Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. When God is absent, when somebody lives like an atheist, atheism always results in two things. The strong oppress the weak and despair. When God is absent, the weak are abused. The inevitable result of casting off the rule of God is defining morality in a way that benefits the strong. Welcome back to Summit Life with J.D. Greer.
As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Okay, most of us know somebody who would call themselves an atheist, right? But before you write that person off for their godless view of life, it's quite possible that you may share something in common. Today, we're looking at the final chapters of the Book of Judges. It's a time when the Israelites turn their backs on God's leadership. They still acknowledged him with their lips, but they've become, in essence, a nation of atheists, and we often fall into that same trap. Today, we'll shed some light on this topic as we near the end of our study in the Book of Judges.
Remember, you can always reach out to us at jdgreer.com or give us a call at 866-335-5220. We've got lots of free resources available to help direct you in your journey with Jesus. But for now, here's Pastor J.D.
with a new message he titled Christian Atheism. If you've got a Bible, now's the time to take it out, and why don't you open it to the Book of Judges. The Book of Judges, every good book, every good TV series, it's got to come to an end. We come to the end of our study on the Book of Judges.
I honestly am not sure whether to be sad or relieved. It has been a raw and challenging book. Judges 17.
Let me give you a warning as we begin. These are some of the darkest and most gruesome stories in the Bible. They're kind of like a Quentin Tarantino movie. They're all darkness and seemingly no hope.
I'm not going to be risque, but these stories are just disturbing. I could find, by the way, very few sermons that have been preached on these chapters, and I think you'll figure out why here in just a few moments. In fact, maybe when I get done, you'll be like, I wish you hadn't preached a sermon on these chapters. But I feel like there's some things that are really important, and I know they're in the Bible for a reason. They depict a state that I like to refer to as Christian atheism. Christian atheism.
These people in these stories believe in God, but practically speaking, as I'll show you, they live like atheists. And I'm going to try to show you that we got a lot of people in our culture and maybe some of you that fit in that same category. As I tell these stories, they may remind you of kind of the time and the age that we live in. What I've picked up is that most of us, regardless of which side of the political aisle that you sit on, most of us are genuinely concerned about where our country is headed. It seems like every time I turn on the news, there's some mass murder or gun violence or racial turmoil.
It seems like it's as bad as it's been in my lifetime. People are asking legitimate questions about our justice system and whether it treats people of color fairly. A lot of Christians feel like the sky is falling morally.
We watched as Bruce Jenner, who has changed to being Caitlyn Jenner, got the ESPY Award for Courage, ESPN's annual awards. And in his speech, he basically says, you know, we got to get beyond where we say that any issue of sexuality is a matter of right and wrong. And we just got to treat this as it's just everything's okay. And the whole place stands to their feet in applause, standing ovation. And the message seems to be pretty clear that if you don't accept this as normal, then you have no place any longer in civilized discourse.
It seems like the one thing that both right and left have in common as they both feel like this country is in turmoil and it's in trouble. Judges 17 through 21, these five chapters are going to describe an age very similar to ours. And I hope that it will not only show you that there is nothing new under the sun, that what we're living in is not a new age, but it shows you where our hope lies and how you and I are supposed to respond in an age like this one. Judges chapter 17, Samson the last judge has just died. And so chapter 17 opens up with a story of a seemingly random man named Micah, who overhears his mom utter a curse on the person that stole her money. Well, it was Micah. Micah is the one who stole his mom's money and he believes in God just enough to be scared of the curse.
So he goes to his mom and is like, oh mom, sorry, it was me. Please, here's your money. Please take off back the curse. And so his mom is so grateful to get the money back that not only does she lift the curse, she says, verse four, I solemnly consecrate the silver to the Lord for my son Micah to make an image overlaid with silver. In other words, I'm going to say thank you to God for giving me back this stolen money by making a statue of God. Now notice, this is not a statue of Baal or Ashtaroth or a Canaanite God. This is a statue of Jehovah, Israel's God.
