Sunday, February 10, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “The Creator and His Creation”

“The Creator and His Creation”
Reflections on the 2019 EFCA Theology Conference
February 10, 2019 :: Genesis 1, Revelation 21

Thank you for sending me this week to the EFCA Theology Conference. This was my fifth year in a row getting to attend this national conference of EFCA pastors and church leaders and theologians who care deeply about thinking deeply about God and His Word.

Thank you for praying for me, especially on Wednesday, as I answered questions as part of a panel that was doing a Q&A on the proposal before the conference this summer to change a word in our doctrinal statement. I was nervous right up to the beginning of the hour, but by the end, I wished that I had gotten to answer more questions! I know that was your prayers. So thank you!

The conference had a lot of other parts to it than I will share with you this morning, but the seven main sessions were all about The Doctrine of Creation. It’s theological significance and implications.

And it was a really really good conference!

The teaching was rich and expert and excellent and careful and thoughtful and coherent.

I was really glad that I got to participate, and I wished that you all could take it all in, as well.

So, I thought, what if I gave them just a few of the highlights of things I learned or was struck by?

So, that’s what we’re going to do today.

Normally, when Christians start talking about the Doctrine of Creation, the discussion almost inevitably goes over to the questions of WHEN and HOW?

“When was the world created and how was the world created?
When were humans created and how were humans created?

How old is the Earth?
How old is humanity?”

Questions like that.

And those are good questions that must be wrestled with especially in light of the current somewhat contentious consensus of modern science on those questions.

There is tension there.

But that’s not what our conference was about.

Those questions were there and running in the background, but they weren’t in the foreground at this conference. Just one of the 7 talks got into it.

Trinity, our school, has been studying the doctrine of creation from multiple angles  as part of a three year project funded by a 3.4 million dollar Templeton grant.

And this conference was part of the fruit of that project.

The point of our conference was theological.

The theological significance and implications (practical) for the doctrine of Creation.

So the chief questions were more like: WHY and WHO and SO WHAT?

Those are tied to WHEN and HOW, of course.

But they are more fundamental and more meaningful for our every day lives.

As I said, there were seven main talks about the Creator and His Creation, but I want to give you the whole thing in just three big biblical ideas.

Number One:


Let’s look at Genesis chapter 1, verse 1.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

The first sentence in the Bible, and what a sentence it is!

Our statement of faith starts here, too.

In Article One it says, “We believe in one God, Creator of all things...”

When Moses says “the heavens and the earth” that is what is called merism.

A merism is when you give two contrasting things and you mean those two things and everything in between.

Day and Night
A to Z
From Soup to Nuts

What that means is heaven and earth and everything that is between the two.

Which is...everything!

It is all things!

God made all things.

If it’s a thing, and it isn’t God, it was made by God.

Just let your mind be blown by that.

That’s what we spent the week thinking about.

Being a creation of God.

Being in the creation of God.

Do you think of yourself as a part of creation?

Do you think of creation at all?

And God didn’t just make all of creation but He made it all good.

That’s the refrain of the song of Genesis chapter 1.

I won’t read it all to you, but again and again it says, “God saw that it was good.”

“God saw that it was good.”
“God saw that it was good.”
“God saw that it was good.”
“God saw that it was good.”

And then when He had made everything including us, it says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

Now, this is something I needed to hear this week.

I needed to be reminded of how good creation is.

How pleasing. How right. How precious. How wonderful. How well-designed.

How good creation is.

The Hebrew word is “Tov.”

As in “Mazel Tov.”

Tov, Tov, Tov.

I needed to be reminded because the world has been corrupted by sin.

This world is broken. All things are not as they should be.

I don’t have to convince you of that.

All you have to do is watch the news.

Go to a hospital or a funeral.

But that comes in at Genesis 3.

That’s not how things were designed to be.

That’s not how things were at the beginning.

God made all things good.

Now, what are the implications of that?

We could spend the whole morning just on that!

But here’s one. God deserves all of our worship for making all of the things–including us!


What kind of a God can make all of this?

I talk to a lot of hunters who worship God in nature.

They go out there in the woods, and they say, “How can anyone doubt that there is a God when they see that?”

And they are led to worship the Creator God in His Creation.

And that’s exactly right.

You know my favorite place on God’s green Earth, right?

Cook Forest State Park.

I can see the glory of God in what He has made.

Trees, ferns, river, stones, wild-life, hills, trails. Beautiful!

