First Mennonite Church
November 12, 2017
Back to the Basics of Christian Life I: God Our Creator
Texts: Genesis 1:1-2:1-4; Hebrews 1:1-4
Some Sundays ago, Karen gave me a booklet written especially for pastors. The title of the booklet is: Back to Basics. Today I want to start a new series called “Back to Basics in Christian Life.” This series is not a reproduction of the contents of that booklet in any way, nor the reason for it. The reason for this series is simply because every believer in Christ Jesus needs constant reminder that Christian life can easily drift into an irrelevant and shallow religious life. I, therefore, pray that if you have already made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will renew that commitment. I pray that each of us would break away from the slightest form of spiritual stagnation and receive from the Lord a burning desire to love him with all our mind, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength. And if you have never invited Jesus in [preferable: into] your life, I hope that through this series God will help you know him and make you able to know when he comes knocking at the door of your life. I pray for all of us for humility to relearn the basic Christian teachings.
Let us pray.
In this endeavor of going back to the basics, the first question we need to address is, who is the God of the Bible? Christian faith assumes the existence of God. Belief demands an object or person to be believed in and for the Christian faith, a God upon whom this belief is set. So once again, who is God?
Some people refer to God as the “Big Man up there.” The Bible is the book of testimony of how God made himself known, not only to the Israelites but to the world. The Bible is the story of God’s revelation first to the people of Israel and then to Christian communities both in Judea and in the Gentile World. What is written in the Bible are the accounts of events which the Israelite and Christian writers believed were ways in which God was revealing himself. The Bible, therefore, is the witness of God’s people to their faith in God who revealed himself through the things he did and through his Son Jesus Christ.
It should not surprise us, therefore, if Genesis does not begin by explaining the nature or the background of God. Genesis does not begin by describing the face of God or how and where he came from. Genesis portrays God as stepping into the realm within which human beings can get to know him. (I must clarify that my reference to God with the male pronoun “him” is in keeping with the Biblical usage). Genesis portrays God first as a Creator God. So let us read Genesis one and part of chapter 2.
Read: Genesis 1:1-2:4
As Christians we confess that God is the Creator. We confess that the worlds were created by the word of God. “God said . . . . And it was so” (Genesis 1:19). Yet, often times when we read or hear the Genesis story of creation, our minds become flooded with scientific questions. We, somehow, expect these texts to address those questions, but they simply do not. It is here that we should be reminded that Genesis 1 and 2 are not a scientific report of the origins of the world and they do not pretend to tell us in detail how God created the world. Rather, Genesis simply and pointedly affirms that God was and still is a creating God, who brings into being that which was not.
Genesis creation stories are a confession of faith. Through these stories the people of God attributed to God’s creative work everything their eyes could see. Through this confession of faith of a Creator God, the people of God both affirmed and negated fundamental aspects about their faith. In other words, Israel wanted to be very specific on the issues they wanted to affirm or deny. First of all, through these stories of creation they wanted to reject polytheism, which is the belief that there are many gods. Yahweh, alone is the Lord Creator God. They also wanted to reject pantheism, which is the belief that everything is part of the divine. Again, Israel wanted to confess that God is completely other and separate from everything created. Yet, another belief Israel wanted to reject is animism, which is the belief that God is in all things. These beliefs that Israel wanted to reject are practically the bases for most, if not all, the religions of the peoples that surrounded them. Some worshipped the sea, the stars, the moon, or the forces of nature. Israel was forbidden from bowing down before or worshipping images of things on earth, in heaven, or in the seas. The creation stories in Genesis set the foundation for Israel’s confession of faith in a God that is above all idols, of a God who is not part of the created world, of a God who is sovereign, and most importantly, of a God who is actively involved in history, not only the history of his people but of the entire world.
The creation story is the affirmation of God’s people on how God carries out his purposes in history. With this in mind, it is important to know that the creation story in Genesis one and two is only complete when we read Genesis one to eleven. These chapters give the stories of the origin not only of the world, of every living thing and the stage from which the history of Israel can be understood, but also of marriage, sin, death, the world’s peoples and cultures. With the Creation story being God’s work at the beginning of time, the people of Israel also understood that sometime this linear history will come to an end at the culmination of time—the Day of the Lord. The human fall that occurred in the beginning will be made right at the consummation of history when God’s righteousness comes at the end of time. This is our belief as Christians. Revelations 21 tells us that the one who was seated on the throne said, “I am making all things new.” On that day there will be no pain nor tears in our eyes. The old will pass away and God will create a new heaven and a new earth. Our belief in a Creator God also points to a God who was at the beginning and who will be at the end of time. He is first and last (Isaiah 48:12). God is eternal.
Again, the creation stories in Genesis are a confession of faith that God freely chooses to create and that his purposes are clearly expressed in the works of his creation. Each living being is given a space, the fish for the water, the birds for the air, and Adam and Eve for a garden to care for and enjoy. But although Adam and Eve were given the freedom to eat from every tree except one, they were also given responsibilities and boundaries. Although they were God’s crown creatures, they were not gods.
In light of the fact that the creation stories are a confession of faith of the people of God, it is only natural that creation and nature are recalled in the context of worship. This connection between creation and worship in the Bible is very important for us to bear in mind. God as Creator is not only found in Genesis. God as Creator is found in Job, Psalms, Isaiah and other books in the Bible. And each time the biblical writers make mention of creation it is in the context of praise and worship. Listen to the beauty of this song of praise:
1 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens. 3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:1, 2-4)
Or hear this one:
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
Our reflection and conversation about creation should lead us to worship. Yet, so often worship is not the primary reason Christians discuss the topic of creation. So very often the reason we discuss the topic of creation is reactionary. Often times Christians refer to the Creation stories in Genesis in their effort to refute science or spend much energy trying to determine whether each “day” of the six-days of creation was a 24-hour day or if it was a 1000-year period, as 2Peter 3:8 states. In other cases Christians are tempted to harmonize the Genesis stories with modern day scientific explanations of the origin of life and the world. We should remember that science has its proper place in the fields of human studies, but it cannot or should not replace the message of the Bible. But it is also very important that we do not take the Bible as the scientific explanation of the origin of life and the world. The creation stories are a confession of faith that everything, including our lives, has its origin in the heart of God.
The confession that God is Creator is fundamental to our Christian faith. We believe that the redeeming work of Jesus Christ is best understood in light of a Creator God. Our first human ancestors breached their God-given boundaries. They heeded the word of the crafty creature instead of the Creator God. That is exactly what Paul says in Romans one, verse 25: (They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.). God did not try to remake them and bring them to their former perfect state. He looked forward to restoring them. In this forward-looking act of God to restore the race of Adam and Eve, the coming of Jesus makes clear sense. Jesus is the Word of God who speaks life where death reigns. He gave us life when we were dead in our trespasses, says Paul. And it is here that God’s present and continuous creative activity is most visibly evident. God continues to create and regenerate through the redeeming work of Christ on the cross. You and I have been recreated by God. We are the works of his hands not only in the sense that the human race came from God, but also because our lives give witness to the regenerating power of God. If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation, says the apostle Paul. Let us allow God to recreate our heart. Let us be witnesses that the Creator God continues to create newness in each of us. Amen