EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION, REVISITED

INTRO: St. Paul said, I Cor. 15:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” However, there is ample hard evidence that would stand up in court that Jesus rose from the dead. We will look at two things: what the resurrection means to us, and proofs of it.

WHAT THE RESURRECTION MEANS TO US:

Acts 17:31 says, “[God] hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in right­eousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

── 1 ── THE RESURRECTION REASSURES US THAT THERE IS INDEED A LIFE AFTER DEATH AND THAT IT IS AS JESUS DESCRIBED IT.

── 2 ── THE RESURRECTION SHOWS US THAT GOD ACCEPTED JESUS’ SACRIFICE FOR OUR SINS.

── 3 ── THE RESURRECTION SHOWS US THAT JESUS IS EXACTLY WHO HE SAID HE IS.

PROOFS (CONCRETE EVIDENCE) OF THE RESURRECTION:

WE KNOW JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS ── HE DID NOT FAINT: The separation of the fluid around the heart into blood and water-like serum was reported when the soldier stabbed Jesus in the chest cavity. (John 19:34, But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.) Any nurse can tell you this is a proof of death, because the fluid doesn’t separate until death has occurred.

WE KNOW JESUS WAS IMMOBILIZED IN THE TOMB: The 100 lbs of spices and the winding sheet would have made it impossible for even a healthy, undwounded man to escape, and would in fact have suffocated a living man:

John 19:39-42, “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound [weight]. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation [day]; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.”

WE KNOW JESUS WAS NOT ONLY PLACED IN THE TOMB, BUT SEEN THERE AND GUARDED BY SOLDIERS WHOSE LIVES WOULD BE FORFEIT SHOULD THEY LOSE THE BODY:

── It was a Roman guard given by Pilate to the Jews, called a “watch”: Matthew 27:65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make [it] as sure as ye can.

── A “Watch” was a crack unit of 16 troops. They were so highly disciplined that they were qualified to guard the Emperor of Rome. If one of them fell asleep on duty, the punish­ment was to be burned at the stake with his clothes tied around his ankles.

── The tomb was sealed, and the Roman method of sealing a building was first to examine the interior and make sure that what was being guarded was within; then to put two thongs of leather across the entrance held by four clay packs, and a clay pack where the thongs crossed. The roman emperial eagle seal was stamped into the clay packs, and the penalty for disturbing that seal was to be crucified upside down.

THE ENEMIES OF CHRIST DID NOT STEAL THE BODY.

── We know this, because it would have stopped Christianity dead in its tracks if they had been able to produce the body and show that Jesus was in fact still dead. The Jews or Romans would have marched through the streets with the body if they could. They couldn’t.

THE FRIENDS OF CHRIST DID NOT STEAL THE BODY.

── They feared for their lives. They were in hiding.

── They could not overcome 16 crack armed Roman soldiers.

── The tomb was carved from solid rock with no other entrance than the one being guarded by the soldiers.

── The Jews paid the Roman soldiers to spread the lie that Christians took the body while they were sleeping. (Mat. 28:12-15). If in fact the soldiers had been sleeping, or if they indeed had taken a bribe from Jesus’s followers, or if they had fallen asleep, the soldiers would have been executed; and the Jews would have pushed to see that they were executed! Furthermore, the manner of their execution would have been especially painful owing to the fact that they were a crack unit, a watch — the penalty for a member of a Roman watch failing in his duty was to be tied to a stake, have his clothes stripped from his body and tied around his ankles, and to be burned alive (slowly) from having his clothes lit on fire. [Details come from Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Josh was a lawyer who set out to disprove the resurrection and wound up converting to Christianity after he believed the evidence.]

THE BEHAVIOR OF CHRISTIANS AFTER THE RESURRECTION SHOWS IT OCCURRED.

── They came out of hiding.

── They were willing to risk death. Nothing would explain this fact except assurance of life after death.

── They preached the resurrection fearlessly.

── They made the resurrection the central evidence that their gospel was true.

THE BEHAVIOR OF UNBELIEVERS AFTER THE RESURRECTION SHOWS IT OCCURRED.

── The Jews could not prevent the Christians from gathering to worship in the Temple.

── So many Jewish priests in Jerusalem became Christians that the Jewish faith nearly ended.

── Peter and the apostles baptized so many (Acts 2:38 ff) that it would have taken all day (Acts 2:41 says 3,000 souls). Baptizing 4 a minute, every hour you would baptize 240; every four hours you would baptize about 1,000; it would take one man 12 hours to baptize 3,000!

── Today, Jews will not read Isa 53 in their yearly reading of their own scrip­ture! It is so obviously referring to Jesus:

Isaiah 53:3-12, He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgres­sion of my people was he strick­en. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgres­sors.”

ALL THE ANCIENT PREDICTIONS CAME TO PASS:

── The description of death on the cross, including the piercing of hands and feet, was predicted in Psalm 22:16.

── The casting of lots by the Roman soldiers for Jesus’ outer garment was predicted in Psa. 22:18.

── Jesus’ thirst was predicted in Psa. 22:15.

── Giving Jesus vinegar to drink was predicted in Psa. 69:21.

SO WE CAN SAY BOLDLY AND WITH GREAT JOY:

── He has risen indeed.

── Everything Jesus told us is true.

── Heaven is real and we will live there forever as Jesus told us.

── God has shown He accepts us because He has shown He accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for us, on the cross.

Glory to God in the highest. There is peace on earth between God and believers because of Jesus Christ. Let us go forth and tell the world that the Savior is real and can save them to the uttermost.

JOHN WESLEY SAYS SODOMY IS A SIN

QUOTATIONS FROM JOHN WESLEY CONCERNING HOMOSEXUALITY

Taken from the Works of John Wesley, Abingdon Press, Richard P. Heitzenrater, Ed. (Words in bold italics are Wesley’s words.)

“Another fault common in almost all our schools is, the Masters not only take no care to train up their scholars in true religion, but they themselves teach them what is utterly destructive of all religion whatever: They put authors into their hands, that, with all the beauty of language, all the sweetness of expression, instil into their tender minds both obscenity and profaneness;—Virgil’s Alexis, the lewd Epigrams of Martial, and the shameless Satires of Juvenal, (even the sixth,) so earnestly recommending sodomy as well as adultery!” – Works of Wesley, Jackson Ed., Vol. 13, Sermons on Several Occasions, Supplementary Letters, A Plain Account of Kingsbury School.