Verse five, so Micah makes a shrine and he installs one of his sons as priests. In those days, Israel had no king. Everybody did what was right in his own eyes. In other words, they had no ruler.
Everybody has become his own ruler. Christian atheism, here they are, characteristic number one. Christian atheism redefines God rather than submits to God. What this woman did was in direct violation of the second commandment that we not make any images, graven images or likenesses of God. Now let me stop here for just a minute because a lot of believers say, you know, I get the first commandment that we shouldn't have other gods besides God, but what's the big deal about making an image out of God? Maybe it helps you worship or it makes you feel good or whatever.
Here is why God gave us that commandment. An image of God cannot possibly capture the full range of God's glory. So inevitably in your image that you make, you will highlight the parts of God's nature that appeal to you and you will conceal the parts that don't.
For example, you will magnify his strength, but obscure his compassion, or you will celebrate his grace while ignoring his purity and his justice. And what you end up with is a distortion of God, God not as he actually is, but a God as you would prefer him to be, which is not really God at all, it's really just a deified version of you. It is a rejection of God and a choice for yourself. Hand in hand with that always goes a redefinition of morality. You see verse six, when there was no king, when there was no rule, everybody did what was right in their own eyes. Just as you redefine God, you will redefine right and wrong according to your preferences as well. Now, in many ways, this is the primary sin of our culture, is it not? It's not that we completely reject Jesus. We just want him to be a certain way, right? Well, so we make statements like, well, my Jesus is like this and I would never believe in a God who would say this or a God who would do that. The problem is that's a full-scale rejection of God.
I've tried to illustrate it to you before like this. If somebody came up to you and said, hey, I find you to be a fascinating person and I want to write a biography about your life, you would be flattered. Wow, here I am, somebody's not even dead yet, somebody wants to write a biography. And they say, yes, but let me tell you, in this biography, you're a strict vegetarian. I mean, you're just psycho about it and you always vote independent and you're angry about it. And you tried to be an astronaut, but you failed out of it and you're a loser and you were lonely and you live with 18 cats. And you're like, well, that does sound like an interesting person, but none of those things are true of me.
I'm scared of heights and I don't vote independent and I eat lots of meat. And they say, yeah, yeah, yeah, but I'm a vegetarian and I'm independent and I really want you to be those things because it makes you more interesting. Naturally, you would be insulted because they are rejecting the real you for a version of you that they find to be more palatable, more interesting. When you and I begin to redefine God and say, God, you offend me when you say this, so my God is going to be this, it's not really God at all. All it is is a deified projection of yourself. When that happens, you will inevitably begin to redefine morality as you prefer it to be as well as a worshiping of your own preferences.
And by the way, when I say that, I'm not just talking about the pundits on MSNBC doing this. People in churches like ours do it. When they decide, for example, that they're going to sleep together before they're married, even though God's word very clearly says that the sexual relationship is reserved for marriage, some will even have the audacity to say, oh, but we prayed about it and God gave us a peace, as if that has any relevance at all. Just admit to yourself that what seems right in your own eyes has more weight to you than what God says.
You say, yes, I am a Christian and I believe in God, but practically speaking, you are an atheist because you reserve the right to define what God says is right and wrong according to your own preferences. Let me continue on with this story and show you the second thing that Christian atheists do. Verse seven, after Micah makes a statue and puts it in his house, he meets a Levite. They are part of the priestly class traveling through town. And Micah says, oh, good, look, a priest.
I got some extra money from my mom. I can hire him to be a priest for my statue of God. And so the priest says, well, you know, technically you shouldn't do that, but how much are you paying? Micah says, well, I'm paying a lot because my mom gave me a lot of money. And the priest says, hmm, let me pray about it.
I feel like God has called me to say yes. Verse 13, Micah said, now I know that the Lord will be good to me since the Levite, this Levite has become my priest. I got God on the hook now.
He's obligated to be good to me. Second characteristic of Christian atheism, Christian atheism uses God rather than worships him. You see, Micah assumes two things here. He assumes first that his God exists to serve him. And then secondly, he assumes that if he does the right things, then this God is obligated to bless him. I've told you this before, but the great substitute for true faith in God is this kind of religiosity. It is not faith in God at all.
