Pastor Bitter

Text: Psalm 19

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“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, eventually people will come to believe it.”  This served as the mantra of Joseph Goebbels, the chief propaganda officer of the Hitler’s regime in Nazi Germany.  “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, eventually people will come to believe it.”  Goebbels repeatedly blamed the Jews, the Communists, and many other groups for every problem German society faced.  He repeated the lie over and over again, and eventually a nation stood to the side and watched as its leadership carried out unspeakable atrocities that resulted in the death of millions of people during the World War II era.  “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, eventually people will come to believe it.” 

Joseph Goebbels might have been one of the first people to put that principle of propaganda into words, and he might have masterminded one of the most effective uses of propaganda – lies and distortions – to persuade people to do what they otherwise would not, but using lies to change public opinion was not invented in Nazi Germany. 

One can really trace this wicked and manipulative strategy all the way back to the devil, the father of lies, who has embraced the very same strategy to accomplish his evil goal, dragging as many people down to hell with him as he is able.  Satan lies about God, over and over and in many different ways, but always with the same basic lie: you don’t need God.  Generation after generation and age after age, he’s had a tragic amount of success.  “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, eventually people will come to believe it.”  Today, in the words of Psalm 19, we see three ways that God Reveals His Glory, and we realize that no matter what form the devil’s lie takes, the truth is that God is exactly the one we need in our lives. 

God Reveals His Glory in His Creation

In the 1950s, archeologist Kathleen Kenyon led a major dig on the site of biblical Jericho.  Over the course of six years, her team found dozens of details about the destruction of this important city that seemed to fit quite well with the biblical account, and the Christian community around the world rejoiced, even though some of Kenyon’s conclusions argued that her findings were not as solid of proof as had been initially assumed (http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/09/top-ten-biblical-discoveries-in-archaeology-3-jericho/). 

Why do we get so excited when we see supposed “proof” of events recorded in the bible?  Perhaps this is one of the places where Satan repeats his big lie – that what God says isn’t quite enough and some form of additional proof is needed.  Where’s the additional evidence to show that God is really as powerful and really as wise and really as able to take care of us as he says? 

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, eventually people will come to believe it.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to say there is anything wrong with trying to learn more about the bible by looking for evidence of past events.  But, in Psalm 19 David tells us that we don’t need all of that to see how reliable and powerful our God is: “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of his hands…Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1, 4 – NIV84)

David says, there’s no need for this to be so complicated – just look around, and you will see God’s handiwork.  Just look around, and you will see his power and intelligence.  Just look around, and you will see more than enough reason to trust him, because when you look around, you will see God’s Glory Revealed in His Creation.  Just look around, and you will see the devil’s claims for what they are – lies. 

God Reveals His Glory in His Word

But, Satan doesn’t give up that easily.  He repeats the lie in other ways.  I remember seeing a Youtube clip of a Christian leader being interviewed on a TV talk-show about morality and ethics in 21st century America.  After some discussion about the differences between Christian morality and the morality of American society on a number of issues, the host asked the Christian leader how he could be so certain he was right.  The leader responded that he looked at the bible, and the host cut him off and said, “That’s a bad argument.  I don’t even pretend to understand what is all contained in that confusing and perplexing book that is so full of contradictions and errors!” 

Satan’s lie is repeated: OK, so maybe there is a god out there somewhere.  Fine.  But, whoever he is, and whatever he is, he and his plans are cloaked in mystery and so subject to various conflicting interpretations that no one can really make them out with any certainty.  Look at how many different kinds of religion there are in the world!  How can you depend on a god who is so confusing?  “If you tell a lie big enough and keep on repeating it, eventually people will come to believe it.” 

The devil has had tragic success with this one too, and maybe we even see traces of this lie in our own thinking, particularly when we come to the realization that our source of truth – God’s Word – doesn’t answer every single question that could conceivably be asked about the spiritual world. 

But God doesn’t reveal his glory by satisfying curiosity or answering questions – God reveals his glory by pointing to the things he has actually done over the history of the world – and the Bible describes those events in great detail. 

That’s what David the Psalm writer was talking about when he wrote: “The law of the LORD is perfect, [it’s complete] reviving the soul”  God’s Word is complete – it gives us the whole picture of what God does for us, and it revives our souls by showing us not just how beautiful God’s holiness is, but also God’s plan to take away our sinfulness and imperfections, to forgive us for our doubting, to make us holy so we can enjoy God’s holiness with him just as we were created to do. 

