God is a “Yes” God, not a “No” God.
Contrary to the stereotypes of today’s culture, God loves freedom. God isn’t interested in confining you; He wants you to enjoy expansive freedom.
Yesterday, I explained why it is that only well-trained dogs can go unleashed. I wish I could have released our beagle, Reesie, and let him roam free. But he wasn’t submitted enough. The reason I wanted to train Reesie better was so the dog would have more freedom.
There is a woeful caricature of God popularized today. Perhaps it is because of too much oppressive religion or perhaps it is simply a big conspiracy of hell, but far too many people in our generation have come to believe that God is a God of constraint. They believe that primarily He is restrictive, and He will limit your life. In other words, the modern notion is that your life will be better off without God because you will be more free without God (or any religion for that matter).
But the image of the garden of Eden proves such misconceptions about God to be completely wrong. The garden that God created for man and woman to work, enjoy and inhabit was expansive, free and wondrous.
My daughter convinced us a couple of years ago to join her in a 30-day strict diet that included no sugar, no starch, no bread, no cheese, no milk, no dairy and … did I mention no sugar? I kept the diet strictly for 30 days. As much as I disdained the completely sugar-free diet, I must admit that it changed some fundamentals of my appetite. I came to realize that fruit is actually pretty good. And, in fact, if you’ve had zero sugar (or artificial sweetener) for 30 days, an orange, banana or pineapple chunk taste amazingly sweet and delicious. Everything Adam and Eve ate was delicious. Their bodies were made to crave and want these delightful fruit treats.
The garden of Eden was an expansive, delicious place to live: “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9, ESV). That’s who God is – a God of glorious, expansive freedom. God told the man and the woman to eat of any tree (maybe there were thousands of varieties), except one. There was one “no” and a thousand “yeses.” When Adam and Eve rebelled, they forfeited the garden. As long as they submitted, they had perfect freedom.
Don’t let the culture tell you that freedom means casting off restraint. Real freedom is the opposite. Real freedom is found through submission. When you submit to God, you discover more freedom than you could ever imagine. And that’s the Gospel!