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TEXT: Micah 4:1-5
SUBJECT: Gospel Changes #27: Terrorism
September 11th is a black day in the history of our country. You all know what happened: ten years ago today, before the sun rose in California, four airliners were hijacked and aimed at the heart of American power.
One flew toward the White House, but thanks to God's mercy and the brave passengers, it never got there. The plane was forced down in western Pennsylvania, killing everyone aboard but sparing the President and the leading members of his government. We should remember Todd Beamer (now with the Lord) who led the charge and saved the White House at the cost of his own life.
A second plane hit its target, crashing down on the Pentagon, killing 64 passengers and 125 people on the ground.
The other two jets were aimed at the World Trade Center in New York City. They both hit their mark, killing nearly 3,000 people, doing billions of dollars of damage, wrecking the world economy, and doing God only knows how much harm to the families and friends left behind, and the whole nation who sat glued in front of the TV watching the black smoke rise from the crumbling towers.
What Pearl Harbor was to my parents' generation, and the assassination of President Kennedy was to mine, 911 will be to every American under fifty years old. Decades from now, in convalescent homes, people will be telling each other 'where they were' when they heard the news. The images were unforgettable.
American life was changed that day. We all knew the word, 'terrorism', of course, but it was for other people in far away places. Car bombs went off in Jerusalem; embassies were attacked in Nairobi. Barracks were blown up in Beirut. Not here.
But on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, terrorism hit home. New Yorkers are still suffering a hangover of grief and fear and frustrated anger. We ought to pray for these dear people, that they would find peace in believing.
The rest of us went on with our lives. Because we had to. But the lives we went on with were not the same. A spectre of fear now dogs our every step. We see soldiers at the airport, and when we see a suitcase or a backpack unattended, we wonder if it's going to go off. This happened to me at a restaurant a few years ago. I left my briefcase at the table, and when I went back to get it, the waiter told me some of the staff were terrified! He knew me, and told them not to worry. But they did worry. Because terrorism breeds fear; if not panic, then a nagging anxiety, a residue of uncertainty.
The President, the military, Homeland Security, and the local police have tried to make our lives safer. Whether they have or not, I'm not qualified to say. But I can say this: overthrowing the Taliban is not the final answer and neither is killing Osama Bin-Laden, breaking Al-Queda, or full body scans at the airport.
Terrorism is too big and complex and stubborn to be succumb to these measures (which, again, may or may not be good in themselves). The only thing that will do away with Terrorism and the fear and mistrust it spawns is.
The Gospel changes everything. Including terrorism and its rotten fruit.
SUPPORTING OUR BRETHREN IN THE MUSLIM COUNTRIES AND MISSIONS TO ISLAM
How do you keep poor men who feel picked on by the great powers from striking back? The standard answer is: you educate them, relieve their poverty, and tilt your foreign policy toward them and their concerns. I'm sure there's some truth in this, but there's a bigger truth you will never hear on TV, read in a magazine or learn at the university.
You change these men with the Gospel! Saul of Tarsus was a religious fanatic, and he would stop at nothing to see the enemies of his religion crushed. He breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the church, and had been able to do it, he have would pulled Jesus down from Heaven and strangled Him! He said as much: I thought to do many things contrary to His name.
What changed Saul? It wasn't education or money or political favor (he had all of these things at his worst). It was the Gospel! The Man he knew was dead, was, in fact, Risen from the dead, and offering the church's bane, forgiveness and eternal life.
Nineteen men died that day shouting the words, Allah Akhbar-god is great. If only they had known the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
We need to pray for our brethren in the Middle East, support them if we can, and ask the Lord to send missionaries to these dark places. It is hard to send preachers to the Muslim world; they're suspected of being CIA operatives, and charged with blaspheming Allah and speaking ill of his Prophet, both capital crimes in many places. They need our prayers!
But they don't get many of them, because (I hate to say this, but it's true): most American Evangelical Christians prefer unbelieving Israelis to Christian Arabs! We've allowed our politics and romantic views of Israel to cloud out thoughts. We are Americans, but Christians first! We need to love our brothers and sisters in Baghdad, Karachi, and Teheran.
