September 39, 2018, Pastor Galen
Psalm 124 says, “if the Lord had not been on our side…the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away” (Psalm 124:2, 4-5).
I have never been caught in a flood. But I do know from personal experience that water can be an incredibly destructive force.
One summer a few years ago someone broke in and stole the copper pipes from the vacant house that was attached to our house. This of course caused the neighbor’s basement to flood, overflowing into our finished basement apartment, causing us thousands of dollars of damage. That same summer a tornado peeled back part of our roof. This was followed by three days of rain, which caused another several thousand dollars worth of interior damage to our house.
We need to drink water in order to live, we need rain for our crops to grow. But water can be both a blessing and a curse.
“The Flood Would Have Engulfed Us”
About a month ago, my parents were caught in a torrential rain storm with rising flood waters. They were driving on the highway when it started to downpour, and they came upon water flooding over the right lane of traffic. The water looked muddy and they couldn’t really see how deep the water was, but rather than proceeding through the water they stopped. The water was rising fast and they could feel the water rushing underneath their car, so they backed up and got over to the shoulder and waited over an hour until the rain subsided. They said that water rushing in the gully along the side of the road looked like a fast-moving creek.
When they did finally resume driving they saw cars partially submerged in the water, and many more cars that were trapped, where people had to be evacuated.
All in all, 10 1/2 inches of rain fell within a couple of hours in the Mt. Joy, PA area, which was a historic record. A nearby trailer park was severely flooded, and quite a few homes were damaged.
I am grateful for the wisdom and patience that God gave to my parents and that they didn’t try to drive through the flood waters. If it had not been for the Lord on the side of my parents, “the flood would have engulfed [them], the torrent would have swept over [them] the raging waters would have swept [them] away” (Psalm 124:4-5)!
This month we’ve been talking about Creation. We talked about how nature reveals God’s glory and majesty, and how we as people have been tasked with the care and conservation of the earth. But so often we have acted irresponsibly, sometimes intentionally but many times unintentionally bringing harm and damage to the earth and to us.
But we’ve also seen that nature itself can also be incredibly destructive. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes cause incredibly devastation.
Nature is a powerful force. But the Psalmist reminds us this morning that as powerful and as destructive as nature can be, God is even greater. Although so many times we feel vulnerable and powerless before nature, we must remember that God is on our side, and that God has the ability to step in, to intervene, and even to reverse the laws of nature. In the Gospels we see that Jesus calmed a storm and fed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and fish. Jesus turned water into wine, healed people who were sick, cast out demons, opened the eyes of the blind, made the lame walk, and brought dead people back to life. In each of these instances Jesus reversed the laws of nature, showing that God is more powerful than even the most destructive forces in creation.
Now, although God has the ability to intervene and reverse the laws of nature, and although God has the power to protect us from the raging flood waters, the reality is that sometimes people do die in floods, and many times there are casualties due to hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.
We don’t know why God intervenes, rescues and protects certain people in certain circumstances but not in others.
What we do know is that when God steps in and intervenes, when God saves us from death and destruction, that salvation reminds us of the spiritual salvation that Jesus makes available to each and every one of us through his death and resurrection.
You see, each and every one of us will die at one time or another (unless we’re still alive when Jesus returns). Although we will all experience physical death at one time or another, we can experience eternal life through Jesus Christ. And for that eternal life we don’t have to wait until we die – eternal life can start here and now. Jesus said in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Eternal life is about knowing Jesus, and that can start now.
I Thess. 5:9-10 says, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”
And this salvation is available to anyone – it’s not dependent on how righteous or holy we are. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”
Notice that it says salvation is “offered” to all people. Although salvation is available to everyone, we must accept God’s gift of salvation in order to receive it.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of the man whose house was flooding, but he refused to be rescued by a rowboat, motorboat and helicopter because he said “God will rescue me from the flood!” When he died and went to heaven, he asked God “Why didn’t you save me?” And God said, “I sent a rowboat, motorboat and a helicopter to rescue you. What more were you waiting for?”
God’s salvation is free and available to all, we just have to reach out and accept it.
And when we do accept it, our lives will never be the same!
Titus chapter 2 goes on to say, “[Salvation] teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:12-14).
I love these verses! Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
John Wesley said it like this:
By salvation I mean, not barely (according to the vulgar [common] notion) deliverance from hell, or going to heaven; but a present deliverance from sin, a restoration of the soul to its primitive health, its original purity; a recovery of the divine nature; the renewal of our souls after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness, in justice, mercy, and truth.
So salvation is not just about going to heaven when we die. It’s about living for God here and now, it’s about seeking God’s kingdom here on this earth, it’s about praying for God’s “Kingdom to come” and God’s “will to be done on earth as it is in heaven,” as we pray in the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:10).
When God steps in to intervene on our behalf, when God does a miracle, or when we see God saves us from physical harm or destruction, we can be reminded of the salvation that God has made available to every one of us. There’s nothing we can do to earn it, it is a free gift, we just need to receive it. When we accept that gift, God gives us eternal life, and begins in us the process of transformation to make us more righteous, merciful, truth-filled people who look like Jesus and who are eager to do what is good.
This World Needs God
I don’t know about you, but when I look at the world around us, I think that the world could use more righteous, merciful, truth-filled people who look like Jesus and are eager to do what is good. Sometimes it seems like our world is drowning, like the flood is trying to engulf us, the torrent is sweeping over us and the raging waters are threatening to sweep us away, as in Psalm 124.
And I’m not just talking about all of the rain and flash-flooding that we’ve been getting this year! I’m talking about the how we’re being flooded with partisan politics. I’m talking about the torrent of anger and division that is sweeping over this nation, and the raging flood waters of lies that are threatening to sweep us away.
And one of the ways we saw this demonstrated this week was in the confirmation hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Now don’t worry, I’m not trying to take this sermon in a political direction. I honestly have no idea who is lying and who is telling the truth! But I think it’s obvious that someone must not be telling the truth. The stories are so drastically different, they obviously can’t both be right. In truth, there is a lot at stake for both of the individuals involved, and from watching clips from the hearing it’s obvious that there are a lot of feelings and emotions on both sides. And for some of you this whole discussion might bring up some very personal feelings for you as well.
But this is not just a story of what happened or didn’t happen between two teenagers 35 years ago. It’s representative of the way that men so often mistreat women, of how readily many people will lie to cover up the truth, and of just deep and wide the political divisions are within our country.
To me, Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing reveals just how much our world needs God. Because unless God steps in to save us, the divisions, the hatred, and the anger is just going to continue to grow. The flood waters just might engulf us, the torrent might sweep over us and the raging waters might sweep us away.
Fortunately, God is in the business of salvation and transformation. God can transform both individuals and this world. I believe that there is hope, that God can redeem our society, that the truth can break through.
This morning I want us to pray, that God would make us to be people of integrity, that God would save us and our country from the political divisions that are threatening to overwhelm us, and that God will put us on the right path to be a society that is righteous, just, and truth-filled. Let us pray that God would save us, both individually and as a nation!