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The Gospel for the City in Genesis 4

Genesis 4 gives evidence of humankind’s downfall. The brokenness of human relationships brought about by sin is seen in fratricide. The seeds of false religion begin to sprout in Cain’s tokenism through which he seeks God’s favor in the deficient works of his own hands.  The jealous hatred of the true way is seen in the murder of Abel.  Yet, the mercy of God is evident as He allows Cain to live and the common grace of God is seen in that fallen, rebellious humans advance culture and civilization in God’s world. The image of God is effaced but not erased; however, their creative endeavors serve rather as an idolatrous refuge instead of acts of faithful worship to their Creator God. In rebellion they seek to build a city in which they find refuge, while the godly, like Seth, begin to look for a ‘heavenly city, whose builder and maker is God.” Through Seth, God’s promise to give a ‘seed’ that will destroy the Serpent begins to take shape.

Those in rebellion against God at times seek to develop culture and civilization as an idolatrous refuge from the ravages of sin. The highest expressions of human culture are found in urban centers with their magnificent art museums, orchestras, theaters, and institutions of learning. Cities are the temples where economics and commerce are worshipped. Yet, these man-made temples become empty substitutes as one seeks vainly to find meaning and significance in life. Instead of advancing culture and commerce as an expression of worship and service to God, we seek in cultural advancement the fulfillment in life that only a relationship with God can bring.

On the other hand, cities often give evidence of the kind of jealous and violent rejection of true worship that Cain had for Abel  Christianity has not often done well in the cities, overwhelmed by the appealing lure of high culture and overly challenged by the problems of crime, poverty, poor education, and racism. Consequently, Christianity is marginalized, considered irrelevant, deemed powerless to compete with the appeal of high culture, and fearful to coexist with the challenges of a broken society. The Christian answer has been to flee the city and to seek refuge in a monocultural, more pristine, suburban world, instead of seeking refuge in the living God. “White flight,” as it has been called, is the sad public confession of an anemic Christianity that has lost faith in the power of the gospel to transform lives and societies.

Nevertheless, there are some who believe that the seed, promised through the line of Seth, who would ultimately destroy the works of the devil, has come. They are neither enamored by the appeal of high culture nor dismayed by the brokenness of urban communities. They see the beauty of the gospel and the deep –soul-satisfaction of the gospel as the answer for the empty worship of cultural advancement. They see the power and forgiveness of the gospel as the answer for the broken relationships with God, with family, with the world, and within themselves that are the root of most of the social ills of the city.

Those who know the true and living God through the promised Redeemer King seek through the gospel the transformation of people, culture and civilization as sub-regents under His rule and as priests who seek to worship Him in all they do. Nevertheless, as they do so in their temporal cities, they continue to look for the eternal city that God builds.  “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

 

The Gospel for the City in Genesis 3

As we saw in Genesis 2, God established a relationship with Adam — the King to his sub-regent and the Sovereign Lord to a priest. In Adam’s relationship as sub-regent and priest he was to rule under God’s command and worship God through his obedient priestly service in the Garden-Temple. Instead, Adam revolted and chose to act independently of God, believing the seductions of the anti-god, the Serpent. Adam relinquishes faith in God’s plan for his life and instead seeks to achieve life his own way. In so doing, he experiences death, initially seen in his alienation from God. He no longer worships and anticipates the presence of God but rather shrinks back in fear, for he knows that his sin calls for judgment.

Romans 5 reminds us that all of us were in Adam. His revolt it our revolt. His sin is our sin. His alienation from God and banishment from the garden is our plight.

Genesis 3 explains to us the feeling of banishment with which we live. We sense that something is lost. We cannot always define that lost-ness but nevertheless it is common to all humans. We search futilely to fill the void and regain what is lost.

The urban centers of the world increase our sense of lost-ness and loneliness. Yes, you may feel lost and alone in the wilderness or on a secluded mountain top, but you can hear the noises of the city, be pressed upon by the crowds, be surrounded by tall lighted occupied high-rises, and yet be alone. This deep loneliness and lost-ness when suffered in the midst of all the sights and sounds of life is painful. The often fragile and trivial communities of work, neighborhood, and play cannot assuage the loneliness of the soul that is estranged from God. Cities then become a harvest field for the gospel because they prove that neither the best or worst of human culture and society can fill that deep emptiness of the soul.

The cry of Jesus from the cross “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me” is our cry. He suffers banishment from His Father so that we may be restored to the Father. The Paradise that is lost because of human rebellion is regained through the obedient sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

 

The Gospel for the City in Genesis 2

Genesis Two portrays the kingdom of God in its original harmony. God creates man in his own image and places him in His kingdom, a garden-temple, in which Adam offers priestly service to God by extending the garden-temple throughout creation through order and beauty and dominion in the worship of God. God graciously gives Adam a wife with whom he partners in his priestly duties of extending the kingdom of God. All is in harmony, God with man, man with the world, and man with woman.

