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WHY THE WHOLE CREATION GROANS

Romans 8:18-27

 

My head hurts so much from shingles, but I came up to this pulpit believing in the saints’ prayers for me. Please pray for me tonight.

The word “groan” appears in today’s main passage, Romans chapter eight. Verse 22 is about creation’s groaning; verse 23 is about our groaning; and verse 26 is about the Spirit’s groanings that are “too deep for words.” We as human beings will curse at our own children if they don’t behave. But our God, who is love itself (1 John 4:7), loves and prays for us. Even though we are unforgivable sinners, He groans for us so deeply that it cannot be expressed through words. How gracious is our God!

The word “groan” in Greek is stenazo, meaning “to sigh.” Book of Romans is in the center of the New Testament, and Romans 8 is the center within that book. It is known as the heart of the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ. In this chapter, Apostle Paul expounds the gospel of salvation through the sighs of all creation (the universe), the sighs of mankind, and the sighs of the Holy Spirit.

 

1. The Groaning of the Universe

“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom 8:22).


The whole creation groans because it suffers the pains. When God created the universe and all things in it, God saw everything was very good (Gen 1:31). But now, the creation is in severe pain from sickness. If we truly believe in Jesus, then we must ask why all creation is groaning. How unfortunate would it be if we don’t understand this Word, even after being Christians for decades as pastors, elders, eldresses, and deacons. We have prayed for prosperity for our children and business, but have we prayed while carefully listening to the groaning of creation? Apostle Paul said that the natural world and the animal kingdom are in chaos because of our sins, and the whole creation is anxiously waiting for the sons of God to appear and solve this problem (Rom 8:19).

It was only several decades ago that the whole earth has become saturated with cars. Cars may seem to add convenience and comfort to our lives, but we don’t realize that people and other living creatures are slowly dying in the deadly sphere of its chemical toxins. Refrigerators are so convenient, but its gas is destroying the sun, the moon, and the universe. The 70,000 kinds of man-made chemicals are corrupting our oceans, rivers, and soils. The earth that once seemed good to God has turned into a huge dumpster, a deadly grave for mankind. So how can creation not groan? Man’s hatred and jealousy yielded violence, and the violent man created atomic and nuclear weapons. The atomic bombs that were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were so powerful to dissolve even a granite statue of Buddha so that its ear melted down to its chest. Has our world really become a better place to live now that we have such powerful weapons?

Sin destroys the order of the world created through God’s hand by faith (Heb 11:3). Eden was a place without lack, where a river of blessings flow, with no evil or harm. Here, Adam and Eve were granted to enjoy all things freely, except one thing to protect the order of creation: “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Gen 2:16-17). God instituted the order called the law of grace and the precept of freedom. However, the greed of Adam and Eve shattered that order of freedom. This is called sin. In Chinese, the word “sin” (罪) is made up of two characters: “number 4” (四) and “no” (非). It refers to the four things that should not be: no faith (不信, disbelief), no law (不法, lawlessness), no righteousness (不義, unrighteousness), and no goodness (不善, evil). We are the culprits of these sins, and yet we only act as spectators as if we have no part in the groaning of creation. How maddening is this!

The originally created world is where the sun, moon, stars, and earth move about in order, and all animal, plant, and mineral kingdoms coexist in harmony. In that world, men and women are not consumed in fleshly lust for each other, but rather grow together to emulate a far greater love, the love of God. That world has a hierarchical order which prevents cosmic collisions and maintains harmony in all creation for man’s happiness and wellbeing. But human deceit and greed diseased this perfectly made world. Lies destroyed the order in the garden of Eden. That is why God detests lies the most (Heb 6:18; John 8:44). But the serpent, Satan, loves lies. He speaks whatever seems right or convenient for him. He blames others for all wrongdoings. Blaming others is a lie in itself. Hence, God says that lying is murder. Whoever lies is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev 20:8-10, 15). Dear Saints, our lifespan on earth is only around 70-80 years. If we continue to lie, we will only end up in the lake of fire and brimstone. Our transient lives must prepare for the kingdom of God from the moment of our birth. While we are healthy, we must listen to the Word as much as we can and never skip worship. God is most pleased when we come to His body, the holy sanctuary, that God acknowledges, to pray for revival in our families, our businesses, and our churches.

