This is My Father’s World
This morning we continue our series 7 simple truths of life.
These seven simple terms are life lessons that we all already know, we know them but the truth is that that sometimes we fail to live them. And when we fail to live according to these simple truths, we find life is just harder. Or sometimes, as in the case of today's simple truth, it's downright toxic.
And so we want to try to understand these but also to try to practice theme or them.
Now here's the simple truth we’re going to focus on today. It's quite simple: “Don't take for granted what you can't live without.” Or we might rephrase it a different way. We might say, “Don't be careless with what you can't replace.”
I find we tend to take a lot of things for granted in our life. Things that we absolutely need, they’re fundamental things but we are careless with them, we take them for granted, we don't really think about them.
Now there are 100 different applications of this principle but today I want to focus on two this morning. And that is the body that we live in. And the planet that we live on.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the gift of life.
Friends I know that you already know this but let me just remind you that life is a gift from God. Your life is a gift from God. God in His infinite love and wisdom created each one of us in His own image. Your mind, your Spirit, and your body are the handiwork of our Creator God.
I love how the psalmist expresses it; in one of favorite psalms, Psalm 139:13-15:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
You are wonderfully and fearfully made…woven together by the creative power of Almighty God. Your heart that pumps blood through your veins, your lungs that enable you to breath, your bones and muscles that allow you to walk and move and do amazing things, your eyes and ears, your brain that controls every system and enables them to all work together in an intricately complex and miraculous way and controls thought and reason and emotion. All of it designed and created by God.
But even beyond that, what makes human life unique? The breath of God. Genesis tells us like this: "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7) You are more than the sum total of chemicals and minerals found in the natural world or molecules chartered on the periodic table. God breathed Spirit into the human form, adding a sense of mystery to the essence of human life.
All of it, your very life; your body is a gift from God. And it is a gift, a resource that we cannot live without and it cannot be replaced! But for us as Christians it goes even beyond that. As a follower of Jesus Christ, no matter what your ability or disability, your body is the dwelling place of God! Paul says it like this: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
That is a very important passage of scripture. And it has some pretty powerful implications for us as followers of Christ.
So I want us to take a look at those implications. And the first one is this:
God expects me to manage my body
I’m not the owner; I’m the manager. God is the owner of my body, but I am the manager. The Bible uses word, “steward.” “Stewardship” is the old English word for “management.” We’re talking about the stewardship of health today. In other words, I cannot blame other people for how I use or misuse or abuse my body. I can’t blame anybody else. I’m the manager. My body is a gift from God, on loan to me; and one day I’m going to give an account.
One day I’m going to stand before God and he’s going to say, “What did you do with what I gave you? What did you do with the health I gave you? What did you do with the mind I gave you? What did you do with the opportunities, the abilities, the freedom? What did you do with the body I gave you?” I’m the caretaker of my body. God expects me to manage it.”
The second implication is this: My body is connected to the body of Christ
We also learn from the Scriptures that we are part of the body of Christ. You may have never heard it put this way before, but my body is connected to the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6: 15 we read this.
“Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ?”
We also see in that same passage another truth about our bodies in verse 19:
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?”
The Holy Spirit lives in my body. This is the third implication and a profound truth. God puts his Spirit into my body. That means God takes up residence inside you. God puts his Spirit into your spirit, so you are the temple of God today.
If you study Hebrew history in the Old Testament you will find that God, on earth, has always had a dwelling place. First, God dwelt in the tabernacle that was designed according to the specifications he gave to Moses. The tabernacle was the dwelling place of God. Then later God gave to David the specifications for the temple in Jerusalem, which eventually was built by Solomon and later rebuilt by King Herod. God dwelt in the temple, in that building, but the temple was eventually destroyed. Today God dwells in you. You are the temple.
If you were out walking down the street one day and you saw people vandalizing a house of worship and they were breaking the windows of a synagogue or a church and they were writing graffiti on God’s house, what would you do? Would you say, “That’s cool”? Or would you try to stop them or at least call 911? You should not be vandalizing a temple of God. You would either try to stop them or you would call the police.
Here’s a hard truth for us to accept. We vandalize a temple all the time – our body, by what we put in it, by our sleep schedule and by not taking care of our body. We are vandalizing the temple of God when we don’t take care of our bodies because the Holy Spirit lives in it—in us.
