What is wrong with the world?
Many have asked that question and given a variety of answers. Over a century ago, author G.K. Chesterton answered the question with a simple two-word answer: What is wrong with the world? I am.
Chesterton wasn’t admitting guilt as a significantly immoral or illegal human being beyond what any other person is. Yet, he was revealing the nature of humanity. We are all sinners who create conflict and crisis in the world.
Today I want to begin a series from the book of Psalms to show how they touch the heart of humanity.
EXAMINE Psalm 14 The Fool
Psalms help us encounter our spiritual heritage.
- Psalms remind us of our identity of where we came from and where we are going.
- Psalms are from Israel’s history, with authors such as David, Solomon, Asaph, Moses, etc.
- Psalms are part of our personal devotion & corporate worship (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). The body of Christ finds its nature and purpose by reading the psalms.
- John Calvin not impressed with worship at churches in Geneva, writes,”Write a letter to the judges of the consistory to acquaint them with the fact that the Lord desires that the youth learn to sing the Psalms, and that the principal of the school and his headmaster teach the music of the said Psalms” (quoted in Ford Lewis Battles, The Piety of John Calvin [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], p. 142).
Psalms help us to encounter our God.
- Psalms teach us to pray and approach God. The cries of our heart and the songs we sing are often derived from the psalms.
- Prayer is our air, without it we struggle and suffocate spiritually speaking.
- Psalms give us the language that fit our various experiences and emotions. They remind us there is strength for our suffering and hope for our hardships.
- Psalms point us forward to the promises of God – in the Messiah. The psalmist’s hope is in the coming king and promised deliverance of the Messiah. Likewise, our hope is in the return of Jesus to fully and finally deliver us from earth’s challenges and sin’s curse.
Psalms help us to encounter grit and passion.
- Life’s circumstances can beat us down and cause us to grow callous and cold. But, reading the psalms can warm our cold hearts and cause us to feel again.
- John Calvin writes: “Furthermore, it is a thing most expedient for the edification of the church to sing some psalms in the form of public prayers by which one prays to God or sings His praises so that the hearts of all may be roused and stimulated to make similar prayers and to render similar praises and thanks to God with common love.” (Articles for the Organisation of the Church and its Worship at Geneva ).
- The Psalms teach us through the tossings and turnings of life, God is present. We can have peace and contentment by trusting in Yahweh, the one and only God.
But to START Psalms, I do not want to assume you have faith.
- Perhaps you’re in church but have doubts…
- Perhaps you’re skeptic (have no idea why/how you got here listening to me but thanks for coming!)… or you know a person who is skeptic…
- This message is for you.
This Psalm helps us to see what life is like apart from God, and why we need Him.
Apart from God we are depraved.
The Psalmist paints a picture for what life is like apart from God – even without His existence. Such a person to dismiss God is foolish. The term (fool = nābāl) does not mean intellectual stupidity but moral stubbornness. Derek Kidner remarks the word implies an aggressive perversity and irresponsible defiance. In other words, atheists can be extremely intelligent and influential but also insolent, not able to admit weakness or wrongs. Notice the fool is dismissing God not just with his mouth, but with his heart – the depth of being.
To dismiss God is not being entirely honest with life around us. Paul describes it like this:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown [revealed] it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man… worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:19-25)
God is revealed but humanity is blind.
- 9-11-2001 Americans returned to church for God and not just the feel good of the 80’s-90’s seeker church meeting felt needs. But after a brief stint, Americans left church… presumably not because of God but because of Christians – but that’s another sermon! (i.e. hypocrisy).
- New Atheists 4 Horseman: Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett.
- Sam Harris writes in response to 9-11
- Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,
- Richard Dawkinsm, The God Delusion,
- also Bill Maher, Bill Nye, and Ricky Gervais.
- While these books have been “best sellers” and popularized in media, statistically speaking, atheists have not increased and belief in “God” has not decreased; 90% say they believe in God.
