Have you ever wondered if God is one of the leading causes of death? Or if religion is the leading cause of war? Should people who don't believe in God be killed? Why does God endorse so much slaughter by His people in the Bible? And lastly, should the world be happy if a bunch of holy people killed each other? The biblical answers provided here will enlighten you.
If God Already Knows What He's Going to Do, Why Should I Waste My Time Trying to Talk to Him?
If God is So Loving, Why Does His Book Endorse so Much Slaughter? Isn't Religion the Main Reason There are so Many Wars in the First Place?
If God is So Smart and So Strong, Then Why is This World So Scary and Screwed Up?
If God Owns Everything, How Come He's Always Broke and His People are Always Asking for Money?
Why Believe in God when He's Nothing More than a Man-made Guilt Trip Obsessed with '10 Very Important Rules'?
We are glad that you are here. We know every week there's stuff that happens in the lives of folks who fill this room where you really wonder where the God who is loving is. Last week we talked about the problem of evil. Where is a just and powerful and good and loving God in this world that is very broken and filled with a lot of despair?
We answered that question last week, and the hope that we have and the journey we're on and why there is evil in this world. We have a little different issue we're going to attack today, though. In the midst of this world where God says nobody has been unloved… We mentioned last week, specifically, that if you know God, this is as bad as it's ever going to get. If you don't and you live on your own, separate from him, there is still grace that is over all of us.
The sun shines on the wicked and the righteous. The rain falls to water the ground to give us nourishment through food and, certainly, sustenance through water on both those who love and seek God and those who don't. So in some tangible way, grace and love is available to all of us, but there are definitely things that happen in all of our lives that bring about heartache and pain.
Specifically, there have been moments in history when God has moved in a forceful way to bring about an eradication of people, what we could call today genocide. This God who says that nobody has been unloved has, at times, moved in a way that is far from loving. How could that be, and how do you reconcile that and make any sense of it? You may find folks who approach this topic and use it as a means through which they can reject God and walk away from having a relationship with him. They may say something like this:
George Carlin: Sanctity of life. You've heard that: sanctity of life. Do you believe in it? Personally, I think it's a bunch of [blank]. Life is sacred? Who said so? God? Hey, if you read history, you realize that God is one of the leading causes of death. Has been for thousands of years. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians all taking turns killing each other because God told them it was a good idea.
The sword of God. The blood of the Lamb. "Vengeance is mine." Millions are dead, all because they gave the wrong answer to the God question. "Do you believe in God?" "No." Dead. "Do you believe in God?" "Yes." "Do you believe in my God?" "No." Dead. Thousands of years, and all the best wars, too, the bloodiest, most brutal wars fought all based on religious hatred, which is fine with me.
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He says, "Anytime a bunch of holy people want to kill each other, that's fine with me." Well, should it be? Let me walk you through some of the questions we need to answer when people ask and say things like we just heard Mr. Carlin say. He's not the only one. He's just one we could easily access and find.
How about these questions we need to answer? Is God one of the leading causes of death?Isn't religion the leading cause of wars? All of these folks who say they have the corner on the truth, the market on truth, and that their God has told them that others should live this way… Isn't that what creates most of the conflict that's out there? Aren't those who are most evangelical the reason we can't all get along and be ecumenical? Isn't religion the leading cause of wars?
How about this one? Should we kill people who give the wrong answer to the God question? Let me put our guests at ease. That is not the manner of worship we endorse here. We don't close our service by having a few of you exit in a more permanent way than you might like to. So you can stay through the remainder of the message and know that we're going to answer that question "No" and tell you why one day God did tell folks, "Yes."
How about this one? If God is so concerned about the value of human life, why, then, does he endorse so much slaughter by his people in the Bible? There are some events in the Scriptures that, if you have not read them, when you do read them will trouble you immensely. They are questions that are created by the fact that God endorses a lot of murder, what we would call today genocide.
Because the folks who did it were people who marched, they said, on a special mission from God, shouldn't we get all those folks together, group them in one corner, give them all a bunch of weapons, and say, "Have at it, monotheists. Have at it, radicals. Have at it, fundamentals"? This is the last question that we'll state and the first one we'll answer…Shouldn't the world be happy if a bunch of holy people just killed each other and got rid of the problem of folks thinking they had the corner on the truth?
