Say no to the God Swap.

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Well Good Morning folks. Isn’t that stunning?

We’re in the second week of this our new series in the book of Genesis. AND last week we saw that in one sense Genesis 1 is slightly frustrating – because it doesn’t answer all the questions we might want it to answer.

BUT what Genesis 1 is there to do in the Bible – this is its purpose: It is to persuade you never to never swap this God – the God of creation – for any other God.

So slightly random question to get us going: Have you ever had that experience where you have had pudding envy?

You look at someone else’s pudding – perhaps you’re at a restaurant and you thought it was a good idea to order the Sticky Toffee Pudding, and then the Banoffee pie comes out and it’s massive and it looks lush!

And so then there is this real nervousness – oh no – I might have made a mistake. AND sure enough here comes your pudding and it’s just this puny little mouthful of a thing.

And everything in you just wants to swap it for the Banoffee pie – “Can we swap? Why don’t we share? Come on, we could go halfers?”

Folks, this is why Genesis chapter 1 was written: To make sure that you never have – not pudding envy – but God envy.

Because the context it’s believed Moses wrote this book was in-between leading God’s people out of slavery in Egypt with all the false gods the Egyptians had there – and into the promised land in Canaan, with all of the idolatry that went on there.

So the temptation to “God Envy” lay literally behind and before them! AND it does so for us too.

• Because if you’re a Christian you’re probably tempted to look at other people and their lives and think that they look a bit more exciting than yours.
• And that what they live their lives for – what they worship – seems a bit more powerful or reasonable in our culture than our God and his ways.
• For when we think about him – compared to the world around us – he’s not that impressive.
• He’s just this little thing on the margins.

AND so we have God envy.

However subtle the pull is on us, we are tempted to think: “Perhaps I should just swap my God, for that?”

Look at what it says later on in the Bible, in that reading Leslie Ann brought us from Romans chapter 1 – it says: “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”

Do you see? That’s God envy. Rather than worshipping the God who created us, instead we worship other things. That’s what we do! We get more excited about people and their thoughts and ideas – than the creator.

And so God, as he starts out on his great account of the Bible – his love letter to humanity – He says: “Here I am! Don’t miss who I really am.”

• Genesis 1 invites us – As that video just said – to look at the brush strokes of creation, in order to see something of God’s extravagant character.
• As through his creating and designing and sustaining – we come face to face with the God of Power, Order and Beauty.

So come with me on this journey and let’s enjoy meeting our maker IN his creation together. Let’s start with…

1. POWER

The raw power of God – that shatters the darkness.

“In the beginning,” we read, “God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep...”

Can you sense the anticipation? It’s all about to kick off!

AND sure enough in verse 3 the Lord God provides the spark: “And God said... let there be light.”

There is something magnificent in the simplicity of God’s power. The darkness which is everywhere – is immediately destroyed by the light… as God speaks.

You see His power is located in his word. He simply speaks and immeasurable power is unleashed.

God’s words are nothing like my words. Someone’s power is seen in how effective their words are. We all know this, don’t we?

So imagine a Trainee Teacher in a secondary school. It’s year 8 Maths – and the kids come in from break and the noise levels are rising, and stuff is getting chucked about. And the teacher tries to settle them down by shouting: “Quiet!”

What happens?

The storm is not settled with that word. “Be quiet. Settle down. Now!”

Granted some Trainee Teachers have real authority – but I was one once, and I know the kids can spot them from a mile away and always try to make the most of it!

BUT then the Head walks in, “What is going on here? Sit down!” Silence. The only sound is bottoms hitting seats.

Someone’s power is demonstrated in the effectiveness of their words. AND here is God – here’s how powerful his word is – God is able to speak and light comes into being.

I can’t imagine what that moment would have been like. Can you imagine? The darkness all around, then suddenly – BANG – and there’s light!

That is the power of God’s word. AND that is the direction of travel here in Genesis chapter 1: Darkness to light.

It’s woven into each day of creation – like in verse 5: “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

Hold on! Does that sound right to you? That’s the wrong way round, isn’t it?

Surely it should say: “There was morning and there was evening, the first day.” Because in our thinking that’s how it works, right? “Ah! It’s the end of the day, I’ll go to bed now.”

