Tag Archives: Testing

Testing

Studies in Genesis 3

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13 ESV)

After questioning the man, who has blamed Him and the woman for his actions, God now turns His attention to the woman. His question is as direct as those asked of the man, but slightly different. He knows what she has done. She has listened to the Deceiver and worked out in her mind and heart the decision to rebel against God. She has plucked a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil believing, against all evidence, that by eating it she will gain something God is withholding. She has eaten the fruit and then given it to the man for him to eat.

God’s question is all inclusive. He asks the woman what she did. What have you produced? What work did you do? What have you made? What is the effect of your work? You have done something. What is it? God asks the woman to account for her thoughts, the decision-making process, the reasons for her actions. He is demanding a full accounting for all which just occurred because of her actions.

God wants her, as He wanted the man, to take complete responsibility for herself. God asks the woman, as He did the man, as He does all who bear His image, to give an accounting for their thoughts, motivations, decisions and actions. He never asks anyone to do something for Him. He did not ask them to refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He commanded they not eat from that tree.

God’s asking is a testing. Scripture is filled with God testing, or proving, every person. His tests are a teaching tool to discover what the person, or student, does not know, not what they do know. He knows the results of the testing. He wants those tested to know the results also. Yet, He demands a heart which seeks truth, so the testing becomes a tool used to purge the person of sin, as a furnace refines metal, removing the dross.

This is the uncomfortable reality of having the image of God while carrying the brokenness of sin. All are tested, put through the fire to burn away the impurities. Our responsibility, because of the image of God, is to acknowledge the testing is from God for our benefit, take responsibility for ourselves, and repent, turning away from that which breaks and cuts off any relationship with God.

Our actions carry no merit. God does not ask and then reward us for obedience. God commands with the expectation of obedience and blesses because it is His nature to do so out of love for those He created. Part of our responsibility is obedience and truthfulness.

Both the man and the woman disobeyed God. Neither the man or the woman answered God’s questions with complete truthfulness.

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Answer with Truth

Studies in Genesis 3

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Genesis 3:2-3 ESV

When questioned by the serpent, or whatever was inhabiting the serpent, Eve responded with a vague half-truth. She did not identify the tree from which they were to not eat and she added to the command of God. When God gives an explicit command, we do not have the authority to alter His words into something vague and imprecise. Nor is it ever our place to speak for God by putting words in His mouth. Eve could have countered the deception of the serpent with the exact words of God.

Notice what Jesus does in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. When tempted and tested by the devil He does not respond in generalities but with the actual words of God.

Why is this important?

When we allow the thinking of our hearts about God and His commands to descend into generalities we open ourselves to believing compromise is essential and begin adding boundaries, exclusions and misinterpretations to what He said. We begin to believe He did not say what He really said. This gives us a false view of God and of ourselves in relation to Him. This would be like an “editor” randomly adding clarification to someone’s writing without knowing the person, what has already been said or agreeing with the message, working with the intent to steal the message away from the author and make it their own. God said “you shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 ESV). This command has for some, morphed into not allowing justified killing of the criminal or killing during a justified war. The most prevalent use of compromising the word of God is the justification of murdering a baby in the womb because the baby is not considered a person. God’s words are twisted to fit our insane beliefs.

God is not mysterious and vague in His Words to Adam and Eve. He spoke to them directly, face to face. He embedded His image in them so they had the inherent tools and abilities needed to understand Him and intimately know Him. Having His image gave them an absolute advantage over every other physical or spiritual creature. Both the snake, a physical creature, and the spiritual being inhabiting the serpent were created by God. Eve had a conversation with a dumb, unable to speak, physical creature being used by a different, intelligent and morally compromised spiritual creature. Physical creatures are separated from physical creatures by flesh and blood and bone. It is possible a spiritual creature could inhabit, or take up residence, in a physical, as evidenced by Jesus confronting the myriad of demons who had taken possession of people. Adam and Eve had all they needed to know something was amiss and that whatever was in the serpent was not speaking the truth to them.

We do not know why Eve did not counter the lies of the serpent with the truth of God. We know that she did not specifically identify God’s true statement, and that she added to His words. The serpent set her up to fail, gambling that she would fail. She failed almost immediately.

