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A Biblical Response to Today's Most Divisive Issues
Where do you stand on issues like: Truth, Sex, Homosexuality, Abortion, the Environment, and the Church and Politics? More importantly, what does God say? If there ever was a time for Christians to understand and communicate God’s truth about controversial and polarizing issues, it is now. More than ever before, believers must develop convictions based on research, reason, and biblical truth. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s equally important that you’re able (and willing) to communicate these convictions with a love and respect that reflects God’s own heart. This series will help you learn how to respond with love, even in the face of controversy. In the process, you’ll discover the power of bringing light – not heat – to the core issues at the heart of society today.More from this series
There are few topics that I’ve ever encountered that cause as much controversy and polarizing opinions as when you say, “What do you think of the environment? What are the issues? What’s the problem?”
And I’ve read a lot and in my research I’ve found people that will give me amazing statistics and tell me exactly who to blame and then I read some more and I find there’s a different group of people or multiple groups of people that will tell me all those people are wrong and they give me a whole different set of statistics and it is like, heat, heat, heat.
In fact, as I read I started to jot down some major different perspectives that different groups have - just to get my arms around this. And I’m just going to go through. These are actual perspectives people have on the environment.
And then as I read through these I’d like you to think about, “So what’s mine? What do I really think?”
One group says, “The real issue with the environment is whether global warming is happening or not. That’s the deal.” Another group says, “No, no, no, no. Tree huggers and environmentalists, they’re liberal, New Age folks seeking to thwart economic progress and prosperity.”
Another group says, “No, that’s not really it. The problem we’re in today is a direct result of the dominion dogma taught for centuries from Genesis chapter 1. It’s those Christians and they’re teaching and what they’ve said that has caused this idea of subduing the planet. We’ll they’ve subdued it alright.”
Another group says, “The whole environment debate is overblown.” This is a religious group. “The Bible says it’s all going to burn anyway so don’t worry about it.”
Yet another group says, “The earth is our sacred mother and it’s the equal giver of life of all species and so all species should be protected equally.” And so this is the pantheistic view, the earth is, in fact, god.
And then, finally, the skeptic or pragmatist is, “The ‘Going Green’ movement in business and government is just a sham to exercise undue control and increased profits.”
Now I don’t know about you but if you would just read through those and realize they’re all over the map and they conflict one another radically. And so I would ask you, “So if I put a microphone in front of you and then they put a camera and we were going to broadcast this to the world and I said, ‘Okay, those are a lot of different views. What do you believe about the environment? What are your convictions? What’s true? What’s false? What’s right? How should we live? And why?’”
And your answer would be…?
Well, here’s a confession. Up until recently, although, you know I’ve had a general position, I know God made the earth, I recycle, I put my thermostat high.
When I looked at all these different opinions, what I realized, maybe what I needed to do and so I thought might be good for you too, maybe I need to really ask and answer the question, “How, as a follower of Jesus Christ, do I need to think, and act, and respond, with regard to the environment?”
And maybe the best place to start, other than all those heated views is at least just do the basics and back up and say, “What does God say about the environment?” I mean, what does the Bible actually teach about the environment?
And then take that for sure truth and apply it to all these different issues that we’re faced with day in and day out.
I want you to go on a journey with me and I’m just going to tell you, it’s a fairly recent journey. I have never done, I’m a little bit ashamed to say this, I’ve never done a study of Scripture just for the environment all by itself. I’ve alluded to it in different things over the years.
And so as I began to read I thought, “Okay if I had to boil it down to six absolute things that the Bible says for sure about the environment, about our responsibility to it, here are six things I know for sure, as the basis, or the grid, to make wise decisions in terms of how I’m going to respond to all those different views.”
Number one is the earth belongs to God. It’s foundational. Psalm 24:1 and 2 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it, for He founded it on the seas, He established it on the waters.”
In essence when you start with Scripture and the truth God says, “The earth is Mine. Everything in it is Mine. And, therefore, since I’m God and I made it it’s spiritual and it’s important and it matters and you can’t just blow off this issue.” This really, really matters.
The implication is we’re to honor God’s creation. We’re to honor God’s creation. Now, if you would, open your Bibles because we’re going to be there in just a second. Just the very, very first page. Alright? Genesis chapter 1. Just how it opens.
