This morning I want to endeavor, by the Lord’s help, to give you a perspective on what we’ve seen this week in our city. I would be unfaithful to the task of the prophet and the shepherd if I didn’t endeavor to comment on it. There are so many things to say and many perspectives that could be brought to bear. I’m not here to give you some political perspective. I’m not here to give you some economic perspective. I have only one responsibility really before God and that is to give you a biblical perspective. I know today that many churches across our country, many of my own fellow pastors and friends in the black inner city of Los Angeles and other places in our country are going to be facing their congregations with a similar need to articulate some kind of perspective as to what is going on.
There are many ways that it might be approached. We could talk about the signs of the last days and the decline in culture, the decline in man’s demonstration of the image of God as he grows worse and worse as social structure and society and man himself begins to unravel at the seams and wind down until the coming of Jesus Christ finally brings his sinfulness to an end. But I don’t want to follow the prophetic path. We could talk about a biblical economic path and what is just and what is right in terms of social economics and what does the Bible teach about how the needs of the poor are to be met by those who have and have been blessed by God with some measure of wealth. We could talk about educational issues. Do people in certain parts of our culture find themselves on the short end of the stick educationally and from the standpoint of opportunity and what does that mean to the dignity of man and all of those kinds of features. But I’m going to leave a lot of that kind of thing for maybe another time and place. What I want to talk about today is the root of all of these problems and it’s a very simple word with three letters called sin. And that’s the perspective that I think is most needful for us.
Perhaps the most devastating description of humanity is given in Romans chapter 3. And I want you to open your Bible to Romans 3, and I want to read you God’s own description of man. There are people who continue to tell us that man is basically this good creation, this person who deep down inside is noble and honorable. And that of course is the absolute opposite of the truth. In Romans chapter 3 verse 10 we read concerning man a series of quotes out of the Old Testament that Paul puts together here. They run like this, speaking of man, humanity in general, “There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside. Together they have become useless. There is none who does good. There is not even one. Their throat is an open grave. With their tongues they keep deceiving. The poison of asps” – or snakes – “is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
I wish we could just lay that on the desk of every psychologist. That is the clearest most concise and direct description of man given in the Bible. Man is corrupt. Man is depraved. His heart, said the prophet Jeremiah, is deceitful and desperately wicked. Isaiah said the best that he does is filthy rags. There is something deep within man that is so corrupt and so wicked and so wretched, so evil, so brutal, so devastating that if left unchecked or if given an opportunity to express itself, it will bring about devastation. The problem in our city is not lack of jobs. The problem in our city is not lack of opportunity or lack of education. The problem in our city is not too much possessions, materialism. Those are only symptoms of a problem. The problem in our city is the problem of the wretchedness of the human heart. And nobody escapes that. It knows no race. It knows no color. It knows no location. It is pervasive. Sin is the degenerative and damning power in the human stream that pollutes every man and every woman and every part of life.
In Mark’s gospel, chapter 7, verse 20, Jesus said, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” It is no his society. It is not his economics. It is not his education or lack thereof. It is not anything outside the man that pollutes the man. It is what is inside the man that pollutes and defiles. Verse 21 of Mark 7 says, “For from within, out of the heart of men proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.
Now what Jesus is saying essentially is what Paul said. Man at his deepest level is wretched, wicked, sinful. It is not anything on the outside that defiles him; it is what he is on the inside that defiles him. Again I say, there is something, there is a principle, there is a power deep within man that is so corrupt and so wicked and so brutal and so devastating that left unchecked or given an opportunity to act it will bring about devastation. That is why in Joshua 7:13 sin is called “the accursed thing.” It is the venom of snakes. It is the stench of death and it makes man at home with brutality.
And nobody is exempt. Everybody has this polluting stream. It knows no racial bounds. And sometimes it comes out even in those who are supposed to be the model citizens, as well as those who are assumed to be the criminal element. Sin is the problem. And sin by definition is going beyond the bounds that God has set. It is lawlessness. It is rebellion. And it cannot be by human effort alone held in check on anybody’s part. There is the heart of a rebel in every sinner. The people who have the wealth become selfish. The people who have not the wealth become bitter. The people who possess the goods become completely self- indulgent. The people who have nothing become angry. In either case it is sin.
