Tony Evans - What on Earth Is Going On? (Gateway Church)
Thank you so much. It is a joy to come and to be with you today here in this campus and with the other campuses and the folks and friends online. I will forever be grateful for the friendship that God has given me with the Morrises and with this church family. So many of you who have become friends of us either personally or through our ministry, who have prayed for us and with us during some of the dark days that we have faced here over the last few years with the loss of my wife Lois and many other losses in my family. But you have been our friends here locally and beyond. And I don't want to ever come here and not express my gratitude for you and your love for me and the way you've embraced my family as well. More people want to hear from Priscilla than me, but I am glad.
I know Jonathan was here a couple of weeks ago. So thank you so very much. We appreciate you. Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, and Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. And all the king's horses and all the king's men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I don't know if you've ever studied that nursery rhyme, but there's Mr. Dumpty who's moving up the street, and he comes to a precipice. He's pretty sturdy because he climbs to the top all by himself. As he peruses the world around him, something goes cataclysmically wrong. Something topples his stability, and he winds up crumbling to the ground, broken into a myriad of different pieces. Now, what ought to grab our attention is where Mr. Dumpty went for help. He didn't go to his neighborhood. He didn't go to his friends. He didn't go to his family. He didn't even go to his church. He went to the White House.
Now, we know he went to the White House because the king got involved. The king was very sympathetic to Mr. Dumpty's dilemma. He called a meeting of Congress because all the king's men got involved. They did what Congress does. They pass to Fix Mr. Dumpty law. It was properly funded by the House of Representatives, sealed by the Senate, and they decided, we're going to fix Mr. Dumpty. The tragedy of the nursery rhyme is not Mr. Dumpty. The tragedy of the nursery rhyme is that all the king's horses and all the king's men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again. So not only was Humpty Dumpty Humpty Dumpty. All the king's horses, and all the king's men were apparently as Humpty Dumpty as Humpty Dumpty was because they were unable to fix the problem.
As we've just come through this political dynamic, the disappointments, the frustrations, the irritations, the exacerbations of what's going on in our culture today, it has left many, including many in the kingdom confused about how the world works. So in my moments today, I want to remind you of how the world works so that you can make sense of this Humpty Dumpty reality that you and I find ourselves in today in contemporary America and beyond. We're told in 2 Chronicles 15:5 these words, it says, "In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city..." We're told there was chaos on every single level of society. Verse five says that there was no peace to him who came in or to him who went out. In other words, people didn't have personal peace. They were in personal conflict. And if you can't get along with you, anybody around you is in trouble.
So there was no peace to him who went out, there was personal conflict, or to him who came in, there was familial conflict. When they went back home, there was conflict in the family. So when they left home, there was conflict. When they came back home, there was conflict. Then there was urban conflict. It says, city rose up against city. So there were conflicts in communities, there were conflicts in neighborhoods. And then it got bigger. It says, and nation rose up against nation. So, there was international conflict. There was world conflict. So everywhere you look, every news station that you heard from, whether it was Fox or CNN or MSNBC, there was nothing but chaos to report on every single level. But then we read the end of verse six. It says, "...for God trouble them with every kind of distress".
I would have thought with all of that madness, it would have said, for the devil troubled them with every kind of distress. That's not what it says. It says, "...for God troubled them with every kind of distress". Now, if God is your problem, it doesn't matter who you elect. If God is your problem, it doesn't matter which party holds office, not because those are inconsequential decisions, but something bigger is going on. "...for God troubled them with every kind of distress". So God literally says, "You see all this chaos? Blame me, because I'm behind it". What is going on? In the Old Testament, you have the active wrath of God. When God was angry, He would express His anger by directly intervening in the affairs of men and bringing judgment. Whether it would be a worldwide flood, whether it would be the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, sort of like Dallas and Fort Worth, whether it was... the opening of the earth for rebellious corps and his family, there would be the direct intervention of God to show his displeasure.
