God’s Heart, Power and Invitation

Preached on: Sunday 29th August 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 21-08-29 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Genesis 17:1-10
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment then to pause and come to God in prayer before we think about His word. Let us pray:

Holy Spirit, come and reveal to us the heart of God.
Holy Spirit, come among us and help us to follow after Jesus.
Holy Spirit, come with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

Today I feel God has three things for us. I think He wants to reveal His heart, His power and His invitation. I think God wants to reveal His heart, His power and His invitation within our passage today there is a repeated idea that comes across in several of the verses. We read ‘The Lord appeared to Abram and said ‘I am God Almighty I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers’’ and then just a few verses later He goes on and says ‘This is my covenant with you. You will be the father of many nations no longer will you be called Abram your name will be Abraham for I have made you a father of many nations.’ I’ll make you very fruitful. I will make nations of you, and so in these verses we see God confirming His covenant, His binding promise, His binding agreement with Abram and it includes here the promise of fruitfulness, and in case that sounds familiar, then it should hopefully, because if you journeyed with us for a few years here at Brightons you might remember our teaching series on the kingdom of God, and in that in that series we looked at genesis 12 where there is a very similar promise and God says that he will make Abram into a great nation but here in chapter 17 God goes even further he promises that from Abram will come many nations and so it’s only fitting that his name should be changed from Abram to Abraham which means the father of many and i would suspect that would be startling for anyone to hear never mind a 99 year old when he only has one son but before we get into that let’s pause and ask a question why does God make this promise why this promise why not something else

I wonder what your answer would be? I won’t get you to turn this week, some of you’ll be relieved with that, but if you were to answer that question what would you come up with. My thinking is that it reveals something of the heart of God in the giving of this promise I think it reveals his heart to have a people of his own and God doesn’t do that because God is in need he is after all God he’s self-sufficient but out of the overflow of father son and Holy Spirit what we call the trinity out of the overflow of their love God’s heart is to have a people of his own and that’s what he tries to show from the beginning of the bible to the very end through all the covenants and the old and the new God is seeking to show humanity the depth of his love the depth of his grace and of his invitation to us it’s there at the beginning of creation that God creates mankind, humankind, male and female in His image set apart from the rest of creation to have that unique relationship and that unique intimacy with God himself but then we mess it up don’t we Adam and eve they make our wrong choice and it breaks the relationship yet God doesn’t stop and so with Abram he begins working out his purpose again so that his purpose of having a people of his own this this motivation that beats within him will come to fruition and from Abraham eventually comes Israel but they too mess up they are wayward they sin and we wait centuries upon centuries to see how it will unfold through the scriptures and you might want to revisit that teaching series on the kingdom of God you can get it from our website or you can get a copy on CD or DVD if you wish but eventually the scriptures show that in the coming of Jesus God is ready to fulfill his promise through His son then the life death and resurrection of Jesus God is still about drawing a people to himself and we read this in the new testament our great God and savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are his very own God’s heart is to have a people of his own and that promise made to Abraham is now fulfilled through Jesus and so we might we aren’t descended from the Abraham but through faith in Jesus who was a descendant of Abraham who was also the son of God through faith in Jesus we become part of God’s own people we enter into the heart of God and so that’s why it’s right that our purpose as a congregation is to seek to invite encourage and enable people of all ages to follow Jesus it’s all about Jesus because through Jesus we enter into God’s purposes we enter into the heart of God but people to know that must be invited into it and to be invited into it they must hear about it doesn’t just happen you’re not born naturally into the family of God you’re turning up at church being baptized being nice or religious doesn’t take the box it’s only through faith in Jesus and for people to take that step as i say they must hear of God’s heart a heart to have a people of his own so when you imagine sharing your faith or you imagine inviting people into something what do you imagine seeing what are you inviting them into what is your vision of that is it simply to attend church more is it to make them a nicer person are more religious

or do we share the heart of God do we know the heart of God for ourselves do we know that God’s heart beats for each of us that you are so precious to father God that he sent his son to die for you God died for you died to make this possible for you to know him and to be in relationship with him God’s heart is to have a people of his own and it began with a promise to Abraham almost 4 000 years ago and if he had been able to look into the distant future he would have seen the countless millions even billions of people who over time and even now believe in this God who know this God and follow this God who belong to the Christian church that’s what we are a part of brothers and sisters that’s what we share this is our purpose this is the heart of God

