Good morning! Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks on the world trade center and the Pentagon. Just as my parents never forgot where they were when they first heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, so our generation remembers where we were when we first saw those images on our televisions 15 years ago today.
Over 3000 people died as a result of the Sept 11 attack. Many things we took for granted changed forever. Like Pearl Harbor 75 years ago this Dec, we were brought face to face with the reality that there is a deep evil at work in this world. But we also witnessed the incredible heroism and courage of everyday people as well.
This morning we begin our fall sermon series. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the world view held by many in America today is no longer shaped by the Bible and Christian faith. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly hostile to Christians and Christian faith.
Over the next few weeks we’ll examine the difference between a Biblical world view and what Timothy Keller calls a late-modern world view. We’ll pay particular attention to how these secular views have crept into the thinking of many in the church today.
In Rom 12:2 Paul challenges the Christians of his day, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Rom 12:2
Notice the contrast –“conform” over against “be transformed”. The world is very effective at shaping us into its way of thinking. But God’s purpose is to transform us into his way of thinking. This isn’t something we can do on our own. It is a work of God in our lives. God is active! Will we let go of fitting in with the world and allow the Lord to transform us?
Our focus today is creation. What is the secular world view of creation? What’s the Biblical view of creation? The ancient pagans saw the physical world as evil – something to be escaped. The body and material world were inferior to the soul and the world of ideas. Therefore, it didn’t matter what you did with the material world or your body. You could deny your lusts or indulge them; it didn’t matter. Whatever worked for you!
The Bible and Christian faith changed this. The Bible teaches us that creation is good - not just good but very good. Creation is to be treasured, studied, enjoyed. Every person is important to God and therefore to us. We were created in the image of God. We are called by God to take care of His creation. Jesus went to the cross because of how valuable we are to God. We will answer to Him about how we live and what we do with our bodies.
This Biblical truth revolutionized life in the Christian era. It gave birth to modern science. But we have an enemy of our souls who stubbornly takes this truth and twists it. In recent years, the Biblical view Creation has been twisted into “the natural world is the only reality therefore I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself!”
In this view, material prosperity and physical pleasure are the only realities. There is no spiritual realm. Science will eventually explain and solve every problem. Although this modern secular view rejects religion, it is in fact very religious. Ecology, technology, sex, materialism, power, personal freedom and happiness are enthroned as objects of worship and anyone who questions their supremacy is viewed as the enemy of humankind.
Therefore, some see the silencing of Christians and the eradication of Christianity as a critical step before human beings can evolve into the utopia that is our destiny. We saw this acted out in the OT story of Esther. We saw it again in Nero, Hitler, Stalin. We see it today in the genocide of Christians in Syria and even in the politics of our own nation today.
Some believe these “cleansings” are a progressive step forward for human enlightenment. They view those all those who went before them as primitive and superstitious. CS Lewis called it “chronological snobbery”. I call it “the arrogance of modernity”.
Keller says if we are to speak truth into the lives of our neighbors who are being deceived into this world view we must first challenge their assumptions. Secularism is not absence of faith. It’s a new religion based on a set of unprovable assumptions. To belong, you have to accept their propositions even though there is no scientific data to back them up.
It’s interesting how some who reject the Biblical view of creation replace it with the green movement and the worship of the earth goddess Gaia. They do this with less scientific evidence than the Biblical world view they reject. It seems human beings can’t live without faith in something! All this isn’t new.
It goes back to the Garden of Eden and Satan’s lie to Eve. Satan quotes the Lord but then mixes in a little deception. “Who you gonna believe? The Lord or your own heart and desires?” The world view that we have the power and authority to create our own right and wrong without any help from the Lord didn’t turn out too well in the Garden and it’s still not working today.
Let’s back up a bit. What do we know for sure? The Bible reveals that Jesus loves all he has made. He cares about the tiniest sparrow. Yet, we are worth far more than a sparrow. He tracks the number of hairs on our heads. He is a personal God. He calls us by name. Gaia could care less about the number of hairs on your head or the sparrows or you. Not only does the Lord know us by name, he knows the stars and calls them by name as well.
In the depths of every human heart is a desire to be known, to matter, to have an eternal significance. That desire was placed there by our Creator. It’s part of being made in his image. We are more than just a blip in a meaningless primordial soup. We were created for more than just eking out some momentary pleasure in an otherwise empty existence.
3,000 years ago David wrote, “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-3
If there is a Creator, why would he care for me? The answer is simple. He’s not like you! His wisdom, his love, is much higher than yours. You will never understand or fathom his love for you, but you can receive it. You can believe what he says about you.
David goes on… “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:4-6
Some of the words that have come off my tongue I wish I had never said. But instead of punishing me or abandoning me, the Lord hems me in - like a good parent herding a two year old, or a good shepherd herding his lambs. I need that - how about you? “You lay your hand on me” – not to whack me, but like a good shepherd petting, caressing his lamb.
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there.” Vs 8 Whether I’m on top of the mountain or in the deepest valley, the Lord is with me – even if I wander off to places I know I don’t belong, he sticks by me and brings me home again.
“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me”, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Vs 11-12
Have you ever tried to hide from God? Ever run off to a place you didn’t belong? Although it breaks his heart, the Lord is right there with you. Gaia sees you as a meaningless fluke of evolution. Jesus sees you as his own creation and loves you enough to die for you.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Vs 13-17
So how should I respond to a love like this? David ends this incredible Psalm with a prayer. “Search me O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
We have a real enemy of our souls who seeks to pull us away from the truth about God, ourselves, our neighbor, and the world around us. His lies are deceptively appealing.
But God refuses to abandon us. He is on the move. He sent His one and only Son as a sacrifice for sin, to provide the atonement we needed so that sinners like us could be brought back into a right relationship with him. This is a love we will never fully comprehend. But we can respond to it. Personally – one to one – your Creator and you.
Death is the Lord’s final “no” to all our attempts to be our own god. But the death and resurrection of Jesus is the final “yes” to everyone who will respond by faith.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Rom 12:2
Let’s pray: Father, forgive me for abandoning you as the source of my life and my salvation. Forgive me for the way I’ve made a god out of the good gifts you have given me. Turn my heart back to you. Set me free from trying to conform to the world and transform my mind and will to follow Jesus. This I ask in his name,