Let me read you a couple of other statements by some folks who think that's a good idea. Gore Vidal is a writer who was born in the 1920s and has written a number of different works, a commentator on society and the world we're in. In a book he wrote called The Decline and Fall of the American Empire he says, "The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism [belief in one God]. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved—Judaism, Christianity, Islam.
These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal—God is the omnipotent father—hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. […] When the white race broke out of Europe 500 years ago, it did many astounding things all over the globe. Inspired by a raging sky-god, the whites were able to pretend that their conquests were in order to bring the One God to everyone, particularly those with older and subtler [less-informed, darker] religions."
Another place, in a little work he did called "Monotheism and its Discontents," he says, "The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god's purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth. One God, one King, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family home."
Now, if you haven't been able to notice, Mr. Vidal is not endorsing this as a good thing. He said it's a great evil and a great problem that these monotheistic faiths are anti-human religions, and he says that anybody who threatens that must be killed, eradicated, and removed. I want to tell you something: he's right about that, but how is that going to be accomplished? Does God want his soldiers today on a crusade eliminating the pagans and infidels, wiping them out?
If not, why did he endorse that as a course of behavior earlier in this text from the Bronze Age? We're going to answer that today. As we start, we're asking ourselves the question, "Couldn't we just get rid of all of these holy people who have the corner on the truth, these folks who think they understand and know what's right and what's wrong? The reason we can't be ecumenical and all get along is because of the evangelical who thinks that this is ultimately true."
There's a gentleman who made his fame initially under the heading "Jesse 'The Body'" who's now known as "Jesse, the governor," who has said it this way: "We call our country home of the brave and land of the free, but it's not. We give a false portrayal of freedom. We're not free—if we were, we'd allow people their freedom. Prohibiting something doesn't make it go away.
Prostitution is criminal, and bad things happen because it's run illegally by dirtbags who are criminals. If it's legal, then the girls could have health checks, unions, benefits, anything any other worker gets, and it would be far better." I just read the article. I don't look at the pictures. Just so you know and don't need to worry, these are available in other places than in the magazine, which is where I got it.
The interviewer asked, "This isn't a very popular position in America, is it?" Jesse replied, "No, and it's because of religion. Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business. I live by the golden rule: Treat others as you'd want them to treat you. The religious right wants to tell people how to live."
All of the people who are part of the religious right want to meddle in everybody else's business and tell them that they're wrong, and if they would just all get over there in some little conclave in Idaho and war with all of the other folks who think they have a corner on it, we'd be a far better place. Let me show you that there is already inconsistency in what sounds like a rather noble, enlightened position by this famed governor.
Mr. Ventura says he lives by what is called the Golden Rule, which actually comes from a fundamentalist, an individual who said that he is the way, the truth, and the life. He actually, though, wasn't the initial individual who on this earth spoke this general idea. Before Jesus, by a thousand or more years, a man by the name of Confucius lived. Confucius actually said, "Don't do unto other people as you don't want them to do to you."
Jesus came along and said, "Let me just tell you something. This is not a world you should live in operating by this idea that you shouldn't treat other people harshly if you don't want to be treated harshly. I'm going to put some responsibility on you, because I am not a passive God, and you're made in my image, so I expect you to be an agent of hope, an instrument of peace, a missionary for good. It's not enough to just not perpetrate evil on others; I am commanding you to do to others what you wish they would do to you. Not just don't do to people what you don't want done, but you do to folks what you want them to do for you."
Now, this is the line that Mr. Ventura takes. I want to show you how inconsistent he is, because not only does he not live that way personally, but he heads a state in which he is responsible, along with the other legislators there, for funding a group of people who walk around in an armed position who will incarcerate you if you don't live the way they want you to live and, in fact, kill you if necessary. Mr. Ventura does not believe in a free world, even though he says the problem with this country is religion and people who think they know the right way to live.
Look at what he says right here. He says, "The problem is that because the religious right won't let there be prostitutes who are legalized, there are dirtbags and criminals who take advantage of the situation and do stuff I don't like." I want to say, "Wait a minute, Mr. Ventura. On what basis do you say what they do is criminal and that they are dirtbags if all they're doing is what they want to do? Because a free society is what you endorse, shouldn't they be free to do what they want to do?"
