God is bigger than you. That’s what Genesis 1:1 tells us. God is bigger than you.
Before we get going, let me mention briefly the sermon I’m not going to preach today. I’m not going to preach Genesis 1:1 and try to answer your questions about if God really did create the heavens and the earth. And I’m not going to try to prove to you when God created the heavens and the earth. We’re not going to look at fossil records, or starlight and time dating, and we’re not going to spend our morning crunching geological numbers. Now that’s not a bad road to go down, and there are some good things to learn down that road, but we’re just not going to go there today (we will have the Q&A coming up as a place to get into those issues).
But the main reason I’m not going to preach that kind of sermon is because the main issue at the heart of Genesis 1 is not exactly when God created the heavens and the earth, but that God created the heavens and the earth. The main thing we really need to know about when is that he did it “in the beginning” — which means, before there was anything else, there was God, and everything that exists does so because he says so.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
And I think this truth is the most important thing we need to know in this life. And I really mean that. I’ve been thinking a lot about this — Am I overstating this? Is it right for me to say it so strongly? The most important thing you need to know in this life is that God created the heavens and the earth. I think that is right. That’s true. That’s the most important thing you need to know. Here’s why:
God created the heavens and the earth. The heavens and the earth that you see, God created them. Which means, every time you look around you, when you look up or when you look down, you are looking at things that God made, and those things are saying something amazing about reality; they’re saying the most glorious thing that a made thing could say because they’re saying that God exists; they’re saying that he’s real; they’re saying that they were made, and since they were made, there has to be a Maker, and that Maker is God, not you or anyone like you. The Maker is God, and God is bigger than you.
And if he’s real, if he’s there, then you and me must exist because he made us. And if he made you and me — if God made you (I want you feel this) — if God made you then your life has a purpose. You exist for a reason. God is doing something, and he’s made you part of that something he’s doing. And you know that deep down. All of us know that. Somewhere deep down, however buried or distracted it might be, every human knows they were made for something more. We all know that we exist for something bigger than ourselves.
Because God made us. God created the heavens and the earth, and he created you and me. But the problem is that there’s a distance we feel between us and him. Something’s not right in the relationship between God the Creator and us his creatures (and we’re going to see this in a few weeks in Genesis 3, but just know for now that we all know something’s not right).
See, there enough about God in the world — in the heavens and the earth that he created — there’s enough about him all around us to let us know he made us for a purpose, but then everything starts to go cattywampus. [Y’all know this word?] That’s what sin does. It breaks everything. And this is where all of us are, everybody on this earth. We know we have a connection to God, but things have gone terribly wrong, and so we humans are trying to find our way back to God. We’re trying to get back to God — that’s what we call religion.
And that’s pretty much the whole world, and where we used to be. We were all trying to get back to God — we’re going to see this in Genesis 11 with the Tower of Babel (which is on the cover of the Bible Studies) — but that’s where we all were. We were all trying to work our way back to God until God himself came to us.
See, we were trying to climb the ladder back to the God who created the heavens and the earth until God himself came to us by becoming like the ones he created. That’s who Jesus is. Jesus is God become man, and he gave his life to save us. So the Creator didn’t just become like those he created, he died for those he created. The Maker of all things gave his life for what he made. That’s the gospel; that’s what this Bible is about. That’s the good news that you will not and cannot hear anywhere else. It’s the hope of the world, and you will not know it for what it is unless you know Genesis 1:1, that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God is bigger than you.
All right, so that’s my intro. Welcome to the book of Genesis.
So there are just three things that we’re going to look at this morning when it comes to Genesis 1:1.
And with the first point, which I’ve already been saying, I really want us to see how Genesis 1:1 impacted the people of Israel — what part does Genesis 1:1 play in the Bible as a whole, and what was it supposed to mean for Israel when they first read it? And then the other two points are implications of this first point, and they have to do with how we see the truth of Genesis 1:1 used other places throughout the Bible. So here are the three points:
- God is bigger than you.
- God is bigger than your problems.
- God is bigger than your dreams. [and you’ll see what I mean]
1. God Is Bigger Than You
You’ve already heard me say this. I think it really is the theme of Genesis 1:1 and it’s the resounding impact this truth has on Israel. And in order for us to see this, I think it would help for us step back for a second and get a look at the scriptural context. And this is going to go like those Russian dolls.
Within the Old Testament, the first five books are called the Pentateuch, or the Torah. The purpose of these five books is really to give us the history of the relationship between God and the people of Israel — that’s the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And of these five books, Genesis, the first one, is the book that really sets the stage for the other four. It’s the foundations book. It tells us where Israel came from.
And then within the book of Genesis, the story of Israel gets going in Chapter 12 when God goes to a man named Abram and makes him an amazing promise that he’s going to be the father of many nations. He becomes Abraham, and from him comes the people of Israel. But that’s Chapter 12. What about Chapters 1 to 11? Well, that’s the section we’re going to look at in this sermon series, and the point of Chapters 1–11 is to back up and show us the origin of God’s relationship with Israel and humanity. It’s often called the primeval history. And within these first 11 chapters of the primeval history, chapters 1 and 2 are the prologue. Okay, so that’s where we are.
