To begin with, we might accurately call God the original Recycler. Long before it was trendy to “Go Green” God made earth and everything in it and declared it “good.” When God’s beautiful creation turned so quickly on it’s Creator, dragging all humankind into the long night of sin and death, paradise was polluted. Original glory became spoiled goods. God’s brand new product was broken seemingly beyond repair. No longer able to function properly, one wonders why God didn’t just toss his broken world into the cosmic wastebasket and start over.
We do it all the time. A chair begins to wobble and loses a leg, so we toss it and replace it. When our television no longer gives a picture we get a new one. Once our furnace fails to heat the house, it is worthless and needs to be replaced. Likewise, if the world was created to declare the majesty of the Creator (Ps 8; 19) but only glorifies itself (Rom 1:18-32)-it is no longer serving its intended purpose. God would be totally justified in finding a replacement. But God, who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Ex 34:6), refused to give up on his shattered masterpiece, and insisted on patiently going about repairing and restoring it. God recycles!
The flood of Noah’s day was God’s first attempt at renewal but Noah and his descendants ultimately failed to make things new. God’s second restorative project through Abraham and his descendants also fell short of undoing the consequences of Adam’s fall-of bringing God’s healing light to a dark and broken world. Yet, “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal 4:4), the new Adam, to successfully launch God’s grand recycling project (Rom 5:14-19). Paul declares, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away-look, what is newhas come (2 Cor 5:17)!
Like a rusty 57 Chevy, with four flat tires and an engine that won’t turn, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19). He is sanding down the rust, repainting our exterior, restoring our interior and replacing our engine. Christ has erased our sins (Rom 6; 1 Pet 2:24), clothed our nakedness (Gal 3:27; Rev 3:18), given us a new heart (Ezek 36:26) and renewed mind (1 Cor 2:16; Eph 4:23; Rom 12:2), and has empowered us with his indwelling Spirit (Luke 1:35; Acts 1:8; Eph 3:16).
Like a proud collector at a classic car show, God wants to showcase his newly restored people before the rest of the world, thereby enlisting others to become employees in God’s international — global! — restoration business. God is passionately committed to his project of universal restoration. But as any collector-or craftsmen of any trade-will admit, these sorts of projects take precious time. Peter reminds us,
The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).
The Christian life invites us to live in eager expectation of the future day when God’s glorious project will at last reach its climactic fulfillment. The day is coming when God will finally unveil his beautifully restored world-when he will at be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). “The sufferings of this present time,” therefore, “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). Like the intense heat that melts used plastic bottles down in order to bring forth newly recycled containers, the birth pangs and inward groans we experience now will in time bring forth God’s newly restored world (v. 22). The day is coming when at last Jesus’ words will be fulfilled, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5)! So, let the “times of refreshing come” (Acts 3:20).
While the cosmic recycling project in Christ is God’s prerogative, our task here and now in God’s new world-in-the-making is to partner with the Holy Spirit in keeping our own lives cleaned up and in order. So, what exactly is spiritual garbage, and how can we properly dispose of it? Stay tuned…
NEXT: “Ooh, What’s that Smell?”