2001-10-06 - Responding to September 11th
This devotional is a sermon that was preached by our Pastor, Doug McClean.
It has helped us to better understand what is happening around us, since the events of September 11th, 2001. The sermon is somewhat long, but we felt that it was appropriate and that it would be a blessing to you. The sermon does not necessarily represent the beliefs of all of the staff of Christian Fellowship Devotionals.
We're certainly a nation shaken, a country in shock as thousands of people have perished by this act of terror, of base barbarism, of manifest evil. We're a people faced with new fears as we've all seen the evidence of how vulnerable we truly are. After the initial shock, the questions began as people attempted to make some sense of this senseless event.
People all over are asking: Why? Why did this happen?” They have even asked, “ Why would God allow this to happen”? Who did this? Who's behind this? What does this signify? “What should we do next?
For most of our country, such a tragedy was unthinkable. The events that transpired during that week seem like a bad dream. I heard one reporter say on Tuesday that many people in New York City were saying, "This seems like a movie." The tragedies of September 11th are unarguably surreal, and yet we wake up and we see the reality, the evidence --- the families now without Daddies or Mommies - the wives and husbands frantically searching, just hoping to find their spouses alive -- people all over mourning - suffering -- shaken.
It's not a mistake that you are here in this country, at this moment in time. Like Esther in Persia, you, Christian, are here -- in America, for such a time as this. God has a purpose and a plan for your existence. He knew about the events that occurred on September 11th from eternity. He knew about these things before you were conceived. You're here now, not by chance -- but by design.
Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
As a Christian, you are here as Christ's ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20,) as His representative to this sorrowing world. You've been given the privilege of bringing the condolences of our King to a mourning land. You as a Christian have been given the answers, the stewardship of the truth, and the custody of the light. You have comfort, to comfort those in trouble. You have hope for the hopeless. You have strength for the weak. You have healing for the hurting. You have peace for those in turmoil. You have security for those who are insecure. You have the resources of Heaven to reach out to the needs of the world. What a privilege you have to be, Christ's representative in this time of great crisis --- and what a responsibility! But don't shrink back. Stand, not in your strength, but in HIS power - the POWER of the Holy Spirit. Remember, JESUS promised in Acts 1:8: But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the Earth.
Jesus has not only given you a mission and a message, but also HIS MIGHT to carry out HIS mission and to deliver HIS message! I'd like to discuss some of the questions people are asking. To do this, we will be going through the scriptures, using scripture to address the issues at hand -- just as Hebrews 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:16 encourage us to do.
The purpose of this endeavor is to encourage you in your faith, to enable you to discern truth and error (for you will hear a lot of religious talk about what has taken place) and to equip you to take up the mission to which God has called you. We've heard a lot about briefings -- Security Council briefings, Pentagon briefings, press briefings, White House staff briefings, Congressional briefings. Today, we're here as ambassadors of the KING - to receive a briefing, not from my word, but from the WORD of OUR King. Our all-knowing King wants you and me, His ambassadors, to be equipped, to be prepared, to be ready -- so let's tune in and listen to what He has to say.
One of the questions that has repeatedly been asked from the beginning of this horrific event is - "Who is responsible for this tragedy? Who did it? Who orchestrated this bombing? Who's behind these hijackers?" The question is being asked so that we as a nation can determine our response.
We know, without a doubt, who ultimately is behind this tragedy. And no, it's not Bin-Laden. Who is behind it? The ultimate prognosticator, the ultimate terrorist, the ultimate worker of evil, Satan himself, is the mastermind. Jesus called Satan the "thief" who has come "to kill and to destroy." Make no mistake about it; this tragedy has Satan's fingerprints all over it. It was a work of deception. It was a work of darkness. It was fueled by hate. It was unjust. It was merciless. It was EVIL.
Jesus spoke of the devil in John 8:44, Jesus described the devil saying:
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
This was the work of a murderer and a liar - the devil himself. Yes, he used willing people, but the real enemy is behind the scenes. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Septmeber 11th was an evil day a day of darkness.
