Sermon: "How Do We Know He Even Cares?"
|Sermon Text: Genesis 6:5-8|
|5||The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.|
|6||The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.|
|7||So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them."|
|8||But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.|
George read that verse from Genesis, Chapter 6. Some people think I'm weird because that's my favorite verse in the Bible. In fact, the words that say, "It broke his heart" is my favorite line in the Bible. I believe that means that God's heart was filled with pain. And we will get into that more, but I want to go through this scripture passage today--this prelude to the story of Noah. We know that God decided to send a flood to destroy mankind, and that he was fed up with the rampant sin in the world, and we see here that he was angry. Anger is a pretty normal response to pain, isn't it? I've felt somewhat like God before; and listen as I say that so you understand where I am coming from. I was born in South Carolina and I remember as a little boy playing outside in my cousin's back yard one summer. And all of a sudden, I felt this pain in my foot and in my ankle and leg and I began to cry even though I didn't understand what was wrong. Well, it turned out that my cousin and I were playing a little too close to an anthill. Now, I don't know if a South Carolina red ant has ever stung any of you, but I am here to tell you that it hurts. Imagine getting hundreds of these bites as a seven-year old. Lets just say that it's not one of my fondest memories of growing up. But anyway, what happened next is why I say that I felt like God in this chapter of Genesis. After my leg stopped hurting so bad, my cousin, who at the wise age of 9 or 10, said that he had an idea. So he went to his Dad's shed and brought out a can of gasoline. He said, "Gasoline kills ants. Why don't you pour it on them." It sounded good to me. So I stood there pouring gasoline on this anthill and watching ants die and their home be destroyed and it was good. It was very good. Well, it was good until some of the gasoline splashed up on my legs and began irritating my legs and feet where I had been bitten. My legs felt like they were on fire. And then my rear end felt like it was on fire, because my Dad decided to thank me for spilling all of my Uncle's gasoline. Like I said, not one of my best childhood memories. But as I think about that gasoline raining down on the anthill and ants scurrying around for cover, I can see God watching as the flood gates of Heaven were opened and He saw the humans running around looking for cover; these humans who were so arrogant, who had turned their back on God, who were, as He said, totally evil, running around looking for a place to hide and finding none.
When I first heard this story, I remembered my experience with the ants, and it got me to thinking: How do we know if God even cares about us? I mean, if he could do to us what I did to those ants, does he care? Well, I think that as we look closer at these verses, we can see three things that show us that God cares about us.
The first thing is this: If God didn't care, would he have been paying attention to us at all? If he didn't care would he have even noticed that man was filled with wickedness; that man was totally evil? Some people today want to say, "Yeah, I believe that God created us, but now I think he just lets us do whatever we want to do." They have this picture of this kind of senile old man who has forgotten us. But this verse shows that image to be false. God was paying attention and He was sad. God's heart was broken. God's heart was filled with pain. He didn't just notice and say, "Man, are they ever messed up. Glad I don't live down there." No, his heart was filled with pain. What makes your heart hurt? What makes you feel pain deep within you? Pain that has nothing to do with stubbing your toe, or breaking an arm, or getting bit by ants, but the anguish you feel inside when we love someone and know there is nothing we can do but sit by and watch them die?
My brother's dying. He's 31 years old. He's had diabetes since he was 4. When he was in high school, he decided that he was tired of all the restrictions that he had lived with for the past 13 years, so he started living like he wanted to live. He ate what he wanted to eat. Lived how he wanted to live, other than taking two shots a day, he didn't live the life of a diabetic. He started to deteriorate about 6 years ago. He had to have 3 or 4 surgeries on his eyes because his eyesight was failing. And then he started getting sick. About every 3 or 4 months he would go into the hospital and they would have to re-regulate his insulin. And then, a little less than 3 years ago, his hospital visits became much more frequent; to the point that he was spending more time in the hospital than out. About 2 years ago, he went into the hospital and he's been out of the hospital or nursing home, at the age of 31, maybe a total of 2 weeks. They said that he would never eat food again. For the last 2 years, my brother has not been able to eat or drink anything. Until this week, for the first time, something happened, they did some surgery and put a pacemaker in his stomach, an experimental thing, and there is some hope there now, but still his stomach has failed. His kidneys have failed. His liver is failing. His eyesight is failing. He has hallucinations, he sees people that aren't there, and when we are there he doesn't always even remember that we were there. He's losing feeling in his fingers and toes. He's 31-years old and he is dying. And my heart hurts for my brother. My heart hurts because there is nothing that I can do for him now. My heart hurts because when we were younger, I tried to help him. He didn't want to listen to me. And now, he is paying the price for the choices that he made. And I think that's what God felt. He tried to help from the beginning. He gave Adam and Eve the Garden of Eden; He gave them everything that they could want. And they turned away from Him. Now, things have gotten worse and He couldn't stand seeing how bad they were. How wicked people had become. And His heart was broken. That's the first way that we know God cares. He hurts for us. We don't have anguish in our hearts if we don't care. That's impossible. Heart pain comes from caring about someone or something. God cares about us.
