December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’”—Genesis 2:8–9, 16–17 (NIV)
Here’s a question to think through as you begin a new year: How are you going to approach God in 2023?
The Bible tells us there are two ways to live. One way leads to a flourishing, purpose-filled life—a life God desires for each one of us! Another way leads us away from God and towards death, spiritual bondage, real brokenness, shame, and guilt. That might be a heavy way to begin a new year, but let me explain.
The Bible opens up with a garden that was full of unimaginable beauty. It was a world free from sin, evil, and corruption. In this garden were all types of fruits and trees, but in the middle of the garden were two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The tree of life shows God’s character and provision. In the garden, God provides everything creation needs to live “life in its highest potency . . . life that transcends the natural” (Bruce Waltke, Commentary on Genesis). In contrast to this is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eating of the fruit of this tree would cause death, sin, and evil to run rampant in the world, destroying lives and all the created good God formed into the world.
God gives Adam and Eve a choice between two ways to live. They can either live life under God’s rule and reign and experience a life of blessing and wholeness, or they can attempt to live their own way, apart from God who deeply loves them. Sadly, Adam and Eve chose to live their own way and, after eating from the wrong tree, sin entered the world and the rest is history.
God gives us the same choice. We can either choose to surrender every part of our lives to Jesus, or we can try to live our lives our own way. If you’re like me, some days you do a great job following Jesus and other days you feel like you’re constantly messing up.
When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their first response was to run and hide from God. They were ashamed of their sin! They forgot God is a good Father—one they could run to (not from) when they messed up.
Because of Jesus, we can run to God when we mess up. The gospel tells us that when Jesus took all our sin to the cross and was raised to new life, He was victorious over all our sin and shame. Through our faith in Jesus, we can live life under the tree of life.
A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” As you begin 2023, ask yourself this question: What do I think about God? As you start a new year filled with new challenges, it’s important to reorient yourself around the truth of who God is and what He thinks about you.
Pause: What comes to mind when you think about God?
Practice: Take some time to bring your guilt and shame before God. It doesn’t matter how new or old the situation is, you don’t need to run or hide from God. After your time of confession, read Isaiah 44:22.
Pray: Gracious God, Your steadfast love knows no bounds. You know everything about me and yet still love me. Jesus, Your Scriptures say that because You have redeemed me, I can come boldly before You. Hear my bold confessions, because I know all my sin has already been graciously forgiven. Amen.
Jimmy Purchase serves as the Groups Development Director at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Church Planting from Capital Seminary & Graduate School. He has been in full-time ministry since 2006, has helped plant two churches, and is passionate about seeing South Florida changed by the gospel of Jesus. Jimmy and his wife, Erin, have been married since 2008 and have three children.