September 13, 2018 by jmar198013
Manuscript of my sermon for Sunday, September 9, 2018. This is week two of our series, We Believe, using the Apostles’ Creed to help us learn Christian basics.
This week we talked about the first person of the Trinity: God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
An audio link is embedded below for those who would like to listen.
Intro: I believe in God
We’re now in week two of our journey through the Apostles Creed. Before we get into our message today, I want to cover three really important things about this series. Specifically, I want to remind us of what the Apostles Creed doesn’t do, and what we’re not doing with it.
First, I’m not preaching the Apostles Creed. I’m using the Apostles Creed to help preach the Bible. Just like I use lexicons, commentaries, and books about theology. The Apostles Creed is just one more resource we can use.
Second, the Apostles Creed has no authority of its own. It’s only authoritative because it points us back to the Bible’s authority.
Just a historical note, the Apostles Creed has roots that go back to the second century church. Some very wise early Christians composed it, based on scripture, to teach, protect, and defend the essentials of the Christian faith. The primary value of the Apostles Creed is that it reminds us what Christians everywhere have always believed.
Third, the Apostles Creed is not magic words. Memorizing these words will not save you. Chanting these words won’t bring you good luck. Knowing these words isn’t a secret code that will make Saint Peter open up the pearly gates of heaven for you. It’s just a helpful resource to help us tell our story. The Apostles Creed helps us learn to state very clearly and simply what Christians believe.
Last week, we looked at the first two words of the Apostles Creed: I believe. The rest of the Apostles Creed tells us who and what Christians believe in.
And I want us to pay close attention to how the Apostles Creed teaches us where to begin telling our story. The first thing it says is, I believe in God. If you’re a Christian, that’s where you begin telling the story.
A good theology begins with God and what God does. Theology is one of those scary-sounding words. But it really just means how talk about God. What we believe about God. So of course, theology should begin with God.
After all, that’s where the Bible begins, isn’t it? What’s the first thing the Bible tells us? In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The Bible begins by introducing us to God, and telling us what God has done.
That’s a really important observation. Because it seems to me that a lot of times, we want to start telling the story with us, not with God.
For example, we’ll often start by talking about human sinfulness before we talk about a God who forgives sins.
But that’s not how the Bible tells the story. The Bible begins with Genesis 1, not Genesis 3.
Now, when it comes to preaching, and pastoral counseling, I totally get that. You start soothing where the hurt is. You start by scratching where the itch is. And in those kinds of settings that’s not only okay, it’s usually the best thing to do.
You start by acknowledging the sin, the shame, the anger, the fear, the hurt, the confusion, the longing. Whatever it is.
But when you’re learning to tell the story of God, you begin with God. Because what you believe about God matters. A lot. Because that’s going to determine if what you say about God is going to help the person in front of you who has sinned, or who is ashamed or hurting or afraid. Or if it’s going to harm them.
Specifically the Apostles Creed begins talking about God as the Trinity. It says, I believe in God the Father … in Jesus Christ, his only Son … who was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Three persons, one God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That’s how Christians everywhere have always known God, and talked about God.
And, today we’re going to be focusing on the first person of the Trinity: God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
The first thing you need to understand about God the Father is, it’s not a statement about God’s gender. God is not male. God isn’t female, either. God is God.
Instead, when we talk about God the Father, it’s a metaphor for our relationship to the first person of the Godhead.
Now, this is where things get complicated and messy for a lot of folks. Because some of you don’t have healthy relationships with your earthly fathers.
Because your father abused you and your family in really awful ways.
Or because your father just bailed on you at some point. So you never really knew him.
Or maybe you grew up in the same home with your father, but he was cold and distant and wasn’t good at showing affection.
So when the Bible talks about God the Father, for some of you, that’s poking at a big, open wound in your heart. Or, at best, it’s just a big, empty spot.
That’s where knowing the other two persons of the Trinity—the Son and the Holy Spirit—can actually help you relate to God the Father. Because you can come to know the Father through Jesus Christ, the Son.
You know what Jesus is like. He’s the lover, the healer, the rescuer, the one who knows you inside and out. The good, the bad, the ugly and the ridiculous. And he still loves you anyway. And the Bible tells us that God the Father is exactly like Jesus. In John 14.9, Jesus says: Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
I love how Jesus talks about God the Father in John 20.17. He calls him: my Father and your Father … my God and your God.
