While the Bible is a large and complex manuscript, it is in reality a simple message. There are essentially three major components: the battle between good and evil, our salvation, and our path forward as followers of Jesus Christ. We can consolidate the Bible down to this simple truth.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV)
I think it’s safe to say that the actual fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not toxic. The curse of death was not from eating the fruit, but from disobeying God. God gave the entire Garden of Eden to Adam and only restricted him from one tree. This was a test of Adam’s commitment to trust God completely.
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 (NIV)
So the serpent, an incarnation of the devil, convinced Eve that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make her like God. Both Adam and Eve were convinced by the devil to disobey God in an effort to be like God; this of course, is the devil’s desire. The devil wants to be like God but doesn’t even come close to God’s awesome power, so he attempts to deceive as many people as possible to disrupt God’s creation.
Keep in mind, God knew this would happen. God was not surprised by any of this. God set this whole scenario up to set into place the ongoing battle between good and evil that we have been fighting since the beginning of time.
“And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Genesis 3:22 (NIV)
As a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, we have been stripped of our ability to live forever and have been sentenced to die. Everything that followed, up until the arrival of Jesus Christ, has been a master class in the battle between good and evil. Everything recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible is there to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt the profound difference between good and evil.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20 (NIV)
After about 4,000 years of allowing human beings to deal directly with good and evil on their own, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to bring Salvation. This 4,000 year history is documented in the pages of the Bible and it clearly reveals that we are nothing without God. When we allow the devil to deceive us, just as he did Adam and Eve, we are lost. When we reject the lies of the devil and turn completely toward God, we will see His Son waiting with open arms to offer salvation and return our ability to live forever, by simply placing our faith in Him. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our transgressions and rose again on the third day as a demonstration of His ability to conquer death. When we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are granted eternal life as a reward.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)
Unfortunately, the battle between good and evil doesn’t end with salvation. This battle will continue until Jesus returns. There is no exact date given for the return of Jesus. Our mission is to remain ready for His return every minute of every day. We do this by following the teachings of Jesus. Those teachings can be consolidated into his two central commands to love God and love your neighbor. The greatest weapon in the battle between good and evil is love.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:9-10 (NIV)
When we turn away from evil and turn toward God as followers of Jesus Christ we are also given assistance through the power of the Holy Spirit which lives inside all believers. Christians have an enormous advantage over evil, but the enemy has so infiltrated the world we live in there is no time to rest from the ongoing battle between good and evil.
Start by acknowledging that all the negative things that happen in your life are not evil. Many of the hardships we face in life are in fact tools supplied by God to help us grow in our knowledge and awareness of evil. This life is not supposed to be trouble-free. This life is a growth opportunity. The best way to think of this life is like a trip to the gym to get into shape for all eternity. In order to be in the best shape possible for eternity, we need our personal trainer to challenge us with a difficult workout. The harder we work, the stronger we will become.
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)
Once we have focused our attention on following God’s plan for our lives, in good times and in bad, we turn to our most powerful weapon in the fight against evil – love. Love is a shield that will protect us in even in the most difficult circumstance. When we are stuck in times of trouble and despair we are the most vulnerable to the devil’s attacks. Love is the catalyst that we are to use to overcome evil.
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:20-21 (NIV)
Our mission is to separate ourselves from the self-centered ways of the world perpetrated by the deception of the devil and focus on caring for others – even those who are out to do us harm. We can destroy evil by constantly looking for ways to share God’s love with others.
We serve God by loving Him with all our heart, by studying His Word, by spending time in prayer, by spending time in worship, and by offering loving service to others. It is in these moments that we feel the overwhelming joy God provides to those who are obedient to Him. Time spent in service to God is a true believer’s most cherished experience.
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45 (NIV)
All true followers of Jesus Christ have a heart to serve others. That desire is often clouded by the devil’s camouflage. The devil wants us to believe we don’t have time to offer any loving assistance to anyone other than our immediate family and closest friends. The devil has so tangled up this world it becomes difficult to see how we can possibly do more than we are already doing. In the fight between good and evil, identifying the devil’s lies is a key component. We can all do more. Believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit. We can always do more. We simply have to push the devil’s clutter aside and move forward with love.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (NIV)