God's End Game - Part 1
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
September 09, 2018
Last week we learned a new buzzword: end game.
Originally it had to do with the final moves in Chess that determined who won. It’s come to mean “The ultimate agenda or desired consequence of a planned series of events (often elaborate and unknown to outsiders).”
This new series is called “God’s End Game” and in it we’ll try to figure out what God’s end game is.
To do that, we have to go back to the beginning of everything. In other words, to figure out where God is headed with us and the world, we have to go back and look at where we came from.
Of course, that takes us to Genesis, the book of beginnings. The importance of the first book of the Bible can not be overstated. One scholar says…
“It is a book of facts, a book of firsts, a book of faith, a book of forecasts, a book of funerals. It has been called ‘the seedplot of the Bible’ because all the vast forests of Scripture start there as seedlings. It is said to give us the beginning of everything except God. It is the book of Genesis.
Genesis is the opening crescendo of Scripture, for God does not begin the book with a timid, tentative note or two. He begins it with the thunder of drums as worlds leap out of nowhere to populate the skies. He begins it with the crash of cymbals as the human race falls into sin. He begins it with the blare of trumpets heralding the inundation of the world…”
And it has also been described very simply but profoundly as “the foundation of the whole Scripture.”
Genesis covers two beginnings actually, which divide neatly at chapter 12. The first eleven chapters cover the beginning of the human race, and chapter 12 onward covers the beginnings of the Hebrew race. We are interested in that first part (though the second part ties in with Jesus!).
Chapter 1 in particular answers a big picture question: where did we come from?
Read verse 1 with me…
Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Some who read that may think, man, I wish that were true. But we live in an age of science and discovery. Scientist are unravelling the secrets of the universe. They are explaining away all the myths and fairy tales ancient man, in his ignorance, believe in. We know better now.
Be careful about kind of reasoning. It’s called chronological snobbery. It’s the idea that (and I’m quoting JI Packer)…
“the newer is the truer,
only what is recent is decent,
every shift of ground is a step forward,
and every latest word must be hailed as the last word on its subject.” — J.I. Packer
In other words, the older some idea or truth is, the less it’s to be trusted.
While scientists are supposedly getting close to proving the non-existence of God, they are also discovering everything they thought they knew about the ancient world is wrong. Almost every week there’s an article about how they are having to push back the origin of writing or art or architecture thousands of years, sometimes tens of thousands. They are also having to rewrite everything they know about the universe. Remember when they said coffee was bad for you?
Granted, there are many things our ancestors held to we now know aren’t true or beneficial, like bloodletting (using leeches to bleed sickness out of people). But the ancients aren’t as dumb as we generally make them out to be. I recently listened to a podcast about two women, a microbiologist and historian, who got together and decided to make a 1,000 year old cure for an eye infection. To their surprise it was more effective on the nearly incurable and drug resistant staph bacteria causing so much trouble!
Now if they knew how to make a powerful antibiotic 1,000 years ago, what else might they be able to tell us? Fun fact: doctors now use leeches to help heal skin grafts and reattach blood vessels of severed body parts.
Randy Alcorn writes…“Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal— that this world is not all there is.”
You have to admit, even if you’re an atheist, when you ponder the wonders of the earth and skies, it does not lead you to think, “Wow, look how all these random, meaningless events in the universe came together to form all this beautiful stuff.”
Ravi Zacharias, in one of his sermons, recalled how on “Christmas Day 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home. Suddenly, over the horizon of the moon rose the blue and white Earth garlanded by the glistening light of the sun against the black void of space. Those sophisticated men, trained in science and technology, did not utter Einstein's name. They did not even go to the poets, the lyricists, or the dramatists. Only one thing could capture the awe-inspiring thrill of this magnificent observation. Billions heard the voice from outer space as the astronaut read it: 'In the beginning God.’”
One of my favorite texts is…
Psalm 19:1–6 (ESV) — 1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Even I struggle sometimes with whether God is really there. Sometimes it feels like he isn’t. But what always brings me back is the sun, moon, and stars; the rivers and lakes; the fields and meadows; the the trees and mountains. I see in them evidence that they must have had a maker. And Genesis 1:1 tells me who that is.
