As a lot of you know, I write these sermons eight weeks out.
When I finish writing one, I put it in my “Sermons In Progress” file and then essentially don’t look at it again until the Monday before I am to preach it the following Sunday.
So for “Human Nature,” I wrote it in early September, but didn’t look at it again until this past Monday, November 2.
When I did, I felt God was in it. I liked the exegesis, the content, the intersection, and the flow. I especially felt like it had potential for people to respond to it by giving their lives to Jesus.
And on Sunday, many did.
Here it is.“Human Nature,” a sermon with this bottom line:
It’s no accident that you’re on purpose.
I love this thing I’m going to tell you today because I get to do a scientific experiment along with it AND if you all are good, I’m going to do a demonstration to boot. Are you all cool with that?
But all that excitement is coming in a little bit. Before we get there, we get to excavate Psalm 8 for a few moments, which is great stuff because Psalm 8 is a song of rare and sacred majesty. And if you’ve been a) here and b) paying attention you may remember that two weeks ago we started Only Human with this psalm. But I knew then that there was way too much here for one week. Especially if we were going to call one of these messages Human Nature . . . I knew we’d have to have some marvelous excavation time together.
Because would you like to know what is especially great about Psalm 8 (aside from my rhyme)? It is in many ways the Readers Digest version of, the Twitterized version of, the Cliff’s Notes version of . . . Genesis 1. You remember Genesis 1? In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . . And that particular hymn goes from there to craft this intricate structure of realms and rulers. Realms like the sky and the sea and the land & rulers like the birds and the fish and the animals. It’s not pretending to be a science book but instead a highly structured yet thoroughly beautiful (its structure IS its beauty) song about the WHO and the WHY of creation (not the “how” and “when”).
It all culminates with the realm of earth (Day 3) ruled ultimately by man (Day 6) who has been created in God’s image and about whom God declared very good. The ultimate divine pat on the back. Him? My image. Which means? Not just good. Very good.
So you’re glad for that quick tour into the first words of the first book in the library, I know, but you’re also like “yada yada yada … what does this have to do with Psalm 8?” Only everything. Look at 8:1:
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Notice: set his glory. Almost like “let there be light” and it’s clear that God has established the boundaries of creation and there is an order to it & yet within boundaries & order his glory is the one thing that is constant. Then in 8:2 we get this cool, perplexing stuff about babies and enemies – READ – before returning to the work of creation in 8:3:
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
We saw a couple of weeks ago how the galaxies are actually God’s finger painting!
Then follows the awe-struck, poignant, reverent Q&A of 8:4-5:
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?[c]
All that is mere table-setting, groundwork for what happens in 8:6:
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his[g] feet:
See that?! Rulers & realms! All realms, big ruler! People rule, people! Then a reiteration in 8:7-8:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
All these animals are stronger, faster, hungrier, fly-ier, heavier . . . and yet humans will rule. Human nature involves some ruling over nature. There is order, structure, design in Psalm 8 that mimics the order, structure, and design that is in nature & in human nature. Realms and rulers, patterns and systems, design and function and Psalm 8, like Genesis 1 before it!, puts it all to music. And then it is book ended in 8:9 with the same words that opened it in 8:1:
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
But what I want you to see and hopefully appreciate in all this is the careful ordering and structuring of it all. Add to that the breathtaking affirmation of Ps 139 and it’s crystal clear what God’s take on our human nature is . . . and it’s a much needed take. Because here’s what people subconsciously assume about themselves and others. It’s like this. Look at all this stuff I have here in the bucket. I have some screws, springs, belts, sprockets, batteries. Nice pile of stuff here! Now I’m going to take all these ingredients, shake them up good, throw them up in the air like this (DO IT) and what comes out, randomly, willy-nilly, accidentally? A perfect Rolex watch! Endorsed by Roger Federer! All these divine elements get mixed together, jumbled in the air & ordered perfection emerges.
Well that’s absurd, of course. That would never happen. Ridiculous. And yet that’s what so many of us think about ourselves, our lives, our race, our role in the planet. This is not some anti-evolution rant and I’m no young earth creationist . . . BUT so much of that kind of God-less thinking has infiltrated our minds. We subtly begin to think of life as random or absurd, we think of ourselves as mistakes or as in the way or even incidental, we come to view human nature with a mixture of fatalism and contempt. “Boys will be boys.” But when you see the implausibility of that experiement – you throw up a bunch of parts and a watch comes out? – you lay it side by side with the careful ordering & structure of Psalm 8 and it becomes blindingly clear what God’s take is on human nature:
See, what is true in the general and universal is true in the personal and particular. You are on purpose! And everything we rule in Psalm 8 is to remind us we have a ruler! Every realm we have points us to the realm that has us. Every reminder we get that we’re made in the imago Dei, the image of God, is to show us that there is a Dei. We’re made so there is a Maker! It’s no accident that you’re on purpose.
