Below is audio and manuscript of a sermon I preached at two churches yesterday. It was based on Psalm 8.
Audio HERE. (Best to download it to listen to it.)
Life’s most important question is about our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16: “Who do you say that I am?”
Jesus asked a group of Pharisees in Matthew 22: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is He?”
We can answer some questions wrong in life, but not this one. To get it wrong about Christ, and to not believe, is eternal condemnation.
In John chapter 8 there was dispute about who Jesus is, and in verse 24 Jesus said: “unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” Jesus was clear about who he claimed to be.
When we read the Gospels through our non-Jewish modern eyes, we can sometimes miss how clear Jesus was about himself, but it was clear to the Jewish people. Jesus claimed to be God.
But I want to divert here and focus on life’s second most important question found in Psalm 8:4… What is man? What is a human being?
I have a seminary degree, and I only mention that because I am a lay person like you, and I got this degree more for personal spiritual enrichment and to just be a better lay preacher and Bible teacher. (At least I hope it has helped me in that way!) And one class I had to take covered anthropology, and when several people heard this – they were surprised, shocked really. Anthropology is the study of humans and human culture, and they were surprised for a couple reasons.
One, they tended to associate anthropology with secular university and typically an evolutionary perspective of humanity. And two, they also thought you went to seminary to learn about God – not about humans!
But the doctrine of man is important. It is a close runner up to the first question about Jesus. What is a human being? It is the entry to the study of all other doctrines or Christian beliefs. Maybe I am making you uncomfortable. But think about it. If God had not created humanity, there would have been no need for the Incarnation – that is Jesus coming down from heaven to live a human life among his creatures, and to die on the cross for the sin of the world.
What humanity is understood to be will color or influence our perception of what needed to be done for humanity, how it was done, and the ultimate purpose and destiny of human beings.
Our anthropology will determine how we understand ourselves and how we do theology. And you know, everyone here today is a theologian. Theology is just thinking about God and what you believe about God. You think about God, right? You have beliefs about God, right? You are a theologian! The question is, are you a good one or a bad one? Are your beliefs about God accurate or inaccurate?
We all need to be growing in our knowledge of God because we never graduate. It is a life long journey, and actually it is an eternal one. Even in heaven, I don’t think we will fully grasp everything about God. If we did, then we’d be God. And with that let’s return to the question: What is man? What does it mean to be a human being?
There are lots of ideas out there. Is humanity just a highly evolved animal like Charles Darwin taught? Are we just an unplanned cosmic accident? Are we just orphans in an unfriendly universe?
The worst consequence of atheism was to leave man orphaned in a vast vortex of blind force. It is bleak and depressing view of this world.
Many people who believe in evolution deny that they are atheists, and indeed, not all evolutionists are atheists. There are some, who try to blend Christianity and macro-evolution, but I won’t go there – that is a topic for another time. But my point is this:
The fact remains that evolution itself is atheistic. Although not all evolutionists are atheists, all atheists believe in evolution. The very purpose of evolutionary theory is to explain the origin and development of all things naturalistically – that is, without the super-natural, without God. If evolution is the true explanation of life, God is redundant.
And that’s what this comes down to. The debate is not: God versus Darwin, the Bible versus evolution, or religion versus science. Boiled down to the basics, the great origins debate is about God versus no God. And it can be simplified even further. The great origins debate is really about the Creation story. Fundamentally, there are two versions of creation: The Bible tells one story, and the Darwinists tell another.
The Darwinist story of this world is in stark contrast to the Bible’s story. In Darwinism, nature is all there is. As Carl Sagan said: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” – No, Carl Sagan, you got it wrong. (as brilliant as he was)
We worship the eternal Triune God – the God that always was and always will be.We know the Gloria Patri. “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” We can take those words for granted and fail to see the depth of meaning for our everyday life.
– Do you really grasp the bleakness and hopelessness of a Darwinist view of the world? This means that the world and humanity came about through impersonal, blind, purposeless chance.
Think of the implications: There is no real reason for us being here.
We are orphans in an unfriendly universe. Humanity is not accountable to anyone, because no one is responsible for our existence.
That means man or humanity becomes their own point of reference.
Man is the center of all things.
Darwinist theory left the lab or classroom, and spilled out into popular culture or everyday life. So many people today, while they are not atheists, and may never even think about creation and evolution, nonetheless have a way of life that is pursued without any reference to God. Man has become like his own god, living in any way that he or she pleases. We’ve lost our moorings. Truth has become relative, and God’s Word deemed irrelevant.
It is like Romans chapter 1 has stepped off the page and is being lived out in front of us. Our culture today is in chaos. Romans 1:25 says:
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” – A society that denies the supernatural usually ends up elevating the natural to supernatural like status.
Romans 1:28 goes on to say: “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.”
Indeed, there is such confusion in our society today that some people don’t even know the difference between a male and female anymore. The state of our culture should not fill us with disdain, disgust, or despair, but compassion. People need the Gospel. They are being suffocated by an anti-God worldview. We as Christians need to be able to share the good news that there is Creator God, and through faith in Christ, we become a child of God – we are not orphans adrift in the universe. There is a personal God who loves us and cares for us.
