How Could A Loving God? (7)

Posted: June 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Last week we examined God’s many acts of judgment recorded in the scriptures and questioned how a loving God could act with such brutality? We saw God’s wrath in light of His longsuffering and justice. We came to terms with God’s slaughter of the innocent by placing it on the backdrop of eternity.

Now, as we bring our series to a close, we must address God’s greatest act of judgment—How could a loving God condemn anyone to an eternal hell? Many who struggle with this question feel there are only two solutions: reject God or reject the doctrine of hell. Yet the Bible teaches us about both, and we would have to flagrantly twist the scriptures to remove one from the other. And so, with the guidance of scripture, we must come to terms with this question.

First of all, we must recognize that God is not only perfectly loving, but perfectly just. If God were to simply turn a blind eye to sin, He would be violating His righteous nature. Sin rightly deserves the severest of punishments.

Those who dispute God’s love in sending an unrepentant sinner to hell do not properly understand the seriousness of sin. If we were able to see sin from God’s perspective, we would not question for a second that His verdict is just. Sin is a rebellion against God, a betrayal of His love, and a utter failure in the purpose for which we were created.

If you want to truly understand the seriousness of sin, look at Jesus upon the cross. If God could have paid for our sins in any other way do you not think He would have? Yet, His love and His righteousness could not converge in any other way. The wages of sin is death and that is the price that had to be paid (Rom 6:23)

Yet, not only is God perfectly just, He is perfectly holy. His character cannot be tainted by the filth of sin. So, if His love is to embrace us, His holiness must also cleanse us. Thus, by it’s very nature, sin separates us from God. And if we are to die in that state, we will remain severed from Him for all eternity.

This is what the punishment of hell is all about. It is the “penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess 1:9). Just as gold and precious jewels figuratively describe the joys of being in God’s presence, fire and brimstone describe the agony of being separated from Him for all eternity.

We must recognize that God did not design hell. He did not sit down one day and try to think up the most horrendous punishment He could give to unrepentant sinners. Hell is simply the natural consequence of being separated from God for all eternity. When you are completely severed from the source of all that is good (James 1:17), only sorrow, suffering, and corruption remain.

And let us consider what heaven would be like if God were to make exceptions and allow sin within its gates? Even the smallest amount would taint it’s glory and compromise the purity of it’s joy. Sin always comes with consequences. What kind of hope would heaven offer if it could only be said: “He will wipe away most tears from their eyes; there will only be a little death, a little mourning, a little crying, and a little pain” (cf. Rev 21:4).

Above all, in coming to terms with the condemnation of hell, we must learn to appreciate God’s perfect mercy. God does not want anyone to go to hell. He finds no pleasure in casting man out of His presence for eternity. He desperately wants to restore us to fellowship with Him.

God desires so deeply for men to be saved that He sent His own Son to die in our place (John 3:16). There is no greater measure to which God could have gone to turn our hearts back to Him. He will not violate our free-will, reduce us to robots, and make the decision for us. But when Jesus came down to die upon the cross, He was telling man, “If you go to hell, it will be over my dead body!”

We truly serve a God of unparalleled love and mercy! Let us never forget it.

-Grady

 


Evangelism Report – May 2015

Posted: June 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). How serious are we about saving souls? How often do we include it in our prayers? How often do we think about it as we encounter people in the world from day to day?

The 3rd verse of the hymn “Into Our Hands” reminds us: “Souls that are precious, souls that are dying, while we rejoice our sins are forgiv’n; did He not also die for these lost ones? Then let us point the way unto heav’n.” What are we doing to save these lost and dying souls? How are we pointing them unto heaven?

We must not turn a blind eye to the perishing. We must keep the importance of evangelism ever before us, both as individuals and as a body of God’s people here at Kirkwood. That is the goal of this monthly “pep talk.” It is not just to inform you, but to motivate you and keep you involved in this vital work of reaching out to lost souls.

