*Christianity is hard to believe.
*A God who is unmade, made everything.
*Humans, made in his image with the capacity to love or to reject him…in fact, rejected God and suffered the wrath of God because his own holiness required this response.
*God then came to his creation as a man…to die for us…thus serving both his love and his justice at once. *Our purpose as his redeemed creation is to live to bring him glory…to be found faithful.
*We experience his new life now in part, and when this life is over…in full.
*That sounds far-fetched to some
1. We are the products of chance plus time. The physical universe has always been and all things came from it. Love, purpose, hope, meaning…these are illusions.
2. The diversity of the created order, the beauty, the music, the longings, all life…all this are just quirks of blind, undirected, evolutionary processes.
3. Ethics is purely contrived…ultimately…it makes no difference if I hate you or love you…die for you or kill you.
1. Everything is Maya…illusion
2. Our sense of uniqueness or individuality, separateness, is illusion…sin, death, sickness, love, family…not real.
3. Our purpose is to escape this illusion…join mindless UR…a drop absorbed into the cosmic ocean. *We could go on and on…so many views of reality.
*But reality is fantastic…existence, meaning, human history, art, color, music…all of this is unbelievable…inconceivable…yet here it is.
*Everything in all its diversity has evolved through mindless, impersonal time and chance. *Everything in all its diversity was spoken into existence by God.
*What is hard to believe depends on what you believe.
*I believe Christianity offers coherent answers to life’s greatest questions…
- What is UR
- Who are we
- What is our problem
- What is the solution to our problem
- What is our purpose
- What happens when we die
- How do we know what is real
*This worldview…in my view…best describes life as we experience it and also best prescribes a life well lived…it works.
*It works in terms of explaining what we see in and around us…now and throughout history
*It works in terms of leading to healthy individuals and healthy relationships…when you “do” it, it works.
*Of course I believe it is more than just pragmatic…more than just something that “works for me.”
*But if something is true…you would also expect it to “work” and it does…to live apart from it…doesn’t work…as you would expect.
*Clearly not every worldview is true…it cannot be true that God made the universe and the universe is uncreated.
*It cannot be true that humans are made in God’s image and that humans are products of chance and are ultimately of no lasting value.
*Once a person has settled on a worldview…it influences how they see the world around them.
*It is why you can find yourself astounded by someone seeing the very same thing as you and coming to a polar opposite view on it.
*Once a person has settled on a worldview…it is extremely difficult to dislodge and replace.
*In the case of a person coming to Christ it happens because of a work of God at the spiritual level.
Matt. 16:15 “But what about you, Peter?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”
-Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
-“Well Peter you are blessed, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
*God often uses physical, relational, emotional, pressures to unsettle our existing worldview…to show its inadequacy…and to open us up to him.
*But for many the thought of an eternal, uncreated God…making humans from nothing is too fantastic, too unrealistic to believe.
*As I said…life, reality…is hard to believe.
*If you get in your car and drive north for an hour you won’t quite make it Salina…if you could drive straight up for an hour…you would make it space…it would be cold…minus 450 degrees.
*If you could drive straight down to the core…it would be a much longer trip…take about 60 hours, if you didn’t stop for potty breaks…check your ac before the trip…its 11,000 degrees F.
*And speaking of trips…we are flying through space right now at 67,000 miles per hour…very large space ship.
*Four hours from now you will have traveled the distance from earth to the moon through space…
*Fun and fantastic facts could go on and on…colors, sights, sounds…human life.
*But all this is normal…we are used to it…it has ceased to be fantastic.
*We are walking on a thin surface coating a core that is hot as sun…we live in a thin atmosphere that separates us from airless space….impossible…naah…its normal.
*The fantastic knowledge we have is a tiny fraction of what can be known. *So is Christianity, the gospel hard to believe?
*No…its impossible to believe apart from God’s grace
*It’s impossible to believe apart from faith.
*But none of that means it is imaginary, or that every other way of believing about the universe is not faith based as well.
*Everyone has a faith-based view of the world…not everyone has a true view of the world. *So…don’t be trapped in the kind of thinking that undermines your faith in what is real and true.
*Some believe that religion and science belong to separate domains… religion is the domain of faith…science the domain of fact.
*Well-known paleontologist Stephen Gould of Harvard said that religion and science deal with fundamentally distinct questions…and must be kept completely apart.
*Two problems with this:
- Creates a two-story view of reality: Science is facts, religion is fairy tale…Jesus, Santa, Easter Bunny.
- We can’t keep them separate because they talk about some of the same things. Very important things like the origin of the universe and life.
*This has implications for who we are as people and what our problem is…which in turn impacts what the quest for a solution will look like.
*This is huge stuff…makes or breaks human lives. *All live by faith in what they believe to be the facts.
*By the way Stephen Gould once said that “evolution is impossible but I believe it anyway because the alternative is unacceptable.”
*I could just as easily say I walk by faith and I walk by facts…because what I put my faith in is what I believe to be the facts.
*Otherwise I would place my faith elsewhere.
