The whole creation groans and suffers (Romans 8:22)

INTRODUCTION. A post considering the decay and lawlessness of the world and how the disciple of Jesus can ignore the noise of wickedness in the world and instead keep his eyes fixed on his own personal mission and calling.

“The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:22). This verse shouts to us the reality that, though God created a “very good” world (Genesis 1:31), sin, introduced by the rebellion of Adam in the Garden, has ruined “the whole creation” and that same sin is now bringing about the gradual but inevitable and irresistible disintegration of the created order.

Even the most furious and persistent efforts of man, the most noble and well-intentioned, eventually (or perhaps suddenly) fall victim to the encroaching chaos. It is as if we are desperately building castles in the sand, knowing that soon the tide will bring the waves to wash over our moats and collapse our handiwork. Soon there will be nothing left except a fading elevated hill of sand on the beach.

Science knows this irresistible journey to disorder as entropy and has captured the essence of the Fall in the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “As one goes forward in time, the net entropy (degree of disorder) of any closed system will always increase.” What this means is that “everything put together sooner or later falls apart” (Paul Simon). According to the laws of our physical universe (which is a “closed system”), everything is moving inevitably toward disorder.

The Word of God, the source of all truth, uses other words to communicate this same idea. “The wages of sin is death.” “The whole creation groans and suffers.” “The day you (sin) eat of it, you shall surely die.” “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men.” “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this, the judgment.” The message is clear: When Adam sinned, the whole creation began an irreversible and irresistible descent into chaos and destruction. Not only that, but as man’s sin steadily increases in the world, and increases at an increasing rate, the extent (breadth) and the magnitude (depth) of the ruin will likewise increase. In short, sin is like a fast spreading cancer or like a voracious nest of termites eating away at the creation, and the damage is accelerating. But we know that this corruption and disintegration cannot go on forever. Instead, this increasing sin and evil and disorder will finally result in full destruction and collapse. History is linear, and the creation is hurtling toward a cataclysmic conclusion. Soon, as sin increases, Jesus Christ will return and claim His bride the church, and will judge the earth, and then the end will come.

But the question that I must answer is, “In light of this ever-increasing sin and evil and chaos in the world, what am I, as a disciple of Jesus, to do on a daily basis?” In other words, as the world becomes increasingly dark and as the corruption and wickedness in the world become ever more obvious and repugnant and threatening, how does the Bible call me to live? For it is certainly true that the disciple of Jesus experiences the corruption of this world along with everyone else. In Romans, Paul says, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of the body” (8:23). And so, we groan as we experience the sadness of a world determined to rebel against the Lord.

But while we groan as a natural consequence of our sadness and sense of loss associated with sin, as disciples of Jesus we must not dwell there. In fact, our groaning because of the ambient sin in the world must become for us mere background noise, a part of the context of life in a fallen world, like the temperature outside or the phase of the moon. The degree of sin and the wickedness of the sin committed will grow steadily worse, but that must not distract us from our purpose and our mission. “Evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13), but we must continue to fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and persevere in the mission that He has given us, both as His body the church and as individual disciples “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

A SUGGESTED STRATEGY

So, as I observe the world unraveling and the wickedness and evil growing deeper and wider, the best strategy for me personally is to ignore the details of our demise and to pay little attention even to the broader collapse and, instead, to focus my attention on my purpose and focus on the tasks and the works that the Lord has given me to do (Eph. 2:10). To accomplish this, my mind strives to find answers to “missional questions.” What does it mean for me to be Jesus’ witness (Acts 1:8) on a daily basis? How can I love my wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25)? How can I be a better sower of the gospel (Matt. 13:2-8)? How do I put to death immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (Col. 3:5)? How can I repent of my anger and replace it with peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23)? What is my “great work” (Neh. 6:3) and how can I pour my energies into that? What does it mean to “make the most of the time” (Ephesians 5:16)? How can I be a better ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and a better fisher of men (Matt. 4:19)? There are so many ways that I can grow as a disciple of Jesus and be more useful to the Kingdom that I find there is no time to keep tabs on our rapidly decaying world.

Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60). In other words, don’t waste a lot of time worrying about the wicked (Psalm 37:1-2; Psalm 73). The world is certainly going to continue to plunge into chaos and disorder and lawlessness. The Bible has declared this as truth. So accept this truth and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

SDG                 rmb                 8/15/2022                   #558

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