It is because our God is faithful that we fully trust Him. He is faithful to His nature, faithful to His word, faithful to His promise, and never varies. In that faithfulness we have found our rest and our security. Now obviously, it comes to me today to speak to all of you who are listening with a view toward the current issues that all of us are very much aware of. And so I mentioned earlier in the week that I would like to pose the question this morning, and the question is, “Who’s to blame for the riots?” That’s the question, and to answer that from the Scripture, from the Word of God.
We are obviously living in very bizarre times that have produced massive fear and confusion. On top of that, our society is drowning in a sea of lies, lies about virtually everything, and lies on top of fear and confusion create an almost fatal insecurity and a devastating chaos. We have little confidence in believing what politicians say or what health officials say or what social activists say or what university professors say or what media says or, frankly, what religious leaders say. We have been lied to so constantly. And there is One to whom we can turn and always hear the truth: that is to the living God who has revealed Himself on the pages of Scripture, the one true living God. And Scripture says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” God is the God of truth. The Son of God is the way, the truth, and the life. “Satan, the prince of this world,” – said Jesus in John 8:44 – “is a murderer and a liar.” And the whole world lies in the lap of the Evil One, and is therefore bent on killing and lying.
So we’re in a time of chaos and lies. We have only one place to turn that we can trust, one who is faithful, and that is God in His word. Jesus said in John 17 to the Father, “Your word is truth. Your word is truth.” So let’s look at the truth and find out what the truth is about who’s to blame for the riots. We can start in the book that I read to you earlier, the book of Isaiah, way back in the first chapter.
Seven hundred years before the Lord Jesus Christ, God was confronting another nation, the nation of Israel, steeped in sin and transgression, having rejected their God and on the brink of judgment. And in chapter 1, the Lord speaks to Israel in verse 2: “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the Lord speaks, ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.’ Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.
“Where will you be stricken again as you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, not softened with oil. Your land is desolate, your cities are burned with fire.” This is the desolation of a people that turn against God.
In the fifth chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy there is a specific indictment among all of the sins that were part of Israel’s rebellion against God. Here is one that substantially defines their true condition. Verse 20 of Isaiah 5: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Essentially that’s the sin that signals the coming of judgment. Turning truth and righteousness and virtue upside-down.
Israel was headed for a devastating divine judgment. They had turned against God, they had flipped truth and morality on its head, and in Isaiah 28:17, Isaiah says they found refuge in lies, they found refuge in lies. Isaiah 59, Isaiah says to them in verses 3 and 4, “For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.”
This is where humanity in every generation and in every nation tends to lean toward the reality of the very things that were true of ancient Israel. Humanity leans in the direction of calling evil good and good evil, substituting darkness for light, light for darkness, substituting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. This is the nature of all of us, to believe lies, to follow the father of lies, to overturn right and wrong, and the current situation in which we live is just another historic manifestation and picture of the perversion of humanity.
So confusing. It’s essential to keep harmless working people locked down at home, kept away from their jobs and businesses so they don’t get the flu. But it’s also essential, in fact, more essential to let people bent on doing harm run free in the cities destroying the very places people earn their living. Lock up the weak and the fearful and let the strong and violent run loose to create havoc. Call on all forces, grind the world to a halt to stop a virus, then remove all restraint when a far more deadly virus sets out to destroy a whole nation. Demand justice when a man’s life is taken, and then applaud lawless mobs of criminals attacking the police. Put the police in a position where they can’t act to protect property, but rebel mobs are allowed to destroy it.
You can’t shop in a store, but you can loot it. You can’t work, but you’re free to steal. You can’t attend church, but you can burn it down. You can’t eat in a restaurant, but you can demolish it. Now we’re seeing charges being brought in these riots, not against the rioters, but against the police. We see leaders who totally control the weak with fear of the flu, but can’t control the strong because they’re afraid. And by the way, if you worship the god of anger, the god of hate, or the god of vengeance, you can have church anywhere, anytime, indoors or outdoors, without any rules. You’re completely free to worship the god of mayhem, and the perverted solution to this is to abolish the police, those who are the protectors of the good and the punishers of those who do evil.
What is wrong? What is wrong is exactly what is stated in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe” – that’s a divine curse – “on those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
What is wrong? Is it something environmental? Is it something educational? Is it something economic? Is it some kind of social inequity? What is wrong? How did we get here with everything upside-down? How did we get so twisted? Criminals become heroes and the real heroes are vilified because everything is upside-down.
