2020-6-22 Sermon

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Jun 222020
 

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Genesis 2:15

How do you say the phrase, “It’s time to get up and go to work?” Do you say it with excitement? “It’s time to get up and go to work!” Or do you say it with dread, “It’s time to get up and go to work.” Even if you love your job, the word “work” tends to have a negative connotation. You may not consider it miserable, but you probably consider it hard, or exhausting mentally, or physically, or both.

That’s why it’s hard to imagine what it was like when God gave Adam and Eve work to do in Paradise. When we hear the word paradise, we think of putting our feet up and sipping a cold drink on a beach while watching the sun set. We think of a place to relax, a place where we don’t have to get up and go to work. But the Bible says that after he created Adam, God took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it. 

   God made Adam his steward. He put him charge of caring for the garden he had made. God could have taken care of the garden by the power of his word and let Adam just sit there and enjoy it, but that would not have been good. Just ask a quarantined person how much Netflix they can watch before they get bored to death.

God created humans and he knew that they needed opportunity for meaningful service. He appointed humans to rule and care for all that he had made. He appointed us as his representatives and gave us the opportunity to serve him by using the gifts he has given us to care for his creation and especially for our families, the people he has placed in our care.

As long as Adam and Eve were in the Image of God, their state of righteousness and holiness, the word work didn’t have any negative connotations. It was a joy, not a burden. It was something they got to do, not something they had to do. Because they perfectly understood who God was and all that he had done for them, they were happy to do whatever he asked of them. It was their opportunity to express their gratitude to God for creating them, giving them life, and providing them with every blessing. It was an opportunity for them to have the joy of discovery as they learned about all the different plants and trees God had created and how the fruit of each one was wonderful and unique. I picture it like a kid in a candy store being told their job is to sample everything there. They would thoroughly enjoy the work of discovering all the different flavors and textures of all the different kinds of candy.

As we know, Adam and Eve didn’t retain the Image of God. Sin affected everything, including their view of work. Since they were no longer in perfect harmony with God, they no longer viewed their work of caring for all God had made as a way of giving thanks to God. Work no longer seemed to be a blessed opportunity to show gratitude to a gracious God. It now seemed like a sentence, a punishment, something they had to do or else.

In addition, because of sin, they were cast out of the garden where everything had been planted by God. In the garden all they had to do was harvest. Now they were going to have to plant everything themselves. Now there would be weeds so they would have to cultivate. Now, only by the sweat of their brow they would have food to eat. We can’t fully grasp what work was like in the garden before sin, but we know by experience what it means to work in a world where there are weeds, and floods, and droughts, and hail, and tornados. We know by experience what it means to be able to eat only by the sweat of our brow.

Those who are without the Spirit of God can only see work as negative, as something they have to do in order to survive. Those who are without the Spirit of God don’t acknowledge God, or that everything that exists belongs to God. Those without the Spirit of God can only see work as something they do to try to get what they want. It can never be for them an opportunity for loving service to God and others.

By God’s grace you do have the Spirit of God. As we heard last week, the Image of God is being restored in you. You have been born again of water and the Spirit. You have a new man of faith that fights against your sinful nature. By God’s grace you have been enabled to see that God owns everything and that you are his steward. He has designated you as his representative and has given you the job of caring for, of being in charge of all that he has made. He gives you many opportunities for meaningful service to him and your neighbor as you live out your life on earth.

Because you have a new man, because the image of God is being restored in you through faith, you have a different view of work. You realize who is it you are really working for. As Paul told the Colossians, work not only when their eye (your earthly master) is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for people, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. That’s a very helpful reminder, especially if you have a boss or employer that doesn’t treat you well.

As someone in whom the image of God is being restored through faith, you see work as an opportunity to provide for your family. In fact, Paul says that if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Even an unbeliever, even an atheist has the natural understanding that they should take care of their families as best they can. Believers have that natural knowledge, and in addition they have the command of God, so if believers don’t provide for their families, they are going against both the natural law and God’s specific command. So, we heard Paul say in our second lesson today, if anyone does not want to work (implying that they are able to do so), he should not eat. Indeed, we hear that some among you are idle, not busy working, but being busybodies. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we command and urge these people to work quietly and eat their own bread.

