A long time ago, there was a father who built a house for his son. He knew precisely what kind of man his son was and upon finishing the house, he handed the keys to his son and entrusted his son to keep the house and take care of it. Every so often, the father would come, in person, to walk with his son through the garden in the back yard. One day when he came, the garden was in disarray. Things had been misplaced. There were holes in the sheetrock and the chandeliers were falling from the ceiling. The kitchen was a mess and there were empty cups all over the house. Some of the windows had been broken and weeds were growing up in the yard. I will leave it to the reader to guess the outcome of this story, but let me encourage you not to jump to a conclusion too quickly. When we make assumptions about people, we usually end up also making fools of ourselves.
It might be better, instead, for me to ask how you might respond if you were the father? If you had given someone a great treasure and that person completely destroyed the treasure you gave? A better question remains. Are we more like the son or the father?
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you, for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth — everything having the breath of life in it. I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.
The stories in the book of Genesis were handed down orally through the generations until they were finally recorded during Moses’ time. Genesis is the book of beginnings and is the starting point of the Christian faith. Genesis explains for us who God is. If all of Scripture comes from God, then all of Scripture must be understood in light of the book of Genesis. One cannot understand accurately the whole of Scripture without first reading and understanding the book of Genesis.
Last week, in one of the books I got to read, the author gave an account of his church-going experience. He stated that less that 15% of the sermons he listened to actually had a point, and less than 10% actually represented Scripture well. As I thought, I realized that I have made a similar observation. When what I desire is the bread that God gives, I often only receive crumbs or something that does not consist of bread at all. I find that the method of delivery matters not, what matters is that the Word of God is delivered to the people of God. After all, God’s Words are much more important than the words or delivery of any one person. I just wish more people realized that. God has given us His Word and His Word is a great treasure.
As we consider this Word, I want to make an observation in the text we have before us in this moment. When God created people, He gave authority to His people over all of creation. Not only did He give people a great treasure, but He gave His people every treasure. The God of the universe even endowed people with His very image. In some ways, He made people to be like Himself. He made, for Himself, children to whom He gifted all of creation. Not only this, but He observed everything that He had made, including the people whom He placed over all of creation, and saw that it was very good. He was pleased and His people were pleasing to Him.
According to this text, God has given a few responsibilities to the people who have been created in His image. First, as those who have been given all of creation, people were to take care of what has been given to them. People were also told to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Do we hear this, church? Multiplying is a good thing in God’s eyes! When a young lady is pregnant, she tends to be looked down on or condemned by so many in the organizational church. If we operate with Genesis 1 as our starting point, then we cannot ever look down on a pregnancy, even one out of wedlock. The deed done out of the context of Biblical marriage may be sinful, but neither the pregnancy nor the child are. Multiplication, here, meant more than simple reproduction. It was a command to fill the earth with the very image of God and to subdue or cultivate the whole earth to the glory of God.
By now we may realize which of the two characters mentioned at the outset represents us, and it is not the father. We might even guess what is coming. It seems to me that, as we observe creation today, things are not ‘very good.’ It also seems as though people have failed to fill the earth with worship to God’s glory. Things are in disarray.The garden has not been cultivated. There are holes in the sheetrock.
In Genesis 3, we read a story of how people rejected the mission of God in order to gain for themselves. Because people had been given all of creation, all of creation suffered when people chose to cultivate it for themselves rather than to the glory of God. God, in his knowledge, had to know that the people He created, in their freedom, would take His gift and completely destroy it. Yet, He still gave His people everything and did not hold anything back from them.
Everything written for us in Scripture has been given in light of this moment. When we listen to or read the text of Scripture and are not changed to our core by what we hear or read, then we have taken God’s Word, which is a treasure given to help us cultivate our lives in this time of sinfulness, and we have trampled on it. Still after everything, God has taken the time to reveal Himself to us; and still many pulpits of many churches are full of false teaching, many seats full of un-listening ears. Much like Adam and Eve, we want to cultivate our churches to fit us. We often want our pastors and brothers and sisters to fit a mold that we have fashioned rather than live in obedience to Christ. There are many expectations churches set that cause not only their membership, but also their leadership to live in sin before God. No wonder the organizational church is in such a terrible place today regarding its spiritual health!
