Trouble in Paradise

Robin McMillan

Pride, humility, and the glory of God are three related influences that vitally affect our relationship with God. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5) on the basis of His desire to receive the glory that is due to Him. There is a glory that the Lord will share. It is the glory of His presence. Jesus said in John 17:22: “And the glory You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.” But in Isaiah 42:8 we see that there is a glory that the Lord will not share and guards very jealously: “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images.” This second “glory” is the credit that He deserves but which many continually try to usurp.

Self-justifying pride is the enemy of God. This pride aligns us with Satan in contradiction to the Lord. Just after Peter had the tremendous revelation that Jesus was the Son of God, the Lord had to rebuke him with: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23) Even though Peter knew that Jesus was the Son of God he was with standing the purpose of God in the soon coming crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Peter was thinking here that he knew something that was better than the plan of God.

Pride is so subtle that it can hide or disguise itself in many ways. It is not only found in the board rooms of American industry but also in the pulpits and pews of our churches. It is not only on the playing fields of American athletics but also in the hearts of God’s people. It can hide itself in empty boasting as well as in preaching, singing, praying, or any other activity. This pride is the devil’s substitute for God’s grace and is that which caused him to fall into his present state.

Often men do not regard this pride as the abomination that the Lord does. To us it is excusable; to Him it is high treason! Jesus spoke directly to this serious problem in Luke 16:15: “And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God’.” If we are going to do the things that are highly esteemed

Man was created divinely incomplete. God’s plan was to have a man who depended upon their Creator. The Lord declared in Genesis 2:18: “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” He was to be dependent upon His God and co-dependent with his mate. Even in the Godhead the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not function independently of each other. But in the Garden of Eden, a place of environmental perfection, Adam and Eve were given a choice and they chose independence. Paradise was not sufficient to keep them happy apart from communion with God. This seeking of independence from God resulted in man’s departure from God and is the greatest determining factor of how great the distance will be. Will we humble ourselves to express our need for Him? He will give His grace to those who do so humble themselves, but He will continue to resist those who maintain their pride and seek independence.

The older and wiser I get the more I realize that my problem is “me.” It is not “you” or even “it.” I have found the enemy and he is “me!” Yes, there is another enemy of my soul, and he does seek to kill and destroy. But when I have settled the essential issues of life in the presence of God, then the devil becomes secondary and not primary. Adam and Eve got in trouble with the serpent only as they left the fundamental relationship that the Lord had established with them and allowed themselves to doubt His word.

The Lord gave the man only one restriction: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). The Lord gave no instruction concerning the serpent or any other enemy, for He had covered the whole of temptation in this one command. Every success depended upon Adam’s adherence to this one decree, and every failure was rooted in Adam’s disobedience of it.

When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they partook of a source of information that enabled them to function independently from their Creator. This tree was not just some external fruit tree but was also something inside their being. The danger inherent in eating from this source was that it gave them an independent source of life and information from which they could live. They could now consult their knowledge of good and evil when needing to make decisions. This in effect enabled them to become a “god” instead of having a God! No longer did they walk with God in the cool of the evening. But that which appealed to Adam and Eve brought forth death.

The knowledge of good and evil became a source of deception to them. That which was true hid from them that which was the truth. It was true that Adam and Eve did not immediately die physically when they ate from the tree (Satan had countered God’s word with… “You shall not surely die”). But in truth Adam and Eve died to a life and relationship in communion with God for which we yearn. Eventually, because of their disobedience, their bodies died and they returned to the dust from whence they came.

This knowledge also made Adam ‘self’ conscious instead of ‘God’ conscious. Adam’s nakedness had never bothered him before. The nakedness Adam felt was not just the absence of clothes, it was his separation from the Lord. Adam’s attempt at making a covering is in itself also revealing. He chose fig leaves to try to cover himself. But God chose to shed the blood of an innocent animal to clothe Adam and Eve, foreshadowing the death of the innocent and spotless Son of God for the covering of the transgressions of many.

