Genesis 1:1 | Beginning with Purpose

begining

The start of something is beautiful and there are usually only a few that are involved or even notice. Birth of a child. Start of a business. A new relationship. So it was at the beginning of physical reality. God acted bringing forth everything.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 ESV

He created planets, space, time, life, laws of nature, wisdom, and anything else that is ordered and true. Our very existence points back to God. We cannot understate his influence on every moment of our lives. So why did he create? Why begin something so vast that did not previously exist?

I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ Isaiah 46:9-10

What is this creative all-powerful God’s purpose? Paul writes that God’s purpose is to “lavish” upon peoples his plan to bring all of creation into unity. He created all things not to watch disinterestedly. Many people think that the creator is passive and that we are free of any interference from Him. A passive creator is not possible. Some view him as weak and powerless to control the creation once it was unleashed. A creator big enough to create the reality we live in is big enough to control what is going on. God knew exactly what he was doing at the beginning and has demonstrated the truth that “I will accomplish all my purpose”. That purpose is revealed in Christ.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV

The beginning was beautiful and demonstrated the majesty and holiness of God. What follows from Genesis 1:1 is the purpose of God to draw people to him that want to love him and that want to fellowship with him. There is more to the event in Genesis 1:1 that is revealed after the arrival of Jesus. That backstory is the amazing knowledge that Jesus was created first before the beginning. God’s purpose was evident before the beginning even started.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:1-3 ESV

Not only was Jesus the word and the active agent through which God spoke creating everything. Jesus is the image of God the first born of everything we see today.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. Colossians 1:15-16 ESV

The beginning was created through Christ and for Christ. Jesus lived and walked this earth and he left a record of his purpose that we can read and study today. Dear reader today is the moment of mercy and grace that you might connect with his purpose. From before the beginning. Before God created you, he planned a moment and provided a way of reconciliation. This is the purpose and Jesus is his plan to accomplish that purpose.

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, John 1:12 ESV

What about that Guy?

What about the person who does not own a Bible and has never heard of Jesus Christ? God will send someone in that predicament to Hell? This common question found its way into an ESPN feature story on the famous Football Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. This feature article included the QB’s journey away from more traditional Christianity of his parents to an open and fluid Christianity of spiritual leader Rob Bell. Bell is famous for pastoring a large church, writing a book concluding Hell is not Christian, and working with Oprah to bring spiritual enlightenment to the commercial masses. Bell’s influence on Aaron Rogers is pronounced and here is the quote from Rodgers he used as a reason to doubt and leave the traditional Christianity of his youth.

“I think in people’s lives who grew up in some sort of organized religion, there really comes a time when you start to question things more,” he says. “It happens for some at an early age; others, you know, maybe a little older. That happened to me six or seven years ago.”…  “I remember asking a question as a young person about somebody in a remote rainforest,” he tells me. “Because the words that I got were: ‘If you don’t confess your sins, then you’re going to hell.’ And I said, ‘What about the people who don’t have a Bible readily accessible?'”

His recounting of growing up and questioning “is this real” is normal. Unfortunately the conclusions he has drawn means he did not get the needed answers or he rejected the truth along the way. Only Rodgers and God know the heart, but I pray he would find the real character of the Creator God. Below is what the Bible, God’s word, has to say on this topic.

Rodgers is not the first person to pose this question and in my personal conversations with people this is a common objection. The objection has two flaws that need to be discussed before providing the reasoned answer. First the, what about those people, question challenges God’s grace and his plans for humanity. Second the, what about those people, question is a diversion avoiding God on a personal and relational level.

God’s grace and his sovereign plans are His to know and execute. God has not revealed why everyone is born at the time and place of their birth. But He has revealed that you and I are living today with, our color of skin, our cultural heritage, and our station in life exactly as He planned.

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, Acts 17:26-27 ESV

If one has an earnest want to understand God’s plan for those living in the “remote rainforest” then maybe that desire is a prompt from God to go to those people, live with those people, and find out what God’s work is in the lives of those people. God is always bigger than mankind can imagine.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15 ESV

This leads us to the second point. Is the question serious? Or is the question a diversion to avoid one’s own state before a Holy God? Jesus being questioned about the 11pm Jerusalem news cast was asked if the people who died in the local awful tragedy were sinners or if they were innocent. Jesus redirects the question back to the individual asking the question.

4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:4-5 ESV

Jesus has a way of making people uncomfortable. He has a way of bringing the focus back to where it needs to be. In his response to the local news of a collapsed building killing so many people he tells the questioner not to be concerned about the spiritual state of those people now that life is lost, after all he is God and they are his responsibility, he tells the questioner that “unless you repent” then the questioner will too perish.

My observation in talking with people about Jesus is sometimes they want to deflect the conversation to someone else. What about that person or what do you think about that bad church? This line of conversation is fruitless and Jesus brings the questioner back to the most important question of all. Have you repented? You are born in this time and in this place to have a conversation with God in the flesh. Will you repent and trust in me, Jesus is asking. He asks today of each reader. He asks today of Aaron Rodgers. The ultimate answer is known only between God and the individual.

Understanding God is in control and God’s plans for everyone is being accomplished we must each take seriously our own spiritual state. It is with this understanding that the Bible does offer a limited answer to the question about those other people.