There is only one restriction in the Garden/temple – ‘to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God lovingly protected humanity from the experiential knowledge of evil. The only way to know evil experientially was to do evil by rebelling against God and eating of the forbidden tree. Adam knew that good and evil existed because of the nature of the tree. He has only experienced good up to this point and need not experience evil, unless he rebels.

Again we are reminded as we read that this harmony has been replaced with struggle. There now exists a tension in man’s relationship with God, with the world, and with other human beings. We know not only the existence of evil, we know the experience of evil, and it has ruined us.

The harmonious world that once was is broken and cries out for a redeemer – One who can defeat the evil that disrupts the harmony of God’s creation, a redeemer who can restore humankind to the priestly work of extending order and beauty and dominion in the worship of God.

Perhaps nowhere is this loss of harmony seen more clearly than in the city. The brokenness of man’s relationship with the world is seen vividly in the plague of poverty, blighted, trash ridden neighborhoods, polluted rivers and streams, poor air quality, diminishing open space, etc. Also, the brokenness of human relationships is seen in the prevalence of divorce, single parent homes, homelessness, economic oppression, racism, and violence. But, most evident is the spirit of rebellion against God. Like Adam city-dwellers often choose the experience of evil rather than worshipful obedience to the Creator God. Rather than do the priestly work of serving and worshiping God, through extending the beauty and order of the Kingdom of God, we choose rather to idolize the created world or rape it for our own selfish purposes.

 

Posted by on August 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

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The Gospel for the City in Genesis 1

In Genesis One we find our Redeemer-King creating and forming a world to be inhabited and ruled by those made in His image. Creation was a gracious blessing and generous gift to humankind. All was perfect; all was glorious.  But, as we read Genesis one, we realize that the harmonious world conditions therein no longer exist. Our hearts are not in unison with God’s repeated summary, “all is good.” Instead our hearts cry out because of the brokenness within our lives and within the created world. 

Though Genesis One provides for us the origin of God’s World, it does not do so in order to generate scientific debate but to provoke spiritual desire. Genesis One exposes us to the good that once was and creates in us a desire to regain what was lost and to know the One who brought such a majestic universe into existence. The subsequent biblical and secular history of humankind, as well as our own personal history, reveals the utter powerlessness of men and women to regain what has been lost. Consequently, we long for a Redeemer-King who can rescue, rule, and restore. Ultimately He is the one who says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5).

So Genesis One is an integral part of the gospel story, telling us that the world, as it is, is not what God intended, and causing us to anticipate One who would restore the world and us to an even greater enjoyment of God’s gracious gift and generous blessing.

T he urban centers of this world can no longer be called ‘good.’ There is no Eden in Philadelphia, Yet living with an awareness of the good that has been lost, city-dwellers seek to find Eden or build it themselves. Their efforts are noble but futile. This is not our world. It is still His. He is the Creator and He alone is wise and powerful enough to restore what is lost and repair what we have broken.  God chooses to begin that restoration in the hearts and lives of those who have rebelled against Him. This is the first step back —  to recognize that this is His world, we have ruined it and are ruined ourselves, and we need to be restored to Him first. Our hearts cry for the One who can do that!

 

Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

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The Gospel in Genesis and in the City

The Gospel in Genesis and in the City

 Introduction

Genesis begins with God and ends with the dying words of Joseph who prophesied that God would visit his people and redeem them from Egypt.  Genesis is a gospel story, i.e. the entire book is the first chapter in the grand narrative of God’s redeeming grace. It begins with the story of creation which prepares us for redemptive themes as God by His word calls light out of darkness and order out of chaos.  Genesis is about blessing and loss of blessing, about innocence and loss of innocence, about exile and a longing to find rest. It is about an Edenic garden-temple and the divine commission of stewardship and worship; it is about rebellion, about spiritual conflict, and the promise of One who would triumph over evil.

Genesis 1-11 provides the prologue to the story line of the Bible in telling us of a once good world that is now fallen, broken, divided, and in rebellion. Genesis 12 begins the redemptive story of how God recreates a new people, a new land,  and a new mission of bringing blessing to the nations of the world. Israel becomes the new humanity to succeed where Adam had failed.  Israel will also fail as Adam did, and as we read the story of Israel, we yet long for the One who will triumph over evil and truly bring blessing to the nations of the world.

Genesis offers insight and encouragement to those who live and minister in urban environments. Though the world began in a garden-temple it eventually arrives at an urban temple. There are indications in Genesis that those who are made in God’s image seek community and urban living offers the promise of community. The first major attempt at city-building in Genesis represents man in rebellion against God. Contrariwise, the New Testament tells us that Abraham was looking for a city, whose builder and maker was God. Abraham desired a city designed for worship, not a Babel like monument to human rebellion. Human cities most often represent rebellion, not worship, and need redemption. Genesis offers much insight into how the unfolding story of the gospel relates to the desperate plight of urban dwellers as they seek to find rest and community in urban temples that worship the creature rather than the Creator.

 

 

Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

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