Category Archives: Creation

Colossians 1.15-20

I had the privilege to preach at the BMA Seminary in Jacksonville this morning. I was deeply honored that Dr. Charley Holmes would invite me back again this year. I wanted to post this message, but warn any regular readers that I’ve sampled some recent illustrations from my Sunday morning Romans 8 Series Sermons to fill in with some great examples. 🙂

Title: Boys, Do what you’ve been called to do, because of what you know to be True.

Text: Colossians 1.15-20 ESV

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

I want to thank Dr. Holmes for giving me the hardest text of Scripture to preach on to a bunch of young theologians… I wonder if more denominations and cults have been started from these few verses than from any other few verses grouped together in Scripture? Let me just affirm that using an archaic word with a contemporary meaning can bring a lot of confusion! It is so easy to use a word that sounds one way, without understanding its meaning in the appropriate way.

Misunderstandings can happen, but they can also leave a lot of damage.

  • Autocorrect on your phone can contribute to some of this.
  • Not totally understanding what someone is asking for is how we got Potato Chips. The story goes that a man wanted French Fries. The cook didn’t know what French Fries were. The man did his best to describe what French Fries are. When his plate came out, he had on his plate what today are called Potato Chips.
  • World Magazine issue February 28th, 2019 reported that a young Kentucky man, Allan Harris, wanted to get his wife, Nina, what she wanted for Valentines. He did his research. He found out what she loved and wanted for Valentines. He knew she would be happy with them, after all, it was what she asked for. Then, he went and searched high and low for her special gift. When he showed up with a few turnips, she clarified it was tulips she had wanted.

My hope this morning is that I would not be misunderstood.

Let me quickly show you the words that bother me; words, I’m afraid you might mistake.

  • Verse 15: Image. We see the word image and we think it is a reflection to some degree of what the real thing looks like. But it isn’t the real thing – it is just an image of the real thing. uuuuuuu….
  • Verse 15: firstborn; (cf.: 18). We see this word and think that it was the first of its kind. Sounds like it was created first of all things…. Uuuuuuuuuuu…
  • Verse 20: reconcile all things to himself; this has a universal sound to it. Like ‘all’ things and no ‘things’ will be left out. Uuuuuuuuuu….

Let’s deal with this first misunderstanding: image.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And it was good. Along with all of this, God created man. The Text says: 26 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.”

                27         So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

Made in the image of God… I wonder what that was like? You know, when it was all still good. You know, before the fall. Too bad they couldn’t have done things right. Too bad they couldn’t just obey. But they fell for the lie – you know the lie: the one that says, “you’ll be like God”.

Somehow, they missed that they already were like God. He had made them in his image. I want you to ponder that thought for a moment. They were made in the image of God, but Satan fooled them into distorting that image.

  1. Perfect Creation: made in the image of God and marred in the Fall. They were supposed to be the image of God, but Satan said: Don’t listen to him! He knows that you’ll be like Him when you eat of the fruit! This is the lie of Satan. He wants to distort the true image of God.
  2. God’s Children, Israel, commanded to image God and be holy as he is holy. They were to not make idols and not worship idols but instead chose to worship the creation instead of the creator. They worshipped images of things made by men, instead of the perfect, holy God. Like Adam and Eve, they failed to image God perfectly. Enter Jesus…
  3. Jesus imaged God perfectly! 2 Cor 4.4; In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Hebrews 1.3a; He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Col 1.15;

He is the Image of God the verse says, but to clarify Paul continues: of the invisible God. So, what we see is that – what was invisible has now become visible. God, who is invisible has become God visible before us. He is the divine representation of God. That is true, however, I like the phrase, the divine manifestation of God here on earth even better. Or, as we said when I lived in Hawaii: That’s mo’ bettah! If we go to John 14 we find some strength for our understanding when Philip, in a bit of frustration, said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Just by itself, that request doesn’t seem so bad. But, Jesus appears to demonstrate a little frustration toward Philip in his response: Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

For me, that’s pretty clear. I wish I could say to people who ask me to show them Jesus: Dude, how long I have been your pastor that you still don’t know me? Whoever has seen me has seen Jesus! How can you say to me: Show us Jesus?

I feel more like Adam or Israel in this regard – I’m a poor image of the Messiah. Because you see me in a fallen state!

Paul is declaring that Jesus is God right here. Now, he strengthens his remark with another one, which is my 2nd concern: the firstborn of all creation.

I told you this is my second concern because I’ve personally seen this one totally misunderstood.

Ill.: Our church began a small group of women who were having Bible Study and losing weight. I was fine with it because this Bible Study was purchased from our Denominational Bookstore. The ladies were in a few weeks when my wife asked me about something that the teacher said. I didn’t like it, made the correction and we moved on. But then I got word that the Bookstore, which by the way is Lifeway, was pulling it because the author declared that Jesus was the first created being. The author misunderstood this verse. She quoted from it in her defense. As the pastor, without talking to the ladies, canceled the Bible Study. One woman from the study was furious with me. She had lost more weight doing this study than by any other diet.

