Jesus, The Hope In Tragedy
Todd Wagner | 08.06.19
In our broken world it’s inevitable that bad things will happen. From mass shootings to personal suffering, it's easy to wonder why God would allow bad things to occur and if he’s really good. Where will you turn when tragedy occurs? In this message, we look at Luke 13 to see what Jesus said about tragedy when he walked the earth, and how it relates to us today.
Jesus, The Hope In Tragedy
In our broken world it’s inevitable that bad things will happen. From mass shootings to personal suffering, it's easy to wonder why God would allow bad things to occur and if he’s really good. Where will you turn when tragedy occurs? In this message, we look at Luke 13 to see what Jesus said about tragedy when he walked the earth, and how it relates to us today.
Father, we come to you and we're amazed that we, in our brokenness and our unholiness in our human condition, can do what your Scripture says, which is to boldly come before the throne of grace that we might receive grace and mercy to help us in a time of need, so, Lord, we thank you that we can come.
Father, we thank you that you're sovereign and irrepressible and inconceivable in your love, and I thank you, Lord, that we can say that sometimes we don't see your love at work. Sometimes we look at this world you're sovereign over and we wonder what in the world you're doing. I thank you, Lord, that we're not just left here to figure it out and speculate, but we can open your Word, and you'll speak to us, and you'll show us, and you'll teach us things, and you'll comfort us, and you'll afflict us, and you'll comfort us again so we can know you, the only God worth knowing.
Lord, I just pray for my friends tonight who are really uncomfortable not being holy, that they would just come to their senses, and those who are just broken and scared in an unholy world with ungodly things happening could be comforted and would see and understand in a way they never have, and they could sing the songs I just sang with them with a heart that knows who you are, filled with grace and at peace with God who is holy. Would you do all of that tonight? Help us to serve you now. In Jesus' name, amen.
Welcome! It is a tender night to be with my friends at The Porch. We are just hours on the backside of all of us once again just experiencing numbness because of what is happening in this world. You all know it's not just here in Dallas. We have 19-plus locations around the country that tune in with us, and one of them is our friends in El Paso.
To my friends in El Paso who are watching, I want to let you know we have been praying for you. We are praying for you. We know we in Dallas have a connection with you in the midst of this tragedy. A young man from our community made his way down to your town and brought terror. We know that we have another connection with you and that is the God who is giving us comfort here and allowing us to intercede with you and for you is there with you as well.
We love you guys, and we're praying. We pray that tonight you would be comforted even as we are comforted and that we could comfort you with the comfort we've been comforted with. We have buried friends in this church who have died from mass shootings. We love you. It is a real privilege to be with you.
You guys know my name is Todd, and I get to hang out with you guys here at The Porch periodically. I hang out here a lot. Tonight, we're just going to talk a little bit about what in the world is going on. We're in the middle of a series called Jesus Walks. I was going to be with you tonight, and we were going to talk about an amazing moment in history, one I would have loved to have been at (it was the Transfiguration), but there's another moment in history that I felt like we needed to deal with.
When you start to think about Jesus walking 2,000 years ago, it's a fair and appropriate question just to ask, "What does a guy who lived and died 2,000 years ago have to do with me? What does a book that has been put together and hobbled together and preserved have to do with me? Come on, Todd! Come on, Christians! This is the real world we live in. I mean, I like Jesus as much as I know about him, but what does he have to do with me? How can Jesus relate to my world?"
Well, do you know that Jesus lived during a day when there was a random slaughter of innocence? Did you know Jesus was confronted with a question about people who were senselessly killed anonymously as they were just going about, in fact, God's business? They weren't even shopping at Walmart. They weren't at school. They were going about what they thought they would do in serving God. Did you know that Jesus lived in a time when there was a mass murder by what appeared to be random actors killing people for no apparent reason and it's in your Bible?
Let me show it to you tonight, and I think you're going to find some truth here. Jesus walked. The Scripture says in Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 15, that he walked on this earth. What an amazing thing about God! This is one of the greatest sources of comfort for me. It says in Hebrews 4:15 that we have a High Priest. We're talking about Jesus there. We have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weakness, with our frailty, and with our fear, because he has been tempted in all things even as we have been tempted.
He has been tempted to go, "God, where are you? Have you forsaken me? Do you know what you're doing? Are you asleep?" He walked as man. He lived as a man. Now, he did not commit sin. He was fully God and fully man. He never stopped being God when he was here on earth, but he chose to lay aside his sovereign ability to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and to walk as you and I walk and to trust as you and I trust, and because he trusted perfectly, he was able to provide for us a means through which we could be reconciled to God.
