Who’s in Control?

We all struggle with control issues – some more than others. We try so hard to tell ourselves that we know what we are doing; that we know what’s best for us; that as long as we don’t let go and let someone else call the shots then life will be just fine.  There is only problem with this… God has made us so that when He is in control of our lives we find our true purpose and meaning. All else leads to struggle, pain and trials.  We learn so stubbornly that we are not very good at controlling our lives. It’s not until we surrender all to His authority that we find the freedom that Christ has planned for us.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [11]

The term “work” often conjures up images of drudgery, fatiguing toil, and unrequited effort. To pleasure-loving westerners, the choice between work and play usually presents no contest. Of course, it is true that there are “workaholics” – people who thrive on mental or physical labor. Yet the high heart attack rate among hard working people shows that there is a human cost to our labor-oriented society.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [10]

EarthRecently, the political columnist, Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece entitled, “Are we alone in the universe?” In it he mused over the recent exciting discoveries in astronomy of planets that have similarities to Earth. He noted with sadness, however, that as yet nowhere in the universe have we found sentient thinking beings that are like humans. In his words: “For all the excitement, however, the search betrays a profound melancholy — a lonely species in a merciless universe anxiously awaits an answering voice amid utter silence.”*

 

Plan 9 From Outer Space?

 

This brought two things to my mind. First, the astronomers’ search highlights the uniqueness of planet Earth. It is a place where God has finely tuned conditions to be conducive to plant, animal, and human life. Even accounting for the effects of the Fall and sin upon this world, it is still a planet where – if managed correctly – life may thrive. This is an anomaly in the known universe. Secondly, it draws attention to the fact that in this desire to hear a message outside of planet Earth, modern people so often discount that such a message has already come to Earth. It is not from alien life forms like those imagined by Spielberg and Lucas, but rather originates from the Creator God. As Hebrews 1:1 says, “God, having spoken of old to the fathers in the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us in His Son” (author’s translation.)

Of course, the first three chapters of Genesis show that God verbally reveals Himself to His creatures. He is in the habit of speaking with them since the day He made them. Furthermore, mankind’s very existence was not a divine afterthought. Rather, He fashioned planet Earth with humans in mind, making it a place which by His providence is fruitful and conducive to the development of man’s talents. We see this in the fact that Genesis specifically mentions that there was no man to till the ground (Genesis 2:5-7.) The Almighty always intended for man to work in conjunction with this earth to make it a place of beauty for God’s greater glory. When God created man on the 6th day, He placed him in the garden as a training ground where he could learn skills under the Creator’s tutelage that would enable him to eventually graduate from the garden and proceed to apply these abilities to this globe in its pristine wildness.

 

Failing Out of God’s School

 

Sadly, man failed the chief test in the garden which was loyalty to the Creator as demonstrated by obedience to God’s Word. In spite of that, God has been seeking to save man from spiritual separation that his own rebellion creates. God speaks from the stars, the cells, every flower, and in every rock – all of these things shout at us, “there is a glorious Creator!” One who is powerful and all-wise. One who is faithful and good.

He also speaks to men through their consciences, although they often do not heed and sometimes cause it to be calloused and malfunctioning through their obdurate pursuit of sin. Most of all, God speaks through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who fulfilled the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Luke 24:27.) What is more, He is the One who through His Holy Spirit has conveyed the teaching of the New Testament to the first century church – a revelation that has been handed down from generation to generation and remains God’s message to man in the 21st century.

 

God Is Speaking Is Anyone Listening?

 

So to Mr. Krauthammer and every inquiring mind who has ever gazed at the skies and wondered if we are alone, God’s Word says that we most certainly are not. There is a Sovereign Lord of the universe who determines the fate of this planet and every other. He is One who so desires a personal relationship with every human being that He sent His Son into this world with the message of His holy love. A message that is embodied in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, His resurrection in power, His ascension back to glory, and His eventual second coming to Earth. Why not click on an e-Bible today – or if you prefer, pick up a physical copy – and listen to Him today?

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*http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/are-we-alone-in-the-universe/2011/12/29/gIQA2wSOPP_story.html

Photo: NASA

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Entry Level Theological Truth [9]

“Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:1-3

Someone whimsically suggested that the theme song of modern life ought to be: “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go” (obviously sung to the tune of the Seven Dwarves’ classic “Hi ho.”) While this invariably brings a smile to many faces, the sad truth is that, in its present form, the world is a place of unremitting physical and spiritual toil. People are burdened by the effort of life in this difficult scene. How different the world was when God initially created it. He pronounced it “very good” and then rested (Genesis 1:31 + verses at the head of this post.) What happened?