And within this prologue — chapters 1–2, and especially Genesis 1:1 — it was meant to let Israel know who their God is.
Because, see, all the peoples who lived around Israel back then had their own god. Everybody back then was religious; everybody worshiped something. Each people group or nation had their own deity — we might call them tribal deities — they saw them as the forces of the land and the sea and things like that, and it was a common thing back then that when different peoples came into conflict with one anther, it became a conflict between their different gods. It became about which deity was better than the other. So imagine a world like that. Two nations come into conflict and it becomes about which god was better. The question is: who is better, is it the so-and-so god of the river or the so-and-so god of the sun? Just imagine that world. And now think about what Israel read in Genesis 1:1. . . .
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. “Heaven and earth” means totality. It means everything. God created everything, and he did it out of nothing. Which means, he didn’t just arrange the puzzle pieces, he created the puzzle pieces, in fact, he created the very idea of the puzzle. God made things exist that did not exist.
Genesis 1:1 is saying that Israel’s God — YHWH, the Lord God Almighty — he created the heavens and the earth and everything, so that when some other nation came and said, “Hey, we have the god of the river!”, Israel said Our God made the river. Or when some other nation said, “Hey, we serve the god of the sun!”, Israel said Our God spoke the sun into existence with a word.
See the point of Genesis 1:1 is for Israel to know that their God is bigger than everything else because he made everything else.
Think about how this would go when you have a couple kids on a playground. This is a typical playground scene: two boys start arguing with one another, and they start bragging about their dads in a competitive way. So imagine this: One of the boys, who is a bully, he says, “My dad can bench press 300 pounds!” (which is impressive). But then the other kid says to him, “Well, my dad created your dad. . . . Or to be really honest, my dad created the people who got fooled into thinking that your dad actually exists.” And the argument is over.
Genesis 1:1 is meant to be that for Israel. God is bigger than you — he’s bigger than everything else, which means Israel should have known that God is bigger than me (so I need to listen to him), and God is bigger than any thing or any god or any power that we come up against.
That’s the impact of Genesis 1:1. That’s what Israel is supposed to know, and what we’re supposed to know. God is bigger than you. He’s bigger than anything.
And that means that God is bigger than your problems.
2. God Is Bigger Than Your Problems
So at this point, we’re going to step out from Genesis and look at how the truth of Genesis 1:1 is used throughout the Bible. Genesis 1:1, that God created the heavens and earth, is one of the most repeated truths and phrases throughout all of Scripture. We see it over and over again, and one such place is Psalm 121.
Psalm 121 begins like this, verse 1: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” Now the psalmist has already told us in Psalm 120, just before this, that he’s in distress. In Psalm 121 the psalmist says he needs help; he’s looking for help. And he’s asking the question: where’s my help going to come from?
Have you ever asked that question before? Have you ever been in a situation where you needed help, and you asked — whether subconsciously or maybe out loud — you’re in a situation and you ask: where in the world am I going to get the help I need?
You’ve been there before. We’ve all been there before. The psalmist has been there — he is there in Psalm 121. And notice what he’s doing. At first, he’s looking to the hills. That’s where he’s looking for help. Psalm 121 starts by him saying: I lift up my eyes to the hills; does my help come from the hills? That’s what the psalmist is asking.
That’s a legitimate question for the psalmist. See in these ancient times, the hills were sort of enchanted. Remember, now, Israel was surrounded by all these other nations who worshiped all these other gods, and oftentimes this worship took place up on the hilltops. The hills were the places where shrines would be set up, and sacrifices would be made. It’s was up on the hills where people would go to look for help from Baal or Asherah or Molech, these other gods. That was up on the hills. And the psalmist is asking here if his help is going to come from those same hills. He’s thinking:
When everybody around me needs help, they look to these hills. Everybody around me goes to these hills for help. Are these hills going to help me too? That’s his question.
Then in Psalm 121, verse 2, he answers his own question. He says: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” My help doesn’t come from the hills, it comes from the One who made the hills.
That’s what the psalmist is saying. Because God made the heavens and the earth, I know God is bigger than me, and I know God is bigger than my problems.
And that’s true. Whatever it is you’re going through right now, whatever burdens you carry, whatever the hardship or the trial or the suffering, God is bigger and you can look to him.
I can’t help but think about Ian and Rachel Pitkanen. Their little girl, Molly, many of you know, what born at only 24 weeks old. She weighed only a pound and was 11 inches long. She’s doing well right now — on the slow but steady path of growing and getting older (I saw her again on Tuesday; man, she’s so tough!). But Rachel said something to me that I know many of us have felt before. She commented about how it all can feel so out of their hands.
There are a few things they can do, but most of it is watching and praying and waiting. It’s out of their hands, and that means they’ve got to look somewhere for help. So where? Where are they going to look? Ian and Rachel are looking to the Maker of heaven and earth. They’re looking to the God who knitted us together in our mother’s womb and made us all fearfully and wonderfully. They’re looking to the God who saw our unformed substance and has written down every single day he has formed for us. They get to look, not to the hills, but to the Maker of the hills.
