I want you to read with me from Genesis chapter one. We will read this a phrase at a time. I will read and then you read it or say it together. “In the beginning,” “God,” “created” “the heavens and the earth.”
This sentence was in its day and even today one of the most controversial if not the most controversial sentences ever written. It changed the world. Imagine what life was like before these words were written. Let me give you a brief background.
Imagine that you had never heard that there was a God who offered salvation and redemption for your life. In the near east where these words were written there were many myths about how creation had taken place. They all had basic common features that created a dominant world view for people of that day. They shared a belief that the universe was dominated by many gods who were quite fallible. They were full of petty jealousness toward each other. People lived in fear and superstition and they worshipped objects like the sun and the moon. They engaged in human sacrifice to try to control the nature of the gods. Humans were viewed as the lackey’s of the gods. They were created to do the work that the gods didn’t want to do. The most common prayers in this ancient world were prayers of curses that sought to bring about the downfall of their enemies. Life was about a fight for dominance. Life was considered to be an endless cycle. There was no ultimate destiny. Life was short, cheap and brutal. That is how people lived and died.
It was into this world view that the writer of Genesis sat one day and wrote that, “In the beginning God,” an all powerful, transcendent being had spoken the world into existence. These seven words changed the world forever. Men and women have literally died because of an unwavering belief in these words. Over the last few years, we have watched our own current society embrace the ideal of diversity over absolute truth. Anyone who tries to take a stand about the Bible being an absolute standard or truth is ridiculed and sometimes even within the church.
There are three core ideas that we find in this first story of the Bible that are very important for us to know and accept today. Why did God create anything in the first place? It is the first question asked by children. As we grow up, we ask it over and over again. It is a good question, a fair question. And it is just one word. “Why?”
We all want to know why things are the way they are. Why am I here? Why is anyone here? Why did God make the heavens and the earth?
1. God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them.
He created out of community.
1In the beginning God created[a] the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface. 3Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. Genesis 1:1-3
17Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven's lights.[a] Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows. James 1:17
1In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. John 1:1
There was community from the beginning. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They even existed in the creation of the world. We were created not because God was bored but because of the joy in the Trinity. God created out of the fullness of His love. Unlike the mythical gods who only wanted us to do their work.
This love and community was expanded to include us because it was so good. He longs to invite us to live in His love. We are not invited to become His little servants to do His little chores. This is the first open chair in all time. We sit in that chair, and God invites us to enter the circle, to pull up to His table, to join the community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father that we would be “in them.”
We exist to share in the community of the triune God. Dallas Willard stated it best with these words, “God’s aim in history is the creation of an inclusive community of loving persons, with himself included as its primary sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.”
Let’s bow our heads and spend a couple of moments in prayer and ask God to help us hear His invitation to enter in to His community.
2. God wants His community to have a wonderful place to live.
He cared for their community.
1"Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink--even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk--it's all free! 2Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul! Isaiah 55:1-2
8God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9
There is a very important distinction that the writer of Genesis was very concerned about. He wanted us to know that the Creator is more important then the creation. We really do get confused sometimes. We forget that only the Creator is to be worshipped, never the creation. At the time Genesis was written, people worshipped the sun, moon, stars, and even little idols. Do you think we have moved beyond that kind of adoration of material things?
(Use verses 3-5 and verse 14) The sun and moon are not God. He was clearly able to create light without the sun and moon. Only primitive people would be so silly as to mix up who to worship right?
Many people are entangled in new forms of idolatry. Material things still cry out for our worship and we need to get a proper perspective on the stuff of this world. We need to remember who made it all, who sustains it all, and who truly deserves our worship and adoration. An add recently stated this, “You can’t buy happiness, but now you can lease it.” Don’t worship stuff. Don’t get sucked into the materialistic notion that comes with having to have certain brands to impress others. Don’t worship the creation. The purpose of creation is so that we can truly see how good God is.
There is a phrase in this first chapter of Genesis that repeats about seven times. “And God said let there be. . . and it was so.” That is an expression of the power of God. You and I only have that kind of power in one place and that is in our bodies. You can say to your hand raise and it will do it. God has given us one little place of domain and control so that we can understand in micro form His incredible power. The other phrase is that God said was “it was good.” His creation was good. The goodness of creation is a reminder of the goodness of our Creator. There are reflections of this goodness even in the way He loved the earth.
Start with verse 21: God blessed them. Can you imagine what that was like?
Anybody here have a pet? Why do we love our pets so much? I heard this week about a guy who chartered a plane and flew his dog across three states just so they could be together. It was just the pilot and the dog on the trip. . .a private plane ride. That might seem strange but why do we love animals so much? For one things it is because God loved them. Take the love that this guy had for his pet dog and multiply it over and over, and you might get a little glimpse how God feels about His creation.
28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 1:28
God created a place where we could enter into community with Him and with each other, but we need to live with a deep awareness that the Creator and the creation are infinitely different.
Did you know that Hebrews had no name for nature? They always used the word creation. You and I can find God in the beauty of His creation. We ought to be the leading environmentalist in the whole world. This is not our house. God made it and we ought to be leading the charge to take care of it.
The apostle Paul said, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen” Romans 1:25
A healthy understanding of creation will give us a balanced perspective on material things. We should not be captivated by the stuff of this world; rather we should worship the One who made it all. Too often in this life we become enamored by material things instead of the Creator. Genesis gives us a true perspective on happiness. We can’t buy it, we can’t lease it, but God invites us to receive freely what we could never afford.
