Paul eagerly looked forward to his crowns and to the rewards awaiting him. He often encouraged his brethren with news of the future rewards and glory. He wrote:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
We are made a promise, “Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.” (2 Chronicles 15:7) It is right and also good to look forward to what the Lord has prepared for us, including rewards, for they are also His handiwork.
Paul tenderly gives a spiritual charge to his spiritual son, Timothy,
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:1-2).
Paul can be seen as the spiritual patient zero, who took Timothy under his wing, the next generation, who is now charging Timothy to relate the truth to those who heard him, 3rd generation, who will turn around and give it to the upcoming generation. Four spiritual generations passing the baton of truth on down.
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:8-9).
“The Garden of Eden” Jan the Elder Brueghel (1568-1625)
It’s July. It’s garden season. Everyone in this rural county in North Georgia has a garden, it seems. The tomatoes and yellow squash are coming in gangbusters. People around here are self-sufficient. They know how to fish for lunch, shoot dinner, maintain a garden, skin a deer, and BBQ a hog. They keep their tractors running and their farms afloat.
It’s pretty here, too. As a result from working the land, people cherish their land. They are good caretakers.
A lot of people around here keep gardens. Personally I do not like outside. I know it is there. I see outside through the window. I don’t need to go into it. A few years ago I helped someone with their garden. Married friends had a large garden. They went away on vacation and they asked me to tend the garden while they were gone. They said I could eat the produce from the garden and also share it with others. I said yes.
I don’t have experience with gardens and such. I’m from Maine and the growing season is so short it barely makes it worth it to put a garden in.
When I picked the yellow squash, cukes, and tomatoes I battled bees and wasps. There were lots. The squash blossoms were huge and inviting to them and apparently none of them had declined the invitation, and hence there was a lot of buzzing to battle. Also, I had to check for snakes in the underbrush, because, well, Georgia has snakes. Apparently my fig latex allergy isn’t limited to fig latex but any plant from the tomato, squash, or cuke family. My friends had planted tomatoes, squash, and cukes. I emerged the first day with huge welts that burned and stung. And itched.
Bee: potential ouch. EPrata photo
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
I remembering coming home and putting the produce I’d picked in a sink of water that also had some vinegar in it. When I plunged them into the water and let them soak, the maggots came out. So. That was gross.
Gardening may help the dinner table but it seems to me that the gardener is exposed to too many irritants and dangers in order to make it yield. All gardeners and farmers know this, but it’s stressful and difficult to work the land.
It didn’t start out that way. Initially in the Garden of Eden, “The Garden of God” (Ezekiel 28:13) it was easy to work the garden and it was beautiful, with no thorns or irritants or stinging insects or venomous snakes on the ground.
The two greatest perfidies that ever occurred on earth both took place in gardens.
Man and Woman disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. There was one rule. Don’t eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But they did.
Why? Satan told them to. Which at the time was more compelling than when God told Adam not to.
Satan is a cherubim, the highest and most beautiful angel. Yet evil was found in his heart and satan, whose given name is Lucifer, determined to war against God and supplant Him. (Ezekiel 28:15, Isaiah 14:13-14). He came down to the Garden, (You were in Eden, the garden of God; (Ezekiel 28:13) entered into a serpent and spoke to Eve and Adam. He said to eat the fruit. “Hath God said? You surely will not die.” They ate. They died.
Satan sinned in heaven and now he had brought it to man and woman and the garden. The garden was forever changed from a beautiful place with all plants, animals, and humans were at peace with God, to a thorny place at war with Him and each other.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,” (Genesis 3:17b-19a).
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. (John 18:1)
Satan entered into a serpent and brought the deepest evil known to humankind. And Satan did it again. He entered into a human this time, and brought the deepest evil known to mankind…when Judas kissed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Betrayal!
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” (Matthew 26:36).
In the Garden of Eden, there was temptation, satan tempted Eve. (Genesis 3:4). In the Garden of Gethsemane, there was temptation also. Jesus asked the disciples to remain awake with Him, so they would not be tempted-
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:40-41)
Judas came, along with a great crowd, while Jesus was speaking to the disciples about prayer so as to resist temptation. While Jesus spoke of the coming temptation, Judas arrived. Amazing. And inside Judas is who? Satan. Satan had entered into Judas a earlier that evening as Judas departed the final Passover Supper, (Luke 22:3) and went to find the cohorts to arrest Jesus. So once again, satan inhabited a being and tried to foil God’s plan.
In the Garden of Eden man was the highest he could be, created perfect and blameless by a perfect and holy God. In the Garden of Gethsemane man was the lowest he could be, betraying and selling out the God who created him for the price of a slave and betraying the Friend Jesus had been to him for three years. And he did it with a kiss.
In one, satan inhabited a serpent. In the other, satan inhabited a man. In one, man walked perfect and righteous. In the other, Jesus as God-man walked, perfect and righteous. In one, the first Adam. In the other, the last Adam.
Sin has corrupted all gardens on the entire earth, including the one I had worked in. There are weeds and thorns and snakes and bees and wasps and prickers and allergies. … Creation groans for release from the curse pronounced upon it in Genesis 3.
The beauty that was lost in the Garden of Eden will not always be lost! We have hope. Jesus reconciled man to Himself at the cross. He came as the last Adam to be the sacrificial Lamb, endure all God’s wrath for the sin that happened in the Garden of Eden and every day since, and to impute His righteousness to His elect.
