Ignite Training Conference 2018 [Day 1] {LIVE BLOG}

Ignite Training Conference 2018

[We’re back again! A big thank you to Brisbane School of Theology for opening up their doors and campus for our conference! The bookstall is up and running, and I’m personally excited to be opening up the Bible again with an enthusiastic group, ready to learn the grand overarching story of the whole Bible! Follow these posts to get live updates on my notes from the talks and selected workshops.]

Day 1 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna – Where To Start [Genesis 1]

Book recommendations from Derek Hanna on Genesis:

(apparently only John’s write good commentaries on Genesis!!!)

It’s challenging:
Externally/Internally –

An article in the NY Times a while ago – titled ‘Social Media is making us dumber’. One of the challenges when we come to Genesis 1-11, which is a controversial part of the Bible, is that we have lost the ability to engage with the Bible and engage with complex arguments. There are external and internal debates and arguments with this book of the Bible.

For instance, Sam Harris – a new atheist – is very convincing in his arguments against Genesis 1. He argues that Genesis cannot be taken seriously in our scientific age. And it’s not just atheist asking these questions – Christians are asking the same questions. If we believe that Genesis speaks about our nature, then how do we grapple with it in the day and age of scientific progress and theories? There are challenging questions being asked.

And then there are other questions that get asked:

  • what is with the talking snake?
  • where did Cain gets his wife – and what city did he go to?
  • how did all the animals fit on the boat? What did the lions eat when they were on there? How did the smaller marsupials survive that trip?

These are good questions. Ignoring some of the bigger scientific questions – there are still major internal questions being thrown at us.

But one of the major issues surrounding all of this is that we have lost the ability to engage with hard and difficult complex questions. An example of how this works is in the viral video of Steven Pinker (?) in his commentary on the Alt-Right movement. His quote was taken completely out of context – but social media made it difficult to really engage with what he said. The same thing happened when we saw the recent Same-Sex Marriage debate in which sound bites were the only things being engaged with.

Here’s the deal though: if you get rid of Genesis 1-11 (because it’s too hard) then what you lose is the beginning. You lose the all-powerful God who is intimate and personal with his creation, who creates on purpose with purpose, and when he creates he delights in what he creates and mourns over it when it goes pear-shaped.

Calvin says at the start of his Institutes, ‘Nearly all wisdom consists of two things: understanding self and understanding God.’ He wasn’t being narcissistic – he was saying that before you can ever know yourself you must know God. Knowing God helps you see yourself properly. If you gloss over who God is and how he is revealed – as in Genesis 1-11 – then you will miss the whole.

Clearing the ground:

The controversy in Genesis is not new. Lennox in his book mentions that the Galileo controversy illustrates that debates on Genesis are not new. Though he was making a scientific pronouncement it was viewed that he was making an attack on religion and faith. Lennox makes a point that this incident in history is illustrative of how we should approach the Bible, and Genesis – that it may be more complex than we think.

So we need to be careful about tying our reading of the Bible too closely to the science of the day. We can’t be so convinced that our scientific view is right that there is no room for discussion or debate – no room for fuzziness on the edges. There has to be humility as we read the Bible and discuss it with each other. Science is a work of progress – there is so much we don’t understand. So we need humility in viewing science and the Bible.

The other obvious danger is to ignore science. Augustine says that it does no one any good to exceed their expertise in any field, and make pronouncements on areas we have no competency. It marrs our witness to the gospel.

Christians should be the ones driving scientific exploration as we seek to understand the amazing complexity of God’s world. And also careful to speak about what we know and to show that we do not know all things.

On Genesis, we need to be just as careful. We need to understand the genre of this text before us. When we come to any piece of writing we need to understand what is being said, how it is said, and what that means.

When we read Calvin and Hobbes we need to understand that genre. Same with Shakespeare, and biographies – we expect certain things about facts, history, and truth. These are all different genres – and our brain switches instinctually between these things and how to read them. But when it comes to the Bible we often don’t think this through. If we treat the Bible as a documentary or a biography we are going to read it in a way that is not intended to be read – and draw conclusions that it does not intend to draw.