It says in Hebrews 4:16, a verse that I prayed before the rest of you jumped in with me, "** Therefore let us draw near…" Because our High Priest has made a sacrifice for us with his own body and his own blood. God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ came. God came and died for us. Therefore, we can draw near. Watch this."…with confidence to the throne of grace…"**
I am a sinful man, but I can move boldly before a holy God so I can receive mercy and grace to help me in the time of need, and Jesus lived in a day when there was a random, senseless murder (a mass murder). This is a little Bible trivia. I'm pausing right here for a second. Does anybody have any idea where I'm going to turn? I heard somebody scream it up top. That's it! We're going to go to Luke 13 in a moment.
Before we get there, let me just do this. I want to just spend some time reminding ourselves of some things that are true. Let's just read some Scripture together and let's just comfort ourselves. The Scripture says in Psalm 34 that God draws near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. There is going to be application for all of us tonight.
First of all, you need to know this. God will draw near to you as you are brokenhearted not because circumstances around you seem scary, overwhelming, and out of control, but he draws near to you when you're brokenhearted over the out-of-control, scary sin that reigns in the hearts of everybody who doesn't know him.
Mark my word. This verse has dual application. It has application for those of us who are grieving the loss of friends and loved ones in our community, but it's a verse that primarily applies to those who have a broken and contrite spirit who just go, "God, you're holy, and I don't know if I can have a relationship with you. I want to because you're the only thing that can bring me comfort in times like this." He saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Verse 19 is what really applies to us. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous…" We're here and we're afflicted because we live in a world that is not the world that God intended. We live in a world that is infused with sin. We live in a world that is inhabited by men who aren't just sinners in their nature but who remain sin in their nature.
All of us were born into sin. Some of us by the kindness of God have come to know the goodness of his way, and we begin now to walk with him. Instead of being darkness, we are light. Instead of being a source of decay, we are actually a source of preservation (we're salt), but we still live in a world that brings affliction to us.
None of us are without sin. All of us in some way contribute to sadness at some level every day, but certainly, when we come to know Christ, there's a transformation that happens, and God changes our hearts, and we become a source of hope and not a source of destruction. It says in verse 19, "…But the LORD delivers him out of…" all of the affliction we have one day.
Let me just share with you a few verses that Jesus said to his disciples when he was getting ready to leave. In John, chapter 14, in verse 27, he says, "Peace I leave with you…" Now, look. It doesn't look like a very peaceful world, does it, but Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you." It's going to be a different kind you find. He says, "Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."
What God is going to offer us is an understanding of the sovereign, eternity-sweeping kindness and goodness of God, but he's going to let you know that in this world we're not there yet, so don't be surprised. In John 16, in the same little message when he's talking to his troops and he's talking to his team, he says, "We're going to go through this thing together." He says, "I'm speaking all of these things to you."
You ought to read John 14, 15, and 16. He says, "These things I have spoken to you so you might have peace so when you have tribulation you won't lose heart and you won't become uncourageous." You won't wilt. You won't go to the fetal position, because you'll know God has overcome the world, and God has overcome the world, but the world we're living in right now has not yet met and understood and lived underneath the kindness and goodness of God.
When we don't live under the kindness and goodness of God, we have all kinds of problems. I say it all of the time. When we as humans leave and don't have faith in and trust in the God who is goodness and kindness and light and life and love, you're going to get what you have when you leave that, which is darkness and hatred and death and not love but murder.
Jesus says, "I love you. Some of you guys are going to be reconciled to me, and I'm going to leave you in this murderous world, and I want you to offer hope and grace and repentance, and I want you to show strength in the midst of loss, and I want you to grieve, but not as those who grieve without hope."
Don't be surprised. This is earth, and just like God, when he came to earth, he suffered because the world doesn't receive him. When we start to understand who God is, we're not confused by these kind of events, but God says, "Let's go, church! Rise up! Wake up! I want to use you to stem the madness, to bring hope, and to comfort those who are afflicted and don't understand," what you're going to understand if you hang in there with me tonight.
Let's just remind ourselves of this truth, as we get ready to look at how Jesus handled a mass murder and a random act of killing during his day and age. Psalm 46 says, "God is our refuge…" and I have nothing to offer you tonight apart from my God, but because he is my refuge and he is my strength, I can stand before you, and I can help you, not because I'm older than you or wiser than you but because the God who created you has given me and you a revelation.
