Good morning and welcome to Journey Church. My name is Phil Human and it’s my pleasure to be speaking with you today about God and what he is like. And today we are kicking off a new six-week series that we are calling, “A Long Story, Short.” And we are going to walk through the Bible – and look at the major themes of the bible that tells the story of God, and the story of God and people. How it started, what went wrong, God’s promise to fix it, how God fixed what got broken, God’s plan for us in this kind of world, and we will end it with looking at the end of the world, at least as we know it.
We will be using the Bible, as we normally do – as our textbook. And this is what I want to cover today.
First – we will cover some information About the Bible..
Second – we will talk about the relationship between Faith and Science.
Included in this is the question of whether followers of Jesus must believe that creation occurred over a literal six day period.
Lastly, I want to direct us to the important question about creation. More important than How it was created – is the question, WHY was it created.
Let’s start with understanding a little bit about the Bible. The Bible was written by more than 40 different authors over a time span of more than 14 centuries. It was written in three different languages. On three different continents. there are 66 books in the Bible. 39 in the OT – which deals with everything from the creation of the world until the birth of Jesus. – and 27 books in the New testament – which begins with the birth of Jesus and ends with the end of the world!
Some of the people who write books in the Bible kings. Some where Shepherds. Some were church leaders, some where prophets – Many were Poets and song writers.
Sometimes these people wrote while sitting in a palace. Other times they wrote while hiding in a cave, or even while sitting in prison.
Some of these 66 books are devoted to history. Some are filled with Old Testament laws for Israel. Others are all about prophecy – some are filled with poetry.
In the New Testament we have books – four of them to be exact, that describe the life and times of Jesus. Matthew, Mark Luke and John – we call them the Gospels – which means Good News. Most of the New Testament “books” are actually letters from early church leaders, like Paul and Peter and John – written to churches who were looking for some clarification what it looked like to live as christians in this kind of world.
So why has the Bible endured through all of these centuries? One of the reasons the Bible has been so relevant throughout the ages – for thousands of years now – is because it tackles the most important questions that mankind asks.
Like, why is it that sometimes good people suffer? The book of Job handles that one. By the way – many people think that Job might have been the first book – the oldest of all of the books in the Bible. Tackling perhaps man-kinds first question. What did I do to deserve this?
Proverbs deals with the question, “What is wisdom? Where do I find it?”
The Song of Solomon or song of songs – deals with the question, “What is love?”
The book of Ecclesiastes asks, “What is the meaning of life?” Which doesn’t get answered until the last chapter, by the way. When the writer says to seek God and do it while you’re young, because everything else will leave you unfilled.
The Bible tackles all of the greatest questions humanity has ever asked. Including the question, Is there a God and if so, what is that God like? And how do I interact with him?
It’s been said, accurately, undoubtedly – that the Bible is the only book you will read that reads you back. It is a mirror to our soul – and it is able to get to the real issues of the human heart. It is useful for teaching and sometimes for correction – and the reason for that is because of WHO wrote the bible.
See – yes there was more than 40 authors writing the Bible, (and you can tell the difference between how Paul writes Romans and how John writes his first letter. Stark contrasts as their personalities bleed onto the page -as all good authors will do)
But the Bible says that behind all of these authors – there was one Capital A Author – the Holy Spirit of God – who led and directed the thoughts of these writers.
1 Peter 1
20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.
2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
And this is why – in spite of 15 centuries, and 40 different authors, there is really one story. One voice. The Bible hangs together. It is a cohesive story about God, Man, rebellion, salvation and re-creation.
It paints for us a picture worth far more than a thousand words. It’s the story of God and mankind and God and you, personally. God has a story. You have a story. And when your story and God’s story intersect – that is where real life begins.
So let’s get started where all stories start. Every story has a beginning. And in the bible – we read about the beginning in the book of Genesis chapter 1.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”
And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.
We will not take the time to read this – but when you do you’ll notice that
On day 2 Then God separated the waters – created an atmosphere –
On day 3 – Then God created the land and the vegetation.