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. Romans 2:14-16 ESV

Gentiles in this case are “those other people” who do not have a Bible and have never heard the name of Jesus. God tells us that His laws and nature are written in our heart. We know right and wrong and we know when we have violated what is written in our hearts. God through Jesus will judge every woman and man. For those who rejected Jesus they will be condemned. For those who did not know they will be judged by their conscience and it will excuse or condemn. How that will work and what God plans for each individual is between him and that individual. The real question all of us should focus on is who we are in Christ and are we living the life God appointed?

Love Me

love

What makes a Christian a Christian? Does following Christ restrict life to a burdensome set of rules? Why do followers of Jesus attempt to live lives based on out of date rules of the Bible? Do they do this out of fear of being crushed by a vengeful God? Do they just want to escape hell for heaven?

If one wants to follow God there are two basic motivations for an honest person. The first motivation and the way that most people understand following God is through the Law. The Law is best represented by the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament covenants. It goes like this, and should be familiar to most everyone the world over, if you keep a set of rules then hopefully your good actions will outweigh your bad actions before God. This is religion at the core. Do this or bad stuff will happen. Do this or lightning bolts will fall from the sky. The second motivation for following God that is less understood is the role of faith and what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. This second motivation is real and is God’s actual intention. Christ and what He accomplished, not Religion, is the only motivation that is acceptable to God.

The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 NLT

God called Moses to the mountain where Moses received the laws of God. It was at this time that God’s glory was reflected from the face of Moses even after he had left the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-35). Paul tells us that the new way of faith with a life giving Holy Spirit makes the old way of keeping the law obsolete. This new way of fulfilling the law is accomplished through the work of Jesus and the overpowering love He has poured out on His followers. While the commands of Jesus are founded on the Law of the old way the motivation for obedience cannot be the same as the old way of attempting to follow the rules.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:9-10 ESV

The natural state of humans is not love, but suspicion, selfishness, and sarcasm (don’t believe me go spend some time on twitter). So where does this love that leads to keep the Ten Commandments come from? That love comes from faith in Jesus by way of the Holy Spirit working in His followers.

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith… For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:5; 10-11 ESV

The motivation of a follower of Christ, a Christian, can be summed up in the depth of this following statement by Jesus to His disciples.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

I am compelled to follow, listen, and obey Jesus because of love. Fear of hell or condemnation may have been a concern at some point in my life. But I am a Christian because of the overflow of Love that comes from Christ to me. I am overwhelmed by that love. That love comes from the faith I have received from Him. By faith I trust Him and acknowledge His authority as my Creator. Because He loves me I love Him and I pray that my motivation in everything is to obey Him because of love.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 ESV

*Revised and Edited. First published on Human Effort Sept 2013.

 

The Object of Desire

What do you desire? Do you want the attention of others? Do you want to be wealthy? Do you want to be powerful? How far are you willing to go to grab hold of these objects that you desire? For me personally I desire the comforts of this world in the form of pleasure and selfishness. Left in my natural state I would be manipulative of others to get them to serve my selfishness. I would not really care about others but would at the root only seek what they could do for me. In my natural state I am a self-absorbed, miserable, and evil. When I was 11 before this nature inside of me could have an opportunity to exert itself in full measure God spoke to me and asked me to embrace his son Jesus Christ. I was surprised at this encounter with God. I did not expect to meet him in such a way, but this encounter is as real as any interaction with any other person even if it was not in a physical way. I tested him and tried to negotiate with him however in the end submission to Jesus was the only way forward. Undone by a loving creator I died that day. The evil, selfish, fool that I was ready to become died that day. I am overwhelmingly grateful for God coming to me and seeking me out.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4 ESV

The person I am today is not who I would have been if left to myself. Please know that I am still a sinner who does selfish things and I see glimpses of the old person in me, but my desire is changed. I do not embrace that selfishness. I see people in a different way that is compassionate for the hardship and difficulties that each of us have in this temporary world. Service to God and listening to his voice have become a priority. My desire is to grow closer to the God who made me. My desire is to point everyone around me to his glory.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 ESV

A great way to know what you desire is to take a look at how you identify yourself. In this world today self-identity categorizes and places each of us into tribes and social groups. If I said I am a Georgia football fan then one might rightly understand that I desire for the University of Georgia to win a national title in football. If I said I am a Christian Democrat then I have categorized myself in such a way that one might safely assume that I desire to see Christian values like serving the poor advanced through the arm of government. If I say I am a gay Christian then one can assume that same sex relationships is a priority of my desires. If I say I am an American one might safely assume I seek to see America be a world power and champion freedom everywhere. However I self-identify then leads me to act and champion those ideas.

The problem with all those tribes and group no matter how noble is that they put Christ and His kingdom in second place. Christ is transformational and a new life takes form solely in him. I need to take on no other modifiers to the name of Christian because I have died to all those other ambitions. I am neither gay, heterosexual, democrat, nor republican. Someone might call me American but I would never accept the title of American Christian. Any self-identification attached to the front of Christian betrays the object of desire from Christ and brings into question the status of the sinful desires. Is the old nature there because of bad teaching or is the old nature there because God was not encountered to begin with?

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:6 ESV

If you are modifying your Christian name with something of this world then self-examine and see if the old nature is still alive after all. While I live in this world with the passions and desires my view is eternal. Christians must understand that this life is temporary. Jesus put it this way…

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 ESV

If politics, football, career, lust, or any other passion in this world is more important than being obedient to Christ then you are still a slave to sin. Repent! Cry out to God for his mercy and seek his kingdom no matter what it costs in this temporary world.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:16-18 ESV