Every translation I looked at translates this firstborn of all creation. But firstborn doesn’t mean born first. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages states that this Gk word πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos), ον (on): adj.; and it means birthright, pertaining to the inheritance rights of the firstborn; in other words, it isn’t a position in the order of birth, it is the position in order of importance. It deals with the right of the firstborn, which we know, isn’t necessarily the one who is born first (Ishmael, Isaac; Esau, Jacob; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah). But check it out, it continues: existing before (Col 1:15); 3. LN 87.47 superior (Col 1:15), as in showing position.

We see this used exactly this way in the Old Testament – of those who were not the ‘firstborn’ sons in the family, but the title is used of them to give them a position of inheritance. It is used to show their prominence. Consider Jeremiah 31.9 where God says: …for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. If you know birth order, you know Manasseh was born first. But, Grandpa Jacob, did a switch on Manasseh and Ephraim. The point is that it isn’t about the first to come into being – it is the one who is given the rights and privileges of the one who has this position.

Herein is our first point of the morning. Paul is declaring that Jesus is Lord over all creation.

1. The Supremacy of Christ in Creation (15-17)

exp.: first he created it all; Jesus is the agent by which all things came into being; rd v 15-16; I love to quote John 1 here: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Jesus made it all!

That makes him a really big God! J. MacArthur expounds on Creation in his commentary series on Colossians: By studying the creation, one can gain a glimpse of the power, knowledge, and wisdom of the Creator. The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, has a diameter of 864,000 miles (One hundred times that of earth’s) and could hold 1.3 million planets the size of earth inside it. The star Betelgeuse, however, has a diameter of 100 million miles, which is larger than the earth’s orbit around the sun. It takes sunlight, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, about 8.5 minutes to reach earth. Yet that same light would take more than four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, some 24 trillion miles from earth. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions or even billions of galaxies. What they can see leads them to estimate the number of stars in the universe at 1025. That is roughly the number of all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches and deserts. (Colossians and Philemon, J. MacArthur, Col. 1.16)

Consider that we’ve not even really been able to search out the farthest most remote places in our Universe and the Bible says he created all of that.

But v 17 tells us even more; rd v 17; He is not only the one who created it all; he is the one who holds it all together. The Supremacy of Christ in Creation tells us that he is the Creator and the Sustainer.

I feel a song coming on! Worthy of Worship (Blankenship)

Verse 1

Worthy of worship worthy of praise
Worthy of honor and glory
Worthy of all the glad songs we can sing
Worthy of all of the offerings we bring

Chorus

You are worthy Father Creator
You are worthy Savior Sustainer
You are worthy; worthy and wonderful
Worthy of worship and praise

The fact that Jesus created all that is, and is still moving. Consider the fact that he sustains all things, too.

Ill.: Being here today brings back wonderful memories for me as I think about my years of Seminary training. I was privileged to sit under some of the most wonderful minds in Theology. I’ll bet some of my professors wrote some of your textbooks. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me. One such professor was Dr. Bill Tolar. He’s gone to be with the Lord now. He passed away this past December 29.

I want to encourage you to Youtube Dr. Tolar’s message: Creation. Chance or Choice? Good stuff. In that message, he lists 10 different scientific facts about the earth, the moon, and the sun. And, he demonstrates how life would not be able to exist if any one of those facts were to change. Here are some of those:

  1. The earth is tilted at just the right angle (23.3o ) – straight up and down, life couldn’t exist
  2. It is spinning at just the right speed (1,000 mph) – a little slower and things would burn up; a little faster and things would freeze – life couldn’t exist.
  3. It tilts back and forth just far enough, going no more than 3o in either direction; any further than that, then life could not exist.
  4. It is just far enough away from the sun. It spins and encircles in an oval rotation – perfectly. If it was any further away, most of life would die, probably from starvation. But we need plants to make oxygen. Any closer and the plants would burn up. We would burn up.
  5. The moon is just far enough away. It regulates the tides. If it were closer or further away, then the tides would either pull back and make too much ground or the waves would crash against the Rocky Mts.
  6. There is just enough water in the oceans…any more/ any less by just three feet!
  7. There is just enough land and just enough of the earth’s crust. If the earth’s crust were just 10 feet thinker life couldn’t exist the way it does. And the earth’s diameter is about 8,000 miles. But just 10 ft would make that difference so dramatic, life couldn’t exist as it does.
  8. I highly recommend his message, but listen, here’s my point: Christ not only made it all, but he also holds it all together!

Transition. 1st, We see Christ’s Supremacy in Creation as Creator and Sustainer.

2. The Supremacy of Christ in the Church.

Exp.: we stand and look at Creation and are all in awe of Christ. Well, Paul says that there is something as wonderful that Christ created and it is His Church. Rd v 18; When you read that, it almost sounds like he’s talking about two different things: one, the church and 2nd, something about being resurrected from the dead. But consider this: these are really about the same thing. They cover the same topic.

