I don’t think we would get an argument from anyone about the world being a broken place. Not all people would use the term ‘broken’… they might say the world is ‘messed up,’ or ‘unfair’ or something like that, but there isn’t really any disagreement about the fact that the world is plagued by hunger, war, sickness, loneliness and injustice… and many people are asking questions like Julie in our drama: Where is God in all of this brokenness? If God is good then why does he allow so many bad things to happen? If God is so powerful why doesn’t he step in and fix things? Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why is God so silent? These are honest and difficult questions… and they need to be answered. What I’ve found is that if these questions go unanswered or are answered badly, people despair and can lose their faith… this is especially true following difficult times: someone you love dies; you’ve been treated terribly by someone that should have protected them; your fervent prayers have gone unanswered… these are the kinds of disappointments with God that cause faith to dwindle away. We are beginning a series that will focus on the six broken places in the world Dave listed in his video… we will be talking a lot over the next six weeks about the depth of the world’s brokenness… we will also be talking about God’s role as well as our role in repairing our broken world. But we know that a series like this can be overwhelming and we want you to know that there are answers to the kinds of questions Julie asked… answers that are helpful, that make sense and give people hope. Granted, there is no way in twenty-five minutes that I can give answers that will satisfy everyone, but I’ll say it again, there are real, you-can-stand-on-this answers. We don’t want anyone running out of sandwich shops and we don’t want anyone losing their faith.
So let’s get started. Now, again, as Dave said in introductory video, we have identified 6 broken places in the world. And today we are starting with a look at the first one on the list: Because of sin and the ongoing rebellion against God human beings are separated from God and lost. We’re starting with this one because we see it as the foundational broken place. Or to say it another way, we believe that this broken place, mankind’s separation from God, ushered the other five broken places into the world…. injustice, brokenness, hatred, isolation, and decay all flow from the reality of the fact that because of sin people are separated from God and lost. And if it is true, as we believe that all brokenness is somehow related to mankind being separated from God then it stands to reason that all true healing of the broken places must begin with healing our separation from God.
The first thing I want to tell you is that God must really want us to understanding of how mankind came to be separated from Him. It must be very important to God. I say this because the very first chapters of the first book in the Bible tell us in great detail what God initially intended for mankind, what happened to separate us from God and what have been the results of this separation. In other words, God’s very first message to us was purposed to answer the questions: ‘Why is the world such a mess?’ and ‘Why does God allow it to be this way?’
A bit of background: And please stick with me here. We know from history that the Jewish people were in slavery in Egypt for about 400 years. During that time the Egyptians did not allow the Jews to openly pursue a relationship with God and so over those 400 years most Jewish people lost the connection to God that their forefathers had had. Then suddenly the Jews, about 1 million of them, were given their freedom (you can read all about this in the Book of Exodus) and while they were traveling from Egypt to their new home in Israel, Moses, the man who was leading the Jews out of Egypt, with the clear help of God’s spirit, wrote a book to answers a good deal of the questions the Jews had about God and life and their history. And Moses started this book we call Genesis with a whole section on how the world got here in the first place and why the world is the way that it is. The first 2 chapters of Genesis told the Jews (and still tell us) why the world was created in the first place and how good the world was when it was first created. And here is the answer to why the world was created: To be the very best place possible for mankind to have a relationship with God and the very best place for us to live with one another. Genesis does not tell us the details of how the world was created or when it was created but it does tell us why the world was created: to be the very best place for you and me to have a relationship with God and with one another. In fact, if you look at Genesis 1:25 after God had finished making everything but mankind it says, “And God saw that it was good.” This word ‘good’ is the cool Hebrew word Tov and Tov has a very complex and interesting meaning… in fact, it is a word that has so much meaning that it is almost impossible to explain in English. Our word Good doesn’t even come close. Tov had 5 different components; for something to be fully Tov, it had to be beautiful, it had to be of the highest quality, it had to be morally without blemish, it had to be work exactly as it was created to work and it had to be the very best you could acquire. And if it lacked one of these characteristics it wasn’t fully Tov. God said his creation was Tov because it was beautiful, it was of the highest quality, there wasn’t a hint of immorality in it, it did exactly what it was made to do and you couldn’t find anything better… It was the very best place for us to have a relationship with God and with one another. And if you look at verse 31 you’ll see that right after God has made Adam and Eve he even ups his satisfaction with what he has created saying the world wasn’t just good, it was very tov!