Our meetup group studies have continued to be profitable. Our online membership continues to steadily increase. We added 8 new members this past month, taking us from 48 to 56. As the weather gets warmer and the sun stays out longer in the evenings we expect more people will actually be getting out and visiting our studies. We had 3 new visitors this past month as well as a few more return visitors.

Scott Bale finished up the Philippians study he was leading and is currently making plans to start up another study in the epistles. We continue to study through Acts with L. A. and I am leading us through the book of Genesis.

These studies are not aimed, within themselves, to convert anyone to Christ or bring them out of religious error. But they allow us an opportunity to emphasize the Bible as our sole source of authority; they generate interest in searching the scriptures to better understand God’s will for our lives; and they help us develop relationships that open up further opportunities to share God’s word in the future.

I hope, in time, to start some meetup studies that are organized more topically. These will be more conducive to addressing specific issues like evidences, salvation, authority, and the work and worship of the church. These might draw in a different crowd that we haven’t been able to tap into yet. But also, having established a good base of visitors and a reputation for letting the Bible speak for itself, this may be a way to cultivate some of the seeds we have already sown.

In addition to these group studies I have continued to have a variety of personal studies. Sowing, watering, waiting, and sowing some more seems to be the pattern. Very few studies have continued on a predictable schedule. Most contacts feel fairly comfortable with where they are at spiritually and while they may enjoy Bible study, do not see a very pressing need for it. My prayer is that through maintaining regular contact and a lot of patience these studies may prove fruitful in time.

Another evangelistic opportunity to note is the amount of visitors we have been getting to our assemblies lately. While many of them are just passing through from other areas, I have been surprised at the number of visitors from our community. It is not uncommon for us to get church shoppers, just coming in to check us out.

God is dropping evangelistic opportunities in our lap and we need to think seriously about how we are using them. What impression are we leaving on these visitors? What words would they use to describe us? Friendly, welcoming, biblically focused, spiritually minded, passionate, zealous, loving? Or maybe cold, lifeless, unsociable, ritualistic, and uncaring?

We are certainly not here to put on a show, but if our lights are not shining effectively within our assemblies, can we expect them to be effective anywhere else? In next month’s report I intend to consider at more length how we can be evangelistically aware in our assemblies. Until then, stay salty and stay bright (Matt 5:13-16).

-Grady

 


Get Thee Behind Me, Satan

Posted: June 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The first eight chapters of Mark’s gospel are devoted principally to establishing the identity of Jesus as the Christ. Intermingled with that is the developing conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders.

Near the end of chapter eight, Mark changes directions and the main theme from there on is the conflict, suffering, and death of Jesus. Jesus begins at that point in Mark’s account “to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed” (Mark 8:31). Joined with this is the promise of Jesus that he “after three days will rise again”—he will come forth from the grave.

This was too bazaar a development for Peter to accept. In line with his openness and boldness, Peter took Jesus off to the side away from the other disciples and “began to rebuke him” (Mark 8:32). As the two of them stood some distance from the other disciples, Jesus turned, gave a sweeping glance at the other disciples, and said, maybe loud enough for them to hear him: “Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33).

Peter, along with the other disciples, had seen the power of Jesus for nearly three years and had concluded, as Peter had confessed, that Jesus is the Christ (Mark 8:29). Surely, the disciples would logically think, these leaders of Judaism cannot kill the Messiah—the mighty one who was to come from the bowels of David to rule Israel and the nations. How are these unbelievers going to overcome and destroy one who has healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead? But that thinking, that wisdom, and the conclusion that they cannot kill the Son of God, the Messiah, comes from the wisdom of men and is at odds with the purpose and will of God for all men.

God, according to His “determined counsel and foreknowledge,” provided in His wisdom for the death of the Messiah who would in His body bear the sins of mankind, in His death receive the punishment for the sins of the world, and in His atoning blood procure forgiveness for every sinner. When sin in this way is remitted, the wages of sin—eternal death and punishment—is removed (see Acts 2:23; 1 Pet 2:24; Matt 26:28; Rom 6:23; Rev 21:8).

