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Sep 06, 2015

The Beginning of Life As We Know It

The Beginning of Life As We Know It

Passage: Genesis 1:1-10:32

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: The Story

Category: Old Testament

Keywords: beginnings, chronology, creation, explanations, provision, story, art museums

Summary:

Beginnings...they are vital to every living, breathing human being. This message looks at the beginning of so many things in the first 10 chapters of Genesis and some of the implications and applications those beginnings have for us.

Detail:

The Beginning of Life as We Know It

Genesis 1-9

September 6, 2015

The summer of 2010 was a summer of international travel for everyone in our family.  Mikias and Yohannes went to Ethiopia via Italy with their birth sister, Tigest, and her family from Utah.  At the same time Sandy and I went back to Europe for a month with Joanna, Daniel, Andrew & David who paid their own way to join us for a 4-week RV adventure through 8 central and southern European countries.  A fun time was had by all.

            As you might expect traveling in Europe, we had the opportunity to see some of the most famous architecture and art in the world.  We had our pick of the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  On this trip, we chose the Prado and Sistine Chapel. 

            There is a tremendous difference between the Sistine Chapel and both the Prado as well as the Louvre.  They all contain extremely famous artwork by such greats as Rembrandt, van Gogh, Monet and da Vinci.  The most famous and expensive painting in the world, Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, is less than 2’ x 3’ but reportedly worth $700 million.  It’s housed in the Louvre Museum, a museum with over 70,000 paintings to look at over a space of 65,000 sq. feet.  You can literally spend days or weeks in just that one museum.  And while it is divided into different sections depending on type of art, nationality of the artists and century in which they lived, there is really no driving theme uniting all those 70,000 canvasses.  There is no uniting story each painting participates in. 

            On the other hand, if you go to the Vatican in Rome and tour the museum there, you can visit 54 different galleries in one building complex.  (If you’re fortunate to be there the last Friday of the month, you can get in for free…if you don’t mind standing in line!)  One of those galleries is the Sistine Chapel where Michaelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) painted some of his most famous works on the walls and ceiling of that chapel.  All the artwork in the Sistine Chapel tell a story—the story of God in the story of human history.  From the famous creation murals to the Final Judgment frescoes, this gallery is one that tells a story—mankind’s place in God’s story…in His-story. 

            Today we are launching into a 31-week series called The Story.  For over six months, we’ll be taking the 30,000 ft. view of God’s story as recorded in the Bible.  That Story is really a compilation of many lives throughout human history that have become part of God’s story either because of their love or hatred of God.  The Bible is not just a disconnected album of individual stories; it is a divine mural whose characters and stories are all intertwined to communicate one overarching epic. 

            To better understand this story, we will need to view it with a dual lens.  Just as if we were wearing bifocals, through the lower lens we will gaze at individual stories from the Bible in chronological order.  Think of these individual pieces as our Lower Story.

            The Lower Story reveals the here and now of daily life, the experiences and circumstances we see here on earth.  In this Lower Story, we make money, pay bills, get sick, grow tired, deal with breakups, and work through conflicts.  God meets us in these Lower Stories and helps us by offering us wisdom and guidance on getting through life with meaning and dignity.  Just like the stories of the Bible, God intervenes, heals, helps and holds us in his tender care.

            But God has a higher agenda than simply our personal and temporal comfort. That is why our stories often include discipline, pain, suffering, heartache, loneliness and death.  All of what God is doing in life is part of an Upper Story.  This Upper Story is the divine mural He is still painting on the canvas of human history, a larger story with lots of individual frescoes of millions of people that form a divine Sistine Chapel giving the glory due God for all eternity.    

            Understanding and keeping before us the Upper Story of God’s great and grand design for all humanity and human history will help every one of us live out the Lower Story of daily challenges and dreams.  Everything God does in our day-to-day Lower Story is designed for our good and for His glory in the eternal Upper Story.  Your life and mine are part of the grand mural God is still painting on the ceiling of heaven and eternity.  God is empowering each of us to live the Lower Story from an Upper Story perspective.  He’s inviting us to learn from biblical saints as well as sinners how to experience more of Him in the daily Lower Story we inhabit.  And He’s given us far more than a Mona Lisa to admire in the life and death of Jesus Christ.  He’s given us “everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us…” (2 Pt. 1:3).