We need the truth, and the truth is in the Word of God. It’s not my task nor my interest to give you any human opinion, mine or anybody else’s, but you do need to hear from God. I want to help you to understand who’s to blame. We’ll start in Romans chapter 3, Romans chapter 3 and verse 10. Here we have a summation of human nature. This summation, running down through verse 18, is basically drawn from the Old Testament. These are all statements made in the Old Testament – all of them except one from the Psalms and one from Isaiah.
So God hasn’t changed His moral standards, nor His definition of humanity. There has been no improvement in the seven hundred years between Isaiah and the hundreds of years between the Psalms and the present situation that Paul addresses in Rome in the time of our Lord and after. There’s no change. What was true of man in the ancient times was true of man in New Testament times. And here you have the foundational understanding that is essential to know what’s wrong in the world. And summing it up, this is what the Scripture says.
“As it is written,” – and that means in the Old Testament drawn from the Psalms and the book of Isaiah, here is a definition and description of the pathology of humanity. Four times the word “none” is used, and three times “all” is used. “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 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 they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” That’s a pathology that would make a sensible psychologist go get a job at a gas station. That’s what you’re dealing with; lots of luck.
There are three aspects to this. There is character, there’s conversation, and there’s conduct. Look at what it says about character. Here is the definition of character: “None righteous, not even one.” Is there no human goodness? Of course, there’s some human goodness. But righteousness and acceptable goodness to God: no, not even one. There is relative human goodness, not everybody is as bad as possible. But no one is righteous, no one is holy, no one but God.
“There is none righteous, no not one.” That’s why you can’ be saved by your works because God’s standard is, “Be holy, as I am holy.” That’s why you have to have an imputed righteousness that comes from God through Christ. You have to given the righteousness of God to be acceptable to God because there’s none righteous, not even one – not even one human being other than our Lord.
“There is none who understands.” Ephesians, the apostle Paul says, “Their minds are darkened.” He even goes as far as to say that they are dead, they are blind. So they are in the unenviable situation of not being righteous and not even understanding the realities of righteousness.
And then to make it worse, “There is none who seeks for God.” You say, “What about all the religion?” All the false religions of the world are attempts to run from the true God. They’re all satanic counterfeits sending men in the opposite direction from God. Isaiah 53, verse 6 sums it up: “All we like sheep have gone astray, turned everyone to his own way.” We’re like sheep in that we go astray. Sheep go astray by nature. Our nature sends us away from God. We flee from God. We flee in some noble effort to feel good about our fleeing, and so we invent false religion to accommodate our rebellion.
No one is righteous. No one understands. No one seeks after God. “All” – verse 12 – “have turned aside, together they have become useless.” The Hebrew equivalent is rancid, like sour milk. And sour milk is useless, good for nothing, rotten.
Verse 12 adds, “There’s none who does good, there’s not even one.” That should be the first course, Psychology 101. That’s humanity. None righteous, none understands, none seeks after God, all have turned aside, they’re corrupt and rancid, none does true good, acceptable to God. The sum of man’s character is bad, ignorant, rebellious, deviant, and useless, and that’s the divine pathology.
The Bible goes from character to conversation. Look at verse 13: “Their throat is an open grave.” You know, all of us pretty conscious about bad breath. But in a graphic metaphor, the apostle sums up what was said back in Proverbs 10:32, “The mouth of the wicked speaks perverseness,” evil. When they open their mouth there is the stench of death, like a filthy, putrid, open grave is their speech.
Then he adds, “With their tongues they keep deceiving, they keep deceiving.” The term “deceiving” has as its root a word that means a fishhook. They lie in order to catch you for the kill. “The poison of asps” – snakes – “is under their lips.” Their words are venomous. And then it gets blatant – no more subtleties, no more sneaking poison, no more subtle hooks. It’s now as blatant as it can be in verse 14: “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” Filthy, deceptive, poisonous cursing. This is the mouth of humanity.
And then the Bible talks about their conduct, verse 15: “Their feet are swift to shed blood.” Humans are murderous. John 8:44, I quoted earlier: “Satan is a murderer.” He’s the murderer, the archetypal prime murderer, and all his children are murderers, or would-be murderers.
Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to watch thirty hours of film from World War II. It was made in 1973, so there is an incredibly graphic news film, and then the addition of personal testimonies from the people who were there in the war. I ended up just with the final part of it watching the final solution of “Hitler: The Elimination of the Jews.” Thirty hours of that should be required of anybody who’s going to have an understanding of humanity. Eighty-five million people were killed in about a five-year span. Eighty-five million people were killed, most of them civilians, at least fifty-five million of them.
We would be appalled with that today. And yet I hear people saying black lives matter; and they do. God knows they do; they matter just as much as any other life. But if they matter so much, how is it that Planned Parenthood can support Black Lives Matter when there are a thousand little black lives being aborted every day. You want a holocaust; there’s a holocaust.