With the death of Jesus Christ in history, God shifted his relationship to the cosmos to the world because according to 2 Corinthians 5, through the death of Christ, the world was reconciled to God, so that now, you and I do not experience the active wrath of God. We experience the passive wrath of God. And that is defined for us clearly in Romans 1, because in Romans 1, beginning with verse 18, we read these words. It says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness". And then in verse 24, "Therefore God gave them over", in verse 26, "For this reason God gave them over", in verse 28, "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over..." This is called divine abandonment. It is where God becomes uninvited long enough that He then says, "I'm going to let you see what life looks like without Me. Since you have kicked Me to the periphery, I'm going to let you see life when I am no longer the center of attraction".
So what was the active wrath of God in the old economy is the passive wrath of God in the new economy where He simply backs away and let you experience the repercussions of His absenteeism. So, what you and I are seeing today, lived out, worked out in the context of a society, in which we love but yet have to live, is the passive wrath of God because God has been uninvited into our society. Now that leads to the question as to why. What happened that led to God being uninvited, resulting in the chaos personally, familially, in communities, in cities and in nations. Verse three tells us in 2 Chronicles that it was in those days there was no true God. No true God.
It says, "For many days..." It had become a routine. There was no true God. It didn't say there was no God. It says, the true God had been replaced with false gods, and false gods in the Bible have a name. They're called idols. And idol is any noun, person, place, thing or thought, that you look to as your source. Idols in the Bible were looked to to do something. They weren't just things you worship, they were things you worship to do something. Baal, Asherah, were all designed to produce fertility. You looked to them as your source. They were expected to produce. And so there was no true God, meaning He had been replaced with false gods.
Now today we do not have bricks and stones as they would have in other ages or perhaps in some third-world countries. Today we have American idols. They've become sophisticated. We have idols today that have replaced the true God, the idol of race, where color has trumped character, and as a result, the races stay in perpetual conflict, whether it is through what is happening in elementary schools where the oppressed and the oppressors are finding themselves being butted against each other at younger and younger ages all the way to adulthood, because race has been amped up to become a god because it has become the source of identity. And when it becomes a source of identity, it has become an idol, not because God is colorblind; He's just not blinded by color. We know He's not colorblind because when John looked up in heaven, he said he saw people from every nation, every tribe, every kindred, and every tongue, whatever color you are now will be the color you are in heaven.
If you're white now, you don't have to spend all that time in the sun. It's not going to change a thing. It's technically incorrect to say I'm a black Christian, you're a white Christian, because then you make black and white an adjective. The job of the adjective is to modify the noun. So, if you have color in the adjectival position and Christianity in the noun position, you always got to make Christianity look like the adjective that described it. Your Christianity must always be in the adjectival position. Your culture of color must always be in the noun position so that if anything changes, it's the noun of your humanity and never the adjective of your faith. But because we have elevated color and culture to become a false god, it has become a source of conflict in the culture, and unfortunately, in the church. Another god today has become politics.
As though God rides the backs of donkeys or elephants, as though God has picked sides. Joshua was doing reconnaissance in Joshua 5 around Jericho. He looks over to the side. He sees this huge guy dressed in battle array, leading a whole army. Joshua's mama didn't raise a dummy. "Whose side are you on? Are you on our side or you want their side? You're on our side, you're going to help us take care of Jericho. If you're on Jericho's side, you're going to help Jericho take care of us. So, I need to know, whose side are you on"? The captain said, "I'm neither on your side nor on their side. I'm Captain of the Lord's army. I did not come to take sides. I've come to take over".
Every Christian should be, as I say in my book, Kingdom Politics, You should only be a kingdom independent. You can be a Democrat light or Republican light because no matter who you vote for you come out representing another king and another kingdom because you're a citizen of another realm. What we have done is we have allowed the politics of men to divide the people of God, and God has been ticked off. Or whether it's materialism and greed or a myriad of other things, the true God has been replaced. I've shared before how my late wife Lois, she asked me to go to Wal-mart some years ago to get something for her. And you have to understand, I hate anything with "-mart" in its name. She wanted me to go to Wal-mart to get some things. I wanted to be the first in and the first one out. I got there early on Saturday morning. But when I got to this Wal-mart, the rest of Dallas had beaten me there. Parking lot was jammed full with people. I went and got the goods, stood in this long line, and then it dawned on me what was going on.
