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What Luther Says

From Earth Day To Judgment Day (Romans 1:18-32)

This isn't the first time I've written about "Earth Day" and I'm sure it won't be the last.

Every single year, it seems like Earth Day sneaks up on me though. What's not a surprise, however, is how every single year I can count on the world's weird fascination with Gaia.

In Greek mythology, "Gaia" (also spelled "Gaea"), was the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaia was the "Great Mother of All" or the primal "Greek Mother Goddess" (creator and giver of birth to the Earth and all the universe; the heavenly gods, the Titans, and the Giants were born to her).

It's easy to understand why such a "holiday" (a secular "holy day" for sure) would arouse Bible-believing Christians to respond so vocally.

Sure, there's another side to this whole debate that we often fail to acknowledge.

There's also another important Biblical connection that I never noticed before today. I believe there's a sobering connection between Earth Day and Judgment Day. I'll try to explain as best as a Lutheran layman like me can, and I encourage any Pastors to chime in and correct me as needed.

Of course, we Christians know a thing or two about this sinful worship of the earth. Romans 1:25 tells us explicitly about those who "exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator."

Remarkably, the preceding and following verses surrounding that specific verse I just referenced, also provide an extremely appropriate and timely commentary on the current state of affairs in this country when it comes to the whole "World War T" nonsense dominating the news headlines in recent weeks.

Romans 1:18-32 (ESV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,g in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Seriously, the juxtaposition between what the holy Word of God says rather plainly here and the absurd realities we are facing this very day are striking, are they not?

Clearly, this passage is a powerful warning to us about God's wrath on unrighteousness and the unrepentant sinner. As a result, it got me thinking how it's just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Earth Day to Judgment Day.

The chief sin that St. Paul addresses in this passage is idolatry. What is Earth Day except an annual celebration of the Earth over and above all else including the One who actually created the Earth Himself? Plus, we know that it is idolatry from which all other sins emerge just as this entire excerpt from Romans 1 tells us.

Immediately with Romans 1:18 we read about God's "wrath" (a.k.a. "anger" or "revenge"). This is the complete opposite of God's grace, but it is also a holy and just response to human rebellion and sinfulness. Sin deserves punishment and destruction (Romans 6:23).

The New Testament keeps and urges this (office of the Law) 
-- Smalcald Articles III III 1

So, here we see God expressing His wrath and even allowing sinners to experience some of the consequences too.

The following verses show some of the ways this happens. All people reject the truth by rejecting God and His Word (Romans 1:18). Since the truth does not change (Matthew 5:18; Hebrews 13:8), it continues to accuse and convict sinners who have rejected God.

Even so, the Lord continues to offer us His unmerited grace. How so? Those who do not know the Gospel still receive some of God's revelation and show know that He exists. "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them" (Romans 1:19). Knowledge of God through His creation is not random. God chose to reveal Himself in this way.

 No, God is not visibly present (Romans 1:20), but the universe shows His existence and nature. In fact, nature testifies to God's existence and character. His so-called "fingerprints" are everywhere! This is why "they are without excuse." Simply put, creation demonstrates that God truly exists.

As was true for the Romans back then, is still true for the world today. God's existence is clear, but the nations do not recognize or respond to Him. Their reason and thoughts are fallen. Without God, they are separated from the greatest reality and so they fail to understand many things (Romans 1:21).

In addition to failing minds, their hearts are affected. They do not respond to God mentally or emotionally. Even when the most ingenious and learned people on earth read or hear the Gospel of God's Son and the promise of eternal salvation, "they cannot by their own powers perceive, apprehend, understand, or believe and regard it as true" (Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord II 9).

1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

This is why Romans 1:22 says, "Claiming to be wise, they became fools" and it's an example of them suppressing the truth by their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Unbelievers reject the most important things in life, thinking they are wise. In reality, they are foolish.

Like Israel's idolatry with the golden calf (Exodus 32; Psalm 106:20), the world today has an idolatrous love affair with the earth, the human body, and sexuality. They "worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator." So it's no surprise that unbelievers naturally substitute false gods for the true God (Romans 1:23).

The knowledge of God from the Gospel is far different from that which is taught and learned from the Law. Even the pagans, to a certain extent, had a knowledge of God from the natural law. But they neither knew Him nor glorified Him correctly. 
-- Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord V 22

False gods can never compare to the glory of the true God.

We also learn from this text that although God does not force the unrighteous to sin, He does not prevent their sinful, degrading acts either. This is how we can find ourselves in a society that embraces and encourages sin and forces things like Transgenderism upon everyone else.

