1 Kings 18:16-18

1 Kings 18:16-18

Sermon preached on June 17, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

Jerry Falwell died a few weeks ago, I saw a headline on a web blog that said, "Praise the Lord". They were glad he was dead and were rejoicing about it. He was described as a,

"hater of gays, O supporter of segregation,O denier of evolution, youcreated the Moral Majority,which as the old bumper stickersaid, was neither."

Last fall I read an article in the New York Times called, "A Free-for-All on Science and Religion" (November 21, 2006). It contain the following statements by scientists. Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that,

"the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,"

Mr. Harris called religious beliefs,

"ideas that are at best mistaken and at worst dangerous."

Dr. Weinberg described religion a bit fondly as a crazy old aunt.

"She tells lies, and she stirs up all sorts of mischief and she's getting on, and she may not have that much life left in her, but she was beautiful once," he lamented. "When she's gone, we may miss her." Dr. Dawkins wasn't buying it. "I won't miss her at all," he said. "Not a scrap. Not a smidgen."

He added,

"Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization."

A Dr. Tyson said that scientists shouldn't be Christians because they don't make very good scientists. He said,

"What concerns me now is that even if you're as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops — it just stops. You're no good anymore for advancing that frontier, waiting for somebody else to come behind you who doesn't have God on the brain and who says: 'That's a really cool problem. I want to solve it.' "

Dr. Dawkins said that religious education is,

"brainwashing" and "child abuse".

If you're a Christian and you teach your child about God, that's child abuse. Our Sunday School would be child abuse.

John Lennon challenged us to imagine a future in which there would be no religion. He couched the lines,

"nothing to kill and die for"

between the lines, "imagine there's no country" and "no religion too". Without those two things, nationalism and religion, all people would live life in peace.

The point of all that is that some atheists hate religion. They think it's bad. They think that it's having a very negative impact upon the world and that it would be so much better if there was no such thing as religion.

That's exactly what King Ahab thought of Elijah and his religion. When he met Elijah he said to him,

"Is that you,
you troubler of Israel?"

According to Ahab, Elijah was the reason that everything was so bad in Israel. If it wasn't for Elijah, everything would be good. He was the one that was responsible for the trouble in Israel. He was the one responsible for the drought.

But Elijah was not the cause of the drought. He was only the Lord's messenger. The cause of the drought was the sin of King Ahab and the people of Israel in worshipping Baal. The people had broken the very first commandment. It is, (Exodus 20:3)

"You shall have
no other gods before me."

Because the people of Israel were violating the first commandment and putting Baal before God, God withheld his blessing from the land.

There are some great truths for us here.

The first thing we see is that

slander is one of the methods that Satan uses to try to discredit God's servants.

The devil is a slanderer. It's often the lot of God's people to be slandered. We see it here. King Ahab slandered Elijah. He accused him of being the troubler of Israel.

Now this is important because some Christians seem not to realize this. They believe the slander. When you talk to them about it they will say something like,

"He's got to be a bad character. There must be something wrong with him. If there weren't, people wouldn't be talking bad about him."

But that's just not true. Jesus was perfect yet He was slandered. In Luke 23:2 the Jews accused Jesus of 'subverting' their nation. Mark 14:56 we read that,

"Many testified falsely against him…"

Those who follow Jesus will sometimes experience the same thing. In Matthew 5:11 Jesus said,

"Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you and falsely say
all kinds of evil against you because of me."

When Paul and Silas cast a demon out of a girl and her owners realized that they could not make any more money from her, they dragged them into the marketplace and brought them before the magistrates and said, (Acts 16:19-21)

"These men are Jews,
and are throwing our city into an uproar
by advocating customs
unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice."

When they went to Thessalonica, some bad characters stirred up a riot and said of Paul and Silas, (Acts 17:6-7)

"These men who have caused trouble
all over the world have now come here,
and Jason has welcomed them into his house.
They are all defying Caesar's decrees,"

If you follow Christ, people may say all kinds of evil against you. The apostle Peter also told Christians that they would be falsely accused. In 1 Peter 2:12 he wrote,

"Live such good lives among the pagans that,
though they accuse you of doing wrong,
they may see your good deeds
and glorify God on the day he visits us."

Christians are going to be slandered.

We see it today. Not long ago I read an article that was critical of
Rick Warren, of Purpose Driven Church and Life fame. He was criticized for not disciplining Rupert Murdoch over his plans to run porn channels in Europe. Chris R., head of Christian Accountability Network, was one of a number of Christians who said that Pastor Warren should (Christian Today)

"call Murdoch to repentance and/or put him out of the church"."If Pastor Warren does not act swiftly and call on Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, to dismantle his porn distribution network, then the credibility of the Christian message will be compromised around the globe."

I was appalled when I read that. Was it true? I was hoping that it wasn't. How could a Christian pastor allow a porn king to be a member of his church?

