Pastor Ryan looks at how our view of humanity is essential and impacts our view of ourselves, others, and God.
Perfect… Sort of
Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is a day all about love and so I want to begin with each you you taking a moment and think about the most perfect person. For those of you who are married, you should be thinking about your spouse – obvioously. If you’re single, think about your first crush.
Whether married or not, we’ve probably all had that experience of being so “in Love” and by that I mean “infatuated” that we thought that one special person was absolutely perfect. Imagine the moment in Elf where he spins around saying, “I’m in love. I’m in love. And I don’t care who knows it.” Maybe it was their hair, or their laugh, their smile, the way they made you feel. But you knew – this person is PERFECT.
When I met Michelle, I was still dating a girl I should have broken up with months earlier. But I knew Michelle was everything that girl was NOT. Everything about Michelle was AMAZING.
Are you with me? Do most of you have that person and that feeling in mind.
Now, and this is going to take a dark turn quickly, so buckle up – think about your darkest time with that person – your biggest fight, when they let you down in a way you couldn’t even imagine.
Isn’t it incredible how that one person you were certain was so absolutely flawless could also have such an ugly side? And guess what – it’s not just them. It’s you too! Its all of us. We all have fabulous gifts, talents, and potential – combined with a dark, hideous side we try to hide from others but occasionally slips out and makes a mess of things.
And it’s this dichotomy that we are going to talk about as we look at our 2nd essential belief at Ashworth – Humanity.
Creator Created Us – In His Image
Last week we looked at the doctrine of God and we saw that he is the creator of all things. It puts him outside and above everything else. And today we are going to look at the pinnacle of God’s creation – US. Remember, when we look at the creation story in Genesis 1, we are the last thing God created before he was finished. So let’s take a look at our church’s statement “About Human Beings” which describes us as God’s SUPREME EXPRESSION of his creation:
We are made in the image of God, to be like Him in character, to enjoy His fellowship, and to fulfill His purposes on earth. We are the supreme expressions of God’s creation.
See how it begins with this phrase “In the image of God.” This is crucial. It comes straight from Genesis 1:27 – “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.”
What this means is that we are LIKE God. Which is ironic, because that’s how Satan tempted Adam and Eve – asking them to be like God – when they already were.
This is a crucial point to understand all of life because so much in the world wants to divide people. Everything is trying to create classes of people, divisions between us and them. But whether you are White, Black, or Brown, Poor or Rich, Democrat or Republican, a criminal or a saint- you are made to be LIKE GOD – In his image.
How are we LIKE God, you might ask.
- In Character – We share the same moral values, sense of justice, and ability to love. We can reason, and plan, and care for others. This is actually one of the arguments for a belief in God – the fact that everybody has a shared moral code of really knowing right from wrong at a very young age – whether we do right vs wrong is another story.
- In Relationship – We are not made to be separate from God, but just like God is in relationship with himself in 3 forms – we are to be in relationship with God. God is a relational being, and since we are made in his image – so are we. The pandemic has made that very clear to us all!
- In Purpose – Finally, we share the purpose of God. We have an intended purpose for why we are on the earth, and it’s not up to us to creatively decide whatever we want it to be. Since we are made in God’s image, we are most satisfied when we find our purpose which aligns with his – to bring peace and love to this whole world.
We see all of these aspects in Psalm 8:3-6
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? u (RELATIONSHIP)
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor. (CHARACTER)
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; (PURPOSE)
you put everything under their feet:
Sin Changed Everything
Unfortunately, just like we already discussed about our perfect partners who proved to be less than perfect – as good as we are, created to be like God, immensely valuable, and loved by the Creator himself – we have some bugaboos. And a lot more than bugaboos. Here’s the next section of our belief statement:
Although we have tremendous potential for good, everyone is marred by an attitude of disobedience toward God called sin. This attitude separated people from God.
You see, after the beautiful story of creation, we read in Genesis 3 about the fall – the first time Adam and Eve choose to step outside of God’s plan. They are tricked into thinking they need something MORE to be like him.
And this brought SIN into the world. SIN is defined as missing God’s perfect mark. Sometimes we think of it as doing wrong, or making a mess – it mars our souls and makes us unclean. And really anything that is not in perfect alignment with God’s character, relationship, and purpose is sin. Now if you are curious about how sin impacts our lives, we did an 8 week series on sin several years ago called My Bad which you can find on our website.
And with that definition, it’s hard to argue with Bible verses like those below
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;Isaiah 53:6
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.Romans 3:23
Most people will agree that they aren’t always perfect. While sin came into the world through one man, ALL of us know we are just as culpable. We know how dark our thoughts can be, we know how we have failed others. We know .