I want to know why it was so crowded. This Wal-mart was having a store-wide sale. Everybody had shown up to get their goods at reduced prices. It dawned on me, that's our problem. Everybody wants God. They just want Him on discount. As long as he can be dumbed down and be reduced from who He declares himself to be to who we would prefer He become. He's not the God who's revealed Himself; He's the God that we want to make Him into. That's not the God of the Bible. It says, there was no true God. He had been put on the loop, close enough, close enough to be acknowledged, far enough not to be bothered with.
Says there was no true God. Second thing it says in verse three is that there was no teaching priest. There was no true God because there was no teaching priest. Didn't say there were no priests. Didn't say there were no preachers. He said that what they were talking about and what God was talking about wasn't the same thing. There was no teaching priest. The word of God had been abandoned by the pulpit and a mist in the pulpit will always result to a fog in the pew because the pulpits were no longer declaring the absolute Word of God. There are two answers to every question: God's answer and everybody else's, and everybody else is wrong. The absolute standard of Scripture had been abandoned for cultural expediency. It had been dumbed down.
A number of weeks ago, we lost the Queen of England. She was held in high repute, high honor, high esteem. When her caravan went down the streets of London, you pulled over to the side because the Queen has come. Depending on whether she was at the palace or not. The flag would be lowered or hoisted because she was held in high honor. The only problem is the queen could make no laws, she could make no edicts. Now she was held in high honor, but she had no authority. Unfortunately, that's what the Bible has become in far too many places and in far too many churches. It's held in high esteem; it just makes no decisions. It's carried, it's referred to, it's even quoted, but when decisions are made, it's not the standard. God has spoken and has not stuttered. You can't pick the subject for which there is not a precept, a principle, a guidance for which we are to not appeal to address to all issues.
If you came to me and said, "Tony Evans, my life is in shambles". I would find out what area you were talking about. I would find the appropriate scriptures that dealt with that area. I would give you practical things to do to apply those scriptures to those issues. Then I would pray that the Holy Spirit, to bless your obedience to what the Word said, to bring about healing in your life. If you brought to me your family and said, "Tony Evans, my family is falling apart". I would find out what the issues are, find the appropriate scriptures to the issues that you were dealing with, give you practical steps to apply what the Bible said about those issues, and ask the Holy Spirit to bless your obedience to the Word to bring about healing in your home.
If you brought your church leadership to me and said, "Our church is divided. Our church is falling apart". I would sit down with the leadership. I would find out what the issues were. I would identify the scriptures in the Bible that dealt with those issues. I would then give you practical steps to apply what the Bible said. Then I'd ask the Holy Spirit to bless your obedience to the Word to bring about healing in your church. If you brought the Congress of the United States to me and said, "Our nation is falling apart". I would not change books. We have too many Christians today who have changed books. They've kicked the Bible to the curb, even though the Bible says that God established government, in Romans 13, that God gives the guidelines by which governments are to operate. The closer God is to a society, the more ordered the society will be. The further God is from a society, the more chaotic the society will become. That is the way the world works.
So the absenteeism of God leads to chaos in the culture because of the failure of the teaching priest to empower the congregants, in order to enter the culture with the truth of God, so that He stays close, so that order is preserved. Help me. Help me. How can we have all these churches on all these corners with all these members and all these preachers and all these programs and all these buildings and still have all this mess? There's a dead monkey on the line somewhere. And that is, too many churches have abandoned the word of God. They hold it in high honor. It just makes no decisions. It doesn't overrule how you were raised, what your mama taught you, what your culture says, how you feel. It can't trump it. And when it doesn't trump it, whatever does trump it is your idol. It says, there was no true God, there was no teaching priest. It says, there was no law. No rules. It's called post modernity. That's postmodernism.
