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Those on Whom the Tower(s) Fell

Introduction:

Luke 13:4,5 - Jesus said: "Those ... on whom the tower ... fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men...? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

Jesus used a tragic event in which many people perished as an opportunity to teach a spiritual lesson.
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On September 11, 2001, terrorists caused two towers to fall in New York City killing thousands.

Many talk about the tragedy of those who died and suffered. I believe Jesus would teach us to have compassion for these sufferers (Luke 10:25-37).

Many talk about the heroic efforts to rescue and protect those in danger. I believe Jesus would have us respect those who endangered their lives to save others (John 15:13).

Many talk about the need to bring the criminals to justice. I believe Jesus would agree this should be done. He taught that the purpose of government is to punish evildoers and protect the upright (1 Peter 2:13,14; Romans 13:1-5).

But I believe Jesus' main response would be like His reaction to the fall of that tower in Siloam in Luke 13. He would use it to teach spiritual lessons. So what lessons can we learn from "those on whom the tower(s) fell"?

I. The Momentary Existence of Material Things and the Feebleness of Human Work

A. Man's greatest works sometimes seem indestructible.

The twin towers of the World Trade Center were architectural marvels. 110 stories tall, they were among man's greatest buildings. Years ago, Tim and I traveled to New Jersey for a gospel meeting and stood on the observation deck atop those very buildings.

On Tuesday morning, 9/11/01, Karen first told me two planes had hit the towers. I said, "Not much I can do about that." I imagined two little private planes had gotten off course, but the fires would soon be put out and the buildings repaired. Even when I saw the TV pictures of the fires, I just could not imagine that such huge, solid buildings would actually fall. But a little over an hour later, there was nothing left but dust, a pile of rubble, a big hole in the ground, and thousands of dead people

B. God Warns of the Temporary Nature of Physical Things, Especially the Works of Men.

2 Corinthians 4:18 -- For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Anything physical, no matter how seemingly strong, is only temporary. Only unseen things will last.

1 John 2:15-17 - Do not love the things of this world, because the world passes away. He who does God's will abides forever.

Matthew 6:19-21,33 - Do not lay up treasures on earth, because moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Terrorists both steal and destroy. Physical things do not last. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Matthew 16:26,27 -- For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

2 Peter 3:10-12 - The entire earth and all the works in it will someday be consumed and pass away. Knowing this, what kind of people should we be? How should we live?

After witnessing the fall of these huge buildings, who can deny it: Everything physical is temporary. If the World Trade Center can fall in an hour, what earthly possession do you have that can last? The only way to achieve anything permanent is to prepare for eternal life.

II. The Frailty of Human Life and the Suddenness of Death

A. People in the Towers and on the Planes Had no Idea of the Immanence of Death.

For most it was another workday. They expected to spend another day at their job in the towers and then go home as usual. They had gone up the elevators many times and gone down many times.

Other people were visitors. They expected to marvel at the building as a great achievement, then go on about their lives.

People in the planes expected to travel to their destination and go on about their business.

None had any idea this would be their last day on earth. In less than an hour, thousands had finished their tasks forever.

B. The Bible Warns that No One Knows When Life Will End.

James 4:13,14 -- You don't know what will happen tomorrow. Life is like a vapor that appears for a little time, then vanishes away. [Prov. 27:1]

Job 14:2 -- Man comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue.

Luke 12:16-21 -- This farmer thought he would live long and enjoy life. He planned to "eat, drink, and be merry." But God said he would die that night.

Like the people in the towers, your life may end at any moment. Life is not guaranteed. Some day you and I too will die. Are you ready to face Jesus in the day of judgment?

