An Atheistic World – Psalm 14

An Atheistic World

Psalm 14

It’s not just the rich and famous who question God’s existence–it’s your co-workers, extended family, friends. What led them to that conclusion and how can we convince them otherwise? Maybe it’s you–not aloud, but in the quiet of your heart, in a difficult circumstance or a moment of anxiety you too question the existence of God. You could never confess that because your identity is wrapped up in Christianity and church, but you too may think, “There is no God.”

Having a biblical worldview is the only way we can properly assess the world around us. David, in Psalm 14, gives us a correct appraisal of our fallen world that we need to give our attention. God typically doesn’t repeat Himself, but when He does, it probably deserves our attention. But imagine God saying the same things three times. That is what we find in Psalm 14.

It has almost an exact replica in Psalm 53 and is quoted in Romans 3, and explained in Romans 1. So how badly do we need to study the words that God has placed multiple times in Humility–how often we think too highly of ourselves and down on others. Evangelism–if you want the Bible? success in evangelism, you need a deep understanding of the world you’re evangelizing. Proposition in Psalm 14–nobody is good. The psalmist David gives us three perspectives.

1.  The Fool’s Perspective  Verse 1

The definition of the fool in the Bible is different from ours today—it is someone who is morally wicked, not intellectually lacking. The word for fool in Hebrew is nabal (1 Samuel 25:25). “’Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him.’” He was a successful, but wicked farmer.

Then in 2 Samuel 13, Amnon forces his own sister to sleep with him and she says, “If you do this thing you will be nabal.” And Genesis 34:7, when Shecem forced Dinah (Jacob’s daughter) to sleep with him, her brothers said it was nabalah (disgraceful). Isaiah 32:6 says, “For a fool speaks nonsense, and his heart inclines toward wickedness: to practice ungodliness and to speak error against the Lord.”

A fool is not someone with a low IQ, but someone who is no good. So it is not the uneducated, misled, or confused that determine there is no God–it is the immoral man. Look back at verse 1, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” Notice that the fool doesn’t think in his head, or say with his mouth–but says in his heart there is no God.

Before every professing Christian here says, “Well, I don’t need to hear this”–can it be that, though you say you believe in God with your mouth, you say you don’t in your heart? Matthew 15:8, “‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.”

I believe this to be the state of the American church–40% of pastors in the US have had an affair, 65% of Christian men confess to watching pornography once a month, 20% of Christian women regularly watch pornography. Over 1 million people are leaving the faith and the God they once said they loved every year. So yes, it is possible to say you believe in God with your mouth, but not with your heart.

If the Lord was to strip away all your deeds, your lifestyle, and cut straight and deep down into your heart, would He find it genuinely beating for Him? Or would He find it cold, dead and denying that He actually exists? Look with me as the verse continues—”There is no God.” The English translation supplies the words “there is”, and the original Hebrew simply says, “No God!”, as in, “No God for me!”

The unbeliever doesn’t just not believe God exists–they hope He doesn’t exist. Think with me–so why does the Bible say that the person who doesn’t believe in God is a fool? Why not just misguided or uniformed? Aren’t there brilliant atheists in the world? He is a fool because he knows there is a God, but denies it. We find that in Romans 1, where Paul has the most extensive discourse on atheism and really explains Psalm 14.

Paul says in Romans 1:21, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks.” You might ask, “How do they know God exists?” Paul said in Romans 1:19 to 20, “…that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

The evidence for God is so thorough it is impossible not to know He exists. James Boice says, “According to these verses, the revelation of God in nature is not hidden, so that only a highly skilled scientist can find it. It is open and manifest to everyone. A child can see it. There is enough evidence of God in a snowflake, a fingerprint, a flower, a drop of water to lead any honest member of the human race to believe in God, and worship him. Every single object in the world shouts God to humanity.” And our response to this evidence should be thanking and worshiping God.

So if it is so clear that God exists, why do so many people say He doesn’t? Paul’s answer is in Romans 1:18, “They suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” You see, people don’t become atheists because of scientific evidence–they become atheists so they can indulge in their sin and act like there is no God who will judge them.

You can never look at the world without a moral bias and say, “Well of course we came from monkeys, and monkeys came from reptiles, and reptiles came from fish, and fish came from a living organism, and a living organism came from a dead one, and organisms came from matter, and matter came from nothing.” You must foolishly say in your heart there is no God–and then, based on that presupposition, you will grasp at straws to prove a worldview that approves of your sin.

Spurgeon said, “But as denying the existence of fire does not prevent its burning a man who is in it, so doubting the existence of God will not stop the Judge of all the earth from destroying the rebel who breaks his laws. Nay, this atheism is a crime which much provokes Heaven, and will bring down terrible vengeance on the fool who indulges it.” The fool says there is no God to ignore the judgment of God, but ironically in doing so, provokes more wrath from God.

And see how atheism in theory always leads to atheism in practice. Back to Psalm 14–David comments on the fool’s perspective of the world saying, “They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds.” The language he uses is active, meaning they are acting corruptly and doing abominable deeds, because when you say there is no God, you can then live as if there isn’t.