He has pulled back the veil, and he says, "Quit speculating on philosophers. Quit saying you love wisdom. Listen to the God who is wisdom who loves you and who has preserved for you truth." Let him be your strength. Scripture says, "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change…" **Man! It's changing. Is it not?"And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride."** Though the Walmart becomes rippled with blood, know this.
"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire."
There is no evil that will move on earth that God is not sovereign over. Cease trying to fix it by your gun control laws and by your philosophies and politics. There is one way to fix it. This is a problem of the human heart. I have been in a land where there was not a wide distribution of guns. It was called Rwanda. Just over two decades ago, about 1 million Rwandans died. The problem wasn't a broad distribution of guns; the problem was darkness had grown in their hearts.
This is a battle not against flesh and blood and not against manufacturers. This is a battle against the human condition apart from God. Over 1 million Rwandans were killed hand to hand with machetes and rocks and sticks in 100 days. One million. Cease striving to try and figure out how to fix this.
God alone will be exalted among the nations, and I'm going to show you a little bit tonight about how Jesus handled questions you might be asking right now about what in the world is going on. Be sure. "The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold." He's called the God of Jacob because you can read the story of Jacob who was a deceiver who tried to live life apart from God, but God was determined to show him kindness.
Eventually, Jacob was wounded to the point where he walked with a limp, and God restored him back into relationship with him, and God used that pain to show him who he was. In the midst of that, Jacob turned to God and trusted in him, and God was able to allow him to prosper in the midst of that relationship, not materially as much as with the strength of a heart that can be informed by the truth of who God is.
He's a God with a résumé. He's the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Go look at the way God treats murderers and liars and deceivers and have hope that maybe he can treat you the same way. If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, open it to Luke, chapter 13. In Luke 13, there is an occasion going on here, and what Jesus is basically saying is, "Look around you! Take note of what is happening and make good decisions."
In fact, he uses simple truths about designs of nature and things we see happen in nature with weather. You haven't been alive very long before you hear little things that will help you understand like, "Red at night, sailor's delight; red in the morning, sailors take warning." Have you ever heard that? In other words, you can tell a little bit about what's coming on the horizon in the rest of the day by looking out just a little bit ahead and lifting your head up and reading the signs of the times.
What Jesus is saying is, "If you mistake the signs of the times, you're going to have troubled seas, and you're not going to be prepared for it." He says just before this little occasion, "I just want to warn you. You guys are smart enough to know if you're going to go to a magistrate or go to a court and you think you might get prosecuted, that you do everything you can to kind of cut a deal. You do everything you can to plea bargain so you won't execute a certain level of judgment."
In effect, in the context right before we hear what Jesus is saying is, "Listen, people! You do whatever is necessary to stay out of jail. You might want to pay a little bit of attention and apply the same intentionality to stay out of hell," because there is a sovereign Judge who is greater than human magistrates, and if you just watch what's going on, you'll see that he's here. That's Luke 12. There's a day he's going to come, and you don't know when that day is, but avail yourself to the truth that is being revealed. I say the same thing to you tonight. Avail yourself to this truth.
Luke 13: "Now on the same occasion…" **In other words, during this little dialogue he's having, it says,"Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices."** Let me explain this to you. There were some folks who were listening to Jesus. They, frankly, were probably enemies of Christ.
They were people who were trying to create problems for Jesus, and they knew if they confronted him with some things that were happening in that day, one of two things was going to happen. He was either going to look like he was pro-oppressor… The Romans had occupied Israel and they were causing the Israelites to live in a time of great despair, a despair that was highlighted recently by an attack that happened when Pilate had mingled some Galilean's blood with their sacrifices.
Here's a little historical knowledge for you. We know from history that at some point Pilate was building some aqueducts. What's an aqueduct? We don't have aqueducts around here. That's right. We put pipes in the ground. An aqueduct is a way to carry water from one part of a land where there is plenty of it to another part of a land where there isn't.
Pilate needed some funding for that, so he dipped into the temple treasury. People brought, if you will, their tithes and offerings to worship God, and Pilate said, "As the bully on the block, I'm going to say we're not going to get new pews or new carpet. We're not going to get new instruments. We're not going to get new buildings. We're going to build an aqueduct for the Romans who are garrisoned here making sure you are oppressed."