3. The climax of creation is men and women in life-giving community with God and each other. (the creation of humans)
He chose a companion to enable community.
There are two really important distinctions that God makes about humans. The first one is that we are not gods. Everything else God spoke into existence but with us the Bible says he formed from the dust. (Gen. 2:7) The opposing or dominant scientific world view of today would say that that is all we are. Little dust bunnies. We are nothing more than highly evolved apes without tales and with opposable thumbs. But that is not what Genesis says. Genesis teaches that humans are the climax of creation. Not gods but God’s finishing act of creation. Chapter 1:27 says that we are made in the image of God.
What does that mean? It means that we are free moral agents. We can make choices. We have the capacity for community. The bottom line is that people matter to God. Genesis teaches this. The story of creation teaches this. People didn’t know this or about this God.
Let me illustrate how much God wants for us to enjoy community.
29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. Genesis 1:29
The first diet in the garden was vegetarian. Some of you are wondering how that could have been paradise. I will tell you my theory on that. I think vegetables only started tasting like vegetables after the fall. (Ha!) God put Adam there to take care of and work the garden. (Gen. 2:15) Why didn’t God make the garden self weeding? God left creation with work to still be done. He created human beings with this need to contribute and add value to this earth and to work. When you and I stop doing work we start to die. The last thing I want you to see about God’s intention for community in our lives. For the first time in all of these verses God says something wasn’t good.
18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18
This is really fascinating. This is the first time God says something negative about His creation. It was not enough that Adam had all the animals and even God. He needed someone like himself to do life with. It’s sort of a humorous story if you think about it. Adam has this parade of animals come by him for days. He looks them over and he is supposed to give them all a name. Let me give it to you straight from the Bible:
19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam [h] no suitable helper was found.
Adam does a great job at naming the animals but he looks them over and says predictably, their not really my type. (personal story) God makes a woman and Adam takes a look at her and instantly approves. His response is sheer poetry.
21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs [i] and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib [j] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, [k] ' for she was taken out of man."
This is hard to translate but it says in essence, “She shall be called ishaha, for she was taken out of ish.” It is a play on words which is something that happens often in the Old Testament. Here a rough translation: Adam sees Eve and says, “Whoa—man yeah, that’s it Wo-man.
God so wanted to create community that He created this world so that we might have community with Him and with others. The word helper in the O.T. is most often referred to as God. She was not his gopher or assistant she was a representative of God created to form community. God’s math is always one. He is a trinity, one plus one plus one but it equals one. He created man plus woman but they were to equal one. There were twelve tribes of Israel but they were to be one. His math is always about one. Community is God’s idea. We promote it in this church as small groups but it is so much more. The bottom line is simply this, you were not made to do life alone. Some of you might think this is not for you because you are not married but all you have to do is read in the New Testament how they set up a program to take care of those who were not married or those who were widowed. God wants all of us to be connected to Himself and others.
As humans, we live with the risk of forgetting who we are. We live between two radically different extremes. On the one hand, we can become prideful and believe we deserve a place equal to God. Sadly this happened early in human history, and it still happens today. On the other end of the continuum is an attitude that degrades human beings and treats them as some coincidental result of a random Big Bang or cosmic accident. Between these poles lies the truth. We are God’s creation. Human beings are the apex, the pinnacle of God’s creative work. Yet, we are not God, we are His children. We are valuable because of who made us, and we are significant because of how He made us, in His image. He is the creator and we are His creation.
Infants who receive no love, touch, or words of affection can be damaged for life. Some even die. Before they can even begin to express their needs in words, the smallest of babies cry out for the community and tender touch of human beings. Children and teens long for acceptance and will do almost anything to have a sense they fit in and belong to some group, club or even a gang if that’s what it takes to satisfy their hunger for community.
This need does not go away as we become adults. There seems to be some deep unyielding cry of the heart that says, “I don’t want to be alone. I need to love and be loved. My heart is crying out for a place where I can be accepted and belong.”
Use the three chairs illustration.
From the beginning to the end of our lives, we hunger and long for community. We were not made to be alone, but in loving and life-giving relationship with God and each other. God, who exists in eternal community as Father, Son and Holy Spirit., invites us into the beauty and wonders of fellowship with Him. He also makes it possible for us to connect heart to heart with each other. This journey toward authentic community begins in the first verses of Genesis and finds it culmination in the final verses of Revelation. We were made for community, and it is God’s plan to bring us into life-giving relationship with Him and each other. The longing of our heart can only be satisfied when we enter God’s plan for community.
God is community – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – living together in perfect harmony.
You have created me in Your image – I am created for community.
When you feel alone and isolated from God and people and feel that no one really cares . . .
Send me your Spirit, Lord, and send me a friend.
When you are afraid that you don’t have anything to offer and people are better off without you around . . .
Show me the value of the unique gifts you have created within me.
When all you can see are the failures you’ve had in relationships and the hurt you’ve caused . . .
Lead me to someone who needs me to show them the love of Christ.
When your life is so comfortable that you don’t feel like you need anyone else . . .
Remind me that you left heaven to come and rescue me.
Lord, together we thank you for the life you have called us to live for you. Thank you for community with you and with others. We want to live like you – created for community.
This sermon and series is based on material provided by J. Ortberg and the OTC series.