Of course, you see the inconsistency of his logic. If something is true, it ought to be true all over the place all the time. It can be universalized and could never create a problem. The problem with the postmodern idea is when it is taken to its logical end we cannot live this way. Between services, I was talking to a gentleman who reminded me of the Burning Man celebration that goes on in the desert. It started, as you know, as an anarchical celebration of individual rights and freedom. "Let's burn the man that oppresses all of us."
Over the years, as this event has grown, what has been interesting in this gathering of anarchists is there is an increasing number of rules so that their organization can continue to gather to celebrate anti-establishments and freedom. They can't get along when they all get together, and there are certain people whose way of celebrating anarchy offends others who do, so there's a place over here where you're not allowed to be nude at the Burning Man celebration, and you have to park here and not there, because we get in trouble when you park here and there, and we can't do this.
They're starting to have a lot of rules in the place that they are there to celebrate freedom from rules. Why? Because the reality of their celebration is that nobody lives separate and free from rules. The question is…Who gets to set the rules? Will it be Mr. Gore Vidal or will it be God? Will it be Jesse "The Body" or God the Creator? Who gets to establish the rules? What happens when there are no rules is chaos is introduced. Where chaos is introduced, men cry for order.
When there are a number of different factions that war for their choice to be that which reigns in society, what has to happen is one order has to rise up as the most powerful and then has to control all of the others, and you have what is called totalitarianism. Where you're going to get is to a place where you have somebody who will rule over you. You're going to get a dictator who in totality will rule over people, and in fact, you'll find that men want it.
One of the reasons in so many Middle-Eastern countries they don't have a problem with an oppressive dictator is they know that if they get rid of the dictator and there isn't order that is reigned through a system of thinking that is sane, you're going to have constant warrings with different factions. See Africa. See Iraq. Why? Because men cannot live with this concept of, "Let's just all get along. What's good for you doesn't have to be good for me."
The problem is, eventually, what you want may affect what I want, and then we have to fight to the death to see who gets to do what they want. Even our governor, who sounds so eloquent in his interview with Playboy, knows that he doesn't live that way. It would be an awful thing if all of the people who had a sense of right went away, because those who have a sense of right stabilize and normalize society. They are agents of sanity, and they continue to speak truth in a way that will allow us, if we live under it, to get along.
You're going to see why we in America today have little stakes in our yard that say "ADT," why we have metal detectors as we walk into our schools: because we have abandoned our common agreement on how to live because of men like Gore Vidal and Jesse Ventura and Mr. Carlin and others who have said, "These oppressive wrong thinkers want to tell everybody how to live, and we just want to be free." We're going to see where "freedom," defined by doing what you want to do when you want to do it, leads us. It is to chaos, the invention of evil, and murder.
Look at what happens. Jesus says, "I want you, as holy people, to be a blessing to the world you're in." The primary task of those who are friends of God is to call people to a place where they can live in another world with God forever, free from the presence of evil, where God's glory has been firmly established through the revelation of history and where all can honor him forever and enjoy the goodness of his presence.
But he has said while we are here we are to bring a brightness to this neighborhood we are in. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works [reckon you by your testimony as one rightly related to God] , and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
You ought to live in such a way that the world recognizes it's a better way to live. When they see a Mother Teresa, they may not want to live that way or have anybody tell them they should live that way, but they go, "That is a life worth following: somebody who loves people not because of their value in industry but because of their innate value as people made in the image of God.
When we watch somebody love even those the world says are worthless and whose life shouldn't matter and shouldn't be redeemed, but we should let them die and walk away, and yet somebody intervenes and says, 'No, every person deserves dignity because of their innate character and nature, not because of the industry they can create…' Whether they are poor, impoverished, sick, handicapped, or broken in some way, when we see somebody love like that, we go, 'That is good.' We acknowledge it, and we say the world would be a better place, and we give her a prize for living in such a way."
Look at what it says in 1 Peter 2:12. "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." In other words, that you live in such a way that they acknowledge that the way you live is informed by divine nature, by deity, and therefore, they reckon that deity is real and they come into a relationship with deity, so that when deity visits them to judge that which is wicked, they would know him and would recognize him and be rightly related to him.
