On October 1st, 2017, a gunman holed himself up in a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and started mowing down concert goers on the street below. At last count nearly 60 people have died and nearly 600 have been seriously injured.
The question that always comes up after a horrific event like this is why did God allow it?
I remember as a teenager, walking through Lenox Square mall in Atlanta and marveling at how open the space was and thinking how easy it would be for someone with a gun to just walk in and start shooting people. I knew there was no way the police could stop him before he could do horrible damage. It would literally have been as easy as simply walking into the mall with a gun hidden in a bag. Then I thought of the thousands of malls and millions of public spaces across the country and was really amazed that this kind of thing never happened.
Twenty-seven years ago, I moved to New York and remember looking up at all the tall buildings and thinking how easy it would be for some guy to start shooting people on the street below. Or just throwing rocks at them! You can see thousands of windows from any point in Manhattan so the attacker could do serious damage as it would take a long time for anyone to figure out which window the shots or rocks were coming from.
And you may have noticed this where you live, it’s the fact that near any major airport there are highways and roads that go right under the flight paths of arriving and departing aircraft. It would be so easy for a terrorist to shoot planes out of the sky, simply by driving on a road that crosses the runway line, opening his sunroof and pointing up with a high-powered weapon and shooting at the fuel-laden wings.
There are literally millions of opportunities every single day for a guy with a gun to wreak terror on American streets. But a mass shooting by a United-States-born civilian, that killed more than 50 people and injured more than 500 has never happened in this country. Yet, it’s so easy to pull off, that it is really miraculous when you think about it, that it hasn’t happened many times before. You have to wonder, “why not?”
I finally concluded that the only reason something like this had never happened before was what the Bible calls God’s “common grace” (Luke 6:35). This is a grace He shows to the whole human race. As part of His common grace, God, for a long time, restrained that kind of evil in our land. But now it has happened. So, what does that say about the grace of God?
Romans 1 tells us that as a nation or culture moves farther and farther away from God, as they rebel more and more against Him, that He will eventually turn them over to their own devices and let the natural evil that He had before restrained, take its course.
Romans 1:21-23 says, “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.”
Does that not sound like America today? Do we as a nation, worship God or even give Him thanks?
We have certainly thought up foolish ideas of what God is like. Among the most common today is the idea that God is all-loving and not judging. That He is all kind and never angered. Or that Jesus’ message to us was that our primary work in life should be befriending and showing compassion to the poor, the widows and the strangers among us. Another common yet foolish idea many non-believers and church-goers alike hold today is that we should tolerate all behaviors to show our love for everyone.
In truth, Jesus’ primary message to us was that we are all sinners in deep need of a savior and that He, and only He, is that Savior. He taught us that sin, even the smallest ones are taken deeply seriously by God. He taught that God is absolutely infuriated by our sins – so much so that He will not hesitate to send us to eternal flames of punishment if our sins aren’t taken care of.
We, therefore, must be filled with so much shame and sorrow over our sins that it drives us to repent and seek God’s forgiveness. And if you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, those other people really need to repent of their sins’, you’re really missing the point here!
His other primary message was that we must love people the same way we love ourselves and we must love God with all our hearts, minds and souls. But, what does it mean to ‘love God’? How do we show our love for God? It’s easy to say the words, ‘I love God’ but, how do we really show we love Him?
The Bible says our love for God is shown only in our obedience to Him. In John 14:21, Jesus said, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
If we love Jesus, we will do two things. It’s easy to miss in a quick reading of the verse above, so go slowly and make sure you get it all. The two things Jesus said those who love Him will do are: 1. they will accept his commands and; 2. they will obey them.
His commands are contained in the Bible, which is His Word to humanity. When Jesus says if you love Him you will accept His commands, He means you will accept all the teachings of Scripture – even the ones that make you uncomfortable. The second part of his statement means that those who love Him will not only accept the teachings of the Bible but they will live by them as well – even when it goes radically against the way they’d prefer to live.
In fact, we must especially accept and obey His teachings when they go against our sinful nature and desires. People today are very quick to tell you they love Jesus. But most of them turn right around and reject His clear commands revealed to us in Scripture.
We must not twist Scripture to suit our own purposes. When we do that we are disobeying Scripture and when we disobey Scripture we’re disobeying Christ, the author of Scripture. And when we disobey Christ, we show that we don’t love Him. And if we don’t love Him, we actually hate Him… no matter what we tell ourselves.
What Scripture clearly proclaims, we must fully accept. Even when it proclaims things we hate and even when it proclaims things our culture rejects – such as our culture’s proclamation that homosexuality is something to be embraced and celebrated. True followers of Jesus reject that. Despisers of Jesus say God never condemns “love” therefore the Bible could not possibly condemn homosexuality.
Romans 1:24-27 says, “So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”
Notice here, it does not say God abandoned people because homosexuality was rampant. It says homosexuality became rampant because God had abandoned them. And at the end of the passage it says, that as a result of the sin of homosexuality, men suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. Do you see what it’s saying? It’s saying that homosexuality itself, is part of the punishment. It’s part of God’s judgment.
Homosexuality becomes rampant in a culture when God abandons its people. It’s not the reason He abandons them. It’s the result! And it’s not the cause of His judgment, it is His judgment. It’s the judgment of abandonment.