Jesus must die if mankind is to live. The one who would profit and win, if Jesus does not die, is Satan. To rebuke Jesus for announcing His death at the hands of the Jews is to align oneself with the foolishness of human wisdom which serves Satan’s cause—not God’s. Our Lord, the Messiah, tells Peter not to play the role of Satan and stand before Him to barricade the road to the cross. “Get thee behind me, Satan,” Jesus says to Peter. Don’t interfere with the wisdom and will of God to save the world of sinners by My death.

-L. A.

 


How Could A Loving God? (6)

Posted: May 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

While many difficulties and objections regarding God’s character arise from looking at the world around us, some are directed toward the revelation of God within the scriptures. God’s acts of judgment in the Old Testament are often pictured as cruel, excessive, and indiscriminate.

Hollywood in recent years has made God out to be a power-hungry tyrant in their depiction of the flood and the ten plagues upon Egypt. The world sees the slaughter of the firstborn and accuses God of infanticide. They see the conquering of the Canaanites and accuse Him of genocide. Any God who demands that someone sacrifice their son on an altar (Abraham and Isaac) is seen as heartless, unreasonable, and unworthy of devotion.

How does the Christian come to terms with these objections? Does man really have a more refined sense of morality and justice than God does? Or are we missing the bigger picture? There are 3 factors I believe will help us view God’s acts of judgment in the correct light.

Longsuffering—God is never reckless in His judgment. His wrath is not a quick outburst or a fit of rage. He does not find pleasure in the death of the wicked, but patiently and passionately urges them to repent and live (Ezek 18:32; cf. 2 Pet 3:9). He gives man ample warning and numerous opportunities to turn back to Him.

Why did Egypt receive 10 plagues and not just 1 or 2? Not because God was sadistic, but because man was stubborn. The world in the days of Noah were not simply taken by surprise in the waters of the flood. Noah, as a “preacher of righteousness” had been warning them and calling them to repentance for years (2 Pet 2:5). The Canaanites were not just exterminated so God’s people could overtake their land. God had delayed their judgment for centuries because their iniquity was “not yet full” or ripe for punishment (Gen 15:16).

Justice—God is not excessive or indiscriminate about His judgment. His perfect omniscience and righteousness make Him the only one qualified to determine when and to what extent punishment is deserved.

When preparing judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked God, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen 18:23). God’s answer was clearly “no.” He granted that He would not destroy the cities if even 10 righteous individuals could be found there (Gen 18:32). And when only a small family of 4 could be found, what did He do? He took the care to personally deliver them from the destruction of these corrupt cities, even after they hesitated to leave (Gen 19:15-16).

God never obliviously trampled over innocent bystanders. He was always precise in His judgment and generous in His mercy. As Peter stated after citing the examples of Sodom and Gomorrah and the flood, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Pet 2:9).

Eternity—But what about all the little children swept away in these great acts of judgment. Were they not innocent bystanders? Why did God allow them to suffer this punishment? Why did God not deliver them? The answer is, “He did.”

We must see the death of these children on the backdrop of eternity. There are things much worse than physical death. Even Job who had no concept of life after death would have loved to trade places with one of these children (Job 3:11-13). How much more should we be able to see the mercy of their fate, when we consider the rest these innocent souls are experiencing and the resurrection they will one day take part in?

Would God have been more merciful to spare their lives? …to allow them to grow up in a society of abuse, violence, and all manner of immorality? …or to leave them orphans in the midst of the slaughter? No, God knows how to rescue the innocent, and that’s exactly what He did.

God is truly longsuffering, just, and merciful. No act of God has ever demonstrated otherwise.   And though we may at times have difficulty comprehending His ways, we can be sure that eternity will open our eyes to see His character like we’ve never seen it before.

