Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In the Garden

While only a small percentage of people identify themselves as atheists I believe that a large portion of the population lives as functioning atheists. What I mean by that is they may acknowledge God’s existence, but they don’t live like God exists. What good is it to say God exists if you are not going to take the time to discover who God is?

Since most of my readers believe in God, I don’t have to take time offering up evidence for God’s existence. What I want to do is help us understand how we can live like God is real. I have this question for you to consider today: How has the knowledge of God’s existence influenced the way you live your life?

Many years ago, two philosophers told this parable to debunk God’s existence:

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing growing side by side were many flowers and many weeds. One of the explorers exclaimed, “Some gardener must tend this plot!” So they pitched their tents and set a watch.

But though they waited several days no gardener was seen.

“Perhaps he is an invisible gardener!” they thought. So they set up a barbed-wire fence and connected it to electricity. They even patrolled the garden with bloodhounds, for they remembered that H.G. Wells’s “Invisible Man” could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen. But no sounds ever suggested that someone had received an electric shock. No movements of the wire ever betrayed an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never alerted them to the presence of any other in the garden than themselves. Yet, still the believer between them was convinced that there was indeed a gardener.

“There must be a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he love.”

At last the skeptical explorer despaired. “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?” (Jesus Among Other Gods, pg. 126)

These philosophers want us to think of the universe around us as a garden. Christians say that one evidence of God’s existence is what is all around us, “Creation.” We say that the earth has the fingerprints of God on it. The philosophers say that doesn’t matter, because we have never seen God or have been able to catch a glimpse of Him. It is not enough for them to see the design of the universe, they want “scientific” evidence for God’s existence.

That is what evolutionary science is all about, to explain how we got here without a Creator. Evolution is science’s explanation to the evidences of God that can be found in the world around us. For most people who believe in evolution the creation account found in Genesis lacks a certain scientific sophistication that they are looking for to answer their questions. They want to know the X’s and O’s of how God created and how this all came about.

The sad thing is that Christians have many times tried to make Genesis say things that it never was intended to say. The Bible is not a science book, it was not intended to give us a “scientific” description of Creation. We cannot determine how old the earth is from the Bible or how God created animals and people. When we look for those type of answers from the Bible we miss the point of what Genesis is telling us. If you want to get into a debate with someone about evolution don’t use the Bible as your tool, use science. For too long we have made this debate with evolution one of science against religion, when actually it should be science against science. You should be opposed to evolution, not only because it takes God out of the picture, but because it is bad science.

This morning is not about the evidences for Creation, rather it is about what we can learn about God in the Garden of Creation. I want us to take a look at the important truths the first three chapters of Genesis teaches rather than getting hung up on the Creation/Evolution debate. What I want us to realize, and it is something very basic, is that God is real. That is the main point of Genesis 1-2, all for truths we will look at support that one point. God is real. I know that many of you out there are saying, “Duh, I know God is real. That is what I believe.” I want you to know that it is something totally different to believe a certain list of doctrines and believing the Truth. You see the demons believe the God is real, they have a been theology of God than you and I have. Their problem is they don’t believe Truth. They don’t trust that God’s way is best so they don’t follow Him. They live to ignore God. Too many of us believe in God, we believe in a certain list of “doctrinal truths,” but we live lives that ignore God. We must live lives that say God is real. Romans 1:20 reads; “There are things about God that people cannot see--his eternal power and all the things that make him God. But since the beginning of the world those things have been easy to understand. They are made clear by what God has made. So people have no excuse for the bad things they do.” (NCV) We need to live lives that proclaim God is real.

The first two chapters detail creation. These two chapters tell us that God decides to create, and so He creates. He speaks and it is so. Light, sky, land, vegetation, sun, moon, animals are all made with a word of God. Then God makes man in His image, both male and female (which is important to remember) are BOTH made in God’s image. Here God doesn’t speak, rather He gets His hands dirty, and He forms man, and puts His breath, soul-life into the man. That is it in a nutshell. Today I want to draw four truths from Genesis 1-2 that when applied to our lives will help us live like God is real.

1. God is the Creator. (Genesis 1:1)

What does it mean that God is the Creator? Does it make any difference if God created or if this is just an accident of nature? I believe that there is a tremendous difference. Not only because we are created, but because who created us. Revelation 4:8 we get this description of God; “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty--the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.” (NLT)

God is holy. That means He is with out sin, without wrong intention, that He is perfect. We don’t need to worry about God doing the wrong thing, because God is Holy, and He will always do what is right. This is such a contrast from the other gods that are out there, who struggle with many of the same temptations that we face and have the same shortcomings that we have. The God of the Bible is different because He is holy.

God is almighty. There is no one or thing that is more powerful than God. He can make the impossible happen, He can create out of nothing, and He can use a “nobody” to make a difference in the world. Nothing is impossible for God.

God is eternal. God was before time, God is right now, and God is in the future. He is always present, working through history to bring about His will. We don’t have to worry about God dying or disappearing, He will always be.