That’s why there is one final implication from this passage from 1 Corinthians 6.
“You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
That’s one of the things Jesus came to do. Jesus bought my body on the cross.
Do you know how much you’re worth? If you want to know how much you’re worth, look at the cross. With arms outstretched and nail-pierced hands Jesus said, “This is how much I love the world, and everybody in it.”
I don’t care who you are, what you look like, where you’re from, whether you short or tall, stout or thin, whatever. Jesus said, “This is how much I love you. I love you this much. I love you so much it hurts. I love you so much I’d rather die than live without you. I came all the way from heaven to do this for you. That’s how valuable you are. Your body is priceless.”
Let me ask you a question. If you owned a million-dollar race horse would you feed that race horse junk food? You’d be crazy to do it, but we put that stuff in our bodies all the time, and we are priceless. You are priceless. You are worth far more than a million-dollar race horse. You are the temple of God and the Holy Spirit lives in you. Will you turn to someone near you and say this?
The Holy Spirit lives in you! You are priceless!
And so the Apostle Paul writes these words to the people of Rome in Chapter 12.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
We were bought with a price: the life and death of Jesus on the cross. The Holy Spirit lives in my body. My body is connected to the body of Christ. And God expects me to manage my body. Why? This passage tells us why.
Paul tells us that this is truly the way to worship. You worship God with your body. You serve God with your body.
Did you know that taking care of your health, and then using your body to serve God and others, is an act of worship? Who would have thought that taking care of your body is an act of worship?
I want to get my body in better health. And as your pastor who loves you, I want you to get your bodies in better health. Not just so you can look good. Not just so you can feel good. Not just so you can live longer. Yeah, I’m glad for all that. Those are legitimate motives. But if God is going to continue His work in this world He needs us to offer our bodies to Him in the sacrifice of worship and service. If God is going to reach a lost and dying world, if He is going to feed the hungry, if He is going to offer hope and healing to the hurting he needs the longevity of my life and your life. The church is the hands, feet, and now that Jesus on the planet Earth for reaching the lost and setting oppressed people free. God needs our bodies to complete the mission of Jesus in world.
Your life is a gift from God. You live to serve God’s purpose. Health best serves God’s mission for the fruitful completion of your life purpose as well as the enjoyment of experiencing the fruits of your life’s labors. Why are our fifties, sixties, and seventies called our prime-time years? When you are healthy, you can still enjoy the energy of youthfulness, the wisdom of age, and the fruit of your accumulated years of labor.
Your time of death is not predetermined. It is affected by your life practices and choices. Somehow we don’t believe that, or we wouldn’t hear so many dumb statements at funerals. “I guess it was just their time to go.” Come on! The person who died sped the process by smoking three packs of cigarettes a day and being seventy pounds overweight!
So where do we begin? Well let me tell you where it began for me. It began with a conversion level experience that pushed me to the point where I was willing to actually take some meaningful action. My head had listened for years to statements about the importance of healthy eating and exercise, and I even took spells along the way where I practiced it. But usually my responses ranged from, “Someday I’ll get to it” to “I know a lot of people who are worse off than me.”
My rationalization proved dangerous. About 18 months ago in the fall of the year, one Sunday night after a fairly routine day of preaching and church activity I went to lay down to go to bed. When I did I immediately knew there was something not right. I felt my heart beating nearly outside my chest. Not only was it beating hard and fast, it felt like to me it was missing beats. I got up and walked around thinking it would just go away. I didn’t want to wake or worry Robin but it continued and seemed to me to be getting worse. So finally I woke her up and I told her I thought I needed to go to the hospital.
Believe me that was the last place I wanted to go, so you know it must have been pretty scary for me to do that. I got there and they hooked me up and did a few tests and after a while the doctor came back in and said my blood pressure was way up – it was something like 190 over 117 – and that was causing my heart to have irregular beat patterns – they called them PVC’s. I always thought those were plastic pipes but I learned they were premature ventricular contractions. Basically one side of the heart would beat a little earlier than it should and that caused that feeling of my heart fluttering. He said it was common that most everyone has them once in a while but that they were made worse by elevated blood pressure.
