What If God?

Why does God allow so much evil, pain and suffering in the world? We know instinctively that He could stop it … but He doesn’t — so we’re tempted to doubt His goodness. What could be His motive?

Well, what would it be like if God never allowed anything bad to happen? Sure, there’d be no sin or suffering, but what would we know about God or ourselves?

We’d never know He was preventing evil and suffering … would we? We’d never FireyTreeexperience His mercy or patience; we’d know nothing of His sacrificial love or His willingness to suffer with us, or of His justice, wrath and holiness … or of our own selfishness and depravity … and very little of His wisdom and power. It would be pleasant for sure, but rather dull … uninteresting … boring. There’d be no contrast.

By allowing evil God has been revealing both Himself and everything outside Himself; this is actually His motive in Creation: the more evil He allows the more we know about Him and ourselves. (Ro 9:22-23)

Will knowing God intimately be worth it all in the end? Evidently, God thinks so … and He’s already there (Is 57:15) … bringing forth unspeakable beauty from all the brokenness. (Is 61:3, 1Pe 1:7)

The truth is, God hasn’t responded to most of the evil in the world yet, but He will one Day. (Ac 17:31) Just because we haven’t seen full justice doesn’t mean we won’t. And if the little we’ve seen of His response so far is any indication, it will be utterly amazing, glorious beyond description. (Re 20:11)

Meanwhile, God has shown us enough to help us rejoice in Him, to trust Him implicitly and confidently, and to glory in Him alone. (Je 9:23-24) Let’s do so, believing He will never break a promise, be unfaithful, or a disappointment in the end. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Co 2:9)

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The Terror of the Lord

In all His public teaching Jesus never once mentions God’s love*, yet He speaks of Hell often and without apology. (Mt 18:9) He warns of God’s justice and wrath, and exhorts us all to fear Him (Lk 12:4-5); He’s a consuming fire. (He 12:29) The terror of the Lord is the divine default in appealing to souls (2Co 5:11), not love and compassion (Jud 1:22-23), yet we’ve lost our holy trembling. (Php 2:12)

VolcanicLightning
Calbuco Volcano Eruption

Why is God so angry with unbelievers? (Jn 3:36) He treats them like hardened criminals rather than victims. Is God unjust, or are we missing His perspective? (Is 55:8-9)

God’s anger implies the lost are without excuse (Ro 1:20-21); in our free will we’d rather rebel against God than submit to Him. (Re 16:9-11) Men glady submit to gods of their own making, but not to the God of Heaven.

I think we forget that sin harms God; it grieves Him … He hates it. (Gen 6:6) If Hell is no more than God disarming His enemies in order to end His own suffering, how can we complain against it? And if God’s heart has always been open-armed (Ro 10:21), offering His oppressors relief if they’ll just humble themselves and repent (Eze 33:11), why wouldn’t He keep doing so throughout eternity? He doesn’t change. (Ja 1:17)

From all appearances, Hell is a prison defended from within — by depraved souls and spirits who lunge at any opportunity to resist and damage a merciful, benevolent, loving God … no matter what the cost to themselves or others. If there are no victims in Hell, only deliberate fiends and devils, how is God being unjust? (Ez 33:11)

Those who know Jehovah worship Him as He is, in all His works and ways. (Re 15:3) I think it’s high time we stop apologizing for God’s anger, downplaying His indignation, vengeance, hatred and wrath. (Ps 50:21-22) He’s not being unfair; Man is. Let’s encourage joyful trembling (Ps 2:11), and as ol’ John Baptist, tearfully warn the disobedient to flee the wrath to come. (Mt 3:7-8)

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* See 1st comment below

Eternal Salvation

When Jesus Christ died on the cross “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” (He 5:9) He does not offer a temporary salvation, but an eternal one.

By definition, salvation from Hell must be eternal, for if one ever ends up in Hell there can be no real sense in which one has ever been saved from it. In other words, a salvation that can be lost is no salvation at all.

Yet many complain that eternal salvation –  the once saved always saved kind –MountainBalloonRays means we can “get saved” and then live like the devil. But this is not salvation at all; God saves from the dominion of sin as well as from its penalty, such that the saved obey Christ as new creatures, with a new nature. This renewing of our hearts is not by the will of Man (Jn 1:12-13); it is the work and gift of God. (Ro 4:5)

If salvation can be lost, the question to ask is, “How good do I have to be to keep it?” The question has only one safe answer: “Be perfect.” (Mt 19:20-21) We dare not presume a lower standard, and there is no higher one … yet it implies we can never know we have salvation.

But those who trust in Christ know they have eternal life. (1Jn 5:13) Those who don’t have an eternal salvation have not yet grasped the significance of the cross; Christ’s work is an efficacious, limited atonement for all — He did not merely make salvation a possibility for all, He also infallibly saved all who believe.

Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” (2Pe 1:10) Once Jesus Christ pays your sin debt, you will never be condemned … ever. (Ro 4:6-8) Once we see the power of His cross we cannot doubt its efficacy, and we come to understand the only salvation there is … an eternal one. (He 7:25)

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Not Under Law

Of all the phrases used by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, “not under law” may be the most misunderstood. Most think it means God’s laws in the Old Testament are obsolete, but context implies something very different: Paul says, “sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Ro 6:12-14)

Grace&Glory
Svolvaer, Norway

Not being under law is what causes us to overcome sin … yet sin is breaking God’s Law.  (1Jn 3:4) Paul is not telling us we can sin all we want now, but how being in Christ causes us to sin less and less.