If Christ had not risen, what difference would there be? Ladies and Gentlemen, I propose to you that it would make all the difference in the World! The Resurrection is a vital part of our Faith. Indeed, if you remove the resurrection, what do you have? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ has not been raised, we are still in our sins, our faith is futile and we’re to be pitied above all men!

The Resurrection is important because it is the basis by which all other matters rest. Without the resurrection, the church falls flat on its face. But consider this: those who are in this body, of which Christ is the head, they have the hope of the resurrection. Christ is simply the first to be raised and never to die again. His resurrection demonstrates for us that we too will be raised on that day. Here again, we see position: that he might be preeminent. That he might be in the first position. He’s the boss. He’s Lord. There is no one above him. There is no one who outranks him. The buck stops with Him. But, just so you don’t miss what Paul is saying, he brings more clarity: rd v 19; He’s God in the Flesh; rd v 20; So,…

In this passage, we see His Work in Creation and His Work in Redemption.

You know I began my message with the Creation story. The Fall marred it all. But here we read that Christ is reconciling the world to him. This doesn’t mean that everyone gets to heaven. This is a reference to what shall be.

Ill.: If you’ve not been to a Simeon Trust Preaching Workshop, I highly encourage you to go. If you’re a woman here, they host workshops for Women, too. But, one of the lessons we learn in a Simeon Trust Workshop is about books and finding the theme or topic in a book. One such way to locate your theme is by locating the top and the tail. It isn’t just the book, but it can also be used for a pericope or a passage. It helps us to determine what the theme or topic might be. An example we use is Mark. Mark begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The introduction climaxes with God proclaiming in v 11: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – So with the introduction, you have this claim that Jesus is the Son of God. Throughout the book, demons and spirits call him the Son of God. Before he is crucified the High priest asks him if he is the Son of the Blessed. And Jesus says, yep. And at the book’s climax, as Jesus dies on the cross, the Centurion witnesses the entire events and says: truly this was the Son of God. You can then go back through the book of Mark to see if this is a theme that flows through the entire book and wah-lah! There is… Demons declare him to be God’s Son. Remember the Gadarene Demoniac: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most-High God? That’s just one example.

I’m preaching in the book of Romans right now. Let me show you the theme in Romans: read the introduction. Observe 1.5: Paul is declaring the Gospel is preached to the nations to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name. Now look at Romans 16.25: 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

There you have it. You do a little research on Romans and you’ll see that this is exactly what the Letter is all about: The preaching of the Gospel to all the nations in order to bring about the obedience of faith.

So, what am I getting at? At the beginning of this book (The Bible), you have the story of Creation. A topic near and dear to this passage. In that beginning, we see perfection. Then, there is the fall. Everything falls apart. The couple is banished. Perfection is lost. Thorns, weeds, storms, chaos, murder. Sin has corrupted what was perfect. But, Paul is telling us about the end of this book. In the beginning story, you have a unique relationship with God. In the end, that relationship is restored. You have a river in the garden in the beginning. Look, you see the same at the end. There is a tree in the midst of the garden in the beginning. What do you know? There is a tree in the end, too. Coincidence. No, that is the melodic line of this book. God is reconciling a fallen world to himself. And, in the end – that is exactly what will be! There will be a new heaven and a new earth. All things will be reconciled.

Conclusion: So, is all of this theology important? You bet it is. Not just because you’re going to be preachers and teachers of God’s Word. But it must apply to your life and to the life of those you serve.

Many years ago, when I was first in ministry, there was a man who came to see me. Pastor? You got a second? Sure. This man hadn’t been going to my church for very long. His beliefs were different than ours, but he loved our worship and was complimentary of my preaching.

He began to pour out his heart about his struggles. He had been a member of the Hell’s Angels gang in the Los Angeles area back in the ’60s and ’70s. The hard life had left him in constant pain. As an addict, he shied away from drugs. So, he lived with the pain. He told me he had a certain amount of money in the bank, in a savings account. He gave me the number of the account. I wasn’t sure where he was going.

He asked me to explain my theological understanding of suicide and, as a pastor, would I ever let someone who committed suicide to have a funeral in the church. He told me that he would be ending his life in a couple of days – he was going to commit suicide. But, the money, that was for the funeral and to make sure his boys were taken care of. He still had two sons at home. They were pretty close to being able to take care of themselves…

I was caught off guard. I knew I couldn’t let him just kill himself. I didn’t know the laws, but I was pretty sure this guy needed help. He needed help beyond what I could give. I was this young buck just fresh out of seminary.

But, the moment he noticed me interceding, he threatened me. Did I tell you guys that he was a former member of the Hell’s Angels? He was more than twice my age, but I also knew that he knew how to put a hurt on me if he wanted to do so! It didn’t matter. I knew what I needed to do.

Then he said if that is what you’re going to do… Then I’m going to go home and kill myself in front of them.

I was scared. I didn’t want that.