Will God be pleased with what we made of the earth that He created? Will He be pleased with man, the image He created in His own likeness? Deep down, we know whether we truly believe, whether we are hypocritical or pretentious, whether we show God’s true love to others, or whether we discriminate others based on our own preferences.  

Thousands of species are on the verge of extinction. The earth is getting warmer, deserts are increasing, and icebergs are melting. As the molten ice water enters the ocean, the water level rises, the land erodes, and nuclear weapons can explode at any time. Leakage from nuclear reactors are causing radiation pollution, and carbon monoxide is destroying our ozone layers. We have reached a time when man can no longer live. Wars continue to break out all over the world. The most frightening phenomenon of all is water pollution. Contaminated water leads to human massacre. Pollutants such as lye and grease corrupt the soils, contaminate the water, and will eventually poison our bodies. Good water can keep illness away (Exod 23:25), but spoiled water will poison us before we ever realize what is happening.

This is why all of creation is groaning, anxiously waiting for the appearance of God’s people, His servant, to restore the order of creation (Rom 8:19). God desires to save not only humankind but also the earth and the universe. When the natural order is restored, there will be peace without strife, and we will see all creation in every nation, every village, and every mountain, joyfully dancing and welcoming us. This is the movement of the Kingdom of God. Whether it be a cottage or a mansion fair, if Jesus is there, heaven is there also. Are we heading in that direction? First, let us be forgiven of our sins and receive the Holy Spirit in order to have the mind of Christ. We must rid ourselves of the thoughts of flesh and have the thoughts of the Spirit, for the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Rom 8:6).

 

2. The Groaning of Mankind

“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 our body” (Rom 8:23). 

The text above, “we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit,” refers to the born-again Christians who no longer have their minds set on flesh. Christians must groan with anxious longing and waiting. Shouldn’t we groan when there is a non-believer in our family? Shouldn’t we weep before God, interceding for them with our hands raised high in prayer?  Shouldn’t we groan as we cling unto God and pray, “O God, without Your powerful intervention, I cannot fix my heart. God, please deliver me. I am now in my 50s/60s, and after this short journey on earth, I will have to return home. Please help me so I can stand before you without shame.” How will you answer if God asked you right now, “Are you a true believer? Are you a true child of God? How many times have you prayed in deep groans for My broken heartedness?” 

Paul urges us to groan in our hearts and eagerly wait for our redemption. We are to wait for the redemption of our body, the new body that is controlled by the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:1-17). May we never hear, “If you are truly a believer, then why are you still living according to the flesh?”

Life and peace is with he who lives according to the Spirit; the Spirit of Christ dwells in him and he becomes a new person. Life and peace proves the redemption of our body (Rom 8:5-6).  A river of life that never gets sick and a river of peace with incomparable harmony will burst forth in your life. Life and peace will overflow in your life, family, and church. He will be full of energy. A true believer will never get tired because of uncontrollable joy. The more he works, the more humble he becomes, thus the more he will desire to work for the Lord. After evangelizing, he will tell himself, “Let’s do more!” Those who haven’t evangelized will never understand that amazing feeling. They will not put in the effort evangelize during their lifetime, only to be filled with regret in their deathbeds. Evangelism is God’s longing desire (2 Tim 4:1-2). Even during His ascension, our Lord commissioned us to preach His gospel to the remotest ends of the earth. Spiritual people are always thinking of whom to evangelize every moment they are awake. They pray, “God, I am afraid that the fleshly thoughts will get the better of me. Holy Spirit, please captivate my heart. Grant this unworthy servant Your wisdom, understanding, and eloquence of the Holy Spirit, and walk with me always.” We must ask the Holy Spirit to lead us as we set out to evangelize.

God’s children who groan and anxiously wait for redemption are at peace with God (Job 22:21; 2 Cor 5:20). They are at peace with their neighbors. We must never speak tales of others. How will you bear the responsibility if someone is tested and stumbles because of you? If we aren’t in peace with our fellow Christian brothers and sisters, then how can we make peace with unbelieving neighbors? A believer must anxiously yearn—to the point of groaning—to be at peace with God and with one’s neighbors in order to walk the path of peace. We must lament and groan as we pray, “God, please help me! Give me love so I can love the other person fervently as myself!” There must be much writhing and groaning. Only when God sees us go through this process will He bless us.

