by Eric C. Wheeler (eric@sharingtheway.com)

I ran across these verses in Isaiah recently that I believe most of us as Christians have read time and again without seriously pondering what the Holy Spirit reveals here:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.” (Isa. 7:14-16).

Did you catch that? “Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good…” The One known as the Word of God (Jesus Christ) came down from heaven to live out the human experience. And the core of this human experience is to learn to CHOOSE the good and REFUSE the evil!

Just as all of us, Jesus was sent here to learn. As Scripture says: “Though He was a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered [experienced].” (Heb. 5:8). He entered the world as an infant; grew into a toddler and young child; became a teenager; and finally, matured into an adult. Each step of the way, He was learning “to refuse the evil and choose the good!” Think about this as it relates to the purpose of the Garden of Eden’s “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” (Gen. 2:9,17). Why would God, being a wise and loving Parent, set “a bowl of candy,” so to speak, in the middle of His young children’s play yard, telling them that they could partake of as much of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables in the yard as they wanted, but then not allow them to touch or eat any of the candy?!? He knew full well that these spiritual toddlers were going to disobey Him and eat the forbidden candy. Do we really think God was surprised or disappointed? Or was it all by Providential design?

Of course, it was all by God’s design! Isn’t it written in the Bible that Jesus was “slain from the foundation of the world?” Some Bible translations even say, before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

Even though Jesus was faced with choices of good or evil every day of His human life, the Bible makes it clear that He never succumbed to sin: “For He made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Cor. 5:21).

Consider how profound this is: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:15-16). “For it was fitting for Him [God], for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all from one Father, for which reason He is not ashamed to call [us] brethren… Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself suffered, being tempted [tested], He is able to aid those who are tempted [being tested]” (Heb. 2:10-18). “For whosoever shall look to Him [trust in Him] will be saved.” (Rom. 10:11,13).

God intended from the beginning, before He ever created man or this whole universe, that we should learn – of our own free will by hard experience – to understand that we cannot live (have eternal life) or have lasting joy, love, and/or peace, apart from God. In order to teach us, His beloved children, this foundational truth, He created for us this artificial world and environment (II Cor. 4:18) to “play in” in order to learn by firsthand experience this beginning lesson and truth. God prepared and pre-ordained all of this from the beginning. Notice these Scriptures:

“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear [reverent awe]; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God…” (I Pet. 1:17-21)

“… written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8)

“[Jesus] being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:23-24)

“For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined beforehand to be done.” (Acts 4:27-28)

“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done; saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’… Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” (Isa. 46:9-11)

“… to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Eph. 3:9-11)

“… the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery… which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Col. 1:26-28)

These verses make it very clear that God’s plan from the beginning was that we, as His children, must learn Lesson #1 of the Kingdom of God: that is, we are to learn by experience to CHOOSE good over evil. This is what the KNOWLEDGE of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is all about. The Tree spiritually represents all that “brings forth fruit” and what it produces in our lives. And we are all tasting of that fruit of this “forbidden tree.” We are learning that apart from God, there is no life, lasting peace, happiness, purpose, love, or joy. We learn this truth by knowing both good and evil by experience. And hopefully, we are finding this “forbidden tree” and what it produces to be bitter, miserable, and wholly undesirable – all leading to death. Therefore, by this hard-learned experiential knowledge we are now better equipped to make our own freewill choices based on this knowledge (experience) and wholeheartedly choose what is good. We must learn to obey the Father even if it conflicts with our own natural desires, wants, and human understanding. We are coming to know and believe that “Father knows best.” As a parent, we would never allow our child to have ice cream and soda pop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner even though that is what the ignorant and immature child would choose for themselves. We need to realize we are all His children, and that His wisdom, understanding, and ways are so far above ours, and that He can be trusted because of His great love for us. God’s wise commands therefore trump our immature and self-serving desires. The choices we make have consequences, and we need to make our decisions understanding and realizing that Father indeed knows best, and He can be trusted. Isn’t this what Jesus Himself humanly demonstrated? His flesh did not want to die a horrible and excruciating death on a Roman cross. He begged the Father three times in tears, asking, “If it is possible, please let this cup pass from Me.” (Matt. 26:39-44). Yet, He also finished each request with: “Nevertheless, if this cup will not pass from Me, unless I drink of it, then so be it. For not My will, but Thy will be done!” Just as it is written of Him: “[Jesus] who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear [reverence], though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected [by these sufferings He experienced], He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:7-9).

This is just the beginning for us in God’s incredible divine plan! We are only in the first grade (the first age). There are many more ages to come (see Eph. 2:7). In a very real sense, we are in the “Kingdom of God 101 class” which all of us have been born into; not of our own choosing or doing, but His, “who subjected it [this creation] in hope” (Rom. 8:20); that we, “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13) might become His children. It is literally our destiny and calling to be God’s sons and daughters. Success in this age is therefore determined by whether we, like Jesus, learn “to CHOOSE the good and REFUSE the evil” by believing and trusting God. How long it takes for us to finally learn this basic truth and to willingly and voluntarily “bend the knee” to God is up to us (see Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11). God inhabits eternity – He has all the time in the world, so to speak. Where (or how) are any of us going to run and hide from Him? He told me a long time ago: “Blessed is the one who believes early; for they shall bear much fruit.” The question is, how will we respond to this knowledge we have gained through experiencing (just a taste of) life? How will we (and how do we) respond internally, emotionally, and outwardly to each and every situation and feeling and/or set of circumstances we find ourselves in? Additionally, how do we react to outside stimuli that is beyond our control? Notice in Scripture that we are taught that in all things and in every circumstance we are (and can be) more than conquerors with Christ/God in us (Phil. 4:13; Rom. 8:35-39). This is what we must come to learn by experience: that in Christ/God we can overcome, and endure, and survive all things. In Him, we have life, and we will survive and thrive (John 10:10). But apart from God we cannot and will not survive/live.

