God's Original Plan for Creation
When you look at the world as it now exists, you wonder why a loving and good God would create such a world. Violence between people and between nations; the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children; devastating viruses and diseases, etc. What kind of God would make such a world? The truth though is that the world we now live in is not the kind of world that God originally created. Whereas next lesson will look at what went wrong with the world, this lesson will look at the world as God originally intended it to be. When Jesus returns, we are going to see that He is not simply going to restore this creation to what God originally intended it to be. Instead He's going to make it even better.
THE GENESIS ACCOUNT OF CREATION
The Blessing of God (Gen. 1:28-31)
After God created the light on the first day, God saw that the light was ____________ (1:4); after He created the land on the third day, God saw that it was _________ (1:10). Each time God created something, He saw that it was good. After He had created everything, He then saw that it was _________ good (1:31).
After God creates everything, Moses writes: "And God ________________ them" (1:28). In other words, God did such a good job creating everything that God's favor and blessing were upon creation.
Whereas it is true that we do see terrible things happen in creation--earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, massive mudslides, etc., we still experience God's blessing upon creation. Go to Hawaii, Lake Louise in Canada, the Swiss Alps, the Caribbean, and the deserts of Arabia, and you will see how beautiful and wonderful creation can be. It is not as wonderful as God originally created it (why we shall find out later), yet even today we still see that God did a good job with creation.
The fact that God did a good job creating the universe also explains why today you see people who are good and yet who are not Christians. We shall soon see that being good though is not what is ultimately important. What is ultimately important is that we believe in God's Son Jesus so that we might become sons and daughters of God. Yet the fact that God did a good job in creating people explains why even non-Christians and people of other religions can be good.
The Sabbath (Gen. 2:1-3)
Everything which God created He created in 6 days (these are not necessarily six 24-hour days). Instead of creating anything on the 7th day, what did God do instead (Gen. 2:2)?
According to Gen. 2:3 what 2 things did God do to the 7th day that He did not do to the other 6?
To "sanctify" means to "set apart." In other words, God made the 7th day of the week special, different from the other 6 days. (Notice that there is no 8th day in Genesis 2. As far as God is concerned, there is no 8th day for Him because He has ceased working. Instead God lives perpetually in the 7th day, a day of rest.)
It is from this verse and Moses' command in Exodus 20:8 that we set aside one day each week for rest, especially worship. The Jews have set aside Saturday for their day of rest, while Christians have set aside Sunday for their Sabbath, for their day of rest.
This change from Saturday to Sunday did not happen just recently. As early as 55 AD the early Christians were worshipping on Sunday instead of on Saturday (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). Why the change from Saturday to Sunday? Because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, not Saturday. Every time we meet for worship on Sunday we proclaim our belief that the resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in history. Whereas worship on Saturday celebrates God's creation at the beginning of time, worship on Sunday celebrates God's new creation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why doesn't the NT explain the reason worship was changed from Saturday to Sunday? Why does the NT simply say it was changed? The response of the disciples would be like, "Duh! As great as the first creation is, the second creation started by the resurrection of Jesus is so much greater!"
How important is it to set aside one day a week for rest and for worship? The 7-day week with one of those days being for rest is built into the very fabric of our being. Creating a 5 or 4-day work week will lead to laziness, France being the primary example. France takes off the whole month of August in addition to Saturday and Sunday each week. When 11,000+ people died in the month of August, 2003, they barely made a rucus over it. They just didn't seem to care (we would have had riots in the US and called for Bush's head.) (See Report on Deaths in France.)
On the other hand, creating a week of more than 7 days is counterproductive, the primary example being Soviet Russia. From 1929-1940 Stalin forced upon the Russians a 10-day work week. He was determined to break religion's hold on the people. The experiment backfired. Productivity plummeted. Finally, he had to relent and go back to the 7-day work week. Why did this 10-day work week fail? Because God has built into the very fabric of our being the 7-day week. (See 10-Day Work Week Backfires on Stalin.)
Now this day of rest is not for the primary purpose of playing golf. A major element in this day of rest should be worship because legitimate, genuine worship results in spiritual and physical rest. Recently C. E. Magness told me that he committed to being in worship each Sunday. Before he made that commitment, he used to get up every Sunday morning and go about his chores. It was incredible how productive he was. After he made his commitment though, he would come home after church on Sunday morning and discover that he had to take a nap. The worship service applied brakes to his fast-paced life, and he discovered that he sincerely needed rest. He did not need to slow down and attend worship to gain points with God. He needed to slow down and worship so that his body and soul might get much needed rest.
