I speak and write often about what I call the Garden Game. The Garden Game is an easily-remembered moniker that helps me to be mindful of the terrible precedent that was set in the Garden of Eden and how often my sin nature pulls me in the same direction.
When Eve was confronted in the garden by the serpent, she encountered temptation and choice. She could believe God or she could believe the serpent. She could consult her husband (who was, according to the account, standing right by her) and perhaps God or she could deal with the serpent herself. She could refrain from eating the forbidden fruit or she could take and eat it.
Eve made the wrong choice, every time. It shows for us the power of pride. Eve wanted to “do it herself,” to be independent of God and her husband. This is most clearly represented in the way the serpent framed the temptation: the fruit would make her wise like God. If she became wise like God, she would be able to continue on her independent path. She would not need a husband or a God.
Eve’s spiritual DNA is evident all through history. The Pharisees were so focused on doing religion themselves that they were unable to recognize God Incarnate when He was standing before them. Believers since the days of the early church have struggled with the appeal of the Garden Game. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul has some very strong words to those Gentile believers who were choosing to be circumcised in an attempt to “add” to what Christ had done on their behalf. We, too, have Eve’s spiritual DNA. We tend to use rules to feel good about ourselves apart from the gospel. Although as believers we acknowledge our need of God, our view of salvation is often sharply limited: “Thanks for saving me, Lord. I can take it from here.” And onward we go.
Submission to God and obedience to His Word and will are essential components of the Christian life. Very often, though, we feel the pull of the Garden Game and begin to subconsciously take pride in our obedience, to regard it as a means by which we earn God’s grace and favor.
Christmas gives us a wonderful opportunity to confront the pull of the Garden Game, to choose to walk away from our pride and independence and toward dependence on God. Christmas is God’s personal invitation to leave ourselves and join His party. As for me and my household, we will celebrate Christmas!