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.

Slide4

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.

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.

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.

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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