The very first thing we learn from the Bible is, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And it goes on in chapters 1 and 2 to talk about that process. And keep your finger there because we’ll be back there in a minute.
But we’re to honor God because He made it. He created it. Not only did He create it but as He created He said, “It is good. It is good. It is good. It is good.” And then later He will take the pinnacle of creation, which is you and me and He’ll say, “It’s very good.”
So how do you honor God? He’s the greatest artist and He’s the greatest architect who is infinite, who is all wise, who is all powerful, and who is all knowing. And one of the great ways we honor Him is we respect what He has made. We study what He has made. And we give Him honor, and credit, and praise for the beauty and the provision that He’s made for us.
The earth is valuable, it is precious, it’s irreplaceable, and here’s a word you might jot down: it’s sacred. It’s not just a piece of land. It’s not just air to breathe. God made it. It’s sacred.
A trite illustration but it brought it into focus for me. Early in our marriage I was working for a guy and doing some part time jobs as I was doing some other things and Theresa and I were going to have a getaway weekend. And we were very poor and he was my boss and he was pretty wealthy.
And he knew all about it and so the day that I was going to get away, it was like a Friday for a weekend, he pulls up and he goes, “Hey, I have a little gift for you to really enjoy your time.”
And this will date me but that’s okay. And so he pulls up and if you can remember it was like the first or second year the 280Z came out. And it was a silver, hottest sports car going at the time.
It was super fast. It was like being in the cockpit of an airplane and he hands these keys to me and goes, “I want you and your wife to have a really good time.”
My first thought was, If I wreck this car I’ll die and it’s my boss.” And then the second was, “I probably should test this to make sure it’s going to be okay for me and my wife on this trip.”
And so, boy, I punched that thing a few times. It was like, whoa, this is way too much fun.
And so then she gets in and we, you know, “Wow, here I am!” going down the road, and I feel really cool, and so then we get to this little place and I think, “I gotta park where someone’s not near it.” You know? What if a door hits it or…
Here’s my point. My boss gave me something precious and sacred that I, it was for me for my pleasure but I felt a tremendous weight of responsibility to both enjoy it and not mess it up.
How much more, how much more God thinks that way about the earth and the planet that He’s entrusted to you and me?
Which is the second point. God appointed mankind dominion over the earth. Psalm 115:16 says, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord but the earth He has given to man.” Underline the word “belong” and then circle the word “given.”
He’s given to man. So God says, “I’ve created this but I’ve created and the highest heavens and I’m the Creator. I’ve given this to man.” Well what’s that mean?
Here’s the implication: we are the earth’s vice regents. We’re the caretaker, we’re the managers, we’re the stewards. He says, “I’ve created all this but I’m putting you in charge.”
If you’re still in Genesis 1 skip down to verse 28. It says, “God blessed them.” speaking of mankind, “Be fruitful and increase in numbers; fill the earth, subdue it, rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Those two key words are “subdue” and “rule.” They’re very strong Hebrew words. They’re used elsewhere for taking absolute control. They’re very powerful words. It’s, God says, “I gave you this earth. You are the executive vice president of this planet, you’re the vice regents, you’re the caretaker. You’re in charge.”
And so there’s a real sense of authority and power and, “Do well with this earth - cultivate it; develop it; grow it; tame it…” is the idea.
Now, unfortunately, those strong words, taken out of context, by some of our ancestors and some present day have made it out that we can just do with the earth whatever. It’s just made for us and we can treat it any way we want to meet our needs for whatever we want to do.
And so some of the worst offenders, environmentally, have been Christians, in the name of God, using that passage. Because any verse that you don’t get in context is usually a wreck.
Skip to chapter 2 because He’s going to define a bit more about what it means to subdue. In chapter 2 skipping down to verse 15 He says, “The Lord God took the man and He put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.” Or literally to cultivate it and to take care of it.
It was to steward. It’s the idea that He would take something and you have this huge opportunity and authority over this precious possession, and you have this huge responsibility to care for it the way I would care for it.
Again, early, early days Theresa and I were on this journey. And we took everything we owned and we put it in a Ryder truck. We put our car in the back of it, and then we went to Texas to prepare to go into the ministry, which was very new for me. I was a basketball coach.
And I didn’t, we had seven hundred dollars to our name. We did not have a place to live and I didn’t have a job. But other than that we were really set for this new adventure.