When the Jews heard about this, they gathered together to protest, and when Pilate saw the protest, he sent some of his soldiers dressed in plain clothes amongst those particular people from Galilee who were protesting what he had done, and they started to randomly murder a number of Jews. In the midst of their shouting and saying, "Pilate has to go! Let's get rid of Rome," they couldn't hear the screams of a number of them who were being shivved.
At the temple where they offer the blood of sacrifices, many Jews had died. One of two things was going to happen here based on how Jesus responded in this moment. He was either going to allow the Jews to accuse him of being pro-Roman or he was going to defend the Jews and say what Pilate did was wrong, and they knew that would make the Roman leaders go, "We have to get rid of this Jesus because he's going to incite a riot," so Jesus is caught between a rock and a hard place here.
First of all, he says he is God. God is love, and God just let this crazy thing happen. Now, what's he going to do? Is he going to be pro-Roman or pro-Jew? I love what Jesus did. He answers typically with a question. That's what he does. They were saying, "What do you make of this?" If you watch Jesus, he's just a master.
It's like the guy one time who said to me, "When I ask you a question, why do you always reply by asking me another one?" I said to the guy, "Why do you ask?" That's kind of what Jesus did. He said, "Let me ask you a question before I give you an answer." Here comes his question. "And Jesus said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans [the ones who died in this random tragedy] …'" Watch this. "…were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?"
We're trying to make sense out of this. One of the things that happens sometimes in the midst of tragedy is people think, "If evil has befallen you, there must be some reason it befell you." Like, "It didn't befall me for that reason." And what Jesus is going to do is not answer their question, but he's going to keep the conversation he was in with them going.
I have not heard anybody say about the Walmart incident what I heard them sometimes say about the Pulse incident. Do you remember the Pulse incident in Orlando? There were 49 people killed just a few years ago. Do you remember that mass shooting? Do you remember what kind of bar went down where that shooting was? What was it? It was a gay bar. I heard some people say, "Well, there you go! It's God's judgment." You're going to see that just won't stand.
I haven't heard anybody say, "Well, you shouldn't shop at Walmart. There you go!" How crazy is that? Listen to me. He says, "Do you suppose the Galileans were greater sinners than all of the other ones because they suffered this fate and because their blood was mingled? No." Watch verse 3. "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
What's he talking about? Let me just read a couple more verses, because he's not done. He goes, "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?" There were some people who were building a tower. That's what you did. You'd build places with outlooks and watchdogs. They'd be up there.
They were building a tower for use in the city, and in the midst of that construction, as often happens in construction (especially in ancient construction), the walls fell, and 18 people were killed. He goes, "Do you think those 18 people died because they were the wickedest 18 people in Siloam? Is that why they died?" Watch what Jesus says about this. He says, "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Let me just say a few things I think are obvious to this crowd. I'll start with this.
1._ Human tragedy is not always divine punishment_. Human tragedies are not always divine punishments. You don't get out of human tragedies because of your faith. If you have the tragedy of cancer, if you have the tragedy of some birth defect, or if you have the tragedy of great sorrow in your life that was thrown upon you, it's not always because of what you have done. Otherwise, how do you explain all of the suffering of the prophets? How do you explain the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? How do you explain the Parkinson's of Billy Graham?
No. Tragedy is not always the result of divine punishment, but I will tell you that things that happen in this world that are not heavenly and are not kingdom things happen because we live in a world that is not yet his kingdom. Now, a number of God's kingdom people are here. "Todd, who are they?"
Those are folks who are brokenhearted and contrite about their own sin. They have what is called godly sorrow. They're not filled with worldly sorrow like, "What are we going to do? Look at all that's going on around us that's not right! How can we stop this from happening?" God says, "Here's how you can stop it from happening. Let my kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven."
Because there have been no mass shootings in heaven. There has been no lack of peace in heaven. There are no paralyzing diseases in heaven. There is no birth defect in heaven. There is no tear in heaven. I just want to say this. This is so amazing. Heaven has shed tears on earth. Before I unpack this for you right here, I just want to tell you this is what Jesus would do if he were in El Paso right now. It's what we're doing right now. He would weep with those who weep. He would mourn with those who mourn.
When Jesus moved where sin had reigned, if you will, in the life of his friends, Lazarus and Mary and Martha, Jesus wept. When Jesus looked at the chaos and the dead religion that ruled his day, he spoke over Jerusalem and he wept. He said, "O, Jerusalem! Jerusalem! O, Dallas! Dallas! O, El Paso! O, Joplin! O, Houston! How I long for you to know me and for you to be a source of my grace and kindness and hope and redemption in the world you live in. I can make provision for all of your sin."