[Proverbs 27:1; Job 9:25; 7:6; 8:9; 14:1,2; 30:23; Psalms 102:11; 49:10; 39:5; 89:47,48; 90:9; 2 Samuel 14:14; Ecclesiastes 8:8; 6:12; 3:19; Isaiah 38:12; Genesis 47:9; 1 Chronicles 29:15; James 4:13,14; Luke 12:16-21]

III. Man's Power to Choose and the Source of Evil

A. Men Can Be Incredibly Wicked and Corrupt.

The destruction of the towers reminds us again of man's cruelty and evil.
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Our nation was at peace, not at war. The people in the towers were civilians, not soldiers. Evil men took civilian planes filled with innocent civilians and used them as weapons to kill the passengers and thousands of other civilians. The attack was entirely unprovoked - surely the people in the towers did not die for any crime they had committed.

And a major motivating force of those terrorists was their religion! They were Islamic fundamentalists. For them, religion and politics become one, and to die for fighting for one's faith is to go directly to heaven.

Many others in history have been even more barbarous.
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Hitler's Germany killed millions of innocent civilians, even their own citizens, because they disliked their race, religion, etc.

Communism systematically and repeatedly killed millions of people in nation after nation, because they disliked people's politics, religion, etc.

The terrorists just demonstrated once again man's corruption and cruelty.

B. Whom Should We Blame?

Many people say God took these people away. Others question why He would allow such a thing. If He is a loving, all-powerful God, why does He not prevent such tragedies?

God opposes all such evil and warns men they will be punished for it.
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Romans 13:8-10 - Murder is a violation of the law of love for neighbor. Love works no harm for a neighbor.

Romans 1:29-32 - Those who commit murder and those who approve of them are all worthy of death.

Revelation 22:15 - All murderers will be outside the eternal city. [1 John 3:12,15]

While some may believe that God justifies murder in the name of holy wars, and some may blame God for allowing such deaths, the truth is that God is against all murder. And all murderers will be punished.

Why then does God allow men to commit murder?

God created men as truly free moral agents.
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He gives all men the power to choose to be good or to be evil. People are evil because they choose to be evil!

Deuteronomy 30:15-19 -- God promised blessings to Israel if they would obey Him and curses if they would disobey Him (28:1-68). Then He urged them to choose life. He gives a similar choice to every man.

Joshua 24:15 -- Likewise, Joshua exhorted Israel to choose what god they would serve. [Cf. Exodus 32:26; 1 Kings 18:21]

Isaiah 1:18-20 -- God reasons with man, He does not compel them against their will. If men were willing to be obedient, God would bless them. If they refused and rebelled, He would punish them.

Revelation 22:17 -- Whosoever will (KJV) may freely take of the water of life. It is a matter of man's will, and each person may determine his own will.

God did not create men as robots, compelling them to be good. But for this to be a genuine choice, then God had to give us the real power, if we so choose, to become evil - even incredibly evil.

So men are corrupt, because they have chosen to be corrupt.

[Heb. 11:24,25; Luke 10:42; Matt. 23:37; 13:14,15; Psalm 119:30,173; Isaiah 56:4; Heb. 2:17 & 4:15 with Isaiah 7:14,15 & Matt. 26:53 & John 10:18; John 7:17; 1 Chron. 28:9; Luke 7:30; Prov. 1:29; 3:31; Matt. 5:6; 16:24; 19:17,21; 21:29; 26:41; Acts 17:11; Rom. 7:15-21; Gal. 5:17; James 4:8]

Satan influences men to sin.
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Genesis 3:1-6 -- Satan (as a serpent) tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. The fruit appeared good for food. It was a delight to the eyes. And it would make one wise. Satan said those who ate would not die but would become like God. But he lied and deceived. [Cf. 1 John 2:15-17]

Matthew 4:1-11 -- Satan tempted Jesus by similar appeals. V3 calls him "the tempter."

John 13:2 -- The devil put it in Judas' heart to betray Jesus. [v27; Luke 22:3]

Acts 5:3 -- Satan filled Ananias' heart to lie to the Holy Spirit about his gift.

In the destruction of the towers, surely all can see that evil things are done by evil men. God does not condone it and is not responsible for it. He calls men to live uprightly and warns of the consequences of sin. But He gives men the power to choose to do good or evil. Satan calls on men to do evil, and many listen to the wrong call.

