Tag Archives: evil
I thank the Lord for my friend Mike. He does not know the Lord — yet — as his Savior, but God is using him to remind me of the many blessings which I have “in Christ.” This study is multi-faceted and is helping me enormously in taking stock of what I have as a follower of Jesus. And I purpose to not simply coast through my Christian life, oblivious to the many gifts which being in God’s family has given me.
Our next “blessing” might seem odd, but it is a really critical one. This is a broken world; we are broken as people; terrible tragedies and catastrophes happen on this planet (and to us) under the watchful eye of a sovereign God. How are we to understand pain and tragedy? Sadly, my unsaved friends —
23. THEY DON’T POSSESS A PROPER VIEW OF SUFFERING!
The Bible does not sugar-coat this world’s fallenness with all its effects of “natural disasters” (earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.) and man-made evil (crime, betrayal, anger, revenge, injustice, prejudice, greed, etc.). But how are we to understand this world’s suffering in light of the Bible’s picture of a God of love?
Scholars refer to this effort at understanding evil as a theodicy (a defense of God’s justice in the face of evil’s reality). Some religious systems deny the reality of evil (the cult Christian Science is an example), compromise God’s omnipotence or omniscience (Rabbi Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People is an example of the former; Greg Boyd’s open theism an example of the latter), or resign themselves to a kind of deterministic fatalism about evil (Islam is an example of this approach).
The Bible provides the very best theodicy, for it affirms the real existence of evil and suffering while setting forth the goodness and justice of the biblical God. And God’s Word does not hesitate to show us godly people who had wrong views about suffering. One thinks of Job and his friends who were sure either Job had sinned greatly (and deserved what he was getting) or God was unfairly making Job His target (and needed to be sued in court for His [God’s] mistake). Even Jesus’ disciples cut to the chase theologically and thought the man-born-blind’s condition was because of sin (either his or his parents). Jesus corrects them by saying that “this happened so that the works of God would be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).
As God-manifest-in-the-flesh, Jesus allows death to take his friend Lazarus even though He had the power to keep him from dying (John 11). I’ve worked on this passage and entitled it “Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die!” But Jesus did.
One classic passage on the issue of suffering is Luke 13 where we read —
This brief theodicy by the Lord Jesus covers two areas of suffering and evil in our world. Notice the victims of a vicious crime in verses 1-3. Notice also the victims of a violent accident in verses 4-5. Neither the sin of the Galileans nor the guilt of those killed by the falling tower were the cause of their catastrophe. An evil man (Pilate) and the effects of gravity (the tower) illustrate one basic fact: life is dangerous! Make sure you are right with God!
There is much more in God’s Word that prepares us for suffering. See such texts as: 2 Corinthians 1:5-7; Phil. 1:29; 3:10; Col. 1:24; I Thes. 1:6; 2 Thes. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:8; 2:3; Heb. 2:18; 10:34; James 5:10; all of I Peter; Rev. 1:9; 2:10; etc. We can fight suffering and evil without fighting God. As salt and light in our culture we stand up for what is right and oppose what is wrong. But, contrary to the devilish perspective of prosperity theology, we are not guaranteed a life with no suffering or deprivation.
So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? I model for him a life of faith even in the midst of trials and pain. And I ask the Holy Spirit to use whatever challenge comes in his life that he might see his need of getting right with the Lord. (to be continued)
This profound question raised by Karl Barth is fundamental to biblical Christianity. Certain conclusions follow IF Christianity is true, such as we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. We’ve also seen that we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. If the gospel is true, we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. We looked at a fourth conclusion which was we desperately need the people of God, the church.
Let’s look at a fifth conclusion and it is this —
IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .
We can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. Biblical Christianity affirms the reality of suffering. But it also affirms the truth of the goodness of God. Putting those two truths together — which many worldviews deny — is called a theodicy (a defense of God’s justice in the face of evil’s reality).
The “thorns” in our world come in many different varieties. There are self-inflicted thorns; pains produced by others; brokenness inherent in our fallen world. Some thorns are given directly by God (one thinks of 2 Corinthians 12 and Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”); others sovereignly allowed by Him.
Biblical Christianity provides the best theodicy for it acknowledges that this world is fallen (it is not what God intended it to be), mankind is in rebellion against God, and a Savior has been provided for those who turn to Him in faith. He solves the problem of personal evil and suffering and one day will deal with the issue of cosmic brokenness.
In his very helpful book Why a Suffering World Makes Sense, Chris Tiegreen makes the following points:
(1) He writes: “I will never understand those who believe that spiritual problems can be solved with social programs, that peace can be achieved by treaties, that prejudices can be eliminated by discussion, that rebellious youth can be corrected with heavy doses of esteem and understanding, that scars can be healed through therapy, that wrongs can be righted by litigation, and that diseases can be eliminated by research. Evil is woven into the fabric of humanity, and it’s obvious.”
(2) Philosophically, “I both know that philosophers and theologians have found the existence of evil plus the existence of God more than a little troubling. They have also found the existence of evil plus the theoretical nonexistence of God utterly depressing.”
(3) “The Bible teaches that God is sovereign and that he is love, in spite of clear evidence of rampant evil and excruciating suffering in this world.”
Today’s Challenge: There so much that is helpful in Tiegreen’s book that I’ll do the following: For any of you who reads his book, I will send you one of mine free. You can choose from DocTALK, DocWALK, When Temptation Strikes, Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World, and even The Other Side of the Good News! Deal?
Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #47 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 19
Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 12 each day this week.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.
We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, and to reach out to others regardless of their status!
Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 17.The nineteenth critical imperative is pretty straightforward —
19. Believers are NOT TO REPAY EVIL FOR EVIL (v. 17)!
My default setting — and I’ll bet yours as well — is to remember every offense done to me. And not just remember them, but to at least think about retaliation!
