Summary: At Creation all nature conformed to God’s purpose and fulfilled His intention, and so He declared all He had made “very good”. One day God will declare the world “good” again. And all creation will praise God’s goodness.
Sermon Series> Romans 8, Reasons to be ENCOURAGED
Reason #5: We’ve got High Hopes! 8:19-25
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
“What a crazy, rotten, mixed up world we live in!” Have you ever heard these words—or said them? I think we’ve all expressed this sentiment at times. We get frustrated and dissatisfied with the world we live in, largely because our world is not as God originally made it, nor intended it to be. We all agree that the earth suffers from pollution. What not everyone realizes is that the ultimate cause of contamination is moral pollution.
My first introduction to ecology came when I was working for my Boy Scout Soil and Water Conservation merit badge at Forestburg Scout Reservation in upstate New York. I learned that we are stewards of this planet, and the importance of protecting the environment by preserving our natural resources. Much later, in seminary, I learned the cause of our planet’s ecological distress—the Fall, the cataclysmic event of Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, God sentenced all creation: “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen 3:17). Our world is under a curse, and is suffering the effects of sin. We’ve been banished from the Garden. Moral pollution resulted in physical decay. Prior to the Fall there were no earthquakes, typhoons, floods, or volcanic eruptions—the world was healthy and whole. Prior to the Fall there was no tampering with the ozone layer, no dumping of toxic chemicals into rivers, no smog, no endangered species, no depletion of the wilderness or reduction of forests. Our world is not evolving towards perfection—it is rather suffering corruption and dissipating, becoming tarnished and spoiled.
God cares about His creation, and so we should also be concerned about the on-going plight of nature. We are the caretakers of creation. I’m not suggesting we become “tree-huggers” or militant, fanatical environmentalists; I am simply reminding us that it matters how we treat God’s world.
According to Paul, a reversal is coming--the creation is waiting in eager anticipation of being restored to its former glory. One translator says the world is “on tiptoe to see” what the Creator will do (Phillips). Another puts it, “The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next” (Peterson/The Message). When Christ returns, this world will be liberated from the devastating effects of the Fall. In the meantime, all creation longs for the conclusion of God’s plan. This complex world did not come into existence by itself, by accident or blind chance—that is a thoroughly irrational notion. The world is full of evidence pointing to intelligent design. God intentionally created this, His world, and will one day restore it to its original grandeur.
“In the beginning”, at creation all nature conformed to God’s purpose and fulfilled His intention, and so He declared all He had made “very good”. One day God will declare the world “good” again. And all creation will praise God’s goodness.
Paul compares the anticipation of creation to a woman in labor. The “groaning” described in verse 22 is expectant, hopeful longing. The waiting is painful, but as with childbirth, worth the struggle…and so the creation anticipates restoration. In spite of the Fall the world is a beautiful place. Certain magnificent settings I’ve seen stand out in my mind: Grandfather Mountain NC, Muir Woods CA, the Bavarian Alps, and of course New England! Do you appreciate nature? Just imagine what this world will be like when Jesus returns. I can also recall visiting certain not-so-lovely places: the desolate deserts of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the urban decay of Juarez, Mexico, and the war-torn devastation of Sarajevo. These places too will be transformed--not by urban planners, not by corporate investors, but by God. “One day the groaning creation will become a glorious creation” (Wiersbe).
Though things are not what they were, even after the Fall we still recognize the hand of God through His artistry—imagine how clearly God was revealed in nature prior to Genesis 3! Things aren’t what they were, but they will be when Christ returns!
Even we will be changed, verse 23. Just as the creation will be restored at the return of Christ, at the same time we will receive glorified bodies. They will be “new and improved”! In Philippians, Paul states that Jesus “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body” (3:21). In the Garden of Eden, God warned that eating the forbidden fruit would result in death, Gen 2:17. A more literal rendering is, “dieing you shall die”. The process of death began by turning from God. It’s been said that the cause of all death is birth. But Christ will un-do the damage caused by sin.
The Christian life involves struggle, and (often) severe hardships. Is all this worth the effort? It is if we understand that the temporal age we live in isn’t all there is. The best is yet to come. You can’t even compare what we have now to what we’ll experience one day, what an old Gospel song calls, “in the sweet by and by.” The creation groans, and we groan, in anticipation of what God will do in and through us.