A Greater Work Of God

Genesis 3 gives the answer: the fall of man happened. Man disobeyed the Lord, thereby bringing sin and death into this world (Romans 5:12.) This disturbed God’s creation rest, for He now began to work again: this time in making a New Creation in Christ Jesus, which flows directly from the activities of the triune Godhead. This new work will culminate in an eternal rest where God is honored as He should be and man is able to cease from toil in favor of worship and service towards their Savior God. Hebrews 4 speaks of this “rest” and urges the readers: “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11.) F.B. Hole explains this rest for the believer:

At the present time we are in the position of pilgrims on our way to that rest, just as formerly Israel were pilgrims on their way to the land of promise. When the rest is reached we shall cease our working, but on the way there we should ‘labor’ or rather ‘be diligent’ to enter in, taking warning by the fate which of old overtook so many unbelieving Israelites. The latter part of the chapter sets before us three great sources of help and guidance which are available for us on our pilgrim way. They are first, the word of God; second, the priesthood of Christ; third, the throne of grace.*

Thus, the rest of God is ceasing from the sin of laboring to please God through one’s own religious efforts so that one may be free to serve and enjoy the Lord with a perfect conscience and without distraction.


No Rest For The Wicked

Following the argument of Hebrews 3-4, Moses and Joshua were not able to get people into this future rest; only in Christ is it achieved. So why did the Israelites of old not enter into this rest? Hebrews 3:18-19 provides the answer: “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” The Israelites failed due to their disobedience, which is tellingly equated in the verses with unbelief. To disbelieve God’s word is to reject His authority. In short, unbelief is the opposite of biblical faith and is tantamount to rebellion against the Creator.

So rest is available: one may be assured an entrance into God’s rest if he believes the gospel, receiving eternal life from the Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose again to create us anew.

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*F.B. Hole, Comments On Hebrews. Found here: http://biblecentre.org/commentaries/fbh_61_hebrews.htm

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Entry Level Theological Truth [8]

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27

To speak of anything relating to gender today is to court controversy and enter a verbal minefield. The battles over Feminism, homosexuality, and gender identity have not only encroached upon the professing Christian church, but have also assaulted English grammar itself.*

It is true that past societal chauvinism has adversely colored the debate; this notwithstanding, God created mankind with gender distinctions that outfit men and women for complementary roles in His service – we ignore them at our peril.

On the other hand, the necessity of males and females to the divine plan for humanity is taught in Genesis 1-3, as well as in the rest of the Scriptures; to ignore their unity, interdependence, and essential equality (as opposed to functional equality) is also highly dangerous. Happily, the Creator balances the issues beautifully in His Holy Word, and has ordered the world this way for our benefit.


Twice Told Tales

In characteristic ancient near eastern style, God tells the story of the creation of the world in an overview (Genesis 1), and then goes back to one aspect that He wants to highlight in greater detail (Genesis 2.)** What is generally discussed in Genesis 1:26-30 is amplified in the second chapter of Genesis.

Two observations from these passages must be made:

  1. Man was created first and is given leadership responsibility within the creation (later Scripture will show him exercising this role in the home and in the house of God on earth – which was the Tabernacle, the Temple, or the Church depending on when one lived.)
  2. Woman is created from man, as an indispensable “helpmeet” (or “fitting helper”) for him. This goes beyond merely assisting in the work of superintending the garden, for animals could be employed in many of these tasks.

After Adam names the animals, the Bible comments: “But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:20.) She is to be a complement to him – someone who is of the same kind as him – who may empathize, comfort, counsel, and love. She was indispensable, for after Adam every human being came through the woman’s womb (1 Corinthians 11:11-12.) Most notably, through a woman’s virgin womb came the Messiah into the world.


Equality And Differences

Space does not permit a full discussion of all the relevant Biblical passages and issues regarding men and women. Therefore, I want to appeal to a basic principle of biblical interpretation.

Often, proponents of viewing men and women as having the same roles bring out verses such as Galatians 3:28. The alternate view appeals to 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11 as well as 1 Corinthians 14 as well as other Scriptures. Since these Scriptures are all inspired by the Holy Spirit, they are clearly not in conflict.

