Introduction (James 2:19)
What do you think the main problem is in churches today?
Apathy? Compromise? Immorality?
Disunity? How would you
respond if I suggested the main problem in churches today is atheism?
Not intellectual atheism, nor absolute atheism, but practical atheism.
There was a woman named Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the most famous
atheist of our time. She said God
did not exist and went to the US courts to remove mention of Him from schools,
and the Government. Christians were
repulsed by her zeal to get rid of God because of her atheism. Yet there are
millions of church members who weekly live as if God does not exist.
There are comparatively few absolute atheists like O’Hare, but a lot of
The Devil is not an atheist.
He knows there is a God, but he operates as if there were no God.
He believes in God, but he does not love God.
He knows he will give account to God, yet he persists in his
He acknowledges God, but does not glorify God.
He is a practical atheist.
For the atheist, life consists only of self-centred concerns.
Earthly existence is therefore reduced to pursuing personal pleasures.
There are few that deny God with their lips, but millions who deny God
with their lives. Belief in God is
at an all-time high while morality is at an all-time low.
Churches claim to believe the Bible, yet very few obey the clearly
black and white commands it contains. Christians have a high regard for the Bible, but few read it
weekly, almost NONE read it daily. In
reality most professing Christians have no more regard for the Bible than junk
Atheists do not
pray - practical atheists seldom pray.
Atheists do not
study the Bible; neither do practical atheists. They leave Bible study to the
“theologians” and the clergy!
Atheists do not
methodically hide the Word of God in their hearts; neither do practical
atheists. Takes too much time.
4. Atheists boast they can get along without God. Practical atheists do little more than pay God a Sunday visit. The rest of the week, they do just fine.
5. Atheists do not lay up treasure in heaven; neither do practical atheists. Both, have all their treasures down here!
6. Atheists do not set their affections on things above; neither do practical atheists. Where are your treasures?
7. Atheists don’t lead their families in devotions; nor do practical atheists.
8. Atheists are concerned with those things that can be seen, heard, and felt; so also it is with practical atheists.
9. Atheists live only for today; so do practical atheists.
10. Atheists have little concern for others (even then it is called humanism); so it is with practical atheists, yet they want to call themselves Christians.
G. Essence of Atheism
1. Atheism is “No God-ism.” It denies the existence of God. Of course, the atheist is not lacking in faith; he is lacking in specific evidence. Because he does not want a God in his life, he rules God out of existence, and claims that God doesn’t exist since God can’t be seen by him.
2. A Russian atheist said, “Either there is a God or there isn’t. Either way, it’s terrifying.”
a. If God doesn’t exist, nothing matters.
b. If God does exists, EVERYTHING matters!
3. Pure atheism is rare. Our problem is not intellectual atheism, but practical atheism.
H. Essence of Practical Atheism
1. Practical atheism dismisses the notion of the authority of God. It is not an outright denial of God; it is more of a subtle disregard for God.
a. Jer 2:32 states, “My people have forgotten me days without number.” Indifference toward God means no respect for the person of God, no concern for the will of God, and disobedience to the Word of God.
b. This non-regarding of God ultimately leads to an antagonism toward God. When liberal theologians announced God was dead in the 1960’s they were not reporting a fact, they were expressing a desire. A desire that God would go away, and leave them alone
c. That is a death wish – as is seen by the statistics in all countries, and nations who are full of practical atheists.
d. So many people KNOW what the Bible says about modesty, and drink, and godliness, and purity in the home, but they would rather DIE than live like a Christian
1) I’m not talking about misconceptions that the RC church has imposed upon people for hundreds of years
2) But about BIBLICAL commands that transform hell-holes into homes once again! Transform communities into safe areas
2. Practical atheism also distorts the image of God. Makes it into an image more acceptable to people today – that’s the job of the religions today.
a. Idolatry is pretending God is different than He really is.
b. When a person conjures up a false image of God, he is expressing his secret wish that God was different. This violates the second commandment’s prohibition against idolatry. The graven image, or imagined god, are nothing more than a projection of the mind. This false god exists only in the mind of the person who created him. The reason idolatry is so hateful to God is because the idolater rejects his Creator (God) as He is.
3. It is sad but true, that the type of “ministry” most of us have been brought up with has failed to produce godly men and women as the norm. Spiritual maturity is the exception, not the rule.
4. The devil is no longer fighting the church he’s joining it! All you need to do to join the average congregation is say you believe in Jesus and you are in! It seems too obvious that theological clarity and precision concerning what it means to be saved is sorely needed.
a. Confirmation is a mockery – most are practical atheists
b. Church attendance is a joke – people come to be entertained, and live worse and worse as time goes on – nothing the better for it
I. The most accurate index to a person’s beliefs is not his words, but his actions.
1. At least the atheist is consistent. He denies God and lives out his unbelief with a lifestyle that backs it up.
2. But the practical atheist plays the hypocrite. He “professes to know God, but in works he denies Him.” It has been said a hypocrite is someone who is not himself on Sunday! Granted, no one is perfectly consistent. But the ever-widening gap between faith and practice represents gross deception. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).