Look at what it says in verse 15. "For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men." In other words, your lives, as followers of the Good One, ought to be so good that they are celebrated by men who criticize your perspective on right living, respected by them, and something they know they need even though they kick against the goads and speak out against it in national magazines and in novels.
It would not be a good thing if all of the holy people got together, folks who are set apart by truth, and killed each other; individuals who lived under morality, not that we established because we have the biggest, strongest body in the room, but morality that was established by a loving God who is total in his reign.
He is a dictator, but he's a benevolent dictator and not an insecure, evil, corrupt man, but one who in his reign serves the people and who does not look out for his own selfish interests but takes an attitude of humility and the best interests of those he lords himself over. That is where we are headed. The best society is a society that is run by a benevolent dictator or that is sustained in a democracy by people who live as he would have them live.
What you're going to find out is that democracies are filled with stubborn people, so they don't live long as they prosper living the way he wants them to live. That is why you need eventually that benevolent dictator to rule with a rod of iron until he remakes the hearts of men in such a way that they will live like him.
There is no question that over the course of the years those who have professed a relationship with God have done some things that have been anything but excellent and anything but worthy of celebration, but just because individuals do things in the face of truth does not mean that truth is not true.
I'm about to tell you that there are books out there, one called For the Glory of God, which lists all of the great achievements of individuals who, because of their relationship with the sovereign creator God as revealed in the Scriptures, have made advances in science, have done things like founded universities and created literacy programs. They have invented hospitals that would care for anyone and not just their clan. They have fought for racial equality, for the dignity of every life, old or young, helpless or able to help itself.
They have promoted self-government by people who are restrained from evil by their common faith in the revealed nature of their Creator, and they have been individuals who have thought that it's important to steward the environment well. There's a book put out not by folks who are renowned as followers of Christ called Christianity on Trial: Arguments Against Anti-Religious Bigotry, like we've read a few this morning.
It's written by a couple of folks who went through and studied throughout the course of history that if you look at the predominate imprint that followers of Christ have left on this world, it is a good thing that we have them, because they have been salt and light and have introduced much good. Now that alone doesn't make truth true, but neither does individuals who have said they know Christ who have done evil make it false. It is not a good thing if a bunch of holy people got together and killed themselves. It would be the death of society as we know it.
How about this?Is God one of the leading causes of death? Isn't religion the leading cause of all wars that are out there? Let's answer the first one…Is God one of the leading causes of death? No. You will find out that God is the author and giver of life. Death came through sin. Sin is living separate from and apart from God.
What I'm going to show you now in Genesis, chapter 2, is that from the very beginning God intended men to live in relationship with him where they, by faith, express their love for him and confidence in him. Salvation, life, preservation has always existed by grace through faith, all the way back to the time that man was introduced into this world.
"Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…'""Trust me that you don't need to lean on your own understanding, so you don't need to eat from the tree which will help you know the difference between good and evil, because I am good.
Trust me. Walk with me. Have faith in me, and I will lead you into light and life and let you experience the bounty and joy of living with me. You don't need to know what is good, because you're related to the one who is good. Have faith in that. But there will be one who will come who will tell you that I don't want you to know good and evil because it will threaten me, because you, therefore, will now run for mayor of Eden and supplant me, and I don't want any competition, so don't you educate yourself the way I am educated."
The Evil One came along and made it his purpose to tell us that the reason God doesn't want us to eat is because God is not good, not because he is good. God in his goodness didn't want us to know the difference between good and evil because we were not ultimately good intrinsically in nature like he was, and the second we had the ability to choose between what we thought was right and wrong we were not going to always choose what is right and in the best interests of others like he does.
Man, though, abandoned his faith in God. Even though the provision of God was abundant, the presence of God was real, and revelation was sufficient to know that this God has put me in a very good place, we thought we could cut a better deal if we didn't live by faith but lived in our own understanding. The moment we did that… There's a consequence to disconnecting yourself from the author and giver of life. That consequence is death. When you unplug yourself from life support, it's a matter of time before you die. Some shorter than others, but all will die.
