AllThingsNew

The Creation: The Way Things Are Supposed To Be

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). The first act in the drama of history is God’s act of creating and sustaining “all things visible and invisible” (Nicene Creed). Note that the story of the gospel does not begin with Christ and his salvation but with God and his creation. This is because you cannot fully understand Christ’s salvation until you first understand its relationship to God’s creation.

The essence of salvation is the outworking of God’s love by restoring his creation from all the horrible consequences of sin. In the gospel grace restores nature (Bavinck); salvation is re-creation. The goal of God’s redemptive plan is the gracious removal of all the effects of Satan and sin upon mankind and creation. It is the restoration of all things as God originally intended them to be.

In the beginning God created everything and it was good. How good was it? The Hebrew word “shalom” gives us a glimpse into how good the original state of creation was. The word shalom can mean total peace, completeness and wholeness. It’s a word that can be used to describe a situation where mankind exists in a perfect environment including perfect relationships with God, others and creation.

God’s creation included not only the natural world—the physical and biological world. It also included a creative order for the way things are supposed to be. This means that in creation God ordained things like the institution of marriage and even political order as examples of his creative order (1 Tim 4:3-4, Rom 13:1, 1 Pet 2:13) so that mankind would flourish in all the realms of life God has created.

As the pinnacle of his creation, God created mankind in his image to be in a loving relationship with him and others and to rule over his creation. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Being created in the image of God is what separates humans from animals and the rest of creation.

Being created in God’s image means that we are the crown of God’s creative handiwork. When mankind was originally created we were created “very good” (Gen 1:31). Being created in God’s image means that we have been given by God characteristics such as an immortal spiritual being (soul) that has the capacity for intellectual reasoning, affectionate motivation and volitional choices.

This is why humans are rational, moral creatures with a conscience. It is only when we recognize mankind as made in the image of God that we have true value, personality and freedom. This means that your life, and all human life, is sacred. It is endowed with inherent worth, great dignity and purpose as an image bearer of God.

To fulfill God’s divine purpose, mankind was originally created with true knowledge, righteousness and holiness (Col 3:10, Eph 4:24). This means that mankind was originally created to know God and fulfill his purposes in the world by means of having a right standing (righteousness) before God and a pure heart (holiness).

In the original creation everything was the way it was supposed to be. There was no pain, suffering, disease, sickness or death. Mankind originally obeyed God’s will perfectly in thought, word and deed. Adam and Eve reflected God’s image by showing godly knowledge, righteousness and holiness in all their relationships—with God, others and over creation.

These relationships are the building blocks for all of life. When they are functioning properly, you experience the fullness of life that God intended because you are being what God created you to be. Because you have been created in God’s image, you have been created for a high and holy purpose.

In Gen 1:28 we see the first description of that purpose: “And God blessed them. And God said to them,”Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Here we learn not just the sanctity of marriage, and the sanctity of childbearing, but also the sanctity of being a co-worker with God to develop this world into a paradise that displays the fullness of His glory. We were created in God’s image to make a difference by ruling over the rest of creation.

Although God’s original creation was perfect, it was also incomplete. So in Genesis 2:15 we learn that God created a Garden in Eden and put human beings in it to “cultivate it and keep it”. To do this today means that you manage whatever facets of creation God places before you (your marriage, family, work, leisure, art, music, government, etc.) in order to develop them to their fullest God-ordained potential.

You were created by God with great dignity to find your deepest satisfaction in life by knowing him, loving him, loving others and making a significant impact in this world that brings great honor to him. God made you to display his image as you rule over your world under his gracious guidance and love.

In the beginning God created perfect people who had perfect relationships with God, self, others and creation. But something horrible happened that broke those vital relationships of life. What happened?

A Look Ahead:

  • In Act 2 of the All Things New series, The Fall: The Way Things Are Not Supposed To Be, we will witness how God’s good creation was destroyed by sin and humankind experienced alienation from God, himself and creation.
  • In Act 3 of the All Things New series, The Redemption: The Way Things Are Already, we will come to see that through the finished work of Jesus Christ, God graciously gives a redeemed standing, a redeemed life and a redeemed world.
  • In Act 4 of the All Things New series, The Restoration: The Way Things Are Not Yet (Consummation), we will see the consummation of this grand story in God’s gift to humankind of a new standing, a new life and a new world.

