In Genesis we learn of two trees: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; The Tree of Life. I contend that these two trees represent two covenants. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is God’s Conditional Covenant. A Conditional Covenant requires us to do something to receive God’s blessings. The Tree of Life symbolizes God’s Unconditional Covenant. The Unconditional Covenant requires only faith in God’s Promise. (Martin Luther’s “faith alone.”) Please note that faith is exactly what Jesus means when he calls us to “deny ourselves.” Faith denies self-knowledge (judgement that leads to condemn self or neighbor) of good and evil to trust in God’s grace.
The word Testament means Covenant. Therefore, what we call the Old Testament is a Conditional Covenant. (We will discover along the way that throughout the Old Covenant God reveals the New Covenant. We may even be shocked by the places we find such hope.) The New Testament tells us how God’s Unconditional Covenant is made through Jesus Christ. It also tells us stories of people who struggled with moving from faith in the Old Covenant to the New. (The Pharisee Saul becoming the Apostle Paul illustrates his faith shifting from faith in the Law given at Sinai to faith in Jesus Christ and the New Covenant made at Calvary.
Church History reveals that humanity has struggled with living by faith in the Unconditional Covenant. We have reached one of those times in history. The conflict in the United Methodist Church comes from the old battle that began in the Garden of Eden. We are in a battle of where to place our faith. Some place their faith in the Old Covenant, some are are like the divided house that cannot stand: They have one foot in each covenant. (I have stood in both places. I offer this sermon series as public witness to my journey to live by faith in Christ Grace. My heart seeks Holy Conversation with you that is grounded in prayer that lead to discernment of the Spirit’s movement in us to be a New Covenant Church.)
The Conditional Covenant leaves us to battle Good and Evil. It is not that hard to see the suffering that comes through the battle caused by our blind judgments. Faith in the Unconditional Covenant comes with its own set of struggles. The struggle between the two is clearly seen through Jesus on the Cross and His cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” I encourage you to read Psalm 22 and Mark 15. Lay them side by side and see how Jesus is fulfilling the Old Covenant through His childhood prayer, Psalm 22. May God give you ears to hear Jesus suffering as you suffer. I hope you discover that you can trust Jesus in ways beyond your understanding. Human understanding that too often tempts you and I to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
One in Christ,
Fall Sermon Series Outline
Text: Genesis 2: 15-17 and 3:1-7
Title: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: Faith in Judgment.
Focus: Our judgement regarding good or evil is the fruit of the one tree God forbid us to eat. Therefore, judging good or evil is not a choice, it is the fruit of one tree. The true choice comes each time we are faced with issues of Good and Evil. It is a decision of faith! Will you place your faith in God the Father, Creator of of Heaven and Earth, or The Deceiver, Knowledge of Good and Evil?
Text: Genesis 3:8-13
Title: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: Faith in Fear
Focus: What death did Adam and Eve die. Before eating the Fruit they walked with God in the cool of the evening. God builds loving relationships. After eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they place their faith in fear. The fruit of fear is: hiding from God, shame. vs.8 Living in fear, guilt. vs. 9-11 Fearing God’s judgment they blamed one another and the deceiver.
Text: Galatians 5: 13- 25
Title: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: Faith in the Law
Focus: Paul gives us a crystal clear view to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Law convicts us of Sin. The Law tells us when we have failed to do the “good” we want to do. Equally shocking is that even the person who does “good” works so hard that he or she is blinded to the love, joy, peace, kindness…of having Faith in the Grace God revealed through Jesus Christ.
Text: Exodus 19: 1- 7-8 and 20: 18-20
Title: The Law: Faith in a Man
Focus: God makes a conditional covenant with the Israelites. To make their way through the Wilderness of Sin God’s says, “if you obey my VOICE, and keep my covenant” you will be a Holy Nation. The Covenant, the Ten Commandments, sound a lot like what they all ready know. They know how to judge good and evil. The Israelites chose to listen to Moses, a man, and fear God.
Text: Genesis 3: 20- 24
Title: The Tree of Life: Faith in God’s Grace
Focus: Pulling back the layers of shame, guilt, and blame we see God’s grace and the hope of salvation. If Adam and Eve reach out their hand and eat of the tree of Eternal Life they will live eternally separated from God. God reveals his grace by placing cherubim and a flaming sword to guard The Way to the Tree of Life