At times in life we tend to go our own way instead of walking with God. In fact, sometimes we don’t just walk away from Him, we actually run! But if we truly belong to Him, He will not let us run forever. Often He will have to break us, wound us, in order to keep us from going astray and forgetting our dependence upon Him. These wounds might be painful, but they are really the marks of grace. They are proof that He knows us and loves us enough to keep us close to His side.
In the Beginning, God…
To believe anything in the Bible, you must believe the very first verse in the Bible. A person who does not believe Genesis 1:1 will never believe the rest of the Bible. This opening statement declares boldly that there is, in fact, one true God who has existed forever, who created everything, and who therefore owns everything, including our lives. This single sentence, “In the beginning, God created…” makes it clear that we are not here by random chance; that our lives do have extraordinary meaning, value and purpose, and that there actually is a higher Authority to whom we must answer. Have you ever come to terms with this truth?
I’m excited today to finally be able to say, open your Bibles to Genesis chapter one. We started (this year) a study together that we’re going to go through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. I thought I had pretty well figured out how long that was going to take us. But honestly, I’ve just given up on that because I don’t even care how long it takes. Maybe a year, I don’t know.
I am one of those geeky people who is wired in such a way that I’m extraordinarily uncomfortable if I can’t pin things down. If I don’t know where we’re going a month from now, if I don’t know how long a series is going to take (and how it’s going to fit in around the schedule and the Christmas services and all that), I just tend to not sleep well, because I’ve just got to cross the last T and dot the last I and push that little button on my phone on my to do list that goes “ding” and it gives a check mark. Does anybody else get an endorphin rush when you finish a task? That’s me. I’ve got to learn to just let that go. However long this takes, that’s how long it takes.
I don’t want to squeeze God’s Word into my schedule. For the last two Sundays of this series, if you haven’t been here, we have just tried to lay a foundation, for this series of teaching through the Bible by basically taking two weeks to examine the Bible and ask ourselves, do we really believe in this book? Do we really believe it’s true? Do we have reasons to believe that it’s true? Because if we don’t, I’ve got other things I could do on a Sunday morning. And you do too. But if it is true, we’ve got some big questions to answer. We’ve got some big things to think through and decisions to make.
That’s what we’ve been doing the last two weeks. I’m not going to show you this every Sunday, but I just wanted you to see again the overview of where we’re going. So you can tell where we’re headed with this, those are the six divisions that I’ve broken the Bible down into. This is my best attempt to divide it up into sensible parts that will allow us to progress through this in a way that is helpful and meaningful and life changing.
Also, a lot of these slides we’re going to go through today, you won’t have time to jot everything down, but the slides are now online every week. By the end of this week, these slides will be online with the message. You can not only look at them online, but there’s a button where you can download the PDF to your phone, to your tablet, to your computer, so you can have copies of these.
As we study through the Bible together, I’m not exaggerating when I say that this could absolutely revolutionize your life. It has nothing to do with me up here talking or any of our other folks who get up here and teach. It has everything to do with the Word of God. Thankfully, the power doesn’t come from the person speaking the Word. The power comes from the Word. God could use a fifth grader to stand up here and read a chapter from the Bible and revival could break out. Opening ourselves up to an intensive, passionate study of this book–it’ll revolutionize your life.
I know that for some of you, because you’ve shared this with me, you know a lot of details about the Bible, but it’s still just kind of a tangled mess. You don’t know, nobody’s ever showed you, how to connect all the pieces together. What we want to do through this series is to help unravel some of those knots and help connect the dots together in ways that really make sense, so that the Bible can truly come alive for you. I can tell you this, there’s absolutely nothing better for your marriage, for your family, for your work life, for your sense of identity, for your sense of purpose in life. There’s nothing better than to open this book, and see what it has to say about it. The moment you understand the bigger story that God has put in place, which is revealed through His Word, the moment you understand that bigger story and your place in that story, that is the moment your life will begin to truly have meaning and purpose and direction. And not until then.