Now, at this moment, how does your theology impact your actions?

You study that Christ is God. He is the creator of all that is. He is the sustainer of this whole thing. He is the head of the church. He is the first to be resurrected and has shown us exactly what it will be like for us on that final day when we, too are resurrected to a new life. But does that help you at that moment?

You bet it does! Your theology grounds you in what you do as a pastor. And trust me, your theology will conflict with your experience. You know God is sovereign, but what about the day that it feels like he isn’t. You know that Christ is in Control. But, what about the day it feels like he’s lost control. You know God is powerful. But what about the day he doesn’t display His power in your life.

I told you when I began that I don’t want to be misunderstood. Hear me now and once again: You can go and serve where he has called you because you know this is true. He is Lord over all Creation and Lord over his Church. And because of this, you know that he is Lord over eternity. And he will sustain you in whatever you go through. Boys, Serve Him well and do what you’ve been called to do because of what you know to be true about Him. Let’s Pray…

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Colossians, Creation, Scripture, Sermon, Worship

Romans 8.18-23

Title: The Temporary State of Suffering

Text: Romans 8.18-22

Introduction: We’re in Romans 8 (pg. 888 in the Pew Bible). The Subject this morning is Suffering. And my sermon doesn’t come from the tremendous depth of experience, but rather, it simply comes from God’s Word. The sermon this morning won’t have all of the answers on suffering. I’ll only cover what’s listed here in Romans.

I make no apologies in this regard, but rather count it a blessing and thank God that I have not had to suffer as so many in the world do. I’ve never been to prison for my faith. And I have been relatively healthy – able to do the things in life I want to do. I enjoy the physicality and thought that goes into reaching summits in Colorado. I ride my bike, jog, walk as much as I want and not as much as I should. I take one pill a day – and that is for my thyroid. My doctor says that dosage will increase with age, but for now, I feel blessed.

So, as I think about suffering, I have to ask myself… and I think, we should ask ourselves as we look at this text: what is the context of suffering here? Is it cancer? Is it sickness, illness? Or, is it imprisonment, mistreatment, and punishment for being a believer? Well, contextually, I think it has to do with suffering for being a Christian. As for application, I think this applies to both: You can trust God in your sickness and in your illness, too.

I don’t say this lightly. I’m very aware that many of you are suffering now. Some of you may suffer for being a believer – you’re passed over for work or promotions; you’re placed in an awkward position; moved to a different location.

On a side note: It was good to hear the State of Colorado dropped their case against the Christian Baker, who refused to create a transgender anniversary cake. The same baker, by the way, that won a Supreme Court decision last year. But, I think more persecution is coming.

Added to these types of persecution and suffering, I know that many of you are suffering health wise – you or a family member.

I don’t enter into this subject lightly because it is something my family is experiencing. It is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul hasn’t mentioned suffering up to this point. As a matter of fact, he won’t mention it again. You’ll only see it here in v. 17 & 18; Verse 17 is what gives us our context. Rd v 17: 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Flow: There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Why? Because the Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death. How? Through Jesus; who died on the cross to pay that penalty on our behalf. V4 says that Jesus satisfied the righteous requirement of the law. The Benefits are tremendous: freedom in the Spirit, Focus for life, The Spirit-filled believer is now alive in Christ – and, as we talked about last week – The Spirit-filled believer is adopted into the family of God!

But then Paul ends with this odd statement: provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Paul is definitive on this topic of suffering: in this life, we will suffer as believers. Period. We don’t all suffer the same way and we don’t all suffer the same thing – but, understand this: if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will suffer in some fashion.

Why is that? And where does it come from? And, what is its purpose?

Well, that is a topic that is rather large and most definitely something we cannot possibly accomplish completely today. And we shouldn’t try. Paul doesn’t. Paul has good reason to do so, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t make his focus about suffering. Instead, he acknowledges it but then turns his focus elsewhere. And so should we. He mentions suffering and then gives us a history lesson.

Let me repeat: he mentions suffering and then, doesn’t talk about it, but rather gives us a history lesson. He comes back to this idea of how we suffer now when he talks about the Spirit and the Spirit’s intercession in our lives – who helps us in our weaknesses (v26).

Read with me v 18-23 (pg. 888): 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

What is Paul saying? He’s letting us in on something absolutely incredible. I’ve been taught, as have many of you, that when you’re looking for the theme of a book you’re studying, you read the beginning and the end. Usually, there at the beginning of the book or letter, and repeated in the end, you will find the melodic line that flows through the book. A great example is Mark, a book we studied a few years ago. Mark begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The introduction climaxes with God proclaiming in v 11: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – So with the introduction, you have this claim that Jesus is the Son of God. Throughout the book, demons and spirits call him the Son of God. Before he is crucified the High priest asks him if he is the Son of the Blessed. And Jesus says, yep. And at the book’s climax, as Jesus dies on the cross, the Centurion witnesses the entire events and says: truly this was the Son of God.

