Creation and Re-creation
Genesis 1 – Revelation 22
I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?
Sam to Frodo, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
I sometimes feel like Sam Gamgee must have felt when he asked that question. Have you? There are times when things seem to happen around me that I know I can’t control – but, at the same time, I sense that there is a purpose for them. I felt that way during the search that led Chris and me to Lake Avenue Church. We were making real decisions but, even as we were making them, it seemed like there was a bigger plan being played out in the church and in our lives.
If you ever read what sociologists say about the different generations in our culture, many of them say that one main characteristic of “Gen–Xers” (born 65-80) was that those of you in that grouping don’t like this idea of a “metanarrative”, a big story at play in our world. You supposedly don’t want to think that there is an outside authority at work in this world working out a plan and affecting your lives. If that’s true (and I’m not sure it is), then this really has changed with you who are “Millennials” (born 1981-2000) who are said to long for your lives to be a part of a bigger story.
Whatever you think about that, the Bible says you and I are a part of a bigger story, a work of God in our world to take what is broken by sin in this world and to make it right. The Bible says that the “tale we’ve fallen into” is a plan God has had from eternity past that will end with a kingdom of peace and justice. It will be a kingdom in which people from every people group, language and nation will be around the throne of God and each on of us will be conformed to the image of Jesus.
For the last several weeks, we have been looking at how created the world. When he completed that creation, everything was very good.
But then we came last week to Genesis 3, possibly the darkest chapter in the Bible. It tells how evil entered into paradise. If you don’t read it carefully, you may think that there is no hope at all for human beings. Look at how it ends in v. 24: After he drove them out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
It seems like eventual death and no future beyond it is all that is in store for people. But… But in spite of all it says about temptation, sin, and judgment, in Gen 3, God doesn't leave Adam and Eve in despair ‑‑ or us.
So today, I want us to look, believe it or not, at the whole story of the Bible. We’ll see how those who were in paradise and then lost it – are to find paradise again. Let’s look at the big and beautiful story of the love relationship of God to people made in his image as told “in the gardens.”
The Beginning: God’s story with us started in a garden -- Eden (Genesis 1-3)
Do you remember that the powerful God who spoke everything into being and made everything very good is described as a God who talks with people, walks with people and trusts people with the authority to further his rule and care in this world? And it all begins in the Garden of Eden. At the end of chapter 2, everything is “right” in creation. But, in chapter 3, the man and woman chose to put themselves into God’s place.
The People’s Choice
* They became proud and put themselves into God’s place.
* They rebelled and disobeyed the clear will of God.
* They grasped at the forbidden fruit of the tree and willingly sinned.
We’ll come back to those three acts at the end of the message. This experience of evil opened the people’s eyes to evil so, in shame, that they hid in the bushes from one another and from God.
Then, in 3:8, this powerful and holy God walked into the garden where Adam and Eve were hiding. A first-time reader of the story would ask, “What will he do with these people who have disobeyed him?” We learn some wonderful things about God through what he does:
Lesson #1: God is a God Who Seeks
The first sign of hope is that, even after the great sins, God came seeking after those He has made and loved. In v. 9, God asked, “Where are you?” With this question, God wasn’t trying to shame the people he loves. And, his question wasn’t the demand of the policeman who has to bring in two hardened criminals. God’s question is the agonized appeal of a parent looking for a much-loved but wayward son or daughter.
God has never waited for people to seek Him. If He did, He would wait forever – so, I tell you if you have walked away from him this week, He comes looking for you too. I tell you that God has already said "yes" to you. He only asks you to turn away from sin, confess it to him, and trust Him.
Be sure of this today: No matter where you are or what you might be hiding, God is looking for you today ‑‑ just as He looked for Adam and Eve.
Lesson #2: God is a God Who Provides
Matt made this point last week but I want you to notice how quickly God made provision for the Adam and Eve’s immediate need ‑‑ even though they had brought the problem upon themselves? The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Gen. 3:21).
And God did what he always does. He freed up Adam and Eve from their pathetic human attempts to patch up their shame by providing them with something better – leaves have never been good clothing!
