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When Towers Fall

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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September 4, 2021 12:01 am

When Towers Fall

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 4, 2021 12:01 am

When people sought comfort and understanding after tragedy struck, Jesus gave them a difficult word instead. Today, R.C. Sproul examines what Christ's response teaches us about our own response to suffering in this world.

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Why do I call Romans 8 the best chapter in the Bible?

Because it is. Christians for centuries, I think, have turned to Romans 8 because it gives us the gospel in one chapter. It talks about the doctrine of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And I had a deacon one time saying to me that this was in some way calling into question the inspiration of all of Scripture, and isn't all of Scripture. Great and the greatest.

And I said, well, just answer this question. If you've got two minutes to live, do I read the first few chapters of Chronicles, which is a list of names, or do I read Romans 8? And I think the answer is always going to be Romans 8, because it says everything that needs to be said about the gospel in one chapter. In Luke chapter 13, we learn of a tower that fell and killed a number of people. How could something of the enormity of this tragedy take place in a universe that is governed by a holy God? It's hard enough to understand how human beings could be so inhumane and so wicked in their treatment of other human beings, but how could God allow these things to happen? When tragedy occurs, the common reaction is, such a waste of innocent life.

Why did they have to die now? That was a question the people around Jesus asked. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday.

I'm Lee Webb. I'm glad you could be with us today. One might think that Jesus would bring words of comfort. Instead, He used the tragedy as an opportunity to make an even more important point. We have been studying the hard sayings of the Bible, and in our first segment, we looked at the hard sayings of the prophets. And now, in our second segment, we're going to turn our attention to some of the hard sayings of Jesus. Again, you will recall that what we call a hard saying is a saying that is either difficult for us in the sense that we perceive it as being harsh, or severe, or we can call it a hard saying because it's hard to grasp or hard to understand.

It's difficult to figure out what it means, and so we'll be choosing both of those types of hard sayings. And today, I want to turn your attention to the gospel according to St. Luke, to the thirteenth chapter, to an episode that is contained there that I, in an earlier series, have already spoken about under our series entitled The Providence of God, but I want to revisit this episode in light of its being a hard saying. Chapter 13 of Luke begins with these words, But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Were those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them? Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?

I tell you no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Obviously, the questions that were being brought to Jesus were questions that people had about catastrophes that had befallen people in their day. And they were wondering how a good God, a loving God, could allow these tragic catastrophes to take place. I remember the bombing episode that took place in 1995, in April of 95, in Oklahoma City, where terrorists took this huge bomb in a highly crowded federal office building that included a daycare center and detonated it. And the nation watched the news reports of this in horror. And this was one of those rare occasions where the news media rushing to bring fresh information to the viewers would bring in unedited tapes. And the usual shield we have from gory reports of violence in the world were absent on that occasion.

Who can forget the picture of the policeman carrying the baby and handing it over to the fireman and then later to realize that the infant had died? And I was interested in listening to the adjectives and the language that the news reporters groped for to give an adequate description of the degree of heinousness of this crime. I heard one newsman say that this was an inhuman, satanic act, and another newsman say, wait a minute, we have to realize that people are capable of this kind of atrocity. But there was a national sense of outrage, and particularly because children were included in this incident. Somebody said to me, why children? Why would anybody kill children? What's the purpose of terrorism? And I said, the purpose of terrorism is obvious. It's to terrorize. It's to bring people to a state of fear that will cause them to react in ways by which those who are perpetrating this can control their responses.

That's what terrorism is all about. But again, the questions were how could something of the enormity of this tragedy take place in a universe that is governed by a holy God? How can God allow such a disaster to take place? It's hard enough to understand how human beings could be so inhumane and so wicked in their treatment of other human beings, but how could God allow these things to happen?

Well, those questions are the questions that every generation seeks to answer. And the people in Jesus' day were no different, and they came to Jesus and reported two specific incidents from their own day. The first one refers to an event that took place in Galilee where while people were in the midst of worship, in church if you will, some of the soldiers under the authority of Pontius Pilate came in and massacred them, mixing their blood with the blood of the animals.

