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How Did the World Get So Messed Up?


Not everything in the world is good. Not everything in the world is happy. Not everything in the world is beautiful. In fact, real evil does exist in the world. You can pick up any kind of newspaper, and if you start going through it, you're going to find—in the international section—terrorism and war and genocide. If you go through the national section, you're going to find political payoffs and lies and scams and churches set on fire. If you go through the local section, you're going to find rapes and abuse and murder and arson. If you go through the business section, you're going to find scandals, fraud, and graft embezzlement. If you go through the sports section, you're going to find drug use, illegal gambling, and adultery. If you go through the entertainment section, you're going to find too many scandals and sins to even mention. No rational person can deny that evil—real evil—exists in this world.

Sin is the reason for evil in the world.

How did the world get so messed up? The reason is this: we've all sinned, and when we sin, it brings evil into the world.

Sin is any attitude or action against God. Where did sin start? It started with the very first couple, Adam and Eve, back in the Garden of Eden. In fact, the Bible says: "Sin came into the world because of what one man did [that's Adam], and with sin came death." There was no death prior to Adam's sin; it came into the world with sin.

But sin didn't just stop with Adam and Eve. We've all been culprits, too. There is not a single person in all the earth who is always good and never sins. I've never met anybody who's claimed to be perfect. I don't measure up to my own standards, much less a perfect God's. I disappoint myself. I disappoint others. I don't live up to a standard of perfection.

Sin is a universal problem. The Bible says, "All have sinned." That includes me. That includes you. It includes the Pope. It includes everybody who's ever lived. The Bible goes on to say, "There is no one righteous, not even one;" "There is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not;" "If we claim we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." If you say you've never sinned, you're just lying, because the fact is: All of us have had attitudes and actions against God.

How did the world get so messed up? It got messed up with Adam, and then we've all followed in his example. Every time I sin, it damages something—either me, another person, my relationship to God, the world, or something else. That's why God doesn't want us to sin. He knows the ways that are best.

The reason the world is in a mess is because we've all sinned. The question, then, is what's the result? The result is this: we live in a fallen world. It is a broken planet. Everything on this planet has been damaged, injured, spoiled, or corrupted in some way by the entry of evil into the world. God created the world perfect, but we now live in a fallen world. A lot of people don't understand this, and they ask all the time: "Why is this happening? Why is that happening?" When they ask that question, it's because they don't have the right worldview. They don't understand that we live on a broken planet. We live in a fallen world. This is not heaven.

I want to look at five dimensions of the damage that occurred when sin entered the world. Sin affects five areas: there are natural implications; there are physical implications; there are emotional implications; there are relational implications; and there are spiritual implications every time we blow it.

Five implications for the sin in this world

First: There are natural disasters and deformities in our world because of sin. Nature doesn't always act in a rational way; it often acts in an irrational way. When people ask, "Why are there hurricanes? Why are there droughts? Why are there earthquakes? Why are there tidal waves? Why are there natural disasters?" the answer is very simple: the planet is broken; it's fallen. This is not a perfect place. In fact, Romans 8:20 says that creation was condemned to lose its original purpose: to be in perfect harmony with man and perfect harmony with God. The world is not in that perfect harmony. The elements are rough and can be very unkind. Creation doesn't always work the right way. It is confused. How do animals get deformed sometimes? Why are babies sometimes born with major defects? It's because of sin. It's because we live on a broken planet.

Second: There is physical decay and death in the world because we live in a fallen planet. The Bible says this in 2 Corinthians 4:16: "Our physical body is becoming older and weaker." One look at you and I can prove that. You don't have your youthful beauty. Our bodies are getting weaker; they're getting older. There are no perfect bodies. You can airbrush them into perfection, but there are no perfect bodies. A lot of us have a "furniture problem"—our chest drops into our drawers. Not everything works right in your body, because we're on a fallen planet where everything doesn't always work right. If we were on a perfect planet, there would be no need for doctors. But we live in a fallen world. The bodies we have now embarrass us; they become sick and die. In physics they call this the law of entropy. The law of entropy states that everything in the universe is continuously and irreversibly decaying. Scientists have known this for years. The universe is dispersing into disorder. In other words, this world is winding down. It's decaying. This totally contradicts the theory of evolution, which says things are getting better, more complex, and improved. Evolution denies the second law of thermodynamics.