I hope that stirs something in you i wonder what it stirred in Abram i wonder if he said if he heard this and was a wee bit boggled by it we know he didn’t doubt because the scriptures tell us he believed and it was credited to him as righteousness he believed the promise of God but still such a promise and for that to come from this old man really it’s beyond human comprehension and what’s more if you look at the promise in more detail it includes a land and that land is owned at that time by a people who are more numerous and powerful than Abraham’s little puny family God what are you about making such a promise what are you doing making such a promise i think God is revealing something as well he’s revealing his power we read just before what we looked at God says I am God almighty before he even gets into reaffirming the promise he says I am God almighty in Hebrew it’s El Shaddai and it’s a name of God which refers to his all-sufficient power and might particularly in comparison to human vulnerability and weakness God was saying to Abram that he had the power God had the power and himself to do what he was promising to Abraham he didn’t matter that Abram was 99 years old God had the means to fulfill this promise and that would be the basis upon which Abram could pay his trust so what about in our day where is our trust what in our day is going to see the heart of God fulfilled through Jesus well if you’re still reading the new testament reading plan it’s eight months in and it’s been a bit of a slog at times if you’re still reading that then just last week you came across these words then Jesus came to them the disciples and said all authority in heaven on earth has been given to me therefore go and make disciples of all nations timely words timely words Jesus has all authority and he claims the power of El Shaddai and indeed earlier in the same gospel he also says I tell you that i will build my church and the gates of hades will not overcome it Jesus will build his church Jesus has the power and authority to build his church so that the heart of God to have a people of his own will be fulfilled and the promise to Abraham and the great commission given by Jesus we see God revealing his power his power to accomplish his purpose the church I know that two weeks ago i had a hard challenging message for us and i still stand by that I stand by the challenge of questioning whether our traditions will pass on a flame of faith or only of ashes but know this Jesus will build his church he has the power and authority to do that and he calls us to trust in his power to trust in him if you were to go on in chapter 17 of genesis and read further you would see that God says he will accomplish his promise through Sarah, Abram’s wife, not through the son they already have Ishmael who was Abraham’s slave Hagar because what we see here is that Abram and Sarah had tried to go out alone they had tried to go alone they had tried to see God’s promise fulfilled in their strength and their means by human means and in some ways I can understand that they had waited years and nothing had happened and it’s 25 years at this point since that original promise that’s a long time to wait for God to fulfill his promises and so they took the bill by the horns but God says ‘No, no, no, no, it doesn’t matter that Sarah’s over 90 years old and has never conceived through her I will fulfill this promise’ because our way is often not God’s way and he does have the power to fulfill his promises and we are called to trust in that because church God’s heart is to have a people of his own through Jesus and we don’t need to come up with our own clever ideas we don’t need to rely simply on our own resources when it comes to seeing his church grow or when it comes to sharing our faith Jesus will build his church and the gates of hades will not overcome it for God’s heart is to have a people of his own and his power will accomplish it

so God has revealed his heart he’s revealed his power but he now reveals also in this passage to Abram his invitation he says I am God almighty walk before me faithfully and be blameless and those words that have highlighted you walk before me faithfully and blameless are not about sinless perfection they’re actually about wholeheartedness Abram is invited into wholehearted relationship of trusting God radically deeply forever a whole giving over of himself to God’s cause and it was going to be seen in a number of ways we’ve already touched on how his name was going to change from Abram to Abraham can you imagine that can you picture yourself in the scene imagine going down the marketplace oh hey Abram eh actually God’s told me that I have to rename myself Abraham and they would know what that meant by the way so they would be like hold on he’s got one child he’s the father of many Gods told him to do this I don’t know about you but I’ve been looking at this guy thinking what are you on really how embarrassing must have that been for Abram how embarrassing but God calls him to wholeheartedness even at the cost of public embarrassment and what is more in this passage God also institutes a sign of circumcision now that was a wide practice in the ancient nearest of the time most often used as initiation into um puberty or marriage but God reworks it here so that it’s a sign of passage into the covenant community but the key thing is this would have been known sure it’s a very private thing but it would have been known these folks they circumcised their kids on the eighth day and their God told them to do it that would have been known around them they would have been known as following that God and belonging to that people