So Mark’s theme is Jesus is the Son of God. Is this true for our book, Romans? Let me show you: read the introduction. Observe 1.5: Paul is declaring the Gospel is preached to the nations to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name. Now look at Romans 16.25: 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

There you have it. You do a little research on our book and you’ll see that this is exactly what the Letter is all about: The preaching of the Gospel to all the nations in order to bring about the obedience of faith.

I mention these because I think that is what Paul is doing. I mention these to raise one last question about beginnings and endings: is this book (the Bible) like these others – does it have bookends which identify for us a theme? And, does that theme flow through the whole of the Bible in such a way that it acts as a melodic line of sorts? Well, let’s look.

  • When you read v 19-23, what stands out? The Creation. Where is The Creation Story in the Bible?
  • We see in chapters 1-2 of Genesis that the world is created and everything is perfect. The Creation the way it should be. Or, the world as it was designed to be.
  • In chapter 3, we see the fall. Sin enters into the world and everything is marred. Everything. Sin now brings death, disease, and dysfunction. Cain murders his brother, Abel. Weeds, thorns, storms, sickness, struggle all enter the picture. Animals are no longer friends with man, but rather, animals fear man.

What we see in the introduction is Creation, and then, creation falling apart, or de-creation. So, what do we see at the end of the book, in Revelation? We see Eden restored. We see re-creation. So, do we see some of the same elements in the beginning and in the ending? God is in the beginning doing his work and he is in the end doing his work. There is a garden in the beginning. There is a garden in the end. A tree – a tree; a river – a river; Ezekiel 25 tells us of the garden of God, Eden. It tells us of the precious stones and gems and colors. We see the same thing in Revelation in Heaven, Eden restored. So is that the melodic line of this book? That God creates, Sin destroys and God will recreate in the end? All we have to do is look throughout the book at the stories that are told.

  • Adam and Eve are in the garden; they sin and are banished into exile from the garden. Do you see times in Scripture where there is a desire to get back to the garden? Absolutely.
  • God creates for himself a people, through Abraham. He promises them a land. A land flowing with Milk and Honey. It is a picture of the return to the garden. But do his people obey – do they live out the obedience of faith (as it says in Romans)? No, So look what happens to Israel. It becomes a desert wasteland.
  • But there hope is that it will be restored. For you and me, we know that restoration isn’t a “Mighty Israel” here. It is a new heaven and a new earth.

This is what I think Paul is doing: I think he is visiting the melodic line of the Bible for us: There was perfection with God. Sin entered into the picture and destroyed that beauty. It continues to wreak havoc, but one day, Eden will be restored. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. And that – out there in our future – is what Paul wants us to focus on!

  1. Creation Present: Read v 19; we longingly, actively wait with eager expectation for glory.
  2. Creation Past: read v 20; creation waits now in the present because it was subjected to futility in the past. That verse is talking about the fall of man – the story of Adam and Eve.
  3. Creation Future: read v 21; it was subjected in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption (that’s sin and the effect it has on us now) and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (that’s heaven, where there will be no more sickness nor sorrow, no more pain and tears, there will be no more thorns, no more tornados, no more earthquakes, no more hurricanes, no more cancer, no need for glasses.

Why is that? Because creation will be restored. Paul is reminding us of the big picture. Suffering in this present time is temporary. Heaven, where there is no suffering, will be eternal.

So, here is the problem: we’re stuck between the now and the not yet. With this bit of information, how then shall we now live?

A few comments about these verses:

  1. In v18, the verse reads: 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 1st, this word consider – it is the Greek word for which we get our word logistics. Paul is being logical about suffering and he’s working through the problem. 2nd, There is a word in the original language that isn’t in the English and it’s the word ‘about’. Lit.: the about to be glory. The idea is that it is just right out there beyond us. I believe when we’re there, we’ll look back at this time and think about how brief it really was. We worried about a lot of stuff that didn’t really matter that much.
  2. In v19, we read: For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. I already told you that I’d translate this: actively waits with eager expectation. The word wait here means a deep sense of waiting with passion and longing. Also, the word in here revealing, is the Gk word from which we get our word Apocolypse. And, normally, that word is scary, but, not for the believer! Because what will be revealed for us is a wonderful thing!
  3. In v20, it says that the creation was subjected to futility… The idea is that this isn’t so much a result of what Adam and Eve did, but more about the plan of God. See, if you keep reading you’ll read: not willingly, but because of him who subjected it… Who is this ‘him’?
    1. Some folks say Adam. He was the one who sinned and by which all sin has been passed on to us. The read the verse this way: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Adam who subjected it…
    2. Others say no, it is Satan. Satan was the one who wreaked havoc on the world by leading Adam and Eve astray. These people read the verse this way: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Satan who subjected it…
    3. But there is a third option and I believe this is the correct understanding: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of God who subjected it… And I say this because of the next couple of words: in hope.
      1. Satan would never offer hope, so that knocks him out of the running.
      2. I don’t think Adam actually thought to himself: I’ll eat this fruit in disobedience to God’s command in order that those who follow after me will have hope in God. That’s ludicrous.
  • It can only be God. God did this, subjected creation to futility in hope of our future glory.