Don't look at the sin of mass murderers and terrorists. Deal with the brokenness in your own life. Don't be surprised when there is chaos and trouble among you. There is always going to be. Jesus said to his disciples, "The poor are always going to be with you." Racists are always going to be with us. Idiot white supremacists will always be with us. Jesus says, "Just don't be one of them. Do what you can do help the poor, and do what you can to help those poor people who are trapped in the lostness of their clouded eye and broken worldview." Be a source of the grace.
Then, he says, "Repent." Repent is a word we have a hard time with, but repentance always starts with knowledge of sin. Do you see what Jesus did right here? "You guys want me to throw Pilate under the bus," and Pilate is going to get thrown under the bus (mark my word), but it just says, "You'd better repent or you will likewise perish like those who died under Pilate's hand." He says, "You'd better repent or you will die like those who were just going to work and died while they were at work."
What does it mean by, "…you will all likewise perish…" when the people he's talking about were randomly killed in the Walmart of his day or were just going to work to provide for their families and they died? Here's the answer. If you don't deal with your sin which separates you from God, you will likewise perish like those individuals.
First, you will die in judgment under judgment from one who is in authority. Pilate was abusive in his authority and was abusive in his judgment, but Jesus just got through telling a story like, "There is a judge, and he is coming, and he will recompense men according to their deeds, and it's going to happen suddenly, and you'd better be ready, because you will meet a Judge, and he's a righteous Judge. The way you think you get reconciled to me through your own works or your dead religion… You're wrong! You get reconciled to me by being brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit…'"
Let me ask you a question. This week, when you've been looking at the ravages of sin in your world, have you looked in a mirror and seen the sin that has ravaged your own life? When people say, "Why doesn't God stop this stuff?" you guys know I do something called Real Truth. Real Quick. I did a Real Truth, Real Quick. a while ago called Why Doesn't God Stop Mass Shootings and Terrorists?
One of the things I said the night I did it, right after the Pulse murders, which was the largest mass murder in American history at the time, was, "Let me ask you a question. How many people outside of that nightclub in America that night do you think were looking at porn? How many people in the room who are here right now were sleeping with somebody that night?"
How many of us had arrogant ideas about our own self-righteousness or had some sense of superiority over others? Because, guys, that's evil, and when we talk about what God should judge, most of us think about evil and we define evil as anything that doesn't please us. That's not the way God defines evil.
A guy named Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn lived underneath Stalin's oppressive murderous regime which killed millions of people in Russia was put in the Gulag Archipelago in the northern part of Siberia. While he was there, he wrote an amazing work. One of the things he said was, "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them." What he wasn't saying there was, "There are really no evil people." What he's saying is, "If only evil was in them."
While Solzhenitsyn may not have been part of a murderous communist worldview and power structure, he knew that same sin which led Stalin to do what he did was in him, and he repented. He took Jesus' message, and he said just for a second, "I'm going to meet a righteous Judge one day, and I want to be ready." What does Jesus mean when he says, "If you don't repent you will likewise perish"? He means you're going to die in judgment one day under somebody who has authority over you.
Secondly, you're going to die someday and probably for most of us without time to prepare for our deaths. Death doesn't usually call you and say, "Next week a guy is going to cross that dotted line, and he's going to clip your car, and you're going home." Death doesn't usually come with hours in a hospital bed. It's why it's a really bad idea for those in this room to go, "I'm 20. Death isn't going to come to me." Have you read the biographies of those who have been dying? It's your generation.
I'm not just trying to scare you. I'm trying to tell you Jesus says, "You guys have to be ready, because you don't know when this is going to happen." When Jesus says, "If you don't repent, you likewise will perish," what he is saying is, "You are going to die in judgment from somebody under authority," which is him, and, secondly, "You're going to die without time to prepare yourself."
James 4:13-16: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." You go to Walmart because it's tax-free weekend. You go grocery shopping for your mom.
Have you read the stories? "Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil." Repentance always starts with the knowledge of sin. It always goes on to create a sorrow for sin, not for circumstances.
Can I just say this to you guys? You're not repenting if you're not aware of your own sin. You're not repenting if you don't have deep, heartfelt, brokenhearted sorrow for your sin. It always leads to confession to God of you being nothing like him. It always shows itself before men by a growing breaking of kinship with sin.