[1 Thess. 3:5; Eph. 6:16; 2:2; 1 Cor. 7:5; 1 Tim. 5:15; 3:6,7; John 8:44; Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:12; 1 Chron. 21:1]

IV. The Wind and the Whirlwind

A. God Allows Wicked Societies to Suffer for Their Evil.

Hosea 4:1-7; 7:13-16; 8:1-4,14 - God promised to allow Israel to suffer for their sins.

Note Hosea 8:7 - They sowed the wind, and they reaped the whirlwind. The main penalty for sin will be suffered individually after this life. But on this earth, God often allows societies to suffer, hoping they will repent of their sins.

We have shown that God does not approve the evil of murderers. But at times when people turn from Him, God has withdrawn His protection and allowed evil men to harm them. He often allowed foreign nations to oppress Israel, hoping this would bring them to repentance.

As in the death of His Son, He opposed the evil of those who committed the murder. But He allowed the evil and used evil men to bring about an outcome to benefit people.

B. There Is Abundant Reason Why This Society Should Be Punished.

* Our government allows the killing of over a million innocent people without mercy and against their will every year. Many citizens approve and many practice it - as long as those people are not yet born. Now we are grieved and angry that several thousand innocent people died without mercy against their will. We have devalued human life. We have sown, and now we reap.

* For years entertainment has thrived on exploiting violence. It is described more and more graphically in movies, TV, music, and video games. Several such movies and TV programs were scheduled to be shown weekend after the attacks and the following season, but were cancelled. The entertainment industry themselves sees the similarity between what they produce and what has happened! Now citizens are upset when people practice what many have been entertained by for years! We reap as we sow.

* For years schools have taught children that we are the offspring of swamp slime by way of the apes: we are just advanced animals. But we slaughter animals when it suits our purposes. Now human animals have been slaughtered and we are upset! We have sown, and now we reap.

* For years schools have removed every possible acknowledgement of God: no prayer, no advocating creation, no reading the Bible, no mention of God, and now the ACLU sues if people just want a moment of silence or want to Bible club to meet in the schools after classes.

* Likewise God has been removed from every vestige of government, till rulers are afraid or ashamed to even mention God. Our society has refused to acknowledge God to our children and our citizens. Now evil men act in total disrespect for the laws of God, and we are surprised?

I do not claim to know God's plans or intents in this event. But our society has sown to the wind. Who can deny that they deserve to reap the whirlwind?

[Gal. 6:7; Prov. 22:8; Heb. 12:5-11]

V. The Need for Genuine Repentance

In Luke 13 Jesus used the fall of the tower in Siloam to call people to repentance. That is exactly what is needed today.

A. This Tragedy Has Caused Many to Call on God.

* Congressmen stood on the steps of the Capitol and sang "God Bless America."

* Our President's first speech about this tragedy quoted Psalm 23.

* I heard reports the children in school actually prayed to God and talked about God.

* Our nation declared a national day of prayer and remembrance. Churches and cities across the land conducted prayer and spoke and sang of our need for God. The media actually covered all this. And nobody said a word about "separation of church and state."

I believe we heard more talk about God and our need for God from government officials and the media in this one week than in the last 10 years combined! And it's about time!

Why is it that all the rest of the time God is nothing more than a curse word? And anyone who seriously mentions God in public is at best ignored, worse yet ridiculed, or worst of all sued by the ACLU? Why is it that only in time of death and tragedy is it acceptable to talk about God and acknowledge our need for Him?

B. God Hears the Prayers Only of Those who Repent of Their Sins.

James 5:16 -- The supplication of a righteous man avails much.

1 John 3:21,22 -- We receive what we ask from God because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him.

Proverbs 28:9; 15:8,29 -- If someone turns away from God's law, his prayer is an abomination. But God hears the prayer of the righteous.

Psalm 66:18 -- God will not hear me if I regard iniquity in my heart.

Isaiah 59:1,2 -- Your sins and iniquities separate you from God so that He will not hear.

Isaiah 1:15-17 -- God would not hear the prayers even of His own people because of their sins. They needed to cease doing evil and learn to do well.