The problem in our city and the problem in our nation, problem in our world is the destructive rebellious sin of man. There is the heart of a rebel in every sinner and sin is God’s would-be murderer. In fact, so sinful is man that he will wear himself out. He will even kill himself sinning. Jeremiah 9:5 says, “They weary themselves committing iniquity.” Psalm 7:14 says, “The sinner travails with iniquity.” In other words, he is in literal pain trying to bring forth sin, and he’ll do it even though it is painful and sometimes deadly. People go to hell sweating. Sin causes evil to overpower people. It causes the mind to be dominated with iniquity, the will to be dominated, the emotion to be dominated, the affections to be dominated. Sin overpowers behavior. Sin causes people also to be controlled by Satan. Because they have that sin principle in them it connects up with the archsinner, Satan. They have more in common with him than anyone else. And so they become not only victims of their own internal wretchedness but they become victims of the prince of the power of the air, of the ungodly spirit named Satan who works in the hearts of unregenerate people. So you have not only men acting out of the depravity of their own heart, but men acting in concert with the very depravity of Satan himself and his whole empire.
Sin also subjects people not only to the power of the internal wretchedness and to Satan, but it subjects people to the painful miseries of life. Romans 8:20 says sin subjects the creature to emptiness. It corrupts the body. It degrades all well-being. It destroys all relationships. It ends rest and joy and comfort. It defiles conscience. It defiles beauty. It defiles love. It darkens the mind. It makes man an unteachable and uncontrollable beast who is sensual and never satisfied. It robs man of his honor. It scars him who is created in the image of God. It robs man of his peace because the Bible says the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest whose waters cast up muck and dirt. And sin sets men on a damning course for eternal hell. And sin is the problem. As long as these people keep meeting, these reverends with no churches and these churches with no gospel, and as long as politicians and policemen and whoever else meet, presidents and congresses and councils, and try to solve the problem of man educationally or economically, they will never succeed. It cannot be solved there. It is not an environmental problem, it is a nature problem. It doesn’t come from the outside in; it comes from the inside out.
Admittedly – admittedly, society can do some things to help control the wretchedness within man. It can impose on him some compunctions that force him into some level of submission to code and law. But it cannot change the wretchedness of the human heart which is ready to burst at any moment when it is exacerbated or when it is given opportunity. You would hate to imagine, wouldn’t you, what all of us would be like if we lived in a society with no laws and no controls. Sinful men would destroy every good thing. They would destroy each other. And we saw a little taste of that in the recent months and the recent days in our own city. Fallen man is so bad and so selfish and so destructive and so unkind deep inside that God has had to set some controls on him.
Let me make it as simple as I can. There are basically two institutions God ordained to control man’s sin. One is the family; the other is the government. And the family exists to control individuals in the very most intimate level of human interaction. The family exists for the purpose of teaching children that they have to live a controlled life. You’ve got to get a handle on your wretchedness, teaching them there are consequences. Why do you think the Bible talks about using the rod on a child? Because a child will only modify behavior when evil behavior has such severe consequence and pain that the child doesn’t want that. Corporeal punishment, as it were, is what is used in the family as God has designed it to bring control to society. The family is the first point of accountability to exercise personal control. If you have the breakdown of the family, you have the loss of all of that.
And then there is society or government, the institution that God has ordained for social control. Personal control should be taught, nurtured in the family. Social control by the government. Those are the two institutions that God has ordained. And in the family, God says the parents have the authority and the children are to submit to it. And in the government, God says the government is the authority there and the citizens are to submit to it. And if you don’t have personal controls being exercised firmly, and justly, righteously in a family or in a society, you’re going to have all hell breaking loose all over everywhere because the depravity of man will run amuck.
