You Are Invited!

This week we have our annual leadership conference here at Living Word. If you are close enough to join us on short notice, we would love to have you. Our emphasis is on something called “Unity Through Fellowship.” My Pastor, Dr. B.J. Pruitt started a conference with this basic idea over 40 years ago. The thought is simple. God told him to make a place for the ministry to come together. If someone is part of an organization, they are welcome. If they are not, they are just as welcome. If there is some doctrinal idea that is controversial, we do not ask that you change it. Dr. Pruitt used to say, “Just leave it at the door and pick it up on your way out.” We are joining with him to continue this legacy.

Our speakers are Dr. Pruitt and Dr. Eldon Wilson. Both are senior ministers that bring an uncompromised but balanced message to us. However, this conference is not solely about the platform. It is about those who gather. We encourage a great deal of fellowship. We eat together and talk together. The purpose is that we get to know one another as brothers and sisters and not by our particular stream of ministry or doctrinal bent. Once we know and love one another, our differences will not matter.

The most important relationships in my life have come through this process. Most of these people I would not have come into relationship with if I had know that we disagreed on certain points. By the time we had fallen in love with one another that no longer mattered. We were covenant brothers and sisters and those relationships continues to this day.

You can get more information on our website at WWW.Livingwordgreene.com. This conference is not something meant to build our church. We count it a privilege to host the meeting and minster to those who come. We are not pushing any agenda except the Gospel and the love of God between us. If you or someone you know is hurting or in need of encouragement, this is a place you can find others who have been through some of the things you are going through and they can help. It is also possible that you will be the one with the answer for someone else. Either way we would love to see you.

The schedule is Wednesday night at 7:00 PM and Thursday and Friday at 10:00 AM and 7 PM. Lunch is provided after the morning meeting and a snack after the evening meeting.

If you cannot be with us this year, pray for the leaders that are coming and for those who will be ministering to them. I believe we live in a very important time and the church is the only answer for the trouble in the world. The leaders in the church are vital to the success of what God wants to do in the Kingdom. Not that he will not have his way no matter what, but he has always used leaders and today is no exception.

I would like to invite you in advance to next years conference. I think I am going to have to give in to the weather here in upstate New York and make a slight change to the schedule. Our tentative dates will be March 9-11, 2016. If you are interested send your E-mail and/or physical address to LWCCgreene@gmail.com.

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Show me Your Glory

Exodus 33:17-19 (NKJV) 17 So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” 18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” 19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

Yesterday we looked at all that Moses had done and seen in his experience with the Lord. It is hard to believe anyone could have greater success in serving God than Moses. In the midst of all this, the people rebelled and made themselves a god of gold that they said would return them to Egypt. This caused God to offer to start all over and make a great nation out of Moses’ descendants.

Moses displays his character by arguing against this solution. Israel had been a difficult people to lead to say the least. It would seem that God was offering Moses a promotion. Moses would not take it. In his defense of Israel, he reminds God that they are his people and that he promised to take them to the Promised Land. Moses argues that others would think that he was not capable. Moses chose the glory of God over his own promotion.

In yesterday’s scripture, we see Moses refusing the success offered by God if that success does not include the presence of God. I believe God wants us to succeed in life as well as in ministry. However, I believe success should be a result of lifestyle and priorities not the goal itself. God told Moses he would give the Israelites the land he promised but his presence could not be among them because their rebellion would cause him to destroy them.

Moses prayed again and God relented, saying he would go with them. Moses makes a powerful statement. “If you do not go, than we do not want to go.” Success without the presence of God is no success at all.

Moses continues to be bold where God is concerned. God says that he will do this because of Moses’ faith and faithfulness. Moses says, “If I am so faithful will you do something for me? Will you show me your glory?”

Moses has seen the plagues of Egypt, the Red Sea parted, the pillar of fire and cloud. He has seen things no one had seen before. With the possible exception of those who walked with Jesus, no one has seen that kind of power since. Yet Moses knows that he has yet to see the true glory of God. How many of us would still ask this question if we saw the miraculous before our eyes. Would we not think that we had seen the Glory of God?