*Recap from last week:
*Who are we: Made by God
-Like the grass/not at all like the grass -Implications:
-look in the mirror (humility, value)
-look around you (do not seek to impress, do seek to bless)
*This week: the great question…What is our problem?: unmade by sin
*Read Ps 90
*What are some common answers to the question: “What is our greatest problem?” 1. Unequal distribution of resources.
2. Bad memory. In Islam sin is a problem, but man’s biggest problem in a way is his forgetfulness. He needs the 5 Pillars…prayer, fasting, giving, pilgrimage, confession…in order to remember who he is and who God is…we are stupid and forgetful.
3. Deception, illusion. Christian Science, Hinduism. 4. Desire. Buddhism
6. Religion…some that’s the same thing.
*The answer to what is our greatest problem flows from “Who or what is ultimate reality and who are we.” *It has implications, of course, for the search for a solution…next week.
*The Bible’s answer to what is our greatest problem is sin…rebellion.
*And sin’s consequence…separation from God, God’s wrath.
7: We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our days with a moan.
11: Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
*Only by appreciating the bad news can we appreciate the good news.
*Who is God…determines who are we…determines what is our greatest problem…determines what is our solution.
*This matters…it matters a lot.
*If a doctor believes wrong about your physical problem…he or she will act wrong in regards to the solution.
*Same is true for the electrician, plumber, mechanic, politician, military leader.
*The consequences are real…and they can be devastating.
*None more so than a wrong diagnosis of humanities’ greatest problem.
*The Psalmist clearly indicates that we are under God’s wrath…and that this is justly deserved.
*There are Psalms where the Psalmist declares his innocence in a particular manner…wondering why God doesn’t come to his rescue.
*But here the Psalmist is not declaring innocence…quite the opposite.
*He is admitting that God’s wrath is our just due.
*Let’s jump from Ps. 90 to Romans…the most detailed and clearest explanation of the gospel.
Rom. 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:
*Paul is unashamed of the good news of Jesus Christ…why would he be…it is after all, good news…the best news.
*What comes next may seem to be a bit of a surprise…
Rom. 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
*He announces the good news but instead of launching right into an explanation of this wonderful truth…we get this dire news about God’s wrath against our sin.
*It will not be until two chapters later that Paul will finally get around to discussing the good news that he announced in the first few verses.
*Evidently he agrees that only by understanding the “bad news” can we appreciate the “good news.”
*Without an appreciation for our problem…we will not have an appreciation for God’s solution.
*Like the Psalmist he uses the word “wrath” to describe God’s reaction to our sin
*Wrath is bit of old word…its unlikely you have used it in normal conversation in the past year.
*You may have said…”That made me angry.”
*But you have probably not said to your children or co-workers…”Behold, my wrath!”
*At least, let’s hope not.
*God’s reaction to sin is not the “anger” of an emotional person; it is the necessary reaction of a holy God to sin.
*Wrath is a really good word for this reality.
*The Greek word used can apply to a spectrum of related ideas…from petty human anger to the righteous anger of God towards human sin.
*The context, drives the meaning…like most words.
*God’s wrath does not mean he is pouting because we are not doing what he wants us to do…it is not his pettiness.
*His wrath is the only appropriate response to our sin.
*He cannot, not be himself…to not look at sin with what we would call “wrath” would be impossible…it is the response to holiness to sin.
*God’s wrath is on those who suppress the truth…in other words, who deserve it.
*One can only suppress something of which one has some knowledge.
1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
*Some call this general revelation (available to everyone, everywhere, all the time) as opposed to special revelation…Jesus, the Bible.
*We can’t know the gospel from general revelation…but everyone has available to them…information regarding the existence of God and some of qualities.
*There are things that people everywhere can know about God…even without having access to a Bible or a Christian witness.
*This rejection of what God has made known to them brings his wrath.
*Don’t think of a giant temper tantrum…or a passive aggressive boss or parent you have had.
*His wrath is his settled disposition against sin…
*When we see human anger we never see anger it in its pure, non-sinful form.
*In God his anger is like his love…it is pure, perfect, sinless.
*I also don’t confess to fully understand this…but it is not hard to believe.
*I can be angry at cancer in a child’s body…or at the sin that breaks up a family.
*In fact its hard to imagine not having some level of anger at that cancer or that divorce and at the same time being a healthy human with rightly ordered values.
*Of course the danger is that I would begin to redirect the anger from the cancer to anger at God. *My anger is always going to be tainted by my sin nature…his is not.
*My point is his wrath directed at human sin is right, its necessary in order for him to be him…and he is not going to stop being who he is.
*The wrath of God is not passive…its not purely cause and effect.
*”You jump off the roof, you fall to the ground, you break your leg.”
*”If you sin, you suffer the natural consequences that God has built into the natural order.”
*Although this is partly true…it is a cause and effect universe…it is not entirely true.
*God actively brings about effects…his wrath, like his love is active.
*Pure cause and effect is called Deism.
*Deism is where God made the world and then went off to allow it to run on its on.
*Deism, God is the watchmaker…who made the watch, wound it, and now allows it run down…no rewinding. *Your prayers only affect you…because God is not actively involved…they are not going to affect him.
*HG Wells “War of the Worlds” is a good example of Deism.
