In the beginning…

“In the beginning, God…” Before anything was ever created, God alone existed. Scripture tells us that God has existed for all of eternity and that there was never a time when God did not exist. But God was never alone. The word for God in this passage is Elohim ­– it is a plural word in the unified sense. We understand Elohim to be the three Persons of the Godhead, who have ever existed together in an inseparable bond of love, fellowship, and unified purpose. It was from this communal purpose of love, that the Godhead began Their work of Creation. “God created the heavens and the earth.” And so, we begin our brand new series on Genesis. I’m so glad you’ve decided to join us for the journey!

The sequence of Genesis 1 is absolutely fascinating! In days one through three, our class noticed that God performs a work of separating: Light/Dark, Sky/Water, Land/Seas. On the second half of the third day, God also creates plants and vegetation and, therefore, begins His work of filling. The remaining days follow as such: sun/moon/stars, birds/fish, and, finally, animals/mankind. Interestingly enough, the order of creation follows an intriguing pattern. Notice how, beginning on the fourth day, God begins to fill the places He created previously. For instance, the fourth day’s sun, moon, and stars fill the expanse of space (light/dark) which God created on the first day. The fifth day’s birds and fish fill the sky and waters from the second day. And animals and humans on the sixth day fill the Land which was separated on the third day! Isn’t that cool!? What an awesome Creator!

Our account, of course, builds in climax. The progression to man and woman’s creation is truly dramatic and beautiful. After God has filled the earth with teeming seas and luscious life-filled land, God (Elohim) takes a moment to step back and consider the next step: “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” And so, God creates mankind in His image, male and female. It is at this point in the creation narrative that we realize that absolutely everything which God created was created for the purpose of mankind. God built everything up for this moment, for the creation of his two children, created in His very image! We weren’t an afterthought, friends, we were God’s ultimate purpose all along.

But, then, what does God have us, his children, do as soon as His work of creation is complete? God and man alike shabath. Mankind’s first job was to rest with God in the holy promise of Sabbath. Not because God needed rest, or because we were tired – but because we needed to realize that God has created and accomplished absolutely everything for us. There was nothing that we could add because it was already perfectly complete. Therefore, our first job as humans was to accept His gift and rest in His love. The Sabbath day was and still is a gift from God – an entire 24-hour period of uninterrupted worship and fellowship with our Creator. It’s still a promise for us today! It’s not merely a day on which we lay aside our physical work, but it’s a day that we spiritually rest as well. Echoing God’s words in Genesis 2:1-3, Jesus Christ fulfilled that spiritual promise for us when He cried out on that Friday evening, “IT IS FINISHED!” Therefore, remembering what Christ accomplished for us on the Cross, we rest not only in God’s work of Creation, but in His work of Salvation as well! “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9-10).

Philippians 3 – The Race You Can’t Lose

Paul’s shift into Philippians 3 is a bit jarring. Paul begins this section of his letter with a stern warning: “Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved” (3:2, NLT). Paul is using no light language here. Ironically, the term “dog” was used by Jews as a slur against gentile pagans, but Paul flips this term around and applies it to those Jewish religious zealots who were trying to force all of the converting gentile believers into being circumcised first. In contrast to this attitude, Paul says, “We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort…” (3:3, NLT). Paul drives his point home by arguing that, if anyone could have been saved by his own efforts, it would be himself! Paul had everything going for him. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, keeping the letter of the law flawlessly. But, what does Paul say that all of his religious triumphs and worldly achievements amount to? Rubbish! Paul uses strong language here. Literally, Paul considered “all these things” as excrement – as dung. Not only as worthless, but as offensive when compared to the ultimate work that Christ accomplished.

But Paul then suddenly shifts his attention from what we can’t accomplish on our own to what we can accomplish through Jesus Christ! Is an all-victorious Christian life possible? Paul seems to think so. In fact, to Paul, it’s a victory that we should strive for in assurance and confidence through Jesus. Paul isn’t talking about a race here that has an uncertain outcome – one that, maybe, if you put in every ounce of self-discipline and strength you have, just maybe, you might be able to finish. No, he’s talking about a race that has already been won! We strain merely for the finish line where we will receive our eternal prize! So, don’t be discouraged by the past or by your spiritual failures. Remember that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do” – in other words, God instills the desire to do His will and then He gives us the strength to go do it! Therefore, we reach forward to the things which are ahead in full confidence that we will attain. Paul’s point ultimately comes down to this: With faith in ourselves, there’s no way we will ever win.  But with confidence in Jesus Christ and His righteousness, there’s no way we can lose!