God Questioned

Studies in Genesis 3

Nowthe serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You   shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV)

The serpent asks a question which assumes God is not trustworthy, that Adam misheard or is willingly misrepresenting God, and that God does not mean what He says. The question is unreasonable. “Did God actually say, ‘You   shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” is a direct contradiction of God’s eternal being exhibited in all of creation, including the serpent and that which is inhabiting the serpent.

God created Man in His image, creating them male and female which suggests Eve may have known His words. In Genesis chapter 1 He gave them food. “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food’” (Genesis 1:29 ESV). God gave them a large variety of food. Then, in Genesis chapter 2, God placed them in a garden, their home, and gave a specific instruction. 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 2:16-17 ESV). He told them they could eat the fruit from all of the trees in the garden but one. He identified that one tree as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Whatever is inhabiting the serpent may have known what God actually said. This also is something we cannot know. We can assume some knowledge of God, how He works, and what He said. We also know whatever is inhabiting the serpent was initially created by God but was in active rebellion against Him. God did not just create the physical but also the spiritual. Of all the physical creatures created by God only Man has the image of God. Genesis covers the physical world not the spiritual. It is not unreasonable to suggest something created by God in the spiritual world was allowed into the physical by God.

Why would God allow this? We do not get to know why. We can know that He allowed it because it happened. This is a test to see whether or not the people He created in His image would obey Him. There is more to obedience than simply doing or not doing. Obedience and disobedience involves the thinking of the heart, the whole person. A person will do that which their head and heart tell them to do. The question of whatever was inhabiting the serpent was designed to confuse and bewilder the thinking of the heart of the woman. This is what lies are designed to do. Lying confuses the hearer and is meant to alter the thoughtful and emotional direction of the one hearing so they cannot draw a correct conclusion steering their actions in a wrong direction. The only way to counter a lie is to know, and correctly express, the truth.

We have already assumed God knows everything including what will happen in the history of the universe He created.  He knows what is inhabiting the serpent and the motivations behind the question. He also knows what Eve, and then Adam, will do. He cares because He values them but He will not direct them against their will in this matter. The test is designed to expose who they are in their innermost self.

Questioned by a Serpent

Studies in Genesis 3

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You   shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1 ESV

This is a test. God is testing Eve. This is also a test for Adam. God is in absolute control. He has shown His control in creating everything according to His divine will and judgment. Yet, He is allowing the serpent, or whatever is in the serpent, to test the obedience of the woman and then the man. Since Eve has no experience with rebellion or disobedience how could she know she was being tested? When does a test become temptation?

The word “temptation” (nâsâh) is not used in this verse. Temptation, or putting to the proof, was not always viewed in Scripture as a negative occurrence, but more neutral in concept. Such testing was used to discover the purity, validity or integrity of a thing or person, such as purity of a metal like gold, or the people of God when He led them out of Egypt. People were tested to discover what they knew, what they could do, but more to show what they did not know and needed to learn, or what they could not do so they could learn. That which is lesser cannot test that which is greater. It is the greater, the authority or owner, who tests those owned or under their authority. No man has the right to test God but God has full authority to test and prove man.

Under this circumstance, the serpent does not test Eve. God tests Eve. God uses the serpent, and whatever is in it, to show what is in Eve, and ultimately, in Adam. Did Eve truly understand the command of God to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Eve’s response to the serpent’s question begins to reveal her ability to reason, decide an action and draw a conclusion. However, it is the serpent’s question that reveals it, or what is in it, is not good but somehow corrupted.

“Did God actually say ‘You  shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

God created Eve from a piece of Adam. It was to Adam God spoke the command and prohibition. Adam would have to tell her what God said for her to know. Had the serpent spoken this question to Adam he could have given a definitive answer. Adam could have said “no, that is not what God said. He said ‘do not eat from the tree of the knowledge if good and evil. The tree in the middle of the garden next to the tree of life. We eat from every other tree there is.” But the serpent questioned Eve.

By implication the serpent was suggesting to Eve that since she was not around to actually hear God’s commands she could not know exactly what He said. Nor could she trust Adam to communicate accurately the words of God. Her authorities, God and the first man, were questioned over their position of authority and the intent of their relationship with her.

Testing Love for God

Rebellion begins when we listen to a lie and believe it is truth and then repeat it as truth. We do this because we do not test the lie against truth, or better, allow truth to expose the lie.