Day four – God created the moon and the stars and the sun –
day five God created the birds and the fish.
Day six – God created the wild animals – but God was not finished yet.
26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
27 So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!
And then he took the day off. Day seven.
The first words out of the bible’s mouth, so to speak – is the declaration that there is a God – and he created all this stuff. This is not an accident. You are not an accident.
God created the world.
We’ll note that the Bible doesn’t tell us how God came into being. There’s no backstory to God. There is simply a statement that at one time there was nothing in this universe except God. And at some point in the timeline of the universe God decided to create something.
the first thing we learn about God is that he is creative. God is an artist. He enjoys creating. And so God from nothing, created everything.
Is this difficult for you to accept? Some people think to themselves, what about science!
So let’s talk now about the relationship between science and faith.
Are people of faith against science? And the answer to that is – of course not! I have a medicine chest full of science. We have doctors and biologists and engineers, mathematicians, rocket scientists – sitting here in this room – they are all scientists. Followers of Jesus aren’t anti-science. In fact there are tons of followers of Jesus who are scientists. You know that, right?
We aren’t anti-science. Scientists – many of whom are Christians, are working trying to save lives.
That said, at times science and faith are pitted against each other. Why are they at odds with one another? Usually when they get in each others business. Scientists make religious claims – specifically, claims that science demands atheism, when it does not.
Since one cannot scientifically prove the existence of God, God must not exist.
You might as well believe in a spaghetti monster.
Which is terribly unfair to people of faith. Because – Christians say that God is outside of creation. So we agree with you that you will never be able squeeze God into centrifuge or break him down into scientific document.
People of faith look behind the science and simply claim that there is a creator behind all of the wonderful things you are studying.
For instance – here is noted author and scientist and atheist Stephen Hawking postulated that, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” he writes. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.
So he is saying there is no God – but what else is he saying? He is saying that at one time there was nothing, and suddenly there was everything. And Christians pick up a 3500 year old book and say, Check. Page one dude.
So sometimes scientists who are atheists use science to make religious claims – and atheism is a religious claim.
But sometimes, let’s be fair here. Christians cross the line when we want to make the Bible a science textbook. The Bible is not a scientific document.
For instance – and I might be getting myself in hot water with some people who would disagree with me – but must a Christian believe in a 6 day creation? Must it be six literal 24 hour periods?
Now some people of faith say – it must be! And they say that because someone has told them that if this isn’t literal, than we can’t take anything the bible says literally. If this isn’t literal than maybe Jesus rising from the grave isn’t literal either.
And I am telling you that it’s not necessary draw the line in the sand about the amount of time it took to create the world. It’s not necessary. The authority of scripture does not hang in the balance based on whether it was a literal six day creation.
Here’s why- Genesis 1 is clearly poetic. Notice all the repetition – And God said… and God said… Let there be let there be… and it was good and it was good… It was written to be remembered, and appreciated – written to point us to a loving and personal God- written to inform us that we are MORE than a random pile of space junk that collided at just the right speed.
Genesis one teaches us that we are NOT an accident. And it is written poetically and beautifully to make the fundamental claim that there is a God who created this world and that includes you.
Now – you might disagree vehemently with me about this. Okay. What does Journey believe? We believe that God spoke the world into creation. That you are no accident. Furthermore, we believe that Jesus specifically, created the world. If you tell me the world was created in six literal days – I’ll say great! No problem with that. You might even discover that I agree with you.
What we must not do – is make a literal six day creation a litmus test – you have to believe this before you can believe in Jesus. It’s not a litmus test for true faith.
We mustn’t make Genesis 1 into something it wasn’t intended to be – and we mustn’t tell people who are not yet followers of Jesus that this is something that must agree with before they can become a follower of Jesus. It’s not a litmus test. Okay?
What is litmus test worthy? Did God create the heavens and the earth? Yes. That’s worth arguing about.
Because the fundamental premise of the Bible is that you are more deeply loved than you ever could have imagined. That you are not an error, a mistake. You are not an accidental collision of cosmic space junk.