And so there was a missionary there who said, “Look, we’re going to be out of the country for six to eight weeks. You can put all your stuff,” because it was in a truck, we had to unload it, put it in his garage, “and you can just live in my house. You can have dominion over my house. You can use my refrigerator; we have some fruit trees in the back. You have complete dominion over my house. My car is there if you need to use it, it’s yours.”
I had this huge opportunity. And it was fun and I found a bunch of part time jobs and we eventually found a place to live and it all worked out well. But during that time to get all of our stuff in his garage I had to take his car and park it on the side of the road.
And it was parked at an angle and I think that was part of it. And the Texas sun was really hot and I didn’t ever think about one of those shade type things. So for six weeks his car didn’t move with the sun coming at a certain angle.
Well when I went to take the car and put it back in the garage, you know the part that does the windshield wiper? And all that was melted together.
We have a very big problem because I started with seven hundred dollars to my name. Well, I don’t have seven hundred dollars now and I’ve gotta make a payment to get in that apartment that we’re going to have and I checked on it and I found out it’s a whole part. And it’s like a hundred and thirty-nine dollar part, which back then was a lot of money.
And then I’m thinking, “What am I going to do? I can’t leave this messed up.” And I had a miracle. It’s one of the early miracles of my life. I went to a junkyard and I showed them, I actually took, I got screwdrivers out. It was scary. I’m not mechanical.
And I pulled this thing off and I took it to a junkyard filled with all these wires and I said, “I need one of these.” And the guy went out and pulled one of these off and I brought it back and I had no idea what I was doing but I thought, “Well, I bet the red wires go with the red wires and the green ones go with the green ones.”
And I’m serious! And I put it all together and I stuck it back and it worked and it was like, “Lord Jesus, after…” And my wife probably said, “There was the Red Sea and there was Chip doing that.”
But here’s what I’m going to tell you: it never entered my mind that after he gave me dominion over his home that I would leave his car in a way that didn’t work after I left.
Are you starting to get…? I want you to get the emotion and the feel of how your heavenly Father feels and thinks about this environment and this planet that He gave you dominion. You have power to subdue but to cultivate and to care for it.
You’re a vice regent, you’re a co-creator, you’re a caretaker.
Third, we learn from Scripture that the earth has intrinsic value and reflects the character and the beauty of the Creator. Underline the word “character” and “beauty.”
The earth. Nature. It has intrinsic value.
Notice what the Scripture says in Psalm 19. “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they reveal knowledge.”
Look at the verbs there. Look at the verbs of communication: “They declare. They pour forth. They proclaim. They reveal.”
Yes, the earth is a gift from God with oxygen, plants, four-footed creatures that can become food, creatures that you can put heavy weights on so you don’t have to carry it. Creatures that you can learn to cultivate.
God gave us, “Subdue, develop, use your mind, be a co-creator.” We started out as just gatherers and hunters. And then we cultivated. And then we learned about seeds and then we planted things. And then we took animals and realized that some of them we could actually create livestock on a regular basis.
And then, years later, we would learn through our minds, and subduing, and technology that there are things inside the earth that were valuable like metals. And God knew when He gave all of this that there were fossil fuels.
And He knew that we would have the ability to extract as we learned and grew, and because we’re made in His image, that we would constantly develop this thing called technology.
But He says, “Those are to meet your needs but what I created I didn’t, it’s just not utilitarian. I created it in a way where there is beauty, nature, the earth, what you see, what you observe, in and of itself, reflects who I am.”
It’s like if you see a great painting, or you see a great sculpture, or you go to a building that’s just amazingly made, how that building is made tells you a lot about the architect. That painting tells you a lot about the artist. That sculpture tells you a lot about the sculptor.
God says, “I made this in a way to reveal My character and My beauty. I didn’t have to have over two or three hundred kinds of beetles. I didn’t have to make billions of galaxies. The Alps don’t have to be that beautiful. The Grand Canyon doesn’t have to be that breathtaking.
“I didn’t have to make an ecosystem that is so delicate and so amazing that I had these little bugs that fly around and insects that take the pollen from here, to here, to here, to here, to make everything work.”
I can go thousands of feet down and see things at the bottom of the sea that look like creatures from outer space and I can see breathtaking views of redwoods that are almost three hundred feet high, were here for thousands of years…”
He says, “All of those things are to reflect that I’m God. That I’m wise. That there’s beauty. That I have power” … of falls and Victoria Falls in south Africa that just, the roar and the rush, and the beauty… see God has made this for us to reflect who He is.
