October 11, 2015
I would say that most people desire to live a meaningful and full life. Obviously there are some who are deeply scarred because of many hurtful experiences and some of these people live with deep dysfunction and are angry and even pursue evil. But most of us, despite our flaws, want to be good citizens and neighbors. We want to have good character because we believe this will help us live full and meaningful lives.
The reality is that it is difficult to be that guy, that girl. We find that selfish desires and pride are deep within us and sometimes we feel powerless in their grip. This morning I would like to begin a brief series of messages in Genesis. Today’s message will be in two parts. I will finish it next week. You see, to live life to the full, we must begin with God.
I. GOD IS. Gen.1:1
The bible is a collection of books. The first 5 books of the Bible are known as the Pentateuch, which comes from a Greek word meaning, “five scrolls.” These books are believed to have been written by Moses. We don’t know exactly when these books were written. Some Evangelical scholars say the Exodus occurred sometime around 1446 BC, while others say the Exodus occurred sometime around 1260 BC. Either way, Moses begins his writings with the story of creation. But what is most important for us to note is that Genesis begins with God. “In the beginning God…”
There is no more important statement than this. While there are places in the Bible where evidence for the existence of God is presented, nowhere in the Bible is there any sort of formal discussion that seeks to prove God’s existence. The approximately 40 authors who wrote the various books of the Bible assume that the existence of God is a given. But some evidence is offered. In Ps.19:1 we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” In Rm.1:19-20, Paul writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Paul points us to the existence of the universe and basically says that the only adequate explanation for the existence of the universe is God.
And then, again in Rm.2:14-15, Paul writes, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” This is sometimes referred to as the moral argument for the existence of God. How did mankind intuitively know that murder, etc. is wrong? Well, there must have been a Lawgiver.
The clearest evidence for the existence of God in the Bible is the person of Jesus. Jesus did and said things that no other human could ever do or say. People who encountered Jesus came to believe that he is God in the flesh. So the God we are talking about today is the personal God revealed in nature, in the Scriptures, and in Jesus.
And what kind of God is revealed in Scripture? Wow! The God revealed in Scripture is far more wonderful than one could ever imagine. For one thing we come to see that this God is so wonderful of a being that he exists in a complex unity. He is one God who exists in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three are one in essence and in their attributes. They are co-eternal and co-equal. They are of the same mind and purpose. Christians do not believe in 3 gods, but in one God who exists in 3 distinct persons. What is more, this God is self-existent. He is uncreated. He is all powerful and all knowing. He dwells everywhere in all his fullness. As one scholar puts it, “God inhabits his universe in the same way that we inhabit our bodies.
In Is.46:9-10 we read, “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Or listen to Is.42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” In other words, God is holy. There is no one, no other god like Him.
In Dt.32:4 God is described as, “A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” In Ps.116:5 it says, “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.” In 1Jn.4:8 we read, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And in 1Chron.16:34 we read, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Ps.149:9 says, “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” This is what God is like. This is what we see when we look at the person of Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh. Now truth be told, when bad things happen to us it is very easy for us to think bad things about God. But the only reason we are quick to believe bad things about God is because we take for granted all of the good things God continually does for us.
I would imagine that perhaps everyone here believes in the existence of God, the God revealed in nature, the Bible, and Jesus. If this God does indeed exist what should our response be to him? If this God is as good as the Bible says he is, how should we respond?
Well, our response ought to be one of humble worship. From Genesis through Revelation we are exhorted to worship the Lord. In 1Chron.16:29-30 we read, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” The world of mankind is summoned to acknowledge and worship God.
And we are not just talking about attending worship services. Sunday morning worship is very important, but just being at a service does not mean that we are worshipping the Lord. Jesus tells us in Jn.4 that God is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and truth. To worship God in spirit and truth surely means that we worship from hearts that are surrendered to God and his Son, Jesus. We worship with minds that are grounded in the truth of who God is. Worship is not just singing some hymns and worship choruses. It involves our full surrender, bringing our kingdoms under the rule of God, in his kingdom, praising and exalting God as the only wise God. We don’t initiate worship; we are called to worship. We enter into worship. Our worship is a response to the greatness of God revealed to us and in us by his Holy Spirit. God Is.
II. GOD IS THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS. Gen.1:1-31
Before I say anything about this, I want to point out that there have been many developments in the Evangelical world on how to interpret the first two chapters of Genesis. Oxford university professor, John Lennox, holds a PhD in Mathematics and Philosophy. He is a committed Evangelical. In his book “Seven Days that Divide the World,” Dr. Lennox, “suggests that Christians can heed modern scientific knowledge while staying faithful to the biblical narrative. He moves beyond a simple response to the controversy, insisting that Genesis teaches us far more about the God of Jesus Christ and about God’s intention for creation than it does about the age of the earth.”