I want you to think about what God being the Creator means for your life. Since God is holy there is a certain standard by which He wants you to live. Since God is almighty, there is nothing in your life that He cannot help you with. Since He is eternal there will never be a break in our relationship with Him. That means we need to set God apart from everything else in our lives. He needs to be loved, awed, feared, respected, and trusted.

Because God is the Creator, He is the one we worship.

2. The world didn’t come about by accident. (Genesis 1:31-2:1)

God created the world. It was not by accident or boredom that He created, but He do so out of a purpose and a design. He did not create randomly or without thought, but He created something that was very good. A world that measured up to His specifications and that would bring about His purpose. Evolution tells us we are here by accident, but God wants us to know that we are here for a purpose.

Ephesians 2:10 says; “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (NASB) God created us to do good. That is the purpose that He has given to us, and we live out that purpose as we use the talents He has given us with love and compassion, seeking to tell others of God’s love. God has a part for us to play. He didn’t just create us to exist, but He created us to live for Him.

Colossians 1:16 reads, “Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see--kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him.” (NLT) Not only are we created by God, through Jesus, but we are created for Him. God created us for Himself. He wants to have a relationship with us, He wants us to use us, and He wants us to be devoted to Him. What that means is we is that we are answerable to Him. We belong to God and if we ignore Him or treat Him like He does not exist we will one day answer to Him.

Because this is not an accident, we need live according to our God given purpose.

3. Life couldn’t be lived alone. (Genesis 2:18)

God created us to be social beings. Here in 2:18 God created a woman to be with Adam, and from there on it was always possible for people to have relationships with other people. From a marriage relationship to a family relationship to a friend relationship, God created us to be with other people. Life is not to be lived alone.

Hebrews 10:24 and 25 reads; “We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.” (CEV) Life is tough. It would be hard to live life alone, without any support or encouragement from anyone else. God has given us family, friends, and most importantly a Church Family, to encourage us to do the right thing, remind us of God’s love, and to support us in our time of need. We need people in our lives.

Romans 5:11 says, “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God--all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in making us friends of God.” (NLT) The most important relationship we have is our relationship with God. Without that relationship life would not be worth living. It is relationship that God wants to have with us, a relationship that Jesus died so we can have. A relationship with the Creator is necessary for life, and if that relationship is not right then nothing else in our life will be right.

Because we are social beings, we need to have relationships with God and people.

4. Humans are moral beings (Genesis 1:26)

God created humans in His image and entrusted us with the care of His creation. That means we have the ability to love, to create, to help, and to care. Most importantly it means we have the ability to choose. This is the greatest gift that God gave us, but it is also the most terrible. It means that we can love or we can hate. We can create or we can destroy. We can help or we can hurt. We can care or we can ignore. To help us with these dilemmas God created in us a sense of morality, of right and wrong. It is this that separates us for the animals. Being moral beings means we are more than evolved monkeys, it means we have the ability to choose right from wrong.

3 John 11 says; “Dear friends, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.” (NLT) It is by the choices that we make that prove us to be God’s children or not. Life will only be found when we make the choices to follow God. Life will be lost when we decide to do our own thing. Moral beings need to do what is right in order to survive. The morality that is needed for life is only found in God.

1 Peter 1:15, 16 reads; “But as obedient children, be yourselves holy in all your activity, after the model of the Holy One who calls us, since scripture says, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (NJB) We are created in the image of God, that means we need to mirror Him if we are going to have the life He intended for us to have. Our lives will not be right if we insist on living them apart from the holiness of God.

Because we are moral beings, we need to choose to follow God.

In the Garden of Creation we discover that God is real. Here is what I want you to take away from this pondering: The reality of God’s existence should influence the way we live our lives. Since there is a God that means that there is Someone that we are answerable to, Someone that will judge, and Someone who will make things right. Our lives need to reflect our belief and our love for Him.

When the Christian thinker John Frame read the parable that started this pondering, he responded with writing his own parable. This is his parable:
Once upon a time, two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. A man was there, pulling weeds, applying fertilizer, trimming branches. The man turned to the explorers and introduced himself as the royal gardener. One explorer shook his hand and exchanged pleasantries. The other ignored the gardener and turned away.
“There can be no gardener in this part of the jungle,” he said. “This must be some trick. Someone is trying to discredit our secret findings.”
They pitched camp. And every day the gardener arrived to tend the garden. Soon it was bursting with perfectly arranged blooms. But the skeptical explorer insisted, “He’s only doing it because we are here--to fool us into thinking that this is a royal garden.”
One day the gardener took them to the royal palace and introduced the explorers to a score of officials who verified the gardener’s status. Then the skeptic tried a last resort, “Our senses are deceiving us. There is no gardener, no blooms, no palace, no officials. It’s all a hoax!”
Finally the believing explorer despaired, “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does this mirage differ from a real gardener? (Jesus Among Other Gods, pg. 137).

God is real. The evidence is all around us. Some people willing close their eyes to it and look for other explanations, living the way they want to live. Other people see the evidence, they believe God is real, but they do not live like it. They don’t seek Him or live according to His commands.

As Christians we need to live our lives knowing God is real and alive. That means seeking a relationship with Him that is real and personal, trusting in His way, and following Jesus (who is the way, the truth, and the life). Do you believe that God is real? Are you living like it?

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