Absolute truth was kicked to the curb, and people made up their own rules because there was no standard. So now we are all confused as to what a man is, what a woman is, who can have babies, who can't have babies. We get all confused. And in the name of sympathy, the truth is abandoned because the rules have been canceled. There is no law. My son, Jonathan, who spoke a few weeks ago, said, "Daddy, come to the church gym," many years ago when he was eleven years old. He was this high. He said, "Dad, come to the gym. Dad, come to the gym". I said, "Why"? He said, "I've got to show you something". I go to the gym. He says, "I want you to see me dunk". Dunk the basketball. He's eleven years old. He's this high. I said, "What"? He said, "I want you to see me dunk". He dribbles the ball. He goes up, he jumps. Voom! He dunks the basketball. He's eleven years old. He's this high.
But before you get too impressed, he got the custodian to lower the rim. So a ten-foot rim is now a six-foot rim. He dunked the basketball. I said, "Son, I see what you did, but the goal is not to lower the standard but for you to grow up and meet the standard". So what we have done, unfortunately, is we have lowered the standard. We meet the lower standard, and think we have dunked for the kingdom and the King. It says, there was no law. In other words, there was chaos that God either caused or allowed because of divine abandonment. So the question on the floor is, was there a solution? The question today, if Christ be not come in the shortterm is is there a solution to the racial, to the political, to the social, to the economic, to all the complex chaos that ought to be burdening you if it is not? Actually, there was.
Verse four. "But in their distress they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him". In their distress. What distress? The distress that God caused. Verse six says God caused the distress, verse six. "In their distress..." The distress that God caused that led to chaos in the culture. In their distress, they sought the Lord God. Oh, wait a minute, they didn't say God. They sought the Lord God. God is Elohim. Elohim is God's power name, if you will. "In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth". Genesis 1:1. And in Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 2:3, you will only see that one Hebrew name for God, Elohim, God's power name because He's doing all his creating, He's showing His strength, He's showing His divine muscle, if you will.
But beginning in chapter two, verse four, there's a compound. And from then on, you see, "the Lord God". "The Lord God," "the Lord God," "the Lord God," "the Lord God". Because now He's creating man. Yahweh. Yahweh is His covenantal name. That's His relational name. That's why in Genesis 3, when Satan comes and talks to Eve, he says "Has God said..."? because even Satan doesn't mind God as long as He's not Lord. It's, "the Lord God". "The Lord God". "The Lord God". In other words, not just God and His power, but God and His connection. Far too many Christians believe in God's power who don't want to relate to His connection, His covenant. A covenant is a divinely-created bond.
One day, Jonathan and I were going to the airport, and we were flying together, and I have a platinum upgrade. And I said, "Do you have two upgrade seats"? And she said, "Yes, I do". And so I said, "I'd like to upgrade me and my son". She said, "Okay, I'll be glad to do that". Then she came back. She said, "I'm so sorry". I said, "What's wrong"? She said, "I can't upgrade you and your son. I can only upgrade you". But I said, "You said you had two seats". "I do have two seats, but I can't upgrade him". I said, "Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute. My agreement is that you can do a companion with your upgrades". "It certainly does, but I can't upgrade him". "But he's my son". "But I can't upgrade him". I said, "Why can't you"? She said, "Because he has a different locator number. He wasn't ticketed with you. And because he has a different locator number, he does not get the benefit of the formal relationship".
If you believe in Jesus Christ, you have the formal relationship, but what's your locater number? Because if the Lord part is not tied to the God part you may be in the family, but you may not have the connection. And so it says, "the Lord God". When they return to the Lord God, when they return to His covenantal connection with them, then they got the God part, the Elohim part. And when did they do it? In their distress. So God creates and allows distress.
