Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Merritt » James Merritt - Difference Maker

James Merritt - Difference Maker

  • Watch
  • Audio
  • Donate
  • Shop
    James Merritt - Difference Maker

You know, prior to its invention, a telephone was only used for one purpose, and that was communication. You made a call. You got a call. But then the smartphone came along, and the smartphone is... 'cause it's smart. That's why it's called a smartphone, and everything has changed. It's amazing, that little piece of plastic and metal that many of us brought with us today, you can use it for communication. You can use it to get information. You can even use it to get transportation. One of the amazing things about this smartphone is, you can use it for conversation.

Now, I have a personal policy. I followed it all of my life. I don't ever travel with a woman alone. That's just a policy I have. If I'm go to another city and I'm being picked up, if there's a lady... this happened one time. They sent a lady pick me up. I said, "Sorry, can't do that. I can't ride. You know, it has nothing to do with you. I just have a policy. I don't get into a, you know, a car with a woman alone". Well, I've had to make an exception, because there's a lady that travels with me everywhere I take my smartphone, and you know her name, right? Her name is Siri. That's her name. Now, Siri is one of the most fascinating and one of the most interesting women I have ever met in my life, and I know where, let me just stop.

You say, "Wait a minute, Pastor. Wait a minute. She's not a real woman". Oh, yeah. She's a real woman. You say, "How do you know"? Well, she doesn't claim to know everything, but she'll never admit she's wrong. She is a real woman, and she answers only the questions she wants to answer. What if you could ask Siri some really serious questions and know that she would give you a good answer? So I got to thinking about not just ordinary questions but questions that people are really asking today, and so what we did was we decided we would do that, and that's why we're doing this little series that we're calling Let's Get Serious. It's kind of an experiment. We did a little unscientific survey, and we asked a group of people, "If you could ask Siri a serious question and know you would get a serious answer, what question would it be"?

We're going to ask those questions. We're gonna get the answers, but we're not gonna get them from Siri. We're gonna get them from something far more serious and really a better source. We're gonna get them from the Bible. Now, the first question we're gonna start out with was one that a lot of people are asking, and it has to do with the existence of God, but it's not what you think. We're now living in a day and an age when by and large people are asking the question, "Is there a God"? It really goes deeper than that. It really goes much, much, much further than that because there are many of you that, here today, and, you know, you're probably thinking, "Well, I would think that's what you'd be asking," but they're not asking that question.

I'm gonna tell you why. Every survey I've ever read since I was a kid tells me that 96% of all Americans believe in God or some type of supreme being. They may not call it or him God, but 96% of all Americans believe in some type of a higher power, and I know that's probably a much higher percentage in the people I'm talking to today, or you probably would not be here, so the question we have found out that people are asking is not, "Is there a God"? They're actually asking a different and a deeper question. This is the question people are asking today. "If God exists, what difference does it make"? Even if there is a God, people are asking, "So what"?

I recently came across a blog. I don't know this guy, but it was very interesting. I came across this blog, and in this blog, this guy was telling the story of how he's got a friend who's a priest, and this priest had an atheist friend who came to him one day and said, "I want to ask you a question. You know, I don't believe in God," but he said, "I got to thinking. Even if there is a God, can you tell me why it makes a difference? Why does it matter how I live my life if there is a God"? Well, the priest, believe it or not, kind of struggled with this question, so he goes to this blogger who's a friend of his and said, "Hey, I got asked this question, 'If there is a God, what difference does it make?' How would you answer that question"?

Well, this blogger decided that, he came up with this idea. He decided he was gonna live one year of his life as if there were no God. He was just gonna absolutely live every day as if there's no God, there's no supreme being, there's no higher power. Now, he didn't tell us in the blog how that kind of turned out for him, but when I read that blog, I said, "Hey, there is a man in the Bible who did the same thing he did". In fact, he probably did it longer than a year. There was a man in the Bible that started living his life as if there was no God at all, and he wrote an entire book in the Bible to tell us why there is a God, and not only why there is a God, but the difference that this God makes.

So if you brought a copy of God's Word or a smartphone or an iPad or, yes, even an Android, okay, I want you to find the book of Ecclesiastes. Let me tell you where the book is. It's right after Psalms and Proverbs, so if you find Psalms and Proverbs, two big books, you'll come to the book of Ecclesiastes. Now, let me give kind of the backdrop of the story if you don't know anything about this book. This book was written by an ancient king. His name was Solomon, and the Bible portrays this man as the wisest man who ever lived. As a matter of fact, this is actually the last of three books Solomon wrote. Solomon actually wrote three books that are in the Bible. The first book he wrote was a book called the Song of Solomon.