So, as with most meaningful learning, we want to combine both biblical knowledge with spiritual living.  Getting knowledge is easy compared with experiencing life change.  So let’s start with an easy step today—the “big picture” view of the journey upon which we are embarking.  Let’s start with some basic facts about the Bible.

#1. How many books are there in the Bible? 

            Answer:  66.

#2.  How many O.T. books? 

Answer: 39

#3.  How many N.T. books? 

Answer: 27

#4.  How many different authors penned these 66 books? 

            Answer:  about 40 (most we know, some are unknown.)

#5.  Over what period of time were these 66 books written? 

            Answer:  1,500 years

O.K.  Now were going to get active.  That means you will need to move certain parts of your body to illustrate certain books and passages of the Bible.  Ready to make a fool of yourself?  Good!  J

#6.  How many chronological books of the O.T. are there?

            Answer:  12  (make antler-ear gesture with hands)  Chronological = in order of time. 

Where does David fit? 

Where does Job fit? 

They are Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, I & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah.

Where do Saul, David, Solomon and the other kings fit? 

Everything begins in the book of…Genesis.

Gen 1= creation  (circular motion of world)

Gen 2 = special events of creation (special effects gesture)

Gen 3= temptation & fall of Adam and Eve (left arm horizontal, right arm with hand grasping up then falling down on left arm)

Gen 4= first murder—Cain and Able (make “X” with arms in front of face)

Gen 5 = genealogy—(motion of clenched hand with thumb pumping up and down) What is a genealogy?  Astory of your family tree.

Gen 6, 7, 8 = Noah and the flood  (Hands stretched out in front of you while rising up)

Gen 9 = Waters recede (Hands go down.)

Gen 10 = Genealogy (chapters 5 & 10)

[Repeat the whole question list with gestures.]

So let’s start our journey in The Story at the beginning, Genesis.  The title for this first book of the Bible actually comes from the Greek title for the book, Genesis, which comes from the Greek verb γινομαι (ginomai), meaning “to be” or “to begin to be.”  The Hebrew title for the book comes from the first word in the book,  בראשית (breshit), usually very roughly translated with 'in the beginning.'  So whatever way you cut it, this is a book of beginnings.

GROUPS:  How many of you are familiar with the game Boggle?  If you’re not, it’s a word game in which all contestants try to find as many words as possible in a 5-by-5 jumble of lettered dice.  But the catch is that you only get points for words someone else has not also found. 

            So here’s what we’re going to do over the next 3 minutes.  You’re going to get in groups of 4-6 and have 3 minutes to glance over the pages of the first 10 chapters of Genesis and come up with the longest, best list you can of “beginnings” in Genesis.  How many different “beginnings” of things can you find in Genesis 1-10?  Appoint a secretary who can write fast and develop your list as fast as you can.

GO!

[After 3 minutes, have groups one-by-one start giving their list…just as they would in Boggle, everyone marking off the items that are mentioned on other’s lists.]

Obviously, the first few pages of Genesis speak about a whole lot of “beginnings” that we need to know about if we are to make any sense of life in this world and universe. Genesis actually explains SO much that would be either very confusing or utterly unknowable had God not chosen to write down for us some of the particulars of history…His-story.

Genesis explains:

  • Why people can be so very good…and so very evil.
  • Why the creation can be so magnificently beautiful…and so terribly cruel and frightening.
  • Why marriage can be so wonderful…and so conflicted.
  • Why family can be so great…and so painfully destructive.
  • Why humans are so different from animals…and so animalistic-like at times.
  • Why death… and life collide so frequently.
  • Why the cosmos, the world, nature and science can lead to deeper belief in God or greater skepticism about God.
  • Why so many human hearts are drawn to religion…and why so many people rationalize God away.
  • How people can believe everything they see in the universe came from God…and how so many think everything came from nothing…NOTHING!
  • Why religious differences can lead to war…and why common spiritual beliefs can lead to peace and forgiveness.