“I heard a good sermon in the church at Carmarthen, (being the Assize sermon,) on, “There is no power but of God.” In the evening I preached in the market-place, to, I think, the largest congregation I ever saw in Wales. Thursday, 26. On the road I read over Voltaire’s Memoirs of himself. Certainly never was a more consummate coxcomb! But even his character is less horrid than that of his royal hero! Surely so unnatural a brute never disgraced a throne before! Cedite, Romani Catamiti! Cedite, Graii! [Cedite, etc. are Latin names for homosexuals] A monster that made it a fixed rule to let no woman and no Priest enter his palace; that not only gloried in the constant practice of Sodomy himself, but made it free for all his subjects”! Works of Wesley, Jackson Ed., Vol. 4, XX, Aug. 22

How many villains have been exalted to the highest places of trust, power, dignity, and profit! By what methods have great numbers, in all countries, procured titles of honour and vast estates! Perjury, oppression, subornation, fraud, panderism, were some of the most excusable; for many owed their greatness to sodomy or incest; others, to the prostituting of their own wives or daughters; others, to the betraying of their country, or their Prince; more, to the perverting of justice to destroy the innocent.” Well might that keen author add, ‘If a creature pretending to reason can be guilty of such enormities, certainly the corruption of that faculty is far worse than brutality itself.’” Works of Wesley, Jackson Ed., Vol. 9, Letters and Essays, Doctrine of Original Sin, Part I.

These monsters might almost make us overlook the works of the devil that are wrought in our own country. But, alas! We cannot open our eyes even here without seeing them on every side. Is it a small proof of his power that common swearers, drunkards, whoremongers, adulterers, thieves, robbers, sodomites, murderers, are still found in every part of our land? How triumphant does the prince of this world reign in all these children of disobedience!” – Works of Wesley, Jackson Ed., Vol. 2, Sermon 38, “A Caution Against Bigotry.”

“From sloth and fulness of bread, lewdness naturally followed. It was even while Moses was with them, that “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.” Yea, of the daughters of Zion Isaiah complains: “They walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes.” (iii. 16.) And of his people in general God complains by Jeremiah: “When I had fed them to the full, they assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses. They were as fed horses in the morning: Every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife.” (v. 7, 8.) “They be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.” (ix. 2.) “The land is full of adulterers.” (xxiii. 10.) Yea, and some of them were given up to unnatural lusts: Thus we read: “The men of Gibeah beset the house,” wherein the stranger was, “and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.” (Judges xix. 22.) “And there were also,” long after, “Sodomites in the land,” in the days of Rehoboam, and of the following kings: “The very show of whose countenance witnessed against them, and they declared their sin as Sodom, they hid it not.” (Isaiah iii. 9.)” Works of Wesley, Jackson Ed., Vol. 8, Addresses, Essays, Letters, “A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion.”

“Errors swarm in the world; all the unregenerate are utterly mistaken in the point of true happiness. All desire to be happy; but, touching the way to happiness, there are almost as many opinions as there are men. They are like the blind Sodomites about Lot’s house; all seeking to ‘find the door,’ but in vain. Look into thine own heart, (if thou art not born again,) and thou wilt see all turned upside down; heaven lying under, and earth at top; look into thy life, and see how thou art playing the madman, eagerly flying after that which is not, and slighting that which is, and will be for ever. Thus is man’s understanding naturally overwhelmed with gross ‘darkness’ in spiritual things.” – Works of Wesley, Jackson Ed., Vol. 9, Letters and Essays, The Doctrine of Original Sin According to Scripture, Reason and Experience, Part VII, The Doctrine of Original Sin.

“O ye simple ones, how long will ye love simplicity?” How long will ye “seek death in the error of your life?” “Know ye not,” whoever teacheth you otherwise, “that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” “Be not deceived;” although there are many lie in wait to deceive, and that under the fair pretence of exalting Christ;—a pretence which the more easily steals upon you, because “to you he is precious.” But as the Lord liveth, “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Works of Wesley, Jackson Ed., Vol. 10, Letters, Essays, Dialogues, and Addresses, The Question: “What Is an Armenian,” A Blow at the Root, or Christ Stabbed in the House of His Friends.

Marriage and Salvation Are Alike

Both Christian marriage and what Christians call salvation have something important in common. They are both holy covenants. Let’s begin by looking at Ephesians 5, which point blank compares the relation of husband to wife as the same as the relationship of Christ to the church.

Ephesians 5:21-33 KJV

“21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

THE COVENANT OF SALVATION IS LIKE THE COVENANT OF MARRIAGE.

The covenant of salvation is the same sort of covenant as holy wedlock. This helps us understand better what it means to be saved, as well as what marriage really means. St. Paul points out the similarity: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” (Ephesians 5:23).

  • So, if “the husband is… as Christ is….” then the relationship between the husband and wife is the same sort of relationship as the one between Christ and believers.
  • In John 3:29, John the Baptist called Jesus the Bridegroom. That makes the church His bride. When you get saved, you enter into a holy covenant very similar to the holy covenant of matrimony, then.
  • Let us compare the way we enter marriage and the way we accept believers into the church:

1. The first step in both is a decision of the will:

  • In marriage, at least in the Methodist ceremony, the minister first asks the husband, “N., wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife, to live together in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor and keep her….?” The man answers “I will.” Then the woman is asked, and she answers “I will.”
  • In salvation, the first step is also deciding “I will,” or “I want to get saved.” “Whosoever will, let him come,” Jesus says in Revelation 22:17. In the old Methodist hymnal, the minister asks, “Do you desire to be baptized in this faith?” And the candidate answers, “I do.”
  • In both marriage and salvation, there is a prior establishment of a trusting relationship. We say the couple has “fallen in love,” by which we mean they have developed affection for each other and trust in one another. In salvation, it is the same: “Whosoever believeth in Me” (trusts in Me) “shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” The mutual trust leads to a decision of the will ── the fellow asks on bended knee, “Will you marry me?” to which the girl responds, “Yes!” Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock,” and the believer has to decide to open the door of his heart and let Jesus in.
  • Thus both marriage and salvation first involve establishing a prior trust relationship; then, the first step of entering into covenant involves a decision of the will.

