The Reality of Evil: 9/11 Tenth Anniversary

Title: The Reality of Evil: 9/11 Tenth Anniversary

Text: Matthew 6:9-13, 1 John 5:19, John 3:19-20, 10:10, 13:27, 17:15, Acts 1:18, Revelation 12:12

Time: September 11th, 2011


Today marks the tenth anniversary since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. It’s a time of remembrance and reflection on those events – and I’m sure most of you will think about what happened and remember by watching television documentaries that relive the events. Our nation has been on high alert since the attacks. We’ve also fought wars as a result, in order to discourage future terrorists from thinking they can succeed without consequences. But one of the positive results of our struggle against terrorism in the last ten years has been the growing understanding and acceptance by more and more people of the reality of evil. Of course, the Bible describes evil from cover to cover, but our modern world has largely forgotten or rejected the biblical teaching about evil. Today, the prevailing view is that there really isn’t anything classified as real or absolute evil, because after all, there are no moral absolutes – in other words, there are no standards of right and wrong that apply to everyone at all times given by divine command through, for example, the Bible. The modern world teaches that all religions are the same, basically, as well as all religious, spiritual and moral values. The world teaches that values are simply what humans value, what are useful to believe or not, whatever is helpful or not, in maintaining society. That’s why our modern, secular government in Washington, D.C. is careful not to mandate any Christian or biblical values in, say, public schools, or in public policy. In modern thinking, values are simply what humans value in their time, in their situations. But these can change from culture to culture. This modern attitude is called moral relativism, and it recognizes no absolute standards of right and wrong. That’s why it’s hard for modern, secular people to admit to or recognize real evil. But when the planes hit on 9/11, modern, secular thinking people were suddenly confronted with a crisis in their thinking. “Do we admit and recognize that this ugly act of raw terrorism is absolute and real evil, or do we go on believing in moral relativism? Do we admit that real absolute evil exists or do we go on believing that evil is only what some people think is wrong or bad given their context and cultural situation?” Believe it or not, there are still some people who try to hold on to moral relativism, the view that no action is really absolutely right or wrong, but it just depends on the situation. For example, certain teachers’ unions were instructing teachers in public schools to not make value judgments as to the rightness or wrongness of the terrorists actions on 9/11, because after all, over in some Arab nations, the attackers are considered heroes, and people consider their actions a great victory of good (the attacks) over evil (the bad Americans). Remember, many Arabs consider Israel the Great Satan, and America as the Little Satan. But most Americans don’t see it that way. Most Americans now realize, if they didn’t before, that there is real evil, absolute evil, and they witnessed it on 9/11. As Christians, we don’t have any problem calling the 9/11 attacks evil, because we know all about evil from the pages of the Bible. But let’s review from the Bible why we believe in the existence of evil and why we believe that the 9/11 attack was evil. Matthew 6:9-13 (read).


First, according to the Bible, real, absolute evil exists. Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This is the familiar “Lord’s Prayer” that we’ve prayed many, many times. But we often overlook or we don’t remember that one of the lines of the prayer makes reference to evil. The original Greek at this point in the verse actually read, “And deliver us from the evil one,” or in other words, the Devil or Satan. So here we not only see that absolute evil exists – because we are asking God for deliverance from it, but we see the origins of evil – the Devil himself. Now there can only be absolute, real evil if there is an absolute, real standard of right or good. In other words, God’s divine standard is the only possible measurement or standard in which to judge something good or bad. I can make a human judgment about something, but that’s just my human opinion. For example, I can say, “It’s wrong that gas prices are going up and up,” but that’s just my own human opinion because I just don’t like paying higher prices at the pump. But everyone knows that over in the Middle East, in the Arab nations that sell oil, it’s good when the prices good up because they earn more money, make more profits, which is the goal of their business. But gas prices aren’t issues God has revealed himself in the Bible. But things God has revealed, things he considers right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, these things are absolute and to violate them is sin. Now the Devil started out as a perfectly good angel along with the other angels in heaven, but at some point a long time ago he decided to rebel against God’s rule. He turned away from God in disobedience, sin and evil. Now the Devil, or as he’s also called, Satan or Lucifer, is the epitome of evil, because he was the original sinner, the first rebel against God’s holy will and standard. That’s why in the Lord’s prayer it says literally, “Deliver us from the evil one,” because ultimately, all sin, disobedience and evil come from Satan. Who is present when Adam and Eve fall into sin in the Garden of Eden? The Devil. Who inspired Cain to kill his brother Abel and commit the first murder? Satan. The entire Old Testament is an account of the struggle between good and evil, sin and righteousness, truth and lies. Then in the New Testament, who inspires evil King Herod to attempt to kill the baby Jesus? Lucifer, the evil one. Later, who puts it in Judas’s heart to betray the Lord? Again, it’s the Devil. Finally, who is ultimately thrown into the lake of fire at the end of time? The evil one, Satan. So from start to finish there is this battle between God’s goodness versus the Devil’s evil. We live in a world where this battle rages on. Is it any wonder that evil things happen like 9/11? The last generation saw the evil of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis – not to mention the evil of atheistic communism and other evils.  So according to the Bible, according to our Christian faith, evil is real; it isn’t just a relative, human judgment or statement about what we like or dislike.