I'm emphasizing this for two reasons:
1st. Some people are confused about who the bad guys and the good guys are in this situation. You may have heard it. Some people are actually blaming God or attributing this work to GOD. My God did not do this. The prince of the power of the air did this. My JESUS didn't do this. The spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience did this. The ruler of this world did this. Satan did this.
JESUS said in John 10:10: I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
JESUS came to bring life - not this time of carnage.
“ Oh,” but some say, “this is the judgment of GOD against America.” They say America has sinned against GOD. They say that this is God's judgment for the innumerable abortions, for banning school prayer, for turning our backs on GOD. Listen, we are a nation of SINNERS; but this is not God's judgment on our sin. We deserve far worse. As Lamentations 3:22-23 declares: Through the LORD'S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
We deserve destruction. We deserve God's wrath. But this is not the time of God's wrath. This is the time of God's patience and mercy as He's seeking for all men everywhere to repent. As Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
There is a time of judgment coming, but this isn't it. The Bible speaks of a coming time of WRATH - but this isn't it. When God pours out HIS wrath, He will be righteous. He will be open that HE is the one doing it. It will be clear to all that the WRATH of GOD is being poured out against MEN. I stand by the authority of scripture and tell you, this event pales in comparison to the days when God's wrath will be poured out. This event is tragic and devastating, but it's not God's judgment.
Turn for just a moment to the book of Revelation. I'd like to point to a few verses to show you what God's wrath will look like.
Revelation 6:8 - At the beginning of the time of God's wrath, 1/4 of the population of the planet will die.
Revelation 6:13-17 - When God pours out HIS wrath it will be evident to all - through the supernatural occurrences, that it is the wrath of JESUS - the LAMB.
Revelation 9:15 - By this point, over 1/2 the population of the Earth will be dead.
Revelation 16:18-21 - Not just buildings, but whole cities will fall. It won't be planes and terrorists doing the work - it will be 75-pound hailstones and great earthquakes.
It will be a terrible time on the planet. In fact, JESUS said in Matthew 24:21-22 regarding this coming time: For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake, those days will be shortened.
The world deserves God's judgment; but what we're seeing is not God's judgment. God is not making us pay for our sin. He's waiting for the world to repent. God does not arbitrarily pour out HIS judgment. Remember Lot in Sodom? He was pulled out before God poured out His judgment. Remember how Abraham petitioned the Lord in Genesis 18? The Lord assured Abraham that he would not destroy the righteous with the wicked.
There were believers in the planes and in the buildings that were destroyed on September 11th, and we know and can declare by the authority of Scripture that believers will not suffer God's wrath -- tribulation and trials in this world, certainly - but not God's wrath.
1 Thessalonians 5:9: For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you believe in JESUS, you will not suffer the wrath of GOD; you will not be punished for your sins - FOR JESUS already took the punishment you deserve. He took the wrath we deserve. HE bore our sins in HIS own body on the tree. HE became sin for us. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. Those who believe will not experience God's wrath; no, those who believe will experience God's rest. Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, concerningthis in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 "....it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This week's tragedy was not an angry GOD punishing America. What we saw this week was a cowardly act, demonically charged, Satanically cruel - an outlash of the enemy. Don't get confused about who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. Don't blame this on GOD.
Now, some may say this is God's discipline of America, not His wrath. Listen to the words of Hebrews 12:5-8: And you have forgotten the exhortation, which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons: "For what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons."
This could only be God's chastening on the United States of America if the USA was God's nation - if we all were God's children. This is simply not the case. We are not "God's chosen people" as a nation. Only those who "receive Him" are children of God (John 1:12).
Those who have received Jesus are not citizens here, but rather, are citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). We who believe are sojourners and pilgrims here (1 Peter 2:10-11). Jesus said inJohn 18:36: My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but My kingdom is not from here.
The Lord is not dealing in this situation with a nation of His children. Israel is the Earthly nation that God has chosen and they are the ones that the LORD will chasten as a nation in the tribulation period while HE punishes the world.
People in America are being affected by sin - no doubt. But this bombing is not a direct result of our sin. Jeremiah 2:19 says: Your own wickedness will correct you, And your backslidings will rebuke you.