2. The second step in both is a confession of the mouth:

  • In marriage, next come the vows. The man first says: “I, N., take thee, N., to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold…to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith.”
  • The woman then responds in kind with identical vows. They promise to be faithful. They give themselves to each other.
  • In salvation, the confession of the mouth is vital. Jesus says, Matt. 10:32-3, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”
  • St. Paul says in Romans 10:9-10,“…if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
  • In baptism, the minister asks for the following confession: “Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life?” The answer is “I do.” The minister asks for the following promise: “Will you then obediently keep God’s holy will and commandments and walk in the same all the days of your life?” The candidate replies, “I will, by God’s help.”
  • Thus both marriage and salvation secondly involve a confession of the mouth; that is, making a vow, promise, or a statement of commitment. When Jesus said, “This is my body which is broken for you… this is my blood which is shed for you,” he was pledging his life to you, just as husband and wife do when they say “I take thee… I pledge thee my faith.” Communion recalls our mutual vows.

3. The final step in both is giving and receiving a token of remembrance:

  • In marriage, the minister says, “The wedding ring is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace….” In baptism, the minister says, “Baptism is an outward and visible sign of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ….”
  • In other words, baptism is just like the marriage ring ── it is a sign or token of remembrance, “fulfilling all righteousness,” as Jesus put it in Matthew 3; i.e., completing the covenant. All covenants are acts of righteousness, because covenants establish relationships. That is what an act of righteousness is: building or restoring covenant. In marriage there are two rings; and in salvation there are two baptisms: by water and by the Holy Spirit. In both salvation and marriage, the covenant is restored by repentance and forgiveness.
  • The token you give Jesus is your water baptism. The token Jesus gives you is the baptism of the Holy Spirit in your heart, crying “Abba, Father,” which is the sign, seal, or guaranteeing mark of your redemption (Ephesians 1:13-14).
  • This comparison should make you see:

Marriage is sacred and holy!
Salvation is a living love relationship with the Lord!

 

When Sin Has Created an Emergency in Your Life

Sin Emergency! How to deal with it? First, understand what the Scriptures say about what you must do and what God is going to do.

James 4:7-10 –– “7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

Luke 13:6-9 –– 6He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”

I John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Confess! A man from Tupelo told me of a neighbor who stole his bridle, and for 26 years suffered from guilt until he confessed to the man and received instant forgiveness.

  • Psalm 32:1-5, 1Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. 3When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. 4For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. 5I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”

Are you ashamed? Do you realize you are about to lose your identity as an upright person and slide into disgrace? Worse than that, do you now fear that you are in eternal trouble with the Lord? Are you at the breaking point because of hidden sin?

Are you miserable from guilt? Is some serious and besetting sin of an obsessive kind robbing you of all joy and peace? Are regular worship, Bible study, and prayer not helping you? Do you feel yourself sliding downhill? Are you getting alarmed at your wandering away from God? If so, this is for you.

Listen to seven things James prescribes for the Christian caught in Satan’s web. The following is strong medicine for emergency treatment for sin:

1st    Submit yourself to God. It is a commandment. Do it! You know you can or else it wouldn’t have been commanded.

2nd  Resist the devil. Do it!

3rd  Draw near to God. Wait on the Lord; fast; pray; read your Bible, especially the psalms; sing; worship; go to Sunday School.

4th   Cleanse your hands of your sins. Repent. Quit doing the sin.

5th   Purify your heart of your double-mindedness. You cannot serve both God and Mammon. Quit straddling the fence. Go one way or the other. Choose! Then set your mind on God.

6th   Be afflicted, mourn, and weep. Stop pretending that it’s going to be all right. Face facts – you really are in trouble with God.

  • Look at Luke 13:6-9 to realize just how grave your situation is. There is a limit to God’s patience with you, a limit to His grace and mercy! Luke 13:8 says, “8And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” Do you want to be cut down and burned?
  • Hebrews 10:26-39 –– 26For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions… 35Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. 36For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. … 38Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

7th   Humble yourself. God resists the proud, but exalts the humble, I Pet. 5:5. A broken and contrite heart God will not despise, Ps. 51:17.

How to be cleansed from sin and receive God’s forgiveness:

  • Restore yourself to proper use: Jesus cleansed the Temple by restoring the area for the Gentiles to its proper use, not by physical cleansing. So restore your body to its proper use. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. When you restore your body to its proper use, by your actions, you will immediately build up a reserve of righteousness that will dramatically improve your relationship with God.
  • Understand the power of confession before God: I John 1:9 says “9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Fill yourself up with Jesus: You get air out of a glass not by trying to suck it out with a vacuum, but by filling the glass with water. So fill yourself with Jesus!
  • Get clean by touching Jesus: The woman with the issue of blood was unclean. When she touched the hem of Jesus’s robe, she did not make Jesus unclean; instead, touching Jesus made her clean. Same with the leper whom Jesus touched. So touch Jesus! Cling to the hem of His robe.
  • Ask for forgiveness from the ones you have wronged:
    • First, be sure you aren’t harboring any unforgiveness against anyone yourself. Forgive, or else how can you be forgiven?
    • Second, get your courage up! Practice what you are going to say. Ask God to give you the words.
    • Third, work until you are genuinely repentant.
    • Fourth, watch for the right time.
    • Fifth, be guided by whether your confession is more likely to restore than to destroy the relationship. You must be honest with yourself here. Ask God to make this one clear to you.
    • Sixth, expect that the pain of hearing of your betrayal is going to cause real damage to others. Realize that you now have to rebuild what you tore down by your sin. Rebuild as you are able and as others allow.
    • Seventh, remember that if you do not forgive yourself after your victims have forgiven you, then you will enter a downward spiral that could result in repeating your sin – so consider that you owe it to them and to God to forgive yourself. Not forgiving yourself leads to pride.

