©Copyright January 3, 1999 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
This morning we begin the new year in a very appropriate spot . . . at the beginning. We will look at the first four words of the Bible “In the Beginning, God.” With these simple words we are going to do several things.
- We will reaffirm some foundational truths of our faith
- We will get some guidance for a new year
- We will begin a new study series.
During the next year we are going to work our way through the book of Genesis. Now I hasten to add that we will not study in the same verse by verse manner that we have in the past. I’m afraid if we did this in Genesis we would be here for better than five years! Instead, we are going to look at some major events and then focus on the lives of the individuals known as the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and we will also add Joseph.). We will do this for a very specific reason: we are in desperate need of people to look up to. We live at a time when sports figures whine because they can’t make more millions than they currently receive. Government officials regularly admit to criminal activity and moral depravity. We live at a time when Statesmen are gone and heroes are paper thin.
The principle characters of the Book of Genesis are not perfect. They will not save anyone . . . only Christ can do that . . . but they will give us some principles that will lead us down the road of holy living.
We begin with Creation.
WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES US ABOUT CREATION
There are a lot of things that we don’t know about creation. For example, we don’t know whether God created in six 24 hour days or whether it was in six periods of time. Notice that even though the text tells us that “there was evening, and there was morning–the first day” it isn’t until day four that we read “God made two great lights–the greater light (sun) to govern the day and the lesser light (moon) to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, TO GOVERN THE DAY AND NIGHT.” (1:16) So, even though we can’t be dogmatic on many issues there are some things that we DO know from creation.
1. There was a Beginning
The Bible affirms that the world has not always been here. Things are not “as they always have been”. Scientists who understand things like the Law of Thermodynamics will tell you that this law shows that there was a beginning to the world as we know it.
2. God is Eternal
Though the world had a beginning, God has always existed. He was there in the beginning. God is the uncaused cause, the one who has always been and always will be.
3. God brings meaning out of Chaos
We read that the world was formless and empty. God took that which was nothing and made it something. He took what was purposeless and made it purposeful. God is the architect of our world. He is the Creator.
4. God is the Source of Creation
Obviously this is something highly debated. Many discount God from the formula entirely. However, even some who believe in evolution have some place for God. Those who believe in Atheistic evolution believe that creation came about by it’s own doing or has always existed. Those who believe in Deistic evolution believe God started things in motion and then took His hands off to see what would happen. Those who believe in Theistic evolution believe God created and set the process of evolution in motion and often intervenes in the process.
I am certainly not a scientist and I do know that the theory of evolution is much more complicated than I understand. However, I do need to briefly address the issue. Many imply today that the only reasonable view of creation is the one formed by Charles Darwin. They imply that only an empty-headed nitwit or a “religious extremist” would believe that the world was created by God. However, not all of the scientific community agrees that evolution is solid.
Colin Patterson an evolutionist admitted,
For over 20 years I thought I was working on evolution . . . [but] there was not one thing I knew about it . . . So for the last few weeks I’ve tried putting a simple question to various people and groups of people. The Question is: “Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, any one thing that is true?” I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, “Yes, I do know one thing — it ought not to be taught in high school.” . . . During the past few years . . . you have experienced a shift from evolution as knowledge to evolution as faith . . . Evolution not only conveys no knowledge, but seems somehow to convey anti-knowledge. [Philip Johnson, Darwin on Trial p. 173]
What people forget is that Evolution is a theory. It is a hypothesis without substantiating evidence. Fossil records do show that there is an “evolutionary development” somewhat within a species of animals (a horse changes and adapts to its environment, apes develop skills necessary for survival) but fossils do not show any evidence that one species ever “evolves” into a new species.
The various so-called “missing links” that all look like primitive ape-men (Peking Man, Cro-Magnon Man and others), are either imaginative constructions from one or two bones . . . .or complete fabrications. These things came about as a result of the biased conclusions of the scientist . . . not on the basis of fact. In fact, the whole Cave Man idea comes from the presupposition of evolution.