Look at the implication. The implication is we’re to explore but not exploit. We’re to enjoy but not worship the earth. We’re to explore that. Are you ready for this? Some of you, and especially some of your kids, you need to get outside. We’re living in a world! We’re living in a world where some of your kids, and some of you, this is your body posture most all the time.
Some of you, there are stars at night. Trust me. They’re out there. There are flowers. Or I watch people now. “Let’s get out in nature.” Here’s how people take walks. There is something that will shrink your soul when you don’t explore what God has made.
There’s a part of what He’s made to comfort you. There’s a part of the power, and the wisdom, and the beauty, that gets soaked into your soul through nature. He speaks through His Word, but He speaks through nature. He speaks to your heart.
And some of that you need to be exposed to, where you get this overwhelming sense of a God who created all those stars and billions of galaxies, do you think He really has the power to help me in my marriage? To help me get a job? To give me the grace to forgive someone who hurt me?
What do you think? You think, as I see the rotation of the seasons, and how things die and they come back to life that, regardless of a big failure in my past or what I’ve done that, isn’t God trying to tell me there are seasons of winter and death, but there’s new life in spring?
See it’s made to teach us, to renew us.
The danger, however, is we can get so involved in nature that we begin to worship it. It’s from the beginning of time. Of all the things He said to Israel, worshipping idols, worshipping idols and the sun, and the moon, and the stars. In fact, if you will turn to Romans - just middle of your Bible - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, then hit Romans.
Romans chapter 1 - A second critical place where He talks about creation. Because here’s what happens: when you focus on creation, creation, creation, creation after a while you lose the Creator.
So places like Santa Cruz, Sedona, Arizona; Boulder – I could take you to a number of other places in the world that are just spectacularly beautiful – they always gravitate to New Age colonies.
Because people who begin to worship the creation, pretty soon lose sight of the Creator. But when you begin to focus on the Creator, and see His creation, you get an accurate picture of His greatness, and His wisdom, and His love, and His beauty.
Notice what the apostle Paul would write, Romans chapter 1, picking up, go down to about verse 19. It says, “What may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them.” Well how? How did God make truth plain to them? “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities,” well, like what? “His eternal power, His divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from that which has been made so that people are without excuse.
“For although they knew God they neither glorified Him as God, nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
And what God is saying is, “Enjoy, but don’t worship it.” The earth is not your mother. The earth is a created, beautiful gift from your heavenly Father, to reveal His character and to provide for you.
And so He says, “Okay, I made it. It belongs to Me. Second, I’m going to put you in charge of it. You are a co-creator, you are a vice regent, you’re a caretaker, you’re a steward, and a manager of this creation that belongs to Me. And third, don’t get utilitarian. It’s not just getting wood out of this and it’s not just a piece of dirt. It’s just not rocks here. It’s just not food to do your own thing. I want you to pause, and stop, and explore the wonder of who I am, through what I’ve made.
“Fourth,” he says, “mankind is placed in the middle of the created hierarchy and is uniquely responsible to God above, and for the animals, plants, and resources below.”
I’d like you, if you would, circle that word “hierarchy” and underline the phrase “uniquely responsible.” God made the planet and the earth. He said, “It’s good.” And it’s interesting, we read it, it says, “By His finger He created the galaxies, the moon, and the stars.”
But when God talks about creating you and me it says, “He formed us with His hands and He,” whoooo, “He breathed life in us, into our flesh.” There’s the Creator.
A little bit lower than the Creator, there is mankind, made in His image, unlike any animal or any plant, you can think, and feel, and reason. Stamped in you is the very image of God. You were made for a relationship with Him.
Then there are animals. Animate living things that have breath with purpose. And there are inanimate things like plants and trees and rocks. And right in the middle of that are you and me, mankind.
And we have a responsibility, and a stewardship upward to our Creator, and we have a responsibility downward to treat animals and plants and the rest of the creation, with this delicate balance of using it for our good – productivity – and also preservation and restoration.
So notice the passage here: Psalm 8. He says, “When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place.” And then he ponders. And the awesomeness of God. “What is mankind that You’re mindful of him? Human beings that You care for them? You made them a little lower than the angels,” and notice the role that mankind has in the environment.