Not only do we have decay, but we also have death in the world. The Bible says that everyone dies because all of us are related to Adam, the first man. One of the reasons we die is that God doesn't want us hanging around on an imperfect planet. To live on a fallen planet for eternity would be hell. God says: I didn't make you to live in a place of imperfection forever; I made you to live in a place of perfection forever. I want you to know me—choose to be in my family so you can live in that place forever. One day God's going to shut this Earth down because he has prepared a place that's perfect in eternity. The Bible says: "All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay." It says that even the world is looking forward to that day.

Number three: We have emotional distress and disappointment because of our sin. You get stressed out and disappointed because you live on a fallen planet.

I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but most things don't live up to their hype. Most things are overrated. As a pastor, I've worked with a lot of young couples who spend a year working on their wedding. They ask questions like: Where are we going to put the candies? What kind of bag are the candies going to be in? What color are the candies? They spend an entire year planning the wedding, and then it's over in a couple of hours. I've always thought that if they spent that much time in preparing for the marriage instead of preparing for the wedding, we'd have stronger marriages and fewer divorces. I know people who say, "We don't have time for premarital counseling, because we're too busy planning the wedding." I'll tell you—the wedding isn't going to last. The marriage is what you want to last. If you spent as much time on premarital counseling, you'd do far more for your relationship than you would by asking, "What color are the candies?"

The fourth result of living in a fallen world is relational distance and discord. When Adam and Eve sinned, it not only alienated them from God, it alienated them from each other. All of us have had to deal with that ever since. All of the marriage problems and familial problems in life come down to one world: sin. I want what I want, you want what you want, and sparks fly.

The bottom line is this: you either grow up or you grow apart. Those are your options. In your marriage, you're either going to grow up and learn to be unselfish and think of the other person, or you're going to grow apart. People say, "We're just incompatible." "Incompatible" is a synonym for immaturity. You can grow up or you can grow away from each other. It's your choice. If you want to be selfish, you're going to have conflicts the rest of your life unless you learn to grow and to give.

Adam and Eve had great intimacy together. It was an innocent intimacy. Scripture says they were "naked and unashamed." That doesn't just speak to physical matters. The text is saying they were also emotionally naked and unashamed. There was no intimacy barrier.They had no bad memories from their exes. They had no bad memories from high school. They had no bad lessons they had learned from their parents. Everything was perfect for Adam and Eve. They understood each other. They had the only perfect relationship that ever existed between a man and a woman, because they had no bad history, no sin, and no hang-ups. They had perfect bodies made by God. But when they sinned, it ruined the whole thing. It messed up the relationship. That intimacy of understanding each other became fear and hiding and distrust and shame. The Bible says, "They suddenly felt shame at their nakedness … so they strung fig leaves together to cover themselves."

Men and women have been covering up ever since, and I'm not talking about clothes. I'm talking about covering up emotionally. We hide from each other. We don't want to let anybody get close to us. We don't want them to know us, and we cover up.

I want to ask you: What's your fig leaf? What do you use to keep people from getting close to you? Is it that you wear a mask or play a role or pretend that you're somebody you're not? Do you hide in secret? Adam did the very two things that every man and every woman has done since: he hid and he blamed.

That's what sin always does in a relationship. When you have sin in a relationship, you are afraid of revealing your true self, so you hide—even from your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend. You don't let them know your deepest fears. Every relationship in the world has been damaged by sin and the evil that's in the world.

