Sunday 07/25/21 - Sidney UMC
Sermon Title: “Fools Say In Their Hearts”
Old Testament Scripture: Psalm 14
New Testament Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-21
At different times in my life, I have meet people who were people of faith, people who believed in God, who loved Jesus, but for different reasons stopped believing or stopped having faith. Sometimes, unfortunately, some people lose faith, they reject God, and yes, they even reject Jesus Christ.
The question to ask ourselves however, is why? As per my sermon title for this morning quoting Psalm 14:1a, it says once again:
“Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1a, NRSV).
The Psalmist is saying to us this morning, once again, that if you reject God, and if you say in your heart that there is no God at all, then you are a fool. The Psalmist does not say that you are making a bad decision, but the Psalmist says that you are fool. Pretty harsh!
What I want to talk about a little this morning though, is common reasons that people lose their Christian faith, and how we can reconcile these realities to our belief in God.
This morning, I want to discuss five common reasons that people reject God and reject the Christian faith. Let us go through these five one by one.
Some people have lost a child, have a family member, have gotten cancer, have lived through a war, have become disabled, have went through a crushing divorce, have lost a job, etc. Some here, and many others have endured incredible suffering in their lives, and I have around this so many times, “Pastor Paul, if there really was a loving God, then why did God allow fill the blank to happen?”
Among the many reasons that “Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God” is suffering. Reconciling our suffering to a loving God can be challenging for those people who have a shallow view and understanding of God and Christianity. Most of human suffering I am convinced is our fault, not God’s fault. Someone might ask me, “Pastor Paul, why did God allow my brother to get killed by a drunk driver?” I could then ask in reply, “Why would someone get that drunk and then so recklessly drive home?”
Sometimes our expectation is that we can control God, and that God will give us anything we want, anytime we want it. Do I still believe that God performs miracles? Absolutely, but I think most often God uses us to be the light, the love, and the life of Christ in this world. To reject God, to reject Christ, is to then say that we have a better chance in the life apart from God, apart from Christ, and all on our own. To love God and to follow Christ is to live differently, and sometimes when we suffer it is in part because of what we have done or because of what others have done to us.
Things like cancer and diseases are tough, and I do not have all the answers friends, but we live in a broken and a sinful world. Much of human suffering happens because of us. Abandoning your faith in God, and your faith in Christ, will then mean that you will replace Christ with someone else or something else. Even when we suffer, God is with us, and Jesus still died for us. The church exists so that we can be together, love each other, proclaim the gospel and the love of Jesus Christ, and lift each other up.
I truly believe as crushing as the loses that many of us have had, if we have loving church families, then the last thing we would consider would be to abandon our faith and to abandon Christ. We do not have all the answers, sometimes God performs miracles, and sometimes people go to be with God. This being said though, God is always with us spiritually, even if we do not fully understand his plan on this side of heaven.
2. Natural Disasters:
I remember when I was a young kid, and maybe this is still true, if a car or a house was damaged in a storm, or by tornado, or a broken tree branch, insurance companies would call this an “Act of God”. Natural disasters a tricky one. Tornadoes, hurricanes, forest fire, storms, earthquakes. The responses that I have heard from those that have lost so much is, “How can a loving God allow natural disasters”? Again, I do not have all the answers, but it seems that some expect this broken and sinful world to be perfect in every way. Yet God made us with free will. We get to choose every day how we live. Do we cause natural disasters? No, not necessarily, but some scientists think that human behavior can contribute to them.
We all want a life free of pain, free of suffering, and free of natural disasters, yet this is not why Christ came to this earth. Christ came to this earth to reconcile our human brokenness to God. This means that through Christ and his death on the cross, we can be forgiven of our shame and guilt and live differently. This world though is still very broken, still filled with violence, and still has a lot of suffering. To an extent then, it can be easy for someone to sit on there couch in there living room and proclaim, “Well if there is a God, why doesn’t he fix all of this?” The answer is, Jesus did not just come to earth only to die for us, because he trained his disciples to build his church. We are supposed to live in community, to love and care for each other, and to be with each other through the best and the worst of times. Maybe we have a friend or a relative that died in natural disaster. This does not mean that there is no God, just because we do not fully understand everything. I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. I felt God move in me and in the community of faith. Just because I do not everything does not mean that there is no God. So, some people because of natural disasters “say in their hearts, “There is no God”.
One the large reasons that “Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God” is because of hypocrisy. I know some Roman Catholics that have left their churches over the clergy child molestation scandals. I know people who have left their churches because the pastor was having an affair, stealing from the church, or telling people at the pulpit to live and love like Jesus, while doing as little as possible to actually serve the church and the community they were in. I know people that abandoned their faith because some TV preachers are flying in private jets, wearing $3,000 suites, and living lifestyles that are beyond comprehension. I am not talking about wealth earned or inherited outside of ministry, but the amazingly insane amounts of wealth that some clergy gain while in ministry. Living like a king, while many of your people barely get by.