Chapter 2 of Genesis is a retelling of the events of the 6th day of creation; it tells us further details about the creation of Adam and Eve. Chapter 2 vs. 25 says this, “The man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.” This nakedness is a physical word, but it is also a word that implies being completely open, totally honest, even child-like in your trust… it is a word that says there was absolutely nothing hidden in their relationship; it was exactly what God intended: it was very good. I know you may be thinking if God created such a good world and he wanted us to live in complete harmony with Him and with one another then why didn’t he just make it so things stayed that way? Well, the answer lies in what it means for anyone to have a good relationship: for the world to be the very best place possible for us to have a relationship with God and one another we had to be created in a way that we had choice: the key word is ‘relationship’ and relationship only has meaning when each party chooses to be together. For our relationship with God to be all that God intended for it to be we have to have the freedom, the real freedom, to choose to have a relationship with him or not to have a relationship with him. Otherwise, we are not really having a relationship. If we had been created to always act in a certain way toward God and one another we would just be living out our inbred instincts much like the animals. God wanted the best relationship with us possible and so his world had to include the sad possibility that we might choose to ignore him. And Chapter 3 of Genesis gives us the details of when mankind first chose to act on this freedom and ignore God. We don’t have the time to look in depth at this chapter in depth today, but once Eve had been deceived and ate the fruit God had commanded they not eat and Adam then chose to listen to Eve and rebel rather than obey God we read this in verse 7: Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed, fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Sin… which means to miss the mark of what God intended for us to be… had entered the world and the next nine chapters of Genesis catalogue the consequences of our rebellion. In those next nine chapters you’ll find the breakdown of every relationship that we can have: people with God, husband with wife, brother with brother, neighbor with neighbor, nation with nation… and we also see the breakdown of all of the beautiful systems of the natural world; everything breaks down as sinful people slide further and further from God. And in the process all of the six broken places: separation, injustice, brokenness, hatred, isolation, and decay begin to appear as sin takes more and more control and mankind becomes more and more distant from God. And so, why is the world the way that it is? God wanted so much to have a relationship with you and me that he formed the universe knowing that there was the possibility that we would choose to rebel. We did and everyone continues to do so and now, everything within God’s good creation reflects that rebellion. This is why our bodies, minds and souls are broken; why our relationships are broken. This is why the creation is broken. Mankind’s sin and our ongoing rebellion against God have separated us from him and also separated us from much of the good that he created for us. It is not God who is distant; it is mankind that is distant from God. He is still everywhere; I know that it can seem that God is distant and silent, but he is still everywhere… but here is the good news: He still longs to have a relationship with you that is as Tov, as good as is possible in our fallen world.
The reason I am confident of this is that God says so loudly and clearly through the entire Bible. We believe that the one grand theme of the Bible is this: God is reaching out to mankind, calling us back to himself… the Bible shows us this over and over and over. We firmly believe that the Bible is God’s primary way of telling us about himself right now and what the Bible tells us is that God is still reaching out to us… because he still loves us even in our rebellion. Of course, some will say, “If he loves us why doesn’t he step in and fix things for us?” Well, first off, he often does. I think about this a lot. I have no idea of all that I’ve been spared because of God’s hand in my life. Plus, I know that he has answered my prayers and the prayers of others for me. But what we want to know is why he leaves some prayers, prayers for people and situations that are really important to us, unanswered? Can I be honest? I don’t know. I know that what I am about to say may not be helpful but the truth is simply this: the brokenness that mankind’s sin has ushered into the world affects everyone… everyone, the good and the bad, all live with the heartbreaking consequences of sin… and sometimes those consequences strike very close to home… or maybe it’s better to say those consequences strike home. And I believe with all of my heart that God’s heart is broken by this and I believe this because this, too, is everywhere in the Bible. And not only is it everywhere in the Bible that God’s heart is broken by the damage that sin is doing in His world but he is angered by this damage... especially when people inflict damage on others. Plus, the Bible also tells us that while we may now live at a time when God is holding back his hand from righting all that is wrong with the world... he will not hold back forever. Right now he is letting sin’s consequences be a terrible reminder that things are not as they should be. But someday that will all change. Dave mentioned a scripture from the book of Romans that says even the creation waits in eager expectation for the day that God will fully repair everything that has been broken by sin. But in the meantime, and here is where it gets very practical…God is expecting those of us who represent him in the world to be as equally heartsick and angry by the brokenness in the world and he also expects us to be busy doing what we can to make right what is wrong.