God does us a massive, profound privilege of condescending to our level and speaking to us. In a variety of genres and formats, he accommodates himself to us. He is incarnational in the way that he communicates himself to us. John describes Jesus as ‘The word became flesh’ – how much more contextual could God be?

Genesis 1: In the beginning…God

Why does the author in Genesis leave us with so many unanswered questions of our modern mind? The author isn’t stupid – he knows there are gaps in the storyline. So we need to come to the text with the right questions, or do we come to the text with our preconceived questions searching for the answers? The text itself gives us the questions it answers: who are we, who is God, why are we here, what hope is there when things seem broken? Those are the reflection of the text.

So when we turn to the text what do we see?

First – God is the beginning of all things.

There is no proof or argument provided for this. He just is/was. No symposium, debate, committee – in the beginning… God. It’s not bad to ask questions of/about God’s existence, but when we read Genesis 1-11 we see that Genesis is not interested in answering those questions. The first thing that God’s Word has to say is about God – not about your or me.

Second – this God creates like no other.

The word for ‘created’ is only ever used of God. The first law of Thermodynamics is that no matter can be created or destroyed. Matter exists and can morph. But here in Genesis God does something else – ex nihilo – he created ‘out of nothing’. It didn’t exist before. Nothing existed before. Nothing in all its massiveness and minuteness was there for God to ‘morph’.

Dereks’ son was watching a documentary on the universe and was in awe of how small we are in the universe. And that is true. We exist in a large and vast universe – but it also shows us the kind of God who created us. In the vastness of space, how could God be interested in me? Well, Genesis has thoughts on that too. Are we small in the universe? Yup. Are we therefore insignificant to God? No chance.

Third – God is orderly and deliberate and purposeful in creation.

There is a parallelism in the opening chapter. The author shows us the completeness of creation and the orderliness of creation. In days 1-3 God forms, and in days 4-6 he fills – and in parallel order. And it’s good and ‘perfect’, deliberate design that nurtures life. He is also not immune from this thing – this act of creation from a God who is self-sufficient – he looks at the thing he has created and is moved by it.

Fourth – God takes a personal interest in his creation.

He spoke. See how many times in Genesis 1 it mentions God speaking. A lot.

And God’s word is so powerful that something profound happens each time. There’s an intimacy and relationship that is formed when we speak to someone. Think of the difference if you walked into a room and you just communicated through pointing. There is an intimacy in saying something out-loud. Speaking is a personal, intimate act that expresses relationship – people speak to their family, to their pets, even their plants (not random plants – their plants!). God speaks with his creation. He is invested here – so much so that when it runs away from him he will pursue it, become part of it, and die for it, to bring it back to himself.

See how God reacts when he sees what he creates? It’s good – all the pronouncements of how good it all is. God isn’t indifferent to the world. He doesn’t look on what he’s created and think, ‘Oh… that’s a practice run, I’ll get it right next time.’ And he does so not in an egotistical way – but in a pleasured, delighted way of his perfect creating act. The book of Job reminds us that God delights in creation as well. He loves the tenderness of motherhood, the absurdity of the ostrich (!), the majesty of the hawk. God’s creation is somewhat unnecessarily diverse and abundant. Not just functional – but extravagant. Inspired.

Why did he do that? Because… God. That’s what he’s like!

Fifth – the pinnacle of creation is humanity.

You can’t talk about creation and not talk about humanity. It’s part of the created order – and yet different. Singled out. Set apart. Only humans are created in his image, in his likeness. Mankinds’ role is to rule the other parts of creation as they multiply. They are not like dogs, cats, or apes – they are made in God’s image, as the pinnacle of his creation.

With that comes privilege and responsibility. Pick up on this tomorrow.

Then notice Day Seven – something completely unique happens in this part. So we don’t miss it – it is repeated three times that God does not work on this day, but rests. He sabbaths on this day. He takes creation and he sets it aside as holy – the whole of creation is holy and set apart for himself. The most fundamental aspect of this creation is God – not us.