They gave me some medicine and sent me home and told me to see my regular doctor. I did and he confirmed the diagnosis sent me for some other tests which all checked out perfectly normal, but he put me on a mild blood pressure pill. Basically the doctor said that what I was experiencing was not an indication of a diseased heart but rather the red flag of a huge wake up call. I am not invincible. My experience was precipitated by the culmination of lifestyle stress, too much caffeine, and a total disregard for physical conditioning.
I knew I had to change if I wanted longevity in ministry, future anniversaries to celebrate with Robin, and the joy of grandchildren. My conversion had begun.
So I started eating right and exercising regularly and I it has paid tremendous dividends. I feel stronger and healthier now than I have felt in many many years. Does that guarantee I will never get sick or face other health challenges? No, but my chances for a long and healthy and productive life and ministry increase with every workout and every healthy choice.
Let me ask you, “Have you had your conversion? What changes do you need to make? Don’t wait. Start today!
Fitness begins with a change of mind. Why am I willing to sweat and hurt? Because it’s not about me. Your life is a gift from God; your body is God’s temple. Don't take for granted what you can't live without. Don't be careless with what you can't replace.
Now let’s take a moment a talk about the planet that we live on. This planet is something that is irreplaceable. And it's something that we are absolutely dependent on. And so often we take it for granted. Or worse we're just careless with it.
So again I’d like to talk about our stewardship of it. And I'm sure that there are some of you who are sick to death of hearing about the environment and ecological issues, and I’m not here to debate those this morning but here in church we want to talk about this in terms of a theological perspective. To look at a biblical and theological framework, and ask this question: "What is it that God expects of us relative to how we live on this planet?" And what we’re going to find is the simple truth illustrates something really important about God's will for our lives.
Now I want to begin recognizing that as I was growing up as a kid who my dad and my mom they would harp on me about turning off the lights in my bedroom. I don't know why I had a hard time with this, but I always used to leave them on and they had to tell me, "Turn off the lights!"
And I remember my dad saying to me, "You know what? We're going to dock your allowance if you don't start turning off the lights. Do you think money grows on trees? Do you think electricity comes out of nowhere? I’ve got to pay for this!"
And then as I grew up I understood this whole mentality. Because my boys growing up in their earlier years would leave the doors open, the TV running all day. And I could hear myself becoming my dad. "Do you think we’re air conditioning the outside? I've got a pay for that!"
Now with my parents it wasn't so much about the environment as it was just about wasting monetary resources. For us it's even more than that. But here's the thing that I know. Is that I can harp on my kids about leaving the door open or the lights on or the towels on the floor and I fail to see all the ways that I misuse or take for granted or carelessly use God's resources myself.
Brushing my teeth with the water running.
So sometimes we all practice a little bit of hypocrisy when it comes to pointing out the sins of others and not necessarily noticing our own problems when it comes to being good stewards of our resources.
So let me give you a theological framework for understanding our environmental concern; how we should be involved in the environment.
First let’s recognize that the issue of the environment is a great illustration of the gospel. The Christian gospel begins with one certain affirmation. It begins – and you know the line perhaps from the Apostle’s Creed. If you know it say it with me… “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…” So as with our bodies we begin with this idea of a God who created all things. He spoke and out of the darkness came light and the universe was born. He formed this planet. And then He formed from the clay of the earth in some sense human beings.
So God is the creator of all of this and you know how it speaks about this in the book of Genesis. It says that God is creating, and He takes delight in creating. Every day He calls forth something else in creation. And then at the end of the day it says He looked and He saw that it was good. You get to the last day of creation – the 6th day – and at the end of the day God looks at everything that He had made and He said, “That it was indeed, very good!”
Then we come to the book of Job and we find these wonderful chapters, 4 chapters that describe for us how God loves and takes delight in His creation. And in those chapters He challenges Job and he says, “Were you there when I set the foundations of the earth in place? Were you the one who set the limits of the oceans? Do you take delight in the sea creatures? Or do you soar with the eagles? Or are you there when the mountain goats give birth?” And the implication is that God is there for all of those things. And He takes delight in all of His creatures.
