Today, Pastor Mark kicks off our summer sermon series in the Psalms with a look at Psalm 14 and the BIG IDEA: It’s foolish to live without God.

  • The heart of foolishness (1-3)
  • The end of foolishness (4-6)
  • Hope for the foolish (7)



Sermon Transcript



You may be seated. Good morning. My name is Mark and I’m one of the pastors here. Would you bow your head in prayer?


Jesus said in Matthew 11 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


Lord Jesus we come to you now, in the power of the Holy Spirit, weak and wounded, sick and sore, lost and ruined by the fall. We come to you for rest, we come to you for refreshment for our souls, we come to you for grace, we come to you for forgiveness. Your yoke is easy and your burden is light.


And so we lay our burdens down at your feet. For those of us who are experiencing suffering, I pray that we would experience your sustaining power, and know more fully your abiding presence with us in the midst of trouble. Though we walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve our lives.


For those of us struggling with illness or weakness of the body or mind, I pray for your healing, and that we would know you better in the midst of it, in the fellowship of your sufferings.


For those of us sick with sin, I pray that we would run quickly to you for forgiveness and cleansing, that we would know your gentle and lowly heart for sinners, and your incomparable sympathy for the weak. May we be filled with your power to live holy lives that are pleasing to you.


I pray for our church, that you would help us to live as your holy people, shining like stars in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation, willing to be fools for your sake while displaying the incomparable wisdom of the cross.


O God, lead us in your wisdom and in your power. Make us wise for salvation. Open our eyes anew to the wonder and power of the gospel. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.


We pray this in Jesus’s name, Amen.




This morning we’re starting our main summer sermon series in the Book of Psalms. The Psalms are the ancient poetry of the Hebrew Bible, and in many ways the Book of Psalms was basically the first songbook of the church. There are 150 Psalms, and there’s a Psalm for every situation. they are great for helping you regulate your emotional life, and every single one of them points to Jesus Christ. We’ve done a summer in the Psalms before (the last time was 2021), and our plan is basically keep going through all the Psalms, in order, until we’re finished. And so in 2021 we stopped at Psalm 13, and today we’re picking up at Psalm 14. And then for the next month and a half we’ll keep going in order up to Psalm 20. By the way, based on that math, it seems like we’ll wrap this series up sometime in the 2050s. Now that’s a long time away, but since more than half of you are young enough to still be here then, we hope to see you then! 


Now, today. Psalm 14. It starts out in a startling way, doesn’t it? “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1). “They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,” etc. Pretty strong stuff. Now depending on who you are, this might fire off one of several reactions. You might think,  “That sounds kind of harsh. What happened to meeting people where they are?” Or, you might be like, “Ah great, the godless, the sinners are finally going to get what’s coming to them in this sermon. I’ve been waiting for this.” Or, you might be someone who doesn’t believe in God (we’re glad you’re here), and you’re like, “Great. I took a chance on this, my friend invited me, and now not two minutes in I’ve already been called a fool. Fantastic.”


Wherever you land on that, here’s my appeal: allow God’s word to speak to you. God’s unfailing, inerrant word has something to say to everyone. Because the main theme of this Psalm is, “what it means to live without God.” That’s what we’ll be talking about. I want to talk to you today about what it means to live without God in your life. And the fact is, this is something we ALL do. That’s right. You might be an out-and-out atheist or agnostic, but that’s only the most obvious way we might live without God. Others of you actually believe in God; you have faith in a generic “God” or you believe that “everything happens for a reason.”  But the fact is that you’re not believing in the God of the Bible. And still others of us – I’m guessing here’s where most of us land – actually know God; we believe in Jesus; we trust in him and him alone for our salvation – no doubt about that – but on a practical level – where it counts – we live as if God does not exist. In big ways and small ways we are practical atheists. So there’s something here for everyone (out-and-out atheist; vague “God-believer”; practical atheist), and whichever group you’re in, this Psalm has something to say to you. 3:30


The big idea, and I’m taking this right out of verse 1 is, It’s foolish to live without God. It’s actually foolish to live without God! Whether you’re an out-and-out atheist or more of a practical atheist, it’s foolish to live without God. And in unpacking that, we’ll see three things in this psalm. I’m calling them the heart of foolishness, the end of foolishness, and hope for the foolish.