In our day to day lives it’s so easy to be myopic and see only our temporary pleasures, short-term security, things we are sure will fulfil us, and when we get there we realise that it’s not quite what it thought it would be. People often ask questions of the origins of the universe. The curiosity that drives that is possibly this thought: Where do I fit into the grand scheme of things? Who am I?

These are questions of purpose, meaning, and rest. The Bible says that those things start with God. They are ultimately found in him. That’s where you have to start.

In our world of social media, we often portray a picture of perfection to others. Or we long to see ourselves in others as we endlessly scroll through Facebook, Instagram, or whatever else. We see these things and want them. We post stuff about ourselves because we want others to think that we have it. Social media has amplified the longing for these things for us but has not provided an endpoint to satisfy it. We will scroll infinitely to search for it. We will search for it in a place what Genesis says can only be found outside of creation – in the Creator. In relationship with him, at peace with him.

So how do we enter God’s rest again after everything has gone pear-shaped in Genesis 3? The theme of ‘rest’ is wonderful to track through the Bible – culminating in Jesus who offers rest of the weary and burdened.

Colossians 1:15-23 – how will God restore creation to himself? Through his Son Jesus. His fallen creation which was alienated from him, the world through His death would be made holy and faultless and blameless because of him, through him, for him.

The great transcendence of God can make us think that God has forgotten us and that we are unimportant to him. You might read Genesis 1 and think that – but you cannot think that as you read through the New Testament and the gospels.

Reflections for us…

We live in the ‘now and not yet’ – we still yearn for full consummated rest. If you are hurting, struggling, and feeling the effects of a post-Genesis 3 world remember this: it is temporary, it is passing, it is not what God has in store for you, rest is coming.

What if, instead of putting up a well-put-together front on social media – what if we posted up the effects of Genesis 3 in our lives with the hope of eternal rest in the future. Vulnerability in this area is hard – because it’s scary being open and honest with your struggles. How can we as a community paint a picture of needing a saviour while at the same time posting up pictures of our self-sustaining, self-reliant life? They are antithetical.

Full assurance and identity is found in none other than our Saviour.

[What a great start – God is our personal, intimate, loving creator and redeemer. Genesis 1 opens up so much about who God is and who we are in relation to him.]

Workshop 1 | Andrew Bain: Ethics Framework

What is Ethics?

Usually how we work out the answers to difficult questions in life. IN a general sense it’s a word or concept about how we live and how we ought to live. Ethics is the study of making right decisions about life and about living. Christian and non-Christian, from all works, have been thinking and walking and writing about ethics.

What is Christian Ethics?

Christian Ethics is not merely a subset of Ethics in general. Christian ethics is about making and carrying on right decisions about life from a Christian point of view. Not just about the hard, unusual or extreme cases – but about everything, the every day. For Christians, it’s more about the every day than it is about the rare decision that come up once or twice in a lifetime.

How many of us have had conversations with our friends about the Bible, or about big topics in life? They obviously have their views, informed or otherwise. So knowing Christian ethics can help us start and carry on conversations with our friends. If we are wise and biblically thoughtful we can engage helpfully.

The Bible speaks on things which humans cannot know on their own – that unless God speaks we would not know. The Bible also demands action on these things. It speaks on his will, what he’s doing in his story in the world – which leads to ethical questions about how we should live, and how the gospel and character of God ought to shape how we live.

How does the World think about Ethics?

  • Your friends?

Do what makes you happy. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, and can support yourself, do what you want.

  • Consequentialism

Primary evaluation on the basis of the consequences of an action – and (often unconsciously) make value judgements on issues based on the perceived consequences.

  • Deontology / Ethics of Duty

Based on the work of Immanuel Kant. Ethics of duty – the idea that the nature of an action (looking not at other factors) that you may or may not perform, in asking questions about that action, can I connect it to my duty to live in a way that is ethical? Simply put: what is my duty in this situation? In it’s simplest form can be a bit of a cop-out.

