Did God Destroy New Orleans?

Generally after a tragedy of some kind, I will usually speak along these lines but today will be a little bit different than what we usually talk about. Back when 9/11 happened, I preached a message on where was God on 9/11 and we received a tremendous response from that both from the tapes and from the internet.

There are questions that are raised when situations occur such as occurred this past week. As a matter of fact, on three different occasions this week, I have had the opportunity to discuss the things that happened in relation to God and how He is operating today. One in particular was kind of a lengthy conversation because I was in the barber chair when I had it. The fellow who cuts my hair grew up in the Church of Christ and became very disillusioned with religion as a young man. Every time I have my haircut, I talk to him about the Lord and he listens very intently. He never says very much back so I had barely gotten in the chair when he asked me, "Preacher, I want to ask you something." He said, "What do you believe about God in relation to the things that happened down there?" So I began to tell him and I don't want to tell you all the conversation because you will know what I told him as soon as we finish this message this morning. But I basically told him in a broad scope that I don't believe that God had anything to do with that and we live in a sin cursed earth and that nature takes its course and so forth and so on. He is a very quiet kind of guy and when I got through with that, there were about three or four people there in the barbershop and they were all listening. I could tell he had this conversation already with some of the people, particularly one of the other barbers there. And he said, "I want to tell you something" and he turned where people could hear him and he said, "that makes more sense than anything else I have ever heard." And he went on to say that he had always had a problem with this idea that God would do bad things to people to try to teach them lessons and that kind of thing. So I was able to talk to him about the dispensation of grace and how God is dealing with us in his grace today. So the situation brought about some opportunities.

But the question that is raised in many people's minds obviously is, why do things like this happen and what is God's role in these things. He told me that one fellow had been in the barbershop earlier in the week and he said that the reason that that happened is because of all the sin and lifestyle of New Orleans. And the casinos there at Biloxi, God just wiped all of these things out. And I said, 'well, he forgot about Tunica and Las Vegas and all of these other places.' You see all of these kinds of things are myths, they're things that people have in their minds and many of them are brought about because of religious teachings that people have had over the years. So I just want to address some of those things this morning. The reason that I want to start in Romans chapter 8 is because it addresses the fact that we live in a world that is subject to vanity. It is subject to hurt and heartache. Paul addresses this in Romans chapter 8:18-23:

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Now, we will look at those verses in a little more detail in a moment but the thought I want you to think about in verse 23 there, is that what Paul is addressing there is the fact that because we are saved, it in no way exempts us from the curse that is upon creation. You see, what we are going to see back in the Old Testament is that God many times used physical elements to bring about judgment upon this earth. And because of that, many times people assume today that the same thing is occurring. And generally, in the Old Testament, when God brought about physical elements to bring judgment upon the earth, there were people who were miraculously delivered from those physical destructions and elements because of their relationship with God. But Paul makes it clear that we have not been exempted from this curse and from the sufferings of this present time and from this groaning and travailing in pain together until now. Notice what he says in verse 22 and 23:

22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

In other words, being saved does not exempt us from any of the sufferings of this present world. What it does is it gives us a hope beyond this present evil world. That is why saved people suffer the same maladies, the same diseases, the same hurt and heartache. Someone asks why would God do what he did down there? Folks, don't you believe there were literally thousands of saved people down there in that area? I know of a bunch of them. Yes, there were saved people there. But the point that Paul is making is:

23 &ldots;not only they but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Now I want you to go back to Genesis chapter 6. I want us to look at a couple of illustrations in the Old Testament where God used physical elements to bring about judgment upon the earth. And the reason I want to look at these is because there is a common thread that we need to identify that will explain why there is a difference in how God was dealing with people then and now.

