Answer from a Fallen Tower

Steve Viars April 22, 2006 Luke 13:1-9

- for many of us, one of the most memorable days of our lives will be September 11, 2001.
- it’s one of those “where were you when you heard” kind of events...and I doubt that we will ever forget it...
- [Pics #1 & #2] – the twin towers were always a beautiful part of the NY skyline...
- when the first tower was hit, there was all sorts of confusion...what had happened?, was it an accident?....and of course how many persons were injured?, how many persons were trapped in the floors above?...
- [Pics #3, #4, & #5] - Then there was little question when the second tower was hit...
- [Pic #6] – It was inspiring to watch the rescue workers, who became known for the phrase, “when others ran out, we ran in”...to do whatever it took to rescue the survivors and free those who were trapped...

- [Pics #8, #9, & #10] – But then the unthinkable happened...the towers fell...they fell...
- [Pic #11] – Perhaps this picture says it as well as any...shock, horror, and disbelief...
- [Pic #12] – The towers fell.

- The reaction on the part of many people in our country that day was fascinating...
- there were almost instant discussions about God...
- by nightfall...even right here in our town...the signs up and down SR 26 said things like “God Bless America”...
- that was amazing on so many levels...but the focus was no longer “try our new chicken sandwich...”...now it was on our need for the blessing of God...
- that day, we started receiving calls from local media representatives asking if our church was going to be open for community prayer meetings...
- obviously that was no time for cynicism...but I found such questions fascinating...
- then came the theological questions...Is God Mad at Us?...Is this His Judgment Upon Us?...
- and then, why did some people survive and others didn’t?....
- were the people who survived objects of His pleasure, and those who died objects of His wrath?...

- those are all very important questions...and as a church we chose not to respond with cynicism...there was no...why are you calling us now?...or, you should have been asking those questions before...
- we tried to minister as clearly and compassionately and effectively as we could...

- but the events continue...the tsunami...the hurricanes...the wildfires...the tornadoes...
- and often the subject of God’s wrath and judgment are brought into the equation from all sorts of unexpected sources...
- so we decided to offer a series this spring, starting today and running for the next 4 Sundays entitled...Is God Mad At Us?

- now, I ‘d like to suggest right off the bat that God invites questions...in fact, in a moment we’re going to look at a passage of Scripture where Jesus Christ actually initiates a very similar question Himself...
- so please don’t think...we better not ask the Lord something like that?...
- I really believe God is pleased by questions...
- now, of course they need to be asked in a respectful way...with an honest desire to learn and understand...but often in Scripture we read things like this...
- Isaiah 1:18 - Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD...

- Try to imagine in your mind the God of heaven and earth sitting down and saying to you...Come, let us reason together...Let’s talk about this...I desire to communicate with you...I want you to have the answers you crave...

- By the way, that verse goes on to say...Isaiah 1:18 - Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
- so if you have a sneaking suspicion that our human condition might have something to do with all of this...let me just say at the outset...
- that God not only wants to answer our questions...he wants to solve our problems...graciously and comprehensively...
- to make us something else we really crave whether we fully understand it or not...to make us white as snow...and able to relate to Him personally, and deeply, and intimately...not as someone who might be mad at us, but as a heavenly Father who loves and cares for us as a father would care for his children...

- Is God Mad at Us?
- now, each week we are going to be looking at a passage of Scripture to try to assemble what God’s Word says about this topic...this morning, we’re talking about...
- The Answer from a Fallen Tower.
- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Luke 13?...page 58 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...page 1297 of our Chinese English Bibles...

- you’ll see that this chapter actually begins with the words “on the same occasion...”
- of course that leads us to ask...what occasion?
- and the answer to that is, Jesus has been teaching the people who were assembled...and to be honest, some of it was a bit difficult to hear...
- we’ll talk about the context in more detail in a minute, but if you just scan over chapter 12, you’ll see that the Lord is giving a series of warnings about hypocrisy, and about trusting solely in wealth, and about being unprepared to meet the Lord, and about their failure to discern the present spiritual realities around them...

- and in that context, we read these words beginning in Luke 13:1 --- READ 13:1-9

- with the time we have remaining, let’s look for Four lessons from observing the calamity of others.

I. You Must Make a Decision about Where to Turn for Answers.


- we all have questions rattling around our brains...
- and there are many ways to respond to that...

