Updated: Apr 3
Now the serpent was more -crafty- than any beast of the field that the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ ”
Crafty. It's the Hebrew adjective awroom from the verb awram, meaning to be shrewd, cunning, or crafty. The characteristic isn't the issue, for as Proverbs 15:5 states, “A fool despises instruction, but he who guards his father's correction is awram.” Even the Lord, Jesus Christ, instructed His disciples in this, saying, “Behold, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; therefore be as shrewd (Greek phronimos) as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
The crafty Serpent (later identified in Rev 20:1-3 as The Dragon, The Devil, and The Adversary), seized a God-ordained attribute and then twisted, mangled, misused, and perverted it for his own seductive agenda. Prudence, shrewdness, discernment, in fact, craftiness, are neither saintly nor deplorable attributes of themselves. Motive, the intentions of the heart, is the underlying issue.
“For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
When adherents of false religions like Islam, Judaism, Baháʼí, Sikhi, Druze, and Mormonism lure people into conversations by saying, "We believe in Jesus too," they're acting shrewdly. But unlike the shrewd manager of Jesus' parable in Luke 16:1-15, rather than leveraging it for the advancement of the Gospel and Christ's kingdom, they follow the crafty Serpent's lead in leading others astray. They evidence what King Jesus stated in John 8:44:
“You belong to your father, The Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Christians, followers of The Way, indeed those who worship the Heavenly Father in spirit and in truth, cannot believe in a Jesus of human invention. Unlike the infamous dinner table scene from the movie Talladega Nights, we don't get to reinvent a version of Jesus that accommodates our personal preferences and flighty fancies. We either accept Him as the Eternal Son, the Exclusive God-Man revealed through the sixty-six books of canonical Scripture, or we don't.
As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
King Jesus revealed (through the Apostle Paul in Gal 5:22-23), that when we truly are born-again by the Holy Spirit... when we truly deny self, pick up our cross daily, and follow Him... when we truly have been crucified with Christ and buried with Him in baptism and no longer live... certain attributes become evident in us as the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Just as The Serpent twisted prudence, shrewdness, discernment, indeed craftiness, for his own seductive agenda in Eden, he continues to lure us with striking facsimiles and counterfeit versions of the truth:
LOVE: The biblical definition of love is found in 2 John 1:6, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.” God is love and our loving response to Him is obedience to Christ by walking in love. Meanwhile, humanity redefines love as appetite, hormone, and emotions-driven preferences. We love everything from pretzels to puppies; sports to spaghetti; and vacations to vodka. The ease with which we prostitute ourselves for the things of this decaying world is why King Jesus rebuked the church in Revelation 2:4, declaring, “You have abandoned your first love.”
JOY: The biblical definition of joy is something only found in the abiding Presence of God. Psalm 16:11 reveals: “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your Presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” There is no true or lasting joy apart from Christ. Meanwhile, humanity redefines joy as personal happiness and our right to pursue it even at the expense of others.
PEACE: The biblical definition of peace flows from the Sabbath rest God established in Genesis 2:2, “And by the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on that day He rested from all His work,” and then re-established in the work of Christ at the Cross, “After this, Jesus, knowing all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” There is no peace, no Sabbath rest, apart from Christ. Meanwhile, humanity redefines peace as the absence of armed conflict, live and let live, meditative seclusion, and uninterrupted progress regardless of destination.
FORBEARANCE: The biblical definition of forbearance, or long-suffering, and not merely patience as it is often rendered, is a hopeful, peaceful, eager, and joyful contentment regardless of present fleeting circumstances. Romans 8:19 states, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” Then Paul goes on to write in v.22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time.” Meanwhile, humanity redefines patience as tolerance without getting angry or upset.
KINDNESS: The biblical definition of kindness comes from the Hebrew word khesed. It depicts God's covenant love, peace, forbearance, and loyalty to humanity despite our ongoing rebellion and sin. Ephesians 2:4-5 paints a beautiful picture of God's khesed love, “But because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy (khesed), made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved!” Kindness cannot be defined apart from God because there is no kindness, no mercy, no compassion, and no covenant love without Christ. Meanwhile, humanity redefines kindness in subjective terms, random acts of human kindness, paying it forward, and voluntourism.
