James Merritt - No God? Yes God!
Now, if you've ever doubted God, let me just give you some good news. You're in good company. And I'll tell ya, as a pastor, I'll make a very candid confession, I have doubted God in my life. There have been times I've had real serious doubts about God. My mother had such serious doubts about God in her life at one time, she had to seek professional spiritual counseling to help her through it. If you read the Bible, some of the greatest people in the Bible doubted God. Some of the greatest heroes in the Bible had real questions about God. But that's not what we're gonna talk about today. I'm not even going in that direction.
I wanna illustrate to you, there is a tremendous difference between doubting God and denying God, big difference. As a matter of fact, there is this movement today called "new atheism". Some of you have probably heard of this movement, new atheism. It was a term that was coined in 2006, and there's really nothing new about it, except one thing. This is a militant brand of atheism that not only says that there's no God and you're foolish if you believe in God, they now say that the greatest danger to humanity are people like us who do believe in God. They say that we're more dangerous to humanity and the human race than terrorists. They say the greatest danger in he world is religion, and especially Christianity. And that's what brings us to this series that I'm looking forward to doing this month that we're calling "Music to My Ears".
And I want you to imagine that there is a book in the Bible. It's called the book of Psalms. And that book of Psalms, unlike any other book in the Bible, they're not really Scripture so much. They really are songs. If you had lived 3,000 years ago, you would not have read these psalms. You would have sung these psalms. This was the Jewish hymnbook. This is what they used to sing worship unto the Lord. And so, I thought it would be good if we just kinda played a little soundtrack this month of some psalms that especially deal with God and with our relationship to God. And what we're gonna look at are four psalms that are so challenging and they're so comforting and they're so clarifying, and I pray that as we read these psalms, you'll say, "You know what? I need to listen to this music more often. I need to listen to these spiritual songs more often. I need to make this music to my ears".
Now, if you wanna look on today, we're gonna listen to a song called "Song" or "Psalm 14," Psalm 14. Now, if you don't know where the Psalms are in the Bible, it's really easy. It's almost in the middle of your Bible. It's the largest book in the Bible, 150 chapters. We're in Psalm 14. And today, we're gonna start with a song that actually answers this question: Why should we believe in God and what is wrong with not believing in God? It deals with what is historically known as what we call, "Atheism". More today than ever before in my ministry, I'm getting calls from parents, emails from parents: "My son's turning away from the faith". "My daughter's turning away from the faith". "My son no long believes". "My daughter no longer believes". "Can you help me"?
Matter of fact, I was surprised to learn that the word "atheism" doesn't even appear in the English language until the 16th century. And according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it documents that the first time the word was ever used was in 1568, about 550 years ago, when it was actually borrowed from another language. And in a relatively short time, it became a common, everyday word that people began to use more often. The only difference was, back in the day, it was used to describe something that was thought to be new and kind of unique, and that is a total, I mean, absolute, committed, sold-out to an unbelief in even the existence of God.
Now, you may be wondering, "Okay, time out. I could understand if you were preaching this to a convention of atheists. We're a church". Probably 99.99.99% of the people who are listening to me right now, you would say, "Look, I'm not an atheist". As a matter of fact, only 2.4% of Americans claim to be atheists. So, 98 out of 100 people you meet will tell you they believe in God or some form of God. And I know that the vast majority of the people who come to church are not atheists. However, if any of the following are true about you, or have been true about you, or you know of someone that this may be true about, you might want to listen to this message. You've never had a serious interest in spiritual matters. You might wanna listen to this message. You may have had a very strict religious upbringing but have since rejected everything you were taught to believe.
Well, you might wanna listen to this message. Life is going so well for you at the moment you don't even see why you need God at all. That's increasingly true in the area where we live. Life's going so bad with you that you've given up on the idea that there is a God who loves you and cares for you. Meet people like that all the time. You've come to the conclusion that science explains reality and there's no need for a God figure, nor is there evidence that one exists. You feel even to deal with the question is a waste of time. Well, in this groundbreaking 14th Psalm, a king by the name of David decides he wants to tackle this whole issue head on, and he tells us there are basically three things that you can do with God, three things you can do with the idea of God in your heart and in your mind, and all three are taking place today in this country, in this city, in this county, in this community, even as we speak. Number one, you can reject the reality of God. You can reject the reality of God.