Behzad 1

Behzad Pakizegi in 1973 at OSU.

As I wrote earlier, a converted Jew from Tehran, Behzad Pakizegi, led me to Christ during my freshman year in college. For the next three years he invested himself in me, teaching me not just by his words, but mostly by his life, what it means to be a follower of Christ. God greatly used Behzad to radically alter the trajectory of the rest of my life. We’ve been friends now for over forty years. So when I heard the news last month that he was admitted to a hospital in San Diego for triple-by-pass surgery, it hit me hard.

Just before he went into surgery, my youngest daughter, Laura, who has never met him, asked me if she could write him an email. She did. After reading it, he told me that words cannot express how much her email meant to him. Reading it will give you a glimpse into how this dear, life-long friend and brother in Christ, not only greatly impacted my life but also Laura’s life–without ever meeting her. If you’d like to read it, click here: http://bit.ly/1eCr7Gr

His surgery was very successful and he is now recovering at his home in San Diego. He asked me to share a special word of thanks to all of you who prayed for him. He said he felt greatly humbled and thankful to God when he learned how many people were praying for him, most who had never met him, from all around the world. He asked me to share with you that the Lord heard and mightily answered your prayers. He said, “Steve, I cannot believe it. In this whole process I have never felt any pain at all. I have never even needed one Tylenol. It’s been an amazing miracle.”

Tonight was the first time we’ve been able to have an extended phone conversation since his surgery. We talked for about an hour. It was wonderful to hear his voice, and to laugh and pray with him again. I told him that soon after his surgery, I opened my first bible from 1973, the one I owned during the first 3 years of my Christian life while he was discipling me. It’s hard to believe that bible is now over 40 years old. I remember devouring it like a starving man during those early years with Behzad. And it looks like it. You can even see the imprint of my 18-20 year old hand on the cover. All you must do is slightly push the side pages, and it smoothly opens to those tattered, pen-stained sections where I feasted most.

I had forgotten, and so had Behzad, that after discipling me for three years (1973-1976), just before he returned to Iran, he wrote me a long note on the first blank page of that bible. I had been facing some difficult trials, and now I was about to be without the man who led me to Christ and had always been there for me during all my tumultuous first-years as a follower of Christ. At the end of our conversation tonight, I asked him if he wanted me to read it to him. He did. And as I read these words he wrote to comfort me more than 40 years ago, God providentially and mysteriously used them to bring great comfort to him.

Behzads Bible Note

The picture above is of that page in my old bible. The text below are the words Behzad wrote. He and I are praying now, that the Lord will use these words to providentially and mysteriously bring great comfort also to you.

July 1976

My dearest brother Steve,

There are no words to use to properly express the joy of my heart for having you as my brother in the Lord. “A friend loves at all times. And a brother is born for adversity” (Prov 17:17). “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24).

Over the past year I have rejoiced for the way the Lord has been working in your life. I praise his name for you and the way he has used you to touch the lives of many people, including myself. This has been much encouragement to me because I have seen the Lord produce fruit through you and this has brought so much gladness to my heart. (Phil 1:1-6 & Col 1:3-6 both express my heart’s desire.)

As I am writing this, I am reminded of Psalms 110:10 and 112:1 where we are reminded that as we trust and reverence the Lord we are blessed beyond expression. Always remember Psalm 37:4 & 5. Commit it to your memory and meditate on it often, for I have drawn much blessing out of his promises here. As you come across some mountains in your life you will be able to draw much comfort from Psalm 34 & 37. They are full of wonderful promises. Keep claiming them.

I praise the Lord that through his Holy Spirit, he has bound us together eternally. And whether together, or far away across the oceans, we are united in him. As I leave for now I’d like to leave you with the thought of becoming like him (Rom 8:29) as you put Matt 22:37-39 and 2 Tim 2:1-7 into action. I want you to know that you are very dear to me and I love you very much.