Guilt and shame:

  • Jesus’s blood takes away your guilt when you appeal to God. False guilt comes sometimes after repentance and confession to God, and false guilt hurts just as bad as real guilt. False guilt is when you feel guilty even though God has forgiven you. Recognize that your guilt is false and remind yourself you are forgiven by God.
  • Jesus also died to take away your shame. To deal with your real shame, ask Christ to make you a new man – change your identity to become more Christlike. Let Jesus be your hero and copy Him. False shame comes just the same as false guilt. If you go back in your mind to being your old self, your feeling of shame will return. You must remain in your new identity to be free of shame.
  • Put on Christ in the morning the same way you would put on your clothes!

Doubting your salvation:

  • Thomas said he doubted Jesus; but Jesus appeared to him anyway. Thomas had his doubts, but Thomas was very loyal to Jesus and said to the disciples, Let’s follow Jesus into Jerusalem and die with him. He was just pessimistic. His doubts did not offend Jesus.
  • Jesus can help your unbelief: Jesus said to a man who came to Him asking for the healing of his son, “If you believe, all things are possible.” The man replied, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” You too can say to the Lord, “Lord, I believe; help my doubts and fears to go away.”
  • Read the essay on the assurance of salvation that I gave you.

How to hear from God:

  • When a thought comes into your head which seems to be from God, ask yourself:
  • Is this me just talking to myself? If it is not, then ask yourself further:
  • Is this the devil pretending to be God?
  • Typically, when the devil talks trying to sound like God, he wants you to act right away; he is very demanding of your obedience and wants immediate obedience; he threatens; he makes you feel guilty; fearful; anxious; upset.
  • If you realize it couldn’t be the devil, then you can assume it is God.
  • Typically, when God talks to you, He is realistic with you about your sin but in a way that shows you He loves you; He comforts you; He is not demanding but makes suggestions; He builds you up and calms your fears; He does not tear you down but reassures you. He does not threaten but He does warn. If He is going to punish you, He lets you know right in the middle of your sinning. Usually, He doesn’t wait till later.
  • Go confess to your pastor and ask his help and prayer. Ask God to speak to you through your preacher!

 

Why Jesus Suffered Death for You – Part Two of Two

Now let’s pick out the major thoughts of Psalm 22. I suspect the whole psalm was in Jesus’ mind while He was on the cross, and not just the first verse. Here is a summary of the psalm:

  • My God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You ignoring my cries for help?
  • Yet I know You are holy and always answer cries for help.
  • Everyone is mocking me, I am surrounded by cruel enemies. Only You can help me now.
  • Description of the crucifixion events: life poured out; bones out of joint; heart is melting like wax; strength dried up; terrible thirst; being left in the dust to die; pierced my hands and feet; enemies gloat; they cast lots for my clothes.
  • So rescue Me from this violent death, O God! I know I am precious to You! You always listen to the cry for help from the needy! I will praise You to everyone, and everybody else should praise You, too!
  • All who seek the Lord will praise Him, for the Lord is King; and future generations from all over the world will yet praise His righteous deeds!

I believe it was only Jesus’ agony that prevented Him from quoting all of Psalm 22. Of all the psalms that Jesus would know by heart, Psalm 22 must certainly be one, due to the clear description of a crucifixion centuries before the Romans invented it. Jesus knew He would die this way. The psalm ends in praising God; it only begins in doubt. We need to keep that in mind: Jesus trusted His Father throughout the crucifixion. He never cursed God; far from it.

Jesus’ asking God why He forsook Him in that moment just shows what a terrible load Jesus was carrying. It confused Him. It was not rejection of God but asking a question in the throes of agony. God could not look on sin within Himself. That is the price God paid – the loss of His closeness to His Son while Jesus was made to be our sin that we might be free from it.

We know the Father put all our sins on Jesus. Isa. 53:6 says, “6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” No one but Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit will ever know how horrible that was.

Ps. 22 shows Jesus never lost His holiness. Jesus never yielded to sin, though God made Jesus to become our sin so we could become the righteousness of God.II Cor. 5:21, 21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” He was the willing, and innocent, sacrificial Lamb of God, who took the curse on Himself that we might go free.

Why then did God sacrifice His only begotten Son for us? Because of his love for us.

  • There can be only one explanation: God loves us as much as He does His Son. And Jesus says that in John 17:23, “…Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.” Jesus says God loves you and Him the same.

Years ago, in Brackenthwaite, England, there lived an old widower named William Dixon. One night a fire broke out in the three-story house next door, where lived a couple with a son, a mere toddler. The house was consumed by the fire, and the parents died of smoke inhalation, but not the little boy. William Dixon, hearing the boy’s cries, ran to the house and climbed to the top floor using an old iron pipe attached to the outside. With the boy clinging to his neck, William made his way down, but by the time he reached the bottom his hands were terribly burned by the hot iron pipe. A town meeting was held to decide what to do with the little boy. Several families offered to adopt him, including one rich family who could give the boy everything. But William Dixon stood, walked to the front of the room, and held up his bandaged hands. They gave him the boy. In the same way, our Lord Jesus holds up His nail-scarred hands and lets the world know that He has paid the ultimate price to redeem us from the fire. He wants you to live forever with Him and the Father! In John 14:1 Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also.”

William Dixon redeemed that boy for himself. He saved the boy’s life. He bought that boy with a price – he risked his life and his very body to save the little boy. Then he took him to himself to become his adopted son. This is a picture of what God and Jesus were about on the cross – Jesus rescued you by paying the price to redeem you from Satan. Jesus Himself is the redemption price by which God the Father adopted you as His child.

In Jesus’ day, the Romans had a ceremony for adoption. The biological father and the adopting father sat with the child between them. The adopting father offered a token coin, or sometimes an actual amount of money, for the child, which the biological father refused to accept the first two times it was offered. The third time, the biological father kept the coin and the adopting father kept the now adopted child. This was so serious and final that Roman emperors had been known to adopt a favorite general to take their place in the succession to the throne. It was said that the adopting father had “redeemed” the adopted child. They said that the child had been “born again” because now he had a new father.

God has redeemed you from the hands of the devil. The redemption price was Jesus Himself. When you accept that Jesus has redeemed you, you become born again – God is your new Father, and it is permanent, binding forever, and everlasting. It can only be undone by some kind of permanent betrayal. You have become the adopted child of God.

