August 25, 2002
This past spring I was in a boat with a good friend of mine and we were cruising the surf line in the Gulf of Mexico. I was looking towards the beach and I saw some gorgeous houses built right there on the water. I was talking to my friend about the houses and I looked and noticed that the waves were breaking beneath these houses. So I said, “Mark, what’s up with that? Why are the waves breaking beneath the houses?” He smiled and said “Ed, when the people built these homes they had no idea about the erosion that would take place over the years. When they built the homes, the beach and the surf were like 100 yards away.” He said, “Now the waves are right there at the houses and the next big storm will totally wipe out these structures.” I said, “Wow.” And I looked at all the renters and vacationers sipping their morning coffee on the decks of these gorgeous homes yet I knew that they had no idea that the next storm, the next big set of waves would wipe them out. They were looking at erosion.
As we look at our culture we see the waves of moral erosion, the waves of relativism, pounding against the very foundation of who we are and what we believe. Think about the corporate corruption that’s out there, the scandals at Enron and WorldCom. Even matriarchal Martha Stewart has been targeted for insider trading. Can you believe that? Martha Stewart. Think about the media erosion that’s out there. We have television shows like Will & Grace that applaud homosexuality. We have shows like Friends that glorify Rachel getting pregnant out of wedlock. Think about the entertainers. Think about a lot of the music that we listen to these days.
There’s a song out there called Hot in Herre by Nelly; the album is titled Nellyville.
“It was like good gracious, [blank] bodacious, flirtatious, trying to show patience. Looking for the right time to shoot my steam, you know it’s getting hot in here.
So hot. So take off all your clothes. I’m getting so hot I want to take my clothes off. Why are you at the bar if you ain’t popping the bottles? What good is all the fame if you ain’t [blanking] the models.”
Britney Spears, here a song entitled I’m a Slave 4 U:
“I know I may be young but I’ve got feelings too. And I need to do what I feel like doing so let me go and just listen. But I feel like talking, feel like dancing. When I see this guy, what’s practical what’s logical? What the hell? Who cares? All I know is I am so happy when you’re dancing there. I’m a slave for you. I cannot hold it. I cannot control it. I’m a slave for you. I won’t deny it. I’m not trying to hide it. Baby, don’t you want to dance up on me? To another time and place, oh baby, don’t you want to dance up on me, leaving behind my name and age. Like that? You like that? Get it, get it, get it, now watch me get it, get it, get it, get it.”
Here’s a song called Thoughtless from the band, Korn:
Thumbing through the pages of my fantasies, I’m above you, smiling at you. Drown, drown, drown, I want to kill and rape you the way you raped me. And I’ll pull the trigger and you’re down, down, down. Why are you trying to make fun of me? You think it’s funny? What the [blank] you think it’s doing to me? You take your turn lashing out at me I want you crying with your [blank] in front of me.
I would read you some lyrics from an artist named Ludacris but this is just straight pornography, so I won’t even go there. The waves are eroding our foundation. They’re pounding against who we are. And amazingly these amoral artists vote on themselves and give themselves awards and trophies. “Hey Ludacris, good job. You can rhyme the f-word with 435 other words. Great, here is an award.” “Hey Korn, you can talk about suicide and violence and gang rape. Good job, here’s an award.”
And we watch and we wear what they wear and we do what they do. The waves are pounding and pounding against the foundation of who we are. The barometric pressure has dropped, the clouds are coming together, the force five winds have hit and we’re sitting there sipping our morning coffee, yet we don’t realize the erosion that is taking place.
What is it? Some 25 million men spend between 1 and 10 hours a day surfing adult websites. Why do you think teenage pregnancies have increased over 500% over the last 35 years? Is that because our sex education is not that good? Why do you think suicide has increased over 300% over the last 35 years? Is that because we have a lack of anti-gun control laws? Oh come on, I hope you’re deeper than that. You’re not buying that stuff from Peter Jennings and Dan Rather. You’re not buying that junk from Phil Donahue and those left-wing whackos are you? Our problem is much deeper than that.