So why does Genesis have all mixed up? Because what’s the direction of travel? You move from darkness to light.

And so in every single day of creation it’s the same – God has set up a pattern that darkness is followed by light.

• So every day this world turns.
• Every day the Sun rises.
• Every dark night that turns to glorious day – it’s a reminder to us – that we have a God who brings light into our darkness… by his word!

Folks, there is so much in our world that is dark, isn’t there?

• There is darkness all over the place.
• I see darkness in my own heart.
• I see darkness in the experiences my friends and family – and in many your lives too.
• I see darkness in the sorrow and the weeping of our world.

BUT the message of Genesis chapter 1 – the message of the Bible is: That darkness does not win. It will not win. It cannot win.

Because “God said, let there be light.”

And that is why it would be crazy to swap this God for other gods.

And yet that’s the danger. The danger is that our response to the darkness, and sorrow, and suffering, and death, and pain – is to look to other lights. To look to created lights, rather than… the light creator.

I’m sure you’re far too sophisticated to know the words to “That’s what makes you beautiful” by One Direction. But I’m also sure many of you remember it. The One D boys sing in that song: “Baby, you light up my world like nobody else.”

And can I say to you that’s what we’re like as people. We look to other things, other people, relationships, careers, hobbies, “our” leisure time, Netflix, the shops and pubs being again, the end of Coronavirus restrictions – and we say: “That’s what lights up my world. This is what gives me light in my darkness – or it would do if only I could have it.”

But to live like that is to swap…

• The God who said, “Let there be light…”
• The God who physically stepped into the mess of our lives and declared “I am the light of the World!”
• The God who 3 days after the desperate, darkness of the cross – brings new resurrection life into being in the dawning of Easter Day.
• AND the God who has promised therefore one day to take us home to be with him where “night will be no more” – and we will “need no light of lamp or sun, for he will be our light.”

That is to swap Him… for other, lesser lights.

So let me ask you this morning: What or who lights up your world? When you think of God, would you say: “You are the light of my life. In my darkness I run to you. You light up my world like nobody else.”

We’ve seen the POWER of God, so let’s turn secondly to his sense of…

2. ORDER

You see God doesn’t create randomly. He creates in such an ordered, clear way. He takes what is formless in verse 2 – and gives it form.

So on days 1-3 – God creates habitable spaces.
And then in days 4-6 – he fills up those spaces.

• So on day 1 – in verse 4: “…he separated the light from the darkness…” he makes night and day – AND then on day 4 he makes the sun, the moon and the stars.
• On day 2 – in verse 6 he separates the sea from the clouds – AND then on day 5 he makes fish and the birds to fill the sky and the sea.
• And again on day 3 he makes the land – AND on day 6 he makes the animals – and then us to populate it.

Do you see? There is a correlation. There is an order to what he’s doing. It’s not random.

He’s not going: “Ok, we’ll have a giraffe, and then we'll have a star, and we’ll have a lake over here, oh dear where’s that Giraffe gone – Help! We’d better make Africa.” No, it’s not like that! There is a beautiful pattern – a design at work.

Now Mary Poppins – if you have ever seen Mary Poppins? She just clicks her fingers and everything gets tidied up, doesn’t she?

But that’s not real!

I’ve tried!

BUT God speaks and everything gets ordered. That is real.

• And that means that order is good.
• It means effective administration is good.
• It’s why it was time well spent this week for me to order my thoughts, rather than speaking off the cuff this morning – nobody wants that! We’d be here all day!
• And it’s why government is good.
• And it’s why we long for good, effective, just and fair government. And it’s right for us to feel frustrated when it isn’t. We long to be well lead.

I mean why does God create the sun, moon and stars? Not just to give light, but did you notice in verse 16-18? It was to govern – “…to rule over the day and over the night...”

The sun, moon and stars do you notice that they bring order to the calendar? God gave them to you and I so that we could tell the time! They are to mark out the days, and the months and the years.

God sets up order within his creation. Order to be submitted to. Order to be delighted in, not to be fought against.

BUT we tend to fight against order. We want to rule. We want to be in charge. We want to establish our own order, to put things straight in our own way.

