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God’s World: Its Nature and Effects as Applied to the Believer in Contrast to the Virtual World

Psalm 19:1-6

If you would turn with me in your Bibles for our message this morning to Psalm 19, and as you turn to Psalm 19, I was directed to this passage in the Lord’s good Providence as I recently read a book called, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You” by Tony Reinke. And if you ran into me during the conference in the conference bookstore, you probably heard me tell you that if you were going to buy a book in there, you should buy that one. I think about ten of you listened to me based on how many we had leftover. But there are a few things that were very impactful from that book that I want to talk about this morning. And there are a few of those books left in our bookstore if you guys want to purchase them.

But there was a lot in that book that affected me, and a lot to make me think about. And as I was reflecting on that book after I read it, there was one thing in there that Tony mentioned that I wanted to expound upon. And as I reflected on this one aspect of the book, I went back to reread it in order to craft this introduction. And it had such an effect on me, I thought it was an entire section of the book, but in reality it was only a few pages.

It wasn’t even really that prominent in the book, and I don’t even intend to make the same point that he was making. But his thinking sparked my thinking that ignited this parallel vein of thinking that we’re going to be talking about this morning. So I still want to draw you into some of his thinking in order to bring you along with my own. In the fifth chapter of that book, Tony makes the argument that our phones are changing us to feed more on what we as humans produce and less on what God intends us to feed upon and meditate upon.

God intends us to feed and meditate upon his creation and his Word, where our phones draw us away to feed and meditate on what men have produced. But what humans have produced is substandard, to say the least, compared to what God has produced and intended us to feed upon. And Tony argues that when we look at even the world through our phone, through photos and videos, that there is another veil, so to speak, between us and God, another layer of separation. Because God’s existence is mediated to us or revealed to us indirectly. No one has seen God or ever will see God, the full glory of God. No one can behold the full glory of God and live, and so God’s existence is mediated to us through creation first, and then his Word, and by extension his Incarnate Word in Jesus Christ, the invisible made visible.

God’s existence is revealed to us through a medium or a mediation of creation in his Word. And what Tony Reinke points out in that chapter is that on the screens of our smartphones we only find copies of what exists in the world. We read messages only as they are intermediated, another layer of separation, intermediated to us by others, what he says by the gatekeepers of the creative world.

Even when we look at pictures of the Grand Canyon or of the galaxies above, these are God’s creation intermediated to us. There’s another layer of separation, a second level of separation, a veil separating us from how God intended us to see it. And I would argue that God doesn’t speak through your smartphone the same way he speaks through his creation or his Word.

And I’m going to argue that what comes through your smartphone screen, even when it does observe other creation, is the muffled and distorted message that can actually speak the exact opposite of what standing outside and looking up to the heavens communicates to you. And if I am right, smartphones, virtual reality writ large can be noise cancelling headphones that drown out the message and purpose of general revelation and even declare the opposite message.

Let me say that again. Smartphones and virtual reality writ large, video games, all the rest can be noise cancelling headphones that drown out the message and purpose of general revelation and even declare the opposite message to us that is intended by God. So what is the message and purpose of general revelation? What is God trying to communicate to us through the medium of creation? Well, we’re going to find that in Psalm 19.

So let’s read Psalm 19 and we’re going to only for today cover the first six verses. Psalm 19 is a Psalm by David, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork and day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, there are no words. Their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which [become] which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from one end of the heavens and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold. Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned in keeping them there is great reward.

“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion over me, and then I shall be blameless and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, My rock and my Redeemer.”

Again, we’re just going to cover the first six verses of this Psalm as they relate to general revelation. And then next week we’ll talk about the remaining verses talking about special revelation. But at the outset here, it’s important to remember that David wrote this Psalm, as the heading indicates. It’s important to remember that David was a shepherd who would have spent many nights out in the field with his sheep, staring up at the stars, observing the heavens. Meditating on the magnificence and magnitude of the Lord’s creation.

And so what we have here in Psalm 19 is the product of someone thinking and pondering and meditating on the reality of creation and its Creator for hours upon hours, days upon days, night after night. And David penning his thoughts carried along by the Holy Spirit, he tells us of the importance of this general revelation. And general revelation is not just for the unbelieving world. It still has a profound effect on us as we read all the songs this morning, as we read Scripture this morning, analogies of the created world coming through, encouraging the hearts of the believer.

It still has and should have a profound effect on us, but we can dull its effects in our lives by not actually looking upon it and meditating upon it. So in these first six verses, we’re going to look at the nature and effects of God’s general revelation, his mediating himself through creation to us. We’re going to look at the nature and effects of it in order that it might have its full effect on our life.

