“This is My World”

The God Who is There Leader’s Guide
D.A. Carson

[1] Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” [2] And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, [3] but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” [4] But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. [5] For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [6] So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

– Genesis 3:1–6

A young schoolteacher in Northern Ireland once told me how she taught the substance of these early chapters of Genesis.  Fresh out of college, she found herself a job teaching “religious education” (still common in the United Kingdom) to young boys in a rather rough school.  She was making no headway at all.  She decided to try another approach.  Using plaster of Paris, she got them to create their own little creatures (one imagines that some of them were pretty grotesque) and then, over the next days, their own world, complete with a village, animals, a little lake, fences, and so forth.  She had the boys make up the “backstory” behind each little creature and begin to weave the accounts together.  Eventually she asked them to pool ideas for some rules or laws that they thought they should impose to preserve some order.  The boys came up with quite a number, including a prohibition against going to close to the edge of the “world” lest they fall off and break, and a prohibition against going into the lake, where of course they would dissolve.  These and other “laws” were grouped together to see if they could be boiled down for simplicity.  The boys decided that the one law “Do what I tell you” was the most comprehensive.

The next day, the teacher came into class and asked them to imagine that one of the little creatures the boys had created stood up and said to his maker, rather defiantly, “Leave me alone.  This is my world, not yours.  I’ll do what I want.  I certainly do not want you telling me what to do.  Get out of here and leave me alone!”  how, then, should the boys respond?

There was a moment of stunned silence, and then one of the boys volunteered, “I’d break his bloody legs!”

That is how the teacher introduced Genesis 3.  And of course, the degree of culpable betrayal and defiance that we human beings display against the perfectly good, wise, and sovereign Creator is infinitely greater.

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“What sacrifice does God require?”

All About Heresy
Michael S. Horton

After all, it was Cain who murdered Abel over a point of theology. The question was, “What sacrifice does God require?” God showed what sacrifice pleases him when he rejected the plant covering that Adam and Eve had sewn together. Instead God sacrificed an animal and covered them with its skins. Abel placed his faith in the coming Messiah, who was promised to Eve in Genesis 3:15, by offering an animal sacrifice. But Cain brought plants as his sacrifice. Men and women have always been seeking to appease God themselves. Their consciences tell them that they are sinners and that God must judge sinners. But instead of turning to him for mercy, they set up their own righteousness and worship. Cain murdered Abel over the definition of the gospel; Cain became the father of church persecutions throughout history. This is even clearer in Hebrews 11, where we are told that Abel was accepted because he trusted the promise by grace alone through faith alone.

Link: Complete Article

Dominion Lost

Genesis 1:28

[28] And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Originally, man was meant to have dominion over the earth.  We are uncomfortable with words like subdue and dominion because it sounds like humans are meant to be oppressive dictators over the rest of creation.

However, Adam was not to be a dictator, but a steward.  He had no authority that had not been given to him.  He could not do whatever he pleased with God’s creation.  With God’s intention in mind, we realize that in the beginning Adam was not called to be a gardener but a protector.  His original call was to defend the creation, his wife, and the honor of God by defeating the serpent.  Instead, he did nothing as the serpent deceived his wife.  Adam did not destroy the serpent but agreed with him and joined forces with him against God, opening the door to sin and death.

After the fall, mankind would still like to believe that we are in charge.  My children are convinced that they are in charge of our house.  No one had to teach them this and it is with great difficulty that we teach them that they are not.  We are born this way.

And that is especially sad because we are not in charge.  We are not in charge of when we are born or when we will die.  We are not in charge of what will happen to us or how exactly our children will turn out.  In fact, we are not even in charge of ourselves.

Romans 7:18b-19

…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

Man was to have dominion over all creatures and even the earth itself.  Now, we have dominion over nothing.  We are not masters but slaves to our passions and circumstances.  This is bad news, but when we can admit that this is true, the Gospel becomes very good news.

John 8:36

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The Image of God

Genesis 1:26a

[26] Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

Man and woman are made in the image and likeness of God.  When our children look like us we are proud.  We may feel differently if a pigeon or a ferret resemble us, yet despite the infinite distance between us, God chooses to make man in His own image.

No other creature is made in the image of God.  Lions are regal and powerful, but they are not made in God’s image.  Eagles are majestic and graceful, but they are not made in God’s image.  Angels never grow old and have a glory that causes people who see them to bow, but even they are not made in the image of God.  There is a special value to humanity.

Everyone does not agree on this point.  PETA President Ingrid Newkirk once said, “When it comes to feelings like hunger, pain, and joy, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”  I’d imagine her intention was to increase the value of animals, but a statement like this instead ends up devaluing human beings.

In Genesis 9:6, God says “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”  The value of human life is directly related to the fact that man is created in God’s image.  When we believe humans have no special dignity – that we are simply a mass of cells or an accident of evolution – human life means very little.