I mean these were not warriors on the battlefield, these were supplicants in the worship environment who were stormed upon and treated with a brutal massacre so that their blood was flowing and desecrating the sanctity of the religious buildings there. And so they come to Jesus and they say, you know, how can this be? And Jesus answered and said to them, do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered such things? Jesus in a sense ducks their question and takes this opportunity to instruct them on a very weighty and difficult theological truth. Jesus answers the question with a question, and it's very similar to the response He gave elsewhere in His ministry that's recorded in the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John, where people brought a man who had been blind from birth to Jesus and asked this question. Trying to trap Jesus with a theological poser, they said to Jesus, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

Now those who raised that question committed an informal fallacy of logic, and that fallacy is called the fallacy of the false dilemma, or sometimes it's called the either-or fallacy. They came with Jesus and they only gave Him two options to account for the man's blindness. Either, they said, the man was born blind because of his own sin or because of the sin of his parents. And how does Jesus answer the question?

Neither. He didn't have anything to do with this man's sin or his parents, but that God may be glorified, and He was indeed glorified through the healing of the man born blind. But what was behind that question that the disciples raised of Jesus in John's Gospel was the assumption that all suffering in this world is proportionately related to a person's particular degree of sinfulness.

This is a weighty matter. I don't know how many times I've stood in a hospital room and talked privately as a confessional situation with dying people who have expressed to me their conviction that the reason for their pain and their suffering was some particular sin that they had committed and they wanted to get that off their conscience before they died. That is far more present and pervasive among people than we realize. We hardly ever talk about this because we want to divorce ourselves from any thought that there is a relationship between sin and suffering. Yet in the broad picture, the general scope of Scripture, we are told that it is because of sin that suffering and death come into the world. So that there was a sound idea at least partially in the minds of the disciples when they asked the question, why is this man blind?

Is it because of his sin or the sin of his parents? Because the disciples at least understood that there is some kind of a connection between moral evil and physical suffering. But Jesus took that opportunity to teach them that though in general there would be no suffering and there'd be no death in the world if there were no sin in the world, nevertheless we cannot rush to judgment, leap to the conclusion that everybody suffers in proportionate measure to the degree of their sin. The Bible makes that very clear that that's not the case.

There are the wicked who prosper and the righteous who suffer. The whole book of Job is designed to belie that misunderstanding and to show that Job was the most upright man in the whole world when he was visited with untold misery and suffering. And the error of his friends was the assumption that because Job's suffering was so severe and so great that Job must have been the worst sinner in the whole world.

Well, both John chapter 9 and the book of Job should put that idea to rest once and for all. But it should not lead us to a false conclusion, namely that there is no relationship between suffering and sin. Now when these people come to Jesus here in Luke and they ask him about this incident in Galilee where Pilate mingles the blood of the worshippers with the sacrifices, Jesus says to them, do you think that these Galileans who suffered were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered such things? And obviously Jesus is answering His own question, isn't He? He's saying, no, they're not worse sinners. So now you would expect Jesus to say, hey, accidents happen. This had nothing to do with their sin. Or you might expect Jesus to say these people who were killed were total innocent people, and it's just a dreadful calamity that took place, one of those fortuitous circumstances that happened by chance.

That's not the conclusion either. Jesus said, don't think that because they suffered, you are better than they are or they were worse than you are. And then He turns to them and said, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Beloved, people do dreadful things to people who are innocent of any crime against those who injure them. The terrorist works indiscriminately. He doesn't aim at military installments. He aims at the general public.

He aims at children in order to terrorize as many people as he possibly can. And with respect to the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, the victim is innocent. And that's true, and we need to remember that. On the other hand, it is also true that when we look vertically in terms of our relationship to God, none of us is an innocent person before God. And that's what Jesus is trying to communicate, that unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

He's saying to these people, you're asking me the wrong question. Instead of being horrified that a good God would allow this catastrophe to befall these innocent people in Galilee, the question you should be asking is why your blood wasn't spilled in Galilee. Why is Jesus saying?

That's a hard saying. Jesus is trying to remind these people that there is no such thing as an innocent person, and He's trying to communicate to us that the real amazing question is not the justice of God, but the grace of God. We have a song that we sing called, Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound, that saved a wretch like me. We sing that in church with great gusto and with very little belief. Do we really believe that we are wretches who have been saved by the grace of God? Do we really believe that the favors we receive from the hand of God are unmerited, unearned, and undeserved? You see, Jesus is saying we should be saying, why didn't our blood flow in that place? How did we escape? How could God, who is a good God, allow me, a sinner, to continue to enjoy all these benefits?