The consequences of that one fatal act continue to be felt thousands of generations later. The entire human race lost its innocence in one moment of time. When Adam and Eve fell, we lost the reality of that for which we were created; intimate communion with God. Just as the world has been blinded to the reality of all that we lost “in Adam,” the church is blind to much of what is available to restore us to fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. To live by the knowledge of good and of evil in place of fellowship with God is in essence the pride of man. When we trust in our own judgments and abilities, we seek to glorify ourselves and trespass upon the glory of God.

Pride is a bit like the story of the “Emperor’s New Clothes.” No one was humble enough to admit they could not see the “new clothes!” Only pride could encourage a king to parade naked before his subjects believing himself to be attired in “magnificent apparel.” Leave it to a child in simplicity and honesty to shout in the middle of the procession, “Look! The king is naked!” Pride has the same blinding effect to all who “wear” it; we think we are magnificently clothed but the whole world sees us as naked and foolish.

One very common yet subtle way that pride manifests itself in our lives is in our judgments or criticisms of others. Paul explained this principle in Romans 2:1: “Therefore, you are inexcusable, 0 man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” In other words, WHAT WE SEE IN OTHERS AND CRITICIZE IS ALSO IN US!

Oftentimes we use our successes as the basis for criticizing the failure of others, not taking into account that our own success is due to the grace of God and not our own ability. This pride is built on a lie. We presume to be more capable and more righteous than we really are. We do not have any true ability that we were not given by God, yet we take credit for being naturally what we are only by the grace of God.

We are kept from sin only by the grace of God. Grace is God’s undeserved favor. It is also the power and influence that enables us to live to His praise and glory. The grace of. God hedges us about from the influence of the devil and protects us from our own wickedness. Job’s troubles did not begin until the Lord pointed Job out to the devil. Even then, Satan could not touch him until the Lord removed the hedge of protection. We are only able to stand because of the hedge that God has placed around us. If that hedge is removed we will immediately find ourselves in a terrible condition.

When we judge others, this expression of pride results in God’s withdrawal of grace on the very same issue as the judgment, “God resists the proud.” Members of the Body of Christ have denounced one another for some moral offense only to fall into the same immorality themselves. In some cases the sin was never a problem before! None of us can stand morally without God’s grace. It is probable that we could each trace our own failures and problems to previous criticism of others.

This principle has been lurking behind sex and money scandals in Christian ministries that have rocked our present generation. The sex scandal of one minister is publicly denounced by another, and within a year he also is found in sexual impropriety. As Arthur Burt once said, “Don’t kick the boomerang after it hits you. Find out who threw it!”

Life is not just a conflict between good and evil; it is actually a conflict between the true knowledge of God and the knowledge of good and evil. It is a conflict between those who live from One Source of Life or from “another source” of death that is being advertised as life. Satan himself had no place to function in the earth until Adam and Eve ate of that forbidden tree; The fruit deceived them and Satan’s ability to continue deceiving and influencing still comes from that fruit. As long as our lives are lived on the basis of our knowledge of good and evil, we will continually be defeated. Living by that knowledge must be replaced by living in communication with the Lord Himself. The very crucifixion of Jesus Christ strikes at the root of that tree of knowledge and brings us to bow humbly before Him.

This is not to imply that the devil and demons are not a factor. They are every bit as much a factor as a shark is in his environment, the ocean. But when we learn how to stay out of that environment, we can stay out of the domain of his power. Satan is also called the father of lies. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44b). In contrast to him, Jesus said of Himself, “I am …the truth…” (John 14:6). “Abide in Me, and I in you…” (John 15:4(d). When we abide in Jesus, which is to abide in the truth, then we are not subject to the devil or under his jurisdiction. Jesus said in John 14:33, “…for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” There was no darkness in Jesus. There was no place for the devil to gain a foothold in Jesus’ life. And He has made the same provision for our lives, to be so much “in Him” that we are overcomers in every area of temptation! “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).

When we dwell in a lie, when we believe a lie, when we live in unforgiveness or anything else in that realm, then we open ourselves to the realm of the evil one. The Lord gave this realm to the devil in Genesis 4:14, “And you shall eat DUST all the days of your life.” Dust often speaks of the flesh, or carnal nature in Scripture, because man’s flesh was made from the dust. A life lived carnally is living in that realm that the devil has permission to feed on. When we leave our abiding place through our judgments, the grace of God is removed in part. We place ourselves in the sphere of the satanic, and our defeat becomes apparent.

