Where do we go from here?

Now, where do we go from here?  And I pose the question in a bit of a different way.  ‘Where do we go from here?’ as in:  “What should be our approach to the bible as a whole?”  “What about the Old Testament?”  “Does it count?  Do I need to know it?  What do I need to know from it?”  And the obvious: “Where do we go from here?”   “What does my faith look like moving forward?  What should I do?  How should I respond to the words that we find in what we call the Bible?”

So to begin, let’s start with what happens next.  Luke begins his account in the book of Acts with these words from Jesus:  

Acts 1:8

but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” 

As you follow the course that the gospel was delivered, this was the path.   First, starting in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost; second, Judea, then Samaria, and finally to the remotest part of the Earth (aka the gentiles).  

Now, a religion that began as Judaism, and  was almost exclusive reserved for a specific group or people or nationality,  was changing.   Jews that followed Jesus and witnessed His resurrection began to live out His teachings; and those teachings didn’t always line up so clearly with the Old Testament.  Even more, this new WAY was moving out and being received by people that were not Jews, not hebrews, not from Jerusalem, not from Israel.

God promised this to Abraham that there would be redemption for the whole world.  The prophets spoke about this when they said that God will call his children from every corner.  Jesus even spoke about this when saying that the pharisees were messing everything up.  

Something new was happening and we cannot miss the brevity of it.

Religions were very territorial.   Religions were very much based on race or nationality.  Religions could get as specific as an individual family as they would honor past family members and so forth.  But for a person to change religions (outside of a hostile takeover) didn’t happen.  

But these Jesus followers, those that present for  His miracles, listened to His teachings, witnesses to His death, burial, and then resurrection,  went out to the world with a message about a God that nothing was impossible for! And now, because of their willingness to preach to any and all, combined with the miracles that God was doing through them; people all over the known world were wanting to be a part of this. That meant even gentiles. 

This created a problem.  A problem that we will get more into next week, but to give you a peek…

It created a problem between these new gentile followers of Jesus and the Jews that are Jesus followers.  Both have different backgrounds and cultures.  The question became: “How are we going to make this work?  When so much of our lives have been separated how can we live this way out together?”   Remember that at this point it is Jews that are leading the Jesus movement and these Jews are teaching gentiles, and they are trying to figure out how these gentiles can be or even if they should be more, well, ‘jewish.”

This is where everything started.  And it is kind of the way we all start.   The struggle for them and is also the struggle for us.  

We fall in love with Jesus.  We come to know Him for his death, burial, and resurrection.   We come to know Him as our savior.  But we don’t stop there, hopefully.  We want to know more about Him.  We want a closer, more intimate relationship with Him. 

That means we try to learn the backstory;  the Old Testament.  For many of us, when we start trying to read the bible, we start Genesis 1 and go straight through.  Some may throw in a mix of Old and New,  but Genesis 1 is right at the beginning.

Here was the struggle for Gentiles: giving up what they have grown up to believe and embracing this truth. The struggle for us: Giving up what we have grown up to believe and embracing truth.

Are we willing to let go of past experiences, beliefs, or customs, regardless of who it was that taught, regardless of how long you have known it or held on to it or practiced it?  Are we willing to let go and allow the word of God be just that: the Word of God? Will we allow this verse to be true in our lives:

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

As these Gentiles believers started to learn the back story, they learned something that is completely different from their current cultures religion and essentially every other religion:

Let us take a look at the Bible’s creation account and it’s claim.  To be honest; the events of the first few chapters of the bible we often take for granted.  But, we cannot afford to because, too many questions are being asked about Genesis.  

There are those that want to say that the Hebrew scriptures are borrowing from other early stories.

 i.e. world civ class Noah vs Gilgamesh. 

To be honest,  BECAUSE THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO, we not work for an answer.

Then there is a tragedy that happens so often today.  It is the  faith vs. science argument.  Is it creationism or evolution? And in this fight, honestly only saying; BECAUSE THE BIBLE TELLS ME, will not work.

Let’s take a look at this from two different perspectives:

 The first is for you and I today and it is answering the arguments that people have against the creation account. Next, we will look at the eye opening experience these new Gentile believers had.

So first the claim that makes the Hebrews scriptures that is different from all the others:

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

We know this verses so well.  But we do next is a disservice to us all, we stop trying to grow!  We miss so much and stop growing because of two reasons: 

#1 We have read it so much that we know what it says. So, we never slow down to read what it actually says.

