God's End Game - Part 2
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
September 16, 2018
We are well into our new series called “God’s End Game.” We are trying to figure out what God’s up to; what his ultimate agenda is; how he’s going to wrap everything up one day.
To figure out what God’s end game is, 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, our beginning.
Genesis, the book of beginnings, is our go-to for that. The first verse of the first book of the Bible (that verse every Christian reads on January 1) says it all…
Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Last week we learned that Genesis 1:1 puts all things in their proper place: under God. If he created all things then he is Lord over all things.
It also legitimizes the place in which all things were put. Verses 2-25 account for all there is in the physical realm. God made it and it was good.
This whole idea that the physical is bad and the spiritual is good doesn’t hold up when you look at the Bible. We will revisit this truth over ad over, so keep that pot simmering on the back burner of your brains.
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.
There has been a lot of debate as to what this actually means. Some believe it refers to the…
Physical — God has arms and legs and such, so he gave them to us, but God is a spirit being…
John 4:24 (ESV) — 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
The spiritual realm is just as real as the physical, more so really, because it is the ultimate reality. But purely spiritual beings do not have flesh and bone (This is going to change later — woo hoo!).
Mental/emotional — we are unique in our abilities regarding our minds and emotions, but other creatures demonstrate these things on a lesser level as well.
Our dog Maple isn’t that smart, bless her little heart, but you sure know when she’s sad or happy or worried. I saw a video of a crow playing with Pringles top the other day!
Spiritual abilities — “God-directed abilities or spiritual inclinations of the inner life. Examples would include belief in God, a desire to know God, prayer, and the ability to discern right from wrong. However, as with a physical or mental ability, spiritual abilities or desires are not possessed equally by all humans at all stages of life.”
Could be that, but doesn’t have to be.
Possession of a soul - we have the breath of God breathed into us, giving us a soul and/or spirit.
Genesis 2:7 (ESV) — 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
But we see in Genesis 1:30, all living creatures on the earth have been given that.
Genesis 1:30 (ESV) — 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
I’m not saying animals have souls, just that, like us, they have the breath of life in them in some form or fashion. I’m also not saying all dogs go to heaven either. And I do believe, unlike animals, humans have an unseen part that relates to God. I’m just not so sure this is what being made in his image means.
Here’s where I have come to fall on this. It has to do with…
Vocation - It’s not about how we’re put together but what our purpose, our job is.
Michael Heiser writes: [the Hebrew preposition translated “in” can mean “as,” which denotes function or status: this means that it can be said that humanity was created “as” the image of God. Humans are created as God’s imagers—they function as God’s representatives.
According to this view, the image of God is not a quality within human beings; it is what humans are. Every human, regardless of its stage of development, is an imager of God. This imaging is neither incremental nor partial, nor does it derive from a physical or spiritual ability; rather, it derives from being created as God’s image.]
One of my favorite stories in the gospels when the religious leaders ask Jesus whether Jews should pay taxes to Caesar or not. It’s found in three gospels, but we’ll look at the account in Mark…
Mark 12:13–17 (ESV) — 13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
That word likeness in verse 16 means “image.” It’s translated from the word eikon in the Greek. Now, have you ever heard me mention the Septuagint? That’s a Greek translation of the OT used by non-Hebrew reading Jews in Jesus’ day. Guess what Greek word is used to translate the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:27 for image? You got it: eikon.
Maybe our Genesis text means we are God’s image bearers in the same way that coin bore Caesar’s image. Wherever that coin went, it represented the one whose image was on it, with all his power and wealth and reputation as Emperor of the civilized world. The coin’s value wasn’t inherent. It was the image of the one inscribed on it that gave it value. It’s job, it’s vocation, was to bear the image of the one whose power and might stood behind it.
So, going back to our scholar, he says “we are created as God’s imagers, God’s representatives. The image of God is not a quality within human beings; it is what [we] are.”
That gives us purpose and meaning. That gives value to all human life transcending age or skin color or place in society. Every single human being is intended to be an imager of the one true God.
This is more important than ever. We live in an age where we’re demoted to the same level as all other creatures. I think this plays a big role in the sense of hopelessness that pervades our culture.
Tim Keller, in a sermon on this text, said…
[The Bible says no matter who you are, where you’re from, what your record is … It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your life. It doesn’t matter how low you’ve gone. Every human being made in the image of God reflects God. Therefore, there is a rock solid, objective, irreducible glory and significance and value and worth about you and every human being there is, every one of us.
Why is that so crucial in our culture? I’ll tell you why. Quite a few years ago, a friend of mine … He’s now a doctor, but at the time he was a resident. He was at a teaching hospital. He was doing his rounds under the leadership of a doctor… and they were discussing a case. Part of the woman’s problem was she was depressed.
My friend, being a believer, as it were, said, “You know, one of the things we can do doesn’t even take a lot of medicine or anything. We just have to reassure her that she is a valuable, worthwhile human being, that she has dignity just as a human being.” Do you know what the doctor said? He said, “How do you know that?” All of the young residents started to titter a little bit, thinking it was a joke. He wasn’t joking.
He says, “We’re scientists here. Science says human beings are more complex, but there’s absolutely no scientific basis for saying you have dignity and value and worth. Come on,” he says. “Let’s not push your … religious views on this person.” He’s right, by the way. There is absolutely no scientific basis for saying human beings have rights and dignity and value.
… Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the famous chief justice and major intellectual in the early twentieth century in the United States, wrote, “Scientifically, I see no reason for attributing to a man a significance different in kind from that which belongs to a baboon or a grain of sand.”
Scientifically we’re more complex, but significant? Nature kills us off like everybody else. Do you see the conundrum? In this secular society, all of the therapists will tell you, “Oh, you’re so valuable. You have such dignity and worth. You’re a valuable human being,” yet the philosophy of secularism has no basis for that at all.
G.K. Chesterton [cynically] puts it something like this: “As a politician, the secular person will cry out that all war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, admit that all life is a waste of time. The secular person goes first to a political meeting, where he complains the natives are being treated as if they were beasts. Then he goes to a scientific meeting, where he proves that all human beings actually are beasts.”
Christianity, because of the doctrine of the image of God, can say to people, grounded in ultimate reality, “God doesn’t make junk. You’re in the image of God. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter how low you’ve gone. You’re valuable to him. You’re valuable. Period.”] -- Tim Keller
So one big way we are different from every other living thing among God’s creatures is we are his image bearers, the other is…
- We are given dominion over His creation
Because we are God’s image bearers, we are tasked with caring for his creation, meaning we treat it the way he would, NOT anyway we like.
This wasn’t negated with the fall (which we will cover next time). And, another spoiler alert, this all comes back into play in what God is heading towards.
Like the Psalmist, we should be blown away that God would set us over his creation…
Psalm 8:3–6 (ESV) — 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
We are God’s image bearers and God’s stewards over all creation. That’s a message the world needs to hear now more than ever.
Conclusion: Well let’s wrap this up for now.
Genesis 1:29–31 (ESV) — 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
It’s interesting that once we come into the picture, God pronounces all he’d made VERY good.
If God ascribes that kind of value to us, it means that whatever his end game is, it involves us. You might say, it even revolves around us.
We are closer now to God’s end game playing out than ever.
Don’t miss out on what he’s up to.
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