“Farther along we’ll know more about it. Farther along we’ll understand why. Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine. We’ll understand it all by and by” (W. B. Stevens).

-Grady

 


Time: On Loan From God

Posted: May 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Time can accurately be described as an interlude in eternity—a season designed by God for His earthly creation. As each day begins man is granted so much of this commodity, but few of them think about it and its purposes and uses. Each morning when the day dawns and time is offered to man by God, not many of them really meditate, calculate, and analyze how they should spend what has been given to them in hours, minutes, and seconds. All men have their routines for each day that their lives demand, that are generally unchangeable, and that make automatic withdrawals from their accounts. But beyond that, spending from these accounts is allocated by choices that every man makes. There are three things to remember about the accounts of time that each man must manage.

First, time is a commodity on loan from God to every man who has life. It has been entrusted to him, God’s creature, to be spent according to God’s will. He, therefore, as a steward of this commodity must remember to spend it thoughtfully and wisely. This calls for every man to “think” seriously each day about his schedule. It beckons him also to employ “wisdom” from God in assigning priorities to his daily activities. And this understanding from God demands an awareness of God Himself as one’s “Master.”

Second, if God is man’s Master, then as a steward of time man must willingly surrender his own will and desires for God’s. Stewards, a word that means “managers,” can never forget to present themselves as sacrifices for their masters. And this means as stewards of God they must not only forsake sin, but they must assign priorities to innocent pleasures, hobbies, cares of this world, and spiritual responsibilities. TV, movies, sports, shopping, six flags, games on cell phones/Ipads, relaxation may never take precedent over one’s personal development in the Lord, the spiritual needs of his family, or the work of the Lord’s church.

Time must be allocated for Bible study, for prayer, for teaching classes, for visiting shut-ins/sick/spiritual delinquents, for encouraging and lifting up fainthearted brethren, for hospitality toward one another, and for family time and relationships. If this list seems to deplete your account, remember that Jesus said man must love the Lord his God with his “whole” heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:28-33). Yes, Jesus found time for “leisure,” “rest,” and “relaxation” (see Mark 6:31), but it didn’t bankrupt his account or max out his credit card.

Third, time cannot be put into a savings account, where it accrues interest and can be used at a more convenient season. Time must either be spent or wasted minute by minute. Once it is gone it cannot be recaptured for better or future uses. Who can forget the “one talent” man who buried what was allotted him and was called both a “wicked” and “slothful” servant. And don’t forget he was cast into outer darkness because he was an “unprofitable” servant—a steward who failed to manage the “time account” his Lord gave him (see Matt 25:24-30).

The writer of Hebrews lamented his inability to teach some brethren important truths about Jesus and Melchizedek because they had been “dull” or “slothful” students of the word. By “reason of time,” he said, they should have been mature Christians, but they had failed to use their time and minds to study. For lack of growth they were babes in Christ who could not on their own discern right from wrong (Heb 5:11-14). That, brethren, is a waste of God-given time!

Yes, brethren, time is on loan from God and Paul says those that walk in wisdom will “redeem” it—“buy it up” from the account God gives them daily to use for righteousness in the midst of a world that is devoted to foolishness and evil (see Eph 5:15-17).

-L. A.

 


When We’re Moved By Love

Posted: May 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“For love is as strong as death,… Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)

If it’s forward that we want to move, love is the most powerful thing to propel us in that direction. As a motivator, love really has no equal. It’s “as strong as death.” It burns with a flame that “many waters cannot quench.” If someone you know is trying to do something and love is the reason why, you’d be wise to get out of the way. The thing is very likely going to happen.

Wouldn’t we reach forward more fervently in life if our love for God were more affectionate? If the word “passion” accurately described our love for God, could anything hold us back? For too long, most of us have loved God too little and with too little fire.