If the first verse of the Bible is true, and I believe it is, It puts all things in their proper place: under God. If he created all things then he is Lord over all things. And that means you will never find happiness or joy or meaning in anyone or anything else.
That’s really the basis for the first five of the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 20:1–11 (ESV) — 1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
So many look at the Ten Commandments as a list of unfair rules given by an insecure god to keep people miserable and under control. But really, it’s God loving us and trying to protect us.
God is the source of our meaning and purpose. Trying to find them in anyone or anything else (even yourself) is to trust in an idol. Idols can’t save you. They end up failing you, leaving you wasted. And in the end, they keep you from spending eternity with your Creator.
All of history is really a story about man looking for meaning and purpose in things occupying the world God created rather than the God who created it…
Romans 1:18–25 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” puts all things in there proper place.
Before I proceed, let me throw in a little disclaimer here. Some may be disappointed that I don’t spend time really digging down into the rest of chapter one going over the six days of creation and how they are literal days and all that.
I’m not doing that because I don’t think it’s important or that a case can’t be made for it. It’s just in trying to discover God’s end game, you have to stick to the big picture. You can’t get bogged down in the details too much.
Well-meaning Christians do that at the beginning and the end of the Bible. They make believing in six literal days a component of the Gospel or they make believing in the pre-tribulation rapture a test for fellowship. Please don’t think I’m unkind, but I just have to say it: people who major on those minors miss out.
The Holy Spirit is trying to draw an atheist to God, and a well-meaning believer is running out of breath trying to get him to first to believe everything was created in six literal days and the earth is 4,000 years old (breath) instead of Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died and all who call on his name will be saved.
God is trying to use a fellow as his feet and hands to minister the gospel but he’s so busy watching Fox News, looking for who might be the antichrist, he never gets to it.
I know. I may be up on a soapbox a little. Sorry.
Let me ask you a question about Genesis. What do you think was more important to God when he led Moses to write the account of creation down, why or how? Teaching us about who He is or giving us a textbook on how it all was made?
Enough of that. Genesis 1 puts things in their proper place.
It also legitimizes the place in which all things were put.
Let’s skim through verses 2-26 so I can show you something…
Genesis 1:2–26 (ESV) — 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good… 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so… And God saw that it was good… And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good… So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good… 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Based on that, is it safe to say, that the created world, the physical and material, is good in God’s eyes, just as we know the spiritual is?
But how do we Christians normally view the physical, the material? Bad.
Our hymns, our sayings, even our longings are fixed on the idea that God is trying to save us from the physical and deliver us wholly into the spiritual. That the earth and the things of the earth (all God created are bad) and our goal in life is to be snatched away from them. This earth is not my home!
Yet, in the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth and all that is in them and it was good. This legitimizes the material as well as the immaterial. This going to be super important to remember as we progress further in figuring out what God’s end game is.
Tim Keller writes, concerning Genesis 1:1…
“…it teaches us the unity of things. The unity of things means God creates everything… In so many other creation myths and so many other creation accounts (I’m not calling this a myth, by the way), in other understanding of the origins you get from other religions, the spirit world is good and the physical world is kind of bad.
This is the only religion, this is the only book, in which it opens and, in the first scene, God has dirt under his fingernails. God’s hands are in the dirt. God is in the dust. God is making things. God is forming things.
What does that mean? It means unity of the spiritual and the material.***spoiler alert*** If you want to know what Easter means, Easter simply means Genesis 1 was right.
Easter means salvation is not from the physical, that somehow we’ll get away from the physical finally, that finally the spiritual will be liberated from the physical. No. Easter means God wants to redeem both the physical and the spiritual. If anything, he wants to put them finally together. Genesis 1 shows that everything was created by God. Everything. He’s the Lord of all things. There was nothing before. Therefore, we have a unity.”
Conclusion: So as we look forward to answering the question, what is God’s end game? Know for now how it all began:
Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
It puts things in their proper place, telling us why we’re here. And it legitimizes the place all things are put, there is a unity between the physical and spiritual.
This is so important because the beginning is inextricably linked to the end (draw illustration).
John 1:1–18 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
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