Maybe the clearest passage that depicts the difference between the attitude of the sinful nature and the attitude of the new man toward work is Ephesians 4:28. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. The one governed by the sinful nature is only thinking of themselves. They don’t want to have to work. They think others owe them and if they don’t give them what they think they are owed they justify taking it. That’s the mindset of looters. But those who have been born again and have a new man of faith see work as an opportunity to serve God, to provide for their families, and even as an opportunity to provide for those who are unable to provide for themselves for whatever reason. It’s the contrast between a selfish attitude, and a selfless, Christlike attitude. It’s a contrast between thinking “what can I get for myself without doing any work,” and “what can I do so that I can have something to share with others.”

Matthew demonstrated the change that God had worked in his heart not just by leaving his tax collector’s booth to follow Jesus. He used his work connections as an avenue for bringing many others into contact with Jesus. Whatever job you have you will have opportunities to do what Matthew did. There will be opportunities, as you show that you are working for the Lord, not for people, to explain the reason for your attitude, maybe your lack of the use of foul language. I know I had that opportunity when I worked construction as number of co-workers commented about the fact that I didn’t use foul language. You may have the opportunity to invite co-workers to your home where you may offer a prayer before a meal. You may have the opportunity to invite them to come to an event or a worship service at church. You will have opportunities to tell your co-workers about the hope that you have in Jesus, and that he wants them to have. What more meaningful service could there be than to do what Matthew did, to invite others to meet Jesus!

We all have to admit that, even thought we have a new man of faith and are being renewed in the image of God, we don’t always see work as an opportunity for meaningful service. We don’t always remember that we are really serving God, not people. We don’t always think about supporting our families and those in need. All too often we fail think about bringing those around us at work the good news of the gospel. All too often we want to be served instead of serving. All too often we think of ourselves first, which leads to greed and discontent. We daily sin much and deserve only God’s wrath and punishment for these things.

Thankfully, Jesus always had the proper attitude toward work. He was always eagerly doing the work the Father had given him to do. In fact, he alone served as God’s perfect representative on earth, fulfilling what Adam and Eve and you and I fail to do. On the cross the Father gave him the punishment we deserve for all the times we have failed to see the work God has given us as an opportunity for meaningful service. He punished Jesus for our laziness, our selfishness, our greed, and our discontent. He raised Jesus from the dead to assure us that all our sins have been forgiven. He has called us, as he did Matthew, to trust in Jesus for forgiveness and to see our work on earth, whatever it is, as an opportunity to serve God in faith and to serve our neighbor in love.

Solomon wrote, A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

June 14, 2020 Sermon

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Jun 142020
 

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Genesis 1:26-28

 

Last week Moses gave us an overview of how God created everything that exists. Today we want to focus in on the most important part of all that God created—Humans, and the relationship God wants to have with us.

Some today might object to the statement that humans are the most important part of all God created. They might ask, “how do you know there aren’t other life forms that are more important, or that might at some point become more evolved than humans?” From an evolutionary, unbiblical world view the answer would have to be, “we don’t know.” But for those who accept the Bible as God’s word without error there are many reasons to say that humans are the most important, the crown of God’s creation. Along with that position comes great responsibility as well. Let’s review some of the Biblical reasons that humans are the crown of God’s creation.

As you track the things that God created each day, it is clear that things are building to a climax. Each day the things God creates are more and more complex. It’s clear he is creating things that whatever he creates on the following day will need. Sky, water, vegetation, then birds, fish, animals, and last of all, humans.

When it came time for God to create humans, he broke his usual pattern. By doing so, he indicated that what he was about to create was something different than all he had created before.

The persons of the Trinity counsel together. God said, let us make man. He didn’t do that before he created anything else that exists. He changed his pattern from saying, let there be, or let the earth produce, to saying let us make. And from chapter two we are told that, instead of just commanding the earth to produce Adam, The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and  the man became a living being. Chapter 2 also tells us how it happened that God created male and female. After Adam realized that all the animals had mates and that he was different than the animals, God took a piece of his side and built a woman from what he had taken out of the man. There is to be no doubt that she too was human because she was taken out of man, the only other human. In fact, Eve is the only woman who came from a man. Every other human being, including Jesus, male or female, was born of a woman.