We must appeal to the time-honored principle of context. Each Scripture must be interpreted within the context of its own book and then within the context of the entirety of Scripture. When one does this, it becomes evident that in their essential worth to God, men and women are absolutely equal. The aforementioned verse in Galatians shows that in terms of salvation and their position in Christ, they are equal. To say it another way, this verse is written in the context of the universal church, which is composed of all believers everywhere from Pentecost through the Rapture.

The passages that limit women’s activity fall within the context of the local church, that is, their service in the assembly of believers. At other times their distinct role is noted in the context of the family. Even though they have different roles, they perform functions that are of the utmost importance in the plan of God.

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*For example, it used to be understand that one could speak of a non-specified person in the third person singular as “he” – so, one could say: “If someone wants to eat breakfast at McDonald’s, he better arrive before 10:30 a.m.” Now some would prefer “he/she” or just “she” in place of “he.” Likewise, one used to speak of actors (for a male) and actresses (for a female); now it is common to hear them all described as “actors.” Cf. also author & authoress, poet and poetess, etc. This is no mere academic debate, for it directly effects modern translations of the Holy Scriptures.

**For a similar literary device see Isaiah 52:13-15, which is then discussed in greater detail in Isaiah 53.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [7]

Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ Genesis 1:26

Some years ago I remember watching a news report on a fire at the Primate House of a major zoo. The newscast spent a significant amount of time – perhaps five minutes or so – discussing the calamity that befell the popular chimpanzees, apes, monkeys, and other primates. They even remarked that “grief counselors” were brought in to console the grieving employees.

The following story on the newscast concerned an elderly couple who died in a house fire the same day; they were allotted approximately forty-five seconds, and no mention was made of anyone to comfort their bereaved friends and relatives. Fully realizing that people can form strong attachments to animals – especially the cute, clever, or cuddly – this seemed to me to be a ghastly inversion of God’s creation order. Sadly, it is common in our modern culture to elevate beasts to the same level as humans; in some cases, they are even valued above mankind’s needs.

All Creatures Great And Small

Being created in God’s image invests humans with a dignity and destiny far beyond lower orders of creation like animals and plants. As things made by the Creator these lower life-forms are important and must not be misused. Nevertheless, mankind is made with rational and spiritual faculties to interact with their Maker in a relational way. We are created to know, worship, and serve the Lord.

Multitudes fail to see this exalted destiny, instead living as if they were beasts by deadening their consciences and living for their appetites, vain pleasures, and lusts. Rather than find their legitimacy in communing with their Creator, they live as if He is remote, impersonal, and uncaring. When in reality, God is personal and loving – as Paul words it:

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring. (Acts 17:26-28)

All Are Precious In His Sight

Because every person is created in God’s image, racism is demonstrated to be false. To value one race over another is to misunderstand Man’s worth to the Almighty. Regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status, or nationality, all men are important, for they are all created for God. Of course, their value is greatly enhanced by the fact that the Son of God Himself became a sinlessly perfect man in order to redeem mankind through His sacrificial death on the cross and the triumphant resurrection and ascension afterwards (John 3:16.) Rather than obliterate mankind after the fall, the Lord took steps to preserve them for eternity as well as to elevate them to an enjoyment of life in His presence that was impossible before. By becoming a man, and identifying with the human race, God the Son shows us the importance that the triune Godhead places upon creatures made in the image of God.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [6]

‘Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ Genesis 1:26

Being created in God’s image invests mankind with tremendous value. In the divine plan, human life is not to be easily discarded. The Creator puts great value on people, and expects humans to treat one another with the appropriate respect due to being fashioned in His likeness. Of course, contemporary society balks at this notion; life is cheap in the brave new world of technological advancement and humanistic hedonism. Fallen man runs this world upon self-centered – that is to say, man-centered – principles. Therefore, human beings are abused and destroyed contrary to the intention of their Maker.

Fashioned for Significance

The modern tendency to devalue human life stems from the philosophies of the past few centuries. Evolutionary theory inspires many of these worldviews which, although different in their exact details, share a belief that man is here by accident with no overarching purpose. Nihilism denies that there is any meaning or purpose to human life. Its more optimistic cousin, existentialism, declares that humans themselves determine what meaning or significance life has. Atheism and agnosticism have no room for a personal Creator and therefore see no problem with abortion (or in extreme cases, euthanasia.)

Contrary to these inventions of the human mind, Genesis declares that there is a personal Creator who designed and built human beings, investing them with value and significance by making them in His image and likeness. Though these aspects of man’s nature have been marred by the fall, God still sees the vestigial beauty of with which He originally invested man.

