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Houston, We Have a Problem

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 4, 2023 9:00 am

Houston, We Have a Problem

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 4, 2023 9:00 am

When it comes to the gospel, you have to get lost before you get saved. Pastor J.D. shows us in this message from the “Romans” series that though the Bible makes it clear that we have all turned away from God and our hearts are corrupt, God did not stop pursuing us. If you’re lost, just look to the cross, where God shows you his holiness, your unrighteousness, and his willingness to come after you anyway.


Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Doesn't the fact that we all have feelings of guilt point to the fact that you and I are stamped with the image of some divine lawgiver who has implanted into our hearts his sense of right and truth and love?

And even if we stop believing in God, you can't shake this idea that you're going to be held accountable one day. Welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

I'm your host, Molly Bitovitch. You know, one thing that I've learned when it comes to the gospel is that you have to recognize that you're lost before you can be found and saved. Today, Pastor J.D. Greer shows us that though the Bible makes it clear that we have all turned away from God and our hearts are corrupt, God did not stop pursuing us. If you're lost, just look to the cross where God shows you His holiness, your unrighteousness, and His willingness to save you from it all.

If you've missed any of the previous messages in this series, you can always check it out by clicking on the link in the description. And so what we're going to see today is we're going to see the Apostle Paul begin to lay out his case for why the gospel is the only answer to humanity's problems. Starting in Romans 1 18, he's going to start to unpack for us why it's the only answer to the questions that we're asking, the only solution to the dilemmas that we face, and why he is so eager and so driven to get it to literally everybody in the world.

So here's the question that is going to drive the next few messages. Why can only the gospel fix us? That's what Paul is trying to answer. Why can only the gospel fix us? Why can't just a little religion do the trick? Why can't God just renew Israel's commission to teach everybody the law? Why can't God just send down some prophets to tell everybody to try harder, right? I mean, why can't God blow the proverbial whistle and say, all right, all right, everybody's gotten off course, everybody back in the pool, everybody all skates, same direction, we're gonna do a reset here.

How come a little religion, little resolution can't do the trick? Speaking of God's laws, what about those people who've never heard God's commands in the Bible? I mean, you can't blame somebody for not obeying something they'd never even known about, right?

Right, I mean, that makes sense. I mean, if somebody, if an usher suddenly comes up to you and here in one of our services and taps you on the shoulder and says, sir, I'm sorry, we do not allow two pays in the Summit Church and you have to leave. If you have a two pay, you could rightfully say, well, that seems arbitrary and unfair.

There was no sign out front that said this is a two pay free zone. I feel like I'm being asked to held accountable for something I didn't even know about. Yeah, it would be arbitrary. Well, is the gospel like that? I mean, is God holding people accountable for something they never even had a chance to hear? People have this idea that Christians believe that when you die, suddenly God is gonna appear at your bedside or maybe you'll stand in front of the judgment seat of God and God's gonna be like, aha, you didn't believe in Jesus. And people can be like, wait, wait, wait, Jesus who? And he's gonna say, oh, it's too late now.

You should have asked while you were alive. And as he cast them tumbling down into the pit of hell, they're like, Jesus who? And God, the father mumbles tough cookies in Latin or something like that. And that's the way the final judgment is going to go. Is that really what's happening?

And would that even be fair? So why does Paul believe the gospel is the only hope for every person, including those who've never heard of it? And one more thing, Paul is answering why he thinks that this gospel not only is the answer to our souls, but why he thinks this gospel is going to fundamentally rewrite the human narrative in a way that produces a new humanity that's going to bring the disparate cultures back together.

Paul's world was divided just like ours is. And Paul is trying to show why this gospel has the capacity to bring together all these groups of people that are now siloed and enemies of one another. And he's going to say, this gospel is the solution to humanity's problems. That's where Paul turns in Romans 1.18. He's got to demonstrate that everybody, everywhere, both religious and irreligious alike need the gospel.

He's got to get us lost, in other words, before he can get us saved. So here we go, here we go, Romans 1.18. For God's wrath, Paul says, is now revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people.

