What God Thinks of Terrorism

Steve Viars September 16, 2001 Psalms 10:1

- many of us would say that we have trouble remembering dates…

- if we can stay on top of our family member’s birthdays and our wedding anniversary if we’re married, we feel like we’re doing pretty well.

- but there are some dates that practically everyone knows…

- because it marks something so significant, so life altering, that it is almost impossible to forget.

- one of those days is Pearl Harbor Day…December 7, 1941. 

- some of our congregation remember that day because they were alive and old enough to take in images they’ve never forgotten…

- some here were called into military service, and fought and served to preserve the freedoms our nation enjoys today…

- some made spiritual decisions during those days, because they were taught firsthand about the importance of having your faith in a God who was worthy of one’s trust…

- those of us who are younger know about this day from looking at photographs, or watching documentaries…but for many of us, it seemed so surreal..that anyone could behave in such a cowardly and sinister fashion…

- it was hard to believe that it could ever happen then…and certainly unthinkable that it could ever happen again.

 

- but that’s all changed now, isn’t it?…

- the events of this week are almost beyond belief…

- you watch those images, and read the accounts…and you can’t imagine people who’s hearts are so filled with wickedness, and evil, and cowardice…

- and to think that that happened here, on this continent, in our country, it this day and age.

- many of us have been helped by listening to the thoughts and opinions of others…

- we’ve heard from the news reporters…

- and from our nation’s leaders…and other officials around the world…

- we’ve heard from emergency workers and various experts and even from the average person on the street…and much of that has been helpful…

- but there’s still a lot of questions…perhaps the chief of which is, How is a Christian supposed to respond to all of this?

- we say with the apostle Paul that we make it our goal to please God, but what does that look like after September 11, 2001…9/11?

- and of course to answer that, we need more than human opinions….

- with the Psalmist we say in Psalm 61 --- From the ends of the earth I will cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

- we need words from God…and thankfully He has given us those words in the Bible…

- Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth…

- Peter was right when He said that in God’s Word, we have all we need for life and godliness…

 

- This morning, I’d like us to study together about What God Thinks of Terrorism.

- Please open your Bible to Psalm 10 [page 396 of the front section of the Bible in the pew in front of you].

- Terrorism is not new to the modern age.

- I understand what people mean when they say that we are facing a different kind of enemy today, but the truth is that the same kind of behavior that we witnessed this week is practically as old as mankind.

- it’s true that the “flying jets through buildings part” is new, but the similarities throughout history far outweigh the differences.

- and thankfully, God led David, a person whom the NT calls “a man after God’s own heart” to write several Psalms about the right response to these kinds of actions.

- I think you’ll find certain words and phrases in this Psalm to be an amazingly accurate description of what we’ve witnessed this week.

 

- READ Psalm 10

 

- as I said a moment ago, we’ve titled these verses What God Thinks of Terrorism.

- and I’d like to propose to you that in this passage we can find Three steps to responding properly to the events of this week.

 

I.  Be Sure to Ask the Right Questions About Terrorism.

- If you’ve ever studied the Psalms, you know that different Psalms are organized in different ways.

- some begin with the conclusion, then state the problem, then propose a set of answers that lead back to the conclusion.

- others state the problem or the question, then wrestle with the issues, and then present a solution.

- Psalm 10 falls in that second category.

- in verse 1, David is just pouring out his heart to God.

- now please notice, there’s no indication of disrespect….these are not “questions with a clenched fist.”

- but I’d like to propose to you this morning that what we read in the early part of this Psalm is an important model of how God wants us to relate to Him.

[A.  Illustrated in David’s situation.]

- David asks the questions on everyone’s mind….

- Lord, it appears that you are standing afar off…it appears that you are hiding Yourself from us in our very hour of need…Why is that Lord?…

- what are you doing?…

- what are you up to?…

- I don’t understand this…I don’t like this…in fact, I don’t understand you…

 

- now, I realize that some people have no place in their concept of a Christian’s relationship with their God that would include the appropriateness of these kinds of conversations…but I would propose to you that persons like that need to spend more time in the Psalms…

- there is nothing wrong with you posing hard questions to the Lord…or expressing frustration to the Lord…

- now of course that can be done in a sinful way…but I’m saying that that process is not automatically sinful…in fact, I would suggest that many times it is actually a sign of godliness…

- and here’s why….the beauty of Biblical Christianity, in contrast to all the religions of the world, is that it is a personal relationship with a personal God.