And, even as he provided for their shame, God still kept His word. Sin did have consequences as it always does. Adam and Even are separated from God and from paradise. They begin to die physically. But, do not miss this: God’s provision shows that when God judges our sin, he doesn’t do it out of petty malice. It’s not: "I'm bigger ‑‑ I'll show them." No, God is here making it bearable for human beings to live out of Eden ‑‑ even though they had sinned. God is “Jehovah-Jireh”, the one who provides.
Lesson #3: God is a God who is making “all things new.”
In my mind, the most intriguing verse in this chapter is God’s word to the tempter v. 15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.
You might be able to imagine how much debate this has engendered among scholars over the centuries. I won’t go over all those views. I will say, at least, this: I believe God is promising in this verse that those who do evil will be judged and that, ultimately, all evil will be crushed. But, he is also saying that there will be a good end to the story. Evil will be judged and goodness will triumph.
In v. 15, we catch the first glimpse of the fact that God knows what the future will hold. The seed of the woman would come to this world. The Tempter would injure him, but he would destroy the Tempter.
And so, with this statement, the curtain is drawn aside just for a moment on that, as Same Gamgee said, the “tale we are in”. It is a tale of the great battle, which has filled all history. The relationship between God and people made in his image has been disrupted in Genesis 3. Will God and the now-sinful human beings made in his image ever come back together again? Well, to answer that, let me take us now to the end of the story.
The Culmination: God’s story will find fulfillment in a city-garden -- New Jerusalem.
I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away... I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" (from Revelation 21:1-5)
Do you see it? Our world will again be a world that is very good. God will again “walk with” people. The relationship with God that we have been made for will be restored completely. And it will be a city of people because there will now be people with whom God walks from every nation, people group and every language.
But, the city will have a garden-like quality. It will be like walking through the new Grand Park in downtown LA, with its majestic views extending from the Music Center to City Hall. Listen to God’s Word:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life... And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (from Revelation 22:1-6).
After our times together in Genesis 1-3, do you see how God is bringing his story to completion?
*Right relationship with God restored – he will walk with us again.
*Right relationship with our world restored – pollution gone; people caring for the rest of creation well.
*And right relationship with one another – nations healed, no marriage or family problems!
What a story! Don’t you long for the ending? When the Bible ends with Jesus saying, “I am coming soon!” – don’t you want to say with Rev. 22:20, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
What turned the tide? How is God accomplishing this? Let’s go to another garden.
The turning point: God’s story of victory takes us to a garden -- Gethsemane.
When Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (From Matthew 26:36-42)
Jesus, was in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that he soon would go to a cross and experience not only physical death – but, in dying, he will also carry the punishment for the sins of the world. Jesus was aware of the indescribable suffering that he would have to go through. But, more than that, he knew he had a choice to make: a choice between going through with this crucifixion or avoiding it. Jesus was wrestling with the possibility of escape. He had to choose between his Father’s will and his own will. When we see Jesus in the Garden, we see a man, just like Adam in Genesis 3, with a decision to make! “My will” or “the Father’s will.”
Twice he tried to get comfort from his friends and twice he found them asleep. Jesus’ words in vv. 40-41 are so significant: “Could you not watch with me for an hour? Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.”
You see Jesus, at that very moment, was experiencing a collision between the desire for obedience and the desire for escape. He wanted to do the will of the Father – his spirit was willing. But he wanted to avoid the cross – but the body is weak. Which did he want more? That was the issue. The Father’s will or his will?
Remember the early days of the “tale we’re in” when the “first Adam” had stood in a garden and faced a similar choice. But Adam had chosen selfishly. Made in the image of God he wanted equality with God. The serpent told him, “You shall be like God.” And the result of his decision? Cosmic disaster.
In Matthew 26, we see the “Second Adam” in a garden. He bears the untainted-by-sin image of God. He has the opportunity to reverse his predecessor’s failure.
Jesus’ Choice vs. Adam’s Choice:
* Where Adam was proud, Jesus could, if he chose, humble himself.
* Where Adam rebelled, Jesus could, if he chose, be obedient.
* Where Adam grasped at the forbidden fruit of the tree, Jesus could, if he chose, grasp the wood of the cross.
What would he do? Though the spirit was willing, Jesus said, the body is weak.