That's a book of romance. He wrote that when he was a young man describing what real love was like between a man and his bride, but then when he got to middle age, he wrote a book about the realizations of life called Proverbs, and it's just practical, wise advice on how to live life, how to handle relationships, how to handle money, and so forth, but the book of Ecclesiastes is the one that fascinates me. He wrote this as an old man, and it's a book of regrets, because what he does in this book is, he looks back on this period of his life when he basically ditched God.

When he basically said, "I'm gonna live my life as if there is no God," and so he writes this book to tell us what he discovered and what he found. He's talking about this period of his life when he went off the rails by his own admission, and what he did was, he literally put God in a box, sealed the box up, put the box in the basement, covered the box with bricks, and he said, "I'm gonna start living my life, and I'm gonna start doing my life completely as if God didn't exist," and then he answers the question, "So, Solomon, how did that work out for you? How did that really go? What did you discover"?

So he writes this entire book, and he doesn't beat around the bush. He gets right to the point. He puts the key to Ecclesiastes right at the very front door. This is what he discovered. Ecclesiastes 1:1: "The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: 'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.' What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun"? Now, just in case you missed the key at the front door, he puts it at the backdoor, and so he says the same thing in the last chapter of the book. He says this: "'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Everything is meaningless!'"

Now, you have to understand the Hebrew mind-set and way the Hebrews thought and the way that Hebrews wrote. When we want to emphasize something, we have a punctuation mark that we use. It's called an "exclamation point," so when you put an exclamation point at the end of a sentence, then that lets people know you're really emphasizing what you're saying. The Hebrews didn't have punctuation. They didn't have commas. They didn't have periods. They didn't have question marks. They didn't have exclamation points. The way they would emphasize something is by repetition. They would say it over and over and over, so if you read the Old Testament and the same word is repeated or the same thought, like, for example, "Holy, holy, holy," Isaiah said, "is the Lord God Almighty". That was his way of saying, "God is holy," big exclamation point.

So whenever they repeated something, they were letting us know this is a big, big deal. For example, in one verse in Ecclesiastes, he repeats the word "meaningless" five times. It's like putting five exclamation points at the end of a sentence. Kind of the way teenagers do a lot in their texting. You know what I'm saying? I mean, all these exclamation points. O-M-G exclamation point, right. So you got all these things, you know, going on. Well, he uses this word "meaningless" in this book 38 times. Three, that averages out to over three times a chapter he uses the word "meaningless". There are four things that only God can give to your life that will make the matter of your life matter, and here's the first thing he said. He said, "Only God gives meaning to life". Only God gives meaning to life.

Now, someone has called Ecclesiastes Solomon's baccalaureate address to the human race, and for 12 chapters, his address keeps singing the same verse, saying the same thing over and over and over. He said, "Look, if all there is to life is life, then life means nothing". If all there is to your life is this life, then your life means nothing. Here's what he says. Listen to it again. "'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless!'" Now listen to this next statement. "'Everything is meaningless.'" Now, the word I want you to pay attention to is not the word "meaningless". We've heard that enough. I want you to hear that word "everything". He said there is not one part of your life that has any meaning if there is no God. Solomon says, "If there is no God, what's the point"?

What's the point of your... can you tell me the point of your even being here? Can you really even tell me the point of your life? Because apart from God, it has no meaning. He said, "Look, add up all the money that you make while you're here. Add up all the title deeds you have. Add up all the stocks and bonds that you own. Add up all the times you get your name in a newspaper. Add up all the promotions you get. Add up all the ladders that you climb. If it's without God, it's meaningless," and, you know, that's so true, and Solomon even closes, this is a devastating statement. Listen to verse 11. He says, "Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody will remember them either. Don't count on being remembered". Do you hear what Solomon is saying? He's saying, "Look, ultimately if there is no God, it doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter what you accomplish in life. It doesn't matter what you do or what you have. Your life is inconsequential".

So you take the scientist that gets up in the morning and goes to that lab trying to advance human knowledge. Think about that medical doctor doing his research trying to find a cure for cancer. Think about that diplomat working overtime trying to make peace in the Middle East. Think about those soldiers, and God bless 'em, but think about those soldiers out there sacrificing their lives to protect us and to keep us free. Solomon comes along and says, "Hey, if there is no God, it means nothing, because only God can give any meaning to life". Then he says this. "Only God gives morality its foundation". Now, watch this; this is so important. It stands to reason if there's no meaning to life, there can be no morality in life. In other words, there really isn't a right that's always right, and there really isn't a wrong that's always wrong if there is no God. There really isn't a good that's always good, and there really isn't a bad that's always bad.