That’s Genesis 1:1. God created and heavens and the earth, and you can look to him for help. God is bigger than your problems.
3. God Is Bigger Than Your Dreams
When I say dreams, I’m talking about your hopes. Your dreams are what you think about when you see yourself living a good and happy life. Dreams are what we want in our future, and it goes for individuals and for churches. We all want something for our future. And I don’t know exactly what that is for you, but I know God is bigger.
And just to be clear here, I’m not trying to be motivational — when I say God is bigger than your dreams, I don’t mean that he’s big enough to make all your dreams come true — I mean God is big enough to change your dreams.
Because a lot of times, if we’re honest, our dreams are more determined by the broken values of this world than the Maker of this world. [Do a little self-assessment here]. A lot of times when we picture ourselves living a good and happy life that picture has more to do with created things than the Creator of all things. Our hope for the future tends to include our possessing more of God’s gifts than experiencing more of God’s glory.
And you know what I mean here. I’m with Pastor Joe — God’s gifts and God’s glory should not be at odds, but, sometimes, our love can get out of whack, and we can start dreaming the wrong way. Because we’re all dreaming for something, the question is what. Are the dreams we dream more influenced by American culture or by the God of the Bible? That’s an important question for us. And what I want to do now is call our dreams to back to the God who created the heavens and the earth.
I want that to happen for us as individuals and families, and for us as a church. And it’s where we are together as church that feels especially important to me right now.
As a church, we’re not quite two years old yet, and in a lot of ways, it feels like we’re still just getting started. And that means the cement is still wet for us — we’re still shaping and forming our culture as a church.
And this moment, this season, as we come into the Fall, it feels really pivotal for us because of the increasing pressures that we’ve began to feel and are going to feel even more — and it’s that: the more established we become, and the better we get at doing all this, there will be an increased pressure that can cause us to care more about maintenance and less about mission. We can begin to care more about seeing our problems solved than seeing other people saved. And over time, as this happens, our church will end up being a cul-de-sac in these cities, not a conduit of grace seeking their good.
Now look, maintenance is not a bad thing. Solving problems is not a bad thing. There are good things to maintain and important problems to solve, but I’m talking about dreams. I’m talking about who we want to be as a church. What do we want to see God do in Minneapolis and St. Paul? What are we dreaming?
Our mission as a church is to make disciples — and that includes two parts, we’ve called it discipleship in distance and in depth. We tell and we teach. We go tell the gospel by inviting others to embrace Jesus. And we teach the gospel by walking together as we follow Jesus. And when this happens, when we’re doing this, it means we’re multiplying disciples and maturing disciples. And that means, if we’re doing this, we end up having more people and more passion.
And what do you do when you have more people and more passion? You plant more churches.
And the more churches you have in the Twin Cities metro, the more you start to have a gospel impact. And when you start to have more of a gospel impact, it begins to change things — the gospel of Jesus can change these cities, and cause a ripple effect that reaches around the world for the glory of God. That’s what I want us to dream as a church.
But the question is how? How in the world could that ever happen?
And that’s where the apostle Paul helps us in Romans 4. In Romans 4, Paul is talking about the promise that God made to Abraham, and really the promise of salvation by faith. Paul says that God’s promise to Abraham depended upon God’s grace. It was more about God than Abraham — which is important if you know the story. God promised Abraham more offspring than the sand or the stars; God promised him a nation, and ultimately a son through whom the entire world would be blessed — but Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was barren. God made a promise built around Abraham’s children, but he and his wife couldn’t have children. Which is problematic.
But, Paul tells us, Abraham believed God. The promise rested on God’s grace, and Paul says in Romans 4:17 that Abraham believed the God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” That’s Genesis 1:1.
God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing, and therefore, Paul says, Abraham knew that even though he could not see it, God could do it.
And what that means for our church is that: if our dreams for these cities does not require a God who calls into existence things that do not exist, then we’re dreaming the wrong way. God is bigger than our dreams.
Even though we may not be able to see it, even if we can’t fathom it, God can do it. And I’ll give you one example: you.
If you’re here and you trust in Jesus, don’t forget how insane that is. Think about it: a Jewish man died on a cross 2,000 years ago in Palestine and then he came back to life, and so people started talking, and his followers started telling the good news of his salvation, and they gave us the Bible, first in Hebrew and Greek. But now skip ahead 2,000 years and you are here, way up in the middle of a continent that’s half-a-world away from where Jesus died, and you call him your King.
It’s because in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He calls into existence things that do not exist, including you.
And that’s what we remember at this Table.
A the band and servers can come forward, I just want to remind us: we shouldn’t be at this Table. This was a meal that Jesus first shared with his disciples in a little room in First Century Jerusalem, and we’re doing it here in 21st century Minneapolis. We’re here because God has brought us here.
The God who is bigger than us sent his Son to die in our place to bring us back into a relationship with him. And when we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are saying Yes to him, we are saying, “God, thank you for the gospel.” And if you say that this morning, if you’re trusting in Jesus, we invite you to eat and drink with us. . . .