Now both of those areas of control sort of come together, and you’ll see how they weave their way through. A list of thoughts that I want to give you as you look at the current tragedy. I’m just like you. I see what I see on the television and I read what I read in the newspaper and hear what I hear on the radio and try to sit back and think. The one other component that I have at my disposal, and so do you, is the Bible. And while everybody is trying very hard to figure this out without God’s perspective, I can go to the Word of God and it’s very clear and simple for me to see and for you, I hope, as well. We have a fatal sin problem that can only be remedied by the gospel. The only hope for equity and justice and mercy and all of that imbalance in our society, the only hope is Jesus Christ transforming people’s hearts. The hope of Los Angeles is Jesus Christ.
You know what breaks my heart? You can drive through the inner city of Los Angeles just as you can drive through this part of our city and out into Simi Valley and you will find, whether you’re in Simi Valley or whether you’re in Watts in South Central Los Angeles, churches on every single corner who have little or no impact in the community, who have somehow long ago abandoned a faithful bold confrontive direct loving compassionate proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ that can transform people’s hearts and end these kinds of attitudes and actions. My grief, as you might have suspected, is for the lost people who have no hope of changing their insides, any more than the leopard can change his spots. And my grief is for the churches that have prostituted themselves away from a saving message to some other kind of social orientation that can’t do anything in the long run.
Now trying to make some sense out of this chaos, I jotted down a few of the things that I think might put it in perspective. And I have to confess to you that I’m sort of interested in what I’m saying too, because I’m saying things I’ve never said before and didn’t necessarily plan to say. So this is one sermon that even I want to attend. I also realize that I run a certain risk of stepping over the line at some point and I don’t want to offend anybody. I have no agenda other than to deal with the sinfulness of man and to call a whole city to repentance and to faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ and to call you people to live your Christianity wherever it is in a way that would honor the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve listed some of the important things to note, a word about the condition of man. And if you understand this, I think you’re going to understand what’s going on in our culture, in our world even. And by the way, I might just mention to you that what we’ve seen in L.A. can’t hold a candle to what the people in Croatia and Yugoslavia are undergoing, that same kind of racial animosity that actually has nothing to do with black or white, nothing that defined. It has to do with bitter hatred of people who you would assume would be of very similar race. The wretchedness of man, the front for this is all over the face of the earth. Here are the things that you need to understand. Here are the sins that basically end up in this kind of activity. One – and I don’t know why they’re in this order, this is just the order I wrote them down in.
Number one, you are learning the terrible tragedy of the futility of living for pleasure – the futility of living for pleasure. We have a society – we have a society that is in to cheap thrills. We have a culture that wants the feeling, mindless kicks. At its best it is a very educated yuppie society that is into the latest fashion and the latest cars and the fanciest of houses and the best restaurants and all the jewelry and the whole nine yards. We have a culture that is not particularly cognitive. It is not thinking deeply about issues. It is not dealing with human need at its truest level. It is in to self-fulfillment, self-pleasure. It is into kicks. It is into the rush. It is into fun. It is in to feelings, pleasure at every front. And you will find that were you to even talk about motivation with some of the people that were looting and robbing and stealing and killing in the city, you would find them saying things like stealing and looting and shooting and beating is a kick. It’s a high; it’s a rush; it’s a thrill. It’s a cheap kind of thrill. It disregards human life. It cheapens everything. We have a sensual society. This society is literally poured a steady diet of sensuality – get a thrill. It’s not a cognitive society. Neil Postman was right a few years back when he wrote a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death. We are so far into pleasure, we are so far into fun, we are so far into cheap thrills and kicks and highs that that’s all we live for. Those kinds of things end up in what you have seen.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:12 – last week we saw this – that God is going to judge those who didn’t believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness. Second Peter 2:13 says, listen to this, “They count it pleasure to riot.” Second Peter 2:13, “They count it pleasure to riot.” First Timothy 5:6, “She who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead, even while she lives.” When you live for pleasure it is the death of dignity. It is the death of respect. It is the death of potential. It is the death of achievement. It is the death of personal growth. It is the death of the mind. You have a society that is literally consumed with pleasure, feelings, sensation, and they’re going to go after it any way they can get it.