It’s foolish to live without God.

  • The heart of foolishness (1-3)
  • The end of foolishness (4-6)
  • Hope for the foolish (7)


Let’s get into it. The heart of foolishness. We’ll camp out a good bit of time on this point. There’s two parts to it, two subpoints, which I’m calling  denial and depravity.




Let’s talk about denial. 4:30


Let’s look at verse 1. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1). Now, notice what this says about unbelief in God. About atheism. About the idea that God doesn’t exist. These days, it’s common to think of atheism or agnosticism as an intellectual choice and the question of God something that sincere people could disagree about. But this verse doesn’t say “The mistaken person says in his heart ‘There is no God.’ It doesn’t say “The sincere but misguided person says in his heart ‘There is no God.’” It says the FOOL. Why? Why is it foolish to deny God, explicitly or implicitly?


Here’s why: according to the Bible, unbelief is never just a matter of the mind, but of the HEART. The heart – that center of each one of us, the will, that deepest part of you, from which all your thoughts and your actions ultimately spring. And according to Scripture, unbelief is something that springs from THAT. You say “in your heart.there is no God.” But, there’s a problem. Because deep down in the heart, the Bible says, we actually KNOW that God exists. We know he exists! So how does that work? We know he exists; we deny he exists. What’s going on? The Apostle Paul in the New Testament Book of Romans tells us:


18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21).


Do you see what this says? It says that God’s existence is plain to everyone. It’s obvious, because God has shown it to us through the things that have been made – that is, through creation. In other words, deep down there ARE no atheists. But Paul says that what everyone has done is, we’ve all suppressed this knowledge. We’ve stuffed it down. We know it, but we suppress it. In other words, WE LIVE IN DENIAL. And that’s why the fool says in his heart ‘There is no God.’ Because it’s denial. 7:15


Let me tell you what this is like. You’re driving down the road, and all of a sudden your oil light goes on. That little icon, it looks like Aladdin’s lamp and you thought it meant your car just gave you three wishes, but actually it’s your low oil icon. And if that comes on, it means you better take action quick, or your car will be ruined because cars need oil to run properly. So you have two choices. You can either make an appointment quick to get your oil level checked and filled, OR – there is another option – you can just put a little piece of black tape over the icon. Problem solved. Now, the choice is yours. In both cases, the problem will be off your plate, at least temporarily. But which one is wise, right?


Living as if God doesn’t exist is foolish because he DOES exist, and deep down we all know it. If you say “there is no God” you’re basically putting a piece of black tape over the oil icon of your heart. But not only will that come back to bite you in the end, the fact is, it doesn’t quite work, even in the daily. I mean, if you cover the icon with the tape, you know what you’re going to keep doing? Looking at it. Checking it. You know there’s still a problem. And in the same way, if you try to deny that God exists, you’re still haunted by the idea of God. You can’t get away from it. We keep looking for him. How? Here’s how: as humans we just can’t seem to get over ideas, say, of justice, truth, reason, beauty, love, and goodness, even though none of these ideas ultimately make any sense – they have no ontological status – if the Trinitarian God of the Bible doesn’t exist. It’s in this spirit that author Julian Barnes, an atheist turned agnostic, opens his memoir by saying “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.” Even if we deny him, we can’t get away from him. We miss him. We want the good parts without the bad parts.


And so it’s the heart of foolishness to say that God doesn’t exist – or to live as if he doesn’t. It’s living in denial. 9:45


Now, so much for literal atheists. What about the rest of us? What if you’re a Christian? Guess what: we deny God exists just as much as an outright unbeliever. Because we all, every day, live as if the God we claim to worship is out of the picture. How? Just a few quick examples. One of the most obvious is, suffering. I mean, here you are, you’re a believer, you know that God has saved you and that you’re secure in Christ and that he works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. But then this week some new form of suffering crops up in your life. For most of us, what happens? We forget! And we pretty quickly get lost in the confusion, the pain, the isolation of the suffering, before finally God breaks through – maybe through a Bible verse, or through the words of a friend. And we remember, “Oh, wait. God exists. He’s real. He’s WITH me in this trial. He will never fail me nor forsake me.” We know the truth, but we FORGET the truth


And that’s just one way we live as practical atheists. For others it might be giving into temptation – ignoring what God said about what’s good or what’s not – or putting your hope in your career, or getting married, or having perfect kids. Why? Because those things have become your true God. You see? All of us, in some way, have said in our hearts “there is not God.” All of us. 100%. How about you?  How do you live as if God doesn’t exist? What part of your life would be different right now if you remembered that God actually exists?