Whether you’re new to Christianity, maybe you’re here this morning just because of a New Year’s resolution. That’s great. I’m glad you’re here. So you’re three weeks into the year. You’re doing good. Hang in there, alright? Three weeks. Maybe that’s why you’re here. That’s okay. Maybe you have been saved for years. Either case, I honestly cannot think of anything better that will be more beneficial to you over this next year, five years, or whatever it turns out to be, than to understand what God is saying in the 66 books of the Bible.
There’s tremendous potential here for us this year as a church to grow and to gain understanding in God’s Word. The reason I can say with absolute confidence that this book will change your life is not only all the reasons we looked at over the last couple of weeks, not the least of which is that it has changed my life, but the reason I can say that with absolute certainty is because the Bible, and the Bible alone, gives us the answers to life’s biggest questions. You know, the questions I’m talking about, right? We’ve all asked them. Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?
Those questions have been asked by human beings for thousands of years. They’re still being asked today. It wasn’t until I found the answers for those four things in God’s Word, it wasn’t until then, that my life really made sense. I would ask all the time, especially when things got bad, why am I here? What’s the purpose of my life? I had one man who sat down over breakfast with me. He was in his 70s. I had a lot of respect for this guy. He was known around the world for his ministry, and he took time to meet with me at breakfast. During breakfast, he looked over at me and he said, “Do you have a reason for being alive or are you just using up oxygen?”
After I squashed the urge to punch him in the face, I took it to heart. I drove away with that question ringing in my ears. Well, am I just using oxygen? Do I have a purpose for being here? That question helped to point me in the right direction, to say I’m going to nail these four things down once and for all, so that I know for sure who I am, where I came from, why I’m here, and where I’m going. These four questions cover really the four main areas of life that we all wrestle with, to some degree: our identity, our origin, our purpose, and our destiny. Maybe you’re still struggling with that. I can tell you, I don’t have the answers for you. I’ll probably steer you wrong in my own thinking, but the Bible, as we go through it, is going to reveal these things to you. It’s going to tell you why you’re here. It’s going to explain your part in God’s bigger story.
I want to invite all of you, whether you’re a member of this church or not, it makes no difference. I want to invite all of you to take this seriously, to dive deep into this, to not expect me to do all the work for you. Take some of this home with you every week, and just spend a few minutes, if nothing else, just meditating on it and asking God what he wants to do through your life.
As we begin today, now actually diving into God’s Word, I want to begin at the top level with the books of the Bible. I think we’re all pretty familiar with this if we’ve been in church at all. I want to show you the overview of the Bible, so that everyone can see once again, how the Bible is broken up. You have the Old Testament and the New Testament: 39 books in the old, 27 books in the new. This is how most scholars divide up the Bible. This is a literary outline, a literary division of the Bible. There are other ways that I break it up for myself, but I’m not going to confuse you and get into all that today. This gives a good bird’s eye view of what the Bible looks like, how it’s compiled, and where we’re going. That’s the Old Testament and New Testament overview.
If we drill down one level deeper and just look at the Old Testament, we can see a timeline. We’re going to begin by looking at the book of Genesis. I want to begin this morning by giving you a little helpful hint, a little secret to help you instantly understand the whole book of Genesis. You’re going to become an expert right now on the book of Genesis. If you can lock this away, you will, from this day forward, have a clear overview of the layout of the entire book of Genesis. It’s really easy to get down in your mind and remember. I’m going to try to show you things like this as we go through different books, different sections, because it’s important. If you’re somewhere and the pastor says open your Bible to Genesis 12, you can immediately know…the call of Abraham. I know that’s what Genesis 12 is. Or if he talks about Joseph being sold into slavery and going to Egypt, you immediately know what section of Genesis that fits into. If you can begin to put some of those building blocks in place for yourself, it will add tremendous value to your personal Bible study and the enrichment that you get from that.