Proverbs 1:20-33 - God's wisdom calls to men. But if we will not heed God's reproof, He will not hear us when terror and distress come and we call on Him in the whirlwind.

Too many people want to live to please themselves in wickedness and materialism, then go running to God when tragedy strikes. They expect Him to do service to them despite the fact they refuse to serve Him! God says it will not work. I fear that many, many prayers and pleas addressed to God in this time of tragedy fell on deaf ears.

Someone said, "If you do not speak to God in the fair weather, it's no good calling to Him in the storm!" If you want God to hear your prayers, first repent of your sins and live in obedience to Him.

[Jer. 11:9-14; 14:10-12; Ezek. 8:17,18; Micah 3:4; Zech. 7:11-13; Isa. 58:1-9; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 34:15-19; 109:7; John 9:31; Lam 3:1,8; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Tim. 2:8; Prov. 1:24-29; 21:13; 2 Chron. 7:14]

C. What Is Needed Is Sincere, Lasting Commitment to Turn from Sin and Turn to God.

God has repeatedly insisted on repentance before He will bless a people.
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Proverbs 14:34 -- Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.

Jeremiah 18:7-11 - When a nation faces disaster and wants God's blessing and protection, they must turn from evil and make their ways good.

2 Chronicles 7:13,14 - People in trouble who want God's help must humble themselves, turn from their wicked ways, and pray to God. Then He will forgive their sins and heal their land.

Do not expect God's blessings on people who will not turn from evil!

God requires repentance of specific sins.
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It is one thing to call on people to repent. It is another to tell them what they need to repent of!

When Bible prophets called people to repent, they told them what to repent of! Note Hosea again and see if our society needs to likewise repent:

* 4:1,2 - There is no truth in the land, but swearing and lying. Do lying and filthy language characterize our society? Shall you and I do violence to such people? No. But if we want God's blessings, we must call people to repent!

* 4:1,6 - There is no knowledge of God or His word. People worshiped idols (8:4). Does this exist today? Some seek to call on God with those who worship idols. Some seek to call on God with those who deny Jesus is God's Son and our only Savior (John 14:6; Mark 16:16; Acts 4:12). Shall we do violence to them? No. But if we want God's blessings, we must call them to repentance.

* 4:2 - There is killing and bloodshed. Does this exist today? Shall you and I do violence to those who practice it? No. But if we want God's blessings, we must call people to repent of violence, whether it occurs at the hands of terrorists in our cities or medical doctors in sterile clinics.

* 4:2 - Stealing and adultery. Does this exist today? Sexual immorality including homosexuality? Shall we do violence to these people? No. But if we want God's blessings, we will call on them to repent.

By all means, let this nation call upon God in our time of need. But let us realize God will hear us only if we are willing to turn from sin.

Conclusion

Let me repeat:
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* I appreciate those who have expressed a sense of compassion and grief for those who suffered and died.

* I appreciate those who labored and even endangered their own lives to save others.

* I appreciate the efforts of our leaders to protect our people and bring criminals to justice, including international criminals.

* And I appreciate my country. I am a patriotic American. I love my country (though I don't believe the Scriptures require me to). I pray daily for our nation and its leaders. I greatly appreciate the freedoms and blessings God has granted us in the country. I was deeply stirred as people of nation after nation expressed their grief for our tragedy and people of city after city expressed their solidarity and unity as a nation.

* And as a citizen of this country I am willing to stand beside people of all religious faiths who are willing to work for the good of this country.

But as a Christian I believe more than anything else this country needs a renewal of true faith in God and that will require repentance on the part of many.
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It will require a dedicated study of God's will.

It will require sincere faith in the one true God, the God of the Bible, and in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and only way to God.

It will require a rejection of human religious perversions.

It will require a commitment to moral and godly living.

And it will require the courage to speak out against corruption in all these areas.

Only if people are willing to make these commitments, only then will they have the right to pray with any assurance of answer, "God Bless America."

Luke 13:4,5 - "Those ... on whom the tower ... fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men...? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

(C) Copyright 2001, David E. Pratte
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.

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