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What does it mean to be human? 

 

The primary calling is to belong to God.

 

Eight times in Genesis chapter 1 God said and it was. Then in 1v26-28, there is a massive disruption in the narrative to get our attention. God consults Himself within His Triune Being and says ‘God said ‘Let Us’ MAKE man in our own image and likeness’. He had just created out of nothing the heavens and the earth by speaking into the darkness, chaos, formlessness, and the void of Genesis 1v2. Let there be He says eight times and it was good.

 

Now the word ‘make’ implies that God is about to do something very different from just speaking existence into being. He is going to make something that is unique in the whole of His creation up to this point. He makes a man from the dust of the ground. After making his body, God then breathed into His nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living soul.  

 

This reveals the origins of the human story- we came from the dust. Then God makes a woman from the rib of the man by putting him to sleep and, the woman is the very zenith of God’s creation, last does not mean least, it means the very height of His creation, which also speaks something about God himself. Woman means from the Hebrew ‘helper’ just like God is our helper.

 

Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22 are the only four chapters in the entire Bible where there is no sin or any effects of human rebellion against the Creator God. The beginning points to the end. What does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of the eternal Triune God?

 

God is a relational being so this is one way we are created to reflect who God is as a relational being. But the Image of God is to be lived out also in our position as stewards of His creation to

‘Be fruitful, multiply, subdue and have dominion’. 

 

Relational and Positional are two of the fundamental ways we are to live out in the world as Image bearers of the Creator God. This is our primary calling as human beings, to live out the four-fold Creation Mandate-to nurture, cultivate, care for, and develop creation ultimately into a God-glorifying culture also known as the Kingdom of God- First, we must belong to God in relationship with Him to know our primary calling- Belonging to the personal infinite Creator God in relationship with Him. It starts there.

 

 


 

 

Assuming there is a culture-wide identity crisis in 21st century Western culture, the fundamental issue today would be ‘What does it mean to be human? Clearly, Identity and being human are inseparable.

 

Context

At the end of the 19th century, when post-enlightenment thinkers like Nietzsche, Darwin, Marx, and Freud, seemed to lay the foundation for secular humanism, when man tried to get rid of God, and some essential doctrines were attacked in the mid to late 19th century. These post-enlightenment thinkers in their arrogance and rebellion declared that ‘God is dead’, in particular Friedrich Nietzsche.

 

Then moving into the 20th century, what happens is that we have two world wars in the first half of the 20th century and man tries to wipe out man and the atom bomb was invented by Oppenheimer.  So from the mid-19th century in the Enlightenment period, man tries to get rid of God and the interpretation of reality is from within what is called a closed system.

 

In other words, there's no spiritual realm. Everything is just physical. And so that worldview then morphed into a very mechanistic view that we're just the result of evolution. We're complex machines. So all of life became mechanical, and then Social Darwinism is the sort of sociological expression of that worldview.

 


 

 

And that is crucial because what it means to be human is obviously an essential question and it is very fundamental today. There's a large consensus that says that the 20th century is, was the most violent century in human history and that there were more people killed in the 20th century than in any other century in human history.

This was after the post-enlightenment thinkers declared that ‘God is dead’. Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.

 

Now think of the implications for that. Think of the advancements in science and technology combined with the most violent century in human history. What does that say, about what it means to be human? And then, apparently, there's been a war every year of the 21st century.

 

So here we are in the 21st century and the West is trying to work out what it means to be human, even though the West was formed largely by the Biblical Worldview, that human beings are created in the Image and likeness of God. In 21st century, however, you can invent your own identity, especially in relation to sexuality. You can be whatever your subjective preference wants to be.

 

‘Without God, everything is permitted’ (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

 

You can even change your gender. So what it means to be human is a fundamental question and a fundamental issue for the very times in which we live in the context of what could be argued as a culture-wide identity crisis. So going back to Genesis. Before we belonged to God, we were in spiritual darkness and chaos, and we defined reality ourselves.

 


 

The story that we believe that we are living in determines the way we live our lives. This is true for individuals, families, communities, nations, and cultures.  As I said, from the Enlightenment, the story changed from the early 17th century. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Says Psalm 11. It's as if the wicked are mocking the righteous.

 

If the foundations of a whole society are destroyed, then what can you do? What can the righteous do? We have to go back to the foundations because the foundations are already there. We already have the story. The story begins with being created in the image of God, in the image and likeness of the triune God, a relational, communal God. Our position was to ‘be fruitful, multiply, subdue and have dominion’ but for the glory of our Creator and for human flourishing.

 

But the foundations of our origins have been progressively destroyed. In the modern era, it began when human reason replaced Revelation. Modern man has listened to the echo from the serpent in Eden ‘You shall be as gods’. This is what is wrong with the world, we have forgotten God.

 

So, what is the solution to what is wrong with the world?

 

Just as God had brought order out of chaos in Genesis 1v2, to belong to him means that we are to do the same for other people. Despite the variety of different perspectives on Genesis 1v2, if we take the words ‘without form, void, empty, chaos and darkness’. These words speak also of some of the most painful experiences that we as human beings can experience. If your identity and your life in its totality is marked by formlessness, an aching void, emptiness, chaos, and darkness then that human life will know deep suffering. This is what happened as a result of the Fall of man in Eden actually.

 

An essential part of being human then is to be proactive, to move into human lives that tragically experience these poignant words of Genesis 1v2. If we are spiritually healthy, we will feel that we have to bring order out of chaos. We will have to bring light wherever there is darkness. This is how we are called to be like God. Wherever we perceive and observe moral, relational, political, economic, social, communal, educational, or spiritual darkness we are to move into it to bring the Word of God just as God said ‘Let there be light’.

