Understand God’s Purpose

This is lesson five of six in the God’s Not Dead series:

  1. Some people draw nearer to God in times of persecution, crisis, and tragedy, while others blame God for not stopping the hurt, or is not loving enough to intervene. Think about the unreliability of a world where we get a little tickle every time we do something good and a shock every time we do something bad.
  2. I remember Stephen out playing and occasionally he would crash and burn, scraping his knees, and not once did he run to me and say, “It was a bit casual of you to sit back and let me fall, I can tell you are not a father of love by letting me get hurt.” or “What good is a father who can’t or won’t prevent me from getting hurt?” No, he would let me come to him, hold him, remind him that it is going to be OK, and fix his wounds.

Then there is the case of the hot radiator, “Don’t touch it, that is hot and will burn you.” This is what we can call experiential learning.

  1. Do we really have an eternal perspective on life in this fallen world. What would you consider the best of all possible worlds? It comes down to a world that has free will and all people choose not to sin. We might call that heaven, but not all people are this way. THIS world allows free will to self-select those who reject God and his principles that bring life, happiness, and wholeness… so THIS world is the BEST WAY to the best of all possible worlds.

We saw the final classroom scene where Josh and Professor Radisson go head to head about evil and suffering in the world. It’s pretty intense.


We cannot deny the existence of pain and suffering. Think about wars, the Holocaust, human trafficking, terrorism, but that is not God’s original intention.

Norman Geisler define evil this way: Some have said that evil is a substance that grabs hold of certain things and makes them bad (like a virus infecting an animal) or that evil is a rival force in the universe (like the dark side of Luke Skywalker’s Force). Think about LOVE (a good thing turned bad becomes lust), SEX (becomes pornography or fornication), ALCOHOL (becomes alcoholism and drunk driving), PLEASURE (becomes hedonism).

Refer to the Geisler information on EVIL. [ Go ]

As mankind grew in number, the evil of mankind has grown. God has given mankind the ability to choose to become evil or not. Many ignore God’s guidelines and act selfishly, unkindly, and unwisely.

Skeptic have claimed that theists have caused as much evil as those without faith, but this fact does not discredit God or Christianity. Jesus himself said that many would call themselves his disciples but will not obey his commends. The crusades and the inquisition were led by lost kings and popes, not the people of faith.

Just because we have police and there is a speed limit, does not mean that I guarantee I’ll keep that law, So, evil does not point to the absence of God from the world, but the absence of God from our lives.

Slide5But we must realize that real standards for morality do exist (look at the atrocities down through history). While people may claim that Christianity has caused more pain and suffering through the ages, that is just not true (think about Stalin and Lenin in the Russian revolution, Hitler and Nazi Germany, Pohl Pot and the Khmer Rouge). This is the embodiment of Darwinian evolution that also teaches survival of the fittest, or natural selection.

Skeptics like Richard Dawkins would say that we can rise above our evolutionary instincts but they have no standard to make such a claim. Author C.S. Lewis writes, “How would I know the line is crooked if I didn’t know what a straight line is?”

Imagine finding a rock on the beach. Since it doesn’t come with an instruction manual; without guidelines, you could only guess about its purpose. On the other hand, if you find a car, you know it was designed by an engineer who has a manual on how to operate the car to its greatest capacity. People can follow the manual or create their own guidelines, but violating the designer’s guidelines will lead to a breakdown and it won’t operate effectively.

Imagine an owner of a watch with no guidelines on how to use it. One might use it to stir your coffee of hammer a nail. Obviously the watch would not by used to its full capacity.

If we don’t understand out purpose, we will spend our lives on meaningless distractions, or make idols out of relationships, our career, or some other temporary item.

Slide6So, the evidence points to the reality of a supreme moral law-giver.

Skeptics who argue that that there can not be any objective moral standards expect others to treat them justly and fairly (human rights, equality for women, equal rights for minorities) but from where do these morals come?

Skeptics say they can still act ethically without religion or belief in God, but they ignore the fact that mankind is created in the image of God. We share his common set of moral standards, regardless of culture of context. Professor Radisson stated, “Does a people need God to be good?” Think about it, if we are just animals with no ultimate purpose, then on what basis do we make moral judgments?

