the fulfillment of their deepest human needs, which also mold their personality:
By these acts already in Eden everything was ready for the future and the foundations were given. The temptations, Satan then used to sow distrust, were essentially the same at the tree with the first men and later in the wilderness with Jesus ... and they are still the same today.
- At the tree Satan said: “You will not die. Why shouldn’t you eat of everything?” – ‘You can do it’ – although it is against God’s will and plan.
And in the wilderness he said to Jesus: “Make bread for You of these stones” – ‘so that You may not die of hunger, take unauthorized something to eat’ – although this (too) is against God’s plan. (s. Gen 3:1,4; Mt 4:3). Both times it was about food, it was about taking unauthorized something against God’s will and plan, and that one wouldn’t die of it. And it isn’t any different today.
- At the tree Satan claimed, their eyes would be opened, it would be just for their advantage. And to Jesus he said: “Jump down from the temple, it will not harm You.” – ‘It is just for your advantage, for all people will acknowledge You.’ (s. Gen 3:5; Mt 4:5-6). Both times it was about one’s own advantage, it was about having a good experience, which wouldn’t harm. And also today it is all about advantages and good experience, which can’t be possibly harmful.
- At the tree Satan said, they would be like God determining the standards themselves. To Jesus he said: “The whole world belongs to You, if You just worship me as the god of this world.” (s. Gen 3:5; Mt 4:8-9). Again in both cases it was about making someone else to be god, and that they in their own authority can reach and determine everything as they want. As well today often one’s own standards and the lifestyle of the world are the priority.
In both cases those who were tempted were pure in their character. Jesus remained pure; He overcame by his steadfast trust in God. The first people, on the other hand, began to distrust God and gave in to temptation.
As a result their pure character changed immediately. It was now weak and stained with inclinations, inclinations that were already beginning to appear when they fell, for they considered the fruit as something to be
- good to eat and to enjoy (pleasure-seeking, self-seeking)
- a delight in their own eyes (self-elevating, pride), and
- desirable to make one wise (self-determination, power) (s. Gen 3:6)
One characteristic of sin is that it produces fear. Thus from these sinful inclinations arose the three basic fears, which can be found in the biblical record too:
- The fear of death: The two men realized that they had lost their purity and thus eternal life (they were naked).
- The fear of rejection: They sew themselves coverings to cover their nakedness (they tried to protect themselves and make themselves presentable).
- The fear of a severe God: They hid before Him (they got a fearsome picture of God, and did no longer trust Him. They tried to avoid Him, and also tried to make themselves acceptable to Him). (s. Gen 3:7-8,10)
But they shouldn’t remain in their fearing state. God still loved them; He does not change, even if men change. In his love He came to meet them in Eden. (s. Gen 3:9). And He came to meet all mankind; He became a man himself, came to the earth and met the fears by his evidences, (s. Jn 1:1-5,9-14), for He showed in many ways:
- “I am the Life,
- I am the Way, and
- I am the Truth.” (s. Jn 14:6)
By overcoming the temptations in the wilderness, Jesus gave us an example of how one becomes a conqueror by referring to the Word of God. In response to the three temptations Jesus said:
First response to the temptation with food:
“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word of God.”
Second response to the temptation to one’s own advantage:
“Do not test and challenge God against his will and plan.”
Third response to the temptation concerning another god:
“Worship God alone and serve Him alone.” (s. Mt 4:4.7,10)
And He didn’t only say this to us, but also gives us his strength, help and support, so that we are able to overcome and conquer.
But much more: In his promises Jesus reaches from Eden to the new Eden by showing us, how He can renew us, and how in the future He will finally restore the original state. (s. Jn 6:35-63; 10:1-30; 17; Rev 1:5; 21; 22).
God does not leave us without hope. On the contrary, He shows us the way to life and asks us: Follow me!
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
and which have not entered the heart of man,
all that God has prepared for those who love Him.“
(1 Corinthians 2:9 Nasb)
The Truth about God is the answer – the answer to the questions about God’s character.
And to know God is to love God.
That’s coming home.
Coming home is the knowledge: God does not punish with death, his total longing is to save from self-destruction and death. He has the power to resurrect you from death at the end of the world. It is his greatest desire to see you live forever.
Coming home is the knowledge: You are of a high value in God’s eyes. Nothing and no one can take away from you this value of being his child, not even you can take it away. You are loved and accepted, always, and nothing can change this love for you.
Coming home is the knowledge: The Good News and the Glad Tidings are in this that God is not the way his enemy has portrayed Him to be! God’s character of love and solidarity has been proven! In Jesus God himself came to this world, so that we – like in Eden – may be able to look into his eyes again. Through Jesus He revealed his heart and his thoughts to us.
And coming home is the knowledge that soon God will return and really will bring us home, home to our Eden on the new earth.
”Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
(Philippians 4:4-8 Nasb)
(i. Matthew 28:20)