Children of God must always have a fervent heart that burns with the love of the cross of our Lord Jesus. The love of the cross will kindle the fire of love inside us. We will no longer hate anyone. We will no longer work for food that perishes (John 6:27). How beautiful are the saints who live for Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life! How beautiful are the saints who race forward on the path of life, with their eyes fixed on the eternal life and His Kingdom (Matt 8:22)! 

Dear Saints, please never forget “life and peace.” Life and peace equates to truth and love. Those whose minds are set on the things on earth, who stir up hatred and strife, and who create their own cliques, cannot be called children of God. 

This special Greek word stenazo (to sigh) also occurs in another place in the Bible, when Jesus said, “Ephphatah!” and opened the ears and loosened the tongue (Mark 7:34). Seeing the unfortunate man who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, Jesus looked up to heaven with a deep sigh (stenazo). Jesus never passed by people with disabilities. When we meet the poor or needy, we usually just say, “I feel sorry for them,” and walk by them. But this act is the sin of turning away from God the Creator. Such people fall into the same category as the Levite and the Pharisee who passed by the man who had been robbed. A believer who loves life and peace will have deep groans of compassion for others and partake in their suffering. Jesus was always in the midst of such love and life. “Ephphatha” was not only to open the ears and loosen the tongue. Jesus’ healing always brought a spiritual change in the sick, enabling them to rediscover new grounds to live. Just as kindly providing a chair for someone to sit comfortably when there is none, Jesus always brought peace into people’s hearts. Receiving a new life means “opening” our hearts, accepting the love of God, and becoming His child. It means receiving the life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. When we encounter the needy, we must hold their hands and pray for them, helping them buy a coat if it’s cold. If a saint travelling with me gives a bill to a beggar, then I always ask how much he or she gave. If she says that she only gave a dollar, I would encourage her to give more, saying, “You can’t even buy a bowl of noodles with just one dollar. Didn’t Jesus say whatever you did to this little one, you have done to Him?” Then she will return to give enough for the person to buy a meal.

 

3.  The Groaning of the Holy Spirit

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8:26)


The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Have we wept and groaned as we prayed for others? Just as we would weep broken-heartedly when our children fail to enter college, have our hearts writhed in prayer for others? The Holy Spirit sees our sins yet still intercedes for us with deep groaning, but we won’t even try to bear our own sins and pray. We hate and dislike others, yet our hearts don’t feel any pain. What are you going to do about this after having believed this way for decades? The Holy Spirit intercedes, “God, please wait just a while more until he repents. I will take full responsibility for him. I am praying for him with deep groaning, so please wait a while longer. He will surely repent and be restored as Your child.” Please listen to the Holy Spirit’s plea and God’s answer. 

When a father harshly disciplines a child physically, wouldn’t the mother do everything in her power to stop the beating? She would embrace the child and cry out to the father, “I will take care of his problem, so please stop this!” This is the heart of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide us on how to pray when all we can do is repeat the same hollow and repetitive prayers over and over again. The Holy Spirit does even that for us, so of course He will also lament and groan for us. Now that we’ve heard this message, we must be determined from this day on. We must have a firm resolution to become a worthy servant of God. Ministers must pray, “God, I will not be partial to the needy or to the poor, or even to those who persecute me. Instead, I will show them Your fervent love. They don’t know what they are doing, so please forgive them” (Luke 23:34). If we remember Jesus, who forgot His own excruciating pain on His hands and feet on the cross to intercede for us until His final breath, we must no longer grieve the Holy Spirit. Hence, Paul told the believers of Ephesus not to grieve the Holy Spirit. Jesus also said blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matt 12:31).

Beloved Saints, now that we are aware of the groaning of the Spirit, let us receive the Spirit and pray penitently while reflecting upon our past lives, action by action. Whatever is broken or torn, let us mend and build ourselves up to become the people of God (Jude 1:20). We must make sure the Holy Spirit does not groan anymore. Let us repent for not interceding with groaning for other saints, ministers, and each other. May you all pray earnestly, in deep groaning, before going to bed tonight. What pleases God is our faith. May your remaining years become a beautiful, precious lifespan that is pleasing to God like that of the Canaanite woman (Matt 15:21-28).
I pray for this and bless you in the name the Lord.


Feb 23, 2006
Rev. Abraham Park’s sermon during Thursday’s “Save Our Nation” Service

 

 

*This post can also be read in 'Champyungan'. (http://champyungan.com/en/)


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