  • Teleology: Ethics driven by given purpose and design

The idea that ethics is driven by some kind of given purpose or design in the nature of human life and the world. This view is uncommon outside of religious faith views. In modern Australia, you’ll find fewer people who buy into this.

  • Virtue Ethics

Ethics is not about acts, but about character. About cultivating thoughts and habits of mind that will improve you as a person. Some Christians, particularly Roman Catholics, have seen some value in this. But the idea that you can change and improve yourself by your actions seems antithetical to the Christian gospel of grace.

  • Strengths & Weaknesses of these approaches? Problems from a Christian point of view?

Strengths:

  • Consequentialism – it’s practical, and you don’t have to think too hard. Sometimes consequences are clear in relation to your actions.
  • Deontology: asking what our duty is can force us into action.
  • Teleology: where it is clearly articulated, it can be argued for – saying something is in the Bible can be a means for arguing that this is the best for the flourishing of people.
  • Virtue: we should be aiming to improve people through their actions

Weaknesses:

  • Consequentialism: humans place the value on the consequence, and they can be self-centred rather than other-person centred.
  • Deontology: can be a cop-out if we argue that there is no duty
  • Teleology: not always convincing, especially if based upon scripture texts
  • Virtue: humans, in general, cannot improve themselves through their actions alone – and research is there to show that people generally done.

How should we as Christians think about Ethics?

Key Idea: Christian ethics ought to be driven and shaped at every point by the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. We can give this shape by relating the biblical doctrines of the gospel to our thinking and practice regarding Christian Ethics.

  • Why driven by the gospel and the doctrines which comprise the support of the gospel?

If we want to talk and think about Christian ethics the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ must be our fundamental starting point. Why should Christian ethics be driven by the gospel? Because…

  • Notice that Christians (even theological lecturers!) haven’t and don’t always do ethics this way!

Sometimes a common approach which Christians can take (which should be discouraged) is to take a single verse from the bible and let that guide all decisions in life. Christians believe that God gave us the whole Bible and that each verse is to be read within context. So to take one verse and keep applying it is to do injustice to the text of scripture, and to do injustice to who is at the centre of scripture (Jesus!).

Other Christians have taken principles – like the Law of the OT whose directions are from the mouth of God. To distil a list of do’s and don’t’s from scripture. But this is not how the gospel works. Do’s and Don’t’s in the Bible have their foundation in the gospel of grace – what God has done for us in Jesus.

Other Christians take a principle/idea like ‘love’ – but often do so by taking this idea/theme out of context. We take it out of context and fill it with our own context. So there are dangers in taking even an idea from the Bible and building an ethics on it.

The following points sum up Christian Ethics:

  1. Christian Ethics: based on the gospel of salvation from sin.This is a very different starting place from all other ethics – not from a position of making right decisions or living in a particular way. The NT does not measure all action by consequences, by identifying values or human rights – instead, it makes some fundamental assumptions about human beings and what human beings really need. And these assumptions are totally different to other ethical systems. Right at the top to start with is the gospel.Other systems assume that it is within our own power to behave rightly and do the right thing. Secular ethics then tells us what to do  to move towards these things. It assumes we are either neutral or basically good – and therefore we have the power to shape ourselves.Christian ethics does not share any of these assumptions. Sadly, some books, with ‘Christian’ and ‘Ethics’ will give false ground to secular ideas of humanity. The bible says that we cannot achieve transformation by ourselves. Bad human behaviour is not external to us – it comes from our own being.

    It’s not just that we win and live unethically – but that our grasp on right and wrong are severely weakened.

