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The 9/11 Sermon

Ten years ago today thousands of people had their lives suddenly snuffed out by a fiendish

enemy most Americans didn’t even know existed. On what is commonly known as 9/11, countless others suffered enormous physical and emotional pain, the extent of which is impossible to calculate. As a result of not being aware of our enemy we were clueless of what we were up against and the steps we could take to defeat them. We’re a lot more knowledgeable today and are better able to live our lives coping with the reality that we are dealing with a ruthless enemy that among other things delights in terrorizing people. If we knew ten years ago what we do today, we would have been a lot better off, wouldn’t we? Suppose you found out recently that there was a relatively small number of Americans who knew about the enemy and they also had fool-proof instructions on how we could defend ourselves and also go on the offensive and defeat them, but these people didn’t do everything they possibly could to warn folks of the imminent danger. As incredible as it is they were fearful of offending other people or being viewed as politically incorrect. What would your opinion be of them; especially if someone you loved and cared about dearly lost his or her life during the surprise attack on 9/11? Suppose that fearful man or woman or girl or boy that didn’t warn you was someone such as your spouse, parent, child, neighbor, coworker or your pastor. Can you think of a couple of things you might say to him or her as soon as you had an opportunity? Before answering let’s first consider something which in one way or another pretty much describes the character of non-Christians.

Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve back in the ‘Garden of Eden,’ the foundation of mans INDIVIDUAL character has been “out of sync.” The true foundation of man’s character should be the supremacy of God over human beings. In other words, it should be the spiritual over the worldly. However, the character of mankind is actually organized on the principle that puts the worldly over the spiritual and the human over the Divine.

For instance, the foundation of man’s SOCIAL character is “out of sync.” The true principle on which society should be formed is, “…do to others what you would have them do to you,” ….” Matthew 7:12 (NIV) Instead of following Jesus’ teaching of that verse  of what became known as “The Golden Rule” we find things such as fraud, selfishness, phoniness, and self-centeredness, all of which actually form the world’s platform of social action.

The foundation of man’s POLITICAL character is “out of sync.” Righteousness is the only true and safe foundation for governments. No country can be safe or useful that doesn’t primarily aim to develop the rights of all human beings and to administer justice for every one of them. It’s a sad fact that many folks are sacrificed for the few, (such as the genocide our country allowed to take place in Rwanda) and the principles of righteousness are replaced with pragmatism.

The foundation of man’s RELIGIOUS character is also “out of sync.” A passionate desire for the utmost good is the foundation of all true religion. It’s sad to say but generally speaking the religions of the world are based on opinions of men with their ceremonies, or mushy sentiment instead of what God Has revealed to human beings in the Sacred Scriptures.

Since 9/11 countless people have left this world and entered into the next. I mentioned in my last sermon that the death of human beings and where they will spend eternity disturbs me much more today than it did ten years ago because of my recent horrifying experience of being in the dreaded ‘Furnace of Affliction.’ God gave me an almost three hour second hand taste of Hell and what it must feel like to be separated from Him forever. Whenever I think of the eternal horror awaiting certain people God has brought into my life, folks who, because they haven’t yet accepted the gift of forgiveness for their sins; whenever I think of them I could literally cry. Now let’s consider the following passages of Scripture to drive home my opinion of non-Christians.

1 God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods”: 2 “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. 5 “They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. Psalm 82:1-5 (NIV)

Although the Psalmist Aesop was writing about the Second Coming of Christ, the following is certainly descriptive of non-Christians. Each of them are walking about in darkness. They will not believe that they are wrong, and that they are walking on the path leading to their own destruction. It’s sad to see most folks passing through this world and all of them are going the wrong way! Every step they take leaves us with less hope and gives the “Prince of Darkness” more power over them. In earthly things they see clearly enough; but in spiritual matters they are stone-blind! “They walk about in darkness.”

Darkness is the emblem of IGNORANCE and all non- Christians are ignorant:
of their true state before God,
of the character of the God who made them,
of the just consequences of sin,
of the only Savior who can deliver them,
of the way of escape available to them,
and of the dreadful doom that awaits them if they won’t accept it.
They walk about in ignorance! If they weren’t so ignorant they would quickly turn to the Lord Jesus and ask Him to save them.

Darkness is also the emblem of SIN. Non-Christians live:
in violation of God’s holy law,
they deliberately won’t accept Christ’s gracious offer of forgiveness. Instead they make THEMSELVES the chief end of their existence. In so many words:
they live for themselves,
they could care less about what God desires,
they despise His invitations,
they turn their backs on His “throne of Grace,”
they treat the Bible with contempt,
they waste their time in idleness and nonsense. They walk about in sin and yet most of them expect to enter into Heaven when they die and leave this world.

