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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SALVATION12 LESSONS THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
By MAX ANDERS
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Max Anders
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWHO ARE WE, AND WHERE DID WE COME FROM?
When God scooped up a handful of dust, And spit on it, and molded the shape of man, And blew a breath into it and told it to walk—That was a great day. —Carl Sandburg (1878–1967)
A radio commentator for the Metropolitan Opera, after giving a plot synopsis of Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde, made an interesting comment. She remarked that she felt the opera was appealing, in spite of its tragedy, because it was asking life's basic questions: "Who am I?" "How did things get so bad?" and "Who is going to come and rescue us?" Even though she was speaking from a completely secular viewpoint, and offered no indication that she had any idea of possible answers, she was right about the basic questions. Those are the questions that every human being asks, sooner or later. We feel a deep need to know whether we are here for a reason, whether anyone cares, and whether this life is as good as it gets. We seem to have an innate recognition that "all is not as it should be," but we may not be sure what's missing.
Foundational in the search for meaning and purpose is the understanding of where we came from. Did we come about by accident? Or did Someone put us here on this earth for a reason? How can we know?
WHERE DID WE COME FROM?
Human beings and the world in which we live are God's special creation, not the result of random, impersonal chance.
Today, anyone who has gone to school knows that we basically have two choices to believe in when we look at the question of origins. Either we came about by chance—random processes, following some kind of mysterious "Big Bang" that started the universe in motion—or we were specially created by God. Of course, attempts have been made to meld these two opposing views, but it is not the purpose of this study to examine those options. Rather, let us look at the two ideas: (1) God does not exist, and man came about by chance, or (2) God created man.
Some dedicated Darwinists carry their thinking out to its logical conclusion and deny both the existence of God and the idea of there being any meaning at all to the universe. One of the most articulate of these, Richard Dawkins, puts it thus:
Theologians worry away at the "problem of evil" and a related "problem of suffering." On the day I originally wrote this paragraph, the British newspapers all carried a terrible story about a bus full of children from a Roman Catholic school that crashed for no obvious reason, with wholesale loss of life. Not for the first time, clerics were in paroxysms over the theological question that a writer on a London newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) framed this way: "How can you believe in a loving, all-powerful God who allows such a tragedy?" The article went on to quote one priest's reply: "The simple answer is that we do not know why there should be a God who lets these awful things happen. But the horror of the crash, to a Christian, confirms the fact that we live in a world of real values: positive and negative. If the universe was just electrons, there would be no problem of evil or suffering."
On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it:
For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither know nor care.
DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View Of Life, 132–133)
While this viewpoint does eliminate any possibility of an uncomfortable responsibility to a Creator, it still fails to answer a very important point. If the universe is really "just electrons" and there is "no evil and no good," then where do our ideas of evil and good come from? Why do humans long so passionately for justice, if there is no such thing? Dawkins is absolutely correct that in a universe of "blind, pitiless indifference" we should expect to see senseless tragedy. The point the priest was making seems to have been missed. If the universe were really just electrons, we would have no problem with the pain and suffering around us. It would simply be, neither good nor evil. The fact that we do have a problem with it, that it makes us question and struggle, is one of the things that point us to looking for deeper meaning to our existence than mere chance random processes.
C. S. Lewis puts it like this:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because a man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. (Mere Christianity, 45–46)
We keep asking those basic questions, "Who am I?" "How did things get this bad?" and "Who is going to rescue us?" because they are questions rooted in the truth. We were created by a personal God; we were created "very good." When things went wrong, God wanted to restore us, and He has provided a rescuer for us. Things will not always be "this bad."
This question of our origin is so foundational to our whole worldview that God puts it very first in His book. Genesis 1:1 starts the story of our existence with the plain statement "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
This sets the stage for the whole story of humanity, of sin, of love and redemption. According to the Bible, this world and the humans who live in it did not come about by chance, but are the creative work of the loving, personal God of the universe.
Many people who find the completely atheistic view of origins harsh and distasteful still don't recognize the claim that God has as Creator. It has been popular in some circles to see God as a sort of detached and uninvolved "starting Force" for the universe—like some cosmic toy maker who winds up the top and sends it spinning on its way with no subsequent interest in its fate. In this view, God started the evolutionary process, then stepped back with no further intervention in the fate of the planet. This is directly opposed to the Genesis description of God's creation of humankind.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, 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. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." ...
Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day....
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (1:26–28, 31; 2:7)
Not only did God specifically create human beings, He intended to relate to them. The following chapters of Genesis, describing life in the garden of Eden, show "the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day" (3:8), and calling to Adam and Eve to talk to Him.
The story of God's creation of the world is detailed in the first three chapters of Genesis, but it is constantly referred to throughout the rest of the Bible.
When Job was questioning God, God answered him by referring to His own authority as Creator:
Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:2–7)
John's gospel tells of the creation again:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (1:1–5)
And in Romans, Paul uses the Genesis account of Adam's fall into sin as the foundation of his exposition of the meaning of Christ's death for salvation and justification (Romans 5:6–21).
