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The Work of God

March 14, 2004

 

Scripture Reading:

Introduction:

Video: “Ever Think About Dying?” by Worship Films.com.

Note: The great contradiction; either grave confusion or glorious confidence in these “man-on-the-street” interviews about dying.

For those of us who know the way, the truth and the life in Jesus, the darkness of soul in those without him is exceedingly dark.

“22  "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23 NIVUS)

The difference is whether or not you possess the light of life from God – or whether you remain in the darkness of your deadness.

“16  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18 NIVUS)

If you do not have life from God you are already dead.

The apostle John puts it in even clearer terms in his first letter.

“11  And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12 NIVUS)

To understand the concept of life more clearly, we must start at the beginning – which, of course, would be Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

There we find the account of creation. We already read about it this morning in our opening Scripture in Exodus 20:8-11 about the 4th Commandment.

Like God, in whose image he has made us, we are to work for six days and rest on the seventh like he did in honor of his finished work.

It is good for us to know that we can reach a point of finishing our work each week. It is not good for us to strive against impossible odds.

But what I want us to focus on this morning is the work of God that the 4th Commandment makes reference to.

Let us take a look at the account of creation in Genesis chapter one.

You will note here at the beginning, the first two verses, give a summary statement of the creation of the cosmos, as does the first verse of chapter two.

The difference between these two summary statements is that the first is before creation and the second is after.

In between are the six days of creation, and of course, we know that God rested from creation on the seventh.

With creation, God put a living process in motion that, at least for some, would never end.

The summary statement in the first two verses reveals the mind of God, the plan of God, about what he was to do.

He started with a blank piece of paper, so to speak, without any organization (“the earth was formless and empty [what was in God’s mind had not yet taken shape], darkness was over the surface of the deep”) and began to design life.

But like any artist, the design he implemented was first in his spirit/Spirit (“the Spirit of God was hovering [planning] over the waters [what was in God’s mind to do]”).

At first there was nothing, a negative state, and he began to speak the process of life into existence that we see over the next six days.

Each day of creation typically follows a pattern of announcement, commandment, separation, report, naming, evaluation, and chronological framework.

          Announcement: “and God said”

          Commandment: “let there be”

          Separation: boundaries are important in both created and social orders – when everything keeps to its allotted place and does not transgress its limits, there is order, not chaos

          Report: “and so God made”

          Naming: an indication of dominion, reveals God as the supreme ruler

          Evaluation: “God saw that it was good” – along with this is God’s blessing of each kind of creature with procreativity

          Chronological Framework: God does not create in time, but with time, attesting to his logical and timely shaping of creation

But you might be confused with what seems like repetition in the six days of creation.

God creates (1) Light, (2) Firmament – sky, seas, (3) Dry land, Vegetation, (4) Lights, (5) Inhabitants – birds, fish, (6) Land animals, Human beings.

Why didn’t God just create the lights when he made light? Why didn’t he put in the birds and fish when he made the sky and seas? Why didn’t he put in the land animals and humans when he made the land and vegetation?

Show overhead transparency on “Parallelism in God’s Creative Acts”

The reason is that God created the entire foundation for his plan of life before he created life itself.

The second set of three days corresponds with the first set of three days.

         

Days 4-5-6 fill what was created on days 1-2-3 with corresponding living bodies.

“The movement and development of each triad reveals a progression within creation. The first triad separates the formless chaos into three static spheres. In the second triad, the spheres that house and shelter life are filled with the moving forms of sun, moon, and living creatures. The inhabitants of the second triad rule over the corresponding spheres: the sun and the moon rule the darkness, while humanity (head over everything) rules the earth.

[Joan told me the other day that watching me talk and play with my dog, Buster, reminded her of Adam naming and ruling over the animals.]

          “Each triad progresses from heaven to earth (land) and ends with the earth bringing forth. In the first triad, the land brings forth vegetation; in the second, the land brings forth animals. The number of creative acts also increases within each triad: from a single creative act (days 1 and 4) to one creative act with two aspects (days 2 and 5) to two separate creative acts (days 3 and 6).

          “Action in the creation account also escalates. Within the first triad, there is simple movement from light to dark, from firmament and seas to growing vegetation. Within the second triad, there is an eruption of kinetic energy. Sun and moon arch across the sky; birds and fish swarm the air and sea; land animals rove across the ground. The pattern of movement in the second triad occurs progressively. The lights follow a predictable and structured pattern. The animals travel with limited levels of freedom, bounded by their instinctual patterns of migration and habitation. Human beings have the greatest freedom, limited only by the earth itself.

          “The entire account is unified by a basic week time structure. Structure affirms the consonance and symmetry, the harmony and balance in God’s world.”

(Genesis, Bruce K. Waltke)

What we need to glean from this is not only profound appreciation of the matchless intelligence of God, but also the work of God on our behalf.

“2  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3 NIVUS)

Now, my little dog, Buster, seems to have the innate habit of undoing everything I do. I just got finished picking up all the paper he shredded last night by putting it on top of another larger piece of paper. I no sooner got it all picked up than he jumped up and knocked it all down again. I put clothes in the dirty clothes hamper and he plays snatch and grab to strew them all over the house.

It’s like this with kids too – and God had the same problem with his kids. Adam and Eve did what they were not supposed to do, and sinned against God, and messed up his order, and God has been at (continuing) work picking up the pieces and putting the dirty clothes back in the hamper even since.

And until we learn some new tricks, our life on earth is a living death due to disobedience.

“16 ¶  To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." 17 ¶  To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."” (Genesis 3:16-19 NIVUS)

We compromised God’s separation of light from darkness and began to live in diminishing twilight.

This reminds us again of Jesus’ words that I spoke earlier –

“22  "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23 NIVUS)

But God was still at work. God had a contingency plan.

“ And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."” (Genesis 3:15 NIVUS)

Comment on “The Passion of the Christ”

So let us turn to the N.T. in John 5:1-30 and discover what we need to know about God’s contingency plan.

“ When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30 NIVUS)

Like talking to Everett the other day before he went to the hospital, it would be good if we could die with our “boots on.” Jesus died with his boots on – completing his work for all mankind.

“ The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.” (Exodus 32:16 NIVUS)

 “ Then the LORD said: "I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you.” (Exodus 34:10 NIVUS)

 “3  I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! 4  He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NIVUS)

“ Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” (Psalms 66:5 NIVUS)

“4  For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. 5  How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your thoughts!” (Psalms 92:4-5 NIVUS)

 “ A psalm. Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” (Psalms 98:1 NIVUS)

“ The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.” (Psalms 138:8 NIVUS)

 “4  One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. 5  They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. 6  They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds.” (Psalms 145:4-6 NIVUS)

“3  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4  As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:3-4 NIVUS)

 “ Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."” (John 5:17 NIVUS)

 “ "I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” (John 5:36 NIVUS)

 “28 ¶  Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" 29  Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."” (John 6:28-29 NIVUS)

 “10  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 13  It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” (2 Corinthians 4:10-14 NIVUS)

“ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIVUS)

 “18  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20  which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:18-21 NIVUS)

 “ Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Ephesians 3:20 NIVUS)

 “ being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIVUS)

 “ for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13 NIVUS)

 “ To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:29 NIVUS)

 “ And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NIVUS)

Conclusion:

Solo: Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus) by Chris Rice, sung by Tim Glover

Big Answer:

Timeless Truth:

The work of God is to bring life out of death.

“ The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,” (2 Thessalonians 2:9 NIVUS)

 “ He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8 NIVUS)

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