Secondly, as you look at this you learn another thing, another condition that exists in the human heart that manifests itself is the terrible, terrible reality of selfishness – selfishness. Whether you’re talking about racial prejudice or whether you’re talking about looting and stealing or whatever, all of that is a manifestation of selfishness. Has there ever been a society – ask yourself – as self-centered as this one? Has there ever? Has there ever been a society as egotistical as this one? Pride is exalted.
I remember Muhammad Ali started a trend. Muhammad Ali was more a philosopher than a boxer. He was a great boxer but his boxing didn’t affect but only a few people, the ones he hit. He was much more a philosopher than a boxer. And his philosophy introduced into American culture a brand new issue. He is known for a statement, “I am” – finish it – “the greatest.” He legitimized pride. He legitimized ego. Not just for black people but for everybody. He transcended his race. He became a hero of massive proportions to a whole culture of young people. This tragic man did more to legitimize selfishness and legitimize pride than any other person in American history, maybe in the history of the world. He has not affected this world with his fighting; he has affected this world with his philosophy of selfism. He was the first person who ever got away with what would be called murder, in the sense of advocating pride as a virtue. He took a whole generation of people into the pit of selfism.
We have a generation that believes they matter above everybody else. I am the most important person. The Bible says God hates pride. God hates the uplifted look, haughty eyes. It destroys love. It kills brotherhood. It destroys care. It ends kindness. And most of all, it kills the supreme virtue in all of human conduct and that is the virtue of humility – humility. “Pride and arrogance I hate,” says the Lord, Proverbs 8:13. When pride comes there comes dishonor. Pride doesn’t bring honor, it brings dishonor, Proverbs 11:2. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Through pride comes strife.” Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction.” Proverbs 29:23 says, “A man’s pride will bring him low.” And on the other hand, the same verse says, “Honor will uphold the humble.” It is amazing that when people become consumed with themselves and who they are, everybody else becomes only a means to self-gratification. You have pride corrupting every part of human stream.
In James, would you remember 4:1 and following? “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” This is a very, very important text to answer that. What is it that causes riots and quarrels and fights and wars? “Is not the source your pleasure that wage war in your members?” First of all, it’s your tremendous need for pleasure and, “You lust and you do not have so you commit murder, you are envious, you cannot obtain, so you fight and you quarrel.” That’s it. You want pleasure and you want what you want because you think you’re the most important person in the world and if you can’t get it to fulfill your lust, you’ll kill if you have to. Only humble people can love. Only humble people can care. Only humble people can sacrifice. Only humble people can give. Only humble people are content. Only humble people can live their life for the benefit of others. And we live in a society of egomaniacs and everybody wants what he wants for himself and whatever it takes to get it or whoever I have to ignore to possess what I possess, I’m going to do it.
It makes me laugh, really, in a sad way when I see some wealthy movie star who’s, you know, making millions and millions upon millions of dollars come on television and make a $1,000 donation to feed the homeless. Give me a break. One thousand dollars. And they want a plaque on the wall. They have no clue that they are steeped in the sin of selfishness, materialism, egocentrism. Sins of loving pleasure and loving self will always cause disaster.
Thirdly, and I’m just touching these lightly, the evil of materialism. And they follow along with each other. The evil of materialism. You see, we live in a society, get this, where things are more important than people. Can you believe it? You go into a store and you kill a person to take a stereo. Absolutely inconceivable. You murder a guy, you shoot him in the head to take his money so you can buy a CD player. This is materialism. Materialism says this thing is more important than a person. Part of this, believe me, is the legacy of evolution. Part of this is the legacy of that mindless philosophy today that says a rock is a rat is a dog is a boy. In other words, everything is the same and man isn’t any more important than anything else. And killing a cat is just as bad as killing a person and all of that kind of thing. And you demean man and his dignity as created in the image of God, and you shoot him to get a CD player. This is materialism at the base level.
At the other extreme in our society is the materialism of those people who consume more stuff than they could possibly use, more stereos than they can possibly listen to, while poor people have little or nothing. You see, it’s at every level. It knows no economics, this sin of materialism. Jesus said a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses, Luke 12:15. In fact, Jesus said, “What’s it going to profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Then what is he going to own that he could give God in exchange for his eternal soul? Is he going to go to God and say, “Hey, God, I’ve got to tell you this. I’ve got a big house. I’d like to swap it for my eternal soul.” Or, “God, hey, I’ve got a boombox You’d really like I’d like to switch for my soul.” No. You can get it all, but what are you going to do? You going to give it in exchange for your soul when you face God? Sinful people wrapped up in love of pleasure, love of self, and love of things are bound to have horrific conflict.