As one example, Acts, chapter 6, tells us specifically two things. First, it is absolutely wrong for a pastor, elder, apostle, and overseer to perform any tasks that would cause him to neglect the ministry of the word. Yet, in churches world-wide, pastors are required or asked to perform tasks that cause them to be unprepared when performing the ministry of the word (preaching, teaching and evangelism). As a result, most churches serve bread crumbs when people are in desperate need of a spiritual meal. Second, no group in the church should be neglected. Yet, churches favor one group over another and fail to, according to the method described in Acts 6, select church members to serve the neglected groups so that their pastors do not have to live in sin during their time of service.
We wonder why so many pastors have to leave the ministry because of moral failure. We wonder why so many church leaders (90% of pastors) are burnt-out or exhausted. We wonder why a majority of pastors today have bad marriages (77%). We wonder why a majority of our leaders experience depression on a daily basis (71%). We wonder why only 23% of pastors actually feel content in their churches. Part of the reason is that many churches, by the anti-biblical expectations they set, force pastors and members to live in constant sin; and worse, to do so in the name of Christ.
We want to conform the text of Scripture to ourselves. We want to shape our lives for our own glory or success. We want to cast blame on others for our mistakes. In Genesis 3:7, after Adam and Eve had sinned against God, we read that they tried to cover their own shame. They hid from God. They tried to gain for themselves. This led to their trying to heal themselves. All it did was drive them further and further from God.
There is a vicious cycle present, here. When we try to gain for ourselves, we sin against God. When we sin against God, we try to cover our sin. When we try to cover our sin, we drive ourselves further from God. When we drive ourselves further from God, we sin again. When we sin again, we try to cover our sin. When we try to cover our sin, we drive ourselves even further from God. Adam and Eve started the cycle. They got caught in the cycle. They fell, and they fell, and they continued to fall. The same is true for us. We have nothing to offer. We cannot raise ourselves up from this circumstance. We are unable to help ourselves. The image of God has been altered and we are unable to restore that image. This is humbling, isn’t it? We hear all the time, even from churches that claim to preach God’s Word, that to some degree we can make ourselves better. We hear that we must strive to be better people in order to be in God’s good graces. We hear that we have to get our lives together before God will do a great work. We hear that God depends on the willingness of His people to accomplish His work. These ideas are entirely contrary to the text of Scripture from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. This is why it is important for us to receive the treasure of Scripture as God has given it. When we receive it any other way, we get it wrong. The only way we can be helped or raised up is if God breaks into this vicious cycle and, Himself, rescues us. All of Scripture begins with this and cannot be read or applied well without considering this fact: there is nothing we can do to receive God’s grace. If any other message is stated or implied, then it is not the message of Scripture.
We cannot cause Christ to come to us. We cannot bring about revival. We cannot grow a church. We cannot become righteous. We cannot rise above sin. We cannot deny ourselves. We cannot honor God. We cannot save others. We cannot develop holy traditions. We cannot remain pure. We cannot, unless, of course, God is so willing to break the cycle on our behalf.
God is restoring
In Genesis 3:21-23, we read: “The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them. The Lord God said, ‘Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.’ So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken” (HCSB).
The father went into the house that he built for his son, noticed both the damage and the vicious cycle, and rescued his son from further digress. He took his son out of the house so that he would not live in the circumstances that his son created for himself. He covered his son’s shame, and gave his son a way to fulfill his role.
God removed Adam and Eve from the garden and separated them from the tree of life so that they would not live forever in their fallen condition. He covered their shame when they could not do so adequately. Even though they could not raise themselves up, God reinforced the role that He had for them, telling them to continue their work of cultivation.
When we cannot restore ourselves, God is in the process of restoring us. This is the reason He has given the text of Scripture to help guide us. When we, in all of our religion, cannot find a way to God, God has broken into the viscous cycle and has offered to rescue us. We cannot become good enough, we cannot get our lives right first, we are unable to seek after God (Romans 3:11), we cannot raise ourselves up. All we can do is accept God’s gift of restoration. He leads us and changes us as He restores us. This alone is the premise on which all of Scripture is written. This is God’s thesis statement. It is only God who can restore in us the image of Himself; the image in which people were created.
Since this is the case, we also must take this chapter as it is and apply it to the way that we live in response to what God has done for us. This is the moment at which our lives become worship in response to what God has done. If we were created in God’s image, then, in response to God’s work, we ought to strive to reflect God in our lives. When others cannot pick themselves up, we help to break the cycle however we can so that we might lead others to Christ because Christ is the only one who can deliver and restore. As a response to God’s restoration in our lives when we could not restore ourselves, we, with the power and grace of God, invite others to the same restoration that we have gained as a gift from our great God. For, we have been remade in God’s image and we are being reformed into His likeness.
Statistics taken from http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562