Jesus was never embarrassed by his Father. Ashamed of his Father. Or afraid of his Father. He never had to apologize for his Father’s behavior. Instead, Jesus came so that we would know that his Father, who has loved him perfectly from eternity; is also our Father, who loves us completely.
Your earthly father is the source of your life. And Father God is the source of all life—including yours. That’s why the Bible uses the metaphor of a Father to talk about the first person of the Trinity.
In the Bible, the first human was a man named Adam. So Adam represents all humanity in scripture. We are all sons and daughters of Adam and his wife, Eve.
But listen to how the Bible describes God’s relationship to Adam. We know Jesus is God’s Son. And the third chapter of Luke’s Gospel traces Jesus’ ancestors all the way back to the first human, Adam. And Luke 3.38 calls Adam the son of God.
So the Bible doesn’t view humanity only as creations of God. Through Adam, every human is a son or daughter of God.
We learn that in Acts 17.26, 28. Where it says:
From one person God created every human nation … In God we live, move, and exist … We are his offspring.
So God is not a distant Father. In him we live, move, and exist.
If you go all the way back to Genesis 2, you see how Father God created us. How God formed the first human with his own hands. How God brought humanity to life by filling Adam’s lungs with his own breath.
When the Bible talks about God our Father, it’s saying he desires true closeness and intimacy with us. To restore our sin-ravaged lives, to mend our broken hearts, and to wipe away our tears with his own hands. To breathe his own Holy Spirit into us and fill us with his life and his love.
That’s what it means to say, I believe in God the Father.
But wait, there’s more!
The Apostles Creed also reminds us that God the Father is God the Father Almighty.
Father God isn’t just mighty; he is almighty.
We tend to associate calling the first person of the Trinity our Father with Jesus. And Jesus definitely emphasized teaching us to know God as his Father, and ours, more than anyone else had before.
But did you know that calling God an Almighty Father goes all the way back to the first book of the Bible?
Listen to how Gen. 49.25 talks about all the ways God cares for his daughters and sons. Notice how it calls God:
your father, who supports you …
the Almighty who blesses you
with blessings from the skies above
and blessings from the deep sea below,
blessings from breasts and womb.
This passage teaches us what the Bible means when it says God is our Almighty Father. It means God is at work everywhere, all the time. From the heavens above, to the deepest depths of the ocean. And even in and through our bodies.
Almighty means God doesn’t have to compete with any other force or power in the universe. Because God is their source. They all live and move and exist in him. Because of him. For him. And at his pleasure.
Almighty means God is totally free, and completely sovereign. God can do whatever God pleases. In any way God sees fit.
But the Bible also tells us this is wonderful news. Because Father God chooses to use his Almighty power to show us mercy, compassion, and love.
Listen to what God says in Exod. 33.19: I will be kind to whomever I wish to be kind, and I will have compassion to whomever I wish to be compassionate.
Father God doesn’t express his Almighty power through controlling behaviors. Or by manipulating us.
Instead, our Almighty Father shows us his freedom and his sovereignty by serving us. By nurturing and nourishing and strengthening us.
That’s why, among all the pictures the Bible shows us of our Almighty God, one that comes up several times is a Mother. Listen to the words of Isa. 49.15:
Can a mother forget the infant at her breast,
walk away from the baby she bore?
But even if mothers forget,
I’d never forget you—never.
When we say we believe in God the Father Almighty, it means we believe in a God who would move heaven and earth to protect us, defend us, and rescue us.
It means we believe in a God who can move heaven and earth for us. Because he created them.
And it means we believe in a God who actually has moved heaven and earth for us.
Creator of heaven and earth
Finally, the Apostles Creed reminds us that God, the Almighty Father, is the creator of the heavens and the earth. Just like it says in the very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1.1.
If you read through all of Genesis 1, you see God working to bring order from chaos. God follows and orderly process in creation. He sets boundaries. He makes everything beautiful.
And when God finished creating the universe, and it’s teeming with life and beauty, Gen. 1.31 says: God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.
You may have heard preaching or teaching that says this physical world we live in is irredeemably bad. It’s ruined. And so one day God’s just going to burn it all up. That the physical, material world is bad. But the spiritual world is good.
