(LIFE’S BIGGEST QUESTIONS SERIES SLIDE)
Good morning. My name is David Sorn, and I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WORLD?!?
You know what I mean?
We look out, and even from a young age, we know, something’s not right.
There are wars, and drugs, racism, families falling apart, marriages broken, bad ideas…everywhere.
But what is it…exactly…that isn’t right?
How is this world broken?
And if we could figure out what’s wrong (what’s causing these things) then how do we make it right?
(Topic slide: “What’s wrong with the world and how do we make it right?”
That’s our question today as we’ve come to question #2 in our “Life’s Biggest Questions” series where we are looking at the 5 Biggest, Most Foundational Questions of Life.
This is a question that we think about constantly…without knowing we think about it.
For a lot of you, this is actually the question that you think about more than any of the top 5 questions of this series, even if you might never have ranked it as your top question personally.
When you sit at home and you start complaining to your roommate, or your family, about why everyone else is getting this whole COVID thing wrong…
You’re talking about this question.
“What’s wrong with the world”
When you go out to lunch with a friend, and you start talking about the injustices of the world…or the corruption of politics…or what’s happening in schools or families these days….
When you talk like that, you’re talking about this question: “What’s wrong with the world and how do we make it right.”
As we dive into this question, let me also mention that this is going to be a really different type of message than what we normally do here (as is much of the series).
This is a Bible-teaching church, so almost every week here, we have a passage from Scripture, and we teach right through it.
But there are times that the church needs to do what’s called Systematic Theology.
Systematic theology is simply asking “What does the whole Bible teach on a particular subject?” The Trinity, Salvation, Sin, etc.
And we need to do Systematic Theology today in order to find the answer to this hard question.
The answer to this massive question can’t be just found in 1 verse or even 1 passage…so we’ll need to look at many to develop a theological answer for this.
But before we get to our Biblical answer, we’re going to need to spend some time looking at the unbiblical, and ultimately defective approaches to this question.
HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF EXTERNAL DIAGNOSIS & SOLUTIONS
So let’s start with the key to answering today’s question…
If we’re going to make this world a better place, we have to first correctly diagnose what’s wrong with it
Because if we misdiagnose what’s wrong, we won’t have the right solution.
If your doctor misdiagnoses your cancer as just a simple skin issue, and just gives you a prescription for some ointment and sends you on your way…
No amount of ointment is going to stop your cancer cells from spreading
So what’s the proper diagnosis for the illness, the brokenness we see in our world?
I want to focus on today on the Biblical answer to this, but we’ll start with the traditional answer of secular society (and secular just means non-religious)
Secular society almost always tends to diagnose “what’s wrong with the world” as an external problem
(Chart Version 1)
So, in other words, secular society will say: the problem of what’s wrong with the world is “out there” not “in here”
Or, think of it this way…what if I could walk around Blaine with a MAGICAL WAND!
And I start talking to people in say at Blaine Culver’s.
And I say: “As you know…the world is messed up…”
BUT…with this MAGICAL WAND, you can make one sweeping change to society.
Just hold the MAGICAL WAND, and say out loud the ONE change you want to happen, and it…will…happen!
What do you think people would say?
I think there’s a decent chunk of society that would say, “you know what’s the wrong with the world? REPUBLICANS in office (that’s what I’d change)! DEMOCRATS in office! JOE BIDEN being President! DONALD TRUMP! PACKER FANS!” (just trying to ease the tension ☺ )
And this hope that the world can be made right by a change of political power is not surprising given the fact that good part of America seems to spend literally hours a day consuming political content.
And that content is telling that them the problem is…THE OTHER GUYS!
And so they believe that what we need in order to make the world right…is new leadership.
And this is not just specific to our modern-day American context
If you time traveled back exactly 100 years ago, and you went back to 1922, and you asked Americans what’s wrong with the world, and they’re going to say, “PRESIDENT WARREN G HARDING, that’s what’s wrong with the world!”
Go to almost any other country in the world right now, and they’re going to talk about the ineptitude of leaders.
In fact, one of THE most common ideas “for what’s wrong with the world” that you’ll find in history could be summed up in very simple language:
“We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys, let’s just get rid of the bad guys, and the problem will go away’”
And this isn’t just American politics, you see this in the revolutions of history, or in the coups of Africa & Asia, etc. etc.
But what’s happening here in each one of these examples?
Secular society diagnoses the main problem as external (in this case the wrong leaders), and so then, unsurprisingly, society’s solutions to “make the world right” end up also being external.
(Show chart Version 2).
Just get a different leader, and the world will be a better place.
Now, there’s a nugget of truth in that, right?
We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water…
Which, who throws bath water out anymore? Use the drain.
Good leaders do matter.
In fact, there are kernels of truth in all of the examples I’m going to give today, but we MUST correctly diagnose the problem first
Okay, back to the Culver’s Parking Lot and my MAGICAL WAND.
Just as someone gives that answer about political leaders, someone who’s just finishing their tasty concrete mixer is going to walk by and say: “No, no, no. It’s not so much about the leaders (I mean, absolutely that matters), but it’s more about the laws, our systems.”
