An object’s smallness is only understood against the backdrop of something much larger.
That’s what happened to me two weeks ago.
I watched in awe as International Space Station astronaut Jeffrey Williams narrated to our church the stories and science behind his breathtaking photographs. We take pictures of trees and flowers. Colonel Williams has taken pictures of countries and continents that encompass billions of trees, flowers, fields, forests, streams, seas, deserts, dunes and oceans. His vantage point is unrivaled, and as his photographs slid by onscreen, I felt myself shrink.
But it was a good type of shrinking. Instead of the universe’s enormity swallowing me, I felt Divine hands cradling me. The same hands that shaped petals, strung rivers, and poured seas. The same hands that bore nail scars and bled crimson for me…. a sinner.
And I wondered. How could anyone gaze down from space and not give all glory to God? How could we crane our necks upward and not give all praise to him? (see Ps. 19:1-2)
As Christians, it’s impossible to look at the world around us with the same eyes as those who deny a God. For us, the beauty of creation shouts his glory, and the ugliness of sin screams our unworthiness
We See Our Smallness
“We are all starved for the glory of God, not self,” says John Piper. “No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem.”
The awesome works and glory of the Almighty God aren’t ego boosters. Rather, they eclipse humanity until we dwindle to nothing but a wisp of shadow. Science has allowed man to grasp greater heights and a further knowledge of the universe than ever before. But Job assures us that it’s only a glimpse.
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand? (Job 26:14)
Non-Christians cannot grasp the depth of the chasm separating their humanity from God’s glory. But in a way, we can. A Christian with an awareness of God’s grandeur feels like a marble in the Solar System. It’s this understanding of our minuteness that gives us a singular perspective of nature and the universe.
A Christian with an awareness of God’s grandeur feels like a marble in the Solar System.
But it also points us to our need for a Savior.
We See Our Sin
When it comes to creation, it’s not difficult for humans to fall to one of two extremes. We can either write it off as an accident, or worship it. Both are wrong.
When we begin to see God for who he is, our perspective inevitably shifts. His undeniable glory makes it impossible to attribute this universe to accidental forces. And his incomparable holiness exposes the smallness and sinfulness of the world.
As Christians, this is our point of view. Like the Psalmist David, we live with an acute awareness of our immorality.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me (Ps. 51:3).
Because of the Holy Spirit, Christians can have tender hearts that perceive inward evil and flee from it. We’re far from perfect, but can recognize sin and repent of it before its seed has a chance to sprout and spread. The Gospel continually reminds us that Jesus Christ died for the repulsive sin of all mankind… including us.
And this gives us unique eyes. The school shooters, drunk drivers, abortionists, bullies, riots, racists, wars and political tensions raging around us unmask man’s inherent sinfulness.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world (1 Jn. 2:15-16).
How Are We Different?
Christians see the sin in themselves and in the world… and we hate it. But we have a Hope. A Savior has saved us and secured us forever. We witness the glories of creation and anticipate the new heaven and earth that will one day renew this transient globe (see Rev. 21:1, 5).
Many unbelievers find themselves forced to write off creation as an accident and blind to the sin plaguing this world and their hearts. For them, there is no eternal hope.
While this fallen world is the closest to Hell God’s children will ever know, it is the closest to Heaven unbelievers will ever know.[ii]
So, how are we different? There are many answers.
Here is one: Christians view nature and the world through eyes of an eternal Hope. Let our mission be to share the light of this Hope with the unbelievers who see and live so differently from us.
Find out more about astronaut Jeffrey Williams at NASA’s webpage here. (Used with permission.)
[ii] Quote by author Randy Alcorn: “This world is the closest to Heaven unbelievers will ever know and the closest to Hell God’s children will ever know.”
6 thoughts on “Part One: We View Nature and the World Differently”
“While this fallen world is the closest to Hell God’s children will ever know, it is the closest to Heaven unbelievers will ever know.” That made me stop everything else I was doing and just feel sad for the lost. The parallel you drew between how the lost have trouble acknowledging the “bigness” and creative complexity of nature, and how they find it impossible to acknowledge their own sin, is a perfect metaphor: the idea that something or someone, bigger than science or poetry or any realm of human understanding, is up there, holding all of this together and not missing a beat, is a terrifying thought to the one not submitting to God’s authority– so they have to convince themselves it’s not real. They have to live NOT in reality or they’ll have to admit that they’re depraved, and no one likes to do that. I know I still don’t. But whether we choose to finally surrender to God or not (and as believers, we may see their fight as futile, like a toddler struggling against the safety restraints of a car seat, but that was once us), he does have it all under the shadow of his hand. If I were lost, I would be running around trying to find any other explanation too; but praise be to God for delivering me from this body of death. These thoughts should help us show Christ to the lost, instead of showing anger at their ignorance.
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Amen, Gia. Thanks so much for reading and sharing this.
You are such a gifted writer. You captivated me with what you shared here about God, about nature, about sin, about the Christian life, and about creation. And, I was inspired by the awe of God you have. You moved me to tears when you said:
“How could anyone gaze down from space and not give all glory to God? How could we crane our necks upward and not give all praise to him?”
I was riding in my car with my husband the other day. He was driving. I was busy with something. I think I was doing something on my cell phone. And, then I looked up. And, then I saw how beautiful everything was. And, I thought how often I don’t really pay attention to the sky, to the trees, the clouds, etc., not to worship them, but just to be in awe of all that God has created. I need to look more at all that God has created and just stand in awe of him as you have done here, and as you have described so well.
I am indoors most of the time, and when I walk outside I need to be watching where I am walking, but when we are out driving, and I am not the one driving, I need to spend more time appreciating God’s creation and thanking him for all that he has done and for who he is. We probably need to take some nature walks, too, and not just walk around our apartment complex.
Thank you, too, for what you shared about our eternal hope. Thank you for talking about sin and repentance and deliverance and fleeing from sin and not loving the world of sin. And, thank you for telling everyone that anyone can come to faith in Jesus Christ, no matter how bad their sin was. And, thank you for talking about how we should hate sin, but that we have hope. Amen! Thank you for all that you shared. It was a blessing to read it. Sue
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This was more than encouraging. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate immensely!
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You are so welcome! I look forward to reading more.