That’s denial. But there’s more we need to see about the heart of foolishness. Let’s go on to the second part of this point, what I’m calling “depravity.” Let’s look at v. 1 some more. 12:15




They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;

there is none who does good.


Psalm 14:1b


Not only does living without God involve constantly living in denial, but according to this Psalm, living without God results in corruption and abominable deeds for everyone.


The two Hebrew words used in verse 1 are among the harshest for describing the human condition in the Bible. “Corrupt” means “totally destroyed”; “ruined.” It’s the word used to describe the world after the flood, or Sodom and Gommorrah after God destroys them. It means leveled. Wiped out. Ruined. In other words we’re all wrecks. “Lost and ruined by the fall” as we sang before. And “abominable” means, well, what it sounds like. Awful. Detestable. Horrible.


And according to this Psalm this describes…, well let’s see what percentage of us. Look at what it says in vv. 2-3.


The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,

to see if there are any who understand,

who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;

there is none who does good,

not even one.

Psalm 14:2-3


This is universal. We are wrecks – ALL of us. 


In fact, these verses are among the strongest grounding in the Bible for the doctrine of total depravity. Total depravity. Sometimes this doctrine gets a bad rap, caricatured really, as if it means no one can do anything called “good” ever, but that’s not what it means. Instead, total depravity is the idea that “the deepest inclination, the innermost disposition, the fundamental directedness of human nature is turned not toward God but away from him.” (Herman Bavinck)  That’s what total depravity means. Our hearts are fundamentally turned away from God. 14:15


And this turning away from God, this depravity, shows up in at least 3 ways: wrong behavior, wrong desires, and wrong motivations.


Bad behavior: that’s probably the easiest. We don’t have to look far to see depraved behavior in the world. Or in our own lives. That’s why British author G. K. Chesterton once said “Original sin is the only part of Christian theology that can really be proved.” In other words, just look around. 


But behavior is only the tip of the iceberg. What about desires? Listen carefully to what James says in the New Testament – and bear in mind, he’s talking to Christians:


4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1-3)


He’s describing the practical atheism of Christians here to a T – and he says that all the bad behavior comes from bad desires. John Owen the Puritan Pastor has this great quote: There is a world of sin conceived in the wills and hearts of men that is never brought forth (John Owen). Do you hear that? In other words, what about the sin you thought about but never actually did? God sees that too, doesn’t he? 


Or consider the words of one prominent sinner: “I had no motive for my wickedness except wickedness itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved the self-destruction, I loved my fall, not the object for which I had fallen but my fall itself.” Sound familiar? Do you hear yourself in this? This was Saint Augustine, who went on to become one of the greatest theologians the Church ever produced. And he was painfully aware of his own depravity.


What’s more, ponder this: the depraved human heart also results in a lot of superficially “good” behavior that’s done for motivations other than the glory and praise of God. You might be doing the best deeds in the world. But who are you doing them for


Tim Keller gives this analogy: imagine a great Doctor who spends all their life helping others. Setting up clinics, helping the poor, working tirelessly to find a cure for the worst diseases. Good deeds, right? But what if all this time it turns out they never give a thought or any acknowledgement to the single parent who sacrificed everything to get them where they are. God’s given you everything – your life, health, upbringing, talents, energy, everything. And yet you never acknowledge him. Is that good?  And the Bible makes it clear that this is our natural condition apart from redemption in Christ. 17:45


Where do you see the depravity in your life? In your heart? Where do you allow it to reign? Most of us are probably like “it’s not hard.” Or, what are some of the ways you have failed to acknowledge God or give him thanks?


One last thing on this point, let me suggest that the doctrine of total depravity is of immense practical value in navigating life. Why? Here’s why. My old preaching professor, the late Haddon Robinson, put it this way: “Total depravity is a great doctrine – nobody ever disappoints you.” Christians should never really be that shocked when people behave badly – including other Christians; including yourself. 


