Love, Receive and Obey
By Henry Cloud, Ph.D.
In thinking about the Created Order, there is so much that is mind-boggling. As soon as I begin to think about what God did to start it all and how He designed it all, I get overwhelmed. It is all so big, and sends me into a worshipful state as I contemplate how awesome God is.
But when I get past the awe, I am also struck by some of the incredible truth and structure for life that the creation account reveals to us. It is a picture of how life was supposed to work, and the way that God had envisioned it all. Adam and Eve truly had it made, and there were good reasons for that, as God had designed. If only we had thought it was enough! Oh, well, Eden is lost for now. But the closer we come to understanding the order of God’s design, the closer we can come to having Eden in our own lives now. And I think that, as Jesus taught, the kingdom of heaven is something that we can begin to experience now as we order our lives around the ways that God designed. Let’s look at some of the important aspects of life as God originally envisioned it.
#1 Connected To God
In the life that God originally designed, we were in a state of connection with Him. As Genesis describes, God was over the earth and placed Adam in charge of it. He talked to him, gave him what he needed, told him what to do, and even watched Adam to see what he would do with his talents and freedoms. There was an unbroken relationship with God and Adam and Eve.
In other words, there was not the separation that the bible describes as coming when sin entered the world. We cannot imagine what a connection with God would have been like before sin and alienation, for we live in a world that experiences alienation from day one. We are too aware of this thing that God warned them of called “death.” In the Bible’s terms, death does not mean a cessation of life. It means a separation from life. And the way that God created them, they were never separated from life. They were always connected to the One who was life itself.
Can you imagine a life where you were never separated from love, truth, intimacy, and the people that you experience those things with? Or where you always felt close to God and nothing ever came between you? No guilt, adversarial fears, or anything that made you afraid? That was the connection that they experienced.
#2 Under God
You may remember the phrase “one nation, under God.” In thinking of the individual’s life, we would do well to look at ourselves as “one person, under God.” The “under” aspect of this has to do with remembering who is in charge. It is God’ creation, it is His world, and He is the one who makes the rules. Because the world is His and all that is in it, and as the psalmist says, “It is he who made us, and we are his.” (Ps. 100:3)
What flows from that fact that He is God and we are not, is that we are to be under His “lordship.” Or in other words, do things as he says. Now this would seem to make a lot of sense, the world being His creation and all. He made life, it seems that we would understand that He is the one who knows best how it all works. And in His direction to us, as He outlined it to Adam and Eve, there are two sides to His instructions. One side is the freedom that we have to enjoy life and all that He has created. The other is that there is a way of living that is to be avoided. Listen to His words to Adam and Eve.
“And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:16,17)
He gave them freedom to enjoy life and the fruits of life that He had made for them. But he told them that they had to obey the tree that symbolized the position of Godhood. The knowledge of good and evil was something that God himself was to know, and mankind was to be protected from. In short, we were to be protected from playing the role that only God can play. We were made to be the creation, not the creator. We were made to obey Him, not dictate our own rules. And in doing so, we would avoid death and separation, and the experience of “good and evil.” It could have been “all good,” if we had only obeyed.
So, the second aspect of the created order that we need to think about in this life is to live life under God, not trying to be equal or over Him in our lives. He made life, and he best knows how we should live it. It pays to obey Him.
#3 God As Source
The third aspect to the creation that we would do well to see is that God was the source of things, not we ourselves. He is the one who made the garden, supplied the garden with good things, and sustained it from day to day. He is also the one that brought Adam and Eve to each other, realizing that relationship was something that they desperately needed. It would be interesting to see what all the fruits were on the trees in the garden, but I think they must have included all the wonderful things that He blesses us with today. From the earliest pages of the Bible, there is a strong assertion that God is the one “from whom all blessings flow.” As James reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
The good things of life come from God, pure and simple. He gives life. He sustains life, and he blesses life with the things that we need. The lesson here is that we are to look to God to be our source, not ourselves. He is the one who brings us all the blessings that we ever have, material and immaterial. He brings us people when we need them (Ps. 68:5,6; 2 Cor. 7:6), our daily needs as we need them (Matt. 6:11), our purpose in life and the gifts to accomplish it (Ps. 25:12; Rom. 12:6; Eph. 2:10), the wisdom and knowledge to light our paths (James 1:5) and many, many other things of life.
