Topical Scripture: Genesis 1:26–31
If you’re planning a solo climb of Mt. Everest this year, I have bad news for you: the Nepalese government has amended its mountaineering regulations. They are now prohibiting foreign individual climbers from scaling all mountains in the country without an escort.
One reason for the new prohibition: Nearly three hundred people have died while trying to climb the world’s tallest mountain. More than 200 bodies are still on Mt. Everest, some because they cannot be retrieved and others because it was their wish to remain on the mountain if they died there.
Climbing Mt. Everest solo is not only an aspiration for many—it is a proverb for us all.
You and I were designed to depend on our Designer. We were created by God for relationship with God. We are cars that need a driver, tools that need a carpenter.
When we try to scale the mountains of life on our own, we are destined for failure. But when we climb with our Guide, we can go higher than we ever imagined.
Across the next several weeks, we will explore the book of Genesis together, learning how to walk through life in the power of God. As my wife taught our sons, the key to life is living a life God can bless. We will find principles each week for living our “blest life.”
What challenges and opportunities lie before you? How can you climb your mountain in the power of your Maker?
Let’s begin at the beginning.
How did we get here?
For thirty-five centuries, the Judeo-Christian tradition has taught us that we are created by God and that his creation is “good.” That our purpose and identity are found in the fact that we are God’s creation, that we are each given lives of purpose and eternal significance.
However, recent generations have done battle with this foundational belief and emerged victorious in our culture.
Isaac Newton determined that the universe operates as a machine, according to fixed laws.
The “deists,” Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin among them, believed that while God created this mechanical universe, he has nothing to do with it now.
Then Charles Darwin taught us that God did not create our lives at all, that we are here as the product of random, chance evolution.
Along the way, philosophers taught us that we cannot know this world, however it came to exist, but only our personal, subjective experience with it. Your ethics are just your truth, and you have no right to force them on me or anyone else. I may disagree with homosexuality or sex before marriage, but who am I to tell someone else how to live? Tolerance is the great value of our day.
Postmodernism is the result, the worldview that dominates our culture today. It claims that all truth is subjective and personal. There is no “reality,” only yours and mine. Our lives have no real destiny—this is all there is. You can believe what you want about the origins of life and its purpose and destiny, so long as you tolerate my beliefs.
Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard: “Many people who accept evolution still feel that a belief in God is necessary to give life meaning and to justify morality. But that is exactly backward. In practice, religion has given us stonings, inquisitions and 9/11. Morality comes from a commitment to treat others as we would wish to be treated, which follows from the realization that none of us is the sole occupant of the universe. Like physical evolution, it does not require a white-coated technician in the sky.”
Are you here by chaos, chance, or coincidence? A cell floating in a pool of water that mutated to its present status? If your past has no purpose, your future has no plan. And Martin Heidegger is right: you’re an actor on a stage, with no script, audience, or director; courage is to face life as it is. Jean Paul Sartre was right to title his most famous play No Exit, and his autobiography, Nausea.
His story is ours. Or is it?
God’s answer to the question
Here’s how God’s word begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Everything starts with him. You say life began as a cell floating in a pool of water—Genesis asks where the water came from. You say life began as a cataclysmic, natural Big Bang—Genesis asks where the big bang came from. It all started somewhere. Genesis says it started with God.
And you and I started with him as well. God made us as part of his universe, and in fact as its crowning work: “Let us make man,” God said. When he made the other days, he called them “good.” But when he made us, he called his work “very good” (v. 31).
We must agree with him, or nothing else I’ll say today will matter. If you think you’re nothing more than random, chaotic chance, with no intrinsic value or design, you’ll not be interested in a conversation about purpose and destiny. So let’s examine what Genesis says God made.
Think about the organ with which you think. Your brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells, called “neurons.” Each neuron is connected to surrounding cells by a network of fibers called axons and dendrites, and has as many as ten thousand fibers leading from it into other cells. As a result, the number of possible interconnections between the cells of your brain is theoretically many times larger than the number of atoms in the entire universe.
New research shows the human brain may be able to hold as much information in its memory as is contained on the entire internet.
Consider the ears with which you are hearing these words. The human ear works with the brain to turn vibrations into sound…20-20,000 a second. Your heart is no larger than your fist, but it will beat on average 100,000 times a day, pumping 2,000 gallons of blood.
The average adult has 100,000 miles of blood vessels carrying blood throughout the body. The average tongue has between 2,000-8,000 taste buds. 206 bones make up your frame; some 640 muscles cover those bones. You are special.
In fact, you are made in God’s “image” or “likeness” (v. 26). An “image” is a representation of something, as with a “mirror image.” God says this is true of us—not of anything else in creation, just you and me.
Four biblical imperatives
What does it mean that you and I are uniquely created in the image and likeness of our Creator? Consider four biblical imperatives.
One: Be a good steward of God’s creation.
Genesis says that “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). “Work” translates the Hebrew abad, which means to nurture or sustain. “Take care of” translates shamar, which means to protect, preserve, or guard. When we misuse the skies and soil, rivers and oceans he made, we violate the stewardship he has entrusted to us.
Scripture is clear: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). Earth belongs to God, not to us. We are to manage it for the purposes and glory of its Maker.
At the same time, our planet was created to serve us. God made it to meet our physical needs (Gen. 1:29-30; 9:1-3). By his design, our lives are sustained by its resources. We have a spiritual obligation to develop and utilize these resources in ways that honor God and his creation.
Such stewardship includes our bodies, gifts of his creative grace. For Christians, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and reflect on our Owner and Resident (Gen. 1:27; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 12:1-2). We are to extend this care to the physical lives of others.
Two: Care for human life, beginning at conception.
David said to the Lord, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). The Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). We belong to our Creator and King from the moment we are conceived.
Three: Serve the neediest members of society.
This obligation begins with the preborn, who are the most innocent and helpless of us, and extends to the diseased, the elderly and the infirm. They are all creations of our King and residents of his realm.
Four: Seek shalom for all.
Biblical “peace” is more than the absence of conflict—it is the presence of righteousness in our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. Our Father wants our best, and calls us into a divine-human partnership by which we are to serve him and one another.
Name your mountain today. Ask God to help you manage his resources as his partner in his creation. Ask him to help you care for others and offer his shalom to all. And remember all week long who you are and Whose you are.
Theodore Roosevelt was one of our greatest presidents. He was also a man who knew his place in the universe.
His friend, the naturalist William Beebe, would often visit him at the White House. They would typically step outside before retiring to bed and look up into the night sky, searching for a tiny patch of light near the constellation Pegasus.
Then they would chant together, “That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our own sun.”
After a moment of silent awe, the president would turn to his friend and say, “Now I think we are small enough. Let’s go to bed.”
Are you small enough to go to God?