November 1, 2015
Eating a meal with dear friends and family can be a wonderful experience. By the candlelight you see the warm smiles and hear the friendly banter of conversation and laughter. For a few brief minutes all is well with the world. Of course it’s not always like that, especially in family gatherings. Sometimes there is so much underlying anger and bitterness that eating together is a strain on everyone.
We are in a series of messages called, “In the Beginning.” And we are thinking about how one can live life to the full. The opening line of Genesis sets the pace. Life to the full begins with acknowledging the God who exists, the God who has created all things and who sustains all things and who saves all things. We worship this God. We obey this God. We depend upon this God and we look to this God to save us from our sins. Abundant living is found in God
Last week we also noted that at the beginning God gave mankind work to do. Living life to the full involves being engaged in work. This week we will see that God has also given us the gift of community. Interpersonal relationships allow mankind to enjoy fullness of life.
I. HUMANS ARE CREATED FOR RELATIONSHIP. Gen.1:26-27; 2:18
When we read the story of creation in Gen.1 we read that God saw that everything he made was good. Isaiah 45:18 tells us that God created the earth to be inhabited. Everything God created was for his glory and for the good of mankind. It was created to bring joy and delight to our lives. It was created for us to explore and develop its potential. But in Gen.2 we learn that there was one thing that wasn’t so good.
As Adam was giving names to all the animals he discovered that there was not found a helper fit for him. In Gen.2:18 God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
As Christians, we believe that God dwells in a complex unity. We believe in the Trinity. God is one in three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I mention this because it is important for us to be reminded that within the Godhead there is interpersonal relationship. There is community, fellowship, and love. Humanity is created in the image of God. We bear the image of God. One of the implications of this is that we were made to have dominion, to reign in the earth. Another implication is that we were made to be in relationship. We are personal, relational people as God is personal and relational.
So it was not good for the man to be alone. This is not a weakness of the masculine gender; this is how we were designed. Isn’t it interesting that in Gen.1:27 it says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” Mankind is male and female. We were created to be in relationship with others.
Now let think about this. When God created Eve, he created someone who was obviously different from Adam and yet someone who corresponded to Adam. Adam recognized the likeness and the difference. In our human relationships we benefit from the fact that all of us have similarities and differences. Because we have similarities we are affirmed and encouraged. Just think about how it is when you are talking with someone and that person identifies a feeling, idea, or experience that you yourself have. Immediately we feel we can relate with that person. That person affirms something in us. “I know what you are going through,” we say. “I thought I was the only one who had these feelings,” we say.
And then our differences help us come to know ourselves better as we interact with others. Why is that? It is because the differences between us bring out various dimensions of our personality. Maybe you have a friend who makes you laugh or who challenges you to be better, or who brings out a different side of you. “I’ve never seen that side of you,” we say.
And of course, being in relationship means we can help each other in a whole variety of ways. Adam and Eve were to help one another do what God gave them to do. Being in relationship is critical for our well-being and wholeness as people.
But there is something else that must be stated. The fact that we are created in the image of God means that not only are we valuable to God and treasured by God, but we must treasure each other. You are not valuable just because of what you can add to the workplace or the church. You are not valuable just because you are so intelligent or capable or beautiful. You are valuable because you bear the image of God. Mankind has extrinsic value. Our value comes from outside of ourselves; it comes from God who made us. We also have intrinsic value because each of us is unique. There is no one quite like you.
Men and women, this means we must treasure each other. As Christians we ought to have a general love for everyone. John reminds us that we cannot say we love God if we do not love others created by God. At the most basic level this means there ought not to be one ounce of prejudice or bigotry in our hearts towards any other ethnic group. It is true that because of sin there are many things that divide people and cause strife. But we ought never to demean or degrade or treat with contempt anyone on the basis of their race. When we do that we pour contempt on God himself. Again, if we value or treasure someone it means we will desire what is truly good for other people. And if you are a Christian, you will desire what is good even for those who care nothing for you. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”
Some of us are extroverts and others are introverts. Whatever we may be, we need others and we need to be in relationship with others. Community, communion with other people is one of God’s good gifts for living life to the full.
II. MARRIAGE IS THE DEEPEST HUMAN RELATIONSHIP. Gen.2:18-25
It is absolutely true that deep relationships can be experienced outside of marriage. We have brothers and sisters and other relatives that we may be very close to. We have close friends with whom we share our lives. But the marriage relationship between a man and a women has the potential for being the deepest human relationship possible.
Because the woman was taken out of the man it is clear that men and women complete each other. They belong together and bring a fullness of life out of their relationship. I also believe that since marriage is God’s design and intention for mankind, marriage is sacred. It is holy and ought to be treated as holy.
According to the text, a man is to leave father and mother and hold fast to his wife. In other words the husband is to cherish his wife and put his wife’s welfare above that of his own parents and family. So sacred, significant, and intimate is the marriage relationship that even one’s parents must not be allowed to interfere. Cultivating marital love requires everything we are and have as persons. Husbands and wives are to hold fast to each other.
Why is this important? It is because they become one flesh. There is not just intellectual and emotional intimacy; there is physical and spiritual intimacy. This physical and spiritual intimacy involves the total person and involves such vulnerability that it requires the protection of a covenant in which husband and wife promise to hold fast to each other at all costs. And of course, through physical intimacy children are often brought into the world. And children need a mother and a father. So husbands and wives must hold fast to each other even in the difficulties of raising children.
In marriage everything is shared. There is no need for pre-nuptial agreements. Pre-nups are for people who do not trust each other. In marriage we are devoted to the highest welfare of our spouse. In marriage we lay our lives down for the good of our spouse.