Moses understands that the power of God is not all there is to the Glory of God. Glory can mean the power and presence of God in manifestation. That is certainly what Moses saw. Glory also means the defining characteristics of a person. Power is not all there is to God. Power is more a result of who God is than the definition of who he is. Moses understood this and that is a major reason he could walk in the kind of power he did.

We pray for the Glory of God in our churches our cities and our nations. We pray for healings and miracles. We think if only the Shekinah Glory cloud would manifest in our church then we would see growth. We hear the stories from the early days of Pentecost and the Charismatic renewal about fire departments called to put out fires on the roofs of churches only to find that the flames were not natural flames but a manifestation of the power of God.

I believe in all those things and would be happy to see any and all in our church. However, none of that is what Moses was asking God to show him. He had already seen those things. He wanted something else. He knew that what he saw was a manifestation of the real glory of God. That true glory is what he hungered to know.

God shows us what Moses is really asking for in this story. God says to Moses, “OK Moses. I will do what you ask.” He tells Moses the true nature of what he is seeking. He says, “I will make my goodness pass before you.” The Glory of God is his goodness. That is what causes miracles, judgments and pillars of fire. It is all a product of his goodness, which is a product of his love. God is not power. God is love.

As I was studying this verse, I found that this goodness was not what we tend to think of when we use the word. We think of goodness as someone or something that is squeaky clean. A good person is someone who does no harm. Goodness is a virtue but it is also viewed as impractical when dealing with evil.

It seems that almost every action movie has a “good guy” who is almost as evil in his methods as the bad guys. It seems that we need a “bad good guy” to protect the weak vulnerable “good, good guys.” That is not what this word means in the context of this story.

When God calls his glory his goodness, it is a goodness that simply consumes evil. There is no battle when the goodness of God encounters evil. The evil is consumed in God’s goodness. That is why the people of Israel were in danger of being consumed. They embraced evil when they embraced rebellion. His mercy activated by Moses’ faith kept that from happening.

If we want to see the manifestation of his glory, we must embrace his goodness. We must come to know it, as Moses desired to know it. We must see that there is no evil in God. There is nothing in him that even looks like evil. (James 1:17) When we read things in the Old Testament about the destruction that God called for, we must understand that even this is a manifestation of his goodness. His purpose is the preservation of those who can be preserved.

God’s goodness will consume sickness in the body of a person. God’s goodness will consume poverty. God’s goodness will destroy evil enemies. God’s goodness will reach into a willing heart, take out the evil and cause him to be born again. God’s goodness is what the world needs to see. We must become channels of God’s goodness. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) Then and only then will we become channels for the miraculous glory we want to see.

Moses had seen things we have never seen. He was used by God to a degree that none of us have. Yet with all he saw he still understood that he needed to know God better. We must have the same understanding. We need to see God move today. There is no doubt about that in my mind. What is it that will release him to move?

I do not believe any plan of evangelism or church growth will cause what we need to see in the world today. It will not come because we make our message more relevant or because we get more “in tune” with the modern ways of thinking and doing. That might build numbers but it will not release the kind of move of God that will really change the world. We will need something else if we are to see that.

What we need is what Moses needed. “Lord, show us your glory. Thank you for the wonderful things you have done in our midst. Thank you for saving us and filling us with your spirit. Thank you for the healings and miracles we have seen. I can say with no doubt, that you have done miraculous things in terms of provision and open doors in my life. We appreciate those things. Now, Lord we really want to see who you are. We want to see your glory.” I believe then God will cause his goodness to pass over us as it did over Moses and we will see what we have been longing for.

If Your Presence Does not go With us We do not Want to Go

Exodus 33:14-16 (NKJV) 14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”

Yesterday we found that rebellion and unbelief had stolen even more from Israel than their destiny. It had stolen their identity as God’s people. They still had a covenant and God was going to honor that covenant by giving them the Promised Land. God had not disowned them but because of rebellion, they did not see themselves as God’s people.

In our day, we see a similar situation in 1 John 1:8-10. John tells us that when we confess our sins God is not only faithful and just to forgive our sins but he also cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Every Christian sins sometime. When we sin, it does not negate the righteousness that we received in salvation due to Jesus’ sacrifice. It does cause us to lose our sense of righteousness, or right standing with God. We know something is wrong and we are hindered in our ability to enter God’s presence or receive from his Word. When we confess our sin, Jesus cleanses us from that sense of separation.