To illustrate, when I was in high school here on this very campus, I was in a class where the students were very well behaved. But one day the teacher received a phone call on her personal phone–so she stepped out of the classroom to take it. The moment the door closed behind her, people started yelling, telling inappropriate jokes, cheating by sharing answers with one another. The classroom went from order to absolute chaos. The atheist tells himself, “God isn’t looking, He’s not even there–I am free to do whatever I want.”

I know many of you here say, “There is a God”–but does your life reflect that? Or do you live like God is not looking? Do you live like God sees everything that you look at? Do you live like God hears everything that you say? Do you live like God sees you when you’re away from your spouse? Do you live like God sees you when you’re away from your parents? God sees your internet searches, your Netflix account, what you think about. He hears your conversations, your music, the things you say in your heart. Many professing Christians live atheistic lives. They sin in private as if God isn’t there.

Don’t be fooled. Luke 8:17, “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” There is no one who does good. This is the state of our godless world–it contains no neutrality, it has no one doing good. This is where the fool’s perspective leaves us. One man said, “What a picture of our race is this! Save only where grace reigns, there is none that does good. Humanity, fallen and debased is a desert without an oasis, a night without a star, a hell without a bottom.”

The fool’s perspective leads us to understand that nobody is good. But more important and more helpful than the fool’s perspective is . . .

2.  The Lord’s Perspective  Verses 2 to 6

The Lord’s perspective is one from up high, looking down and scavenging the earth for even a glimmer of knowledge, a glimpse of wisdom. Many wrongly assume that because they can’t see God, He can’t see them. This is not the case, however–He is actively looking. Hebrews 4:13, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Before the flood, in Genesis 6:12, “God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.”

Then again, before God judged at the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:5, “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.” See, God does not judge without first observing the evidence–God looks intently upon us all to see if there are any who live as if He is present (understanding)–or at the very least, any who seek Him. And what does He find?

They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (verse 3). So before we say, “Well, He must see something good! We aren’t all athiests!” We are not excused–He looked and saw any, all, no one, altogether, no one, not even one. PC Craigie said, “The fool is not a rare subspecies within the human race; all human beings are fools apart from the wisdom of God.”

Have you ever heard, as I have, “But Jesse, what if there is a man on an island who really wants to know God, but he just doesn’t have a Bible? Is he too corrupt–can he not do good?” I haven’t seen that man–but God has, and he tells you right here his search came up empty. Nobody is good. And what about an unbeliever who helps an old woman across the street–is that not good? Romans 14:23, “And whatever is not from faith is sin.”

Trust God’s perspective—He has looked and seen the heart of every man, the motives behind every action, and couldn’t find one that was good, one that was pure. “Do all the workers of wickedness not know, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord? 5There they are in great dread, for God is with the righteous generation. 6You would put to shame the counsel of the afflicted, but the Lord is his refuge.”

The wicked who don’t know God naturally and regularly (like eating bread) persecute, malign, and mock the followers of Christ. If they hate God, they will hate God’s people–and of course in their prideful rebellion, they will not “call upon the Lord” in humble confession. So God will cause in them a ”great dread”.

Psalm 53:5, “There they were in great fear where no fear had been.” The image is painted of the high and mighty sinner mocking a believer–acting superior and secure in themselves, but later goes home and in the quiet moments to themselves, they are struck with fear, terror and anxiety. Nothing seems to cause this panic except their own conscience, testifying against them.

The principle is clear–no matter how much you tell yourself God isn’t watching or that He isn’t even real, the Law has been written on your heart, and you will have moments where you feel the guilt of breaking it.

Can you think of anything better than swimming with dolphins? They’re cute, friendly–they’re like dogs that live in the ocean. My wife is an animal lover, and so on our one-year anniversary trip to Mexico, I thought that there could be nothing better than getting us tickets to swim with dolphins. You might think, “Wow, that’d be amazing, unforgettable—the closest thing to Heaven this side of eternity.”

So when we arrived at the counter, I got three package options–one hour (one activity with dolphins), three hours (two activities with dolphins), or five hours (which was a whole day of swimming with dolphins and a free lunch). Of course, I went with the five hour option, as any good tourist would–and if I showed you pictures from our time, you’d see us smiling, holding on to dolphin fins, me getting the foot push, Brooke getting a kiss on the cheek from Nautilus. You’d see us having the best day of our lives.

But those pictures would tell a lie–they couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality was, we swam for five hours in thick and smelly dolphin waste. I wasn’t allowed to wear sunscreen, so my shoulders got fried so bad they bled and scabbed, and I couldn’t sleep on my back for a week. The trainers would speak to everyone else in Spanish and people would go, “Ohh, wow!” Then they look at us and in English say basically, “I was telling them that these are good dolphins.” And to top it all off, the free lunch gave us food poisoning and we were stuck in our room for the rest of the trip.

Though it often seems like people who disobey God have the best life, the most fun, the most friends, the most followers, the most wealth–know that behind the perfect life they portray online, there are moments of great, unspeakable fear, anxiety, stress and dread, because they have a conscious that testifies against them and they know they will meet their Maker one day and be held accountable for their life of sin.