The key appears to be in the contrasting phrase – under grace: experiencing the power of God as He transforms us into the likeness of Christ. (Ep 2:8,10) As God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Php 2:13), we are no longer under law, trying to obey in our own strength, feeling only the duty and command but no empowering life, with no inclination to obey, always failing, rebelling and feeling the terror of our condemnation. Rather, we have Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col 1:27), Who overcame the world (Jn 16:33) and is doing it all over again in every one of His children (1Jn 5:4), giving them grace unto glory. (Php 1:6)

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My Feasts

As we approach a new year in God’s calendar (Ex 12:2), I am looking forward to celebrating with my King as He invites me to His table again … to seven glorious, heavenly feasts of the Lord.

Windsor Castle, England

When Jehovah calls them “my feasts” (Le 23:2), He seems to be saying that these eternal appointed times are for Himself as well as for us; each one an invitation to dine in person with the Almighty.

As He Himself rested on the very first Sabbath day (Ge 2:2-3), and as He promises to celebrate Passover again with us in His kingdom (Lk 22:15-16), and as all activity in the Jerusalem temple during each biblical feast mirrors that of God’s heavenly temple (He 8:4-5, 9:23), it is evident that God Himself participates in His own feasts, along with the hosts of Heaven — and that He invites us to join Him.

We can see Jehovah’s heart here in His insistence that we come to His house to participate in His feasts (Ex 34:22-24); and as it has been from the earliest days so shall it always be. (Zec 14:16) As He invited the Apostles of old (Jn 21:12), what an awesome privilege to be invited by God to come and dine with Him! (Mt 22:8-10)

Further, in characteristic fashion, these appointed times with God are not just for satisfying our fleshly appetites, but each feast is rich in spiritual food, simply chock full of spiritual and prophetic symbolism to engage our minds and hearts in His ways. (Col 2:16-17)

The message could not be any clearer: in His feasts God is inviting us into an awesome fellowship with Himself; He enjoys sharing Himself with us and engaging us in what He is doing. In this coming season of God’s calendar, let’s take every opportunity to enjoy and delight in God as He has so graciously invited us.

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Edify One Another

Why go to church? I find hiking in the mountains and looking at sunsets more worshipful; I can listen to uplifting music and sermons any time, and I learn so much more about God from just reading my Bible.

As I see it there’s only one reason to go, yet I can’t find a single church set up for it! I think we’ve totally missed God’s purpose for church and it’s hurting us all. I go and make the best of it, but I’m afraid these aren’t the churches Jesus is building (Mt 16:18); I long for His design.

God’s churches are spiritual families of brothers and sisters regularly assembling for one unique purpose: to help each other follow God. (1Th 5:11, He 10:25) It’s an extension of God Himself on Earth. (Ep 5:30) I think the early Christians got this, and it’s why they were powerful.

If we started meeting for the right reason we might find we need to change a few things … lose the fancy buildings, stop hiring musicians and pastors to entertain and sermonize us … and diluting the message so we can get people who aren’t seeking God to help pay for it all.

Maybe we’d start building relationships with people who challenge us to grow, who love us enough to humbly confront our sin … and invite us to humbly challenge theirs. Maybe we’d come to meetings with more of a sense of responsibility, more prepared to give than receive. (1Co 14:26)

Maybe we’d start teaching each other about things that matter … how to overcome sin and walk joyfully with God. Maybe we’d pray for and comfort each other more, and ask for prayer more, and maybe we’d think more soberly about our salvation, eternity and holiness.

Then maybe we’d even find God Himself living in and through our churches like He used to, Christ in us, showing up in our meetings and filling us with faith and power to glorify His name. (1Co 14:24-25)

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Saved by Hope

Hope: an expectation that something good will happen, the delightful foretaste of blessings not yet seen, the heart’s response to God’s faithfulness. Hope is a cornerstone of spiritual life, intrinsic to all godliness. (1Co 13:13a) Life can be unbearable without it; Jehovah says we are saved by it. (Ro 8:24)

Hope saves by rescuing us from anxiety, worry, despair and despondency, giving us strength to live joyfully, to walk worthy of Him, with purpose and dignity even in the midst of our afflictions.

Knowing God is just and good keeps hope alive in this broken world. We must remember that YHWH has a glorious purpose in all evil and suffering. His Day will come: He will right all wrong; He will judge all in righteousness and truth. (Ps 9:8) In the end, as surely as we are, God’s children will exult in Him.

The Almighty makes no promise lightly; He puts His name and character on the line in every single one. He need not do so for Himself: He is giving us an ultimate opportunity to honor Him, to trust His heart before seeing His hand.

Will Heaven see any promise unfulfilled? to even one person? What have we to lose in acting out His faithfulness? Is there a better way to glorify Him? Or any other way … is it even possible to honor Him without trusting Him?

Let the world go its way, heedless of glory and judgment to come. Keeping our eyes on the heart of our King, let us count on Him; expect Him to fulfill His Word. Let our story be the joyful anticipation of heavenly reality … an abiding witness of God’s eternal faithfulness. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Ro 15:13)

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