The Scriptures meant it, I believe, literally in the moment when it said, "The day you eat from it you will surely die." There was going to be execution at that moment, but God in his grace, who knew man would rebel against him, immediately entered in with a provision of mercy in order that he might glorify himself to accomplish what he said he would accomplish and to show himself as ultimately good and not just sovereign and strong over the one who led us toward rebellion and death.
How did he do that? The Scriptures tell us that an animal was taken. Most folks speculate that it was a lamb as a prophetic forerunner to the lambs that were sacrificed through the Mosaic law and, ultimately, through the Lamb of God who was sacrificed, the one who knew no sin who became sin on our behalf that God would not disqualify his justice while he executed his love.
In that moment in the garden, there was death for the first time. An innocent animal was slain in order that the sin of Adam and Eve could be covered. They were given provision, and if they received from God the gift of a covering, the gift of provision, they would live. They took it and received it, not what they did, not the works of man, fig leaves that they sewed for themselves, but blood sacrifice done by God for them. When they received that by faith, grace came to them.
What happens after that is that man continues to go back to rebellion against God, and God says, "Every time that man rebels against me, he earns the wage of death. I am good. When you rebel against me, you're going to experience the consequences of that." In Romans 6:23 we have it spelled out explicitly. "For the wages of sin is death…" What you earn for leaving the author and giver and provider of life is death, spiritual and physical, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.
If you will just come back to him in humility, acknowledge the error of your ways, and avail yourself to him, he will again provide for you perfect provision that will allow you to have what you don't deserve, that his name might be revered forever and he might be acknowledged as good and, in fact, so loving that it is incomprehensible that he himself would become the sacrifice for your sins. That's the story of the Scriptures. God has provided the means that we might have life.
The Enemy, on the other hand, has come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Way back in the garden and even today the thief comes to steal your life, to kill you, and destroy the hope you might have. Jesus has come that you might have life and have it qualitatively and quantitatively, abundantly. Eternal life is both the kind of life you experience and the time of life you experience.
Is God one of the leading causes of death? No. Sin is the cause of death. When you separate yourself from life, death is the natural consequence. God has appointed for all of us who are sinners to die once. Even those who come into relationship with him are still going to experience physical death. Physical death is a severe mercy. It's a teaching tool. It shows you that from the moment you are born you move toward decay, because you are, in your nature now, children of the Devil, folks who choose to live separate from God.
You don't have to teach a kid to rebel against parents. Believe me. I've seen it six times and personally participated in the rebellion once. Doing what you want when you want is natural to the human. Nobody taught me that. Nobody taught my kids that. It's just there. Until they come to a place of repentance and brokenness and realize the error of their ways, death continually is theirs. But God in his grace, when you come to him and respond to his provision, allows you to experience life in a way that you've always wanted it.
The question could be asked…Should we kill people who give the wrong answer to the God question? My answer to that is people who give the wrong answer to the God question are already dead. What do I mean by that? I mean they're not experiencing the life God intended for them to experience. They might be having a heck of a time down there in Lower Greenville. They might be living riotously in their perverted world, but there is death in their hearts. Even in much rejoicing and gladness the heart might be sick. I've seen it again and again and again.
Usually those who are working hard to show me how much fun they're having are the ones that when they're alone in their room at night stare at the ceiling and wonder what the purpose of all this is about. There is death and hopelessness and despair in a way that God never intended them to be, but the steadfast in heart, it says, he keeps in perfect peace. There is hope. There is meaning. There is significance. There is joy. There's still suffering and death that comes, but there is hope even in the midst of that, where God tells us that death physically is not the end; it is the beginning of a new life.
In the story that God has revealed to us, God is not the leading cause of death; sin is. Should we kill people who give the wrong answer to the God question? They already have a sense of death on them in their personal experience, and even when they are born to a new beginning they will now be ushered into a time of permanent suffering and death. It's appointed, it says in the Scripture, for men to die once and after this comes judgment.
Next question…If God is so concerned about the value of human life, why did he endorse so much slaughter by his people in the Bible? You need to know this. In Deuteronomy 20:17-18, Moses recounts the story of what he had the nation of Israel do.
"But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God."
