Yesterday I had two different conversations with people who called themselves atheists.
“Why are you an atheist?” I asked each of them. They both answered in exactly the same way. I wonder if you can guess what they said:
“Religion causes wars” they said.
It’s a common accusation isn’t it? Days after the September 11th attacks, Richard Dawkins wrote in The Guardian, “To fill a world with religion... is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used.”
That thinking is very prevalent. And on a day like today it might seem difficult to argue with. 10 years after the planes flew into the buildings, 10 years of war, surely it proves the atheists right, doesn’t it? Religion causes war.
Well now, let’s think about that for a second. The last hundred years have been called the murder century. Over a hundred million people have died violently in those 100 years. But do you want to hear the top three perpetrators who account for the great majority of the deaths? Stalin, Mao, Hitler. Add to this Mussolini, Tito, Pol Pot, Idi Amin. All of them atheists either dogmatically or practically. They have killed more in a century than religion ever has.
If we’re going to compare body counts, there’s blood on everyone’s hands. You cannot flee from the evils of religion to the safety of atheism. You cannot escape the human problem because the problem IS humans. Religious humans or irreligious humans – we are the problem. God is not the common denominator in war. Man is.
I say “man”, and I use that politically-incorrect label for a genuine reason, as we’ll see shortly. But God is not the common denominator in war, man is.
Man might use God to justify war. But man might also use godlessness to justify war. It seems that people can come up with any justification for war. What’s the problem? The problem is with us.
After so much war and suffering and terror, people have wanted to ask “How can you believe in God after the last hundred years?” But that is not the question is it? The question is, “How can anyone believe in man?”
That seems to me to be an obvious observation. But let’s think a little more biblically. Because actually, in the Bible, there is hope for man. And actually in the Bible religion does cause wars.
But we’ll have to come at the issue the way Paul does. We’ll do it by studying Romans 5 together and by thinking about that little word “man.”
Do you know what the word Adam means? It means “man” – humanity. Picture him there in the beginning. When he was alone, before Eve was brought out of him, Adam was the totality of the human race. Adam was man.
And in a deep sense, I was in Adam in the beginning. And so were you. Trace back the family tree to its source and we find our source in that one man. Adam is me. Adam is man. He is the source of humanity. But the source got polluted.
Look at verse 12. The Apostle Paul says sin entered the world through one man. When Adam ate the forbidden fruit he broke only commandment in the whole world. Sin was unleashed into the world and hot on its heels came its end result death.
But verse 12 doesn’t just say that death came to Adam for his sin. It says,
“Death came to all men because all sinned.”
Do you hear how radical this teaching is? All humanity sinned (past tense). We all sinned when Adam sinned. Because we were all in Adam. One man took the whole world down to condemnation.
And I mean the whole world. The natural order was affected by this fall. God and Man were meant to be in perfect harmony at the head of creation. When that harmony was disrupted, the natural order was distorted. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanos, Bushfires are all signs that the world has been knocked off its axis. Man is meant to be righteously ruling over the world. But, through sin, chaos reigns.
And that chaos is the fault of man. When it comes to the problems of this world, you and I are not part of the solution. We are part of the problem. Because we participate in this broken humanity of Adam.
And we know it’s broken don’t we? We know how hard it is to love people and do the right thing. Don’t you find? Isn’t it the people you love the most that you end up hurting the deepest? Why should that be? Well the bad things we do and say are just symptoms of our broken humanity.
We are broken people in a broken world. And we grieve the evil of 9/11, but we also see evil at work in ourselves. It makes us cry out for a solution. And God provides the solution.
The solution is another Man. One man Adam was the problem. But according to verse 14, Adam “is a pattern of the one to come.” Adam was a pattern of Christ.
You see Adam took humanity down in one direction. Christ comes to raise us up in another direction.
Here’s how it happened. At Christmas, God the Son became man. He stepped into our shoes. He stepped into our predicament. He stepped into our suffering. And He experienced it in full. God has come into our suffering and felt it the deepest.
