A Decaying World

Scripture: 2 Peter 3:3, Daniel 12:4, Luke 21:6
Modern technology can be a blessing, but sometimes the very things created to make life easier have unpleasant side effects. This illustrates how our earth is really decaying. God will create a new heaven and a new earth. What we need for a better life - more than anything else - is not new technology as much as the Bible.
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We're getting food that looks better, feels better, tastes better, holds together better, ages better, mixes better, spreads better, pours better, and just maybe kills us sooner.

Nutritionists are alarmed that we may be eating more and yet lacking in the very elements of diet that make for good health. The conditioning of processed food to meet the packaging test, taste test and consistency test demanded of the manufacturer, is a refined art, says one writer. "There are hardeners and softeners, foaming agents and anti-foaming agents, acidifiers and alkalizers, bleaches, coloring agents, thickeners and on and on, add nauseam . . . There are often five, ten or even more additives in a single food product. One could have a fascinating time contemplating the future as technology advances more and more. One day we may even be eating non-food food!

But the food picture is only a small part of the changing world that technology is producing. No facet of life escapes the inquisitive probes of the technologist. The belief seems to be that anything nature has done, can and should be done better. Many times, of course, the result is a delight. Who would want to trade their new limousine for a four wheel buggy? Or who would go back to the hard ruts and bogged wheels of T-model touring? Sometimes technology produces life-saving devices also that makes you want to forget the disadvantages. Seatbelts, padded dashes and so on have brought life to millions.

Yet right here we come up against another paradox. Much of modern technology is spent in countering the effects of other technology. Seat belts are needed because cars go so fast. Water-scrubbing agents counteract cleansing agents, foam wheels soak up oil spills and so on. In other words, the medicine is sometimes worse than the malady, and today we have cures for the curse of the remedy. Some time ago a magazine article appeared with a catchy title and containing more than a little truth. It was entitled "Cures that cause what ails us."

The author told of having a five foot medicine shelf, and almost everything on it was something he had to take to get over what he'd taken for what ailed him in the first place. He went on to enumerate other instances of cures and conveniences which cause complications. He pointed out that there are air conditioners which give us pneumonia in August, vacations which produce fatigue, scratching which makes us itch, exercises to limber us up which make us stiff. Antibiotics kill weak bacteria so strong ones can get us down. Marriage counselors cause unhappy marriages, he said, by writing articles entitled, "Is Yours a Happy Marriage?" for folks who have never bothered to wonder before.

Many of the devices and gadgets designed to alleviate life's little distresses often add to the distress. Automobiles create bumper to bumper traffic jams which make it difficult to get places. Airplanes leave you at airports far removed from your destination. Insect sprays make insects immune to insect sprays. Buy a new chair and the whole living room looks shabby. Adopt a baby and your wife has twins. Do-it-yourself, and you have to get somebody to do it over for you.

The moral of this piece was beware of too many betterments. Beauty aids too lavishly used make girls look unlovely. Hairdressers mess up hair. Shoes ruin feet. Dentists leave us eventually no teeth at all. Be careful about your personal daintiness, and you'll find out that it is YOU that people don't like.

Here is one answer from the Apostle Peter. He draws a parallel between the last days and the time of the flood in 2 Peter 3:3 and onward. Listen to these words that I am reading from the New English Bible: "Note this first; in the last days there will come men who scoff at religion and live self-indulgent lives, and they will say: Where now is the promise of his coming? Our fathers have been laid to rest, but still everything continues exactly as it has always been since the world began." As these people look at the religious and moral climate of the world they may be tempted to think that things are not much worse despite all the evidence that shouts otherwise. But Peter warns, "In taking this view they lose sight of the fact that there were heavens and earth long ago, created by God's words out of water and with water, and by water that first world was destroyed, the water of the deluge." What about our world then? Peter continues, "And the present heavens and earth, again by God's word, have been kept in store for burning; they are being reserved until the day of judgment when the godless will be destroyed." How will God restore the earth? By a process of fire says Peter. "On that day the heavens will disappear with a great rushing sound, the elements will disintegrate in flames, and the earth with all that is in it will be laid bare." Yet this destruction has a purpose. "We have his promise and look forward to new heavens and a new earth, the home of justice."

Apollo 10 astronauts streaking for the moon report Los Angeles as a cancerous smudge. High-flying airline pilots tell us that almost every large city of North America is recognizable 70 miles away by its whisky-brown miasma of polluted air. An article in the Saturday Review contained this startling comment: "Lake Erie is dead. The beaches at Santa Barbara are deserted. The air of New York is dangerous to breathe. We are drowning in a sea of swill; in a normal year the United States ‘produces' 142 million tons of smoke and fumes, 7 million junked cars, 20 million tons of waste paper, 48 billion used cans, and 50 trillion gallons of industrial sewage."