Now that’s a pretty powerful statement. God did this because he had a plan.

  1. In v22 we read about this momentary affliction. Paul uses the terms of a pregnant woman giving birth. The idea is that the pain is very real, but a momma endures such pain for the joy that is before her. She knows that after she has endured, after she has given birth, she will get to hold this precious little one. There is pain and struggle in the moment, but joy comes in having given birth. To use what seems to be an oxymoron: this is a joyful pain. And so should our suffering in this current world be. Joyful in that it is temporary. Joyful in that it is preparing us for the glory that is yet to be revealed in us. It is hard now, but hang in there. There is joy coming! And that is what he says in v 23; rd v 23;
    1. Consider the disciples who declared it a joy and a privilege to suffer for Jesus!

Application: Paul tells us about suffering:

  • How we suffer: The Creation actively waits with eager longing as we suffer.
  • Why we suffer: The Creation was subjected to futility (to this suffering) unwillingly
    • God did so in hope
      • of freedom from bondage to corruption
      • of obtaining freedom of the glory that is to be revealed in us
  • Conclusion about suffering: The Creation groans with a pain that ends in joy – because joy is coming. You’ve just got to hang in there!

Conclusion:

  1. Suffering is temporary: this present time (kairos). The difference between Kairos and Chronos is like the difference between a minute and a moment.
  2. Suffering is an extreme opposite of what we’ll experience in the “about to be”: There is no comparison
  3. Here’s the incredible truth about suffering and sin: We can grasp the incredible grace of God because we know what sin and suffering is.
  4. I’d like to say a word about what suffering is not. Sometimes, I’m convinced that we think we’re suffering and we’re really not. Let me ‘splain.

In life you have expectations. You’ve had them already today. You come and you expect certain things to happen or not to happen. You have expectations. You expected to sing songs this morning. If we hadn’t sung any songs, you would have responded. Some of you: negative. Some of you: positive. But there are expectations and you respond to those expectations based upon your experience. Maybe you come to worship expecting a normal service, but we show a video. Your experience is different from what you expected and maybe you’re happy or maybe your sad. You respond to your experience based upon your expectations.

But here lies the problem. Sometimes, your expectations aren’t met and you become unhappy. You think you’re suffering. But are you really? You’ve come expecting there to be seats. What if you came in this morning and there were no seats in the worship center? How would you respond? Some folks would be like: Cool, we’re doing something different! Others would be like: this is so uncool! Honey, go find me a seat. If I said, we’re sitting on the floor this morning, some of you would feel like you had to suffer today. But, do think there are churches gathering today somewhere in the world where there are no chairs? Would you say they’re suffering?

Here is my point: sometimes you think you’re suffering, but you’re really not. You’re just selfish and you’re not getting your way.

Your expectations are about you. Hey, listen, I’m no different. I know it. I sometimes pray and act like I’m suffering until my eyes are opened and I realize that I’m just being selfish.

Suffering Requires:

  • Perspective: An vantage point of the whole, big picture – and you see what’s coming (18).
  • Patience: Wait eagerly for adoption to come to fruition (19).
  • Knowledge: we know that this was done in hope of freedom

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Filed under Christian Living, Creation, Eschatology, Faith, Romans, Romans 8, Scripture, Sermon, Spiritual Formations

The Perfection of Creation

Title: The Perfection of Creation in The Garden of Eden

Text: Genesis 1-3

Introduction: James Dobson as told by Chuck Swindoll in The Tale Of The Tardy Oxcart

A Few years ago psychologist Ruth W. Berenda and her associates carried out an interesting experiment with teenagers designed to show how a person handled group pressure. The plan was simple. They brought groups of ten adolescents into a room for a test. Subsequently each group of ten was instructed to raise their hands when the teacher pointed to the longest line on three separate charts. What one person in the group did not know was that nine of the others in the room had been instructed ahead of time to vote for the second-longest line. 

Regardless of the instructions they heard, once they were all together in the group, the nine were not to vote for the longest line, but rather vote for the next-to-the-longest line. 

The desire of the psychologists was to determine how one person reacted when completely surrounded by a large number of people who obviously stood against what was true. 

The experiment began with nine teen-agers voting for the wrong line. The stooge would typically glance around, frown in confusion, and slip his hand up with the group. The instructions were repeated and the next card was raised. Time after time, the self-conscious stooge would sit there saying a short line is longer than a long line, simply because he lacked the courage to challenge the group. This remarkable conformity occurred in about seventy-five percent of the cases, and was true of small children and high-school students as well. 

This story makes me think of the so many people who just adopt evolution – even Christians – who do so because everyone else does. They see the so many teachers and professors and people they respect as smart who stand for evolution – and so they follow the crowd – raising their hands because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing.