Here’s the overview: You can divide the book of Genesis very easily into two main sections: chapters one through 11 and chapters 12 through 50. In each of those sections, the Bible shows us four very important things. In the first section, we see four key events. In the second section, we are introduced to four key people. Here are those four things in the first section: The four key events are creation, the fall, the flood, and the Tower of Babel. That’s pretty easy to remember: creation, the fall, the flood, the Tower of Babel. Those are all mentioned in the first 11 chapters.
Then you get to Genesis chapter 12. Actually, it’s the last few verses of chapter 11, but we’ll just call it chapter 12. The story changes dramatically. In the last section, chapters 12 through 50 of Genesis, we now see four key people. That’s Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Now, if you can get that, if you could commit that to memory over time, you will now have with you an understanding of pretty much everything that is important in the book of Genesis. It’s a very easy way to do that.
Genesis, the word, means “beginnings” or “origin.” It comes from the same root word that we get words like generation, genealogy, even the word genes. It’s from the root word genos, which means “kind” or “race” or “offspring.” In Genesis, we see in this book the beginning of everything, except God. Genesis is appropriately named. It is the book of beginnings. We see the beginning of so many things in Genesis. I was at one of my eye specialists this week. He said, “Would you mind if I do this thing, and then you go and wait for about 30 minutes. I want to call you back and take another look.” I said, “Yeah, that’s fine.” So I went and fortunately, I had my phone with me and my notes on it and I thought, I’m going to take this 30 minutes and I’m going to jot down for Sunday all the things I can think of, without cheating, all the things I can remember that began in the book of Genesis.
I probably missed a bunch of them. You can come up with some, but there are a lot. This is what I jotted down: In Genesis, we see the beginning of the universe, the world, the sun, the moon, the sky, dry land, oceans, plant life, fruit, vegetation, sea creatures, bird life, animal and insect life. We see the beginning of human life. We see the beginning of marriage. We see the beginning of mankind’s fellowship with God. We see the beginning of temptation. We see the beginning of sin. We see the beginning of passing blame, of fear, of guilt, of shame, of judgment, and of mercy. We see the beginning of prophecy, of childbirth, of sacrifices and offerings. We see the beginning of murder. We see the beginning of curses, the beginning of prayer. We see the beginning of floods, the beginning of covenants. We see the beginning of nations and governments, the beginning of languages, the beginning of commerce and trade, the beginning of war, of tithes, of faith, the beginning of signs and visions, the beginning of birthrights and inheritance, the beginning of idolatry and paganism, the beginning of slavery and prisons, of drought, and famine.
On and on we could go. We see the beginning of a lot of wonderful things, and we see the beginning of a lot of dark things. But there’s one thing that I’m most thankful that we see in Genesis, and that is the beginning of the lineage of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. That begins in the book of Genesis.
It’s interesting, as I said, the book of Genesis is the beginning of everything, except God. The Bible tells us nothing about the beginning of God, for one simple reason: He had no beginning. God has always been. Now if you want to get a migraine, dwell on that for a while.
I’m sure as parents, we’ve all had those conversations with our little kids. I remember so many times, Caroline and Nick would be in the backseat strapped in their car seats. I’d be driving along, and we’d be talking about butterflies and unicorns and whatever. Out of the blue, one of them would say, “Dad, when was God born?”
I’d say, “Well, God wasn’t actually born. He’s always been.”
There would be a long silence. Then they’d say, “Yeah, but before that. What was before that?”
I’d say, “Well, there was no before that. He just always was.”
“Yeah, but I mean…”
I’d say, “Ask your mom. I don’t know.” Sorry, Sandy. That’s where all those rough questions came from. It was me all along.