Repentance changes playmates, and it changes playgrounds. Repentance is not just that you change your idea that Jesus' story is true while you used to think it was false. Repentance always produces a result. I will show that to you before the day is over. Let me just give you a couple more applications from what we just read before I show you the final point. Simply, what I'm doing right here, gang, is just trying to help you in the midst of what is going on to let you know what's going on. In a very sad and very difficult way, I would tell you…
2._ Times of suffering are sometimes sovereignly allowed by God to bring truth to light_. Times of suffering are sometimes allowed by God to bring truth to light. Man! There has been some truth that has been brought to light, hasn't there been? Something is wrong! Life can end suddenly. I'm going to ask you. Are you going to deal with those realities? What is going to be your solution? I'm going to tell you to cease striving. You'd better know that he is God.
A guy named C.S. Lewis… If you hang around circles like this, you're going to hear his name quoted because he thought a lot. He used to not believe in God for a long time. Then, he came to a place where he had knowledge of his own sin. He said, "We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to."
Have you guys had that? The pain of not being ready for a test, the pain of being fired from a job, the pain of loving somebody and not having it reciprocated, the pain of having your mom and dad not love each other anymore, the pain of growing up under a godless generation ahead of you, the pain of being in a world that is just devolving into greater and greater chaos, or the pain of a mass murderer in your town, but pain insists upon being attended to.
"God whispers to us in our pleasures..." One of the things that pleasures are is a little hint of heaven. God wants you to know he's a good and kind and gracious God, and he created you to enjoy him, and there is a shadow of goodness that is all around us. He "…speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world," and you would do well to pay attention.
This is not to say that evil is good. Evil is not good, but we can make sense of evil events. These evil things are senseless acts. Sin never makes sense. It takes you farther than you want to go and keeps you longer than you want to stay and costs you more than you want to pay. They're talking to this kid who went to Plano High School right here in our town. Members of our church went to school with this kid. Maybe they loved him. Maybe they invited him to come hang out with us. He's your peer right here in your area.
You could have met him if you were in Allen. You could have loved him. You could have seen his loneliness. You could have said, "There's this thing called The Porch. There's this church called Watermark." There's this church you're going to where disciples are made, and you could have loved him. You could have reached out to him. You could have been a source of healing in his heart.
He might have suppressed it. He might have rejected it. He might have been committed to his sin, but this is a kid who was hurting. This kid they say they can't even interview yet because he's still in shock. He doesn't even know what he did. Evil does that to you. Have you ever felt like that? "Who am I?"
Well, if you don't know Jesus and you haven't gotten to that place yet, you haven't repented, and you just wait, because it gets ugly. Jesus is saying, "Come here! I can explain the evil that happened in that kid's heart. Can you deal with the evil that's in yours? I'm the source of your evil."
Times of suffering are sovereignly allowed by God to bring truth to light. I just want to stick this in there because some people might say, "Todd, where was God when this happened?" I would just say he was identifying with us in our suffering. He has suffered. He said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He is interceding for us in the heavens. That's where he is. He's before the Father, and I have to believe…
I just have to tell you. I'll stick this in right here. One of my favorite places in Scripture… I love it when Jesus just kind of pulls back the veil. Pilate is having the crap beat out of him. He's mingling Jesus' blood, and he says, "Don't you know who I am?" Jesus grabs him by the throat and brings him down. This is a little extra-biblical, but I think it happened.
He's beaten, he's whipped, and he's tortured, and Pilate knows he's not guilty, and Pilate says, "Man, speak up! Who are you? What are you doing? Don't you know who I am?" and Jesus says, "I know exactly who you are. The question is…Do you know who I am? If you knew who I was, you would go out there and tell them you're not going to have anything to do with my crucifixion, but you're a coward. You don't love God. You love you, so you're going to appease the people. You're not going to have a good tomorrow." He lets him go. I had other words in my head. That's why I stuttered there. Jesus wouldn't have said what I was thinking I would have said in that moment.
There's another time. Jesus is crucified. He was resurrected. He reveals himself to the world. He has ascended. He's sitting at the right hand of God. Then, one of his boys, Stephen, who loves God, testifies. Unlike Pilate who was unwilling to face a mob of Jews, Stephen did. He said, "Let me just tell you who Jesus was. You crucified him. You killed him. He was God's provision. He's the Messiah."
They stoned Stephen to death, and it says he looked up into the heavens and saw Jesus. What was Jesus doing? He wasn't working a rosary. He wasn't praying to Mary. He wasn't interceding before the Father. Does anybody remember what Jesus was doing? He was standing. Again, here's my little extra-biblical moment.
