Today we begin a 31 week journey known as "The Story." This series is based off the work of the same name by Randy Frazee and Max Lucado. Some of the stories and anecdotes are taken from their sermon manuscripts. My sermons are loosely based on their outlines, but most of this work is original. Enjoy!
The Beginning of Life As We Know It
Aug. 26/27 Scripture: Genesis 1 and 3
Little Johnny and his Sunday School class were learning about Genesis and how God created the universe. Johnny was especially intrigued about the story of Adam and Eve, and how God had created Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. A few weeks later, Johnny’s mom noticed that Johnny continued to rub his side and groan. Finally, when she asked what was wrong, Johnny said, “I’m in a lot of pain. I think I’m having a wife.” (Story offered by Randy Frazee).
Today we begin a 31-week journey known as “The Story.” In actuality, this is simply the grand narrative of the Bible, from the creative beginning in Genesis to the redemptive re-creating in Revelation. But it’s also so much more than that. In this story, which we probably don’t know as well as we think we do, we come to discover a God who is authoring the greatest adventure ever recorded. And what’s so phenomenal is that we’ve been invited to not only read it, but to participate in it! Over the next 31 weeks, we will grow to know Scripture like never before. If you think you know the Bible, maybe it’s time to dig in again. And if you don’t know as much as you would like, then you’ll be immersed in a story that will change your life. And that’s really why we’re doing this. I believe this story has the power to transform your very being. And in a world that grows more divisive by the day, transformation is a good and necessary thing. So let’s get started.
The story quite simply begins in the beginning, with the moment God begins his creative work. And this is so important to understand. The first words of the Bible read like this, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” And with that simple introduction we are introduced to the main character of this grand story. And guess what? It’s not us! It’s God! We will get this story, all of it, wrong, if we start off on the wrong foot by assuming this story is primarily about us. But it’s not. This story is fundamentally about God. It’s his story; what God is up to, what God is doing…and it just so happens that God wants us to be a part of it.
This simple understanding has the potential to change the way we live. When you get up in the morning and ask the question, “What is God up to and how am I a part of that?” you will begin to live like no one else. Because again, this isn’t about any of us. It’s about God. But here’s the thing…God doesn’t want to live this story alone. He wants nothing more than for you and I to come on this journey with him.
As God begins to create, a universe full of glory and beauty begins to takes shape. Now, sometimes we get into unnecessary arguments over how God creates. We are so quick to move from Who to How, which is a move that just leads to more division and arguments. I have friends who believe in a literal 7-day creation and friends who subscribe to evolutionary theory and all of them love the Lord. I’m not smart enough to tell you how God creates, but I do know that nothing exists with God’s creative power behind it. When we pull back the curtain, we see God hard at work. That’s good enough for me. So in the beginning, God shows off his creative prowess! Blue oceans as far as the eye can see. Breathtaking, snow-topped mountains. Skies filled with stars and bright lights. Animals that gallop, birds that sing, flowers that give off sweet aromas. And it’s wonderful. In fact, God says it’s good. What a tremendous word. So simple, but yet so powerful. It’s good. I spent a week at the beach, watching dolphins play in the water and gazing at the pink sky as the sun would set, and I have to agree with God. It’s good. Millions of people stepped outside to see the eclipse last Monday, and it was good. So much of what we see is good. But yet, despite creation’s goodness, it was incomplete until God formed us. Did you catch that? God considered creation incomplete without you and me!
Now, this boggles me. Why would God make us? I mean, creation, untouched by humanity, is so pure. I was out hunting one snowy day and it was one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen. The sun was shining on the fresh snow; there were no tracks anywhere. And I thought, nobody (but me) is here to ruin this! But you see, God’s view of beauty if different than ours. For God, there is nothing more beautiful than to share life with others. That’s why he formed us- to laugh with us, play with us, work with us, to be our friend. And when God created man and woman, it wasn’t just good; now, according to God, it was very good. But that would soon change because of a gift God explicitly reserved for us, a gift that no other created object or being has been given: the gift of choice.