A. In Practical Atheism, Religion is More Important Than God (Mt 15:1-6)
1. Here come the Pharisees – they are the religious elite of the day
a. They have a Bible
b. They have a form of godliness (2Tim 3:1-5)
c. To them, what the elders and clergy, and priests said was more important than what GOD said!
d. Sounds like a lot of people today! Don’t want Bible, but more waffle
2. Notice the Tradition – see just how important it is!
a. To wash the hands before a meal!
1) A smart thing. But not a commandment of God
2) Not a spiritual thing – did nothing for their relationship with God
3) It was only a ceremony – and God HATES ceremonies
b. The Jews had LOADS of religious traditions and customs
1) Yes, they had the written laws, but it was oral laws people handed down that were more important
2) People call it “interpretations”
3) Same today in Catholicism – have to write a Catechism book bigger than the NT!
4) Some traditions included
a) The use of holy water on everything including diseases
b) Priests wearing Long black robes
c) Bobbing when they pray
d) The mystical use of candles
e) Couldn’t walk more than a sixth of a mile on the Sabbath
c. Don’t think people today are any different
1) Replace Christ’s birth with a satanic Santa
2) Replace Christ’s resurrection with easter bunnies and chocolates
3) Replace simple worship with Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent, kneeling, crossing, genuflecting, mass, incense, scapulars
3. Jesus responds to the real problem (Mt 15:3-6)
a. These people’s relationship with God was reduced to a set of man-made rules than had replaced the clear instructions given by God Himself! How can you improve on what GOD said?!!!
b. Their traditions had allowed them to disobey God!
1) God’s clear command – honour your parents, all their lives (not just until you are 18), and he quotes Exodus 20
2) They invented tradition that replaced God’s command
a) A young man seeks to salvage some of his earnings for the future, yet fears his parents will drain it all away (use up his inheritance even)
b) Instead of caring for his parents after their retirement with his “hard earned money”, he went down to the nearest priest
c) Declares that his income is “Corban” a gift to holy use
d) The priest signs a document with the man making the money now separated and untouchable by anybody but the priest
e) From then on, the man can ignore his parents on the basis that he is “broke” – that is, until the parents are both dead
f) At that point, the priest returns 50% back to the man – both are happy
g) And yet GOD’S word had been violated, and the parents denied!
c. Did you notice the beginning of verse 4, and then verse 5? “God commanded… But ye say…” THAT’S IT! It is US against GOD
1) Our opinion against HIS WORD
2) It is not that people don’t believe in God
3) It is simply that people don’t like God
4. So, most people spend their time figuring out ways to be:
a. Religious, but not born-again – even in this room!!!
b. Humanitarian, but not Christian
c. Priest-like, but not Christ-like
d. Justifying adultery, and drunkenness, and hatred instead of repenting, and humbling yourself and getting your life clean and holy!
5. Folks, the reason why most people don’t get saved is not because they have no faith – it is because they do not like God – the God of the Bible
6. The reason why most Christians never grow, and never win a soul, and never do anything for God is because THEY TOO are practical atheists
B. In Practical Atheism, the Problem is with the Heart (Mt 15:7,8,9; Isa 29:13)
1. Jesus cuts right to the chase – calls people real hypocrites
a. They worshipped God outwardly
b. But inwardly they were practical atheists, and that by choice!
2. Their mouth was saying one thing – their hands may be doing one thing – their bodies may be located in one place
3. But their heart is far, far away
a. Reciting the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Gloria Patri
b. But their heart is on the car payments, new furniture, soccer scores and upcoming games, fishing, girls, guys, regrets, bills, people to phone, groceries to buy, people to tell off, and so on!
4. This is today’s BIG ISSUE - Think about it
a. 99% of all worship in the world is VAIN, EMPTY, WASTED, no matter how much money is spent, and how people attend
b. People attending here, if your heart is not right with God, it is a waste of your time – and in heaven, it won’t show on your record!!!
5. My burden as your pastor is that your HEART gets changed
a. That on Sunday evening you don’t forget God
b. That on Monday morning, you walk with God
c. That throughout the week you feed the spiritual hunger not on TV progs but on the word of God
d. That problems are time for prayer, not complaining
e. That God’s praise pours from your lips instead of filth
f. That your home would be a taste of heaven instead of hell
g. That you would LOVE GOD with all your heart!
A. How to Become a Practicing Christian – not in name only
1. The first step is recognizing God as your Creator. “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). We are not the products of our own efforts - God made us. God does not exist for us - we exist for Him. This acknowledgement is only the beginning and means far more than mental assent.
2. Second, you must repent of your practical atheism. In order to become a Christian he must cease believing in Self and self-sufficiency, and even religious sufficiency In short, YOU will have to go out of the “god-business”! There is only one God.
3. Thirdly, receive Jesus Christ - believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart.
4. Lastly, resolve that He is, and always will be, your Lord
B. Many people in this room may already be saved – have repented of sin in general, and received Jesus Christ. But in your practical day to day life, you are no more a Christian than a coat hanger! You’re not like Christ designed you to be
C. Practical atheism is a grievous insult to God. It is hateful to God, harmful to His church, and hurtful to us. Shouldn’t our prayer be, “Lord, let me never again live as if You did not exist, but let me always live my life in the reality and vitality of You being my Lord, and my God. Amen.”