Genesis explains all this and more in just the first few chapters.

So let’s develop a basic outline of the first 10 chapters of Genesis that will help us begin to grasp today some of the more important principles from these passages.   

Genesis 1:1 begins, “In the beginning God created….”

STORY:  There is an event that happened 47 years ago this Christmas Eve, when I was just 11 years old. It was memorialized in a special commemorative stamp pictured on the screen.  In fact, I have several unused pages of those stamps in a small stamp collection my parents gave me.  

I clearly remember listening to what was the most watched television broadcast at the time—the crew of Apollo 8 reading in turn from Genesis 1 as they orbited the moon and sent back video of the lunar surface. These were the preparatory Apollo missions before our first lunar landing with Apollo 11.

Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman read verses 1 through 10, using the King James Version of Genesis.  Here’s how it went:

[Go to Large Version Audio and Video Broadcast - Quicktime Movie (40 Mb) hyperlink (above colored link).]

Nowadays their mic would most certainly have been silenced and they would have be dishonorably discharged from their respective military branches for such a simple reference to the best description of the beginning of life as we know it.  But not 47 years ago in America. 

            This passage is God’s way of telling us that both time and space, both the universe and the earth, plant life, animal life and especially human life, had a distinct beginning point…and that point was the God of the Bible himself.  The very first words of the Bible declare truths that scientists have been centuries discovering:  that all we know exists in our 3-dimensional universe did not, in fact, exist before God brought it into existence (or if you don’t want to believe in God, you’re left with the “Big Bang” inexplicably doing the same thing).  Scientists pretty much agree that time and space as we know it is not eternal.  But according to Genesis 1, God is…and He is the creator of all that we know physically in this universe. 

            My intent today is not to wow you with how utterly astounding that creation is. While I’d love to take each day in the narrative and tell you just one mind-blowing fact about just one of the results of that day’s creation, we don’t have time.  I’ll leave it to you to go home and Google “Amazing Facts about…light, the universe, our finely-tuned solar system, the living cell, animals and the human body.” 

            Suffice it today to say that this passage writes the story of life as we know it in one sort of binocular view of the first six days of creation:

            The Beginning of the Universe & Life on Earth   

      Days 1 through 3                   Days 4 through 6

1—Light/darkness                        4—Sun, moon stars

      (verses 3-5)                                   (verses 14-18)

2—Water and sky                         5—Fish and birds

      (verses 6-8)                                   (verses 20-23)

3—Land (verses 9-13)                  6—Animals (verses 24-25)

Biblical experts and solidly Christian scientists have debated for decades whether or not these were six (6) 24-hour days or whether the days were more poetic language allowing for larger periods of time yet still demanding the same divine and miraculous creative act of God.  My intent is not to enter into that debate today.  But regardless of where you come down, all Bible-believing Christ-followers must acknowledge that life as we know it…the universe as we know it…came about because of the creative actions of our Creator, God.  About that there should be no debate among God’s people. 

      What is clear from this chapter are some foundational truths about God and about mankind. 

What we know about God and about humankind from these first two chapters could consume multiple messages for many months.  So for today, let’s just touch on some of the more obvious things we learn about God and about people here.  Let’s start with God.  [Ask for audience participation.]

  • God is mind-blowingly powerful.
  • God is infinitely creative.
  • God is intelligent beyond comprehension, THE all-time Master Scientist of the universe.
  • God is willing to share some of his nature/image with us.
  • God communicated/continues to communicate His will and our purpose to mankind since the beginning of human life.
  • God had a better plan for mankind than mankind chose/chooses.

Now let’s go to mankind.  [Audience participation again.]

