Peace & The Garden
 Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.  And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. (Genesis 2:7-10)
 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. (Rev. 22:1-3)
 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
OUR BROKEN WORLD
There’s a movie that came out in the early 90’s called Grand Canyon. Danny Glover is a tow-truck driver, and there’s a great scene when he argues with some gang members attempting to steal the car he’s been sent to tow. He says, “Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this. I mean, maybe you don’t know that yet. I’m supposed to be able to do my job without having to ask you if I can. That dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you ripping him off. Everything is supposed to be different than it is.”
Don’t you know that too? When you read the news & hear about what’s going on with ISIS or Boko Haram or hear about another unarmed black person killed by a white cop or hear about another famous, powerful person somehow eluding justice for their crimes (or watch The Big Short), don’t you feel, “Everything is supposed to be different than it is.” Maybe it hits home for you when you see your brother or sister struggling or your parents’ marriage falling apart or you’re helping a friend battling depression or when someone you love gets cancer: “Everything is supposed to be different than it is.”
It is a horrifying reality that 22,000 children die each day in poverty, half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day, and that there are an estimated 20.9 million sex slaves in the world (about 5 times the population of Alabama).
- It’s no wonder that so many people have looked honestly at the world and concluded, “There must not be a god. The world is too jacked up.”
But we know that it’s not just the world out there that’s jacked up, right? None of us eat or exercise or study the way that we want to or know we should, right? Or we fall on the other extreme, and eating or exercise or studying consume us & loom over every decision. We either struggle to love our parents or friends well or we struggle to become our own, independent people.
We’re rarely truly content or satisfied, except, sometimes when we imagine a future hypothetical scenario when we imagine our future selves with the future we imagine that God has in store for us- one with a loving spouse, a secure job, healthy & obedient & thankful kids, a decent house in a safe neighborhood, etc. We are very broken people living in a very broken place. The odds are if you’ve fallen into the trap of looking for satisfaction and purpose in approval or power or a relationship or achievement or your body image, you still struggle with it.
“I look around & pretty much 100% of people are texting and driving. Why? Because they would rather potentially take someone’s life & ruin their own than be alone for 5 seconds.” – Louis C.K.
We are all longing for the world, for the family, for the self, for the satisfaction, for the peace that we’ve never really had. We long for something better. We long for the garden.
3 Things We’re Going to Look at Tonight: (1) The Lie in the Garden, (2) The Truth of the Garden, & (3) The Test of the Garden.
- The Lie in the Garden
The Story of the Bible
- God the Father, Spirit & Son in perfect joy & love from all eternity (they do not need anything)
- Why make a world? “This is so good, we want to share it” (foie gras)
- “Let’s make mankind in our image” (reflect & relationship)- bring our rule, order & justice to the world even as they experience perfect joy, peace, and purpose in the garden
- Garden: paradise, everything worked as it should (the world was in perfect peace); Adam & Eve walked with God, fully known & loved, submitted to God as king.
- Isaiah 43:7- created for glory. God says, “Only my glory can satisfy, but my glory will ever-satisfy.”
- Genesis 3- Satan whispers a lie into Eve’s heart: “God is not good. God is not for you. God is a ‘withholding’ god. He doesn’t want your peace or happiness.”
- Eve imagines what it would be like to become wise by eating from the tree, imagining what it would be like to be “like God” until her desire to be “like God” gives birth to sin as it surpasses her desire for God Himself.
- Adam & Eve rebel against God- not submitting to God as King, but choosing to be king in his place, having ultimate authority over what is good, right & wrong, etc.- eat the fruit, and lose paradise. They lose the perfect world they were created for. They would never again know true peace.
