In today's America there is likely more interest in ancestry than at any time in the history of this nation. The American people's interest in genealogy is so great that almost every extended family has at least one person who has a deep interest in tracing "where we came from" and "who we are related to."

Why all the interest? There is no single reason. For some it is a fun thing to do. For others it is a search for personal identity. For others it is a desire to connect with history. For others it is a desire to connect with their cultural heritage. For some it is the determination to connect with a sense of personal worth.

  1. Probably no one has a greater need for a sense of identity than someone who has just been released from a life of slavery.
    1. Being forced to exist in harsh slavery dehumanizes a person.
      1. You are forced to look at yourself as a piece of property instead of a person.
      2. Others treat you like a piece of property.
      3. Your only value is produced by what you are able to perform for others.
      4. What you think does not matter.
      5. What you feel does not matter.
      6. What you need does not matter unless it affects what you can do for those who own you.
    2. For generations the Israelite people existed as slaves in Egypt.
      1. It seems their principle function was to provide the muscle power for building projects.
      2. They had every reason to view themselves as a bunch of nobodies.
      3. When God released them from slavery they were still a bunch of nobodies--they were just freed nobodies instead of enslaved nobodies.
        1. Just because you are given freedom does not mean that your view of yourself instantly changes.
        2. Most of us have seen that truth in our lifetimes.
          1. In 1992, Joyce and I had the opportunity to travel to Russia.
          2. I was given the opportunity to speak in English in a Russian University.
          3. I had that opportunity because their communistic form of government was replaced with a democratic form of government.
          4. The people I met and worked with were "free" but they had no hope.
          5. They had no opportunity when communism fell, and had (if possible) even less opportunity now that they were free.
          6. Being free did nothing to change the way they looked at themselves, their lives, or their futures.
        3. In 1993 Joyce and I visited a mission work in Gadinya, Poland.
          1. We were working one-on-one teaching mostly university students as we assisted a missionary family.
          2. The husband and father of the family we assisted was Polish, born in Poland, grew up in Poland.
          3. While we were there, something he had imported arrived in a port in West Germany, and we made a trip to pick it up.
          4. He planned his trip so that he did not have to stop for anything in what had been East Germany.
          5. Was the wall down? Yes.
          6. Were the fences, the "no man's land," the barbed wire barriers gone? Yes.
          7. Had being free changed the way the people looked at themselves and others? No.
    3. Because the Israelite slaves were released from Egyptian slavery and crossed the Red Sea meant they were truly free, but it did not mean that instantly they stopped thinking like slaves.
      1. God did many things when He freed them to form a bond between those slaves and the God who could care for them.
      2. But these slaves needed a sense of identity.
      3. Unless they had a sense of identity that was rooted in the God who delivered them, they would think and act as slaves think and act for a long, long time.
      4. God wanted them to know their origin.
        1. God wanted them to know that He was their origin.
        2. The first people to receive the book of Genesis were these slaves.
        3. One of the first things God wanted them to understand about people was this:
          Genesis 1:26,27 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

    Song: #96 I Stand In Awe [ask everyone to stand]

    You are not an accident that took several million years to become a human. You did not "just happen" because as a random act the proper compounds accidentally came together. You exist by intelligent design and intent.

  2. Perhaps you ask, "I don't see that my origin has relevance to anything. I am who I am regardless of where humanity began. What difference does it make?"
    1. Your understanding of humanity's origin powerfully influences your life; in fact, it is one of the most fundamental influences in your life.
      1. How you treat other people is powerfully influenced by your view of the origin of people.
      2. How you treat other people has a powerful influence on the way you look at yourself.
    2. In the book of James we read this statement:
      James 3:9-11 With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it (the tongue) we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
      1. James' point to Christians was quite simple: it is impossible to bless God and curse people.
      2. Why?
      3. God made people in His own likeness.
      4. There is a basic inconsistency: when we curse what God made in His own image, we at the same moment curse God the Maker.
        1. James said they knew it was impossible for one spring to allow salt water and fresh water to flow from the same opening.
        2. It is also impossible for the same heart and mouth to speak contemptuously of people and praise God.
    3. Jesus was asked more than once what God's greatest commandment was (Matthew 22:34-40).
      1. He always responded by giving the #1 and #2 commandments.
        1. #1 was to love God with all your being.
        2. #2 was to love your neighbor as yourself.
      2. The two could not be separated.
      3. It is impossible to love God with all your being and to refuse to love your neighbor as yourself.
      4. Why? Because humanity has its origin in God and was made in God's image.
    4. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus taught a story about the final judgment to a Jewish audience.
      1. What criteria will God use to separate His servants from evil people in the final judgment?
      2. That audience likely would have given many answers.
        1. "God's law."
        2. "What kind of sacrifices you offer."
        3. "How frequently you go to the synagogue and the temple."
        4. "Keeping the cleanliness laws, the dietary code, and the special holy days properly."
      3. I have no doubt that Jesus' answer totally surprised them: God divided people from all nations on the basis of how they treated other people.
      4. Jesus explained: "The King will answer and say to them,'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'" (Matthew 25:40)
      5. Why?
      6. Respecting and being kind to people is respecting and being kind to our Lord and our God. People are made in God's likeness.

    Song: #719 Love One Another

    When God created humanity in His image, God did things far beyond our ability to grasp. Being made in His likeness probably includes the independence He gave us, the ability to choose, the ability to serve and the ability to rebel, the conscience, and the ability to premeditate either good or evil.

  3. Among the most challenging gifts God gave us was the ability to love.
    1. Love is uniquely characteristic of God.
      1. In fact, John once described God as love.
      2. In 1 John 4:8 John wrote, "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
    2. Love is not an expression of selfishness or self-centered existence; love is an expression of "godlikeness".
      1. Perhaps among the greatest losses in our society is this: the conviction that love is selfish.
        1. In America, too often love is not about how I touch the lives of others, but how others serve me.
        2. In America we too often confuse love and sexual gratification.
        3. Too many decide the quality of someone else's love on the basis of the way he or she fulfills or satisfies me physically.
        4. If we are not very careful, we wrongly decide love is all about me and how I feel.
        5. God's love for us is so incredible that He can see our potential even when it is buried under all our failures.
        6. The truth is that we learn how to love from God.
        7. Thankfully, Joyce's love for me is not dependent on my perfection.
        8. She can look through my weakness and flaws to see qualities she appreciates and values.
        9. That is what God does: He is not blinded by our mistakes.
      2. If you want to see how much a person loves God, look at the way he or she treats the family, the neighbors, the strangers, God's family, etc.
        1. That certainly is not the suggestion that you can believe anything you wish and live in any way you desire and it does not matter as long as you treat people right.
        2. It is the declaration of God's standard: if you love God, it shows in the unselfish, kind way you treat other people.
        3. Why?
        4. It is impossible to love God while refusing to love humanity made in God's own likeness.

I want to give you a very simple challenge. Let God teach you how to love your husband. Let God teach you how to love your wife. Let God teach you how to love your children.

"How do I do that?" By letting God teach you how He loves you.

If you are willing to let God teach you how to love your family, at the same time He will be teaching you how to love other people.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 1 September 2002

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