Good and Evil are on two different sides. Notice what Jesus said to the rich young ruler: “Why do you call Me good? There is none good but God.” (Luke 18:19). In other words, there is no good apart from God. He is literally the embodiment of good. Conversely, everything apart from God – that which is not OF God – is evil, and produces continual pain, sorrow, suffering, and ultimately, death. Therefore, we are on earth during this first age to learn this powerful, eye-opening truth. After which, we move on to the next age based on what we have learned and how we’ve applied the knowledge we’ve gained in this life and age (Ecc. 12:13-14; II Cor. 5:10). When this age is over, God will simply fold up this whole universe like a garment from one end to the other just like a person folds up a blanket and stores it away (Heb. 1:10-12). Perhaps this is why Jesus, upon His resurrection, specifically folded up the burial cloth that had been around His fleshly head and set it aside – symbolizing that this first age (that of experiencing human life) for Him had been completed and accomplished. He had learned “to choose the good and refuse the evil” every day since childhood, and thereby had overcome the world, saying, “Indeed, it is finished!” Just like God is going to one day do to this entire universe, Jesus took the garment of human clothing and experience, folded it up neatly, set it aside, and left it behind in His tomb (John 20:7). Likewise, this “artificial world” and “kindergarten playland” we have all been learning in, will have served its purpose too, and will consequently one day be done away with, just as God has already assured us, saying: “Behold, I [will] create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind anymore… There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away… Behold, I make all things new!” (Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:4-5). Just as kindergarten and first grade are to our children, this age for us is all about learning as spiritual children to choose to do good and to behave properly (making right choices and wise decisions) as we learn through experience how to act, react, and interact appropriately with our surroundings and with others according to what Father God has said and teaches.

Not only are we being critiqued and evaluated by how we apply what we are learning in this life by firsthand experience, we are also being judged according to the enlightenment (the spiritual knowledge) we have been given thus far; and whether or not we are currently being faithful to what we know. Right now, some have more spiritual enlightenment than others. Those who sincerely desire more and remain faithful to the spiritual truth they have already been given, will receive more, Jesus said. Conversely, those who aren’t being faithful to their spiritual enlightenment (continually transgressing their consciences), even that which they have will be taken from them (see Matt. 13:11-12; 25:14-30; Luke 12:41-48). People inherently know that it is wrong to lie and to steal. Even a young child squirms when you ask them if they took something they know they weren’t supposed to; and again, as they also try to lie to you against their own conscience about it. This is very telling, especially when most of these children don’t yet even know what the word “lying” or “stealing” means. Why do they squirm then? It’s because of their conscience (enlightenment) that God put in each one of us when He brought us into the world. As it is written, Christ is that light “which gives light to every person who comes into the world” (John 1:9). It’s spiritual enlightenment from God. It’s called our conscience. And as this child described above grows into adulthood, if they continue to reject this knowledge (this spiritual enlightenment) by willfully denying this “inner voice” speaking to them, thereby defiling their God-given conscience, pretty soon they won’t have a conscience, which will lead to even greater sins like violence, rape, robbery, and murder. This is what Jesus meant when He said that if a person is not faithful to what they have been given, then “even that which they have will be taken from them” – that being the spiritual enlightenment of good and evil they once had. How else do you think serial killers become serial killers? And serial liars become serial liars? They have completely defiled and seared their conscience (I Tim. 4:2).

Being unfaithful to God by transgressing His laws and ways is disobedience. It is how a person chooses evil. Obeying God and doing what He says is how a person chooses good. Choosing evil will result in death – both physically and spiritually. The great news is we have a loving Father who wants all of us to repent and come to Him – choose the good (I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9). Everyone is accountable and answerable to God for what they know and when they knew it. As I once learned the hard way, God is not fooled or manipulated. He knows our thoughts, justifications, and excuses, even before we think of them. Never imagine God can be deceived. Believe me, it is a fearful thing to stand before the Living God, and Scripture assures us that we are all going to (Heb. 10:31; Rom. 14:10-12). Every one of us is answerable to God for what we know, and whether or not we have been faithful to what we’ve learned while living in this age. Even as it was written of Jesus: “He learned obedience by the things which He suffered [experienced]” in this life (Heb. 5:8). The question is, are we? Are we learning to obey God by the things we are suffering and experiencing? Are we learning to “choose the good and refuse the evil?” Our time down here is but a blip compared to eternity. But our choices in this realm and age determine our station in the next. It’s not enough to believe in God (even the demons do that!); we have to believe God by obeying His commands. And let us not think we can deceive God; for what we do or don’t do (our choices) PROVE what we really believe!


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