“And you crown them with glory and honor and you made them,” what? What’s your role? “Rulers over the works of your hands. You put everything under their feet, the flocks, the herds, the animals, the wild things, the birds, the sky, the fish of the sea, everything that swims in the ocean.”
Message: all living things have value, but not all living things have equal value. The earth is not God. It is not our mother. It is a created thing. Whales and babies do not have equal value.
And yet when we think wrongly about the environment, we kill babies and we save whales. Think of it. That’s a theological issue.
Should we save whales? Absolutely. But we have movements in the environment, some of the environmental communities that say your dog or your cat or this lizard has the same rights because it is a living species and you’re just part of the living species, and all of the earth is god and, therefore, when there are priority decisions you have no greater priority than a dog, or a cat, or a lizard.
That is not true. And what we’re going to see is God will call us to be good stewards of those things. But animals don’t have the same rights as humans.
By contrast, here’s the implication: we are to use, not abuse, animals, plants, and resources to glorify God.
See the Bible is so amazingly balanced. Over here it says, “Don’t do that.” And then over here it’ll say, “Yes, you’re above the animals.” And then Proverbs will say, “A wicked man is cruel to his animals but the godly are kind. Wicked people abuse the land but godly and righteous people are good stewards of My creation.”
So the Bible is very clear about the balance of how we treat things. But waste, the things that we’ve done, and often just we just need to own our stuff, as Christians, we have been some of the slowest to be responsible in the areas of stewardship of the environment and concern for it.
Lake Erie, when I was a kid, I remember Lake Erie got to the point there was no living thing in it at all. Think of that. It was dead. The entire lake was dead. All the pollutants, all the stuff put in it.
Because, see, at the heart of pollution is greed, and ignorance, and carelessness. At the heart is speed. At the heart is money. At the heart is, “We don’t really care about other people. We don’t really care about the planet. We don’t really care about long-term implications.” It’s, “What can we get now? How much can we get? How fast can we do it?”
And those things always lead to not taking care.
Now, on the other hand, God says very clearly, “Hey, you know what? You should be productive. Take things wisely out of the ground. There’s energy to be had. That’s why I put it there.”
But we’ve been very poor stewards since the Industrial Revolution. Strip mining, clear cutting. And many believers, we either don’t have a position on it, or we just hope it all goes away. And we view people on either side as radicals or extremist.
It seems to me the Bible has quite a bit to say about our role.
Here’s the exciting thing. I was thinking about Lake Erie and the experts said it would take fifty to a hundred years for any life to be regenerated in that lake. After five to ten years when the pollutants stopped, fish were flourishing.
This amazing, amazing planet, the wisdom of God. The oil spill that was, what? Multiple times the Valdez that was in the ocean and all that we went through. It has been amazing. We humans got as much out of there as we could.
It’s amazing what God has done. All the organisms, and responding, and self-cleaning. But, boy, we’ve gotta be good stewards of that. You can use it but you can’t abuse it.
Fifth, God commands environmental stewardship to protect the land, animals, and vegetation for the common good. So He says, “Yes, man, you’re above it. I own it, you’re a steward, given you dominion, authority, responsibility. Don’t worship it. Enjoy it. You’re above the animals but here’s the deal: you are a steward. You have a responsibility to care for the land, the animals, and the vegetation.”
And you say, “Well, where do you get that?” It’s very interesting, all the way back in the Old Testament when God was preparing His people to be a great people. He took a group of slaves over here out of Egypt, completely uneducated in a world of all these multi-gods, demonstrated by the ten different plagues His superiority.
Every one of those was a polemic. Every one of those was a god of Egypt and God did that and He takes them out, and then He brings them to Sinai, to reveal who He is, and then He gives them laws about His holiness in Leviticus. And then the rest of the Pentateuch is, “This is the kind of nation I want you to be.”
And He starts giving them rules, and decrees, and He talks about those so that the world would know there would be no other nation with laws as beautiful, and perfect, and amazing.
We read that and we just think, “You know, what do you mean?” They didn’t know about bacteria. And they had ceremonial laws to wash their hands at certain times. They didn’t know about the blood clotting the eighth day, from a Purdue study, and that’s the best time to do circumcision. But that’s when God commanded them to do it.
They didn’t know anything about nitrates out of the soil and rotating crops. And in Leviticus chapter 25 God says to them… and they’re just coming out, they’re becoming a new people. He says, “Okay, every, after six years leave the land fallow.”