The Father loves you. The Son loves you. They both want you to go to heaven to be with them forever! They want you badly enough that God gave His Son, and Jesus suffered and died, to redeem you – to take away your sins and bring you, clean and holy by Jesus’ blood sacrificed to be the price of your redemption, into heaven. There, God will wipe your tears away and best of all, His face will shine upon you – you will see God’s joy at your homecoming written on His face!

Why Jesus Suffered Death for You – Part One of Two

Mark 15:22-41 says, “22And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. …33And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (pronounced elo-EE, elo-EE, la-MA sa-bak-tha-NEE) “which is, being interpreted, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’”

Did Jesus’ agony really cause Him to doubt God?  I do think Jesus felt forsaken at the moment God laid the sins of the world on His shoulders, the moment when God made His perfect Son to be sin for us. However, I do not believe that Jesus doubted God during His moment of feeling forsaken. What follows is why I believe that way.

What Jesus was doing on the cross:

  • He was going to give his life to deliver us from this evil world: (Galatians 1:4 KJV) “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father….”
  • He was going to bear our sins that we might be made alive to righteousness: (1 Peter 2:24 KJV) “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
  • He was about to become sin for us in order that we might be made the righteousness of God: (2 Corinth­ians 5:21 KJV) “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
  • He was going to let his body, which had become sin for us, be destroyed in order that we should not serve sin: (Romans 6:6 KJV) “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
  • He was going to shed his blood to cancel out our debt to God for our sins: (Matthew 26:28 KJV) “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission [release from bondage; cancellation of penalty] of sins.”
  • He was going to shed his blood to save us from the wrath of God and justify us before God: (Romans 5:8-11 KJV) 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”
  • He was going to cleanse us from all sin: (1 John 1:7-9 KJV) “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
  • He was going to make it possible for us to be holy in the eyes of God: (Hebrews 13:12 KJV) “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.”
  • Summarizing, Jesus’ blood thus remits you from your sins [i.e. releases you from bondage to sin and cancels the penalty for your sin]; His blood justifies you [“just as if I’d” never sinned]; and His blood sanctifies you [makes you holy].

Jesus was very clear about why He was dying. His will was now committed to do the will of His Father in heaven. He could not be more highly motivated and had taken on the job of being the perfect sacrifice on our behalf in full knowledge that He was God’s beloved Son. Now let’s look at the total of Jesus’ last seven sayings on the cross. The whole mood of Christ on the cross is no different than His mood at any other time: love, forgiveness, and rescuing the lost. He did NOT denounce God, as did one of the thieves hanging beside Him. Study the nature of Jesus’ mood looking at the whole of what He said:

  1. Forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Lk. 23:34
  2. Love and nurture: “Woman behold thy son.” Jn. 19:26; “Behold thy mother.” Jn. 19:27
  3. Concern for salvation of another: “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Lk. 23:43
  4. Feeling the rejection of God on our behalf: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Mk. 15:34, 27:46.
  5. Physical suffering: “I thirst.” Jn. 19:28
  6. Elation and joy: “It is finished.” Jn. 19:30
  7. Yielding and trust: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Lk. 23:46

Jesus suffered beyond our ability to imagine on the cross, but I believe He never lost faith in God. Let’s look more closely at the original language of Jesus in His fourth saying:

  • The Aramaic: Mark 15:34, “eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani” is Aramaic, transliterated into Greek.
  • The Hebrew: Matthew 27:46, “eli, eli, lama” is transliterated 1st century Hebrew; “sabachthani” is a transliteration of the Aramaic. The Hebrew is pronounced “eli, eli, lamah ‘ngatz-abat-ani” – the difference is that the Aramaic is a Hebrew dialect, with only negligible differences from the Hebrew. Notice that Mark’s gospel, probably dictated by Peter, uses the Aramaic (common ordiniary speech of a fisherman) while Matthew (tax collector, educated) starts with a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew and ends by giving a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic, probably so as to give, as close as possible, the sound of the actual utterance of Christ.
  • The source: Psalm 22! Ps.22 begins with these words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But wait! Check out the whole psalm!

I suspect Jesus had psalm 22 memorized. Then what was Jesus really thinking when He uttered these words? Here are selected verses, in the New Living Translation. See the change from a desperate cry for help in the beginning to the faith and assurance at the end. Jesus was quoting a psalm prophesying His manner of death, His psalm, a psalm that ends in a paean of praise and trust:

Psalm 22 (New Living Translation) “1My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help?  2Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.  3Yet you are holy. The praises of Israel surround your throne. 4Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. 5You heard their cries for help and saved them. They put their trust in you and were never disappointed. … 7Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, 8′Is this the one who relies on the LORD? Then let the LORD save him! If the LORD loves him so much, let the LORD rescue him!’  9Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you when I was a nursing infant. 10I was thrust upon you at my birth. You have been my God from the moment I was born. 11Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me. … 14My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. 15My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. 16My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet. 17I can count every bone in my body. My enemies stare at me and gloat. 18They divide my clothes among themselves and throw dice for my garments. 19O LORD, do not stay away! You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!  20Rescue me from a violent death.… 22Then I will declare the wonder of your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among all your people. 23Praise the LORD, all you who fear him! Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob! Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel! 24For he has not ignored the suffering of the needy. He has not turned and walked away. He has listened to their cries for help. 25I will praise you among all the people; I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you. 26The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the LORD will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.”

Next time we will look even closer.  Why was Jesus willing to suffer like that? Because of His love for YOU!

How a Just God Can Allow Evil – Part Three of Three

God Does Not Directly Will Suffering – But He Does Allow It.

Back in the Garden of Eden, God allowed us freedom to disobey him and to choose evil. He made us in His own image, remember; and God Himself can choose good or evil. When we chose evil, disobeyed God, and sin entered the world, so did suffering and evil.  In order for us to exist in God’s own image, which is a wonderfully precious gift from God, He had to allow us free will. And allowing us free will, He had to permit humans to choose evil. This also meant permitting the innocent to suffer because of the acts of the wicked. It meant allowing the possibility of sickness and death coming into the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s possible choice of disobeying God.