Now, we begin with the most profound statement in God's Word about atheism. The Bible says...or King David says in Psalm 14:1: "The fool says in his heart, 'there is no God.'" Now, I wanna tell you something that just really blows my mind. If I never read the Bible and you told me that this was God's Word, one of the first things I would do, just the way I think, I'd say, "I wanna find everything God says to the atheist. I wanna find, what are the evidences, what are the arguments, what the apologetical case that he makes against atheism"? Here's what shocks you. There are 41,173 verses in the Bible. One half of one verse deals with atheism. There are 774,746 words in the Bible. Ten words are given over to atheism. The atheist looks at God and says, "You're not there". The atheist says, "There is no God". What does God say back to the atheist? "Fool," that's it. Not gonna get in a conversation. Not gonna waste my time, "Fool".
Now, you have to admit, if you're an atheist or if you have atheistic leanings, or you really doubt whether God exists or not, there's something humorous about God even talking to someone that doesn't even believe in him. Now, the reason why I think it's a good thing that we preach about this in a church where probably 99.99% of you believe in God is because there's more than 1 kind of atheist, and I'm sure you haven't thought about this. And this is why, for some of you, you may think, "Well, this message has nothing to do with me, because I do believe in God. So, I guess I can kinda take the day off". No, not so fast, my friend, because there's more than one kind of an atheist, okay? There's what we'll call, for the time being, an "intellectual atheist".
Okay, we know who they are. In their head, they deny the reality of God. They believe there is no God, okay? They're out there. Not a lot of 'em, but they're out there. However, there's also what I call the "practical atheist," and I have met a lot of them. As a matter of fact, in my ministry, I have met a lot more practical atheists than I have intellectual atheists. Now, in case you're wondering, "So, what is a practical atheist"? let me let you chew on something for a moment. The biggest fool in the world is not the person who says he doesn't believe in God. The biggest fool in the world is the person who says he believes in God, but then doesn't live like it. That's the biggest fool. "Well, I believe in God". Yeah, but you don't really live like it. You say, "Well, can you give some examples"?
I'll give you three. The practical atheist is a person who says he believes in God, but never prays to him, gives very little thought to him or serves him. That's a practical atheist. The practical atheist is the person who says he believes the Bible is the Word of God, but never reads it, studies it, or bothers to obey it. The practical atheist is the person who says hell and heaven are real, but then acts like he or she doesn't care whether other people go to heaven or hell. So, regardless of whether you are an intellectual atheist or a practical atheist, whether it's by belief or by behavior, you can reject the reality of God. And let's just be, we're just kinda gettin' real honest. We always try to do this here. I have been a practical atheist at times in my life. There are times in all of our lives where if people just looked at us, they don't see any difference between us and somebody that doesn't believe in God.
So, you can reject the reality of God. That's one way you can relate to the idea of God. Then David says, "There's another way you can deal with God, and that is you can ridicule any response to God". You can just ridicule any response to God. Now, we've seen what the atheist says about God. Now, let's see what God says about the atheist. Here's what he says. He says: "They are", he doesn't say, "Dumb". He doesn't say, "Stupid". He doesn't say, "Idiotic". He doesn't say, "Uneducated". He says, "Oh, it's worse than that". "They're corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good". In other words, we learn a lesson. God doesn't deal with their intellect. God doesn't deal with their brain. He deals with their morals. He doesn't deal with their head. He deals with their heart. He's not worried about their intellectual intelligence. He's concerned with their moral integrity.
Let me tell you why this is so important. If you know anybody who claims to be an atheist, I want you to remember this. You will never understand what true atheism is all about and where a true atheist is really comin' from until you understand it is not so much a mental problem as it is a moral problem. Early in my ministry, I love apologetics, and early in my ministry, when I would meet people and deal with people, I'm dealing with one right now. When I would meet people who were atheists, I kind of enjoyed the challenge, you know? I kind of enjoyed, "Okay, let's go mano a mano, right? You're gonna give me your case. I'm gonna give you my case, and I'm gonna prove just how wrong you are". And it took me a while to realize, you will never argue an atheist out of atheism, never. You won't do it. You will never, ever persuade an atheist just intellectually no longer to be an atheist. Why not? Because atheism's not primarily an intellectual problem. It is primarily a spiritual problem. It is not primarily a problem of the head. It is primarily a problem of the heart.
See, an atheist is not someone who simply cannot believe in God. An atheist is someone who will not believe in God, and does not want to believe in God. So, what God does is God takes a spiritual X-ray of the heart of the person who says, "There is no God," and here's what God sees. The reason why the atheist wants to deny God, and I've learned this, and this person I'm dealing with right now, been dealing with him for two years, is not because there's no evidence that God exists. That's not the issue. It's because if there is a God, it's a threat to their lifestyle. If there is a God, it's a threat to them because they wanna be their own God. Now, don't take my word for this.