- “And terrible pain came into God’s heart. His children hadn’t just broken one rule; they had broken God’s heart. They had broken their wonderful relationship with him. And now he knew everything else would break. God’s creation would start to unravel, and come undone, and go wrong. From now on everything would die- even though it was all supposed to last forever… [sin broke everything] God couldn’t let his children live forever, not in such pain, not without him. There was only way to protect them….” ‘You will have to leave the garden,’ God said through tears, and killed an animal to cover their shame & guilt. Jesus Storybook Bible
- Psalm 16:11- Outside of his presence, we cannot have perfect joy, peace, & purpose
- Isaiah 59:2- separated… ruined by our rebellion
- Reason everything has gone wrong… The reason the world is like this
- We have hunger that nothing but glory can satisfy.
- Ever since, trying to get back to the garden… or try to “simulate” the garden by taking good things like relationships or sex or being ‘good’ people or our families or achievement and turning them to “ultimate things,” things that cannot hold that weight & cannot satisfy in the way we hope they would.
Like Eve, we have believed lies about God, about ourselves & about the garden.
LIE #1: We Can Get Back to the Garden
In other words, this lie says, “This is a fixable problem. I am not that bad.”
Stanford Prison Experiment- Phil Zambardo
- In the 70’s, a Stanford Psychology professor held an experiment where he took a bunch of college students & made a mock prison in the basement of the psychology department.
- He only chose the most physically and psychologically healthy students, and then he randomly assigned them as prisoners or guards.
- The “criminals” were picked up by the cops, booked at the station, and given numbered uniforms.
- There were no other real instructions, so at first, no one took it seriously, but on the 2nd day, a few prisoners rebelled and ripped off their numbers.
- One of the guards said, “these are dangerous prisoners. We have to show them who is in charge.” They entered the cells, stripped them naked, blindfolded them, and then began to mock them.
- Within 36 hours, some prisoners began to have emotional breakdowns, and within 5 days, the guards began to sadistically torture the prisoners.
- An experiment that was supposed to last two weeks lasted 6 days
These were wealthy, well-educated, generally good & well-adjusted college students! What went wrong? There is something fundamentally broken & evil in the human heart.
Now, before you start to say, “Matt, this is Samford”- let me stop you. It’s not as different here as you may think it should be. The Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership here at Samford revealed that the typical Samford student is 5 times more likely to be religious, but no less likely to cheat on a paper, project, or exam. Why? We can cheat a little & still feel like we’re good people, because we often judge our behavior in comparison with others, right? But what does James 2:10 say?
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it”
We want God to be just AND merciful, and we think that He is, but, in general, we want Him to act in justice towards other people’s sins (think the Nazis or child predators), but to let our sins slide & show mercy, right? Habakkuk 1:13 says that God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil- that He doesn’t stop at the “big” sins. He’s so holy that all sin is worthy of his judgment. His line is absolute perfection: “only the perfect can enter the garden.”
- We are too broken to make it back to the garden on our own.
- We are alienated from God (Col 1:21)- our only source of true joy, peace, joy, and purpose- to such a degree that we could never hope to repair our relationship.
LIE #2: We Can Make Another Garden
We see this lie as early as Genesis 11 & the Tower of Babel: mankind decides that they don’t need God; they’ll build a perfect world of lasting happiness & peace on their own.
- This is the lie of the “religion” of politics.
- In general, conservatives are guilty of nostalgia: “if the government would leave us alone, the world would go back to the way that it should be.” “Make America Great Again.” The past was paradise, and “those” people are the problem.
- In general, liberals think “we can legislate a better world for everyone.” “Change you can believe in.” The future could be paradise, but those people are in the
- What’s the problem? The past wasn’t as innocent or fair as we may be led to believe & people are not inherently good. Fundamental lie in Babel & politics: people are basically good; we know what the problems are; we know how to fix it; we know what could satisfy us.
“A Nice Place to Visit” (Twilight Zone- April 15, 1960)
- Rocky is robbing a pawn shop & gets shot. He wakes up & meets a guy named Pip who tells Rocky that he’s his guide & can give him whatever he wants.
- Eventually, Rocky realizes he’s dead, and he thinks Pip is his guardian angel.
