Manhattan preacher and author Tim Keller posted this tweet today, 9/12/2015: “In the end, God will use evil to do the opposite of what was intended.”
Exhibit A: The Cross of Jesus Christ
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
John Piper writes along these lines, “It would be unbiblical and irreverent to attribute to Satan or to sinful man the ability to thwart the plans of God.” (Piper, Desiring God)
Tim Keller has been preaching and writing at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan since before 9/11/2001. On the Sunday after the 9/11 attacks, the church service at Redeemer was recorded. You can hear it here.
The sermon passage that morning in Manhattan (9/16/2001) was John 11:20-53. Within that passage, Jesus comes to the place where his recently-deceased friend Lazarus was buried, and we read: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
Tim’s message that morning was about responding to the recent attacks both emotionally AND biblically, with Tears, Anger, Truth, and Grace. Jesus proceeds to raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44).
Thank God for the freedom we have in this country. But whatever country we are from, we all deserve God’s everlasting anger and judgment for our sin. And at the cross, Jesus entirely paid the penalty for all sins, past, present, and future, for anyone who would turn from his or her sins and trust in Him. Praise God that He punishes evil and that He has given a Savior for those who repent and believe!
Our hope must not be in a college or professional athlete or team. Our hope must not be in our academic, business, or philanthropic achievements. Our hope must not be in our country’s government or military, though we should be thankful for both and for the freedom we have. Our hope must not even be in our families, though faithful families are fundamental in reflecting God’s love. Tim writes about the importance of family and its connection to the gospel in his book, The Meaning of Marriage: “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” (Keller, The Meaning of Marriage)
Our sin really is that bad, that Jesus had to die on a cross to pay the penalty. And if we are right with God, our hope ultimately must not be in anyone or anything except Christ, the One who came from heaven and intentionally laid down His life on the cross to give us true freedom from our sinful pride, selfishness, and unbelief.
John Piper writes, “If Christ obliterated all devils and demons now (which he could do), his sheer power would be seen as glorious, but his superior beauty and worth would not shine as brightly as when humans renounce the promises of Satan and take pleasure in the greater glory of Christ.” (Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ)
“Patience, then, believer, eternity will right the wrongs of time.” (Charles Spurgeon)
Through faith in Christ, we can know true freedom from fear and death. May the Spirit of God enable us to remember and respond on this weekend of 9/11 with confidence in God’s risen Son, confidence in an imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance, in a living hope.