And it is built on two premises. Premise number one is that God exists for you. And number two, if you do the right things, God is obligated to bless you. He owes you. By contrast, true faith says, God, I exist for you. You don't owe me anything.
I owe you. So religion will ask questions like, how can I get God to help me out in my business? How can I get God to give me a good family? How can I get God to keep me healthy? And when you do whatever you think it is he is telling you to do and those things don't happen, you look at God and shake your fist in his face and say, God, I did everything that you asked.
I gave the money here and I went here this many times and I said these things and I behaved and I obeyed these things. And you let down your part of the deal. True faith never makes statements like that. True faith says, God, it all belongs to you.
What do you want to do with it? And when God sends pain into your life or frustration, you end up saying something like, God, I still can't believe I get a chance to know you and be saved. How can I glorify you through this pain? False religion seeks control of God. True faith surrenders to God. Religion seeks access to God to get him to do what you want. True faith gives God access to your heart so that he can tell you what he wants. Here's my here's my question for you. What kind of relationship with God are you seeking?
How would you answer that question? What do you want your relationship with God to look like? Ponder that for just a moment as we take a quick break from our teaching here on Summit Life. Let me remind you real quick about our latest resource created exclusively for our Summit Life family. In his latest book, Honest Questions, Quick Answers, Pastor JD tackles big questions related to our faith with short, concise answers. They're the kind of responses you can give when chatting at the coffee shop with a friend or maybe even a stranger. Use it as a launching point with someone who's searching for Jesus, giving them confidence that there are solid answers to life's toughest questions.
Equip yourself right now by giving us a call at 866-335-5220 or check it out at jdgrier.com. Now let's rejoin Pastor JD for the conclusion to today's teaching. Let me show you what happens real quick when you shrink God down to a size you can't control. In the next chapter, chapter 18, there's going to be another group of Israelites that show up at Micah's house and they got more money than Micah does. So they hide, they convince this priest to go with them and he steals the statue and so the priest and the statue leave and Micah wakes up in the morning and figures out what's happened. So he goes chasing after him and he's just yelling at them and he's like you got to bring back my priest and my statue and they're like oh hang on bro don't get bent out of shape we'll pay you some money for it or whatever what's wrong. Verse 24 Micah says but if you take the gods that I made what have I left? If you take these gods away I ain't got nothing left. You see when you shrink God down to a size you can't control you will always live in fear of losing him. When you have surrendered to the true God you quit worrying about losing him because you know that he'll never lose you. Listen I honestly tried this week to come up with a story that would better illustrate this than this one I'm about to tell you but I've only had so many things happen to me throughout my life I can't just make stuff up right so I just got to tell you some of the same stories you know a couple times. So this one that because it just so perfectly captures this kind of sentiment here it took place in an airport which most of my stories seem to take place in airports. In Atlanta airport I'm in the waiting room because that's what you know delta stands for doesn't ever leave the airport and I'm just sitting there in the in the waiting room and the waiting area and I strike up this conversation with this woman who finds out I'm a pastor which always leads to interesting places and she says well I'm a religious leader too she says what I do is I have a shop where I sell I collect different religious kind of artifacts from different religions and I try to take the best out of every religion and my shop is kind of like a religious smorgasbord you can come in and just kind of pick and choose and come up with your own religion and I'm like you know I'm kind of I don't want to be that guy and like start preaching at her you know so I'm just like I'm gonna try and be polite and and you know so we're I'm trying for how to turn the conversation when the people right across the aisle from us is an older couple and they were talking to each other but you know they were kind of at the age where they think they're talking to each other but they're really talking to the entire Atlanta airport and she the woman is reading the newspaper and she says to her husband she's like oh look you know the horoscope says that if you're a Taurus then you know that you're going to have safety today and she says I am a Taurus so that means that our plane is going to be safe so I'm just you know kind of you know listening well this woman she she perks right up and she says that's awesome she reaches into her bag and she says I've got this little thing that I call a rosary ring this is what I get from the Catholics this is my favorite part of the Catholic religion she says this is a rosary ring it's got all these beads around it and it's got Jesus crucified and and if you hold on to it