Genesis 1:1 is possibly the most important verse in the Bible. If we are not careful, we have a tendency to rush past the first few words, to get to where we think the action is, which is creation. We’ve got to be careful that we slow down enough that we don’t miss the thunderous life-altering statement that makes up this very first sentence of the Bible. The Bible opens with a statement that sets the stage for everything else that we’re going to learn about in the Bible. I think Genesis 1:1 could be considered, possibly, a gate through which everyone must enter if they’re going to understand and believe the rest of the Bible. Those who try to jump over this gate or go around this gate because of disbelief and then try to gain some understanding from the Bible, without humbling themselves at this one vital statement first, those people will only always see the Bible as a collection of nice little stories or fables. That’s it. They’ll say it’s entertaining stuff, its historical stuff, but it has no value whatsoever to my personal life.
We’re going to cover five words this morning only, in Genesis 1:1. That’s it. I promise you, we’re not going to move this slowly through every verse, but this is so important for us to take our time right here at the start, because we’ve taken two weeks to lay a foundation of the authenticity, the accuracy, the power of the Bible. Now I want to take this morning, and I want to lay a foundation about the importance of our understanding God, who He is, and that our belief in Him is correct. If a person doesn’t believe Genesis 1:1, they’ll struggle to believe everything else in the Bible. They don’t believe in God. If they don’t believe that God created all things, they will trip and fall all the way through the rest of the Bible. They’re not going to be able to believe any of the miracles, because they can’t prove it by science, or they’ve never seen one. So they filter it all through their own logic, rather than believing that God is who He says He is and that He did what He said He did. The good news is, a person who does believe Genesis 1:1, who humbles themselves before the truth of this one verse, that person will have no trouble believing the rest of the Bible.
That famous statement: “In the beginning God…” We’ve got to stop right there. We can’t even move one more word yet. Have you ever slowed this verse down frame by frame enough to realize that you’ve got to stop there and deal with that statement first. “In the beginning God…”
I can tell you that this verse presents a lot of problems to a lot of people, for two reasons. We’re going to look at those two reasons this morning. “In the beginning God…” Those who choose to live their life without God, they don’t want to hear this verse because it’s a reminder that there really is a God who is a higher authority than them over their life, a God to whom they will have to answer one day. It’s much easier for them just to dismiss the whole idea, the whole notion of God, because then there’s no moral standard of right and wrong, and they can live however they please. There’s no authority over them. What does the Bible have to say about this? The Bible tells us rather pointedly in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” That’s a rather polite poetic way of saying, “Hey, if you don’t believe in God, you’re a fool.”
The fool is the one who says, “There is no God.” What is the outcome of that way of thinking? The verse goes right on to tell us: “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile.” Why? Because they have no authority over them. They live how they want to live. Psalm 10:4 says, “In his pride the wicked man does not seek God; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” What a statement. It goes on in verse 13 to say, “Why has the wicked man renounced God? He says to himself, ‘God will never call me to account.'” There’s the whole issue with most people wanting to reject the first four words of Genesis chapter one. So they live with this sense of arrogance, this sense of false security, thinking that they will not have to answer to anyone. The Bible describes these people in Psalm 36:1. It says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” I’ve heard sermons nowadays that try to play down this biblical truth of the fear of God. They say, “Well, it doesn’t really mean to fear God.” It means fear God.
When I was growing up, I feared my parents. Some of you kids have no idea what that means. I feared my parents, but it wasn’t out of a terror or a distrust. I loved and respected my parents, I honored them. To this day, I value them, I treasure them, I respect them. They showed me love, all the love that anybody could want, but they also whipped my rear end when I needed it. They did not let me get away with foolishness, with being disrespectful, or any of those things. I feared my mother and father in a reverential way, in a respectful way. When my mom leaned and looked down the row in church and whispered to me, “You’re going to get a whippin’ when we get home,” that’s a right kind of fear of my parents, because the law had spoken.
It’s like driving along, minding your own business, thinking about the bananas you have to buy or something, and you glance in your mirror, and there’s a police car right behind you. The blue lights aren’t on, he’s just there. He follows you for like eight miles, and you’re sweating. You haven’t done anything, but he just happens to be going the same way you’re going. That’s what people don’t want in their life. When they think about God, His law, His perfect law comes to mind. They’re like, ooh, I don’t want to deal with that. Don’t be giving me any rules to live by. So they push God out of the picture. The problem is, you can’t push God out of the picture. It’s impossible. He will hound you until your dying day in love.