God describes the high position humans would have in his creation. They would be created to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth. After he created them, he blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

  God didn’t need anything that he created. He had existed through all eternity without any of it. Everything he created he made for the use and the enjoyment of the crown of his creation, Adam and Eve. Creation, even in it’s fallen state, still offers many things for us to enjoy. In our world today, people really enjoy their pets. Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful sunset, a field of growing crops stretching out as far as the eye can see, or a day at the beach? God still provides all these things for our enjoyment.

When you see someone throw trash out of their car, or when you see pictures of miles of plastic floating in the ocean, or birds covered with oil from an oil spill, you realize that humans have not done a very good job of exercising their rule and dominion over the earth. The earth is the Lords and everything in it. It’s his. We just get to use it and enjoy it for as long as we live here. Like anything that you get to use that belongs to someone else the owner expects you to take good care of what they allow you to use. They expect to receive it back in the same condition it was when they let you use it. God has given us rule and dominion over his earth and he expects us to be good stewards, to take good care of it.

So, if we don’t always take very good care of all that God created, why did he give Adam and Eve rule and dominion over it?

Part of the answer is that he was showing his love for them. Another part of the answer is that he created them in his image, and as long as they were in his image, they would care for what he had made perfectly.

We heard the phrase “image of God” a number of times in our verses for today. He said let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.  And that’s just what he did. God created the man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them. (He makes it clear that both Adam and Eve were created in his image.)

What does it mean that Adam and Eve were created in God’s image?

It can’t mean that they looked like God. Why? Because the Bible clearly states that God is Spirit. He is a personal being, but he does not have a physical body. Besides, both Adam and Eve were in his image and they didn’t exactly look alike.

Image doesn’t mean “look like”, but it obviously means that they were like God in some way. We see that they had intelligence. Adam had no problem naming the animals when God asked him to do so. He was in some respects smarter than many people today because he realized that he had not come from an animal and no animal was suitable to be his partner. He was able to communicate with God and to be in his presence without fear. Chapter 3 reports that God walked in the Garden of Eden and spoke with Adam and Eve. But none of these things are the essence of the Image of God. Paul explains in our other readings for today what the real essence of the image of God was.  Speaking of believers, he says that the New Self is continually being renewed in knowledge, according to the image of its Creator. He says that this New Self wants nothing to do with sexual immorality, uncleanness, lust, evil desire and greed, wrath, anger malice, slander, filthy language and lies. He says the new self is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. There it is. The essence of the image of God is having true righteous and holiness like God.

When God created humans and gave them rule and dominion over all he had made they were in his image. They were perfectly righteous and holy. They were perfectly in tune with God. They understood what everything God made was and how best to use and care for it. They were willing and able to be perfect caretakers of all that God had made for them. The enjoyed a perfect relationship with God and with each other.

It’s important to note that when you hear many other Christians talk about man being created in the image of God, they mean something different. Their misunderstanding of this term causes them to have trouble with other doctrines of the Bible. When they talk about humans being in the image of God, they simply mean that humans are distinct from the animals and a special creation of God with a body and a soul. That’s true as far as it goes, but that’s not what the Bible means when it talks about the image of God.

What’s the problem with this misunderstanding of the image of God? The Bible says that when Adam and Eve sinned the image of God was lost. We heard Paul say that it is only being restored in those who are brought to faith in Jesus. So, if the image of God only means that humans are a special creation of God separate from the animals, did they cease to be that when the image of God was lost in sin? They didn’t. All of their descendants, all humans, are born only with Adam’s sinful image. But, even in our sinful state, we are still a special creation of God separate from the animals. What humans lost is not their humanness, what they lost is their holiness and righteousness, their ability to keep from sinning.

You can see that this misunderstanding of the image of God affects the doctrine of original sin. It opens the door to the idea that people are born with some remnant of spiritual power, some ability to rule and have dominion in a godly way. It negates the need for baptism. But the Bible says that all of Adam’s descendants, all humans, are born dead in sin, in Adam’s sinful image, not God’s holy image. It means that humans cannot save themselves. In fact, if left to themselves, they would only destroy themselves and all that God has made. As Paul said, nothing good lives in us, that is in our sinful nature. Failure to understand this leads to false doctrine regarding baptism and conversion. Failure to understand that the image of God has been lost leads to the dangerous idea that people are basically good and they don’t need God or any authority to guide them. What they think will lead to utopia, or as some say a “summer of love”, will only lead to anarchy and misery.