Fourth, another component in this, and you have to understand, that consumes and leads to unbridled, unchecked devastation is the tragedy of amorality. You are seeing in part also the legacy of the sexual revolution of the sixties. The sexual revolution of the sixties is so devastating in this culture. The arch-criminal of our society could well be Hugh Hefner. He has probably killed as many or more people than anybody else and maybe running a close second to him is Phil Donahue. Why? Because they have advocated deviant life style. They have given a forum to every sexual deviation. You talk about mass murder, take a look at people dying of AIDS in our society because they have freedom in their own thinking to live that kind of life style because the society tolerates it. The legacy of the sexual revolution is absolutely horrifying, beyond description. The loss of all moral sense has shattered the American family, therefore what you have is a whole generation of children and young people produced without an understanding of moral values, without any restraints, without any controls. And then that one personal control accountability source, the family, is just blown to bits.
You have a culture steeped in pornography, violently sexual music, perverse and wicked wretched sexual conversation. You take the movies of today, the music of today, the rap stuff of today and that pornographic kind of filth simply pours gasoline on whatever fire of sin is burning in this culture. Unwanted pregnancy, abortion, unwanted children, single parents, abused children, rape, neglected infants, unwanted families, juvenile delinquency, divorce, VD, AIDS, it’s all a direct result of an amoral society. They’ve been driven by lust.
Some sociologists question whether America will ever produce the great musicians, the great thinkers, the great scholars, the great artists, the great poets, the great writers, the great geniuses in fields like it has in the past because so many young people spend all their time and thought and energy on sexual fantasy and sexual pleasure that literally they are a dissipated preoccupied sexually deviant generation who could never produce great, great social benefits. They literally have sacrificed their mind for their glands. The music and the films of our day exacerbate the problem and we are dominated by sexual violence and deviation. That’s why this kind of thing happens. You have people who are living only at a gut level. They live for the next sex thrill. And that’s just a part of the whole sensuality. Families are just ripped to shreds.
I’ve talked on a number of occasions to my friend Tony Evans, who has preached here, one of the really fine outstanding black pastors in America, down at the Oak Cliff Church in Dallas. And Tony says the biggest problem he has beyond anything else, nothing even comes close to this, is trying to deal in his community with shattered families and the devastation that that brings on the whole of that society. Everything is just ripped loose from its moorings. This is the sexual revolution. It has destroyed our whole culture.
Fifthly, you not only have the love of pleasure, the love of self, the love of things, sexual perversion, another component in what we’re seeing is the danger of anger. You must understand why the Bible forbids anger. Anger was once recognized as a sin. When I grew up, self-control was socially valuable. You know, I remember teachers writing home letters to my parents. They did that all the time. That’s the truth. And the typical letter said, “Johnny has a lot of potential, but he never has any self-control.” What they didn’t understand was I had things to say and I needed to say them, and it was just too bad the teacher was talking at the same time. They used to say he just has no self-control. “Johnny lacks self-control.” That was pinned up in our kitchen. They didn’t know this was a gift. This was a ministry. But my parents used to spank me, because I did not exercise self-control. Self-control was a virtue. You didn’t say everything you thought. You didn’t vent your venom and your hostility and your anger. By the way, psychologists know how totally self-destructive that psychological theory was and it’s now passé. But that was the hot one when I was a student. Anger is now exalted.