Behaviors like kindness, mercy, equality, and forgiveness are true and good because we were brought up in a culture shaped by Christian values. Civilizations that reject a higher power than themselves inevitably degenerate into authoritarian states with little concern for human rights (think Communists and Nazis).

Slide7They want God to stop the evil in the world but don’t stop the evil in me.

There is a way to stop all the evil in the world… God could kill every person on the planet. Then evil would stop.

God has a plan to remove evil by changing the heart of every person, that way God can extract evil without destroying the person. This removes evil one person at a time. Let’s start with each person sitting here today.

When we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit work on reshaping our hearts; driving motivations shift from primarily serving ourselves to serving others. It’s not natural, it is supernatural. Crime could disappear, mercy ministries would flourish, we would treat people with kindness and respect… could this be a revival?

Slide8This should produce a sense of fear of the Lord… People often talk about a good kind of fear, like awe and respect, but Jesus addressed downright FEAR, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5). When it comes to judgment, “by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6).

It is the knowledge that we will give an account of our finances that we file our 1040 form; we will give an account to police for our evil actions. Judgment is not contrary to God’s character of mercy and love and compassion. He would be unjust if he allowed evil to go unpunished. Acts 17:31 says that, “… He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

The good news is that he has provided a way of forgiveness. In God’s patience, he delays judgment to people may turn to him. Understanding the nature of judgment helps us understand the work of Jesus on the cross. Judgment is not something like a scale (one’s good deeds compared to one’s evil deeds). In the new creation, there cannot be ANY evil or the corruption cycle begins all over again. So, Jesus died to pay the penalty for sin and defeat its power in our lives. We submit to him in faith and then God’s power begins a transformational process making us like him, sanctification.

The last question in the video clip, Josh says, “How can you hate someone if they don’t exist?”

Skeptics use the existence of evil and suffering as an attack on Christianity, but denying God does not take away the pain. It just takes away their hope. Only the Christian faith offers a true explanation for the cause of suffering in the world. It provides the resources to defeat it personally and socially. It provides hope that God will ultimately remove it.

The existence of evil does not demonstrate God’s absence from the world, but God’s absence from our hearts. God is the one who defines evil and he tells it like it is.

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The Law of Non-Retaliation

How to respond to those who hate you (Matthew 5:38-48)

One of the oldest laws in the world was based on the principle of equal retaliation. It was called lex talionis and dates back as far as Hammurabi (eighteenth-century B.C.). It is found three times in the Old Testament (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21). The original intention was to restrict unlimited revenge. It was understood as (only) an eye for eye and (only) a tooth for a tooth. Further, it was never intended as an excuse for individual retaliation; it belonged in the law court and was allowed by a judge.

Jesus now changes limited retaliation to non-retaliation. Members of Christ’s kingdom do not resist an evil person (someone who may wrong them). Like their Master, his disciples accept unjust abuse (1 Peter 2:21–23). Three examples of non-retaliation for personal abuse are offered.

  1. If someone should insult you with a backhanded slap to the right cheek, you are to turn to him the other also for an additional blow (Matthew 5:39). Rabbis taught that such a blow was doubly insulting and carried twice the fine as an open-handed slap.
  2. If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic (a long, close-fitting undergarment made of cotton or linen), give that person your cloak (an outer garment that served as a blanket at night) as well. Jewish law required that a neighbor not be deprived of his or her cloak (Exodus 22:26–27) at night, otherwise, there would be no covering under which to sleep. Jesus counsels giving the aggressor not only the undergarment but the outer robe as well. Obviously this is not to be taken in a woodenly literal fashion. Jesus is not recommending that believers leave the courtroom naked!
  3. If a soldier from an occupying force wants to conscript a peasant to carry their gear (the Greek verb means “to force”) the disciple would go beyond what was require to that which was unexpected. Simon of Cyrene was “forced” by the Roman soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross (Matthew 27:32).

The section closes with the counsel to give to those who ask and lend to those who wish to borrow. Jesus’ followers are not to be caught up in anxious concern about the things they possess. They are to enjoy the same freedom that led the believers mentioned in Hebrews 10:34 to endure gladly the looting of all their possessions.

Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (48–49). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.