- we can try to drown them out with busyness or activity...but God has a way of allowing things to happen to make those questions surface again...they nag us—drowning them out doesn’t work...
- we can conclude that questions somehow are wrong or bad...good people don’t ask hard questions...as if God expects some kind of blind allegiance, or blind faith...
- but again...”come let us reason together”...
- many of the most powerful Psalms in the Bible are filled with the word “why”?...

- so drowning them out doesn’t work...and asking them isn’t intrinsically wrong...
- but you still have to decide...where am I going to go for the answers?...how can I know who/what is a reliable source?...please notice this...

A. The people in this passage chose to turn to Jesus Christ.
- they started talking to him about this terrible event that had occurred...
- and we don’t know for sure what they are asking about because the event is not recorded in Scripture...but apparently some Galileans were going to offer some sort of sacrifice to God...
- it was probably at Passover, because that is when persons like this would be involved in sacrifices in this way...but that’s not really the point...
- whenever it happened, Pilate, the Roman ruler had slaughtered a group of these people and their own blood mixed with the blood of the sacrifices...
- that kind of brutality would be very consistent with what we know about Pilate...
- these men and women have a question about that event and so they come and discuss it with Jesus...
- I just want to point out that:

B. This is remarkable in light of what Jesus has already been teaching.
1) Warning about hypocrisy – 12:1-12
- 12:1 – Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

2) Warning about greed and trust in wealth – 12:13-34
- 12:15 – Beware and be on guard against every form of greed.

3) Warning against being unprepared for the Son of Man’s coming – 12:35-48
- 12:47 – That slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will shall receive many lashes.

4) Warning about the coming division – 12:49-53
- 12:52 – From now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three.

5) Warning against failing to discern the present time – 12:54-59
- 12:56 – You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?

- here’s the point---What Jesus had been saying to them thus far would have been pretty difficult to swallow...
- Kent Hughes was talking about this in his commentary on Luke when he said, “A pulpit committee has been defined as a group of people in search of a man who will be totally fearless and uncompromising as he tells them exactly what they want to hear” (Kent Hughes, Luke, page 79)

- Paul told Timothy that - 2 Timothy 4:3-4 - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

- so what Jesus had been saying to them up to this point was pretty difficult to swallow, but it admirable that they kept talking, and they kept listening, and they kept asking Him questions...
- apparently they believed He was the right source of truth...even though what He said cut right across their grain in so many ways...

- now,
C. What about you?
- where are you going to turn to answer the question Is God Mad at Us?...
- that is a critical decision...
- and this series presupposes two ideas...
- there is a God...
- and He has revealed Himself to us in His sufficient Word...

- and understand that there may be people with us today who do not believe that...
- I would recommend 2 resources...[show them]...
- Reasons to Believe – which addresses the question of the existence of God and is available in the MRC...
- God Wrote a Book – which addresses the question of how the Bible came to be, and reasons to believe in its authenticity and reliability...we are actually studying that question right now in our ABF’s, and the book is also available in the MRC...

- now, if you say...well, PV, I can’t do that because I don’t want to take that kind of step of faith...
- I just would like to point this out to you...wherever you are going to go to answer this question is going to involve a step a faith...
- if you say, I am going to decide whether God is mad at us by thinking it through exclusively in my own mind...”I’ll answer the question myself...”...you have just exercised faith in the ability of your own mind...
- or, I’ll let science answer this question...you have just exercised faith in the ability of science to answer not just some questions, but all questions...
- or, I’ll believe what my friends think [faith]...or what my mom thinks [faith]...or what CNN thinks [faith]...Carl Sagen [faith...]
- there is no source of truth for answering questions like this that does not involve faith...
- so wise is the person who exercises faith in the right source...

- and that’s what these men and women did...even though what He had said thus far had been difficult to take...and even though there was a high likelihood that what He was about to say about their next question would rub them the wrong way...apparently they understood that if Jesus truly was God...it shouldn’t surprise them that what He said about a whole host of subjects would be different than what they would have come up with on their own...

- now, this next point might be surprising, but I think we need to say this...


II. God Wants People to Wonder About His Wrath.


- you say, how do we know that?...because in our passage...
A. Jesus is the One who asked the question...
  - who said what here is very instructive...
- they reported about what Pilate had done...Jesus is the One who said...do you suppose?
- verse 2 - ...Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?
- were these Galileans greater sinners than other Galileans and therefore that is why they died and others didn’t?...
- so was God mad at them because of their advanced sinfulness and the calamity proved the point?...
- can you draw that conclusion with absolute certainty?....