 

This is just one of the ways we can reflect who God really is. Obviously, in many ways, we can't be like God, we cannot create a universe. We can't be everywhere at the same time. So obviously, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and being all-powerful, we can't be like God in his transcendent attributes, but we are called to reflect God, so we have to work out how are we called to reflect God in particular ways.

 

So God said to them, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion. Being fruitful and multiplying does not just mean biological procreation, it is that but so much more. Fundamental to being human is to be fruitful in our lives, to be creative, and to initiate, to care for, nurture, and protect all creational life. Does a loving parent long for their child to be fruitful in their lives? Of course.

 

The second phrase, subdue the earth, means to harness the natural world. It means planting crops, building bridges, designing computers, composing music, creating works of art, and literature, creating beauty, and developing creation. In other words ‘develop the Garden into a God glorifying cultures and civilisations to build the Kingdom of God on earth.  

 

But dominion does not mean to dominate. It does not mean to exploit creation, which of course is exactly what happened after the fall of man. Mankind began to exploit each other and exploit creation.

 

Even those who do not believe in a creator God still obey the creation mandate, because mankind works and explores, invents, creates, and builds civilizations because that's the way we've been designed. So God told them to nurture creation, like water in a plant. He also told them to garden, keep, cultivate, expand, and develop the garden.

 

In other words, take what I have given you and do something beautiful with it. It has been said that God's gift to us is creation, and our gift back to him is culture. In other words, how do we develop a nation and a society? We have to know what story we live in. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This is the true story that corresponds with all reality.  

 

But every nation has its story. Every family has its story and so does every individual. Whatever the story of your family that you were raised in determines the kind of family you will build.  Whatever the story of your nation determines the kind of society that nation will build. In the West today, the story we live in is ‘In the beginning, nothing then evolution. This determines how life will be for a family, a nation, and an entire culture.

 

>Adam was put in the Garden to work and develop it.

 

So, we have to be living in the true story. So Adam was created in holiness, righteousness, and knowledge. So God took the man and put him in a garden and told him to work the garden. In other words, work with your hands. Now this indicates that manual labour with your hands is a very high dignity actually.

 

Even the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, from heaven itself, worked with his hands. Therefore, we must not think that one particular calling is better than or higher than another. All callings are equal before God. Since we are called to care for certain parts of creation, we need to ask ourselves what area of creation we feel drawn to.

 

What do you fear burden for? Where is there darkness and chaos that you feel very strongly about in doing something about? What you feel very strongly about can be the voice of God. What we feel a burden for, what we feel burdened by is a clue to what God has called us to get involved with, that area of creation that we're called to develop, nurture, cultivate, care for, heal, liberate.

 

 

Another aspect of our calling is revealed at the end of Genesis chapter 2, verses 21 and 22, where we see something prophetic. God put Adam

 

Jesus Christ is the final Adam. When he died on the cross, his side was split with a spear, and out flowed blood and water. This is where the Church was born, the Bride of Christ. Just as God brought Eve to Adam, When he returns, Christ will bring his bride to himself, whom he purchased with his own blood from his side to reign with him for all eternity.

 

Now other stories of the world have no hope for the future, for our destiny, for history. Our calling to belong to God in communion with him means we have a glorious future hope. As we will reign with him in the new heavens and the new earth. This is what we must speak into other people's lives, by the way we live our lives, to bring hope into people's lives.

 

Not just for now, but for all eternity. Our life now only makes sense in the light of the end. We offer people hope based on the biblical worldview of creation, where our story begins. The fall of man, what is wrong with the world, the redemption of Christ, the solution to what is wrong with the world, and the consummation, the completion of his redemption, when he brings in the new heavens and the new earth.

 

So God gave them the task of developing creation and its potential to develop culture. Our story begins from the dust of the ground in a garden with two people. And our story will end in a glorious city called the New Jerusalem. With every nation, every tribe, every tongue, every people restored to what we are meant to be.

 

A reflection of the very glory of the eternal triune God. That is why you are on this earth. You are called to reflect the glory of the eternal triune God. And we will reflect the glory of God in the new heavens and the new earth. But we are also called to reflect His glory now. Even when He created us, before we fell, He crowned us with glory and honor.

 

Do we realize this? Do we understand what it means to be crowned with glory and honor? Why? Is this so neglected? When we begin to understand that our true identity is in creation before anything else, and we are created for the glory of God, this is what heals our hearts. This is what sets us free.

 

As I've pointed out before, in Genesis 1 26 to 28, God created man in his own image and said, have dominion. This is called the creation mandate. The cultural mandate, as some call it. In other words, God gave man a job description. Later, just before Jesus ascended to heaven, he said, go into all creation and preach the gospel to all the nations.

 

Make disciples of all the nations. This is called the Great Commission. We must not separate the creation mandate from the Great Commission. This is a really important point. We must not separate the creation mandate from the Great Commission. Because when we separate them, the mission becomes disconnected from all of life.

 

And the glorious gospel stays behind the four walls of the church. Because it's never, it's not meant to be a building. It never was meant to be.

 

Questions to discuss individually or with others:

 

>What does it mean to be an image bearer, to reflect the glory of God

 in all creation, to continue the creation mandate?

 

>What are your thoughts and beliefs on the existence of a ‘culture-wide’  identity crisis in Western culture today? Discuss.

 

 

 

 

 

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