Another characteristic of one who lives from the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil is legalism. He develops a “do and don’t” mentality and uses this knowledge to legalistically accept or reject others. He becomes a New Testament Pharisee who has every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed as he ministers death wherever he goes. He is able to “rule” his domain. A man living in this deception has no need of God, until he finds a law that he cannot obey. His pride makes his failure imminent until he arrives again at the place where he sees his need for God.

Deception, believing the lie, brought Adam and Eve into a place of fear. (Fear is built on a lie and is the product of the father of lies.) This deception manifests itself in blaming others for our own personal failures. The pointing of the finger and accusing of others is a sure sign of personal deception. When confronted with their sin, Adam responded in “true” fashion. “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). Adam blamed God for giving him the woman and then Eve for giving him the fruit. When Eve was confronted with her actions, she blamed the serpent. “The serpent deceived me and I ate” (Genesis 3:13). Blame-shifting is a sure sign that there has not been true repentance.

Taking the blame for sin is an essential element in true humility. When the sinner truly repents, confessing his sin and glorifying God for the salvation of Christ Jesus, grace flows. The proud man loses his pride when he believes the truth about himself. God gives grace to the humble. The Church must embrace this essential reality if we are to walk in true grace and be used of God in the days ahead.

The Lord guarded the way to the tree of life with an angel wielding a flaming sword. We can only partake of this tree at the expense of our flesh. We grow in grace in direct proportion to the degree we submit to God’s sword. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from HIS sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Just as Adam and Eve hid their nakedness from God, we do the same; but to know Him is to open ourselves to Him entirely, exposing ourselves to His all-searching Word. And as our innermost thoughts and intentions are exposed to His truth, we will then be clothed with His grace. We find in John chapter one that grace and truth came through Christ Jesus (1:14). They came together. As the truth of God exposes us, the grace of God covers us and enables us to live a life from the heart that pleases Him.

Another vital principle we see in the fall of man concerns sin. Sin is not a cause but a consequence. It is another outward indicator of the root of pride. James 1:14-15 states: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, WHEN DESIRE HAS CONCEIVED IT GIVES BIRTH TO SIN, and sin, when it is full-grown brings forth death.” Sin is the child, the offspring of desire. And when he grows up, he brings forth death. It was Adam’s and Eve’s desire to be like God that enticed them to eat from the forbidden tree. When they ate from that tree, sin was conceived!

Dealing with consequences instead of causes is fruitless. It does not solve the long term problem. So it is in dealing with the sin problem. The more we harangue people for their sins, the more often they stumble. True repentance and confession of our sins attacks the real problem which is pride. When we confess our sins, we must humble ourselves to address them honestly. The end result is that another measure of humility comes and with it the grace God has promised, thus dealing with the consequent sins. When Jesus cursed the fig tree in Mark 11, the disciples saw that after He had spoken to it the tree dried up from the roots. Jesus deals with the source of our problems. And so it is with constant sin problems. Deal with the pride, and sin is destroyed. Humility is the key to a life of grace.

We see the ultimate contrast in humility and arrogance between Jesus in the book of John and Satan in Isaiah. Jesus says of Himself, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do: for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). “I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30).

From the personification of Lucifer recorded in Isaiah, we see a completely different attitude, one which could be called the very essence of pride.
How you are fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I WILL BE LIKE THE MOST HIGH’ (Isaiah 14:12-14)

After this comes the divine response to Lucifer: “Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the lowest depths of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of the prisoners?’ (Isaiah 14:15-17).

Lucifer sought his own glory. Called the son of the morning, he was not satisfied with that beauty but rather sought to exalt himself. But Jesus never sought to exalt Himself or even manifest Himself! In John 14:9 Jesus declares, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The worth that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” For this reason We too can do the works of Jesus. We do not actually do them, but it is the Father in the Son and the Son in us who does the works and thus we live to the glory of God. As We die to ourselves, He lives His life in us and through us. The single corn of wheat dies and much fruit comes out of it.

While one kingdom declares ‘I will be like the Most High’ and suffers abasement, an. other Kingdom declares “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20).

The above article, “Trouble in Paradise” was written by Robin McMillan. The article was excerpted from The Morning Star.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”