but it doesn’t matter God was calling them into wholehearted commitment unconditional commitment to a way of life where there is literally no going back

but that’s what biblical faith is biblical faith requires to be put into practice it’s not about head knowledge it’s not about it being purely private and personal biblical faith must be put into action it must be lived out and made concrete if it is true faith it must be made public somehow some way now clearly in the new testament and under the new covenant with Jesus circumcision isn’t required but God still calls us to wholeheartedness our faith is not to remain private and personal our faith must be seen and shared and so yes Jesus does say he will build his church but he also commanded go you go and make disciples it’s both and not either or pick the one you like best Jesus commanded and if we will heed that if we will trust that if we will give ourselves to that then he says he will build his church from obedience comes fruitfulness from sacrifice comes fruitfulness from trusting in God and his ways comes fruitfulness because obedience trust and self-sacrifice are marks of wholeheartedness as seen in the life of Abram and so church God invites us into wholehearted commitment even in the sharing of our faith and I reckon if I was to pull you and say what is the scariest thing about following Jesus I could almost guess that the top thing would be sharing our faith it’s the thing we shy away from the most the thing we’re scared of the most we are hindered by fear now I am not please hear me I am not saying you have to go out there today and talk to the first person you find about Jesus okay sharing our faith is a process and I’m really excited that the discipleship team are going to be looking at that more in the coming months and trying to equip us in that and I look forward to what those conversations are yield but we’re held back by fear and if nothing else I pray that this teaching series might help us be equipped to overcome that fear doesn’t just go away I still get scared come on up here in the pulpit and how many sermons has it been I’m literally just about shaking every time I feel that God’s saying to issue a call to come to faith and if you were to talk to the greatest evangelist I’m pretty sure that they would say every time that they’d done it they were still scared that they were still a nervousness fear doesn’t go away often what we need is courage to overcome our fear and not let fear drive us or dominate us

and if we are to give ourselves to making disciples which includes the sharing of our faith we can’t let ourselves be held back because if we don’t obey that command we’re not going to see Jesus build his church here because fruitfulness comes from obedience

and so let’s just reflect on what’s being said this morning as we close

God’s heart is for him to have a people of his own a people of his own and that’s what you’re part of, you’re part of a worldwide movement, you’re part of something that’s been there for 4,000 years, who cares if your neighbor thinks you’re a loony

you’re part of something bigger, you’re part of something more and it’s with the God of the universe. Allow that to sink in. God has chosen you to be part of that

that’s not scary news to share that’s the greatest privilege to have the opportunity to share that that is God’s heart or when we feel unable and weak to share our faith let’s remember God’s power his power that is available and ready to help you share your faith and to put your faith into practice so that his purposes can be achieved allow that to become part of your consciousness and maybe that might equip us more to overcome our fear as well

So will we be a people who take up this invitation God’s invitation will we be a people who know his heart and know his power and so commit ourselves to inviting encouraging and enabling people of all ages to follow Jesus will we be that people. I pray that we will and that this series mi

The perished Kingdom

Preached on: Sunday 1st September 2019
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 19-09-01-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-sermon.
Bible references: Genesis 3:1-15
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Texts: Genesis 3:1-15
Sunday 1st September 2019
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Last week we began our new sermon series on ‘the kingdom of God’ and we read from chapters 1 and 2 of
Genesis, where we saw the pattern of the kingdom, with God’s people, living in God’s place, under God’s rule and enjoying God’s blessing.

We saw that God made mankind in His own image, and then placed humanity in a garden, to tend it and care for it, and with only one rule, under which they were to fulfil their mandate, thus living within God’s ways and under His care, enjoying His blessing, His presence, and His rest.

Life was perfect, there was perfect relationship between humanity and God, between Adam and Eve, and between humanity and the wider creation. It was a perfect creation, described as ‘very good’, and it gave the pattern of the kingdom.