- now, just to be sure the point was clear...Jesus raised another example...
- what about the tower that fell?...
- and we don’t have all the details about this event either but it was possibly a tower that stood at the juncture of the east and south walls of Jerusalem and some Bible students believe that during the construction of an aqueduct to improve their water supply...the tower fell...
- again, we don’t know that for sure, but what we do know is...the tower fell and 18 people died...
- and Jesus asked essentially the same question...were they...verse 4 - ...worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?
- did they suffer this calamity because God was mad at them?...

- and if Jesus is the one raising the question...that means its a pretty good question...and it also means that apparently a lot of men and women are asking it...

- now, we need to point out...
B. Some people dismiss this question out of hand.
- Is God mad at us?...of course not...God is a God of love, and God is a God of mercy, and God is a God of forgiveness...[and incidentally, we would certainly agree with all of that and rejoice that it is true...]...
- but some individuals have no place in their theology for the wrath of God...ever...upon anyone...for anything...
- and you might be a person like that...

- my question to you would be...what do you do with a verse like Psalm 7:11...
- Psalm 7:11 - God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.
- now, would it be fair to say that that verse is pretty clear?...
- and how often is every day?...every day...including...today...

- now, I think I know what some folks would say to that...well, but that verse is from the OT...the OT God was a God of grace, the NT God is a God of wrath...
- friends, that view simply does not stand the test of Scripture...
- there is grace and mercy and love in the OT, and their wrath and anger in the NT...
- one of the seminal passages in the Bible on this entire subject is Romans chapter 1...
- we are going to devote a lot more time to this text in a subsequent message...but let me just mention it here...
- Romans 1:18 - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
- the word revealed is a present tense verb...which indicates continuous action...the wrath of God is being revealed, and will continue to be revealed...
- if the Bible is going to be our guide, there is no question about the fact that even in the NT age of grace, God is capable of wrath and anger...

- and if that thought troubles you, I would just respond to...what do you think God’s response would have been when Osama Bin Laden later recounted how he planned the attacks, and then was overjoyed when the planes not only hit the towers, but that the towers actually collapsed?...his position was, we didn’t think it would work that well...we celebrated...
- a theology that has no place for the appropriate wrath of God has inadvertently denied the centrality of the holiness of God...
- God is angry with the wicked every day...and here’s what that means...
C. If we shortened our question, the answer is definitely “yes”.
- If we’re asking, Is God mad?....meaning, Is He appropriately angry today with those would live in His world in a way that is disobedient to Him...the answer is, you better believe it...
- a theology that has no place for the wrath of God is simply not a biblical theology...

- now, perhaps one of the reasons we struggle with this is that when we think about God’s wrath, we compare it to our own...
- which, regrettably is often petty, and self-centered, and out of control...
- but just because we sometimes [often?] handle our anger inappropriately doesn’t mean that God can’t/won’t handle His correctly....
Psalm 50:21 - These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you...
Isaiah 55:8-9 - For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
  - now, something else we need to say before we get any further into this text...
D. It is possible to be delivered from God’s wrath.
- I would encourage you to take out a concordance, or use an electronic Bible study program, and look up words like wrath, and anger, and angry...it is a fascinating study...and some of the uses are very intense and straightforward and shocking...
- others are very reassuring...because we read things like...
- Romans 5:9 - Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10 - and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:9 - For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

- now if you say, OK Pastor Viars, you’ve got me wondering about this...I would suggest to you that that is good...Jesus purposely raised questions in this passage to encourage the men and women present to wonder about it as well...

- now, where does this text take us next?...


III. There is No Universal Relationship Between Calamity and Sinfulness.


- how do we know that?
A. Jesus’ clear answer: No.
- can we automatically conclude that the Galileans who died were more sinful than the other Galileans and that God was therefore mad at them?...No.
- Can we automatically conclude that the people who died when the tower in Siloam fell were more sinful than the other men in Jerusalem and that therefore God was mad at them?...No.
- the Lord could not have been clearer about that....there is no universal relationship between calamity and sinfulness...

B. On the other hand, sometimes calamity does occur because of sinfulness.
- we have to be careful to drive this car down the middle of the intellectual road...
1. Sometimes people are ill because of their sin.
- James 4:14-15 – Is anyone among you sick?  Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing his head with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
- there’s no question about the fact that some illness is the result of sinful choices...but this passage is clear---you can’t automatically conclude that about every illness...