We find in the Psalms that wonderful verse that is our memory verse for the week that captures the sense of God’s understanding of His role with this creation. And I invite you to say it with me from Psalm 24:1:
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
Alright, the earth is the Lord’s. Everything on this planet belongs to God. He made it. And so you remember in the Garden of Eden God said to Adam and Eve, “Listen, kids, here it is. This planet, I give it to you to have dominion over.” Now He’s not saying, “I give it to you and you get the title. No, I still own it. But I’m going to let you rule over it. I want you to take care of it. You have dominion it.” And the idea is that they are going to do that in a way that would please the maker. And so they become God’s hands and feet and voice, God’s gardeners on this planet.
Now we go on from there and the scriptures also paint this wonderful picture of how in creation we see the glory of God. This is what the apostle Paul says about creation and God’s relation to it. He says in Romans 1:
“Ever sense the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (Romans 1:20)
And in Isaiah 6:2 we read these words:
“The whole earth is full of his glory.”
So this is His handiwork and when we look around at our planet and see its beauty, we’re seeing something about the nature and character of God.
Just as you look at a fine masterpiece and you see something about the creator who made it, when we look at this planet and we take joy and delight in we know something about God – simply from looking at His creation. This is His handiwork and His glory is revealed in it.
And so we say and we sing, “This is my father’s world.” This is my Father’s world.
Now you know that the Christian gospel doesn’t end with the good news there’s a creator God who gave us this gift of life. But it goes from there to bad news. And the bad news is that Adam and Eve in the Garden – and they typify really, they represent all the rest of us ever since – knowing what God wanted them to do failed to do it. And instead by being disobedient and focusing only on themselves and not on God or God’s will for creation, they bring destruction into the world. Paradise is lost because they pursue their own means first.
And every generation since then, we’ve done the same thing. We’re really most interested in what’s on it for me. “I’m not so concerned about the world. I just want to know what’s in it for me. I’m interested in my own convenience, my own comfort and how much more stuff I can have. And then after I think about me I might think about the people closest to me. And after I think about the people closet to me may be I think about a few others. And finally I think about the planet last.”
And in the process of doing that we have pillaged the earth, we have wounded the planet, we have brought pain by virtue of our own desires; our own sin. Its manifest in millions of ways on our planet because we treat this handiwork of God carelessly.
It’s like if you walk into the National Art Gallery downtown and you took a Coca-Cola with you and you decided to walk through the galleries and start shaking it before you opened it up. Would you do that with it spraying all over every piece of artwork in the gallery? Or take your chewing gum and stick it on one picture and throw your trash on the floor? Of course you would do that. Because you recognize these are masterpieces. And yet what you have here on this planet that God has made is infinitely greater than anything you’d find at the National Gallery of Art.
So here it is, this is what we’ve done. And the apostle Paul says in Romans 8 that the entre creation groans under the weight of human sin. Listen to this. He says,
“The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, (that is that God told Adam and Eve to rule over the planet. So the planet was subjected to Adam and Eve) in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
Here’s what he’s saying. He’s saying this earth is groaning under the weight of what we do to it as human beings and its waiting for the day when we finally figure out what it means to be authentically human. And when we live according to God’s will and when we do the creation will be set free from the pain and bondage it’s under right now.
This is our human condition. We take the earth for granted. We fail to see it’s a masterpiece. It’s really an interesting plaything for our personal enjoyment and nothing more.
That leads us to the good news of the gospel. We have the good news that God created all things. We have the bad news of human sin and the struggles we have and our brokenness. But then we have the good news. And the good news is that God sent a redeemer to save us from ourselves; to save us from our sins; to give us a new birth and a changed heart so that we might see the world differently, that we might see our role in the word differently. And once we come to faith in Christ and we say, “Jesus I choose to follow you.” And we invite the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out; we begin to look at things differently. It’s no longer all about me. But now it’s about, “So what is God’s purpose? And what is God’s plan?” And we begin to look at things differently. And I want you to know this: when it comes to being changed, when you are saved, when you find salvation, that salvation is not just about avoiding the kinds of sins we often think about. It’s also about doing certain things. And one of those things is about caring for the planet that God has made.
This is the theological framework for a Christian understanding of taking care of the environment.
One of the things that I have come to see is that worship for me is not just about coming to church on Sunday and singing songs. It is that clearly. But worship for me is also watching the sun set and realizing and marveling that God has made the creation in such a way that it displays His glory.
Discipleship for me is not just about reading my Bible or attending a Bible study group, though clearly it’s about that. But it’s also being concerned about the planet and learning more about it and then trying to take care of it.