But, can I ask – do you feel that perfection? Is life a bunch of rosy relationships and experiences for you? Are you living the dream? I do hope life is good for you, but even if it is, not one of us escapes the brokenness of our world.

There may be tensions at home, or in the family – it’s easy to roll out of bed and straight into an argument at the beginning of the day. Or maybe you are on your own, with a
different kind of brokenness, with a yearning for companionship, maybe where there has never been one, or maybe where one has been lost.
You may experience that brokenness in your place of work, or in the community, with the people you see and interact with. There’s that individual you just don’t get on with; there’s that feeling you don’t matter, or you’re being overlooked; there’s that guy down the road who’s in a dark, dark place; there’s that young family who come to the foodbank.

And in the midst of all that hurt and brokenness, there’s that question, that frustration which comes to mind: where are you God? Do you exist? Do you care? Because I just don’t feel you close right now.

I think we all know that we live in a broken world, that it’s not quite as it should be, that there is something deeply wrong, but not only around us, but it’s also within us.
Because if we’re honest, we know that we cannot live up to our own standards and hopes. We made that promise to change, and well…we’ve still not changed. We want to be more loving and gracious and kind…but, well, criticism and anger just come so much more easily. There’s something deeply wrong, and it’s not only in the world around us, it’s within us as well, and I’m sure you can put your finger on the things, where you feel the brokenness.

The claim of the Christian faith is that here in Genesis chapter 3, we see where it all began to go wrong, where that brokenness entered in. For in Genesis 3, we’re taken back to the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve in perfection, with only one rule, given in Genesis 2:
‘…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’
And then, Genesis 3 comes along, where Adam and Eve are persuaded to doubt God’s word, it is distorted and questioned by the serpent, such that God’s motives are distorted as well:
‘You will not certainly die,’ the snake said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ (Genesis 3:4-5)

And so, Adam and Eve give way to temptation, they take and eat the fruit of the tree, that fruit which was forbidden. But the thought might come to our minds, why was this so terrible? Surely it’s good to know the difference between right and wrong?

Well, what we need to understand here is that…
‘the knowledge of good and evil’ refers not simply to knowing what is right and wrong, but rather to deciding what is right and wrong.

In taking the fruit, Adam and Eve were in effect saying to God, “From now on, we want to set the standards, God, we want to be the ones who make the laws.” It was a blatant act of rebellion to the King who gave them life and every good gift. And that has been at the heart of our
problem ever since, that is at the heart of what we call ‘sin’:
our rejection of God, and the establishing of our kingdom.

And maybe that seems like no big deal to you, maybe it seems quite trivial. But the brokenness of our world, of our lives, begins here in Genesis 3 and it ripples out. For with Adam and Eve, where there had once been complete trust and intimacy, that is now gone and replaced…
with shame and distance, they seek to cover their nakedness. And then the battle of the sexes begins, and relationships within humanity are broken.

Also, where once Adam and Eve enjoyed the perfect creation, and life was very good, now God foretells that life will be very different, with greater pain, greater toil, greater wrestling with the issues of evil. Indeed, in the chapters after this, the world goes so horribly wrong.

But finally, Adam and Eve, who once enjoyed perfect relationship with God, wherein they experienced His blessing and rest, they are now told to leave the garden, they are driven out of God’s presence. And with the breaking of that divine-human relationship, what God foretold comes true: death comes into human experience.

The pattern of the kingdom is lost, for now no one is God’s people by nature, we’ve turned away from Him. We no longer live in His place; we are banished from the garden. And instead of living under His rule and enjoying His blessing, His rule is now rejected, we live in disobedience, and we experience the brokenness of our world.

That is where the Bible could have ended, it might have been only 3.5 pages long, with a perfect world destroyed by human rebellion.

But God is a gracious God, and whilst there is no reason He should do anything to help us, nevertheless He does.
And He does so even with Adam and Eve, there is still hope here in Genesis 3, for in the darkness there are glimmers of light.
In verse 9, we read:
‘But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’’

This comes straight after their rebellion, Adam and Eve are trying to hide from Almighty God, and yet He comes seeking, He comes calling, He comes in grace.