If you make a law that allows people to kill, they’ll kill. Hitler allowed people to kill, they killed. Solomon allowed people to kill, they killed. Hirohito allowed people to kill, they killed. Supreme Court allows people to kill, they’ll kill. Why? Verse 15, “Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths.” You allow them to riot, they’ll riot.
“Destruction” is the word suntrimma. It means to shatter something into pieces. Destruction: they become destructive, they destroy things. They create talaipōria, they create misery for people. Make laws, or give license to people to kill, they’ll kill, they’ll kill. They’ll line people up, shoot them in the head until they pile twenty feet deep in a hole, as we saw in Nazi Germany. They’ll kill in what should be the most safe place a baby, the mother’s womb. That’s the human heart. And Jesus went so far as to say, “You may not actually murder, but if you hate somebody, you’ve committed murder in your heart.”
And so, verse 17 says, “The path of peace they have not known.” Are you surprised at what’s going on with this being the pathology of humankind? All you have to do is let them do it and they’ll do it. All you have to do is pull off the restrains and this is what you’re going to get because this is the natural expression of the unredeemed human heart.
Everything from an argument between two people that ends up in a shooting, to a war that results in the death of eighty-five million people, is the product, the behavior of this kind of character. And the sum of it all, the force behind it is stated in verse 18: “There’s no fear of God before their eyes.” Behind all of this wretchedness is the driving reality: “They don’t fear God.” They don’t fear God.
Proverbs 16:6 says, “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” Mark it down. “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” And that’s why Proverbs 23:17 says, “Be in the fear of the Lord at all times.” Where there is no fear of God, where there is no sense of transcendent and eternal culpability, guilt, and punishment, you free humanity to be what they are.
The greatest restraint is the fear of God. Our founding fathers in America knew that, even though they were deists and not genuine Christians. They knew that if they wrote a Constitution that depended on people having moral behavior and doing good they would have to attach it to God. And so they talked about God, and one nation and under God, and given by God inalienable rights, and somehow answerable to God because they knew apart from some fear of a divine being, the beast would be uncontrollable.
Now beyond the absence of the fear of God is the rejection of God. It’s not just that they don’t fear God, that’s a negative. They do more than that. They actually reject God. Go back to Romans 1. This is a very familiar passage. Paul is describing what is also true of man, personally and collectively. “The wrath of God” – verse 18 – “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” That’s what they do. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness. What truth? “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”
There is planted in the heart of every human being the knowledge of God. How is that? How can they know anything about God? Because there is a factor in every human being that leads them to the reality of God, and that is human reason. If you can reason that if you put gas in your car it’ll go and it you don’t it won’t, you’re reasoning on a cause and effect basis. If you reason that if you go to work and do well you’ll make money, you’re reasoning on a cause and effect basis. All reason is cause and effect. And if you look at the massive reality of the creation and you have any reason, you know there had to be a Creator. The effect screams for the reality of a cause, so you can know of God.
Verse 20 says, “The creation of the world demonstrates His invisible attributes, His eternal power, His divine nature, so clearly that you’re without excuse if you don’t believe in God.” You reject God against reason, and then you rebel against God compounding your situation.
Verse 21 says this is characteristic of humanity. “They knew God,” – that is they knew God existed, that’s reason – “they didn’t honor Him as God or give thanks. They became empty in their speculations, their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man, birds, four-footed animals, crawling creatures.”
That’s what I was saying earlier. They reject the true God. Reason would lead them to the true God. Reason would define the true God in terms of His creation, what they know about His creation, and what they know about His law written in their hearts. They reject all of that. They run from the true God, and they run to false gods as a way to escape the true God.
So what does God do in response? This is one of the most profound passages in the Bible. “God gave them over,” verse 24. That is a legal term: handed them over to punishment, handed them over to execution, handed them over to sentence. “God gave them over.” Verse 26, “God gave them over.” Verse 28, “God gave them over.”
Three times God says, “You’re guilty of rejecting Me, rebelling against Me. I turn you over.” To what? “He gave them over” – verse 24, first of all – “to lust of the hearts to impurity, so their bodies would be dishonored among them.” When God gives a people over there’s a sexual revolution. Immorality becomes acceptable, and you will find a culture swimming in a septic tank of pornography.
And when God gives them over, secondly, verse 26, “He gives them over to degrading passions, and women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and the same way also men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their persons the due penalty of their error.” When God turns a society over because it has rejected Him, there will be, first of all, a sexual revolution, followed by a homosexual revolution.