In his book, “The God Who Is There,” Dr. Don Carson, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School writes. “I hold that the Genesis account is a mixed genre that feels like history and really does give us some historical particulars. At the same time, however, it is full of demonstrable symbolism. Sorting out what is symbolic and what is not is very difficult”
Now I firmly believe that God is the Creator of all things. I believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each played a significant role in creation. Exactly how God created all things is something we don’t know. Over the many years that I have been a Christian I have heard many dogmatic statements about how God created all things and I think it has not always served us well. When I was a student at Moody I was taught an old earth creation. Today my understanding is that the prevailing view taught at Moody is a young earth creation. When I reach heaven, if I learn that God created all things using an evolutionary process under his guiding hand, I will not be disappointed. I will not hold it against God. On the other hand if I learn that God spoke and things just popped into being I will not be hard for me to accept. It is rarely helpful when we as Christians speak beyond what we really know, especially when our main concern is to bring men and women to Christ.
Now having said all that, let me come back to this very important truth that God is the creator of all things. This truth is reiterated over and over again from Genesis to Revelation. In Is.45:12 we read, “I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.” In Is.45:18 we read, “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other.” In Rev.4:11 it says, “"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." And listen to this verse from Eccl.11:5, “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”
In Gen.1:26-27 it says, “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
On one level humanity is one with all creation because we are created. But on another level humanity is above the rest of creation because we bear the image of God and have been given dominion over all things. In fact God created the heavens and the earth to provide a place of abundance for mankind to live in.
But what are the implications of the fact that God created everything? More specifically, what are the implications of the fact that God created mankind, you and me? In Ps.100:3 it says, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
The fact that mankind is created by God, in the image of God, implies that we belong to God. God has rightful ownership over our lives. We did not make him. He made us. Regardless of how we may feel about it, we exist under the rule of God.
But here is the amazing thing, God does not force himself on anyone. God actually allows men and women to decide whether or not they will acknowledge his ownership. It often seems to me that those who do not believe in God, do not really want to believe in God. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but I believe it is true for most everyone. Personal pride and the desire for personal autonomy makes belief in the existence of a personal God, uncomfortable. In other words, their lack of belief in the existence of God is not just because of an objective study of the facts. They have a personal investment in the non-existence of God. But there are also people who profess to believe in God but for all practical purposes they are atheists because their belief in God has no bearing on how they live. At best, God is maybe the one they pray to when things are not going well because they don’t know what else to do. These folks certainly do not acknowledge that God has a rightful claim of ownership on their lives.
But what about the person who truly believes in God? What are the practical implications of the fact that God owns us? Each one of us has ownership over various things. This means that we have the right and the power to do with that thing whatever we desire. If it is money, we decide whether we are going to save it or spend it and what to buy with it.
And then there is the kind of ownership that parents have of their children. If we find a lost child we might ask, “Who does this child belong to?” We recognize that parents have ownership of and authority over their children. Early on parents tell their children what to do and they define the consequences for disobedience. But as our children grow older, our authority begins to lessen. Sometimes children take the first opportunity to get out from under their parent’s authority.
We do the same thing with God. God has given us good rules for living a full life. We find those rules in the Ten Commandments and teachings of Jesus. Every last one of us has broken the Ten Commandments. Why is that? It is because we want out from under God’s rightful authority over us. We are rebellious.
The message of the Bible is that living life to the full is only possible when we bring ourselves under the rule of God and his appointed King, Jesus Christ. This involves a recognition and repentance of our sins and belief in and commitment to Christ. If we recognize God’s ownership over our lives we will want to know how he would have us live and then seek to live in that way. Is that the kind of person you are?
In a recent breakpoint commentary by John Stonestreet, reference was made to a video that went viral on Buzzfeed. A half a dozen young actors complete the sentence, I’m a Christian but I’m not…. One said, “I’m a Christian but I’m not homophobic.” Another, “I’m a Christian but I’m not judgmental. Stonestreet pointed out that most of these actors self-identified as gay, queer, feminist, or some other trendy label. Stonestreet says, “Most striking to me in all these videos was how free their version of Christianity seemed to be from any external authority. There was nothing revealed in Scripture or history that seemed to matter in their understanding of Christianity. They made up a version of Christianity in which they were in charge. They felt fully up to determining the beliefs and behaviors they could accommodate to their faith. And they alone were the authority of their lives and loves. In other words, their Christianity isn’t so much a worldview as it is a hobby—something fun and meaningful to practice in the privacy of their lives and churches, to bring meaning and purpose to themselves.”
Men and women, what is Christianity to you? Does the form of Christianity that you practice call you to worship God alone and live in obedience to God’s good rules? After all He is God and he created each of us and therefore we belong to him. Amen.