Paul wrote in Galatians 6:7:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
The impurity and immorality in our country is itself a rebuke to those who participate in it. There are direct consequences of immorality -emptiness, futility, confusion, shame, and guilt, even sickness. But planes' flying into buildings is not a direct consequence of our sins.
My second reason for emphasizing that this attack was a work of Satan is to help you to understand our proper response to this cruel act of terrorism. Understand that our leaders do have a responsibility, given by GOD to obtain justice and to maintain order. Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-4 of this responsibility:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, Be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Therefore, we should wholeheartedly support the efforts of our President in bringing the guilty to justice. Our leaders have a responsibility give to them by GOD to execute wrath on them. But with that said, knowing the true identity of the enemy -- Satan -- should affect our strategy as Christians.
You see, you can punish the terrorist organizations and the countries that support them - but Satan is still on the loose, deceiving and inspiring FALSE religions that actually encourage this type of senseless and cruel activity. We can take out terrorists and their organizations - but this activity will still continue.
What should we do? How do we battle against Satan? THE best course of action is to SPREAD the GOSPEL of JESUS CHRIST.
THE GOSPEL of JESUS Christ is what changes the hearts of men. Make no mistake; this root of the problem is in the heart of man. This is sin. THE GOSPELis the only hope for change. The truth of JESUS can set them free. It's no mistake that this headwater of terrorism is the place that is the most closed off to the GOSPEL.
If you really want to see that this sort of cruelty never happens again - PRAY - PRAY for missionaries. PRAY for Satan to be bound and blinders to be lifted, so that people can come to understand the truth. Support missions -- and tell everyone you can about JESUS. The terrorists don’t need to be eradicated; they need to be converted.
So, knowing the identity of the bad guy helps us to respond appropriately and effectively. If we member this is a work of Satan, we'll respond with compassion and a renewed zeal to spread the GOSPEL. IF we attribute this to GOD, then our tone will be condemning, and our focus will b eon sin instead of the SAVIOR.
Now, don't for a moment, think that Satan has been victorious - because he hasn't. The LORD is the ultimate victor - and the LORD has the ability to take what Satan has meant for evil and turn it around and use it for our good. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
The Lord will use this tragic event for OUR GOOD - HE will. Although this event is not punitive - it is revelatory. It reveals to us a lot about ourselves. This is one of the WAYS the LORD will use this event in OUR lives.
Please turn with me to Matthew 7, and let's look at the words of JESUS concerning trouble, concerning crisis situations. Matthew 7:24-27 Please note: In JESUS' illustration, the rain, the floods, and the winds came on both men's houses. This illustrates how trouble, how crisis situations come into the lives of all. Everyone on this planet faces hardship - believers and non-believers alike are dealing with life-changing crisis situations.
JESUS clearly teaches that although all experience hardship and crisis - not all come through the crisis in the same way. Some come through crisis situations standing’ others come through with a great loss - losing everything they have sought to build.
What determines the outcome? In this story, JESUS says, it's the location of their building. Those who build on the rock - see what they build endure. Those who build on the sand - see what they have built - fall.
JESUS tells us that building on the ROCKis hearing and doing what HE says. JESUS tells us that building on the SAND is hearing what JESUS says while not doing what HE says. Both heard - but only one did what he heard. One heard and believed and therefore did. The other heard and chose not to trust the word of JESUS and therefore not to do the word of JESUS - but rather built his own way. The one who built on the sand heard but didn't do. He may have even confused hearing the word with doing the word -for that happens all the time.
You may not have seen the difference between the two buildings before the storm. The storm revealed the foundation. The STORM clearly revealed what the foundation of each man's house truly was.
Our country is going through a storm. Some are going through the storm - standing with faith in GOD - trusting in HIS word. Others, well, they're devastated their lives have been turned upside down -- all that they build upon, their basic ideas and philosophies have come down. This storm is destroying false notions, false beliefs, false philosophies -- It's evident, you can see it, you hear it --- people that do not know JESUS do not have answers --- all that they built in their minds -- has been swept away by this storm.