Imagine as best you can what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to have the image of God for the short time they had it. Imagine what it would be like to be perfectly in tune with the mind of God. Imagine what it would be like to be able to do everything perfectly. Imagine what it would be like to be in God’s presence, to walk and talk with him in a beautiful garden. Imagine what it would be like never to worry, never to be afraid of anything, never to feel sadness or shame. Imagine what it would be like to have a perfect relationship with God and perfect love for others.

That’s what Adam and Eve enjoyed before they sinned and lost God’s image. That’s what Paul says is being restored in us through faith in Jesus. He is the second Adam. He is the perfect image of God. He never lost it in sin. In grace, he credits his righteousness and perfection to us. Spirit worked faith in Jesus drives out fear, overcomes worry, erases shame. Spirit worked faith delights in God and his word, in doing his will and talking to him in prayer.

As long as we live on earth, the image of God is only being restored, it’s not completely restored. That will only happen when Jesus returns, raises our bodies from the dead and fully restores in us his perfect image. That’s a day we long to see.

 

June 7, 2020 Sermon

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Jun 072020
 

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Genesis 1:1-2:3

The most important part of a building is its foundation. No matter how big or beautiful a building is, if its foundation is bad, it won’t last. Jesus used this fact in one of his parables where he talked about being careful not to build on sand, but on rock. Of course, Jesus was not talking about a physical building. He was talking about our faith. We need to be sure that our faith is not resting on the sand of human philosophy, or scientific theories that change from year to year. We need to be sure that our faith is resting on the rock of God’s true and unchanging word.

In the first three chapters of Genesis God answers all the basic questions of life for us. He tells us where everything came from. He tells us who we are and why we are here. He tells us why there is evil. And he tells us who he is and what he is like. He tells us the truth. He is the only one who can give us truthful answers to these basic questions of life because he is the only one who was there even before the beginning and is still around today. Answers that come from anywhere beside God and his word are based on human assumptions, fallible models, and guesses. Those are certainly not things on which you want to base your eternal life, or even our everyday life on earth for that matter.

The account of the creation of all that exists in Genesis one not only tells us how everything got here. It tells us a lot about who God is and what he is like.

Think about the first four words of the Bible. In the beginning, God. What does that tell us about God? It tells us that he existed before everything that we know began. He was there before the beginning. The fancy word we use for that fact is “eternal”. God is eternal. Yes, in a sense, we are also eternal because we will be raised from the dead on the last day join God in eternity. But, unlike God, our eternity has a starting point. It’s a timeline that starts at zero with an arrow that points off to infinity. God’s timeline has arrows that point to infinity in opposite directions. He alone is without beginning or end.

Although we can’t fully comprehend anything that is without a beginning, it’s comforting to know that the God in whom we trust has always been there and will always be there for us.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The rest of the chapter tells us how he did that, and how long it took.

As we read the words of this chapter, we can’t help but see the power of God. Who do you know that has the power to call something that doesn’t exist into being? God said, let there be light, and there was light. And remember, the things that we think of as giving light, the sun, and the stars, weren’t created until three days later. We have the world’s smartest and most powerful people working non-stop to create a vaccine for the COVID 19 virus and we will pat ourselves on the back if we discover one in a year or less. God created light in the time it took to say the words. We have the smartest and most powerful people working to come up with replacements parts for people, a heart, a pancreas, a prosthetic arm, or leg. God created bodies for Adam and Eve and gave them life, and their organs which we can’t duplicate, in less than a day.

God shows himself to be almighty, but we all know that brawn without brains is not a good combination. God shows himself not just to be all-powerful. He shows his wisdom to be beyond our comprehension as well. Consider the complexity of the universe, or just look in the mirror. We have studied God’s creation for thousands of years and we still don’t completely understand how everything works. God thought up everything that exists and then he planned how everything would be made and how stars, planets, plants, animals, and humans would all interact. We divide the study of the things God made into the different disciplines of science. An expert in one discipline might not know much about what an expert in another discipline has discovered, but God understood it all even before he called it into being.