However, God’s primary and primordial will for humanity was absolute and unmitigated good. God is the healer, in His own way and time, of those who turn to Him. All things work together for good for those who love the Lord. (Romans 8:28). One day He will wipe away all our tears.

Though Satan and the wicked mean for us to suffer, God allows it for our good. He did this with Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, a great evil for Joseph, in order for the great good of saving all his brothers and his father from death by famine. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph says, “You meant it to me for evil, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph became Pharaoh’s right hand man and fed all his family from the grain bins of Egypt.

Remember: it was not God’s original intention for you to suffer evil. It was His original intention for you to live with Him in paradise. “In God’s presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11). He always wanted you with Him and happy, not away from Him and suffering. Remember: God does not will evil; He does permit free will to humans, though. And therefore He does permit evil into the finite world. But there is still the eternal world where He has plans to take us, if we will only accept Jesus. And there we will experience total joy together without any evil to hurt us. Heaven must enter into your calculations and judgments about God’s character.

God Can Turn Any Evil Into Good.

The crucifixion of Jesus was the height of evil because a totally innocent Man was utterly crushed by wicked men. Yet God turned this great evil into an eternally resounding good, making Jesus our Saviour based upon His perfect sacrifice for our sins. Just when the devil thought he had put an end to this pesky Messiah, the tables were turned and Satan wound up used by God to restore those to paradise who trust in Christ. It turned out that crucifixion was just the thing that we humans needed done on our behalf.

On a lesser scale, God also can and does turn evil events in our own lives into good. Just as Mary at the foot of the cross could not understand how God could get any good from Jesus’ suffering, often neither can we understand how good could come in our situation. We are only able to see the permanent nature of our loss. We must simply trust God and wait upon Him until it is the proper time to reveal to us why God allowed us to suffer. Mary trusted and cried, cried and trusted. Then God raised Jesus from the dead. Sorrow turned to joy. Tears disappeared.

Always remember that we see things only from our own self-limited perspective. God, however, sees the whole picture and is working for the good of all individuals. He works necessarily for our good together, ie. the good must be such that all the righteous prosper and so that each gets the same measure of mercy and justice that he metes out to others. (Remember, the measure you give is the measure you get, Jesus said, Matthew 7:2.)

God Is Not Limited By Evil Persons.

In fact, often the wicked fall into their own snares, just as Satan did. A less powerful God would not have allowed so much freedom of choice in the world; as it is, however, an absolutely powerful God has allowed true moral freedom of choice. Yet this does not threaten God; God is not mocked, but the wicked reap what they sow and get the same measure they give. (Galatians 6:7; Matthew 7:2). Satan will spend eternity in hell. Yet God does not just stand by and let all things go to hell. Read the book of Revelation. God even has history under His control, while still allowing us to have freedom of will. God really is a big God.

In fact this brings us to the mysterious paradox – God allows the wicked to choose evil, yet God guides the wicked into their own snares eventually because part of being wicked is to be blind to the truth. Thus the liar is easily deceived (Proverbs 17:4). God allowed Pharaoh to reject Him, yet each time Pharaoh hardened his heart against God, God was paradoxically at the same time hardening Pharaoh’s heart, simply by letting Pharaoh get away with evil, until God was finally ready to destroy Pharaoh utterly. Yet Pharaoh chose his path. Pharaoh was a bad and hurtful dude, as the teenagers would say. But as mean and nasty as he was, he did not hinder God’s plans for God’s people, not in the least. So don’t think that what evil people do to you is ruining God’s best for your life. They simply don’t have that power. God is in control of reality itself, and God will not be mocked by the wicked. They will reap what they sow, and so will you, in spite of your suffering. Remember how Pilate had Jesus beaten, torn, and crucified? He cut short Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching. He limited Jesus’ visits among the poor and oppressed. He tortured and murdered the Son of God. Yet he stopped none of God’s plan.

God is Not Limited By Evil Circumstances.

The trials of affliction – pain and loss to ourselves or our loved ones – are never greater than the grace of God. God can wipe away tears. It is mysterious, yet it happens. You will have to wait and experience this for yourself. No one else can convince you but your own experience will convince you. All anyone can do for you is witness to you and tell you it happened for them.

Further, when you suffer, though the pain is very unwelcome, you enter into fellowship with suffering humanity everywhere and also into fellowship with God. God also suffers, and your suffering helps you understand Him. He is not above suffering just as you are doing. Since He shares your suffering (remember He suffered the murder of His Son), you have undeniable proof that it is necessary. You are not the only one. There are reasons you do not understand, but the fact that He is there beside you, with His own suffering, gives you courage to bear your own.

Suffering must be important if God doesn’t even spare Himself from it. He suffered when His Son died; and God suffers with us – He sees us hurting, and it hurts Him. He mysteriously gives you His own grace to bear your suffering when you draw near to Him. (I Corinthians 10:13; and remember Paul’s thorn in the flesh, II Corinthians 12:710, where God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”)

Suffering Produces Wisdom In the Godly.

The same sun that hardens the clay will melt the wax. Let’s seriously take another look now at what the Bible says to you in your suffering. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens.” (Hebrews 12:6). In fact, He makes you holy by putting you through what He does; it is a sign that He has taken you to be His child that you undergo the discipline that suffering brings. All this is found in Hebrews 12:4-13. God’s chastening produces righteousness and peace in you, like it or not. It just does. So let it happen and stop being mad at God.

Don’t think this is saying that specific hardships and tragedies are punishments sent directly by God – it may sound like that is what is being said here, but it is not. Chastening is different from punishment. My football coach, Lamar Dingler, used to make us repeat tackle practice, not because he was mad at us, but because we needed it to become good football players. My nickname was Spider. I never was much good, all arms and legs; but I sure learned to love football. I loved it even though I suffered doing it.

Jesus Himself reminded us in Luke 13:45 that God doesn’t deliberately single people out for suffering. There He plainly said that the people on whom the Tower of Siloam fell were not more evil or guilty or sinful, even though unbelievers, than all the believers in Jerusalem itself, where the priests and people worshipped God. It was just an accident. That’s all.

