Discovering The God Of The Universe
Today we are having a VBS Sunday. If you’re not sure what that is, we do a kids day camp every year called Vacation Bible School, and I like to wrap it up with a Sunday morning presentation for the church and all the parents who didn’t get to attend.
This year our theme was ‘Discovering the God of the Universe.’ The idea comes from a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote one of the early churches in Colossae. Paul wrote this:
- He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15–16, ESV)
In this passage, we see that Jesus is not just a man, but he is the image of God Himself. In other words, Jesus is what God looks like within the created world.
And we see these amazing claims. First God created everything we can see—the entire universe, the heavens or space, and the earth, from planets and galaxies, and stars, to the earth itself, all the way down to the tiny molecules that make up all matter. Jesus created everything in the physical world, everything that science can test and everything that you can observe either through a telescope or under a microscope. He made it all.
But, Jesus also created everything in the spiritual world. That’s what Paul means by thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. He isn’t talking about earthly rulers. He is talking about the spiritual beings—sometimes we just call them angels—that God created to rule over the earth. The spiritual realm is the realm that cannot be put under a microscope. It’s the supernatural world.
It’s the world that everyone knows exists, but many people reject because they can’t see it under a microscope. But, it’s a very real part of creation, and Jesus created the spiritual world alongside the physical world for a very specific reason.
Everything that Jesus created was…
Created for Relationship
You probably know the basic story of creation from the Bible. You know that Jesus spoke everything that is into existence and declared it good. But, I want to show you where this claim comes from, that God created humankind for relationship. In the book of Genesis—which means beginning—we read this:
- Then God said, “Let us make man[kind] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26–28, ESV)
Notice this passage is not talking about the first man, Adam. It says ‘Let us make man’ or better, mankind. This is about the creation of all humanity. All humanity was created to image or reflect God’s goodness. And all humanity is supposed to be like God in having dominion over the whole creation. Humans were created to be moral, just, righteous rulers over the earth, possibly the entire universe.
And a huge part of that is the relationship that men and women have since within God’s created order it takes a man and a woman to make children. It’s clear in the verse that the way humankind was supposed to subdue the entire world was by multiplying, having children. So, relationship was an important part of the creation in the beginning as well.
Humans are supposed to work together; men and women work together in marriage. But, also, we are all supposed to work together regardless of heritage, age, skin color, because we are all created in the image of God. And we are all created to be like God. We are all essentially the same.
Imagine that you went on a lifelong journey all over the earth in search of the one person who is the least like you in all the world. You search for decades, and you find someone who doesn’t look a thing like you. And they don’t speak anywhere near the same language. And this person doesn’t like to do any of the things you like to do. And their personality is just polar opposite than yours.
Well, take that person’s arm and your own arm, and I guarantee if you cut them both, they both bleed. And they will both bleed red blood. And if you take that blood and you put it under a microscope to analyze the DNA structure, you’re going to find that you both share 99.9% or more of the exact same chromosomal structures.
That’s because chromosomes are the structure that God designed to make a fish a fish, a banana a banana, an oak tree an oak tree, a gorilla a gorilla. And chromosomes are what God uses to make a human a human, created to image or reflect God’s goodness, and to rule over creation like God.
You see, we’re more alike than we are different because we were created to relate to one another. We were created for relationships with people.
And more, we were created for relationship with God. Writing about Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, Genesis 3:8 says,
- And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day… (Genesis 3:8, ESV)
This may not be a clear inference, but I want you to see what God was doing. When he created the garden for humankind, he created it not just for them to multiply and expand over all the earth. He created it so that he could meet with the humans in the garden. God created us for relationship with each other, but God also created us for relationship with Himself. Adam and Eve got to speak to God face to face.
God wasn’t just creating humans to fill the earth, but he was creating humans to fill the earth to build His own Kingdom. When God created humanity, God was building a Kingdom for His glory.
There’s an interesting disconnect here. We live in a society where 89% of people believe there is a god—whether that’s the God of the Bible or the Koran or some other god. And yet, only 36% of our society prioritizes weekly worship of their god. A full 30% of people who say they believe in a god have almost never even stepped foot inside a church or other religious institution, except for maybe a wedding or a funeral.
So, I want to say this. If you’re here today and you understand what the Bible teaches, that humans were created for relationships with each other and for relationship with God, then I want to urge you to consider the relationships that you are forming around you.
Are you truly forming relationships with neighbors and co-workers who may seem unlike you, because of culture, ethnicity, or age?
We all bleed the same blood. We’re more alike than different.
And further, are you prioritizing relationship with God?
I realize that church attendance is not the only gauge of your relationship with God. But, historically, it’s the first and most important piece of your relationship with God, because it is where the community of believers gather to worship God together. We learn to worship God through reading our Bibles, through obedience to Him, through prayer and through song, when we gather to do those things together. So, if we prioritize our relationship with God, that begins with prioritizing church attendance on a weekly basis.
What we say we believe says little about our relationship with God. It’s what we do that really says what we care about.
So, maybe you don’t think you’re so far off on your own, and you don’t feel like you need to prioritize a relationship with God. Well, the next major point from VBS was that you are…
Destined for Restoration
Now, I’ll need to explain that a bit, because if you are content believing in God and not prioritizing a relationship with God, that might just be because you don’t think you need God so much.
I’d like to show you what a number of different biblical authors say about humans.
King David wrote,
- Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5, ESV)
The author of Ecclesiastes wrote,
- Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20, ESV)
- For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21–23, ESV)
The Apostle Paul wrote,
- For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23, ESV)
Do you see the pattern?
