Don't worry this isn't a mushy post :) Our previous church, Grace Fellowship, is doing a series on LIFE. It's a 13 week series that they started back in mid-April. It's been really great so far and worth sharing the notes on since not everyone has time to sit and listen to the 35-min messages (e.g., my husband). I hope you enjoy my notes as much as I enjoy listening.
Remember the game?
Every player gets a little plastic car and off you go on a road of possibilities. To get a job, pluck a “Career Card” from the deck. Need a bank loan? No problemo! And if you want to get married, don’t wait around wondering whether you’ll meet Mr. or Ms. Right. Simply stop at the “Get Married” space, throw your mate into the car, and away you go, driving together into the adventure of your shared destiny. Whichever player has the most money at the end of the game wins!
It seems that often we think that life is all about accumulating the most or the greatest experiences. Others might say that the goal of life is to retire comfortably or to have the fewest number of problems possible. How's that working for you? Or others might say that they goal is self-actualization. Once the basic needs are met, like love, then we can focus on personal development, fulfillment, and achievement.
What if God had a very different perspective on life? He did, after all, invent the real game. What if there's a secret to living life that many of us miss?
Jesus says this, "There is a thief that comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Sadly, many of us allow ourselves to fall victim to the deceptions and those deceptions rob us of life. And sometimes those deceptions lead us to utter destruction. On the other hand, when we embrace God's vision for life we live life abundantly and we live it to the full.
If we're going to talk about life, then we should probably start at the beginning. Why are we here? How did we get here? What is it all about? Let's look at Genesis chapters 1 and 2.
The first 5 words of the Bible are very important. "In the beginning God created..." We're not here because of some cosmic accident or random occurrence. We're here because a loving God created us into being.
If you remember the rhythm of Genesis chapter 1, you'll remember that God spoke, something came into being, and then He declared it good. He spoke light, birds, animals, etc. into being and declared them good.
Then in verses 26 and 27 He says, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
Notice the pronouns. God says, "Let US make man in OUR image..." God existed before the beginning of time in the community of the trinity. From the very beginning Jesus is there, the Holy Spirit is there, and God the Father is there. But then the pronouns change, it says that "God created man in HIS OWN image". God is both personal and distinct as an individual, as are the other members of the trinity. And yet together they are also one with each other. That is they mystery of the trinity. And that is part of what it means for us to be made in the image of God, that we have individual, distinct personhood and we are made for community to be one with each other.
And it says that, "male and female he created them." We are made into two groups, males and females. And each one of us, no matter whether we're a male or a female, reflect Gods image in different and distinct ways. No one of us fully reflects Gods image, but when men and women are in community with one another then we more wholly and more fully reflect the image of God. We are distinct but we are equal. Man made in the image and likeness of God, woman made in the image and likeness of God.
Then in Chapter 2, verse 7 Moses describes exactly what happened in the creative process. It says, "The Lord God formed the man (Adam) from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." The word adam is a Hebrew word for man. But, "God formed the man from the dust" and the word dust or earth in Hebrew is the word adama. It has the word Adam in it, but it's a feminine word. And out of this adama came Adam, who is masculine. And out of the masculine came the feminine, Eve. There's this interdependence between men and women together.
But look at the creative process. God didn't just speak human beings into existence (like the rest of creation). He came right down to Adam and breathed life into his nostrils. What does that say about the kind of relationship God wants to have with you? It's up close, it's personal, it is so intimate and loving.
And so we see in the creation account God moves, God creates, and it is good. But in Chapter 2, verse 18 we come to a stunning statement, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
Now let's recognize something, sin has not yet entered the world. There is nothing defiled about Adam's relationship with God. This is God's creation. There has been no sin and yet He says that is it not good. It is not good for the man to be alone. In essence what God is saying is that even though Adam has the perfect relationship with Him - nothing blocking it, it isn't enough. That God isn't enough. We are designed not just to live in a horizontal relationship with God in an isolated fashion because we are created in the image and likeness of God and part of that is living in community.
So God says, "I will make a helper suitable for him." When we think of the word "helper" we think of a junior assistant. But, this word "helper" every other time, but one, that it appears in the Old Testament refers to God himself. The word "help" has salvation undertones, you are saving the person from something. So what is God saving Adam from?
Adam needs to be saved from aloneness. God saved Adam from his aloneness by created someone who was "suitable" for him. The word suitable could also be translated as corresponding. The Hebrew understanding of the verse is that the woman would be someone with whom Adam could look eye to eye. Adam didn't look eye to eye with God, he looked up to God. Neither did Adam look eye to eye with the animals he named, he was to have dominion over them and looked down at them. They were not corresponding to him.
"So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." (Genesis 2:21-24)
We are designed to live in community, with others, in relationship to God.
This passage clearly speaks of covenant marriage. But not all of us are married? Can we realize God's full creative intent if we're not married? Now, what human being lived the perfect life? Jesus. Jesus wasn't married. Paul wasn't married and his advice to the unmarried was to stay that way. The goal isn't to be married or not married. The goal is for us to live in intimate community with both genders represented. God doesn't live in isolation, He lives in the fellowship of the trinity and he doesn't desire for us to live in isolation.
Let's look a little deeper at what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. If we want to know what God is like to whom do we look? Jesus. "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being..." (Hebrews 1:3) Christ's life shows us what God is like. And what we see in Jesus is that he came not to be served, but to serve. He came not to be loved, but to love. He didn't have to die on the cross, he chose to.
Before the beginning of time God foreknew that he would create us in his image and his likeness. And he foreknew that we would turn our backs on him and we would sin. He set up a system of government and righteousness and sacrifice that would call for him to send his son to die on a cross because his very nature is radical, self-sacrificial love.
What does a singer do? He sings. What does an artist do? He paints or he sculpts. What does a loving, creative, self-sacrificial God do? He creates people to be the object of his affection to whom he can show his radical self-sacrificial nature. We weren't created to love God. He didn't put us here because he had some emotional void to fill. He created us to love us because his very nature is creative and loving.
Sometimes we confuse what it is to love. We might know that we exist to love, but sometimes we think that we exist to be loved by other rather than existing to love others. God desires that we would be love givers rather than love seekers. What does it mean to be a love giver? First, love is a verb. Love is what love does. Love isn't a feeling or an emotion. Love is to will and to act on another persons behalf. Love is to move toward another. The very nature to God, to be made in his image, is to love. So life is found in loving others. And our capacity to love is found in our experience and understanding of God's love for us.
Here's the thing, the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. He wants you to think this, look out for number 1. If you don't look out for yourself then no one else will. You want what you want, you deserve it. Don't worry about anybody else, you think about yourself. That's a lie and it leads to destruction. But Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the fullest. All of us have had a time when we self-sacrificially moved toward another and it felt great and we felt joy in that. Joy comes not from receiving love, but from giving love.
We have a choice. We can be love seekers or love givers. And we never know when this "game" of life comes to an end. But we do know this, at the end our life isn't going to be defined by how many toys we've accumulated or by how many exciting experiences we've had or whether we've managed our life to have our problems be few. Our lives are going to be defined by how well we've loved, whether we've received God's love for us and extended that love to others. That's what it means to be made in the image of God - to love others.
Are you a love seeker or a love giver? Take some time considering who had God give you love. What self-sacrificing steps can you take towards someone that God has already given you to love?
The abundant life is found in living as Jesus lives, as we were created to live, pouring out our lives for others. Amen.