This past Sunday Jerry read from Romans chapter 1. He read verses 18-25. They are below:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
Many people come to a text like verse 18 that says: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” and they don’t like what the text says about God. The problem is that we live in a culture that is so incredibly man-centered. We believe that man is the center of the universe. The Bible, which is so radically different than the culture in which we live, is not man-centered, but is so unapologetically God-centered. We spend our lives swimming in the salt water ocean of man-centeredness, and we don’t even realize that we are wet. Our culture talks much about human rights, and even animal rights, but when was the last time you heard someone talk about Creator rights?
Our culture and we ourselves to put it bluntly are ungodly. Jerry Bridges says that ungodliness describes an attitude toward God. He goes on to say that: “Ungodliness may be defined as living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or of one’s dependence on God. You can readily see, then, that someone can lead a respectable life and still be ungodly in the sense that God is essentially irrelevant in his or her life. We rub shoulders with such people every day in the course of our ordinary activities. They may be friendly, courteous, and helpful to other people, but God is not at all in their thoughts. They may even attend church for an hour or so each week but then live the remainder of the week as if God doesn’t exist. They are not wicked people, but they are ungodly.”
He goes on, and this may sting a little bit: “Now, the sad fact is that many of us who are believers tend to live our daily lives with little or no thought of God. We may even read our Bibles and pray for a few minutes at the beginning of each day, but then we go out into the day’s activities and basically live as though God doesn’t exist. We seldom think of our dependence on God or our responsibility to Him. We might go for hours with no thought of God at all. In that sense, we are hardly different from our nice, decent, but unbelieving neighbor. God is not at all in his thoughts and is seldom in ours.” As Mark said this past Sunday God becomes just one star in the sky of our lives, or He becomes just another App in our lives. I don’t want this to be true of me, that God is just a small piece of my life. I hope we all want to do ‘all to the glory of God.’
David Wells similarly says: “But the real question to ask about belief in God’s existence is this: what “weight” does that belief have? The U.S. Congress had the words “In God We Trust” placed on our paper currency in 1956, but it is also clear that this belief, for many, is a bit skinny and peripheral to how they actually live. They believe in God’s existence but it is a belief without much cash value. To say that God is “before” them, therefore, would be somewhat meaningless. It does not necessarily have the weight to define how they think about life and how they live. Indeed, one of the defining marks of our time, at least here in the West, is the practical atheism that is true of so many people. They say that God is there but then they live as if he were not.”
So, how can we avoid this ‘practical atheism’ that David Wells speaks of, and how can we do all to God’s glory? Jerry Bridges helps us out when he says that doing all to the glory of God means: “that I eat and drive and shop and engage in my social relationships with a twofold goal. First, I desire that all that I do be pleasing to God. I want God to be pleased with the way I go about ordinary activities of my day. So I pray prospectively over the day before me, asking that the Holy Spirit will so direct my thoughts, words, and actions that they will be pleasing to God. Second, to do all to the glory of God means that I desire that all my activities of an ordinary day will honor God before other people. Jesus said: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). He goes on to say that we should view every circumstance and every activity of life, whether in the temporal or spiritual realms…through a God-centered lens. We are all probably falling short on this, but the way we can get to this point of seeing everything through a God-centered lens is through an ‘ever-growing intimate relationship with God.’ I will come back to this idea of ungodliness at the end of this post, but lets jump to the book of Genesis.
We read through the first several verses of Genesis 1 last Sunday. The first 6 verses are below:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”
I love how the Bible starts with these four words: ‘In the beginning, God…’ It is not in the beginning, time plus matter plus chance. It is not in the beginning, the universe burst into being on it’s own. It is not in the beginning, man. No, it is in the beginning, God. A.W. Tozer said: “give me Genesis 1:1 and the rest of the Bible gives me no problem.”
If you remove God from Genesis 1 like the atheist and new atheist of our day, then your life has no purpose or meaning. As Christian apologist William Lane Craig says: “If God does not exist, then both man and the universe are inevitably doomed to death. Man, like all biological organisms, must die. With no hope of immortality, man’s life leads only to the grave. His life is but a spark in the infinite blackness, a spark that appears, flickers, and dies forever. Therefore, everyone must come face to face with what theologian Paul Tillich has called “the threat of non-being.” For though I know now that I exist, that I am alive, I also know that someday I will no longer exist, that I will no longer be, that I will die. This thought is staggering and threatening: to think that the person I call “myself” will cease to exist, that I will be no more!
If there is no God, then man and the universe are doomed. Like prisoners condemned to death, we await our unavoidable execution. There is no God, and there is no immortality. And what is the consequence of this? It means that life itself is absurd. It means that the life we have is without ultimate significance, value, or purpose.