You know, I’ve been thinking this week, this Psalm is written by King David, and though we don’t know when in his life he wrote it, there’s some things about it that make me think he wrote it later in life. For one thing, there’s obviously a backdrop of battle and conflict, and according to the narrative a lot of that happened after the great turning point in David’s life: when he sinned and committed murder and adultery. He slept with his friend’s wife and then killed him to cover it up. In other words, it would make a lot of sense if David wrote this Psalm, which nails everyone with the folly of sin, after he experienced the depths of sin in his own life and had to deal with the consequences. 


In other words, a good grasp on the doctrine of total depravity keeps you unflinchingly realistic about human nature. It’ll help you guard yourself against sin, and it’ll help guard your heart against cynicism and disappointment. 


Let’s recap: We’re all living in denial about God. We’re living in depravity, consistently failing to live up to the moral standards of the all-powerful Lord of the universe, to whom we owe nothing but praise, allegiance, thanksgiving, adoration. Is it any wonder the Bible actually describes us as God’s enemies? That’s why C S Lewis, in Mere Christianity, says “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.” -C. S. Lewis.


That’s the heart of foolishness. Let’s go on. The last 2 points will go more quickly. 20:00




Next, the end of foolishness. How does living without God turn out? It’s right there in verse 5: There they are in great terror (Psalm 14:5). The end of foolishly living without God is fear. Great terror. Because, here’s the thing, we’re all going to come face-to-face with God, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Pastor Mike Anderson down at Citylight Church Center City tells about how, when he was a kid, he and his friends used to play this game: how much money would you have to get paid to step into the ring with a boxing or MMA champ? Like, Floyd Mayweather, or Connor McGregor, or someone like that. Like you know, the kind of guy that could cause severe brain damage to you in under 10 seconds. That’s scary, right?


But the thing is, many people say “I’d believe in God if he would show himself to me.” But if you can say that lightly, it means you actually don’t realize who God is and how guilty you are before him. How your unbelief is not just an intellectual stance, but a moral one – one that marks God out as your enemy. In the Bible, God showing up is the scariest possible thing. It’s not only like stepping in the ring with an MMA fighter, it’s like stepping in the ring with an MMA fighter whose life fortune you stole and whose reputation you tried to ruin. Are you willing to step in the ring with this God? But you will one day. And that’s why the end of foolishness is “great terror.” It’s a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


But what about for the practical atheists in the room? Christians? Christian – “great terror” is what so often comes from our living as if God doesn’t exist. Just think about the command against being anxious, which is probably the one that we break the most. I heard of a study recently where they polled a bunch of people about things they were anxious about in the relatively near future. Just stop for a second and think about that for you right now. What are you worried about that could happen within the next few weeks or a month? And in the study, they came back a month or so later and asked the people if the things they were afraid of actually happened. You know what? 80% of them hadn’t happened! How about that. Living in functional atheism results in a life marked by fear and great terror. Even though our daily anxiety isn’t THE great terror but only a symptom of sin pointing to that reality. 


So we’ve seen the heart of foolishness, and the end of foolishness. And you’re like “Great, I feel so encouraged.” Just hold on. Exposing our foolishness is not the only thing we see in this Psalm. There’s also hope for the foolish. 23:00




You see, there’s sort of a riddle at the heart of this Psalm. It’s not easy to see at first, but let’s take a closer look. You see, we’ve seen that the natural state of EVERYONE is that they don’t seek God. They’re God’s enemies. “All have turned aside; together they have become corrupt.” And “all” means “all”: As Paul writes in the New Testament, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And yet, God has his “people” too in this Psalm, right? Look:


Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers

who eat up my people as they eat bread…


… for God is with the generation of the righteous


When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,

let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Psalm 14:5-7


You’ve got “my people” twice, plus the “generation of the righteous.” You know what that means? Here’s what: there’s hope for the foolish. Because SOME of the fools – some of the “all” – get out. They have become wise. They’ve become the people of God – those who know him, love him, and humbly wait for him. But how? How can fools be made wise? The answer is in verse 7: v. 7 – salvation must come out of zion.


Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!