So three points for your outline this morning. Point number one, the nature of general revelation, the effects of general revelation and the application of general revelation. Nature, effects, and application of general revelation. Let’s start with point one, the nature of it. The nature of something refers to its basic qualities or characteristics, how it acts, how it unfolds, how it behaves. And we see in verse 1, the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

There’s several sub points here if you want to make subcategories in your notes, but the first aspect of the nature of general revelation that we see is that it is continuous. The heavens refer to the physical space where the sun and the moon and the stars reside. The sky refers to where the birds and the clouds exist and fly and flow together. These two words encompass everything we see when we look up to the heavens.

This massive expanse, and all that is contained in it, it declares the glory of God. Declares is a verb in an intensified form. In the root form means to count. It’s used of general mathematic activity counting objects, and this intensified form means to recount over and over and over again, like you would be recounting something that happened to you in the past to someone else. That’s the idea of declaring something.

So the meaning of the verb itself has to do with recounting something over and over and over again. But it also is a participle, which means the heavens are in a continuous exercise of declaring God’s glory. It is unceasing, and the word proclaims on the second line it’s a participle as well, indicating a continuous exercise. But this word refers to a lifting up of a matter on high before a person. It actually comes from a noun meaning highland, like a mountain, something that’s conspicuous and obvious for everyone to see, like a mountain ridge.

So in this beautiful and masterfully crafted poetry, David describes the heavens with each star, with each heavenly body. “The heavens recount the glory of God.” The sky lifts up God’s handiwork for all to see and the created world as we know does this unceasingly as it changes and we see it’s varying glory and the sunrise and the sunsets. So the nature of this mediation of general revelation is first, continuous. It never ends, it’s ongoing. And second, it is diverse.

Look at verse 2, it is diverse. “Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge.” And I debated splitting this into two, but instead I decided to leave it as one sub point and just say that because of its diversity that it comes from everywhere, it’s excessive in overflowing. That verb “pours out” is a word that connotes an uncontrollable gushing forth as a natural spring that continues to pour forth or uncontrolled waters that exceed the banks of the river and flood the plains.

General revelation is a constant stream gushing forth. There’s no containing it, but the reason that one cannot contain it is because it is diverse, it comes from everywhere. The verbs in verse 2, they’re not participles like the last verse indicating continuous action, but they’re imperfects, indicating repetitive action, whereas the first emphasizes the continuous nature. This emphasizes the diversity of the different parts. Repetitively, the sun rises with a day, and it plays its part in the heavenly song and the heavenly chorus. And when the sun sets, the night appears, the stars appear, and they play their part of the chorus and the song.

And day after day, night after night, these two pour forth speech, each doing their part to play their part in the chorus, to fill creation with the revelation of God’s glorious symphony. It is an uncontrollable gushing forth of God’s revelation because all of creation sings this song day and night. It comes from everywhere. Not just the sky, the sun and the stars, but the mountains and the hills and the birds and the fish, the depths of the ocean. Us as image bearers.

There is no containing this song of revelation because of its diversity in every created thing. So it’s continuous, it’s diverse and third it is speechless. Look at verse 3, “There is no speech nor are there words.” And the ESV says “whose voice is not heard.” And the meaning of this verse has been much debated. Calvin thinks it is necessary to supply a word to the Hebrew, as is often the case in Hebrew poetry, to supply an obvious word left out. But he recommends supplying the word “where.” That is, “There is no speech and there are no words ‘where’ their voice is not heard.” In other words, they go out into all the world, and there is nowhere this voice or song is not heard.

But that’s precisely what the next verse says, and I don’t think there needs to be a word supplied here. I think it is just as it is simply stated in the Hebrew, which if you have a Legacy Standard Version, it’s pretty much that’s it. Exact word for word says, “There is no speech, there are no words. Their voice is not heard.” The point is, although the heavens are declaring and day is pouring forth speech, night revealing knowledge, there is in reality no speech and no words.

That is to say creation speaks loudly, but it is nonverbal. It doesn’t speak or communicate specific truths about God. It is limited in what it can communicate because there are no words. That means where there are no words, there is no reviving of the soul. In verse 7 it says these are benefits of specific, general revelation, verbal revelation. There’s no reviving of the soul, there’s no making wise the simple, there’s no salvation and the subsequent results of salvation, which is the rejoicing of the heart. If you look down in verse 8, there’s no enduring forever. Verse 9, no righteousness for us to attain.

General revelation cannot save. No one can get saved and hear the gospel message by staring up at the stars, as the New Testament says, “How will they believe unless they hear? And how will they hear unless someone is sent to preach a verbal message to them?”

We’ll come back to talk more about these things and point two, you on the effects. But for now, it suffices to say that God’s mediation of himself through creation is speechless. It is a silent song that does not communicate specific truths. So it’s continuous, it’s diverse, it’s speechless, and now forth it is boundless. Look at verse 4, the beginning of verse 4, “Their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world.”

Now if you are tracking with me, following with me, you might be thinking if the end of verse 3 says their voice is not heard, then why does the very next line say their voice goes out through all the earth? Well that’s a very good question. And the answer is that in the Hebrew, verse 4 doesn’t say their voice, it says their line.

Most of you probably have a little footnote after the word voice, and if you do, you look down at the bottom of your Bible, mine’s a little number two and it says instead of voice it could be measuring line. And just to clarify, the Hebrew reads line, it doesn’t read voice. For some translators, they can’t make sense of what line would mean. And so they follow an old theory that this was corrupted and a letter fell out somewhere. And so they resupply that letter and say that it’s voice. And again, I find myself agreeing with the Legacy Standard Version. If you have one of those, it says “line.”

And Kyle and Dalich and Calvin, they all agree that this refers to a line, like the line of a text in a book. In keeping with the last verse, this is not an audible message that goes out as one you see, you read as you stare up into the heavens. Their voice is not heard, but the message goes out for all to see and look at and goes through all the earth. This message goes out to the ends of the world. It is boundless.

It’s when you see, it’s when you observe. And there is nowhere that it does not tread. It is boundless, boundless, speechless, diverse, continuous, and finally, fifth, it is escapeless. There is no place you can go to escape this message. It is escapeless. And according to Microsoft Word, there’s no little red line under that. It is a real word. I debated that, but it didn’t matter. I was going to use it anyway because it fit my outline.

But this revelation is inescapable. You can’t escape it. I already read those verses, but it’s like the sun going out and the rays of the sun penetrating everything. You can’t escape. The psalmist, here, he exemplifies this point with the prominence of the sun and creation.

He likens it to a bridegroom beaming and shining like you would on your wedding day. It’s bright and shining. He also likens it to a strong man who runs his course without fail every day, joyously. It rises from one end of the heavens to the other. And the psalmist’s point here is the sun is so bright and beaming, so strong and unstoppable, that nothing is hidden from its heat. You cannot escape the effects of the sun’s rays. Nothing on Earth is untouched by them. Even when the sun sets, we still feel its effects as the ground gives back forth its warmth. Because we all know we’re the sun to stop shining all together, we turn into a frozen, uninhabitable tundra. There is nowhere you can go to escape the sun’s heat.

And to keep this in context to the point there is nowhere you can go to escape the message of general revelation. It’s written everywhere. If you look at the sky, there it is. If you look deep under the sea, there it is. And everywhere cries out that God exists and this truth penetrates everywhere.

So the nature of this mediation of creation reveals God is continuous. This, nature, the behavior of this general revelation, it’s continuous, it’s diverse, it’s speechless, it’s boundless, it’s escapeless. That’s the nature of it. Now we turn our attention to, point two, the effects of it, the effects of it.

Creation has a profound effect that is intended by God. God purposed that creation would have this effect, these effects, upon his rational creatures, us human beings. And the first effect is that God is glorified. Again, look at verse one, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

And this verse one is actually a small chiasm. It reads in the Hebrew, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and his handiwork is proclaimed by the sky.” And in the Hebrew poetry that chiasm whatever is at the central part of that is the focus, which is God’s glory, his works.

Glory by itself is the idea of that which is weighty, a sense of being noteworthy or impressive. Thus the person of high social position or accompanying wealth was automatically an honored or weighty person in the society. But when this term is applied to God, it refers to his self disclosure to men. A visible manifestation of who he is, his weightiness. Thus the heavens are a visible manifestation of the weightiness, the immensity of God’s being. The heavens glorify God. They communicate the immensity of God. His magnitude.

His magnitude is on display by all of his works. His immensity is undeniable. When you stare up into the heavens and you fathom the depths of the universe. And as we fathom the immensity of the universe, God is glorified. As Isaiah says, we read in Isaiah 40:12, because God encompasses them in a span he holds them in his hand, so to speak.

As massive as the universe is, God is greater, more magnificent, more grand. And if the universe is immense, how immense is the God behind it? He is infinite. How worthy is he of praise? He is infinitely worthy of praise. How holy is he, he is infinitely holy. How good is he? He is infinitely good. How wondrous is he? He is infinitely wondrous.

The song of creation beckons us to trust and hope in God, for he will bring to completion all that he started, including you as a new creature.”

Bret Hastings

The effective purpose of creation and the immensity of it is to glorify God, to hold him up as grander and greater than even our grand universe. So first the effect God, of creation is that it glorifies God. Secondly, God is revealed, God is glorified and God is revealed.

Verse 2, “Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge.” The diversity of the entire creation pours forth the knowledge of God, revealing who God is. Paul doesn’t leave us any room to speculate on this knowledge. He says in Romans 1:20 that it is the knowledge of God’s eternal power and his divine nature that have been clearly perceived since the creation of the world.

David says these, the creation screams out these truths day and night, repeating as a chorus, revealing who God is, pours forth knowledge to us, his rational creatures. Steven Lawson says this knowledge is the general revelation of God’s character, especially his eternal power, goodness, genius, kindness and faithfulness. Another commentator says the knowledge of the heavens proclaim concerns the nature of God. The act of creating everything by his own will and through his own command reveals his power. The vast expanse of the universe and all its complexities reveal his infinity and sovereignty. The perfect functioning of all aspects of creation reveals his wisdom, and the beauty of all creation reveals the beauty of God.

James Boyce says every individual part of nature testifies to its creator, so that whatever part you happen to be looking at will pour forth knowledge. If you look at the stars, they testified to a God of great power who made them. If you study the human body, you will find that the body testifies to an all wise creator. The petals of a flower, a blade of grass, a snowflake, the intricacies of the atom, the nature of light, physical laws like gravitational attraction, the second law of thermodynamics, or relativity, all, testify abundantly to a divine mind that lies behind them.

Every different aspect of creation that we can observe as we look around. Each is like a different instrument in this symphony that plays the song revealing God’s character. Each plays its part in this greater song that reveals who God is, including you and me. I am, you are, a part of the symphony that sings the glory of God as we multiply and fill the earth with his glory. The different parts of creation reveal different aspects of who God is, all to paint a glorious image of the character of God.

And these things, as Paul says, make his power and divine nature abundantly obvious to everyone. It reveals, it pulls back the curtain a bit so we can see who God is. So the effect of this creation is that God is glorified. We see his immensity. It reveals his divine nature and his attributes, reveals who he is, what he’s like. And finally, the effect is that God is declared.

“The heavens declare the glory of God.” The creation reveals who God is. If you look around, you read the line that goes through all the earth. But if you just close your eyes, can you escape it? If you plug your ears, can you ignore it? No. There is nothing hidden from its heat. It penetrates. It’s not just that the curtain is pulled back, and if you look at it, you see.

The knowledge of God is declared to us. It goes out and it penetrates every heart as the sun’s rays do, and this message goes out like the sun’s rays to affect the people on the earth. If you close your eyes, you pretend not to see the clear revelation around you. You still feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, which reveal God’s goodness.

The point is this general revelation and the message. It’s not just something you if you don’t look at it, you miss it. It’s not like text in a book. If you don’t read it, you don’t know. It’s declared. It goes out to all the earth, as Paul says, leaving everyone liable to judgment and without excuse. God exists and he is holy, and all men must give an account to the Creator one day, and this is declared by creation for all to know. All are therefore without excuse.

So that is the nature of creation, how it behaves, the effects of it. Now we look to its application. Why is this significant for us? And I must admit at the outset of this, as we look at point three, the application of general revelation, we only come to this portion in light of special revelation.

We only come to this in light of the fact that we have the Word of God. And that’s obvious. We’re reading from it this morning. But it must be stated, because no one comes to these conclusions apart from the Word of God. Again, the heathen standing and staring up at the stars doesn’t come to these conclusions apart from divine verbal revelation.

And as we get into this section, just to be transparent, I stole the framework for this application from Peter van Maastricht and his theoretical and practical theology, which I cannot recommend to you enough. I took his framework and, and just inserted a bunch of my own thinking I, I have some of his thinking in here, but I don’t want to stop and, and quote everything that I took from his thinking because it’d be tedious and cumbersome. Just know if there’s any good thoughts in here, they came from him, not me.

But when I relate it to present day, our usage of technology and phones, that wasn’t him. He lived in the 17th century. He’s an old, dead guy. But the first application of this mediation of creation, general revelation, is it calls us to know God. Creation calls us to know God. Creation invites us to know God. Calls out to us, the song is sung and it calls out to us to know him.

Like when you hear a song with no lyrics and you recognize it, but you can’t quite put your finger on the words and what song it is, and it bothers you until you figure out what song it is. That song is creation singing out that God exists and he’s there to be found out. But all the lyrics are found in here in the Word of God. But creation beckons us. It calls us to know him.

We see from creation that there is something more to it than meets the eye. There’s a God whose glory shines through the veil, and we who are drawn by God’s Spirit want to peek behind the veil and know more. Unbelievers are even enraptured by the creation around them, though they deny God, that’s really what they’re seeking to investigate when they seek out those things. But also, unbelievers, they shudder to think of God, and they stick their heads under rocks to avoid all these things that call out to us.

But this song invites us to know God more, and specifically what sort of God he is. To search out that he is independent. The one from whom is all things, who is the first and the last. The one who is omnipotent, producing all things from nothing. One who calls on things to exist that did not once exist calls us to know this all wise God, who directs the heavens with his palm, as we read in Isaiah 40, calls us to know the goodness of God through all the good things he has made.

His eternity, his all sufficiency, and his blessedness. The song of Creation invites us not only to know what sort of God he is, but who he is. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Not only who he is, but who he is in relation to us. That is the Father ordained, the creation of the world, the Son creates, but not apart from the Spirit and of the utmost importance after the Fall, the Son becomes our Redeemer to reconcile us to this holy and magnificent God of the universe that we might have eternal life. Which according to Jesus is knowing Him. Knowing God is eternal life, the highest quality of life that will never end.

Creation calls out and invites us to know God. And I would just invite you to do this little exercise with your family. Look around at creation and see what different attributes of God you can find in those varying things. And Scripture is our guide, obviously, but the song of creation, it calls out to us. It reveals who God is. Creation calls out, invites us to know God. It has his fingerprints all over it. And it’s at this point where I will return where I started and reiterate my hypothesis and that is this.

Virtual reality. The virtual universe beckons and calls something very different to us. Our smartphones act as noise cancelling headphones that drown out this song of creation and it pipes into our ears and our minds a very different message. When we pick up our smartphones and we peer through the little window into the virtual universe that we hold in our hands, it does not beckon and call us to know God.

It calls us to know anything and everything else. It calls us to know what’s going on on the other side of the world. It calls us to know what the latest score of our favorite team is. To know the latest gossip, the newest cat video, the newest clothing fad, the best way to decorate this or that. It beckons us, and it calls us to know anything and everything else that we have a curiosity about except God.

And the puppets on the other side of these things, they have designed everything about them to hook us and distract us with the unimportant. And even if you’re using your devices to study and know God, it still cries out to you with every notification, every text message, every e-mail to know something else.

It is possible to use these things to know God better. I use a computer to prepare sermons and study. But it is like trying to listen to a song that’s playing outside by putting noise cancelling headphones on. They’re also playing a very different song. It’s very, very difficult.

And again, that is because the puppeteers on the other side, in control of all of our devices, they want us to know about anything but God. If anything, they want to set our hearts against him. And they are very good at what they do. We get hooked, pulled into this rabbit hole, only to emerge a few hours later and wonder what happened.

Beloved, let creation have its intended effect upon you. Sit and ponder, creation. Let it beckon and call you to know God to study him more. You won’t get that desire from staring at your phone or TV. Those things scream a very different song in your ear of endless distraction. Those things have a profound effect on your soul, though, and it’s not a good one.

Let creation have its intended effect. But we have to stop staring into the window, into virtual reality. And as you maybe put your phone down and you sit and you stare at your walls instead of your phone, dare I say, you might be bored with the creation you see around you. You can look into this infinitely wondrous book that the Lord has given you and study him.

We are supposed to be bored with this world around us and the things of it, because they point to something else, to the one who truly satisfies. Don’t replace that with the never ending new things of the virtual universe. They do not satisfy, and I know you know that. And yet we still let ourselves get sucked into it.

So creation beckons, and it calls us to know God. These phones, the virtual universe they beckon and call us to, to set God aside, to know all the other curiosities of our heart, to put God over here, put everything else up here. In that sense, beloved, these devices, the virtual world they play the most blasphemous song you could ever hear. That is a poison to your soul in that sense. It taints your mind. It draws your affections away from God onto anything else. So the first application is to know God. Creation calls to us, observe it, let it have its intended effect upon you, and know God.

Second application. Creation calls us to glorify God, just as the heavens recount and retell God’s works to his glory, lifting him up for all to see. That is what we are called to do. Recount them to our own hearts, observe them, remember them, that God might be glorified.

Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, in Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever amen.” David says in Psalm 139:14, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works. My soul knows it very well.” He’s glorifying God, repeating the things as he, as he, as he recalls his own creation, fearfully and wonderfully made.

The purpose of man, the reason God created man is to glorify himself, Isaiah 43:7. And as we observe creation, it calls us to praise and glorify him. It points to his greatness, his grandeur, his worthiness, his holiness. Creation calls for believers to join in with all that creation and recount his works, glorifying him as Creator who holds our life in his hands.

Creation beckons us to rejoice and glorify the one who holds the universe in his hands. And if this universe is immense, how much more immense is our God and worthy of all of our honor and praise? But beloved, when we come to our phones in the virtual world, they cry something very different than that.

They cancel out that message and they whisper to us, “Come be your own God. Come to the universe where you’re in control. Come have what you want. Watch what you want. Do what you want. The possibilities are endless. Be who you want to be. Design yourself differently. Portray yourself differently. Create another world of your own making. Live here, away from this horrible life God has given you on earth. Be your own god.”

Instead of looking up to the heavens and realizing how small we are compared to God, obvious that we are not God. Instead, we look down into this little black box that we hold in our hands and we think we hold an entire universe in our hands. And we by osmosis, because we hold the little universe in our hands, we begin to buy into the deception that we are really in control.

We like doing as we please. We like deleting anything, hiding anything we don’t like. This little universe is there to do our bidding, make our every wish come true. Well, that is a message of poison to the soul. Beloved, we weren’t created to live in a virtual reality where we are essentially God, practically.

We were created to live in God’s world, to please and glorify him, not ourselves. And as we look out at creation, it reminds us of that. As you bump into another human being outside of virtual reality, you’re reminded that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Creation beckons us to glorify God.

Virtual reality whispers to us that we are god, and how much of that song do you think is healthy for your soul? Creation calls us to know God. It calls us to glorify God. And third it calls us to worship God. Psalm 100 says to worship Yahweh, for he has made us and we are his. See the creation, meditating on creation says, we ought to praise and glorify the one who made us.

Worship belongs to him every moment of every day. Peter Van Maastricht says in his theology, “He created all things for his use and service. Accordingly he is in particular our Creator, former and fashioner. Likewise our potter and indeed our Father. For which reason to him by every right belongs every kind of service and worship which a Creator could desire from his work, a potter from his pot, and a father from his son.” End Quote.

He’s saying by right of who God is, our Creator, he requires our worship. We’re reminded of this as we look out into creation. But Van Maastricht, he goes on and he, he gives five specific services of worship that we owe to God. I just want to run through these quickly.

First and foremost we worship God by offering gratitude. Now how many of you regularly consider offering gratitude a form of worship? Again, Paul said in Romans 1 that they did not glorify God nor give him thanks. That was the beginning of a trail to greater and greater degradation. They didn’t give him thanks.

But gratitude, in what should we offer to God? Well, everything. But how about gratitude in the gender God created you, the height he gave you, the eye color he gave you, the family he put you into, the shoe size he gave you. Rejoicing in even the smallest things and how God formed you is worshipping him. You could extend that out to anything. For what do you have that was not given to you by God? So we should worship him by giving thanks, gratitude.

Second service of worship, Van Maastricht notes, is profound submission. Psalm 95:6 says, “oh, come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord, our maker.” Kneeling in submission to whatever he asks, because he created us. We know from the New Testament that that’s a lot. But submitting to all of God’s commands, not rebelling against any of them, we owe this to God as our Creator, and we do it out of love because he’s our Father.

Third service of worship, he notes, is acquiescence in every situation. Acquiescence is the acceptance of something without protest. We accept our life and the circumstances surrounding it without protest, because it is God who has put us in these circumstances in this life that we have. But not just without protest, with gratitude, as we just learned. That’s why he put that first gratitude that God is working all these things together for our good.

And the fourth service of worship is attendance at weekly worship services, which also remind us of creation order. Think back to the week, sixth day of creation, seventh day to rest and worship the Lord. Fifth our service of worship is to have a love for God and God’s creatures, primarily other men, but all of God’s creatures.

That is what creation calls us to worship. It calls us to worship in gratitude. Love for God, love for neighbor. Now when we enter into the virtual universe, when we pick up our smartphones, do these things call us to gratitude? Do they sing the song of gratitude to our God and encourage us to do so?

No, it cries out that you aren’t as pretty as that person. You don’t have this thing over here that you didn’t know existed, but now all of a sudden you can’t live without it. Play this game and build the life that you really want and be discontent with the one you have.

Does entering into virtual reality cry out for you to submit to God as your creator? No. Everything about it cries out that it’s there to submit to you and do your every wish, bow to your every whim. Does a virtual universe teach you to accept life circumstances as the lot that God has given you?

No. It says escape your circumstances, create your own reality. Does it call you out to bodily, weekly worship services? Or does it give you excuse to stay home? Does it call you to love God, love your neighbor? Picking up our phones, entering into virtual reality, shuts out the call of creation to worship God, and it really calls us to worship our self.

The fourth application is to fear God. Jeremiah 5:22 says, “Do you not fear me? Declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? [And then he uses creation as an example] I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass. Though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, and though they roar, they cannot pass over it.”

Who of us can stand up against the pounding waves and hold back the oceans? We would be beat to a pulp. We would be crushed. The point is, how much more powerful is God, and you ought to fear Him. Psalm 33:6 through 9 says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap. He puts the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord. Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spoke, and it came to be he commanded, and it stood firm.”

Creation calls us to fear God, and by this fear we should entirely shun all sin in as much as by them they offend our Creator. The song of creation calls us to fear God and mortify our sin that we might not be an offence to this holy, awesome and mighty God who created heaven and earth. And when we enter into virtual reality and we pick up our phones, this song is drowned out by the song of “you aren’t as bad as these people. Look at these wretches over here. You’re fine as you are.”

Everything about social media is just to affirm you as you are. Enjoy yourself as you are. And by the way, here’s a bunch of links to everything you want to do and see and hear about. And we wonder why we don’t fear God as we ought, why our sanctification is stifled. Because we spend our time in the virtual universe that affirms us.

Instead of observing creation that calls us to fear this holy God that we are woefully short, that we fall so far from. Creation calls us to fear him. Fifth the application is creation calls us to trust God. Psalm 146:3 through 6 says, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth. On that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord, his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever.”

We do not put trust in men, not for this life or the next. Our help comes from the Lord who is maker of heaven and earth. We trust him because he is the all powerful one who made all things and sustains all things. Can you not do more now to save you, to hold you up in the midst of your trials?

To save your, save you through your trials to eternal bliss? To save you from your sin? To give you strength to conquer sin? Van Maastricht notes, he says, “We profess to believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, who accordingly can with infinite overflow do all things which we ask and think according to the power that works within us, Ephesians 3:20, therefore, let us commit our very soul to him as a faithful creator.” End Quote.

The song of creation beckons us to trust and hope in God, for he will bring to completion all that he started, including you as a new creature. He sustains every new day as the sun comes up again and again. We can trust him to sustain us and our lives. But when we venture into virtual reality, the problems of the world are magnified, and every solution is pointed to trust in a man in some way or another. And as we see all these problems, we begin to be overwhelmed by them. And we also begin to buy into the message that a politician can fix it or somebody else can fix it. And our faith and trust in the Lord our God is torn away, dulled, because we don’t hear the song of creation that it sings to us. We hear the song of unbelieving men who sing through the puppeteers, through our phones, through virtual reality.

Creation beckons us and calls to us to trust in God. It reminds us of how great he is and how much we can trust in him. Our virtual reality that we spend so much time in declares the exact opposite. There is no God. We are our only hope, and that is a hopeless hope.

Sixth and final application, we’ll wrap this up. Creation calls us to rest in God. When we are tired and weary and need rest, or we’re anxious and worrisome, where do we so often retreat to? Somewhere in the virtual universe watching a screen. And it’s quite readily known that if you want to raise your blood pressure you go on social media, but if you want to lower it, you get a fish tank.

The fact that fish tanks lower blood pressure is general revelation applied. True rest can be found in the solace of observing creation. Observing creation can quiet the spirit. Jesus even counseled people with such wisdom. What did Jesus prescribe to the one who is anxious and worrisome? The song of comfort that Jesus prescribed to the troubled heart was to look and meditate on creation.

Look at the birds, he said. God takes care of them. Will he not take care of you? Look at the lilies of the field, he clothed them. Will he not clothe you? Why then are you anxious and wearisome? I think for us who live in the modern age, and particularly in large cities, but in our age entirely, this song of creation is a long neglected medicine for the soul, an invisible antidepressant, or a natural antianxiety medication.

Jesus counsels those who are suffering from these ailments to observe creation, to calm their heart. I mean, if you have this massive problem in your life that you think is insurmountable, it seems obvious that to go outside and to look up to the heavens and contemplate the immensity of the universe and be reminded of how big God is, it seems obvious that that would put our problems in perspective. And along with verbal revelation of God’s Word, the Spirit of God bringing these things to mind, as we have the mind of Christ, the song of creation quiets our hearts. We find rest in him.

Creation beckons us to glorify God, to worship him, to fear him, trust him to know him, and find our solace and rest in him.”

Bret Hastings

And Jesus wasn’t just using the bird and the lily as an object lesson. He’s pointing to them there in front of him, of all the people saying look, observe these things. He was reiterating a principle that would have been familiar to all of them because it’s familiar in Scripture. Turn to Psalm 92 as we wrap this up.

The principle is as you observe creation, you see who God is and it comforts your heart. It wasn’t just an object lesson of the bird or the flowers. It was a principle. As we look at Psalm 92, I want you to notice and if you go back and read Isaiah 40 that we read earlier, we see the same thing. It’s all throughout the Psalms, the comfort that is found as one observes creation and likens it to their own situation.

Psalm 92 move through this quickly and again heading this is something that they would have sang weekly at the Sabbath, regularly. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, oh most high, to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night. To the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work. At the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O Lord, your thoughts are very deep. The stupid man cannot know. The fool cannot understand this, that though the wicked sprout like grass and all the evil doers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever.”

He’s looking at the grass. He sees how quickly it grows up and it burns up. And he says, you know what? Even though it looks like evil doers in this world prosper. That’s what it’s like finding comfort as he looks. “But you, O Lord, [verse 8] are on high forever. For behold your enemies, O Lord, for behold your enemies shall perish. All evil doers shall be scattered. But you have exalted my horn like that of an wild ox. You have poured over me fresh oil. My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies, and my ears have heard the doom of the evil assailants. The righteous flourish like the palm tree and the and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord, and they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age, and they’re ever full of sap and green to declare that the Lord is upright. He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

Just one Psalm to illustrate this principle. As we observe creation, we find in it things that comfort our hearts and our own life situations. Psalms, as you read them, observe this. You’ll see that they are filled with these kinds of observations. They observe creation and find comfort as they apply that to their own situation. Again only in light of Scripture, the more you read Scripture, the more you will make those connections as well. But beloved, observing creation with the mind of Christ is a medicine for your soul, and this includes observing the pinnacle of creation in mankind one another as we spend physical time with one another.

And we cut ourselves off from this when we enter the virtual universe of our own making. Beloved, the virtual world cries out to us that we are God. All the puppeteers behind there, they speak those deceptive words. You are God. And we like it. We like listening to its calls. We like pretending to be the God of the universe as we navigate it.

So I’m not calling this morning to get rid of your smartphone. It’s not even really about smartphones. Because the kicker is our phones, they don’t cry out to us as I’ve been saying. They do proverbially cry out to us, but in reality, it’s our heart that cries out. All those things that’s reflected off of this device that can really give us whatever we want. These things really only reflect what is in our heart. The real problem is in here.

But, these devices are the greatest source of temptation and we have to consider how they affect us and how much we need to cut them off. I can tell you for myself after studying this, I basically deleted everything off my phone that has a chance of distracting me and leading me down the rabbit hole. The virtual universe tells us that we are God and we don’t need to work out our sanctification. The virtual world says all should bow to us. We deserve all worship, honor, and praise to be affirmed and beloved. We need to limit the time we spend with those headphones on, because creation around us is designed by God to have an effect on our hearts and minds, and this effect is doled and blocked out by the virtual world.

Creation beckons us to glorify God, to worship him, to fear him, trust him to know him, and find our solace and rest in him. Let’s let the intended purpose of general revelation have its full effect on our minds and hearts by limiting the time we spend drowning out that song as we live in the virtual world. Let’s leave that and return to the world the Lord intended us to live in. Let’s pray.

Our gracious, merciful Heavenly Father. It is no new thing for us to take something in your creation, all matter and material, and put it together into a thing that draws our attention and affections away from you. It is not as simplistic as it used to be carving a piece of wood and worshipping it. It’s much more complex, and yet there is no difference between the things that we now construct in fashion that draw our affections away from you. I pray, Lord, that you would inflame our affections for you. Give us a desire that drowns out the desire to know anything but you. By your Spirit give us strength and self-control, to cut off that which hinders our sanctification, to be free from all that entangles and holds us back. May we not use any excuses, the illusions of productivity, to allow our affections to continue to be drawn away from you. Lord, give us the strength to do this. Lord, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.