Too often even Christians abuse the concept of the Sabbath. "I HAVE to work on Sunday; I HAVE to play in that tournament on Sunday; I HAVE to do this . . . " There are very few things in life that we HAVE to do; we do those things because we WANT to. Many farmers today who bring in the harvest claim that they HAVE to work on Sunday in order to bring in the harvest. Lucy Waterman's dad was a farmer in the Dakotas. He made it a practice of NEVER working on Sundays, even if it meant not bringing in all the harvest. The wild thing though was this: he never failed to bring in all the harvest, and he was always earlier than the other farmers in bringing in the harvest. It is incredible that whenever you give God your time, He gives you time back in return.
Probably the greatest example of a high-profile person honoring the Sabbath is Eric Liddle, missionary to China and runner for Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics. (This story is chronicled in the movie Chariots of Fire.) Although he was the "fastest man in the world" at that time, he refused to run his trial because it fell on a Sunday. He stood true to his convictions even though under intense pressure from the British Prince of Wales. God more than amply compensated him by letting him win a gold medal in the 200 meter race.
The Ability to Choose (Gen. 2:4-18)
According to Moses God plants a garden in what is the northwestern region of modern-day Iraq or the eastern region of modern-day Turkey. It is a land from which sprung 4 major rivers and in which the most precious gold could be found. This garden is Eden. In this garden God places Adam (and later Eve).
God tells Adam that he could eat from what (Gen. 2:16)?
There is only one exception to this rule. What is the one exception (Gen. 2:17)?
What does God say will happen to Adam if he eats from that tree (Gen. 2:17)?
What you are seeing here is that God has woven choice into the very fabric of our existence. If God did not want man to have a choice, He would not have placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. The fact that there is a tree in the garden which the man is not to eat from shows that God wants man to have the choice either to obey Him or to disobey Him.
Why does God give man a choice in life either to live for Him or to reject Him? Because God wants real sons and daughters in relationship with Him, not robots. Remember that God created us in the image of His Son Jesus (Gen. 1:27, Col. 1:15), Jesus as a Son, not as a slave to His Father. He freely chooses to love and to obey His Father. In the same way God wants His new sons and daughters to love and obey Him freely, not under compulsion. He wants a real relationship with them, not a robotic one.
Notice one more thing though. Which was the greater number, the number of trees Adam could eat from or the number of trees he could NOT eat from?
Many people view God as being the original fun sucker. Look closely though. Adam was just to avoid one tree, not many. Just one. And yet we shall see that he could not even do that. God gives us so much freedom as Christians. There are parameters He has set around us; yet there are not as many as people think they are. Instead God desires that we enjoy life and the creation He has placed us in (1 Tim. 4:1-5, especially verses 3 and 4).
Ministers and seriously-minded Christians need to keep this in mind. The church experience can become nothing more than a time in which we tell everybody to quit doing bad things: "Don't do this; don't do that!" Such an approach leads to rebellion. Whereas we do need to take seriously the parameters God has placed in our lives, like Jesus we need to focus on the adventure, on the mission God has for us. When C. S. Lewis writes at the end of The Chronicles of Narnia that all our adventures with Jesus in this life are but the beginning of the Great Adventure in heaven, Lewis means it. The Christian life should be exciting, adventuresome, free. That's the kind of Christianity the world wants and the church needs.
Fulfilling Relationships (Gen. 2:18-25)
In Gen. 1:28 we saw that God placed mankind over creation. He was to have dominion over creation and subdue it. What does Adam do in Gen. 2:19-20? What did Adam do which showed he had dominion over the animal kingdom?
As a parent I can related to this. My son and daughter may one day have their names changed legally; however, they will never be able to get away from their birth names of Nathan and Molly. Naming a person or object demonstrates the power and dominion a person has over another.
Up to this point every time God made something, He saw that it was GOOD. According to Gen. 2:18 what was the one thing that God said was NOT good?
At this point what does God do to take care of the situation (Gen. 2:21)?
From what part of Adam's body did God create the woman from (Gen. 2:22)?
Martin Luther, the 16th-century founder of the Lutheran church, said, "The woman came from the man's rib, not from under his feet to be beaten, nor from the head to be superior, but from the man's side, to be his equal... [but] a little lower than the arm, to be protected and close to the heart to be loved."
The joke goes like this. When God saw that Adam was lonely, He told him that He was going to make him a beautiful, wonderful mate. She would be gorgeous with perfect measurements. She would be an excellent cook and passionate lover. She would rub his head, back or feet whenever he needed it. When Adam asked God how much it would cost him, God said: "An arm and a leg." Adam responded: "What will you give me for a rib?"
According to Gen. 2:24 which is the more important relationship: a man's relationship with his parents or his relationship with his wife? Why is that your answer?
According to Gen. 2:24 the man is to leave his parents and cleave to his wife so that the 2 might become ____________ ______________.