One of my favorite teachers and authors is a guy named Ravi Zacharias. Some of you will know who Ravi Zacharias is. Great Christian apologist, and I love, any time he's speaking I love to hear him. Every book he writes, you know, I read it. Well, in one of his books, he tells this story about how he was at the University of Nottingham, England, and he was talking about the existence of God and why he believed in, you know, in the existence of God, and then when he gets through, he always lets people in the audience ask questions. So in this book, he tells this story about this exasperated student, and he was so upset with Zacharias, and he stood up, and he started attacking God over this whole idea of evil and suffering, and the point that he was making was, "How can you stand up there intelligently and tell us that there's a God in Heaven with all this evil and all this suffering and all this pain that goes on in the world"?

And it's really kind of a humorous conversation because as C.S. Lewis once said, "There's nothing so self-defeating as a question that's not fully understood by the person that's asking it," and so this student starts out, he stands up, and he said, "Dr. Zacharias, I have a question". He said, "What's your question"? Here was his question. He said, "How can there possibly be a God with all the evil and suffering that exists in the world"? Well, Ravi asked him if he would not mind if they could just kind of talk that issue through and let everybody hear the conversation. He agreed, so this is the conversation they had beginning with a question from Zacharias.

Now listen to this. Ravi says, "So when you say there is such a thing as evil, are you not assuming that there is such a thing as good"? And the student replies, "Of course". Ravi says, "But when you assume that there is such a thing as good, are you not all assuming that there's such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to distinguish between good and evil"? And then the hesitant reply came back. The student says, "Well, I suppose so". Ravi comes back and says, "Okay, if then there is a moral law, you must posit a moral law giver, but that is who you're trying to disprove and not prove. If there is no moral law giver, there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, there is no good. If there is no good, there is no evil, so I am not sure what your question is". The student then classically responded, "Neither am I. Can you please tell me what I should be asking you"?

Now, listen, listen 'cause I know some of you right now, you're arguing me. Let me tell you what I'm not saying. You don't have to believe in God and there does not have to be a God for you to believe there's such a thing as right and wrong and good and evil. You don't need to believe in God, and there doesn't need to be a God, for you to try to live according to what you think is right or wrong or what you think is good and evil. Here's the problem you've got. There is no rational basis to what's right and what's wrong and what's good and what's evil if there is no God, because if you don't believe in God and yet you say, "But I try to live a good life, and I try not to do evil," and I say to you, "So where do you get your idea of what's good and evil? Where do you get your idea of what's right and wrong"?

You can only come up with one of three ways. Right and wrong is a matter of your emotions. "Well, I just do what I feel is right. I just do what I feel is good, and if I feel something is wrong or if I feel something is evil, then I don't do it". Or your morality becomes a matter of your intellect. "Well, I just do what I think is right. I just do what I think is good, and if I think something is wrong or I think something is bad or I think something is evil, I don't do it". Or your morality becomes a matter of your opinion. You base what you believe is right or wrong on what somebody else says is right and wrong that you have a lot of respect for. That's fine.

All I want you to understand is, there is no ultimate objective basis for what's right and what's wrong and what's good and what's evil apart from God, and by the way, don't take my word from this. Atheists are now beginning to get honest and admit this. There's an atheist, you may have heard of him. He's a very well-renowned atheist. His name is Richard Taylor. He's an ethicist. He deals with ethics, what's right and what's wrong, but he's also an atheist ethicist. Dr. Taylor, and God bless him for doing this even though he don't believe in God. God bless him for doing this. This is what Dr. Taylor said, and I commend him for his honesty. He said, "To say that something is wrong because it is forbidden by God is perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God, but to say that something is wrong or forbid it even though no God exists is not understandable".

He's totally right because the problem goes even deeper. Listen to this. If there is no God... let's just say there's no God, and your life and my life is going to end in death. When we die, that's it. We're done. We're through. Simple question. Then why would anybody or why should anybody do what they think is morally right and morally good unless it benefits them? Unless it benefits their self-interest? In other words, if all there is to life is this life... There's no God. There's no eternity. There's no afterlife. When you're dead, you're done. Then the only way to live that makes any sense at all is, you look out for you. It's every man for himself. Everybody's got to look out for themselves. Everybody's got to take care of themselves. You take care of you. So Solomon comes along, and he says, "Look, only God can give meaning to your life. Number two, only God gives morality its basis".

Now watch this, third thing. He said, "Only God gives a mandate for justice". Only God gives a mandate for justice. You know why? I want you to notice how Solomon closes his book, and he does it for a reason. This is the last thing he says in this book. He says, "For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil". Let me tell you one of the biggest problems people have without God. Without God, there is no justice for evil. Give you an example. Let's say there is no God. That means that Adolf Hitler got away with murdering 50 million people. You say, "Oh, no, no, he didn't get away it. He committed suicide".