And finally, the third phase in this judgment, “God gave them over” – verse 28 – “to a depraved mind,” a mind that doesn’t function. They can’t think straight. That’s when you have a political party that builds its party platform on killing infants in the womb, destroying the family, elevating homosexuality, transgender perversion, and they’re proud about it. “That’s when you become filled” – verse 29 – “with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossips, slander, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and though they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they do not only do the same, but they give hearty approval to those who practice them.” They elect them to office.
On top of the natural sinfulness is the added reality of divine judgment on those people who have rejected God and those nations who have rejected God. So the corruption is systemic. It is not social, it is systemic and it is personal, and nobody escapes. It’s not related to a lack of opportunity. It’s not related to a lack of money. It’s not related to a lack of privilege, a lack of education. Man naturally is a sinful beast who rejects God, rejects His law, rebels, does not fear God. We were all born with that internal wretchedness that corrupts and defiles. It scars beauty, it darkens wisdom, it defiles love, it robs purity, and it steals peace.
2002 James Waller wrote a book called Becoming Evil, subtitled: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing. Interesting book. A reviewer said regarding the book, “What is fascinating about Waller’s study is that he challenges the common assumption that extraordinary evil must arise only from some abnormality within a people or society. Such a common view of extreme evil is a comfort to those of us who are normal, as it reassures us that we would never participate in such horrific events. We’re not that bad.” Yet what is so unsettling about Waller’s study is that he shows extraordinary evil actually arises from ordinary people.
In the massive killing of people throughout human history we see how evil humans can be. Not just sins of pride and anger and hate and brutality and prejudice and deception and rebellion and vengeance and lawlessness; but there is a kind of lust in humanity that isn’t satiated short of the most heinous of all acts. There’s an adrenaline rush when you do evil and get away with it; it’s part of your fallenness. Some sins come with a high. They come with a rush of emotion and energy when you’re free from restraint and you think you’re going to escape the consequences. And the Word of God talks about that: talks about the pleasures of sin, talks about living in pleasure.
There was a book written some years back. The title of it is Deliver Us From Evil. Really an amazing story. There are about five thousand kidnappings a year in Mexico. The most famous kidnapping most likely occurred in 2002, kidnapping of Ernestina Sodi and her actress sister Laura Zapata. Laura was, for some reason, released in 16 days by the kidnappers, but Ernestina was held for ransom over three months. She endured unspeakable abuse, terror, torture, painful confinement, expecting at any moment to be killed.
After the ransom was paid by another sister who was a well-known singer, she was freed, and she wrote her story in Deliver Us From Evil, and it was translated from Spanish to English. This is what she said about her captors, and I’m quoting, “Their wives, their girlfriends, and their mothers were afraid of them. Their children obey them without a word. And as far as their victims, we beg, we cry, we plead with them not to take our lives.” She says, “The criminals can never change because their minds are warped. They are monsters. They are very sick people. At one point they tell me they don’t even care about the money anymore; the reason they keep doing this is that they can’t live without the adrenaline rush that comes from doing something so dangerous. And they tell me that when they aren’t involved in a kidnapping, they go out and bungie jump or go skydiving just so they can feel a little of the high that they have become used to. They tell me that sometimes they drive out to an open road where they dare each other to drive at speeds in excess of a hundred miles-an-hour just for the adrenaline fix.” That’s in the human heart; it seeks the high that sin brings.
Michael Stone wrote a book, he’s a psychologist, called The Anatomy of Evil, and he writes about six hundred serial killers. One of them said this, and I quote him, “There was nothing like the adrenaline rush of stabbing the throats of all those young girls.” The adrenaline rush: and you thought there was some kind of guilt they had to overcome. There’s something so base in the human heart that it can get to a point where that’s what it seeks because that’s where the fun really is. “They find their pleasure in wickedness,” as Paul says in 2 Thessalonians.
Now let’s go a little bit deeper. Turn to Mark chapter 7. We now understand something of the human heart. We understand that it has no fear of God and that it has rejected God; and thus, God has turned humanity over to the consequence of that rejection so that they go down the path of sexual immorality, homosexual deviancy, and end up with a depraved mind where they can’t sort out anything and they live for the pleasures of sin.
Listen to what our Lord says in Mark 7:14. “He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, ‘Listen to Me, all of you, and understand.’ – here’s the ultimate insight – ‘There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him. The things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.’” Did you hear that? You are not what you are because of something outside of you, but because of what is inside of you. That is the truth stated. Defilement is on the inside.
Go down to verse 18: “Are you so lacking in understanding? Are you this foolish that you don’t know this? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” And Matthew actually uses the word for toilet. The problem is not something that’s outside of you that gets inside of you, the problem is what is inside of you coming out of you.