when you fly then it guarantees that you'll be safe and so the older couple are kind of shaking their heads and she's like this is my favorite thing well you know I'm watching and again I'm just trying to process when all of a sudden the person next to the older couple I don't even know he's in the conversation he suddenly perks up unzips his carry-on bag and pulls out a statue a little statue of Saint Christopher and he says this is Saint Christopher the patron saint of traveling I always travel with him in my carry-on and right before we take off I rub his head and that means that I'm going to be safe and I'm like what episode of Star Trek did I just get beamed into how do these things happen and so you know I'm kind of dazed then they start calling and so me and this woman are walking down the jetway and I'm just kind of like fail witness fail and this woman reaches inside of her pocketbook and she says you know I happen to have two of these um and uh and she says and the people are behind us and she says y'all do you realize how lucky we are she says the horoscope says we're going to be safe I've got a rosary ring he's got Saint Christopher and we got a Baptist pastor with us on this flight it's going to be awesome and she says here's this rosary I got two of them she hands one to me and she says um since you're a Christian I know that you'll want to have this she said um if you'll just hold it when we take off when we land then everything will be okay and y'all I'm sure I don't want to be that guy and I'm like I'm like I gotta be that guy and so I said ma'am I say no offense to you this is a really sweet gesture I will gladly receive your gift um but uh so you see this guy you got crucified on top of your rosary yeah I said that's the God of the universe and he spoke all these things we see into existence and the reason they have him crucified up there is because is because when he saw that we were in danger and we saw that we were perishing he actually came himself to give his life to die for us and see when I trusted him as my savior um John chapter 10 he said that he literally put me inside of his hand what that means is that when this plane takes off it if it ever does up from atlanta if it ever takes off I'm going to be in his hand and when we land wherever we're going I'm going to be in his hand and if we blow up in mid-air I'm still going to be in his hand and no offense to you and your rosary ring but if the God of the universe holds me tightly in his hand I don't have to hold so tightly to him in mind what you're seeing listen is a picture of how different you can reproach God differently there are some people who are always concerned about am I doing the right things to get God's blessing and it always ends with you being very anxious am I doing this or that the other way is you just surrender to God and you say God I belong to you and I surrender myself to your love because you saved me you died for me and there's this feeling of peace and safety that come in that keeps you from being someone like Micah here is the question which way do you try to relate to God which way are you seeking to relate to God the next several stories are going to show you what happens when you redefine God and when you try to use God they show you what life looks like on a cultural scale and on an individual scale when God is absent I'm going to try to summarize them as best I can and move through them but you're going to have to hang on you ready chapter 19 verse 1 now another priest a different levi different guy took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah concubine is like a fake wife and so you know stories got off to a bad start but she was unfaithful to him and she left him and went back to her mom and dad's home in Bethlehem so he goes and tries to convince her dad to make her come back with him you know since he purchased her fair and square and so she make a long story short he convinces her dad to let her come back and he puts her on his donkey and starts the journey back up to where he lives well as the sun is about to set as they're traveling they get near this town called Gibeah in the um the tribe of Benjamin and when they stop there to spend the night they go out into the city square because that's what you did before embassy suites you would hang out in the city square until somebody invited you to come and stay with them but nobody took him in for the night which is kind of rude finally an old guy shows up and he says verse 20 you're welcome at my house the old man said but whatever you do do not spend the night in the city square well they're settling in for the night when suddenly verse 22 some of the wicked men of the city surround the house pounding on the door they shout to the old man who owns the house bring out the man who came to your house so that we can have sex with him well the old man and the priest now scared offer up the concubine and say why don't you take her leave us alone you can have her rape her instead verse 25 so the levite took his concubine and sent her outside of them and they raped her throughout the night at daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying and she fell down with her hands outstretched on the threshold of the door and she lay there until daylight when her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way apparently with no thought for her at all there lay his concubine falling in the doorway of the house with her hands on the threshold and he said to her get up let's go