There is very little light pollution there.

On a clear night, I like to go out to this one field and just look at all of the stars. You can see like the whole Milky Way.

Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Now, get this.

The world needs God, but God does not need the world.

The theological/philosophical word for that is “contingent.” The world is contingent, but God is not.

The world depends on God, but God does not depend on the world.

Even if there was no world, there still would be a God.

But if there was no God, there would be no world.

God made all things good, and that means that He deserves all of our worship!

That means giving thanks for all of our gifts.

When we pray before a meal, we thank the Lord for His good provision.

But we should give thanks just for existing at all!

Because we wouldn’t if it wasn’t for Him.

And don’t forget, we were made by God through Jesus.

John picked up this these in His Gospel

“In the beginning [what] was the Word [who we know as Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

All things were made through Jesus.

Paul said it this way in Colossians 1, “For by him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

I guess He deserves all of our worship!

If He wasn’t holding us all together, we would all fly apart!

God Made All Things Good.

Metal? Stars!  Hot.  Cold.  Wet.  Moist.  Fire.  Nuclear Fission.  Atomic Particles.  Brain Cells.  Mountains.  Weather.  Blood Vessels.  Continents.  Snow.  Mice.  Microbes.  Blue Whales.  Tomatoes.  Eggs.  Galaxies.  Moons.  Meteors.  Tidal Waves.  Northern Lights.  Dirt.  Milk.  The Big Dipper.  Softness.  Scratchiness.  Lukewarmness.  Humanity.  Grasshoppers. Light Waves.  E=MC2.  Gorillas.  Giraffes.  Deserts.  Palm Trees.  Mexican Jumping Beans.  Caves.  Windstorms.  Ponds.  Fresh Air.  Falling Leaves.  Corn Cobs. The Milky Way.  Combustion.  Eyelashes.  Uranium.  The Smell of Skunks.  The Color Purple.  The Fabric of Reality. 

God Made All Things Good.

Number Two.


Drop your eyes down to verses 26 through 28.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”

God made all of humanity in His image.

Last year, we learned the Latin phrase for that: “Imago Dei.” Remember that?

The image of God.

We were made special. The capstone of creation.

And were made to image God in the world.

There are so many implications for that.

One is just the sanctity of life, right?

What the folks from the PRC are always talking about, “You matter to God.”

Human life is sacred.

We can’t trash humans.

We aren’t allowed to just treat humans like trash.

Especially the most vulnerable.

We’ve seen in our culture just recently an abhorrent disdain for human life.

Made in the image of God.

One of the speakers, Paige Cunningham, is the director of Trinity’s Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.

And that’s one of the things she talked about–humans have an intrinsic dignity because we are stamped with the very likeness of God.

And, of course, that goes for humans of all races. This is Black History month, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the disgraceful ways that African-Americans have been treated over the last 400 years.

How different the story could have been if they had been treated as the image-bearers they are!

We tend to love and respect and care for those people who look the most like us.

But God says that fundamentally all humans look, in some way, like Him[!]. That’s more basic, and that should govern how we treat each other.

Including how we talk to one another.

Like on social media?

Remember when you say something on social media about someone else, even if that someone is a politician or a celebrity or your opponent or your enemy, they are first and foremost made in the image of God.

James says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” And that's whether you a trashing President Trump or Speaker Pelosi or someone else.

Let that guide your typing on your phone.

God made all of us in His image.

Both male and female.

Did you catch that in verse 27?

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

One of the talks was about human sexuality.

That humans come in two different sexes: male and female.

And that is good. That is tov.

And all of the implications of that.

Marriage, for example.

God has designed marriage to be a covenantal relationship between one man and one woman.

And sexual relations are to be exclusively practiced within that covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.

That is tov.

Sadly, our world is not tov in so many ways.

On this side of Genesis 3, we see gender dysphoria. Where a person can feel greatly distressed about their biological sex and feel a mismatch between their biological sex and their own mental identity.

On this side of Genesis 3, we see same-sex attraction. Where a person is drawn romantically and sexually to people of their own sex instead of to the other sex.

And on this side of Genesis 3, we all need to have great compassion for people who are experiencing those things.

Because on this side of Genesis 3, we are all sexually broken, just in different ways.

We all feel the effects of the Fall.

We can’t celebrate that sexual brokenness.

But we can have all kinds of compassion for others.

And walk alongside them.

And, by God grace, point them towards God’s good design.