The other thing Adam did is he blamed. He said to God: You know, the reason I'm in this trouble is that woman you gave me caused me to be tempted. And ever since we have been hiding our own weaknesses and blaming other people for the problems in our lives.

Spiritual discontentment and darkness is the fifth result of our sin. Sin leaves a hole in your heart that nothing can fill. Pascal called it "the God-shaped hole." There's a God-shaped vacuum in your life that nothing else can fill. We try to fill it with sex, popularity, hobbies, or sports, but it's like putting a square peg in a round hole—it doesn't fit. You were made for God. St. Augustine said this: "Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee." You were made by God and for God, and until you make that connection, you're going to be looking, running, and always spiritually discontent. What you need is God. Trying to find meaning in music or sex or anything else is not the answer.

Although the world is great and there are a lot of good things in the world, we have to be realistic about it. We live on a broken planet that has natural disasters and deformities, physical decay and death, emotional distress and disappointment, distance and discord in relationships, and spiritual discontent and darkness. It is no wonder there is an epidemic of depression in our world. I would be depressed, too, if I thought that was the end of the story. But it's not. There is good news.

How can you be happy in a world full of pain, suffering, sorrow, broken relationships, and bad memories? How can you be happy on a broken planet? For that matter, how can you get happy on a planet that has all those problems? Jeremiah has the answer. Jeremiah was a prophet, and he wrote two books in the Bible. One of them is called the Book of Jeremiah, and he wrote another one called the Book of Lamentations, which means "the sorrows." In Lamentations he gives his testimony. He says:

I cannot find peace or remember happiness. Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. It's all I ever think about, and I am depressed. Then [here's the good news] I remember something that fills me with hope. The Lord's kindness never fails. If he [God] had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed. The Lord can always be trusted to show mercy each morning. So, deep in my heart, I say, "Lord, you are all that I need. I can depend on you."

That phrase, "Lord, you are all that I need," is the antidote to depression. It's the key to happiness in a broken, messed-up, damaged world. You don't put your trust in people, because they're going to let you down. You don't put your trust in circumstances, because they're going to disappoint you. You don't put your trust in things, because they're not going to last. You put your trust in God and say, "Lord, you are all that I need."

God is in control of this world.

We see the reason the world's in a mess—it's sin. I've blown it, and you've blown it. Adam blew it, and we've seen the results. Here's the question that I have: why doesn't God just shut the Earth down? When he looks down and sees genocide, suicide, war, rape, murder, people hating each other, people cheating on each other, and people being mean, why doesn't he just pull the plug on the planet? Why does he put up with it? He's got the power to just shut it all down, so why doesn't God just close up shop? Why is he allowing a broken planet to limp along for a little bit longer? He doesn't shut the world down because although the world is broken, God is still in control, and history is moving toward a climax.

Second Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise to return"—which is when he's going to pull the plug on the planet—"as some people think. No, he's being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish." God doesn't want anybody to go to hell. He doesn't want anybody to be separated from him for eternity. So he's giving more time for everyone to repent. The reason God puts up with all the grief that he sees on this planet is because he's being patient and waiting for you to step across the line and come to know him. He wants you in his family. Or, if you are in his family, he wants you to witness to your family and your friends and your neighbors, because he wants them in the family, too. Once the door to the ark is shut and it starts to rain, it's not opening again 15 minutes later. It's over. When God shuts it down—when you die or Jesus comes back—it's over. There's no second chance. So God says: I'm waiting a little bit longer just so people have the opportunity to receive my grace.

When somebody comes to you and says, "I can't believe in, worship, or love a God who would callously stand by and watch little children suffer and women be raped," here's what you say: "I don't believe in that kind of God, either." God isn't that kind of God. You have no idea how much it hurts God when he sees all the sin on the Earth. It hurts him more than anybody else. He weeps and grieves and says: Look at what my children are doing. They're abusing each other. They're lying to each other. They're cheating each other. They're killing each other. They're being evil to each other. They're hurting each other. They're gossiping about each other.