Today I want to look at something else in this story. I use this often in teaching leaders. I believe it is one of the most important lessons we can learn either as leaders or as followers. Moses did not want success unless he could have the presence of God as well.

Think about what Moses has seen up to this point in the story of Israel. He was raised in Pharaoh’s house. He was educated in the ways of Egypt. He had tried and failed to help his people. He was exiled to the desert under threat of death. After forty years, God himself appeared to him in the burning bush. God gave him a calling, empowered him, gave him help and sent him to deliver Israel from Egypt.

He was the vehicle God used to bring the ten plagues on Egypt causing the Pharaoh to set God’s people free. He saw the crossing of the Red Sea. He watched as God dried the land in the midst of the walls of water when he raised his staff. He presided over Israel with pillars of fire and cloud as his ministers. He saw Manna fall from the sky and water flow from a rock. He watched as Israel’s shoes and clothes never wore out for forty years. Think of the power this man has seen.

He stood before the almighty as Israel rebelled in the valley below. Instead of God holding him accountable for the behavior of the people, which is what every leader understands to be right, he says he will destroy the people and start again with Moses. Moses intercedes for the people and God, because of Moses’ faith, is able to preserve the innocent among the guilty. In this chapter, God tells Moses, “I am going to give you success, but I cannot allow my presence to go with you because these people are so stiff-necked I would end up destroying them.

Moses might have said, “I understand. They are a tough bunch. Leave them to me God. I have gotten them this far, I can handle it from here.” Moses did not say that. Instead he says just the opposite.

There is a focus in the church and especially among leaders on success. One minister made a career out of preaching on “Success in Life.” Do not misunderstand me. I believe God wants to give us success in life but I wonder if our definition of success and God’s is always the same. What is an acceptable cost for success? For too many of my brothers and sisters, outward success becomes the goal. I believe it should be the result of something not the goal.

When success is the goal, we will find that we do things we probably should not in order to get it. When success is the goal, once we attain it we will tend to do whatever is necessary to keep it. I do not believe success alone is a worthy goal for a Christian, be he leader or not. I believe we see this in Moses.

He had seen success. He had seen God do miraculous things through him. He was right with God. God had endorsed him to the degree that that he was willing to start the whole process that was to end in the birth of the Messiah over again with Moses as the father of the nation. Moses showed his character by refusing the offer because it would bring less glory to God.

Now, Israel has crossed a line and even Moses’ intercession seems to be inadequate to save them. God will give them the Promised Land. His presence will not go with them. Moses can have success but he must have it without the presence of God.

I wonder what I would say in Moses’ place. I hope I would respond just as he did. Many are saying, “That sounds good. Bring on the success. Once we get it, we will try and fit the presence of God in.” Of course, that is impossible.

Moses says to God, “You say you are giving me the land, but you have not told me who will go with me.” I do not believe Moses is asking this question because of some doubt as to his ability to succeed in taking the land. God promised him he would give it to them and Moses did not doubt the promise of God. There was something else on Moses’ heart.

God says, “Alright Moses. My Presence will go with you.” Moses response is a statement that should guide all of our lives. “If your presence does not go with us, we do not want to go.” In other words, “Lord, without your presence I don’t want success.”

One of the ways we guard against any foothold of rebellion or unbelief is to have the heart that Moses had. He tells the Lord that success that does not glorify God is no success at all. When we cultivate that kind of attitude, we will have the success we need and the presence of God. The success may not be what we envisioned, but it will be success that blesses us and brings glory to God as well.

The presence of God is the true path to success without which we have nothing. Jesus gave us a scripture that says much the same thing.

Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV) 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Seek the Kingdom of God first in your life. Make His presence a priority above success. If you do, faith will flow, unbelief will flee from you and rebellion will find no place in your life.

Unbelief and Rebellion Change our Identity

Exodus 3:7-8 (NKJV) 7 And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.