*Wells was not a Christian…he had a mixed view…his own view…he was at least part Deist. *When the aliens who had invaded our world were dying from a virus…the narrator says this…
“From the moment the invaders arrived, breathed our air, ate and drank, they were doomed. They were undone, destroyed, after all of man’s weapons and devices had failed, by the tiniest of creatures that God in his wisdom put upon this earth.”
*God did not intervene on man’s behalf, he did not hear and respond to prayers…he was not using the aliens to exercise judgment on the earth…he had pre-programmed earth to take care of this eventuality…God was not involved.
*This is deism…God made everything…but he’s AWOL…we are fatherless.
*This is not Christian theism.
*God is personal and involved…there is cause and effect…but God has not put the cosmos on autopilot.
*His love is active, his wrath is active…he is good parent.
*Wrath is the right response of God to our sin.
*Sin is our greatest problem…or you could say…it creates our greatest problem…his wrath…separation.
*Some would say…”Out there in the real world, outside the walls of this church, our problem is lack of a resources, or unequal distribution of resources, or both.”
*”All this theology talk does not translate into the real world of hunger, war, disease, abuse.”
*Then what is the real problem…the base problem?
*Video: over population
*My reason for showing the video is to illustrate that what are sometimes called mankind’s greatest problems…are not…but they can mask what really is.
*I heard a lecture by Dr. Mitchum…linguist and political advisor to the Air Force…speaks 7 plus languages, Vietnam combat vet…well traveled…”Bull”
*The problem worldwide is not a lack of resources…there is a distribution problem…there is plenty to go around…but there are reasons why its not going around…and he described those reasons.
*He didn’t say it, but as he spoke I thought…”he’s describing human sin.”
*Some have bad ideas of government formation.
*Sinfully stupid leaders: Castro wanting to plant wheat instead of sugar cane in Cuba.
*Sin is our largest problem…it is our root problem.
*If we miss this diagnosis…we will miss the cure.
*Sin has lasting effects…devastating effects…generational effects.
*Earnest…75 year old man…never touched his kids or grandkids and was cold to his wife.
*What about disease, how is that related to sin? Norah and her disease…who sinned?
*Adam, Eve…all of us.
*Biblically even disease is directly related to human sin…not that if you are sick you must have sinned…clearly this is error.
*But as in the created order fell with Adam….Gen. 3, Romans 8
*Sin is our greatest problem. Conclusion:
*Spirituality is “in” right now.
*One of the four pillars of resiliency in the military…spirituality.
*Best selling books, speakers…are spiritual.
*Being Christian is uncool in academia, Hollywood, and elsewhere…but being spiritual is not.
*Spirituality tends to be inclusive (except when excluding exclusivists like Christians).
*Spirituality tends to always be benevolent and benign…as long as you don’t hurt anyone it does not qualify as wrong.
*Of course there is a dispute over what constitutes hurting someone.
*But there is no holy and righteous God whose very nature demands that he react negatively to sin.
*There is no Wrath of God…in fact that phrase would be an oxymoron for “spirituality” without biblical foundations.
*But the truth is there is no Holy God without the Wrath of God.
*Our sin separates us from God.
*That basic problem is the root of all other problems.
*Our separation from God is the root cause of our problems in relationships with others as well as our personal struggles within ourselves…guilt, shame, addictions, discontent, fear, etc.
*We will get to the good news next week…this week we need to look clearly at the bad news.
*Some might say “That’s the OT God, this wrath stuff…that’s not Jesus…Jesus is love.”
Rev. 21:6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
*That’s Jesus, and that’s wrath.
*Someone might say…”There you have it, you revealed your true colors, you judgmental Christians…throwing down wrath.”
*I have no wrath to throw down…certainly no right to it…but God does.
*Never forget I read…:
-False prophets speak of God’s love but live lives of wrath
-True prophets speak of God’s wrath and live lives of God’s love
*So culture’s prophets of spirituality without gospel will sometimes talk freely of God’s love…but don’t cross them…you will incur their wrath…they do not live as Spirit filled people.
*A person who understands the gospel will speak of God’s wrath…with tears…and then show you God’s love with their actions.
*Jesus, for instance…he warned of wrath, judgment…then he allowed himself to be tortured and killed…he suffered wrath for us.
*He spoke the truth, that sin deserves God’s wrath…then he lived the truth, God loves us.
Ps 90:7: We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our days with a moan.
*We will talk next week of the good news…but of course you don’t have to wait a week to enjoy and live in the good news.
Rom. 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
*All things here is…all we need for life and godliness…forgiveness of sins, and power to live outside the control of sin.
*Let’s worship God together…the God who did not spare his own Son, but him up for us all.
*As you worship…and if you have believed the gospel…reflect (with gratitude) on the fact that your sins deserve his wrath…but that Jesus has taken that wrath for you. What is the “real” problem?
Spirituality is… Inclusive (sort of) Benevolent (sort of)
Rev. 21:6-8 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who prac.ce magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
Psalm 90:7 We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indigna.on. You have set our iniqui.es before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our days with a moan.
Rom. 8:31-32 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?