So, what does homosexuality have to do with it then, and why did I bring it up if not to blame homosexuals for this disaster? Let me state plainly that I’m not blaming gays for what happened. The reason I bring up homosexuality is because Romans 1 cites it as one of the key sins that God turns a people over to when he abandons a culture. So, our recent national embrace of homosexuality shows conclusively that God is, in fact, abandoning us.
Our national embrace and celebration of homosexuality is most vividly symbolized by the Supreme Court decision to force every state to legalize same-sex marriage. In the aftermath of that decision, a majority of people now say it was the right thing to do. People who stand against it are routinely condemned and at great risk of losing their jobs and their ability to make a living.
There is no doubt that our nation has fully and wholeheartedly embraced homosexuality. Which means our nation has also fully and wholeheartedly rejected God. The increasing frequency of horrific events like the one in Las Vegas, show that God is indeed abandoning America – because of its long-time and growing rebellion against Him.
We stand in astonishment and ask how something like what happened in Vegas could possibly have happened? On the one hand, we shake our fists at God and tell Him to get out of lives, we mock His Word and we ridicule and torment His true followers. On the other hand, we cry out to Him at a time like this and demand that He offer an acceptable explanation as to why He lets things like this happen.
What happened last night, would have been very unlikely to happen in a nation that taught reverence and respect for the Word of God in schools. It would most likely not have happened in a nation that revered God and His Word. In fact, I’ll let history speak on that subject and point out that nothing like this has ever happened in our history. For more than 250 years, God has restrained evil in our land and prevented something like this from happening – even though it has always been so easy for someone to do.
Please, note once again, that I am not blaming what happened on our national embrace of the sin of homosexuality. I’m saying our embrace of homosexuality is a sign given to us in the Bible that shows that we are indeed, already under God’s judgment. It’s because we’re under His judgment of abandonment that what happened in Las Vegas, happened. He is no longer restraining evil in our land to the extent He used to.
Romans 1 tells us that when a people comes under God’s judgment, one of His judgments takes the form of abandonment. He begins to pull away His restraining hand, the hand that previously restrained all kinds of evil. He begins allowing us to do what we would have done all along had He not restrained the evil within us.
So, what we’re seeing and what we will continue to see more and more is what life without God’s common grace and His hand of restraint would be like. We’re going to see more and more how hellish life is when it is guided by sinful humans who are in deep rebellion against the holy and righteous God who created us. You’ve heard people say, “Let go and let God”. What we’re seeing now is God letting go and letting man! Man wants to be in control, with no restraint from God, and God is giving us that wish.
While everyone is trying to figure out what motivated the Las Vegas murderer and what we can do to stop similar attacks in the future, they continue to overlook the real problem. They are debating gun control again, they are saying we need better background checks, or we need better psychological profiles. They’re looking at every possible cause while ignoring the one real cause!
Let’s not forget one of the lessons of Romans 1:21-22, which says, “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.”
Think about that. Because people refused to worship God, and came up with foolish ideas about what He was like, their minds became dark and confused. While thinking they were wise, they had actually become utter fools. They were fools with their ideas of God. They were fools for ignoring God. They were fools for suppressing the knowledge that is inside of us all, that God does in fact exist. They were fools for pretending there is no God.
We in America today, are utter fools. Our foolishness is shown when an event like this occurs and not one public voice is raised to say, ‘Maybe we should look to God.’ Or, ‘Maybe we should repent of our national sins and follow Jesus.’
The fact that God is completely left out of all the discussions about a solution is yet another sign that God is abandoning us as a nation. It shows just how dark and foolish our minds have become. A wise mind would look to God first and foremost. A wise mind would turn to God and repent. A wise mind would look to the Bible for solutions. A wise mind would know that the real cause of this massacre is sin and rebellion against God. But you will not hear a word of that mentioned in the national discussion that will follow this event.
An event like this always brings us face-to-face with our greatest fears. Our fears that this could happen to anyone at any time. It could happen to us! Ultimately, at the heart of all fear is the fear of death. In the end, we all have an innate fear of death, even if we’ve done a pretty good job of suppressing it most of the time.
The most horrifying thing, to me, about this event, is that if the people who were so viciously, brutally and unjustly murdered were not followers of Jesus Christ, their eternal destination will be hell. They’ll end up there just as fast as the perpetrator will.
Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. So anyone who died in the aftermath of the massacre who did not follow Christ will not see the Father. And that includes people who claim to follow Christ, but in the end twist and reject the Bible as His Holy Word. When Jesus said, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me”, those commandments are His Word. And His Word is contained in the Bible. So, if you think you love Jesus, but you twist His Word to suit what you’re more comfortable with, you will not spend eternity in heaven. You will spend it in hell.
If you’ve never felt convicted of your sins against God and you’ve never repented and sought His forgiveness; if you’re not committed to becoming a slave to Jesus Christ and living for Him as your Master and Lord – you will not see the face of God when you die. You will suffer His eternal anger and wrath, in a really horrible place. And it will never end. It will NEVER end. Once there, you will find no escape. There won’t be a second chance. If you don’t genuinely know Jesus, the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, your innate fear of death is fully justified.
But, if you turn to Him and repent of your sins and put your faith in Him, and Him alone, for your salvation (rather than in your own goodness), you will be saved. And all fear will be wiped away!