Okay, don’t look so spiritual. You probably don’t suffer wrong any better than I do! One of my biggest challenges is driving. I drive just fine. It’s other people that have lost their minds. And they cut me off, ride on my bumper, don’t signal when they pull in front of me, drive 100 in a 70 mph zone. Basically irritate the living daylights out of me. I sometimes flash my headlights at those who commit these egregious vehicular offenses, occasionally give them a glare of profound religious indignation, and then begin scheming. Yes, I scheme.
I think about following them to their place of business and keying their car. That’s when you take your key and scratch the side of their car with it. I’ve never keyed anyone’s car. Even when they deserved it. But I’ve thought about it.
And then . . . I repented. It’s not mine to bring down God’s hammer of judgment on wayward sinners. And it would be EVIL for me to do so.
How about you? Don’t you long for judgment — perhaps immediate wrath — to be dispensed on the malefactors that have committed evil on you? on the world? But we are to leave judgment in GOD’s hands.
Today’s Challenge: What offense against you causes you to plot retaliation? There are none? Then I guess Paul’s admonition to not repay evil for evil doesn’t apply to you. Or does it?
David escapes and assembles an “army” of all those who were “in distress or in debt or discontented” (v. 2)! His family comes to David and he gets permission from the king of Moab for his family to stay there “until I learn what God will do for me” (v. 3).
The prophet Gad advises David not to stay in the stronghold in Mizpah but to go to the land of Judah.
Saul learns that David and his men had been discovered and, in his paranoia, chastises the men of Benjamin for their alleged conspiracy against him and his son Jonathan for his friendship with David. Saul thinks David is lying in wait for him (v. 8).
Doeg rats out Ahimelek for praying for David and for giving him provisions and Goliath’s sword. Saul summons Ahimelek and all the men of his family. Saul accuses Ahimelek of conspiracy and Ahimelek defends David. (vv. 14-15).
Abiathar, one of Ahimelek’s sons, escapes and reports the tragedy to David. David feels he is responsible for the whole family’s death. He then invites Abiathar to stay with him and guarantees his safety (v. 23).
Some takeaways for me:
1. God cares about the three D’s: those “in distress or in debt or discontented”! And He can make an army out of them!
2. There are some incredibly evil people in this world. There are Doegs who will do despicable things! We should not be shocked at the inhumanity and depravity of man.
3. Somehow God’s sovereignty is intimately involved in all this. He detained Doeg who then does the unspeakable. And God allows the slaughter of the 85 priests and the annihilation of the town of Nob.
My Workshop “Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events” (for “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference) Part 3
The upcoming conference at Emmaus Bible College, entitled “Iron Sharpens Iron,” is having me give several workshops/seminars. Registration for the conference can be found here. We’ve been thinking about the workshop —
Workshop #1: “Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events”
We’ve seen the first certainty which is: Man is fallen and capable of great evil. We’ve also noticed the second certainty which is: God is holy and will judge rightly.
The third certainty which we need to preach and teach is this Life is brief — One must be ready to meet God! We think of the poor victims in Las Vegas (watching a country music concert) or the young kids at the school in Santa Fe, Texas, and we must ask, “Were they ready to meet God?” This may seem like a heartless question, but it is not! If the gospel is true — and it is — and one must receive Jesus as Savior to have one’s sins forgiven, then none of us knows when our time might be up.
The Lord Jesus deals with this issue in Luke 13:1-5. Notice in the text to the left that He deals with two kinds of terrible evil in our world: (1) Victims of a Vicious Crime (vv. 1-3) and (2) Victims of a Violent Accident (vv. 4-5). There is much here in Jesus’ theodicy (a defense of God’s justice in the face of evil’s reality), but His major point is that we must be ready to meet God! One never knows when a Pilate will do the unthinkable or a tower might fall on an innocent group of people.
By the way, would you please notice that it is JESUS who brings up the second example of great tragedy, the falling tower! We should not dodge our unsaved friends when there are news reports of great tragedies. We should (on occasion) bring up such events to emphasize the uncertainty of life — and how one must be ready to meet the Lord! Your comments?
My Workshop “Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events” (for “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference) Part 2
Friends: We are thinking about three workshops that I will give at the upcoming conference at Emmaus Bible College. Registration for the conference can be found here. Let’s continue our thinking about —
Workshop #1: “Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events”
We’ve seen the first certainty which is: Man is fallen and capable of great evil. Let’s notice the second certainty which is: God is holy and will judge rightly.
If there is no judgment beyond this world, then absolute despair over the cruelty of this life (and its inhabitants) is quite logical. If death leads to nothingness, then when Stephen Paddock (the Las Vegas mass murderer) turned one of his guns on himself, he ceased to exist. He was not immediately cast into a temporary hell, awaiting final judgment before a holy God. What an awful thought.
But the Bible is quite clear that God is holy and will just rightly! We must take the long view of life and recognize that God will hold all evildoers responsible at the end of history. In Psalm 37 the Psalmist challenges us not to fret about evildoers (v. 1). We are to trust in the Lord and do good (v. 3). He will one day vindicate the righteous (v. 6).
We are not to fret when the wicked are successful in their evil schemes, for those who are evil will be destroyed (v. 9). A little while and the wicked will be no more (v. 10). [May I remind you that “be no more” does not mean annihilation in the Bible. It means they will have no more impact on God’s good world].
The Lord laughs at the wicked, knowing their day of judgment is coming (v. 13). The power of the wicked will be broken; “those he curses will be destroyed” (v. 22). “All sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked” (v. 38). And we must say to all who think otherwise, “You will stand before God’s judgment even if you don’t think you will stand!”