Sermon text – Acts 28:17-31: The end of Paul’s life is still revolved around the mission that he labored over at the beginning of his life (spiritual conversion; Acts 9). The mission that Paul was laboring over is the same mission you and I should be laboring over today, July 24th, 2011. What drove Paul’s mission? Now, if we all agree that God’s mission drove Paul’s mission, then what is God’s mission? What is it that God is after? (overview the mission of Acts 29 throughout the message)
To try and grasp a fuller picture of what God is after, let’s go straight to the beginning.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. What do we learn here? God wanted to create things, so He did. Why did He create things? Let’s go on. In Genesis 1:26-27, God turned to Himself and said, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness.” God goes from creating things out of nothing, to creating people out of nothing. And when He created man and woman He talked to Himself and made them like Himself, and we learn later that it means He created humans radically different from everything else He created, with the ability to display Himself to other people.
This is intense, and God has to be up to something huge! God just created a creature that is created after His image and that is or can be like Him in many ways. So this creature called man/woman must have a huge role in this God’s mission. It’s actually safe to say that at this point the top 2 most important things in the world are God and these creature called man and woman.
The very next chapter we read about some more details about how God created these creatures and we learn that He placed them in a garden that was extravagant and endless in it’s choice of tress that was good for food and pleasant to look at. This is paradise before anyone knew what paradise meant. I mean this is THE place to be! This is the most generous God! This God must love these creatures and really care for their well being. But it gets better:
Genesis 2:9b: “The tree of life was in the midst of the garden,” This God placed in the middle of the Garden a tree that gives life. This God is about life. He is a life giver. He desires to give life to His creatures. And it continues to get better:
Genesis 2:16: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,’ ” Permission by the creator to eat all that they see…. this is good. Then listen to what happens next:
God says: Genesis 2:17: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Next to the tree of life was a tree that was off limits and then man began the battle of keeping their hands off the stove because their dad told them not to touch it because it’s hot and it will burn you. This paradise, this shalom (the way things should be) is now under attack. And in the very next chapter, this creature called man and woman “seem” to become a lot less important after the 3rd chapter of the Bible.
These creatures sinned. The deceiver came to them and told them that God was holding out on them and that if they ate the fruit off of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil then they would have the knowledge of God and God doesn’t want that to happen. Instead of obeying the great and generous God who gave them life, they believed this deceiver and thought that God wasn’t as good as they thought He was.
Adam and Eve messed up shalom. Brokenness sets in and disorder came among them. Before they were naked together and not ashamed, now they are naked and full of shame and sought to cover up their nakedness. Sin entered the world and ravaged this earth and completely laid to waste the shalom/peace that God created. Man is now separated from God (death at work) and Satan seemingly has the upper hand now.
The rest of God’s mission can now be defined in light of what God promises here in Genesis 3 immediately after Adam and Eve (these creatures) disobeyed Him and wanted more than He gave them. Do not miss this:
Genesis 3:14-15: 14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
God prophesied here to Satan and told him that He will soon be crushed by an offspring of Eve. Satan may bruise His heel, but He will ultimately crush Satan and defeat him. This good and generous God just became infinitely more generous.
Genesis 3:21: And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
This generous God shows us that He cares for us in our pain and in our shame by graciously providing temporary garments to cover up our shame, and Jesus will one day remove completely all of our shame and we will be able to be naked and unashamed again.
Genesis 3:22-24: 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
This seems harsh on God’s part, but this is crucial in understanding God’s mission. God in all His grace and mercy removed them from the garden, protected the tree of life because if they eat of it, they will live forever, and but they will live in the state that they are in at that time. Naked and ashamed with no chance of being redeemed. Redemption! That is what God’s after. All of the Bible is read through this lens!!
God in Genesis 12 calls a certain, small, unimpressive and unqualified group of people to be the center of His mission so that the whole world would see that God is good and gracious and redeems men.
Genesis 12:1-3: 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The rest of God’s story all points towards God’s gracious nature which is all about redeeming rebellious and deeply sinful mankind, so that they would not be separated from Him for eternity. If we don’t get this, then we don’t get God’s mission. Consider taking a 20,000 ft. fly over of the OT to see how this is played out over and over again! In part 2 we’ll see how God’s mission is fully realized and can/should be implemented in the life of believers.