#2  We are too quick to reject something that doesn’t line up with what we  have been taught before. Many christianity are so to reject anything different from what they grew up being taught or  believe.

But it is important to actually read the bible and see what is there. To explain, let’s look at the creation story of chapters 1 and 2.  Please understand from the get go, I do not think of this as a contradiction and any way.  What we will see is that chapters 1 and 2 have completely different writing styles and purposes.

We are familiar with the creation days of Chapter 1

DAY 1 – LIGHT -DARK

DAY 2 – ATMOSPHERE, OCEANS

DAY 3 – LAND, VEGETATION

DAY 4 – SUN, MOON, STARS

DAY 5 – CREATES ANIMALS TO FILL WATER AND SKY

DAY 6 –  CREATURES TO FILL THE LAND

DAY 7 – REST (Chapter 2 begins with the rest of day 7 and then this does this hard reset and starts over.)  

Those that hold a hard fundamental view of creation say that this creation is an exact 7 days.  It can only be seven days. Why?  Because the bible tells me so.  But let’s dig deeper, because this is the bible for grown-ups.

This stance misses a few things:

Completely misses out on what Chapter 1 really is by missing the style of writing. Completely misses out on what chapter two says (and that will blow your mind).  Completely takes for granted that chapter the narrative is continuous in days, acting as if chapter 3 is day 8.  This  ignores principles like ‘where are all the people that Cain is referencing  that will kill him’ and ‘chapter 5 the bible says that at 130 years Adam had a son in his own image (his own image meaning he is no longer in the image of God).’

To go a little deeper into some of these points.

Genesis 1 is in the style of a poem; it has those repeated refrains and language.  Why?  This story was for first off a nomadic people passing down the story of creation from one generation to the next generation.  And how do you do that:  you make it a poem/song that can be rememberer! Genesis 1’s purpose is not to define 7 specific seven days of creation but rather to show us the power of this amazing GOD!

And this is how we know… 

DAY 1 – LIGHT -DARK

DAY 2 – ATMOSPHERE, OCEANS

DAY 3 – LAND, VEGETATION

DAY 4 – SUN, MOON, STARS

DAY 5 -CREATURES TO FILL WATER AND SKY

DAY 6 –  CREATURES TO FILL THE LAND

DAY 7 – REST at the beginning of chapter 2 with that reset.

But watch what happens in chapter 2.  

God creates man.  Then, He plants a garden. Then, this happens.

GENESIS 2:18-23

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones,

And flesh of my flesh;

She shall be called Woman,

Because she was taken out of Man.”

So follow all of that:

God creates man.

Then God creates a garden for man to live in. 

God says: ‘It’s not good for man to be alone.

God creates animals; both in sky and land.

Then woman created.

And he did this at the same time (or same day).

Now, if Chapter 1 is hard set because, well “The Bible tell me so,”  then we have no answer for chapter 2.  But if we understand that Genesis 1 is telling us about the power of God and that chapter 2 is revealing the relationship that God desires to have with us, then these two chapters work together.

This is also important to understand because this type of creation account is very different from the other religions.  It doesn’t show a world that was created from chaos.  It doesn’t show a world created because the gods were angry.  It shows a world created on purpose by a God that wants to be involved with his creation, interacting with us, and  giving us dominion.

Now, for the Gentiles then:

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This claim was different because it says that: There is only one God.

THAT THERE IS EXPLICITLY, SOLELY, SIMPLY,  ONLY, ONE, SINGULAR, SOLITARY,  GOD

There is only one God. That is a claim made on the first page of the bible and a claim that is carried throughout even the New Testament without contradiction.   And this claim of one God was in stark contrast to every other religion and world view and creation story out there.  

The term “Elohim” means “supreme one” or “mighty one.”  When we see the bible use the capital ‘G’ for God, this Elohim and with this definitions.  ONE TRUE GOD… ONE TRUE CREATOR GOD… ONE GOD ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE…

This staggering claim when this was written.   To have ONE TRUE CREATOR GOD is a vastly different claim than the other creation claims.  Meaning of the other creation tellings are centered around the ‘gods’ having a cosmic war and the earth is a result of that warfare.  But the creation story that the bible tells, is vastly different because it tells of ONE CREATOR GOD that is creative, loves, and is involved with his creation.

