Summary: Our chief purpose in being human is to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. How can we do that after the fall? Through God’s power, through God’s Holy Spirit, given to all who have faith in Jesus Christ.
What is it that God desires of us as men and women? Why has he made us in his image? What’s our reason for being here? There are probably a number of answers that someone might give to those questions. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: "What is the chief end of man?", then gives the answer: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." On the other hand Jesus was once asked "What is the greatest commandment?" His answer was "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength," quoting Deut 6:4-6.
The one thing that Jesus thought God desires from us is this: that we love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. So what does that mean? What does it mean to love God? Love is one of those words that need to be fleshed out in context before we can understand them. The child who gets home from school and gives her mum a big hug and says "I love you mummy" no doubt really means it at the time. But that same child is likely to be seen at the supermarket checkout a few hours later screaming at her mum because she won’t buy her the mars bar she so eagerly desires. If she’s a bit older she might even yell out in her anger "I hate you!" The child who says he loves his parents but continually defies their authority by the way he behaves or the things he says, or the company he keeps may truly love his parents at one level, but clearly isn’t loving his parents at another. On the other hand, the parent who says no to his child may be showing love by restricting their choices. The evidence of love, you see, depends on the relationship we have with the loved one.
So it is with us and God. That instruction to love God, that Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, is in the context of obeying what God says. It goes on: "Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." These are words that are to be taken to heart, that are to form the basis of all of life. They’re to be held before us at every moment as a reminder of how God wants us to relate to him. They’re to be a reminder that it’s our love for God that should determine the way we live and think and act and speak.
So what has all this to do with Gen 3? Well, it’s when we begin to think about what God desires from us his creatures, made in his image, that we can begin to grapple with what’s going on in Genesis 3. God puts the man and the woman in the garden and provides everything they need to live a perfect existence. But there’s one thing they need that isn’t external to them, that God can’t give them. That’s the need to have an ongoing relationship of true love of God. And that relationship of love with God involves ongoing obedience.
So God says: "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."
Let me ask you, what do you think the tree is there for? It’s a fruit tree but it’s not there to be eaten. So why is it there?
Is it there to tempt them? Has God put it there to trip them up? Well, James 1:17 assures us on that point: "No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one." No, the tree isn’t there to tempt them. In fact its the opposite. The tree in Eden acts like the words written on the door posts in Deuteronomy 6. It’s there to remind them who God is. Every time they walk past that tree they’re to be reminded that God has given them every good and perfect gift, but that he is God. He may walk with them in the cool of the evening but he’s not just their mate, their buddy. He’s their sovereign creator, whose will must be obeyed if they’re to maintain their relationship with him.