  • Man & woman were the apex of all creation.
  • Mankind bears the image of God.
  • Mankind is a moral being who can obey or disobey God.
  • Mankind is responsible to and must answer to God.
  • Male and female are equally creative miracles of God who differently display the image of God.
  • Marriage and family was God’s plan and purpose from the beginning.
  • Marriage is between a man and a woman and is usually intended to involve offspring.

So let’s stop for just a moment and pick out a couple of spiritual truths that could rock any of our lives today.  Let me suggest a few.  You let the Holy Spirit apply any or all of them to you as He sees fit today.

  • God loves to facilitate new beginnings.  Perhaps you are in a place in life where you are about to experience a new beginning—a new friendship, a new marriage, a new baby, a new job, a new school, a new career, a new city, a new chapter of life, a new walk with Christ. 
    1. Will you see God in that “new thing” with the eyes of faith?
    2. Will you accept it as “good” or even “very good” as He often declares it to be?
    3. Do you need or want God to begin something new in your life? With your life?

      We live in a world of constantly unfolding “new beginnings”—new minutes/hours and days; new challenges; new people; new life developments; even new crisis. 

      God wants to be IN every one of those “new” experiences.  Let’s take a moment to talk to God about the new things we’re experiencing and about new beginnings we would like to experience.  [Pray for 30 seconds.]

  • God likes to communicate His plan and purpose, his will and his truth to mankind.  He’s never kept our purpose in life hidden.  He’s always given us truth about His plan for human beings and what to avoid. 
    1. So what am I doing daily to get in touch and stay in touch with that plan?
    2. Am I doing anything that I know is contrary to that plan and purpose? If so, why am I violating my design and purpose? 
    3. What am I doing to tell others about God’s design for their lives? Who is God asking me to share that with?

      [Pray for 30 seconds.]

  • Men and women/maleness and femaleness are a creation of God.
    1. Do I harbor thoughts, attitudes or prejudices against “the opposite sex”? If so, isn’t it time I embraced God’s view and value of “the opposite sex”?
    2. Do I struggle with my own sexuality (for whatever reasons)? If so, am I continually inviting God to “create/recreate” more of his image in my maleness or femaleness?
  • Marriage and family are blessings God has given us to experience life as He intended.
    1. Am I allowing my previous negative experiences with family or marriage (parents, siblings, former spouses, etc.) to keep me from embracing God’s plan for marriage and family in my life?
    2. Is my culture or peer group shaping my views of marriage and family more than God’s Word about them? If so, what must change?
    3. Is there some part of my marriage and family life that I need to repair, to ask God to help me repair? What will I do…and when?

Do you see how the beginning of the universe and life on earth by the creative acts of God should be changing us on a daily basis? 

So we come to the 2nd set of “beginnings” in Genesis: 

The Beginning of Human Experience on Earth with God, chapters 3-10.

      Just what human experiences do we see beginning in these chapters that talk about man’s fall into sin and the first human family created by Adam and Eve? 

  • The beginning of divine agreements/covenants with mankind.
  • The beginning of temptation to violate those covenants.
  • The beginning of
  • The beginning of misuse of human freedom.
  • The beginning of divine judgment (the curses of God, the flood, languages).
  • The beginning of God’s salvation plan for us.
  • The beginning of
  • The beginning of pain in childbirth and toil in work.
  • The beginning of
  • The beginning of all creation’s demise.
  • The beginning of sacrifices for sin.
  • The beginning of
  • The beginning of relational conflict.
  • The beginning of marital disharmony.
  • The beginning of religiously motivated violence (Cain killing Able).
  • ???

Every one of these “beginnings” holds powerful spiritual principles that can shape any day of our lives.  To give you an example of that, let me read a couple of the short devotionals from the daily The Story devotional. 

      The first comes from “Day 12”, p. 13.  (Read)

      The second comes from “Day 14”, p. 15. (Read) 

[Call to faith in Jesus Christ]

[Call to acknowledge our fellowship-shattering sin and embrace God’s grace and discipline.]