We’re talking about relativism here. We’re talking about subjectivity. We’re talking about pragmatism, which says, “You know there’s no such thing as truth, there’s no such thing as absolutes. You do what you want to do. Whatever is true to you, that’s true to you. Whatever you do in the privacy of our own home, if you don’t hurt anybody, that’s cool.” That sounds so PC doesn’t it? So hip, so vogue. It sounds like “Yeah, I understand that.” The problem is, if we live our lives that way, one day the waves of erosion will overtake us and destroy who we are. I’ll say it once again: the waves of erosion are tearing our culture apart.
Now what if I ask you this, what if I said, “Do you think homosexuality is wrong? Do you think sex outside of marriage is wrong? Do you think taking the Lord’s name in vain is wrong? Do you think stealing is wrong? Do you think lying is wrong?” Most of us in this place, I didn’t say all, most of us would say, “Yeah, I believe that Ed. Yeah, I’m with you.”
Well what if we could put you on the O’Reilly Factor and what if Bill O’Reilly looked at you and rolled the three hundred dollar Mont Blanc pen between his index finger and thumb and what if he said, “OK, I hear that you think that homosexuality is wrong. I hear that you think lying is wrong and cheating is wrong. Why? Sir, Ma’am, just tell me why. Why do you believe that?” Some of us would respond, “Well, uh, Mr. Reilly, I don’t know. I guess because it’s bad for you and it will mess your life up. It might give you a disease and…” He would say, “No, no, no, that’s situational ethics. Why? Give me some rationale. Give me some reasons. Use your mind. Why is it wrong?”
A lot of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, would be uncertain. We really wouldn’t know what to say. I believe wrong is wrong and right is right, because God says so and God is so. Francis Schaffer said it years ago. Schaffer said when a culture no longer has moral absolutes the result is chaos. These lyrics right here, chaos. Much of the media, chaos. Much of our behavior, chaos. Why? Because of no moral absolutes. Yet God comes along and our loving and transcendent God tells us that He is the authority that He is the absolute, and He has revealed himself to us through creation.
It’s About Revelation, Not Legislation
The book of Romans says that we have no excuse. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look around the world and go, “Wow, there must be a designer here. There must be something that made this something. Because if there was nothing, nothing would require no explanation, so I guess there must be something out there.” So God has revealed himself to us through the creation. Also, by sending us His son. Also, by giving us His word. So when we talk about moral absolute, when we talk about having an anchor, when we talk about certainty, it’s about revelation. It’s not about legislation. It’s about the revealed word of God.
If we believe God is, and we believe what He says and what we should do with our lives, then we believe that He has some specific things for us to take advantage of here in this one and only life. We believe that God gave us the Bible. In my life, because I’m going to argue God’s side of the issue, this is my absolute. It’s about revelation, not about legislation. What we do is things will happen, we will have problems and we’ll pass all this legislation to take care of the problems. Legislation is great. It’s wonderful to have laws. But true change, a true focused trajectory only occurs when we understand that this is the revealed word of God.
Here’s what the Bible says about itself in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching (that means what is right) for reproof (that means what is not right) or correction (that’s how to get right) and for training and righteousness (that’s how to stay right).”
Now, I want you to do a little exercise for me. On the count of three I want you to breathe out. Don’t turn to your neighbor because you probably have coffee breath, but I want you to do it for me. Are you ready? One, two, three, (exhale). The Bible says, I’ll read it again, 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is (exhaling) inspired by God…”
The word inspired in the Greek is “theopneustos,” which means God breathed. Now sometimes I have bad breath. I’ll just confess it right here. And when I have bad breath and I’m not near a restroom where I can brush my teeth, do you know what I’ll do? I’ll just pop an Altoid. Every time I taste an Altoid, I say to myself, “Mmm, curiously strong.”
God doesn’t need an Altoid. God does not have bad breath. The Bible is (exhale), God breathed. God used the personalities and the world views of 40 different authors, men and women, on four different continents, over fourteen hundred years to write the book. This book has been scrutinized, it’s been picked apart, and it’s still the best seller. The Bible is the word of God. It comes from God. It reflects his character and his nature. It’s his revelation to us.