Creation groans under this curse, one it didn’t bring on itself! (Romans 8:22). But in that first garden? God gave us hope! (Genesis 3:15). At the conclusion of all things, He will reconcile earth. (Romans 8:19-21). He will restore all things! (Acts 3:21)
In the future, His entire creation will become the Garden He intended it. What a day that will be!
I was compelled to do a piece about “unity in Christ” and what Christ means, not what “we” assume He means. [The picture] is Christ the Lamb of God who manifested all that “unity” of the redeemed in God the Father and God the Son!
For me, the lone tree speaks of God’s wonderful handiwork, not only representing His gift of nature, but brings to mind that His redeemed are not alone, but safely tucked within His Might eternally. And as the brilliance of the sun pierces boldly through the dark-ending of the storm, one thought leads me to another — remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Then speaks to His beloved redeemed: the “things” of this world are now more clearly seen through the light of His Salvation! We must daily pause to remember…
Everything was perfect. The Garden was perfect. The two humans were perfect. The animals were perfect. God declared His creation “very good”. The humans’ relationship with God was perfect.
We do not know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden but no matter how long it was, there was absolutely nothing to be discontent about. Adam and Eve had full run of the Garden, the animals were submissive, they had plenty to eat, they were neither hot or cold.
When did Eve become discontent? John MacArthur said in his sermon “The Fall of Man,”
I recently studied the four women of Revelation. My favorite books are Genesis and Revelation. I love firsts and lasts, the beginnings and endings of things. The 4 women of Revelation are the Jezebel of Revelation 2 representing the pagan church, Woman clothed with the Sun in Revelation 12 representing Israel, the Whore of Babylon of Revelation 17 representing the apostate church, and the Wife of Revelation 21 representing the true church.
And then I realized that in my penchant for thinking of extremes, firsts and lasts, that if I learned in my study time the last woman mentioned in the Bible is “Wife/Bride”.
Apostasy is a hard, hard thing. For anyone who is righteous, seeing loved ones succumb to the sway of a false doctrine, or follow a false teacher, it is a torture to the soul and a agony to the mind and a hardship on the soul. I see a Blackaby book on a pastor’s desk and I worry. I hear a woman refuse to acknowledge Joyce Meyer is false “because she preaches straight from the Bible” and I mourn, I see a woman wear a “Walk to Emmaus” tee shirt and I fear. Encountering these things in my daily routine is grieving.
It’s not to say that these people or any person who reads a book, accepts a teacher or participates in a retreat once is an apostate. I participated in both the Experiencing God study by Henry Blackaby and a Beth Moore Living Proof weekend and a DVD retreat, but in doing so alerted me to the falseness of their teachings. It gave me a close-up view of what it was that troubled my soul so much. That’s what false teaching does, it either grieves the soul and alerts one to its falsity or it entrenches one deeper into their lack of discernment. I worry because I know when someone doesn’t or won’t see the falseness of a particular doctrine or teacher, the false teacher or a false doctrine has successfully taken root into their mind. Satan won’t let that go. Unless they refute it and repent, it will grow like gangrene. That is the way of things. (2 Timothy 2:17; Acts 14:2)
It feels sometimes like there are hardly any people with discernment left. It feels like so many friends and family are falling away. I know from your emails and blog comments that many of you are in locations where there literally are no good churches or where false teaching abounds. Doesn’t it feel like were the only ones, sometimes!
Here is where we praise the gracious Lord for His examples for us in scripture. We are not alone! Elijah thought he was alone! Jeremiah was tortured by the apostasy around him and in his lifetime, judgment came! Noah preached 120 years and only had 7 converts! Isaiah was told to prophesy until there was literally no one left!
“And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”… God assured him, Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:9-10, 18)
My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. (Jeremiah 4:19) The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. …These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:5-6, 9)
“Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste,” (Isaiah 6:11)
In the New Testament, imagine there being no ‘church down the road’ you could switch to when apostasy is so rampant in your church you have to leave. The Corinthians were having chaotic services, drunken Lord’s Suppers, and immorality and sexual impurity were a problem. But that was the ONLY church. Can you imagine how the few pure and holy Corinthians felt?
I’ve seen a massive defection from the faith since 2008. I’ve also seen a horrific decline in discernment since then too. The rise in apostasy to my mind and according to how I interpret 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is that the time is near when the rapture will occur. The defections of millions from the faith and the fast tsunami of apostasy in even evangelical denominations shows this, in my opinion. The curtain on this age is coming down, and fast.
Each of the prophets named above walked closely with God. Even in times of terrible apostasy when they were literally the only ones in their sphere left who were faithful. They were human, to be sure. Elijah suffered a bout of depression. Jeremiah was tearful and mourning much of the time. The key is, they clung to God.
Take encouragement! The Lord Jesus is near to us. At the time of His incarnation, there were few faithful ones. His religion had been turned into a mockery. They rejected His words while clamoring for His miracles. They wanted His ‘stuff’ but not Him for Himself. He knew apostasy! He knows the pain we feel when people reject our precious Jesus and go astray! Don’t give up the fight!
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)
He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. (Hebrews 5:2)
Pray for those who are ignorant and going astray. Pray for yourself in your weariness and sadness. Jesus is with us. It is good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)