"I want you to go and kill every man who can fight and every man who will not fight. I want you to kill every man who is not yet a man. Meaning, a boy. I want you to kill women. I want you to kill children. I want you to kill the family dog. I want you to kill the cat, which we don't have a problem with. I want you to kill the barn animals. I want you to wipe them all out. Get rid of them all." We go, "Hey, that isn't right. What's up with that? How can God endorse such genocide?"
Let me take you back a bit farther. You need to know that he already had done this once, and now he's going to begin to operate in a new way in a specific economy during a certain time when he's revealing himself to a world that he hopes he draws into relationship with him. Follow me on this. There has already been a time when God wiped out not just the Jebusite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Canaanite and the Hivite but everybody except eight folks: Noah, his wife, his three boys, and their wives. Genesis, chapter 6. Here's why he did it then.
"Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.' But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord."
As a gift of grace, there was one God decided to preserve and reveal himself to: Noah. "Yes, God?"
"Build an ark."
"Because judgment is coming, and I'm going to give you a means of salvation to lift you up from the coming judgment. I want you, Noah, to be a herald of righteousness to tell others that judgment is coming. They're going to scoff at you, they're going to laugh at you, but I'm going to give them 120 years. I'm going to let them know that judgment is going to come on this earth, and every day, you're going to build a means for their salvation. They're going to continue to eat and drink and party and marry and give in marriage and scoff at you and say, 'What are you talking about, a flood? What's a flood?'
'A flood is what happens when it rains.'
'What's rain? It has never rained. There has just been a heavy dew that sat on the earth. Hey, Noah, we live in a uniformistic world where things always happen as they always have, so what do you mean there's going to be something introduced that has never been here before?'"
Noah said, "I know it sounds crazy. Believe me. We've had some chats around our dinner table, but things are going to change. Things won't always be as they are. The God who created us who we're all accountable to is going to intervene in this world, and judgment is going to come. He's going to judge the hearts of men who are given to do evil." Genesis 6:11-13 says:
"Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.'"
Do you see that? Do you guys know every animal except the ones that he had on that ark were wiped out, every child, every woman? Not just of the Jebusite and Perizzite, but they all were wiped out. Why? Because God in his holiness says, "I will let the wages of sin have its day." It was appointed for judgment to come on the earth at that moment.
After that moment, God said he would never judge the earth again by a universal flood. We all know there are floods, and we all know people die in floods at a time when their judgment is affixed. The Scripture says, "It's appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment." Some men have died in a flood since then, but there has not been a universal flood that has been the source of ultimate judgment.
Throughout history, God has started to reveal, though, that judgment is still coming. At one point, he took a man by the name of Abraham, and he worked in Abraham's life to say, "Abraham, I'm going to choose you in this dark world that has now come from Noah and his sons… They have not lived with me by faith, and the world has become corrupt again.
In this corrupt world that worships many gods who aren't gods at all, I am going to elect you and, by grace, reveal myself to you, and I'm going to use you and your descendants as a means through which I reveal myself to a world before I judge that world in its entirety again. Mark my word: I will judge the world again." This is what he says in Genesis 15 to Abraham:
"Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, 'Know for certain…'" This is where God cuts a deal with Abraham. "…that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years." This is what's going to happen.
"But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation [after you] they will return here [to this land I'm going to give you, but you are not going to get this land yet] …"
Why? Right here is the reason we should not ultimately struggle with what God asked Israel, as his weapon of judgment, to do a little bit later in Deuteronomy. He says, "Abraham, I'm not going to let you have this land yet as my people, because the folks who are already here have not yet completed their iniquity. They have not yet built up enough sin in light of my revelation that I am ready to say, 'Time is up.'"
The flood of judgment that came on the whole world during Noah's time is now, in God's economy, going to be individually delivered to groups of people that live in a hardened state of rebellion before him. He says, "Abraham, it's not time yet." So he takes Abraham's descendants and, through a series of events, puts them in this little incubator called Egypt. They grow to be two million strong.
God in his greatness delivers them out, just like he said he would, and judges the Egyptians for making them live as slaves among them, and then he takes them up and says, "Now it's time for you to go and judge these people." Watch this. He tells them, as they get ready to do that, in Deuteronomy 9:1-6, "Israel, when you get in and get ready to go do this…"
"You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, 'Who can stand before the sons of Anak?' Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire."