I have heard I’ll bet you 50 times, “The people have a right to be angry.” Have you heard that? “They have every right to be angry.” What do you mean they have a right to be angry? Anger is a sin. Nobody has a right to be angry. A policeman doesn’t have the right to be angry. A criminal doesn’t have a right to be angry. Nobody has a right to be angry. The only thing you ever have a right to be angry over is when God is dishonored, holy wrath. This is a Rambo mentality. I’m angry. That’s it. Sound effects surprised you didn’t they? Still a little boy in me, I guess. You don’t have a right to be angry. Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and evil speaking be put away from you with all evil.” James 1:20, “The wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.” You don’t get the righteousness of God out of the wrath of man. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Anger rests in the bosom of a fool.” Anger is just the venting of sinful flesh. Anger destroys and it even destroys the one who is angry. Anger is always related to another thing, so it’s anger/hate. Hate is intolerable. There is no place for anger; there is no place for hatred. None.
You say, well what about my enemy? What about the one who offended me? What about the one who treats me unjustly? What about people who are wreaking havoc in our society? What about them? Shouldn’t we be angry? Listen, it says – and these are the words of Jesus, Matthew 5:43, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy, say the people of your time. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven.” What does that mean? That means when God looks at His enemies, He’s concerned about their well-being and you be the same. Jesus, when He was reviled, reviled not back. And when He was slaughtered on a cross, He said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” There is no place for angry and hatred. Hatred is an offense to God. Hatred is a wickedness. Any kind of hatred at all directed toward anybody, no matter what they may have done to you, is outside the tolerance of God and is a sin. You do not hate and there is no justification for anger other than a holy wrath over those who have struck a blow against almighty God and His majestic Son Jesus Christ.
Following on the heels of anger is a sixth issue that I think is a part of what we’re seeing and that is the deadliest of vengeance. The child of anger and hate is vengeance. And the thing that I fear so much is this retaliating vengeance. It’s just a tragic thing to see this. A man strikes a policeman; a policeman strikes back. The society strikes back. The police have to strike back. And pretty soon you have war. You can’t stop it. There is no place for vengeance, no matter what is done. It is a sin and it is a dominating sin, and again it’s that same mentality, “I am the king of my universe. I have a right to anger. I have a right to hate. I have a right to pleasure. I have a right to fulfillment. I have a right to possessions. And if you get in my way, I am going to give it to you.” Personal vengeance, there’s no place for that. It’s a sin.
In Romans chapter 12, just a couple of verses, verse 17, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” Never. Verse 19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God. It is written, ‘“Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,” says the Lord.’ If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him a drink for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” I hope the people in our city who have been hurt, whose family members have been killed, who have been maimed, whose property has been destroyed, whose livelihood has been removed, I hope they don’t seek vengeance. Don’t you? I hope they can forgive. But I’ll tell you something, I don’t think it’s possible in the fallen human heart. Do you?
There’s a seventh one, and that leads me to this, the absence of forgiveness. You’re seeing the result of a culture that doesn’t elevate forgiveness. What ever happened to say to somebody, “I forgive you. It’s all right. It’s okay”? I mean, I read about a guy who built a wall between two houses and the wall was six inches on the property of the guy next door. The guy next door killed him. What about instead of saying, “I’ll get you. I’ll kill you,” you say, “I forgive you. Here’s a gift to show my love”? What a comment on the wretched sinfulness of this society that it knows no forgiveness, doesn’t understand the spirit of Jesus who said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they do.” Jesus put it this way in His teaching us to pray, He said, “If you don’t forgive each other, I’m not going to forgive you.” Everybody wants his pound of flesh. You look at the culture and you say, why is this happening?” I’ll tell you why it’s happening. Sin. What sins? Love of pleasure, love of self, love of things, sexual perversion, anger, hate, vengeance, and the absence of forgiveness.
Let me add an eighth one. You will see now the divisiveness of prejudice. God hates prejudice, any kind of prejudice. Our society is loaded with this wickedness. It isn’t new. Jonah was prejudice. Go back and read the book of Jonah. God sent Jonah to preach in Nineveh. Jonah said, “No way. They might get converted. You think I want Gentiles converted? Let them go to hell.” He’s a prophet. What kind of an attitude is that? God says, “You go to Nineveh. You preach. They’ll repent.” He says, “I’m not doing it.” He got a boat, started west, not east. Went 180 degrees the wrong direction. And they’re in the middle of a storm and all the guys in the boat are saying, “Look, who is causing this? What God?” They’re all praying to their God’s, and Jonah finally fesses up and says, “It’s me. I’m causing all this problem. Throw me overboard. Throw me in the sea.” You know what he wanted to do? Commit suicide. He would rather die than see Gentiles converted. It’s true. But God wouldn’t let him die because a big fish swallowed him. And I’m sure the time he was in the fish, three days, he wished he could have died in there. Talk about claustrophobia. He’s one of the people I want to spend a little time with in heaven, just asking him what that thing was like. He was in there three days and even the fish gets sick on him and throws him up.