The point is that you were not singled out to suffer. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Rather, you were singled out by God, after it happened, to profit from your suffering. He goes through it with you, stands beside you, and educates you into holiness through your suffering because you are His, while another person who rejects Him learns absolutely nothing from their suffering. You can choose worldly grief, and get further and further away from God and the truth; or you can choose godly grief. You can lay your head on God’s chest and bawl, and let Him hold you and mold you in your time of pain. The choice is literally yours. Will you be wax or clay, clay or wax? Will you harden yourself against God, or will you yield to Him and let Him melt and mold you?

Suffering Makes You Appreciate and Desire Goodness and Joy Even More.

Theologian Thomas Oden says suffering “puts goodness into bolder relief”. You see the diamond better against the dark black velvet on which it lies. Being separated from a loved one by death drastically increases our desire to be with that loved one. We begin to desire our heavenly home. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. This does not deny the absolutely crushing nature of pain, nor its bitter cruelty. It is not intended to imply that God increases your suffering in order to increase your later happiness. God intends to redeem you from all your suffering in His own time. Since He is most merciful, we can assume it will not be one second longer than necessary.

Suffering Makes You Grow.

Calm seas never made a master mariner. “Opposition, tension, and struggle are necessary to growth, development, and healthy formation,” Oden says. The butterfly must struggle out of its chrysalis or else its wings will be malformed. The struggle causes the butterfly’s blood to flow through the wings so that they are not crumpled after it comes out, but functioning. It hurts to fall, yet fall we must if we are going to learn to walk. The only way to learn patience and perseverance is to suffer through trials (James 1:24). And losses. And pain. A good gardener gets a rose bush to produce roses by pruning it. And God is a good gardener. In John 15:1-2, Jesus says, “1“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He £takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Note that God prunes you that you may bear more fruit.

Three Verses to Cling To and Ponder Again

Psalm 119:67 says, “67Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”

Psalm 119:71 says, “71It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”

Psalm 119:75 says, “75I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”

Jesus was sure God loved Him. Jesus wants you to be sure, too! In John 17:23 says, “…thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” God loves you just as much as He does Jesus — Jesus said so! And that is the only explanation for why He was willing to give up His Son for you!

                                                                                          FOR FURTHER READING

Billheimer, Paul E. Don’t Waste Your Sorrows. Minneapolis: Bethany Home Publishers, 1977.

Eeits, Bob. Life After Loss. Fisher Books, 1992.

Gerstenburger, E.S. and W. Schrage. Suffering. Nashville: Abingdon, 1977.

Gutierrez, Gustavo. On Job: God Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1985.

Hick, John. Evil and the God of Love. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1977.

James, John W. and Frank Cherry. The Grief Recovery Handbook. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Kolf, June Cerza. When Will I Stop Hurting? Dealing With A Recent Death. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.

Kreeft, Peter. Making Sense Out of Suffering. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1986.

Langdorf, Joyce. Mourning Song. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1974.

Lewis, C. S. A Grief Observed. New York: Bantam Books, 1961.

Lewis, C. S. The Problem of Pain. New York: Macmillan, 1962.

Oden, Thomas C. Pastoral Theology. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.

Schaeffer, Edith. Affliction. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell, 1978.

Schaeffer, Francis A. He Is There and He Is Not Silent. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1972.

Smith, Harold I. When You Don’t Know What to Say: How to Help Your Grieving Friends. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2002.

Yancey, Philip. Where Is God When It Hurts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977.

How a Just God Can Allow Evil – Part Two of Three

A Biblical Statement of the Problem

Now get ready for a paradox: God is the Sovereign Creator of absolutely everything, including evil! In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I make peace and create evil.” Job says, in Job 2:10, “What? shall we receive good from God,and shall we not receive evil?” Isaiah 31:2 says God will bring evil against evildoers. God even made hell for the wicked to inhabit one day. The devil exists because God sustains his existence. The devil simply wouldn’t exist if God didn’t sustain his existence.

This does not imply that God takes pleasure in evil; He doesn’t. Psalm 5:4 says, “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil.” But sometimes it seems almost as if God doesn’t care when evil strikes us. King David said, Psalm 10:1, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” It does seem like that sometimes. God has His reasons, which hopefully will become clear as we go along.

God let the devil hurt Job. In fact, God brought Job to the devil’s attention! Job 42:11 says that the Lord indeed brought trouble upon Job, even though the Lord Himself says that Job was blameless and upright (Job 2:3). Job responded to his wife’s bitter demand that he curse God and die by replying, in Job 2:10, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not evil?” So Job recognized, rightly, that God was the original source of his calamities. (By the way, there are different Hebrew words, all of which are translated “evil” in the King James. In Job 2:10, “evil” means “trouble,” “the bad,” “trials,” “hurt.”)

Therefore we can’t deny, as we look at the example of Job, that God brings trouble on the righteous. He brought it on Job. And Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning the doing of evil to others. Yet he “got it”.

Jesus is another example. Jesus was completely righteous; yet God deliberately brought trouble on His own Son. Isaiah 53:9-10 says, “though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth…yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer….”

At one point, God even abandoned Jesus. We all remember that Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Now, we can accept that God brings evil on the wicked and the sinful. But why does He allow evil to strike the righteous; or worse, why does He strike them Himself with evil? How could He punish His own perfectly sinless Son and leave Him on the cross? How can this be fair or just or right? That is the question before us – why do the righteous suffer? And, more particularly, why am I suffering? Why are those I love suffering if they don’t deserve it? And finally, what is the meaning of life in which evil seems to roam free? How can God be pure love and yet allow to exist all the wicked people and the evil they do?

Biblical Hints at the Answer

Jesus, according to Hebrews 5:8, even though He was a perfect Son, still had to suffer in order that He might learn obedience. Earlier, the author of Hebrews says, in Hebrews 2:10, that “it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” So we get from these verses two reasons for Jesus’ suffering: 1) to make Him obedient, and 2) to make Him perfect. It is almost as if suffering is necessary, like tempering steel, to make Jesus useful or complete. It sounds like it has absolutely nothing to do with punishment, but rather with maturity.