And missions is not just about serving the poor and reaching those in need, though it’s clearly about that. But it’s also about simple mundane things like turning off a light when I leave a room or resetting the thermostat so that I’m not using up somebody else’s allocation of electricity.
All of these things are part of discipleship, worship, and mission.
Now with that in mind I like for us to think just a bit about some statistics related to the environment. From National Geographic a few facts that you might find interesting: The number of soda cans that you’ll open up in your lifetime and drink: 43,371! I’m not sure if that includes the number of beers some of you will drink, but they have that statistic too. 28,433 gallons of you use in the shower; in the bathroom.
The paper use that we have – now that has declined somewhat in recent years because of the emergence of the digital age – but even so in America we each use 700 pounds of paper in a year; not just in your home but also in the workplace or in school and when you go out to eat and the paper goods that are thrown away in the trash, 700 pounds per year per person in America.
Let’s say the average person drives 60,000 miles in their vehicle in a lifetime. That’s 60 years of driving at 10,000 miles per year which is a very conservative estimate. If you get 20 miles to the gallon over the course of your lifetime that’s 30,000 gallons of gasoline each of us will use. Now if we multiply that by the average attendance of our church on a Sunday, roughly 350, that’s 10,500,000 gallons of gasoline.
So here we are, we know some of these stats. Now the question I want to ask is what do we do about it?
Well first of all we begin by just recognizing that this is our Father’s world and He cares about how we treat the planet. And so this is an issue of discipleship and worship and mission. It has to do with our relationship with God. This really does matter to God.
Now typically there are three things that people talk about that you can do to change things and to make a difference. And I want to just mention them briefly because these really are very familiar, again it’s just that sometimes we forget them or we neglect to practice them. Three R’s. You know what they are:
And what’s fun about this is that none of these are that hard or complicated. It’s just a matter of getting into a mindset and seeking to consistently seek ways to accomplish these three things: Reduce, recycle, and reuse. Sometimes it does take a little extra effort, but if we all took our role as stewards of God’s creation seriously with a little effort we could make an amazing difference.
Let me give you a quick example. Did you know that if every household in America would replace one lightbulb with one of these, America would save $600 Million dollars of energy cost in one year? And that’s enough to heat and provide electricity for 3 million homes and it would reduce the amount of greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 800,000 automobiles in one year.
Or how about this? Did you know that a 4 foot high stack of newspapers recycled is the equivalent of a 40 foot fir tree that doesn’t have to be cut down?
Clearly we can do some pretty amazing things if we choose to, to reduce, recycle, and reuse.
It’s hard to reduce the habit we have of just tossing things away. But let’s try. We can do better. We can do better in our own homes. And we can do better here in our own church. We can do this.
Let me wrap this up in this way. Story of dropping and breaking the Tiger figure that cannot be replaced.
I was careless with something that couldn’t be replaced.
Listen this is our Father’s world. And it is irreplaceable; worth far more than a ceramic tiger. And we’re called as those who seek to please Him to take care of our bodies and to take care of His world. To savor it and enjoy it and make sure it’s here for a long time to come. To honor Him by honoring His creation.
One guy figured that out. He was a preacher named Maltby Babcock and in 1901 he was hiking up a trail and he was looking over Lake Ontario and he wrote these words. I love them:
“This is my Father’s world and to my listening ears all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world. I rest me in the thought of rocks and tress of skies and seas His hand the wonders wrought.”
Let’s make sure we take for granted what we can’t live without. And let’s make sure we take care of what can’t be replaced.
Let us pray:
I’d like to invite you – this is a simple prayer for you to have; for you just to talk to God and maybe ask for God’s forgiveness for the ways that we have abused our bodies and squandered and been careless with our resources; consumed more than our fair share and not been cautious and careful about how we treat the earth.
Would you just ask God’s forgiveness? And then ask for God’s help to be able to be a good steward of the body he has given you and the resources He has placed at your disposal.
Help us as your people, and help us as a church, O God, to treasure the gift you have given us with these bodies – fearfully and wonderfully made. And with the gift of this planet to be conscious of our footprint on it and to be mindful of ways that we can conserve, that we can reduce and recycle and reuse. Help us to care for your world and all who live on it.