- we’ll study a little later about how this kind of relationship can be established…but for now its enough to say that many times, what makes for a genuine, meaningful, relationship with God is the same kinds of things that make for a genuine, meaningful, relationship with another person.

- I don’t know about you, but sanitized, airbrushed, prissy relationships don’t do much for me…where everybody is sitting up straight and minding their p’s and q’s.

- I want someone who will be honest with me, and someone who wants me to be honest with them…

- if I have questions, I want to be able to ask them…if I’m hurt, I want to be able to express that…if I’m confused, or frustrated, or even angry…I want to be able to communicate that…

- and again, all of those things can be communicated in a way that is disrespectful and sinful…but that kind of communication is not intrinsically wrong…in fact, done well it can be marvelously right.

- the man after God’s own heart asks the questions that should have been asked, and that’s exactly what he should have been doing.

[B.  Applied to our situation]

- where does that leave you and me?

- friend, if you’re here today with questions, whether you’ve attended this church for years or whether you’re here for the very first time…you’re welcome at this discussion…

- I believe God invites, welcomes people who come with honest, difficult, passionate questions.

- like He said to the people in Isaiah’s day….Isa. 1:18 - Come, let us reason together, says the Lord….

- here’s some of the questions that I think many of us have, that I’d like to try to address from this passage in the rest of our time together.

1.  Where was God on September 11, 2001?

2.  What would motivate people to commit such a crime?

3.  Did the people in the planes or the buildings do something to bring such calamity upon themselves?

4.  What should we be thinking about the firefighters, policemen, and rescue workers involved?

5.  What should we think about the people in our community/church who are of Arab descent?

6.  What should we think about people in our community/world who practice Islam?

7.  Was it appropriate for our president to quote from the Bible in his speech to the nation?

8.  What should we make of the members of congress singing God Bless America on the steps of the Capitol building?

9.  How could God possibly work these events for good as He promised in Romans 8:28?

10.  What should we be thinking about the future?

11.  Is it acceptable for us to be angry?

12.  Is it acceptable for our country to retaliate militarily?

13.  Could God ever forgive such people?  Do we have to?

14.  How should we be praying?

15.  What lessons can we learn?

- if you come this morning with those kinds of questions, I’d like to suggest that you may have a heart that’s quite similar to David’s…and that’s not necessarily bad…in fact, I think it very well could be very, very good.[I.  Be Sure to Ask the Right Questions About Terrorism.]

 

- here’s the second step we see in the Psalm.

II.  Be Sure to Make the Right Descriptions about Terrorism.

- some reports have focused on the brilliance of these attacks…how well-planned they were and how outside funding must have been involved…[I guess that’s one way to describe them…]

- of course a Palestinian newspaper had said that morning “The suicide bombers of today are the noble successors of their noble predecessors…[they] are the salt of the earth, the engines of history…They are the most honorable people among us.”

- in contrast to all that, verses 2-11 tell how God would describe them…

 

A.  They prey on innocent and unsuspecting people.

- did you note the key phrases in this text?…

- pursue the afflicted – v. 2

- mouth is full of curses, deceit, and oppression – v. 7

- under his tongue is mischief and wickedness – v. 7

- sits in the lurking places of the villages – v. 8

- in the hiding places he kills the innocent – v. 8

- his eyes stealthily watch for the unfortunate – v. 8

- he lurks in a hiding place as a lion in his liar – v. 9

- he lurks to catch the afflicted – v. 9

- he catches the afflicted when he draws him into his net – v. 9

- he crouches, he bows down, and the unfortunate fall by his mighty hand – v. 10

- friends, that’s a picture of the depravity of man.

- can you imagine going to the terminal of an airport, and sitting among the people you’re about to murder?…do you look them in the face?…do you smile when they greet you?…Do you accept their offer to share the newspaper?

- do you greet the stewardesses?…do you accept the complimentary beverages?

