"Back To The Garden"  (June 2011)

For some odd reason, a couple of weeks ago a song- at least the chorus of the song- came to mind.  It was a song that I have not heard in years and years.  It was the song, “We’ve Got To Get Ourselves Back To The Garden”.  Personally, I don’t care to have it playing over and over in my mind, but it has from time to time over the past couple of weeks.  As I pondered why I could not get it out of my thoughts, I couldn’t help but think about the words of the chorus- “We are stardust, we are golden, we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” 

I looked the song up on the computer and discovered that it was written by Joni Mitchell during the “hippie era”.  More specifically it was written for Woodstock.  Perhaps some of you remember Woodstock.  I remember hearing about it and seeing pictures from the event but was too young to understand at the time what it was all about.  Why am I talking about all this?  Because of the words of that chorus.  The words were written during an era in our nation when “peace” was the main topic.  The hippie movement was coming to the forefront and their motto was- “Make love, not war”.  Peace symbols were popping up everywhere, protests were going on against war, “flower power” was the cry.  I remember seeing a picture of the guy putting a flower in the end of a soldier’s gun as a sign to stop fighting, and instead love everybody.

Part of the song speaks to man’s attempt to bring about peace.  I couldn’t help but think about the Garden of Eden as I recalled the words of the song- “back to the garden”.  When God created man, He placed him in the Garden of Eden.  I am sure it was a place of unimagined beauty.  The lion and lamb laid down together.  Man did not have to toil in keeping the garden, or earn a living by the sweat of his brow.  There was peace because there was no sin.  Man was at peace and in harmony with God.  But when Adam sinned by disobeying the Lord all that ended.  Sin had come into the world and along with it death.  No more “peace on earth”.  Fear also came into the world.  “And they heard the voice 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 amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. and he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:8-24)

Ever since the Garden of Eden, mankind’s rally cry has been for “world peace”.  Politicians promise it in their campaign speeches.  Song writers write about it.  Singers sing about it.  Movies are made to try to promote it.  Concerts by big name entertainers are held in the name of peace.  (What I am going to say from here on out many sound negative and hopeless, but hang in there with me, there is hope.) 

What the song suggests is that we have to do something to get ourselves back to the garden- that place where peace reigned.  The place where there was love, no fighting, no war, no enemies, no hate in the world, a place of utopia.  While it all sounds nice and peace is something to be desired and strive for, the truth is that we “can’t get ourselves” back to that place.  That is where the problem lies- not in the well intentions of trying to bring about peace, namely, world peace- but in the fact that we cannot accomplish it in and of ourselves.  We “messed” it up through Adam; we can’t “fix” it. 

There is only one true source of peace- the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.  Until He comes and establishes His Kingdom on earth, there will never be world peace.  There will always be turmoil, fighting, wars, rumors of war, nations rising against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, conflicts within relationships, etc.  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6,7)

The hippie movement had its method of trying to bring about peace, and they are still trying.  Political and social groups are trying to promote peace, but are failing for the reason we already mentioned above.  So does that mean that we should stop promoting and seeking for peace?  No, the Christian community should be in the peace promotion business.  As a matter of fact, we Christians are exhorted to “live at peace”.  “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)  “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)  “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)  “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)  We are commanded to pray for those in authority so that we can live quiet, peaceful lives.  “For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:2)

Christians should work toward being “peace makers”.  “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)  In our efforts to help promote peace, I am concerned at some of the methods that I am seeing used- in the church body- in this area.  I am seeing the “embracing” of so many things that are opposed to God and in contradiction to the scriptures.  For example, the homosexual movement.  Christianity has started embracing the lifestyle and the sin of those who are in homosexuality for the sake of peace and unity.  We have started ordaining homosexual pastors in order to make them “feel good” and let them know that we “accept” them.  Let me make something clear.  We love the person, and should never turn anyone away, but we don’t love and embrace their sin.  Jesus loved the sinners, but He never accepted or was tolerant of their sinful lifestyles.  One example was the woman who was caught in the act of adultery.  “They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:4-11)  Jesus did not condemn her; He did not judge her; He did not pick up a stone and throw at her.  He loved her and forgave her, but did not tolerate her sinful lifestyle.  He told her to “go and sin no more”.  Let me use a natural illustration to help convey what I am saying.  Let’s say I invited you to my home for dinner.  When you arrived, you brought along with you a rattlesnake.  You brought it in your hands, not even in a box or cage, you were holding it.  Although you are welcomed to come in, the snake is not and has to go.  I am not allowing you to bring that deadly creature into my house.  Am I being unkind, intolerant, condemning, unloving for not letting you bring the snake in?  No, I am being wise, cautious, looking out for my family, and I would definitely also be concerned for your safety too because you are handling a poisonous snake. 