I'm a child of the 60s and 70s. Have you ever watched The Flintstones? Whenever Barney and Fred would get ready to run, what would they always do? Their little legs would make that little sound. I have to believe… Again, this is not in your Bibles. It's just in mine. I believe Jesus saw what was going on.
He saw his children suffering in a world he knew was going to be racked with trouble. He saw one of his sheep being tortured by sinful men. I think he said, "I'm done interceding. Let's go! Let's roll back the clouds like a scroll. Let's go get him right now, Dad," while his legs were going like Fred and Barney's, and I think the Father was like, "Not yet, Son. Not yet. Not yet."
Your Jesus knows all about your Walmart. He knows all about your parents. He knows all about the hardship that has happened to you. He knows about the hardness of your own heart, and he loves you, and the Scripture says in 2 Peter, chapter 3, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." What's another application? Here it is.
3._ Judgment is certain_. You just need to know judgment is certain. Jesus said as much. You're going to likewise perish under someone sovereign over you who will judge. The Scripture says in Hebrews 9:27, "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…"
I just ask people all of the time, "What's the death rate in your city?" The answer is, "One apiece." That's the death rate. Everybody who is born dies. People are dying every day who have never died before. Scripture says God is patient toward you, but you need to know there is going to be a place and a time where, if you've not yet started praying, it won't matter if you do.
Can I just say that to you again? There is going to be a time and a place where, if you haven't already been praying… I'm not talking about when you hear pop, pop, pop, pop in your school, in your church, or in your Walmart that he won't deliver you. I'm talking about there is a time in the flood…
I'll just give it to you. Psalm 32:6 says, "Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him." There is often a second chance, but there is always a last chance. People, God has offered forgiveness to you through repentance. He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination. He just hasn't.
Unless you, too, repent… You might just go to work faithful tomorrow, and the tower may fall on you. You're going to die just like them in Siloam quickly and without a chance to deal with your sin, so don't just live it up in your 20s. Don't give your 20s to the Devil. Don't just say, "I'm going to get after it, and later I'm going to find a good girl and settle down. Then, I'll start to go to church." That's a bad plan.
That might have been the plan of our brother in Plano who drove 10 hours to El Paso. Sin will take you farther than you want to go, it will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay, and sometimes there ain't no getting out, and you just don't even know where it came from. Jesus closes his story in Luke 13 by saying this. It's interesting. There's a shift here.
In verse 6, it says, "And He began telling this parable: 'A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, "Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?" And he answered and said to him, "Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine…"'" **"Let me encourage it. Let me give it nourishment. Let me give it a couple more Porches.""…but if not, cut it down."**
One of the things I see when I look at this is, first of all, Jesus ties the fruitfulness of the fig tree to a story about repentance. I want you to hear this. I think you heard me say it already. Repentance is not just a change of mind; it's a change of mind that always results in a change of action. That's why this story is here.
Some of you at The Porch have embraced the idea of Jesus. You might even have shed a little tear one night when you've been especially moved about your sin and God's kindness toward you. You have knowledge of sin. You have sorrow for sin. You have confession of sin before God, but this story is here for you, because in addition to your confession of sin before God, there has to be and there will be, if you have a relationship with God, a breaking off from sin.
Not perfectly. We're not perfect, but if God has not changed your appetites and you can still sin with the same ease, if you can say, "Well, this is just the sin God gave me, and I don't need to deal with it, and I don't need to change it," I'm telling you that's a problem. You might be planted in this little vineyard right here thinking you're doing fine, but there is no fruit on it. There will be a cutting down.
If you have not in your life had an increasing production of a habit of deep hatred for all sin, first of all, what are you looking forward to in heaven? People who have a love for sin will not look forward to heaven or look forward to being with God. No. They will shrink back at his coming the same way a dead tree is sucking nutrients out of the ground where God expects there to be produce. What you see here in a little application is…
4._ If our roots are buried deep in the soil of God's Word, then God's fruit should and will bear evidence in our lives_. Let me just say this. You are not saved because of these works you do. No. We are saved by grace through faith alone, but the faith which saves is never alone. It's never alone.
One of the greatest assurances I have that I really know Jesus… I still sin, guys, but when I sin I hate it. When I see anger in me that rules me, when I see lust that is attractive to me and I want to give myself to it, I take that second look, I want to look and hit the click. I want to move there. I want to make an excuse for watching a movie. I hate it. I hate it. I wish it wasn't in me. I pray that God would remove it.