That humans have meaning and value is underscored by the fact that rather than consign them to eternal destruction, God delivered up His Son as a sacrifice to redeem them (Romans 8:32.) God the Son Himself became a man, thereby eternally associating Himself with mankind (Hebrews 2:10-18.) He did not leave His human body in a tomb indefinitely, but physically raised it to a new order of deathless life (Hebrews 7:16.) Forty days later He ascended to heaven, taking resurrected and glorified humanity into the presence of God the Father.

On Pentecost, in keeping with His own promise, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell regenerated human beings.* In this way He has given redeemed mankind even more dignity than they possessed in the world before the fall. They are now indwelt by God Himself through His Spirit and are destined to be conformed to the Son’s own image at the redemption of the body (see Romans 8.)

No Planned Obsolescence Here

Given the first creation which made man in God’s image and likeness, followed by the new creation which destines him to be conformed to the image of the risen Christ, man must value the lives of others as well as his own life. Children in the womb must be protected – especially since God interacted with numerous people during their gestation (e.g. Samson, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Paul.) The modern world devalues the elderly and disabled, but God would have us show them love and respect. Finally, it behooves individuals to not waste their lives as if they had no meaning or purpose. Rather, they must realize they are created to know and serve God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of His Holy Spirit. Anything less than conversion and service towards their Creator is a desecration of the significance and value of human life.

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*One is regenerated by receiving Christ as Lord and Savior through faith – see John 3 & Titus 3.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [5]

Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ Genesis 1:26

God is neither distant from His creation (as in Deism), nor is He identical to it or co-extensive with it (as in Pantheism.) He is closely involved with the universe’s maintenance and destiny (Hebrews 1:3; 2 Peter 3:10-13.) What is more, God is most interested in relating to the capstone of His work: mankind. Humans, meanwhile, are prone to either overestimate or else underestimate themselves. Either they are the measure of all things or they are worthless collections of atoms randomly thrown together by chance, matter, and unthinking forces. The Almighty sanctions neither of these extremes; instead He recognizes mankind’s true position in the universe. Created in the Creator’s image, man is made to be His ruling representative on earth, and is below Him in might, glory, wisdom, and position.

Higher Beast Or Representative of God?

It is common today for people to equate the value of humans and lower life forms. The needs of pets and endangered species are championed by celebrities and the news media, while millions of people starve to death per year in grim anonymity. It is true that as a created being, man possesses some commonality with the animal creation. Yet to think that humans are merely higher forms of primates – naked apes, so to speak – would fall short of reality. One commentator explains the connection between animals and mankind:

As the last and highest of the animate creatures, man is created. His creation is indeed thrown together with that of the land animals into one day, and in this way a certain connection between the two is acknowledged. But much more does the account aim at making prominent his dissimilarity and his high dignity, as contrasted with these and all other beings. This is indicated by the place assigned him at the end of the whole series, and it is expressly stated by the assertion of his divine likeness and rank as ruler.*

Another scholar adds: “…man is set apart by his office (1:26b, 28b; 2:19; cf. Psalm 8:4–8; James 3:7) and still more by his nature (2:20); but his crowning glory is his relation to God.”**

Image-Bearing And Its Benefits

In this likeness to our Maker, humans must use their intellect and creativity for God’s glory. Most importantly, they must come to know Him and interact with Him through their spirits (that aspect of human nature that is unique to mankind and not shared with other earthly creatures.) Of course, Genesis 3 tells the sad tale of how sin marred God’s image in humans and continues to alienate them from our Creator.

Nonetheless, in Christ believers regain the status that Adam lost (they have actually gained much more than Adam lost, but that is another blog post as they say.) Man’s spiritual deadness is reversed by the new birth through the Last Adam who is “a life giving Spirit” (John 3:3-21; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Corinthians 15:45.) They are destined to share in the administration of the future renewed planet earth under the perfect Man, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:14-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-27.)

In light of the implications of mankind being God’s stewards on earth, Christians must lead the way in acting as those who are created to know, worship, and serve God. This will affect every aspect of their lives: their ethics, job performance, family life, work-ethic in school, choice of entertainment, selection of friends, and many more issues. Recognizing one’s image-bearing responsibility even has implications for our behavior on the web. The image one projects on social media sites, the way one uses e-mail, the amount of time one spends amusing oneself online must be evaluated in light of mankind’s creation in God’s image.

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*August Dillmann, Genesis Critically and Exegetically Expounded, Vol. 1. Translated by Wm. B. Stevenson. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1897, pp. 77f [Emphasis mine.]

**Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 1. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967, p. 55.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [4]

The creation account in Genesis 1 reveals that God makes distinctions. That flies somewhat counter to modern sensibilities. The contemporary mindset tends to downplay differences of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic differences, and other forms of distinction among mankind. Not all of this is bad, of course, and much of it is reactionary against unbiblical sexism and racism.

Yet radical feminism, homosexuality, and extreme environmentalism all confuse categories where the Creator specifically made distinctions. These philosophies mix up proper gender roles, true sexual morality, and the vast gulf between the animal and human worlds.

Vital Differences

In chapter one alone the Lord distinguishes between chaos and order (Genesis 1:2), light and darkness (Genesis 1:4), day and night (Genesis 1:5), sky and water (Genesis 1:6-7), sea and land (Genesis 1:9-10), different types of horticultural specimens (Genesis 1:11-13), various types of celestial bodies (Genesis 1:14-18), sea creatures and birds (Genesis 1:20-22), and different land animals (Genesis 1:24-25.)

Most notably, He distinguishes between animal creatures and the capstone of His creation, mankind (Genesis 1:26-28.) Within humankind He differentiates between male and female – although no inequality is meant, for man and woman collectively form mankind (Genesis 1:27.) Genesis 2 will reveal that they have different roles (i.e. differences of function, rather than of value. Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:2-15.)

The rest of the Bible builds upon these fundamental differences by outlining men’s and women’s roles in service (1 Corinthians 11, 14; 1 Timothy 2; etc.), and mankind’s hegemony over creation and their necessary stewardship (e.g. Romans 8; Hebrews 2.) The Lord further distinguishes between times and seasons, this age and the one to come, as well as the fates of the nations (Matthew 24-25.)

Perhaps the most important distinction is saved and lost. Membership in each of these groups is determined by each person’s response to Jesus Christ. If one repents of their sins and believes in the Lord Jesus who died to save them and rose again to give eternal life then he belongs to the saved category. If one does not have faith in Christ, he is doomed to eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire (Jn. 5:24; Rev. 20.)

Two Roads, Two Destinies

So we see that distinctions are absolutely vital in this life and in the next. Rather than float along with the shifting currents of world opinion, we must build our doctrines, worldviews, and personal behavior on the changeless Word of God. Divine differences must be observed and obeyed. Indistinct thinking on these matters leads to aimless living and a lost eternity.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [3]

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Genesis 1:3

Light is frequently used metaphorically in the Bible. For example, Psalm 119:130 declares: “The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” There it obviously refers to light’s elucidating character: it shows things as they actually are; therefore, it conveys intelligence, understanding, and wisdom. Of course, the Scriptures also use this versatile symbol to depict good versus evil (e.g. 1 John 1:5-7.) All wisdom, truth, and goodness are rooted in the Creator’s own being; this light is supremely revealed in His Word.

God is speaking, is anyone listening?

From the outset of creation, it is evident that God verbally reveals Himself. “God said” is repeated ten times throughout the Bible’s first chapter. Hebrews 1:1-2 reiterates this truth in these words: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” This incomparable Son – called the Word in John 1:1 – is the chief means of God’s self-disclosure. There is a vital connection between Him and the written Word of God, for it is in the Scriptures that He most clearly shows Himself.

Today people often ignore God’s Word in favor of their own notions and opinions, yet this is a grave mistake. Genesis 1 demonstrates that God’s Word is powerful: He speaks and light appears, life is created, the stars are formed – all without difficulty. His Word is effective; it accomplishes whatever He says.

The Word of God is living and powerful

Thankfully, the New Testament affirms that the Scriptures also effect new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17.) A sinner, spiritually separated from his Maker, upon believing the Word is transformed by it. This change is described in the Bible as being born again (John 3); it is a brand new beginning, offering a new relationship with the Creator through His Son Jesus (John 17:3.) The content of that Word is the glorious story of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, followed by His triumphant resurrection, and His glorious ascension back to heaven (1 Corinthians 15.) 1 Peter 1:23 describes the eternal and abiding result of believers who are born again by this Word: “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”

The same Word that saves also sanctifies: that is, it changes a believer into a holy being who reflects the character of His Lord (John 17:17.) This work will culminate in every true Christian being conformed to Christ’s glorious image (Romans 8:28-30.) Believers will be transformed inside and out in the most extreme makeover ever seen in the universe. What is more, they will share in “the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12.) God’s Word and His light meet in eternity, therefore, as believers forever bask in the light with Almighty God (Revelation 21-22.)

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