Then he goes to Nineveh and he preaches. The whole city repents and he wants to die again. He says, “Kill me, God. This is – I can’t deal with it. I’d rather be dead then see Gentiles converted.” Listen, that is as deep a prejudice as you could ever imagine. Here is a Jewish prophet who was so prejudiced against Gentiles he would rather be dead than see Gentiles converted. Prejudice isn’t new. It isn’t isolated to our time. But Proverbs 24:23 says, “To show partiality in judgment is not good.” “God is no respecter of persons,” Scripture says. You’re to love your neighbor as yourself, no matter who your neighbor is. Even if your neighbor happens to be one who hates you. You remember the story of the Good Samaritan on his way to Jericho, and he comes across a Jew. And the Samaritans and the Jews, the Bible says, had no dealings. There was tremendous racial hatred. Why? Because Samaritans were Jews who intermarried with Gentiles and polluted the Jewish blood, and the Jews hated them. Jesus sent a message to ripple down through all of history. When the first place He exposed His Messiahship was to a Samaritan woman, and here a Samaritan helps a Jew and binds him up and takes care of his needs. God has no respect for persons. God made all races and God loves them all and is merciful to all who call upon Him. The divisiveness of prejudice, it will rip and tear and shred families, neighborhoods, cities, nations.
Quickly a ninth, you are seeing the results of a seriousness of a loss of respect for authority. You are seeing – now we move from the small unit to the larger social one – you are seeing the results of the seriousness of the loss of respect for authority. Let me tell you something, folks. Artfully, systematically, with purpose you have watched over the last year an outright overt assault on people in authority in this city who are responsible for the law and the order of this city. A concerted effort to destroy the confidence of this population in the people responsible to maintain law and order, and now you see the result of it. That is a deadly sin. You can’t do that in a culture. You can’t get on constantly television, radio, and newspapers, and lambaste the people, the police, who are responsible for law and order and expect a society to have any respect for them. You bring about the devastation that we have seen. And now what do we have? We start to lose our freedom – curfew, a small taste of a society under police control, trying to quail anarchy. The media, like it says in James, has used their tongue to set the world on fire without honesty and without objectivity, stirring up resentment toward all who are in authority, questioning the virtue of our chief and all of those who work with him, slandering them without restraint. Even some in positions of justice have chimed in. And now we sowed the wind and we reap the whirlwind. You have a society of people who could care less about those in authority.
That’s why God demands respect for them. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” In other words, submit yourselves. Honor the king, He says. Honor all men. We have to maintain that. They have a God-given responsibility. They’re not perfect. But they’re essential to the well-being of society. When an individual policeman, when an individual judge, an individual in authority commits a crime, he ought to be punished. And maybe there ought to be a firmer punishment. But wholesale defamation of the virtue and the character of those in authority is a sin that will set loose uncontrollable floods of crime. You can’t take away that respect. The media then complains when the police don’t act fast enough when they want them to. The tongues of politicians and the tongues of news people and the pens of writers have set the world on fire, to say nothing of Los Angeles.
Ten in my little list, and I’ll quickly close, we’ve seen the disaster of civil rebellion. The child of disrespect is rebellion. You destroy respect, you destroy their respect in those who are over them in authority and you will breed the child of rebellion. Civil rebellion will surely happen when an onslaught against the authority has taken place like ours has. I wish I had time to read Romans 13. I don’t have time to go through it with you, just to mention it. But in Romans 13, “Let every person,” verse 1, “be in subjection to the governing authorities. There is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.” Do you stop to realize that? I remember when I was doing a training session for the LAPD one time and had all of their officers and all of their leaders in there and I took them through Romans 13 and I said, “Do you guys know that you are in authority from God?” And afterwards there was one old – big ole burly crusty Sergent with a cigar in his mouth and he came to me and he said, “Man,” he said, “you said I was appointed by God.” He said, “Could you tell me that verse again. I’ve got to use that.” And I said, “Well, you have a right to use that.” God is sovereign and God has set these people in authority.