Where would Jesus find the strength to make such a costly decision? The Bible gives us the answer three times: *V. 39: Jesus fell to the ground and prayed. *V. 42: He went away a second time… and prayed.
*V. 44: He went away a third time and prayed. And the Bible tells us that each time he prayed the same thing. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will but as you will.”
The Big Question: “Why did Jesus make the right decision in the Garden of Gethsemane and Adam make the wrong one in the Garden of Eden?”
Theologians have always debated this question. I will only say one thing with absolute assurance: Jesus was not play-acting in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had a real decision to make. Jesus could distinguish his will from the Father’s. If he would die on the cross and bear our sins, it would not be because he was the victim of fate. It would be as a voluntary sacrifice.
So, I ask again, how did Jesus choose right when Adam chose wrong? The Bible lets us know that Jesus made the right decision because he prayed. The Garden of Eden is conspicuous for its lack of prayer. Adam didn’t want to acknowledge God’s presence because Adam wanted to go his own way. But the Garden of Gethsemane is filled with prayer.
And out of his blood-inducing prayer on our behalf, Jesus urges us to be people of prayer. “Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” Know this: Above all things, prayer is a seeking of God’s will with a heart to do his will rather than our own.
And that brings us to us! We’re in an in-between time in this “tale we’re in”, aren’t we? We’re not at Revelation 22 yet! What is this saying to us? What is it saying to you?
It’s saying that you can already be forgiven of your sin. You can now know God through faith in Jesus. You can experience the beginning of God’s renewing work now! You can begin to live in your relationships as God created you to do. And, now, rescued by faith in Jesus and filled with God’s Spirit, you and I can go out into the world and further God’s reign. You can care for the needs and pains of people in the world instead of just living for yourself. You can call people to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus.
But, until God finishes his work we’re in God’s new city-garden, don’t be surprised by the difficulties that fill our world. While you’re waiting for Jesus to return and finish his work, let me tell you this:
1. Decisions between right and wrong will involve struggle. Doing right is still not easy. Breaking addictions is not easy. Following Jesus when all your family and friends mock at it is not easy. Don’t be surprised. No one was a better “Christian” than Jesus – but still making the right choice was a struggle.
2. The Lord Jesus will understand the temptations you feel and will meet you in their midst. We Christians often are embarrassed to own up to the particular struggles and temptations we feel. “No other Christian has these,” we think. “Jesus would surely never have faced these,” we also think. Well, think again. Jesus understands the struggles we go through to see the will of God obeyed in our lives. And, he will not leave us alone.
3. When you face temptation and have a decision to make, prayer is the key. It must be biblical prayer. Learn from Jesus that prayer is not a way to get our own will done. We can ask God for anything in prayer. But, true prayer always acknowledges that God is God. So, be honest and don’t try to hide when you are struggling. Bring your requests to him. But, when you pray, acknowledge that He is the Lord. Know this: When you pray – truly pray – the bottom line always is, “Not as I will, but as you will.”
What do you do when your will points one way and God’s Word points another? You have a choice to make? What do you do? Jesus shows you that you should pray. And how do you pray? It’s a tough prayer. The spirit may be willing but your flesh is weak. But, when you have victories in prayer – victories when you struggle with a temptation and then make a decision to obey God’s way rather than your own desire – become the greatest moments of your entire spiritual life. When you compare the first Adam in Eden and the second Adam in Gethsemane, you see this:
The kingdom of God never advances more triumphantly than when God’s people, faced with a strong desire to go our own ways, find the humility and courage to pray, “Your will be done.”
When you do, it will be to your joy and to God’s glory.
Next Week: Made New Romans 5-8
How God takes us from where we are to being made complete in Christ.
在過去兩個月中，Matt Barnes 組織我們教會的科學工作者就創世記與科學的問題進行了系列討論，帶給教牧同工很大幫助。我猜你們也都知道，我們教會某些會友認為上帝是在近一萬年前創造了萬物；與此同時，還有更多在洛杉磯地區的耶穌跟隨者們相信，人們所觀察到的世界至少有一百三十七億年的歷史了。並且，這兩群耶穌的門徒都相信聖經的真確性。
2月19日 與Richard Averbeck博士談聖經與創造