God’s original plan for humanity was that we dwell with Him in a utopian garden filled with aromatic and other sensory delights. His intended posture for us was resting (free of striving) in a face-to-face relationship with Him as His cherished sons and daughters. Although sin interrupted that plan, Christ Jesus fully restored that plan and posture for us.
In my book The Five Gardens, I define two lifestyle choices of believers – that of a desert-roamer and that of a garden-dweller. Desert-roamers define identity through performance and view life through a right/wrong paradigm. This produces a lifestyle of judgment, striving, and self-strength. This is because desert-roamers have grown accustomed to eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Lord never intended us to know how to judge between good and evil – in fact, God never intended us to judge at all (as He is the only One qualified to act a judge). It was only after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of this tree that they pronounced their first judgment – we are naked and filled with shame. This tree is the law. It is all about self-righteousness. It involves pleasing, impressing, and fearing man. Its fruit produces guilt, shame, accusation, and ultimately leads to spiritual death.
The Lord only wants us to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life. This is the lifestyle of resting in our identity as highly valued and deeply loved sons and daughters of God. This lifestyle does not involve performance, judgment, or striving; rather, we simply rest in Him as we eat the fruit of the Tree of Life. That tree is Jesus Christ. We are made perfect and complete in Him. Lacking nothing, we become the very righteousness of Jesus. This lifestyle begins with spiritual death and leads to resurrection life in Christ.
As Paul puts it in Romans 7, we were crucified with Christ on Calvary’s cross and therefore we died to our former husband – the Law. This spiritual death ended our marriage covenant (till death do us part) with the law, thus setting us free to marry Jesus. Paul also cautions us, now that we are married to Jesus, we must not return to our former husband, the law, and thereby commit adultery against Christ, our true husband. This means we no longer operate in judgment, striving, and self-strength. We have died to soulish reactionism so that we may respond to God as children of His inheritance. We have been restored as garden dwellers whose identity and worth are established on the basis of Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary’s cross that completed our salvation and perfected our righteousness in Christ.
Our worth is not defined by our performance (that leads to condemnation when we are not performing well and spiritual pride when we judge ourselves as having gotten our act together). We stop that nonsensical roller coaster ride and set our feet firmly on the rock of Christ Jesus as our foundation and cornerstone. Even when our flesh tries to convince us that our recent performance has disqualified us from experiencing the immediacy and fullness of Christ’s holiness and worthiness, we stand on the firm foundation of God’s word as the sole source of truth and dismiss our carnal emotions that are so prone to be influenced by the Accuser and Deceiver.
This means we no longer live out of a right/wrong paradigm where we value others on the basis of who is right and who we judge to be wrong but solely on the basis of Jesus’ worth that was undeservingly applied to each of our lives (who are in Christ). We stop playing God by measuring, judging, and accusing ourselves and others. We stop striving to live up to Jesus’ standard through our own strength and we fall back into His infinite love and rest as sons and daughters. We commune with Him face-to-face as we walk beside Him in the garden of delight.
It also means we cease being so sin conscious. We do not overcome sin by struggling with it. We overcome sin by living above it. Our performance does not inform our identity; rather, our identity in Christ empowers us to let Him live in and through us. We recognize that sin is a distraction from resting in the fullness of Christ’s provision for us. Instead of fearing sin, we put it out of our minds altogether. We dismiss sin as not even disserving of our time and attention. We ascend into our true reality where we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6-7). We boldly enter into His presence (Hew 4:16), gaze upon Him in grateful wonder, and live our lives for Him and through Him so that the world might taste of His goodness (Ps 34:8) and step into the same transcendent reality.
Resting as a garden dweller frees us from living for people. It focuses our decisions down to the opinions of just One. Pleasing people is an impossible lifestyle; but, pleasing God is really simple. We just believe whatever God says to be true and live as though it is the only reality that defines our lives and motivations. Since we have already been fully accepted, unconditionally loved, and given an eternal inheritance in Christ, we can stop basing our lifestyle choices on our ego and respond to Him with a lifestyle of wholehearted worshipful celebration. We leave behind our old former desert-roaming ways and we come out of the wilderness leaning on our beloved (Sol 8:5).
“Lord, I repent for living like a desert-roamer when you have restored me in Christ as a garden-dweller. I ask You to change my understanding of my identity in Christ to come into complete alignment with Your Word. I repent for striving in my self-strength instead of resting in the completed work of Jesus my savior. I repent where I have played God and judged myself and others. I asked You to renew my mind so that I have Your mind and perspective. I repent for honoring others through the lens of a right/wrong paradigm. I want to honor others the way You honor. I want to love as unconditionally as you do.
Renew a steadfast spirit in me so that I can stand strong against all the works of darkness that come against me. Teach me to live a God-conscious life instead of a sin-conscious one. I want to live above the temptations and sins of this fallen world so that I am set apart as Your child who brings your Kingdom on earth even as it is in heaven. I repent for fearing man as well as trying to please and impress man. Instead, I set my focus on You as my only source of truth, justice, and life. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and permeate my atmosphere with that of heaven. Empower me to live a consecrated lifestyle of resting in Christ in the garden of Your delight.”
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