Week of January 1

Living the New Year Commitment All Year

Read: Genesis 1-2; Luke 1
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”
Genesis 1:1, ESV


New Year’s surprise! God did not create the world on the first day of January! Furthermore, while we may read Genesis 1:1-2:4 chronologically, more accurately it provides us with a theological introduction to all that we experience in God’s redemptive-history that is recorded in the Bible. How’s that for an eye-opening first statement for 2023?!
I will follow with another amazing claim. This creation outlook should transform our daily existence because God is at work in our lives from the perspective of an “eternal now.” In the case of this daily devotional, we may invite Him to speak into every circumstance and encounter of each day through His living word. This insight motivates us to open the Bible each morning for a fresh meeting with the Lord God who creates all things!

The Meaning of the Text

A word about beginnings
“In the beginning” is a difficult phrase to translate from a Hebrew language perspective (1:1a). If the clause is interpreted traditionally, then “the beginning” refers to the time when the universe came into existence, rather than the beginning or the opening of the creation account (Handbook on Genesis). These words form the foundation of all that is to follow in the Bible. The verse identifies the Creator, explains the origin of the world, and ties the work of God in the past to His work in the future (EBC).
Talk about a theological statement! “God created” declares a singular worldview and holds profound implications for Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. It also holds profound significance for our lives each day! The key element about this verse is that creation “extols God’s transcendence and the power of His spoken word” (NAC). For us to say “God created” is to reject all other creation accounts where the origins and biographies of such gods are chief (NAC, EBC). Wow! This belief leads to specific commitments that honor God as Creator.
Moses penned this passage, and I assure you that he was not thinking of evolution, environmental ethics, climate change, or global warming. The Kyoto Protocol, which operationalizes the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, was not on his mind either! I also am fairly certain that it is not on your mind this New Year’s Day morning. However, dear friends, we are Christians on God’s planet, so we bear moral responsibility for its care.
Various views on creation care
There are several ways that Christ followers, people of other faiths, and even secularists, approach creation care. For example, there are sincere folks who hold to an anthropocentric viewpoint on the environment. Humanity is at the center of reality, and they understand the universe “primarily in terms of human values and human interests” (consider, “work environment,” and terming waste removal as “environmental services”; Magnuson, 507).

This view may seem to share some relationship with the Bible, but there are two main differences. In the biblical view, God is of ultimate value, not humanity, and all things exist for His glory. Furthermore, even though nature serves human interests, the created world is valuable regardless of its interests to humans. The non-human world is of value because God made it and sustains it (Magnuson, 508).
There also are people who sincerely approach creation care from a biocentric angle. They give no special status to human beings because they consider them to be just one species among the many others on earth. In fact, this view places biological life at the center of the universe. Christians, in contrast, believe that God is the center of things, not life.
The theocentric approach is one that Christians will seriously consider. Often, and importantly, Christians will focus on their relationship with God and others (Matthew 22:37-40). Even so, nonhuman creation holds instrumental value in “serving human needs,” and we bear moral responsibility for it (read, for example, Genesis 1-2; 9:8-17; Psalm 24:1; 104; Matthew 6:26, 28-30; John 1:1-3; Romans 8:18-23; and Colossians 1:15-17; Magnuson, 509). Christians will realize that the mandate to rule over creation also means that there is a directive to care for it (Genesis 1:28-30; see Colossians 1:16). I know! You feel a need for a New Year’s resolution.
A wise word about New Year’s resolutions
Seriously, January has become nearly synonymous with resolutions, and you may decide to add a creation care resolution to your commitments for 2023. This is wonderful. However, consider the fact that many resolutions fall by the wayside within the first two weeks of a year.

The difference-maker will be to awaken each day and ask God to show us what He is doing in His world at that time and to grow us into the persons He desires to meet the challenges of that day. Let’s take the eternal view each day and live with grateful thanks as He provides us with fresh help for living! Resolve to live each day both with this awareness and within His creation purpose (cf. John 3:16; eternal life; cf. Luke 1 and the gospel purpose).
Therefore, we resolve to begin this year and each day with this confession of faith. God alone is eternal, and we are finite, therefore we need His presence in our lives to live and breathe and for a clear direction each day (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6). It then becomes pure worship for us to state, “God creates!” Many of us would say that we live according to this biblical worldview, but what do we mean by it?
Two resolutions worth keeping
We declare that the Word of God shapes how we view life. Take the origin of things, for example, since this is our focal passage today. God made all of the universe (1:1-2:3) and He also made humans, His special creation, to superintend over all other created things (2:4-25; HCBC).
Consider, as well, the moral sense of such a way of viewing the world. We believe that an all-powerful, “sovereign God” is author of all that is good and right (1:31; 2:17). These core ethical concerns must hold together to enable one to lead a flourishing life (i.e., happy, fulfilling). God’s desire was to enjoy a relationship with humanity and they, in turn, with one another. How does all this work?

A Message for Our Lives Today

A famous professional athlete was recently named team captain of a storied baseball franchise. He will certainly benefit from such a designation, but he also shoulders a wide range of responsibilities. The letter “C” attached to his uniform means that he is the captain, but it also stands for a covenant with the team, his teammates, and the team’s fan base.
Let’s consider what moral creation responsibilities adhere to our lives as God’s agents in His creation. First, God’s world is filled with beauty, so we should love and delight in all that He has made, as well as give Him the rightful praise for it (Psalm 19:1; 148:7; Luke 12:27).
Secondly, we must exercise caution with God’s creation. Our God-assigned dominion should not lead to domineering all that God has made. We have the call to do things like create medicines, build cities, and establish crops to feed and sustain the world, but we also have a corresponding duty not to abuse God’s creation. Our dominion is not for our human benefit, but to fulfill God’s purposes in creation and render service both to Him and our neighbor (cf. Genesis 1:29).
Furthermore, we must realize that this created world is not all that there is to life. We must always (and this means every day) keep in mind that to say “in the beginning” means that one day there will be an “at the end.” This world and our lives have a time frame. We should recognize our finitude and frailty. We are fashioned to be God-dependent, including our own new creation story in Jesus Christ.

For Thought and Action

1. It will make all the difference in your day if you will look actively for God’s living presence in His creation. How do you see Him at work in your world? Put on your theological lenses today. How do you, as a child of God, see Him fulfilling His creative kingdom purposes in your schedule? Your family? Your job?
2. Also consider ways that you may live in constructive harmony and not consumptive disharmony with God’s creation. Write down ways that you may eliminate destructive and wasteful use of the blessings that God grants you. Find ways to bless others with those benefits that the Lord has given to you.
3. For Families: In this new year, perhaps your family could resolve to be better stewards of God’s creation. How can your family do this? By finding ways to eliminate excess waste and consumption (drinking less water from plastic bottles?), for example, or by helping the environment (dividing your trash for recycling, using dryer balls instead of dryer sheets?), or by appreciating and tending the beauty of God’s creation (planting trees and flowers in your garden, or having sunset picnics to admire his artistry?).

Your family can discuss ways to do these things and make a resolution. Write it down where everyone can be reminded of it, and change the family’s routines to sustain it. In this devotional space, we will remind us all, about every three months this year of 2023, how we are doing in our resolutions. May your family flourish in the New Year!

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock