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The events of 9-11 shocked us a nation. For a moment we remembered God and vowed to change our priorities. The lasting response has been ramping up security and vowing to rout out terrorists. Todd draws from Joshua and Revelation for a tough lesson on how our response to 9-11 has been misguided, man-made and ultimately a misfire.
Sovereignty, Hurricanes and Terrorism: What They Mean for Us Today
War, What's it Good For? Peace, Pacifism, War and the Word
9/11 - The Day That America Did Not Change Forever
Jesus' Response to Towers that Fall
Father, as we take a few moments to think, I pray that we would think clearly. I pray that we would be filled with the humility and the awe of the brevity of life, the fragility of peace, and I pray that this room of people would become sobered and aware, not by reflecting on some tragedy of just a year ago but sober and aware of the reality of history and your control of it, and there would not be a repentance that is tied to terror but there would be a repentance that is tied to truth, and it would change us, and you would use us as ministers of reconciliation and vessels of hope to a group of people in this world who have been devastated by the terror of sin, not the one of September 11 but the one that haunts many of us every day.
We have told you that we will never forget, and we have lied. We have told you that we would be different forever, as others have done, and we have been wrong. As a country, we have rebounded in ways that are good, but we, Lord, have rebounded in ways that will bring more horror in our lives. I pray you would start right here with sober truth and we would be a people that, indeed, would be changed forever by your grace, amen.
You have seen what I have seen. Have you not? This is Wednesday's Dallas Morning News. More than a few companies decided to get on the patriotic bandwagon. Here's JCPenney's. They decided to say, "We do this in remembrance." Full-page ad just saying, "We remember. We won't forget." You go a few more pages down the way, and you see another one from Lockheed Martin, and to the right you see the one that's up there on the screen. They both say the same thing. "Let us remember. We take this day to remember."
You go a little bit farther forward, another half-page ad. This one says, "September 11, 2001. We remember." Then you go some more, and the whole back page is Foley's. Few times in history has one single date so affected the hearts and minds of a nation. "We will always remember." No, we won't. It's not just because we are stubborn as a generation, though we are. It's because we are liars as a people, and things that we swear if we could just get or things we are sure if we could just experience would radically transform us forever are not things that ultimately bring about change.
Just like jailhouse conversions are really not conversions… That doesn't mean there are not conversions that happen in jailhouses. It just means there are a lot of folks who get to a certain place in their life and swear that now they've learned their lesson, and what they're really responding to is the horror of their consequence, not the horror of their person. There was much repentance as a country that happened a year ago in the face of the terror.
Terroristic repentance is no more real than people who swear if God would just give them that girl who would love them, they would never ask for another thing. Or "If this deal would just come through, God, I'd never bother you again, but this is the one deal I really need. If you give me that one deal, I'll know I've made it through, and then I'll be yours forever. You'll have my whole heart. Just this one thing, God, I swear."
We're all like this when we get a speeding ticket. We slow down for a while until the police are in our rearview mirror or at least maybe sometimes, if we're really sobered by the $150, for the remainder of that leg of the trip, but, man! All of a sudden, we're speeding again. How many people have been in a relationship where a woman's menstrual cycle was a little late or was missing, and the horror of an unwanted pregnancy filled the relationship, filled that lonely room at night?
They swore if they would just begin their cycle they would never be so foolish again, God. "I'll be much more careful." So the next four or five times they have that opportunity with that lover, they're maybe a little bit more hesitant and reticent, but then it gets too far back there, and they think they can be careful, and then they're right back in their same activity. We do not remember. It is an epidemic among humankind. Though we'll purpose to remember and swear we'll always remember, we mock ourselves and mock God when we say, "This is the moment that will change forever."
"What a difference a day makes," the statement says. "On Monday we emailed jokes; on Tuesday we did not. On Monday we thought we were secure, but on Tuesday we learned better. On Monday we were talking about the heroes that were athletes and movie stars, but on Tuesday we learned who our real heroes were. On Monday we were irritated that our rebate checks had not arrived; on Tuesday we gave money away to people we had never met.
On Monday there were people fighting against praying in schools; on Tuesday you would have been hard-pressed to find a school where someone was not praying. On Monday people argued with their kids about picking up their room; on Tuesday the same people could not get home fast enough to hug their kids. On Monday people were upset they had to wait six minutes in a fast food drive-through line; on Tuesday people didn't care about waiting up to six hours just to give blood.
On Monday we waved our flags signifying our cultural diversity; on Tuesday we waved just one flag. On Monday there were people trying to separate each other by race, sex, color, and creed; on Tuesday we were all holding hands. On Monday we, men or women, white or black or any other color, old or young, rich or poor, straight or gay, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or other religions were all separate; on Tuesday we were Americans.
On Monday politicians argued about budget surpluses; on Tuesday, grief-stricken, they sang 'God Bless America.' On Monday the president was going to Florida to read to children; on Tuesday he returned to Washington to protect the entire nation's children. On Monday we had families; on Tuesday we had many orphans." And on and on it goes.
What about last Wednesday? What about Thursday? What about Friday a year later? How much of that is still true? I have an article here that came from the Wall Street Journal. September 18, 2001. It says, "In the Wake of Terrorist Attacks, God Reappears on National Stage." It talks about how God was once again at the very center of public life and God was thrust again into the public square.
The Wall Street Journal article essentially says, "The most surprising public appearance has not been made in this last week by a political leader or a grieving celebrity or a foreign dignitary. The most striking appearance on the national stage has been made by God. Just one year after a presidential campaign argued over whether religious beliefs should be mingled with public life, Americans have accepted, virtually without question, a very public turn to religion by their nation and its leaders in this time of grief." September 18, 2001.
September 11, 2002, Wall Street Journal. One year later. "The Religion Bubble: Churches Try to Recapture 9/11 Crowds." The story goes on to recount how there was definitely a spike in attendance the few weeks that were surrounding that particular event but that levels of church attendance have gone right back to normal as quickly as November.
I went and got on Lycos, and they offer a thing called the "Lycos 50" where they basically track what people in America are interested in. They gauge the interest of the American public by what they do a search for on the Internet. On September 10, 2001, just a year ago, the things that consumed the interest of the American people included Aaliyah. Remember her? She was a pop singer who died in a crash.
Powerball, which was the big opportunity to become a millionaire instantly. They were doing some searches for that. The Big Brother show and what was going on with different people in that cast; Las Vegas, how to get there and how to enjoy it; NFL, because it was kickoff Sunday; Britney Spears, Anna Kournikova, and the like. Those were the things that consumed the American interest.
Then just a day later, an event happened that radically transformed what consumed the American mind. Within a three-hour period, from 9:00 to noon, CNN, news, World Trade Center, CNN News, CNN.com, MSNBC, ABC News, BBC, breaking news, and world news filled what people were beginning to search for on the net. Six hundred forty times the normal number of people who look for any news item were searching for it. That was September 11, 2001.
Then you go a year later. This secular organization that documents what is scratching the itch of the American public said just this last week that things have changed dramatically. The things which filled up our interest of a year ago are gone. It says we've returned, basically, to the same public psyche we used to have. There are a few things that every now and then skip in along anniversary dates, they say, but popular entertainment has stayed just as much a concern as always.
It basically says, "Back at the end of last year, a lot of news reports stated that pop culture searches on the Internet dropped significantly after September 11. That's really not true. Most pop culture searches did drop slightly but returned to their previous level within just two weeks." In other words, the things that consumed people were not understanding the world they were in but just wanting to escape in the world they enjoyed. It lasted two weeks.
They said the end of what they would call the age of seriousness was officially done by January, that they had really no evidence that people were consumed anymore with the things that at first attracted their attention. Now, I don't want to say, "I told you so," but last year, we sat in here on this Sunday and talked about what had just happened, and one of the things I said was, "You watch what we'll do."
I read this article. This article is by Steve Blow. Steve Blow was talking about his response to the tragedy. He essentially says, "I need to believe that the best will happen. My defense against an uncertain life is a stubborn, probably irrational insistence that everything will be fine. I need to believe that life is predictable, that people are good, that we can work together to solve problems and settle differences.
I'm a Pollyanna. I want to be, and it drives my wife crazy. 'Don't worry,' I say. 'Life is good.' I say that, and then along comes an event. That enormous building stands there, its jagged wound revealed to the world, proclaiming that everything I want to believe is wrong, that life is not safe, that people are not rational." He talked about how that thing had struck him and how it bothered him.
Then he goes on to say, "It's all so senseless. If there must be death and destruction, at least let's have some reason for it, but there's nothing. So what do we do? We go right back to re-weaving the illusion, stitching the tapestry together again. We want rescuers to rush in and impose order upon the chaos and investigators to round up suspects.
Journalists scramble for the facts and figures that will make the horror manageable in our heads. Volunteers swarm in, tipping each other over to determine to prove that good will triumph over evil, and the rest of us just do what we can do. We talk, just what I'm doing right here. We babble. We state the obvious. We mouth the platitudes, horrible and awful. What's the latest? We speak of the unspeakable, trying to diminish its smothering power, and we begin to breathe again.
Bit by bit, we manage to resurrect our lovely little lie. For most of us, it will take only a few more days. For some, it will be months or years, but once again, we will believe that people are good, that our lives are safe, and that somehow we can make the bad disappear." He says, "We need this lovely little lie. We call it hope." Well, that is not the hope we have. We might call it hope, but it is a fleeting hope. The irony of that article is I tore that out of the paper after Oklahoma City, not after New York.
What I shared here last year was, "You watch. Our country will do the same thing. It might take a little longer this time, but we're going to go ahead and eventually start speeding again. We're going to get right back to our same ethic and our same morality and our same lack of concern for God in the public square." Last year, our nation grieved for two weeks to four weeks. This year, we paused for a day. Next year, we'll pause for an hour, and the year after that…you watch…we'll pause for a moment. We will not always remember.
We will not always remember not just the event. I mean, it will forever be on our calendar, just like December 7 is, but what will not always stay in our hearts is the understanding that people are not good, that this world is not stable, that peace is not certain, and that anything we hope for on this side of the grave is fleeting and futile and no hope at all, and that any illusion of peace by world power and governments and armies is fleeting and we need a peace the world doesn't give. We have not remembered, and we will again remember less and less.
I want to say this to our generation: we are not alone. I want you to watch this. We're going to start by looking back, and we're going to race to what's coming ahead. This is very sobering stuff. We're going to come out of here with a charge today. We're going to find out that our commitment to remember is a good commitment, but if we think we've found this one thing that if God would just deliver us in this prayer we'll never ask him anything again and we'll never forget his faithfulness, we are fools.
And if we think this one slap on the wrist or this one horror we've experienced has forever corrected our ship, we are fools, because events don't correct our ship; a miraculous brokenness that comes only through the sovereign intervention of God in hard hearts corrects our ship. We need to ask that God will rend our hearts, not just rip down our buildings but break us, and that we would live in constant humility before him. That's our only hope. Not as a country…as a people, as a race.
If you have your Bible, turn to Joshua, chapter 23, with me. I'm going to show you what happened at the end of this great leader's life. We're going to move rather quickly through two chapters of Joshua, and then we're going to look at one chapter in the book that follows it, the book of Judges, chapter 2. Watch this. This is what it says in Joshua 23:1. It's the end of Joshua's life. His last act as a leader was to help people remember.
He led the nation through a review of history they had just been a part of, and he implored them to follow him in the sacred act of covenant renewal with God. So this is his last act. He's gathering the people together. Joshua is very old. If you don't know who Joshua is, Joshua was the servant who succeeded Moses in the leadership of the nation of Israel who God in his sovereignty was using to declare his glory to the world.
He was going to do some amazing things with this people of Israel. Specifically, he was going to put them on a piece of land that was so wonderful the only metaphor that could be used of it was it was a land that flowed with milk and honey, but there were seven nations that were more powerful and numerous than this little band of Jews, and God was going to drive them out. God was going to do a miracle.
It was going to be a wonder to the world, and the world was going to say, "What is the secret to your military strength? What is the secret to the blessing that is upon this nation, that you can drive out these tremendous nations with fortified cities?" They were to respond, "Because the God of Abraham is the God, period. Your little local gods that are no gods at all… The reason they don't defend you is because they don't exist.
God is declaring to you his greatness, and he's bringing judgment upon some of you that have rejected his revelation of himself to you through creation and through your conscience. Now he's going to give you a more specific and clear revelation as he intervenes in human history by taking a small people and establishing them and making their name great so that his name could be made great."
Joshua finishes the job of delivering God's people that Moses had begun. Now he's gathering folks together after much of the work had been done. He says in verse 1, "I want you to remember that the Lord has given rest to Israel." In verse 2 he says, "Come, all Israel. Specifically, bring me the leaders…the elders, their heads, the judges, and the officers." He said to them, "I'm old. I'm advanced in years."
In verse 3 he says, "And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the Lord your God is He who has been fighting for you." Down in verse 6, he says, "Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left…" In verse 8 he says, "But you are to cling to the Lord your God…"
In verse 9 he says, "For the Lord has driven out great and strong nations from before you…" In verse 10 he says, "One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you." In verse 11 he says, "So take diligent heed…" In verse 12 he says, "If you ever go back and cling tosomething other than God…" Then in verse 13, he tells them, "Your God will not continue to protect you in the way he has been." In verse 14 he says, "Remember that everything he said he would do he has fulfilled."
Jump all the way to chapter 24. He gathers them together one more time after he has given them a message of remembrance, saying, "We will never forget" or "You should never forget." He calls them together now and takes again the leaders: the heads, the judges, the officers, the elders of the nation.
He says, "Let's do this. Let's consecrate ourselves together. As I've told you, let's not forget the goodness of God, that we are one nation under God. Don't forget it. We're not mighty and great because we have chariots…" Or because we have missiles, to use the vernacular of our day. "…or because we're greater and stronger than others. We are here because God has allowed us to be here, plain and simple," Joshua said.
"Let's remember that we're here as an act of blessing from a sovereign who is above all, and let's honor him. Let's restate our commitment to him." So one more time, he walks them through the entire history of Israel. If you jump down to verse 12 in chapter 24 with me, you'll start to find some stuff that might look familiar. He says in verse 12, "Listen. I want to remind you again: God did it all."
"Then I sent the hornet before you and it drove out the two kings of the Amorites from before you, but not by your sword or your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.""Remember that, people. I want you to respond now. In light of the fact that God did it all, that God gave it all, you respond with everything you have."
"'Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the **** Lord ***, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the* Lord.' **The people answered and said, 'Far be it from us that we should forsake the** Lord **to serve other gods…'"
What has happened here is this is the antithesis of what happened in our country one year ago. This is the answered prayer of that high school kid who has a crush on that girl that he swears if she would just love him, he'd never ask of God anything again, and he got it. The people are saying, "God just gave us this incredible place. He gave us this incredible land. He gave us this incredible fruit. He gave us this incredible victory. We'll never forget God." But they did.
They swore again and again, "We will serve the Lord. We are witnesses. We will serve the Lord." Five different times in the rest of that chapter they say it, and then they built a memorial, just like you can find in Oklahoma City, just like you can find in Honolulu, and just like you'll find in New York to remember the opposite of getting this great gift that you'll never forget the one who gave it to you…experiencing this great horror, this slap that is so severe, this ticket that is so extreme you'll never speed again.
They built a memorial to remember what happens, but guess what happened. The next book of the Bible is a book called Judges, and it begins a period in the history of the nation of Israel that is also called the age of cycles. It is just 3,400 years ago. Not one year back but 3,400 years from right now. The book of Judges lasts about 350 years. From Judges, chapter 1, to the end of the book is about 350 years.
They go through no less than 11 cycles, and these cycles have the exact same elements in them again and again and again and again. The message I taught last year this Sunday and the message I'm repeating this Sunday, in some sense, is the same message that could have been taught 3,400 years ago: that God is true forever and man is a liar forever. Now watch this. Judges 2:6. It's bringing you back and summarizing Joshua 23-24.
"When Joshua had dismissed the people, the sons of Israel went each to his inheritance to possess the land. The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the Lord which He had done for Israel. Then Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord , died at the age of one hundred and ten. And they buried him…"
Then guess what happens. The nation is living in relationship with him. It is one nation under Jehovah. They love him and honor him, and they are at a place of rest. Verse 10: "…there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord , nor yet the work which He had done for Israel."
Which is to say, they did not remember the day they crossed the Jordan and the day they marched seven times around the wall of Jericho and the day that wall fell down and they went in and plundered the people and the days before that when the sea parted and two million people crossed and the ocean closed back in upon their enemy and they left Egypt not as slaves but with all the plunder of Egypt because Pharaoh said, "Take whatever you want. Take the gold, take the cows, and get out of here."
Which is to say, that was not the day that Israel changed forever, and neither was last September 11 for our country. What happens then… In verse 11, it says, "Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals…" I'll tell you a little bit about the Baals in just a minute, but it's just a word for the gods of that region that they went to. They forgot the God who did what he promised he would do, and they began to worship other gods.
"…they forsook the Lord , the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the **** Lord **** to anger." We have relationship, and on top of relationship now we have something called rebellion. So guess what happens.
Verse 14: "The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies." It is called retribution. You have relationship. You have rebellion. You have retribution.
What happens when towers fall in a country? God comes rushing back to the public square. People are sobered, and they cry out. They rend their clothes. They beat their chests. They have national prayer services. They swear they will never forget this God again, and there is repentance. Verse 15 uses the phrase severely distressed. Verse 18 says, "…the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them."
It says in verse 16 that the Lord raised up judges (which is not to say guys who sat on benches; it's deliverers), 11 men and one woman over a period of 350 years, who were generally individuals who did what was right, who honored God, and specifically, were empowered by God to lead them out of this time of retribution because he had pity on their distress. Then they moved into a relationship of rest again.
And then guess what happened: they forgot and began to worship other gods again. They began to search for other things again, and rebellion filled the land again. Every time they went through one of these cycles, the depravity and grossness of their rebellion got deeper, and their repentance got more and more superficial, until finally God said, "Horrors will come upon you that are almost, frankly, unspeakable." He brought the people to a place where they were dispersed, and they have continued to endure incredible persecutions even to this day.
This God who promised he would do great things with this nation of Israel… I believe (the Scriptures are very clear) that he will do great things with this nation of Israel. They have been through horrors that the Holocaust, frankly, hardly makes the top five list, which is almost blasphemous to say in our day, but if you go back and look at the history of Israel, it's just one of many times that that country has really, really been under it.
Every time, they swear they'll never forget the Father of their father Abraham, and every time, they do, all the way to the time that the Father of their father Abraham came and said, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father," which is to say, "I am your Father, and the works I do verify that I am the one who will deliver you, ultimately, not from the terror of the nations which continually haunts you but from the terror of sin which makes you go after other gods again and again and again and again.
If you will turn to me, I will be your Messiah, and I will deliver you out of this cycle of rebellion. I will indwell you with my Spirit, and I will allow you to be the people you've always dreamt of being so I could bless you in the way that I've always determined I will bless you." That is what God has said to the nation of Israel. He wants to break them of the cycle of relationship rest, rebellion, retribution, repentance, and then restoration, rest, and then rebellion. "I want you to walk with me, and I want you to be with me."
What God says in this book and the last thing you need to know, folks, is that man is not long impressed with Pearl Harbors, Oklahoma Cities, Hiroshimas, Nagasakis, Jerusalems, or New Yorks. Especially, it's not as moving to me to go to the World War II memorial as it is my friends in this room who fought in that war. I can hear some of the stories, and thanks to the news media of our day, some of those memories are a little fresher than the horrors of way back there, but we forget. Another generation rises up, and we repeat the same cycles.
There's a man who studied this a bit and spent some time with it. He's a historian, and he looked back at the 22 civilizations that existed in the world that appeared on the stage of world history, and he says that 19 of them collapsed when they reached the present moral condition of the United States. That was in 1979 that he made that observation.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1983 wrote a little essay called Religion in Communist Dominated Areas. He wrote this. This is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He was a Russian novelist who suffered for many years in the gulags of the Communist regime. He essentially said, "Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that befell Russia. They said to me, 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all of this has happened.'
Since then, I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution. In the process, I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by the upheaval, but if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million Russians, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God.'"
That's why this happens. We rightly, as a nation, are using the sword God is sovereignly giving us to execute justice upon the al-Qaedas of our world, but al-Qaeda is just one symptom of the cancer which is sin. While our country does its job, which is to go out and do everything it can to stamp out this rampant evil which exists in the hearts of those deceived, there is a much more important war God has called us to.
It's the war that people would remember that God is true and man is a liar. It's the war Joshua fought, not against Jericho but against his people. It's the war Moses fought in Deuteronomy, not against Egypt but against his people. It's the war that all great leaders have always fought, not against physical political powers but against their people's hearts that get hard.
Let me throw this one little application out. You cannot just preach devotion as Joshua did, as Moses did, as I am doing. You must make disciples. It's not enough for us to have newscasts that say, "We will always remember. This is the day we've changed forever." You need to know there is no such event.
How many of you in here have had this experience? When you smack your child and that child goes, "Mommy, I will never, ever do that again." And then what? They do it again. How many of you were smacked as a child? I have said those words, "I'm never doing that again" so many times it's embarrassing. I've said it in my marriage. I've said it in my adolescence. I've said it in my childhood.
My problem is I am corrupted by sin, and if it were not for my King of Glory who has become my Prince of Peace and indwelt me and convicted me, so that when I do those things now I go to folks and say, "I have no excuse except error in my life and rebellion against God, and I need your forgiveness as I have received his.
I will make every form of redemption to you that I can, but ultimately, I need your forgiveness. I'm a broken man who tries to cling to my Savior and cling to the Word of God and pray that his Spirit indwells me, and I need your grace in my life as I continue to be conformed into the image of the one who never disappoints."
This is what Moses said in Deuteronomy 6. He said, "Don't just preach devotion, people. You make disciples." He starts in what's called the Shema. We'll jump to verse 4 for the sake of time. The most famous section of all Hebrew Scripture. "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart."
Look at verse 7, because, folks, this is what's going to happen in a little bit down here at a baby dedication. Some families are going to get together, and they're going to say, "We purpose to help our kids remember." Remember what? Jesus Christ and him crucified is our hope.
We're going to show our kids by a life of faithfulness and covenant love and repentance in the midst of sin and in clinging to God and ordering our lives according to his Word and trusting in the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and leaning not on our own understanding, and when we blow it as parents, to humble ourselves before our kids and get back on the straight and narrow path. We're going to model for them that we remember the Lord our God who died for us.
This is what Deuteronomy 6:7 says: "You shall teach them [these Scriptures] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." You don't ever get away from the cycle of being before God's Word.
By the way, that is our purpose as a church. In the Old Testament, God had his people taking physical land. In the New Testament, he tells us now to capture hearts of men and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we need to know this. Do you know that we are in a war and that the solution to the chaos in this world sits in this room by people who will not forget, by the grace of God, that man is a sinner and that God is true and that Jesus died and only regenerated hearts can lead to a regenerated world, one person at a time?
That is why what Amy Massinger did with sweet Melissa Pastor on the cover of your Watermark News today is what the war is all about, but not just having Melissa come to Christ but discipling Melissa so she can disciple her kids so they can grow up and serve Jesus Christ. He says you do that until your dying day, and to be about anything other than that is ultimately futility.
Here's some sobering reality: the discipline of God is patient, but mark my words, the discipline of God is progressive and purposeful. He will accomplish his desire. God will not allow man to mock him forever. Just like there was a line in the sand for that generation that was 3,000 years ago, there is a line in the sand for this generation. I don't know where it is, but you can be sure there is a line that is somewhere in the sand where God will take the next step.
I want to tell you some interesting things that are going to be, frankly, hard for you to believe in Dallas, Texas. This little statement I just shared with you has its root in Hosea 5, and so does this statistic I'm about to give you. In Hosea 5 it says, "Hear this, O priests!" Notice who God talks to. This is Israel about 2,000 years later than the book of Judges, and he's talking to the priests.
The people have been regathered a bit or strengthened a bit, and some of their enemies have been subdued within the land, but there are other nations now, specifically one called Assyria, that are haunting them. He says, "I want you to hear this, my spiritual shepherds. I want you to hear this, my political leaders, O house of the king, you revolters." In other words, the leadership of the country had forgotten God.
"You've been a snare to my people, and you've led them to the slaughter." He said, "Some trouble is going to come upon you." If you'll look at verse 6, this is what he says: "You shepherds are going to take your people and herds to seek me, but you're not going to find me, because I've drawn my line in the sand." Verse 7 says, "Because you have dealt treacherously against the Lord."
He talks about the fact that they've gone back to what's called Baal worship, which was involving all types of things, including temple prostitution and what is called sympathetic magic, where they believed that Baal, the god of the storm, would have physical relations with Asheroth, or Anath, who was the god of, basically, fertility.
What would happen is when they would have physical relations, Baal would copulate and his semen would be rain that would come and fall upon the earth, and then the crops would come, and they would eat his children and be sustained by that. That was the god of the region that made the land flow with milk and honey, or so the pagan people who lived there before God ushered his people in believed.
So what they did is they left the God of the desert who they knew could deliver and sustain them out there, and they trusted the god of Canaan who was no god at all. He had been stomped by the God of the desert, but they forgot that, and possibly because they were concerned that they couldn't eat in this region, but more likely because they were attracted to the forms of worship that were celebrated in these temples, they would go and have sex with the temple prostitutes.
Those women would become pregnant and would offer up their children to the fire of Baal and let Baal consume their children in the same way that they wanted Baal to grow crops which would be his children that they would consume. This is what was going on: a nation that had lost respect for its young ones. Ring a bell? Basically, God said, "You've borne illegitimate children, and not only that, you have them pass through the fire," which is to say, "You sacrifice them."
Look at verse 12. "Therefore I am like a moth to Ephraim…" What he means by that is, "I'm going to come, and I'm going to bother you." Have you ever been around a moth? Whenever I have a moth, I lose all focus, and I start to say, "I'm going to kill that moth because he bothers me." A moth will flap around. You can kill a moth.
But if you're not annoyed enough by that moth… God says, "If that doesn't get your attention, I will send rottenness to you," which is basically a sickness that's deep within you. That's not as easy to deal with. It takes a while. But let's just say you overcome that internal sickness. This is what God says. Watch this. The discipline of God is patient, it is progressive, and it is purposeful.
So, you see down in verse 14, "If the moth doesn't work and the rottenness doesn't work, I will be like a lion to Ephraim." Verse 15 sums it up: "So that in their affliction they will earnestly seek me." Can I speak to you today as a prophet? I am not saying, "Thus says the Lord." I'm saying, "Thus says human history and what has always happened."
The affliction that is going to be necessary for this world to see that Jesus is who he claimed he was and that God is true is an affliction we'll never see. We will seek him in some ways. In fact, he will bring about some repentance in the hearts of those who by grace he will humble in the midst of horror, but I'm about to show you what is the most awful truth in the history of humankind. I'm going to do it kind of quickly, and you're going to be shocked at what you see.
Oklahoma City was numbing…100 people. New York City, the Pentagon, was absolutely stunning, yet we forget. Many of us have begun to get a little bit more secure now because our airline security is a little bit better and our nation's armies are a little stronger and we're now a little more focused, and now the FBI and the CIA are all under the director of homeland security, and our intelligence is shared a little bit better, so we're a little bit less likely to have the horrors hit us that were.
The Scripture says, "Foolishness." The Scripture says a horse is a false hope for victory. The Scripture says it is not a place to trust. It says, "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him [alone] …" Not on those who have a great army. "…on those who hope for His lovingkindness…" Psalm 127 says, "Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain."
Folks, I'm telling you this: before an earthquake, there are often tremors.I'm not saying God caused September 11. I don't know that. I know God allowed it at the very least, and I know that he has a desire to bring us back to him, not just in tragedy but in blessing, and in all of life he's calling men to come. My point to you today is we have not come as a people.
Do you know that almost 50 percent of churches…? This is why I wanted to show you Hosea 5.Almost 50 percent of churches in this country did not even mention in their houses of worship the events of last September 11. That is shocking. Of those that did, only 25 percent even mentioned in a form of prayer some relationship with that to how the people ought to respond. Only one out of 10 churches had a service that had some specific chance for the people to reflect on September 11.
Do you know that if Americans are polled (and they were, by very reputable sources whose data is indisputable), they will tell you that over 60 percent of Americans think their church did an excellent or good job at handling this? Watch that. If 60 percent of the churches did an excellent or good job of handling September 11 and almost 50 percent didn't even mention that, what does that tell you about what people want at church?
They want calm, they want comfort, and they don't want to deal with the reality that is out there. "Let us rush in here and hope we're at some sacred place that judgment won't fall on us here. Let's get together and hold each other, and let's trust that God won't strike us. Let's cry out to him, but don't make this hard for me."
Do you know there is absolutely no change in the amount of Bible reading in this country, the amount of prayer, the amount of church attendance, or the amount of small group involvement? After one year, none of those statistics have changed more than 1 or 2 percent, which is to say, there has been no statistically significant change in the spiritual condition of this country. None!
I'm going to tell you, if a moth doesn't get your attention, rottenness will, and if rottenness doesn't get your attention, a lion will, and if a lion doesn't get your attention, you're not going to get your attention gotten, but you will get it. This is the most loving thing I can tell you. Now I'm going to move quickly if I haven't already. Let's go to last things.
When you go to the book of Revelation, you find out there are things called seals, trumpets and bowls. There's no way you can follow me except to listen. Don't even look, because I'm going to walk you through the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls quickly. I'm going to describe the horror, and this is going to make September 11 look like a speed bump, no less than a speed bump. It's going to make it look like it didn't exist. I want you to watch what's going to happen to people.
Here we go. In Revelation 6 (you can go back and read it a little bit later for yourself), there's going to be, first of all, four horses that come. The first one will be white. He will be representative of a world war. The second one will be red. It will be representative of war that this world ruler will lead folks on. The third horse will come. He will be black, and he will bring famine.
The fourth horse will come. He will be a pale horse, and he will bring death and hell on the earth. According to this book, 25 percent of the population of the earth will die. Over a billion people will die in a series of events that will not take very long. After that, there will be an earthquake, an earthquake that has not been matched in human history. It says in verse 14 that the sky will roll back like a scroll, and every mountain and island will be moved out of their place.
It says then in Revelation 6:15-16, "Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves…" At this point, we've lost over a billion people. They're going to go hide in caves among the rocks in the mountains, and they're going to say, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne…"
They're acknowledging God right now. They're acknowledging that he's a God of wrath. They're going to say, "The day of wrath has come. The day of the lion is here. Who can stand before him?" Basically, what they're going to say is, "Uh-oh. There is a God and he does care." Then the seventh seal will be unfolded, and that seventh seal will break forth into what Revelation uses very metaphorically as a trumpet. There are seven trumpets.
Listen to this. The very first trumpet sounds, and there's a great earthquake. It brings hail-fire mixed with blood, burning up a third of all trees and grass. You want to talk about global warming, there it is, Al Gore…right there. A third of the earth will be burned up. The second one will sound, and this is going to be where a great mountain burning with fire is going to be thrown into the sea, Revelation 8:8 says.
Watch what God does progressively. A third of the sea will be destroyed with blood. Then a third of the sea creatures will die, and a third of the ships that exist on earth will be destroyed. Revelation 8:10 says another trumpet will sound and a third of the rivers and a third of the springs will be extinguished. What's happening? There's a crisis now for that which brings life, which is water on the earth. Then there will be another trumpet that will sound and a third of our days will be eaten up in nothing but darkness.
Then a fifth trumpet will sound, and out of this, it says, will come creatures like locusts, and power will be given to them like scorpions on the earth, and they will torment men for five months. It will be so awful that men will seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. This is saying it's going to be so bad people will be begging to die, looking for ways to die, but the lion isn't going to kill them just yet. He's going to be like a cat playing with a wounded mouse, and it's going to be awful.
Then it says there's a silence in heaven and somebody just says, "Woe!" because it isn't even bad yet. Then what happens is that the sixth angel sounds his trumpet and a third of the earth that is still there, about two billion people, will die. Do you see what I'm talking about that September 11 doesn't even show up on the radar? We've lost close to three billion people at this point, folks, and they're the lucky ones. I want you to read what happens in verse 20 of Revelation 9. Look at this.
"The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts."
Here's what I want to tell you, folks. I can take you through the bowls that come out in Revelation 16, and it ends the exact same way: with men blaspheming God because of the plague of the hail, because this plague was extremely severe. Over half of the earth is going to die in events like you just saw, and if you wait for events like that to try to gain the hearts of your neighbor and your friend, you're waiting way too long, because those events don't convert.
The Spirit of God working through you as you love, as you pray, as you serve, and as you share the Word of God…that changes hearts. This country will not be changed by Pearl Harbor, it will not be changed by Oklahoma City, and it will not be changed by New York City. It'll be changed by the Spirit of God working in and through you making disciples. There is a horror that is coming…call me a nut…that is so unspeakable we will mock at September 11.
If we wait for our friends to endure that type of thing, what horror shouldn't befall us? The whole Bible is a book that says man is a liar and God is true, that you can put man in a perfect place, the age of innocence, and he will fail. You can put man in a place where God instills him with conscience, the knowledge of right and wrong, and he will fail. You can put man in a situation where government has the right to take life, and he will fail.
You can put man under an administration of law, and he will fail. You can put man under an administration of grace, and he will fail. You can put man under an administration of tribulation, and he will fail. The Bible says you can put man in the very presence of Jesus Christ himself, reigning in Jerusalem for 1,000 years, and he will fail until God does a sovereign and miraculous work.
By the grace of God, in 1979 he did that work in my life where I came to one realization. Not that I was scared because of some tragedy and not because I was so sure this was such a great blessing that this girl liked me that I would never leave this God who gave me this gift, but I came face-to-face with the holiness of God and the terror of my sin, and for reasons I'll never be able to understand, God broke me.
So if you're waiting for a divorce, if you're waiting for a business deal to go south or north, you're waiting for the wrong thing. You need to remember one thing: you are accountable to a holy God, and you are a sinner who will meet that God, and you will fear him unless you deal with him today. Let's pray.
Lord, the purpose of all this is that we would not be deluded into thinking that events like this will correct our ship. Our ship is beyond correction. Our vessel is so broken and so corrupt it cannot be in any way curbed or in any way corrected. It needs to be crucified, and it needs the miracle of the God who made us to, by grace, in ways we can't understand, make us again. You use that vernacular. You tell us that we will be born again.
I pray for this body. I pray for this people. I pray that we would be humble and that we would say, "You are God and we are not. You are holy and we are not." I pray that as humble people, who by grace have seen Jesus to be the way, the truth, and the life, we would call men everywhere to follow him with gentleness and reverence. I pray we would follow hard ourselves after God with one pure and holy passion.
I pray that we would be humble when we blow it and we don't look very much like Jesus or we don't look like citizens of heaven, and we would look our friends in the eye and say, "What you're seeing right now is evidence of why I need a Savior. Would you still forgive me? That's not an excuse. It is rebellion in my life, and it brings horror to me and horror to you and it defames my God. I want you to know, though, the same mercy I have in his cross."
I pray that we would not just be devoted to calling people to remember but we would be passionate about making disciples with our children, with the young ones in the faith who are in this room, and with those who by grace, God, you might still bring. I pray we'd be shaken out of the foolishness of waiting for enough horror to come that people will repent or enough blessing to come that we'll never leave you.
We see that that doesn't work, and we ask that you would work on us and break our hearts. We are full of excuses, Lord, and we just resign ourselves to say, "Mercy." Thank you for your Son who died for our sin. May we serve him in worship all of our lives as we cling to you moment by moment, day by day, spurring one another on to love and good deeds and making disciples of all the earth. In Christ's name, amen.
Have a good week of worship.
Many are looking for answers to make sense out of the disasters that have taken place in the last few years. Everywhere, people want to know where God is in events like these and how or why things like this happen. In the midst of grief and fear, God's Word offers us peace, hope and wisdom for living in a world plagued by sin and tumult. Looking at more than just terrorism and hurricanes, this series addresses all sin and its consequences and offers God's answer to our great need.