CROSSFIRE SERMON SERIES
FEBRUARY 12, 1995
Did you know the average American family produces 100 pounds of garbage per week? An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash are thrown into our oceans every year. The shipping industry throws overboard 450,000 plastic containers a day. It takes over 1 billion trees a year just to make all the disposable diapers in use today, and sometimes I believe my family may be responsible for a good portion of those. One leaky faucet can waste up to 50 gallons of fresh water a day and that is astounding considering the fact that only 3% of the earth’s water is fresh water. Only 6,000 of the 20,000 landfills that have been operating since 1978 are still in operation.
I could go on and on giving you statistical data about the environment, but I will stop. It seems that everyone these days is talking about the environment. They are talking about ecology, they are talking about nature. From professors to professionals, from actors to athletes, from bureaucrats to even Barney, the dinosaur, they are talking about the environment.
The environment. I think most people will look back on this decade and call the 90s the decade of the environment. It is sad to say but most of the rhetoric and dialogue concerning environmental causes has to do with the extremes. On one extreme you have got that sandal walking, green peace talking, granola eating, rain forest competing, tree hugging, moose mugging, whale saving, oat bran craving environmentalists who says, “Hey, don’t even consider buying a car. Don’t even think about wearing a leather jacket. Oh, my goodness gracious alive. That is the worst.” And they are on the fanatical fringe.
On the other extreme you have got that resource using, earth abusing, trash throwing, junk towing, clothes minded, needs to be reminded individual who says, “The environment, there’s no problem with the environment, you can’t harm the earth. Everything is A-OK. The earth is tough. The earth is resilient. Environmental crisis, give me a break. That is a bunch of environmental mumbo-jumbo hog wash.”
Within these extremes, what should our view shape up to be? How should we get involved in this environmental movement? How should I act or how should I treat this contemporary issue? Guess what? It’s not a contemporary issue. The environment is not a contemporary issue. God has talked about the environment since the beginning of time and His words are recorded for us throughout the pages of scripture. So briefly this morning, while we begin this message on the environment, I want to give you a theology of ecology. And while you read these verses with me in the Bible, the key term is balance. Balance. God wants us to be balanced individuals. He doesn’t want us to be in one extreme or the other, He wants us to see what the Bible says and live it out.
All you have to do is turn to the first book of the Bible which is Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible, which is chapter one, the first verse in the Bible and it says this: “In the beginning.” Someone told me that right there was indication that God was a big baseball fan – in the big inning!
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God created the heavens and the earth. You see God was separate, He being the Creator created the creation. Pantheism says that God and nature are inseparable and intertwined. To worship a snail darter or to worship a palm tree or to worship the ocean is the same thing as worshipping God. You see the New Age Movement is just pantheism in modern day dress. That is all it is. It is old. It comes from way, way back there. God, though, says this: “My creation should cause you to worship Me but don’t worship My creation.”
The book of Genesis goes on. Genesis 1:27-28, “God created man in His own image.” We are not just another piece of the ecological puzzle, we are uniquely made and fashioned. We are not educated apes. We are made like God, in His image the Bible says. And the Bible also says in verse 28, “Man should have dominion over the earth.” Your text might say that man might rule over the earth. The word dominion is the word dominion, it is not domination, it is dominion. And this can be rendered in the Hebrew, loving concern. How should I treat the environment? The Bible says with loving concern.
Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made and it was very good.” You see Christians should have a built-in love and honor for the environment. Genesis 2:15 God gives man his assignment, his occupation. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.” And that should lay to rest what the oldest profession known to man is – landscaping. Landscaping, right there in Genesis 2:15.
The Psalmist David said in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it and all who live in it.” The prophet said this and a major theme in all the prophets happens to be centered around this phrase that the sins of the people cause the destruction of the land. Here is what the prophet Hosea said, Hosea 4:1-3, “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery.” That sounds like us, doesn’t it? “Because of this the land mourns and all who live in it waste away, the beast of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.”