And the first wrong that needs to be righted is our separation from God. Once again, it is because of sin and the ongoing rebellion against God that human beings are separated from God and lost. And the great message of the Bible is this: that through faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection our sinful disobedience is forgiven and that through repentance and surrender to God we are reconciled to God for this life and eternity. This is God’s gospel, the good news… it is God’s message of hope for all of humanity. Now, I know that people that don’t believe this get all worked up over us saying that they are lost. But here is an interesting fact: every time the Bible shows people being separated from God they are pictured as wanderers, people who may not even know they are lost… but truth is, they really don’t know where they are going. But people who are wandering can find direction and forgiveness and healing through surrender to Jesus and trust in Jesus. I have been thinking a lot about how to talk about this. I can name 5 men off the top of my head Mark, Randy, Mike, Travis and Todd, men that when I first met them they seemed confident about life and very sure of themselves. They would have been offended by me saying they were lost. Yet, once they came to faith in Jesus and surrendered their lives to him, they found the direction and purpose that can only come from God. They have all said in some way to me that before they met Jesus, they were just wandering really, they were lost; but now they are home. And we, those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus, have been given the joyous task of leading people into the only way of finding their way home: we lead people to Jesus and then he gives them new life!
Let me tell you about one of those men I mentioned. I only knew him because my wife was his children’s nanny. He was a young buck on top of the world. Rich beyond imagination… well placed… good looking… beautiful wife and family. He struck everyone as someone that had it all and had it all together. He knew where he was going and he really didn’t need anyone… especially me, the nanny’s husband. He treated me with a ‘sorry-you’re-you and not me’ condescension. To make a long story very short, his arrogance had made his wife’s life terribly miserable and events pushed her to tell him she would leave him if things didn’t change. She actually thought her telling him this might lead to violence and so police were nearby on notice just in case. But his response to her was exactly the opposite: he was suddenly paralyzed by his own foolishness… and at my wife’s suggestion he called me to see if I would talk to him. And I wasn’t so sure about it. In all honesty, I thought he was getting what he deserved. But, I said I would meet him at the coffee shop in the old Borders at Keystone at the Crossing and as I listened to him as he told me about his situation and his life I realized that contrary to the way that it seemed, he’d been a broken, wandering man for a long time… and what he needed to hear was the truth about Jesus. After about two hours of listening and then telling him about my faith in Christ, I got up and walked over to the Bible rack in that store and bought him a Bible, told him it was for him and then I read him these verses from the Message’s version of 1 John If we claim that we experience a shared life with God and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin. If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s. And as the truth of this passage sunk in I could see that something was stirring in him: it was hope; hope that his separation from God could end and hope that his separation from his wife and family could be repaired. And right there in that coffee shop he told Jesus that he wanted to surrender his life to him and trust him. I was still a bit miffed. I wanted to see him suffer more. But when the time came for us to go he said to me, “Can I write you a check for your time?” And said, “No!” Then he said, “Can I write a check to your favorite charity?” And I said, “No you can’t write a check to my favorite charity.” And he started to weep… and finally, he said, “I’ve never been with anyone, ever, that didn’t want something from me.” And then I realized he didn’t need to suffer any more; he’d been suffering the consequences of separation from God all of his life. And now he was living with the terrible consequences of his own sin and rebellion from God and I’d had the privilege of showing him the way to Jesus and to the beginning of repairing his life. Now, his life has not been easy since that day but, in the things that are important, his life with God and his life with his wife and his children and finding real purpose and meaning in life, there has been great healing.
The sad fact is that the world is broken. We have all lost our way. But God is continually working to bring about ends to suffering in the world. And He does so now primarily through the church, through people who have made the decision to surrender their lives to Jesus and trust him. God’s work and our marching orders are to bring lost people to the one who can reconcile them to God… the one who can give their lives meaning and purpose… the one who launches us into repairing the 6 broken places… the one who longs to save those who are wandering: Jesus.