Exodus 33:1 (NKJV) 1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’

Over the last few weeks we have learned from Hebrews chapter 3 and 4 that unbelief kept Israel from going into the land promised to them by God. This land was both the blessing God wanted for their lives and their destiny. Unbelief robbed them of both. Unbelief grew in their hearts because they allowed rebellion. Rebellion leads to unbelief and unbelief robs us of our inheritance in the Lord. We must eliminate them from our lives at all costs.

This week Pastor Jervis Witherspoon was with us in Living Word. He is a minster from Liberia, West Africa who works as the advisor to the president of that nation on religious matters. He is also a minster for Bethel World Outreach in Liberia and beyond. Pastor Jervis shared some things with us from the book of exodus that follow what I have been sharing this month. I want to give you some thoughts that grew from his message to our church.

We see an interesting progression here in the two verses I have chosen for today. In Exodus 3:7, God refers to Israel as “My people.” He tells Moses that he has come down to deliver them.

Chapter 33 comes just after the great rebellion of Israel at Mount Sinai. Moses had been in the presence of God on top of the mountain. Because of his delay in returning to them, the people decided to make a God of Gold that would lead them back to Egypt. Moses intercedes for them and God does not destroy them and start anew with Moses.

In the first verse of chapter 33, God declares he will give the people the land he has promised to them. However, he does not call them “My people.” This time he refers to them as the people you brought out of Egypt. He does not say he delivered them. He says Moses delivered them. Their whole identity had changed because of rebellion.

It is interesting to me that, although they will still receive the blessing of God, he can no longer call them “his people.” We know that because of their continued rebellion that generation never did enter the Promised Land. Their children went in because God will always have a people and have his way. God’s promise was fulfilled in their children and in the future Israel was once again known as “his people” and he was known as their God. The generation of rebellion’s identity was changed forever.

There is something we must understand about both rebellion and unbelief: They rob us of our identity in God. They do not always rob us of certain aspects of his blessing. They always rob us of the closeness that is ours in Christ.

There is a New Testament scripture that has been somewhat misunderstood as of late that can shed some light on this for those of us who are born again. That scripture is 1 John 1:9-10.

1 John 1:9-10 (NKJV) 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

I was talking to someone recently and he asked me a good question. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that we were made righteous, or right with God, by what Jesus did. He did not know sin. We were sinners. He obeyed God and through that obedience all who receive him are made righteous by his obedience. He asked me, “If Jesus made me right with God by what he did and not what I did, why would he have to cleanse me from unrighteousness if I sin? Did the blood of Jesus stop working?”

The answer is to understand that righteousness is in two directions. Jesus paid the price for my sin. We all know that Christians sin. In verse 10 Jesus says that if we say we have not sinned we make him a liar. Since he uses the word “we”, John is talking to the church not the world. Christians sin.

John reveals to us the wonderful mercy of the Lord. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. This is easy to understand. He is faithful to apply to us what Jesus paid for in salvation. He is just in doing so because the blood of Jesus cleansed us “once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10) Why would we need to be cleansed of unrighteousness? Did our behavior undo what Jesus did? Of course not.

I am not commenting here on whether it is possible to lose salvation. I am talking about you and me. In daily living, we fall short of the glory of God. That is just a fact. We do things willfully and through ignorance that are outside of the requirements and nature of God.

When I was growing up, I was a good kid. My brothers and sisters gave my parents a hard time. I was born late in their lives. I was good in school. I did not get into trouble. When I told my mother I had been saved, she said, “From what?” Yet as good a kid as I was there were times when I got into trouble.

I was the “apple of my parents’ eyes.” When I did something wrong I did not stop being the apple of their eye. They did not stop loving me. However, I remember sitting in my room thinking that our relationship would never be the same because of what I had done. I was afraid to come into their presence. I was afraid of how they saw me.

Of course, I was wrong. They were upset with me and they were training me to be an adult. To me it just felt like I had become unrighteous in their eyes. I did not need to be cleansed from unrighteousness in their eyes. They loved me and were proud of me. I had done something wrong but that did not change our relationship from their standpoint. It did change it from mine.

When I came down for dinner, my parents let me know that all was well. Not only was I forgiven but our relationship was “cleansed of all unrighteousness.” That is what 1 John 1:9-10 is talking about.