Thomas Nagle, who is one of these leading new atheists, and I have a lot of respect for him 'cause he's at least honest enough to admit what I've just said to you. Thomas Nagle, an atheist, said this. Now, listen to this: "I want atheism to be true and I'm made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and naturally hope that I'm right in my belief. It is that I hope there is no God! I don't there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that".
Now, why is that? Well, now, think about it. This is not hard to understand. If there is no God, then there is no judgment. And if there is no judgment, there's no reason to worry about eternal punishment. And if there's no reason to worry about judgment and eternal punishment, guess what? You can live any way you wanna live. You can choose any lifestyle you wanna choose. And, you know, at the end of the day, there are no repercussions. There are no eternal consequences whatsoever. As a matter of fact, just a few psalms back, another songwriter wrote these words: "Why has the wicked person despised God"? Now, listen to this. "He says to himself, 'You will not demand an account.'"
'Cause here's the cold, hard truth. If there is no God, you can get away with anything. If there is no God, Hitler got away with it. If there is no God, Stalin got away with it. If there is no God, the murderer that went unsolved gets off scot-free. If there is no God, you can do anything because if there is no God, there is no ultimate judgment and there is no ultimate justice. A Russian philosopher by the name Dostoevsky wrote these words, and it's so true. He said: "If God does not exist then everything's permissible". "If God does not exist, everything is permissible".
See, and here's what happens, and we're seeing it right now. Once you reach the point in your life where you absolutely reject the reality of God, then you will move to a point where you ridicule any response to God. You will become most intolerant toward people who claim to know God and worship God. So, David goes on to say this about these people. He said: "Do all these evildoers know nothing"? Now, watch what they do. "They devour my people," who are my people? God's people. "They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord". I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. The biggest gun of the atheists in our country today is not just aimed at religious people, it's aimed at us. It's aimed at Christians. It's aimed at people who truly believe in God and Jesus and the Bible.
And let me just stop right here. I'm not complaining. I'm not whining. I mean, I'll be honest with you. My patience gets a little thin. I heard somebody say this several months ago: "Boy, I tell you what, man. Boy, if you're a Christian today living in America, man, we're under severe persecution". Are you kiddin' me? I mean, we may not be the most popular people in the country anymore, but listen, read my lips. We're not under severe persecution. I can take you to countries where Christians are under severe persecution. But I'll tell you what we are seeing. The further people move away from the reality of God, the more they will ridicule any response to God. That's why people are looking at us now the way people are looking at us, and treating us the way they are treating us. And I don't understand why we're so surprised.
Jesus said, "Look, if they hated me, they're gonna hate you". But then David says, "But there's a third way you can deal with the idea of God". Yeah, you can reject the reality of God. And yes, you can ridicule any response to God. But then David says, "You can rejoice in a relationship with God". Now, rather than make this long argument, which is what I would have done, I mean, let me tell you somethin'. If I was writin' this psalm, it would be about 20 pages long if I was writin' this psalm. It'd be a long psalm. David doesn't do that. He says, "You know, I'm just gonna make one statement in one verse and kinda sum up my side of the story," and here it is: "For God is present in the company of the righteous". "God is present in the company of the righteous".
Well, who are the righteous? Well, who's the atheist? The atheist is the one that says, "No God". The atheist is the one who says, "I don't seek God". The atheist is the one who says, "I don't want God". The atheist says, "For me, no God. I turn away from God". Well, then, who are the righteous? They are just simply the people who say, "I do want God. I do seek God. I do believe in God. I do trust God. I do want God". You see, the difference between the believer and the unbeliever is very simple. The unbeliever only looks with his eyes. The believer looks with his eyes and with his heart.
See, these new atheists, they try a tick that doesn't work. Here's what they do. This person I'm dealing with right now, the first time we met, this person tried this to me. And, you know, it's good that I've been working so long and dealing with this so long 'cause I was ready for it. I wouldn't have been ready for it, you know, many years ago when I first started. But here's the trick they'll do. So, they'll look at us believers and they'll say, "You know what your problem is? Your problem is you're a believer". And so, you'll say, "Well, why is that a problem"? And they'll say this. They'll say, "Well, you're a believer". "Well, why is that problem"? "Well, you live by faith," and they think they got you. Until you look at them and you say, "Well, the truth of the matter is, so do you. You live by faith. Yeah, I live by faith, but you live by faith".
