God's End Game - Part 10
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
January 13, 2019
As many of you may remember, before we began our advent celebration, I was smack dab in the middle of preaching a sermon series called God’s End Game.
That was six weeks ago. I can’t remember things that happened yesterday, so I’m guessing one or two here this morning might be in a need of a refresher to catch up.
That’s what this message is: a catcher-up sermon.
Every day my youngest daughter Gracie either teaches me a new hip word or tells me that words I used back in the day mean something totally different now.
End Game is a popular buzzword today.
Its origins are found in the game of chess. The end game involves the last few moves determining who wins the match.
As with a lot of things, it’s come to mean more than just what it started out meaning. Now, according to the Urban Dictionary, it means “The ultimate agenda or desired consequence of a planned series of events (often elaborate and unknown to outsiders).”
In the business world, end game is the secret strategy for market domination. What is Jeff Bezos’ end game?
In everyday life, someone might ask you what your end game is, and they want to know your plans for life or relationships or getting a job or whatever.
Have you ever thought about what God’s end game is? What is heaven really about? What is hell really about? How’s it all gonna end and begin again?
I put this on my preaching bucket list because over the years God has radically changed my understanding of it.
You see, I made the mistakes as a pastor most Christians make when it comes to understanding God’s end game, particularly in regards to the end times and heaven and what they’re all about.
- I limited myself to a very narrow viewpoint.
- I focused too much on some elements and not enough on others. I bogged myself down in the details so much I couldn’t see the big picture.
But when God kind of hit the reset button my faith, he really challenged me, especially when it came to his end game.
Wrestling with these things, being willing to look at them from different perspectives, made my faith stronger. Now I look more forward to heaven than ever. Now I understand why there is a hell. Though I don’t know who the antichrist is going to be or whether Apache helicopters are in the book of Revelation, I see what that strange, prophetic book is really trying to show us.
And, now my eyes are opened to something I’d never seen before, which we’ll get into more towards the end: God saved me to something as much as he saved me from something.
To understand God’s end game, you have to go back to the beginning of the game. 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.
That’s found in Genesis, of course, and it’s summed up in one powerful verse. The verse you read on January 1…
Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
If we had time today we’d read on thru chapter one, but I can condense it all into this: God made all there is and it was good.
Now if you or I say something is good, that’s relative. Where I say taking a 25-mile bike ride is good on a Saturday afternoon, you might not. And where you say watching a football game on Saturday afternoon is good I might not - I definitely won’t.
The God of Genesis 1:1 is the divine, all powerful, all knowing, sovereign of the universe, and he makes all we know as reality: the physical and the material. And he DECLARES it to be good. There’s nothing relative about that.
If that’s true, and it is, then do you think it is it safe to say that the physical/material AND the spiritual are good in his eyes?
But how do we Christians normally view the physical, the material versus the spiritual? The former is bad and the latter is good.
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 are corrupt beyond saving and our goal in life is being 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. Which means, if what’s about to happen in a few verses didn’t happen, we’d all be spending eternity on the physical/spiritual world.
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.
Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
… puts things in their proper place, telling us why we’re here. And it legitimizes the place all things are put; telling us there is a unity between the physical and spiritual
One big thing I’m going to show you is the beginning is inextricably linked to the end.
Well, God made it all and it was good. But we haven’t gotten to the best part yet, that part where he made us!
Genesis 1:26–28 (ESV) — 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. 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.”
God made all creatures big and small, but these three verses tell us there are two things that make us special (and that’s too mild a word):
First, they tell us…
- We are made in God’s image.
- We are given dominion over His creation
Because we were God’s image bearers, we were tasked with caring for his creation, meaning we treat it the way he would, NOT anyway we like.
Newsflash: this hasn’t changed, and this too comes into play at the end.
It’s interesting that once we come into the picture, God pronounces all he’d made VERY good.
What the world was like in the beginning when all things were good can be summed up in a surprising and overlooked verse:
Genesis 2:25 (ESV) — 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Even us adults giggle a little bit when we read that. It makes us uncomfortable to think about nakedness. We focus on the physical but it goes much deeper than that.
There was a child-like innocence then. There was no shame. There was no baggage in people’s lives, no hangups. Adam and Eve were completely at ease within themselves. Completely transparent with each other and completely comfortable in their skin.