Let’s say for example, hypothetical situation, let’s just say that you went to see the Dallas Stars play. And let’s just say that you had the best seat in the house. You’re sitting back, living large, watching this hockey team play. Let’s say that you decide to have a cheat day on your diet. You order an ice cold Coca-Cola. You see a vendor walking through the aisles of the American Airlines Center and you say, “Hey, I’d like a Coke.” And what if the vendor said, “Whew yeah, you want a Coke? I want to meet you first.” And let’s say the vendor walked up to you or me and let’s say the vendor said, “Hey, man I have been looking all over for you. I want to offer you a twenty million dollar, ten year contract to play for the Dallas Stars.”
Now, if that happened to me I’ll just tell you what I would think I would think, “Wait a minute, here’s a vendor selling, is it Coke or Coors, because this guy must be messed up. He is offering me a twenty million dollar contract to play for the Dallas Stars. By what authority? What kind of resources? I mean a vendor? He can’t offer me that. I mean you’re crazy, you don’t have all the line on your reel, you need to go to the House. You’re messed up. Get of here.” We’d probably say something like that wouldn’t we?
Let’s say the same scenario, you’re sitting there, living large, watching the Stars play, the best seat in the house, and someone else comes up to you. This person is middle aged, has a suit on and offers you the same deal. Twenty million dollars for ten years and you can play for the Stars, this guy says. Then he sticks out his hand and says, “Oh, by the way, I want to meet you. I’m Tom Hicks.” Wow. If Tom Hicks said that, I don’t know about you, but I’d think Hey, I can count that money. Tom Hicks! This guy is loaded. He is a heavy hitter, he’s a player, he owns the team. He owns the Rangers, too, so I mean he’s good for the cash.
What do we do? In this life we look for vendors. We look for vendors and we look for pleasure and we look for fun fixes and trinkets and toys that vendors are selling—from vendors who have no authority, who have no resources, who have no bank account, who have no stuff, to make our lives happen and we miss talking to the source. I’m talking about the One. God has got the stuff to equip us to live the kind of lives that we’re designed to live. That’s what we do. And we miss the revelation of God.
It’s About Obedience, not Deviance
So it’s about revelation, absolute truth, it’s not about legislation. So if we believe, now watch this, if we believe that the Bible is the revelation from God, it reflects the character and nature of God, what’s the next step? Well the next step is very simple. If we believe it we should do what it says. Revelation should segue into obedience. The second thing we should understand is that it’s about obedience, not deviance.
Now, throughout this series on uncertainty we have talked about the fact that God has a plan for our lives. Remember last time I said, Awesome!, awesome! If you missed it, pick it up. Buy the tape. We talked about God having an awesome plan for everybody’s life. An awesome agenda. And if we could see God’s agenda we could not believe it. Yet in our sinfulness, in our self-centeredness, what do we do? We deviate from God’s plan and we go our own way.
Here’s what Scripture says about your tendencies and mine. Look at Romans 1:22, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” So every time in my life I have deviated from God’s plan and I’ve said, “God, I know you want me to do this, but I know what’s better God. I’m going to deviate because, you know, I have my Master’s degree I’ve done some doctoral work and I’m just going to do what I want to do.” The Bible says, Ed, you’re a fool. Professing to be wise, you’re a fool.
So when we deviate from God’s plan, it’s just a matter of time before our structures, our foundations are just washed away by those waves of relativism. Because if we are not anchored in moral absolutes, everything is relative, everything is subjective. Everything is just pragmatism.
Look at John 15:10-11. Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Isn’t that great? The joy of the Lord that your joy and my joy may be made full, overflowing, and abundant. Well there’s this thing going around these days, I hear it now and then, that’s totally not in Scripture. People skip around and say, you know, Ed, God just wants me to be happy. God wants me to be happy. That’s what God wants.” God does not want us to be happy. It’s not in the Bible. It’s not in there.
Several years ago I was talking to a couple and they were thinking about divorcing. They had no reason whatsoever to divorce, and finally after talking to them for about an hour the lady looked at me and said, You know, Ed, God just wants me to be happy and I’m not happy. I said Ma’am, God does not want your happiness. Do you know what God wants? He wants your obedience. That’s what God wants. Because when I am obedient, the feelings will follow. The Bible says I will have joy and my joy will be made full.