The love that we so desperately need in our relationship to God is a thing that we can choose to have. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (Matt 22:37), and that is a command we are capable of obeying. We can choose to think rightly about God, and then we can feed our minds on the truths that He has revealed about Himself in Scriptures. When we do that with the genuine intent to be what He created us to be, we will find ourselves loving Him, adoring Him, and longing to be with Him now and forever.

It is no mere happenstance that God ordained the Lord’s Supper for His people. Of all the things that can feed our love, none is more powerful than meditating, with other Christians, on the staggering, unfathomable love shown at the cross of Christ.

The world, the flesh, and the devil must be fought. But the simple fact is, we fight a losing battle if love is left out of the mix. If we don’t have the help of our hearts in serving God, it’s not likely that we’ll hold out to the end. So, my friend, it is imperative that your activities be motivated by love, first for God and second for you neighbor. If that’s the case (and God certainly knows whether it is or not), then discouragement will not defeat you. Other motives falter, but “many waters cannot quench love.”

“Love can hope where reason would despair” (Lord George Lyttelton)

-Gary Henry

 


How Could A Loving God? (5)

Posted: May 18th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

One factor we have mentioned in understanding the presence of evil and suffering within God’s creation is the role of Satan. As we stated last week, man has yielded his position as “ruler of this world” (Gen 1:26) over to the devil (John 12:31; 2 Cor 4:4). Satan is now pictured as the instigator of evil and suffering within the universe. He is the tempter and the tormenter (Job 2:7; 2 Cor 12:7; Acts 10:38).

We have discussed why God would permit such evil activity to continue. His longsuffering nature gives man hope. His assurance of eternal victory over our foe gives man peace as he sojourns through enemy territory for the time being.

Yet, why did God allow such a malevolent being to infiltrate His creation in the first place? Where did Satan come from? Admittedly, the scriptures do not give us a complete answer to these questions, but neither does it leave us completely in the dark. Let’s take a moment to examine what can be known about Satan’s origin.

First, we can know that God did not create Satan as an evil or malevolent being. All that God created was very good (Gen 1:31). James warns us not to be deceived into thinking that God is the source of any evil or temptation. He assures us that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (Jas 1:13-17).

Yet neither is Satan some eternally coexistent rival to God. When Paul tells us that by Jesus, “all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” (Col 1:16), certainly the devil would be included in that description. And Satan is certainly subject to the power and authority of God as his creator (Job 1-2). His knowledge and power cannot be put on equal plane with the omniscience and omnipotence of God.

So, as God created man a good and pure being that was later corrupted by the misuse of his free-will, we must conclude that Satan followed a similar path of perdition. And the scriptures confirm such suspicions. Paul tells us that an elder must not be a “new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil” (1 Tim 3:9). Clearly Satan in his conceit, rebelled against God and thus fell into condemnation.

Satan could be identified as one of the “angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode” (Jude 1:6). This would make sense considering that Satan presented himself to God among the angels or “sons of God” in Job 1:6 (cf. 38:7). Yet, one cannot definitively present this conclusion from the scriptures.

What we can affirm is that God did not create Satan as a malevolent being. As tenacious as his wickedness may be, it has been a product of his own choosing. Such deep-seated rebellion is what one would expect from one who authored evil and has continued to pursue it through all the ages.

-Grady

 


Love Is Not Provoked

Posted: May 18th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is teaching the Christians at Corinth that though they had an abundance of miraculous spiritual gifts, their use of those gifts was entirely perverted. The one thing they lacked was love and without love, Paul says, we are nothing and our efforts profit us nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3). If love is missing in the church it doesn’t matter what other perceived good might be going on; in God’s eyes the group is failing their mission. Love is an absolute necessity if we want to be pleasing to God and behave as His children (1 John 4:7-8).

Couched within that beautiful description of love, Paul says, “love… is not provoked” (1 Cor 13:5). In some versions the word “provoked” is rendered “irritable” or, as the NIV puts it, “not easily angered” which does no harm to the text. The Greek word simply means to stir up sharply a man’s spirit, to sharpen or stimulate. When Paul was observing the rampant idolatry in Athens, Luke records for us that in a righteous stirring of anger, “his spirit was provoked within him” (Acts 17:16).