GOODNESS: The biblical definition of goodness is from the Hebrew word towb. It means that which is beautiful, good, and pleasing. Matthew 10:16-30 portrays a wealthy young man approaching Jesus to inquire, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain everlasting life?” “Why do you ask Me about what is good?”Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” The man wanted Jesus to affirm his self-righteousness by adhering to selective commandments. What Jesus did instead was to point out: 1) God alone is good, 2) adherence to the Law won’t get anyone there, and 3) following Christ requires giving up everything. Goodness exists and flows from God alone. Apart from rebirth by and the Presence of the Holy Spirit, we are incapable of anything good. Meanwhile, humanity redefines good as comparative vs. superlative, and subjective vs. objective.
FAITHFULNESS: The biblical definition of faithfulness is from the Hebrew word emeth. It means unwavering fidelity in truth. Lamentations 3:22-23 is one of the clearest pictures of God’s faithfulness: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” God’s unwavering devotion to His promises through His merciful covenant loyalty (kindness) is available to us exclusively in and through Christ Jesus, our promised, incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Savior. Faithfulness apart from Christ is an irreconcilable contradiction. King Jesus revealed, “I am The Way and The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Meanwhile, humanity redefines faithful as merely being loyal to personal convictions. The transgender pedophile-rapist-murderer-gang-banger-serial killer may remain loyal to their convictions, but that’s not unwavering fidelity in truth. Subsequently, Scripture reveals the wages of our loyalty to anything but Christ is death (Rev 21:8).
GENTLENESS: The biblical definition of gentleness is from the word anvah, which means humble meekness. Historically, gentleness has been grossly misrepresented as weakness and pacificism. Proverbs 16:33 reveals, “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and humility (anvah) comes before honor.” In Matthew 5:5, King Jesus reveals, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Gentleness encompasses God’s love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. In John 18:6 we read an entire band of armed Roman soldiers and Jewish officers stumbled back and fell to the ground when Jesus gently stated, “I AM.” Gentleness is not merely the appropriate restraint of power. It is our desperate dependency upon the Holy Spirit to show up and exercise God’s omnipotence for His glory.
SELF-CONTROL: Not surprisingly, the biblical concept of self-control exists nowhere in the Old Testament. For it wasn’t until after Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came to indwell born-again believers. The Greek word for self-control or self-mastery is egkrateia. The word only occurs four times in the New Testament, but the concept is present throughout. Judaism is ripe with hundreds upon hundreds of laws, rules, regulations, and traditions. When Immanuel came and preached, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” True repentance stands in stark contrast to the former ways of unending sacrifices and perpetual rituals. Many false churches and misguided cults still try adding works to Christ’s work for salvation (see 1 Tim 4:1-5).
We live in a nonsensical and fallen world of misguided, self-motivated, self-proclaimed, self-made, self-help, self-taught, and self-righteous fools, which we all were at one time (Eph 2:1-3). Just turn on the news for two minutes and you’ll see how that’s working out. The crafty Serpent is still stealing, killing, and destroying. He’s still luring, tempting, and deceiving with close facsimiles and convenient counterfeit truths. King Jesus came as The exclusive Way back into Eden, back into the Presence of God.
Many will reject Christ and embrace The Serpent’s lies. Many of them will be churchgoing, Bible-reading, hymn-singing, tongues-speaking, demon-rebuking, miracle-working, prophecy-uttering people who never truly repented… never truly died to self… were never born-again… never prayed in desperation, “He must increase; I must diminish,” and who never gave up anything to actually follow The King of Kings.
King Jesus said we’d be known not by our doctrine, confession, or budgets, but by our fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - not the counterfeit varieties redefined by the world, but the Fruit of the Spirit - and in increasing measure.
We all chose the wrong fruit from the wrong tree in Eden. The question now is whether we're manifesting the Fruit of the Spirit from The Tree of Life.
“Faithful love belongs to You, Lord.
For You repay each according to their works.”
Grace and Peace,
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