God feels every sin. He's grieving, and the only reason you grieve is because you're made in God's image. God has emotions, and he gave you emotions, too. God feels everything much more intentionally than you ever will. He's far more worried about women who get raped than you are. You don't think about it all the time, but he does. He's watching it, he cares about it, and he hates it with a passion. The only reason he's holding back his fierce judgment on evil is because he's waiting for you and others to step across the line, so he can pull the plug and say: Okay, everybody who's going to be in is in.

God already knows who's going to say "Yes" to his invitation. He already knows because he knows the future. He's not determining it—you get to choose—but he already knows, and he's giving you that little bit of extra time. He's waiting for you. Yes, the world is a mess, but God is in control.

We must respond to God's control of this world.

There are four ways I should respond to the fact that God is in control of this world.

Number one: Receive God's grace daily. If God is waiting to shut the world down so he can show his grace, then you need to receive it on a daily basis. The Bible says this: "Through the sin of one man [that's Adam] death began to rule, but now how much greater is the result of what was done by one other man, Jesus Christ?" All who receive God's abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ. If you have never received the grace of God, you need to receive it now.

Number two: Remember this place is temporary. Don't get too caught up in this fallen world. Don't get caught up in its fashions and values. Don't get too enamored with the things of this world, because nothing you see is going to last. Everything is going to vanish one day. There are only two things that are going to last for eternity—God's Word and God's people. You need to build your life on those things that are going to last. This is all temporary. The Bible says that I'm here on earth for just a little while. The Bible says: "This world is not our home. We're looking forward to our everlasting home in heaven."

Number three: Reject manmade solutions. Because this world is a broken world that has sin and evil in it, you have many unmet needs. This is not a perfect place, so all your needs will not be met while you're here on Earth. You have unmet sexual needs. You have unmet personal needs. You have unmet relational needs. You have a need to be understood. You have a need to be loved. You have a need to not be lonely. You have financial needs that are unmet. All of these different needs are in your life because we live in a planet that's not perfect, because sin and evil exist. What you don't want to do is give in to the temptation of figuring out how to meet your needs in your own way rather than trusting in God. That would be a really big mistake.

One last thing: God says to reach out and testify about his love. Once you know the meaning of life, you need to pass it on. You need to teach others what I told you. You need to explain it to your friends and to your family, because they're living without hope. The Bible says this: Go out into the world uncorrupted, like a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the life-giving message into the night. God says he wants you to pass it onto others. If you're in the family, God says: I'm just waiting for your family and friends to get in, too. So go tell them, and then we can shut this thing down and get on with eternity. Go tell them.

For Your Reflection

Personal growth: How has this sermon fed your own soul? ___________________________________________

Skill growth: What did this sermon teach you about how to preach? ____________________________________________________________________________

Exegesis and exposition: Highlight the paragraphs in this sermon that helped you better understand Scripture. How does the sermon model ways you could provide helpful biblical exposition for your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Theological Ideas: What biblical principles in this sermon would you like to develop in a sermon? How would you adapt these ideas to reflect your own understanding of Scripture, the Christian life, and the unique message that God is putting on your heart? ____________________________________________________________________________

Outline: How would you improve on this outline by changing the wording, or by adding or subtracting points? _____________________________________________________________________

Application: What is the main application of this sermon? What is the main application of the message you sense God wants you to bring to your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Illustrations: Which illustrations in this sermon would relate well with your hearers? Which cannot be used with your hearers, but they suggest illustrations that could work with your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Credit: Do you plan to use the content of this sermon to a degree that obligates you to give credit? If so, when and how will you do it?

Rick Warren is pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and author of The Purpose-Driven Life (Zondervan, 2002).

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Sermon Outline:


Not everything in the world is good; in fact, real evil does exist in the world.

I. Sin is the reason for evil in the world.

II. Five implications for the sin in this world

III. God is in control of this world.

IV. We must respond to God's control of this world.