Agape,

Behzad

AllThingsNew

I remember being taken back by his request. As we sat down to spend some time together, a colleague and friend said, “Steve, tell me your story.” “What story?”, I responded. “Your story”, he replied, “Let’s start with where you were born and brought up and then just go on from there.” “How much time do you have?”, I asked. “Why don’t we start with an hour”, he responded.

I don’t think I’ve ever told “my story” like this before. Frankly, it’s very rare to find someone who sincerely wants to hear someone else’s story in great detail. I guess that’s because we’re all so naturally self-centered. As I told “my story” I realized it was made up of a succession of smaller stories. Some of the stories were happy. Some were very sad. My friend was even moved to tears during one of my stories.

At another time, later, I reciprocated and heard his story. The result was that we came to know each other at a much deeper level than before. That’s because you can’t really know someone without first knowing their story. The same is true about God. The only way to really know God is to know his story. And the bible is a record of that story.

Even though the bible contains hundreds of stories it has only one overarching story. And even though the bible contains sixty-six books it has only one overarching message. If you’re not careful you can know a lot of the stories of the bible and miss the story. And if you’re not careful you can also know a lot of the messages of the bible and miss the message.

What’s interesting is that the central message of the bible, the gospel, comes to us primarily by means of stories found in the bible. So the gospel is best understood as a story or a drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. This one story unfolds throughout the bible like a four-act dramatic play.

Creation*

The first act, creation, sets the stage for us and introduces us to the main characters and context.

Fall*

In the second act, the fall, evil enters the story resulting in a cosmic conflict with horrible consequences.

Redemption*

In the third act, redemption, we see God’s great acts of redeeming that which was lost in the fall primarily as he works through the people of Israel and culminating in the redemptive life and work of Jesus Christ.

Restoration*

In the fourth act, restoration (or consummation), we see God’s final restoration of all things that have been corrupted by evil—including humanity and all of creation.

So where do we fit in this story? Today we are living in the third act—redemption. We are living in that unique time between the resurrection of Jesus and the restoration of all things. During this time the kingdom of God has come but it is still coming. So we are called to fulfill that portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This means we are now called to make our own contribution to this supreme restoration project—which is God’s restoration of all things that have been corrupted by evil. This project of “making all things new” will be completed by Jesus at his return. He will finish what he started. In the meantime, we are called to join with the worldwide body of Christ in this mission of God (Plantinga).

While no single definition of the gospel can do it justice, the gospel is nothing less than the good news that God has acted in the person and work of Jesus Christ to restore his fallen creation and to rescue people from all the consequences of sin—including not only salvation from personal guilt but also from heart corruption and even cosmic corruption.

The good news is that through Jesus Christ the kingdom of God has now invaded this fallen world, and it is bringing with it not only the promise of forgiveness of sins (a new status) but also the promise of a transformed life (a new nature) and eventually a transformed creation (a new world).

Never forget that you are not an accident. Life is a story. It has a beginning and an end. In between there is an unfolding plot in which God means for you to play a significant role in the restoration of all things. You can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until you understand how your story fits with God’s story.

A Look Ahead:

  • In Act 1 of the All Things New series, The Creation: The Way Things Are Supposed To Be, we will explore God’s good creation, and humankind’s experience of a perfect standing, a perfect life and a perfect world.
  • In Act 2 of the All Things New series, The Fall: The Way Things Are Not Supposed To Be, we will witness how God’s good creation was destroyed by sin and humankind experienced alienation from God, himself and creation.
  • In Act 3 of the All Things New series, The Redemption: The Way Things Are Already, we will come to see that through the finished work of Jesus Christ, God graciously gives a redeemed standing, a redeemed life and a redeemed world.
  • In Act 4 of the All Things New series, The Restoration: The Way Things Are Not Yet (Consummation), we will see the consummation of this grand story in God’s gift to humankind of a new standing, a new life and a new world.

Behzad 1

Behzad in 1973 when he met Steve.

