God’s plan was to propagate the earth over six millennia and allow people to choose their own ways and live by “the fruit” it would produce. Every religion, every government, and every economic system mankind has established has failed. Someone who reads this might say, “Yes, but today there are those that are succeeding.” Such individuals simply do not understand or see that these man-made systems are all on a countdown to failure within the next 4 ½ years, and some much sooner.
So God’s plan was to propagate the earth during the long span of 6,000 years. For those who would live within that span of time, God’s plan included giving these same people “another period of time” in which to live life again. Then, in that additional period of life, they would be granted the opportunity and the ability (means) to choose and then live by the way God desired for them from the beginning. We are now transitioning from that 6,000-year period of mankind’s selfish focus and way of living to that time when God’s intervening power, to change that horrible self-destructive course, begins to be poured out to everyone in the world.
It was pointed out in the first part of this series that this transitioning begins first in the Church. That is because this kind of change requires the begettal of God’s spirit in one’s life in order to make this necessary transition from a totally selfish nature to one that is able to develop true qualities of the “way of give” and unselfish love. One of the major changes mentioned in the last post is to bring mankind back to the original purpose God desired and has intended for the role of women in family, society, and His family.
Now, we are addressing the next great step of this accelerated transformation process that God is granting in order to bring mankind back to the intended purpose of His instruction contained in the phrase to “dress it and keep it.” This is about the need, understanding, and means (ability) to accept true personal responsibility for what God places under (within) each person’s actual control. Within the Church, this can now become enhanced and strengthened to a much higher plane.
The Garden of Eden
In the first few chapters of Genesis, God’s ultimate purpose for the creation of mankind, along with the original instruction and its actual intended meaning, is highly condensed and simplified into basic, physical terms. As an example, God’s use of the term Elohim – the God Family – from that beginning section of scripture only began to be revealed in these last days starting through Herbert W. Armstrong and then even more fully in recent years. In addition, it was also mentioned in Part 1 how God began to reveal the deeper meaning of “the two trees in the garden” through Mr. Armstrong.
All of that greater understanding and insight has led to God now revealing even far more about other matters He had recorded in those initial chapters of Genesis. God is giving this process of revelation during this period of accelerated transition from one age into another because it is necessary for the establishing of His Kingdom from the very beginning of the Millennium.
In regards to the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve to “dress it and keep it.” What does this actually mean? What is God’s intended purpose in such instruction?
When most people think of a garden, they tend to think of a small plot of land where vegetables, herbs, and some grain-producing plants may be grown. Some may also include grapes and fruit trees as part of a garden. However, this expression concerning God’s garden is massively broader than this in meaning and purpose.
This Garden of Eden was not about the care of a typical modern garden on a simple plot of land. Its meaning, scope, and purpose was far broader. It was all-inclusive of everything that was created and placed into this environment of God’s garden for mankind, with the exception of Satan who was also there. It even included the presence of God Himself, of whose garden this was.
This garden was about far more than just physical plants, trees, fruits, and vegetables. It was about God’s very purpose in the creation of mankind and of how that purpose could become a reality – how that purpose could be lived. It was about what God was planting.
Scriptures speak of God planting Judah, Israel, nations, and kingdoms. They speak of God planting His vineyard, which is not a reference to growing grapes, but is in reference to what Christ spoke of in the Book of John.
“I am the true vine (which God planted), and my Father is the husbandman (the one who plants, grows, and tends to the vineyard)” (Jn. 15:1). In speaking of the Church, Christ went on to say, “I am the vine, and you are the branches” (vs. 5).
God put within the Garden of Eden everything necessary, concerning what He had purposed for the development, growth, and further creation of the most important part of His entire creation – Elohim. So God put – planted – mankind in the Garden of Eden. After God instructed mankind to partake of the “tree of life” and never to partake of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” He followed this by giving awesomely important and necessary (highly needed) instruction concerning all that He had placed in this garden.
God gave “personal responsibility” to mankind for what He had created, and for what He had given to them, and He placed it within their own personal control. They were to “dress and keep” everything in God’s garden, with one exception. They were first instructed to have nothing to do with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They had been told to reject the “way of Satan” and to eat of the “way of God” only. That is the true purpose and meaning contained in the instruction about the two trees in the midst of this garden. A physical reality was given to teach a spiritual reality.
When God gave instruction concerning His garden, what does it mean concerning one’s responsibility to “keep it?” To help one begin to understand this, it is needful to see how this is used in scripture. The Hebrew word that is translated here as “keep” in English is also translated as “observe, take heed, and beware.” It literally means, “to hedge about (as with thorns),” with a purpose to protect and/or guard.
Within the Ten Commandments it states, “And showing mercy unto thousands of them who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex. 20:6).
The commandment for the Sabbath in Deuteronomy 5:12 is stated in this manner: “Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Eternal your God has commanded you.”
