In the Beginning was the Word…
Study Guide, January 29, 2023
Pastor Clay Olsen
Our family has played a lot of ‘Board Games’ over the years. I’m sure yours has too. And they all come with their own sets of rules of course. But we especially got a kick out of one of them where the creator of the game seemed to have anticipated push back on the rules. So he added this remark: ‘You no make-a the game…you no make-a the rules!’ If you create the game, you also have the right to make the rules.
You see where we are going with this, right? Gen 1:1- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” NASU As the sole Creator of the heavens and earth, God has the sole right to make the rules of how the game of life is to be played…even though it’s not a game, but still, it does come with rules. Or, we should say, ‘Life on Planet Earth comes with clear and definite instructions for how to live life as given by its Creator!’ God has both revealed His instructions and defined the actions that have been designed for our good and for our blessings. And that is something very important to remember, since the world twists God’s commandments and so often portrays them as being more like ‘restrictions’ rather than ‘instructions. But no, all of God’s commandments and instructions are designed and defined out of God’s love for those He has created in His own image. And that’s one of the major truths that needs to be communicated and reinforced to our world around us. And ‘why’? Because one of the first schemes of the enemy of God and humanity was to seek to convince people that God was withholding ‘good’ from them through His commandments to them.
Do you remember the scheme? Gen 3:4-6- “The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” NASU
Mark it down: God’s commandments for us are not given to withhold good from us. Rather, God’s commandments for us are given to impart God’s best to us! And God’s best is always the blessed! But when we choose against God’s best, we are not choosing ‘good’ at all, rather we are choosing harm; harm to ourselves and harm to others around us. Just like when our first parents chose what they assumed was ‘good’, they discovered they had chosen harm…harm to themselves and to future generations. Prov 15:32- “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.” NLT
One major lesson our first parents learned from their Fall into sin was the reality that they were not designed to determine nor capable of defining what is ‘good’ in life. For ‘good’ is determined and defined by the Creator of what is truly ‘good’. And what is truly good is always what God has commanded us and instructed us to pursue. Think about it: History is filled with the stories of those who, in various ways, ate poisonous fruit because it ‘looked good’ to them…or chose to pursue poisonous positions or poisonous relationships…and so on, thinking they were ‘good’, when, in reality, they were ‘destructive and damaging’. Again, one of the earliest life lessons in the history of mankind is that mankind is incapable of determining and defining what is ‘good’. That understanding of what is ‘good’ can only be revealed to us by the Creator of what is truly good. And, Praise God, He has revealed to all mankind what is truly ‘good’ and how we can choose His ‘good’ in each of our lives. Here is just one example: 2 Tim 3:16-17- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” NASU The Scriptures both define what is good and what will be good…lasting good, both now and forever.
Another major lesson they learned from being deceived and led into sin and harm by the devil was that ‘good’ was never intended to be the goal of their choices or highest desires anyway…rather ‘godliness’ was and is to be the goal of every person created by God in His image. They had bought the lie from the devil that if they would define what is good for themselves, then they would ‘be like God’. Not at all! That was the devil’s great lie! For in sinning against God what they would be like, is that they would be like him, the devil…they would be like the little ‘g’ god…which is what the devil is called. They would be like the ‘god’ of this world, not like the God of all Creation! Satan was really saying, “You’ll be like me.” Anytime you choose against God is when you are most like Satan. Anytime you choose to trust and obey God’s Word is when you are most like God.
Be very careful of the goals you choose and the goals you set your purpose and affections upon. For your goal may ‘look good’ to you…may ‘seem good’ to you…and may even be encouraged to you by others. But if your goal is ungodly, then just like the devil had proposed…it will result in harm to you, and even like with our first parents, harm also to the generations which follow in your footsteps of your deceived and damaging choices.
Which leads us back to our exploration of the two greatest commandments for all people to know and to follow, both for God’s glory and for our good… ‘Love God supremely’ and ‘Love others sacrificially’. And once again, since God is the Creator and the Source of all things, we can only understand and then act upon ‘Loving God supremely’ and ‘Loving others sacrificially’ when we do so according to what God has determined and defined in what He has revealed about both! Which also brings us to the amazing description of God by the Apostle John in John 1:1- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” NASU
And how fascinating that the Apostle even stated this truth in a ‘trinitarian’ format. But also, how fascinating that John identifies God in terms of ‘communication and revelation’; as being ‘the Word, the Logos of the Universe’. John is declaring to us so many things here, but one thing that he is emphasizing over and over and over again is that God is the very Logos of Life – the Great Communicator to all His creation! God is not the ‘Deist’ type of God, where He simply created a world that He would then leave alone for the creatures of Earth to determine and define how to live life however they chose or by whatever ‘seemed good’ for people. (And I mean ‘creatures’ in a good way here…) But no…to the exact contrary, in the beginning God, who is absolutely relational and communicational by nature, created the heavens and the earth, and the human family of earth, and immediately began communicating with His newly created family! Why? Because our God is by nature a ‘Relational God’! He created us for intimate relationship with Him! A relationship that would be built upon communication and His helpful instruction and our everyday fellowship. That’s why He moved over 40 authors over a period of 1500 years from every walk of life on three different continents in different times and in different places and in different languages to record and to reveal His words to all mankind so that people would know who their Creator is, the great Logos of the Universe, and be able to know Him in a Born Again relationship with Him, and to communicate with Him, and to fellowship with Him in their everyday lives, through what He has spoken and is speaking to them through His Word. A subtitle for the Bible could be: “Let’s Talk”, signed, “God”.