A converted Jew from Tehran, named Behzad Pakizegi, led me to Christ during my freshman year in college. For the next three years he invested himself in me, teaching me not just by his words, but mostly by his life, what it means to be a follower of Christ. God greatly used Behzad to radically alter the trajectory of the rest of my life. We’ve been friends now for over forty years. So when I heard the news that he has just been admitted to a hospital in San Diego for triple-by-pass surgery, it hit me hard.

I’ve been talking with him by phone and sending him words of encouragement by email he can read on his iPhone while he is lying in a hospital bed waiting for his surgery this morning. My youngest daughter, Laura, who has never met him, asked me if she could also write him an email. She did. Words cannot express how much her email meant to him. This is her email to him below. Please consider reading this as a way of being introduced to this dear life-long friend and brother in Christ. Then please join me in praying for him. Thank you. Steve

Dear Behzad,

It’s likely that by now my proud and adoring father has told you all about me and maybe even shown you my picture or made you listen to my singing. I am sorry. If it’s any consolation, you are not alone. You join a long line of people who have been made subject to my parents’ doting and to whom I now feel more than slightly indebted.

My parents told me that you were in the hospital. I hate hospitals: the beeping, the fluorescent lighting, the smell of rubbing alcohol, the endless waiting, the food that looks and smells like it’s from space. Hospitals make the panic bird light inside my brain. So in the chance that you are at all like me, I hope this letter can provide a small respite.

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GLOBAL

The Global Problem: Spiritual, Societal, and Cultural Decay

After spending 35 years in ordained gospel ministry as a church planter, pastor, para-church trainer, and seminary professor, teaching church planters, pastors, and missionaries, I’m convinced there is a very serious global problem today that most Christians do not seem to be fully aware of:

Never has there been a time in history when there have been more churches and more professing Christians. Yet, despite the remarkable spread of Christianity, spiritual darkness, and societal and cultural decay are reaching unprecedented levels globally. Spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease and rampant illiteracy are still ravaging the lives of billions today. And far worse, there are still billions who have not even heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Even where the church is growing most rapidly (especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America), the results are often forms of Christianity with little or no true, lasting transformation of individuals, families and societies. Is there any wonder why most people today are not looking to the church, but to governments, educational institutions, and a host of other philanthropic and religious organizations for solutions to these global crises? And despite all the well-intentioned attempts and sporadic successes of governments, schools, and other organizations over many years, the harsh reality is that this spiritual darkness, societal, and cultural decay are worsening globally.

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by Steve Childers

PastoralChargeSpeaking of the church members under his pastoral oversight in 19th century Scotland, pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne said these famous words,

“My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”

Today, when most people think of holiness, it usually conjures up negative images of someone who has a pompous, holier-than-thou attitude. It’s the picture of some miserable person legalistically separating themselves from “worldly activities” and self-righteously consecrating themselves to “religious activities.”

The good news is that the Bible gives us a very different understanding of holiness. Yes, it includes the concepts of separation and consecration. But It’s more about what you do with your heart than what you do with your hands.

Holiness is primarily about separating the affections of your heart away from your heart’s idols, those things you’re prone to look to for ultimate happiness other than Jesus Christ, so that you can redirect those affections more toward loving God and others deeply and well.

But I’m sorry to say that most of your future church members will probably not believe that their greatest need for their pastor is his personal holiness.

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by Steve Childers

Moses-receives-the-Ten-Commandments

The History Channel’s mini-series called The Bible was a huge hit. The premiere telecast ranked as cable TV’s most-watched show this year. Producer Mark Burnett said one of the reasons he produced the mini-series was to help tackle biblical illiteracy globally—especially among younger people. In this ten-episode mini-series, the viewer is given a sweeping survey of the major Bible stories.

Just like any mini-series, if you watch only one of the episodes, you’ll learn a few Bible stories, but you’ll miss how those stories are meant to fit with all the other stories that happened before and after. In other words, you’ll miss the overall plot of the story, the one greater, unfolding story that begins in week one, ends in week ten, and encompasses all the other stories. But even if you faithfully watch all ten episodes and understand all the individual Bible stories, you can still miss the overarching plot.

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