At the opposite end of the tale, there is grace once more, for God takes those shabby, pathetic coverings of their fig leaves, and replaces them, we read in verse 21:
‘The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.’

God gives a more fitting and proper covering for the life they will now live outside the garden. In this act of grace, a life is laid down, so that humanity can continue to live.

And then in between these two acts of grace, we read in verse 15:
The Lord God said,…‘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.’

In grace, God makes a promise, hinting to a time in the future when a son of Eve, a human being, will destroy evil.

And all three of these acts of grace are most fully completed and displayed in the life of Jesus. He is that son of Eve, but also that son of God, who came to destroy evil, who came to destroy sin and hell and death itself.
In Jesus, we find provision, a covering, wherein guilt and condemnation, wherein shame, are dealt with completely, and we are restored to right standing with God. In Jesus we also find freedom from bondage to sin, to our rebellion and disobedience, for through faith in Jesus, God promises to begin a new life in us, to overcome our internal brokenness, and bring forth the character of Jesus. What’s more, God promises in Jesus, God evidences in Jesus, in His death and resurrection, that death is conquered, it does not have the final say, in Him there is a means to return to the garden, to the place of life, and share in life eternal with God. In Jesus, life can and does begin again, and it does so because He laid down His life for us on the cross. Finally, in Jesus, God comes to us, He comes seeking, He comes calling. He comes inviting us back into relationship with Himself… that even amidst the brokenness we feel, there might be hope, there might be promise of a future day wherein all will be made right once more.

And to share in that hope, we need do nothing more, than what Caroline has done – not in becoming a church member, that’s not how we share in the promise. No, we share in the promise through faith, through faith in Jesus, through confessing Him as our Lord and Saviour, to which Caroline testified this day, as she confirmed her faith.

Friends, I hope you share in this faith, in this hope. But if you don’t, it’s only a step away – all you need do is put your faith in Jesus. If that’s something you’d like to do, please come have a chat with me.

To all who claim such a faith, there is hope, and there is the invitation to share in the meal of the Lord’s Supper, for here, we feast and rejoice in all we have in Jesus, for He is the embodiment of God’s grace amidst our brokenness, and the means by which the pattern of the kingdom of God will one day be restored.

To Him, be all glory, now and forever. Amen.

The pattern of the Kingdom

Preached on: Sunday 8th August 2019
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 19-08-25-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-sermon.
Bible references: Genesis 1:1-2:3
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Texts: Genesis 1:1-2:3
Sunday 25th August 2019 (morning)
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

For one minute, I wonder if you would turn to your neighbour and discuss what you think the answer to this question is: ‘what was the subject most taught about by Jesus?’ You’ve got 1 minute discuss – over to you!
(PAUSE)

One analysis of this question suggested that ‘love’ came #43, forgiveness #32, money #4, Father God #2 – and top of the list, the most taught about subject by Jesus was ‘the kingdom of God’! Yet, how often do we talk about the kingdom of God? Or, when did it last feature in your decision-making when you went to the shops?
It makes me wonder – is the kingdom of God quite low importance for us? Is personal preference, cultural norms or the survival of our denomination more important than the kingdom of God? Or when we come to decision making, what do we base it upon?

For example, last week we received 70 feedback forms regarding the summer services. The responses will be typed up, discussed within Session and eventually inform what we do next summer. Please do get one in. But let’s be honest – there are broadly two groups: one supports the format we had this year, the other prefers to reestablish the Summer Sunday School. There are competing values here – how is Session to make a
decision? It may be, though not guaranteed, that a kingdom focused analysis and discussion might help us discern what is the best way forward, even if it doesn’t suit everyone.
And so today we begin a new teaching series, which will run for 8 weeks in total, and it will focus on the kingdom of God. Each week will draw upon a different portion of Scripture, starting in Genesis and ending up in Revelation, and it is my hope that it will not only sharpen our kingdom-focus, but that we might also see the kingdom of God as a binding theme throughout the Scriptures, from beginning to end, although each part will add a distinctive contribution to our understanding.