- Belief in “God” is often nebulous and not narrowly defined as Christians, or much more Evangelicals would be comfortable with.
- While doubt of God’s existence has not increased, disconnection from religion has increased.
- Increased significantly that there’s a category: “The Nones” (careful of spelling!). Last census identified religious affiliation of “nones” at about 23% (~56 million), up from 16% in 2007 & 7% in 1990’s. So, in 25 years, they’ve tripled, which statistically is very significant. Further, with 35% of millennials in this category, the number is likely to grow.
- the version of faith this generation grew up with left them unprepared for the rigors and questions of academia and adulthood. This is especially true for those who pursue education beyond high school. The dechurched who grew up in church exit because they find the version of Christianity they’ve grown up with unconvincing, uninspiring and irrelevant.
- Many nones are not hostile to Christianity, but they are just not attracted to it – just like they’re not attracted to atheism. So, in essence, the nones relate to god (whomever and whatever) however each person chooses. Truth is not absolute but subjective; “your truth” and “my truth” are equal even if they contradict; and tolerance with diversity is expected (demanded) except intolerant for those who claim absolutes – how ironic!?! Further, while nones affirm personal truth, very few if at all affirm personal fairness/justice. A sense of basic human rights (life, murder, oppression, assault, etc.) is innate for us all.
- Religion is not the solution but the problem
- Religion in general is not the problem, but people who take religion in specific and seriousness are the problem, i.e. Evangelicals.
- But… the God who is often doubted or denied is actually a made-up god who doesn’t exist. Most have rejected the false view of what they assumed was God, but have never really searched or studied the Christian God. The true God of the Bible is seldom investigated. And in the process, people miss God.
- Goosebumps God: all the good feelings [God wants to give you more than fleeting feelings, but a foundation]
- Genie God: all good things wanted [God is a wise & loving Father giving us what we need]
- Smooth-Sailing Savior God: all the good overcoming problems [God is sovereign to weave together our selfishness and suffering for redemptive salvation; using our groans to bring about greater glory]
- Guilt God: all judgment and no grace [God doesn’t want to hang your sins on your head, He did that Himself.]
- Coexist God: all the love of God without justice
- iPhone’s cannot be opened bc they’re meant to be the perfect system w/o need for adding miscellaneous and unnecessary and unhelpful items. How much more the God of Scripture?
- CS. Lewis, Mere Christianity, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.
- Does God exist? 3 hints of God’s existence and a 4th hint explosion.
1) Causality/Motion: Everything has a cause and there cannot be an endless chain of events. There must be a first cause or a prime mover, which we believe the cause of such a complex universe, is God. All matter and life need not exist, but are contingent upon necessary existence of God – He must be for us to become.
- Gear parts in a bag shaken do not create a watch; must be a watch maker.
- Ink factory exploding to create collected works of Shakespeare and the Holy Scripture.
- Something cannot come from nothing. Atheists must answer, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
- Dawkins (God Delusion) says, “Cosmology is waiting on its Darwin… Darwin’s theory works for biology but not for cosmology (or, ultimate origins.)” In other words, he thinks scientists can explain how life took shape on earth through evolution, but they still are uncertain of where life itself, or the materials that produced life, originated. So, he/they need a theory of “blind faith”!2) Ontological/Perfection: If God can be conceived then he exists. God is greater than which anything can be imagined. Further, our standards of good, morality, power, health, etc. are all relative to a perfect source which we judge. God is the ultimate source and standard of being and perfection.
C.S. Lewis, “A baby feels hunger: well, there is such thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such thing as sex. If I find myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”
- 3) Telos/Purpose: The universe appears designed with a purpose (telos – end, goal) and not random results. Magnets have a drive to align their poles, seeds have a drive to become plants. Where do unintelligent entities derive their aim if there is no purpose for all life? God designed the entire world for a direction of bearing fruit and bringing Him glory.
- Scientists have pointed out the sheer improbability of complexities of life forming out of nothingness, or unguided chaos. Even most basic molecules & DNA strands are incredibly complex.
