“Men go to gape at mountain peaks, at the boundless tides of the sea, the broad sweep of rivers, the encircling ocean and the motions of the stars: and yet they leave themselves unnoticed; they do not marvel at themselves.” (Augustine, Conf. X, viii, 15, quoted in Brown, p. 162)
And perhaps we should marvel more at ourselves. Mankind was the very last of God’s creation; the crowning peak of His creative activity. Psalm 8 poses one of most introspective questions in the Bible when it asks: “What is Man, that You take thought of Him, and the Son of Man, that You care for him?”
What IS man? We can guess some answers to that question. But in our Daily Bible Readings the past couple of weeks in Genesis and Job, we find out what GOD tells us about Mankind — and after all we are HIS creation. There is SO much misunderstanding about Mankind going around, which can corrected by our looking to the Scriptures, and finding out what GOD tells us about Mankind in His word. Last week we saw some basic truths about God from our readings in the early part of Genesis. This morning we turn our attention to what the Bible tells us about ourselves: “What Is Man?”
Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, ‘Let us make Man in Our image, according to Our likeness”. Then :27 says “God created Man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
The Bible tells us right here in the beginning something fundamentally important about mankind: we were created by God. (In fact, THREE TIMES in :26 it tells us that HE CREATED them!) As Psalm 100:3 says “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.” God made us. And Genesis 1 tells us that He created us “in His image;” in His likeness. Now, that doesn’t mean that God made us to LOOK like Him; the Bible tells us that God is Spirit. He doesn’t have a “look” for us to look like. No, that we were created “in His image” means that we are like God in our nature: that we are Persons; that we have character; we have personality; we have a mind. We are like God in that He gave us the ability to think and create and especially to CHOOSE. God has given us real choices to make in life, and that ability to choose is one of the most important things about us.
In his classic book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote: “God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata — of creatures that worked like machines — would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.”
I totally agree with Lewis. God did not create us as “automata;” or “robots” who merely live out whatever He predetermined. (To me this is one of the strongest arguments against Calvinism; God wants us to freely choose to love Him; what good would a “predetermined” love be?) No, God created us, “in His image,” with the ability to make real, meaningful choices, for better or for worse, in every area of our life.
OUR part is to appreciate this gift of choice God gave us, and to understand how important every choice we make, is. Your ability to make real, meaningful choices, that have lasting consequences, is one of the most precious gifts you have. You need to take that responsibility seriously — especially the decision of who and what you choose to allow in your life, and what you are going to do every day. Every choice you make, determines the kind of person you are becoming:
C.S. Lewis went on to write: “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. (…) Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.”
In other words, every choice you make, either brings you closer to God, or takes you farther away. What are the choices YOU are making, doing to your relationship with God? Perhaps you are facing a very particular choice today, or this week, or this month. Would you ask yourself: will this choice I am making bring me closer to God, or take me farther away?
It would be good to ask yourself that of every little choice you make — of who you will spend time with; of what movie you’ll watch or book you’ll read; of a career or spending choice: “Is this choice bringing me closer to God, or taking me farther away?” Every choice matters — and we need to take every choice we make, seriously. God created us in His image, with the responsibility to make real choices that impact our lives and others.
Sadly, that ability God gave us to choose led to our decision to sin against Him, which we read about in Genesis 3. God commanded Man NOT to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but we chose to do it anyway. That was SIN: disobeying; choosing to do what God said not to. Through that choice, sin came into the world.
And through Adam that same sin nature has now been passed down to every one of us. So we have all inherited a sin nature, which we are born with, and which inclines every one of us to sin. And then when we come to the age when we are able to make choices on our own, we all actually DO choose to sin.
Listen: NO PARENT HAS TO BE CONVINCED OF THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN, right? Everyone who has ever brought up children knows that sin is inborn in their offspring! We don’t have to teach our kids to sin, do we? It naturally manifests itself in countless ways, in every child:
— We don’t have to teach them to be selfish, or to shout “Mine!”
— We don’t have to teach them to lie; every one of them comes to an age when they start doing it on their own.
— We don’t have to teach them to rebel, and do what they want to do instead of what we tell them.
None of us have to be taught to sin; we all come with it built in. And we see it manifested in the earliest years of our life.
Sadly, one of my own very first memories confirms that in my own life. I was about 5 years old, and our family had gone to California to spend Christmas with our grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa had bought my sister Erin and me each a big animal balloon — as big as we were! I don’t remember what my balloon was, but I vividly remember Erin’s was a big red bear. And I wanted hers, instead of mine. But I couldn’t have it; they had given it to Erin. And so later that evening, I took a fork and I just popped her balloon. And she cried, and everyone was upset, and I felt bad, and I got sent to bed early on Christmas Eve for my crime.