Interesting enough, while we all know we are far from perfect, different people have different opinions of how bad they really are:
- Total Depravity – Some Christians think they are totally depraved which means that apart from God, there is not one good thing they can do. They are worms, completely unworthy of anything good. And they believe that there is nothing good a non-Christian can do
- Minimize Sin – Many Non-Christians and Christians alike minimize their sin. They think they are basically good people who try to be kind to their friends and family. They rarely think about their mistakes causing any problems beyond the immediate consequences they might face. For this group of people, there is no real problem with their failings. It’s just an Oops and then time to move on.
- Sinners Who Receive Grace – We at Ashworth want to keep this balance. We believe every single person (even your enemies) are valuable, with incredible potential. AND we believe we all have a sin problem which limits our good, which separates us from God, and which needs to be dealt with.
So while we reject the position that all people are absolutely and fully debased without Jesus, we do believe that while the beauty of our nature is capable of shining through people, it’s not enough to keep us close to God. Isaiah 59:2 tells us the spiritual consequence of our sin:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
So here’s the problem the Bible tells us that all humans face. We are all good and meant to be in relationship with God. But we are ALSO all sinners who, as a result of our sin, are separated from God. And here’s the biggest problem with this all – we are also Eternal.
Eternal Existence in Heaven and Hell
Let’s take a peek at the last section of our essential belief on humanity
People are created to exist forever. Every person will either exist eternally separated from God by sin, or in union with God through forgiveness and salvation. To be eternally separated from God is hell. To be eternally in union with God is heaven. Heaven and Hell are real places of eternal existence.
This final section is pretty straightforward. Everyone will exist beyond their final breath – either in the presence of God or apart from God. Heaven is the place where followers of Jesus will be with God and Hell is a place where everyone else will be away from God.
Jesus describes it this way: Matthew 25:46 –
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Now I know, there are a million details about heaven and hell that you have heard, and no – our statement includes almost none of those details because we don’t see them all as essential to what unites ALL of us in our beliefs.
You see, the doctrine of hell in particular, received a huge amount of attention in the history of America. It became a very specific place with flames that never cease and worms that eat your flesh and never die where you are tortured for all time. Jesus was not a savior TO eternal life but a cosmic fire insurance FROM this terrible place. And I don’t mean to imply these concepts were pulled from thin air – these images have verses to support them. But there are also a wide variety of verses which can lead you to several different views of hell. And what all of them have in common is that Hell is where people are apart from God.
All of Us Need a Savior, and our Savior Came for Us All
So here’s where I want us to end our discussion of humanity. We are both immensely valuable and full of potential, but terribly sinful and full of ugliness. All of us are. As a result, unless we take a leap of faith, our eternity after death is to be apart from God, apart from his goodness and beauty which he has given us just a small taste of in this creation.
As much as some people think they can fix this situation themselves, scripture is clear that there is nothing we can do on our own. We can’t try to do a bunch of good stuff so God forgets all the filth that’s still on your clothes. We need to be cleansed.
Fortunately, the God who created us also offers us that very opportunity. An opportunity for something far better, an opportunity for every person who has walked the face of the earth. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” Now I don’t want to get too far into next week’s message, but suffice it to say, God made a way to cleanse us from our sin and to restore our relationship with him. And that restoration takes place both in this life and in the next. And most importantly, that restoration is available to THE WORLD. It’s God’s desire for us all. It’s the purpose he made us for.
So I want you to consider how this message applies to your life in 3 specific ways: How does this belief make you feel about yourself, others, God? As basic as this message is for some of you, it has incredible implications for your view of all of life.
- Yourself – You are both valued and marred by sin. You have incredible good inside of you, but apart from the work of Jesus, you are marred by sin and your life will be far less that the potential available.
- Others – Every person is equally valued by God, and should be by you. This means that Christians should be the most accepting, least divisive people on the earth as we see every person with the loving eyes of our Creator. Do we see that in America currently? If not, why?
- God – Finally, as a result of being Like God and having an eternity ahead of us, I hope you have a passion to choose to live like God, to live out his character, to be in daily relationship with him, and to follow his purpose for your life and not just your own selfish agenda.
Our time on this earth is simply preparation for an eternity ahead of us. Either it’s an eternity with God or an eternity apart from him. And it’s your choice where you will spend that eternity. Do you believe that the mess of your life requires a savior, and are you willing to submit to that Savior, Jesus Christ? Or are you confident in your own goodness? And are you willing to bet eternity on it?
If you want to start a relationship with God today, and if you want to experience the eternal life that begins instantly when you put your faith in Jesus, then I invite you today to follow the way of Jesus. If you want to know more about what that looks like, let us know in the chat window or Contact Us on our website. We want everyone to experience the life God originally intended for us at Creation.
- In what areas do you doubt your own worth? Where do you need to remind yourself of how God made you and the potential inside of you?
- Who do you most struggle to see the image of God inside of? What can you do to see them as a valuable person who is filled with potential?
- If both men and women are made in the image of God, what does that say about God’s gender? Why is this important?