  2. Christian Ethics: based on the gospel of salvation through God’s Right Man, Jesus Christ
    Who Jesus is is significant to our ethics today as well. Jesus is alive, in heaven today, seated at God’s right hand. And seated there he is the one in charge. Many people around us will drag us to live in another way – but remember that Jesus is the one in charge and the one with the ultimate say.
  3. Christian Ethics: based on the gospel of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
    The events that stand at the centre of the gospel story are what drive our thinking. We live rightly not to earn God’s favour, we live rightly because we have already received God’s favour. Because of Jesus’ death, we can approach God with confidence and be certain of his kindness toward us.We have been redeemed from our old sinful way of life, and redeemed for a new way of life. We have died to sin, and are therefore owned by the one who died for us. This gives our lives a new purpose. It reveals the purpose of what humans ought to be.For Christians, the ethical life is patterned on Jesus as well – taking up our cross and following him. How they treated our leader is how we ought to expect to be treated as well.
  4. Christian Ethics: based on salvation by grace and through faith in Christ
    We have Jesus, and many other examples of men and women of faith who live and act on faith – even in all their weakness and foolish acts (eg Abraham). Jesus Christ is the ultimate pattern for our actions.The Christian life is also powered 100% by Jesus and our union with him. Many passages which relate to our ethics are founded upon our union with Jesus. And through faith in Christ – through faith in the biblical promises concerning Christ and that flow on to us.
  5. Christian Ethics: based in God’s community, the church, and directed towards God’s future for his people and his world (biblical eschatology)
    Christians live out our ethics within a community, not just individually. God brings us as an individual through the death and resurrection of his Son into a relationship with himself – but not just on our own. He saves us into a community. The bible speaks a lot in the plural – addressing not individuals, but more often addressing the community. Biblically speaking our ethics are then worked out within community, and also shaped within our community.Living ethically will also take a long-term view. It’s hard – carrying your cross – but be glad. Hebrews 12 reminds us that suffering is used by God to make us more like Jesus. And we have hope in the future return of Jesus – and that hope has a profound impact on how we live today as well.Our hope is also in Jesus’ resurrection – that as we follow our persecuted and crucified saviour, if we experience the same we shall also experience his glorification. Hope beyond this life directs our actions and thoughts today.Our future hope affects how we spend our money. We give generously, just as God has been generous to us.
  6. Christian Ethics: based on a gospel (as above) which assumes:
  • a single sovereign God
    So when it comes to Christian Ethics we have to push back on the religious and ethical pluralism we live in today – we push back that our Ethics would not morphed/evolved with the ethics/religion of our world. We believe in a single God who has a single way of doing ethics – and our work as Christians is to conform to that.
  • who reveals himself in Scripture including through divine commands
    Even those commands that we don’t think are relevant today – those commands tell us about who God is and what he is like.
  • who has created the world with a God-given moral order
    We should not pretend that God is in heaven and what happens on earth ethically is detached from him. He didn’t just create a physical world – he created a moral world. He created the world, with things in order, with rules for the humans in engaging with creation. And this order (though corrupted) does not change because God doesn’t change.
  • which reflects his character and will
    As we seek to live God’s way we can have confidence that this isn’t something that God or the Apostles just made up one fine day. The shape of the Christian ethical life is based upon his very own character, nature, and will. Recognising this should help us relax, trust God, and walk by faith as we live his way.

The key question: for any ethical issue, great or small, how can we understand the issue biblically in the light of the gospel and the doctrines and biblical assumptions on which the gospel rests? (as outlined above)

  • If it’s not grounded in the biblical gospel… is it really Christian ethics?
    Yeah… no. We need to be honest about how we’re building our ethics.
  • Implications of other biblical themes/doctrines for Christian ethics?
  • Christian ethics and the non-Christian world? Does it apply?
  • Making ethical decisions today and tomorrow?

[Sorry if these notes are a bit scatterbrained! The workshop has been recorded and will be available online soon.]

 

Evening Session | Peter Jensen: What Am I? [Psalm 8]

Peter begins by reminding our generation that a conference like this is a chance to get seriously equipped to teach the Word. Also to learn how to think through our culture. Peter quotes an historian on how Christians impacted the Roman Empire – they out-thought and out-loved their culture. But Peter’s generation missed the boat on a fundamental cultural change in his time (1963 – the introduction of ‘the pill’ contraceptive). He calls on us to keep working hard to out-think and out-love our world, understand our own culture, and our history.