The Bible’s story of creation begins with God as a pre-existing superintelligence. God brought the universe into existence out of nothing, simply by speaking – “Let there be” proclaims God in Genesis. This was planned, initiated, and sustained by God. Because humans are a part of this, then there is a purpose to our existence. We are part of the plan. And we are accountable to God; our lives are to contribute to God’s glory and the fulfillment of his plan for this world.
Briefly…Did you note how Romans 1:28 said that they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God so they ended up in depravity? That should encourage us as believers to be growing in our knowledge of God. Sometimes we need to challenge ourselves to keep on learning – to bump ourselves up a grade level in the Christian life. We need to stretch ourselves a bit to study Scripture more deeply or read a book that gets us thinking more deeply about our beliefs.
But to keep moving…So, what is a human being? I keep asking that but not quite getting to it. Charles Darwin describes man “as the most efficient animal to ever emerge on earth.” That is a degrading view of humanity. More important than what Darwinism thinks of humanity – is what God thinks of humanity! Psalm 8:4-5 tell us:
“What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.”
Note the emphasis there. It says we are “a little lower than the angels.”
It does not say we are “a little higher than the animals.”
Genesis 1:26 tells us: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;” -and verse 27 continues – “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
The key to man’s identity is found in the fact that God created us. We are part of creation, but we have a unique place in the creation. Animals are made “according to their kind” but humans are made in the image and likeness of God. We are set apart from the rest of creation.
Psalm 8 even says that we are crowned with glory and honor. We are the masterpiece of God’s creation, and we were given the privilege and responsibility of having dominion – of being the caretakers of this world. But instead of ruling over creation as God intended, we have all but ruined creation. Something went wrong.
We know what happened in Genesis chapter 3 when Adam and Eve fell into sin. Psalm 8 hints at what went wrong. Did you note that Psalm 8 begins and ends with the exact same words? “O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth.” While Psalm 8 is focused on the dignity of humanity, it is cushioned between these statements about God’s greatness. And David, looking up at the stars, is humbled by his seeming smallness compared to the vast night sky created by God. If that was David’s reaction 3,000 years ago, how much more should it be ours in an age of astrophysics and space exploration? In one sense, we really are small and insignificant, yet God sees us and cares for us, and has crowned us with glory and honor.
Humanity is wonderful, but what makes us great is that God created us and we are made in his image. The chronic problem of humanity is that we fail to accept our place as creatures of God who are dependent on him. An important aspect of what it means to be human is to accept our status as creatures and realize our limitations.
Failing to accept our limitations, and live accordingly, leads to sin. It is what led Adam and Eve into sin. Satan told them that they could become more like God and know what God knows. They weren’t content with their creaturely limitations. Being made in the Image of God was not enough.
We are no different, and we are easily tempted. We are discontent, envious, entitled, prideful, unthankful. We make our happiness or success the ultimate end. If we are honest, too many of our prayers are for our will to be done in our life, instead of for God’s will to be done in our life. We want what we want, and we can fail to prayerfully consider if what we want is what God wants for us.
Sin defaced or marred God’s image in humanity. We still reflect and image God, but not in the same way that Adam and Eve did before their fall into sin. It is because humans have such high value that sin is so tragic. When a cheap trinket from the Dollar Store is broken, we toss it to the side with a shrug. But when an expensive item of special value to us is damaged, we are upset.
Is there hope for God’s marred image bearers? Yes, of course there is. God cared so much for his creation that in Genesis 3:15 there is already a hint of God’s plan to bring redemption to fallen humanity and to all of creation.
Jesus Christ came to earth as a man. The glory of the Incarnation is that it sets before us an unfallen, sinless man – the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, in his Incarnation, is the image of God. God is like Christ, and Christ is like God, but more than that – Christ is God.
What is God, the unseen God, like? – Jesus.
What is sinless, unfallen, man like? – Jesus.
The humanity of our Lord was not something that hindered him from revealing God, it was the very means of that revelation.
The Bible condemns the sin and the sins which have, in essence, dehumanized us. And the Bible also tells us of the divine-human Christ, who died for those very sins and to restore our full humanity.
The theme of Scripture is the redemption of humanity and the reversal of the effects of the curse on this earth – through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in his First Coming and future Second Coming.
Both the Old and New Testament speak of a future day when there will be a new redeemed earth.
Everyone from the prophet Isaiah, to Jesus, to Peter, Paul and John speak, in one way or another, about a new creation or the renewal of all things. When Jesus returns in power and glory he will set this world right. He will rule and reign in righteousness. And the curse of Genesis 3? Revelation 22 says that: “No longer will there be any curse.”
We know how the story ends and it is glorious! When you are confused by current events or anxious about the future, remember that Jesus is Lord of all, and one day he will rule on earth as he does now in heaven. Keep praying for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven.
* At the end I recommended these two books:
The God Who is Real: A Creationist Approach to Evangelism and Missions. By Henry Morris.
Bruce and Stan’s Guide to How It All Began. By Stan Jantz and Bruce Bickel
* If this was a paper, my bibliography would include titles by: Nancy Pearcey, Henry Morris, C.I. Scofield, Millard Erickson, Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz, John Stott, Warren Wiersbe, and more.