Additionally, the series should also help us to see how the Scriptures hold together, that although there are 66 books written by 40 authors over the course of 2000 years, that in fact, the Bible really is one book, with one main author, telling one core story throughout. So, let’s get into today’s passage.
The phrase ‘the kingdom of God’ is never actually used in the Old Testament – it uniquely begins with Jesus in each of the New Testament gospels – and yet, the idea and the reality of the kingdom of God is found everywhere in the Old Testament as well. Take for example Psalm 47:
‘Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.’ (v1-2)

Clearly the Psalmist understands God as King, and this was upheld by the people of God across the millennia. But they got this from their theology, from what they understood of God, from the revelation God had given of Himself: that He is was King and as King He has a kingdom.
And that understanding of God as King has its roots all the way back into Genesis 1 – ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…And God said, “Let there be light…”’ (v1,3)

These words reveal that God alone is sovereign and eternal; He alone existed before all else and it was by His powerful word, by His kingly command, that our universe came into being – and so God is therefore the rightful ruler and King over all creation.

I wonder if that shocks you at all, or makes you a little bit uncomfortable? It might not, but it really should, and when it was first being taught about 4000 years ago, it was a truly shocking claim – because this teaching clashed with the religions and perspectives of the day.
In contrast to the other Ancient Near Eastern religions of the time, Genesis 1 is a shockingly controversial rejection of their claim about how the universe came into being. There were several creation myths around at the time, particularly in nearby Babylonia, but they claimed that creation may have come about after a conflict between good and evil beings, or that it came by procreation of such divine beings, or that all creation was somehow eternal.

But against all that, Genesis claims the Lord, Yahweh, does not produce or bring forth, He creates from nothing, for He alone is almighty and eternal – He has no equal, He alone is King of all creation. And this very teaching would have jarred with the thinking of the day, it would have shocked then, even angered some, just as it does today.
For in our day, we have twin pressures from our surrounding culture – there is on the one hand, that pressure from an increasingly forceful atheism, which seeks to limit the sphere of faith. And on the other hand, there is pressure to say that all religions are equal, that all paths lead to God, that no one faith is more true than another. But neither is wise, accurate or good for society.

For there is plenty of evidence from history that when a society removes religious freedom and pursues a purely atheistic culture that it is then on route to becoming an unhealthy society: examples could include Stalin’s Russia, or Mao’s China.

And as for an approach which says all religions are equally true…well that just doesn’t make sense. You can’t have one saying all matter is eternal, whilst another doesn’t; or one which says God cared enough for His creation to enter into it, whilst another would be horrified at such a claim. These are not differences we can, or should, gloss over – it cannot be both/and, it truly is one or the other. And in our culture, in our day, that can make us feel quite uncomfortable, it almost sounds unloving.

But claiming, as Genesis does, that there is one eternal King and He has no equal, is not arrogance or intolerance, for logic and reason demand that the different claims be weighed, they can’t all be equally true, and to allow the claim of Genesis to be given up so as to appease our postmodern mindset is actually to the detriment of others, for then they won’t bother to explore the Christian faith, why should they when everything is relative or equal? But to hold on to the claim, that they then might find Jesus…
as their Saviour, well that’s the most loving thing we can do for anyone. It is only when we hold on to the claim that there is one eternal King, do we then begin to lay a foundation for a faith that is robust and offers genuine hope to our broken world.

Because in this world, which God created in love and upon which He established His Kingdom, the Lord also created all life, and the pinnacle of His creation was mankind – you and I. We read in Genesis 1: ‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’ (v27)

Only humanity is described in this manner, only humanity is created in the image of God, and so men and women…

are set apart from the rest of creation, giving each one great dignity, for we bear the image of God within us.
And God places His image-bearers, this mankind, in a garden, telling them to be fruitful and increase in number, to fill the earth and enjoy the produce of the land. God gives them also a mandate, a purpose, and only one boundary, given for their good, it’s in Genesis chp2: ‘And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”’ (v16-17)

And so, in the place He has given, the people God has made, can continue to enjoy His blessing as they fulfil His mandate and remain with His rule. This understanding of what is portrayed here in Genesis gives us a pattern of the kingdom of God and…
it has been summarised by Graeme Goldsworthy as: ‘the kingdom of God…is God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule and enjoying God’s blessing.’