Parents, know what? If you said to yourself, “You know what; I just want my kids to be happy. I don’t care about obedience. I just want them to be happy.” Man we would have a wild family dynamic, wouldn’t we? Parents, we want our children to obey us. Kids, remember mom and dad know more than you do, and when you obey them you will be joyful and your joy one day will be made full. Because you’ll look back maybe years from now and say, wow, mom was pretty smart. Dad had it pretty together. Now I understand why she told me that. Now I understand why he had that rule.
The same is true with our perfect heavenly parent as well. In the book of Judges, Chapter 21, Verse 25, it has one of the most penetrating and powerful verses in all of Scripture that talks about where we are as a nation. It talks about relativism, it talks about pragmatism, it talks about subjectivity. Let me read it to you. “There was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Wow, is that where we are or what? There’s no king so everyone does these days what’s right in their own eyes.
As you read the book of Judges, let me give you the Cliffs Notes right quick, it is basically God sending men and women in to warn the children of Israel. Because they were in the spin cycle of sin and these judges would come in and say you’re missing the mark, you need to come back to God, you need to repent. Well, finally, after a while the children of Israel said, “Hey Samuel, I know God is our king but we don’t have a king, an earthly king, like the other neighboring nations. So we want a king. Everybody else is doing it so we’ve got to do it.” Does that sound typical? We want an earthly king.
Samuel said, No, you don’t want an earthly king. You want to keep God on the throne. You want God as your king. And the Israelites said, No, no, no, we want an earthly king. Samuel said, well if you get an earthly king and you usurp God from his throne, here’s what is going to happen to you. And he painted a very vivid picture for them. But they said no, no, no, we want a king.
Well sure enough they got some kings: schizophrenic Saul, adulterous David, megalomaniac Solomon, and then the next king just totally obliterated the whole deal as the wave crashed and took them out. They took God off the throne and they took their cue from that day forward from man and it was a wheels-off deal.
We have this tendency, don’t we, to rewrite what God has written. We say, “Yeah God, this is your revealed word to me now, as far as the obedience thing.” I’m not so sure, because a lot of us like to pick and choose from the Bible. We say, “Oh, I like that section. Whew, that’s good, but what’s this deal about loving your neighbor as yourself. I don’t really like that. Now I love that about not gossiping, but being materialistic. Well you know…” So we rewrite Scripture. We sometimes do that. We’re very, very guilty of that.
Instead of saying, “OK God, you’re the authority. It’s your revealed word and I want to obey it no matter what, even though it might go against the grain of my desires and my thoughts and what everybody is telling me I should do. God I know your ways are higher than my ways. I know that your way is ultimately the best. God I don’t want to do that.” So we rewrite Scripture. We put our spin on stuff. We were talking about that this week in a meeting and some of the staff at Fellowship Church decided to rewrite the Ten Commandments. You know, maybe you have tried to do this yourself. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Here we go:
- Commandment #1 – You shall have no other Gods before me…but we say it’s OK to put your job before God, because after all you’ve got to live in that neighborhood.
- Commandment #2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven or above or on the earth or in the water below…but it is OK to worship the Longhorns, the Bears, and the Aggies on the weekends. That’s OK.
- Commandment # 3- You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…but it is OK to go to a movie or a concert or to buy a CD that takes God’s name in vain in every other breath. I mean, it’s just entertainment. It doesn’t hurt anybody.
- Commandment # 4 – Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…but if there is a noon kick-off, God understands.
- Commandment # 5 – Honor your father and mother…but if they’re not really cool and make you do something that you don’t want to do, it doesn’t really apply. I think my children have used that one before.
- Commandment # 6 – You shall not murder…but if you really hate someone, assault them verbally and by all means get even.
- Commandment # 7 – You shall not commit adultery…but it is OK to undress women with your eyes, go to topless bars and to surf adult websites. You’re not damaging anybody. It got kind of quiet.
- Commandment # 8 – You shall not steal…but it is OK to rob God by keeping your tithe. That’s OK.
- Commandment # 9 – You shall not give false testimony…but if you want to talk behind that person’s back in love, that’s fine, that’s cool.
- Commandment # 10 – You shall not covert…but it is OK to rip someone apart because their house is bigger than yours.