Any sin makes people impure as they reject the purity that God gives us in Christ, but here we find sexual immorality specifically mentioned. Thinking they are free, humans choose the harmful bondage of sin (Romans 1:24).

Romans 1:25 is where we find the essence of idolatry. They worshiped something God made and not God Himself. And fellow brothers and sisters in Christ want to tell us that God's Word isn't relevant to our day-and-age?

Once God "gave them up to dishonorable passions" (Romans 1:26) we see how sin substitutes inferior things for God's good gifts. The misuse of God's gift of sexuality brings complete dishonor. Sexual immorality is a departure from the natural order. So, participation in degrading, unnatural acts is, in itself, part of the judgment for sin.

The parallels between this passage and our present day so-called "Culture Wars" should be apparent. Yes, Paul writes about homosexuality, but the message is easily applicable to the current Transgender debate.

Both are examples of how something that seems obvious from nature is exchanged for something unnatural (Romans 1:27). This is a further effect of exchanging the worship of God for the worship of idols.

Holy Scripture declares that sin came from the devil, whom, contrary to God's Word, our parents obeyed. They became disobedient to God and thereby brought a terrible punishment upon themselves. For through this sin (of the Fall) not only our bodies have become so weakened that they have changed from immortal to mortal bodies, but the intellect, heart, mind, and will are entirely corrupted and turned evil. For man has lost the right and true knowledge of God. Moreover, his will is so entirely corrupted that he desires and wants nothing but that which is evil. 
-- Martin Luther, What Luther Says 4131

Though they saw the evidence, they refused to acknowledge God's authority. Their thinking about these issues was taken to their lowest sinful level (Romans 1:28).

Romans 1:29-31 goes on to list various sins. These things disrupt the harmonious life and relationships that God would have us enjoy. Though some of these sins seem more significant than others, each one evidence idolatry and rebellion against God.

Now, as it turns out, Rev. Hans Fiene (of Lutheran Satire fame and glory) once had another blog where his popular wit and wisdom were on display in written form for all to read. I found this piece that he wrote way back in 2011 from when Earth Day fell on the very same day as Good Friday, which I thought was worth sharing here.

Today is Good Friday, the day when Christians celebrate Jesus Christ's death on the cross for the forgiveness of the world's sins. And today is also Earth Day, the day when neo-pagans celebrate Mother Earth by laying their offerings of compact fluorescent light bulbs at her altar. 
So, as you'd expect from two different theologies, there's a bit of competition in the air today. Obviously Christians have sided with the Cross and Hippies have sided with Gaia. No big surprise there. But it seems that many who bathe on a regular basis have also lined up behind the unwashed masses. Yahoo's home page has a cute multiracial pair of children kissing a globe today. Google's has a slightly less barftastic mural of pandas and penguins and waterfalls. So why is that? Why would the average, "uncommitted" person rather side with streams of water than stream of blood? To answer that question, let's look at these two very different religions competing for today's status as a holy day. 
At the heart of Earth Day is the doctrine of the carbon offset. A carbon offset is where you offset, or nullify, an emission of carbon or some other environmentally unfriendly act through a reduction in carbon emissions or some other environmentally friendly act elsewhere. For example, if you burn fossil fuels by driving your 1993 Mercury Sable to Bonnaroo, you can undo that action's impact on the environment by planting a couple of trees or taking lukewarm showers for a month. So the system of righteousness that Earth Day offers is this: if you can balance out your sins (carbon emissions) with good works (carbon reductions), they you will be considered righteous. 
But at the heart of Christianity is the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement. So "atonement" quite simply means "at-one-ment." It refers to how a person is made one with God, how one's sins are taken away so that he can be returned into the arms of his Father in Heaven. But since only sinless blood can take away mankind's sins, then it is only through a sinless substitute, one who takes our place, that atonement can be made. And, of course, that substitute is Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, who is condemned in mankind's place upon the cross, who sheds His own blood to forgive our sins and make us at one with God. So the system of righteousness that Christianity offers is this: Because your sins have been erased through the blood of Jesus, then you are considered righteous. 
And when you look at these two systems of righteousness side by side, it becomes quite clear why the masses have lined up behind Earth Day, why Bing's homepage is celebrating trees (or possibly broccoli) today and why anyone would ever consider it news when Sheryl Crow suggests we all use less toilet paper (public health notice: never shake hands with Sheryl Crow). 
You see, when it comes to Christianity, when it comes to believing that the blood of Jesus killed your sins, that also requires believing that your sins are dead things that you ought not play with, dead things of which you ought to disavow yourself. You know, that whole "how can we who died to sin still live in it?" thing. And that's not fun to do when you really like sinning. 
So if you don't particularly want to stop having premarital sex, if you're really quite fond of getting drunk or stoned, if you happen to be really good at amassing treasures for yourself on earth or if it makes your tummy feel all happy inside when you speak hatefully about your neighbor, then that Earth Day system of righteousness becomes quite attractive. Because within that system, you can keep fornicating as long as you offset it with a few hours at a soup kitchen. You can keep worshiping mammon as long as you nullify it by buying a pair of Toms. You can keep hating your neighbor as long as you balance it out by spaying or neutering your labradoodle. 
But as enjoyable a system of righteousness as sin offsets may be, it's only a delusion. True righteousness is never won when sin remains. Atonement with God is never accomplished when sin is balanced, but only when sin is destroyed. And only the sinless blood of Jesus can accomplish that. 
So when it comes to Earth Day vs. Good Friday, I'll take Good Friday. I'll take the day where God erases my sin through the blood of His Son over the day where I hide my sins underneath a thin layer of free trade coffee grounds. Because on Earth Melts Day, on the Day when I stand before God in judgement, I'd rather tell Him that I deserve eternal life because the blood of Jesus has annihilated my murderous heart rather than telling Him I deserve eternal life because I planted a bed of roses atop the bodies I buried in my backyard. 
My name is Pastor Hans Fiene. Thanks for reading.

