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The Calming of the Storm

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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June 26, 2022 12:01 am

The Calming of the Storm

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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June 26, 2022 12:01 am

Terrified by the violent storm that broke against their boat, Jesus' disciples begged for His help. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his expositional series in the gospel of Luke, explaining why Christ's response to their request did not ease their fears but increase them.

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On the Sea of Galilee, a storm threatened the disciples. After Jesus calmed the wind and the waves, the disciples reacted in wonder. You would think they would throw their sowesters in the air and say to Jesus, we've seen you do some great things, but this beats them all.

That's a wondrous thing. I can't wait to go home and tell my wife and my kids what you did out here on the Sea of Galilee. But that's not the response they had. In fact, the Bible tells us that the disciples were afraid. Why should they be frightened of someone who saved them? Well, it turns out they finally realized who Jesus was, God in the flesh.

Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul takes us to the Gospel of Luke to point out that we must understand who Christ really is in all of His perfection and holiness before we can truly worship Him. In the 18th century, there occurred a watershed event in Western civilization, an event that began in Germany and was called there the Aufplauung and then spread rapidly to England and then to France, culminating in what we call in Western history the Enlightenment. Now the Enlightenment was not a uniform monolithic movement where all of the thinkers and philosophers agreed on every point. In that movement, there were many intellectuals who were ardent atheists, but there were also many intellectuals of that period who remained steadfast in their affirmation of belief in God.

But the most militant of the atheists were numbered among the so-called French encyclopedists, including the two most notorious of that group, Diderot and Halbach. Halbach identified himself, and I quote, as the personal enemy of God, and what these atheists believed was this, that the new discoveries of modern science had made the God hypothesis as an unnecessary, outdated opinion that science had now repudiated. They came to this conclusion by saying the God hypothesis is no longer necessary because now we know that the origin of life and indeed the origin of the whole universe has come to pass through the power of spontaneous generation. And to declare this doctrine a spontaneous generation, it was not science, it was magic, and it was magic with a vengeance. It was like bringing the rabbit out of the hat without a rabbit, without a hat, without a wand, and even without a magician.

And so, nevertheless, it made a tremendous impact on the thinking of Western intellectuals. And the atheists of the 19th century were convinced that their work had already been accomplished by those in the 18th century who they believed refuted the idea of the existence of God. But now the problem that the atheists of the 19th century were facing, men like Karl Marx and Ludwig Feuerbach, Friedrich Nietzsche, and especially Sigmund Freud, was this question, since now we know that there is no God, why is it that in our anthropological investigations, no matter how far we go, how foreign elements we explore on this globe, be it the Aborigines or the Eskimos or the animistic natives in the jungles of Africa or South America, wherever we go, we find religion?

And so they scratched their heads and they said, wait a minute, there's no God? Why is it that human beings are not only Homo sapiens, but they seem to be Homo religiosus, that is, incurably religious? So they felt the burden of accounting for this universal appearance of religion in light of what they believed was the accomplished, proven fact that there is no God.

In a word, if there's no God, how's come there's so much religion? Well, virtually all of the major atheists of the 19th century agreed that religion has arisen historically out of the psychological needs of human beings as an antidote to human fears and uncertainty. Do you recall that Marx spoke, although he didn't invent the phrase, of religion being the opiate of the masses, that drug that dulls our senses to the terrors and unpleasantries that surround us in this world?

But nobody was more inventive and more comprehensive in his attempt to account for religion than was Sigmund Freud in his little work, The Future of Illusion. And Freud argued this way, that the biggest problem we face as human beings is the threat of death. And that threat comes from us from many angles with the widespread presence of wars and murders. One of the things that we learn to fear are other human beings. But we have come to gain a certain assurance of how to deal with hostile people by adopting various and sundry methods. If somebody's angry with me and threatening me, I can say to them, I can beg them for mercy, please don't hurt me, and maybe strike a note of mercy in their soul so they refrain from bringing me harm. Or I can say, I can give all kinds of laudatory expressions to them and say, why would you want to harm me? I'm your number one fan in the world.

I think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread, so please don't hurt me. Or we can try to bribe or negotiate, I'll give you $10,000 if you spare me, and so on. And so we've learned all those techniques to deal with people who are hostile to us.

They don't always work, but sometimes they do. But in addition to the threat of violent human beings, we also have the threat of disease, of natural catastrophes like earthquakes, floods, and fires. And so the question is this, how do you negotiate with cancer? What good is it to plead with a fire?