And Jesus in the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6, talked about birds, He talked about seeds, He talked about nature as word pictures to communicate the greatest truths ever uttered by any human being. And Jesus remember was fully God and fully man. He loved nature because He knew it was His Father’s world. In fact, when Jesus wanted to institute communion, the Lord’s Supper, what did He use? He used bread and He used the fruit of the vine, two word pictures to symbolize His body and the blood that was shed on the cross for all of the world’s sins. You see the Bible talks on and on about the environment, so it is not some new-fangled, mod, hip, new wave approach. From the beginning of time, God has talked about it. He really, really has.
Now let’s get practical for a second. It is great to hear about the theology of ecology but how can I change? What do I need to do once I understand that God has a high view of creation. Once I understand it is my Father’s world, how should I act, how should I live out my life?
I am going to challenge you folks and I am going to challenge myself to get involved in three things. The first thing I need to get involved in, I need to get involved in the celebration of creation. I need to get involved in the celebration of creation. Whether I look in the telescope and examine the stars or whether I look through a microscope and see the intricacies and the details of God’s creation, I need to celebrate and express my love to God because of His handiwork. God did not put us in some kind of boring, stifling place. We have a beautiful world. It is gorgeous. Have we noticed it? Have we really celebrated God’s creation? Have you done that? I have to do a better job of that myself. And I think if you are honest with yourself, you would say, “Ed, I do too.” But how do I do it? How do I celebrate? Do I dance and throw flowers around? How do I do it?
Take out a pen or pencil and a piece of paper and I want you to write a couple of words down. I’ll give you some homework today. The first word I want you to write down is the word SNOW. We don’t get that much snow here in the metroplex. I love to watch the weatherman talk about snow and I get very excited at the mention of possible snow. We muse that in a couple of weeks we can hit the slopes. I have been skiing one time in my life. People ski in Colorado, New Mexico, I don’t know, the Alps, sounds good. When you are skiing, you love the snow. Most people like snow because we don’t see it that much of it. It drives us to drink flavored coffee and hot cocoa. It kind of brings romance into the air, doesn’t it singles? Snow. You know snow should cause us to worship God. We could say, “God, you are so awesome because you have sent this beautiful powder onto the earth and it makes everything so beautiful in such a unique way.” But I want to challenge you to go deeper.
I want to show you how some elements of creation should draw us to worship God and the unique characteristics and attributes of God that the creation reflects. The first word is snow. Last week we talked about Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Is that a great verse or what? God is telling me, “Ed, even though you’ve stumbled, you’ve fumbled, you’ve made this moral mistake, you’ve that error, even though you have sinned before Me, if you confess your sin, you turn from the sin, your sins, Ed, will be as white as snow.” The next time you see snow, you can worship God because of the beauty, but it should point you to worship Him because of the forgiveness aspect of the character and nature of God. You know God could have said, “Well too bad, men, too bad, women, you are sinners, your sins have separated Me from you. You are going to have to stay separated for the rest of your lives in eternity, separate from Me.” God didn’t do that, though. He bridged the gap by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins and if we receive Christ, we can be cleansed and forgiven and our lives can be as white as a black diamond slope in Vail, Colorado.
Here is the second word I want you to write down. FLOWER. Flower. And some of you guys, Valentines Day is coming up. What day is Valentines? Quickly now. Some of the guys are saying Thursday. You say Valentino who? That’s right. And on Valentines Day what do we do? We buy flowers. You buy flowers and gifts for that special someone, for your spouse or maybe if you are a single adult, for your girlfriend, or for your Mom or sister or whoever. And we love to see the reactions of people when they get flowers. They are so excited, they are happy. They enjoy looking at the flowers. We like to see the bluebonnets in Texas and all of the other wildflowers. Many of us have probably worshipped God by thanking Him for putting so much majestic color around us. But I want that to drive you deeper. I want you to think about Matthew 6:28 & 30. Jesus said, “Look at the lilies of the field, they grow, they do not labor or spin. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field which is here today and gone tomorrow and then thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you my child?” Flowers should draw me to worship God because He provides for me. He doesn’t meet all of my greeds. He meets all of my needs.