Idolatry. Self-righteousness. Sins.

Rev Fiene also added in the Comments Section that, "The words from Genesis 1:28-31 show how God created the earth to serve mankind. The very foundation of Earth Day is that man exists to serve the earth. So it is rooted in a false theology of creation." Amen!

Remember, it's unrepentant idolatry, rebellion, self-righteousness and sin against God which is at the root of this "Earth Day Worship & Righteousness" mentality and "World War LGBT" conditioning that supports my assertion of a direct connection between Earth Day and Judgment Day.

As God's existence and character are seen in nature, so His Law is also evident. Our Creator gave us His Law to keep our lives aligned with His will. Sadly, as sinners, we have fallen into disobedience. Some more than others.

Therefore, God's Law has turned into a tool of condemnation as we see here with this passage from Romans 1. The Law reveals our crooked ways and calls for God's judgement.

People often scoff and say that "God does not judge me, because God is love!" Yes, well, He actually does both for your benefit, and He promises that there will be a Judgment Day for each and every one of us too.

Hebrews 9:27 (ESV) And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

But thanks be to God! There is good news!

What does the very next verse tell us?

Hebrews 9:28 (ESV) so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jesus Christ saves us by His grace! He redeems us through the Gospel! Still, either you're a part of the repentant who are "eagerly waiting for him" or you're a part of the unrepentant who could care less.

All throughout Scripture, we find warning after warning about what awaits the unrighteous, unrepentant sinners. It's as if these same words from Romans 1 were written for us in several other places so that we would not miss them.

Ah, but there is something else that's repeated even more frequently than the Law and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we definitely don't want to miss that!

So, what's the difference between believers and non-believers? Between us and them?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul lists habitual sins, which imply a life choice incompatible with the holiness of God's kingdom.

Later, we read more of the same warnings too.

Galatians 5:16-24 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Paul repeats this teaching from an earlier Letter for emphasis.

People engaged in such a pattern of behavior reap eternal consequences (exclusion from God's heavenly kingdom). "Those who walk according to the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) retain neither faith nor righteousness" (Apology of the Augsburg Confession V 227).

Yet, God, in mercy, called the unrighteous into His kingdom. Baptism makes us new creatures, holy with Christ's righteousness.

We fell under God's wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved. There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God -- in His immeasurable goodness -- had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us (John 1:9). So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell's jaws, has won us, has made us free (Romans 8:1-2), and has brought us again into the Father's favor and grace. 
-- Large Catechism II 28-30

We love to condemn the sins of others.

We might not have committed some of the acts that the divinely inspired St. Paul condemns here, but we all have sinned. We all have exchanged God's truth for human foolishness.

Seeing sin, we ought not respond defensively, but in confession. We already know God's response to sin: He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for sinners like you and me so that we may be forgiven and have eternal life with Him!

In a Lutheran layman's terms, God created the earth to serve mankind and He made mankind to love its neighbors, and so the very foundation of Earth Day, let alone the LGBT Movement, is that man exists to serve the earth, to serve himself/herself, and/or to serve his/her own (perceived) sexuality, which is why both are rooted in false theologies of sorts.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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