Genesis 1:1-15, II Corinthians 5:16-21
October 10 , 2010
In honor of the baseball playoffs, I chose to have us look at the creation story today. You know, “In the big inning…” (Get it?) No actually, I chose it because I believe it is so much connected to this passage in II Corinthians. The baseball thing is just a coincidence! (But I couldn’t resist!)
When we think about creation in Genesis, we tend to get focused on the argument of whether or not God created – past tense. It then becomes all about “cosmology,” which is the term for the scientific study of the creation of the universe, or the cosmos. But I don’t believe the creation story is to be left in the past. I believe we need to think in terms of the ongoing creation of God. God is creating.
That’s how the Hebrews thought of it. The Hebrew language is much more ancient than ours, and therefore it’s much simpler. Because of that, it doesn’t have the same past tense that we have. So this passage “God created…” can be literally translated, “God creates” or even “God is creating.” God’s power in creation is an ongoing thing. God didn’t just have the power of creation, way back when. He still does. And he still creates!
I like that. I like to think in terms of the ongoing creation of God. Just look around you. Things are changing. Things are growing. Babies are being born. The world is changing. Leaves are turning. The seasons are a testament to God’s creative hand. Astronomers would tell us that stars are being created. Maybe even planets and solar systems! The vision of God “creating all things” many eons ago, and then sitting back passively and just watching, is inadequate. God is creating. Not just “once upon a time,” long ago. I hope you see that!
The great thing is that Hebrew people thought that way about everything in their past. When they told the ancient stories they talked about them in the present tense. “Here’s what God does for us!” “A wandering Aramean was my father!” They talked in terms of “this is our story.” “We are part of this story.” They placed themselves in the story in a way it’s hard for us to comprehend.
But I want us to try! Because Paul – a good Jewish boy – told us “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” And I believe it’s very much the same thing. So it’s not, “If anyone is in Christ, they were made a new creation – just at that moment. Just at that time.” The “new creation” process is real, it is dynamic, it is ongoing. Not we were new creations. We are new creations. We are being made new.
Sometimes I wonder if people in churches get that. Sometimes I wonder if they even understand the past part of it – that they “were made new,” let alone the “are being made new” part. Think about your own life. You are new creations. Or are you? Ask yourself, when you made the decision to follow Christ, however that happened, did anything change? Is there any difference in your life at all? And I don’t mean just the fact that, “you are saved and your eternal destiny is sure.” But is your life different?!
Then, what about this business of an ongoing change? That’s the tough one! Because scripture is clear that this isn’t just a “one time thing.” And it sets the bar pretty high. We “are being changed” into the image of Christ! Really? Yes! Look what Paul told the Corinthians two chapters earlier. “And we, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, (a direct reference to Moses, by the way!) [we] are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to the next…” (II Corinthians 3:18)
We are being changed into the image of the Lord! That’s the goal of every Christian. That’s a tall order, isn’t it? So ask yourself that one! Are you being changed into the image of Christ? Are you becoming more Christ-like? And what does that look like? Are you becoming a nicer person? Are you a more loving person? Are you becoming a more spiritual person? And what does that mean? Are you being changed? Or do you have things to work on?
I want to challenge you to think specifically about that today. To often, we hear the question and we say, “Wow, that is important.” or “Hey, I like that!” But then we do nothing. So, let me ask you, specifically, what’s happening with you. What do you need to work on? (Or let God work on in you!) For example, are you quick to anger? (And slow to forgive?) If so, then you have some work to do! James said we are to be the opposite, “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1:19) Are you self-centered? Then you have a some work to do! (Maybe we all have to work on that to some extent.) Paul said, “I bid everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think.” (Romans 12:3) He also said, “Do nothing from selfishness, but in humility count others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) Paul was always very practical in matters of faith!
How are you doing so far? It’s tough to look at ourselves, isn’t it? But I believe we need to. How about this one. Do you tend to look for and to criticize the bad in others? Then you have some work to do! Paul said, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” (I Thessalonians 5:11) To the Philippians he wrote these wonderful words. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, what ever is just, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8) What about your priorities? Are they centered around everything but God’s kingdom? Then you have some work to do! For Jesus himself said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)
It’s not easy to look at ourselves, but these are the very things that show that we are being changed into the image of Christ. The sad thing is, we don’t tend to want to hear people telling us this! We’d prefer not to look at ourselves in this way. Or we have an unrealistic view of ourselves. “Am I Christ-like? Well, maybe not. But I’m as good as the next person.” (Who is that “next person,” by the way?) “And when I’m not so good, I’m forgiven! After all, ‘Christians aren’t perfect, they’re just forgiven.’” That saying has always bothered me. Because how often is it used as an excuse not to do anything about our image?! And let me tell you that that saying doesn’t cut it in our world! So we’d better stop using it!! We are examples of Christ to the world, whether we like it or not!
If you really think about it, it’s way too easy to keep this business of change in the past. It’s way too easy to think in terms of “we have been changed,” or “we were changed,” “once upon a time,” rather than “we are being changed.” The sad fact is that too many Christians think to themselves, “I’m good enough. And that’s good enough.” Well, that’s not good enough. Yes, we’re “good enough” in terms of our salvation. Because no one can be “good enough” for that! But that’s not the question here. What’s in question is the kind of people we are, and the kind of people God wants us to be! Do we have the courage – and the strength – to look at our thoughts and actions and say, “That’s not the kind of person God wants me to be. And I’m going to do something about it!”
Do we do that? And let me ask you this. What would the Church look like if we did? If we are the “body of Christ” here on earth, do we look like him? Should we look like him? “The word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. And we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (John 1:14) Do we look like that? The church is being seen in a bad light in our world. And is any of that because of how people see us? Again, specifically! Are we less than gracious and loving? Do we lean more toward the judgmental? Or are we more concerned with grace and joy and peace? Is that our image to the world. Believe me, we will get more interest in the Church, the “body of Christ,” if we show the world the peace of Christ. Much more so than if we are appearing judgmental!
We are God’s ambassadors here in earth. And at any given time, we may be the only Jesus that someone else ever sees. What will that image be? Ernie Moritz, pastor at Neshaminy Warwick in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s used to have a favorite saying. He used to say all the time, “Be God’s person where ever he calls you.” Think about that. How would you be different if you saw God calling you to be his person, at any given time, and in any given situation?
So, we are being changed into the image and the likeness of Christ. That’s the high calling to which we have been called. But it’s not all “tough stuff.” Because the last part of that is that we are being changed “from one degree of glory to the next!” In simple terms that means, “And it gets better and better!” I want to tell you, life in God’s kingdom isn’t always easy, but it is glorious! It’s not always trouble free – far from it. I know what some of you are saying here. “Skip, this life is lousy! This life is awful! I have so many problems, you wouldn’t believe it.” That may be very true. But God is with you. And in his presence there is glory. And as Paul said, “The suffering – the difficulties of this life – are not worth even comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us!”
That’s great! But the glory starts here and now. And it starts when we recognize God’s presence in our lives. It begins when we see how we are being changed from one degree of that glory to the next – no matter what the circumstances of our lives. So, go! And be changed!
Eternal and ever blessed God. We know that you are creating all around us. We pray for a greater ability to see the way you are creating within us. Help us. Give us strength to be your people, where ever you call us. Give us the courage to look at ourselves, and to be the best people you can make us. For we pray in the name of our Savior, Amen.