This is why if you look in current Biology texts you will be told that fossils are irrelevent to the truthfulness of evolution (because there is no fossil evidence); you are also told now that the necessity of a “missing link” is unnecessary because it takes millions of years for such a link to appear. The tune has changed because the evidence is non-existent.
Evolution is largely a presupposition of an anti-supernatural mind.
Professor D.M.F. Watson once said in a broadcast, “evolution itself is accepted by zoologists, not because it has been observed to occur, or can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.” [Lloyd-Jones, GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON p. 138]
In other words, people who refuse to believe that Creation was by a Supreme Being (due to their sin and resistance to being held accountable) have to come up with another alternative. That other alternative is evolution. It is NOT the only option. I don’t think it is even the BEST option.
5. Creation was Orderly
Our text tells us that a certain sequence of events took place. This was not a haphazard development but it was the orderly work of a superior mind. In fact, one of the greatest arguments for God’s involvement in creation is the complexity of our world. The notion that all of this happened “by chance” is preposterous. Ravi Zacharias quotes Dr. John Polinghorne, A Quantum Physicist and President of Queens College in Cambridge.
In the early expansion of the universe there has to be a close balance between the expansive energy (driving things apart) and the force of gravity (pulling things together). If expansion dominated then matter would fly apart too rapidly for condensation into galaxies and stars to take place. Nothing interesting could happen in so thinly spread a world. On the other hand, if gravity dominated, the world would collapse in on itself again before there was time for the processes of life to get going. For us to be possible would require a balance between these two things that was so precise that it would be the same as aiming at a target an inch wide on the other side of the observable universe, twenty thousand millions light years away, and hitting the mark!
6. What God created was Good
After each step of the process of creation, God declared that it was good. Mind you, this is not the arbitrary statement of a subjective mind. This is the conclusion of a Holy God! Creation was good because it conformed to the character of a holy and righteous God.
So, how did the world get to be in the mess that it is in? Where do tornados, famines, floods and fires come from? How can we say the world God created is good when there is so much destruction and evil in it? It’s simple: Sin. We’ll talk about this more next week when we look at Genesis 3. Suffice it to say that God created a world in perfect balance . . . . sin disrupted the balance.
Think of the world like a washing machine. You can have a perfect machine that does what it is supposed to do. However if the clothes are not distributed evenly in the machine it becomes unbalanced. The result is that the clothes do not “spin” correctly and they don’t clean the way they should. You end up taking out clothes that are still dripping wet!
For the less domestic, think about it like an automobile. If your wheels are out of balance the result is: your tires will wear unevenly (and you may occasionally get a “blow out”), your steering may be more difficult, and other problems might also develop if things get unbalanced enough.
Could God re-balance things again. Certainly! In fact, the whole message of the Gospel is that Christ came to make re-balancing possible. But God delays at present. Why? I don’t know. I do know that it is not because He is powerless. It is also not because He does not care. If God delays there is just as much purpose in the delay as there was in the original creation.
APPLICATION . . . LESSONS FOR A NEW YEAR
1. If God is at the Head of the Universe, He should be at the Head of Our lives
If God did indeed create the world, it means He is our superior. He is owed our devotion and respect. If He is the Designer, then He knows how things work the best and so His instructions are far superior to the opinions of men. If He is the Eternal One, then He is the only thing constant in an ever-changing universe. This means we should use Him as our reference point. He is the one we should measure our lives by.
Some years ago a young man approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. “That depends,” replied the foreman. “Let’s see you fell this tree.” The young man stepped forward and skillfully felled a great tree. Impressed the foreman exclaimed, “Start Monday!”
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by, and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today.”
Startled, he replied, “I thought you paid on Friday.” “Normally we do,” answered the foreman, “but we’re letting you go today because you’ve fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you’ve dropped from first place on Monday to last on Wednesday.”
“But I’m a hard worker,” the young man objected. “I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!”