I have heard people say, “Well if the pastor or the priest cannot be trusted, then why should be part of the church at all?” These fair questions, I think. I agree with these arguments to. Pastors and priests are not perfect, but we are held to a higher standard, and we are expected to do our best, with God’s help, to live and model the Christian faith. When we fail to do this, or when the church itself fails to love like the church that Christ has called us to live like, the world can see us as hypocrites. On some level we are all hypocrites. There is nothing wrong being successful in life, as long as we realize that we have been entrusted with what God has allowed to have. If we have been given much, much is expected.
What I am driving at here, is that the church, the clergy, and all of us, as much as we will fail at times, really needs to try to live all of this out. When we live all of this out well, the hypocrisy will decrease, and people will see a community of Christians that are not perfect but are following a perfect savior. People will see a community of people that includes rich, poor, and everything in between, but are all broken people redeemed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
As your pastor, I am not perfect. I have and I will likely make more mistakes. I love God, I believe in Jesus, and everyday I try to serve and love like Jesus for the right reasons. May we all strive to live and love like Jesus.
4. Misunderstanding who God is:
As a Baptist seminary classmate of mine said, “God is not a cosmic butler, and he does not just bring us everything we always want”. Some “Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God” because they expect God to do anything they want any time they want it. It is amazing how some people start praying when a crisis hits their lives and they ask God to help them, especially when they have not talked to God in years. Friends, we have to own our own brokenness. We cannot blame everything on God. God is not a vending machine that just dispenses everything we want. Further, when we think this, we remove our personal responsibility. If a man is drunk driving at 100 miles per hour, and the police pull him over, does he really expect that God will get him out of it? I mean really. Could God do this? Yes, of course God could, but God is not a rich uncle that bails out every time we are in trouble. God is our creator, his son is our savior, and his Holy Spirit fills and guides us. Just because we know God does not mean that everything, we think we want will become a reality, but rather to know Christ is a spiritual relationship. Christ changes us, so that we can change Sidney and the world.
If you read the Book of Job in the Old Testament for example, Job suffered, but God was with him. The Apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh, and every time he asked God to take it from him, God said, “my grace is sufficient for thee”. Knowing God does not mean that we will not suffer or that we will always get everything we want, but it does mean what Psalm 23:1 says:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4, NRSV).
We all have, will, or are suffering, but brothers and sisters, as a loving family of faith, we laugh, we cry, and we suffer together. Christianity and our faith are not just about getting what we want, it is also about who we are and how we live. Our faith is our words, our beliefs, and our behaviors and our actions.
5. Human Sin:
A fifth reason that “Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God” is because of how broken and sinful humanity is. Some might say, “If there is really loving God, why would God allow so much violence and brokenness in the world?” God could have not given us free will, but then we would be little more than robots. For example, would you rather have your kids, your family, and your friends chose to love you, or to be forced to love you? Have or were you always obedient to your parents?
God created us with free will so that we would daily choose him and live and love like Jesus. This is why I preach the gospel, this is why I believe that the gospel is the hope of the world. Through Jesus we can be forgiven, become a new creation and we can live for God and for others. We need to be forgiven, and we need to choose to live like Jesus. We all have sin, and we cannot pretend it is not there. We also cannot pawn off our sin onto others. Humanity is broken brothers and sisters, and the answer is Jesus Christ.
While there are many more than five reasons that some Christians leave the church, stop believing in God, and stop following Christ, these are five very common ones. Yet, many people still believe in God, and many people still love Jesus. Some have been hurt by the church, some have seen the hypocrisy of some churches, and some just cannot reconcile their pain and their suffering with God. The reality though, is that God is with us, no matter what comes our way in this life.
In fact, in our reading from Ephesians 3:14-21 for this morning, it says once again in 3:16-19:
“16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19, NRSV).
The Apostle Paul is talking about asking God to strengthen our inner being, and that Christ may dwell in our hearts. The Apostle Paul says we should pray and ask God to fill us, so that we may be grounded in love, and so that we may know the amazing love of God through Jesus Christ.
Things do not always go our way, nor do we always get everything that we think we want. Jesus did not come to earth so that we would never suffer, instead he came to reconcile us to our Heavenly Father. Jesus came to restore us, to change us, so that no matter what happens, we can share his love, his hope, and his grace, so that we can live this life of faith out together as a church.
We see in our gospel of John lesson for this morning once again, the miraculous nature of Jesus Christ. This morning, Jesus feeds the five thousand. This is five thousand men, but counting the women and the children, it is much more. There is enough food for everyone, with plenty left over. Jesus then walks on water while the disciples are in the boat. The sea was rough with strong winds, and when Jesus walked on the water, the boat then safely reached the other side.
One way to interrupt Jesus’ miracles is to say that nothing bad will ever happen to us. Yet, many of Jesus’s miracles, I think, tell us that Jesus is with us, and amongst us. Jesus is not only our savior, but he has taught us a new way of being and loving. Jesus is with us, God loves, even if “Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God”.
Friends, brothers, and sisters, know that God loves you and me more than we will ever know. Keep the faith, keep loving others, and know that Jesus is with us now and until the end of age. Amen.