That's the question that should be being asked. And likewise, the next incident that is contained in this narrative are those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them. Do you think they were worse sinners than all the other men who dwelled in Jerusalem?

I tell you no. They weren't any worse. They weren't any better. Eighteen innocent people in a building, and the building collapses. It's not like they were standing there outside the construction of this temple playing sidewalk superintendent and harassing the construction workers. And so as a result, God judged them and had the tower fall on their heads.

No. They're walking down the street minding their own business, the tower collapsed, and boom, they're killed. The question is, how can God allow that to happen? Jesus answered, it's hard. He's saying, why shouldn't God allow that to happen?

And the question you should be asking is why that temple doesn't fall on your head. If you really believe that we live by grace, that's the response you have to have. And sometimes it takes the hard saying of Jesus in a situation like this to get us to remember that, that we are not exempt from tragedy or suffering or calamity or injustice from the hands of people.

As I've said over and over and over again, it's very possible for me to commit an injustice against you and for you to commit an injustice against me, because in terms of our relationship, we may be innocent with respect to one another. But anything that befalls me that is painful or sorrowful or grievous, that comes to me from the hand of God, I can never see as an act of injustice, because God does not owe me freedom from tragedies. God does not owe me freedom from temples falling on my head or towers burying me beneath their rubble, because I am a debtor before God who cannot repay. And Jesus' warning is hard. Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Let's look at that again. Jesus says that there is a necessary condition that has to be met here. Unless indicates something that has to take place for a consequence to follow.

Unless A, B cannot occur, or unless A, B will occur. And in this case, Jesus said, unless there is repentance, you will all likewise perish. The only antidote to perishing at the hands of God is repentance. So we can all look forward to the temple falling on us or our blood being mingled with the sacrifices unless we repent. You know, it really gets hard when you realize that even if we do repent, temples can still fall on our heads in this world, although the final tower will not collapse upon us the tower of God's final judgment. We will escape that, and yet if a person makes it safely through all of life, never has an automobile accident, never is in a plane crash or a train wreck, or never has the house fall upon their head, if they remain impenitent to their last day, there will be a tower that will crush them, and they will perish. That's the hard saying of Christ, and so I say to you, beloved, watch out for falling towers.

That's Dr. R.C. Sproul with a message from his series, The Hard Sayings of Jesus. As we heard today, sometimes Jesus' answers seemed harsh to his listeners, and they can be harsh to us as well. That's why Dr. Sproul taught this series. We'll share more lessons as we return to the series each Saturday.

What did Jesus mean when he talked about an unpardonable sin, and why didn't Jesus know the time or the hour of his own return? In five messages, Dr. Sproul covers some of the most difficult sayings of Jesus' ministry. We'd like to provide you a digital download of all five messages from this series. Just give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries, and once you've completed your donation, you'll have access to the five video lessons, both on the Ligonier app as well as online. There are a couple of ways you can reach us.

Our phone number is 800-435-4343, or you can give your gift online at If you haven't downloaded the free app yet, let me encourage you to do that. It's full of resources that will help you in your study of God's Word. Not only will you find articles and daily videos, you'll have access to a library of past Renewing Your Mind programs.

Just search for Ligonier in your app store. Before we go today, Dr. Sproul has a final comment regarding the difficult words of Jesus. Surely we struggle with the kind of hard saying that we've looked at today. Jesus is not being insensitive or thoughtless or trying to be harsh with His ears, but He does have to jolt them and jolt us into looking at things from the eternal perspective. And that's the only way we can deal with tragedy and with calamity, is to understand that behind things that we experience in the here and now stands the eternal purpose of God. And it's funny how differently we respond to pain and the sorrow and the tragedy. For some of us, if we lose a loved one or experience a painful loss, it makes us bitter and angry towards God. But for others, in the midst of that pain, we are driven to our knees and to rush to the presence of God to seek the solace, the consolation, and the comfort that He is prepared to give to His people. Remember the promise of God to His people that on the last day, He will personally dry the tears from our eyes. And when God dries our tears, they stay dry.

And what a comforting thought that is. Well, next week, R.C. returns to address another difficult question. Why didn't Jesus know? He is God in the flesh, so shouldn't He have known when He would return? We'll explore that next week as we continue the series, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, here on Renewing Your Mind. I hope you'll join us. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-08 12:31:36 / 2023-09-08 12:39:20 / 8

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