Monday, September 22, 2008
A Whole-Bible Explanation of the Gospel
II. Creation - God was and would have continued to be fully self-sufficient and perfectly glorious without any creation, but he chose to create the universe with its stars and planets, various forms of life, angelic and human beings. The angels were made without bodies to serve God and the humans he would create, but they have sometimes appeared to humans in bodily form to communicate God’s messages. Satan and evil spirits are angels originally created good, who rebelled against God in pride and jealousy. God has allowed them to continue in existence as evil beings, until a future judgment brings them to their doom. None of them is eternal or all powerful.
God made humans, male and female, to be the apex of his creation and gave them the responsibility of ruling over and caring for the rest of creation. God’s purpose was to live among his people as their God and to enjoy a family-fellowship with them. Adam and Eve were specially created in the image of God, without sin, to found the human race. All people on earth have descended from them.
III. Sin and Death - God had graciously given Adam and Eve the entire universe, with a specially planted garden as their home. They had free permission from God to eat from every tree except one, which represented a desire to decide what is good and evil independently from God. When tempted to disobey God (by Satan, speaking through a serpent), Adam and Eve rebelled. As God had warned them, this brought death to the human race: (1) mortality and certain physical death; (2) moral death through the darkening of the mind, perversion of the emotions, and enslaving of the will; (3) alienation among humans because of self-centeredness sin brought with it; and (4) separation from fellowship with God. A holy God could not have close fellowship with sinful people. This separation would ultimately result in (5) an eternal isolation from God and his goodness in a punishment designed for the rebellious angelic beings.
Besides the internal changes within humans and the future judgment that resulted from rebellion, God placed a curse on his creation because of human sin. This was partly a punishment, and partly a self-protective discipline. Some of the results of this curse were painful toil, painful childbirth, and a frustration of the potential of creation. Sin and death had directly threatened God’s purpose of living with his people. But God had a plan to restore that purpose and to fulfill it for his own glory and for the benefit of humanity.
IV. Substitution - God planned to restore people to himself through the atonement of substitution. God would accept the death of an innocent sacrifice in place of the deserved death of the sinner. A system of animal sacrifices, temple ceremonies, and priests demonstrated both the problem of sin that brings death and the solution of redemption through a sinless sacrifice. But the animal sacrifices could not truly pay the penalty owed by humans in God’s image. (Neither could human sacrifice, which God specifically condemned.) They only painted a picture of a perfect substitution that God himself would offer some day.
V. Savior - Throughout the Old Testament God promised to send a savior who would be the true substitute, who would defeat sin and Satan, who would restore the cursed creation to its original purpose of being a place where God could live with his people. The New Testament presents Jesus Christ as the Savior who met the requirements of God’s promises (being both God and Man in one person, being born through the proper line, and sinlessly meeting all the righteousness of God’s law). Jesus’ death on the cross was his willing substitution in place of sinners. His resurrection from the dead was his victory into which he invites us. Jesus’ return, which could happen any day, will complete our salvation through our resurrection and glorification.
VI. Repentance and Faith - The good news of Jesus Christ is that if we will repent and believe, we will be set free from sin and its results for ever. Repenting means that we take responsibility for human sin—the specific acts of sin we have done and the rebellious heart that we inherited. We recognize that we deserve death in all its forms, and nothing we do (not religious ceremonies, good deeds, trying harder, or anything else) can make up for our sin. Faith means we put our trust fully in what Jesus did in paying our penalty and earning our acceptance with God. We are not called to a generic “faith in God,” but to a specific faith that God has provided a way through his perfect substitute, and that only Jesus can free us from sin.
VII. New Creation - When we repent and believe, we become part of the new creation where God is remaking his sin-spoiled world into its original purpose so he can live in it with his people. The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to our hearts to transform us from rebels into fellowshipping children of God. The change is a life-long project done in partnership with other believers. We cooperate with God in renewing our minds to think about things like God does. This leads to behavior that demonstrates the image of God and the character of Christ. We become part of the church, through which God makes disciples who follow Jesus and devote their lives to joyful service to him.
We look forward to a new creation of the universe also, when all the effects of sin will be purged away and the original conditions of God’s world are restored. The unrepentant angels and humans will be judged and sent to their chosen destiny. The repentant and believing humans will be rewarded for the faithfulness of their lives since trusting in Jesus. They will be confirmed in their righteousness from Christ, never to rebel again. To the great glory of God and to the great pleasure of believers, God will live among us and be our God, and we will be his people forever.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Helping God with Creation
for architects and craftsmen to build a universe out of
nothing. No experience required. Contact God.
Wouldn’t it be great to tell your friends and brag to your grandchildren, “I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he . . . gave the sea its boundary . . . , and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. I was the craftsman at his side . . . rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.”
Of course, those verses in Proverbs 8 do not refer to you and me, but what if we could have assisted God in his work of creation?
Imagine watching God place the stars in the night sky and saying, “Lord, could you put a bright one right about there . . . no, a little to the left. Perfect! From here it looks like a big dipper in the sky.” Or, imagine chiseling some of the smaller details in the Grand Canyon with your own hands or designing the thorns for the rose bush.
Maybe you would have advised him to give Adam two ears and one mouth, so people would listen twice as much as they talk. What if you had asked God to skip the mosquitoes right from the start? In this idea he overruled you, but he did include your suggestion to put some mountains in Antarctica, even though people wouldn’t live there.
Of course, God did not ask for our help in creating the physical universe. We came along much later. But (wonder of wonders) he does ask for our help in the New Creation. Human sin has spoiled God’s “very good” work of creation and brought God’s curse of death and futility, resulting in decay, weeds, sweat, and pain. Now, as followers of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit, we work alongside God in the remaking of human beings and the rest of creation for eternity.
Our involvement in the new creation is not optional, only for a few super-spiritual saints, but required for all of us. Romans 8:9-18 spells this out: “If the Spirit of God lives in you . . . if Christ is in you . . . [you] have an obligation . . . . If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Many Scriptures in the New Testament tell us what our part is in remaking our own lives and in assisting others in their transformation.
We know that the essential work of New Creation was completed by Jesus Christ when he died and rose again. The cross set in motion the inevitable results of removing sin and its effects from creation, bringing to completion the transitional unfolding of God’s plans, and consummating the ultimate purpose of creation—God living with his people.
We are commanded, however, to partner with God in four aspects of the New Creation: The New You (sanctification); The New Community (influence); The New Humanity (evangelism); The New Earth (kingdom). Let’s get started, and learn as we go.