1. Can you identify with the bumper sticker, “I don’t get mad, I could even”?

2. Is Matthew 5:38 and exact quote of the Old Testament? (Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21).

3. What was the purpose for this Old Testament command? (Deuteronomy 19:20-21) 1) as a deterrent: The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you; 2) as a protection against excess, don’t go overboard.

4. How was Jesus contrasting his teaching with the rabbis of his day? (Matthew 5:39) Jesus does not deny the law of retaliation as a valid principle of legal justice. While insisting upon adequate punishment, this law safeguarded justice by not permitting excessive punishment. Jesus advocates a desired response more characteristic of a regenerate citizen of the kingdom.

5. How was Moses legislation on civil justice misused?

6. Does this command to prohibit retribution on a government level? (Romans 12:17-21, 13:1-4, 1 Peter 2:13-14) Like Matthew 5:38, this deals only with matters of personal retaliation, not criminal offenses or acts of military aggression. (See # 9 below)

7. Who alone can personally execute vengeance righteously? (Deuteronomy 32:35) Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.

8. What did Jesus mean when he commanded his disciples, “do not resist him who is able”? (Matthew 5:39) This passage deals with disciples of Jesus giving up personal rights.

9. To which four basic areas of human rights does Jesus supply this command of non-retaliation? (Matthew 5:39-42) Jesus applied this principle of non-retaliation to affronts against one’s 1) dignity (Matthew 5:39), 2) security, lawsuits to gain one’s personal assets (Matthew 5:40), 3) infringements on one’s liberty (Matthew 5:41), and 4) violations of property rights (Matthew 5:42). He was calling for a full surrender of all personal rights.

10. How does Jesus instructs his followers to act instead of react when these basic rights are challenged? (Matthew 5:39-42)

11. What did the rabbinic tradition add to and omit from Leviticus 19:18 to justify hatred for their enemies? (Matthew 5:43) The rabbis corrupted Leviticus 19:18, which sums up the Law of Israel, by adding “and hate your enemy.” By tampering with Scripture, they intended to define their neighbors to include only Jews and to exclude Samaritans and Gentiles. Kingdom citizens must practice self-denying, self-giving, non-discriminating love toward all men, even their enemies, for God does the same (Matthew 5:45).

12. Did the Old Testament law permit retaliation against an enemy? (Deuteronomy 22:1-4, Exodus 23:4-5, proverbs 24:17-18, Proverbs 25:21-22)

13. What old testament characters are good examples of refusing to return evil for evil?

14. How do the imprecatory psalms fit with the concept of non-retaliation? (Psalm 69:22-24, Psalm 74:1-23)

15. How are we commanded to act toward our enemies? (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, 28, 35)

16. What three purposes did Jesus give for obeying this command? (Matthew 5:45-47) (See three practical reasons, below).

17. What kind of growth does Jesus command in this area? (Matthew 5:48)


1. Act Instead of React (Matthew 5:39-42) This passage is taken directly from the Old Testament (Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21). What it required was that the punishment exactly match the crime. In the Pentateuch the phrase, “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” is part about larger list that includes “hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

The principle of “the punishment must fit the crime” has two basic purposes.

A. To curtail future crime. When a person is punished for wrongdoing, the rest will here and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you.

B. To prevent excessive punishment based on personal vengeance and retaliation.

You have heard it said “I don’t get mad, I get even,” but Jesus taught just the opposite.

Jesus uses the phrase, “you have heard” but where had the disciples heard that saying? The rabbinical teaching interpreted it as a license for revenge. They were teaching that Jewish tradition permitted each man to become his own judge, jury, and executioner. Civil justice was perverted to personal revenge. In no case to the Old Testament allow an individual to take the law into his own hands and apply it personally.

Jesus in this section prohibits retribution on a personal level, but not on the government to level. The principle of non-retaliation doesn’t apply to governmental authorities. Check out Romans 13:4. When we take revenge, we get in the way of God ordained minister that is supposed to deal with the evildoers (Romans 12:9).

We live in a day where the vigilante is glorified. That sort of thing feeds our old nature. That’s what happens when we take personal vengeance. This doesn’t leave room for God to work and to bring pressure upon the individual that is done evil to you (1 Peter 2:13-14).