Two things there that Paul tells us God's wrath is revealed against. Godlessness, that refers to a corruption in our relationship with God. It means we have the wrong attitudes about God. Godlessness, unrighteousness would be a corruption in our horizontal relationships.

That word refers to how we have bad attitudes and bad relationships with people around us. Instead of being people of humility and love and truthfulness, we are proud and self-centered and deceiving. Because of those two things, Paul says, we have, keep going, by their unrighteousness, we suppress the truth, suppress the truth. The word suppress means that we push it down. These attitudes of ungodliness and wickedness, unrighteousness make us suppress or push down the truth. Suppression, you realize, is not the same thing as ignorance. Suppression means the truth is in there, but you kept yourself from acknowledging it. It's like a beach ball that you're trying to hold below the water.

You can hold it down for a while, but eventually it's gonna kind of pop out of your hands and it's gonna pop to the surface. Paul says the knowledge of God is like that. Tim Keller says that what Paul is saying here about the knowledge of God is that when it comes to the knowledge of God, we know, we all know. We all know, but sometimes we don't know because we don't wanna know.

Does this sound confusing to you? Near the end of World War II, the first town with a concentration camp that the Allied forces liberated was a town called Ordruf, Germany. The Nazis, when they found out the Allied troops were coming, tried to get rid of any evidence of this concentration camp, but they weren't able to do it fast enough. And so when the American GIs got there, they encountered for the first time ever one of these concentration camps that would become so infamous. There were just piles of dead bodies stacked everywhere.

It was just revolting. Well, a few hours after they got there, General Patton got there, and it says that when he got there, it was so overwhelming, he just promptly vomited. He went and got the mayor and the mayor's wife of this town, brought them out to see this scene. He said, I know you had to have known that this was happening. They said, no, we didn't know it was happening. He ordered the mayor and the mayor's wife and all the able-bodied people in the town to dig graves for every single body to give them a burial.

Well, after they dug the graves and they conducted a funeral for the deceased, General Patton found out that the mayor and his wife had hung themselves. Before their death, they had left a little note, they had left a little note that read, we didn't know, we didn't know, but we knew. We know, we know, says Keller. When it comes to the knowledge of God, we know, but sometimes we don't know because we don't want to know. The truth is too uncomfortable. The truth would demand too much change, so subconsciously, we choose not to know.

We're gonna come back to that idea, but for now, let's just keep, let's keep working our way through the text. Verse 19, because what may be known of God, Paul says, is manifest. It's made known in them because God has shown it to them. Two places that Paul says God made the truth of God known to everybody. One is he made it known to them, the other is he made it known in them. Four, he says, since the creation of the world, God's invisible attributes have been clearly seen by everybody, being understood by the things that are made, which is everybody, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that everybody, all of us, are without excuse. God has made himself known to every person who's ever walked the face of the earth in at least these two categories of ways.

To us, creation, scripture says, declares to us the reality, the power, and the glory of God. Throughout history, philosophers have broken this down in a number of ways. One of them they refer to as the cosmological argument. Now, I'm gonna nerd out on you a little bit and give you some technical terms, but for some of you, your one that you're gonna have this year is gonna be super smart.

You need to know some of these terms, so you jot them down. The cosmological argument. This one goes all the way back to Aristotle.

He was the first one to actually articulate it. It's the question of why there is something rather than nothing. And because there is something, where did the original something come from?

If the world began 14 billion years ago with a big bang, where do the materials that caused the big bang come from? You can't keep going backwards in an infinite regress into nothingness. Eventually, something has to come from somewhere because nothingness can't just explode into everythingness. In his book, God Delusion, the atheist Richard Dawkins admits that this is a huge problem for his worldview. He says, and I quote, Darwin's theory. Darwin's theory of evolution works for biology, but not for cosmology or ultimate origins. Cosmology, he says, is still waiting on its Darwin. In other words, Richard Dawkins thinks that while they have explained how life took shape on earth, he admits they still have no idea where life itself or the materials that produce life, where those things come from. We need a theory, we need a theory, Dawkins says, as to why anything exists because it is self-evident that nothing times nobody can equal everything. But don't worry, Dawkins goes on in the book. He says, one day we'll find it, which is a textbook example of a blind, hopeful leap of faith that's the cosmological argument. You look around, you're like, well, something came from somewhere and so where did it all come from?