Rebellion changed the identity of Israel. This change was not so much in God’s eyes. As long as they were in rebellion, they could not come into his presence. If they repented, God would restore that relationship. They would be able to see themselves as God’s children again.

Because of Moses intercession, God was still going to give them what the covenant promised. They were still his people. Their rebellion robbed them from his presence and the identity that comes from that presence.

We need to understand that unbelief and rebellion do not cause God to disown us but they do cut us off from his presence. Without that, we cannot experience the fullness of our relationship with him. Without that fullness, we will lose our blessing and our destiny.

If we confess our rebellion or unbelief, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from the sense of separation we feel. Restored to the fullness of relationship, righteousness, we will find that we can receive all that God has for us.

The Cost of Rebellion

Genesis 3:15-19 (NKJV) 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” 16 To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

Yesterday we read about the characteristics of rebellion from Genesis 3. I have always found the stark contrast in the before and after in Adam and Eve. Before the fall, the Garden was an idyllic place where God, Adam, Eve and creation flowed together in peace and unity. God gave Adam his perfect helpmate in Eve. The depth of his love for here is expressed in the 23rd verse of chapter 2.

Genesis 2:23 (NKJV) 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”

Immediately after the fall, we see fear, self-righteousness, and blame shifting. The woman who was Adam’s perfect helper and companion is now the source of his trouble. This is what rebellion does to a person. We need to watch out for these things and if we see them in any form, we need to examine our hearts and go to the Lord in humility asking him if we are in rebellion.

Today I want to look at something else in this chapter. Rebellion has consequences. The Father God had created a perfect place for his children to live a perfect life. That was what he wanted. There was no sickness, worry or fear. The Garden worked in cooperation with its human rulers to bring forth all they needed. This is the blessing of submission to God and Godly authority. Rebellion changed all that.

In today’s scripture, God tells Adam and Eve what they have unleashed through rebellion. Many people read these verses and see a God who is angrily punishing his children. That is not what has happened here. These are not things God has done to Adam and Eve; these are things rebellion has brought upon them. God is just telling them what to expect.

The curse brought to creation by rebellion manifests in three basic dimensions. There are specific effects on women because of Eve’s role in the rebellion. There are different effects on men because of Adam’s role. The curse on creation is due to the change of ruler and manifests in ways specific to it.

First, the Lord speaks to women. The affect of rebellion in her life actually begins in verse 15. The Lord tells Satan that he is putting a special antagonism between him and the woman. It might seem that since the woman is the one Satan used to bring rebellion into the world, that he might be grateful to her. It would seem that they would be allies in the “new world order.” The opposite is true.

Through history, women are oppressed and suppressed by the devil and the world he controls. Women are put on the same level as cattle. They are possessions to be used and abused as men see fit. They have no say in society or in their own lives. They are not educated and are seen as incapable of anything beyond bearing children and serving men. This pattern is broken first in the ministry of Jesus.

In his ministry, we see women elevated. He protects them, values them and they are some of his most ardent supporters. They are mentioned in the Gospel with the same value as men. There has been a tremendous change in the role of women in today’s world. If you study history, you will see that this change began primarily in the places where Christianity gained ascendance. We need only look to the extremist Islamic world to see the special hatred the devil has for women.

Her curse also manifests in some other ways. The multiplication of pain and sorrow in conception and childbirth is part of the curse of rebellion. Pain is part of the process. The “multiplication of pain” is part of the curse. My wife will tell you that she would rather have a baby, she had six, than go to the dentist. She is healthy and there were no complications. She believes that undue pain is part of the curse and eves that this curse has been broken by the blood of Jesus. She stood on that promise with every birth.

Another aspect of the curse is that “here desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.” This is not to say that a woman’s love for her husband is wrong. It is not wrong for her to have sexual desire for him. This is speaking of the unhealthy dependence of women upon men for their identity. The New Testament teaches an order in the home, but it never teaches that men are to rule of women even in marriage. Marriage is a partnership in life that should be the closest and most joyous experience on earth. (Gen. 2:24-25) The curse turned it into something else.