How do you bribe a flood? All these inanimate forces that threaten to destroy us are immune to all of the devices we use to ameliorate hostile people. So according to Freud, he says we use our imagination, and the first thing we do is we personalize these impersonal forces like animistic religion does. They suppose that the flood or the storm and these threatening forces or animals like the crocodile or the bee tree are inhabited by living spirits. And so the animist begins to try to appease these hostile spirits by giving worship to them, making idols of them, and even though these idols don't have real ears or real mouths, they still speak to them and pray to them and honor them with worship. And so what happens from the personalization of these inanimate impersonal forces, Freud said we go to the next step to the sacralization of them, to considering them sacred and divine. And out of all of this comes the beginnings of religion, and the religion gets more and more abstract and more and more sophisticated. And of course that theory found many converts in the 19th century.

But I've said all that to say this. One of the things that I find so interesting about this episode in the life of Jesus is that it seems to belie Freud's theory. Now if we look at the references to this event and all of the gospels, we see something like this taking place. These disciples of Jesus go out onto the Lake of Galilee, and when they go out there, the lake is placid, it's tranquil, it's calm, and they are going out for a routine attempt at fishing. But they are very much aware that this particular body of water is subject to unexpected storms, violent winds coming off the Mediterranean Sea and through the mountains on the edge of Israel that form a wind tunnel. And this wind keeps sweeping in and instantly can turn this calm lake into a maelstrom of a horrendous, life-threatening situation, and that's what happened.

They're out there in the water, and without warning, this violent storm comes up, the boat is being filled with water, the winds are howling, the waves have become so high that they're in danger of capsizing. And the Bible tells us they were afraid. Of course they were afraid. They were afraid for their lives.

These forces of nature were about to destroy them. In the meantime, biblical writers tell us that Jesus was with them, but while they're terrified, Jesus is sound asleep in the back of the boat, calm as He could be. And they're, in their terror, go over, and they shake Him, and they say, Master, Master, do something, or we perish.

I have no idea what they expected Jesus to do in this situation, but this I do know that they certainly did not expect Him to do what He did. They woke Him up, and He is a little bit annoyed. He says, where's your faith? And then instead of speaking to them, He starts to talk to the wind and to the water, and He gives a command. And the imperative that comes from the lips of Jesus is this, peace, be still.

And you want to talk about spontaneous generation in terms of quickness? Instantly the wind ceases, so there's not the slightest zephyr in the air. Instantly the sea becomes as smooth as glass. Now, the question I have this morning is what was the disciples' reaction?

What would you expect it to be? You would think they would throw their saw-westers in the air and say to Jesus, thank you, Jesus, for saving us again. That was incredible. We've seen you do some great things, but this beats them all.

That's a wondrous thing. I can't wait to go home and tell my wife and my kids what you did out here on the Sea of Galilee. That's the response that you would expect, isn't it? But that's not the response they had. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that after the threat of nature was removed by Jesus, instead of eliminating their fear, their fear was intensified. The Bible tells us, and they became very much afraid.

So suddenly they were in the presence of something that was more terrifying to them than the violence of this storm. And they looked at Jesus in a way they hadn't seen Him before, and they said among themselves, what manner of man is this? Who is this man? What kind of man is this? We don't have a category for Him. He's sui generis.

He's in a class by Himself. No human being who has ever walked the face of the earth can walk and speak to the wind and make it behave and calm a troubled sea with the mere force of His voice. They realized that they were in the presence of something more terrifying than the violent forces of nature.

This is what Freud didn't expect. And you see, they were in the presence of the holy. They were in the presence of One who had no category because He was transcendent, He was other, He was different, He was higher, He was holy.

And ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing on this planet scarier than to be in the presence of the holy. I mentioned before when we looked at this passage how when I was a boy before the advent of television, yes, there was a time when there was no television. That we found our entertainment by listening to the radio. We couldn't see what was going on. We had to imagine it in the fertile regions of our own brains. We'd listen to the adventure stories of Superman and the Lone Ranger and the Shadow and all these mystery stories, gangbusters, and Mr.

Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, and all the rest. And then they had a couple of really spooky programs. One was called Suspense, and that would hold you at the edge of your chair. But the scariest one of all was on Sunday night, and it began with the lead-in of the sound of a creaking door that was supposed to be the creaking, shutting door of a tomb. And the voiceover announced these words, inner sanctum.