- Rocky’s never had any luck. He keeps winning at a casino, surrounded by beautiful women, drives a spectacular car, etc.
- At first, he’s elated. Eventually, after a while, he loses it.
- Rocky: “If I gotta stay here another day, I’m gonna go nuts! I don’t belong in heaven, see? I want to go to the other place”
- Pip: “Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!”
- Narrator: “A scared, angry little man who never got a break. Now he has everything he’s ever wanted- and he’s going to have to live with it for eternity- in The Twilight Zone”
“The loneliest moment in life is when you receive that which you thought was the ultimate, and it lets you down” –Ravi Zacharias
Wright Thompson, “Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building”:
Here lies the greatest basketball player of all time. That’s his epitaph… Jordan couldn’t have known that the closest he’d get to immortality was during that final walk off the court… He still knows how to play. He could shut down LeBron, if his body wouldn’t betray him, if he could hold off time … All that can happen in the days and years that follow is for the shining monument he built to be chipped away, eroded. His self-esteem has always been, as he says, “tied directly to the game.” Without it, he feels adrift. Who am I? What am I doing? For the past 10 years, since retiring for the third time, he has been running… he’s still restless “How can I enjoy the next 20 years without so much of this consuming me? How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?”
Ronda Rousey, MMA fighter who won 11 fights in the first round, was named by an ESPN poll the greatest living female athlete, lost to Holly Holm a few months ago, and here’s what she said about her experience in the hospital immediately after the fight:
Honestly, my thought in the medical room, I was sitting in the corner and was like, ‘What am I anymore if I’m not this?'” Rousey said. “Literally sitting there thinking about killing myself. In that exact second, I’m like, ‘I’m nothing. What do I do anymore? No one gives a s— about me anymore without this.'”
-Brett Okamoto, “Ronda Rousey Considered Suicide After Loss to Holly Holm,” ESPN.com, 2/16/16
Even the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre admitted, “There comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?'”
“Among the extremely wealthy, suicide was the cause of 23.6% of their deaths between 2008-2010” –Dr. Hu, Fudan University
All of these people reached what they thought was the ultimate, but when they got it, they found it wasn’t enough. Why? Because we were created for glory & for relationship. Only the perfect can enter the garden, but only the garden can satisfy.
- The Truth of the Garden. WE WERE CREATED FOR ANOTHER GARDEN
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” -Ecclesiastes 3:11
- There is an ache for eternity, for the garden in us. The world is grasping for something that will satisfy, that will bring peace, and though inwardly they know there must be more, they don’t know where to find it.
Listen to the way that C.S. Lewis puts it in chapter 10 of Mere Christianity:
“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, then; is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country… There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them”
What is Lewis saying? Why is there such a deep uneasiness about this world? Why are our souls so restless in this world? Because you KNOW you were meant for more. You were made for another home, and, guess what, it’s coming. That ache inside of you is meant to be filled by a new home, by a greater garden. Here’s a glimpse:
“God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’…  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him” -Revelation 21:3-5; 22:1-3
There will be no more racism or sexism. No more separation or animosity between us due to popularity, money, education politics, nationality, ability, intelligence, beauty, distance, or anything else. Whatever your struggles in this life are- whether you long for approval or control or a relationship or achievement or independence or power or to be told, “you’re beautiful; you’re valuable”- your longing will be satisfied beyond your ability to comprehend.
And you will see God as He is- face to face- and hear, “You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter in whom I am well-pleased.” And every day will be better than the last as the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
Can you imagine? Do you have any idea how incredible this will be? We must think about this until it overwhelms us, as it should. Paul said his sufferings weren’t worth comparing to the glory to be revealed (Romans 8:18). If this is true, then whether you are wealthy or poor, hated or loved, successful or not, married or single, are remembered or are forgotten becomes less important. What would it look like if we really believed in the hope of this garden?