The second thing is this: Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. How can we know that God cares? Well, we're here aren't we? If God didn't care, I believe that we wouldn't be here. He could have sent the flood and just not told anybody. He could have killed everything and washed his hands of the whole mess. If He didn't care, wouldn't He have just chalked up earth as one big old mistake? And moved on to something else? Do you remember new Coke? In the late 80's Coca-Cola decided to change their secret recipe. Sales were lagging just a bit and they thought that they could come up with a better product. Do you remember how badly it bombed? People hated it. They bought Coke because they like how it tasted. Coca-Cola lost a ton of money on their new Coke. So what did they do? They came up with Coke Classic, the original. They washed their hands of new Coke. See they didn't care about new Coke. They cared about making money, and if new Coke wasn't going to do that, they weren't going to keep it around. They chalked it up to one big mistake and they moved on. I believe that's what God would have done with us if he didn't care. He would have just moved on. Gone back to enjoying the stars and planets, maybe repopulated the earth with animals and exotic plants, and had a big old nature preserve and botanical garden to enjoy. But He loved us. What do we usually do when someone we love messes up? We give them a second chance. God saw Noah and decided that he and his family would be our second chance. He would wipe out everything else and start over. A fresh start. We don't give fresh starts to people who we don't care about. But God cares about us. Later he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the sins that we have in our life and to renew us whenever we simply ask for forgiveness. We have the second chance. We wouldn't have that if God didn't care about us.
Finally, if we skip to the end of the story of the flood in Genesis Chapter 9, Verses 12-16, we see that God made a promise to Noah and all of mankind. I want to read a little bit of that. Verse 12 says, "And God said, 'I am giving you a sign as evidence of my eternal covenant with you and all living creatures. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my permanent promise to you and to all the earth.'" And he goes on to say that whenever we see a rainbow in the clouds, whenever He would see a rainbow in the clouds, he would remember it as a covenant to never destroy the earth again that way. But we need to look at why He makes this promise. He made it because he cares about us. See, if He didn't care, why wouldn't He just do this flood thing every 500 years or so? Why not just make it kinda like a church spring rummage sale? You know, every so often He could just clean things out, save a few people or things that were really good and be done with the rest. He could get rid of all the major sin and just keep hoping that, you know, maybe after the next flood, things would be better. But He didn't do that. Instead, God made a promise to never flood the earth again no matter how sinful we become. And we can see why. In Genesis chapter 8:21, it says, "the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart, 'Never again will I curse the ground because of man.'" Noah sacrificed some of the best animals and made a burnt offering to the Lord, and this pleased God so much that he decided to make this promise to us. See, it wasn't just the animals that Noah offered. A burnt offering was praise unto God. This was worship from Noah to God. God decided not to wipe us off the face of earth with a flood ever again because He loves our praise. Isn't that awesome? He must care about us if He wants praise from us. Who of us wants praise from someone we don't care about? Praise from someone we have no feelings about or who we don't like means nothing. To me, its like a beautiful Monday--so what! Its still Monday!!! You still have the whole week to work, but give me a beautiful Saturday--now that's a day that we can get into! That's a day we can enjoy. We seek praise from people who care about us. God cares about us, and He decided not to flood us again because he cares about us.
To sum it up: Does God care about us? Yes. We know this because first of all, He notices us and we have the ability to cause His heart pain. That's why I love that verse, because that makes God real in my life. If I know that God feels pain like I do, to me that just makes Him more real. That helps me to understand that he actually knows the things that I am going through. Sometimes it's hard to have a relationship with someone who seems so far away-- someone we can't reach out and touch and know that he is right there. I mean we know, but this helps us to know, this helps me know that the God I worship feels pain just like I do. Secondly, we know that He cares about us, because He decided to give us a second chance. Instead of washing His hands of anything to do with mankind, He let us have this to do over. With Jesus Christ, He gave us a do-over. And finally, we know God cares about us because He made a promise to never do it again; because He loves to hear our worship and our praise for Him. Now, I think we know He cares, but what does that mean to us this morning? I want to challenge you with this: God cares about us, and He may never flood us again, but we can be certain that His judgment time is coming. We don't know whether that's going to come while we are here on Earth or when we get to heaven, but we do know that it is coming and it won't be pretty for some of us. God has let this world take its course. He has let people do their own thing, live their lives however they wanted, treat others with contempt, turn their back on their families, do little or nothing to help those in poverty and He has let people have their faith take a back seat to the pressures of this world. And I am pretty sure that in all of this, we can know that God's heart is still filled with pain. So I leave you with this: What do you need to be doing when you leave here this morning? Who do you need to go and tell the good news of Jesus Christ to? What do you need to do to put your marriage back together this morning? What do you need to ask forgiveness from your kids for, so that they can see Christ in you? What sin do you need to get down on your knees for this morning, and repent before God? Where are you going to put up reminders in your home, car, or work that help you to stop and worship God by yourself, or with your family this week, instead of just here on Sunday morning? Here's what it comes down to: What do you need to do, what do I need to do to stop breaking God's heart?
You know, it usually doesn't take a lot of soul searching when we think about things like this. We know. The Holy Spirit prompts us and He says, "This is what you're doing." Or "This is what you're not doing." Sometimes we just need a little reminder to take care of it. So this morning, let's take care of it. Let's pray.
Father God, we do pray that You would send Your Holy Spirit, Lord to convict us of what we need to do to get right with You. Father God, You are a God who loves us so much and we can know that because You hurt for us and I just think that we don't always think about that Lord. But we don't have an excuse anymore. We need to say what it is in our lives that's causing You pain. Father God, this morning where am I breaking your heart all over again, because you don't deserve that. You have given us second chances, third chances, 99 chances, times a hundred in our lives. And we need to stop breaking your heart. We wouldn't put up with it if it was somebody else doing that to us, but You do. Father God, we are so unworthy, yet You still call us to be Yours. Help us this morning to get right with You. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
© 2001, Bill Pitts
Central Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD 21204 410/823-6145