Other things that some in the church are doing to try to promote peace is compromising the gospel.  Recently, I was in a discussion with someone about a belief they have.  The belief is rooted in Eastern mysticism and I pointed it out.  They tried to tell me it was the same thing as a certain Biblical principle.  It was not.  After an attempt or two to help them see the difference, they made the remark to me that we will just have to “agree to disagree”.  The fact that we agreed or that we disagree does not make it right.  It is like saying, “You believe one way and I will believe another”, making us both right in our own belief.  We both can’t be right- not when it comes to what the Word of God says on the matter.  The only “right” one is God’s Word.  His word alone is the truth whether you or I or anyone else believes it... it is the Truth.  “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Many among us are accepting and trying to incorporate false religions into our churches.  Perhaps you have heard of “Chrislam”?  It is a merger of Christianity and Islam.  The Muslim belief is being accepted more and more by Christians in an effort to establish peace and unity and show that we are not intolerant but accepting of others who are different or don’t believe the same way we do.  Again, we love the people, we do not hate them, but we cannot embrace their belief.  It is clearly in opposition to the foundational beliefs of Christianity- primarily that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  That being the case, we have no agreement with what they believe and cannot endorse it.  The two are clearly separate.  They have no fellowship together.  “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (2 Corinthians 6:14,15)  They don’t preach the same gospel so how can we with open arms accept what they believe.  The Bible tells us plainly not to compromise and accept that which is false.  “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)  “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:8-10)  Jesus did not come to bring peace to the world, He brought a dividing line between those who are in the light and those who are in darkness; between those who are following Him and those who aren’t.  “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” (Luke 12:51)  There will always be a separation between the true believers in Jesus and those who aren’t.

In their effort to bring peace through acceptance and allowing what is false, they are instead taking away from these persons the chance for peace.  How so?  Only the truth will set you free, and freedom brings peace.  “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)  By embracing their beliefs instead of confronting them, they are withholding the truth from them.  Therefore, they will stay in the bondage of deception and never walk in the freedom that only the truth can bring.  If you think compromise, acceptance and tolerance will bring about peace when the issue is clearly false and wrong, you are mistaken.  It only brings “appeasement”.  Pretty soon there is confusion and “gray areas” and nobody knows what the truth is any more. 

I told you earlier that if you would hang in there with me there would be a message of hope- here it is.  Although we can’t enjoy peace on a worldwide scale with no wars, no violence, no enemies until Jesus returns, we can have and enjoy peace on an individual level.  We can’t “get ourselves back” to the place of peace, but Jesus can.  Jesus can bring peace into our lives.  “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:10,11,13,14)  Of course this is talking about the birth of Jesus.  The Prince of Peace was born into the world to save us from our sins and the consequences that sin brought.  Jesus died on the cross paying the penalty of our sins and purchasing us from its bondage.  When we turn to Him in repentance, and acknowledge Him as Savior and then follow Him as Lord, our sins are forgiven, we become a new person.  The guilt, condemnation and shame that we once lived under is gone.  The peace of God then floods our souls because we have the assurance that all is well with our soul.   

When man/Adam sinned, it broke our relationship with God.  We were now His enemy.  Where once we enjoyed His presence in an unhindered way, we are now in opposition to Him.  What could give us peace with God and reconcile our relationship with Him?  Nothing that we could do.  But Jesus could, and did.  “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” (Ephesians 2:15-17)  “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18,19)  “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)  “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:10)

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23) God wants to give you peace in your soul and peace of mind that comes from knowing that your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life.  And if you will put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior you can experience the peace that comes through His wonderful salvation and you can experience peace with God.  Not only does He give us peace in our hearts that all is well with Him, but Jesus gives us His peace so that we can walk, and live, in peace.  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)  When we are facing trials and difficulties, He gives us peace.  “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7)

In our pursuit of peace, it can be found, but it isn’t something that we can attain on our own.  It isn’t something that is acquired through our own efforts, might or abilities.  We will never be smart enough to come up with a formula for peace.  All our inventions will fail us.  All our plans will fall short.  All our devices will never measure up.  We can’t get ourselves back to anywhere.  It only comes through putting our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Do you need His peace today?  Do you need peace with God?  Do you need peace in your situation?  He has come to give you peace.