God’s ‘Earth Day’ Every Day
Study Guide April 28, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
Gen 1:28-31- “God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” NASU
This last Monday was the celebration of Earth day, which was begun back in 1970 as a way to promote awareness about environmental issues. And if you look around the world, there genuinely are many abuses of this beautiful planet that God made for us all to enjoy and to take care of…or to manage under His guidance. Recently our daughter and family, living in Bangkok, Thailand, had to endure a really bad stretch of air pollution that had settled all over Southeast Asia. Schools were closed for awhile, and people were told to wear masks wherever they went. A badly polluted river runs right near the International School where Sara and Todd live and work. That gives us something else to pray for when we think of the health conditions of where they serve.
And while that is an example of real negligence, it certainly reminds us all that since God made this world as a gift for mankind to care for, all the while using it’s vast resources to prosper, all people have the responsibility to respect and protect and care for this amazing planet that God created for us. As followers of Christ, we not only have the responsibility to be good stewards of this beautiful world, but we also have the responsibility to explain to the world why God made it in the beginning and what He has planned for it in the end…or in the forever future we should say. Plus, we are to give voice to truth and give the Biblical picture of what’s going on with this world to a world that has historically lived their lives by falsehoods and distortions about all of creation. And of course, that requires that people be reminded that every consideration about creation has to be connected with reverence for the Creator. Whenever the Creator is left out of the picture everything gets all distorted.
Actually, the fact that so many people are now being made aware of this need to care for the environment points to a great opportunity for God’s people to fill in the rest of the picture and point them to the Creator, who they also need to become their Redeemer! Remember, the Apostle Paul used the fascination that the Greeks had about their many so-called gods to fill in the picture by pointing them to the one true God. Notice what he said: Acts 17:22-28- “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…” NKJV
That is one of the most affirming and instructive witnesses ever given. Notice how Paul affirmed and commended their concern and interest in religious things, and then informed and instructed them about the truth of God as the true Creator of the heavens and the earth, as well as the personal Creator of all people, and then pointed out the need for each person to reach out to this personal Creator as their Lord and God. He started with where they were and showed them where they could could be, if they were willing to go there, of course.
And what was their response? Acts 17:32-34- “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.“So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” NKJV
So again, some mocked, some were made more interested, and some believed unto salvation. And that’s the way it always is. But the point is that Paul left the responses in the hands of God the Holy Spirit, and simply used their religious interests as a way to share with them a realistic worldview, the Biblical worldview. In a similar way, we can also affirm people who have a genuine concern for taking care of the environment. We can commend them for that, and then also instruct them further on how it all fits together in God’s plan.
Now, we know that an overall Biblical worldview is what is sorely lacking in many educational places and in many people who are passionate about the environment, but are negligent about the Creator. And yes, like those who mocked Paul’s revelation of truth, there are some in the environmental circles that mock the truth of God as Creator and only Savior. There have always been people throughout history that have worshiped creation, but rejected the Creator. From some early Greek transcripts found in 12 B.C. references to ‘maga’ or ‘Mother Gaia’ were found. This was a notion that nature had it’s own spirit. And from that came the notion of an ‘Earth Mother’, or ‘Mother Earth’. And although, that did make for a very humorous commercial some years later… “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”…remember that…still, it did give rise to many cultures associating ‘spirits’ with the Earth. And these people would then practice some sort of worship rituals and even give names to the so-called ‘god-spirits’ of the Earth.
But although some in the various environmental movements have taken a very adversarial stance against Biblical Creationists, still, God’s people don’t have to let them set the tone nor take the lead on the need to both love God and take loving-care of God’s creation. Of all people on Earth, God’s people should be taking the lead and setting the pace on being careful to do whatever is possible to protect the environment and care for God’s creatures and be examples of how God’s good earth should be respectfully managed and treasured. And as God’s people do so, like with Paul with those in that Greek crowd that were sincerely interested and who did later become saved by God’s grace, we, too, can look at the environmental concerns of the sincerely interested and the sincerely seeking, as opportunities to come alongside of them and basically say: “You know, since you love the beauty of this Earth, with all it’s amazing creatures and plants and trees and such, you’re really going to love its Creator! In fact, let me tell you about what God has in mind for this planet when He decides that it’s time to renovate and resurrect the Earth in the years to come!”