- what about the people in the buildings?

- what about the firefighters, policemen, rescues workers who had already responded to the attack on the first building?

 

- Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?…and every so often God allows us to see the depth of the depravity of man.

- of course we need to face that our culture has struggled with that…

- we welcomed BF Skinner’s view that human beings were born morally neutral and simply needed the right environment to do well.

- we were more enthusiastic about Carl Rogers and his view that human beings are born morally positive…

- our culture has not wanted to face the biblical teaching of the depravity of man.

- that doctrine is a bit easier to believe today…as we’ve watched the wanton disregard of human life..just like Psalm 10 describes.

 but friends, can I be brutally honest with you for a moment…hasn’t this country shown the same level of disregard for human life?

- that’s what I thought was particularly ironic about the joint session of Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol Building singing God Bless America.

- I want to ask, God who?

- its true that many of our elected officials are godly people and are very willing to take stands on morality and the dignity of life.

- but its also true that many of those people who were singing were the same ones just a couple of weeks ago who had already convened special hearings to block the president’s restrictions on stem cell research that he had made on the basis of principled morality.

- and many of those were the same people who could not bring themselves to vote to ban partial birth abortion, a heinous form of murder that has plagued this country for decades.

- why was the murder of thousands in the Trade Center a wicked thing but the murder of millions of babies each year in this country an acceptable thing?

 

- our country needs to get it straight, its either God bless America or not, but you can’t have it both ways.

- and I’m not advocating some kind of state church or officially endorsed state religion, but I am advocating an openness to religious ideas in public life…

- many it’s not time for a few people to repent, maybe its time for a lot of us to repent.

- godly people place a high value on human life…all human life.

 

- now, as always in the Bible, God does not simply focus on behavior, but he focuses on the heart…

B.  Their hearts are characterized by pride.

- please mark the first two words in verse 2 very carefully…in pride…

- John Calvin said this – Pride is the mother of all wrongs; for if a man did not through pride magnify himself above his neighbors, and through an overweening conceit of himself despise them, even common humanity would teach us with what humility and justice we ought to conduct ourselves towards each other.  Let everyone, therefore, who desires to live justly and unblameably with his brethren, beware of indulging or taking pleasure in treating others disdainfully; and let him endeavor, above all things, to have his mind freed from the disease of pride.

 

- the point is, many times we think of terrorism as an action…God’s Word suggests first and foremost that it is a condition of the heart.

 

- perhaps the bottom line of all of this is in verse 4…

C.  Their hearts are filled with unbelief.

- now you might say, PV, that’s where this passage doesn’t fit the contemporary context.

- because, though we don’t know for sure yet who was behind this particular event…

- we suspect that much of the terrorism of the world comes from certain radical Muslim groups…and talk a lot about God…

- now please hear this very carefully…Most Muslims would be completely against what happened this week.

- it would be grossly wrong for us to be unkind to any Arab persons who might live in our community, or to anyone who practices Islam.

- but verse 4 is not talking about people who believe in no god…they are people who have refused to believe in the God of the Bible.

- and the Koran is very clear…any place the Koran, which was written after the Bible, goes against the Bible, the Koran is right and the Bible is wrong.

- and one of the chief ways that religions are different is that Christianity is a system of grace, and all other world religions are systems of works.

- and I strongly believe this…that it is much more likely for a country that has been impacted by the grace of biblical Christianity, to want to treat other people both inside and outside their borders with grace.

- religious ideas do have consequences…and countries that have no religious influence, or works based religious influences often are dangerous places, and war-torn places, or hateful places…

- whereas countries that have been impacted by the God of the Bible, and a system of salvation by grace, are often champions of freedom, and decency, and mutual love and respect…that is a natural response to the free gift of the grace of God.

 

- now, friends, that’s one of the ways that God could work this situation for good.

- by forcing all of us to slow up and ask the question…what are you believing…what are you trusting in?…who is your God?…what is your source of truth?…is it time to declare your allegiance and take your stand?

 

- now this is a very hard thing to hear…but I need to say it…there is a little bit of terrorism in all of us.

- if the characteristics of terrorism are pride, and unbelief, and misuse of people…who among us would say that we are completely without sin?