Romans 1 says this about human beings, for these people who don’t believe in God who don’t live according to His word, it says this: Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” You need to underline that phrase “suppress the truth.” It’s not that they don’t know the truth. We will see that in just a second. Verse 19: “for what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” Verse 20: “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”
Verse 28 goes on to say, “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do not do what they ought to do. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree, that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
Woo! I’m sweating after that. I mean, that’s serious stuff. God says, don’t come to me and tell me I haven’t revealed my truth to you. No matter who you are, no matter where you live, in some way, as I mentioned last week that I don’t understand, God reveals His truth to everyone. Men are without excuse. It’s convenient to say God doesn’t exist, because it removes (in a person’s mind) any sense of responsibility and accountability, at least for a while. But as I told you last Sunday, Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed unto men once to die. And after this, the judgment.”
So the Bible, with its very first statement, doesn’t beat around the bush, doesn’t waste time, doesn’t try to tell you some nice story to draw you in, and then kind of sucker punch you with, “Oh, there’s God, you’ve got to deal with him.” Right off the bat, the opening line of the Bible puts it right there in our face, setting the standard of what defines everything, “In the beginning God…” It’s saying there is a God. He has existed long before the beginning. Next week we’ll see what that means, that He is in control of everything. So the first stumbling block that people have with the Bible is right there: “In the beginning God…” I will talk more about that in the coming weeks.
The second stumbling block that people have is with the very next word: “In the beginning God created…” Oh man, Darwinists have a coronary on that one word right there. They say nothing in the universe was created. There is no God, therefore God could not have created. Everything in the universe, they say, came about by random chance.
I have to suppress my emotions when I talk about this, because this is so absurd. A five-year-old could see through this nonsense. It’s so absurd. They say an explosion happened billions of years ago, or the exact right particles came together in just the right way, at just the right amount, at just the right time, and just the right environment. And bang! There was an explosion, and life suddenly started. Out of all that chaos of that explosion, things evolved and evolved until it evolved into human beings.
The more that science and archaeology uncover things, especially science, the more things they discover about the universe, about the human body, the more the theory of evolution blushes with embarrassment. One hundred years ago, they didn’t have the microscopes that they have today that are capable of the magnification power that they have today. It was unthinkable years ago. But as these technologies continue to advance and improve, they’re able to look now deep inside our bodies and see things that no one could have conceived years ago. So it continues to point people to a Designer, to a Creator.
I shared some of this with you years ago. I’ll move through it quickly. Inside our bodies is a universe far more complex than the entire universe out there. There are billions of galaxies. They say that just our Milky Way galaxy, which is one of billions of galaxies, is 100,000 light years wide. So to travel from one end of the Milky Way galaxy to the other, all you have to do is get in a vehicle that travels the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) and travel 186,000 miles per second non-stop, and it would only take you 100,000 years. That’s just our galaxy. But that pales in comparison to the universe of things taking place inside your body right now. The more powerful these microscopes get, they keep drilling deeper and deeper and thinking, “Boy, we found the smallest particle now!” Nope, you haven’t. In another 20 years, a microscope will come along, and you’ll be able to zoom into that and go, “Look at here, there’s another universe inside there.” And it will never end.
Inside of you there are 75 to 100 trillion cells. If you were to count one cell per second, and never take a rest, it would take you 31,000 years to count all the cells in your body. Scientists as you know, years ago, decoded the human genome. It’s made up of all these little building blocks of what they call C, G, T, and A. That’s the best they can do to define it. It’s made up of these building blocks in random sequences. No two people’s DNA are the same. So there’s billions and billions and billions of fingerprints, so to speak, of this DNA. They say, now again, just the best they’ve been able to figure out so far, that there are more than 3 billion characters in just one strand of your DNA, and you have a strand of DNA inside every one of your 75 to 100 trillion cells.