God is with us, and He is not silent. He wants to teach us what is His best for us, and to protect us from our own distorted thinking about what is good but may in fact be poisonous to our souls. But people have to choose whose voice they want to hear: If you want to hear from God you will choose to listen for what’s godly. You will align your affections and your desires to what is godly. You will spend time with Him in His Word to know your God better and walk with Him closer. But, just like in the Fall into sin…if you are only listening to and looking for what seems good to you, then you open yourself up to another voice…to that voice of the little ‘g’ god of this world. And if you persist on desiring what is good over what is godly, then that voice will become the loudest voice in your life, and God’s voice will fade as you fade away from Him in sin.
One of the clearest signs of what pursuing godliness looks like is when you are looking to God to determine what is truly good in life and looking to Him to define every good thing in life. What our default attitude is to be toward everything in life, from Government to Education to Medicine to Science to Marriage to family to Church to Service to Career to Culture to the Here and the Now, and to Heaven and Hell…what our greatest desire is to be is to know what God has declared about everything in life and how God has defined everything in life, because your desire is to please and follow the God who loves you most, and simply wants you to love Him back.
And isn’t it interesting that even this goes back to the question our first parents had to face. It’s basically the first and greatest commandment: Matt 22:37-38- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” NKJV Love God supremely…even above yourself. That’s what our first parents choice was about: who would they love first and love most: their God or themselves?
Have you ever thought much about the fact that God had told our first parents that they were free to choose from any tree in the garden, which numbered in the hundreds, at just the lowest guess! Gen 2:16-17- “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” NASU
God essentially said to them: “This is all for you. I made all of this for you. And everything that I made for you is yours to enjoy. And every choice that you make will be pleasing to Me and be a blessing to you. Every choice will be a godly choice…except for one.” And as we know, that was the one that was ‘ungodly’. But, and here’s the point: It was also the one that ‘looked good’ to them… ‘seemed good’ for them. And when they chose what ‘seemed good’ to them, but was actually an ungodly and sinful choice for them to make, they put themselves above God in who and what they loved! They now wanted to please themselves first…not their God!
Here’s a question: Is there a way to measure what you most love? How about letting the Apostle Paul answer that? Gal 1:10- “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” NLT Who you want to please most is who it is you love most. Paul wanted to please the Lord Jesus Christ most because he loved the Lord Jesus Christ most…even above himself. His motto? “Not I, but Christ.” That’s loving God supremely.
You also measure your love toward God by learning all you can about what God has revealed and then seeking to live according to what God has revealed. Two things the Apostle John said about loving God: First:1 John 5:3- “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” NASU James said: “Show me your faith by your works. What fruit has grown from your faith?” And John says: “Show me your love for God by your obedience to God. What have you done about what God has said?” Jesus asked those around Him who were choosing their ways above His ways: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46 NASU
And Second: 1 John 4:16- “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” NASU Oh, but you see, one of the favorite mantras of the world is: “Love is love”, and then they use that mantra as an excuse to do and to pursue anything that they love to do and pursue. But back to the source: Until a person knows ‘Who’ is love, they will never know ‘what’ is love. You cannot know or understand ‘what’ love is until you come to know and understand ‘Who’ love is. Just like with ‘Truth’. You cannot know or understand what is ‘truth’ until you come to know and understand ‘Who’ is truth. Truth is not foremost a ‘what’…truth is foremost a ‘Who’. Jesus is the source of Truth. As Jesus said: “I am the Truth!” Therefore, every belief, philosophy, or opinion by the world is to be measured by the declarations and the definition of Truth as revealed to us in Jesus Christ and through His Word, the Word of Truth. In the same way, God is Love. God is the source of Love. And therefore, every idea about love, every sentiment concerning love, every philosophy about love is to be measured by the declarations and the definition of love as revealed to us in God and through the Word of God.
Which also means that anything that the world may call love or say love is or do under the mask of love that is not in harmony with God, Who is love, and is not in agreement with God’s Word…it is not love at all, but only another form of what ‘seems good’ to people, just like it seemed good to Adam and Eve, but brought ruin to their souls. It is in reality complete disobedience to what God has commanded. It is repetition of the sin of rebelling against God’s Words just like in the Fall of Man in sin. Anything, whether it be false beliefs or ungodly behaviors, is rebellion against God, which is then the opposite of ‘love’…for God is love, and whatever is not of God is not love…God calls it ‘Sin’. And sinning against God is the opposite of loving God. Rather, following His Word, living by His Word, and seeking to please the One who is Himself ‘The Word’ is what it is to love God supremely.