But how often do lesser things provoke the children of God? The Christian is to have control over his passions. He must never be that person in conversation that makes everyone else feel the need to walk on eggshells. Consider the politically correct society we live in. One can hardly speak his mind without the fear of offending someone else. If the world we live in is so intolerant of the views of others then what better way to shine our light than to allow the foolish words of the unrighteous to slide off our back?

It is in direct contradiction to Biblical love to be offended by every little thing that comes out of our neighbor’s mouth. In fact, love is patient and bears all things (1 Cor 13:4, 7). That doesn’t mean that we allow the name of Jesus to be trampled upon by our neighbors without a word from us. However it does mean that petty foolishness and personal offenses should easily be let go. This also doesn’t give us license to say and do what we want without regard to another’s emotions. We are looking from the perspective of the offended, not the offender. We ought to strive never to be the offender but as far as it depends on us, “be at peace with all men” (Rom 12:18).

3,000-year-old wisdom tells us, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov 19:11). Brethren, let us not be so easily offended. Let us grow thicker skin and let petty, personal offenses go, especially in matters of the local congregation.

This attitude will help us be more forgiving with each other. Paul said, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). What does Jesus say the Old Law depended on but to love God and love your neighbor for, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22:38-40)?

Being easily irritated and provoked is the way of pride and division in the church. When we are stirred up by every little fault of our brother’s we are only displaying our incapacity to notice our own (Matt 7:1-5). Being easily offended proves that we are incapable of controlling our own emotions and makes other people responsible for them. But love is not easily provoked. Church families that take this instruction to heart will stay together and grow in unity. Let our love for one another be genuine, our devotion to one another be unbroken and our honor to one another be unconquerable.

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:8-10).

-Jerome Sasanecki


Resisting Temptation

Posted: May 18th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

No temptation that man faces is beyond man’s ability to resist. Man is not born evil and is not predetermined by God to practice sin. When any man is tested by life’s situation, he has two choices: he can yield to the lust of the flesh or he can resist it.

Temptation is no different today from what it was at the beginning or during the life of Jesus. Adam and Eve faced the desires of the flesh, the appeals to the eyes, and the lust for glory and honor (1 John 2:15-16). So it was with Jesus. These tests are part of the world of evil and their influence has not changed an iota over time.

Adam and Eve knew the fruit was good for food and Jesus knew the stone turned to bread would satisfy His hunger; the first couple saw the fruit was pleasant to look upon and our Lord saw the vast kingdoms of men as a domain over which He could rule; the head of the human race and his wife envisioned an opportunity for exaltation and glory and the head of the church could imagine angels bearing Him up gloriously before the crowds at the temple (see Gen 3:1-6; Matt 4:1-11). Why did Adam and Eve yield to temptation and why did Jesus resist it?

Who Am I? Jesus resisted temptation to change a stone to bread and eat because He knew who He was. Jesus understood that He was not just a breathing, thinking mass of flesh. He understood that within His body was a spirit that was eternal—a spirit that could not survive on bread. When appeals of the flesh violate God’s will, they defile the spirit of man and are destructive to his whole being. Jesus knew that and resisted the fleshly appeal of Satan with words that every man must live by: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).

Whom Do I Trust? Jesus resisted temptation because He trusted God. When God assured Him of protection and care, Jesus did not have to put God to the test to see if He really meant what He said. “Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God” is a truth Jesus believed deeply and practiced. So it must be with all men. When man trusts God that sin is detrimental, destructive, and debilitating spiritually, he will no longer need to experiment to see if it is so. Those who believe God know that anger, revenge, lack of forgiveness, drunkenness, sexual immorality, cheating, dishonesty, and all that God has forbidden is eternally destructive. Believers trust God and need not put Him to the test to see if it is so (Matt 4:5-7).