For Adam the curse manifests in what life will be for him. God intended him to be the under-ruler of planet earth. He was to be God’s child. The whole creation was to respond to him. The creation was to supply his needs in harmony. There was to be peace and joy in his relationship with his wife and ultimately amongst his children. The curse changed all that as well.

God tells Adam that from that moment onward the creation would fight and resist him. He would live by the “sweat of his brow.” Work is not a curse. The term “sweat of his brow” is not just speaking of work. God is telling Adam that rebellion has put in a place where life would dominate him instead of him reigning in dominion over life. Struggle and strife would be his future from birth to death.

In the modern world, we might say that we have overcome this curse. Yet we see stress as one of the main killers in our society. Stress is the inward “sweat of his brow” instead of the outward. Many would say that the labor of stress is worse than physical labor.

The curse on creation is that it is now ruled by the devil. It takes on his nature. It becomes predatory and evil becomes the dominant force. Romans 8 tells us that the creation cries out under this curse waiting for the liberation that will come when man takes his rightful place once again. (Romans 8:19-22)

How can we live above this curse? Are we condemned by Adam’s rebellion? There is one way out. Romans chapter 5 tells the story of Adam’s rebellion and Christ’s submission. It reveals that his submission broke the power of the curse. The only requirement is that we now submit to Jesus as Lord and savior of our lives. When we do this, the curse is broken and we are free. (Galatians 3:13)

The more I cultivate Godly and healthy submission in my life, the less power the curse that came through rebellion has over me. Once again, I am not talking about blind obedience to anyone but God himself. I am talking about a heart attitude that says, “I am submitted to God through Jesus my Lord. I want to obey the authority God places over me. I respect authority and resist rebellion.” With this at work the curse has nothing to grasp and we will live in the blessing of God.

More characteristics of Rebellion

Genesis 3:7-14 (NKJV) 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” 12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” 13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.

Yesterday we pointed out that there are two spiritual kingdoms and they operate with different things at their heart. At the heart of the Kingdom of God is loving submission to loving and Godly authority. At the heart of the kingdom of darkness is rebellion and suppression. When we walk in submission to God and the leadership God ordains, we release the power of the Kingdom of God. When we allow rebellion, we open the door to the kingdom of darkness.

The practical application of what I am saying would take a great deal more time and space than I intend to give to this topic. Suffice it to say that I am speaking about principles here. When we apply these principles to the interactions in life, they are not always quite so black and white. Remember, rebellion and submission are matters of the heart. You have to gage your own heart. As we look at some of the characteristics of rebellion found in Genesis 3, seeing them can help determine if you need to check your attitudes.

In today’s scripture, we read about what happened to Adam and Eve after they fell into rebellion. As we look at their reactions, we can see characteristics of people in rebellion. Let us begin with verse 7. The bible says that their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked.

I have heard teachings that said they were not really naked before this time because they were covered in the Glory of God. I do not totally agree with that point of view. In chapter two, the bible says that they were both naked and they were not ashamed. I do not think that the bible would make a point of this if they were covered with the glory of God so that they could not see one another. In a sense, the world was their bedroom at this point in history. Either way it is clear that something changed when they fell into rebellion.

I believe that what changed is how they saw their nakedness. In chapter two, they were naked and unashamed. In chapter three, their eyes are opened to the exposure of their nakedness. Before rebellion, they were predisposed to see good. After rebellion, they were predisposed to see evil.

I believe that there is nothing at all evil about a husband and wife sharing the nakedness of their bodies in the bedroom. That was Adam and Eve’s condition before rebellion. I know of people who, because of things that have happened in their lives or because of certain mindsets do think that it is somehow evil to be nude even with their husband or wife. Rebellion causes something similar on a larger scale.

When we are in rebellion, we will be predisposed to see evil instead of good. This is particularly true in terms of the people we are in rebellion against. Children who are in rebellion see their parents as too hard, unfair or old fashioned. People who are in rebellion at work believe their boss is incompetent or cruel. I am most familiar with the rebellion that can rise up in a church setting.