This is a phrase we’ll keep returning to during the series because in different parts of the Scriptures, different elements of this phrase are emphasised, or are seen to be out of place or marred. But the pattern of the kingdom is laid down here in Genesis 1 and 2: ‘the kingdom of God…is God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule and enjoying God’s blessing.’

In these chapters, at the beginning of the story, we can see three important points of application. Firstly, we were created with a purpose, for we read: ‘God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”’ (Gen. 1:28) and then in chapter 2 we reed: ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’ (Gen. 2:15)

As the image bearers of the King we are given the royal purpose of stewarding creation – we’ve to take care of it, rather than abuse it – and so matter matters to God for it is part of His kingdom, God is not only concerned with our souls; He is also concerned with our bodies and the whole material creation. And so, it is right to speak with our children, indeed all of us, and raise the issue of how our products and how our lifestyle affect the material world. We understand ourselves to be part of God’s people – are we living under His rule by heeding our call to steward creation well? If we are not, how could we steward better?
Secondly, these chapters also highlight that we were created not only with a purpose but with a need for community. We reed in Genesis 2: ‘But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God…made a woman…and he brought her to the man.’ (Gen. 2:20-22)

Until Eve was made, Adam had no companionship with another like himself, and earlier in v18 the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ We are made with a need for community – just as no man is an island, neither are God’s people – Genesis 1 and 2 make it clear that even within the perfection at the beginning of creation, God’s people, within God’s kingdom, need one another, and they were given to one another as part of the blessing of God. We have a need for community, we need each other…
and so, it is also right to emphasis the opportunity the Guild affords you and I, but we could also add in Friendship Plus, the coffee morning or the Fellowship Groups. Why not give one of these a try as they restart in the next month?

But can I also raise an issue I’ve become more aware of recently after some team meetings and pastoral visits? You’re probably aware, but we are quite a big church, and it’s easy to get lost, and it’s easy to be overlooked. And it’s easy to forget that some in our older generations have far fewer friends than they did a few years ago, or even this time last year, and they can start to feel isolated and undervalued. They too have a need of community. So, can we be on the lookout, not only for new people, but also for those that might be getting lost in the crowd?…
For they too are God’s people and they matter in God’s kingdom.

Lastly, in God’s kingdom, God’s people are to enjoy God’s blessing by living under God’s rule, but that is not only about living according to God’s laws and ways; living under God’s rule is also about enjoying God Himself and enjoying His rest. We read in Genesis 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.’ (Gen. 2:2)

This is the climax of creation, that day upon which God rested, for His work was complete. We do not then hear of an eighth day, nor do we return to the first day, for we are meant to see that the seventh day continues,…
and so God’s rest continues – not that God is sitting with His feet up, for He sustains our very creation, but He has rested from creating, and so the seventh day continues. Within that rest, creation, and especially humanity, is meant to live. We are meant to live in God’s rest, to share in it, enjoying the perfect creation, and enjoying relationship with God. To live under the rule of God, is to live within His rest and to enjoy God Himself.

I wonder, do you enjoy God? Maybe you don’t enjoy God because you don’t know God yet, you don’t know Him as your friend and heavenly Father, nor as your good King. And that may be because you haven’t put your faith in Him yet, and if that’s you, I’d encourage you to go listen to last week’s message which you can get on the website or via CD.
Yet, there could be any number of reasons you are not enjoying God, and if that’s you, if there is distance, can I encourage you to tell someone, and if you can, tell someone whose faith encourages you.

A number of years ago, I got into a bit of a rut in my faith; I wasn’t reading the Bible, I wasn’t praying. But then in one church service I felt challenged by my minister and I decided to go speak with my good friend Ollie, whose faith is a real encouragement to me. We started to meet up, to talk about faith, to talk about life, and over the course of time my faith came alive again, and I started to enjoy God once more.

Friends, you were created to enjoy God and His rest, to live under His rule, alongside His people,…
sharing in His blessing – for this is what Genesis reveals about what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God, this is the pattern of the Kingdom.

I pray that as we journey through this series together, may we become more kingdom-minded, leaning into our purpose, helping to meet our need for community, and growing in our enjoyment of God.

May it be so. Amen.