Which frankly, stands in stark opposition to the premise of a scientist who is an atheist. Let me show you another quote from Hawking…
He goes on to write, “The fact that we human beings – who are ourselves mere collections of fundamental particles of nature – have been able to come this close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our universe is a great triumph.”
And so here is our last part of our sermon. And that is that the most important question about creation is not HOW. (We agree that it came from nothing.)
The most important question is why.
And the Bible posits an entirely different answer than someone who wants to explain this world without a God.
Page one of the Bible says – there is a creative God in this universe – As an artist sits down at a blank canvas and creates- God designed you and shaped you and knit you together.
Check out these verses from Psalm 139…
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
God created you. Specifically, by the way, the Bible says Jesus created you. Colossians 1
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
Jesus is an artist. He created you and he loves what he’s done.
Listen – can I tell you something – the HOW we were created is interesting sure, but the WHY we were created – well now we’re getting somewhere. Genesis 1 speaks to the WHY we were created.
And let’s go back to Genesis 1 and re-read verse 26 – 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.
Who is God talking to? The squirrels? No – the angels? No – we aren’t like the angels. He is speaking with the other two persons of the trinity.
The bible says God exists in three persons – one personhood. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Three in one. And if this is your first Sunday in church it’s a little messed up of me to toss the trinity at you – because it’s one of those things that doesn’t make sense to us.
Suffice it to say – God didn’t create mankind because he was lonely. Or because he needed a friend. The doctrine of the Trinity informs us that from eternity past God was already in a perfect and loving community. Where one loved another and together they love a third. Mankind wasn’t created to fulfill a need God had.
Neither were we created as playthings of the Gods. Throughout history mythologies were created where mankind was created to be slaves – to serve the Gods. they were playthings – meant to entertain the gods. But that’s so far from anything the Bible presents to us.
Why were we created? Because God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit said one time, let’s expand the circle. Let’s create people who can join this community of love and grace. You were created by God so that you might receive an invitation from him to be part of the dance that God the Father Son and Holy Spirit have been dancing since eternity past. Where you too can experience love, and compassion and goodness – where all of that flows like a river from God himself.
Listen – I don’t know what condition you find yourself in today. You might be feeling pretty low. You might be just about empty. You might be feeling just about as low as you’ve ever felt, and you are wondering, where does God fit into this picture? Am I nothing more than a random collection of space dust?
You betcha you are! You are deeply loved. You are more loved than you ever dared imagine. Listen – Jesus didn’t die on the cross because he has some kind of attachment to space debris. he died for you because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. And because you are worth it!
You were created by God in order that you might be brought into a friendship, a deep loving relationship with one who will never ever betray you.
You are deeply loved by God. Listen – I’m all like, The Bible was written a=over 15 centuries by 40 different blah blah blah. But what does it say!
It says this:Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
I like being around artist kinds of people. Eric Post – who plays electric guitar – I asked him once about his art. When do you feel you are done? He says – you know an artist creates for their own pleasure. You create something ultimately for yourself. And at some point you step away and say – I like it.
You are God’s masterpiece. Check out James 1:18…’And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”
You might be feeling pretty low today – I just want you to hear me tell you that you are deeply loved by God. You are his prized possession. You might be going through a season right now that’s tearing you up. Know please that God loves you.
This Bible – it’s a long book. It’s a long story – but really it isn’t difficult to understand. It’s a rescue story. It’s a love story. It’s a story about a guy saving his bride from a fiery dragon. It’s all of those things – and it’s God the rescuer. God the hero – and it’s you who is the object of his saving work.
There is a Capital A author of your life. And you might not yet believe that there even IS a God – well – that’s okay – God knows you exist. And he is actively working to get you to the point where you will trust him with your life.
God treats you with dignity and respects you enough to give you a voice in the story. if you allow him, God’s story and your story will intersect. A new chapter will be written in your life – the day I realized that I was more than a collection of particles. The day I realized I was more loved than I ever dreamed. The day I trusted God to write the pages of my life.