Eastside Baptist Church
- Created to Draw Near: Our Life as God’s Royal Priests by Edward T. Welch“Discern Right from Wrong” (Chapter 4)Two Trees, Two Paths17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”To be fully human, which means to be close to the Lord, we must know that there are two paths.The path that is with God and to God is life and honor. It says yes with his yes and no with his no.The path that leads away from God can feel like pleasure for a moment, but it goes headlong into death. It says yes to his no and no to his yes.“Moral Discernment… is a premiere feature of our humanity… Obedience, knowing right from wrong are… essential for a fruitful and good life to those who are replicas of the heavenly God on earth.” - Ed WelchMoral Discernment, True HumanityImage of God, Imitating GodWhen God says no, we imitate him and say no. That is the way we look like our God and enter into his fellowship.Essential to All RelationshipsWe could call it distinguishing right from wrong, and it is essential to all relationships. Every relationship has its rules that are intended to bless that relationship. We speak the truth, we keep our word, we have the best interest of the other in our heart. Do these, and a relationship grows. Ignore them, and it dies. This happens in human relationship because it follows the divine pattern.Human Relationships“Don’t eat from this tree.” Why this? It is what good parents do. They teach their children and urge them in obedience for the children’s safety and blessing. They urge obedience when they are present or absent, and it is when parents are absent that children’s discernment is put to the test. Will they obey only when the parent is watching? Or will the parental direction be understood as good, and will it become part of them? Will children want to live under and with the parent, or will they want to be the parent? Parental direction becomes a test of love, faithfulness, and wisdom.We face this test in all of our close relationships. Do I really love the other person? Do I genuinely love, or do I love because kindness gets me what I want? Do I love and protect the relationship even when the other person is not present?Divine-Human RelationshipBut in the garden, why did the Lord use this particular test? Any tree but this one. The test, of course, was perfect. That it doesn’t make lots of sense to us is exactly the point. If we obey such tests because we understand them—and agree with God’s rationale—we might be trusting in our own understanding. “This makes sense to me. I agree that doing this is in my best interests. Okay. I will not _____ because it will make my life more difficult.” In this sort of obedience, God functions as a kind of advisor; the final decision is our own. Much better is the opportunity to know clearly what God says and follow him even when we don’t fully understand his reasons.Consider how this applies to our sexual behavior. Sex is not murder, we reason. We understand that we shouldn’t kill people, but consensual sex doesn’t hurt anyone, so, in this matter, we will trust ourselves rather than the Lord. In this we perpetuate our own version of the original garden story and lose discernment, which means we lose a significant piece of our humanity, and we lose our priestly nearness.Our everyday moral decisions are critical. Moral discernment, when honed and practiced, moves us in the direction of our full humanity. It points the way toward the life that is suited to our created design. Obedience, indeed, is a good thing. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). All this is part of the priestly story because priests are the caretakers of the distinctions between right and wrong.To be human—God’s priest—is to discern what is best and what is deadly.To be human is to act on that discernment and obey. This demands confidence in what God says and the humility to place his words above our own understanding and our own desires. It demands faithful love.To be human is to teach and encourage others in their discernment.Response1. Do you see how moral discernment is embedded in our humanity? This means that wisdom and discernment are not only right; they are good. We admire those who keep their anger in check, who are faithful to their word even when it is inconvenient, who speak honestly, and who love. Do you see how obedience is good and is intended to serve the larger purpose of being closer to the Lord?2. How do you hope to grow in discernment? While in some matters, how to act is clear-cut, such as whether to murder our neighbor or show kindness, in others it is not. Anger, for example, almost always seems right but is almost always wrong. Or how often do you go online and visit sites that you defend as being within bounds but are clearly unhelpful?“An Intruder” (Chapter 5)Keeping WatchThe world has been filled with danger from the beginning.“Everyday life was not intended for our relaxation and entertainment.” - Ed WelchA part of Adam’s role to keep and care for the garden was to protect it from danger.In the Garden, Satan (as the serpent) encountered a spiritually drowsy and unprepared humanity.1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”Satan’s SchemesGod is not good. (Creating doubt)The serpent massively overstated the original prohibition as a way to entice just the smallest movement in the human’s position.Satan suggested that God fences you from every good thing and insists on an ascetic lifestyle that majors on self-denial. In other words, “No fun” is the sign over the garden.His words settled in.2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”Satan’s SchemesGod is not good. (Creating doubt)Sin is not bad. (Creating desire)4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.“The serpent’s goal is for humanity to be remade in his image and imitate him. His twofold strategy remains his most prominent and effective weapon. Every failed spiritual test can be traced to our tacit agreement with him and these two lies. 'Go ahead,' he says, 'you will like it; rest in your own understanding. Look at the evidence. God is not that good, sin is not that bad. To put it bluntly, God is not good; sin is good.'” - Ed WelchEven though we know this strategy, we remain vulnerable. With Adam and Eve, all it took was a brief reassessment of the tree. It didn’t look dangerous. It even seemed attractive. Our own temptation might coincide with discouragement, hardship, or a bout of hopelessness. Suddenly, the discernment we had yesterday dissolves into a desire to rid ourselves of the bad feelings we have today, and what was once wrong now looks like the perfect remedy.God is not good. (Creating doubt)Sin is not bad. (Creating desire)You are lost. (Creating despair)“When we follow him into disobedience, Satan will add one final strategy: 'You are now irredeemably bad, and God could never forgive or love you.' … Shame replaces communion and fellowship, and everything is injected with hopelessness. We are fooled into thinking that we can never regain what’s been lost.” - Ed Welch“Before priests could protect the holiness of the garden temple, they first had to learn to protect their own hearts.” - Ed WelchApplication of Chapters 4-5Drawing near to God as his holy priests requires moral discernment, trusting in and obeying God’s commands.Drawing near to God as his holy priests requires guarding our hearts against Satan’s schemes.Response1. We are, in fact, out of our league. We cannot stand alone before such battle strategies. So we go into training. We examine our hearts. “Test yourselves,” writes the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 13:5). When are you most susceptible to Satan’s lies?2. The goodness of God is your critical defense. For the first couple, his goodness is apparent in the walks together, in the lavish provision in the garden, and in the privilege of partnering with God in his mission to the world. For us, the goodness of God is embodied in Jesus and his pursuing love even to death on a cross. How are you prepared to speak of God’s goodness when temptations appear?
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