"This is my fight, and I am now going to deal with them because of their hard-heartedness toward me. Not because I love you more than them. I don't. But because they have turned their backs on me, I will now go before you as a consuming fire."
" [God] will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you. Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, 'Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,' but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you.
It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people."
This is very key and crucial. How could God command the ultimate slaughter of six groups of people the way he did? Answer: because in God's sovereignty, that was their day of judgment. He had called them through the revelation of a number of different agents as his glory went out, as his glory was revealed in creation, as his glory was revealed through his workings with Israel, as his glory was revealed in the testimony of their conscience.
The nation still said, "No, we're going to worship our gods, the many gods that we've created, and ignore the one God who has clearly established himself as God of all heavens and all earth." God said, finally, "I'm going to come upon you." You need to know this about those groups of people: they were incredibly thick with sin. They were into ritual prostitution. They were into self-mutilation as a form of worship. They were into human sacrifice in order to feed their gods.
The cultic worshipers of the day primarily believed that the lord of the sky, Baal, as he's commonly called, would have relations with his wife, Anat or Asherah, depending on what land you're in. There are many others. What would happen is that Baal would copulate, and his seed, sperm, in the form of rain, would fall on the earth and impregnate his wife, and she would bring forth crops. They would then take the crops of the gods and eat them so they could live.
In order to keep Baal and Asherah happy, they would then go and have sex with temple prostitutes, and they would take their children, both from that ritual of worship and their own, and offer them on an altar to Baal in order that Baal would continue to copulate with his wife and give them their children. This is the mindset and the idea of what was happening in that land, and it was an offense to God for many different reasons.
So God said, "The time has come for them to be judged." He tells the nation of Israel, however, in Leviticus 18:24-28, "Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.
But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments…" Which I showed you in kindness. "…and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it [live in rebellion against me, create your own gods] , as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you." So don't make the same mistakes.
Here's the reality of what we need to understand about this. God has said from the beginning that he is holy and just. Yes, he is loving, but he will never be loving at the expense of his justice. He has revealed himself in a sufficient way to all men, and he has warned them that things are not going to always be as they now are. Judgment is coming, and the judgment of the Jebusite, the Perizzite, and all of those other folks who are mentioned in Deuteronomy and Joshua… It was just their day that was fixed in eternity that God was going to move on them with a flood of judgment.
Now there is a day that God is going to move with a flood of judgment over all the earth. We need to say it today. The reality is that it's appointed for all of us to die once. Most of us, God willing, will die sporadically throughout the next 1 to 80 years. We're going to go, unless God decides to move universally again, and we need to tell each other that this God who loves us and shows his goodness to us is going to judge universally and swiftly in a time when there will not be an opportunity to repent.
There are illustrations of folks who don't have time to repent even today, because most of us will die by a slow death. Most of us will die with advanced age, and we will see it coming. God is going to telegraph judgment to us. We are extremely naïve to believe that there is not going to be sudden and tragic death that will come even upon individuals in this room, and that is why God says, "Today is the day of salvation, and you need to deal with it today."
When Jesus was confronted with the September 11 of his lifetime, when the Tower of Siloam fell and killed 18 people and they said, "How can God do that? How can God let that happen?" Jesus looked at them and said, "Let me tell you something. You'd better repent so a like thing doesn't happen to you, which means you die swiftly without notice and face judgment." He said, "Do you suppose that those 18 who died were more wicked than you? You don't know that. But what you also don't know is how many days you have been given, and you'd better prepare to meet your Maker."
This is the reality. In Acts 17:31, this is what the Scripture says: "…because [God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world…" We don't know what that day is, but it's fixed. Just like it was fixed for the Canaanites, just like it was fixed for the people of Noah's day, it is fixed for us, universally and specifically. "…He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."
There was a time in God's economy that he used a specific group of people to deliver judgment and justice. He is not doing that right now. Before Moses he didn't do it. After Jesus he says he's not going to do it until such a time as he reconstitutes his work with his people Israel and removes his friends from this earth before judgment, judgment is unleashed, and Israel ultimately will become an agent of God's justice again after it, itself, goes through more horrors and atrocities because of its own foolishness and rebellion against God. This is what it says. The most awful verses in the Bible are found in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 1, verse 6, through following. Look at what it says.