A university professor with a PhD from Oxford who was an atheist got up before his class and once admitted this truth about his own atheism. He said: "Even as the Evangelical Christian," that's us, "accepts God by faith, I reject the idea of God by faith". Now, listen to what he says. "I cannot reject God by reason alone, for there's too much evidence of his existence. It is by faith that I am an atheist". I'm talking to this person, I'm meeting with this person. For two years I've been dealing with this person. Maybe three now, I can't remember. I've lost track. In our first meeting, when this person said, "Well, you know, your problem is, you live by faith. I just don't live by faith". I said, "No, you live by faith. As a matter of fact," I said, "I wanna brag on you. You got more faith than I got".
The person said, "Well, what do you mean"? I said, "Well, let me give you an example". I said, "Have you ever been across our campus"? "No". "Have you ever seen all of our buildings"? And I said, "Oh, let me tell ya about our buildings. Now, we got 400,000 square feet of buildings here". And I said, "Over in that building right over there used to be a manufacturing plant. We manufactured cruise missiles for the first Gulf War right over there in that building". I said, "The building where we have our worship center now, it was a warehouse. And the building where we are right now, that was an office building". I said, "Now, what if I told you...? What if you said to me, 'Man, how did these buildings get there?' What if I said to you, 'You're not gonna believe this. There was an explosion in a Home Depot and it just all landed like this, just came together like this.'"
I said, "You'd look at me and you'd have one word for me: Fool. Yet, you wanna tell me all of this was nothing at one time, and somehow, some spark turned into a big bang, and all just happened. And if I don't believe it, I'm the fool". I said, "I wanna brag on you". I said, "Do you know why I'm not an atheist like you"? The person said, "Why"? I said, "I don't have that much faith. I just don't. I just can't get to where you are. I mean, I really do admire your faith". Because, see, the truth of the matter is, we all live by faith. The question is not, "Do you have faith"? or "You don't have faith"?
That's not the issue. The issue is I believe in God. What's my evidence? You don't believe in God. What is yours? 'Cause here is the trick they like to place. I wanna help ya on somethin'. Next time you're dealin' with an atheist, remember this. Here's what they'll say to you. They'll say, "Okay, now I'm willing to talk with you about your belief in God, but here's the way it's gonna work. You have to assume that I am right and you are wrong. And you've gotta prove that you're right and prove that I'm wrong". And when they do that, you have to say, "No, you have to understand something. We're not gonna assume that you're right and I'm wrong. We're not gonna assume that I'm right and you're wrong. What we're gonna have to assume is real simple. We may both be wrong. We can't both be right. But the question is gonna be, what evidence do you have for your belief"?
'Cause what they wanna do is start off with this unlevel playing field. And the problem is, when it comes to God, you either have faith that he exists, or you have faith that he doesn't exist. And now what we've gotta decide is, what is the evidence? Who's got evidence on their side? That's why, at the end of the day, I wanna help you on something. At the end of the day, atheism really is impossible. It really is. Now, I'm gonna tell you why. There is no such thing as a true atheist, and I want you...and when I tell you this, you'll understand it. When somebody says, "There is no God," you automatically have 'em, and it's like checkmate, "Okay, I got ya. You just walked into a trap". Because it is impossible to prove a universal negative.
Let me tell you what I mean. I personally don't believe there's other life on other planets. I just don't believe there's any other life out there, okay? I don't believe that. I don't know that, I don't. You know why I don't know that? 'Cause I've never been everywhere in this universe at the same time, so I don't know whether there's life out there or not. I just personally don't believe it. So, when somebody says, "There is no God," the reason why that's an absolutely foolish nonsensical statement is because unless you've been everywhere in the universe at the same time and existence throughout all of time and know everything that is possible to know, you cannot know that God does not exist. You may believe that God does not exist, but that's not what the atheist says.
The word "atheist," "a," "not," "Theos," "God," "no God". The atheist says, "I know there is no God". You can't say that. When you decide to seek God, you'll find him. He doesn't play hide and seek. He's out there. And you will find a God that you can know, a God that you can love, a God that you can talk to, a God that you can walk with, a God that you can worship, a God that you can serve, a God that you can experience, a God that you can rejoice in, a God that will love you, and you can love him back, and a God that you can spend eternity with. Because he loves you so much, he sent his Son to die on a cross and brought him back from the dead just so we can know the Creator of this universe. So, it's okay to doubt. God can handle it. You can even try to deny him. He can handle that too. Because every time you walk into someone and they say, "No God," there's a universe, there's a Bible, there's a cross, there's an empty tomb that says, "Yes, God".