Toward the end of journeying 40 years in the wilderness, Moses gave instruction concerning the reading of the law: “Gather the people together of the men, women, children, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Eternal your God and observe to do all the words of the law” (Deut. 31:12).
There is another verse that carries great importance concerning true acceptance of personal responsibility and of God’s purpose for what we are to “keep.” In this case, the word is again translated as “observe.” It reveals the kind of responsibility and desire that all parents should have and then exercise toward their children, who belong to God, but who are in a parent’s direct care from the time of birth until they begin entering adulthood.
“And he said unto them, set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which you shall command your children to observe to do all the words of this law” (Deut. 32:46). A child does not receive God’s ways through osmosis or at some sudden moment in time once they begin entering adulthood. For those in God’s Church to learn God’s way of life, children must be guided, led, given a right example to follow, corrected, and trained in God’s way of life. Then in time, it will become a matter of their own choice to live it or not.
Another use of this Hebrew word is stated in the following manner, “Beware that you do not forget the Eternal your God, in keeping His commandments, and His judgments, and His statutes, which I command you this day” (Deut. 8:11).
So when God gives instruction concerning His garden and what He has placed within it, it should be clear that this is about a lot more than just tending to some physical plants on a small plot of land. It certainly applies to physical matters, as will be covered later in this series, but its true context and instruction is far more about how we live life in the decisions and judgments we make, which are to be based fully on God’s ways and not on our own way or the way of others.
Again, when God gave instruction concerning His garden, what does it mean concerning one’s responsibility to “dress it?” Knowing the meaning of the Hebrew word that is translated as “dress,” and seeing how it is also used in other areas of scripture, can help you to better understand God’s instruction here.
The Hebrew word translated as “dress” simply means “to work, to serve (as being bound in servitude), to labor.”
When the children of Israel were no longer going to be supplied with the straw necessary for producing bricks during their enslavement in Egypt, this is what they were told: “Now go therefore and work, for there will be no straw given to you, but you shall (continue to) deliver the total requirement of bricks” (Ex. 5:18).
Once again we also find that this word is also used in the midst of the Ten Commandments: “Six days shall you labor, and do all your work” (Ex. 20:9).
A very meaningful place where this is also used in relationship to the subject at hand concerning our acceptance of a heightened dedication and the exercising of greater personal responsibility in life, is what is found in what was stated to the Levites about their service in the tabernacle.
“Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers, from thirty years old and upward, even until fifty years old, all who enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation” (Num. 4:2-3).
“These were those who were numbered of the families of the Kohathites, all who might do service in the tabernacle of the congregation, whom Moses and Aaron did number according to the commandment of the Eternal by the hand of Moses” (Num. 4:37).
“And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and you shall cleanse them, and offer them for an offering” (Num. 8:15).
“And I, behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the children of Israel. To you they are given as a gift for the Lord, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation” (Num. 18:6).
So once again, when God gave instruction concerning His Garden, and what He placed within it, that they were to “dress it and keep it,” there is far more purpose and meaning than the simple care of a small plot of ground.
It should become clear that mankind was charged with guarding, protecting, and keeping what God had given – what He had placed in His garden. Such a charge and the ability to fulfill it requires work (labor), along with a keen focus on service, dedication, and agreement with God in doing so. This is key to grasping right motive and intent in how we conduct (live) our life.
The question must then be answered, “Is what one lives a matter of such focus, dedication, and agreement with God?” Are the decisions and judgments one makes in life based on guarding and protecting “the way” God has given or are they about guarding and protecting “one’s own way?” On which does one focus and live life? On which does one focus and expend one’s energy, efforts, and actual labor?
From the beginning of the Genesis account, God repaired, restructured, and rejuvenated the earth as He began to create new life to exist on it. His primary purpose was to create mankind, and in doing so, He created the environment that was necessary for mankind to propagate, and He also provided the means whereby the creation of Elohim could follow.
From that beginning, it was necessary that God reveal to (instruct) mankind how to live the kind of life that would produce abundance, happiness, richness, blessings, and every fullness life can potentially offer. Living such a life could then lead to that which would become far greater – to becoming part of Elohim.
As we have been delving deeper into the truer meaning and purpose of God’s instruction for His garden, “to dress it and keep it,” the tendency of some might be one of wanting to quickly jump ahead to the “spiritual.” It might be one of thinking that a person can somehow suddenly become “more spiritual” by learning the long-hidden meaning contained in God’s word.
However, growing spiritually does not happen in such a manner. To approach these revelations as though one suddenly becomes “more spiritual” through the knowledge and insight God is granting is to approach this in a Protestant manner. Such a manner can involve the human desire to “feel better” about oneself or it can be the desire to project “being spiritual” to others by how one discusses the subject at hand.