"For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you [as his people] , and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…"
Now here's the question…What's going to happen to America? Someone has said, "Will God ever judge America?" The right answer to that question is God has already judged America. I'm going to show you. I'm going to prove that to you in just a moment. Judgment has already fallen on us as a land and as a people. In Romans, chapter 1, verse 18, and following it says…
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." Meaning, all men.
"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." Now human reasoning, intellect, and enlightenment are what we worship. " [He] gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them." This is what happens to people who suppress the knowledge of God.
"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."
Some people have gone to this verse and made it a substantiation for AIDS as judgment against homosexuals. That is a leap, but let me continue. There are other due penalties that go with that. "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer…" Homosexuality is not the judgment, but it's a class, it's one expression. "…God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness…"
I'm going to describe to you America in 2005, and what I'm going to tell you is not that God might judge America; God has judged America, because we, as a people, have been handed over to this: "…greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice…" Have you read your Sunday paper yet?
"…they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."
And they say that those who talk about truth being against those things are to be hated and eradicated. Folks, mark my word: God is not going to look for a more Christian nation than ours to bring us to our knees. This nation is already in judgment. We are going to destroy ourselves, like every other civilization that in its prosperity thinks it doesn't need God and should move out of the Stone Ages into the Age of Enlightenment destroys itself from within.
It becomes weak, and there is always somebody willing to pounce on the weak. When we divide ourselves because we don't agree on truth anymore, we cannot stand, as Lincoln said when he quoted Jesus Christ. Judgment, folks. This God, who has called for genocide and murder, does it as an example to the rest of the world, who it wasn't their day fixed for judgment, that judgment is coming for them. You can scoff all you want on a stage or in a seat, but if you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you alone must bear it.
Just like men scoffed in Noah's time and just like men are paid thousands of dollars to lead others in scoffing laughter, judgment is affixed, and loving people tell other folks about it. It is our great privilege to let you know of the kindness and love of God and become instruments of his peace, ministers of reconciliation who want to tell you about the kindness of God which calls you to repentance.
Even though you, in your separateness from God, leaning on your own understanding, deserve death and judgment as a price for your sin, he has made him who knew no sin to become sin on your behalf. The Lamb of God was slain in order that you might become the righteousness of God in him. Let me pray for you.
Father, we see that the reason you commanded judgment in the past is as a reminder that judgment is coming in the future. People weren't blindsided because they didn't know you; they were judged because they knew you and ran from you. For hundreds of years you labored with them, revealing yourself through the glory of the work of your nation Israel, revealing yourself through the glory of nature and conscience.
Father, we see how we are heading now to a place where we already are experiencing judgment, because we live in a way that seems right to us and it is bringing about chaos in our schools, in our cities, in our nation, and in our world. We are experiencing already judgment. It is just not one of a dictator who rapes our wives, steals our children, takes our possessions, and slits our throats, but it is just as sinister, and that other oppressor is coming.
Yet that is not the one to be feared; you are. So, Father, we return to you, not just to avoid judgment from this world but to avoid the wages of our sin that we deserve. We thank you that you are severe in your mercy that we might be taught by it. Make those of us who know, Father, the hope we have in Jesus Christ instruments of your peace.
When men and women look at us, they ought to see the light of the world inside. The hope of the world is not Watermark Community Church; it is Jesus Christ living in the midst of the people. This is the hope of glory: that folks who have, by grace, become friends with God, as friends of God, declare his good news to others that they might have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord as well.
This week, if you know him, you go and be an instrument of his peace, because judgment is certain in coming, and this week if you are here and are not yet ready and prepared for judgment that is coming, we would love to tell you about the peace available through Jesus Christ for you. You have a great week as ministers of peace.
What do you say to a skeptic who's funny, persuasive, and so confident, that you're afraid he might just be right? What would you say if you found yourself sitting on "Real Time with Bill Maher"? Would you know how to respond to Robin Williams or George Carlin if fate brought you together on a cross-country flight? How ready are you to engage effectively with your witty and well-read co-worker over a cup of coffee? Skeptical yourself? Have you wondered if there would ever be a safe place where you could ask good questions and receive honest, well-reasoned answers?