but there was no answer so when the man put her on her donkey and set out for home verse 29 when he reached home he took a knife and cut up his concubine limb by limb into 12 parts and sent them into all the different areas of israel verse 20 then all israel from dan to beersheba came together as one and assembled before the lord in a place called mispa and they said to the priest the levite tell us how this awful thing happened so the levite explains the story conveniently leaving out the part where he sent his concubine out to get raped to save his own skin well the story provokes moral outrage verse 11 so the israelites get together and unite as one against the city and they amass an army of 400 000 soldiers to go march against the benjamites and they demand that the benjamites surrender the men of the city who did this thing but the leaders of benjamin won't do it so this massive fight breaks out and at first the armies of benjamin are winning verse 26 so all the israelites the whole army goes up to bethel where they sit weeping before the lord and the lord responds to them go again for tomorrow i will give them into your hands and god did it was a route verse 48 the men of israel put all the towns of benjamin to the sword killing the animals and everything else they found they didn't leave a single thing alive all the towns they came across they set on fire only 600 benjamites escape and they're all male soldiers they flee and they go hide in some caves in the mountains chapter 21 the israelites knowing that these 600 have escaped take a vow they say not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a benjamite if these guys ever emerge well a few months go by tempers cool these 600 benjamites come out from hiding and they say look all of our wives and our daughters are all dead and we're a bunch of guys and so we have nobody to marry and have kids and continue on our the lineage of our tribe well now they're in a pickle because all the israelites have made this vow that nobody can ever marry a benjamite but now that they've cooled down they don't want this tribe to go extinct because it's part of their heritage so verse two the people go up to bethel again where they sit before god until evening weeping weeping bitterly lord god of israel they cried why has this happened to us why should one tribe be missing from israel today as if it's god's fault what are you going to do god why did you let this happen well they not god they come up with a plan verse eight they say well okay was there any tribe of israel that when we sent out the summons to go to war was there any tribe that didn't show up any region that didn't send representatives and they figure out there was this one region called jbs gilead they didn't send anybody to the war council all right so here's what they do verse 10 so they sent 12 000 of their best warriors to jbs gilead who didn't send any representatives with orders to kill everyone there including women and children this is what you are to do kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin so they do that but they keep alive 400 virgin girls to serve as wives for these benjamites but that's not enough they're still 200 short so verse 20 they tell the men of benjamin there's this other region in israel where they have a tradition where every fall they come out before the harvest and they do this ritual dance but they don't bring the men with them so why don't you go hide in the woods and when these women where's 21 when you see the young women come out for their dances well then rush out from the vineyards and each one of you can take home one of them to the land of benjamin to be your wife we call that kidnapping and so they do that and then the book of judges just ends verse 25 in those days israel had no king everyone did what was right in his own eyes that's the last verse when god is absent when somebody lives like an atheist atheism always results in two things always the strong oppressed the weak and despair when god is absent the weak are abused the inevitable result of casting off the rule of god is defining morality in a way that benefits the strong so what about you if you believe in god are you acting like it is the good news of the gospel infiltrating every part of your life because the gospel isn't just the entryway to christianity it's the entire path and our goal at summit life is to help you live out the gospel with every step of your spiritual journey tomorrow we'll hear the final message in this compelling study called broken saviors don't miss the last couple of days to get our summit life exclusive book called honest questions quick answers volume two you can make a generous one-time gift or sign up to be a monthly gospel partner and request your copy at jdgrier.com or give us a call at 866-335-5220 that's 866-335-5220 you don't want to miss out on this exclusive resource so be sure you call us today and while you're on the website you can sign up for our weekly email catch up on previous messages that you may have missed download transcripts or subscribe to pastor jd's podcast lots of great resources available when you visit jdgrier.com i'm molly vidovich join us again tomorrow when pastor jd greer wraps up this engaging study of the book of judges called broken saviors we're learning more about how to avoid falling into the trap of christian atheism that's thursday on summit life today's program was produced and sponsored by jd greer ministries
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