Verse 20: “He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 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.” Here’s the truth: you are not wicked because of what happened to you on the outside, you’re wicked because of who you are on the inside. There’s something wrong with your heart, verse 21, not the physical pump, but the inner self, including the mind, thought, attitude, motive, desire, source of all your thinking, because it’s how you think that you act.
This is a profound look at the condition of the human heart. “For from within,” – ek tēs kardias – “out of the heart comes forth,” and Mark includes twelve items. The first six are plural and the second six are singular. The first six are acts and the second six are attitudes.
“From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts,” bad ideas, bad plans, bad designs, bad intentions, bad motives. James 1: “Sin conceives in the heart.” “Fornications,” porneia, from where we get the word “pornography”; all kinds of deviant sexual sin. “Thefts, murders, adulteries,” moicheia, sex of any kind that violates a marriage covenant.
“Deeds of coveting,” greediness. Greediness behind so much sin. Was there ever a thief who wasn’t greedy? Was there ever a rioter who looted that wasn’t greedy? “Wickedness,” ponēria. That is malicious evil, evil that intends to act with malice that harms people.
And then there’s “deceit,” lying. “Sensuality,” aselgeia. That essentially is lasciviousness, lewdness of behavior and speech. And then much like coveting comes “envy.” Envy leads to coveting. Literally an evil eye. You look at something and you want it, and you hate the person who has it. “Slander,” blasphēmia, abusive, blasphemous speech. “Pride,” feeling superior. “Foolishness,” senselessness.
“All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” And you know who he’s talking to? Talking to the religious leaders in Israel. He’s talking to the leaders back in chapter 7, verse 1, the Pharisees, the scribes. And they were talking about being clean. And they were criticizing Jesus because Jesus didn’t go through the washing of hands, the ceremonial washing of hands. And so our Lord is saying to them, “Your hands are clean, but your hearts are foul,” as if you could do anything to please God by washing your hands. All your defilement comes from inside. Verse 23, “All of it comes from within.” You need a new heart. You need a new heart.
So the truth of God is unmistakably clear about the problem of evil. All people are sinners, without an exception. We know they’re all sinners because everybody dies; and the wages of sin is death. Not all are equally sinful, but all are bent in the same direction; and if you allow them to, they will run their wretchedness as far as you will let them. Some will stop just short of the line. Some will go over the line and have to be dealt with by force. But notice this: crime will rise; open, flagrant crime will rise at the same rate that you lessen the laws against evil. Tolerate homosexuality and you’ll have a flood of it.
Humans are dangerous, they’re deadly dangerous, and the job of controlling them becomes harder and harder. And, oh, by the way, crime also rises at the rate of technological advancement. Now we have a whole new kind of crime: cybercrime. Well, whatever you invent, man will criminalize.
Now all that leads to very important consideration. Since humanity is so deceitful and so depraved and so degenerate and so dangerous, so destructive, so deadly, how did God ever expect us to survive? Are we just a whole planet living out the Lord of the Flies? How did God expect us to get through this life with any measure of meaning and joy, fulfillment, value? How did God ever expect us to mitigate these sinful passions so that we could civilize, socialize, survive?
Well, God put some restraints into human life. They are critical to civilization surviving. And where they are carefully and strongly maintained, life is good and people enjoy their life. When those restraints are assaulted, corrupted, diminished, or destroyed, life is very, very bad.
Now there are basically four powerful restraints that God has put into human life. I want to just remind you of them as we close. One: Conscience. Conscience. We know conscience exists because so many people are full of guilt, full of anxiety, full of fear, full of dread, have panic attacks. Why is that true? I don’t think animals have that. I don’t think there’s any animal on the planet that deals with anxiety. Why is that?
The answer comes in Romans chapter 2 – at least that’s a definitive portion of Scripture – verse 11: “There’s no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law,” – that’s those who haven’t had the written Law of God, the Scripture – “all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” And then verse 14: “When Gentiles” – or Nations; these are nations apart from Israel that didn’t have the Law of God. This is the natural world – “when they do not have the Law but do instinctively the things of the Law, these not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts.”
Part of being human is having the five senses, right? Well, there’s another thing that we don’t talk about and that is the sense of right and wrong, the sense of right and wrong. Built into every human being is a moral reality. We know that. Why? Because the next verse says, “They show the work of the Law written in their heart because their conscience bears witness and their thoughts are alternately accusing or else defending them.”