When Jesus says that we are not resistant evil person, he says “don’t take resist him personally.” He is referring to the harm that is caused to us by someone who is evil. Paul taught the same thing by saying, “never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” We are called to “overcome evil by doing good” (Romans 12:21).

After establishing the basic principle of non-retaliation and Matthew 5:39, Jesus speaks of four basic human rights in Matthew 5:39-42 – dignity, security, liberty, and property. What Jesus is laying down here in these examples is a pattern of acting instead of reacting. If you ever are going to act rather than react, you have to plan your response.

To illustrate, we could compare a thermostat and a thermometer. These are two different instruments used in relation to temperature. Thermometer type people are controlled by their environment. If their climate gets hotter, so do they. The thermostat type person controls their environment. That is the Christian, the disciple. He determines whether things will calm down or not. They let their vertical relationship with God affect their horizontal relationships with people.

Act Instead of React

A. Turn – The word cheek literally means “the jaw.” The blow intended is not a mere slap but a heavy blow, and act of violence rather than contempt. To slap someone in the face was among the most demeaning actions that could take place. It was attack on ones honor. It was to treat someone as being far less than a human being and it would often lead far beyond the slap into a punch and then a fight. We are commanded to control our attitude regardless of our environment.

Jesus illustrated this when he was before the Sanhedrin when they abused him and mocked him and slapped him in the face (Matthew 26:67). It is interesting that the most aggressive act that you could perform after being slapped is to turn the other cheek. This is a sign of great strength. To retaliate is to be conquered, to be overcome by evil (Romans 12:21).

B. Let him have – The shirt that is mentioned here is the type of tunic worn as an undergarment. It had short sleeves and it only reached to about the knees. The outer garment or coat was used as a covering for the night, it was a blanket, and it was forbidden by Mosaic law to keep someone’s coat overnight (Leviticus 22:26-27). Being willing to yield this up implies a higher degree of concession.

Jesus is not speaking of robbery here, but rather a legitimate claim someone might have against you in a court of law. When a person had no money or other possessions, the court would often require payment by clothing. One who was truly righteous would be willing to surrender even his coat, his extremely valued over garment, even though the court could not demand, to meet the required debt.

If someone takes you to court and a fair legal judgment has been made, a reaction should not be one of bitterness and resentment. If possible we should be willing to offer more to show that we don’t harbor ill feelings toward the person. Think about it divorce which requires alimony. If you have to give $250, then give $350 to deal with your heart attitude.

C. Go with him – God’s original intent was that everyone was created in his image should live in freedom. Human bondage and slavery were consequences of the fall. In this passage Jesus is referring to a law which set a Roman soldier could force a civilian to carry his backpack for one Roman mile. For example, if some Jewish boy was running an errand for his dad in a Roman soldier stop to him, he would have to carry us pack for one mile. Inside he may be thinking, I’ve got better things to do. I have the right to finish this task for my dad. These laws are taking away our freedom. So bitterly he grabs the pack and put it on his shoulder to complete the task. Perhaps he is kicking the dust in resentment. This would be the attitude of someone who is not a disciple. Price says to go the extra mile. We shouldn’t stand on our legal rights and stop when the law has been satisfied. If we go that second on required mile, we may spark the other persons interest. Go the extra mile and make a friend. We should willingly surrender our liberty rather than retaliate.

D. Give – the last basic human right is that of property. Possessiveness is another characteristic of fallen human nature. We just don’t like giving up, even temporarily, that which belongs to us. We believe that we have the right to use or dispose of our possessions as we see fit. Take a look at Luke 6:34, The word lend has more the idea of letting someone use something for a while. Jewish law said that if you owed something you had borrowed, every seventh year of the debt would be forgiven. So a Jew who was charitable would lend something with no expectation of seeing it again. Luke 6:30 tells us not to demand something back. We should loan things that belong to us to those with genuine needs with an attitude of, “if I don’t get it back there is no retaliation.”

We should not obey this command grudgingly when faced with someone with a real need that we can meet. We should have a willing, generous, sharing, and loving desire to help others. God isn’t interested in tokenism that wants to buy off one don’t conscience.

2. Use the Weapons of Love (Matthew 5:43-47, Luke 6:27-28)

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” The foundation of Jewish ethics was Leviticus 19:18; “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” It is often mentioned that nowhere in the Old Testament will you find an explicit demand to hate your enemies. In fact, some verses seem to point in quite the other direction (Proverbs 25:21, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink”).