The problem comes, just as in the second issue of our trying to usurp God’s role as judge, we try to take away his position of being the source. We depend only on ourselves and think that we are going to be able to provide ourselves with what we need. What a silly idea! But we do it nevertheless. How small our lives, careers, ministries, friendships, and everything are because we do not depend on Him and his plans to give us what we need in all of those areas. As James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)
And in the area of our relational needs, to think that we can provide for ourselves the love and support that we need is a great heresy. We are not God! So, when we try to be emotionally independent from Him and other people that He has given us, then we are dying. And sometimes we will just see Him as the source of love in a relationship with Himself, and we miss that He also gives us people. Part of seeing God as the source and “not we ourselves,” is to utilize the love and support that He supplies through people in His Body. When we love each other, we are realizing the grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)
#4 God As Judge and Wisdom
In Genesis 2:17 God tells us who is the Big Brain and what happens to us if we think we are: “And the LORD 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.” Have you ever noticed what happens to yourself and to your relationships when you get judgmental?
God alone is to be the judge. He alone is the one who has the knowledge of good and evil and the ability to tell us right from wrong, and decide how we are doing. We were never meant to be judgmental or to usurp His role in the universe. And when we try to play God in this way, we die a little more. As Jesus said, “judge not, lest you be judged.” (Matt. 7:1)
To judge places us in the role of God in our lives and in the lives of others. And that keeps us from knowledge that is found in Him. To think first of all that we are wise enough in our own eyes to know enough, and secondly to possess the holiness enough to be the judge of anyone is presumptuous. And the result is always division. If we judge ourselves, we divide ourselves into all sorts of splits. And if we judge others, we tear relationships apart. The only way we are to judge is in a spirit of humility and with the information that God gives us. (Gal. 6:1) And when we confront in this way, it is not with the condemnation of the judge of the universe. Even Jesus said that He did not come to judge, but to save. (Jn. 12:47)
Life is meant to be lived in a state of humility before Him and others. We are not to think that we know it all, nor are we to play that role in the life of others. Wisdom and knowledge come from Him, and to the extent that we know anything useful for ourselves or to give to others, God has given it to us. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” (Ps. 111:10)
#4 Do Your Chores
When I was a little kid, I used to hate Adam. I thought that it was his fault that I had to do homework. “If Adam had not sinned, I would not have to work!” was my reasoning. But the truth is that work was always part of the plan. God told us to use our image to rule and subdue the earth. (Gen 1:28) He is a worker and we are created in His image. We have talents and it is good for us to use them. As Solomon said it is good for us to enjoy our work. (Ecc. 5:18) And Jesus teaches us the same thing, that to use our talents is an expression of the true life of God.
So, part of the “good life,” is to find your talents and to exercise them in the ways that God has afforded you. The most fulfilled people are not the ones who win the lottery and never work again. The most fulfilled people in life are the ones who live out their talents in a meaningful way. They are growing, learning, and creating fruits for the Kingdom. They truly work “unto Him.” (Col. 3:23)
So, how does one have a good life? Live it the way that it was created to be lived. He has told us how to do it, and looking at the very beginning of life in the Garden as He designed it is a great picture. If we would just do these four things, life would work pretty well:
1. Stay connected to Him and to others
2. Submit to Him and to His role of Lord in all of life
3. Depend on Him as the Source in your life and not yourself
4. Give Him his role as judge and the One who knows
5. Find meaningful work in the area of your giftedness and do it heartily as unto Him
If you find life, it will look a lot like this list, because that is the way He created it to be.
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