So if God does not exist, that means that man and the universe exist to no purpose—since the end of everything is death—and that they came to be for no purpose, since they are only blind products of chance. In short, life is utterly without reason.
The point is this: if God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent—for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance.”
Atheist will try and say that Christians have moral issues or that God has moral issues. However, if you don’t have God in the picture you can’t talk about human beings doing something right or wrong because we don’t have any purpose without God. A real life example of something like this was when one of the so called new atheist Christopher Hitchens was debating pastor and author Doug Wilson. Hitchens said: “One of Christianity’s specifically horrible contributions to human mythology and delusion is the idea, the terrifying idea that you could be tortured forever.” Doug Wilson replies: “Horrible by what standard?” Hitchens then flounders and says: “Horrible by—well, good question.”
Hitchens goes on and tries to appeal to the audience and wiggle his way out of the question. Wilson soon pressed him further and asks: “How do you give an accounting of what is good and what is bad? When you say—if the universe is, on your accounting, time and chance acting on matter, if all the universe is is matter in motion, what do you mean “horrible”? What do you mean by “horrible idea”? Who cares?”
The Bible not only teaches us about God from the beginning, but also tells us that God is a trinity. Matt Perman says: “The doctrine of the Trinity means that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct Persons — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Stated differently, God is one in essence and three in person. These definitions express three crucial truths: (1) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons, (2) each Person is fully God, (3) there is only one God.” We see glimpses of the trinity in Genesis 1. In the first three verses it says: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” You have God, the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Further down in verse 26 of chapter 1 it says: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Wayne Grudem says: “The best explanation is that already in the first chapter of Genesis we have an indication of a plurality of persons in God himself.”
Other religions like Islam and Mormonism never say that God is love. They can’t say that God is love, because in their view, before God created the world he existed alone. As Ravi Zacharias says: “If God ever says He loves, who was He loving before the creation?” In these other religions God can’t be love in his essence. Raw power would precede love. However, the Bible in 1 John 4 says that God is love. This is true because of the trinity. Ravi Zacharias says that God in his essence is a being in relationship. He also says that in God you have unity and diversity, which is what the word university means. He goes on to say that: “Only in the Trinity is there Unity and Diversity in the Community of the Trinity!”
The New Heaven and New Earth
Mark ended his sermon doing a fly over of the Bible focusing specifically on the Word of God. He then read from Revelation 21 which says:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
As Jerry Ediger is always quick to remind us that we are one day closer to heaven! Just meditate on verse 4: ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,…’ Wow, just wow. The question that we should ask is how in the world is God going to allow us access into this new heaven? We who have made ourselves the center of the universe. We who have worshiped and served the creature and creation over our creator. We who are ungodly and unrighteous.
As I mentioned earlier I wanted to come back to ungodliness and Romans 1:18 (‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,’). Jerry Bridges says that: “Total godliness and utter ungodliness are the opposite ends of a continuum. All of us are somewhere between those two extremes. The only person who ever lived a totally godly life was Jesus.” So, Jesus is the only person who ever lived a totally godly life. All Jesus did his whole life was go around doing good. Jesus, the perfect spotless lamb of God then goes to the cross. He then cry’s out from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones says: “What was happening at that moment? Jesus was experiencing the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. There was never such a revelation of the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, as that which took place there.” So, the wrath of God that should have fallen on the ungodly and unrighteous Scott McAndrew, inexplicably falls upon Jesus, the only person who ever lived a totally godly life. This is the good news of the gospel, indeed this is the greatest news that we could ever hear. As Tim Keller says: “The gospel is the good news of gracious acceptance. Jesus lived the life we should live. He also paid the penalty we owe for the rebellious life we do live. He did this in our place (Isaiah 53:4-10; 2 Cor 5:21; Mark 10:45). We are not reconciled to God through our efforts and record, as in all other religions, but through his efforts and record.”
If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior this song is your story and the story of all of us who have turned from sin and trusted in Christ:
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Picture from Nasa
One thought on “In The Beginning God”
Thanks for this. I loved the paragraph best where you quoted Jerry Bridges & David Wells on avoiding the practical atheism.
If you’re not familiar with Christ Powers’ animations, I would love to share. Jerry used to let me share his work in our Sunday School class. Powers’ website is called fullofeyes.com where is free work is accessible and his blog is fullofeyes.com/blog where he discusses theological concepts. He was recently asked to speak at The Master’s Seminary, even though he is about the same age as young seminarians. He IS a young seminarian himself!
He wrote recently of the agony of the cup and the time in the Garden of Gethsemane, certainly relevant to our recent sermons.
His animation to the song we sang last Sunday “All I Have Is Christ” is one of his early ones and one of my favorites. Very powerful. Many of his new animations have accompanying study guides in several languages.Here is the song All I Have is Christ-