It can't have come from nothing. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Before we return to today's teaching, I want to remind you about our latest resource, Pastor J.D. 's newest book called Essential Christianity. In Essential Christianity, he wanted to write a practical, approachable book that explores the basic foundational beliefs of Christianity. If you or a friend, coworker, or neighbor has questions about the gospel, then Essential Christianity is a must read. We'll even include a free companion study guide to help you personalize what you're reading and apply it to your life right away. You can get your copy today with a gift of $35 or more to this ministry by giving us a call at 866-335-5220 or by visiting us at But don't wait, the message is too important and the urgency is too high to put off sharing the good news of the gospel with those that you love. Now let's get back to today's message with Pastor J.D.

Greer right here on Summit Life. Cosmological argument. Then there's what philosophers call the teleological argument.

Telos is a word in Greek that means purpose. There appears to be a purpose in creation that we see. Not only do we have the question of why there's something rather than nothing, our creation appears to be very finely tuned for a purpose.

Y'all, the more we learn about this, the more amazing it becomes. Scientists say that life on earth depends on multiple factors that are so precise that if they're off, even by a hair, life as we know it could not exist. In fact, they refer to it as the Goldilocks Principle. Things are just right for life on earth, right? It's not too hot, not too cold. Everything is just right for life, for human life to exist.

For example, I'll give you a handful of them. For example, the makeup of our atmosphere. If oxygen dropped by 6%, we would all suffocate. If it rose by 4%, our planet would erupt into a giant fireball, and we would all die. If the CO2 level were just a little bit higher, 0.05 of a percent higher, then the world will become an oven. If it were 0.02% lower, we would have no atmosphere at all, and we would all die.

Or how about this one? The water molecule is the only molecule whose solid form, ice, is less dense than its liquid form, which means that when it freezes, instead of getting heavier and sinking, it gets lighter and floats. If ice did not float, they say, it would sink to the bottom of the ocean, and the whole ocean would eventually freeze from the bottom up, and we would all die. That's right. Or the distance of the earth from the sun. If we were 2% closer to the sun, our planet would be too hot for water to exist, and, say it with me, we would all die. That's right. And then there's a tilt of the earth, which is set at an ideal 23.5 degrees, which we have learned is perfect for temperatures and tides and such. You've probably never thought much about it, but if it was not tilted, temperatures would be extreme, and we would all die.

There you go. At least the humans part would die. Cockroaches would be fine, but humans wouldn't do so well.

Here's one more for fun. We've learned that if Jupiter were not the size, and in the orbit that it is in, astronomers predict that there would be approximately 10,000 times the number of asteroid strikes here on earth, and we would all die. Then we put down our telescopes, and we pull out our microscopes, and we find the same complexity in the cell and the atomic structure. Even the most basic DNA strands are incredibly complex, enough so that Francis Collins, who is the head of the Human Genome Project, says, he says this, and I quote, "'How could a cosmic accident ever result "'in something of the digital elegance of a DNA strand?' He says, "'It's like thinking an explosion "'in an ink factory could inadvertently produce "'the collected works of Shakespeare.'" And by the way, just so you know, these are not the conclusions of seminary grads turned amateur scientists. The late Stephen Hawking, well, Francis Collins, first of all, would be one of the top five scientists in the world right now. Late Stephen Hawking said this before he died.

