The Bible opens in Genesis 1 with the creative act of God. The entire first chapter of the Bible is devoted to the acts of the Creator God. Basically it says that everything Israel saw and knew began with the creative acts of the Creator God.

In my life time [and certainly not confined just to the period of my life] Genesis 1 has been analyzed, dissected, debated, and refocused in terms of our concerns. Most of our analysis, dissection, debates, and refocusing have been about our modern, scientific concerns and issues, not about the expressed concerns of Genesis. We have spent a lot of time seeking answers to questions that (a) are not in the book of Genesis and (b) were not a part of the concerns of the original Israelite recipients.

Neither Genesis nor chapter one was written to address 20th and 21st Century concerns about our scientific questions and issues. To me, efforts to make Genesis chapter one [or the book] about our questions and issues miss the primary message of that chapter and the book.

This is my conclusion: if we make Genesis one and Genesis about our questions and issues, we will either miss or misunderstand God's message in Genesis one and the book. The result is that we hear ourselves speaking for God and not hear God speaking for Himself.

When the Israelites who first received the Genesis message heard it, there are certain questions they did not ask. They did not ask, "What do you mean by the word day, and how long was this period of time?" They did not ask, "What method was used to create, and what process did the creative acts follow?" They did not ask, "How are we to look upon and explain strange life forms?"

To them, the information addressed two simple questions: (1) "How did we as human being and as the nation of Israel come into existence?" (2) "For what purpose do we exist as the nation of Israel?" The answers: "We came into existence as people and as Israel through the intended, direct, creative acts of the Creator God. We exist as a nation to serve the Creator God."

They had a clear, foundational understanding: "We owe everything to the acts of the Creator God. It is only right that we belong to Him, listen to Him, and serve Him."

  1. I accept as fact that the original recipients of Genesis were Israelites, perhaps the Israelites who left Egypt.
    1. What was Genesis' messages to these original recipients?
      1. "You are to understand that your origin is in the Creator God."
        1. "The God Who created brought people (including you!) into existence and gave them life."
        2. "The God Who created brought you into existence as human beings and as a nation."
      2. "You live as human beings because in God's goodness and kindness He did not destroy human beings when they rebelled against Him."
        1. "The reason you have difficulties is found in human rebellion, not in the Creator God."
        2. "When the Creator God finished this physical creation, everything--including humanity--was good."
        3. "Human rebellion through human choice gave evil a place in human existence."
      3. "You exist as Israel because of God's great love for Abraham, the man of faith." (Consider Deuteronomy 4:37-40; 7:6-8)
      4. "You do not exist because you are wonderful--you are not wonderful! You are forgiven because it is the nature of the Creator God to be merciful and kind. You are Israel because the merciful, kind Creator God loved Abraham, your forefather who was a person of faith."
        Deuteronomy 9:4-6 Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, 'Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,' but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.
      5. "Because you owe your existence in every dimension to the Creator God, you have every reason to belong to Him and serve Him. It is right that you listen to Him and obey Him."
    2. I want you to focus on something quite simple--yet extremely important.
      1. If God creates it, it is good.
      2. If Satan or evil perverts what God has created, it is bad (sinful, evil).
      3. Satan cannot create, only pervert.
      4. We humans cannot create, only be perverted.
      5. The only hope humans have of moving toward goodness is moving toward God.
      6. We were "good" when the Creator God brought us into existence.
        1. By our choice, with our permission, humans moved from their created goodness to evil's perversion.
        2. The only hope humans have to move toward their original goodness is an act of God in their individual lives. [God is the power source, not they themselves.]
    3. With that understanding, I want you carefully to listen to two New Testament statements given by Paul to Christians in the first century.
      1. The first statement is given to Christians at Ephesus:
        Ephesians 4:20-24 But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
      2. The context makes this statement both fascinating and insightful.
        1. Paul wrote to Christians, men and women who already have come to Christ, who because they believed already have been baptized into Christ.
        2. He said, "Understanding Christ means understanding a specific message that is consistent with what and who he is."
        3. "You may think you understand Christ, but you surely have missed an understanding of the message."
        4. "If you understood the message, you would not live the lives you live or behave in the manner you act."
        5. "Truth is found and understood by understanding Jesus the Christ."
        6. "This is the simple message:
          1. "There was a way that you lived and acted prior to coming to Christ.
          2. "When you come to Christ you do not live and act that way any more; you cannot continue to live and act as you did when you were a Christless person.
          3. "That way of living was based on being deceived by your perverted desires--you must intentionally abandon that way of life.
          4. "Instead of having a deceived mind, you are going to have a renewed mind.
          5. "You must be a new self which is dedicated to God and seeks to reflect God's likeness--others will not look at the way you live and act and be deceived about Who God is or what human behavior is when it is consistent with the nature and character of God.
          6. Please carefully note: "This new self exists because the Creator God has created this new self in righteousness and holiness of truth."
        7. If you place this passage in a larger context of what is said both before and after it, Paul's point is simple: "You cannot continue the behavior and lifestyle of people who do not know God because God has created you to be righteous and holy as is He."
        8. What a powerful commentary to those who have transformed worship into a physical presence at a church building and transformed communion into a ritualistic act!
      3. The second statement is also given by Paul to Christians at Colossae:
        Colossians 3:1-10 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.
      4. Again, the context makes this passage insightful and fascinating.
        1. Again, Paul wrote to Christian men and women.
        2. "Belonging to Jesus Christ refocuses your entire life.
        3. "Before you were Christians you were focused on your desires; after you become a Christian you are to focus on Jesus Christ.
        4. "If you want to be ready to receive Christ at your resurrection with joy and glorious anticipation, you set your mind (thinking) on spiritual realities in the place where Christ is, in heaven where he is at God's right hand (the choice place of the one whom the King favors).
        5. The new attitudes of the person who is in Christ:
          1. "I have died, and my life is now hidden in Christ.
          2. "I will not worship immorality, impurity, a passion for evil things, or evil desires--letting those things rule my life amount to idolatry.
          3. "Nor will I be a person controlled by anger, wrath, malice, slander, or abusive speech.
          4. "All those things characterized who I used to be, not who I am hidden in Christ.
          5. "I will treat people with mercy and kindness, just as the Creator God treats me.
          6. "I will deliberately abandon the life I lived before I believed in Christ.
          7. "I will put on the new self which is God made, not continue in perversions produced by evil's deceptions.
          8. "I will renew this new self through the true knowledge which imitates the Creator God.
          9. The Christian has this new self because the Creator God through a creative act gave it to him.
        6. There is a striking contrast between their behavior and values prior to knowing Christ (in verses 5 and 8) and what their behavior should be as people who have been created by God in Christ (in verses 12, 13).

  2. Think about these factors:
    1. Only God can create good in human existence.
      1. In Christ God creates us to be the new humanity, those people who choose to belong to God.
      2. As those who choose to belong to God, our entire lifestyle (which includes our thinking) is dedicated to reflecting the nature and character of God.
    2. We are in Christ because we choose to be new selves, God's new humanity.
    3. Some obvious observations:
      1. There is a direct coupling between worshipping God and living lives that reflect the character and nature of God daily--neither can be substituted for the other.
        1. To disconnect the way we live from our worship of God is to be deceived.
        2. The dedication of our daily lives to ungodliness will make our worship an insult to God.
      2. Only the creative acts of the Creator God can provide us a new self that allows us to honor the God Who created humans and Who created us to be His people.

We are God's new humanity. We need to learn to worship and act as the people who belong exclusively to God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 15 February 2004
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