Creation has seemed to go out of control the last couple of weeks in my part of the planet. August 23rd we had a small earthquake (5.9). On August 28th Hurricane Irene hit New York state, sparing the coast of expected devastating winds and waves but dumping several inches of rain that caused major flooding, some landslides and many trees down (which means loss of power). Now on September 4th a tornado passed just south and east of here, tearing down trees, severely damaging homes and ripping down power lines, some of which were replaced the week after Irene. I jokingly posted on Facebook today, “What’s next, a meteor strike?”
Now back in the 70’s, when I was a young, unbalanced, saw demons behind every tree, conspiracy theory whacko who thought Jesus was coming back in the next 20 minutes….I would have used these events to proclaim how the last days were truly here. Today, older, wiser, more balanced, and tired of the foolishness of people who make the Church of Jesus look ridiculous with all their false proclamations, I turn to the Bible and see what’s really going on. Check this out:
Romans 8:14-25 NLT
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (15) So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” (16) For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. (17) And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering. (18) Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.
(19) For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. (20) Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, (21) the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (22) For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
(23) And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us. (24) We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. (25) But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
Now Romans 8 is a powerful chapter and should be considered in context. I can’t cover all of that here or else you won’t read it all. It also gives insight about several topics. But what I want to focus on is what it says about the groanings of creation and the groanings of the Spirit filled believer.
First we see Paul the Apostle describe receiving and being led by the Holy Spirit. This is a foundation of the Christian experience. If you are truly allowing the Spirit to lead you daily, you are revealing yourself to be a child of the living God. Walking in the flesh (your sinful human nature) is not true life. That’s what you did before you came to Christ.Why would you want to live that way now? You received God’s Spirit when He adopted you, so walk in Him and be led by Him.
Notice also the promise that we are heirs together with Christ, God’s natural Son. That means that we get what Jesus has received through our adoption by God. WOW! And this infilling of God’s Spirit was not given to make us God’s slaves but but to give us the ability to have a deeper relationship with the Father. We get to call Him Daddy….which is implied by the phrase Abba Father. He will always be Holy God who sits on the throne, but He is our Dad, too!
Next we read about suffering. If we are going to share in the glory of Christ as adopted sons, we must also share in His suffering. There’s a verse you won’t hear in a “prosperity, power and healing” conference. Paul promises that what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. So the cool, awesome stuff of our inheritance has not been fully released to us yet, so until then there are times when we will suffer. Now hold on to that thought for a few minutes. We’ll come back to it later.
Paul then relates our suffering to what happens in creation. He says all creation is waiting eagerly in hope for the future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, the creation was put under God’s curse when sin came into the world. Because of that, things in creation aren’t fully functioning the way they were designed to. In the beginning there was no death, storms, natural disasters, illness, stars falling from the sky, not even lightning or thunder. There wasn’t even rain until the day of the great flood (Noah and the ark). The ground was watered by a mist that came up out of the ground (Genesis 2:5-6). The planet was a perfect “greenhouse” type of environment. Then sin entered the world thorough Adam and Eve. The result was a curse from God on them and on the entire creation He had made. His perfect creation had been ruined by the rebellion and sin of the man and woman he made.
Since that time, creation has been groaning! Every sliding continental plate that makes the earth quake, every angry cloud in the sky, every gust of wind that tears a tree from its roots and topples a home, each rip in the ozone layer that protects us from instant death is nothing more than the groaning of creation gone wild. These things aren’t caused by the activities of man and the use of fossil fuels. Look at a picture of the planet from space. 70% of earth is covered by water. Look at a picture of earth from space at night, when all the lights of “civilization” are turned on. Now use your logic and realize how absolutely insignificant the presence of humanity is on the planet compared to the mass of land, which is only 30% of the whole globe. We can’t possibly generate enough damage to screw up the entire ecosystem.
Human beings can add to the damage taking place on the earth, so we should absolutely make efforts to take care of it and clean up after ourselves. But we can’t destroy it, it’s too big. These are natural disasters we are dealing with, not man made, and they are happening because the cursed creation is groaning, longing for the day when it will escape death and decay and be fully restored by God. So all the things that are happening are simply related to the planet’s response to the curse that came upon it after the events that took place in the Garden of Eden. I think that most disasters are just random events, too. I don’t see God planning every storm, every lightning flash, every hurricane. They just happen because the system He made is screwed up and He hasn’t fixed it yet. It’s the same way with children born with diseases and disabilities. I don’t believe God deliberately caused each one of those either. Human reproduction is also messed up because of the curse, but that’s another blog.
Natural disasters have been going on for thousands of years. They may seem more frequent to us now because global communication has evolved to such an extent that you can find out about anything that takes place anywhere in just a matter of minutes. That’s why I don’t buy into the whole “Jesus is coming because of all the disasters” stuff. If that were true, He should have come a long time ago. We are never going to know when He is coming back. Jesus doesn’t even know the day or hour. (Matthew 24:36) But He does command us to keep watch (Matthew 25:13), living as though He is coming at any time. One thing is for certain, every day we are closer to that day.
So every time one of these disasters takes place, what should be our response? I think it should be, “Well, there goes another labor pain! Come soon Jesus and restore all things.” What about all the suffering and devastation? Doesn’t God care? Of course He does. This is not the way He designed creation. He didn’t mess it up, mankind did because of sin. Until He restores it we must understand what Paul said, people have to endure times of suffering, even Christians, because we live in a cursed world. Now the curse of sin and death is broken off the life of a believer because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, but everything around us still groans.
Paul says we are groaning, too (verse 23), because we are anxiously waiting for the day when our bodies will be released from sin and suffering and we receive our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He promised us. A believer will spend eternity with an immortal, sin free, disability free, disease free body when that day comes. Your life on this cursed planet is so short compared to eternity. Don’t focus on the suffering of today, focus on the glory to come. This is the hope we were given when we were saved. If you had it already you wouldn’t have to live hoping for it to come in the future. Since you don’t have it yet, Paul says we have to wait for it patiently and with confidence.
A New Creation
So until that day, press on, hang in there with Jesus, don’t get distracted from what He has called you to do, reach out to the lost with the good news of the Gospel and live each day for Him. After all these labor pains are over we are going to enjoy a new creation and a new body…..a full restoration of all things.
Revelation 21:1-5 NLT Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. (2) And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (3) I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. (4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (5) And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then He said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”
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