That is the kind of manner in which the Protestant world approaches God’s word. They like to talk a lot about Christ, but do not strive to live by the truth he taught, which is more about a person having the “feel good about myself” attitude that seeks to project an image of being good rather than of actually striving to live good. It is like those who desire to be seen by others as being spiritual or elevated in importance. This is often done in an outward show, as through outward prayers, or by some method of communicating that one is fasting, or in feeling compelled to share with others verbally or through writing about one’s own knowledge or insights into spiritual matters they “see.” This is also apparent in the instance of a person who wants to be seen, or recognized, for any “service” they do for others or toward God.
These things are simply a part of human nature, and because they are, they exist in God’s Church. It is the reality of an ugly part of selfish human nature that strives, or works to “project” a perceived form of spirituality rather than actually “living” what is spiritual.
If one has been in God’s Church for any length of time, then they have seen the ugliness and awkwardness of pseudo-spirituality. It has been projected in prayers at Sabbath services, or at some Church function where someone uses the occasion to wax eloquent, and/or as an opportunity to teach and show-off one’s spiritual depth and insight. This false spirituality is too often manifested in email communications (or other electronic media) as an individual presses their own view upon others of what “they see” that God is revealing to His Church or of what they conjure up that they want others to believe that God is doing that is special in their own life. This generally means that such a person is focused more upon sharing their own insight with others rather than sharing the excitement of the true insight that God is granting His people.
Also, a false spirituality can be easily projected by someone who is ordained if the use (actually the misuse) of the office is to lift up oneself in importance – to be seen by others as important. However, what becomes even more dangerous is when someone who is ordained not only wants to project such importance of themselves to others, but also actually begins to believe and act as though they truly are important. Such attitudes then result in the abuse of authority where one sees him or herself as spiritually superior to others, and they desire that others see that authority, which is exhibiting loftiness or being haughty. Within such a spirit, one can go beyond their ordained responsibilities and take to themselves the exercise of functions that are not theirs to perform. This can be done by inserting oneself into another member’s life by giving advise, personal counsel, or opinion on teachings which does not fall within the scope of their duties, but are instead the responsibility of someone who is over them.
When such a thing happens within the ministry, this often leads such a person to believe their way of administering matters within the Church is better than the way they are being shown by those over them in God’s government. Such attitudes and actions that follow are highly dangerous within the Body of Christ and they are a spirit of rebellion, which God declares is worse than witchcraft.
True Motivation – Yielding to God’s Spirit
The source for one’s judgment and decision-making determines the “actual motive” for any action that follows. This will determine whether a person is yielding to God’s word, wisdom, and judgment or whether someone is deciding for themselves what is best for them – what is right and what is wrong. If God is not the source for a judgment and decision in life, then any choice that follows will always be based on selfishness. The motive is then selfish in nature. Only when fully yielding to God and acting upon His judgment in a matter can the motive be sanctified and righteous. It is only in that kind of environment when someone is fully yielding to God’s way that God’s spirit can then work in and through a person to produce truly unselfish acts or works in life.
Pseudo-spirituality is a matter of the source of one’s motive being strictly about self and that of elevating self in some manner which is simply an act of pride and vanity. Such spirituality is more about justifying one’s own true condition than it is of actually doing (working at) and living what God instructs, teaches, and reveals.
True spiritual growth develops through the exercise of right motives and requires work while truly yielding to God’s spirit. Such transformation is a matter of faith, agreement, reliance, and trust in God’s way, which is the only source for true motives in life. Such work must be seen as a matter of one’s relationship to God where what one does is done so in an attitude of “true service” to God’s purpose in our lives – work dedicated to God. It is work that we should desire to always exercise (live) in our life – work we should always esteem, keep, and hold fast. One must embrace such a focus and then exercise a complete yielding to work according to God’s way, and in doing so, seek to guard and protect His way from our ways or from the ways of others.
By yielding to such work, our motivation will become transformed into one of more fully elevating God and His ways, to honoring God, and to more fully dedicating our life to His purpose. That is just the opposite of giving into our own way or the way of others. It is the opposite of selfishness and selfish motivation. It is the opposite of pseudo-spirituality. Work dedicated to God’s purpose is work that results from making judgments and decisions that are in agreement with how God shows us to live. Choosing to live by such agreement rather than what “seems right” to us is the way that produces true motivation in one’s life.
So, all that God is currently revealing to us does not automatically thrust us into becoming more spiritual because of new-found knowledge and understanding. Instead, it requires a response in our life as a result of that new knowledge that is then followed by far better work – work that will produce a greater and truer spiritual condition and state in one’s life. And that process begins in some of the simplest, smallest, and easily overlooked areas of one’s physical life. Much of the actual healing of our minds and the spiritual transformation we are able to grow in depends on how we address many of those things that are considered to be the “small things in life.”
So much of our spiritual state and “transformation in thinking” comes from learning to become far more faithful in the “little.” As we learn to live that way even more fully in life then our thinking and agreement with God will become far stronger, and our growth and healing will move forward much further and much faster. That will be the focus of Part 3.