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Gospel Ministers: Neglect Creation At Your Peril!

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How wonderful to focus on the gospel, on gospel priorities, on gospel ministry!

Yet how dangerous to neglect creation: to ignore God’s great work of creation; to fail to praise God the creator; to forget to thank him for this creation; to not enjoy his creation; to overlook the need to live wisely as creatures in his creation.

How long is it since you have praised God the creator, and praised him for every aspect of his creation? How long is it since you have praised and worshipped Jesus Christ for his work of creation? Of course, it is right to praise Jesus for salvation (Revelation 5): but it is also right to praise Christ for creation (John 1, Colossians 1).

What we leave out of the Bible deforms our Biblical Theology. Do you leave out Bible passages about God the creator? Does your Bible begin at Genesis 3?

What we leave out of the Bible deforms our Biblical Theology. Do you leave out Bible passages about God the creator? Does your Bible begin at Genesis 3?

You may focus on salvation because it is widely neglected in current Christianity. But reaction against error is no way the find the truth in theology or in ministry practice or in Christian living. Christianity which respects Biblical Theology, the unfolding and gradual and cumulative verbal revelation of God will not neglect God the creator and sustainer of the universe, the value of human bodies, the value of human history and culture, and the value of our daily work.

If you neglect God’s creation:

  • People are likely to forget that they are dependent on God, accountable to God, and sustained by God. They might be brainwashed by our society to see themselves as autonomous, self-creating beings in charge of their own identity, values and destiny. Or they might be tempted by despair—regarding themselves as accidental and meaningless specks of cosmic dust.
  • They won’t be able to understand their glorious created dignity and their accountability to God. Thus, they will not be able to understand sin (Nowadays, I never preach sin without 5 minutes on the dignity and significance of humanity. Genesis 1 and 2 come before Genesis 3).
  • You might teach people that they are sinners, but not that they are made in God’s image
  • You are likely to ignore your own body, at your peril
  • You will be so focussed on gospel ministry that you forget that your body is a gift of God; made by God; kept alive and sustained moment by moment by God; and that you are called, as a believer, to offer your body as a living sacrifice—to honour God in your body, and to glorify God in your body.
  • You might be so spiritual that you think that you can get away with bad food, no exercise, not enough sleep, not enough relaxation, being over-weight, drinking too much alcohol, ignoring your sexuality not getting regular health checks, ignoring medical problems, unhealthy patterns of work, and bad posture. If you do not pay your body sufficient attention it may betray you; it may let you down; it may overpower you. Cherish your body!
  • Furthermore, you need to give sufficient attention to your creation responsibilities, such as your marriage, your children, your parents, the house-work, your personal and family administration, your taxes, your debts, your neighbours, your community, the environment, the nation, the world. If you ignore any of these, it could trip you up, gain control over you, bring you down, and incapacitate your gospel ministry or your gospel witness or your gospel integrity. And how easily Satan could use any one of them for the same purposes.
  • You may have deep assurance of your salvation in Christ, but fail to trust God’s providential care of you: the parents he gave you; the gifts he gave you; the experiences of your life; your present circumstances (your marriage, family, place of ministry etc). How bizarre to trust God as your saviour, but not trust him as your creator! Trust God for your salvation, but also learn to trust him for the daily details of your life, your ministry, for your past, present and future, for your gifts, opportunities, trials, and sufferings.
  • You will fail to receive God’s good gifts of physical activity, exercise, enjoying sunsets, walking, swimming, bush-walking, hiking, sport, music, entertainment, time with good friends, food and drink, sleep, sex (in appropriate circumstances!), rest and relaxation. For it is God who ‘richly provides us with everything to enjoy’ (1 Timothy 6:17).
  • You will try to make people in your image, rather than the image of Christ.
  • You will forget how your own particular humanity shapes your own Christian life, and your own vision of other people’s Christian lives. You may be male, 35, white, working class, Australian, activist, extravert, engrossed in football, organised, practical, full of energy, with no physical or psychological difficulties, centrist in politics, and from a family which enjoyed plain speaking. Not everyone is like you! If you don’t recognise your own particular humanity, and don’t recognise the varied humanity of others, then you will be hard at work making others in your own image.

