Thursday, July 14, 2011

Being Truly Human - Part 1 - Created in God's Image

Being notes from a talk which attempted to summarise the main themes of Mid Year Conference.

1. Understanding Humanity

I hope you have found it encouraging to look at ‘Humanity’, because we are getting to know and understand ourselves.

As we study this topic we are not content to understand ourselves as the sum of our parts – 206 bones, 9 metres of intestines, etc.  We are not content to understand our physiology or our psychology. We are not going to understand who we are the way the Secular Humanists want us to – rejecting any idea of God. Rather we want to understand ourselves the way that God sees us – the way he unveils humanity in his Word. So we study God’s word to understand what it means to be truly human in relation to God

And what do we see?

2. Created in God’s image

We see that human beings are made by God – we are his creatures and not independent. But we humans are special creatures – the last created – the ‘pinnacle of creation’ - and the only creatures made “in the image of God”.

We have spent some time this week pondering what it means to be made in God’s image. => Remember Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Not just telling us that God has one head, two legs, two arms, eyebrows, kneecaps and so on – not particularly about resemblance.

But it is especially about two attributes: relationship and rule.

(a) Relationship

We do share some of God’s attributes – in particular as creatures made in the image of the triune God (one God in three persons – relational at the very centre of his being), we are made for relationship – for relationship with God our creator; and for relationship with other humans.

As human beings we have such potential for great relationships. Not just male-female relationships, but being made male & female makes possible the closest of human relationships in marriage. But no matter how wonderful our human relationships might be, the first relationship we are made for is with God himself.

(b) Rule

The other key aspect of being made in God’s image is seen in the following verses where the humans are given responsibility to Rule (Genesis 1:28):

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 was even so good to the man that he created woman, also in the image of God, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, to help and complement him in this work. From their one flesh relationship we see how mankind is going to be able to ‘be fruitful and multiply’, to go about that work of subduing and tending the earth – the work of Ruling.

These two are the key elements of being in God’s image – Relationship and Rule. And in Genesis 1-2 it seems so promising, yet we know that’s not the way it is now – our relationships with God are distant (or non-existent); our relationships with each other are strained at best; and our rule over the creation . . . we are failures.

I didn’t have to come up with illustrations of that – my Garden and the youngest member of my family. I enjoy a good garden as much as the next bloke (!) – but I am not a gardener. Over 8 years my wife has transformed the bare patch of ground at the back of our house to a lovely garden. My job is mostly the heavy digging and the lawn. I laid our lawn and I get to mow it and water it to try and keep it alive in drought. To kill off the clover that tries to take over in good times. It is a constant struggle, but I thought I was keeping ahead – until we brought home the youngest member of our family about 16 months ago. The youngest member of our family is nearly two – and she is a chocolate covered Staffy cross Lab named Coco. She is a beautiful dog. But she is psycho! She is enthusiastic and needs lots to do. When she gets bored she loves to help with the gardening – she digs up plants, she digs holes in the lawn. When she gets excited (like when I get out her lead for a walk) she does laps of the garden – and at the end where she turns there is now no grass – just a mound of dirt she has kicked up. I’ve tried to train her – after all, I’m the human, I’m supposed to be the master, but no hope! I can’t control the weeds and I can’t train the dog not to wreck the garden – some ruler over the creation I turn out to be!

If we fail at these small things, what hope do I have of doing something really impressive - like calling up a decent wave when I go to the beach for a surf . . . or even stopping an earthquake and the Tsunami wave that follows? We all fail to rule the way we are made to.

So what happened?

3. The Cracked Image

The answer, as we saw in Genesis 3, is that our humanity has been tainted / marred / broken – by our rebellion against God. The image is cracked.

When the first man and woman took the fruit from the tree they were told not to eat from, they not only disobeyed the one rule they had been given, but they stuffed up everything: their relationship with God; their relationship with each other; their relationship with the creation.

God’s judgement that followed their sin brought death into the world, brought corruption of the creation. Their work of ruling and of multiplying is now going to be much harder, as we see spelled out in Genesis 3:16-19 (NIV):

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.”
We see the consequences of the cracked image in our world – the murders, the wars, the bitterness, the sickness . . . We try to exert our freedom, but we realise we are just slaves to sin and ultimately death.

The Bible tells us that being human means that we are sinners.

The secular humanists – who are trying to achieve the full potential of humanity - keep getting stuck on this point. All the programs for social advancement, all the social workers and every effort to improve humanity keeps on getting fouled up by the sin that lies in the heart of every human.

Even the great intellectuals, the ‘captains of industry’, the leaders of nations use their positions for personal advancement, building their own wealth, for their own pleasure (Silvio Berlusconi …)?

To be human means to be a sinner. And like our father Adam we deserve the death that we all face and the judgement that goes with that.

(To be Continued)

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