Genesis 6:5-9:
5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

Apparently, he was the only just one. And so God almighty determined that he was going to destroy the earth with a flood. But what was significant is that he prepared a way for Noah and his family to escape that judgment of wrath, of the rain falling on the earth and bringing forth the floods and wiping out the whole thing. And so God poured out his wrath, if you will, upon this earth because of the wickedness. He saw the wickedness of man and it repented him that he had made the earth but he saved Noah and his family. Now go, if you will, to Genesis 9:8-13:

Genesis 9:8-13:
8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

Between me and the earth. So God made a covenant that even though he had destroyed the earth with a flood, that he would never do that again. Now, go if you will, to Genesis chapter 19.

In Genesis chapter 6 God destroys mankind with the exception of Noah. In Genesis chapter 19, God destroys a city. And again, it is for the wickedness of the city. It is a judgment of wrath upon the people. Go back to Genesis 18 first and look there in verse 20:

Genesis 18:20-23:
20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

Now notice the question. A legitimate question. "Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked?"

Genesis 18:24-26:
24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

Now you know the story here don't you? He couldn't find 50 righteous men so he went for 45. And he couldn't find 45 so he went for 40. And then he went for 30 and then he went for 20. And then he got down and he said, how about 10. And he said, alright, if there are 10. But we know what happened. He couldn't find 10 righteous. But now there is something in this folks that you need to see and understand. God, in bringing his wrath upon the city, was willing to withhold the wrath if there were some righteous people there. That tells me something. That tells me that God is not doing today what he was doing then. Notice what he says in verse 25:

Genesis 18:25:
25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked:.

People ask how can a righteous God allow that to happen? How could all those people die down there with a righteous God? The fact that he is a righteous God tells us that he didn't bring that hurricane, he didn't cause all that destruction, he didn't make that happen. It happened as a course of nature in a sin depraved earth that is under the curse where he says even the creature groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Listen, the reason that people today have such a misconception about God almighty is because of the statements that people make about him out of ignorance about how he is operating today. As a matter of fact, I'll bet most of you in your lifetime have heard a preacher somewhere make the statement that if God does not judge America he would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. Have you ever heard that? I've heard that said in revival meetings. People say 'amen that's right.' Let me tell you something. If God was still doing what he was doing back there, he would have already judged America. He would have already poured out his wrath and he wouldn't have just poured it out on cities like Las Vegas and Biloxi and places that have slot machines and prostitution.

Listen folks. We are all sinners! We know that God is a just God and when you find God dealing with people in the Old Testament, when he poured out his wrath, the righteous were exempt. When Moses was trying to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, the plagues came upon them, and bad things happened. You know why? Because God was bringing judgment upon Egypt. In the Old Testament God brought judgment upon those who were wicked and upon those whom he desired to bring his judgment upon as punishment. But in every instance there was never, not even with the flood, a universal judgment where it fell upon all people. There were those who were delivered, such as Noah and his family. Today, when natural disasters hit, God is not going to bring out one family and leave others. The fact is that there are saved people who die during these tragedies. I mean think about that.

The number of saved people who are destroyed in these things, these hurricanes and these tornadoes. I heard someone say one day "well when that hurricane Camille hit down there it hit the casinos and it hit the nightclubs and the people in the nightclubs partying and they were all killed. And they were the only people that were killed. People who were sinners." Hogwash! There were 28 people who went to their church to find safety and the roof fell in and killed all 28 of them. These were independent Bible believing people. God didn't' distinguish between them and the casino goers. Why? Because God wasn't doing that. It was a natural disaster. It is a natural course of a sin cursed earth that God has basically removed his hands from and says, 'I'm going to deal with people in my grace.' But &ldots; the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Look over in Matthew chapter 5:

Jesus makes a very important statement here. In Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 is a picture of kingdom life. Jesus teaches men to pray, &ldots;thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And he says in Matthew 5:43-45:

Matthew 5:43-45:
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

In other words, he is saying, listen you need to love your enemy as yourself because the same God that has sent rain to you has sent rain to them also. Now I want you to notice something. Go back to Isaiah chapter 11. It's talking about the rule of the Lord upon the earth.