This is a gift from God. You ought to be thankful for pain, right? Pain says, “Stop that or you’re going to do some serious damage.” Pain is a warning. Conscience is the same kind of mechanism. Conscience is not the Law of God, it is not law, it is simply a trigger that basically acts to warn us that we are disobeying a law. Leads to fear, leads to guilt, leads to dread, leads to depression, leads to alcoholism, leads to drugs, leads to suicide if you don’t ever deal with that anxiety and that guilt and that dread. And so like some idiot who feels pain and keeps inflicting it and inflicting it and inflicting till he finally destroys himself without remedy, so do sinners ride over the top of their conscience roughshod and allow themselves to be literally driven to death with guilt and fear.
But how do you attack conscience? How can you have a society that doesn’t seem to have a conscience? How do you do that? We talk about certain people that have done things that are unconscionable, and you say to yourself, “Doesn’t their conscience rise up at some point? Doesn’t the conscience of normal people say, in Europe in World War II, say, ‘Stop killing all these people’? How do they sleep at night? Doesn’t it say something to them? Isn’t it screaming at them? Isn’t suicide sometimes, maybe more often than not, an effort to silence a screaming conscience?” by the way, a failed effort because conscience will scream louder in eternal hell.
So how does a person shut down conscience? Two ways: misinform it. Conscience is not a law, conscience is a mechanism. You can shut down pain, right? You can shut down pain; just take drugs. Mask pain. If you mask pain, you mask the reality that you’re doing some damage. You can mask conscience by misinforming it. How do you do that? You take the true law of God, which is written in Scripture and written in the human heart, and you basically eliminate it, denounce it, diminish it, remove it, and replace it with another law; and if you do this generationally you’ll eventually raise generations of people whose conscience is now informed by lies.
This is what propaganda. Propaganda is lies. And you see people and you say, “Well, how could they be so zealous? How can Islamic terrorists be so zealous? Don’t they have a conscience?” Their conscience is informed by whatever law they have come to believe. And if you believe all the lies that are thrown around about our society and all the issues, if you believe those, if you got the university and they pound those into your mind with all of their ideological instruction, if you buy into all those lies, your conscience will cease to function because it will be misinformed. If you have a society that says, “Let’s get rid of the Bible,” that’s the first step in having an entire generation of people misinformed about what’s right and what’s wrong. And now, where are we? We’re in Isaiah 5:20, everything is upside-down: right is wrong and wrong is right.
The other thing you can do to shut down the conscience is just think you shouldn’t feel guilty. Let psychology take you off-the-hook: “You shouldn’t feel bad about yourself. You’re wonderful. You’re the best. You can be anything you want to be. You’re heroic. You’re a good person. You ought to be able to do whatever you want. You live any way you want. Don’t let anybody make you feel guilty for anything.” Just keep driving all efforts against the normal work of the conscience and misinform the conscience and you’ve turned the beast loose. This society in which we live today has been doing that damage for decades, for decades.
Where’s the conscience of these people? Where is the conscience of these who do damage, these who overturn everything? Oh, ha, it’s been informed. It’s been informed with lies, and it’s now controlled by lies. And it’s been told again and again and again that it ought to feel good about itself, that every person is his own master, master of his own fate. Every person is his own god. There is no god, you’re god. You shouldn’t feel guilty, everybody should bow to you. And if that’s not working, get drunk, take drugs.
The second restraint God has put into human society is the family, the family. Deuteronomy 6, God says, “Teach His law to your children.” Ephesians chapter 6, “Raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” What is a family? Father and a mother in a union. Family is a divinely created institution for – listen to this – family is the divinely created institution for the formation of restrained sinners. Did you get that? Family is the divinely created institution for the formation of restrained sinners who by generations of morality, discipline, love, virtue, and obedience become a benefit to society, enjoy God’s gifts, and are grateful. Let me say that again. Family is the divinely created institution for the formation of restrained sinners who by generations of morality, discipline, love, virtue, and obedience, become a benefit to society, enjoy God’s gifts, and are grateful.
So you want to trash a society, first, overturn morality so that the conscience is not informed any longer correctly. And then attack the conscience as an illegitimate source of guilt. And then go after the family. Go after the family. Have a feminist movement so that men are basically trashed and they lose any sense of respect or authority in the family. Then bring in divorce. Bring in abuse. Bring in immorality. Bring in homosexuality. Bring in gender confusion – anything and everything, every possible way you can think of it. Destroy the family, and you have just shattered the divinely created institution for the formation of restrained sinners.
So when any society has most of its children being born without a mother and a father married in the home, when any society has several generations of people who have rejected God and His Word, and have been regularly systematically misinformed about the truth and about righteousness, and when the residual realities of the law of God in the human heart are scorned and rejected, and when they have experienced no acceptable love and discipline and direction in a stable home, you have just removed two monumental restraints from society. What’s happening in our culture these days, it’s not because somebody died in Minneapolis. It is far bigger than that. The Bible says, “Spare the rod, you spoil the child.” Conscience has to be a threat to immoral behavior. Parents have to be a threat to unruly, disobedient behavior. Without that, society’s on the way to absolute mayhem in the streets.