The Gospel changes terrorism by turning terrorists into saints. Not Americans who agree with our foreign policy or Zionists who want the West Bank for Israel, but disciples of Jesus Christ and members of the Universal Church.
The President has a anti-terrorist policy, and I wish him the best with it, but our policy to stop terrorism is-
Repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations!
The Terrorists are our enemies and they ought to be brought to justice. But 'bringing criminals to justice' is not our job. We're supposed to bring them to Christ!
The Gospel changes Terrorism by changing the terrorists.
THE GOSPEL BRACES US FOR TERRORISM BY TELLING HOW BAD THE HUMAN RACE IS-INCLUDING US.
This is what the Gospel does for terrorists, but what does it do for the rest of us, the people hurt by their wicked attacks, and living in fear of the next one?
For one thing, the Gospel braces us for terrorism by telling us how bad the human race is-including you and me.
A day or two after 911, I was watching a man interviewed on the news. He was 35 or 40 years old, if I remember correctly, and he said one of the stupidest things I've ever heard-
This shakes my faith in humanity!
I wonder what took him so long? The Bible teaches and everyday experience confirms that man is a mess. Not everybody flies a plane into a skyscraper, but in our smaller, less spectacular ways, we're full of resentment and malice, envy and cruelty.
.the very traits that moved the men to blow up the World Trade Center.
The Gospel does not tell us how good we are, but how bad we are, and that there's nothing we can do to make ourselves any better! If willpower were enough, the Law would be enough. But the Law isn't enough. We need the Gospel! We need the Good News of what God has done for us in Christ, and not what we have or can do for Him!
Rather than calling the Gospel into question, 911 make it crystal clear how badly we need it ourselves, and need to preach it to others.
The Gospel assumes human depravity and gives us the only way out.
THE GOSPEL ASSURES US THAT WE ARE SAFE IN AN UNSAFE WORLD
It's weird that people who never worried about dying suddenly started to ten years ago today. As though thousands don't die of sudden heart attacks or accidents or in other ways every day. But such is the blindness of man that he has to be hit in face with sudden death to really believe in it.
The Gospel does not tell us that 'bad things won't happen to us'. It does not assure us that we're exempt from Terrorist attacks. You may be dead by two o'clock this afternoon-or before then, only God knows.
But it does tell us that, whether in life or death, we are the Lord's. The dead in Christ are alive in spirit, and on the Day of the Resurrection, we'll be fully alive-body and soul, forever with the Lord.
Jesus did not lie to His friends; He didn't tell them their lives would be easy. Or long. In fact, He hinted otherwise, but for all that He could say, and they could believe-
In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.
This is the believer's only comfort in life and death: that we belong to Jesus and He will never leave us or forsake us.
THE GOSPEL TELLS US THAT GREAT CALAMITIES IN THE WORLD ARE ALSO GREAT OPPORTUNITIES FOR WITNESSING.
On September 10, 2001, the churches of New York were empty, while the discos and bars were full. The next day, the opposite was true. Christians had a real opportunity to explain what's wrong with the world and to point frightened sinners to the safety of Christ. While some flubbed the chance, many took it, and God only knows how many came to believe in Christ under the shadow of the burning towers.
We need to remember this when the next bomb goes off. On that day, don't be a Hawk or a Dove, be a Christian!
FINALLY, THE GOSPEL TELLS US THAT TERRORISM HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE
Because of sin, things are not the way they're supposed to be. Planes are not supposed to be aimed at skyscrapers-and God is angrier about it than anyone! But, unlike most people, He's not contenting Himself cursing the criminals and demanding the government do more to stop them.
In Jesus, He has acted decisively to put an end to hatred and violence and murder and all the other evils of life in the world as it now is. The work is well under way, and one day, it will be finished.
The tears of 911 will not be dried by politics or armies, but by the Second Coming of Christ. Then, and only then, they'll be wiped away for ever.
Surely I come quickly. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
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