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March 17, 2019

Sermon Psalm 14:1  . . . “Bible songs:  The fool says there is no God”

“Bible songs:  The fool says there is no God”

Psalm 14:1

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

In an article entitled, The 50 Most Brilliant Atheists of All Time, the author, Terri Black, writes:  “Atheism is generating quite a lot of attention these days.  Prominent atheists are getting the word out about their views in increasing numbers and generating lots of public debate on the proper place of religion in governments and societies in the modern world.  And now, more than ever, atheists have been able to network together and join forces because of the internet.”

Then she writes:  “Today, 2.3 percent of the world’s population identifies themselves as atheist...and scientists are probably the largest concentration of atheists, and many of those have been recognized as among the most brilliant of human beings for their work.”

So who does she say are the fifty most brilliant atheists of all time?  Linus Pauling, for example, was one of the most influential chemists in history, as well as one of the most important scientists of the 20th century.  He was awarded two Nobel Prizes--one for chemistry, and the other for his stand against nuclear weapons.  Early in life, he was a Lutheran, then later joined the Unitarian Universalist Church.  Two years before he died of cancer, he claimed to be an atheist.

Famed actress Katherine Hepburn was an atheist too.  She received twelve Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, and still holds the record with four wins.  In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked her as cinema history’s greatest female star.  And while in an interview she said she thought a lot of Jesus Christ, she added:  “I am an atheist and that’s it.  I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.”

And Richard Dawkins is probably the most famous atheist of all.  Now almost eighty years old, he’s taught at Oxford and written numerous books like, The Blind Watchmaker, and The God Delusion, a book that’s been translated into more than thirty languages.  And since he so strongly supports evolution by natural selection, he’s been called “Darwin’s Rottweiler.”

All of them are amazingly intelligent people, what many would say are some of the most brilliant people in the world.  But, strangely enough, the words of today’s Bible song, Psalm 14, has something vastly different to say.

Please turn in your Bible to page 575, as I read the words of our text.  Psalm 14, verse 1:  “To the Choirmaster.  Of David.  The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.  The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.  They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.  Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?  There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.  You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.  Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!  When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”

Let’s look again at the beginning, where it says:  “To the Choirmaster.  Of David.”  

Those very same words begin more than fifty of the psalms.  Glance to the left, to page 574, and you’ll see them, for example, at the beginning of Psalms 11, 12, and 13.  “To the Choirmaster.  A Psalm of David.”

What’s it mean?  As far as we can tell, these psalms were meant to be sung, not just by one person or even by a small choir.  They were meant to be sung by the whole congregation.

And while other psalms might begin with words of blessing, sorrow, wonder, or praise, Psalm 14 begins with this:  “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

“The fool,” it says.  That’s a pretty strong word!  But it’s a word the Bible uses almost a hundred a fifty times.  

Isaiah wrote:  “A fool speaks nonsense.  His mind plots wickedness.”  Paul wrote to the Romans:  “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”  And Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7:  “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, is like a fool who built his house on the sand.”

Now when we hear that word “fool,” we often think of someone who’s silly, simple, or stupid.  But that’s not the way the Bible uses the word at all.

Instead, it means someone who has deliberately closed his heart and mind to the Word and the will of God.  In fact, the word “fool” can even mean, “a fading,” “a withering,” and “a dying,” like a fallen leaf or a plucked flower.  To be a fool is to be dried up and decayed, like a walking sepulchre.

And what does a fool say in his heart?  “There is no God.”  Or rather, if I could say, there is no “There is,” in the original text.  Translators simply added those words to help smooth out the translation.  A closer reading of the text would say:  “The fool says in his heart, ‘No God.  No God.’”

So why do they say, “No God”?  Or to put it another way, why do people become atheists?

There are quite a lot of reasons.  For one, some simply become angry at God.  Maybe they made some bad decisions or poor choices in life, and it seemed that, all of a sudden, He wasn’t there for them or didn’t care about them when they needed Him the most.  So rather than believe in Him, they turned their backs on Him.  It’s a gesture of defiance, an act of rebellion.

Others simply don’t know enough about their faith, and when questions and challenges come up about Jesus or the Bible or their place in the world, they just don’t have the answers, and assume that everything they once knew about God must not be true.