Isaiah 11:1-6:
1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Now notice some of the things that are going to take place during this reign AFTER he shall judge the righteous and so forth. But it says:

4&ldots;he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

You see folks, in that millennial reign, this curse is going to be removed from the earth and there is going to be peace on earth for 1000 years because the Lord is going to rule and reign. Now, those people who try to tell you that we are in the midst of that kingdom right now, don't believe it.

There was a young lady two weeks ago, who went out to this safari type farm that they have. I forget what town it was in. You may have seen this on the news. And what this guy would do is to let these kids come out and he would let them take their pictures with some animals. And she walked in there and was having her picture made with this lion. The lion turned on her and killed her while having her high school picture made. Well the curse is upon the earth and the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together until now.

There is coming a time when the kingdom reign will come and that curse will be removed. And Satan will be chained in the bottomless pit for 1000 years and then at the end he is loosed and all hell breaks loose again so that there ends up being a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. I want you to notice what the Apostle Paul says in Acts chapter 14.

Let me tell you something folks. People today who believe that bad things that happen to this earth is the judgment of God, they just don't understand the judgment of God. Because when it comes, it is going to be universal, it's going to be worldwide. And there won't be a remedy for it. It is going to be hell on earth. And it's going to come and last 7 years. It is not just here and there. It's universal wrath and judgment. In Acts chapter 14:

Acts 14:9-16:
9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,
10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.
11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.
12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.
13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.

In other words, look at the ignorance in the idolatry that was there.

14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,
15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:
16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.

You see what he's saying there. These idolatrous people were experiencing the same benefits of living on the earth as did the apostle Paul who was saved. He said in verse 17:

Acts 14:17-18:
17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
18 And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.

Deuteronomy 11:14:
14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

In other words, there were special blessings made to the nation Israel based on their obedience. And if I had read the verse there before it, I should have done that. He says:

Deuteronomy 11:13:
13 And it shall come to pass, IF ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,

So then there were special blessings for the nation Israel and God's people and they were exempted many times from the wrath of God that was going to fall. What about you and I? Well, the way that we are exempted from the wrath of God is clear. Look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 1:

1 Thessalonians 1:8-10:
8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

In other words, there is a day of wrath coming upon this earth. In the Old Testament, there were times when God spared individuals from his wrath, by the ark, by getting them out of the city, by exempting them from the plagues and so forth. But today, we are not operating under God's wrath. We're operating in the dispensation of the grace of God.

A couple of Sunday nights ago, I did a study out of Galatians chapter 1. We're studying that on Sunday night. And we looked at the fact that the apostle Paul starts every epistle that he writes with "grace and peace" or "grace, mercy and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ". The idea folks is that God's wrath was due there in Acts chapter 7 when Stephen was stoned. God would have been just in bringing about what we call the tribulation. It's called in the bible the 70th week of Daniel. It's called the day of Jacobs trouble. And it's a day when God pours his wrath out for 7 years upon this earth and it ends in the battle of Armageddon when Jesus Christ comes down with armies from heaven and fights and the bible says that the blood will rest to the bridles of the horses and so forth. And he puts down that evil one and he begins to rule and reign for 1000 years. That 7 year period is called the day of wrath. It is called the day of tribulation, the day of Jacobs trouble. That is the time that he is talking about when he says he hath delivered us from the wrath to come. You can read about it in Joel chapter 2. Joel chapter 3. The day of trouble. The day of wrath. It is a prophesied day. And God would have been just in bringing that in Acts chapter 7 when Israel again rejected the Lord Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit when they stoned Stephen. But instead of bringing that wrath, God saved the apostle Paul and Paul said he was given the dispensation of the grace of God to usward. And thus, when Paul writes the letters to the church the body of Christ, every one of them is a message of grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. God is not pouring out his wrath today. God is dealing with men on the basis of his grace. And whether a person is saved or not they are enjoying that grace because his wrath is not being poured out.