You see, authentic relationships don’t happen because one side wants them to happen; they happen because both sides make a conscious choice to enter into it. And even though God knows, without a doubt, that a relationship with Him is the best type of life- eternal, pure, joy-filled- He doesn’t force us to buy into it. You can’t force someone to love you. You can’t force someone to desire your friendship. You can only offer your hand and wait to see if they take it. And this is what separates us from all of creation. God has given us the freedom to choose him or not. And all too frequently, we choose a different sort of way and it gets us into all sorts of trouble.
It all begins to go wrong in a garden, called the Garden of Eden. And in that garden are all sorts of beautiful things, and none more beautiful than God’s very presence, tangible, authentic, perfect. It’s the very place God meant for us to be (and it’s where we’re headed by the way. You’ll notice in Revelation that God’s Story takes us back to a garden), but only if we want it.; only if we want Him. On one hand, God has planted all sorts of trees that are filled with good fruit, life-giving fruit, and it’s ours for the taking. On the other hand, there is one tree, called the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that God says, “Please don’t eat that one. It’s not good. It looks good, but it’ll just put to death something really important in you. And Adam and Eve kind of look at each other, and they look at the tree, and you just know how the story is going to end.
It’s tragic, really. And I wish it was just their story and not ours. If only we could blame Eve’s gullible nature or Adam’s pig-headed ways. But we all know the truth: this is our story. Every single one of us. Some like to call this original sin; others simply see this as a universal truth: Deep inside each of us is a desire to follow God’s call to do life His way, and deep inside of us is a strong pull to do life any other way. Quite simply, we call that “other way “ sin. It started with Adam and Eve, but it found its way into their children. Cain experiences this. He tries to live a good life, but ends up murdering his brother. Amazing how one poor decision can lead to an outpouring of hatred and evil. But I don’t think that surprises any of us. It even found it’s way into Noah, who was God’s choice to begin again. But even Noah, a man full of righteousness, the very type man you would choose to recreate the world, succumbed to a night of drinking and ends up causing a horrible situation for his sons. His fate? He dies just like Adam and Eve. And if you are a human being, you are in the same boat. Somehow we are blind to the goodness of God’s ways; maybe it’s the fear of not being in control, or the fear of getting hurt, or the fear that God is keeping something valuable from us- so we reach up, grab the proverbial fruit from the tree we never should’ve touched, and the next thing we know, God’s garden turns into a memory instead of a reality. And no matter what we do, we just can’t get back.
We spend our lives trying to get back to the garden. Just like Moses, David, Peter and Paul. And it’s battle we’ll never win. That’s a scary thing, knowing that there’s nothing we can do to get back to the Garden, to get back in God’s good graces. And God’s not happy about it either. In Genesis 6, we read some of the most discouraging words in Scripture. “The Lord God regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and he was deeply troubled. I will wipe them from the face of the earth.” Just let that sink in for a moment. How quickly this love story has turned tragic! The very crown of God’s creation has rejected their Creator. And it breaks God’s heart. And it still does. Every time we have the opportunity to choose God’s way, which is a way that brings life and hope, and we reject it, we’ve essentially rejected God. It doesn’t get much worse than that. It’s so bad that the thought of wiping us off the face of the earth has crossed God’s mind. But that’s not where the story ends.
In God’s story, there’s a force that’s stronger than anger. And that force it’s love. It’s not that anger doesn’t exist, it does. But God knows what we are still trying to figure out: anger doesn’t work. It doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t satisfy the soul. It doesn’t bring healing. Only love can do those things. And so for a brief moment, God’s broken heart scream “I’m done with you people!”…but then he looks once again at his beloved creation- he looks again and again and again at you and me- and says, “No. They are mine. And I’m not going to give up on them.”
If there’s one thing I want you to know today, it’s this: God has not, nor ever will, give up on you. He wants you back! And he will go to any lengths to bring you back into his beautiful garden. Towards the end of Adam and Eve’s story, we catch a glimpse of just how this is going to happen. Naked and ashamed, and guilty as could be, Adam and Eve respond to God’s call of “Where are you” by coming out of hiding. And God’s next move was this: The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Here God gives us a sign of his plan of redemption, one that involves someone else’s life and somebody else’s blood, someone else’s skin. You see where this is going? The rest of the Bible is the unveiling of God’s grand plan, how his love wins out and makes it possible to enter a loving relationship with Him. And the good news? You can still enter that story today, if you want it. Amen.