And there are indeed many today who think if we could wave the wand that would pass laws to make everyone’s life equal, the world would be made right.
They believe that what’s wrong with the world is inequality (or inequity), and so they aim to make the world right by lessening the power and advantages of the privileged groups and increasing the power and advantages of the oppressed groups.
Much of their focus therefore is on the discussion of our identities, who has power, and who needs to give it up.
And they believe that creating equitable systems is the most important fix the world needs
And the underlying thought under both of these first two examples is this:
(Show chart #3)
If we fix the external problem with an external solution, what we’ll result is internal peace.
They would say: “Life for all of us, even internally, will be so much better and happier with better leaders & laws (again, totally is a kernel of truth here…but as you’ll see in a few minutes, the entrance into the arena of this question, needs to be through another door).
But back one more time to the Culver’s Parking Lot…
I think I would totally find other people in the parking lot who would…even interrupt the person I was just talking to, and say…
“NO NO NO! Give me that WAND! This is not about leadership OR equality, equity, power, or any of that…it’s about character!”
“You know what’s the wrong with the world, people aren’t nice anymore!”
“When I was in school, we taught CHARACTER!
“What we need to teach people again is how to treat people with respect, hard work, and how to show kindness to everyone
“And we need to tell bullies that’s it’s BAD to be a bully!
And at first glance, this sounds like it’s maybe focusing on changing the world by looking at the internal, but it’s not.
It’s still outside-in thinking.
This idea says that if we educate people…and tell them how they should act…then they’ll be able to act better…and the world can be made right.
Again, there are kernels of truth here too.
I’m a HUGE fan of education.
But even education doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
And that’s really where secular society has missed it.
This is why there are just kernels of truth here, but not the whole thing.
The world is obsessed with the symptoms it sees (all of the broken things)
Secular society keeps trying to treat the symptoms…with an external band-aid or ointment here and there …without properly diagnosing what the internal disease is that’s really breaking our world.
But God’s Word, the Bible, takes a completely different approach.
Its approach is not outside-in, it’s inside-out.
It says that the disease starts within each one of us, and the brokenness we see out there is a result of that disease inside of us.
(Show Chart #4)
The Bible diagnoses that “what is wrong with the world” is the sin inside of us.
It’s an internal problem.
This, in theology, is what Christians call the Doctrine of Total Depravity.
That in Genesis 3, Adam & Eve sinned, and that sinful nature was then (as Romans 5 tells us) passed down to all of us.
And so therefore our core nature is sin…that is, what comes most natural to us…is…sin.
In fact, the Doctrine of Total Depravity, a key cornerstone of Christian doctrine, states that our sinful nature is so strong that we literally cannot do good on our own.
If we could, we could save ourselves.
Instead, the Bible tells us:
(Romans 7:18a) – NIV
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
(Romans 8:7) – NIV
7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
(Psalm 51:5) – NIV
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Even though this has been an essential Christian belief for 2,000 years, it’s quite foreign to typical American thinking that says, “We’re basically good people.”
And yet the logic of this Christian Doctrine is right there in front of us
What parent has to teach his or her child to be selfish or to be jealous of some other kid’s toy?
Instead, we spent most of our time trying to correct the symptoms of sinful nature.
THE PROBLEM WITH A MISDIAGNOSIS
And so, let’s think now about the misdiagnosis of the problem (“what’s wrong with the world”)
Because every secular theory says that the primary solution for “making the world right” is to get a new leader, or change a law, or teach people to be nice.
But none of those things ultimately treat the cause of the disease that has made the world feel so wrong in the first place.
If I’m a 5th grader, and my NATURE is sinful like everyone else, you can instruct me that it’s bad to bully (and you should), but even though I now know that it’s bad to bully, that didn’t really change my inward desire to punch the kid I don’t like at recess.
Similarly, you can pass a good law saying something is now bad and wrong (and you should pass that law), but the law itself doesn’t actually deal with anyone’s internal nature or their ability to obey it.
And so thus you can’t truly make the progress you want towards making the world right.
…because you can’t legislate morality or obedience.
The always insightful Timothy Keller and Dick Lucas put it this way:
“People believe if only their theory were enacted and accepted, all would be well…as if society were a machine, and you only have to remove the monkey wrench in the works for it to function perfectly. Because of this belief, the world lives in a ferment of extravagant hope and bitter disappointment. Every day politicians promise health and wealth and peace. Newspapers demand an end to crime or crash programs to stop poverty, sickness, or cruelty to children. Every day politicians and newspapers, therefore, are forced to admit people are still poor and still ill and still fighting one another and still dying. Therefore, they desperately have to blame their enemies for all this wickedness.” – Timothy Keller and Dick Lucas
With a nod to why our world is so intensely polarized, Keller & Lucas correctly point out that IF there were no internal problem of a sinful nature, then “YES,” you could just adjust the system (or a law here & there)…
And that would be like removing a monkey wrench, and everything WOULD function beautifully
But the fact that the world feels still so desperately broken…especially in countries that don’t know Christ are forsaking Him…proves that despite all of our advances and ideas…we’re not correctly diagnosing the root of the matter.