Do you have those moments? We know that many will approach Christ on the last day–they faked their Christianity, and in reality they denied God to indulge in sin. Maybe some like that are here this morning. You cover it up with church attendance, a John Mac Bible, but God has told me here that you know you are a fraud. He has seen your fear, He has watched you freeze in dread, because you know verse 5, “God is with the righteous generation,” and that verse 6, the Lord is the refuge to the needy, not those who see no need for Him.

You know ultimately that God will judge sinners. He either punishes His Son for you, or punishes you in full. Revelation 6:15 to 17, “Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’”

The knowledge of that coming day must strike fear into the heart of the unregenerate. Do not continue down that path of unconfessed sin–do not play around with unrepentant sin. Confess your sin to Him today–be freed from the weight and guilt that you bear. Do you believe the Lord’s perspective? Are you convinced that no one is good?

He says that what He found was that every non-believer is a worker of wickedness who eat up His people. He says that the unregenerate person wants to humiliate the lowly. Do you actually believe this? Because what this means is that your unsaved friends and family are not good people, not morally neutral, not okay, not a nice guy–they are enemies of God and enemies of God’s people.

James 4:4, “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” This should lead you not to fight God’s enemies, but to do what Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “’But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” Your unsaved neighbor, co-worker, hairdresser, family member is an enemy of God awaiting judgment. Who will warn them?

They are fools who live like there is no God. And trust me, if they as people made in God’s image, living on God’s planet (Acts 17:28), “For in Him we live and move and exist”–they are all of that and yet can sincerely say there is no God. Then you cannot convince them otherwise–you cannot reason with them. No argument will change their mind. But praise God for that–they don’t need you to present good evidence. They need God to awaken them to understand the Gospel. So don’t fret about how well or how knowledgeable you are in the Bible. Just give them the Gospel and pray that the Holy Spirit would illumine their minds to understand it. Trust the Lord’s perspective that nobody is good.

3.  The Hopeful Perspective  Verse 7

Psalm 14:7, “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.” With no one doing good, David prays for deliverance from Zion (the mountain of the Temple in Jerusalem), meaning salvation from God.

Well, the majority of the Psalm has been a universal indictment on humanity with a somber tone. But David turns here, and you can almost hear this song turning with an upward lilt in a major key. David prays for salvation to come from Zion. This is the area in Jerusalem where the city of David was built–and Mt. Zion was the place where the Jews went to worship God. It was the place where Solomon eventually built the Temple. It is the focal point of Jerusalem–“the city of God”. The place where God was meant to dwell.

To ask for salvation to come from Zion is to ask for salvation from God Himself–a hopeful perspective sees that they can’t save themselves, and they have no friend who can save them. So they must look to the God they have provoked to save them. The godly people in the Old Testament longed for the Messiah to come and save them and they looked forward to the day when God would establish His Kingdom upon the earth and restore (other translation) the fortunes of His people.

They looked forward to the day that God would come and set up His righteous throne in Zion. It is no coincidence that It was in Israel that Jesus, God in human form, was born and lived obediently to God–who actively and passively did good continually. That it was in Jerusalem that Jesus Christ hung on a cross as a substitution for all who would believe. That on that cross God poured out His righteous wrath that sinners deserved upon His Son, who didn’t.

That it was in an Israeli tomb that Jesus rose from the dead to conquer the power of sin and death. That in Israel Jesus ascended to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father. And that in Jerusalem, Jesus Christ will return again–but not to save those who are lost, but to judge those who rejected Him, to defeat those who say, “There is no God.”

And David continues, “When the Lord restores His captive people” (other translations say, “the fortunes of His people”)–the original term is broad enough to mean “when the Lord brings restoration to His people, they will rejoice and be glad, they will celebrate.” In this dark world filled with sin, trials, tragedy, sorrow, difficulty–we have every reason to be celebrating, because God has restored us to Himself.

Maybe you come here this morning beaten up–you need no reminder of your sinfulness. Well then can I remind you to be glad and rejoice? Because Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” We ought to sing a little louder, smile a little wider–because our sin is forgiven and our salvation is secure and our future is eternity with Him.

Many here have come to a true saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and I’d just encourage you not to go back to foolish living. You don’t have to live like there is no God–you know God and you know His Word. So in every area of life–marriage, parenting, friendships, work, school you have the answers that the world doesn’t. You have the ability to live in obedience to God, which results in joy, blessing and assurance.

If you are the fool described in Psalm 14, then I pray this morning would shake you and awake you to act wisely for the first time in your life, because there is hope for the fool. God came to save the fool. First Corinthians 1:27 to 30, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God. 30But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”

The Gospel is so simple, a child could understand it. Turn from your sin and believe that Jesus died for it and be saved. Or will you reject it, will you foolishly convince yourself otherwise? For those who have been given a saving faith, would you again praise God? The reason He chose you is not because you were already so close to believing in Him, not because you were already pretty good, not because you were useful to Him–but because you were so foolish and helpless, that if you were to be saved, it must glorify God, because you would and could not ever do it on your own. Apart from divine grace, you are not good–nobody is. Praise God that He came to save the foolish nobodies like us.

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