Today Derek presents the second objective of God to our thought life: that is, the need for excellence. Derek uses creation as his example. All that God created was counted as “good.” But when all of creation is taken as a whole, it was considered “very good,” or excellent. God wants excellence in every area. That was His standard at creation, and He’s never lowered it.
It’s good to be with you again, as we draw near to the close of another week. Our theme this week has been: Agreeing with God. I trust you’ve found it inspiring.
In my talks this week I’ve explained that God invites us to walk with Him. That’s a form of fellowship that God desires to have with man—but this means that we have to agree with Him, for the Bible says, “Can two walk together except they be agreed.” To agree means to harmonize, to bring our ways and thoughts into line with God’s. The Biblical word for changing our thinking, in this way, is “repentance,” and that is always the first step in reconciliation with God. So long as our ways and our thoughts are not in harmony with those of God, we are not fully reconciled with God. So to be reconciled with God, we have to change our thinking, and that is to repent. When we do this, when we change our way of thinking and begin to think God’s way, the Bible has a word for that. The word is “meditation.” We begin to meditate in terms of God’s Law and God’s Words and God’s thoughts. And meditation, right meditation, opens the door to God’s favor and blessing.
Now, changing our ways and our thoughts can be presented under four main headings, or, it covers four main areas, and these are the four main areas which I’ve suggested. First, objectives; second, priorities; third, attitudes; and fourth, categories. If we are to agree with God, harmonize with God, think God’s ways, then there are four areas in which we have to change and bring each of these areas into line with God—First, objectives; second, priorities; third, attitudes; fourth, categories.
Now in my talk yesterday I started to share what I believe to be God’s first and ultimate objective which is His own glory and satisfaction, and I suggested that this was summed up in the beautiful words of praise in Revelation 4:11 where the whole creation utters this word of adoration:
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: [Notice the first word there in the list is glory.] For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (KJV)
So it’s for God’s glory and God’s pleasure. That’s the primary and ultimate objective of everything in the universe.
Today I’m going to share a second main objective of God which I call “excellence.” Excellence is one of God’s objectives. For an example of this, I’m going to turn back to the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis. And I want to point out to you that every major stage in creation was followed by divine inspection. God inspected His own work, and only when He was satisfied with its excellence did He continue to the next phase. So let’s just follow through this process of creation, picking out the key verses in Genesis 1, first of all, verses 3 and 4.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from darkness.’” (NIV)
He checked on the light. It came up to his standards. It was good.
“God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good.” (NIV)
He was satisfied with the land and the seas. Genesis 1:12:
“The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (NIV)
That’s the vegetation. It passed God’s inspection. It was good. Then, Genesis 1:16 through 18:
“God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. [That’s the sun and the moon.] He also made the stars. Got set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.” (NIV)
It had to pass His inspection, come up to His standard. Genesis 1:21, the living creatures:
“God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving things with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (NIV)
Fish, reptiles, and birds—they had to pass God’s inspection, come up to God’s standard. Genesis 1:25:
“God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (NIV)
The animal creation again had to pass God’s inspection. He did not move on until He was satisfied that it came up to His standard of excellence. But then we come to the climax, and the wording here is very significant. In Genesis 1:31:
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” (NIV)
Notice, at the end it was not merely good, it was very good. And this brings out, I think, a very important principle. Each part was good, but the whole, when complete, was very good. The principle is, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Each part was good, but when all parts were brought together in harmony with God’s design and God’s purpose, the completed whole was more good than each of the individual parts. Each part, each phase, each section was good, but the completed whole was very good—the principle, the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
When we come to understand these two objectives of God that I’ve been mentioning, first of all, His own glory, and secondly, excellence, and that everything in the universe has got to pass God’s standard of excellence, then we really understand, perhaps for the first time, the true nature of sin. Sin, in its essence, is failure to achieve the objectives of creation—first, God’s glory, and second, excellence. If you don’t see it in that context, you’ll always have a very incomplete and superficial concept of what sin is. Let me say that again therefore. Sin is the failure to achieve the two primary objectives of the Creator—first of all, His own glory, and second, excellence. This is very simply stated in a well known verse in Romans, chapter 3, verse 23, where Paul says:
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (NIV)
That’s the nature of sin; it falls short of God’s glory; it fails to achieve His standard of excellence. You see, a lot of people are good, moral, living people. They don’t commit murder. They don’t commit adultery. They don’t steel. They say, “I’m no sinner.” That’s because they don’t understand the essential nature of sin. Sin, in its essence, is leading a life that robs God of His glory and fails to achieve His standard of excellence.
Now, how can we give the glory back to God of which our sin has robbed Him? The Bible has an answer and it’s important to see it. Paul gives the answer in Romans, chapter 4, verses 20 through 21, where he’s speaking about Abraham as our pattern and the father of all true believers. And this is what he says about Abraham:
“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (NIV)
So you see, Abraham gave glory to God. He fulfilled the purpose of the Creator. How did he do it? By his faith. He couldn’t do it by morality and righteousness because we have all sinned. But out of his sin, in turning to God in faith and believing that God could do what He promised, he began again to give glory to God. So, faith gives back to God the glory of which sin has robbed Him. On the other hand, unbelief continues to rob God of His glory. And then one more important point. Faith, in turn, enables us to achieve excellence. Once again, this is stated by the Apostle Peter, second Peter, chapter 1, verse 5, speaking to Christians who have become believers. He says:
“For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness...” (NIV)
But the word there translated “goodness” actually, in its basic meaning, all through the Greek language up to that time is normally translated “excellence.” Some translations say “moral excellence.” That’s good enough, but I don’t think it’s complete. I think God wants excellence in every area. That was His standard at creation. He’s never lowered it. And the wonderful truth about faith is, that when we have faith in God and in His power to do what He’s promised, then out of that faith we can add excellence. So faith achieves the two purposes which sin failed to achieve. First it gives glory to God. Second, it enables us to achieve God’s standard of excellence.
Well our time is up for today but I’ll be back with you again next week at this same time, Monday through Friday. Next week I’ll continue with this theme: Agreeing with God.