The true solution to changing the world has to come from the inside out, not the outside in.
And please, no one send me an email this week that says that I don’t care about leaders or legislation.
I actually think they’re quite important.
What I’m discussing is the not the legitimacy or importance of these things, but whether they should be the primary way in which we try and change the world.
Because listen, even if we all had the best of circumstances, that wouldn’t actually solve the problem.
Pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains it this way:
“The terrible, tragic fallacy of the last hundred years has been to think that all man’s troubles are due to his environment, and that to change the man you have nothing to do but change his environment. That is a tragic fallacy. It overlooks the fact that it was in Paradise that man fell.” - Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The original sin of Adam & Even occurred where?
In the garden of Eden where ALL of the conditions were basically perfect.
Well, everything except their heart.
THE REAL SOLUTION IS THE GOSPEL WORK OF INSIDE-OUT TRANSFORMATION
And so if we want to answer this massively deep question of life properly, we must see the diagnosis as an internal problem, and see that the SOLUTION is internal as well
(Show chart #5)
The diagnosis is that we are born in sin and have sinful natures.
And the solution…the only way humans can be changed (and thus expect different outcomes) is to have a change of their internal nature
The Bible would say (in John 3) that happens when we are born again…from the inside-out…
2 Corinthians tells us that happens when people put their faith in Christ as their Savior
(2 Corinthians 5:17) – NIV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
The teaching of the Bible is that your faith in Christ constitutionally changes your nature.
The Holy Spirit comes inside of you and gives you the power, the ability to do good…if you would rely on Him.
Jesus teaches about this inside out change a lot
(Matthew 7:17-18) – NIV
17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
In other words, our external works come from who we are on the inside.
And when you become a Christian, a follower of Christ, God starts slowly changing you from the inside out.
The Holy Spirit starts growing his Fruit on you (Galatians 5): Love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.
And it’s that fruit, that is growing out because of God inside of us…that creates external change.
And this correct diagnosis (internal problem), with a correct solution (internal change), then leads to the following (and interesting!) result. (TAKE A PICTURE)
(Show Chart #6)
So watch the difference now:
The world is trying to fix things from the outside-in.
Thinking that the right leaders and laws and rules will bring change and peace to our hearts.
But the Bible correctly diagnoses that the only thing that will bring peace to our heart is a change of heart.
BUT, the incredible gift is that this change of heart, then brings a change to the world!
Sometimes it’s even easier to see this on a micro level than a macro level:
Imagine two friends, both 17 years old.
Neither of them are Christians, and they are both making terrible choices in their lives.
One teenager has parents who try every external change they can make.
They try more rules, less rules, different teachers and leaders, they make their teenager read books on being a better person, and so forth.
And like you might expect from a rebellious 17 year old…not much changes in that scenario.
But the other family learns about Jesus, and they share the Good News about Jesus with their teenager…who accepts Christ.
Have you ever had this happen in your life?
Seen a teenager or adult come to Christ? Or heard about it at our baptisms?
Their world changes from the inside-out as God changes their heart.
Not only does their heart change, but how they treat their friends, and their family, and how they make choices in the world around them.
It’s like this beautiful light emanates out from them slowly overtaking the darkness that used to come out
Similarly, the same thing happens in society when we help people know Christ.
The world is transformed as humans themselves are internally transformed…by Christ!
I’ve read a number of historical books on revival over the last 2 or 3 years (revival is when large masses of people become Christians in a very short season)…
And revival fundamentally changes society.
For instance, the revival of 1858 that swept over England and Ireland is a perfect example.
There are many studies that show that in the years after the revival, crime itself absolutely plummeted…
Not because laws changed…but people themselves were changed!
And those changed people also went out to change the world with a power they never had before!
In fact, it was out of this revival period, that many of these Christians then went out to build orphanages and hospitals.
Many new Christians started labor unions to protect the rights of children that we’re often working 10+ hour days in those times
As men & women’s hearts were changed on the inside, the light of God spilled into society and changed it as well.
And that’s what we’re talking about.
This is how the world gets changed.
And even more importantly, as we go out with this incredible message, this is ideally, how people’s eternity gets changed as well.
So let’s look, not to ways of the world to change it, but to the truth of our God.
Let me pray.
AFTER LAST SONG
If you’re here for the first time today, or you’re just starting to process what the Bible teaches…or maybe you’re just coming back to it…
We want you to know that this is true, and it can change your life.
We do believe that we were born into a sinful nature, and because of that, we sin…a lot.
And we believe that we can’t, therefore, earn our way to heaven.
But we also believe that God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins…taking our punishment.
And it’s only our faith in Jesus that can forgive us our sins, and change us on the inside.
And not only change us, but allow us to have a relationship with God, and because our sins will be paid for, have eternal life in heaven.
If you want to know more about that, or to make that decision yourself for the first time, I want you to come chat with me after the service, and I’d love to answer your questions or help you get started.
To everyone else…if you just have a question about the message or want to talk to me about something else, I ask that you respectfully wait 4 or 5 minutes first to make sure others who want to know more about Jesus can come first.
All right, let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.