Yet many other verses call for Israel actively to oppose its national enemies…

  1. Deuteronomy 7:2, “Show them [the Hittites, Girgashites, etc.] no mercy”
  2. Deuteronomy 20:16, “Do not leave alive anything that breathes” [among the cities that God gives Israel as an inheritance]
  3. Deuteronomy 23:6, “Do not seek a treaty or friendship with them [Ammonites and Moabites] as long as you live”).

The attitude reflects God’s own “hatred” of evil. David can say, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you?” (Psalm 139:21).

Followers of Jesus are to love their enemies as well as their friends. In this way they show themselves to be children of their heavenly Father. Without partiality, he causes his sun to rise (Matthew 5:45) on both sinner and saint and his rain to fall on the honest and dishonest alike. His favor extends to all.

Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (49–51). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Misinterpretation: (Matthew 5:43, Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 23:3-6)

There is a contrast between the Pharisees teaching, “you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy” and what Christ was teaching. The audience was only familiar with the teaching of the scribes in the Pharisees, which was based on rabbinic teaching and tradition, which wasn’t true to the proper interpretation of the Old Testament text. Jesus points out that the phrase was only part of the tradition that actually came from the old testament text. Leviticus 19:18 says, “you shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.” (Matthew 19:19, 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8).

This is a marked difference between Islam and Christianity, we love our enemies rather than try to destroy them. What about the crusades? Popes and kings were godless people, they were not saved. The crusades was not the church in action. Jesus’ point is that we must treat our enemies the same we would as our friends (Exodus 23:4-5).

There are Three Practical Ways we can Demonstrate our Love for our Enemies:

A. Pray (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:28). It is Warren Wiersbe who says that when we pray for our enemies, we find it easier to love them. It takes the poison out of our attitudes.

B. Do good (Luke 6:27). If you have someone who is antagonistic toward you, think of practical ways that you can meet his basic needs. That’s how you demonstrate your love to him, when you do good to him (Romans 12:19-20).

When you return good for evil, you will bring a burning sense of shame because of your kindness toward them. As a historical possibility, this phrase was used to describe how someone helped someone else who’s fire going out on a cold night. The enemy of yours is banging on the door late one winters night. Your enemy is freezing and it’s finally gotten up the nerve to come to you and ask for help. The natural reaction is to say “forget it, don’t you know how you hurt me in the past? Suffer! That’s what you get.” But that is not how a Christian response. Even though you were warm in your bed, he would rise and meet your enemy’s need. The coals would be put in a container of brass or copper and then placed upon your enemy’s head as he would return home.

C. Bless (Luke 6:28). The third weapon of love is to bless our enemy. What does it mean to bless someone? The word bless (eulogeo) means to speak well of. At a funeral we know it as a eulogy. People say nice things about the deceased person.

Four reasons for using these weapons of love: (Matthew 5:45-47)

A. It Proves that You are Sons of Your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:45a). To act instead of react is proving that we are sons of our heavenly father. A life of self-giving love gives evidence that we are God’s children. The phrase “in order that” is a Greek purpose clause. It says “in order that you may be sons of your father.” This sounds as though you can get saved if you obey the command, but this purpose clause would literally be translated “in order that you may show yourselves to be sons of your father in heaven.”

B. It is Godlike to do so (Matthew 5:45b). The father shares good things with those who oppose him. God has an impartial indiscriminate love. Christ died and demonstrated love for us while we were yet sinners. He died for the whole world. Theologians call this common grace.

C. It Determines Future Reward (Matthew 5:46)

D. It is a Testimony to Others (Matthew 5:47) Jesus asked his disciples, what do you do more than others? He has higher expectations for his disciples and expected them to live in a higher level than the unsaved world. We must do more than just return good for good. The world will take notice if we return good for evil.

3. Be Mature in Your Response (Matthew 5:48)

Therefore you are to be perfect (future imperative) as your heavenly father is perfect. The word “perfect” suggest maturity as sons of God.