They didn’t know why, it was just a command. “Don’t plant anything.” And God planned in, in His Law, restoration.
Then He says after every seven-year period, seven times seven, forty-nine years, on the fiftieth year it’s the Year of Jubilee. All the land goes back to the original people.
God knew that with no limitations the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, some by opportunity, some by bad decisions, some by sin. So what He says is, “Okay, every fifty years we’re going to reboot.” If your family had owned this land, you can never sell it - or this tribe, or this tribe, or this tribe.
And so He does it in such a way that even the loans, and financial things, were done on how long you had to the Jubilee. And He says – why? - because the land belongs to Me.
Later in that Bible study, He’ll talk about Deuteronomy 25. He’ll say, “Here’s what you need to understand: animals matter. So when your ox is out working for you don’t you dare muzzle it. I even care about the animals. Treat them well.”
In Deuteronomy 20, He’ll say, “When you find yourself in a battle and besieging a city don’t you dare cut down the trees that have fruit on them. You can use these kind of trees.” Have you ever thought, have you ever stepped back and thought about, “Is that amazing?” I mean isn’t it amazing that God would give rules and provisions for, quote, what we would think a very low technology group of people, to preserve animals, the soil, and the economic system?
Here’s the implication. The implication is consumption and productivity must be governed by the boundaries of conservation. Are we going to be consumers? Of course we are. Do we need to be productive? Yes! Be fruitful. Subdue. Authority. Yes. But responsibility, with conservation.
With our track record on air, our track record on the water, our track record on what we’ve done in terms of with plants, and all the time what is it? It’s always to produce more, in a short amount of time, to get more money.
And what God would say is, “You know what? Let things cost a little bit more, let them take a little bit more time, and start balancing out the consumption, and the productivity, with the conservation.”
There are certain beautiful things that always need to stay beautiful. There’s a way to harvest trees where you replenish. There’s a way to get things out of the soil where you don’t ruin it forever.
I remember, I was a boy about nine or ten years old, and that was, in my house, when you got old enough to go see grandma and grandpa for a week by yourself.
Well, I was a pretty adventuresome little boy and hanging out with grandma and grandpa, after about two days, was pretty boring to tell you the truth.
And so they had a little brick house and then there was a hill, a real steep hill, probably three - four hundred… thousand feet, you know, like three or four football fields.
And so I wondered, “I wonder what’s up on the top?” And, of course, grandma said don’t go up there. So of course I had to figure out what it was. And so I went up there and I remember getting up to the very top just like this and looking out and it looked like a very bad science fiction movie where a nuclear blast had occurred or I had just landed on the moon.
Now I didn’t know anything about strip mining, I’m nine, ten years old. And I began to walk, and I began to walk through and it was sort of this sandy, brownish color, big rocks, no trees, no vegetation.
And we just went for miles, and miles, and miles. There were no animals. There was no vegetation. It was literally like, I’ve never walked on the moon, obviously, but if you ever walked on the moon it would be like, I think this is what it would be like.
The land was raped. And you know what? That’s a violation of what Scripture says. But, boy, it was fast. People made money.
Now, just before you lean there, then God would say, “Now wait a second. I want to take care of men.” So in response to that now we have situations where, you know what? This salamander that we may lose, it’s very important. But we have two million people that need water, and farmers who are going to produce for the whole nation, but we can’t give them water because we don’t want to lose this salamander.
Those aren’t hypothetical situations. And so we have people on one side that are so environmentally sensitive that every species, there are about two or three a day that we’re losing. We’re blowing it big time.
On the other hand, our response and the pendulum can’t swing to where we forget there are people. And there’s food required. And there’s water. And there’s technology and it needed to be harnessed with wisdom and balance.
And that’s why when I prayed about this whole series I thought, you know what we need? We need a biblical view of the environment. Because there are a lot of specific things, there’s going to be tension. I don’t know what the right answer is.
But I know that if I understand it belongs to God, I’ve been given dominion, and I’m to appreciate and enjoy it but not worship it, and I really get that I’m going to be called and account to be a steward of it, and I am to use it but never abuse it, it begins to give me a grid or a perspective about how do we honor the planet, and how do we make sure that people’s needs get taken care of?
And behind some of this is some of the just pure consumption has to stop. Some of us just have to say, “Wait a second. What’s fueling all of this?”