Today, I’m not out to try my best to get you to believe in Creation. I’m assuming you do, but even if you don’t, I do – and so I’m going to be preaching it that way. Furthermore, I believe God did his work of creating in 6 days. He rested on the 7th day. I don’t believe they were periods or eras. They were Days!

I don’t believe we came from monkeys or apes. I know there are those who think Evolution and Creation work side by side and are the same event. I don’t. I don’t, because God created man before he did the animals. Now, it appears this is a contradiction from chapter one, but I don’t think so at all. Chapter two is simply the detailing of the story as presented in Chapter one. And I’m not out to prove one or the other.

The reason I’m not out to prove any of this is quite simply, I don’t think that discussion or argument should be the focus. I think it is something that sidetracks us. The focus that we should have is the perfection that we’re supposed to see in every aspect of Creation. Everything was perfect, because God planned it that way. And that’s the point! … that’s where the focus should lie. And that is where I want to stay today: The perfection of creation. That’s what the Garden of Eden is and everything about the story reminds us of this perfection.

The Premise to my series is quite simply that the Bible is really one Big Story: His Story. And, although there are hundreds, yeah, thousands of stories in the Bible, there is this thread that weaves its way through all of Scripture. This morning, I’ve outline four facets to this perfection of creation, and I’ve outlined them as follows…

  1. The Pleasure of the Garden: God was pleased… he said it was ‘good’
  2. The People of the Garden: The people were perfect
  3. The Problem of the Garden: The was the potential for disaster
  4. The Promise of the Garden: When it looked like failure had won, God made a promise…

Transition: So, let’s begin with this 1st facet of creation.

I.     The Pleasure of the Garden (4-14)

exp.: As we gaze upon this perfection, we see how pleasing it was to God; it begins in v 5-6; v 5 sounds to me like this is before sin has entered the picture, before man has to work the ground; The story is rounded out in 3.23; v 7 is back in time;

  • A Spring: v6;
  • A Man is formed; v 7
  • A Garden is planted; v8; Now here is where we find God’s pleasure in the garden;
  • The Pleasure of the Garden: good for food and pleasant to the sight; v 9; ‘good; pleasing’; same as the end of each day in creation; There is this sense of pleasure to the senses; rd 9b; Plants, Trees, Rivers
  • A River: rd v 10ff; divides into more rivers; this is unusual; I found no place in existence; Do you know, I’d love to hear from you if you have.

app.: Everything at this stage is perfection; everything; It’s perfect. I love this word pleasing; I think that is life’s design: pleasure. Oh, sure, it’s not a good word now because sin has marred what God has designed. But let’s not get a head of ourselves. Let’s see this place as God designed: pleasing. It was pleasing to him – just like him, good in every way.

t.s.: Now, the text turns to more information on this man and this woman. So, the 2nd facet to this perfection that I want you to see is…

II.    The People of the Garden (5-7; 18-25)

exp.: we met Adam up in chapter one and again in v 7; He’s perfect because he’s made in the image of God. 1.26; likeness; same word used in 2 Kings 16.10; King Ahaz likes this altar he sees in Damascus and orders something like what we would call blueprints to be made of it. It is a graphic representation for building a construction. Think about looking at the blueprints for this facility. It’s one thing to look at it on paper, but even more impressive to walk from room to room.

ill.: Print of facilities…

Adam is just an image, a likeness of God, but nothing near as impressive. Still, made in his image means he’s perfect at that point. We meet Eve, in v22; We don’t have time to explore all of this beautiful scene, but if we did, we’d delve into the beauty of this moment when God brings her to Adam.

In this moment there is a certain beauty to the relationships: God the Father in relationship with his creation, man; the relationship with this man and this woman. No one else has ever experienced this – at least not on this level; Adam didn’t have a ring, but did he have a scar? It was before sin entered into the world, so I just don’t know. But, did Adam have a mark on his body where God took the rib and made the woman. Did he see that mark, that scar as something wonderful… you know, he got that mark when he got that woman…

There are two very important lessons we learn from these two People that I want you to recognize while the Creation is still perfect. If I could sum it up in a phrase, it would be: Responsibility is born out of his relationship to God.

  1. Responsibility: His relationship with the garden. God gives them a garden and tells them to:
    • Work it, rd 2.15
    • Keep it, in 4.9: Am I my brother’s keeper; 17.9 keeping the covenant; it means to observe or guard – like keeping God’s commandments. Maybe even a sense of guarding it.
    • Enjoy it! (15-16) Eat of its plenty!

Application: Maybe this is something they forgot? And, maybe this is something you’ve forgotten? The Garden is still God’s Garden! These two are given this beautiful place to live and exist. They do so in His garden. I wonder if we sometimes forget this garden called the church isn’t ours! It’s God’s! This relationship and this begets responsibility.

  1. Responsibility: Relationship: with God

ill.: Rudyard Kipling wrote:

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees

That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees.

app.: And so it begins… perfection. A garden, a gardener, utopia.

t.s.: All things are perfect, but God creates the potential for disaster… that’s the 3rd facet to our story this morning.