- Christians invented hospitals, homeless shelters, orphanages, and more. They were sawn in two, used as torches in Nero’s palace, ripped up by lions, etc.
- David Livingstone- “I never made a sacrifice”
- Persecuted church in Syria- “Don’t pray that the persecution stops, because the church is growing like crazy. Pray for our strength & for people to come to faith.”
- Those who behold the truth of the Garden so prize their future reward that nothing they lose here seems like too great a sacrifice. They knew there was a garden that satisfied.
HOW DO WE MAKE THIS A REALITY? We must look to another garden.
- The Test of the Garden
“ Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” -Hebrews 12:1-2
In Luke 22, we see the only perfect One, the only one who could enter the garden, Jesus, entering another garden with another test. He prays, “Father, let this cup pass from me, but not as I will, but as you will,” because He knows EXACTLY what’s coming. And what is coming for Him?
- First, betrayal & abandonment from his closest friends, followed by being punched, slapped & mocked while blindfolded & subjected to unjust trials.
- Next, Jesus was to be flogged. He was stripped of his clothes & has his hands tied to a post above his head while he was whipped across his shoulders, back, thighs, & legs with a whip made of leather with metal balls & bits of bone on the end. The whip would start to dig in, ripping His skin into ribbons, tearing apart muscle.
- Then He knew a group of mocking soldiers would throw a royal robe on Him & crown Him with thorns that would drive into His scalp. Then they beat Him with a wooden staff, spit on Him, and ripped of the robe, re-opening all those wounds.
- He’s led through town as people mocked, carrying his own cross, led up a hill, and nails- about 6 inches long and 3/8 inch thick- are driven into his wrists.
- His elbows were left bent so He could hang with his arms above his head, dislocating his shoulders & bringing his full weight upon His pierced wrists. Not only was that horrifically painful, it made it hard to breathe. In order to breathe, He had to push up on His pierced feet until it became to painful & He slumped back down again… for hours…
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was tempted, but unlike Adam, He passed the test & His was a much tougher garden. Jesus did not pray, “let this cup pass from me,” because He could not bear the thought of the coming pain, but because He could not bear the thought of the loss of the favor of His Father.
- On that cross, He does not cry, “My back, my back,” or “my wrists, my wrists,” or “my head, my head,” but “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
- Enjoyed perfect love & joy in the Father’s presence from all eternity, but He was about to become sin, to bear our brokenness, to be that which deserves wrath so that He could rescue & redeem us.
- “The Father turns His face away; as wounds that mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory”
WHY WOULD HE DO IT? He so prized his reward that nothing he lost seemed like too great a sacrifice.
“ For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you…  Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.’  And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken” -Isaiah 62:5, 11-12
He’s saying, “There is nothing I want more than you, and I would do literally anything and everything to have you. You’ve chosen everything but me, and I’ve chosen nothing above you. And there’s nothing more that I could have given to have you. I want you to know me. I want you to have joy, peace, and purpose, but you only really find them in me. Be my son. Be my daughter. Be my bride.” He rejoices over us as His reward & promises everlasting love & kindness towards us. In the garden of His agony, we see that we are loved utterly beyond our comprehension. Does that not stir every fiber of your being, that in spite of our rebellion, God would have us as His prize?
What you have been looking for your whole life can only be found in Him, and though we lost the garden & couldn’t make our own way back to the garden, Christ made a way for us where there was no way, to a better garden, our heavenly home, where we will be with Him in glory for ever.
“Because God has created the appetites in your heart, it stands to reason that He must be the consummation of that hunger” –Joni Eareckson Tada
THIS IS THE KEY: ONLY THOSE WHO TRULY BEHOLD THE GARDEN OF AGONY WILL INHERIT THE GARDEN OF TRUE GLORY.
To the degree your heart is melted by the agony of Christ in the garden, to that degree you will truly begin to experience peace & freedom & joy, and to that degree will you finally be able to be free to truly enjoy the world, serve and sacrifice, and live as you were always made to live.