And that includes all of you, no exceptions!
Many of you know that I’m the youngest of 8. And I am way younger than the other 7. In fact, #7 is seven years older than me. My dad was 50 and my mom was 46 when I was born. All that combines to make me have the realization that I was . . . unexpected. An afterthought. Actually, not a thought. A WOOOPS! And when I was a teenager, I had learned about these sorts of things, done some match, and realized how improbable my very existence was. So one time I was with my mom in a public setting, she was talking to a friend about her family and her 8th Davis (me) and I chimed in, “Yeah, I was a mistake.” And my mother, God bless her, had the nicest answer: “No, not a mistake. A pleasant surprise.”
Oh, that’s it. I’m looking out at a room full of pleasant surprises and not a mistake in the bunch. Regardless of appearance, ability, need, special need, not a mistake in the bunch. It’s no accident that you’re on purpose.
Now please don’t hear what I’m not saying. This is not “God has a plan for my life.” This is not “you’re here for a purpose and all you have to do is find YOUR purpose and all your dreams will come true. None of that. And when I say It’s no accident that you’re on purpose it’s not that your purpose here is to be your true self, to be true to yourself, to discover your authentic self. None of that me-centered babble.
Instead, It’s no accident that you’re on purpose is only understood in light of the bookends of Psalm 8!! Verses 1 & 9! Oh! I’m here on purpose but my great goal in life is not to discover MINE. It’s to surrender to HIS! It’s not that God has a plan for your life. It’s that God has a plan for life. You arrange yours accordingly. Maybe better, as one pastor friend told me: God has my life for his plan. There’s a world of difference there! And it is the kind of difference you know and sense and celebrate when you see the bookends (inclusion) of Psalm 8:1 & 9! What a relief that it’s not about you! What a privilege that it is about him! It’s no accident that you’re on purpose.
In a real way, the question hinges on whether you begin your understanding of human nature at Genesis 1 or Genesis 3. If Genesis 3 is your starting point, human nature is by virtue of the Fall (eaten fruit) is sinful, hell bound, worm like. But if Genesis 1 is the starting point – image of God, VERY GOOD! – then human nature is royal, blessed, dignified, purposeful & the role of church & God & Jesus is to help recapture what was lost in fruit-eating. I don’t know about you, but I’m going with THAT. Just think about how much better it is to talk about letting people know how deeply they are loved rather than how quickly they will be damned. The bible is a library but Genesis is a book and to understand human nature, I’m starting at the beginning.
It’s like this $100. A Benjamin! (I’m hip!) How much is it worth? Drop. Now how much? Fold. Now how much? Now stomp. Now how much? Now ball up. Now how much. Still $100! You, too! Because your value isn’t determined by what’s been done TO you; it’s determined by what Jesus did FOR you. Your identity comes from his invasion in history. You’ve been died for, resurrected in, and loved on. You’re not random, you’re not happenstance. You are on purpose. It’s no accident that you’re on purpose.
My gosh, this is why I so believe that in Christ you have the ability to rise above the sexual confusion in our culture! According to our culture, if you feel it you gotta do it. If it’s natural to you, it must be good for you. You know what that treats us like? Dogs in heat. They don’t have a choice. They do act on every impulse. But they’re not made in the image of God. You are. They’re not reserved for that place of beautiful vulnerability called marriage. You are. Their purpose is their next impulse. Yours is the bookend of the Lord’s majestically global name. It’s no accident that you’re on purpose.
Here’s the truth: Some of you are entirely too casual with God. You call him The Man Upstairs. You figure God and I are good. You think He meets me on the golf course on Sundays. You believe he’s lucky to have a nice guy like you on his team and your niceness is your ticket to heaven, a really nice place. God’s really just a big, stronger version of . . . YOU. You know what you need? The bookends of Psalm 8. The awestruck humility that comes from understanding my identity comes from his invasion of history. Every thing I have and every breath I take is a GIFT. My WHO comes from his WHAT. It’s no accident that you’re on purpose.
And then others of you are at the other end of the spectrum. You feel your life has no value. You can’t get out of bed in the morning. It might be depression. It might be something more clinical. Or less. Your human nature is gloom. You know what you need? 8:3-4: READ. Oh! I’m a ruler! I may be flawed by I’m royal! I’m royally flawed! I’ve been stomped on and stepped over but I’m a Benjamin, if not more! REFRAIN. Every moment you live, every decision you make, every act of goodness & kindness you’re part is pregnant with meaning and rich in purpose. Just. Like. You. It’s no accident that you’re on purpose.