************ Sermon on Genesis 1-3, Psalm 53 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 16, 2011
Genesis 1-3, Psalm 53
(25 August 2010, South Korea) A handicapped man, annoyed that an elevator closed and departed without him, rammed his wheelchair into the doors not once, not twice, but three times in all – only to plunge down the now-empty elevator shaft to his death.
(10 January 2010, Brazil) A man installed a tiny electric fence around his car to protect it against the frequent robberies that occur in his neighborhood. He forgot the fence was on and electrocuted himself.
(1 January 2010, South Africa) A 27 year-old woman swam a crocodile-infested river three times. Signs stated that swimming was strictly prohibited. On her third refreshing dip of the day, she didn't have time to scream or struggle. Friends saw just a ripple on the water where seconds before she had been swimming.
Why do I mention these three examples? Because these three people were very foolish. They did incredibly dumb things without thinking through the consequences.
Psalm 53 also talks about foolish people. But these fools do something even dumber than the people I mentioned. They say "There is no God" (Ps 53:1).
In looking at Psalm 53, I want to talk about three kinds of fools: first, fools who deny God; second, fools, who ignore God; third, fools who are for God. I want to do this in light of what we have been looking at in the first three chapters of Genesis.
I Fools Who Deny God
A "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Ps 53:1). The Bible is talking about atheists here.
I am sure some of you have heard the old joke related to this. An atheist complained to a friend that there is no holiday for the atheist. "Christians have Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving but atheists have nothing." "Not true," said his friend, "You have April 1." [You know, April Fool's Day.]
Do you realize that Psalm 53:1 (and Psalm 14:1) is the only verse of the Bible that talks about atheists? There are 41,000+ verses in our English Bible and God gives half of one verse to atheism. There are 774,000+ words in our English Bible and God gives the atheist only 10 words; it is even worse in my Hebrew Bible – there the atheist gets only 5 words.
Why is this so? Because the Bible assumes the existence of God. From beginning to end it assumes there is a God. Nowhere does the Bible try to prove God's existence. And, most people who read the Bible assume the existence of God.
B We have just finished the first three chapters of Genesis. Remember how Genesis begins? "In the beginning God ..." (Gen 1:1). Genesis does not begin with the ontological, cosmological, or teleological argument for the existence of God. Rather, Genesis assumes the existence of God and simply goes on from there.
"In the beginning God ..." And what flows from this? This God made the heavens and the earth. This God made plants and animals, birds and fish, according to their kinds. This God made man in His image. This God made everything good. This God put man in a perfect Garden. This God established the first covenant – the covenant of works. This God gave the first command – do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This God made the first woman and brought her to the first man and united them in marriage with the husband as the head. This God pronounced judgment upon the serpent, the woman, and the man when they fell into sin. This God pronounced the age-long struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, the church and Satan. This God announced the coming of Jesus Who will save His people and crush the serpent's head. This God removed man from the Garden and placed him in a thorn-infested ground.
What happens if you are one of the one percent of all Americans who are atheists and say in their heart, "There is no God"? You know what happens. You deny everything I just said. If you don't believe in God, then you believe this universe, the plants and animals, the birds and fish are the product of chance. You deny that all species are separate from one another so that evolution is a possibility. Man is a creature like every other creature and has no more right and no more say over the earth than any other creature. Good is defined by each person and not by God. You deny a perfect Garden – perfection is not something we started with but something we might end with thanks to evolution and technology. You deny the covenant of works – there is no higher being Who wants a relationship with us. You deny the first command and every other command – man makes his own rules. You deny that men and women have different roles and that man is the head of the woman. You deny the existence of sin and evil. You deny the struggle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. You deny the need for salvation and the coming of Jesus as Savior. You deny judgment.
See what happens when you are one of those fools who do not believe in the existence of God?
C "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Ps 53:1). Even the most educated genius with the highest I.Q. can be a fool! He or she can know the latest scientific theory and yet be a fool! He or she can be at the cutting edge of research and be a fool! He or she can be known around the world and still be a fool. He or she can be a Supreme Court justice or a Senator or President and still be a fool. He or she can be a movie star, a sport star, or a rock star and still be a fool.
If you don't believe in God, you are a fool. Because someday you are going to meet the God you don't believe in. Face-to-face. And He will be terrifying. And He will say, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers" (Mt 7:23)!
D Everyone knows a car has an engineer, a portrait has a painter, a book has an author, a house has a builder, an orchestra has a director, a violin has a craftsman. Likewise, everyone knows the universe has a Creator. According to the Apostle Paul, God has revealed Himself to every person through creation revelation. Every person looks at creation and can see God's eternal power and divine nature (Rom 1:20). Every person has a conscience showing that the requirements of God's law is written on their hearts (Rom 2:14-15). Everyone knows there is a God and everyone knows His Law. But what does the fool do? The fool denies this and suppresses this (Rom 1:18). "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Ps 53:1). And, in not admitting there is a Creator the fool cannot admit anything else from Genesis 1-3 either.
II Fools Who Ignore God
A We move from the fool who denies God to the fool who ignores God. The fool who ignores God says, "There is a God, but I am going to live without Him." "There is a Bible, but I am not going to live by it." "There is death and a second coming, but I am not going to get ready for either."
The most famous atheist of the twentieth century was Madelyn Murray O'Hare. Her most famous line? "I'm an atheist, not because I've searched behind every star and looked under every rock to prove there's no God. I'm an atheist because I want to live my life as if there's no God."
