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God and the Environment

February 23, 2014 | PB | From the series: Culture Shock

The message today is one in a series of messages called “Culture Shock.” How does God deal with some of the more controversial subjects of our day? Today we find what God has to say about the environment and environmental issues, from global warming to “treehuggers.” You’ll be surprised at how much God has to say about the earth and its complex environment!

Listen to the Sermon

Sermon Notes

Psalm 24.1-2

For how many of you would this be the first sermon you’ve ever heard about the environment?

Do you think this is even worthy of a Sunday morning message?

You actually deal with the issue of the environment on a daily basis. Yesterday, the squirrel slam protestors. Just for reference, I love the outdoors and all the work I did before the ministry was outdoors. My dream is to one day go out to California and see 3. the Redwoods.  I want a picture of me hugging a Redwood. I’m one of those people who feels the nearness of God in the outdoors more than anywhere else. I remember standing on the Great Wall of China, looking out over the mountains and valleys that stretched out for miles and miles and I thought my heart would come out of my chest. I actually have a degree in Environmental Resources Management from ESF, but whether you have an education in this arena or not, you see this issue in the news, in government and you have feelings about this!  And questions. Just today; Beijing pollution.

Some folks think that:

The real issue with the environment is whether global warming is actually happening or not, and if it is, is man responsible for it.

Environmentalists are “tree hugging liberals” or new age folk seeking to thwart economic progress. Green and weird go together.

The whole environmental debate is overblown.  The Bible says that the world will burn up in the end anyway.

The earth is our “Sacred Mother” and the equal giver of life to all species and as such all species must be protected equally.

So what does God have to say about the environment?

Psalm 24.1-2 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,

The world and those who dwell therein.

For He has founded it upon the seas,

And established it upon the waters.

The first conclusion we need to come to is this: The earth belongs to God.

The implication is that we are to honor God’s creation.  Our attitude needs to reflect a reverence for the Owner.

Imagine that you work for a well-to-do boss.  He seems to like you and is pleased with what you do for him. You plan a getaway weekend with your wife and the boss asks you, “what are you doing this weekend?” and you tell him. So he turns around, reaches into his pocket and hands you car keys.  “Here,” he says, “I want you to have something nice to drive to your weekend to make it special.”  And your jaw drops. Because you know what he
has in the parking lot. It’s a gorgeous silver Mercedes.  And when you leave work that day, you get into the boss’ car.  It has great acceleration, awesome tires and it looks great. But how are you going to treat that car over the weekend?  Because you respect your boss and think a lot of him, you’ll treat his car with extra care.

The earth is not just a piece of land and an ocean of water.  The earth belongs to God and as such is precious, valuable, irreplaceable and sacred.

The second conclusion we come to comes from Psalm 115.16.  It says, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to
man.”  In Genesis 1 it says that man was to fill the earth and subdue it, to rule over creation.

So that second conclusion is this: God appointed mankind dominion over the earth.

The implication there is that we have been made stewards or managers of the environment.  Some people think we can just do whatever we
like with the earth, use it up.  We’re to balance using the earth with conserving the earth.

Which brings us to our third conclusion: the earth/nature has intrinsic value and reflects the character and beauty of the Creator.

Here’s Psalm 19.1-2:

The heavens declare the glory of God;

And the firmament shows His handiwork.

2 Day unto day utters speech,

And night unto night reveals knowledge.

So the environment teaches us, renews us in our appreciation for and insights into the character and nature of God Himself.  That means that we need to explore, not exploit, enjoy and not worship the earth.  People who worship the creation soon forget the Creator.

Romans 1.19-21

…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

So here’s the fourth conclusion: Mankind is a special creation of God and is uniquely responsible to God for the animals, plants and resources of the earth.

Psalm 8.3-8

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

4 What is man that You are mindful of him,

And the son of man that You visit him?

5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,[a]

And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;

You have put all things under his feet,

7 All sheep and oxen—Even the beasts of the field,

8 The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea

That pass through the pathsof the seas.

All livings things have value, but not all living things have the same value.  We are to use, not abuse animals, plants and resources to glorify God.  So whales and human babies are not the same.  No, salamanders and tiny fish are not to be preserved with the same intensity as human life.  God made man a little lower than the angels.  Not something He says about fish and wildlife.

But we do have to balance two opposing factors. Consumption/productivity and conservation.  Greed and carelessness or laziness are the cause of pollution, not the wise use of resources.  In college I studied in Syracuse for four years.  Syracuse is a waterfront city, on the shores of Lake
Onondaga.  When I went to school there it was officially the most polluted lake in the US.  Why? Because of Crucible Steel and the irresponsible dumping of waste into the lake.  They were greedy and careless.  The BP oil spill, although an accident, wouldn’t have happened if there were better well facilities.  They are a multi billion dollar a year industry.  No excuses, more profits.

And here’s number 5:
Christians should be leading the way in environmental issues and efforts.

For one, as a very intelligent young woman pointed out this week, environmental issues disproportionately affect the poor and marginalized.  If you’re struggling to survive, small changes in the environment affect you, rather than people who have a lot of margin.  So drought or famine or pollution can wipe out a poorer population. And God commands us to remember the poor!

For another (reason why Christians should be leading the way), environmental issues are overcome by Christ’s redemption!

Romans 8.19-21

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Man’s sin has affected the creation!  And creation personified is waiting eagerly for Jesus to return and liberate it from its bondage to decay, etc.!

So here’s the application part…

1. Do something in regards to the verifiable areas of the environment we can all agree on: clean air and water, balanced land use, productivity and progress with constraints for conservation, eliminate waste, recycle. We can all take steps in the right direction.

2. Identify greed, ignorance and carelessness/laziness in your own life, the causes of poor stewardship of the environment.

3. Get outside!  Learn about nature and what it reveals about the Creator and teach your kids.

God made you.  So you belong to God.  And you’ve sinned and rebelled against God.  And so the day of Judgment and wrath is coming.  But God revealed His great love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.  And He doesn’t have to offer this, but He offers one way to be set free; by believing on His Son.  By turning over the ‘reigns’ of your life to Him.