To be children of God requires that we meet moral conditions. To be like God we must show our favor not simply to those who are ready to love in return. There is no reward for loving those who love us. Even the despised tax collectors do that. And if we show courtesy only to our friends, there is nothing out of the ordinary in that. What God requires is that his children be perfect, therefore, just as he is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

This last statement in Matthew 5:48 has often been misinterpreted. It has served as a basic text for the doctrine of Christian perfectionism, which requires of the Christian absolute moral impeccability, but it often ends up reclassifying sin as something less serious than it is. The perfection to which Jesus calls his followers has just been defined by the context. Perfect love is an active concern for all people everywhere, regardless of whether or not they receive it. To do this is to imitate God and demonstrate that we are his children (Matthew 5:45). It is to display a family likeness. The Greek word for “perfect” means “having attained the end/purpose.” Since human beings were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), they are “perfect” when they demonstrate in their lives those characteristics that reflect the nature of God.

Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (49–51). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

“You shall be perfect” translates two Greek words: a future imperative (esesthe) expressing a command, and the word teleioi, denoting “end,” “goal,” “outcome.” The idea of gaining maturity does not fully interpret this quotation from Leviticus 19:2. Perfection is attainable only when evil is vanquished and the kingdom citizen is glorified. His present life ought to exhibit maturity and progress toward that ultimate goal of perfection. Whatever the interpretation, the demand for perfection is not to be weakened. Rather, Matthew magnifies the fact that the righteousness demanded of kingdom citizens cannot be attained on the basis of merit, but must be given through mercy. This statement summarizes Matthew 5:17–48.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Loving Your Enemies

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

To live under the cross means that every aspect of our lives is shaped and colored by it. We are to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1-2) and exercise relationships as Jesus did.

Conciliation and Discipline: we are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and to seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11). Peacemaking can never be a unilateral activity; live at peace with everyone is qualified by two conditions, “if it is possible” and “as far as it depends upon you” (Romans 12:18).

Jesus was determined to make peace with us, his enemies who had rebelled against him, he made peace through the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:20). If we are the offender, there is:

  1. Humiliation in apologizing.
  2. Deeper humiliation in making restitution where possible.
  3. Deepest humiliation in confessing the deep wounds we have caused will take time to heal and cannot be lightly forgotten.

The incentive in peacemaking is love, but it denigrates into appeasement whenever justice is ignored. The two powerful cries of a child are “nobody loves me” and “it’s not fair” since their sense of love and justice come from God. Here are the stages of reconciliation:

  1. Private: one-to-one confrontation with the offender, and if he listens, he will be won over.
  2. Take several others in a rebuke: if not the actual offense, perhaps the confrontation in stage one.
  3. To the church: if he will not listen, it goes to the community of faith; a third chance to repent.
  4. It is only here, if he does not repent, that excommunication is allowed.

Christian Attitudes Toward Evil: does the cross commit us to a non-violent acceptance of all violence? Does it invalidate the process of justice and the so-called “just war?” Does it prohibit the use of any kind of force so that it would be incompatible for a Christian to be a policeman, soldier or prison guard? How did we respond to divine mercy? (Note the resemblance to our September r12 emphasis).

  1. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2).
  2. We are to think of ourselves with sober judgment (Romans 12:3).
  3. We are to love each other by employing gifts (Romans 12:4-13, 15-16).
  4. We are to bless our persecutors and do good to our enemies (Romans 12:14, 17-21).

How do we react to persecutors and enemies? The Romans 12-13 has several directions:

  1. Evil is to be hated: hate what is evil, cling to what is good (Romans 12:9).
  2. Evil is not to be repaid: don’t repay evil with evil, do what is right in the eyes of everyone (Romans 12:17, 19). Revenge and retaliation are forbidden. The sermon on the mount is pretty clear (don’t resist and evil person). Peter on Jesus (1 Peter 2:23), he did not retaliate while suffering.
  3. Evil is to be overcome: don’t be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Heaping burning coals is not retaliation, but a figure of speech to cause him shame. When we retaliate with evil, evil increases in the world; our desire is to decrease the amount of evil in the world.
  4. Evil is to be punished: he (the government) is God’s servant to do good, an agent of wrath to punish evil doers (Romans 12:17, 19, 13:4). It is God prerogative to punish, not ours. Law enforcement is God’s servant to carry out justice.