It’s not that you don’t want to do good. It’s not that you don’t like good things. It’s that you can’t escape doing things that are not righteous in God’s eyes. We call it the ‘human condition.’ It’s just part of who we are. We have all defied God at some points in our lives, and for that, we must be restored in relationship with Him.
But, before we get into the relationship, we need to hit another concept.
How did we even get here? If humans were created in the garden and had a perfect relationship with God, what happened?
Again, you probably know the story. There was a tree in the garden. God said that they could eat of any tree except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And there was a serpent who entered the garden, and he deceived Eve into eating the fruit that God forbid them to eat. And then Adam ate the fruit too.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They broke His trust. So, God removed them from the garden and cursed the entire creation because of their defiance.
Here’s what I want you to understand from that story. God put the humans in the garden where he would walk and talk with them because He was building a Kingdom for His glory. All the people had to do was have children to build God’s perfect Kingdom. But, God took them out of the Garden and out of His presence. The Garden was the place that the spiritual world came to meet with the physical world, but now humankind was cut off from the spiritual world. The people ceased to be residents of God’s Kingdom.
So, every child that was born from that point forward—which is everyone—was born into the Kingdom of the World, not the Kingdom of God. That means you and I were born into the Kingdom of the World. And that means that everyone on the planet was born into the Kingdom of the World. We are all born into citizenship of a different Kingdom.
In other words, we are born without any spiritual connection to God. It doesn’t matter that we are intellectually aware of God—that we believe in God—we have no relationship with Him by nature.
But, God had a plan to restore that relationship from the very beginning. When God cursed the serpent for his part in the eating-the-fruit incident, he said this,
- I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, ESV)
This has long been considered a prophecy regarding the coming of the Savior of the world, the one who would save humanity from the Kingdom of the World and deliver them into the Kingdom of God. This is a prophecy regarding Jesus. The idea is that Jesus will crush the head of the serpent who deceived Eve, even though the serpent will still harm Jesus.
We see this play out in the crucifixion of Jesus. Satan, who we find out later in the story is the Serpent from the Genesis story, possesses one of Jesus’s disciples named Judas Iscariot, and causes Judas to betray Jesus by handing him over to the Roman guards to be killed by hanging on a cross. Luke writes,
- Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So, he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. (Luke 22:3–6, ESV)
Here’s what John writes about Satan, the serpent. He writes,
- Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer… (Revelation 20:1–3, ESV)
You see, when a spiritual being tampers with God’s working on earth, God casts them into the pit. You’ve probably heard this place referred to as hell. So, Satan was crushed. But, Jesus was just bruised.
Wait a minute, didn’t Jesus die on a cross?
Well, yes, he had to die like a man on the cross. But, look what happens. After he had died, Jesus was placed in a tomb. Mark records the rest of the story pretty concisely,
- When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:1–7, ESV)
Jesus died, but God rose him from the dead. And then we see in the book of Acts that Jesus ascended to heaven. And Paul tells us that he was seated at the right hand of the Father and that he rules over His Kingdom today.
So, who is in God’s Kingdom?
Paul tells us,
- For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. (Romans 14:17–18, ESV)
In other words, the Kingdom of God is not a physical Kingdom—at least not right now. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom, made up of all those who seek peace and joy through the Spirit of God. The Kingdom of God are those who no longer serve the world or their selfish desires, but serve Christ and are therefore acceptable to God.
When Jesus sat down on the throne in heaven, he made it possible for us to enter spiritually into His Kingdom by swearing off allegiance to this world and by swearing allegiance to Him. And at this point, I’d like to show you how that happens.
Last Sunday our guitar player in the band, Steve, was baptized. Baptism is a symbolic practice that demonstrates this transition from the Kingdom of the World to the Kingdom of God. As the person goes under the water, they are demonstrating that they have died to themselves and to the world, and when they rise from the water, they demonstrate a new life lived for Jesus Christ.
One of the hesitancies people have towards Christianity is that they think it’s just another set of rules to live by. And I get that. Sometimes the language sounds that way when we say things like allegiance and obedience. But, that’s just a small part of the process. We aren’t restored to God so that God can rule over us. Remember the Garden. We were created for relationship with humankind and for relationship with God. And likewise, we are also…
Restored for Relationship
We are restored to God for the express purpose of having relationship with Him.
We all know the cliché of the elderly couple who fell out of love, but never got divorced because of social taboo. So, they sit side by side in their old age, but never talk, because the love is lost and it’s been ages since they even tried to get to know their partner.
That’s not how relationships are supposed to work, and I think you know that.
I was at the hospital the other day, and a couple came in—they had to be in their late 70’s is my guess. The husband seemed to be getting along alright, but the wife was in a wheelchair and struggling with a few medical issues. Well, they sat down and talked about all sorts of things—family, bills, old friends, the doctors, and nurses. They were joking with each other the whole time. And the man was just doting on his wife, making sure she had everything she needed. Look, my guess is, they were never more in love than they were at that moment.
And that’s the kind of relationship we ought to have with God. It has nothing to do with being content with where we are as individuals; it has to do with getting to know God more, on a deep and personal level.
[GREATEST COMMANDMENT SLIDE—Matthew 22:36–40]
We know what Jesus was saying when he said, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ That makes sense to us on some level, because we have either had deep relationships with friends, family, or spouses. Or, at the very least, we have all longed for that sort of relationship. We know that exists.
But, did you know you can have that kind of relationship with God?
- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37 ESV)
Jesus isn’t just offering that kind of relationship to you; he’s commanding that kind of relationship for you.
That’s the kind of relationship that humanity was designed for in the Garden. If you believe in God and you believe in the Bible, then that’s what you are called to; to have a deep love for God that flows from a knowledge of God.
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