Number six, Christ’s redemption and redemptive work includes the earth. You might remember one of the perspectives and this is a bad theology. But some Christians have purported this.
And if you can imagine being a very strong environmentalist and hearing a “Christian” say this, this is where we’ve said some of the dumbest things in the name of God. Well, this is one.
“Well, it’s all going to burn anyway so what the heck? Just get rid of those rainforests. If we need the trees and do what you ever need to do and it’s all going up in smoke. In fact, I read the Bible, and it says it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I guess this is how it gets worse. So jump in, have fun, consume, consume, consume. Don’t worry about it. Put your head in the sand.”
It’s a very interesting perspective - far from biblical.
Now, when the Fall occurred, when sin occurred in Genesis chapter 3, a major break happened between our relationship with God. A major break happened, as we saw, in our relationship with one another. We started to hide and to feel shame. And then a break happened in our relationship with ourselves.
But maybe what you don’t realize is that there was an impact on the actual creation. When God made Eden there were no tsunamis, there were no tornadoes, there were no earthquakes. God, a perfect God, an all wise God, made a perfect world.
But when sin occurred it introduced the imperfection into the world. Look at your notes. This is a very interesting passage in Romans 8 verses 19 to 21. Notice how the creation is personified here as looking forward to and yearning for the day when redemption is going to occur.
Just as sin impacted creation, redemption impacted. When Jesus died on the cross, and rose from the dead, and paid for your sin, and He bought you and bought me, and bought whoever would turn to Him in faith, bought you out of the slave market of sin and paid for it, He redeemed you. It impacted our relationship with God, our relationship with others, our relationship with ourselves, and the planet.
It says, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration. Not by its own choice but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself would be liberated from its bondage and decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
That is a sharp contrast to, “Well it’s all going to burn anyway.” The fact of the matter is, here’s the implication: we must treat the earth with the same priority that God does.
The earth matters. We want to see, just like your life is changing, like you want to see a marriage restored and redeemed, someone who’s out to lunch and struggling with difficult things, you want to see them restored and redeemed.
We want to be a part of restoring and redeeming the earth in appropriate ways. The earth matters to God. But the concrete… Eden was a real place and a great idea, gave us freedom, but God’s game plan supersedes Eden and part of His game plan was to take us to a new Eden – a very physical place.
I think the problem with a lot of Christians is our view of heaven when people say, “You know, Jesus paid for me, I’m going to go to heaven.” And you ask people down deep, “So, what’s that going to be like?”
And I think the average Christian thinks, “Well, I’ve read some of those storybooks. I think there are clouds. So you float on clouds. You can order either iced tea or lemonade probably. Nothing stronger. And then there’s a lot of singing, because I hear they worship.”
So your idea of heaven is, “Oh, thank God, someday, someway I’m going to float on a cloud, drink iced tea or lemonade and do a lot of singing. But, I do get it. God’s there, Jesus is there, it’s gotta be really great. But that sort of sounds like it’s what it’s going to be like.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Nothing could be farther. The moment a believer dies you come into the immediate presence of Christ. But God has a game plan. And His game plan is not some ethereal place.
His game plan is a new heaven and a new earth. An actual earth with trees and fruit trees. And there won’t be a sun because His presence will supply the energy. And He will be with us and we will be with Him. And you will have jobs and there will be culture, and there will be music, and there will be sports, and there will be animals.
And it’ll be just like Eden was supposed to be. And you will have responsibility. And the responsibility, or a lack of responsibility, and the role that you have in that new heaven and that new earth will be commiserate with your faithfulness here, and what you did with what He gave you.
Your sins are completely forgiven by the grace of God, by Jesus’ accomplishment on the cross, received by faith. But there is another judgment for Christians about reward. And reward is about all those talents and now I give you charge over these cities.
Some of us would live way different if we actually believed in a new heaven and a new earth and a real eternity as opposed to, “this is all there is.”
You gotta see this for yourself. Please, we looked at the first page of the Bible. This is going to be one of the most amazing sermons we’ve ever had together. We’re going to look at the first page. Turn to the last page in the Bible… or at least almost.
Revelation chapter 21. Of course, it will come on the screens and all that sort of stuff, but it’s just there’s something about touching and seeing. Last page of the Bible. This is why the earth matters.
