The Gospel According to Genesis: A God Who Makes Promises, Part 2

There are a couple of important points to make about the flood story: 

  1. The flood account reveals God’s wrath against sin. 

The flood story makes clear that God’s wrath is kindled because of sin. We’re reminded of the foundational truth of Genesis 1 — that we were made in the likeness of God, created to image God. But sin corrupts and distorts that image — it has the power to “uncreate” God’s good creation. And God doesn’t like it when anyone or anything gets in the way of His purposes. So His wrath burns against sin and it’s power to uncreate. 
In the story of Noah, we see that God does not turn a blind eye to the sin in the world. He pronounces judgment — because He would fail to be the just and holy God if He ignored sin and its power. 

Years ago, there was a church in town that had an interesting slogan on their sign. It wasn’t one of those church signs that was changed out every couple of weeks, either; it was permanent. Just underneath the name of the church, the sign said, “God’s not mad at you, no matter what.” And that always struck me as an odd thing for a church to put on the sign because the Bible is filled with story after story of God’s anger burning against sin — AND against people who commit those sins. Throughout the Old Testament, God tells Israel that His anger burns against them. Jesus expresses anger in the form of righteous zeal when he cleanses the temple in His ministry. 

Based upon what I find in the Bible, I think it’s entirely possible for God to be mad at me sometimes — in fact, in those times when I’ve committed sins even though I knew what I was doing was wrong, I think God was DEFINITELY mad at me. 

If we assume that God has somehow mellowed out with regard to His attitude toward sin, we should think again. We would do well to remember the Israelite picture of God as a Divine Warrior. After He delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, Moses sang, The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name, (Exodus 15:3). This was on the heels of the parting of the Red Sea — similar to the flood account in that they are both acts of judgment and deliverance through water. And both stories reveal God as a warrior who always fights against the “uncreating” power of sin. 

It seems that we should hear the flood story as a dire warning. God does not take sin lightly. It is a grave matter to Him. The sin in our lives is a problem that needs to be addressed. And thankfully, that’s the other important part of the flood story. 

  1. The flood account reveals God’s covenant-making, promise-keeping character. 

God is a divine warrior, but He is much more than that, too. God is a covenant-making God. He does not desire to wage war against you, but against the sin in your life. He knows full well the power of sin, but He responds by entering into covenant — by making promises and keeping them. Think about that: God’s way of fixing what is broken is to make promises.

This points us to God’s faithfulness as an enduring hallmark of His character but also as the most powerful force in the universe. The reason we can have hope today is because God makes and keeps His promises. 

The sign of this covenant promise is the rainbow. God says, I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. In the Scriptures, the word “bow” usually describes a weapon of war — like “bow and arrow.” I think we’re certainly right to think of it this way in light of the destruction of the flood. The Divine Warrior has been engaged in battle against sin and wickedness. But now, on this side of the flood, the “bow” is not a weapon of war any more. The bow God sets in the clouds is a reminder of peace. It is the sign of the covenant treaty. It signifies that God has laid down His weapon. One Jewish rabbi says the rainbow symbolizes this because it is a bow pointed away from the earth. God says He will never again destroy all flesh in this manner — and the rainbow stands as the eternal reminder of this covenant.

This may the most important point of all: God believes in promises — He believes in making promises and keeping those promises. The rest of the Scriptures testify to His covenant-making, promise-keeping character: 

  • Psalm 105:8, He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations…
  • In Revelation 4, John is granted a vision of the heavenly throne. And around the throne he sees a rainbow (Rev. 4:3), an eternal reminder of God’s covenant with all humanity. 

The flood account tells us of the great power of God’s promises. And these covenant promises find fulfillment one day in Jesus, the Messiah. 

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you…was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. 

2 Corinthians 1:19-20

God’s covenant-making, promise-keeping character is most fully demonstrated in Jesus. Everything God ever promised comes to fulfillment in Him. 


Today, we need to hear this as a strong word against sin. If there is sin in your life, repent and turn to God. Ask for His forgiveness, for His wrath is kindled when we sin — because of sin’s power to “uncreate.” But the flood story also reminds us that God’s response to sin is to provide a cleansing through water. In 1 Peter 3, Simon Peter compares this to baptism. Speaking of the flood, the Apostle says: 

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

1 Peter 3:21

There is an act of new creation that comes through the water. It comes through confessing our sins but also through confessing the lordship of Jesus. It comes through the cleansing flood of being immersed in Jesus — that’s what the waters of baptism represent. And it comes through His gracious promise to redeem you and to make you whole.

God believes in making and keeping promises.

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Why You Should Read Your Bible

These guys with Messenger International point out something fascinating about the power of reading the Bible four times a week. God’s Word is powerful.

Reading the Bible 4X per week from Messenger International on Vimeo.