Darkness represents DANGER. For instance, these people are in imminent danger! Their lives may be suddenly snuffed out as were those of thousands of unsuspecting people on 9/11. Disease also introduces death, and
death ushers human beings into the presence of God,
and God allows non-Christians to doom themselves to Hell!

A man may be in excellent health in the morning and a corpse at noon!

A woman may be on earth at noon and in Hell at night!

It’s as though non-Christians are walking through a mind field. They are surrounded by administrators [Angel’s of death] of God’s righteous justice and they may be seized at any moment. Once that happens:
all hope is gone,
despair rushes in, and
outer darkness engulfs the scene!

And yet they walk about in thoughtlessness! They:
squander their time,
reject their opportunities of escape,
disregard warning voices, and
perish in their own self deceit!

They’re like animals. They’re not concerned about any of these things. They say if they wind up in Hell they will have plenty of company. They have conned themselves into believing they won’t be worse off than the others. They reject everything Jesus taught about Hell being a place of never ending misery, agony and endless torment!

They walk about in darkness,” and if they continue to do so their end will be awful. It will be:
misery without mercy,
darkness without light,
despair without any hope of deliverance and all because of their willful determination to “walk about in darkness!”

Now let’s consider the suffering believers endure in this present world. The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

“And the days of your mourning shall be ended!” Isaiah 60:20.

This present world is a ‘valley of tears’ and a ‘wilderness of woe.’ While passing through it, we’re exposed to sorrows and sufferings of various kinds. Pain and disease surround us and many Christians in their awful anguish would rather die than continue living. (In my own case it isn’t only because of the physical and emotional pain I’m suffering. For instance, as I was putting together this message and thought about the time when each of you entered my life and I recalled fond memories I have of you; I thought about your eventual death, and there were several times when I broke down and cried. I assure you I’m not depressed or being morbid. It’s just that I love you very, very much and I would rather die than see you on your death-bed!)

In this world Christians are subject to countless troubles. For instance, our fondest hopes and dreams may suddenly be obliterated, and we may have to look at the devastation of everything that we once possessed.

In this world some of our closest friends are snatched away! Some parents often weep over the remains of a much-loved child and wives and husbands have to mourn the loss of the partner of his or her life. The Devil respects neither rank nor age. He tears and shreds the very heart-strings of our nature and delights in trampling upon tenderhearted souls.
Our current troubles spring from a thousand sources. The ‘streams of sorrow,’ in all their various forms follow us, more or less, through the whole course of our earthly pilgrimage.

But in Heaven, all our troubles will be over! There won’t be any sorrow there. All temporal and spiritual evils will be banished. There won’t be any disappointment or anxiety in Heaven. No more wearisome nights and dismal moaning and groaning, and no more tossing and turning until daybreak will be there. Nor will there be any sickness to contend with or death to devour anyone in Heaven. Neither will there be any separation from the folks we love there or Nor will any phony friends to wound our hearts and betray our trust. There won’t be any annoyances from day to day caused by the sinful actions of non-Christians. Nor will we have any temptation to sin in Heaven; or anything to fear or to trouble our conscience and there won’t be any dark clouds, or tossing waves in Heaven.

There is nothing to grieve over; nothing to cause a single sigh or a tear to fall from our eyes. None of these sorrows will be in Heaven. Instead, joy and peace will be there. Cheerful hearts and beaming faces will be there. The conqueror’s song, and waving palms, and harps of gold, and robes of spotless white will all be there.

As suffering followers of Jesus we should think often of what awaits us in Heaven. It will help us to persevere and to press forward under our load of sorrow in this world. It is only for a little while that we will have to make our way through this howling desert. But when we pass through the narrow ‘stream of death’ we will joyfully experience what “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him!” (1Cor. 2:9) (B)

Now let’s return to that small group of Americans who knew about the enemy but didn’t do everything they possibly could to warn the folks God has brought into their lives because they were fearful of offending them or of being politically incorrect. It should connect all of the dots in this message. I believe the following first person account from a man named Michael Goekie sums it up quite well. He writes:

“It seems that we, as the church and as individual Christians, spend a lot of time pulling back the outward expression of our faith for fear of offending people. Churches sometimes water down theology and their message to make sure no one leaves offended. People ignore the destructive, sinful behavior of their friends to make sure their friends are not offended. People seek community that is intentionally non-confrontational so that they will not personally be offended.