When it says they were naked and not ashamed, it means they were naked physically and spiritually and not ashamed.
And because of that, they were able to enjoy a close, personal, unhindered relationship with each, and more importantly with the One who made them and gave them all they enjoyed.
That was by far the best part in the beginning.
Can you imagine a world like that?
LOOK AT ILLUSTRATION…
Shame, death, disease, famine, pain, guilt, suffering all would not have been defined in any dictionary at the time because they didn’t exist. But they sure do today.
The Bible tells us where we came from, but it also tells us why things are the way they are.
You see, there were these two trees…
Genesis 2:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
By our nature, we are quick zoom in on the prohibition in the command, but we are slow to see that in the beginning you could do WHATEVER you wanted save one thing. There was only one rule in God’s law: don’t eat of this one tree. Eat from any tree you wish, save one. Remember this!
What happened next explains why things are the way they are.
Genesis 3:1 (ESV) — 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’?”
You know how it plays out. The devil, that old serpent, came on the scene, deceived Eve, who ate the forbidden fruit. Adam followed suit. And in an instant, the world, the universe went from a dream to a nightmare.
Genesis 2:25 tells what the world was like in the beginning when it was all good, but look what Genesis 3:7 tells us happens after it all goes bad…
Genesis 3:7 (ESV) — 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Just as verse 5 was about more than them just being naked and not ashamed, verse 7 is about more than just realizing they have no clothes on. R. Kent Hughes writes:
[Adam and Eve had fallen from the pinnacle of innocence and intimacy into the pit of guilt and estrangement… What Satan had told them was true—half true. They did not die that day, as they supposed they might. Indeed Adam lived another 930 years. Yet they did die. Their constant communion with God underwent death. They would go to earthly graves. They would need a Savior. Their eyes were opened—grotesquely. They got the knowledge they sought, but they got it the wrong way. They saw evil. And they saw themselves. They realized they were naked and desperately sought to cover themselves. Their innocence evaporated. Guilt and fear gripped their hearts.]
When sin came in, the first thing Adam and Eve experienced was shame. Sin brings a lot of bad stuff, but one awful thing it brings is shame.
Conclusion: As we close our catching up sermon in the God’s End Game series, Look at…
Genesis 3:8 (ESV) — 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Because there was no sin, no shame, Adam and Eve enjoyed something no one else ever has: unhindered fellowship with God. That fellowship with God was so sweet and real, God would actually walk about the garden and visit with Adam and Eve.
Here in verse 8 it’s almost as if that was his routine. Evidently God loved to take a stroll when the cool evening breeze rustled the leaves of all those beautiful trees. And maybe it was then he’d meet up with his prize creations. They’d hear him (wonder what that sounded like?) and come running like children to meet their father.
But now, instead of running to meet God, they run away and hide. What does that signify? Something has changed. Not on God’s part but theirs.
Let’s keep reading in Genesis 3…
9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
This is the most important question ever asked of anyone in the history of the world. God wasn’t asking where Adam was geographically (He’s God!) but spiritually. He was giving him a chance to confess and repent. To admit his wrongdoing and ask forgiveness.
Instead, a big blame game began. God pronounced a curse on the serpent and the consequences of disobedience on Adam and Eve. It all ended this way…
Genesis 3:22–24 (ESV) — 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
God cut off their access to the Garden, to the Tree of Life in the garden, but worse he barred their access to him. It was his house.
Sin brought shame, but even worse it also brought a breaking of fellowship with God.
That’s the death God meant when he gave the one rule:
Genesis 2:15–17 (ESV) — 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
LOOK AT ILLUSTRATION
Adam and Eve’s disobedience affected mankind and all of creation, plunging the world into darkness.
This is the backdrop of the entire New Testament. This is the back story of the Christmas story and the birth of our Savior. This is why Jesus had to suffer and die on a cross. This is why God needed to put together an end game.
Everything that God has been doing in this world ever since, leading up to the wrapping up of all things, can be traced back to this.
God’s end game is about putting all things to rights, the way they were in Genesis 1:1 because He…
1 Timothy 2:4–6 (NLT) — 4 … wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.
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