The speaker about this said something really profound. He pointed to Jesus who was male and is still male today.

And he said that Jesus was fully human and fully sexual as a male but not fallen in any way.

Fully human and fully sexual.

And yet Jesus never "had sex."

He didn’t have to "have sex" to be fully human or to be fully actualized or even fully male.

Think about the implications of that.

Our culture doesn’t get that. Not at all.

Our culture thinks that having sex is life.

But as good as sex is, and it was designed by God, so it’s really good.

It isn’t that important.

It’s not where life is.

Just look at Jesus.

That re-calibrates singleness, doesn’t it?
That re-calibrates celibacy.
That re-calibrates sexuality.

You can see how much there was to think about this week.

God made all of us in His image.

And when He did that, He gave us work to do, didn’t He?

There was a whole message on our responsibility to care for the creation that He gave us.

So what Jared does over there in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

What we should all do as we care for this world that He has given us dominion over.

Don’t let the politically far Left be the only people talking about caring for this world. God told us right here that we are to be the benevolent rulers, protecting and cultivating and caring for this creation. We are stewards of it, and will be held accountable for what we did with it.

And there was a whole message on The Doctrine of Creation and Human Work.

Do you remember a few years ago I got fired up by a teacher who said that we pastors don’t do enough to prepare our people to be disciples of Jesus in the workplace, and I preached a series of messages called “Working for the Lord?” Remember that?

That same guy did this talk at the conference.

And he gave me another great idea for how to see our work as worship and to highlight your work for the Lord on Sunday mornings.

Starting today, we’re going to have regular interviews and prayer times on Sundays that we’re going to call “Jesus at Work.”

And I want to do the first one right now.

I called Laurie last night and asked if she would serve as a guinea pig for this.

Laurie, if you would come up here?

I’ve got three questions for you, and then we’ll pray for you.

1. What will you be doing this week at work?
2. What are joys and challenges in your work right now?
3. How can we be praying for you as you do your work this week?

We were created for work.

Not just work for compensation, but work for contribution.

Work as our worship. Serving the Lord as His image-bearing creation in His creation.

One more point this morning, and then we’ll go.

And by the way, we’re going to do prayer corners again this week.

And the folks in these prayer corners would love to pray for you about your work this week.

God cares about your work.

God made all of us in His image, and put us to work.


The conference wrapped up with a message from my friend Mike Wittmer on the Doctrine of Creation and Human Destiny.

And what Mike said was so encouraging because He said that the creation is going to be restored to what it was supposed to be “tov” and even better.

We’re not just going to go to heaven someday, but we’re going to get a New Heaven and New Earth!

Turn to Revelation chapter 21. Look at the first 5 verses:

“Then I [John] saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. [That was the goal all along. Immanuel, right?] They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. [God with us!] He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ [Genesis 3 will be undone. The curse will be reversed. V.5] He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

My friend Mike said, “Notice that it doesn’t say, ‘I will make all new things.’ It says, ‘I will make all things new.’”

It will be this world but resurrected.

Mike called it "the Consummation."

“No more death or mourning or crying or pain.”

All of the goodness, the tov, of creation, and none of the bad.

And because of Jesus, it will not just be like it was, it will be redeemed, restored, resurrection, refreshed.

God will make all things new.

What’s the application of that?

Live for and long for that day.

Live for it.

Everything we’ve talked about this morning and more.

Worshiping God for making all things good.
Living out God’s good design in human sexuality, human dignity, human stewardship because of the image of God in humanity.
Working for the Lord in His good creation.

Living for the Lord as His good creation.

And also longing for that day to come when all will be restored.

That’s why the Bible ends with this last prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Come to make all things new.


Questions for Group Discussion

1. Read Genesis 1:1 and make as many observations as you can about that one verse. How foundational is it to everything that we know and believe?

2. What did God make? What does it mean that His creation was made “good?” What are some of the implications of that truth?

3. Read John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17, and Hebrews 1:1-3. What do you learn about Jesus’ relationship to creation in these passages?

4. Read Genesis 1:26-28. What are a few of the implications of the truth that we are made in the image of God? For example, reflect some on the implications for human work, human stewardship, human sexuality, and human dignity. How might you live differently this week because you remember that you are an image-bearer and so are all of the people you interact with?

5. Read Revelation 21:1-5. Do you long for the return of Christ? What do you long for most? How can we pray for each other this week in light of what we’ve learned today?