The rains, the hurricanes, the storms and the terrorist attacks are not from God. Why? Because it's grace, mercy and peace from God our Father. Man fell back there in the garden and the earth underwent some drastic changes there during the flood and every since that time there have been the elements of nature and there were times in the Old Testament when God did use those elements for his own benefit and to bring his wrath upon people. But it's not so today because of his grace. Now he will in the future. But we will not be here. Why is that? Because notice what he says in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4.

Somebody said one time I believe it was back when we started the war with Iraq there, the first one back in the early 90s, a woman said "this is it, this is the bible prophecy, this is going to be the battle of Armageddon." Listen folks let me tell you something. The way that you know that the tribulation is not upon us is because you're still here. Regardless of what people say about it, what people teach about it, Paul says he hath delivered us from the wrath to come. And he said there in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4:13. You see the letters to the church in Thessalonica had to do with clearing up some false teaching. Someone had even written a letter to this church and claimed it was from the apostle Paul. And so Paul writes these two letters to correct that situation. There were those who were teaching them that they were right in the middle of the tribulation. And Paul says in verse 13-17:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 5:9:
9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

As long as the natural circumstances of nature are taking place and are affecting saved people, you know it's not the wrath of God because his wrath is reserved for those who deserve it. I mean we all deserve it. But in Christ Jesus we have been made righteous and we have been delivered from that wrath to come. I want you to go back to Romans chapter 8:

Romans 8:22
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

You see, we know that we are living on an earth in a world that is under the curse of fallen man and has been left to itself. And we are saved by hope. Not hope in this life but hope beyond this life. And so he says, we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Romans 8:23:
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,&ldots;

And notice what our groaning is.. It's waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Don't you imagine there have been an awful lot of people this past week who just desired to go on and be with the Lord waiting for the adoption to wit. And he says in verse 24:

Romans 8:24:
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

You see, we can see physical deliverance, so we know that is not what he is refering to in vs 24. A person that's in a bad situation and they're delivered from that, that's not their eternal salvation. He said the hope that brings salvation, we don't see that. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for it. But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. And so folks, we have a tremendous ministry as we remain on this earth. We have the ministry of reconciliation explaining to people that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself not imputing their trespasses unto them. Someone was telling me this morning that he had had several conversations with people and in each case he would tell them that people don't go to hell because of their sins. And they just didn't believe that. You see they do believe that God is judging their sins. Well the bible says:

2 Corinthians 5:19:
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Peope go to hell today because of unbelief. Because of rejecting the payment for their sins. Another statement that I heard a fellow on the radio make out of Dallas, Texas. I've known it but I've never heard it verbalized by anybody else. He said, "today the real problem with people, as far as salvation is concerned, is that people over the years have been taught that salvation is having your sins forgiven. And so man has set out a number of different ways for that to happen. Some say you have to confess them. Some say you have to have them washed away." But salvation is not having your sins forgiven. Your sins are already forgiven. Salvation is accepting the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself not imputing our trespasses. Bad things happen to saved people. And it's not because God is bringing judgment. It's because we are not exempt from all of the hurt and heartache of this life. But praise God we do have a blessed hope beyond this present life that we are in and that hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ. So that we know, whether it's in death or life, we are going to live with Him forever.

As Ann said, there are a lot of days when that song that we sung this morning reverberates with maybe today, maybe today. Why? Because we wait for the redemption of our body. Don't allow people in your presence, I mean speak the truth in love but don't allow people to blame God for things that he's not doing. Because it clouds the minds of people and it misrepresents the truth of our great God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. He's dealing with us in his grace. And just because physical circumstances are bad, it has nothing to do with our relationship with him. The person who got blown away and killed the Lord loved them every bit as much as he loved those who escaped. Why do these things happen? Because the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

If anything, these kinds of circumstances can certainly be used to show people the brevity of life and the need to KNOW that they have a Savior and that salvation is IN Jesus Christ our Lord.

Pastor: Steve Atwood
Grace Bible Church
Chattanooga, TN



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