This is important because Judaism is 100% monotheistic which mean:   Relating to or characterized by the belief that there is only one God. This is different from every other religion.  This is, and please listen to this because this is so important, is different that mainstream christianity. Mainstream christianity is not monotheistic. And has these Gentiles would continued to ‘read’ or ‘learn’ about these what we refer to as the Old Testament; this assertion would made time and time again.

Deuteronomy 6:4

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!

Deuteronomy 4:35

To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.

Deuteronomy 4:39

Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.

Deuteronomy 32:39

‘See now that I, I am He,

And there is no god besides Me;

It is I who put to death and give life.

I have wounded and it is I who heal,

And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.

These books attributed to Moses makes these claims over and over again to remind this nation leaving Egypt, that their God is not like the gods of Egypt.

But it didn’t stop there:

2 Samuel 7:22

For this reason You are great, O Lord God; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

2 Samuel 22:32

“For who is God, besides the Lord?

And who is a rock, besides our God?

1 Kings 8:60

so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no one else.

1 Chronicles 17:20

O Lord, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

Nehemiah 9:6

“You alone are the Lord.

You have made the heavens,

The heaven of heavens with all their host,

The earth and all that is on it,

The seas and all that is in them.

You give life to all of them

And the heavenly host bows down before You.

Isaiah 43:10

“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,

“And My servant whom I have chosen,

So that you may know and believe Me

And understand that I am He.

Before Me there was no God formed,

And there will be none after Me.

Isaiah 44:8

‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid;

Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?

And you are My witnesses.

Is there any God besides Me,

Or is there any other Rock?

I know of none.’”

Isaiah 45:14

‘Surely, God is with you, and there is none else,

No other God.

Isaiah 45:21

“Declare and set forth your case;

Indeed, let them consult together.

Who has announced this from of old?

Who has long since declared it?

Is it not I, the Lord?

And there is no other God besides Me,

A righteous God and a Savior;

There is none except Me.

Zechariah 14:9

And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.

As you start with Genesis 1 and read through Malachi 4 there is only ONE conclusion that you can come up with and it was the very thing that stood out to these Gentiles:  THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD.

And further more, this one God was involved in creation.  And this God wanted a relationship with all of humanity; male and female, alike.  He had a plan and a purpose for our lives.  To give us dominion over everything else.  He wanted us, in a very real sense, to reign with Him.

And the Jesus that these Gentiles are falling in love with.  This Jesus that they are changing their lives for.  This Jesus that they believed rose from the dead.  This Jesus taught this:

Mark 12:28-30

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

This would be the message the early church would teach the gentiles.  This is what they would write to them in their testimonies that we call the books of the New Testament.  They would write there was ONE GOD!  

But here is the problem, you are talking, preaching, teaching Gentiles that have been raised in a polytheistic society.  They believe and have always believed in multiple gods.  

These early church leaders, that have been Jews their entire life, that know without that there is only ONE GOD  and that the messiah was a not different god, or a second god, a co-equal god,  but the actual ONE TRUE CREATOR GOD coming to live with them.

Isaiah 9:6 is one of the most powerful proofs that Jesus is God: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

So listen to how the early church would teach the new followers about One True God and Jesus.  They would make the distinction between the Spirit (which is God) and the flesh.  

John 4:24

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Luke 24:39

See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

I Timothy 3:16

God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory”

2 Corinthians 5:19

namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Colossians 1:15

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Colossians 2:9

For in Him all the fullness of divine nature dwells in bodily form,

Hebrews 10:20

by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,

The early church leaders taught the same thing that they knew was right about the Old Testament:  THAT THERE IS ONE GOD.  And that changed everything for these gentiles.

So many people today try to qualify that statement.  So many people try to work backwards through the scripture to make sense of the different terms.  People make up their own words to define God.  But God has defined himself and that should settle the case for us.  He defined Himself by saying He is ONE!

This is actually as spiritual significance for us.  What we believe about who and what God is cannot be understated.  

James, the half brother of Jesus, would write a letter encouraging our faith.  That our faith without works is dead, being alone.  He encourages the believer to do more to believe but to put that faith into action.  But that encouragement comes off the heels of an incredible statement:

James 2:19

You believe that God is one. 

You do well; 

the demons also believe,

 and shudder.

James says that the demons know that there is only one Go and they very fact makes them afraid.  Imagine, if you were to put your faith in the fact that there is only on God and then act on that faith; demons would tremble in fear.  The demons are no match for the ONE TRUE GOD and when your faith is in the ONE TRUE GOD, the demons will not be able to stop you either!


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