Scientists have said this: Our DNA is the most densely packed and elaborately detailed assembly of information in the known universe. Scientists got to the point where they actually, at a microscopic level, were able to unravel one strand of DNA from a single cell. It was nearly six feet long. From one cell.
DNA has rungs in it, like a ladder, and it’s twisted. If the rungs of your DNA were spaced the distance that the rungs of a ladder are spaced, the DNA from just one of your cells would stretch halfway to the moon. And there’s a six-foot-long strand of DNA in every one of your cells. If you took all the strands of DNA from all your 75 trillion cells and stretch them out end to end in one long line, it would go to the moon and back 20,000 times. Do you get the point of where this is going?
An average 250-page book contains roughly 500,000 characters: that’s each letter, including spaces and commas and periods, and all that stuff. It would take more than 6,000 of those books to equal the genetic code that is in just one cell in your body, and there’s no other code like it on the planet.
Some people say all this happened by chance, that the arrangement of each of the CGTA components in your DNA just came together by chance. Infinitely complex would be one way to say it. The infinitely complex structure that is inside of just our bodies, of just even one cell, is a statistical impossibility, that could never have come about by random chance.
Someone put it this way: Consider the possibility of generating just one line from a Shakespeare play, “to be or not to be” by taking Scrabble pieces and dumping them out on a table. Try it when you get home. Call me if you dump them out and it spells out “to be or not to be.” It’s a pretty simple sentence, just two-letter words and one three-letter word. You could try that nonstop for the rest of your life. Then pass it on to your children and your grandchildren and your great grandchildren. Guess what? It would never happen. That’s just one sentence. That can’t even come about by random chance.
Dr. Michael Behe, a worldwide famous scientist, said, “The probability of linking together just 100 amino acids to create one protein molecule by chance would be the same as a blindfolded man finding a marked grain of sand somewhere in the vastness of the Sahara Desert and doing it not just once but three different times.” Sir Frederick Hoyle said the scenario, the likelihood of this coming about by chance is the context of this statement: He said, “The scenario is about as likely as a tornado whirling through a junkyard and accidentally assembling a fully functional Boeing 747.”
To believe that all this mind-numbing precision inside of us and in the universe came about by random chance, that requires an enormous leap of faith. Everywhere you look, you see the fingerprints of the Creator. You have to not want to see it to not see it. Someone said no one is more blind than he who refuses to see. It’s true, and to deny this glaringly obvious evidence, is nothing short of a willful refusal to see the truth.
Psalm 139 says, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” How’d he know that? How’d he know we were knit together with strands of DNA? He says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day, they pour forth speech; night after night, they proclaim knowledge.”
“In the beginning God…” I can think of no more important way to begin our study through this book than that. We’ve got to deal with this statement: “In the beginning God…”
The Bible says to everyone: Before you take another step and venture through this book, know this, there is a God, He has existed forever, He created everything, and, as we’ll see in coming weeks, He owns everything, including you. What that means is we have to come to terms with this one way or the other. There’s no running away from it. To not deal with it is to make your answer.
I want to close by asking you this: Do you really believe that God is the Creator and owner of everything, including you? If you don’t, you’re on one path. If you do, you’re on a totally different path. Secondly, do you believe that His ways are always best? How are you allowing that truth to impact your thoughts, your decisions, your words, and your actions?
We’re sitting in what we call a church building, having what we call a church service. We call ourselves Christians. So you would assume that nobody in here would be struggling with this. You’d be surprised at some of the conversations I have, from time to time, with people who are just struggling with basic things.
If there really is a God, if He really is in control of everything, including my life, if He really does love me, why did He let this happen? Without actually doing it, they are teetering right on the brink of pushing God aside and saying, “I’m done with you.” This is a big one, guys. Where are you on this? Have you come to terms with this? Have you settled this matter in your own heart? That you believe the truth of the first five words of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…” and “In the beginning God created…” We will dig more into this next Sunday.