It's tragic, but it's also an opportunity for US, to point to the TRUTH and to encourage people to NOW build on the foundation - to look to JESUS and to do what JESUS says. THE buildings that man has built apart from GOD are being swept away -- so that people have the opportunity to look to JESUS - to build the right way - to build on the ROCK - the firm foundation. This requires FAITH - real faith that hears, believes and does the WORDS of JESUS.
When you see people whose lives have been torn down - share the words of JESUS - and encourage them to build on the firm foundation -- on JESUS. This great tragedy is a huge storm that reveals to all of us - as a nation - and each of us as individuals - what we have been building upon. SO the LORD takes this terrorism as uses for our good by revealing to us truth about our own lives - but it's not only being used for our good in its revelation - but also, this tragedy OUR KING is seeking to use to correct our perspective OR you could say to CHANGE our FOCUS.
It's the Lord's desire that we focus on things eternal. (Hebrews 12:25-29)
WE have the free will to choose to serve GOD or to refuse GOD. Tragedies like we face, are reminders of the temporal nature of material things. Often it's material things that captivate our lives - that predominate our lives. We have a vivid reminder that all things we make -- all Earthly things -- will one day be destroyed. The Lord is going to eventually shake everything, and only what is eternal will remain. His Kingdom will endure forever and ever. Everything Earthly is at risk - in fact, is essentially doomed to destruction. That's why JESUS said in
Matthew 6:19-21: Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
All that is Earthly is vulnerable to natural corrosion and the assaults of the enemy. Just as the two towers crashed to the ground - one day it will all come down. But that which is Heavenly is out of the reach of the enemy. No terrorist can steal what is eternal. The devil cannot take Heavenly treasures.
1 Peter 1:3 declares: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
No terrorist can take Heaven away from YOU. The devil cannot snatch you from the Father's hand. No Earthly event can separate you from the LOVE of GOD that is in CHRIST JESUS our LORD.
As Paul wrote in Romans 8:38 & 39:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Everything that we see, all the material things we enjoy, will one day pass away. But ETERNAL things will remain. Let this event correct your focus. Focus on the eternal -- not the temporal. JOHN wrote in HIS first EPISTLE,
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
The Lord is seeking to use this event to get us to focus on eternal things - not Earthly things. The best we can do on our own will perish - but all that the LORD gives endures forever. SO the LORD, and the things of the LORD, should be our focus. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17 & 18: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Eternity is what really matters. The Lord is seeking to lead us all to look to HIM. The devil wants us to look down in despair. Jesus wants us to look up in hope. The Lord is seeking to use this event to reveal to each person truth about what he's building upon. The LORD is seeking to get all of us to focus on eternal things. He's also seeking to use this event to remind all of the brevity of life. Yes, some are blessed with 85 years - for others, their lives can be snuffed out in a moment. None of us knows the day of our departure. We are not aware of when we will die. But history has proven thus far that we all die.
Hebrews 9:27: And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.
The people who went to work that day in the Twin Towers had no idea what was about to happen to them. The people who got on their planes that day had no idea that their lives would end that morning. Many did have time to get right with GOD. Many did not. The point is, you do. You have an opportunity today, to repent of your sin and to place your trust in JESUS Christ as your LORD and SAVIOR.
This is our message - this is the good news. THIS life can be horrible and unjust - tragedy occurs -- people are victims of the sin of mankind. But JESUS offers LIFE eternal to all who trust in HIM. This life is temporary. His life is eternal. Today the LORD is mercifully giving you the opportunity to look to HIM for forgiveness and peace - hope and everlasting LIFE.
This world is not going to get better. Scripture indicates that times are going to get worse. There's no hope in this WORLD. OUR hope is out of this world. OUR hope is in JESUS. Believe it. Live it. Proclaim it.
Today is the day, to make peace with GOD:
"God Loves You", James 1:17
"You are a Sinner - by nature and by choice," Romans 3:23
"Sin brings death and hell - separationfrom GOD," Romans 6:23 & Revelation 20:11-15
"God Loves Sinners - He sent HIS Son," Romans 5:8
"JESUS died in your place - paying the penalty of your sin," Isaiah 53
"Jesus rose from the dead - proving HIS victory over sin," 1 Corinthians 15
"Jesus gave us a message to proclaim - the Keys to the kingdom," John 3:16
In His Service,