Monday, June 23, 2008

How Can This Happen? (Sermon)

One week ago today a family in our church experienced a terrible tragedy. On Father’s Day Sunday, while 12 year old Cameron was in the yard, 14 year old David witnessed his father shoot and kill his mother. David was able to kick the gun out of his father’s hand before it was turned on him. The father grabbed David by the throat and attempted to kill him by choking but David was able to escape.

On Monday morning, the day after the tragic event, we had reporters from virtually every television station and newspaper from Mobile to Pensacola come to the church. Virtually every single reporter asked, "How Can This Happen?" It is a question that was not only asked by the reporters but by many people, including family members.

In reality there were questions behind the question:
How can a loving God allow a good mother to suffer such a tragic death?
How can someone who attended church commit such an evil crime?
How can a loving God allow that kind of evil in the world?

These are not easy questions to answer, and I want to say up front that I do not have all the answers.
Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
So let me just say that there are some things that we may never know until God reveals them to us in heaven. Yet, even now, God does not leave us totally clueless concerning sin,evil and tragedy in this world.
The questions that were asked are legitimate questions. Answering these questions, from God’s Word, gives us a better understanding of the greatness of the grace of God.

When most people question why there is evil in the world, what they are doing is either questioning the goodness of God or the omnipotence of God. The scenario goes like this:

  • If God exists and God is good, why is there evil?
  • A good God would destroy evil.
  • An all-powerful God could destroy evil.
  • Yet evil is not destroyed.
  • Therefore, either God does not exist or God is not good or God is not all powerful.
Now the atheist would simply say, God does not exist. But we know that He does. So for our purposes we’re not going to argue this point.

But what about the person who believes in God but struggles with evil in the world? At first glance this form of reasoning would seem logical. After all, if God were good and all-powerful, wouldn’t it stand to reason that He would destroy the evil that plagues our world? Then why doesn’t He?

Two Affirmations About God.

1. God is Good.
It could be that someone might ask: Well could it be that God is not good? The answer is no. God is good. The unofficial motto of our church is, "God is good - all the time - and all the time - God is good." Is that just a meaningless little ditty that we like to say because it sounds good or is it based on truth? It’s based on the truth of the Word of God.

Psalm 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good."
Luke 18:19 "No one is good--except God alone."
Psalm 25:8 "Good and upright is the Lord."
Psalm 52:9 "In your name I will hope, for your name is good."

There are many other verses that tell us of the goodness of God. In fact, the whole Bible is an outline of God’s goodness in His dealings with man. The ultimate expression of God’s goodness is that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for the payment of our sin.
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
So God is good.

2. God is Omnipotent
Someone might say, "OK, I’m convinced that God is good but since there is still evil in the world it must mean that God is not all powerful. He doesn’t have the power to destroy evil." Well, let’s see what the Bible says.

Isaiah 40:25-26 "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

Rev. 4:11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

Now I don’t know about you but I believe that the God who had the power to, with just a spoken word, create the universe is all-powerful.

But there are some things that God cannot do. You say, "But wait a minute. You just said that God is all powerful." Yes, but hang with me. Let me list a few things that God cannot do.

1. God cannot lie.
Numbers 23:19 "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"
These are rhetorical questions. Of course God does what He says. Of course God fulfills what He promises. What the writer is saying is that God is separate from mankind. He is above the weaknesses of humanity with its tendencies toward falsehood and deceit. He cannot lie. And the reason God cannot lie is because He is truth.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’"
John 17:17 "Your word is truth."

2. God cannot be tempted.

3. God cannot tempt people to sin.
James 1:13 "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone."

In other words, God cannot do anything out of His character. He cannot sin or tempt to sin because He is pure.
Rev. 15:4 "Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy."

God alone is holy. It means God alone is perfectly pure and righteous. He is morally perfect. He cannot even be tempted to sin. This has nothing to do with His power and everything to do with His character. God is good and He is all-powerful to perform any and all things within His character.

So we return to the original question. Why then, is there still evil in the world? To answer the question we have to go all the way back to the first chapter of the first book of the Bible.

I. The Condition: In the beginning Man was Good.
Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Genesis 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."

From nothing God created the heavens and the earth. He spoke the first rays of light into being, He placed each original star and He hung and the moon and the sun right where He wanted them. He created the waters, the land. He then spoke into existence all plant life, all animal life in the waters and on the land, from the micro to the macro. He created everything from the amoeba to the galaxies. God created it all and said it was good.
But then God did one more thing. He spoke into existence - man. He created both Adam and Eve. God looked at His creation and said it was very good.