See how we do this? Instead of being obedient we deviate off God’s plan. Well God always brings us back to center. He says, OK here’s my anchor, here’s my absolute, here’s my revelation. Obey it. It is best for you. So remember it’s about revelation, not about legislation. It’s about obedience, not deviance. And there’s one more, then we’ll stop.
It’s About Protection, not Restriction
It’s about protection, not about restriction. It’s about protection. God’s law, God’s principle, God’s word is to protect you and me from bad things, from wasting time, from messing up relationships. It’s to keep us from bad things. Because God wants what is best for all of us. In Romans 1:28 the writer is talking about the Roman Empire and it’s amazing to parallel our culture with the Roman culture. In Verse 28 of Romans 1, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind to do those things which are not proper.”
Look at Romans 1:29-31, “Being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.”
It’s like Owen Goff has told me for years and years. He said Ed, one of the biggest problems of our culture is that we’re trying to play basketball with football rules. What would happen if you watched the Mavericks play and they decoded to throw out the rule book for basketball and just start playing football? It would be horrible. It would be a fiasco. It would be terrible. We wouldn’t want to see that game. Yet for those of us, who say, OK, I’m going to live my own life, I want to do what I please and truth is relative and there’s no really moral absolute, it’s like trying to play basketball with football rules.
Why isn’t your life working? Why aren’t your relationships really cruising? Why is there is void in your life, this emptiness? You’re trying to play basketball with football rules and God is saying, Hey, play basketball with me. I’ve got rules that will help you, that will assist you. They are for your own good, because I am a good God and I want you to follow them.
No matter what you can think about in life, no matter what you can dream up, God has guidelines and guard rails just for you and just for me. It is out there for us, if only by his grace we would follow it.
A couple of weeks ago a family in this church and my family rented a 22-foot boat for about six hours. Now, it is one thing to rent a boat and go out on Lake Grapevine, but it’s another thing to rent a boat and go off shore. Well, I decided to take the boat off shore. Before I took the boat off shore a gentleman showed me how to run the boat. He showed me where this really cool reef was located, and he showed me how to throw the anchor out at the right time so the boat would not drift and smash itself against the reef. And he showed me where I could let my kids snorkel and all of that. And I thanked him and I rented the boat. I took the boat offshore and we had fun time.
We went around this island and, as we were approaching this reef, I shut the engine down and I timed it, and I waited and I waited. And then I tossed the anchor overboard. And there’s that moment when you toss the anchor overboard and your boat is drifting and you’re going to say, OK, I pray the anchor catches something secure. I pray it holds and, Bam, I felt it hold and the boat came to a stop and we were all secure. We looked around and said, yeah, we did it. Unbelievable. The anchor’s holding.
So then we took out some diving masks and snorkels we bought at Wal-Mart. Now, I love Wal-Mart, but I would not recommend buying masks and snorkels there if you’re going to snorkel in salt water. Because you need to buy some good stuff if you’re going to snorkel like we snorkeled. And we forgot to buy fins, that was dumb wasn’t it. Didn’t even buy fins. So we all jumped overboard after the boat was secure, and we were looking around in our little Wal-Mart masks and our snorkels. And I cannot tell you the beauty we saw beneath the ocean. I mean my kids had never snorkeled like that. They were going, Wow, look at this and isn’t that incredible. It was really a cool deal.
Reflecting back on the story, I reflected on my life. And I want to reflect on your lives, because God has given us these crafts, these boats that are specially designed. And he wants us to use the boats like he has designed them to be used. He’s given us a set of rules and things to do and he’s shown us the reef and he’s given us the anchor, the word of God. And he’s told us to throw the anchor overboard. He said use the anchor. My anchor will secure you. My anchor will hold you. It will help you in the rough seas.
A lot of us have the anchor at our feet, yet we’re not throwing it overboard. And we’re drifting around in the seas of relativism. And many of us are messed up. Many of us have holes in us because we have hit reef, after reef, after reef. But if we’ll throw the anchor overboard and put on God’s mask and see life through his lenses and breathe through his snorkel, which is the Holy Spirit of God, then we can see as God sees. We can see beauty and color like the world can’t. So what are you waiting for? Why are you still drifting? Take the anchor and throw it overboard, because, when you do, you will really be able to see with certainty.`v