That's no punishment. We're gonna die anyway. He just died early. Or one of the most famous unsolved murder mysteries in history. You've heard of it. How many of you ever heard of Jack the Ripper? You ever heard of Jack the Ripper? Okay, he's not your butcher down the street, okay. Talking about Jack the Ripper. In 1888, there were 11 brutal murders committed in the Whitechapel District of London's East End. I've been there. 11 murders. He would rip them all from sternum almost to below their stomach. He would rip them apart. That's why they called him "Jack the Ripper". Killed 11 prostitutes. Never been identified. Jack the Ripper was just a nickname. Never been identified. Nobody ever knew who Jack the Ripper was.

Now, here's the real simple statement. Without God, Jack got away with it because, see, here's the problem. Without God, it's not just that every unsolved murder goes unsolved. That ain't the problem. The problem is, every unsolved murder goes unpunished, because without God, there really is no ultimate justice, so without God... so here's the point. One of two things is true. Either some people get away with some things, or nobody gets away with anything. Newsflash, nobody gets away with anything. In the end, nobody gets away with anything unless there is no God, because without God, there may be justice for some, but unlike what we say here in America, there will never be liberty and justice for all. Now, here's the last thing, real brief. I think it's the best one of all. "Only God gives a message of hope". Only God gives a message of hope.

See, here's I just would like to ask you this question. If there is no God, why is the word "hope" even in the English vocabulary? I mean, help me, Rhonda, I'm serious. Well, why is the word "hope" even in the vocab, if there's no God, because if there is no God, then one thing we all know, and that is in the end, old age and disease and death have the final say to life. You can work out. You can suck steroids and eat wheat germ, but you're fighting a losing battle with aging and deterioration and disease and perhaps senility, and can you imagine coming to the end of your life, and who knows how it's gonna end? In a hospital bed. In a nursing home. In assisted living facility, maybe at home alone. I don't know how your life's gonna end, but can you imagine that when you come to the end, the end is the end where nothing really matters? Where you're left saying at the end of your life, "What difference did my life even make?" and have the answer come back, "Not any whatsoever". There is no hope, absolutely none, apart from God.

Now, that's the bad news. This is my news. There is a God. There is a difference-making God. He's the God of the Bible. He came to Earth in the person of his son Jesus Christ. He died on the cross that he might deliver us from evil. He came back from the dead that he might deliver us from death, and because of that, hope springs eternal because he is the ultimate difference maker. That's why the wisest man who ever lived, who wrote this book, who did his best to live his life completely without God came to this conclusion in the last chapter. He said, "Now all has been heard". You want to know what I've concluded? "Here's the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind". Solomon said the conclusion of the matter is that only God can make the matter of life matter.

So I want to wrap this up by saying this. I understand I'm, again, I'm preaching to the choir, right? I get that. I realize most of us in here go, "Yeah, look, I mean, I believe in God". That is not my question. Here's the question I want all of us right now to really face up to. You're watching online. You're at the Mill Creek campus. You're in this room. This is the question I want you to ask yourself right now, and let's just get honest right now. You say you believe in God. "Oh, yeah, I believe in God". Okay, here's the question. What difference does that really make in your life?

So let me just close with this. There was a 20-year-old teacher named Anne Sullivan. Some of you know who she is. In 1887, she came to Tuscumbia, Alabama, to take on the greatest challenge I guess any human being could imagine. She was hired to be a tutor to a little girl named Helen Keller. Helen Keller was blind. She couldn't see. Helen Keller was deaf. She couldn't hear. Helen Keller was mute. She couldn't speak. She had never had any communication whatsoever with any other human being. If you've never read the story, you ought to read the story. It's tremendous. It's a great story of perseverance and patience of how this wonderful teacher took days, and then weeks, and then months, and then years just trying to communicate one word to this little girl, and she tells in the book the story of how one day she poured water over her hands, and then spelled out the word "water" for Helen Keller, and for the first time Helen put a word, a concept, a physical feeling together with a word.

And she tells a story of how it was a miracle to watch the communication that was finally planted in Helen Keller's heart and for Helen Keller finally to realize, "I'm not in a prison I can't get out of. I can't communicate with other people. I can't communicate with a world that's outside of me. I can't communicate with a world I can't see, and a world that I can't hear and a world I cannot speak to, but I can communicate". This is the part I want you to hear. This will be worth coming to church for. The day came when she finally got her to understand the concept and the spelling of a word, and the word was G-O-D. And Helen Keller, using her hands, spelled back, and here's what she said on that day. "I always knew he was there. I just didn't know his name".
Are you Human?:*