There’s a third provision that God has made and it’s government. So we talked about personal authority in the conscience, parental authority in the family. Government is the social authority. The prime role of government is not material welfare. That is not the prime role of government. The prime role of government, according to Paul in Romans 13 as he speaks on behalf of the Lord Himself who designed government, Romans 13, very, very important portion of Scripture, verse 1: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there’s no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” No authority may be perfect, but every authority is ordained by God. No family is necessarily perfect, no father or mother, but they’re ordained by God. No one’s knowledge of the law of God or conscience is necessarily perfect, but they are designed by God even with a measure of imperfection to restrain this beast.
So, verse 2, “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.” What you’re seeing in the streets is people opposing God. I don’t care what their ideological issues are. I don’t care what it is that they think is unfair or unjust. They are flying around opposing the authority that God has ordained, and they are opposing God. And by the way, they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. God keeps accounts; you don’t get away with it.
“Rulers” – says verse 3 – “are not a cause for fear for good behavior, but for evil.” Things happen in arrests. Things happen, conflict with the police. You don’t need to fear them if you maintain good behavior. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you’ll have praise from them.
Listen to this: “For government,” – police, and even in some cases soldiers – “they’re a minister of God to you for good.” Basically, there are only two people in the New Testament who are said to be ministers: pastors and policemen. They’re a minister of God to you for good. “But if you do what is evil, be afraid.” Yeah, you should be afraid. “Government does not bear the sword for nothing; it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”
Look, we’ve got a society basically where the conscience is misinformed. We’ve got a society basically where people have quieted their own conscience by deciding that they’re better than their conscience says they are. We’ve got a society of people raised without the discipline, the love, the stability of a home. And now they’re running around in this country in all directions, and it’s left to the police to try to make some sanity out of this chaos. These are people that have evil hearts to the core. We all do. But they haven’t been restrained by the gospel, the transforming power of Christ.
Now we’re seeing what is going to happen because God ordained government. Resistance to authority is rebellion against God, not only government. Resistance should be, must be punished; and when it is punished, they are doing the work of God. This is why there’s a justice system. This is why it’s so horrendous when we don’t trust the FBI, we don’t trust the Justice Department, we don’t trust the people who have that power.
If society destroys the law of God, takes the Bible out, mocks it, makes it illegal; in the schools, if society does everything it can to silence the conscience, then society does everything it can possibly do to destroy real marriage, family, children, make spanking children some kind of abuse. And then, society’s got one more step to go: defund the police, destroy the respect for authority. The defunding follows the destruction of respect. Then you have the Lord of the Flies. Well, what you’re seeing these days is what it would look like and could look like if this rebellion continued to diminish those who keep order, protecting good people and punishing those who do evil. We’re watching that being assaulted massively, more than I’ve ever seen in my years.
There’s one more. There’s one more restraint: that’s the church. And just saying that, I feel a pain in my heart, because a lot of these people that are rioting in the streets are rioting right in front of churches. A lot of churches in the communities of all these major cities, what have they been saying? It’s more likely that some of the people in those churches would be joining them than trying to stop them. But the church, critical: the last stand.
Go to Matthew 5:13. The conscience is a personal authority, the family is a parental authority, the government is a social authority, and the church is a spiritual authority. I’ll just read verses 13 to 16, Matthew 5. “You’re the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It’s no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You’re the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
We aren’t just an isolated group in a closed up building, we are the salt of the earth, we are the light of the world: you, emphatic and plural; you, He’s talking to His disciples. Here is the presupposition. The world is decaying, the world is corrupt, and the world is dark; and those who follow Christ are to be salt that slows the decay and light that diminishes the darkness.
Let’s talk about salt. That’s the only rock you eat, by the way, which is probably good – sodium chloride compound. Salt has been a critical factor in the development of civilization – I don’t know if you know that. You want to read an interesting book, read the book called Salt: A History. Really it’s a history of the world. That book fascinated me.
Salt has been a critical factor in the development of civilization because of its preservative powers. Salt eliminated dependence on seasonal food and fresh food, made it possible to preserve food, and therefore to transport food; pivotal to trade, and trade is pivotal to civilization. Salt was once so difficult to obtain that it was highly valued, and many different cultures in ancient times used it as currency.