But the primary reason many become atheists is because they want to do what they want to do, without any fear of guilt or punishment at all.  After all, if there is no God, then they’re free to choose their own morals and be whoever or whatever they want to be.

Christian speaker Bill Gothard tells of a university student who once came to see him at the end of a seminar and said defiantly before a group of other students gathered around:  “I don’t believe there is a God.”

He said:  “That tells me some very revealing things about you.”

“Like what?” she answered.

He said:  “I don’t think we want to discuss this in front of other people.  Could we talk a little later?”

And when they got together a little later, he asked, “Did you ever believe in God?”

She said:  “When I was a child, I believed in God, but later I realized He was only a myth or a fairy tale.”

Then he asked, “So tell me, what did you do just before you rejected the existence of God?”

At first, she was stunned.  Then she told him some of the things she had done.

Then he said:  “From that point on, you had two choices--either live with the guilt or try to get rid of God.  You chose to get rid of God.”

Atheist Thomas Nagel once said:  “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God...It’s that I hope there is no God!  I don’t want there to be a God.”

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re walking along a beach, when you suddenly find a watch with a leather band, half covered in sand.  You reach down and pick it up.

And while you’re examining it, I come up to you and say:  “This watch got here by a long process guided by pure, unguided chance, and here’s how it happened:  iron particles somehow were separated from rock, and over millions of years, these particles of iron came to a boil and became little pieces of stainless steel.  Then those pieces, through erosion, formed into tiny watch parts--round cogs, sprockets, a time-setting knob, a mainspring, an escape wheel, and scores of other tiny parts--all of exact size, shape, and proportion.  And at the same time all this was happening, nearby crystals of sand were heated to a high temperature, and amazingly formed a chunk of glass, which over millions and millions of years eroded to a perfectly round shape that, strangely enough, fit the watch face perfectly.  

“Then one day, wind blew that piece of glass onto the watch with such force, that it sealed itself to the front of the watch.

“Then a few more million years passed, and a cow happened to walk by and died of a heart attack right there on that spot.  And the leather from the hide of that dead cow began to come apart through the process of deterioration, and two slender pieces formed what would be a perfect fit for a watch band, if only it could somehow attach itself to the watch.

“And sure enough, one day, the wind blew two little pieces of stainless steel, shaped like small rods, formed by chance over millions of years, at just the right angle to needle them through the leather pieces.  And, believe it or not, they attached themselves to the watch, making the watch band usable to wear on someone’s wrist.

“And that,” I say in conclusion, “ is how this watch got here.”

To which you would say, “Huh?!”

As a biologist by the name of Edwin Conklin once said:  “The probability of life originating by accident is comparable to the probability of an unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop.”

But what does the Bible say?  Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.”

You want to know if there’s a God?  Look at Jesus Christ.  Look at His power.  He made paralyzed people walk.  He made blind people see.  He made deaf people hear.  When huge crowds flocked around Him, bringing their sick and disabled friends, He healed them all.  

Even more, He didn’t just cure problems, He cared about people.  It was the greatest outburst of power and compassion that the world has ever seen or will ever see.

No one ever did what Jesus did.  No one ever spoke the way Jesus spoke.  No one ever lived the way Jesus lived.  No one ever loved the way Jesus loved.

As the prophet Isaiah once wrote, He was truly Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Now we’ve talked for a little while about atheists this morning, about fools who say in their heart, “There is no God.”  But did you know that there are Christian atheists too!

So what are Christian atheists?  They don’t come to church.  They don’t read their Bible  They don’t pray.  They never take the sacraments and they avoid Christian fellowship.  They live and breathe every day without even thinking once about the Word and the will of God.  They call themselves Christian, but for all practical purposes, they’re atheist!

So how can we reach them?  

First, we can pray for them.  We can ask God to open their mind, and soften their hardened heart.

Second, we can show our love for them.  Help them to find the truth when they’re ready.  Guide them when they’re willing to be guided, to a Savior who loves them even more.

And third, watch God be God, for only He, by His grace, can do what we could never do.

As the prophet Ezekiel once wrote:  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.  I will remove from you your heart of stone.”  And as Jeremiah wrote:  “Then they will be My people, and I will be their God.”

 

We thank You, Lord, for revealing Yourself through Your Word and through the world around us.  Help us always to put our faith, hope, and trust in You.  This we ask for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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