- Earth in “Goldilock Zone – not too hot/cold” – the exact degrees away from sun (freeze or fry); tilt of earth (gravity); chemical levels on earth: Nitrogen, Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide (breathe or suffocate)… Scientists say the odds of a planet like earth existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It’s like tossing a coin every second and having it come up heads for 10 billion years in a row. If you don’t believe in miracles, you’d still say the existence of life on planet earth was one! Believing in God is heart stopping and life defining!
Theologians call this General Revelation (inward sense or intuition)
- Ac 17:23 “to the unknown God… what you worship as unknown this I proclaim to you”
- Rom 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
The opposite of faith in God is not atheism but idolatry: Rom 1:25 “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever.”
Our disbelief in God originates in the heart, not the mind. We suppress the truth of a Creator and of Christ because we simply do not want to surrender to His Lordship. Our problem isn’t the insufficient evidence for God and the gospel, but the over-sufficiency of self – our pride keeps us from trusting and obeying God.
The psalmist says the fool says in his heart, not his mouth, “There is no God.” In other words, his beliefs are deep seated and stubborn.
- Christian, you will not likely argue someone to faith. It will be your actions of kindness and uniqueness in the culture that set you apart to cause conviction or compelling others to ask questions about your faith.
- Christian in name but not truth, maybe you are the fool, thinking you are fooling family and friends, maybe even God with your lip-service faith. But part-time faith does not receive full-time God.
Psalmist says, all have turned aside… none are seekers of God but are in need of His revelation and rescue.
- Every person is depraved and undeserving of Heaven. Hell is our default… therefore we need God and Christians need to proclaim the gospel!
- Christian, aside from sharing the truth you must pray for transformation (1Cor 2:14; Eph 3).
Apart from God we are destroyers.
The fool rejection of God is not denying His existence but dismissing His authority. Without God there is nothing holding humanity back from horror and depravity. Those who dismiss God lack knowledge of good, resulting in evil – specifically of eating up people.
Humanity destroys through wars, violence, murder, abortion, hurt, and even shaming the plans of the poor.
- World bullies & intimidates, harasses & harms, marginalizes & mistreats, discriminates & persecutes Christians.
- In media, culture, society
- In classrooms and work places
- In neighborhoods
- Among relationships and even family
How should Christians respond?
– – God is with the generation of the righteous; they will not have great terror (Ps 14:5).
– – the Lord is his refuge (Ps 14:6)
– Forgiveness: they know not what they do (cf. Lk 23:34)
- Church, our relationships must be different than destroyers. We must build up and not tear down
(Eph 4:29-32). Let us guard and grow increasingly in unity and love.
Apart from God we are doomed.
- Lord looks down in judgment
Proverbs 15:3 “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.”
- Adam & Eve / Noah / Tower of Babel / Egypt / Israel
- Laid on Jesus
- Salvation comes from Zion. Zion was the place of God’s presence.
- Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. God’s salvation was for an entire nation.
Interestingly, the late Steve Jobs (Apple CEO founder) before he died said, “Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And if I find myself believing a bit more… maybe it’s because I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated, somehow it lives on. But sometimes, I think it’s just like an on-off switch. Click and you’re gone.” Jobs didn’t put on/off switches on Apple devices because he didn’t like to think about death; he subconsciously believed there was more beyond the grave.
A 4th explosive hint of God is the Special Revelation in Jesus Christ: God’s intervention in the world through communication, dreams, miracles, prophets, Jesus and eyewitness testimony through Scripture is an explosive hint of God. In Jesus, we have God’s life and resurrection over sin and death.
 Kidner, D. (1973). Psalms 1–72: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 15, p. 95). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Some insights adapted from http://northpoint.org/messages/who-needs-god/atheist-2-0/
 Adapted from Aquinas 5 Ways… see: https://www.gotquestions.org/Five-Ways-Thomas-Aquinas.html
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III chap 10, “Hope”.