When Eve spoke with the Serpent she heard what he asked “did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” [Genesis 3:1 ESV]. Instead of answering his lie with the truth she answered by adding to the truth her own lie. She told the Serpent God did not want them to touch the fruit of the forbidden tree. God told tem to not eat. He did not prohibit touch. I believe Adam was standing there listening to the exchange. I have no evidence for this other than she ate then gave to him. In either case he witnessed her eating the forbidden and then himself ate.

These two are intelligent, morally straight servants of God with dominion over the earth. What could possibly influence them to believe a lie and not the truth? Inexperience? Forgetfulness? Perhaps they had never heard a lie before.  Why would any created by God, who cannot lie, not tell the truth? Why would they lie to themselves? Why would the set a boundary so they wouldn’t even be tempted? Maybe they didn’t understand the boundary God set for them. In any case, Eve added to the truth her own brand of lie and Adam did not stop or reason with her.

Notice the progression of events as the Serpent piles one lie onto another. Notice the thinking of the heart of Eve.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,

and you will be like God,

knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,

and that it was a delight to the eyes,

and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,

she took of its fruit and ate,

and she also gave some to her husband who was with her,

and he ate. [Genesis 3:1-6 ESV]

The serpent lied when he told them they would not die. In fact, he called God a liar. He attributed to God a personality and characteristic which was not true. He said God did not want them to be like Him, even though God made them in His image. God did tell them to not eat from the tree because He did not want them to know good and evil.  The serpent suggested to them that knowing good and evil was desirable and powerful and a way for them to emulate the One who created them. They were His children and children do want to be like their parents.

God allowed the Serpent, Satan in a skin, to tempt Adam and Eve. He knew they had already added their lie to His truth and He did not stop them or the Serpent.

Satan had already fallen and been ejected from the Presence. He had already shown his disdain and hatred for God. God uses him, the fallen one, to test those He loves, beginning with Adam and Eve and extending to all people. He tests people’s love for Him. We cannot force anyone to love us but know when they do and when they do not. God will not force us to love Him but will strengthen our love for Him once we recognize its truth.

Now, notice the progression of thought in 1 John 2:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in the world —

the desires of the flesh

and the desires of the eyes

and pride in possessions

— is not from the Father but is from the world.

And the world is passing away along with its desires,

but whoever does the will of God abides forever. [1John 2:15-17 ESV]

God showed His love for us through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, whose blood covered our sin. When we see the extent of His love for us, recognize it and realize the consequences of it, we begin an intimate relationship with Him. Our relationship with Him grows as we fight and struggle to control sin. We have His strength in us under His control used by us for Him, to show our love for Him.

If we love anything in this world we do not love God. He tests us asking bluntly if we love Him more than we love the world. We must answer honestly and realize and recognize how strong is the tug and pull of the world, our own flesh and the lies of Satan. We cannot control the world and Satan. We do have, with God’s strength, the tools needed to fight and overcome our flesh.

We must not add to God’s truth our lies or the lies of the world. The only way to purge the lie is to have an intimate relationship with Truth.

God’s Testing

For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? [Mark 9:49-50 ESV]

From where does our responsibility, our obligation to obedience to Him, come?  If my argument is correct, then our obedience and responsible actions are founded and directed by His eternal moral character, by His righteousness and by the image of God in us. Consequently, anything which tempts us to fall, to sin, must be excised.

Jesus does not simply hide the symptoms of sin under His blood. His admonition to cut off a hand, a foot, or pluck out an eye is hyperbole. What He requires is even more desperate. We must change. The “old man” or the “old self” (see Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:9) with its unrighteous, worldly ways must die. None of the old may be carried into the new life.

God shows us sin, our unrighteousness through Himself and His moral character. It is our responsibility to recognize our sin, admit and turn away from that sin and strive to emulate His moral character. He demands nothing less than perfection.

Here is a mystery. Like the blood poured out on the covering of the alter, known as the mercy seat, which hides the sin of the people from God’s eyes, so Christ’s blood covers with righteousness those who are His. This process is called sanctification.

Sanctification happens immediately for eternity, upon death for eternity, and throughout eternity. What God begins in those who are His at salvation is completed at death. God always finished what He begins.

So, what does it mean to be salted with fire?

If the salt Jesus is speaking about is righteousness, God’s moral character, then the infusion of righteousness onto and into a person will have one of two outcomes. For those who are owned by God His sprinkling of righteousness will produce more righteousness. For those who are not His, exposure to righteousness will drive them away from God. Those who respond with obedience to the call of God will be drawn toward Him in confession and repentance. Those repelled by God’s righteousness will  produce anger toward Him and those who are His. Their anger will show itself in ways ranging from ambivalence to violence.