Retaliation is not wrong, since evil deserves to be punished, should be punished, and in fact will be punished. Jesus said each person will be judged according to his deeds (Matthew 16:27). Peter tells us that Jesus entrusted himself to the one who will judge (1 Peter 2:23).

Authority of the State: the Christian attitude should be one of balance, avoiding extremes, embracing critical respect. In each stated point, the state is limited in its authority.

  1. The origin of its authority is God (Romans 13:1, 4, 6): three times Paul asserts the state’s authority. Despite the defects of the Roman government, Paul declares its authority and ministry of be God’s. The state must be respected as a divine institution, but to give it blind allegiance would be idolatry. The early believers would not say that “Caesar is lord.”
  2. The purpose God gives authority is to reward good and punish evil (Ephesians 1:21-22, Romans 13:3-4): Most governments tend to be better at the latter than the former; law enforcement is stronger than positive encouragement.
  3. The means by which the state’s authority is exercised must be as controlled as its purposes are discriminate (Romans 13:4): to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, coercion is often used. Authority implies power and we have to distinguish between violence and force. The state can exercise capital punishment and make war. The state has the power to stop evil-doers; punishing aggressors who threaten it from outside, and punish criminals who threaten it from the inside.
  4. The due recognition of the state’s authority is laid down (Romans 12:1, 2, 5, 6, 1 Peter 2:13, 1 Timothy 2:1-2). There are limits to our submission to the state (Revelation 12).
    1. Suppose the state misuses its God-given authority and promotes evil and suppresses good?
    2. Suppose the state ceases to protect people and begins to oppress them?

The apostle gives no room for totalitarian rule. Even Daniel practiced civil disobedience, as well as Peter and John. If the state commands what God forbids, or forbids what God commands, we disobey the state in order to obey God. We respect the state but we do not worship it.

Overcoming Evil with Good: evil is to be repaid but not repaid (depending on the agent). How can evil be overcome (Romans 12:21) and also punished (Romans 13:4)? The difference is between pacifists and war theorists.

  1. Just war theorists tend to concentrate on the need to resist and punish evil.
  2. Pacifists tend to concentrate on overcoming evil with good, and forget that evil must be punished.

Christians need to look beyond defeat and surrender of the national enemy to its repentance and rehabilitation; a politics of redemption and forgiveness.

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The Conquest of Evil

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

The Bible holds promises like overcoming, victory, conquest, triumph; this was the first century vocabulary of followers of the risen Lord.

The cross disarmed and triumphed over the devil, along with all the powers and principalities at his command. They believed in Satan’s downfall, yet were victims of such violence for little more than having faith in the resurrected Jesus. So how did God triumph and have victory over the enemy? Stott explored six stages:

The Conquest Predicted: it all started in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) with the promise of the Messiah.

The Conquest Begun: this comes in the ministry of Jesus. As Satan recognized Jesus as the future conqueror, he made every attempt to get rid of Jesus (Herod’s rage, wilderness temptations, the crowds and leaders attempts to kill Jesus, Peter’s contradiction of the way of the cross).

The Conquest Achieved: this is the binding of the strong man, the Savior actually on the cross. Paul addresses two aspects of the saving work of the cross (Colossians 2:13-15):

  1. The forgiveness of sins: there is cancelling debt, the written code or IOU, (Romans 7:12) a broken Law of judgment. It was a signed confession, cancelled, wiped away, nailed to the cross.
  2. The overthrow of powers and authorities: three graphic verbs to explain their defeat.
    1. Stripped like foul clothing.
    2. Made a public spectacle, exhibiting powerlessness.
    3. Triumphed over them by the way of the cross; a captive’s procession through the victor’s city.
  3. What Christ did:
    1. Disarming them.
    2. Total resistance of the enemy.

The Conquest Confirmed and Announced: we cannot regard the cross as defeat and the resurrection as victory. The cross was where the victory was won, the resurrection was the victory endorsed, proclaimed and demonstrated. It was impossible for death to keep him because death was defeated on the cross, not the resurrection.

The Conquest Extended: the church is now out on its mission to preach the resurrected Lord. People are called to repent and believe in the risen Lord. People move from darkness to light; from death to life, from idols to the living God.