- see, if we say….its those wicked terrorists, and us and God…we’re not thinking correctly.

- if we’re any different than others who have grossly sinned…it’s only by the grace of God.

 

- friend, can I ask you this morning, what are you trusting in to get to heaven?

- we’ve had this incredible reminder of the depravity of man…

- and maybe you’re not as sinful…

- but if God is a holy God, and sin separates us from God…where does that leave us?

- answer --- in need of his grace…

- and friends, he demonstrated that grace by sending His son to die on the cross for us…

- but you have to decide what you’re going to trust…what you’re going to believe…and I’d like to invite you, in the uncertainty of this hour, to become a believer in Jesus Christ…

- He’s the Prince of Peace…He’s the One who made it possible to reconciled to the heavenly Father…will you place your faith/trust in Him?  [if time, hit the issue of dates – Pearl Harbor Day --- 9/11/01 --- The day you trusted Christ]

 

- By the way, did you know that the Bible contains a story about a tower that fell and a number of people were killed?

- that’s right --- it’s in Luke 13…where a group of people ask Jesus about the Tower of Siloam that fell and a number of people were killed.

- their question was, did that calamity befall them because of their own sin?

- here was our Lord’s answer…

- Luke 13:5 - I tell you, no…

- but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.

- now, this isn’t just a matter of trusting God for salvation, its also a matter of trusting Him every day.

- friends, it is possible to get so caught up in the routine of life…that pretty soon we trust our bank accounts, retirement funds, material possessions, entertainment outlets…

- I don’t believe in trying to scare people, or encourage them to make decisions on the basis of emotions…did you see the interview with Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister of Israel?

- a wake up call from hell

- they will do it again

- if they had had access to nuclear weapons, they would have used them…

 

- friends – are we trusting in our country’s ability to eradicate terrorism?

- cf. questions asked at airports…has anyone unknown to you…

 

- Jeremiah 9:23-24 - Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, "declares the LORD.

 

- Psalm 46:1-2 - God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear…

 

- the point is that God can use the tragedy of this week to help each of evaluate what we’re trusting in…whether we’ve put our faith in things that can’t be taken away.

 

- now, we’ve seen two important steps thus far…

I.  Be Sure to Ask the Right Questions about Terrorism.

II.  Be Sure to Make the Right Descriptions about Terrorism.

 

III.  Be Sure to Draw the Right Conclusions about Terrorism.

- read 16-18.

A.  The God of the Bible is worthy of our trust.

- Isaiah 40:8 - The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

- this Psalm calls us to evaluate who is going to be our King…whose flag we’re going to follow…to whose will we’re going to submit.

- Friend, will you…

1.  Trust Him with your vengeance.

- there’s nothing wrong with being angry about what happened…but there is something wrong with being sinfully angry.

- there’s nothing wrong with praying that these will be avenged…but there is something wrong with you or I talking revenge into our own hands.

- vengeance is mine….saith the Lord.

 

- now you might say, well, is it acceptable then for our nation to retaliate?

- what God calls nations to do, and what he calls individuals to do are two different things…

- Romans 13:4 – [Government] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.

 

- but the question here is, can you trust God with the revenge you might want to exact yourself?

 

2.  Trust Him in obeying hard commands

 

- deal with forgiveness…

- cf. “Father, forgive them…”

- cf. sermon on the mount, beatitudes…

 

3.  Trust him by not being a respector of persons

 

- deal with proper treatment of the “aliens” among us [how would you like to be a middle-easterner living/studying in the US right now?

 

4.  Trust Him by being thankful.

- we have the freedoms we have today because God enabled the previous generations to stand up to evil.

- many of us are quick to criticize our country…we have a lot to be thankful for…

 

[use power point pic of statue of liberty]

 

5.  Trust Him by praying.

- for our President [mention him quoting Psalm 23 the other night]

- for the families of the victims

- for the rescue workers who died…

- for the rescue workers still working…

- for the proclamation of the gospel…

 

6.  Trust him by repenting.

 

B.  Develop compassion for those who are innocent and weak.

 

Jesus the Prince of Peace…

- peace between you and God

- peace between you and people

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