As the pastor of the local church, I am the one who is accountable for the people and the vision of that church. I have been in this position for over 37 years. In that time, it is inevitable that I would have my share of rebellious congregation members. In some cases, their rebellion has been extreme causing great damage to the church and many innocent people. I could always see the rebellion coming. Eventually it would get to the point where nothing I said or did was right. All they could see in me was evil. I am not perfect, but when a person can see nothing good, that is rebellion.

We see a second characteristic of rebellion in this verse. They tried to cover themselves. Rebellion will manifest in self-righteousness and self-justification. When rebellion takes hold of our hearts, we lose the ability to see our own faults clearly. We become so focused on the faults of the one against whom we are rebelling that our faults seem insignificant. When we have to justify our actions, we might want to check our attitudes. This could be a sign of rebellion.

In verse eight, we see another characteristic. Adam and Eve were created for fellowship with God. However, after their rebellion, they were afraid of his presence. If we are afraid or uncomfortable in the presence of God that is sure sign of rebellion somewhere in our lives. If we are afraid of our leaders or uncomfortable in their presence, we should ask ourselves, “Have they done anything that should make me feel this way?” If the answer is no, we should check our attitude.

We might want to set up a meeting and ask the leader “Is there some problem I am not aware of.” I have been through this more times than I care to think about and when a person comes to me when they begin to feel uneasy; it almost always results in an easy explanation and restoration of relationship. When they wait, it often ends in heartache. Do not let rebellion rob you of relationships that can be valuable to you.

That brings us to the fact that fear is another characteristic of rebellion. The fear is often covered up by anger, but there is always fear. There may be fear of being mistreated or fear of being left out. There may be a number of other focuses for fear, but when fear begins to rise, it may mean rebellion is rising. There are many other reasons we might be fearful but if we are afraid of God or authority or if it is combined with some of the other indicators of rebellion, we should ask the Lord about it.

Finally, we see some things in Adam and Eve that are not too pretty. We see selfishness and blame shifting. This is very characteristic of rebellion. We have already pointed some of this out in relation to self-righteousness, but we see clearly how these things play out in Adam and Eve.

I believe Adam followed Eve into sin because he loved her so much. When rebellion entered his heart, that love was perverted and turned upside down. He sinned so that he would not lose her. That is a selfless act. Once he sinned, he told God it was her fault. That was a selfish act.

Rebellion is always selfish. It can be made to look like we are standing for what is right or even defending others. Leaders are not perfect and sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes they must be disobeyed. Sometimes we might need to find other leaders to whom we feel more comfortable submitting. We do not have to allow a rebellious attitude to take control.

One way we stop rebellion is to forgive. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the forgiven. Forgiveness is always in the hands of the forgiver. Jesus forgave his crucifiers on the cross. They did nothing to deserve it. Unforgiveness gives offense and the offender control over us. Forgiveness places them in the hands of God and takes that control away from them. It also enables us to hear God when he tells us where we are wrong.

Rebellion is a poison and a thief. Give it no place in your life.

Two Kingdoms Two Principles

Genesis 3:1 (NKJV) 1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’

Last week we looked at Isaiah 30 and made the connection between unbelief and rebellion. Hebrews 3 is clear that unbelief robbed Israel of their destiny. However, as we look at this chapter, we also see that it was Israel’s constant rebellion that allowed unbelief to grow. If we are rebellious, we will fall into unbelief. There is no way around that.

Rebellion is a thief just as unbelief is a thief. Rebellion is even more connected with the devil than unbelief. Rebellion is his nature. Lucifer became Satan because he rebelled against God in heaven. He was then cast out of heaven and eventually infected God’s family in the Garden of Eden.

Rebellion is the heart and nature of Satan’s kingdom. If we look at the dictators and regimes throughout history that have been the most ruthless, we will see this rebellion nature at work. They rule through fear and intimidation because they know that rebellion is how they came into power and they know that they must keep their followers under control or the same rebellion that brought them into power will take them out. Totalitarianism and rebellion are two sides of the same coin. Although they may seem the opposite, they stem from the same spirit.