But then I read that a spokesman for Saddleback church stated that Murdoch was not a member of Saddleback Church and that he had never even attended a service there. So it wasn't true.

Apparently the misunderstand grew from a joke that Warren once made that he was Murdoch's pastor, because one of Murdoch's companies had published his book. The way I read it, it was obviously a joke but some people picked it up and tried to make Warren look bad.

The devil often uses lies, slander and misinformation to discredit God's servants. Slander is a tool that the devil uses to render Christians and their work ineffective.

There are two lessons for us here.

First, you shouldn't listen to slander, rumors and innuendo.

Don't believe them. Don't give credence to them. The judgments we form must be based on fact. We must not listen to unsubstantiated rumors and then be suspicious of people because of them.

I know that some Christians have the idea that if a person was really good then there wouldn't be rumors floating around about them. But the slander of our Lord and the apostle Paul that I've mentioned ought to be enough for them to see that that's not true.

Christians are going to be slandered. So don't listen to it. Our judgments need to be based on truth.

Secondly, there is an application here for our congregation.

We want to be well thought of and have a good reputation in our community.

We want people to know that we are a good church. We don't want bad or negative things being said about us.

But what we should realize is that when great wickedness abounds, as it certainly does in our society today—that that's an impossible goal. If a church is faithful to the Lord, to His teaching—wicked people are not going to think well of the church—they're going to think badly of it. And they're going to talk badly about it.

We worship in the midst of a very liberal community in which many sins are embraced and called 'good'. Any church that holds to biblical teaching is considered 'narrow', 'non-intellectual' and 'intolerant'. We don't want those labels attached to us.

But the lesson we see from our text is that

we must not compromise our principles in order to be well thought of.

Elijah stood firm for the truth. He told King Ahab what the real problem was. He said to King Ahab,

"I have not made trouble for Israel,
but you and your father's family have.
You have abandoned the Lord's commands
and have followed the Baals."

The second great principle we see from our text is that

trouble, hardship and difficulty come when people violate God's commandments.

Elijah showed Ahab what the real problem was- his and Israel's violation of the Lord's commandments.

That needs to be our message today. The church needs to tell the world that people need to repent and turn to Jesus Christ. They need to find salvation in Him and through His power they need to stop sinning and start obeying God's commandments. That's the way to blessing.

But Ahab wasn't looking at it that way.
He was looking at the problem in a much more superficial way. That's the same way that the world looks at things today.

Consider how it treats the AIDS problem. The way that they view it is that the ultimate and only problem is the disease itself. I'm not denying that it's a horrible disease. We also need to be very sympathetic toward those who are suffering from this disease. But the disease itself is not the only problem. Yet that's what people today emphatically proclaim. They will tell you that AIDS is,

"a medical problem, not a moral problem."

If you look at it that way you're looking at things like Ahab did—you're missing the bigger picture.

The big picture is that there is a God who is righteous and just. All peoples have a duty to live for His glory and to live according to His commandments. When they do not He sends trouble hardship and difficulty their way. Through such things He calls people to repentance. To view the trouble, hardship and difficulty as the ultimate and only problem is to miss any hope of salvation.

So the great lesson for us here is that

we as a church are called to point out to the world that the real problems are not the droughts, wars, famines, diseases—but the sins of people that is ultimately behind these things.

It's the sin that brings these things on people. Like Elijah, we as a church are called call people to repentance. We are called to testify to the truth. We are to point out to people what the real problem is and call them to repentance in Jesus Christ.

Lastly, for those of you who aren't Christians, one of the things that we see here is that

even though God had worked a great miracle in Ahab's eyes, Ahab hadn't learned anything.

Many people think,

"If I could see a miracle I'd believe. If God could prove to me that he's real, I'd surely believe."

But consider Ahab. He saw this miracle of no rain for three and a half years. Later he would see the great miracle on Mount Carmel where fire would descend from heaven and consume the sacrifice that Elijah had offered. Yet he still didn't become a believer.

It was the same with
Pharaoh. He saw many miracles when he was holding the Israelites in captivity. None of them got him to become a servant of the Lord.

Jesus worked many miracles. A lot of people didn't believe in spite of the miracles. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In response, some plotted to kill both Him and Lazarus.

If you saw a miracle- would you believe? Not without grace. Sin is deep rooted. If you were left on your own a miracle wouldn't have any affect on you at all, except perhaps to harden you in your sin.

If you're not a Christian you need to pray to God that He would open your heart. You need to see the glory of Jesus. You need to have your heart of stone removed. Only God can do that. If He doesn't, you're going to be like King Ahab. Ahab saw the miracle of no rain for 3 ½ years. He saw fire from heaven on Mount Carmel. Yet he refused to believe. He perished. Don't follow in his footsteps. Ask God to open your heart. That's the one thing that you need to do.