The foreman, sensing the boy’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your ax?”
The young man replied, “I’ve been working too hard to take the time.” (Kent Hughes, Liberating the Leader from the Success Syndrome p. 71)
Many of us live our lives like the lumberjack . . . we work hard, and mean well but still find ourselves spiritually unproductive and lifeless. This is because we have forgotten that our first priority must be to sharpen our spirit. Many of you go into the New Year with goals for lots of things
- weight loss
- overcoming various vices
But . . . what goals do you have for strengthening your spiritual life? How deliberate are you in building your spiritual life? You can work as hard as you want . . . and be as diligent as you want . . . but if you “don’t sharpen your ax” you will drift away from God.
It is surprising how many good and innocent things can impede our spiritual growth. It could be our love for reading, or gardening, the Internet, sports, our jobs and even our family. If any of these things crowd out our relationship and devotion to God it is a sign that our spirit is getting dull. In the beginning . . . . .God!
Put God first this year
- Make prayer the first item on the agenda each day.
- Read your Bible before you do anything else
- Put God’s priorities like worship, above worldly priorities
- Determine that you will give the same quality of time to your spiritual growth as you do to your studies, your hobbies or your job. (Which of them is MORE important than your spiritual life?)
- Adopt God’s priorities for your money
- Let God’s values impact how you spend your free time
2. If God is in Control, we should live Boldly and Confidently
The God who created the world has not abdicated the throne. Man may have defaced God’s creation, but man has not dethroned the Lord of the Universe.
Jesus teaches the people on the Sermon on the Mount, “If God feeds the birds and cares for the grass of the field. . . . will He not much more care for you?” I remember a wonderful poster I had at one time. It read, “Help me remember Lord, that there is nothing that is going to come my way today that you and I can’t handle together.” That’s the kind of confidence that we should have in our living.
Think how foolish it is when things do not go as we expect them to go. We throw up our hands and conclude that God does not care, or that God is powerless to act. This is certainly not the case. God is NEVER powerless to act. If God chooses not to do what we expect it is because He has a higher purpose, a better plan.
Can you imagine how different life would be if we lived this way? We would face difficulties as opportunities and not curses. We would see hard times as opportunities to deepen our trust in God . . . learned to trust even when we do not see. What would happen if every time a tractor broke down this year our first thought was, “What do you want to teach me, Lord?” Instead of “Why are you doing this to me?” or “Where Are you God?”
Do you see how revolutionary this mindset is? In a terrible snowstorm instead of panicking we relax and say, “Lord, there is nothing that can happen to me that is outside of your control. . . . I will rest in you.” In a thunderstorm or in high winds, instead of getting panicked we would say, “Lord, your power intimidates me. I worry about my life, but yet I know that my true life is in You. Use this time to turn my eyes heavenward and let me rest in your goodness and your perfect timing.”
Begin the new year seeking to trust God in whatever circumstances come your way.
3. If God created it, we should live joyfully and worshipfully
In this next year we need to remember that we have been given a gift from God. He has given us life and a beautiful world in which to live that life. Sure there is evil in the world . . . but it’s not all evil. We can become preoccupied with the distractions of the world or we can notice how wonderful things are. . . and live gratefully. Think about how spectacular life is,
- the beauty of a sunrise and sunset
- the majesty of the clouds
- the way of a man with a woman
- the delight of taste buds
- the breathtaking nature of a flower
- the wonder of the animals
- the simple joy of child
- the joy that comes from people who become friends
- the freshness after a rain
- the peaceful sense after a newly fallen snow
- the first songs of a bird in the spring
You can grumble your way through 1999 or you can give thanks to the Creator of the Universe. You can see the effects of sin or you can dwell on the evidence of His wisdom, power, and beauty.
You see, as we begin a new year the best counsel we can get or give is this: “In the beginning . . . . God”. For if we make God the beginning of our year and our lives, we will find that He is also the end that we have been looking for.