Yet, Jesus is not speaking to those who hate Him but those who love Him. He has already shown the reaction of the unrighteous toward those declared righteous.  It is the natural action of righteousness to act rightly under every circumstance. Yet, sprinkled within the sanctified citizen of the kingdom of heaven is the world and the flesh, both under attack by our adversary, the devil. We are torn, driven by the Spirit to love those who persecute while compelled by sin to react with unrighteousness toward them.

We are tested and our true master will wield control. Either we are slaves to sin or children of God, citizens of the kingdom of unrighteousness or of heaven. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” [John 8:34-36 ESV]. God’s testing does one of two things. Either His testing removes the impurities leaving pure salt, which has great value, or it removes the salt leaving the impurity, leaving only that which is worthless.

I will say this over and over. Obedience carries no merit. Obedience is a natural action for those being trained and fit for eternity with God. We must fight against the philosophy and thinking which suggests God owes us anything. He owes us nothing and has given us everything of eternal value. Those who believe God owes them something for their obedience want a temporal reward, something they can use and spend on themselves. Love is unconditional. Demonstrated by God toward us love is a giving of self for an other.

God takes the time to remove the impurities from those who are His. Let us think He is removing the impurities, He will remove them, He has removed them. God has made us righteous based upon the sacrifice of His Son. He is making us righteous. He will make us righteous.

The Object of Persecution

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  [Matthew 5:10-11 ESV]

Persecution for righteousness’ sake is always undeserved suffering which means it is not deserved. Christ’s death was undeserved. This does not mean all violence against a Christian is because of God’s imputed righteousness. Christians are covered with the blood of Christ, the sentence for their sin placed upon His shoulders. But, Christians still sin. We still say things we should not. Do what we should not. Do not do what we should. Suffering which comes as a consequence of personal sin is not suffering for righteousness’ sake.

Suffering for righteousness’ sake does not come because of the Christian but because of Whom the Christian represents.

Living according to the righteous leading of the Spirit is the evidence of God’s blessing upon the Christian. Yet, God does not force the Christian to live according to the leading of the Spirit. Christians have wills. It is possible to grieve the Spirit of God by our rebellion. We must still obey as His servants would obey but often do only the bare minimum and sometimes not even that.

He tests those who are His. These tests are internal and external. How do we struggle against temptation and sin? Where is our resolve and our love for Him who redeemed us? Are we truly servants of the only God? Relinquishing control is internal, an act of the intelligence and the moral/emotional self shown through obedience which is shown in what we do daily. This daily living for Christ draws people to us, questioning our actions, forging opinion about why we do what we do. Our internal life is a preparation for eternity. Our external life is a witness for God who calls people to Himself.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” [1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV]

We are holy because of the God who created us, recreated us, and claims us for His own. If there is one thing Scripture teaches it is God’s holiness, His demand for holiness, and the complete rebellion of the world against Him.

Genesis 4 suggests there are only four people alive. They are Adam and Eve and their first two children, Cain and Abel. Abel offered a righteous sacrifice, according to the intimately known moral standards of God. Cain’s sacrifice was not righteous because Cain was not righteous. Cain killed Abel because God judged Abel’s sacrifice righteous, not because his brother was righteous. God’s work in us, in fitting us for eternity with Him, takes the murderous unrighteousness of Cain, found in everyone, and purges it through continuous testing and refining. We become obedient, leaving behind all acts of unrighteousness, embracing His holiness.

Yet, the world hates God’s holiness and His righteousness and all those who obediently follow Him. Being loved by God automatically means being hated by the world. Those who have rejected Him will reject anything which belongs to Him. The evidence of Christ’s life and sacrifice is neither meager or compromised but substantial and solid. We should never be surprised by the evidence of the world’s hatred for God. We should be concerned when the world does not “revile” and “utter all kinds of evil against you” because of obedience to Christ.

The object of persecution is not the Christian, even though it is Christians who receive the brunt of the physical, emotional, and intellectual violence. All persecution is directed toward God. Whether we admit it or not, everything begins with Him, revolves around Him, and ends with Him. We should not view ourselves but the God whom we serve as the object of persecution.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. [1Peter 4:1-5 ESV]