A question fundamental to humanity

Anthropology – the doctrine of man – who, what, where, why we are here. Peter believes this to be a key subject to be thinking about in our generation – that we may learn it well and out-think our culture.

Every university has an anthropology – a set of beliefs about what humans are, and that shapes the subjects we learn at Uni. There are no neutral subjects. The big thing to get our heads around is how our world/culture views their anthropology vs how does a Christian think through anthropology.

So what are you? Two answers from Western culture:

The first old answer – you and are immortal spirits trapped in a body. Perhaps drawn from self-examination – realising that there is a thinking part of you (the spirit/soul) and the physical part of you (the body). And you can tell that when someone dies that their body is there, but perhaps their spirit/soul has left the body.

Some philosophers believed that the soul was a priori – and through some catastrophe, the soul became imprisoned in a body.

For most of his life, Peter has enjoyed good health. And now in his old age, his body is beginning to decline and he can feel the effects. And he says to himself, ‘But this is not the real me – this body is letting me down!’ Despite the fact that 100 years ago pain was a much more prevalent part of life.

This must have been the prevailing idea of the time – that the body was not the real deal, the real deal with inside. The Greek world of the time played up this duality strongly. You were a spirit inhabiting a body.

Second way of thinking – a little more modern – we are effective but randomly produce animals. There is no fundamental difference between you and a chimpanzee or an elephant. Extraordinary as you are, you are basically an effective brainy animal. In the spirit world there were many gods and spirits. In this physical world we’re all atheists. You have no spirit – you’re just an animal. A standout animal. And now that you’re an animal why should you be treated better than a dog? What makes humans so special after all?

Perhaps in due course we will become extinct. And after that? Well there is no survival after death. No spirit that lives on. You have no imagination before you were born, so you will have none after you die. You will physically drift back into the world that you came. (Circle of life stuff).

If you embrace this view then objective truth is hard to come by. Philip Adams, a well-known atheist, describes morality like traffic lights. Existing to keep things orderly but no life or value beyond that.

So therefore it all depends on who has power to determine right and wrong, and it’s also all subjective what is right and wrong. And it’s also relativistic – I believe something and I acknowledge that you believe something.

And yet…

They are pretty unsatisfactory options aren’t they? Not just from a Christian view – but from a human point of view. Is my body just a prison house? Is there no fundamental connection between my body and spirit? Is it plausible that you have a spirit trapped in your body waiting to be let go? And haven’t we discovered that ghosts and spirits are imaginary?

And on the other option – if I’m just an animal, am I so insignificant? When you sit down with someone it can be pretty easy to end up in gossip and criticising someone else. But if we are just animals – on what basis can we criticise someone else? When we criticise others we do so appealing to some objective standard of truth.

There are holes in these stories/options.

What about the quest for meaning? Humans find it difficult to live without a sense of meaning in their lives. Where do we get that from though? We get it from hope – and purpose.

Imagine for a moment you’re an Olympic athlete. Peter has been told that there is nothing worse than winning a gold medal. Because once you achieve that purpose then there is nothing else on the other side.

But if we are just animals where does this desire for purpose come from?

If we listen to secularists they will inevitably say things that show their thought processes do not work. If you listen to a child who doesn’t receive a lolly when another child does – it’s not fair! On a larger level we all yearn for justice. But how can there be justice in this world if the greatest virtue is tolerance? If tolerance is the greatest virtue they can come up, according to Peter, that is stupid!

The greatest virtue is love!

(Peter hits on a point about the teaching of ‘follow your dreams’ – which is not only stupid but dangerously damaging).

How do you value human beings above animals… if they are just animals? If you went into a burning house and there was a dog, a priceless vase, and a baby – which would you save?

What God has told us

Psalm 8 has Genesis 1 in mind – it’s a song on Genesis 1.

The first thing it tells us in v1-4 is that there is one God. In the ancient world there were many gods. In the modern world there is no god. In the Biblical world there is One God.