When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,

let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Psalm 14:7


David knows that if there’s any hope for fools to become wise, if there’s any hope for rescue from the folly of godlessness, it must come ultimately out of “Zion.” What’s Zion? Well, it’s the hill in Jerusalem where the temple was. It’s the physical location of God’s special, manifest presence on earth. And David says THAT’S where salvation must come from. Not from us, not from our own efforts to be wise. The sin runs too deep. David knew that more than anyone: man is a sinner – we can’t save ourselves. Salvation, from first to last, must be a FREE GIFT – a GIFT of God’s grace. It must come out of zion. But Zion itself – the temple that David’s son Solomon built – was later destroyed. So how could salvation come out of Zion when Zion itself was subjected to the destruction brought on by sin?


A thousand years after David wrote this, Jesus Christ came. Who is Jesus? God in the flesh. The physical manifestation of God’s presence on earth – in other words, Zion personified. The true temple. You see, salvation DID come out of Zion. But it wasn’t the fleeting victory of a military success against physical enemies. And it wasn’t just for all the bad people “out there.” It was the eternal victory of Christ’s victory on the cross over the  sinful foolishness that reigns in all of us. 25:45


You see, commentator Dane Ortlund puts it this way:


What David saw dimly we see clearly. Salvation would come out of Zion–but not salvation for Israel alone. For Israel was not merely victimized by human sinfulness; they themselves were part of the problem. They were not exempt from human evil. Salvation would come out of Israel, but it would be for all the world.


Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. Perfectly sinless, exempt from the foolish godlessness we all share in as children of Adam. And on the cross he actually became “corrupt” – “destroyed” – for us. That same word for “corrupt” we saw in verse 1 of this Psalm? That’s the same word used for the “destroyer” in the Book of Exodus, representing God’s wrath against sin. Jesus bore the brunt of God’s wrath for sin on the cross. And the word for “abominable deeds” in verse 1? That’s the same root used in Isaiah 52:14 to describe the appearance of the Messiah – where it describes his appearance as “disfigured.” Jesus Christ on the cross bore the corruption, the abomination, of you and me for sin – all who would believe in his name. 


Have you been foolishly believing that there is no God? Have you been foolishly ACTING as if there is no God? There’s hope. Look to “Zion.” We can’t save ourselves; we can’t make ourselves wise. But there’s one who can. Listen to what Paul writes in First Corinthians:


But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:23-25 ESV)


God in His wisdom became weak in Jesus Christ, so that we who are fools by nature and deed can become wise in him.


In the words of Ortlund again, Sin is universal. No one is exempt. But grace is universally available. No one need be exempt. All that is required is a trusting faith in Jesus Christ, the living embodiment of the salvation that came out of Israel.


And then, we who have put our hope in him have the privilege of living as so-called “fools” for His sake. The life of a follower of Christ may look foolish in the eyes of the world. We may give up money, earthly status, the pursuit of pleasure, and even our very lives when we follow Jesus. The world will call you a fool. But as you follow Jesus, picking up his cross daily, trusting Him to guide you with His wisdom, you’ll  become wise to salvation in Christ, and shine like starts in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation.


He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

Jim Elliot


In Jesus Christ the LORD has restored the fortunes of his people. He has rescued us from death and hell, from the folly of living as if he doesn’t exist. And where we his followers are affected by the foolishness of a world that denies him, he promises that one day he will make all things new. 


Let’s pray. 29:45




Over the next couple of minutes I want you to prepare your hearts quietly to participate in the Lord’s Supper. The communion elements are going to be passed now. Once you get yours, you can just continue to prepare your hearts to celebrate the wonderful news of the gospel.


If you’re not yet a follower of Jesus feel free to just let that pass, and use this time to seek him, to trust in him as your Lord and savior for the first time. There’s a sample prayer on your connect card that can give you language for repenting and believing in Jesus.


If you’re a follower of Christ, this is a great time to reflect on the good news of the gospel, to quietly affirm your dependence upon Jesus alone for forgiveness of sins, for eternal life, and to remember and rejoice in how God has made you wise for salvation through faith in Christ and Christ alone. 


So we’ll take a couple minutes of quiet reflection as the elements are being passed out. (prepare your elements).


[pause 60-90 secs]


Let’s celebrate the Lord’s supper now, beginning with the bread. I’ll read the words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 11:


On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Let’s eat in remembrance of his body broken for the forgiveness of sins.


Now let’s take the cup.


In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Let’s drink in remembrance of Christ’s blood shed for us..


For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Amen.