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NFL Playoff Picks: Divisional Round

So we began our annual NFL Playoff Picks last week. Joshua and I had a pretty good week; not so much for Jackson and Mom. Here’s how we fared:

Jason: 3-1

Joshua: 3-1

Abby Kate: 2-2

Jackson: 1-3

Sunny: 1-3

Now it’s time for our picks for the Divisional Round:

Sunny:

  • 49ers over Vikings
  • Titans over Ravens
  • Chiefs over Texans
  • Packers over Seahawks

Joshua:

  • 49ers over Vikings
  • Titans over Ravens
  • Chiefs over Texans
  • Packers over Seahawks

Jackson:

  • Vikings over 49ers
  • Ravens over Titans
  • Chiefs over Texans
  • Packers over Seahawks

Jason:

  • 49ers over Vikings
  • Ravens over Titans
  • Chiefs over Texans
  • Packers over Seahawks

Abby Kate:

  • 49ers over Vikings
  • Titans over Ravens
  • Texans over Chiefs
  • Seahawks over Packers

Can’t wait for these games to get started.

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The Gospel According to Genesis: A God Who Creates, Part 3

We’ve been talking about the biblical truth that God is our Creator. But the biblical story points to a force that works against God’s purposes in creation. It’s a force that undoes the good of God’s original creation. In this way, it is a force that “uncreates” what God sets out to create. That force is called “sin.” We don’t like to talk about sin — it doesn’t do much for our self-esteem and our happiness, so often times we avoid it. But this is another foundational truth in the scriptures: we’re all guilty of sin. 

So here’s how this works: we are made in the image of God, made to reflect His light and His love and His goodness. But sin corrupts the image of God in us. We could say it pollutes that divine image, distorts that divine image; it changes the way we look. So Sin is the great “uncreator” because it creates something other than what God would intend. We may be made in God’s image, but there are times when we don’t look very much like that because sin has corrupted that image almost beyond recognition. Sin always does this — it distorts the image of God in us, driving a wedge in our relationship with God and also our relationship with others. The Bible is very clear on this one — sin is a game changer. 

In the biblical story, the goodness of God’s creation is undone when Adam and Eve eat of the fruit that was forbidden — fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had already declared His creation to be good, but He had also declared that something was not good — specifically to eat of this fruit. And this is important: when they reach for this fruit, Adam and Eve are seeking to define good and evil for themselves. They are not simply reaching for a meal they’ve never had before; they are reaching beyond their station, reaching for God-like status. 

We are made in the image of God but we are NOT God. We are incapable of defining good and evil apart from outside revelation from God. In fact, we often call evil good and good evil as it says in Isaiah 5:20, Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness. Adam and Eve sin when they decide it’s a good thing to disobey the direct command of God. And I think we understand that because we do the same thing, do we not? We reach beyond our station, we forget our place. In our world, evil is being called good and good is being called evil so much that it will make your head spin. 

This is the sobering bad news of the biblical story. God looks at sin and it’s work of “uncreation” and He says, “This is very bad.” And I bet you can look at the consequences of sin in your own life and reach the same conclusion. I know I can. Sin keeps me from being the person God created me to be and it damages my relationships with other people. 


But this is exactly where we need to look at the Genesis story through the lens of the Jesus story. The image of God is corrupted by sin; we’ve established that. But the good news is that God has acted in Jesus to restore the divine image in us. Only in Jesus are we able to live according to God’s purposes once more — through His death and resurrection. 

The writers of the New Testament talk about the work of Jesus as “new creation” work. He rose on the first day of the week, which takes us back to the first day of creation in Genesis. If sin has the power to “uncreate” Jesus sets out to re-create — to redeem us from our slavery to sin, to reconcile us back to God, and to restore creation to God’s original good purposes. 

And, to echo what God said in Genesis, this news is very good. It is very good news that we don’t have to be slaves to sin any longer. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 

2 Corinthians 5:17

This verse contains Paul’s favorite phrase: “in Christ.” Paul is always contrasting the difference between being “in Christ” and to not be “in Christ.” To not be in Christ is to continue to live in the land of uncreation — to remain beholden to sin and it’s corrupting, perverting, distorting power. But to be in Christ is to live in an entirely different realm — it is to become a new creation. 

And when we become a new creation, we are set free to once again pursue the purposes for which God created us — we are free to image Him once more. This includes the good works for which He created us. 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Ephesians 2:10

When we are “in Christ” we are created anew. And Paul uses a unique word here — we are God’s “workmanship.” Paul intentionally uses the Greek word poiema — from which we get our English word “poem.” It’s a word that refers to a creative composition, like a poem, a sculpture, a song. In essence, Paul says that when we are in Christ, we are God’s masterpiece. God’s original good purposes are restored to us and we are free to pursue the good works He has prepared for us. 

When we are in Christ, God once again looks at us and says, “This is very good.” 

To be in Christ is to be a new creation. 

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The Gospel According to Genesis: A God Who Creates, Part 2

The Bible begins with this universal truth: God is the Creator. Not only are we all created by God; we’re also created a particular way, for a particular purpose. According to Genesis 1:27, all humanity bears the image of God. 