BUT God is the great order bringer. You cannot put things straight without calling out to him and listening to him – without trusting him.

And therefore if you feel like life – your life, life in our country, life in your home country, life on planet earth – if you feel like it is chaotic and disordered, can I humbly suggest that you are not the one to fix that? You are not the one to click your fingers and hope that everything falls into place.

Actually what you need is the God who spoke order into creation in the first place.

So perhaps this morning you want to confess that – to say: “Father God, I’m sorry that I’ve been so vain, so proud and tried to sort myself, my problems, my family, the chaos of my world – I’ve tried to sort it all out myself. Please forgive me”

And look to Jesus. He died so that you could be forgiven. He died so that you could brought back into the right place God has for you.

And then finally there’s...

3. BEAUTY

… here, isn’t there?

• The darkness is filled with light
• The formlessness is filled with order
• And the emptiness is filled with beauty.

God is NOT boring. If you’ve got a view of God that he is somehow boring and rubbish – You’ve really missed the mark.

We saw just a brief snatch of that in that video earlier on. And throughout this section – did you notice this? – There is not just the beauty of a wondrous creation, but so much variety in it too.

I don’t know if you ever used to have the same experience I had when I was younger, but myself and my brother and sister would when we visited relatives – as the adults got their tea, we’d get a cup of squash and we’d be asked: “Would you like a biscuit?”

AND essentially there were 2 types of relatives we’d visit at this point…
• The ones who would bring out a Plate of 20 Digestive biscuits – which is fine if you like Digestives.
• BUT then there were the relatives who would bring out one of those massive variety packs – with every different type of biscuit you could imagine in it.
• In fact, there was one relative who would always bring out one of those boxes AND a whole plate of Mr. Kipling French Fancies and Angel Cake slices and Apple Pies.

And we’d be like: “Yes! You’re our sort of relative! Let’s come here more often Mum and Dad!”

AND that’s what God is like here in Genesis 1!

God doesn’t just make 1 type of tree, do you notice? He makes a whole variety box full of them? All sorts of trees – “…according to its various kind…” There is vegetation. There is fruit. It’s sooo good.

And do you see that the seas are teeming with life – in verse 20 [PP18]: “And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth…”

God doesn’t say, “Fine, we’ll have a fish, maybe 10. There you go.” There’s tons of them.

And then we do a series on the BBC called the Blue Planet, and we send down these probes deeper than anyone’s ever gone into the ocean and they discover new species of fish that no one has ever seen before and they’ve been there for thousands of years – swarming around, having a great time worshipping God by their very existence – even though no one even knew they were there!

Don’t ever think that God is some nasty little miserly God. He creates diversity and beauty and variety in it’s abundance – AND shares it all generously with you!

And God likewise fills the emptiness of the land (I love this!) – creating things with seeds in them in verses 11-12. So that it will go on filling. So that it will always be a place of life and fullness.

And so he tells the birds and the fish to be “be fruitful and multiply and fill...”

And then he fills the land with creatures too.

And over and over we are told that God looked: “And God saw that it was good.”

If you’ve ever visited an aquarium or a zoo, or been on safari or stood on a mountain top at sunrise and gone “WOW!” – Then you’ve experienced the same joy in seeing God’s creation as he did when he smiled over it in Genesis 1 and said, “Yes, this is good!”

So why would you want to swap THAT God for anything else? That’s the big question Genesis 1 asks us.

• Have you exchanged this God – for created things?
• Have you put his powerful word – which brings forth light and order and beauty – on to one side?
• Are you tempted to put your trust in human wisdom, in human ideas, in all the ideologies of the age – which claim to be our salvation BUT often only seem to stoke the chaos, and soil the beauty, and snuff out the light? That is what we do as humans when we move away from this God! We are cursed without him!

So choose this one – the one true God – who brings light to our darkness, and orders our chaos, and fills our emptiness – and makes it beautiful. Choose the one revealed in Jesus. Choose the God of all the earth.

AND make it your goal every day to worship him with all the gifts he has given you.

Let me pray for us… and then we’re going to set our hearts on him in song.

“Father God, we thank you that you made the heavens and the earth. You made everything. It was formless and you gave it order. You took what was dark and you brought light.

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