He says, "Todd, my grace is sufficient for you. What you have to decide right now is if you're going to follow your flesh or you're going to live by faith?" The life which I live right now is still inside a flesh that longs for all of the sin it has always longed for, but I by God's kindness know I have been crucified with Christ, and the life which I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me.
One of the greatest assurances I have that I know Jesus is when I sin I hate it. I confess it. I forsake it. I tell friends, "We have to do something." I can't say I can handle this being in my house. I have to get rid of it, because I don't want it to have access. I want to abstain from these fleshly lusts, and I'm moving on it and not just saying I know about a cross. I pick it up and I follow him.
What do we have tonight? We have this very simple truth. The need for repentance, friends, is clear. It's clear. The time for repentance is now. The evidence of repentance is fruit. It's a changed life. You're not saved because your life changes; your life has been changed by the power and the grace of God.
Let me just read you this last thing by Lewis. Then, we'll close. It's what's going on in our world. Our world is so confused. What do we do? Is it the Republicans' fault? Is it our president's fault? Is it the gun manufacturers' fault? Is it the mental health system's fault? Here's what's going on. We have a world that still strives to make sense out of the broken human condition without God.
We have stopped teaching ethics and values and morals and repentance in schools. We have shattered the family unit. We don't hold young men accountable. We let them isolate and live alone. I'm not blaming video games, but we put them in a room filled with despair where they live imaginary lives and they practice desensitizing themselves to other humans. We celebrate it. We make excuses for it. We enable them with medication, and we don't do what Jesus did.
I'm quoting Lewis now. "In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function." We take the heart out and expect goodness to circulate. "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings to be fruitful."
That is a very illustrative saying. We are neutering ourselves with our godlessness and our refusal to be brokenhearted over our sin. What America does in moments like this is we cry and we pray, which is appropriate, but it's a worldly sorrow. We want the circumstances to stop. We deal with the symptoms, and we don't deal with the problem, and the problem is in us. It is sin. Cease striving in a way that seems right to men and come to God.
Father, I thank you that you have walked with us in the fire of earth, that you have been tempted in every way as we, that you have had Walmarts, and you have had innocent blood mingled in a random way, and you took it, and you used it to remind us of why blood is mingled on this earth: Because it's not heaven. It's not what you meant to happen on earth.
You wanted men to know you and to walk with you and to trust you and to love one another and to live faithfully, but we said, "We don't need you, God. We don't need your love. We don't need your light," so we have gotten hatred, and we have gotten darkness, and we have gotten death, but I thank you in the midst of the death in this world there has been another in the fire, and he did not sin, and he loved us enough to go to a cross and have his body broken and his blood shed.
The eternal Son of God, the very visible image and the inconceivable love of God, was revealed in Jesus, and when we are brokenhearted over our sin and poor in spirit, we can lift our eyes up and we can see your provision on the cross, and we can trust in you, and we can say, "I want to follow that love." God, thank you for making a way that I, unholy Todd, can come to a holy God boldly and receive grace and mercy in my time of need as can everybody in this room and everybody listening.
I pray, Lord, if there is somebody here who goes, "Todd, that's me. I know sin is in me. I see sin in the world, and I'm going to deal with the sin in my world, and I'm going to confess it, and I'm going to be brokenhearted about it, and I'm going to forsake it and learn to follow God. I'm going to love God, his people, and his Word. I'm not going to isolate any longer. This is the day that your patience has allowed for, that I should not perish, but I come to you in repentance."
If that's you, you just say in this moment, "God, I come to you. I confess my sin. I see your kindness. I see your love. I see that you are a God who has walked on an earth filled with insecurity and trouble, and you have given us peace. We have faith, and that gives us peace with God, so, Lord, I have confidence that Jesus is your provision for me, and I put my faith in him not in my own works or righteousness and not in my own plans to stem evil in this world.
I trust you, and I know, Lord, there is going to be a day when you deal with evil completely, and I thank you that you're dealing with my evil now by grace. Lord, let your Spirit be loud in my life. Give me an affection for you and a love for you. Thank you for rooms filled with God's people who I can now run to and say, 'Teach me more of my Father that I can walk in the kindness and goodness of his way.'
Thank you that you are a High Priest who can sympathize with my weakness and that you have been through this fire and you will never leave me or forsake me, but you stand ready to come when the Father says, 'Go.'"
Lord, if you tarry, may we be about your business now loving broken people in our Allens before they get in cars and drive to someone else's El Paso. Let us bear fruit. Let us be your people. Let us walk with courage in the fire. In Jesus' name, amen.