One can quickly see why marriage provides stability for society. Healthy, secure marriages create stable families which build strong societies. Promiscuity has never done any person or any society any good.
Jesus quoted these verses when teaching about divorce. Divorce is not in God’s plan. In Malachi we read that God hates divorce. In Dt.24 we learn that God permitted divorce as a concession for the hardness of people’s hearts. He permitted divorce because hard heartedness often destroys others. Jesus permitted divorce in the case of adultery or porneia. Porneia is not just adultery; it refers to any kind of sexual infidelity. Paul added the situation in which an unbelieving spouse deserts the marriage. Divorce is never mandated. It is best if husband and wife can forgive and renew their covenant. But hardness of heart sometimes makes that impossible.
But wait, I’m just being my serious self here. Marriage was given before sin ever entered into this world. Marriage is a common grace from God. It is for the good of people and helps to provide fullness in life. When a man and a woman put God first in their lives and then get married, the potential for fullness of life is wonderful. It is so wonderful that in Eph.5 Paul tells us that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church.
There are many wonderful marriages in the world. But there are also many dysfunctional and destructive marriages as well. Let me say a couple of things.
If you are in an abusive marriage you should probably separate. Physical and emotional abuse is far from what God ever intended. I’m not saying you should immediately get a divorce. But you should separate for your safety and wellbeing.
But what about those marriages in which there is no abuse but there is great unhappiness and dysfunction? Well, if you are a Christian I urge you to begin by looking at yourself. What negative traits do you contribute to your marriage? What dysfunction have you brought into your marriage? It is important to address these things, perhaps with a Christian counselor. We all bring the good, the bad, and the ugly into our marriages. As Christians our main goal is to see our character transformed by the renewing of our minds. The goal is not to change your spouse, but to be more like Jesus in the way you live with your spouse. Your spouse has issues as well and you must pray for him or her, asking God to work in their lives. But as you pray for your spouse, make the necessary changes in your life with God’s help. Write those changes down and begin taking steps towards a new you in Christ.
III. KNOWING GOD IS THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP. Jer.9:23-24
God is so gracious that he makes it possible for humans to find joy in interpersonal relationships including marriage. Many unbelievers have deep friendships. Many unbelievers enjoy wonderful marriages. I can tell you that these good friendships and marriages are only as good as the people involved embrace Godly values. Even non-Christians can be trustworthy, loving and kind.
However, unbelievers display these good values from a heart that is basically dominated by self-interest. Unbelievers do not have the Holy Spirit. They lack the resources necessary for deep personal transformation in their lives. They are left to their own resources and when bad things happen they are often not able to persevere and forgive. Meaning and purpose is temporal and often rooted in self achievement, other people, and material wealth. All of these things will eventually fail us.
In previous weeks we pointed out that the book of Genesis begins with God. All things, except for evil, find their source in God. Because we are created in the image of God our primary reference for life is God. Acknowledging God as our Lord and Savior and King is how we begin to enter into the kingdom of God and life to the full. Jesus reveals this God in all his goodness and love. So when we embrace Jesus by faith we embrace God, our Creator.
Because God is the Creator and Sustainer of our lives real, lasting meaning and purpose in life comes from him. Living according to his good rules, living like Jesus, holds promise for abundant, eternal living.
This is why I say that knowing God is the most important relationship of your life. Men and women, sometimes I am fearful that there are people in our congregation who had some kind of spiritual experience at some point in their lives, but in fact their Christian life has not progressed very much beyond that. Maybe you came forward when an altar call was made and you felt the presence and power of God in your life. Maybe you were in deep trouble and you called upon the Lord and the Lord rescued you. Maybe you prayed a prayer of salvation. Maybe you found yourself on the mourner’s bench because you felt it was time to come to God. These are all wonderful and even enriching experiences.
But I wonder, is Jesus alive in you? Is your life being transformed by Him? Some people come to know Christ but they remain bitter, angry, unkind, and selfish. They do not see all that much reason to be in community with the people of God. They come to church when they feel like getting up, but corporate worship of God is not high on their agenda.
If after getting married to Angie, I continued to live as if I was not married, paying attention to Angie only when it seemed convenient for me, not living with regard for Angie, you would truly wonder what was wrong with me. Because when a person gets married their whole life is lived in regard to their spouse.
Well when a person turns in faith to Jesus Christ, because he is God in the flesh, because he died and rose from the dead that we might have eternal living, because he is the reigning King who has all authority in heaven and earth, we follow him and seek to live under his good rules.
The truth is that some professing Christians are just not interested in living under the rule of Christ. Some professing Christians are counting on a spiritual experience they had at some point in their lives. Some are counting on their baptism. But Jesus said, “Follow me.” “Obey all that I have commanded you.” In Jer.9:23-24 it says, “Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." Do you know God through faith in Christ? Assess your life today. Are you living as someone who knows God through faith in Christ?
The other night at dinner, Angie and I were talking and I said, in many ways, salvation is so simple and yet it is almost too simple. How does a person inter into abundant living with Christ? Well, it involves a step of faith. It calls for faith because we cannot see God. If we desire to know God through faith in his Son, Jesus, then we simply call to him and ask him to save us and to give us his abundant, eternal life to the full. Now here’s the thing. You really need to think about whether or not you want Jesus and his life to the full, because living out life to the full involves new ways of thinking and acting. Those new ways of thinking and acting are embedded into life with Christ. As we trust in Christ and put our confidence in him, he will help us through his Holy Spirit, to follow in his ways. It will involve effort. Our sins will be forgiven, eternal life will be ours, and transformation of character will begin as we live his life in us. Do you know God? Do you want to know God? Then turn to Jesus Christ.