In The Beginning – “Whole People”

Sunday

Space telescopes now allow us to see the outer edges of the vast, intricate universe – seeing light that has traveled for billions of years to reach us. Looking at the images is like receiving a letter written billions of years ago – like going back (WAY back) in time. A similar sensation occurs when we read the opening words of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created…” Genesis 1, 2 & 3 are windows into God’s intent for creation; the narrative was never meant be a story of how God created everything, but instead it’s the story of Who created it, and most importantly the story of why we were created as his “image bearers,” and what we were meant to be. And that, as it turns out, is a beautiful story…

1.  Whole People (Genesis 1:26,31; Genesis 2:25) 

  • After each successive day of his creative effort, God proclaims his work to be “good.” It’s only after creating humans “in his own image” does God declare that his total work is “very good.” Then, in chapter 2 as the writer gives more detail to the creation narrative, we find this interesting detail: although the original humans were naked, “they felt no shame.”
  • With this little clue, the writer is describing the beautiful state of humanity before the Fall. We were unashamed, unbroken, and intimately connected with God and with each other. In a word, we were whole people. In that moment, we (like the garden landscape around us) were unspoiled – with no self-doubt, no anxiety, no addictions, not driven by our illicit desires. And we miss that… immensely.

2.  Broken Down (Genesis 3:1-7) 

  • In the creation narrative, there are two trees that are featured in the garden that God created. One is the tree of life; it sits up on a hill like a temple, and it represents our intimate connection with our life-giving God. He invites his image-bearers to eat freely of it. The other tree in the middle of the garden is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – and God warns the humans not to eat its fruit.
  • That “middle tree” is the tree of false life, and it offers a lie: the lie that we can decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil – instead of trusting God and what he says. The tree is there as a choice for the humans, because we’ve been given the free will to choose.
  • At the moment we (humanity) chose to not trust God and to “eat of the forbidden tree,” our wholeness was broken, and sin and shame consumed us. We became self-conscious and anxious and afraid, and we began to hide and cover up and mask ourselves to avoid the reality of our brokenness.
  • Still feeling the need to “cover up” today, we do so in a variety of ways – with drugs or alcohol or sex or work or adrenaline or food or spending – anything the will lessen the pain of our brokenness. Sadly, culture’s answer to our “shame problem” is to tell us that we should just have no shame.

3.  The Way Back (Exodus 3:1-5; 1 John 1:8-10) 

  •  Christianity, at its core, is about finding our way “back to the garden” – back to a place of wholeness, without shame. And the story of “the way back” begins in the early pages of the Old Testament as well. In Exodus 3, Moses encounters another “tree,” the burning bush, and God invites him to come close to him. But to do so, Moses must remove his shoes – an image of shedding his sin and shame.
  • Toward the end of the Bible, the apostle John tells us that, in order to shed our sin and shame, we have to confess it – confess our brokenness and our need for cleansing to God (and to ourselves). Confession is the way back to God because it forces us to come out of hiding, to “de-mask” ourselves and acknowledge that we will never find wholeness without becoming “naked” before God again.
  • The question we’re left with is this: “How badly do we want to get back to wholeness – back to the garden?” The cost is confession – our acknowledgement that we can’t do it on our own. 

ADDITIONAL SCRIPTURE

These passages may provide additional insights related to the subject of this week’s message. All verses are NLT unless otherwise noted.

Genesis 3:15NIV; Psalms 32:1-5; Proverbs 28:13; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:1-5; 1 Peter 5:6-7

Video of the Week: The Tree of Life by the Bible Project

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. What thoughts and emotions come to mind for you when you read the first three chapters of Genesis?  (If you’ve never read them, take a few minutes to do so before you answer).  

  1. Try to imagine, if you can, what life was like for the humans before they made the horrible choice to not trust God.  What do you think they did all day?  How did they interact with God and with each other?  

  1. Why did God create the “bad” tree in the first place?  Wouldn’t the story have gone much better if the humans hadn’t had the option of eating its fruit? 

  1. Read Genesis 3:1-7 again. What, exactly, did the “serpent” convince Eve and Adam that they would gain if they ate from the forbidden tree?     

  1. In what ways do we face that same temptation today (and every day of our lives)?  

  1. How does confessing our sin and our shame to God bring us closer to him – and closer to wholeness?

Sunday
February 18, 2024
“Purposeful Faith”

We’re called by Scripture to have a “childlike faith” – a complete dependence on a good and loving God, our Heavenly Father. And with that dependence comes a sense of purpose – a trust that, if God created us, he created us with a purpose in mind; we were created “on purpose, FOR a purpose.”

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Sunday
February 11, 2024
In The Beginning – “The Day of Rest” 

We wrap up the “Since the Beginning” series this week, and we’ve looked at some heavy stuff – confession, sexuality, murder. It’s a lot to consider; if you’re needing a break, perhaps that’s the way the series – and God’s plan for our lives – was meant to play out: with rest and celebration at the end of our striving and work. The idea of real rest sounds pretty good today, doesn’t it? 

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Sunday
February 4, 2024
In The Beginning – “The Story of Grace”

Our series, “Since the Beginning,” has focused on who we were as God’s “image bearers” before the Fall – before we became self-aware and self-focused – selfish, anxious and addicted. Like the trendy “How it started…How it’s going” memes, the early chapters of Genesis paint a picture of “started beautifully…going terribly.” But if we look closely, we find the beautiful story of grace – in Genesis, and throughout the entire story of the Bible. Even where we expect – and deserve – justice in its place.

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