He said, "'The laws of science, as we know them at present, "'contain many precise ratios, "'like the size of the electric charge of the electron "'and the ratio of the masses of the proton "'and the electron. "'The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers "'seem to have been very finely adjusted "'to make possible the development of life.'" One scientist said, "'The greatest miracle of all time "'without any close second is the existence of life "'on our planet.'" Now you say, well, maybe we're just lucky, right? I mean, in a universe as big as ours, our planet was bound to exist somewhere and so we just happened to be on it. "'Yet scientists say that the odds of a planet like Earth "'existing at all are so heart-stoppingly astronomical "'that the notion that it all just happened "'defies common sense.'" One said, "'It's like tossing a coin every second.'" Mathematically, "'It's like tossing a coin every second "'and having it come up heads "'for 10 billion years in a row.'" So yeah, you can speculate that this part of the galaxy was just really, really, really lucky, but is that the best and the easiest explanation for what we see? No, it takes an anti-God bias to arrive at that conclusion.

It's usually people have some other problem with the idea of an all-glorious and all-ruling God that leads them to look at the evidence that way. We know we know, but we don't know because we don't wanna know. He has shown it to us, Paul says, and he has revealed it in us. There's a voice that spoke to us from creation.

There was also a voice that spoke to us from within. There are things in our hearts that tell us that we are more than just accidental biology, such as our longings for love and meaning and eternity. The atheist philosopher Albert Camus said that we long for love without party. We want love to last forever, but in a universe without God, and as an atheist, that's what his universe was, he says. He says, in a universe without God, we only have the conscious certainty of death without hope. Camus called this the absurdity of life. He said that life was one long, tragic, absurd comedy as we seek for things from life that life simply cannot provide.

But being brave, he said, being brave is acknowledging that and plotting forward into the absurdity and the darkness anyway with courage. C.S. Lewis had a different answer in light of this.

C.S. Lewis said, a baby feels hunger. Well, there's such a thing as food.

The duckling wants to swim. Well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire. Well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, well, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. So here's a question.

Which one of those do you prefer? That our longings for meaning and for justice and eternity and for love without parting, that that's just a cruel accidental hoax? Or that they are whispers that we are created for another world that has all of those things? By the way, by the way, this is called the argument from desire.

If you're taking notes and you're trying to write them down. Back in 2009, the famous British journalist and biographer, A.N. Wilson, who was an atheist, made just like a big, huge headline when he suddenly announces that he's become a Christian. Now, again, if you're not in the philosophical world, you probably didn't even register this, but this was a big deal.

And when A.N. Wilson, what he said is, he said, you know, we've been taught in the Western world to assume that Christians are stupid. He said, but if you ask me, after thinking about it for a long time, it is atheism that is a dry, lifeless creed that is totally irrational, totally irrational. Atheism says that we're just a collection of chemicals. Atheism has no answer whatsoever to the question of how this animated sack of accidental chemicals could be capable of love or heroism or poetry. Another dimension of this voice from within is what philosophers call the moral argument.

The moral argument, the very fact that we have moral feelings suggests the presence of a divine lawgiver. This week, I was on a road trip and I had to park in a parking garage. And every, like when you parked in the parking garage, there was a little sign right above your car, on the wall for you to see, that said, make sure you keep your parking ticket with you. I got out of the car, shut the door.

I walked down the thing. There's a yellow strip right in the middle of the parking deck. Make sure you keep your parking ticket with you. I promise you, by the time I had left that parking deck, I had seen some version of that little yellow message at least 40 times. Make sure you keep your parking ticket with you. That's a really good indication that somebody, somewhere is going to ask me to see that parking ticket.

Fair? Well, feelings of guilt and moral obligation point to a divine lawgiver that has stamped that in our heart that said, hey, just one day, you know, I'm gonna ask you for that parking ticket. I have put in your heart this sense of responsibility, this sense of right and wrong, and one day you're gonna meet the divine lawgiver and you're gonna give an account. Feelings of guilt and moral obligation, anthropologists tell us, are common to all people in all cultures everywhere. It's not something unique to people in the Western world or Christian cultures or Jewish cultures. They're common to all people everywhere.

And here's the flip side of that. Even though they're common to all people everywhere at all times, there is no evidence they are present in any form in the animal kingdom. We all know that cats, for example, seem to derive pleasure from playing with mice before they eat them, right? It's cruel. Yet you never find a cat sniveling under the bed later, just, oh, I can't believe what I did. I'm such a cruel, I gotta stop that. That's not just because cats are exceptionally evil.