Second, the modern world has a hard time admitting to real and absolute evil. 1 John 5:19, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world in under the control of the evil one.” The same words used in the Lord’s Prayer are used in this verse by the Apostle John. We’ve been studying 1st John lately, and we’re only in the second chapter, but today I’ll skip to the fifth chapter and quote this verse. It could also read, “The whole world is under the control of evil,” meaning, that Satan rules behind the scenes in getting men and women to commit sin, disobey the laws of God, and commit acts of evil. Now the modern world has a hard time believing that there can actually be personal evil behind the many different acts of evil perpetrated upon people today. And it also believes in relativism, like I said before, that teaches no act is good or bad in itself, no action is righteous or evil in the absolute sense, only people judge them good or bad, holy or evil based on their personal perspective. When Ronald Regan called the communist Soviet Union an “evil empire” he was criticized for it, because he was making an absolute statement about a relative situation. From his perspective as a democratic capitalist the Soviet communist system was evil, but from the Soviet perspective it wasn’t, and so forth. Now that’s the way people more and more are thinking today. Christians say abortion is wrong, it’s evil, but people today say, “That’s just your perspective, that’s your value, not mine.” Or Christians say, “Gay marriage is wrong. It’s evil to change the definition of marriage of a man and woman to include members of the same sex.” But the popular culture more and more is saying, “Christians, that’s just your moral value, not mine. Stop imposing your values on me.” So the culture is sliding into moral relativism where everyone just has their own opinion about things, but nothing is absolute about anything. Now why does the world want moral relativism, where nothing is really right or wrong in the absolute sense. It’s simple – people want to do whatever they want, they want to sin without feeling remorse, guilt or shame. Here’s what the Apostle says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed,” John 3:19-20. Here’s why we have moral relativism in the world and why people don’t want to recognize God’s absolute standards of right and wrong. If you are trying to walk in a dark house and you knock over something and it breaks, you can hardly be held responsible. Why? Because you couldn’t see, you didn’t know. The other night I lost power in my house, some of you probably did too. I had to get out candles to see (By the way, thank you children’s church for the candle you made for me months ago; I used it when the power went out). The world wants to sin and then say, “We can’t see any moral absolutes anywhere. Therefore, we can’t be judged for what we do.” The contradiction occurs when something like 9/11 happens. We all want to say that was wrong, that it was evil, but if you are a relativist you can’t say that. The only think you can say is, “I wish they hadn’t done that,” which is a lot different from saying, “What they did was wrong and evil.”