David’s song of praise continues: “The precepts of the LORD are right, [they are straight] giving joy to the heart”  God’s Word is right, straight, clear, plain – not mysterious, not vague, but understandable, bringing joy to the heart as the glory of God’s love is revealed in Jesus.  David concludes: “They [the details of God’s Word] are much more precious than gold, than much pure gold!” (Psalm 19:7, 8a, 10a, 11 – NIV84)

And that’s what we see happening in today’s gospel.  After reading a section of Old Testament scripture, Jesus said: “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:21 – NIV84).  With the truth of who Jesus is and what he came to do, the devil’s lie that God is confusing and impossible to understand falls apart, because we can see how all of God’s Word clearly points either forward or backward to the Messiah, to Jesus. 

And the basic message is clear: God sent his son to conquer the lying devil, and that’s exactly what Jesus did as he lived his life in just the way God demanded and then laid it down so that you and I are free from the devil’s accusations and lies.  Satan repeats his lie that we need something more than God, but it all falls apart when God’s Glory Is Revealed in his Word.

God Reveals His Glory in His People

And so Satan adjusts the lie to try and drive us away from God’s Word, telling us: we don’t need God in our lives because God and his word are old-fashioned and dated.  And maybe we even find the beginnings of that lie starting to take hold in our own minds as we grapple with morality issues in our society today, or in an even smaller way as we find ourselves realizing that God’s salvation plan happened in the past, and we will see his glory in the future, but what about right now?  Does God really offer us a true meaning and purpose for our lives? 

One survey of those outside the church would seem to indicate that the Christian’s Life is a little more powerful than we might think at times.  The survey was on many different topics, but one answer kept catching my attention: people outside of Christianity were saying that they like the God of the Christians, but they don’t like Christian people. 

Perhaps at times this is an assumption based on false stereotypes, perhaps at other times it might be sadly true.  But in either case, it shows us the truth that defeats Satan’s lie: even though this illustration is from the negative side, our lives do have an impact.  And that shows us the purpose God has for us. 

Not only does God reveal his glory though his creation, not only does God reveal his glory through his word and promises, God also reveals his glory through the lives of his people.  That’s what David was talking about when referring to God’s word and the guidelines and promises it contains when he wrote: “In keeping them there is great reward.”  (Psalm 19:11b – NIV84).  In keeping God’s commands, there is great reward, because the behavior, the words, the attitudes of God’s people are NOT a waste of time! 

God Reveals His Glory through you and me – through the change he made in our lives when he created faith in our hearts.  Think about it – and you will realize how many opportunities there are before us.  When God’s people quietly do what they know is right, even when faced with pressure to conform and do what is wrong – God’s Glory is Revealed.  When students are faithful with their homework, when employees work diligently even when no one is watching – God’s Glory is Revealed.  When prayers are brought before God by faith, when handling illness and pain displays trust in God’s plans – God’s Glory is Revealed

And what is true in our personal lives is true in our lives together as members of St. John’s – God’s Glory is Revealed through our work together.  Isn’t that what we are celebrating today on our annual Mission and Ministry Festival?  To marvel at the ways God has Revealed His Glory by working in the hearts of poor sinful people like us to carry out his work in our community.  When the next generation is taught the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, when God’s people gather to worship him and financially support a tremendous amount of shared ministry, God’s Glory is Revealed

God has Revealed His Glory many times and in countless ways over the past calendar year, and every time he has done that, he has defeated the devil’s lie one more time by showing the change he has worked by faith in the hearts of his people.  Over and over again, God’s Glory is Revealed in the lives of his people, and over and over again the devil’s lie that life with God is purposeless and useless falls apart, no matter how many times he repeats it.  Our lives do have real meaning and real purpose, no matter what stage of life we might find ourselves in, because God’s Glory is Revealed through his People

And so today, as we consider our shared ministry as members of a congregation, and as we consider the personal opportunities God give us in our own lives and among our own friends, may God continue to reveal his glory.  We pray with David, the psalm writer: the final words of Psalm 19: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  (Psalm 19:14 – NIV84).  Amen.