As I already said, only one percent of all Americans are the kind of fools who deny there is a God. But a far higher percentage of all Americans are the kind of fools – like Madelyn Murray O'Hare – who live like there is no God.
At heart, this was the sin of Satan. Satan was no atheist. Not at all. You see, Satan was one of God's mightiest angels. He was a prince of heaven. As such, it was his job to serve God and obey God. So Satan himself never once denied the existence of God. In fact, he acknowledges God's existence to Adam and Eve: "Did God really say ..." "God knows when you eat of it ... you will be like God" (Gen 3:1,5). Satan was no atheist but he decided to live like there was no God. So, he was the first to rebel against God.
And, it was Satan who tempted man to live the same way – like there was no God. So what do we see in the Garden? We see Adam and Eve living like there was no God even though they knew there was a God. They knew God as their Creator – that He formed the man from the dust of the ground and the woman from the rib of the man. They knew Him as a covenanting God – He walked with them and talked with them. They knew Him as a good God – He looked after their need for food and companionship. They knew Him as the Law Giver – do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They knew His justice and punishment – when you eat of it you will surely die. Yes, Adam and Eve knew there was a God but when they took the forbidden fruit they lived like there was no God. And afterwards, when they hid from God among the trees of the Garden, they pretended this God was not there, they pretended He did not know all things and see all things, they pretended there would be no consequences to their sin.
Adam and Eve were fools – what I call practical atheists. They didn't believe in atheism but they certainly practiced it. They wanted to decide for themselves what is good for food and pleasing to the eye. They wanted to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. Which is why they went against the command and warning of God.
B I said earlier that a high percentage of all Americans are the kind of fools who live like there is no God. How high a percentage? Listen to God's answer:
(Ps 53:1-3) They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. (2) God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. (3) Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.According to God what is the percentage of practical atheists? The answer might surprise you. It might shock you. The number of practical atheists is one hundred percent. Everyone of us, if we are honest, have to admit we live – at times – like there is no God.
There is one exception – the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only One Who believes in God and always lives like there is a God. He alone perfectly keeps God's Law. And, if we are in Him, He keeps the Law in our place. And is punished in our place.
C The Lord God looks down from heaven. He observes the sons of men; His eyes examine them (Ps 11:4). What does He see? A world full of practical atheists.
Let's think about what this means. First, it means God is a threat to the sinner's lifestyle. The existence of God means greedy corporations, lying politicians, cheating spouses, dishonest taxpayers, drug pushers, gang-bangers, porn kings, and drag queens have to change their ways. The existence of the God of the Bible means terrorists and suicide bombers and Muslim Mullahs need to stop what they are doing and teaching. If there is a God, everyone of these needs to repent.
Let me get closer to home. The existence of God is a threat to our lifestyle too. Everyone of us, at heart, wants to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Everyone of us, at heart, wants to do certain kinds of sins without facing judgment and punishment. So we become practical atheists. We have a fling without a ring – sex before marriage or sex outside of marriage. We abuse alcohol or drugs – what God thinks doesn't matter. We neglect our marriage, ignore our children, and easily skip church – forget what He says about commitment. We lie if it keeps us out of trouble. We cheat to get ahead. We are practical atheists who live as if there is no God. If we believe in God, we need to live like we believe in God. We need to live by His laws and commandments.
Second, we may not like to hear this, but the very existence of God means He punishes sin. If He is God, then He sets the standards and must punish any variance from that standard. No one wants to think about that. I would like to ask you to turn to Psalm 10 in your Bibles.
(Ps 10:2-12) In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. (3) He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. [TAKE CAREFUL NOTE OF VERSE 4.] (4) In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (5) His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies. (6) He says to himself, "Nothing will shake me; I'll always be happy and never have trouble." (7) His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. (8) He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. (9) He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. (10) His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. [TAKE NOTE OF VERSE 11.] (11) He says to himself, "God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees." [SO HE BELIEVES IN GOD BUT FOOLISHLY IGNORES GOD. SO WHAT DOES THE PSALMIST SAY IN VERSE 12?] (12) Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God ...The wicked and arrogant think they can get away with their evil. They want to believe there is no judgment and no standard. But there is. There is. Listen to what the psalmist says:
(Ps 53:4) Will the evildoers never learn-- those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on God?
I am sure you realize there is push in our country to take God out. Take God out of the school house, the court house, the White House, the people's house or Congress. There is a push to take God off our currency. Why? Because no one wants to be reminded that they are accountable to God. No one wants to be reminded that they deserve to be punished for their sin. What fools!
III Fools for God
A The psalmist ends with God's salvation. To use the thoughts of Paul in 1 Corinthians, those who are saved by the cross are fools for God. Because what does Paul say? He says the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). He says God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what was preached – namely, Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:21,23).
What is foolishness to the world, however, is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18, 24) and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:25).
B Now, how is this foolishness worked out in the lives of believers? Because of Christ and the cross, and the new life of the Spirit, the Christian's values are upside-down as compared to the world's. The world prizes money, wealth, goods. The world values revenge, getting even. The world promotes an immoral and unchaste lifestyle. The world esteems position and acclaim. The world says you elbow your way to the front of the line and climb over others on your way to the top. But the Christian, instead, prizes meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity, and peace (Mt 5:1-12). Fools for Christ, that's what we are in the eyes of the world.
By God's grace, congregation, you have a choice. You can be a fool who denies God. You can be a fool who ignores God. Or, you can be a fool for God. Which kind of fool are you?
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