The Two Trees Problem
CHRIST WARNED His disciples that they would live in the world but not being part of it. This condition is something we seek to maintain, and the tension it creates is apparent. It is instructive to note that Christ’s prayer to the Father before His crucifixion was not self-focused. When we are most oppressed and alone, we should follow that example and turn our attention to what God is doing. We should focus on God and His purpose, instead of our own travails.
Being in-but-not-of the world is a more profound distinction than just the keeping Sabbath and Holy Days. Indeed, anything of ourselves that changes God’s purpose aligns us with Satan, not God. To the degree we add to or subtract from the will of God, we are of the world. Rather, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; that is being renewed through repentance to get ourselves out of God’s way. Ultimately, it is repentance that sets us apart from the world, and that is the starting place. It’s relatively easy to accept intellectually, but difficult to implement.
Being in-but-not-of is a two trees problem. We are to pick between those two trees at every moment of every day. Using our own reasoning is choosing the tree of knowledge, blending part good and part evil. And it is completely wrong. We can point at the world in a self-righteous tone and feel confident we are discerning right and wrong. But if that discernment draws on our own mind, our own reasoning, then we are in the world. Recognize that we are profoundly and subtly influenced by our environment and human nature. Choosing the tree of life precludes human reasoning.
We read the Bible from our own background, and filter what we “hear” from God based on how it fits our pre-existing self-image. When corrected, we explain ourselves against it. When challenged, we fall back on our own intellect, and readily justify what seems most reasonable to us, even when it conflicts with the word of God. And the more we lie to ourselves, the more distorted our perspective, and the easier it is to twist truth and justify ourselves. Despite our best efforts we are influenced and mislead by the pervasive ideas of our time. Seek understanding completely apart from the environment in which we exist. Do not add to or take away from God’s truth. God calls us and makes a separation.
The “isms” given to us by the world (post-modernism, feminism, rationalism, etc.) are the baseline assumptions from which we perceive (and pervert) truth. In attempting to navigate around this predicament, it’s is easy to jump from ditch to ditch, reacting against one wrong idea and swinging to far to the other extreme. Rarely is an “ism” completely wrong. They blend of truth and error. Our western ideals sound great, are easily related by our clever minds to real truth; they influence the logic we bring into God’s way. So we reason our way through the Bible, and apply these human theories to make the word of God “reasonable”.
It is easy to follow God’s instructions when we think we understand their logic. But following in faith, recognizing that we don’t really know anything, is much harder. We have to put aside our thinking, our logic, and our assumptions. If we don’t do this, then we cannot be of use to God.
A loving God will not give us more to do than we can handle. When we are busy, we revert to default behaviors. Our individual behavior is very important to God, so He will mercifully reduce our job description until we get it right. It is easy to distract ourselves from ourselves with a mission; one that we have invented for ourselves.
If God is going to do a work through us, it will begin with how we are changed inside. Weed out your thinking. Infuse God’s thinking. Be prepared to push back against the influences of the world when it comes. Criticizing others and comparing ourselves against the world is of no use. Instead, encourage and uplift those around us – both in and out of the Body of Christ. Our lives are to exemplify the message of good news that God wants delivered to the whole world. That is the beginning point of “The Work”. When we, under His hand, empty ourselves in this way, God can use us. And His work will be our reward.