And I mean, it still scares me as I think back at that. I would listen to that voice, and before the storyline even started, I was already trembling just from the announcement, inner sanctum. But what does inner sanctum mean? Within the holy. Calvin wrote that people are completely fearless in certain circumstances, but the Scriptures uniformly relate that people who previously were self-secure and safe are reduced every single time to trembling when God appears to them in His holiness. Okay, this is the experience these fishermen have within the holy.

They were in the inner sanctum on that boat on the Sea of Galilee. And so I have to ask, after looking at all this, the simple question, well, so what? What's the significance of this for us?

Is there any particular application that it has for us? I don't think it's much of a stretch to go back into the Old Testament for a moment and think of the most important event in the Old Testament that precedes the New Testament work of redemption that is accomplished for us by Jesus. The Old Testament act of redemption supreme was the Exodus. And you know the story, how the Jewish people had been enslaved under the tyranny of Pharaoh and forced to make bricks even without straw. And they were miserable, and they cried, and they wept, and they groaned until finally we read in the Scriptures that God said, I have heard the groaning of My people. And God then appeared in the Midianite wilderness to Moses.

You know the story, Moses, take off your shoes from off your feet, for the ground whereon your standing is holy ground. God gave the command to Moses to go to the court of Pharaoh, the most powerful leader on the face of the globe. And he went as a Midianite shepherd with the message from God, and he, as you know the story, Moses goes to Pharaoh with this message from God that says simply, let My people go.

Now, for the rest of the story. Why did God command that Pharaoh let these slaves go? Was it simply because God was acting to rescue them from the misery of their experience in slavery?

Certainly, that was an important element of it, but it's not the rest of the story. It's not all of the story that Moses was commanded to speak to Pharaoh. He said, let My people go so, that is for the purpose of, that they may come to My mountain and worship Me there. Now, that dramatic story of rescue in the Old Testament had as its ultimate goal that these people who were rescued might come and worship God. And if we fast forward to the New Testament and we see the elaborate work of redemption that Christ, the new Moses, had accomplished for us in saving His people, we know what He saved them from. He saved them from the wrath of God.

But the question is, what did He save them for? And the ultimate answer to that question, beloved, is for worship. One of my greatest concerns for the church in our day is that worship in so many churches has become casual. Casual worship is a contradiction in terms. No person ever comes into the immediate presence of a holy God in a cavalier manner.

You don't come into the presence of God dressed like you were going to the beach. And sometimes we reveal how casually we take the whole experience of worship. But, beloved, when we come to worship, this is holy ground. And we come not with a servile fear but with a godly fear, a sense of reverence before Him, a sense of fear and trembling that was experienced by the disciples in that boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Yes, they were frightened, and they should have been frightened because they were in the presence of the Holy One of Israel, before whom even the demons from hell screamed in terror. And so we come to church for so many different reasons to experience fellowship, and that's a wonderful thing. Some people come to be entertained. Some people come to learn pop psychology lessons and all the rest. But the reason that we are to come if we are mature in our faith is to worship Him, to bow down before Him, to sing our praises to Him, to offer the sacrifice of praise to our God, and to adore Him with the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. The disciples realized who Jesus really was when He calmed the wind and the waves that day, and their reaction shows us what it's like to be in the presence of holiness.

It's terrifying. Dr. R.C. Sproul's message from the Gospel of Luke directed us to worship our holy God today. We're glad you've joined us for Renewing Your Mind on this Lord's Day.

I'm Lee Webb. Each Sunday we return to Dr. Sproul's series from the Gospel of Luke, and today when you contact us with a donation of any amount, we'll provide you with a digital download of R.C. 's commentary on Luke. In it, we learn from a first-century physician who set out to gather eyewitness testimony of the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus Christ. I know you'll benefit from Dr. Sproul's careful and meaningful insight in this commentary.

You can make your request online when you go to In advance, let me thank you for your generous donation. It is your support that's making trustworthy Bible teaching available in more languages to reach more people around the world. This includes the recent milestone launch of the Portuguese edition of the Reformation Study Bible and our ongoing Study Bibles for Africa outreach initiative. We are truly grateful for your support. Next week, we return to Dr. Sproul's sermon series from the Gospel of Luke. We will learn the significance of Jesus' confrontation with a man possessed by a legion of demons. I hope you'll join us for that next week on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-29 15:17:02 / 2023-03-29 15:24:52 / 8

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