Number three. RAIN. Rain. When you see rain and you feel rain on the umbrella, when it makes your mascara run, you may say, “It’s raining again.” And you might worship God and say it is great God that you replenish the earth. But here is what the Bible says in Isaiah 55:9, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth. It will not return to Me empty.” The next time you are in a rainstorm, it should cause you to worship God and think about His word. Whenever I am exposed to God’s word, whenever I hear someone teach on it, whenever I sing about it, whenever I see it acted out, it never ever penetrates my life without any meaning or impact. And the same is true for you. So that element of nature should cause us to worship God. Go home this afternoon and look in the Bible for the words eagle, mountain, fruit or clouds. The Bible talks on and on about these subjects, elements of nature that should cause us to worship God. That’s how we get involved in the celebration of creation.
The preservation of creation. The preservation of creation. How do I preserve this creation? You know Genesis 2:15 tells us that we are to have dominion, loving concern over the earth. In this text God pretty much gives us the Biblical by-laws. We don’t own the earth. God owns the earth, we are the trustees and we are to take care of the earth. God had lent it to us. It is very important that we understand that.
When I was a sophomore in college my basketball coach called me one Thursday and he said, “Ed, we have an all-American recruit coming in and I wondered, would you entertain him and let him stay in your dorm room for the weekend.” I said, “Coach Williams, no problem, however I am going to be out of town. I am going to Tampa, Florida.” He said, “That’s fine, do you mind if he stays in your room?” I said, “No.” So I meet the guy on Friday, talked to him, gave him my dorm key. He looked nice and respectable. He said, “I’ll take care of it.” I go off for the weekend. I come back and when I walk up the steps and see my dorm room, the door is cracked open, the room is trashed, I mean trashed, I mean shattered and tattered. Pizza on the ceiling, beds messed up, my clothes thrown everywhere. And this gentleman had stolen a pair of my brand new Addidas top ten basketball shoes. You’re talking about upset. You’re talking about being mad. You’re talking about feeling violated. I picked the phone up and called our head coach and said, “Coach Williams, this guy has totally messed up my room.” I went on and on to him and it kind of gets me upset thinking about it now, you know.
How do you think God feels when He looks at this room and He sees what His children have done to His earth, how we have abused it, how we have violated it, how we have taken advantage of it? Don’t you think it breaks the heart of God to see the pollution? Don’t you think it breaks the heart of God to see how we just raped this beautiful earth. I’m talking about people who matter to God, they have done that. And God looks around and He goes, “You mean, these people say they love me. These people are supposed to be stewards of the earth. These people are supposed to be preserving the environment.
Last week we talked about abortion. And we talked about protecting developing children. That’s great, protecting developing children, but how about protecting the environment into which the children will be born? How about that? So it is stewardship. You see stewardship is not just putting money in the offering plate and giving it to the Build A Vision fund. That is fine and good. Stewardship also talks about responsibility and it is also refers to being stewards of this beautiful, beautiful earth.
This morning I was shaving. I don’t shave very much, but I do shave on Sunday. EJ, my three year old, is standing beside me watching me. All of a sudden I see on the top of one of our lights in the bathroom, a ladybug. “Look, EJ, check it out.” “Dad, look at that bug. Will he bite, will he get me?” I said, “No, he won’t.” So I stand up and get up on the counter and very carefully, not wanting to damage the bug, I grabbed him in a Kleenex and put him on the counter. EJ is fascinated by this ladybug. “Oh, Dad, look, the spots.” I said, “EJ, if you are very careful you can pet the ladybug.” I asked him what he wanted to do with the ladybug and he answered that he wanted to let him go in the backyard. So EJ and I take our prize possession, this morning now, to the backyard and let him go. The ladybug was kind of frozen but he finally makes his way off. EJ was so fascinated by the simplicity of a ladybug. When was the last time you really worshipped God and you really noticed the intricacies and the details and the beauty of a bug, or a flower or a tree or a gazelle or some other part of creation. We need this proper attitude, this proper theology of ecology as we begin to preserve God’s creation.