It is said that the first town in Europe, going back five thousand years before Christ, is a town: Solnitsata. I think it’s in Bulgaria today. That means salt works. The earliest town in Europe built around a salt production facility. Salt was of immense value to the Jews and the Greeks and the Tamils and the Chinese and the Hittites. In fact, the word “salary” comes from the Latin “salt” because people were paid in salt. And if somebody wasn’t a very good employee, you would say, “He’s not worth his salt.”
For the Romans, salt was more valuable than gold. There were caravans, we read, of forty thousand camels traversing the Sahara Desert to bring salt to markets because salt was such critical preservative. It slowed down corruption. In fact, salt pretty much determined the location of the world’s greatest cities. Salt created and destroyed empires. Salt caused population shifts. All this because of its power to preserve from corruption. And like salt, the presence of the children of God, disciples of Christ, Christian believers, the church, slows down the decay and corruption of society. We’re the most precious commodity this world has. But let’s open the bars and keep the churches closed.
The influence of goodness, the influence of virtue, the influence of humility, the influence of unselfishness, the influence of kindness, the influence of compassion and mercy, the influence of love, and more importantly, the influence of holiness and godliness restrains the corruption. That’s why Peter says, “We are a holy people.” You are the salt of the earth; you preserve. You’re the final restraining power. All over the world the church is being attacked, isn’t it? Pastors are being killed. Churches are being shut down, destroyed as society catapults into the black hole of anti-God oblivion.
Now you are the salt of the earth. But here’s a warning. “If the salt has become” – and the word in the Greek is mōrainō, from which we actually get the word “moron,” a moron is a nonfunctioning human being, somebody who can’t think right. So if the salt can’t function, if the salt has lost its ability to preserve, like much salt that lies on the shores around the Dead Sea which is full of salt – you actually can lay on the top of it and float. But that salt becomes corrupted and polluted. When salt loses its ability to preserve it is because it has lost its purity, its purity.
And this is why I say this is a sad thing for me because church after church, after church, after church is not salting the culture with godliness. False teachers abound: charlatans with religious Ponzi schemes taking money from poor people on the promise of miracles and wealth; pastors whose lives are unholy and immoral; entertainment centers trying to make sinners feel good about themselves, denying, in many cases, whole denominations, denying the veracity of Scripture, denying the deity of Christ, denying the gospel; popular megachurches just entertaining sinners. Little concern for holiness, godliness, virtue, righteousness; it’s not their message. They don’t confront sin. They don’t call for holy living. That would empty the place. So we have to say that Satan’s done some serious damage to the conscience, to the family, to the government, and to the church.
Salt works indirectly. Salt works secretly. So does godliness and so does righteousness. Light, on the other hand, works openly. “You’re the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp, put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light sine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who’s in heaven.” This is the shining light of good works. There’s a subtle secret influence of righteousness and there’s an open exemplary aspect of righteousness. A last restraint placed in society: the church. But when so-called Christians live sinful lives, try to entertain people rather than live godly lives openly in front of people, there is no restraint.
Who’s to blame for the riots? Who’s to blame? Sinners, all of them, everybody, all of us; families who failed to raise virtuous, disciplined children in loving marriages; weak government leaders who fail to protect the good, punish those who do evil; and false churches not full of godly people, transformed hearts, living righteous lives.
So what’s the answer? How do we fix this? Well, restore the law of God so the conscience can be informed. Restore the family so restrained children can be the next generation. Restore the government to its role of true justice. And restore the church.
Is it going to happen? We pray, don’t we? I know one thing is going to happen. The Bible says – and I can’t speak for this country or for this moment, but eventually we have to face the reality that it’s going to get worse until the Redeemer comes and makes it all right. And He will come. He will arise. And we can may end where we began, I’ll just read this to you.
“A Redeemer will come to Zion. Arise, shine; your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has arisen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you.” He’s coming. But before He comes, we’re going to be taken out. And when we’re taken out, Paul says the Restrainer is gone, and a period of time called the great tribulation – all hell breaks loose, described in Revelation 6 through 19, at the end of which the Lord returns, sets up His own kingdom.
Sad times. And yet if we take the steps of restoration, sometimes in the past God has allowed such revivals, such times of restoration. If we go back to the Word of God, back to ordered families, back to just government, back to sound faithful godly churches, it can change. Apart from that, it grows worse, until we are taken, the final restraint, and judgment falls. And Christ will then come, bring that judgment to its end and establish His glorious kingdom. By the way, we’ll come back with Him – amen? – in that kingdom.
Father, we thank You for Your truth. We need the truth. Thank You that You’ve laid it out in Your ancient Word – ancient, and yet alive. Thank You for giving us the truth. May You be merciful and gracious to us. Restore Your Word, starting with us the faithful preachers and teachers and churches, and may it spread across this land and around the world, to Your glory we pray. Amen.
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