I always thought that Isaiah’s picture of the coming Millennial Kingdom was one of the most striking ways to inspire people about the coming changes in Earth’s ecological system. Isa 11:6-9- “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.” NLT
You talk about ‘climate change’! There’s going to be a climate change all right, and it’s going to change not only our decaying weather systems, but also the damaged instincts of the entire animal kingdom. Who wouldn’t want to live in an environment like this! This is like going ‘back to Eden’ again! And this is all coming. This is the change that is going to be good for the Earth…great for the Earth, and for all who love its Creator and Redeemer.
But, still, even though the Earth and the animal kingdom is not like this yet, everyone is still responsible for taking as good of care of this sin damaged version of the Earth as we can. Remember, it belongs to God, and so God’s people should be the leaders in taking as good of care of God’s Earth as we can, even though it is wearing out like a garment. (Ps 102:25-26- “Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.” NASU) Which also means that this Earth probably needs even greater care since it’s wearing out, and God’s people can demonstrate what loving the Creator and caring for His creation really looks like.
Again don’t let the mockers set make the case for caring for the Earth. And don’t let the mockers make you become like them, nor let them keep you from using one of the most powerful persuasions God uses to bring people to salvation: the witness of His creation as a message about His salvation. That’s what the Apostle did, right? And even though there will be some who arrogantly reject the message, it’s pretty hard to deny the power of it. For example: You already know something about every evolutionist who rejects the Creator and Savior. You already know, that they already know, what they should know, but are simply refusing to know… Here’s what I mean: Rom 1:19-20- “They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” NLT
Oh, to be sure, they know that this amazing world had to have a Creator, and that they accountable to the Creator. But it’s like Paul went on to say that they are simply suppressing that truth in the stubbornness of their self-will. Or, they are simply ignoring that conscientious awareness in their soul, or what’s been called – ‘the God-given baloney meter’ that’s going off in their heads about their foolish beliefs.
It’s also like the Psalmist pointed out: Ps 19:1-4- “How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what He has done! Each day announces it to the following day; each night repeats it to the next. No speech or words are used, no sound is heard; yet their message goes out to all the world and is heard to the ends of the earth.”TEV So even the stars in the sky are yelling out the glory of God and the fact that everything that exists belongs to Him. That’s what Ps 24:1 says too: “The world and all that is in it belong to the Lord; the earth and all who live on it are His.” TEV God alone is the sole Creator and Owner of this world. And so the people of this world will either live on it as a born again child of God or as a thief and a stranger to God.
Think about that a moment: Remember, it wasn’t a coincidence that the two men who were crucified on either side of Jesus were both thieves. These two thieves represented all mankind. For everyone has stolen from God His rightful rule as Lord of our lives. All have stolen the rightful worship and service that God deserves as our Lord, as well as stolen from His glory and His rightful ownership of our time, and our talents, and our treasures. But one thief repented and therefore was saved…but the other thief did not repent and therefore remained unsaved. So, yes, everyone in the world was represented by one of those two thieves. Each one of us is either a thief that has repented or a thief that has not yet repented.
It’s just like in the category of environmentalism. There are those who have stolen from God’s glory by their falsehoods of evolution and their worship-like attitudes toward the creature and creation rather than the Creator. They are the unrepentant thief. But fortunately, there are others who have repented and received the Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and are trying to give God glory for it all, even in how they lovingly care for His creation. And, again, that is then also a powerful witness to others around us as they see followers of Jesus being even more passionate about caring for the Earth than they are, because we know the One that made this Earth and what it represents. God made the Earth as a home for God and His people to spiritually and physically dwell together. The Earth is God’s gift to His people. Basically our Heavenly Father has been saying to us all what He said to Adam and Eve: “Look around…I made all of this for you!” The Earth was like a birthday present for our first parents…the most amazing birthday present possible, right? And the Lord Jesus said that when He renews the Earth from all the damage that the effects of sin and the curse and abuse has had on it, that this original birthday present of our first parents will become the inheritance of their children, or we should say – God’s children. Remember? Matt 5:3-5- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” NASU
That’s something that those who do not know God also do not understand about this Earth: The Earth is part of the inheritance that God is going to give to His children to enjoy for all eternity. Also, God has some big changes planned for it as well…everything from climate change to creature change and even dimensional change. It’s going to be bigger and better than ever! And that just make sense, too…because for resurrected people you’re going to need a resurrected planet!
But again, every day God’s people are to be passionate about the careful tending and cultivation and management and use of the Earth, for we know Who it belongs to, and we also know that by Jesus’ gift of salvation to us, we belong to Him as well.
(A great free Bible and nature devotional: cru.org Scripture Field Guide, by Neil Downey)