God made man good. There is no way that you and I can even imagine the perfection of Eden. There was harmony, beauty, peace, and a perfect unmarred relationship between God and Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had a perfect wonderful relationship with one another. There were no secrets, no self-centeredness, no lies, no abuse, no killing. It was a perfectly harmonious relationship.

Even the relationship that Adam and Eve had with the rest of creation was perfect. Adam could have lunch with the lion without worrying that he might be the lion’s lunch. There was no death and no disease. Life was perfect.

Now it’s obvious that we no longer live in that perfect world. Death, disease, and destruction are all around us. Tragedies and killings happen. What happened? What messed it all up? Please allow me to continue.

II. The Choice: Man’s Free Will
Genesis 2:16 "And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;..."

When God created man He gave man the freedom to choose. God looked at Adam and said you are free to eat from any tree. Adam had free will to choose any tree from which to eat, even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We know that because he ultimately chose to eat from that forbidden tree. He had the ability to choose.

The reason God created man with the ability to choose is so that man could have a relationship with God. Man can freely choose to love God and have a relationship with Him. But that means that man can also choose to reject God. Therein lies the point. If God were to eliminate evil, He would then eliminate something He created and said was very good; mankind. What separates humans from animals is the freedom given to man by God, to make moral choices. Animals cannot make moral choices. Man’s moral actions are based on the freedom to choose. Animals do not have the ability to make moral choices. If man’s freedom to make moral choices is taken away, he is no longer man.

BUT, here’s the problem. Creatures who are free to make moral choices and to love God must also be free to hate God or ignore Him. Creatures that are free to make right moral choices are also free to make wrong moral choices.

God is capable of destroying evil – but not without destroying human freedom. It’s not a true love relationship if man is not free to also reject God. So God created man with the freedom to obey or not obey. We know that because of the next point.

III. The Command - Obey
Genesis 2:17a "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,"

God would not give a command if man didn’t have a choice. Notice that God doesn’t command the animals. He gave a command and a warning to the man because mankind alone has the potential for crossing moral boundaries. The command was clear. "You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Well, we know the story. Satan comes in, deceives the woman and man, and they chose to disobey the command of God.

Genesis 3:6 "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it."

IV The Consequence - Death and Decay
Gensis 2:17b "for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Well that’s exactly what happened. This is when death entered the world. Throughout Scripture, the Bible points to this event, the disobedience of Adam and Eve, as the origin of sin and death.

What are the Implications of Adam’s sin?
1. All mankind became sinners by nature.
Romans 5:12 "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man,..."
1 Cor. 15:22 "For as in Adam all die..."

Adam’s sin has been passed down from generation to generation to us. The Bible doesn’t tell us how, it just tells us that it has. And it is pretty obvious that God’s Word is true. Everybody sins. It is in mankind’s nature to sin and rebel against God. That’s exactly what Adam and Eve did. They believed that they knew better than God what was right and best for them.

We see this sin nature every day. You do not have to teach a child to be selfish do you? No! We have to teach a child to be sharing and generous. It’s in the child’s nature to be selfish. It’s that sin nature that we all have. We are sinners by nature.

2. All mankind are sinners by choice.
Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"

We choose to sin. We choose to do evil. We choose to kill. We choose to abuse. We choose to lie. We choose to steal. It’s a choice. Every time we sin it’s a choice we make to disobey God.

What’s the Result of Sin?
1. Our Relationship with God was Ruptured.

Genesis 3:8 "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden."

Up to this point Adam and God’s relationship was perfect. Now Adam is hiding from God. He’s running from God. And man has been running from God ever since. The reason is the depravity of man.

The word depraved means to be deprived. Man is deprived of something. Of what is he deprived? A person who rejects Christ is deprived of a personal relationship with God. And when you are deprived of a personal relationship with God the results are tragic.

Romans 1:28-32 "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, (a mind that is without God, they’ve put God aside) to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."
A ruptured relationship with God leads to all kinds of evil in this world.

2. Our Relationships with other people were Ruined.
Genesis 3:12 "The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’"

Up to this point Adam and Eve and a beautiful, perfect, relationship with one another. But do you see what he said here? "It’s all her fault. If anybody deserves to die, she does." Their perfect relationship was ruined.
relationships have been struggling since that time. That is why we have murder, lying, cheating, abuse , stealing, jealousy, and all these issues that destroy relationships in this world.

So all of this leads me back to the question this morning. "How could this happen?" How can a man take the life of his wife? It can be stated in one word - sin. Evil in this world is the result of men freely choosing to reject and disobey God, leading to great evil. This is what happened last Sunday.

There is good news, however. The Good News is that our relationship with God can be restored. There is Hope. That Hope is Jesus Christ.

John 1:12 "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

John 8:51 "I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."