I think I shared this some years ago when I was here. My late wife Lois, when I met her, there was this beautiful, 18-year-old girl. I mean, beautiful. The problem was she was not responding at the rate to which I was accustomed. Girlfriend was moving a little slow, so I had to help a sister out. In Baltimore, where I was born and raised, there was an amusement park called Gwen Oak's Amusement Park. It had a roller coaster for two called the Wild Mouse. Wild Mouse went up and down and did what roller coasters do. But then it would go to the edge like it was going to jump off the track and turn real quick. I said, "Two tickets, please". The wilder the ride got, the closer she got. By the time the ride was over, you thought only one person got on it. Why did I get two tickets that ride? To create distress because I wanted to get her closer.
So, God will create distress in our lives and distress in our culture to wake up His church and get us closer. And so it says, in their distress they sought the Lord God and He let them find Him. Verse 15 says, and He gave them rest. He brought order to the culture. It didn't come from politics. God is not going to skip the church house to fix the White House. It didn't come because of who you elected, although we should be engaged politically, What we need today are kingdom saints and kingdom citizens, kingdom men and kingdom women who bring the kingdom to the political realm, who are not ashamed to appropriately be biblicists in how we react to the world. As I like to say, everybody else is coming out the closet you might as well come out to. Everybody else is going public with their worldview.
Why are we silent? Apologetic? This is not a time for kingdom punks. This is not a time for kingdom chumps. This is a time for men and women who hold to the God of the Bible, His inerrant Word, to take their public stand with an attitude and spirit of love without abandoning the truth to bring it to a culture who's desperate for the divine return. You'll never travel again like you traveled before 9-11. You'll never travel again like you traveled then because of terrorism. 19 men from halfway around the world came and invaded and forever changed how we move about due to the new security measures that are the result of 19 men coming to our shores and bringing the most powerful nation in the history of mankind to its knees. So help me out. If 19 men can do all of that in the name of the wrong God, what do you think the people of God can do who are loyal to Jesus Christ based on His Word in the name of the true God?
So, it is time for you to represent the King and His Kingdom. I am so grateful for Gateway Church and what you have done throughout this metroplex and beyond to make the message of Christ known and to raise up men and women and children who are loyal to the King, who understand that our job is to become full-time saints, not part-time Christians. And to kingdom-ize our whole existence as representative of our King and His kingdom. I'm very grateful to Gateway Church for how you befriended this man, his family, and our ministry both locally and nationally through the urban alternative, because much of what we've been able to do is through your friendship. My prayer is that if Christ be not come, we as a culture begin to see the suddenlies of Scripture worked out where God shows up out of nowhere and flips things around and shows us what He could do because He's gotten His peoples' attention in the distress that we face.
In movies and on television, they show you previews of coming attractions. Those are always the hot clips of the upcoming show, the fight scene, the love scene, or the chase scene. They're always the hot scenes that have been stitched together to get you excited to watch the whole show. Well, one day there's a big show coming to town. God is the producer, the Holy Spirit is the director, Jesus is the superstar, and it will be a worldwide production. It's called the kingdom of God. But in the meantime, He's left you, you, you, you, you ... you, you and me here as previews of coming attractions. See, we're supposed to be the hot clips of the upcoming show. People are supposed to see the clips of our representing the big show and say that clip is hot. That clip is hot.
And then when they ask them, "Well, those clips are so hot, where can I buy a ticket to the whole show"? That's what we can tell them. You don't have to buy a ticket. The price has already been paid. We can share the good news of Jesus Christ. So it's time now for kingdom people to go public. The distress is all around us. They ought to feel you in your community. They ought to feel you in your schools. They ought to feel you in your sphere of influence at work. They ought to know that if you accuse me of being a fulltime follower of Christ, I'm guilty of all charges because you represent another king and another kingdom.
Father, thank You for this great church, for its great pastor and wife and family, for its friendship, for its impact. May the days ahead be greater than the days gone by if Christ be not come. Forgive us for where we've idolized the wrong thing as our source. Draw us near to You because You are our Savior. In Jesus' name, amen.