III.    The Problems of the Garden (17-18; 1.26-29)

exp.: Problems: “problems? wasn’t it perfect?” I say problems because there is potential for disaster; the 1st concern isn’t as noticeable. However, I think it’s very apparent once sin enters the picture.

  1. The Covenant of Dominion: 1.28;
    • Dominion: Rebellion is death – because it is ultimately committing suicide. Consider this: Even a hermit exercises dominion; he plants, hunts, does whatever he can to eat; Even vegetarians eat from living organisms; Dominion as outlined in 1.26-28 involves two parts:
      • People: Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.
      • Land: care and concern for the land that perpetuates the necessities he needs for survival.
        • Adam
        • Noah
        • Abraham

Ill.: this weekend Elizabeth asked what the purpose in bees is. Interesting, no? Bees spread pollen. Bees serve a function. They provide honey! If you really put your mind to it, you’ll find purpose in every little part of creation. Your and my responsibility is keeping that going in perpetuity: care and concern for the land that perpetuates the necessities we need for survival.

  • Exceptions:
    • A Command to Follow: enjoy it all; however, you shall not; the exceptions are still a part of the responsibility.
    • A Consequence for Failure: death; some have assumed that Adam would have lived forever if he hadn’t sinned. I don’t think so; I think he would have been translated over somehow – like Enoch. The consequence for failure would bring death. Which, of course you know by now, did.
    • This covenant of Dominion is re-confirmed with Noah, but changed slightly (meat eaters)
  1. Aloneness (v18)
    1. God doesn’t tell us why being alone is bad. He only tells us it is. Sure, Adam had a relationship with God. As Bonhoeffer says: Adam “speaks and walks with God as if they belong to one another,” and they do; however, God’s talking about a spiritual and a physical relationship.
    2. It is truly a shame when one considers how much has been made of this relationship. I have to say myself that I’ve never liked the term helpmeet, because we don’t fully understand that word as it was used by those of 16th Century England and how they would have understood it. I like the word compliment because it implies that she made him better, something more. V 18 says she was ‘fit’ for him. I’d say, a perfect fit!

app.: the potential for these problems of course is what led to their failure…

t.s.: Well, you know the rest of the story already: they failed to obey. But before they were banished from the Garden, God made a promise to them. That’s the 4th facet to our story.

IV.    The Promise of the Garden (3.15)

exp.: And we see this promise in the next chapter; chapter 3 is the story of the Fall and we find the explanation as to why there is sin in the world. Adam and Eve were deceived by the devil; they disobeyed God and took the fruit of one of the two trees that were forbidden to them. 2.9 tells us these 2 trees were The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Immediately, perfection was no longer; their understanding of what had happened was evident. Their understanding was manifested in their work to cover their nakedness. 2.25 tells us they were naked, but unashamed; 3.7 says Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Inadequate as it was, they tried to cover their shame, but failed.

Conclusion: I’ve wondered what that would have been like. I’ve imagined it in my mind. In an instant, their eyes were opened and in my mind I’ve watched perfection flee as they reach out to it. I can see the juice of the fruit still on their chins. If snakes can smile, I’m sure that one was smiling…

Imagine with me, years later, Adam hoeing in his field. He stops and pulls another weed – and his mind goes back to that time when he knew perfection. In this moment he remembers what perfection was like: his body, the spring, the animals, the garden.

Enoch comes running out into the field and old Noah, 876 years old turns to see what all the fuss is about. Enoch tells his Great-great-great-great grandfather that another child has been born!

“What’s his name?” Adam asks.

“Methuselah” Enoch replies.

And Adam wonders to himself: is this the promised one? Adam would watch Methuselah playing. Maybe he played in Adam’s lap or napped beside his great-great-great-great-great grandfather.

I wonder if in all that time – the 930 years he lived – I wonder if he wished he could go back to the garden. If he did, I’m sure he would have stopped himself and told himself that it wasn’t going to happen. At least not like he wanted.

I wonder if he then thought of the promise. “The Promise,” you ask? Yes, before Adam and Eve left the garden, they heard the pronounced curse from God upon them and upon the serpent. Specifically, there is the mention of her offspring and that this promised one – this descendant of hers would crush the head of the serpent. 15  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Different translations say ‘crush, or strike’ Here’s what Adam dreamed about…The promised one – one of his descendants would crush the head of the snake! What was made wrong, would then be made right. Adam’s curse would be reversed. Eden would be restored

I wonder if in his remembering and wondering there in the field, I wonder if he watched his sons and grandsons at work and wondered if this promised one might be one of his sons or grandsons – even this new born baby boy, Methuselah. … maybe its him…

app.: Well, you know the answer to that. Methuselah wasn’t the promised one. Adam didn’t live to see the promised one. It would be thousands of years of waiting, but he would eventually come. And, He would come in a most unexpected way. This story, it’s his story. It’s all about him. And, His name is Jesus.

 

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