Whom Do I Serve? Finally, Jesus resisted temptation because He knew whom He must serve. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” is Jesus’ response to Satan’s third ploy. Jesus knew why He had come to earth. Fully aware of His purpose and goal, He determined to honor God and serve Him. Only those who understand that they are God’s creation and are created for His purpose can resist the desires of the flesh that interfere with that goal. They see the bigger, eternal picture and its enduring quality and opt to look beyond the myopic vision of earthly, temporal pleasures and pursuits (Matt 4:8-11).

Resisting temptation is not a grit-your-teeth, clinch-your-fist, gut-wrenching decision man makes each day in his fight against the appeals of Satan. It is the fruit of the Spirit in a man’s heart who knows he is more than a body, who believes God’s wisdom can be trusted, and who sees the eternal purpose of his few years here on earth.

-L. A.

 


How Could A Loving God? (4)

Posted: May 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Last week we discussed the problem of evil. We explained how evil could potentially arise from an all-powerful, all-loving, and righteous God, through his perfect creation of free-will. Still, a closely related issue is the problem of suffering. How could a loving God allow so much suffering in the world? Why does He permit the innocent to suffer?

Just as God Himself did not create anything evil, He does not directly cause anyone to suffer. The scripture clearly portrays Satan as the instigator of suffering within the world. Satan obviously took an active role in Job’s suffering (Job 2:7). Paul referred to his thorn in the flesh as a “messenger of Satan” (2 Cor 12:7). And Peter tells us that Jesus went about “healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).

Who gave Satan the power to inflict such suffering upon God’s creation? The Bible talks about Satan as the “ruler” or “god” of this world (John 12:31; 2 Cor 4:4).   Who put him in such a position of authority? This certainly was not part of God’s design in the beginning. All was perfect and good in the garden (Gen 1:31). [1]

Who was made “ruler” of this world at the dawn of creation? Remember that in the beginning God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth” (Gen 1:26). In the beginning God gave man this position of authority. If that position has now been yielded over to Satan, whose fault is it?

Was it not man’s sin that first introduced suffering and death into the world? (Gen 3:17-19). By being loyal to the bidding of Satan instead of the command of God, we forfeited our position of authority over to the devil. Thus all suffering is either the consequence of our own sins, someone else’s sins, or the consequence of being born into a world stained by sin.

Yet, why does God allow the innocent to suffer? I don’t fully know. But if there is anything the book of Job teaches us, it is that all suffering has a purpose in God’s plan whether we can see it or not. In some cases that purpose will be shown to us later down the road of life (Gen 50:20; John 9:1-3). But whether we receive an answer in this life or not, we must learn to trust Him as Job did.

A small child may feel that a doctor is malevolent for sticking them with a needle. Yet that pain has a much greater purpose the child cannot see. The doctor knows that despite the child’s protests, the shot is exactly what the child needs to be healthy and strong. God always has our greatest spiritual good in mind. Yet, at times this may require times of intense suffering or sorrow that we are unable to comprehend.

God has not left us entirely in the dark, however. His word reveals to us the great power suffering can afford us. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Suffering is often our greatest opportunity to grow spiritually and bring glory to God. Think about all the greatest men and women of faith within the Bible. Noah, Joseph, Daniel, Job, Paul, Jesus. What do we remember about them? How they remained faithful in times of great trial. If you take out the stories about the suffering and difficulty they went through, what would be left?

Finally, suffering is a temporary road toward an eternal home. As horrendous as our grief and pain may seem now, it will all be eclipsed by the glories of heaven. In Rom 8:18-22, Paul compares the suffering of this life to childbirth. As painful as childbirth is, how many mothers upon holding their child for the first time would say it wasn’t worth it? The joys of eternal life will chase every troubling thought of this temporary existence from our minds. If anything the sorrows of this life will not taint the glories of heaven, but make them that much sweeter.

-Grady

[1] A later article will address the question of Satan’s origin and corruption.