Third, as Christians we can truly say that what the terrorists did on 9/11 was wrong, was evil. John 13:27, “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.” Acts 1:18, “With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field. . . .” Why was the terrorist attack on 9/11 so wicked, so evil? Because it involves taking the lives of innocent Americans as they were simply going about their business on that morning ten years ago today. I still remember where I was that morning ten years ago. I was in Las Vegas, Nevada in my mobile home working on my Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Seminary – I had moved out West to complete my degree training at that time. My dad from Michigan called and told me to turn on the television news because a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. I started watching and suddenly saw the second plane hit the second tower. That’s when I knew we were under terrorist attack. I lived next to Nellis Air Force Base and suddenly all kinds of jet fighters and other aircraft were taking off all day long; it was noisy. Where were you on the sad day? I noticed how it changed the attitude of everybody I’d meet back in those days. For example, I went into Wal-Mart and everyone was so courteous and kind in line waiting to check out; I couldn’t believe it. I guess everyone just thought, “Hey, we’re all Americans and we are under attack. We’d better get along and work together.” It was also a lot easier to start a Bible study immediately after 9/11. I was able to get one together in no time; and we prayed for our nation and stood on the promises of God for protection. But why was the attack so evil and how could it convince even moral relativistic modern people that is was evil? Because of the tragedy of these innocent people dying in the buildings and also the rescue people dying trying to save them. A handful of radical Islamic terrorists had done the work of the Devil that day. Remember what Jesus said about the Devil, “The thief comes but to steal, kill and destroy,” John 10:10. Those terrorists certainly came to steal, kill and destroy. But what makes it even more evil is that they lived among us, living as students on foreign visitor visas, all the while they were plotting to attack and kill us. That’s evil. Then, they attacked innocent civilians, not combatants. There are basic rules of warfare that all civilized nations follow, and one of the most basic rules of engagement is that if you are fighting an enemy you fight combatants, not civilians. But these evil terrorists targeted innocent civilians. The people in the World Trade Center weren’t soldiers or engaged in any military activity. They were civilians, yet the terrorists targeted them, and as a result thousands of people died, thousands of children were left without moms or dads, and a whole city and nation and world was terrorized.


I have no doubt that in order for those terrorists to do what they did they had to be inspired by the Devil himself. We know this is possible because we saw it happen in the case of Judas when he betrayed Christ. I don’t know if they were all possessed of the Devil or whether they were just influenced by him, but one thing for certain, there was a lot of hate and rage against America and against Democracy and Capitalism and there is no doubt in my mind that Satan fueled that rage in the minds of the terrorists and motivated them to do violence against America. This was an evil act, if there ever was an evil act. As Christians this shouldn’t surprise us, knowing what we know about sin and Satan, about wickedness and evil. A lot of times people criticize Christians for believing such negative things, for teaching that people and the world aren’t essentially good. As a pastor and preacher I’m sure people question why I don’t teach in a more positive tone and on more positive themes. There are some very popular preachers on radio and television who only talk about positive things because they say they want to inspire people. Yes, that’s all good and well, but life isn’t all good and positive. There is sin and evil in the world. Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one,” John 17:15. Again, it’s the same word used in the Lord’s Prayer. We may ask, “If Jesus defeated the works of the Devil on the cross, why do we still have evil in the world?” It’s because even though the Devil is defeated, the war isn’t completely over. It’s like in World War II when Hitler’s forces were defeated. There were two separate events – first, there were the battles won by the Allied forces that essentially turned the tide of the war and defeated Hitler; but second, there was the actual day of Germany’s surrender – and that occurred at a later date. So in between the time Hitler’s forces were crushed and between the actual date of surrender, there was a lot of fierce, desperate fighting taking place. That’s like Satan and his army today. They are defeated by Christ on the cross, but they desperately wage a dangerous war in order to steal, kill and destroy everyone and everything until their final surrender. We are living in a time when Satan is alive and dangerous; evil is real. In the meantime, we are called to “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you,” James 4:7. We can have confidence that ultimately good will triumph over evil – that’s a hope the modern, secular world doesn’t have. According to the Apostle John, “Therefore, rejoice you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short,” Revelation 12:12. For us as Christians, it’s no surprise that terrorists attack and evil is done in this world in many forms. But we have God’s promises that in the end, when the dust settles, evil will be defeated totally and absolutely. Let’s pray.


One Response to “The Reality of Evil: 9/11 Tenth Anniversary”

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