I hear those pages flipping, it’s a sound of beauty. Now listen. Redemption impacts the earth. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne of God saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men and He will live with them and they will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new.’”
God’s future new earth, just like we are changing and being conformed progressively to the image of Christ, and when we see Him we’ll be just like Him as He is, so God’s agenda for His co-regents here on earth, is to be a part of bringing the earth and restoring, whenever possible, the beauty of what happened at the Fall.
And so, as Christians, we’re the agents to make a difference in the environment. There are few things in all the world where we line up with people that probably disagree with us on almost everything else, as environmentalists.
Is there a balance? Of course. But the most conscientious, lovers, care-ers of the earth, as the steward and co-regents of a holy God, are the followers of Jesus.
How do we live that out? Let me give you a couple ideas just as we go. First, I think we just have to focus on the seven or eight verifiable issues. I understand, this is a top level view. I understand that we could dig down into global warming, and we could look at issues here, and issues in plastics in the sea...
Candid. Here’s what the deal is: we can argue about stuff, that I have very little or no control over, until the cows come home. Or I can look at what I know for sure and I can act on that today. And I can make a difference.
And when thousands, and then millions of people, who call themselves followers of Christ, do that it makes a big difference.
And so some of the things that we would all say: clean air, clean water, balanced land use, preserving the beauty, productivity and progress, with constraints for conservation, eliminate waste, limit non-biodegradable plastics, and recycle. I mean, okay? Those are things we all agree on. Those are things we can all really do.
Write down these three words because the root of not doing those things, we can intellectually say that, or just sort of float by, or let the culture tell us what to do. You know, “I guess I’m environmental now since I can’t buy a bag in San Jose.”
Well, maybe we should have been bringing our own bag before they told us. Maybe we should be on the cutting edge rather than responding to the culture of people who take the earth that God made way more seriously than we do, His children.
And so greed, ignorance, and carelessness are why all of us are not more conscious of taking care of God’s earth the way He wants us to.
It’s greed. “I want convenience. I want to consume. I want it now. I want it fast. I want it packaged.” Ignorance. How many people, you don’t have to raise your hand but it would be nice if you did. How many people have heard a message on the environment in your lifetime in church? Wow. Fifteen hands out of a thousand. So part of it, we don’t know.
And then, finally, it’s just carelessness. It’s just careless. We just don’t think about it.
Let me give you some practical steps. I call them the four Es of just getting started. The first E is explore. And I mentioned this but I really mean this. Get outside, go see the redwoods, go sit in front of the ocean. Just take a walk without an electronic device. Put a lawn chair out and stare at the sky for fifteen minutes, without interruption, and just stare at the sky on a clear night.
Second, educate. Learn about nature. It’s fascinating. All the different stuff we’re putting in our mind. Read an article about whales, and about birds, and watch the Discovery Channel. Just do some stuff where you think and read, saying, “What does this tell me about what God’s like?”
Explore, educate, and then engage. Recycle, conserve. I mean, just put the dial up from seventy-six to seventy-eight or eighty and just get specific.
Confession. Believe me, I’m going to take further steps but just from this passage I have a habit, when I shave, I’m old school so I still use a razor. And, you know, the water is running and you just, on and off, on and off, on and off. And there’s something about hearing that water that’s sort of therapeutic.
So, the confession of my public sin before all of you, is for the last thirty or forty years or so I have been, I turn the water on and I do this and it just runs. Then I rinse and it runs. And I rinse.
And, you know as I’ve studied this, I thought, “You know what, Chip? That’s wasteful, that’s ignorant, and that is you being a consumer and insensitive to what God has provided for you.”
And after all that it’s also stupid. Like it takes, okay, here’s the energy. Like, the last two days I’m practicing. I’m getting it down. What, do you, are you with, what could you do? There are whole states that don’t even recycle. What do your kids think about this?
And then finally after you engage let me encourage you to empower. Go hang out with people that maybe you think they’re a little over the top and say, “I’m here on Earth Day too. I want to help preserve the world. Not because it’ my mother, not because it’s God, guess what? This is my Father’s world. I’d like to help you out on this. What could I learn from you?”
What would happen if we were open and embraced? Is there going to be balance and disagreements? Absolutely. But what would happen if the most environmentally sensitive people on the face of the earth were followers of Jesus?
I think a lot of people might open their ears to more than just the environment but maybe about a God who cares about them.