Notice that he says the 2, not the 3 or the 4 or the 5, etc. Marriage is to be a relationship only between TWO people. Polygamy is ruled out by this verse. Also, it does NOT say 2 PEOPLE will become one flesh. It says a MAN and his WIFE shall become one flesh. This rules out homosexuality and homosexual marriages. Marriage is the union of ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN. Moreover, it says that the 2 shall become ONE. This rules out divorce. Finally, this verse rules out bestiality because only people are involved in this relationship. Anything else contradicts God's design for marriage.
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES
The Blessing of God
We shall delve more deeply into the concept of God's blessing as we study the story and significance of Abraham. Suffice it to say that when God created the universe, it was experiencing only God's favor and blessing.
The Sabbath Rest
The rest God gives us on the Sabbath is ultimately fulfilled by having a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. By "rest" God does not mean "going to sleep and waking up refreshed." It is the state in which a person is at peace, at rest in his soul. Too often we try to find peace by trying to excel at sports. We don't feel good about ourselves so we try to be the best athlete in our particular field of expertise: football, basketball, baseball, etc. OR we try to find peace within ourselves by trying to get the highest degrees in our area of study. OR we try to have the finest home, the best family, the perfect body, the best clothes, the greatest fame. Many fail to achieve these goals and as a result do not experience rest. Some actually do achieve these goals and still do not experience the peace and rest of God. Ricky Williams wins the Heisman Trophy and acquires a lucrative salary in the NFL; yet drugs have almost destroyed his career. Bill Clinton wanted to achieve fame, and even though he achieved it by being president of the US for 8 years, he still tries to look for every conceivable way to get back into the spotlight. Women try to put together the perfect house only to have a child take a sharp object and scratch that perfect table or tear up that perfect chair. This is not the way to achieve the rest and peace of God.
According to Heb. 4:2 what did the Jews do which kept them from experiencing the rest of God?
According to Heb. 4:3 what must we do in order to experience the rest of God?
It is only by faith that we experience the rest of God. We don't work to be saved; instead we accept by faith the salvation Jesus brings us. We don't work to become somebody important; we accept the fact that we already are important because Jesus' Spirit in us makes us God's sons and daughters. We work to provide food for our family and to promote God's kingdom. We play sports in order to develop ourselves physically and mentally, and become healthy servants for Jesus. We work hard at education in order to be the best instruments for Jesus. [God seems to use greatly a dedicated person with a trained mind.]
According to Revelation 14:13 which people find ultimate rest and when will they find it?
Although that is the time we will experience ultimate rest, we can still experience it to a real degree right now as we live a life of trust and faith in Jesus and His word.
The apostles likewise address the relationship of the husband and wife. Some religions, such as Islam, almost enslave the woman to her husband and to other men. According to 1 Peter 3:7 though men are to be kind and gentle towards their wives because they are "____________-heirs of the grace of life." They are not second-class citizens of the kingdom of heaven; they are as much God's child as the husband is. As much as I love Nathan, I don't love him any more than I love Molly. When Nancy and I pass away, we will leave Molly the same amount of money/possessions as we leave Nathan (which will probably be about $5 a piece). This is what Peter means here by calling women ______________-heirs. (Remember woman was fashioned from man's rib, not from his skull or from his foot.)
Although the woman is equal to the man, God has nevertheless appointed the man to be the leader in the home. According to 1 Tim. 2:12-13 why is the man supposed to be the leader in the home and in the church?
According to Ephesians 5:22 how is the wife supposed to relate to her husband?
The word "submit" does not mean that she is inferior to her husband or that he is to be her "lord and master." The word "submit" means to get in your spot in the line. It has the idea of a military parade in which the general leads the way, followed by the colonels, then by the majors, then by the captains, etc. The private comes last. Now the general is not "above" the private. Rather he is in front of the private leading the way. In the same way the husband is not above the wife but rather is in front of her and his family, leading them in the direction the Lord would have them to go. This is the biblical concept of the family. (Our relationship with Jesus involves just this kind of leadership. He doesn't claim to be above us as much as in front of us. He calls Himself the Good Shepherd who LEADS the sheep. That means He is the One experiencing the dangers FIRST; He is the One who clears the way for us so that we don't have to stumble to destruction. Such a model of leadership provides direction as well as protection for those following behind.) According to Eph. 5:25 how is the husband supposed to treat his wife?
God has a lot at stake in your marriage. According to Eph. 5:24 the wife is to submit to her husband just like the _______________ is supposed to submit to Christ. According to Eph. 5:25 the husband is supposed to love his wife just like Christ loves the ____________________.
At the end of his discussion on marriage Paul says that all along he has not really been speaking about marriage but about what (Eph. 5:32)?
In other words your marriage is one of the major ways that God shows to the world Jesus' love for the church, and the love and submission of the church to Christ. He has a lot at stake in your marriage.