Sunday, June 14, 2015

Creation Stories

Picture Moses sitting at his desk, writing. What's he writing? He's writing the Bible. Or more specifically for our purposes this morning, he's writing the creation story.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Have you ever wondered why he decided to write the creation story? Moses wasn't writing just to let the people know what happened. No one ever writes just a story. There's always something more going on. Oh, to be sure, Moses is telling the people what God did at the beginning. But there is something else also going on. He wants to protect the people of Israel.

All the nations had their gods whom they worshiped. And Moses knew that Israel would be tempted to worship those gods. So, he wrote the creation story to help them fight against those temptations.

Israel had already bumped into the gods of Egypt, and there were quite a few. But let's consider just one, Ra. He was the sun god. He was the god who was all about light and warmth and growth. Remember, this was an agricultural society. So, things like light and warmth and growth were important when it came to making it as a farmer. Seeing Ra as so important, the Egyptians worshiped him, the sun god.

But should Israel follow that lead? Clearly not. After all, what was the sun? Was it a god? Moses gave a clear answer.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights — the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night — and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

The sun was no god. It was simply the greater light that the true God had put in the sky. It was one of His creations.

Once Israel entered Canaan they would meet Baal. He was the god of weather and fertility. Again, remember these were farmers. So, the right kind of weather, with the proper mix of sun and rain, was important to produce sufficient crops. And then, there was the blessing of having fertile livestock. Such things meant the difference between life and death. So, Baal had to be worshiped and placated. 

But was Baal actually in charge of the crops and livestock? Moses wrote,

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds — livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Do you see what Moses was doing? He wanted to protect Israel from the temptations of the gods of the nations. So, he wrote the creation story to show how the God of Israel made the sun and crops and livestock. He wrote the creation story to show that the gods of the nations were no gods at all. He wrote the creation story so that Israel would only worship the true God.

It isn't just ancient people who worship false gods. Modern man has them also. And if you think about it, he also has a creation story which justifies the worship that he gives to his gods. That creation story can be summarized by this: the universe is a result of energy, matter, time and chance. A very long time ago those four somehow came together, and here we are today. There is no deity who brought this about. It's just energy, matter, time and chance. That's their creation story. And it explains life for them.

So, they say that since there is no deity, no God, there is freedom and independence. They might put it like this. 'This is my life, and I am able to live it on my own'. You could call that their creed.

There are many things that flow from this creed. Here's one. There are no established, authorized, binding definitions. Since there is no God, we get to define things. We get to define what a man is and what a woman is and what marriage is. And these definitions can change whenever we think they should. We also get to define the goal of life. And that is a definition that has changed in my own lifetime. When I was younger the goal of life was to be a success. The definition of success usually included enough money to have more than just enough. It also included making yourself stand out in some way. It appears that that goal is fading a bit from view. The newer definition of the goal of life is to be happy. That, we are told, doesn't require money or that little bit of fame. It's just about being happy. And I suspect that this newer definition among the young is in response to that older one. I think that they are seeing that the goal of being a success isn't working. But I also suspect that in due time there will be another definition for the goal of life. That will happen when being happy also won't work.

I want you to see that this making it up as you go is a result of this culture's creation story: energy, matter, time and chance. Everything is accidental. There is no script to follow. So, folks who buy into this - and there is a range from those who consciously embrace it to those who never heard about it but just follow the crowd - aren't being ornery when they reject the Gospel. It's just that, for them, there can be no Gospel. Their creation story doesn't have any room for it. There is no God. There can't be. Life is just energy, matter, time and chance.

You are just like Israel in that you are also confronted with false gods. This morning, I am in the role of Moses. I want to protect you from those gods. It's just that they aren't named Ra and Baal. They are named 'Freedom' and 'Independence'.

These gods have affected you. You've heard about them and discussed them in the schools that you have attended, the books that you have read and the conversations that you have had. ‘Freedom’ and ‘Independence’ are two of the main gods of our culture. These gods have been there, lurking, under your radar where you won't notice them. And they have affected you. And so, you also buy into their creed, at least a bit. 'This is my life, and I am able to live it on my own.'

That creed is a lie. And the creation story that Moses wrote proves it. So, first, this isn't your life. You aren't here because you decided to exist. You were created. God made you. And that makes your life His. So, what you need to say is, 'This is His life, to do with as He sees fit'. So, will you enjoy success? Will you be happy? Maybe you will, and maybe you won't. It's up to Him. It's His life.

And then there's, 'I am able to live it on my own'. Oh, really? You would not be, if He had not created you. And you will not continue to be, if He does not sustain you. No, you are not able to live your life - His life - on your own. That's also a lie.

At the heart of much rebellious sin is the lie, 'This is my life, and I am able to live it on my own.' Jesus has come to rescue you from that lie. And He does that by His Word and Spirit. So, in the Word He gives you truth. He gives you the true creation story as a basis for understanding reality. And then, by the Spirit, He makes you see how that creation story explains how to live this life.

What you need to do is recognize those times when you are living according to the wrong creation story. How do you do that?

Consider that first lie, 'This is my life'. How do you respond when your will is crossed and your plans are frustrated? Do you harbor any sense that you had a right to what you had planned? Do you get angry? Or are you able to tell yourself that what God planned is different from what you planned and that's okay? It's His life, after all. Now, don't be a stoic about it. It's fine to express your disappointment - or more - to God. The Psalms are filled with such things. But you need to end up by saying something like, 'Let the will of the Lord be done'. You might have to say that with tears, but you need to end up there. After all, it's not your life.

Then, there's that second lie. 'I am able to live this life on my own.' You can tell how much you believe that lie by the extent to which prayer is integrated into your life. Prayer is simply the acknowledgement that you are not able to live this life on your own. Those who get this don't pray because they're supposed to. They pray because they are convinced that life would be impossible if they didn't.

So, how are you doing at dealing with the temptation to believe that lie, 'This is my life, and I am able to live it on my own'?

We are surrounded by people who worship false gods, and, at least to some extent, we have bought into their lies. But Jesus has come to deal with that sin in us. He is in the process of changing us by His Word and His Spirit. And one day we will be freed from every lie to live only according to the truth.

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