The Conquest Consummated: at the parousia.
The death and resurrection belong together in the New Testament, they go together. Seldom is one mentioned without the other (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, John 10:17-18, 2:19, Acts 2:23-24, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Romans 6:1-4, Luke 24:30-35).

Remember that it is by his death that our sins are dealt with, not the resurrection: the blood brought propitiation, redemption, justification, and reconciliation. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention that Christ rose for our sins. True, had he not been raised, our faith would be in vain and our preaching would be futile. Nothing would be accomplished by his death if he had not been raised from the dead. The gospel emphasizes the cross, since that is the place of victory. The resurrection did not achieve our deliverance from sin and death, but it brought us an assurance of both (1 Peter 1:3, 21).

Entering into Christ’s victory: although the devil has been defeated, he has not yet conceded defeat. He is overthrown but has not been eliminated. Stott mentions a tension between our theology and our experience:

  1. On one hand we are alive, seated and reigning with Christ with powers and principalities under God’s feet.
  2. On the other hand we warned that spiritual forces have set themselves in opposition to us (as in Ephesians) and have no hope of standing against them without the Lord’s strength.

There is an element of “already” and “not yet.” Triumphalists see the victory and command the dark forces, while defeatists see only the malice of the devil and overlook the victory of Christ. Jesus literally came to confront and defeat the devil and undo the damage he has done.

  1. We are no longer under the tyranny of the Law.
  2. We are no longer under the tyranny of the flesh.
  3. We are no longer under the tyranny of the world.
  4. We are no longer under the tyranny of death.

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God Calls us to Sexual Purity

Last year about this time we began challenging the congregation to read the Bible in 90 Days. As we went through the Old Testament, there were some pretty “R” rated (if not “X” rated) passages. I heard about one family traveling on a trip with the grandchildren, reading the Bible aloud while the other was driving. They had to stop reading out loud because the kids where listening! Grandma just couldn’t read certain passages and speak the words aloud. Leviticus 18 is one of those chapters. As I work with men, statistics tell me that when it comes to sexual purity, men who are in church are not too much different than men outside of the church. Purity is a desire, but impurity is a great temptation.

Leviticus 18 contains a series of laws that have to do with sexual expression (except for Leviticus 18:21, which forbids child sacrifice, which is really a whole other topic). We might wonder why God didn’t simply say, “Have sexual relations only with your spouse,” rather than offer such detail in the form: “Do not have sexual relations with… (you name it).”

The answer to this question comes in Leviticus 18:3. God is leading the Israelites out of Egypt, where various forms of sexual immorality were common, into the land of Canaan, where the people do the very things Leviticus 18 prohibits. As Leviticus 18:27 explains, “All these detestable activities are practiced by the people of the land where I am taking you, and this is how the land has become defiled.” God was concerned that the Israelites would easily be tempted to imitate the Canaanites’ sexual impurity, so he spelled out graphically the relationships in which sexual activity was forbidden. He knew that his people were like young children who needed specific instructions and prohibitions.

Although our context differs a lot from that of the Israelites, we face a pretty similar situation. We live today in a culture that endorses unimaginable sexual activity. Even though our society still agrees with Leviticus 18 about some things, like the wrongness of sex with a close relative, our world presents us with new challenges to our sexual holiness, like readily available pornography.

The New Testament does not really offer an updated list of sexual “don’ts,” like a new rulebook for Christian sexual conduct. Rather, it calls us to holiness in every part of our lives, including our sexuality (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). We should not imitate the ways of our world when it comes to sexual expression, but we are to devote our whole being to God, which includes our bodies. We are to live each day with the realization that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). So, we have the obligation and privilege of honoring God with our bodies. When we take this calling seriously, each day we will desire to dishonor God with our bodies less and less. We will seek to give him all that we are, all the time, giving Him honor.

Application: In what areas of life are you tempted to compromise in the are of purity? How have you come to realize your weaknesses? What safeguards have you set in place? What in our culture tempts you to set aside God’s standards for sexuality? What helps you to live according to God’s standards? What lures you to adopt the ways of our fallen culture? What has been your track record over the past few months? If you wish to start over, what prevents you from confession, restoration and commitment to purity (1 John 1:9)? Who is the man who holds you accountable? Whom are you holding accountable, your neighbor, brother, son, co-worker?

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