In the first chapter of Genesis, the very first page of the Bible, God gives us the reason why He created man. Because man has completely forgotten about that, throughout the world men and women face problems for which they don’t know what the solutions are. They don’t seem to find meaning and purpose in life. Well, you never find it until you come back to what God says in His word.
You know the Bible is really like a book of instructions – an instruction manual. If you buy a tape recorder, or a washing machine, or some expensive electronic gadget, along with that you will get a little booklet. This booklet is the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use this particular gadget that you have bought. If you are wise, you will just follow the instructions in that booklet exactly. You won’t change a single thing, because you realise what? You realise that the manufacturer knows better than you; how that product was made, how it is supposed to run. If there are certain special warnings given saying, ‘Don’t do this, don’t plug this in here or don’t put a jack into this,’ I am sure you would not experiment. You would just obey because you may blow up a Rs. 10,000 or Rs. 20,000 worth of equipment. You certainly don’t want to lose that much money. You would experiment with things that are cheaper, but not with something very expensive.
Now what is the value of your life? A human life is far more than 20,000 Rupees, far more than many lakhs. In fact, once Jesus said, ‘What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?’ In saying so, He took a balance and placed the whole world with all its wealth, all its glory, and honour on one side, and one human soul on the other side. And He said that one human soul was heavier. He weighed more than the entire world. So you are very valuable. Then how is it that man, who is so valuable, is so careless with following his Maker’s instructions when it comes to how to run his life? That is the tragedy. If you want to know why there is so much chaos in the world and why things have gotten to a real mess, here is the answer: God gave man certain instructions and he never followed them. That is the reason for confusion in the world, in individual lives, in families, and between nations.
So let us look at Genesis 1. We read here about the time when God made different things on this earth. Each day He made something new. But whenever He made any of the things, He never told us the purpose with which He made them. For example, on the first day He created light. What is the purpose? Well, we don’t know. We can guess, but God never said what the reason was. The next day, He created the heavens. No purpose mentioned. The following day He created the dry lands, and the plants and the trees, no purpose mentioned there and so on. And also with the animals, the fish and the birds! But when it came to making man, finally, before He even started making man He said, ‘‘Let us make man in Our image according to Our likeness. And let them rule over the fish in the sea or the birds on the sky.’’
So we see the first purpose with which God created man was that man should show forth the likeness of God. That means if man moved around, you could see what God was like, because God is a Spirit and invisible. God wanted His character to be manifested through a created being. Now, in an earlier study, we had considered how God had made the angels before He made man. But there is no evidence in the Bible that God made the angels in His image. No angels could manifest the likeness of God. That is a unique privilege that God gave to man. Man was made in the likeness of God to show forth God’s own image and character.
Once we understand this, we would see that the whole purpose of Jesus dying for us and redeeming us was in order that we might be brought back to God’s original purpose for us. Supposing we were to draw this in graphical form: think of God’s purpose for man being like a straight line going slightly upwards, because God’s purpose for man was progressive. That was God’s purpose that man should progress in this straight line going upwards. But somewhere in the beginning of that straight line, Adam fell. So you never progress. You just dip straight down. Now let that line go downwards to a pit. What did Jesus do? He came down to the pit, where man was, and lifted him back up to that straight line.
Now man is being brought back to that straight line of God’s purpose for man. So the whole purpose of God for man is not fulfilled in Jesus lifting us up from our sin and our failure. No, that is only bringing us back to the place where Adam was when he fell. It is restoring the failure of Adam; bringing man back to the place where he was before he fell. But then, now we need to understand what God’s purpose is, what is the straight line? That is to reflect His likeness. So it is not enough to say that your sins are forgiven. Many Christians are just happy saying, ‘Well, my sins are forgiven.’ That is like saying, ‘Well, God lifted me up from the pit and brought me up to the straight line.’ But what about progressing along that straight line? We need to understand what that means. It means growing in likeness to Jesus Christ.
You know, when Jesus came to Earth, He didn’t come only to die for the sins of the world. That is only part of His purpose in coming to Earth. His death from the cross was just an act that lasted for six hours on one day. That was it. And He died, He was buried, and He rose again on the third day. But the life that He lived for 33 years, what was that supposed to demonstrate? That was supposed to demonstrate how God wanted man to live on this earth. Jesus’ life was a demonstration of how God wanted man to live. So if you want to know how you are supposed to live. It is very easy. You just got to look at the life of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible. There you have not just in words, but a living demonstration.
See in the Old Testament, there is no example that God gave man. God gave commandments. Everybody knows the Ten Commandments, which is also a picture of how God wanted man to live. But it was a very faint picture- very, very incomplete. All the laws that God gave man about mutual relationships and everything else were all a faint picture. Jesus summed up the Old Testament Law with two sentences. He said the whole law can be summed up in ‘‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’’ In those two verses, those two sentences, the entire duty of man is summed up. But it is far better to have an example that shows us how this is to be done.
Consider if I were to try and teach you swimming. There are two ways in which I could do it. One is, I could explain to you, on a blackboard, by drawing various diagrams on how you must move your hands, how you must move your legs, tec. And then say, ‘Okay, now go and jump in the river, and follow the instructions that you saw on the blackboard and swim.’ You are not going to learn to swim that way. Even if you study very carefully all the diagrams I drew on the blackboard, you will still probably drown. That is a very poor way. But if I were to take you to the river and say, ‘Well, now just watch me as I swim. Just do exactly what I do.’ That is the way you will learn. You see instruction is never as good as example. Any amount of instruction on any subject is never as good as an example.
We could say the Old Testament was instruction. In the New Testament, we have an example. Jesus Christ demonstrated, through His life, what it means to be a human being; how we are supposed to live. When the Bible says we are not under the law, what does it mean? It means we don’t need the blackboard now, because we got an example in Jesus Christ. But, if you don’t have Jesus Christ as your example, then you certainly need to go back to the law. The mistake that a lot of Christians have made is that they say, ‘We are free form the law. We don’t need the Ten Commandments. We don’t need the instructions of God.’ Fine, provided Jesus Christ becomes your example. But if Jesus does not become your example, then you need the law very much so.
And so what does it mean to come under grace; to be free from the law? It means that I have now seen Jesus as my example, who lived on earth, manifesting the nature of God so perfectly. He turned around to His disciples just before He went to the cross and said, ‘If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.’ If you have seen the way I have lived, what I lived for, you have seen what God was like. You have seen that God is kind. You have seen that God is pure. He is holy, loving, humble, everything.
Our calling now is to show forth that same nature of God. You know what we read in Genesis 1:26. God’s original plan for man was to reflect His likeness; to manifest His nature. Now that calling comes to you and me. This is why God has given us the Holy Spirit, so that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can show forth God’s nature in our daily life.
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.