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

Genesis 1:27

Not only does God tell us that He is our Creator, He makes it very clear that we are made “in his own image.” This is another foundational truth of the Scriptures. Every human being is important in the eyes of God — because He creates each person in His image. This gives intrinsic value to every human life. You are important to God because you were made in His image. This is part of humanity’s universal identity. 

And this is a radical truth — everyone we love is made in the image of God; but so was everyone we struggle to love. We don’t get to pick and choose on this one. God, as Creator, has determined that every human life matters because every human life bears His image. 

When I was young, we sang a song about this in Sunday school. It was called “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” And the song said that everyone, no matter the color of their skin or their nationality, all are “precious in His sight.” Some of you might remember that song. It’s rooted in this idea from Genesis, the idea that God has created us to bear His image. Easy to apply to children, but what about grown ups? I think the point is the same…

So who is “precious in His sight?” Everyone. 

  • Male and female, they are precious in His sight
  • Old and young, they are precious in His sight
  • Rich and poor
  • Christian and atheist and agnostic and Muslim and Buddhist — because they’re humans, they’re precious in His sight.

Now, there’s a lot more we could say from the Bible about differences in worldview and religion and all of that. But as important as those things might be, they flow out of an understanding that all humanity is precious in His sight. 

And you can make the same application on the basis of economic status, race, sexual identity, political affiliation, etc. 

  • Your next-door neighbor and the homeless man on the street corner, they are precious in His sight
  • African-American and Latino are precious in His sight
  • Gay and straight are precious in His sight
  • Boomer and Millennial are precious in His sight
  • Conservative and liberal are precious in His sight
  • Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi, both are precious in His sight
  • Auburn fans AND Alabama fans

You can take this as far as you want to take it and the point is still the same. They are all “precious in His sight” because every human being throughout history has been made in the image of God. That is a bedrock truth in the word of God — one that we have to go back and recover from time to time.

God is your Creator. That means you are precious in His sight.

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The Gospel According to Genesis: A God Who Creates, Part 1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 

Genesis 1:1

With these words, God sets out to tell the most epic story of all. 

The Bible is the story of the God who creates. That’s one of the foundational truths in the Bible. These opening words establish God’s ownership of the entire world — the world belongs to Him because He has created it. David says the same thing in Psalm 24:1, The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. In many of the creation stories in the Ancient Near East, things like water and the sun were considered to be divine. But the biblical story says, “No, these things were created by God.”

That’s the first verb in the Bible — create. Scholars have noted that throughout the Bible, this word is only used to describe the activity of God. Men and women don’t create; angels don’t create. In the biblical story, only God creates. So again this is one of the foundational truths of the Scriptures; you could even say it is THE foundational truth. Everything else flows out of these words: In the beginning, God created…

And in Genesis 1&2, we find the story of God’s creative work — He creates the heavens and the earth, the sun and the moon, birds and fish and “every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” God speaks and things happen — because there is always power in the Word of God. His Word has always been and always will be THAT powerful. 

And God surveys all that He has created and He says, “This is good.” And the crowning achievement of that creation is humanity. God breathes into man His ruach —His wind, His breath, His spirit — and the spark of life ignites. The first man opens his eyes to see his Creator standing over him, smiling as He says, “Now this is very good.” 

But the story we read in Genesis isn’t just a story of how it all began. This is just as much a story about how it all begins, for you and for me. 

God’s Word opens with a summons to recognize that we, too, are created beings. Just like the rest of creation, we have a definitive point of origin — a beginning. There was a moment when I wasn’t and then there was a moment when I was. We have received that same ruach — that same wind, that same breath from God that brings us to life. 
That’s the application of this foundational truth from the Scriptures: we have a Creator; we are created. God’s Word puts this identity ahead of any other identity for us. It comes ahead of any sort of gendered identity or marital identity or parental identity. It comes before any identity of work or achievement or even failure. More than anything else, you are God’s creation. This is your truest identity. 

And this also means that you’ll find your greatest fulfillment in Him — in your Creator, not in any other identity or any other relationship. 

Several years ago, I was having coffee with a friend of mine who is a marriage counselor. I was asking him about his practice and he said something that was a revelation to me. He said that one of the reasons so many marriages fail is because we put unrealistic expectations upon our spouses. We buy into the false narrative pushed on us by Hollywood and Hallmark, a narrative that says he/she is “the one”, that he/she “completes” me, makes my life perfect or whatever. We put this expectation on this flawed person to make us whole, to fulfill all of our hopes and dreams and desires — which, when you think about it, is kind of ridiculous. That’s a weight far too heavy for any flawed person to bear. And when that reality eventually comes crashing in, guess what happens to the marriage? All too often we cash in our chips and say, “I guess he / she wasn’t really the one after all.” And the relationship falls apart because we expect our significant other to do for us what only God can do. 

The only thing that can truly “complete” you is the finished work of God in Jesus Christ. God is the one who created you; therefore God is the only one who can complete you.

We are the handiwork of a God who creates.

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