You may have been led to believe that your body is bad, sinful, and shameful. And that one day it’s just going to be burned up, so your spirit can dwell in heaven forever. Body bad. Spirit good.
But that’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that the created world is good. The Bible teaches that every one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made.
But it also teaches that we are all fallen because of sin. And when we fell, we took the planet with us. So our goodness and beauty are distorted. God created humans in his image, but that image is cracked because of sin. And now, all creatures and all of God’s supremely good creation live in bondage to death and decay.
But the Bible doesn’t teach that God is just going to burn up everything that’s physical or material, and rescue only human spirits, to whisk us up to heaven. Remember, we just heard from Isaiah that God is like a mother who has nursed a child. God will not forget or give up on what he has created and nurtured!
Yes, there are passages in the Bible that teach about a fiery judgment that’s coming. But they also compare that judgment to the flood in Noah’s day. And the flood cleansed the earth, purging it of evil. So that life could flourish again, and humans could enjoy a renewed creation. Those same passages teach that the fire in the end will destroy all evil from God’s creation once and for all. So we can enjoy eternal life in our Father’s presence.
One of my favorite pictures the Bible paints of our hope for the future is from Romans 8.19-22. Listen to what it says.
All creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. That’s the resurrection day. When all of Father God’s true children will be raised from the dead to enjoy eternal life. And Romans 8 says that all creation—our world that we live in right now—is waiting eagerly for that day.
Then it says:
Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
It doesn’t say that creation—the world we live in—will be burned up and destroyed. It says that creation is waiting eagerly, with hope, looking forward to the day when Christ returns and we are resurrected. Because then creation will also be set free from death and decay.
Finally, it says that we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
In other words, creation—our world, our universe—is waiting to be reborn. Creation is breathlessly anticipating the day when we will be reborn in resurrection. Because creation will be reborn with us. God the Father Almighty, who created the heavens and the earth, has promised to rescue, reconcile, redeem, restore, revitalize, and renew all things. Creatures as well as creation.
So when we say: I believe in God the Father, Almighty creator of heaven and earth, here’s what we’re saying we believe. We’re saying that God doesn’t ever give up on his people. Or his property.
Renewing our minds
So as we conclude our time together today, I want to share three very practical lessons you can take from this part of the Apostles Creed. I want you to know what it means for your life to confess that you believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I want you to treasure these things up in your hearts, and meditate on them in the days and weeks to come. So, like it says in Romans 12.2, you can be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
First, knowing God as our Father means that we and our universe are not an accident. We were created in love, by a generous God who has plans for us.
That means you can know your life has value and meaning, and you are here for a purpose. Because you are the hand-crafted child of a supremely loving God.
Second, knowing that God is Almighty means that we can be sure that God’s love will always win. Nothing will defeat God’s plans, because God is at once the unstoppable force that moves the universe; and the immovable object that anchors all things.
That means even when everything in your life and in our world is falling to pieces, you can know that it’s not the final word. God has plans for his universe that are bigger than you, or any circumstance, hardship, or tragedy you experience. Nothing can separate us from God’s almighty love.
Finally, knowing God as the creator of heaven and earth assures us that God created us and our world supremely good. And that God will not rest until all things are rescued, redeemed, restored, and renewed.
That means you better not ever put down your body, or act like your body doesn’t matter. That’s not what the Bible teaches! Bodies matter to God. What happens to our bodies matters to God. Matter matters to God. So you best not ever say it doesn’t matter what we humans do to the earth, because it’s all going to burn one day. God created human bodies and our world supremely good. And even the final judgment isn’t the end of the story. Not for us, and not for the rest of creation. God doesn’t give up on his people or his property.
And to prove that God hasn’t given up on us or on our world, Father God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to us. To live among us. To suffer with us. To die and be raised for us. To buy us back from our bondage to death and decay.
And that’s what we’ll be talking about starting next week. I hope you’re as excited to think and talk and learn more about Jesus as I am. In the meantime, I pray that you will come to know how deeply you are loved by our Almighty Father. The creator of heaven and earth. Who hasn’t given up on us, or our world. But keeps loving us with steadfast, stubborn, almighty love.