In the last weeks, it seems like I have been inundated with issues that almost seem to be begging for confrontation, but ones in which no one wants to take that step. It has made me think about my own faith. Do I believe the Word of God? If I do believe it, why am I so afraid to share it with people I say I love? If I really love people, shouldn’t I risk their offense if it means saving their lives?

The reality is that the Gospel of Christ, and the truth of the Word, is by its nature offensive. It is described as a sword, and it divides, and it exposes, and it digs to deep, hidden places. It also leads us to God, to truth, to healing, to fulfillment and to freedom.

As I have thought about this, I have been reminded of a time in my life when I was deeply offended by my friends and family. I had left my wife to pursue a life built around and defined by my feelings of same-sex attraction. I had expected my friends and family to accept what I was doing, support what I was doing, and not question what I was doing. I was offended by much of Christianity, and for a season I walked away from people who loved me, and I walked away from the church.

But today, 13 years later, I would like to say a hearty “THANK YOU” to my wife, and my parents and family, and my friends who cared enough about me to offend me. I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I consider the ramifications in my life, had the people in my world bought into the lie that to love me was to affirm me in my sin. When I left my wife, she boldly told me that she knew God could work in me and in our marriage and that she would not pursue divorce. She protected her interests but always professed her love for me and her desire to work through this together.

My parents (and other family members) told me that what I was doing was wrong. They bought books and other materials and tried to get me to talk to a counselor. They also called frequently to check on me, sent me money when I needed it, came to see me on my birthday, and flew me home for holidays. My friends drove hours to talk to me about what I was doing, and told me what they believed. They flew from other towns to take me to dinner and tried to convince me to get help and to turn from the life I was living. They also sent me cards and letters full of love and affirmation of our friendship.

And each of them offended me. Each of them made me angry. I viewed them as bigoted, unenlightened, ignorant, prejudiced and hateful. If they truly loved me, I told them, they would accept me and affirm me in the lifestyle I was living. I ignored their calls and I viewed them with skepticism. I did my best to sever my relationships with those who were offending me. But they would not let me go. They did not coddle me, but they refused to give up on me.

I eventually took a book from my dad. I did not want the book — I viewed it as more of his “right-wing Christian propaganda” — but I took it just to shut him up. I was ready to draw a line in the sand and cut all ties with my wife, my family and my friends. But God was ready to pierce my heart. The book that my dad gave me did not condemn me, but instead showed me more than the sentimental, saccharine love of Jesus that my new theology had sold me. It showed me the powerful love of the risen Savior, and I was compelled back to Him by that love. The offending parties in my life were waiting, as loving and gracious as they had ever been, not holding my sin against me, but standing there; ready to walk with me in the journey ahead of me.

Today my marriage is restored and has grown beyond my imagination. I have three beautiful children and am living out the call on my life to vocational ministry. Healing has happened in my family relationships, and I am closer to that cadre of friends than ever before. As I listen to people worry about offending people, and as I watch people change their whole belief systems to make other people feel more comfortable, and as I see people enabling destructive behavior just to avoid conflict, I wonder where I would be today had Stephanie simply pursued divorce like I wanted her to do. I wonder where I would be if my parents and friends had supported me and encouraged me to divorce Stephanie and had rallied around me in my newfound identity. I wonder where I would be if my pastors and spiritual shepherds had encouraged me to accept the very thing I needed to lay before the cross of Christ. I shudder at the thought. I know it must have killed them to think of losing me, but they loved me enough to take that risk.

Thank you, dear friends, for your offense to me. At the time, the truth you shared was the aroma of death to me (2 Corinthians 2:15) but today it is the sweet fragrance of life.” (C)

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

Now let’s return to my question about Christians who didn’t do everything they possibly could to warn folks of their danger because they didn’t want to offend them. Obviously I’ve been alluding to the Devil and Hell. I’ll close with a couple of questions to give you something to consider. What do you think they will say to Jesus on the ‘Day of Judgment’ when He asks them why they didn’t; and what do you think Jesus will say to them in response? Its been one of the prayerful desires of my heart that Jesus won’t have to ask you or me that question.

Lord willing, October 9th.

(A)Biblical Illustrator, by Joseph S. Exell. Vol. 6, Page 446.

(B) Grace Gems, John MacDuff, ‘The Promised Land,’ Aug. 29, 2011.

(C)  Baptist Press, August 29, 2011.

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