They are, but that's not the reason. It's just in their nature. If a lion, who was also in the cat family, if a lion mauls a human, you never find that lion in the woods later wracked with guilt saying, oh, what have I done?

What have I done? They don't feel guilty for acting according to their nature. There's no great white shark named Bruce out there saying, I am not a mindless eating machine.

Fish are friends, not for fun. That's Disney fantasy. That is not reality.

Yet even though it's not present in any form in the animal kingdom, we humans have that. Doesn't the fact that we all have feelings of guilt point to the fact that you and I are stamped with the image of some divine lawgiver who has implanted into our hearts, his sense of right and truth and love. And even if we stop believing in God, you can't shake this idea that you're gonna be held accountable one day. One of my favorite illustrations of this is a book by one of the most depressing existential postmodern authors out there, a guy named Franz Kafka. By the way, spoiler alert, about to totally blow this book, but it's been around for a hundred years.

And if you hadn't read it now, you probably not gonna read it later. So it's called The Trial. And in this book, you've got this guy who suddenly gets arrested for a crime and they won't tell him what he's being arrested for. So he goes from trial to trial. And in between the trials, he's trying to figure out what he did. So he keeps rehearsing things from his life.

Well, maybe I'm on trial for this and maybe I didn't do this right and this over here. You get to the final scene of the book and the warden who's got him in prison is about to unveil to him what he has done that made him get arrested. And right before he tells him, the warden pulls out a knife and stabs him and kills him.

You can see why this book never became super popular, okay? But Franz Kafka in his journals later said that what he was trying to reveal was a picture of his own life, that even after he quit believing in God, he couldn't shake this sense of moral accountability and responsibility and the sense that he was guilty. And after he stopped believing in God, he just didn't know who he was supposed to report to.

You see, it points to the fact that one day, you and I are gonna report to a divine lawgiver who has stamped his image and his requirements on our hearts. What may be known about God is evident to us from creation. It's evident in us from our consciences, but we suppress the truth.

We push that beach ball down. We know, but we didn't know, because we didn't want to know. For although, Paul says, they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor did they show gratitude. We didn't wanna embrace the truth about a glorious, all powerful, holy, ruling God. We didn't want that to be true.

Why? Why, because we wanted to make the rules. We wanted to take God's glory for ourselves. We wanted to use our lives to direct attention toward us, not toward him. We wanted to use the resources of our lives to serve our agenda, not his. So we became plagiarizers. Plagiarizers are people who take credit for what somebody else has done. We claim God's work for ourselves. We didn't wanna acknowledge that all of our talents, our brains, brainpower, every bit of energy we have, that it was all a gift from God. You're listening to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and theologian, J.D.

Greer. If you're just joining us, we recently began a new teaching series through the Book of Romans. As we do, we're also very excited to offer you our latest featured resource, which is Pastor J.D. 's latest book called Essential Christianity. This is a practical and approachable book that explores the foundational beliefs of Christianity, and it's a must read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the gospel. And when you reserve your copy of Essential Christianity with a gift of $35 or more to this ministry, we'll also include a free companion study guide to help you go even deeper in your understanding of the gospel and how it applies to your life.

So why wait? Reserve your copy today with a gift to the ministry. Give us a call at 866-335-5220, or visit us at today. While you're on the website, don't forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter. Get ministry updates, information about new resources, and Pastor J.D. 's latest blog post delivered straight to your inbox. It's a great way to stay connected with summit life, and it's completely free to subscribe. Sign up when you go to Before we close, let me remind you that if you aren't yet signed up for our email list, you'll want to do that today. It is the best way to stay up to date with Pastor J.D.

's latest blog posts, and we'll also make sure that you never miss a new resource or series. It's quick and easy to sign up at I'm Molly Vitovich, inviting you to join us next time as Pastor J.D. continues this teaching called Houston, We Have a Problem. See you Friday here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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