How bizarre to trust God as your saviour, but not trust him as your creator! Trust God for your salvation, but also learn trust him for the daily details of your life, your ministry, for your past, present and future, for your gifts, opportunities, trials, and sufferings.

 

  • You will devalue the daily God-given work by which God cares for his world, provides for human community, and cares for humanity.
  • You will take for granted clean streets, our sewerage system, council building regulations, banks, shops, farmers, scientists, our health system, gardeners, air-line pilots, shop assistants, truck drivers, etc. Our human communities function like a body, with different people contributing different tasks. Your breakfast depends on someone milking Milly the cow, someone growing corn, someone growing coffee or tea. It depends on people treating and packaging these items, people transporting them, and people selling them. God made human society like this, and we would be the first to complain if it stopped functioning well. So we should never give the impression that daily work, paid or unpaid, is of no value. Instead, we should honour those who do it, encourage them, and pray for them. God answers our prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ by providing people to work so that we might have it. This work is part of God’s good creation. Don’t devalue the daily work done by members of your church, unpaid work and paid work. It is hypocritical to enjoy the benefits of a well-functioning society in which many people work hard to make it function, and to give the impression that such work is of little value.
  • You will underestimate the strain of illness, unemployment, bad work conditions, unhealthy lifestyles, under-employment, over-work, psychological stress, mental illness, physical incapacity, old age on people whom you think of merely in terms of: active church workers; financial supporters of gospel ministry; active evangelists.
  • You will despise and neglect those who do not have obvious potential for gospel ministry, either in terms of money to support it or the gifts to do it.
  • You will promote into gospel ministry people who are theologically correct and have gifts for ministry and evangelism, but who are humanly unsuitable for long-term ministry.
  • You will put inappropriate pressure on other people to neglect their creaturely responsibilities so that they can put time, energy, and creativity into gospel ministry, causing them to neglect their marriages, their families, their jobs, their neighbours, their daily chores, their political responsibilities, and their duty to love their neighbours.
  • You will overvalue ‘spiritual’ gifts in the life of your church, and forget to honour those who clean, cook, serve in the kitchen, count the money, balance the finances, look after the building etc.
  • You will interpret people’s lives and responses in purely spiritual terms. You will think someone is backsliding spiritually when in fact they are preoccupied with personal illness, family or work pressures, or because you are teaching them beyond their capacity to understand, or teaching them below their level of knowledge, or because they can’t hear you, or because they need a toilet break!
  • You will fail to benefit from God’s ‘common grace’, the wisdom he gives generally to humanity, including unbelievers. Churches may be the body of Christ, but they also function as human communities which are shaped by the expectations of society.
  • You will underestimate how much people are affected by bad world news, the constant frustration of being put ‘on hold’ while being assured that ‘your call is important to us’, noisy neighbours, job insecurity, falling income, the feeling of increasing powerlessness, invisibility and irrelevance, illness and mental illness in themselves, family, or friends.

We fail to honour God as we should when we fail to honour his creation and thank him for every good and perfect gift. We damage ourselves if we fail to recognise our createdness, our creatureliness, and our creaturely dependence on God. We damage others if we fail to recognise their createdness, their creatureliness, their creaturely dependence on God.

Finally

  • God loves the creation: he made it.
  • God loves the creation: he wants us to enjoy it.
  • God loves your body: he made it.
  • God loves other people’s bodies: he made them.
  • God loves human beings: his Son became flesh and blood.
  • God loves human bodies: he raised his Son from death in a glorious body.
  • God loves human bodies: when Christ returns he will change our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body.
  • God loves his creation: one day he will make a new heaven and a new earth.
  • God loves your body: he wants you to present your body to him each day as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to him.
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