In many other passages of Scripture, God's creation of the world is presented as a historical fact. Look at Exodus 20:11; 1 Chronicles 1:1; Psalm 8:3–6; Matthew 19:4–5; Mark 10:6–7; Luke 3:38; Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 11:9; 15:22, 24; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:13–14; and Jude 14.
The biblical account of God's creation of the world is the foundation and basis for the entire doctrine of salvation. As Creator, God is sovereign over the universe. He has the right to decide its fate, and the power to restore it to its original condition of "very good."
WHY DID GOD CREATE THE WORLD IN THE FIRST PLACE?
God created the world to reveal His glory.
Throughout Scripture, we see the idea that God created the universe and all that is in it to reveal His glory. But someone might ask, "Why did He want to reveal His glory?" To that question, we may not have an answer. When we begin to plumb the depths of God, we run out of plumb line long before we get to the bottom. Everything eventually dissolves into silence or mystery. However, just because we cannot know everything about God does not mean we cannot know anything.
The Bible says that humanity is created in the image of God, and if we can learn anything about God by looking at humanity, the pinnacle of His creation, we might draw the conclusion that "creating" is one of the innate characteristics of God. He creates because it is part of His perfect nature to create. If that is so, then He created the universe as an expression of His essential nature.
I know a number of creative people. Some are artists, some are musicians, some are singers, some are putterers in their shops, but they all have one thing in common. They seem incapable of not creating. It is just in them, and it comes out as a natural course of living their lives.
I even find a minor capacity for "creating" in myself. I do things just because I love to do them. I hum to myself, or sing under my breath as I go about other duties. Sometimes I take inordinate pleasure in whistling. I am a better whistler than singer. I am embarrassed to sing in front of others, but I am not embarrassed to whistle. If I eat potato chips or something salty, it makes my lips very soft and pliable and I can whistle like crazy. Sometimes when I whistle by myself, I get so caught up in the process of making the sound and enjoying the melody that I become a human canary, whistling my head off for the pure pleasure of it.
Also, I have a strong urge to paint. I particularly enjoy watercolors. I took a class one time at a local university in watercoloring and was surprised at how bad I was. Everything I painted looked like a storm at sea. I despaired of ever doing it right. However, even that disappointing experience did not completely banish my yearning to create, and a number of years later I visited the home of a very talented watercolorist. She worked magic with a paintbrush. I asked her if she ever gave lessons. She said she did. So my wife and I began taking lessons from her. To my surprise, she was able to teach me to paint something I liked. I will never be famous or rich from painting, but I just enjoy doing it. I enjoy creating beauty and reflecting my interests, likes, and desires.
If that natural bent to create is part of humanity, perhaps God put it there because it is part of His nature and we are created in His image.
Another reason why God created may be found in His characteristic of love. Scripture makes it clear that God is love (1 John 4:8). Several other passages show that one of the central characteristics of love is that it "gives." In John 3:16, we read that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Ephesians 5:25 says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." From these passages that state it clearly, and many other passages that exemplify it, we see that love gives. If it doesn't give, it is not love. This is a powerful observation for the realm of human love, but an even more powerful observation concerning God's act of creation. One of the reasons God created may be so that He could love and give to us forever (Ephesians 2:7).
While this is not a complete answer, it may put us on the right track for a fuller understanding of why God created. Perhaps He created because it is part of His nature to create. He did not need to create, but of His own free will He chose to create, and because He is God His creation is going to be the best. If God is going to do His best, He is going to reflect Himself in His creation, and is going to bring glory to Himself.
In Isaiah 43:7, we read that God created His sons and daughters for His glory. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we read, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." So our lives are to be dedicated to His glory. The church is to give God glory (Ephesians 3:21); one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God (Philippians 2:10–11); in all things, God is to be glorified (1 Peter 4:11); and in heaven, the glory of God will be a central theme as we see in Revelation 5:13: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne" (italics added).
So, yes, God wants us to give Him glory. But is He a celestial egomaniac who wants a race of serfs who will grovel at His feet for eternity to satisfy a raging ego? Hardly. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that God wants to give glory to humanity. We may be tempted to skip over these passages, but when we grasp them, we see that God intends to glorify us as well as Himself.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7)
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
These and other passages teach us that God intends to share His glory with us. As we give glory to God, God gives glory to us. When we withhold glory from God, our own glory is diminished.
God not only created humanity to give glory to Him, but He also created the physical universe for His glory. In Psalm 19:1 we read, "The heavens declare the glory of God." In Revelation 4:11, we read a song of heavenly worship that connects God's creation of all things with the fact that He is worthy to receive glory from them:
You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.
Serious thought about the magnificence of the human mind and body; one glance at the sun, moon, and stars; or brief inspection of a leaf on a tree is enough to convince us of God's great wisdom, power, and right to receive glory, since He is the one responsible for it all. Who could make all this? Who could speak it into existence out of nothing? Who could exert the power necessary to keep it all going for countless centuries? The power, skill, knowledge, and wisdom are all beyond our mortal comprehension. When we think deeply about it, we give glory to God. There is no other response that is adequate.
Excerpted from WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SALVATION by MAX ANDERS Copyright © 2013 by Max Anders . Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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