2. Sometimes calamity strikes because a person is reaping what he’s sown.
- Galatians 6:7 - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
- so clearly, sometimes that is the case...
- but based on what Christ said emphatically in this passage...you cannot look at those who survived 9/11 and say...God was pleased with them and those who didn’t and say...God was angry with them...

- now, you might say...then how can we start to make sense of this?...we need to factor this in...
C. God can accomplish multiple purposes with multiple people with multiple spiritual conditions simultaneously.
- of the thousands of persons who died on 9/11, is it possible that some of them had ignored God and His Word for years...and had violated the warnings we saw in Luke 12...about hypocrisy, or greed, or trusting in material possessions...
- it certainly is possible...that is not for you or me to judge on an individual basis...
- but it equally possible that with others, God was providing an opportunity for ministry that those persons might not have experienced had they lived a full life...
- now, you might say, how could that be true?...
[pic of Al Braca]
- Al Braca found that to be true...Al was a corporate bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald
- he worked on the 105th floor of Tower One…and he was a committed Christian…

- Al didn't really like his job because his work environment was so opposed to his Christian values…
- that didn't stop Al from living for God or telling others about Christ…but according to his wife Jeannie, they mocked him…
- in fact many of his coworkers sarcastically nicknamed him "The Rev"…
- however, when one was facing a trial or difficulty, they would quietly search him out, and Al would tell them about Christ and pray with them…

- Al and his co-workers died on 911…but a few days later reports started surfacing about phone calls made to loved ones and e-mails being sent by people who knew they were trapped and there was no way out…telling of a man named Al leading people in prayer…
- the reports say that he had a group of 50 people gathered around…and he told them once again about the importance of trusting Christ as savior and Lord, and many prayed to receive Christ because of his testimony.
- Al's wife Jeannie later said - "We wanted to be a light and to shine and let people see Jesus in us."
- His son Christopher said, "He loved to lead people to Christ.  That takes away a lot of the hurt and the pain."

- see, God can accomplish multiple purposes with multiple people with multiple spiritual conditions simultaneously...
- so we can never know, in a given situation for others or even for ourselves...why exactly is God allowing this to happen?....Is He mad at them?...Is He mad at me?...

- now, you might say....then where does this leave us...how does this help?....this text is very clear about that...


IV. God Allows Calamity to Teach and Challenge Us.


- what point did Christ make in both illustrations He used?...
A. Examine your need to repent.
- Luke 13:3 - I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
- Luke 13:5 - I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

- It doesn’t matter why God allowed the Galileans to suffer their fate, or the people at the Tower of Siloam...He had individual purposes for each one of them...
- But...those events could be used as powerful teaching tools to remind His hearers of the brevity of life...

- and friend, I would say to you...if you have never come to Christ in repentance and faith...you have not yet been delivered from the wrath that is to come...
- because if you agree that a God who is holy ought to be angry at a person like Osama Bin Laden...then start moving the line to the place where that anger should stop...and the line comes to this point...perfection, holiness...no sin...or sin being covered by the blood of the Lamb...
- repent, or you will likewise perish...

- believing friend, the principle is still in play for us...thankfully a Christian has been rescued from the wrath that is to come...but there is such a thing as fatherly displeasure....
- Peter was one of Christ’s disciples, but that didn’t stop him from facing Christ’s anger a time or two...
- sometimes people who say they know Christ are still living in hypocrisy, or greed, or trust in material things....
- and God would want calamity to remind us of the importance of ongoing repentance...

- now, what about the person who would say....I haven’t repented thus far...and nothing has happened...
- that’s why Jesus told this parable about the fig tree...
B. Don’t respond to God’s patience with presumption.
- this fig tree existed that way for a period of time...but then the owner said...take it down...
- and the vinekeeper said....could we give it another year?...let’s fertilize it and water it and see if it will change...
- and the owner made it clear...OK...one more year....

- and friend, every time we see one of these calamities, we ought to say....could God use this to point out a way I need to grow?...

C. Cultivate fruitfulness that the consistent reminders of calamity imply.
- [cf. going down to Mr Spear’s house after the flood...dear man...but that event resulted in repentance in the lives of many of us...
- these material things up and down this road aren’t worth much...beware of covetousness...]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video