In Psalm 8 it begins with the name of the Lord. There is no sphere over which God is not the sovereign Lord.

After the big introduction the author then asks the question, ‘Who are we?’ in v3. He looks at the sky, when he looks at the work of his hands David is awe-struck. He asks who man is that God should be mindful of him? We are nothings in comparison to this universe – we are dust in comparison. And that’s the conclusion you must reach in our modern world.

But God reveals his truth. Man is made a little lower than the heavenly beings – the angels – crowned with glory and honour. God has created something special in human beings in v5-8. The size and obscurity of our suburb makes no difference. It is what God does and thinks that matters. We are insignificant in comparison to creation when seen through a telescope. Yes we are made of dust. And yet… you are a King… a Queen. We are crowned by God with glory and honour.

We are the rulers of the world. We are given dominion – yes, the Bible says, you are an animal. But, the Bible says, you are utterly unique – you are in charge of the world, of the structures that God has made. Yes, when you go into that burning house there is a priceless vase, a beautiful dog, and a baby (or old-and decaying human being) and you do not hesitate to throw the vase aside to save that life – because you are made in the image of God. No other creature has this privilige. We are unique and particular in all of creation. We have a special place. We are animal, but we are not merely animal.

And so…

Human beings matter because we are unique image bearers – and not just mere animals. Yes, we are unique individually. Every single one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. At that level there should be no discrimination – for each one of us is as important as another.

In the ancient world, and even in the modern world, that is not true of the way that people think. In the ancient world girls were abandoned – boys were prized. The Disabled were not precious. But the Bible says that each one of us individually is made in the image and likeness of God and each one of us is valuable and precious in God’s sight.

Maybe the way you were brought up makes you feel worthless. That you were told from an early age that you were worth nothing. You may have an attractive body but not feel that. You may have a brain that’s big… but not feel that because of the way you were brought up. God says – whoever you are, you are precious to me.

In Galatians 3 Paul personalises Jesus’ death – he died for me. Yes, he died for the world, but he also died for me. That love of God for you establishes your worth eternally.

Second consequence – your body does matter. The Greek idea of elevating the spiritual over the body is unbiblical. The things in God’s creation are good and precious to him. And part of what he has made is your body. Note – we do not talk of the idea of the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the dead. In the Greek world, this was scandalous because the body was dirty. The Bible says that the body matters, it has a future.

The modern world is besotted with the body because it’s afraid of death. Yet we should not scorn the body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit and will be raised from the dead.

Third – this life really does matter. Work is not what matters. Work is now the new god of our age – sex used to be worshipped, but we know that’s not enough.

One of the terrible things of our world is that we have chosen individualism over community. We now live in a world with a lot of lonely people. But the Christian chooses community – because God intends that. We are created as relational beings, and the Christian recognises that.

Spirit vs Body, animal alone – these are deeply unsatisfying answers to what we are. The Bible says we are uniquely made in the image of God – and that matters for who we are, our relationships with others, and our relationship with the world.

Question from the floor – what does it mean to be made in the image of God? To be made in the image has its emphasis on the role given to humanity – to rule this world, to parallel how God rules.

What am I? I am a creature, not the creator. I am an image bearer, not a mere animal. I have a bodily future, not a mere spirit. I am a relational creature not a mere individual. And that paves the way for tomorrow night.

[Peter could go all night. That was a wonderful tour through history, thought, and Psalm 8!]

Published bySteven

Steven grew up in a nominal Buddhist home, was introduced to Jesus in early university and after lengthy debate and reading came to realise that Jesus made more sense of life, meaning, morality and our ultimate destiny. Graduating from Queensland Theological College in 2011, Steven is a Pastor at his home church, SLE Church, in Brisbane, Queensland. Steven is also husband to Steph, father to Jayden, Janessa, and Eliza, and part time blogger. He also loves a good New Zealand Pinot Noir, Australian craft beer, and coffee. Though preferably not mixed together.