I have spent a good deal of time in Africa. Particularly in West Africa, we see this cycle playing out over and over again. One president is killed because of his oppressive government and another takes his place. Sometimes the next one is able to hold things together for a long time, but usually you will see another rebellion and another violent overthrow. Rarely does the next president or dictator work for the good of his people. He will repress his opposition just as violently as his predecessor oppressed his. This is not always the case and the pattern is not limited to Africa. It is too often the way it works.

Personally, we are not overthrowing governments or oppressing our neighbors. However, if we allow rebellious attitudes to get into our hearts, they will produce results that may not be as extreme or open as those I have seen in Africa, but they will be just as damaging and dangerous to us. Rebellion and the Kingdom of God cannot coexist.

God does not rule by intimidation or threat. He certainly could but that is not his nature. God is love. He rules in Love. There is judgment and even wrath in the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, everything God does is motivated and tempered by love, mercy and grace. Everything Satan does is motivated by hate, rebellion against God and the fear of rebellion. He will inspire rebellion in others because it makes them vulnerable to him. He will then crush them with his own iron hand.

Nowhere is the truth of these two laws seen more clearly than in the ministry of Jesus and the growth of Christianity. The world of Jesus’ day was ruled by the Roman Empire. Rome had come into being as a republic. It became an empire when Julius Caesar rebelled against the Roman republic. He never became Emperor however; he planted the seeds of rebellion that led to the rise of imperial power under Augustus Caesar. The Romans ruled by conquest, intimidation and brutality. This is the spirit of rebellion that comes from Satan.

Christianity preached just the opposite. Jesus said things that seemed impossibly naïve given the world in which he lived. Look at this statement from the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:38-39 (NKJV) 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

In this and many other similar statement, Jesus’ preaches the direct opposite of rebellion. He preaches a form of submission that would seem to lead to total domination by those who walk in the spirit of the devil. In truth, it was this message of loving submission that led to the destruction of Roman Empire. When we cultivate an attitude of submission based in our relationship to God, we cannot lose.

This does not mean that we should not stand up for what is right. We should do our best to hold our leaders accountable and to stand for biblical truth in our society. We must also remember that when the attitude behind those actions is driven by rebellion, we are playing into the devil’s hands.

Last week I pointed out that Peter and John stood against the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council that was both civil and religious authority in their country. Although they did not obey, I believe they kept the right heart toward the leaders. In the end, the Sanhedrin was destroyed but Christianity flourished and became the primary influence that led to western culture, as we know it today.

Submission to authority works for Christians. Rebellion against authority negates their power to bring real and lasting change. This seems counterintuitive when viewed strictly from the natural perspective. It makes perfect sense when we understand that submission allows God to work and rebellion gives power to Satan.

How does this relate to our daily lives and what does the Garden of Eden have to do with any of it. I believe it has everything to do with how rebellion functions. Genesis is the book of beginnings. The story of the Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is the story of the beginning of man in every way. It is where rebellion entered the human experience. Understanding it there will help us recognize it when it tries to get into our lives.

In verse one of Genesis chapter 3, we read that the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field. This cunning deceiver went right to the heart of the matter with Eve. Last week we pointed out that the devil attacked Eve’s submission to the authority of God. In essence, the attack was actually on Adam through Eve. Adam was head of their union. Adam was told to keep or protect the Garden. Adam should have intervened before Eve could react to Satan’s deception but he did not.

Often we find that the devil will work through others to lead us into a rebellious attitude. We must be ready to resist him and stand in submission to God no matter how logical it may seem to rebel. Remember, it will not look or seem like rebellion but when we are led by others to question authority without actually going to that authority, we are in danger of rebellion.

When Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, Adam had to make a choice. Go told him that in the day they ate of the fruit they would surely die. The Hebrew says, “in dying you shall surely die.” This implies a twofold death. I do not think Adam expected their physical life to end when they ate the fruit. He knew that something would happen to them that would lead to their eventual death. He knew his choice was to submit to God and trust that God would take care of Eve or rebel against the commandment of God and suffer the consequences. He chose the latter.

We do not know what would have happened if Adam had chosen not to eat of the fruit. We do not know what would have happened if Adam had stopped Eve before she ate. We do know that Adam’s rebellion opened the door to every evil thing that is in the world today. We must guard against rebellion so that we will not open the door to evil in our own lives.

More tomorrow.