And we see the fruit of this.  In our world, more than a million children are victims of sex-trafficking every year.  The leading cause of death in America is not heart disease, but abortion.  In America alone, one million children are killed in the womb every year.

A little boy or little girl is not a pig or a rat, but the crowning achievement of God’s creation.  When one person repents, all of heaven rejoices.  The value of human life and the human soul is immeasurable, for all people are made in the very image of God.

Created

Genesis 1:26-27

[26] Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

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

There are many, diverse opinions on the true nature of the human race.  Depending on who you ask, we are either godlike beings who will bring in a utopian society or we are like locusts or a virus, selfishly destroying everything.

This passage says we are neither.  Men and women were made by God, not creators but created.  Men and women are made in the image of God, not a virus but privileged above all other creatures.

Creation

Unlocking the Bible: Creation (Genesis 1)
Colin Smith

Imagine nothing. It’s almost impossible. But before the creation there was nothing, except God. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

In schools, we challenge our children’s creativity by giving them materials to work with: ‘See what you can do with this,’ we say. But there were no materials for God to work with in shaping the universe. He created all that exists out of nothing, and He sustains the universe by His own power.

Take a fresh look at what God has created today. Look at the sky; it proclaims the work of God’s hands. Listen to the birds; they testify to God’s gentle care. Every snowflake bears witness to His majesty. Every sunrise speaks of His faithfulness.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard, (Psalm 19:1-3).

Link: Complete Blog Post

Good Guys and Bad Guys

Why Johnny Can’t Preach
T. David Gordon

Many people love to live in their imagined and self-made world of good guys and bad guys, to be reminded that there are good people and bad people and that they are screen-shot-2013-06-19-at-11-10-56-pmamong the good.

What’s wrong with our culture and every culture, and all human culture since Genesis 3, is that all of us (not some of us) in Adam have revolted against the reign of God, and that each of us (not some of us) prefers his own will to the will of God.  Worse, we are utterly incapable, in and of ourselves, of changing.  The government cannot change us or rescue us from our revolt; education cannot enlighten our darkened minds; not even the church can deliver us from our darkened understanding that considers our own way better than God’s way; and surely coercive human governments cannot cure souls.  Only the God-man, the last Adam, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice and present intercession at the right hand of God, can rescue any of us from our revolt.

Genesis 22

[1] After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” [2] He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” [3] So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. [4] On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. [5] Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” [6] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. [7] And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” [8] Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 

– Genesis 22:1-8

The Lord instructs Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Isaac was miraculously born to Abraham when he was 100 years old. He is very much the son whom Abraham loves. Yet Abraham obediently takes his son to Mount Moriah and prepares to sacrifice him there.

juan_de_valdes_leal_-_the_sacrifice_of_isaac_-_wga24224But why?  Is Abraham just resigned to the fact that he has to obey God since He’s God? Abraham is aware that Isaac is a gift directly from the Lord. Perhaps, he reminds himself of Job’s words: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21b).

I believe Abraham is not driven by resignation, but by hope. Prior to Isaac’s birth, the following exchange between Abraham and God took place in Genesis 17:18-19:

[18] And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” [19] God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

Abraham remembers the promise of God. He knows that God can be trusted. Abraham does not know how God can establish a covenant with Isaac if he is dead.  Abraham does not know how God can establish an everlasting covenant with Isaac’s offspring if Isaac passes away before he even has any offspring.  But Abraham knows that God is not a liar and He will do what He says.  Perhaps God will raise Isaac from the dead.  Perhaps God will provide a sacrificial lamb.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how God does it, but He is certain to fulfill every word.

Genesis 21

[1] The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. [2] And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. [3] Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. [4] And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. [5] Abraham was a hundred years old when his isaac3son Isaac was born to him. [6] And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” [7] And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

– Genesis 21:1-7

In Genesis 18, the Lord promised Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son. At 89 years old, Sarah found the whole idea ridiculous and laughed to herself. In remembrance of this incident, Abraham and Sarah name their miraculous child, Isaac, which means “he laughs.” Sarah declares that God has made laughter for her and all who hear of it will laugh as well. The goodness of God to his people is ridiculous. His promises are beyond too good to be true.  May we consider how many times He has been better to us than we would ever have imagined.

Genesis 20

[1] From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. [2] And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. [3] But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” [4] Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? [5] Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” [6] Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. [7] Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” …

[17] Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.

– Genesis 20:1-7, 17

Abraham travels to the Negeb.  He has followed the Lord many years and trusted Him.  Abraham believes in the promises of God.  But he is afraid.  He says that Sarah is his sister, putting his wife as well as the people of the Negeb in danger.  Though he is the one who lies, Abraham’s prayer for Abimelech and his household is effective.  Amazingly, God uses the prayers of this fearful man.

We, too, can be used despite our fear and sin.  But it is best if we can put aside our doubts.  If we do not trust in the Lord’s provision, then most of our prayers and actions will be self-centered.  Our thoughts will be on ourselves and our worship will be distracted.  God is patient and will walk with us, but may we desire to be free to follow Him sooner than later.