PART EIGHT: Finale
Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 58. Redemption and Mankind
Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign
Rom 8:19 the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
Very big picture: Before I come to the very end of this series, I want to ask a question that I have never heard asked before. What is God doing with mankind? What do we see going on in the world that provokes us to ask this question? Some will simply say, “Working to bring salvation through Jesus Christ,” and I would be the first to agree with that. Others might say, working towards an end judgment, the return of Christ, as seen in the book of Revelation, and again I would have to agree with that. But your bigger answer to my question is likely to depend, I suggest, on how you view what is going on in the world. Some would say, it carries on getting worse and worse but that is only true depending on your measuring stick. (Yes, this is still all about redemption – bear with me). We need to look at the very big picture of the world to try to catch what is going on
Bad AND Good: In our Western society there are many things that are very negative, but these tend to be in respect of personal individual human behaviour, and I would be the first to stand on the hillside like the prophets of old and shout out against this. But that is only one side of the picture. The other side of the picture is summed up in advances in technology, hygiene and health and in food production. We have not done away with famine or disease, but very large strides have been made in this last century in food production and in eradicating a variety of diseases, but that is an ongoing war. I saw on TV only within the last week a warning from some people in the know, about plant diseases that are spreading that threaten to wipe out plant life which in turn would wipe us out. But there are people (some Christians, some not) who are working to control these things – they are working that original creation mandate to rule the world and, as I say, (and we Christians forget this) this is Christian and non-Christian alike.
God’s Working in it all: In a previous book on the love of God, in one chapter I investigated the development of revelation of God in the Bible through history covered by the Bible. Alongside that I also did a brief outline of how knowledge and inventions increased through history. The big question for those with minds big enough to think these things, is how much was God involved in all this, how much can we attribute to the hand of God, what does God think of our technological improvements? If we consider that creation mandate, I suggest that increase in revelation of God, increase in knowledge and increase in technological advance are all things on and from the heart of God and, I suspect, when we get to heaven we will be mind-blown by God’s involvement.
A possible conversation in heaven? “Wow! It was you who inspired Einstein to get to E=MC2? It was you who showed scientists quantum physics and all the rest!” “That’s right, have you not realized that my intent was for my world to develop and bless you all more and more, and that I had to do it on a gradual basis if I wasn’t to completely dominate you? I have wanted you to grow up and take responsibility for my world, but only few have seen that? Yes, I have been saddened by the way, again and again, mankind has wrongly used all the good I have given you, but it was the risk I had to take if I gave you freedom of will. Most of the time, most of you do not realize that it has been me inspiring new ideas, opening up thoughts that bring further understanding and knowledge. So, yes, I am working to draw all men to myself, but while I do that I seek to bless my world as you all, in differing degrees, work to rule this world I have given you.”
Using Common Grace Wrongly: This is what theologians call ‘common grace’, the blessing that God gives to all mankind. The rain falls on the just and the unjust! So we extract minerals from the earth and we make things but along the way, because we don’t refer it to God, we pollute lands and seas and air, and we inadvertently cause more diseases and that is all part of the great mish-mash of the redemption of the world mandate of Genesis 1 in a fallen world state.
Struggling to fulfil the creation mandate: And so we find ourselves at this amazing point of history (which may be the countdown to the end, only time will tell) where we have made so many advances (with God’s help, for those with eyes to see) but we still have before us the challenge of how we proceed without damaging the planet any more, how we can cope with (and reverse?) the effects of the damage we have done, and how we can avoid doing any more damage. As we advance robotic and artificial intelligence research, the challenge is to know when to say stop, where we see such research having a damaging if not lethal impact on mankind. The challenge is to say, how can we use technology not to wipe out more and more human beings from a distance, but how can we use technology to bless all races so that no one wants to put that blessing under threat by a war.
Seated in the heavenly realms? We have at various times in both this and previous series considered the reality of what the apostle Paul says and which we quoted in the previous study: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” (Eph 2:6) but how is that applicable here? I concluded yesterday, the threefold thrust of that is that we are to see ourselves as intimately united with Christ, in a place where we are (with him) to rule over our circumstances, and where we are above – and therefore can see clearly – the shambles of the world below us. Because we are to see ourselves linked to him as he rules from heaven over the last times, we are to see him as our source of revelation and wisdom to enable us to live and rule over the circumstances that surround us in these days.
Twofold Thrust: Now I would suggest that those two things are to be used for two purposes. First they are to be used to help us understand all the things we’ve been considering in the past week, the aspects of modern Western culture and also learn how to cope with them. That’s what the studies of the past week have all been about, starting to focus on and hope to understand these aspects so that (negatively) they will not drown us, and (positively) they will help us rise up and survive them.
But, second, revelation and wisdom are to be the tools we use to understand our place in these things as God works out His redemptive purposes in the midst of all this as we’ve seen before: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The Lord will extend your mighty sceptre from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” (Psa 110:1,2) and “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor 15:24,25). As we understand, so we can then move, led by his Holy Spirit, to play our part in the redemptive purposes of the Godhead, planned from before the world began, orchestrated from heaven today, being worked out as expressions of the kingdom of God on earth using you and me, until a final time when He will wind all things up.
How? Well we have just said, using revelation (insight, knowledge & understanding from on high) and wisdom (knowing what to do with it) and hopefully that should make us people who (positively) stand out as God’s good resources to this world, bringing His good in greater measure. But there are also the two very simple but vital words Jesus used of us: salt and light. Somehow, we are to use that revelation and wisdom to have a purifying effect on the world and a life-revealing effect on the world.
Positive overcoming Negative: Historically, in recent decades at least, Christians have been known for bringing condemnatory words on the defects of society (the sin of man!), and while that is necessary, there is perhaps a better way which is to live such spectacularly good lives, lives that are great examples, not being dominated by the pressures of materialism, not being unreal, not being intimidated by the tsunami of facts and knowledge that has poured forth in the last century, not being addicted to the phone or internet and its negative effects, and not being swayed by the currents of confusing communications within the modern global village. As others drown under these things, we are to be those who, linked to our satellite navigator at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms, navigate the stormy waters with peace and goodness prevailing, purposefully steering constantly to that eternal harbour that awaits our arrival with anticipation. Let’s do it. Let’s purify by example, let’s bless by wisdom and goodness and a sense of loving security that comes from on high.
Positively How? How can we be more positive in these things? I am aware in the above paragraph I have used (wisely) the defensive negative word, ‘not’ a number of times, but what are the positive ways we can handle those aspects of modern life? Let’s run it again: let’s live spectacularly good lives, lives that are great examples, lives that use materialism, blessing the poor, being there for the needy, lives that are real, transparent and attractive, lives that give thanks to God for the tsunami of facts and knowledge that has meant blessing for the human race, lives that use the phone or internet wisely to build relationships, and be informed to counter untruths, lives that question and query the acrid voices of doubt and put forward words of peace and the wisdom that comes from on high.
In other words may we, in the words of a leading churchman in the UK recently, focus the church on bringing people to Christ and transforming society. May our part in the creation mandate achieve this with His enabling and to His glory. Amen. “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Rom 12:2 Message version)