Long ago the prophet Jeremiah, sometimes called the prophet of doom, looked far into the future. He told of a time coming when the earth would be deserted of life. "I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light . . . I beheld, and lo there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down. Jeremiah 4:23-26.

This could well be a commentary on how man destroys the earth. Yet the Bible reminds us that the world is in God's control. He will send His son Jesus to redeem His people and make the world new. When Christ comes He will destroy those who are destroying the earth.

I said a few minutes ago that this is a time to have faith. Actually the only faith that can guide us into the future is a faith in God. It should not surprise us too much if our best efforts at straightening out the world we live in are only partially successful. Nor should our failures stop us from trying. But each new crisis, each new problem reminds us that the only effective solution to mankind's problem is the Bible one. Until every man on the earth is a changed person, relating correctly to God and his other fellow earthlings, the world cannot really expect to experience perfection. But the day will come when this most improbable event will occur. Not all will submit to the changing process, but only those who do will remain to live in this purified, glorified earth.

God says He will make the earth new. Right now the best He can do is make individuals new. And He does this through Jesus Christ. Why not let Him do it for you today?

Actually we shouldn't be surprised that technology is advancing at the rate it is. And I suppose we shouldn't be too discouraged by the side-effects, provided we learn to control them before they kill us. The world is safer and healthier, and we live longer because of the products of science and invention. In fact when the Bible looks at these last days it tells us things like this in Daniel 12:4. "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." For the prophet the "end of time" was seen as a day of vast knowledge increase. A prediction more than fulfilled. We are told that in one day enough research papers are published to fill seven volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica.

One of the paradoxes of the Bible is that while it tells of a world decaying through violence, immorality, international stress and financial problems, it also talks of surging scientific knowledge. Yet even this knowledge is no silver-lined cloud. A picture of frustration as men run back and forth mars the glory of our record-breaking advances.

We are fortunate that various watch dog agencies are finding ways of checking the unrestricted use of additives to our food supplies. We can never be sure that they will find all the harmful ones. We may discover them too late. But at least somebody is trying.

But even greater threats hang over this earth of ours. If ever there was a time for faith in God, this is it. You may have read Jesus's words as recorded by Luke: "Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." Luke 21:6. The previous verse speaks of "distress of nations with perplexity." Reliable sources indicate that the United States has about twenty times the atomic weapons needed to wipe out all life in Russia. And Russia had its own fantastic arsenal.

Reports from Washington told us about the president's order to destroy stockpiled chemical biological weapons. One report said that the arsenal contained 20,000 poison bullets loaded with the botulinus bacterium. This poison is so violent that a glassful of it could wipe out most of the populace of the United States. We can breathe easier over that, but we can't feel too relaxed because who knows how many glassfuls of this same poison are stored up in other countries.

You can begin to understand then, why the Bible says that the world is growing old like a garment. You might also see the parallel between this world we know and the world of pre-flood days. The scriptures say in Genesis chapter six that the thoughts and plans of the people of those times had only evil as their goals.

What does God do when He sees life threatened, or the knowledge of His love about to be overwhelmed? Time and again the Bible records the reaction. At all costs God is determined to preserve the human race. And He is equally determined to preserve a true knowledge of Himself.

There can be no doubt that this world is facing a great time of crisis. The real question is, what will God do about it? Will he wipe out the world as the scriptures record of the time of the flood. Will he dry clean the world removing the worst of the spots and stains as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah and many other festering sin centers?

Think about one problem-center of the present age. Quite suddenly civilization had built an ugly pollution-pile of accumulated waste. Many of them are poisonous, others simply dangerous and some just plain awkward. In some cases our mountains of garbage are literally crowding us into a corner. In some cases people are actually being poisoned by wastes. And in other cases we are being threatened by chemicals.

Six million tons of waste are being poured into the atmosphere every year. The carbon dioxide count has gone up 14 percent since 1960. In Paris, France, air-scrubbers in downtown streets are trying to purify local patches of atmosphere. But as one critic commented, a few miles away power plants are pouring out added wastes to energize the scrubbers!

Here are some statistics for the affluent lands to think about. Paul Ehrlich, the noted biologist states that each American is responsible for fifty times as much pollution and resources consumption as a person in an undeveloped country. Each affluent citizen of the United States puts as much detergent, pesticides, and radio-active substances into the rivers and seas as do a thousand Indonesians. One American puts as much carbon monoxide into the air as do 200 Pakistanis.

In June 1970 a conference of theologians in California looked at this problem and tried to map out a "theology of survival." It seems that the topic of discussion was not "Will man survive?" but "How long will it take to kill off the planet earth?" What will God do about this?

Friends, I'm glad to tell you today the good news that God has a survival plan. Jesus Christ is coming back the second time to deliver man from his self-destroying ways and that time is very near.

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