How do I get involved in this preservation? I want to challenge you to do some CPR on the earth. CPR. C stands for confess. I dare say every person in this room needs to confess their sins of abuse and litter before God. We all do in some way, shape, form or fashion. “God, forgive me. I want to turn from that sin.” He will wipe the slate as white as snow. Confess that sin before God. This past Wednesday I went down to Houston, Texas because the father of our Minister of Worship, Stan Durham, died suddenly of a heart attack and I preformed the funeral services. As we were driving out to the graveside I saw a field, beautiful green grass with probably 300 pieces of litter scattered about. And I thought that each one of those pieces of litter, Jack in the Box cups, or whatever, represent a sin before God. So we need to confess that sin to God. I don’t believe a person can really love Jesus Christ with all of his heart or all of her heart if they are littering, if they are making fun of and abusing and trashing out God’s environment. That is C.
P stands for pickup. I challenge you from this day until you die or until the Lord comes back, pick up a piece of trash whenever you can. It somehow helps to clean up the environment bit by bit. P, pickup.
R stands for recycle. Recycle. You will notice our bulletins are printed on recycled paper. When you buy tapes, the tape albums are made with recycled material. We have some recycling ministries going on with our children. Effective recycling, though, begins with precycling. What I mean is, before you buy a product, think about the trash that will be distributed due to you purchasing that particular item. Now I am not talking about freaking out on this stuff, but I am saying to be a good steward. CPR. The preservation of creation. Are you doing your part?
You see a lot of Christians and a lot of churches want to sit back and kind of want to say, “I don’t want to get involved in the environmental movement because I might catch that infectious New Age virus.” No you won’t. We should be the ones who are the most active in it. This is God’s world. The people who are pantheists and New Agers, they put themselves on the same level as the dolphin or the spotted owl. The Bible says we are above the other created order. We are made in the image of God, just lower than the angels. We should have the highest view. And as we get involved in the movement, the other people should say, “Wow, what drives you, what motivates you.” And we can point them to our Lord.
Finally, we need to get involved in the salvation of creation. The salvation of creation. The celebration of creation, the preservation of creation and the salvation of creation. The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse.” You see the earth is the theater for the divine drama of the gospel. The earth. Genesis 1, 2 and 3. It talks about God’s creation, man made in God’s image. And God created this universe just for you, just for me. The Bible closes in Revelation 20 through 22 where it tells us that when Jesus comes back there will be a new heaven and a new earth and if we have received Jesus Christ we will live forever and ever with Him. I am talking about a creation of God.
How about you? You know I can talk on and on about the environment but you can never really understand the environment, you can never really appreciate it to the degree that God wants you to appreciate it until you come to know His Son. I see a lot of people coming to the church every week and between you and me, it is like they are a living corpses, living corpses with hearts beating, talking and walking but not really living because they don’t know Christ personally. They feel like something is missing, that life is not really jelling. The answer is Jesus. Everything in creation should point you to Jesus. Because there is something physical here, that means something had to create that something. If there was nothing, nothing would require no explanation. But there is something and it requires an explanation. And the Bible says in Romans 1:20 it is God. The Bible also says for those who seek God, God will reveal Himself to them. Has God brought you here today to reveal that word to you? If you come to know Christ personally, the grass will be greener, the oceans will be bluer, the wild life will be richer. I can go on and on and on. Won’t you please come to know Jesus Christ personally because the moment you make that decision, the moment you make that commitment, I’m going to tell you what is going to happen. You will be able to say exactly what Dana Michaels said in her song with confidence. You can walk around and say “This is my Father’s world and He made it just for a sinner, a person who matters to Him just like me.”