GTSH10/1 Biblical Perspectives

Opening Reflections

Take a Moment

  • In what ways can creativity be expressed?
  • How do you think that man’s creativity is linked to God?
  • Should our creativity be dependent on or independent of God? Why?

 

Essential Creativity

In the beginning, God created  ……

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. ……

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

…… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 1:1-31

One of the things we understand from the first chapter of Genesis is that God is creative. He created the world, and all that is in it from nothing. The writer to the Hebrews sums it up in chapter 11 and Verse 3:

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

God was not copying anything nor following anyone’s lead because in the first place there was nothing apart from God. God conceived the Creation in his mind and commanded it to exist and so he created mankind and the universe in which we live.

When we look at Creation, for instance plant life and bird life, we see such variety and riotous abundance of forms, colour and functions.  We can only conclude that God is not simply creative but he is awesomely and abundantly creative in the extreme. There are not enough words to describe the magnificence of his creativity.

We know too from Genesis that God created mankind in his own image. Because God is spirit and man is material, we know that this refers to character. And so we see that God made man, amongst other things, to be creative. We do not have the power to make stuff from nothing, nor to create life. We do, however, have the ability to conceive things in our minds and bring them into being – albeit, unlike God, we can only make things from that which exists.

The Practical Creativity of Craftsmanship

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

Exodus 31:2-5

When God commissioned the construction of the Tabernacle he explained to Moses that he had provided people with necessary abilities and skills. Head of the project was Bezalel who was an intelligent spiritual man. God had also equipped him with the necessary artistic craftsmanship to make the beautiful things that God had commissioned.  God had made Bezalel and others to be artistically gifted.

It is in the area of art and craft that we usually apply the term creativity, and often we limit it to artistic fields such as painting, sculpting, design, music, poetry and the like.  We see God’s artistry when we look at the wonders of his creation, and we understand that artistic creativity in man is a reflection of God’s creative character.

The Creativity of Problem Solving

However, creativity is not limited to the artistic.

To me…… this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, ……

Ephesians 3:8-11

The Apostle Paul’s ministry was to bring the mystery of the Gospel to light for everyone, especially the gentiles. The Gospel “was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Thus, Paul tells us that the Gospel was conceived in the depths of eternity which means well before the Creation and it was brought to reality in creation through Jesus. In our context this tells us that creativity is as much about what we might call “problem solving” as it is about material outcomes. The Gospel, devised and created ahead of time by God, solved the problem of the Fall and man’s consequent alienation from God.

So one of the ways that God’s creativity is reflected in man is the ability to devise and implement solutions to problems. It is this that enables us to devise plans.

The Need for God’s Solutions

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

Psalm 127:1

We recall our considerations from the previous lesson Encouraging Vision and leading Change with a servant Heart.

In this verse of Psalm 127 we see there are two objectives in view:  One is that the city remains safe and in order to achieve this watchmen have been recruited, trained, deployed and supervised. The other is for a house of some sort.  There are various interpretations of what this house is but the bottom line is that someone has a vision of a building that does not yet exist, possibly a home. They see it in their mind’s eye, they plan it and they build it.

But here Solomon is telling us that, as a general principle, unless our activities, and hence our creative intents and plans, are aligned with God then they will be in vain. However creative our plans may be they are worthless, they will come to nothing. Not being in accord with his plans and purposes, God does not exercise his sovereign power to bring them about.

As members of God’s Kingdom family, seeking to bring honour and glory to him this has massive implications. When we set out in search of a creative solution we need to turn to God and seek his guidance and direction. Then we need to do it his way.

Seeking God’s way

In the episode of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, God tells Daniel what the dream was and what it meant. Daniel praises God and declares this about him:

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;

Daniel 2:21

Wisdom belongs to God and he is the source of wisdom and understanding. Therefore James could write:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:5-8

The word translated wisdom in Daniel 2: 20 & 21 refers to “the knowledge and ability to make the right choices at the opportune time”[1].  The word for wisdom in the James reference is slightly different referring to insight into the true nature of things[2] which is the basis of using one’s mind effectively. It is this same word that the scholars who produced the Septuagint used when translating Daniel 2: 20 & 21 to Greek. So, we see that God equips our minds to function with wisdom, especially when we ask him with faith.

God at Work in You

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Philippians 2:12-13

In this passage, and the verses that follow, Paul is exhorting the Philippian Christians to live out the kind of life that flows from salvation resulting from the blood and sacrifice of Christ.  Before describing some of the character traits of such a God honouring life he points out that their ability to live it results from God working in them.  So it’s the Christian’s responsibility to live that life but it is God who empowers us to do so.

God gave us minds and intellectual capacity and faculties. If we allow, he will empower us to use our minds well, bringing pleasure to him just as living out the character Paul describes will bring pleasure to him.

Keeping in Tune with God

The problem with fallen man is that we use our minds to please ourselves not God. So just because we can devise a creative solution does not necessarily mean that the solution will be a pleasure to God.  And as we have seen in Psalm 127:1, even if the solution is in line with God, we still need to be sure to bring it into existence his way. Therefore we need to seek God. We can ask him for wisdom and he will grant it. The only condition is that we do not doubt him. Thus we can consecrate our intellectual and creative activities and expect that he will guide us in them through granting us wisdom and understanding.

Given the fallen nature of mankind we will do well to keep an eye open to the possibility that, in our creative thinking and problem solving efforts, we may have branched off from God’s path onto our own. Then we must regain his path as soon as we notice we have left it.

Reflections

Take a Moment

  • How would you answer these questions now?
    • In what ways can creativity be expressed?
    • How do you think that man’s creativity is linked to God?
    • Should our creativity be dependent on or independent of God?
      • Why?
    • How can we ensure that our creativity is dependent upon God?

[1] Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words  (Vines) –  hokmah – Strong’s reference 2451

[2] Vines – Sophia – Strong’s Reference 4678.

 


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