There are numerous examples in the scriptures of God promising things to people; of Him telling them to do seemingly impossible things because He has empowered them. And along with those examples, there are also some instances where people who have been promised things by God, allowed their perceptions to influence their judgment and their beliefs – sometimes to disastrous results.
Perceptions can actually be quite a dangerous trap. The way that we see and perceive can hold us in bondage, and even damage our belief if we do not have a solid foundation in Christ Jesus. And what I want to share with you today is how a Christ-centered perspective is essential for enjoying victory, and how a perspective based on the natural mind and senses, can be dangerous, and sometimes even deadly.
So as we begin our study, we can start at the very beginning, the root of it all, in Genesis chapter 3, with perceptions of God. This really is the foundation of everything, because if our perception of God is skewed, we will not see anything clearly.
You see, most of us already know that Eve was deceived by Satan in the Garden of Eden, but we don’t often stop to consider exactly how she was deceived. The object of Satan’s lies wasn’t so much Eve herself, or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but the target of Satan’s lies was God. Let’s take a closer look at this, in Genesis 3:1-5:
“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’
And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’
And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die:
For God knows that in the day you eat of it, then your eyes will be opened, and you will be as gods, knowing good and evil.’”
As we examine this interaction between Satan and Eve here, certain details can be seen; the first one being that Satan immediately begins undermining Eve’s relationship to God and her perceptions of Him.
In verse 1, we can see that the seeds of discord are very cleverly planted in the changing of God’s title. When interacting with mankind, God is always referred to as “LORD God” (יהוה אלהים ) – this is the covenant name of God in which He interacted with Adam and Eve, and it demonstrated relationship.
However when Satan was talking to Eve, he dropped the “LORD” ( יהוה ) – he dropped the covenant name of God; and as we can see from Eve’s response in verse 3, she immediately began mirroring Satan’s language; not using the Covenant name of God, but rather the more formal title of simply “God” ( אלהים ). This is the foundation of the attack, and Stan uses the exact same method today as well… maligning the character of God and His relationship with us.
We can see that Eve is already starting to get deceived. Her response is already laced with confusion and a skewed perception, as she claims that God has told them they cannot eat of the tree nor touch it (something which God never commanded) – He simply gave one simple command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He never said anything about not touching it.
Even more telling is the fact that Eve refers to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as the tree in the middle of the garden. However we can see from the previous chapter in Genesis 2:9, that it is actually the Tree of Life that is specifically stated as the tree being in the middle of the garden. God had placed the tree of life there in a prominent position – but Eve’s attention and focus has shifted to the other tree.
And please keep in-mind that the two trees are analogies here: the tree of life, represents Jesus. He is the tree of life for us since we know that He is the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6)
This same scenario plays out in the lives of many people every single day, when skewed perceptions cause us to focus on the knowledge of good and evil, rather than Christ.
Do you see? Many Christians are focused more on learning the “knowledge of good and evil” to try and perform better and be more like God, while all the while ignoring the real tree of life, which is Jesus Christ Himself.
In verse 5, we see the final thrust of Satan’s deceptive attack… painting the picture of God being a with-holder. Someone who is holding-back something good. And there are some people who see God is someone stingy – holding back blessings… but as we see, the knowledge of good and evil didn’t result in anything good for Adam and Eve, just as the knowledge of good and evil also didn’t result in anything good for Israel when they boasted in their own ability in Exodus 19:8, either – and God gave them the knowledge of good and evil in the form of the Old Covenant Law, and it resulted in death there as well.
You see, our perceptions can cause us to miss the plain and simple truth… even the life of Jesus that is right in-front of us, as we focus on what we presume to be right, and it ends-up being death to us instead. Proverbs 14:12 says that there is a way that seems right, but in the end it leads to death, and many people are trying to obtain godliness through the knowledge of good and evil, in the same manner as Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden. The temptation to try perform through learning the knowledge of good and evil is just as prevalent today as it was back then – and it is still just as deadly. Even with believers who profess to believe in Grace, many still hold the idea in their heart of “tell me what’s good, tell me what’s evil, so that I can perform better, and through my performance be more like God”.
It’s the exact same trap, as in the Garden of Eden, and it’s all rooted in the same skewed perception.
Another example of perceptions in found in the account of the twelve spies checking out the Promise Land in Numbers chapters 13 and 14.
In Numbers 13:26-33, we see this:
“And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, to the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word to them, and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.
And they told him, and said, We came to the land where you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.
Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched to the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eats up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”
Now as we look at the scriptures here, and what ten of the twelve spies were reporting, please keep in-mind that the Israelites already had the promise from God that He had given them the land! That’s why it is called the Promise Land!
Yet the perception of the majority of the spies was not of the victory that God had promised them – but of the high wills and giants in the land, as we can read in verses 28, 29 and 32. This is an example of allowing natural perceptions to speak louder than the truth of God.
We can see in verses 30 and 31, the clear contrast between a Godly perspective, and a natural perspective. One of the spies who went up (Caleb) attempts to calm the fears of the people in the face of such a dire report from the other ten spies, saying Let’s go immediately to take the land, because we are well-able!
But then in verse 31, we see the other ten spies bring up the giants again and say we are not able. And remember that they are proclaiming their inability to take the land, in direct opposition to the promise God gave them earlier three times in-fact in Genesis chapters 15, 26, and 28)
And we can see that God calls their report “evil”.
Always remember that any report that directly challenges or speaks against a promise from God, is an evil report; plain and simple.
And the result of the people believing that evil report from the ten spies, is that they died in the wilderness, never actually receiving the land that they were promised. Only Joshua and Caleb, who believed the promise of God ever entered the land. Whoever has ears let them hear.
The question that each of us has to answer, is the same question that Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:13-16:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that you are John the Baptist: some, Elisha; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
He said to them, But whom say you that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This is a question of perception – specifically your perception of Jesus.
Notice that Jesus asked first, who do people say that I am? And there are many people who say that Jesus is a good man, or a noteworthy teacher. Some even say that he is a prophet. There are even many in the church – even pastors, who put Jesus on the same level as Moses or Elisha. They mix the New Covenant with the Old, and create some new strange concoction that has no real power to save.
But then Jesus makes the whole thing personal… He brings it down to the level of the individual. But who do you say that I am?
And this is the question of perception that each of us must answer: Who is Jesus to you, personally?
Only one answer has any real power. Only one answer will ultimately suffice. Only one answer will truly bring peace and the power of God.
Notice that Jesus asked this question of all of His disciples, but only one – Peter – responded with the answer: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Christ is not Jesus’ last name… it’s a title, signifying that He is the Messiah, the Savior. It carries power with it. And it’s when you have this perception of Jesus as your Savior, that power flows, and promises are claimed. The giants in your land have no sway over you when you realize that Jesus is your Savior – and you truly realize that God is not a with-holder because He gave you absolutely everything in Christ Jesus, according to Romans 8:32, and you are in Covenant with Him forever! The New Covenant of Grace in Christ!
I encourage you today, don’t let natural human perceptions and evil reports steal your promises and inheritance one moment longer! Keep your focus squarely on Christ your Savior and who you are today in Him.