When people look at towers falling and thousands killed they say it disproves God. And you know I almost agree with that. Almost. Suffering disproves a lot of gods. There are a lot of gods on offer in the world who do not suffer, who cannot suffer and who will not suffer. And suffering disproves them. But suffering cannot disprove Jesus, because Jesus is the suffering God.
And He enters into our situation as Man, and lives out life in the midst of this suffering world. And from within our situation He lives out a perfect, glorious humanity before the Father. Read the Gospels, read about this heavenly life lived for you. Jesus never did for 33 years what I do every hour, which is look out for number one. Jesus always did before the Father what I fail to do every hour – give thanks and joyfully serve. But where man fails, Christ succeeds as Man and for man.
Until, on the cross, Christ’s substitution is completed. On the cross, Christ takes on our situation so fully that He even endures the condemnation we deserve. He comes to a hellbound race and suffers hell in their place. He takes man by the scruff of the neck and brings us through the judgement and out the other side.
Now there is a new man to belong to. Now there is a new humanity – Christ’s humanity.
You know what this means? There is a future for man! There is hope for humanity.
Listen to Paul in v18. Here he compares Adam to Christ:
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass [Adam’s sin] was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness [Christ’s cross] was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Do you understand this? It’s vital for understanding life.
You and I were born into Adam’s life. We were born into a broken world and a broken humanity. But here is the good news: trust in Jesus and you are born again into Christ’s humanity.
Adam will take you down to death and judgement. Christ raises you to life and salvation.
Which means the world has a future. Christ, the righteous Man rules and He will set the world to rights.
Right now we still see the effects of the old Adam and this old world. We still see in our bodies the corruption of death. We still see in our hearts the corruption of sin. We still see in our world the corruption of war and chaos. But we await the day when Christ, the righteous Man, will stand on this earth again. And He will make everything new.
In the meantime, we invite the world to trust in Jesus, to be born again into His life and His future.
Have you trusted in Jesus? Have you experienced the new birth into His new life? If you haven’t, you are going the way of all flesh. You are heading down into death and judgement along with this chaotic world. But you needn’t suffer that fate. Another Man says to you “Come to me, be joined to me, and I will give you my life, my righteousness, my future.” His name is Jesus and all you need do is call out to Him this morning and say “Jesus, I can’t save myself. I’m part of the problem. But I know you’re the solution. Save me and give me your life.” He’ll do it. He died to give you life, you can call on Him right now.
Are you a Christian here this morning? Do you realize how liberating this teaching of Adam and Christ is?
Understanding Adam and Christ means the end of religion.
And by religion I mean that system of our approach to God. Human religion is the denial that we are dead and damned in Adam. Perhaps we're just sick and need to try a bit harder. But such religion does cause wars and strife. Because as I embark on my little self-improvement drive I'm going to start feeling superior to you. And I'm going to start hating people who aren't on the same self-justifying programme - because I have everything invested in me being right. Religion - in that sense - does cause wars. It's one of the chief engines of war!
But Jesus is the abolition of religion.
And I need to hear that as a Christian because I’m always tempted to play a game with God. Do you ever play “He loves me, He loves me not” with God? One day God loves me because I was a good boy. But the next day He stops loving me because I sin. Do you ever think like that? It kills your Christian life. And Paul says, It’s not about what you do. It’s not about you at all.
Think of yourself in Adam, though you had done nothing, you were condemned. It wasn’t about your deeds was it? It was only about Adam’s. Well, now think of yourself in Christ. Though you have done NOTHING, you are saved, you are justified, you are righteous, you are on top of the world. And it’s got nothing to do with your works.
You were damned in Adam apart from your individual performance. You are saved in Christ apart from your individual performance. It’s not up to you. "Religion" as an approach to God is over. Your life is not found in your works, in your deeds, in your prayers, in your church attendance, in your spiritual disciplines, in your goodness. Your life is found IN JESUS. And if you trust Him, that’s where you are – IN Jesus. You can’t get closer than “in” can you?
On this September 11th we grieve as we remember what man can do. But, far more, today let’s remember what Man did do. Through the obedience of the one man Jesus Christ, He brings justification, life and a renewed creation. Look to Him this day.