Verse 2, “Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.” These people are not just opposing the police; they’re opposing God, almighty holy God. And I’ll tell you something, God does not look lightly on what He has seen. In fact, I was reading in the Psalms – it says in Psalm 11:5, “Him that loves violence, God hates.” Violence, rebellion, rage in the city is a rebellion against God who has ordained government. Verse 4 says that those who are the police, those in authority are a minister of God to you for good. Revolution of any kind, I don’t care if you’re talking about the American Revolution or you’re talking about the L.A. riots recently, I don’t care whether you’re talking about fighting in Afghanistan, Ireland, Yugoslavia, Croatia, or wherever, is never God’s way. It’s never God’s way. When God comes to the point where He’s going to change things, He doesn’t need a revolution to do it. So glad we saw that in the former Soviet Union. Things changed without a revolution. God can do what He will do.
Eleven in my list, you have seen the result of the decline in swift and severe punishment. You have seen the result of the decline of swift and severe punishment. The Bible talks about due punishment, corporeal punishment, even the death penalty – very clearly taught in Scripture. It is to be swift. What you have now is slow justice and slow punishment that does not restrain crime so there’s no fear in the hearts of evildoers.
Then number twelve, you see the effect of drunkenness – the effect of drunkenness. That’s a broad category for drinking alcohol and taking drugs. I’m telling you, folks, I don’t think there’s anything that has done more to destroy our inner cities than drugs and alcohol. What a legacy. Any wonder the Scripture says that drunkenness is a sin?
And then lastly, and I have to say this, you see the result of weak, impotent, foolish, selfish and sinful leadership – weak, impotent, foolish, selfish, sinful leadership. Where are the great leaders? Where are the godly leaders? Where are the virtuous leaders? Where are the great moral men and women? Where are they? Hosea said, “Like people, like priests.” They’ll never be any better than their leaders. And now we see it. The sins of the fathers have reached the third, the fourth generation.
You look at the society, what do you see? Lust for pleasure, self, and things; sexual perversion; anger, hate, vengeance; unforgiveness; prejudice; lack of respect for authority, civil rebellion; drunkenness; weak, foolish, evil leadership that’s more concerned about politics than it is about morality. Let me tell you something. Nobody can escape – I don’t care if you’re black or white, I don’t care if you’re yellow or brown or whatever of those simple colors represent the races of our world – nobody can escape the devastating power of his own sin, the wretchedness of the heart. And follow this thought. The only thing that keeps it in control is the family and the government. As soon as the family disintegrates, and as soon as you lose respect for the family and the family is no longer there with its loving authority, and then you add to that, you lose respect for the society and the government itself and it’s no longer there with wise moral strong leadership, you will have all hell break loose. And I’ll tell you this, they may put the lid on it this week, but it’ll go off again. There’s only one thing that’s going to change it, and that is the saving power of Jesus Christ.
And my final word to you is this. You have an obligation in this society, my friend, if you’re a Christian – and so do I – and it is this. You are to live a godly life free from all these sins I have mentioned. You are to live a godly life free from these things. Secondly, you are to preach the only message that can transform the human heart, the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what this world must hear if anything is to change.
Father, thank You for our time this morning to discuss this issue. And I pray that these things will find their way into our own hearts and not only give us understanding but give us a new direction. God, we pray for this great city of teeming masses of people. Lord, we ask first that Your church would be salt and light and it would be holy in this place. And then that Your gospel would be preached and hearts transformed so that from within the heart can come love and joy and peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, self-control and we can live in peace. Save many for Your glory. We pray for those who grieve over the loss of loved ones, livelihood, and we ask that Your grace would be upon us in Jesus’ name, Amen.
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