I hate that story! So why do I tell it? Because that is the story of mankind. That is the story of us all. That is what we do: even 3 and 4 and 5 year olds. No one has to teach us to do this; it inborn inside of us. It is what we do as sinners. It is selfishness; it is jealousy; it is murder; it is Cain & Abel all over again, replayed in the story of our own lives. And it is the story of every single one of us; it is the story of every single one of our children and grandchildren — no matter how much we love them; it is the story of us ALL. Sadly, the Bible clearly shows us that the story of mankind is also the story of sin. We were created by God in His image, but ALL of us are sinners, both by nature — and as soon as we are able — also by our own personal choice. Anyone who is honest with himself with admit that they are a sinner.
If you read Job 14 in this past Monday’s Bible reading, you may have noticed that the chapter begins with the word “Man” in :1, “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.” Because we are sinners, we brought death into the world, just as God warned in Genesis 2, and so we are only temporary here on earth.
Verse 2 of Job 14 here says we are “like a flower … withers … Does not remain…” We are short-lived, temporary residents here on earth. This picture of Man being temporary, like a flower, or grass, is used in other places in scripture:
— Psalm 103:15 says “As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer.”
— Psalm 90:5 says of man “In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away.”
— Isaiah 40:6-7 says “A voice say, ‘Call out!’ Then I answered, ‘What shall I call out?’ All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it. Surely the people are grass.”
Repeatedly the Bible says we are like a flowering grass that appears for a short time, and then withers and is gone. Especially when we are young, we pretty much think we’ll be around forever, and we don’t think much about death — but one day we’ll begin to realize just how quickly time is passing, and that we will indeed soon be gone.
I still remember the illustration the pastor Cheryl & I had in high school used about how time seems to go by even faster the older you get. He used the example of a film projector. (I know talking about a “film projector” dates me!) Back in the “prehistoric days” we didn’t have televisions and computers and DVDs and the internet in our classrooms. If a teacher wanted to show a video, they’d get a “film projector” from the library, and they would show the video on a big reel of film. Light would shine through the film as the reel slowly turned, and it would cast the video up on the screen on the wall at the front of the classroom. Then when the film was over, they would put the reel on “rewind”, and the reel would wind back for the next group to watch. Now, if you have even seen one of these film reels rewind, you know that at first it winds very slowly, but then it begins to spin faster and faster and faster, until at the very end it is spinning almost faster than your eyes can keep up with.
Well that morning in church our pastor said that LIFE is a lot like that winding film reel. When you are young, time just drags — a whole year of school seems to take forever. But as you get older, time seems to “speed up.” Days and weeks and months and years go quickly by — faster and faster — just like that film reel — until at the end, time is zipping by, year after year, until suddenly, just like that reel of film — it is gone.
I have to say that 40 years later, it is eerie to now see this very thing come to pass in my own life. Just like our pastor said, time is now going by faster than ever before. Days, weeks, and months are all just “zooming” past for me. Where did 2017 go? Doesn’t it seem like we just started it — and now all of the sudden, it is 2018?! (Didn’t we just do “Grinch” for Christmas — and then “Home Alone”, and then “Elf” — and now, before we know it, we are going to be right back at the CoMMA doing “A Christmas Story”!) It is almost unbelievable. It is getting to where if I have something difficult to face, I think, “Oh well, it will be past before I know it!” — and it IS! Time is flying by. The Bible says we are just temporary residents here on earth. We need to realize that, and make wise decisions about our time.
Psalm 90 says: “As for the days of our life, they contain 70 years, or if due to strength, 80 years. Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.” So then :12 says: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.”
In other words, we need to realize that our time on earth is short. We have a very brief, limited time here. And the timer is running. The film is winding. And it is going faster, and faster, and faster. We need to be wise about life. Don’t think you have forever — you don’t! Don’t waste your time. It is a precious treasure. Be sure that you do the most important things with the time God gives you.
Young people, this is one of the reasons why I want you to be in our MasterLife class tonight. I became a Christian in Bible School when I was 7 years old. But I never learned to really walk with the Lord every day in His word and prayer until I was a young adult. As a result I feel like I wasted a lot of my time in high school. I don’t want that to happen to you. I want you to learn NOW how to walk with God each day. I hope you’ll be here tonight in the youth room at 5:00 and learn how to make the best of your time by walking with God every day. Your life is going to go by more quickly than you think! Learn to do the most important things with it!
It is important for all of us to serve God — not “some day.” NOW. Do you know that “now” is the only time you ever have? It is never “tomorrow.” The only moment you ever have, is always the present moment.