God also shows himself to be a God of order. He demonstrates that he had a plan and that he followed the plan. When we build something, if it’s going to be worth anything, we need a plan. We have a blueprint that has been checked by engineers. When everything is approved, the raw materials are delivered, and things are put together in an orderly way according to the plan– foundation, framing, roofing, windows, doors plumbing, electric, HVAC, drywall and then the finishes. In the same way, God followed an order. He created water before fish, dry ground, and plants before animals, and then he made humans as the finishing touch after he had provided all the other things for their use and enjoyment.

That brings us to what is the most important attribute of God; the thing that John tells us is part and parcel of his essence. God shows himself to be a God of love.  In love he created the only beings who would carry his image last. In love he made sure that everything they could possibly need was provided for them. They didn’t have to plant anything or build anything. God made them and put them in Paradise, in a garden that was beautiful beyond our imagination. He told them, “here, it’s all yours, it’s my gift to you because I love you. Enjoy it.”

God showed himself to be a God of love in the way he created humans. He didn’t do what he had done with everything else he created. He didn’t just say, “let there be two humans.” He personally and carefully formed a body for Adam from the ground. He personally breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Before he created Eve, he helped Adam realize that he was alone. Once he recognized his need, then God provided. He formed Eve, not out of the ground, but from a piece of Adam’s side. He personally breathed life into her. And then he brought her to Adam like a father walking his daughter down the aisle. He provided Adam with a suitable partner. They were a perfect match. She complimented him physically and emotionally, and he complimented her physically and emotionally.

So far, although we cannot grasp the extent of God’s power, wisdom, and love, we do understand something about power, wisdom, and love. But God reveals something about himself that is completely beyond our grasp because there is nothing to which we can compare it. He reveals to us, already in this first chapter of the Bible, that he is Triune. That’s the fancy word the church came up with to describe the indescribable. God reveals himself to us as one divine being – “une” (like saying Uno when you only have one card left). And yet, he is three persons, “tri” (like a tricycle has three wheels). He says that he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons, yet one divine being. As I said, that’s beyond our comprehension. There is nothing in all creation that can give us even an idea of how this works. All we can do is represent what the Bible says with a triangle with a circle in the middle- The father is not the Son, nor the Holy Spirit; but Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all one being.

Where does Genesis One teach this about God? Remember verse 2? The earth was undeveloped and empty. Darkness covered the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.  God created, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And since the Holy Spirit is often called the life-giver, it may be that was his role already here at creation.

What does it say in verse 26? God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth. 

The Hebrew word for God is plural. God says, “Let Us.” He says, “in our image.” Now, it would be hard to understand just from these words that God is three person in one divine being, but as we read the rest of the Bible and hear what we did in our other readings this morning, the plural makes perfect sense. Jesus commands us to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks the blessing of the grace of Jesus, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit upon us.

So, God created, the Spirit hovered, but where is the Son? John helps us answer the question. He tells us that Jesus is the Word who was with God in the beginning. He tells us that through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

He is the one who, in the fullness of time, came into the world to redeem it. He is the one who makes God known to us, not just by taking on flesh and blood and becoming one of us, but by making it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves us and wants us to spend eternity with him. After all, he willingly sacrificed his son in our place.

The first chapters of Genesis set the foundation for the Christian faith. They let us know that God created all things that exist. He created humans to rule over and enjoy all that he created. He is a God whose being is beyond our comprehension, whose power and wisdom are unlimited, and whose love is not earned but given freely.

Because of our sinful nature we reject this God. We want a god we can understand. We want a god we can control. We want to make God in our own image. And Satan has been working hard for thousands of years to destroy the foundation of the Christian faith, promoting evolution, calling anyone who would believe that what it says in Genesis is true uneducated and foolish. He continues to ask us the question he asked Eve, “Did God really say? Can these things that are beyond your comprehension really be true, or are they just fairy tales?

If you have fallen for his schemes; if you have been tempted to doubt; if you have preferred to make a god in your own image; confess your sin. Realize that you are giving up a solid foundation of truth and replacing it with the sinking sand of human philosophy. Rejoice in the truth that God the Father created you and still preserves you; that the Son came into this world to reveal the truth about God to you and to redeem you from your sins; that the Holy Spirit has given you life, the new life of faith. He helps you overcome your doubt and the temptation of what claims to be wisdom but is not. He helps you to keep building on the firm foundation of God’s Word.

 

 

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