This is why II Corinthians 6:2 says “NOW is the acceptable time; TODAY is the day of salvation.” You need to exercise that freedom of choice God gave you, and choose to do the best things with it: follow HIM, in the only moment you know that you will ever have: NOW! NOW! For you and I are only temporary residents here on this earth.
Job 14 goes on to speak more about man in :3: “You also open Your eyes on him, and bring him into judgment with Yourself.” Here we find another very important fact about man: and that is that we are all accountable to God. As this verse says, God brings us into judgment with Himself.
We saw this in the Garden of Eden in our Genesis readings last week. Because God made mankind, we are HIS. We belong to Him. He sets the rules, and we are accountable to Him for what we do. God told Adam & Eve not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and when they did, they came before Him for judgment; the land was cursed; they were cast out of the Garden; and they would now die. They were accountable to God.
This is one of the most important things we all need to know about ourselves: that we are all accountable to God.
— Hebrews 9:27 emphasizes this: “It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment.”
— The Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.”
We are all accountable to God. And THE single most important question of your life is: how will you fare on the day when you stand before Him? How will you justify what you have done with the time God gave you? How will you deal with the sins that have inevitably been in your life as a sinner?
— Job goes on to ask the question in 14:4 “Who can make the clean out of the unclean?” In other words, who can justify himself before God? “No one”, he says!
— Proverbs 20:9 asks the question: “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” The answer is, NONE of us can say that we have. We are all sinners, both by nature and by choice. And we cannot fix ourselves.
In Herman Melville’s classic story Moby Dick, he writes of how Captain Ahab is walking on the ship one day, and comes across Perth, the blacksmith, and he asks him, “What wert thou making there?” Perth tells him he is welding an old pike head (a harpoon) because there were seams and dents in it. Captain Ahab asks him: “And canst thou make it all smooth again, blacksmith, after such hard usage as it had?”
“I think so, sir.”
“And I suppose thou canst smooth almost any seams and dents; never mind how hard the metal, blacksmith?”
“Aye, sir, I think I can; all seams and dents but one.”
“Look ye here, then,’ cried Ahab, passionately advancing, and leaning with both hands on Perth’s shoulders; ‘look ye here — here — can ye smooth out a seam like this, blacksmith,’ sweeping one hand across his ribbed brow; ‘if thou couldst, blacksmith, glad enough would I lay my head upon thy anvil, and feel thy heaviest hammer between my eyes. Answer! Canst thou smooth this seam?’
‘Oh, that is the one, sir! Said I not all seams and dents but one?’
That is a great description of just how we are before God. Because of our sinful choices, we have all kinds of “seams and dents” in our lives — and we can’t fix these “seams and dents” on our own. If God hadn’t done something for us, we would all have been condemned when we stood accountable before Him.
But thank God, He DID do something for us, to make us right before Him. Last week we saw in Genesis 3 when Adam & Eve stood accountable before God, that God promised them that He would send Someone, who would crush the head of the serpent, and make them right with Him again.
In our reading in Matthew, we saw that this Promised One was Jesus: “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham”, tracing Him all the way back to the beginning, to “the seed of Eve.” This Jesus came, not only “The Son of Man”, a real man, but also the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, to die on the cross, to forgive our sins, and change our lives, when nothing else could.
We saw in our reading this week in Matthew 9, when they brought the paralyzed man to Jesus, that Jesus looked at him and said, “Take courage son; your sins are forgiven.”
Those are the most important words that anyone can hear! “Your sins are forgiven.” As we have seen, ALL of us have sinned. We ALL stand accountable to God. And NONE of can fix ourselves, and take those “dents and seams” that Ahab spoke about, out of lives. But there is One who can! And He WILL — if you will bring your life to Jesus. He died on the cross to forgive your sins; and not only just “forgive” them, but He has the power to put you on His “anvil” and begin to hammer the “dents and seams” out of your life, and really change you, and make you into the person He designed for you to be, and then when you do die, you don’t have to fear your accountability to God. You have been forgiven, and you will live with Him forever in glory in heaven.
See, God made you as a marvelous creature for Him to delight in. There is nothing and no one just like you in all of His creation — you are made in the very image of God! But you must also realize that your life here on earth is very brief, and you are accountable to God for every choice you make with the life He gave you. You have sinned and fallen short, but thank God He has provided a way for you to be forgiven, and saved, and changed through Jesus. But to get that, you’ve got to exercise that gift of choice He gave you, and admit that you’ve been going the wrong way, and choose to come back to Him, “put yourself on His anvil” and be forgiven and changed. Will you make that choice today?