We get the idea in a number of other scriptures that God treats us the same way as He treats Jesus. Hebrews 12:6 says “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” The next verse says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” The thought is concluded in verse 10, which reads: “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” Something about suffering hardship, or loving victims, or caring about others’ suffering, sets us apart, making us holy, and is for our own good. It makes us like our heavenly Father, to suffer – for He certainly suffers from evil just the same as we do.

This is very hard to understand or accept, yet Paul certainly backs this up when he says, Romans 8:18-19, “we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” He adds, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Like Paul, Peter concludes, I Peter 4:19, as though suffering were the easiest thing in the world, “So then those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

These men seemed to have no trouble at all accepting suffering and hardship as God’s will for them. And listen to James in James 1:2, who says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

No, these biblical authors seem to have no pity for us. They seem to think, like the nurse holding the syringe with the big long needle in her hand, that suffering is good for us. But maybe, just maybe, they are not saying these things unconcernedly or casually. Maybe they have been through some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, and are closer to God for it, and have something to tell us that is very important.

Suffering is supposed to drive us deeper into the arms of God. King David says in Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” King David also quotes God as saying, Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.” Yet we know perfectly well that the biblical authors had their moments of real doubt and pain. King David also wrote, with a lot more anguish in Psalm 10:1, to God: “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Job, in Job 16:12, says: “All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target….”! It is all very well that we know the “correct” biblical answer to the question of suffering – that it is for our own good and we must endure it and turn to God; but this answer may not be very satisfying. Hearing another person say, “Come on in, the water’s fine!” may not encourage us at all to jump in the water. We know good and well that it’s cold. The nurse with the syringe says, “This won’t hurt!”; and we say, “Sure! Right!” and cringe. We see someone we care about being tortured or injured past recovery, and it makes us confused. The Bible answers our question – godly suffering is good for you – but the answer seems unreal somehow. So let us consider the problem of pain and evil a bit more philosophically. Let us unpack what we already know about God and evil. Then we will look at the Bible’s answer and see if it gives any more comfort or sheds more light.

God Made the Best Possible Universe, and That Includes the Possibility of Evil

Let us consider the existence of evil again. We said that God created evil along with everything else. Remember our verse: Isaiah 45:7, “I… create evil.” Yet we note that on the day of creation “God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:9). In fact God saw that it was all good, very good. Yet evil was created as well, along with the good. When God gave us the mighty gift of free will, that included the ability to choose to hurt or bless others. And thus creating the great good of free will resulted in the possibility of evil. Eve chose to believe Satan’s lie and eat the forbidden fruit. And evil entered into the world – as a consequence of the gift of free will.

How can this be? Let us suppose that you are the inventor of electricity. You are faced with a dilemma, because as soon as you invent electricity, with its great capacity for good, you create along with it the possibility of people being electrocuted by hair dryers falling into their bathtubs. The evil comes into existence parasitically on the coattails of the good.

In other words, if you will have airplanes then you must have airplane crashes; if you have gravity to keep us attached to the earth, then you must have death by falling from a cliff. If you are to have an orderly universe with natural laws of space and time, cause and effect, up and down, with all its inherent good, then you have to recognize that along with the good you create the risk of evil, evil in the sense of painful consequences from wrong choices. Evil, in other words, is a logical corollary of the existence of good. When you create the one, you create the other by default. When you create marriage and sex, babies and families, a very good thing, you create the possibility of the wrong choices of adultery and divorce; when you create life, you create the possibility of death and the wrong choice of murder; when you create possessions, you create the possibility of people choosing theft, and so on. So let us let God off the hook for having created evil. This is still the best possible universe. In order for the good of free will to exist, then its logical opposite, evil, in the sense of people choosing to do wrong, has to come into existence too.

Never forget what a courageous thing God did when He gave us free choice. He made it possible for Himself to get hurt, just so He could give us that best of gifts, free will. Free will is what exalts us so highly and is why God cares so much about us.

God Made Us In His Own Image and That’s Part of the Problem

God was in fact so courageous and bold as to make us in His own image. He gave us free will. We could choose between good and evil, right and wrong. God also chose to make the universe a place of cause and effect, a place in which there would be real consequences; otherwise there could only be stasis, sameness. However, when He created something good He necessarily along with it made it possible for things to go wrong and evil to exist and have real consequences. You know the story of the garden of Eden…

So would it have been better for evil never to have existed at all? Would it have been better that we be robots in a static, nonmoving and unchanging universe where neither good nor evil, pleasure nor pain was possible? God obviously didn’t think so. God is a daredevil. He is also one super dreamer and artist. God is a big God. He decided to go right ahead and create the whole universe. He flung the stars and made the moon, the earth, Adam and Eve! (And He made good more powerful than evil, whether we think so or not.) Nevertheless, we humans got into trouble right away, as we recall, in the Garden of Eden. Next we will look at God’s will regarding suffering.

How a Just God Can Allow Evil – Part One of Three

Some Examples of Suffering

There are several possible kinds of suffering:

1. Suffering from punishment we deserve: When I was five, I saw my mother wring a chicken’s neck for Sunday dinner. It was very entertaining to see the chicken run without its head. I said to myself, “I bet I can do that!” When my mother left with the first chicken, I took another chicken and wrung its neck. It was very funny to me. But then my mother took me inside and switched me three hard, stinging licks. It hurt! I learned not to wring chicken necks. Perhaps you would argue that I didn’t deserve that spanking, but I know in my heart that I did.

Sometimes we feel that things that happen to us are punishments from God for things we did wrong. We may feel we deserve the punishment. We might be wrong, but anyway, we feel we are guilty and deserve to suffer. Often we are very ashamed and get upset and angry when people hint that we might be deserving to suffer; but deep down, lots of times we secretly agree.

2. Suffering from the natural consequences of our own wrong behavior: This is in addition to the first type of suffering. If I killed all the remaining chickens, I would have to eat chicken for a long time. If I killed my mother, I would have to live without having a mother, because I killed her. If I beat my children and drove them away from me, I would have to live, not only with my conscience, but also with not having my children around. If I smoked and got lung cancer, I might have to die as a consequence of my own sinning against myself. People say, “I have no one to blame but myself.”

We are not going to spend any more time on these types of suffering. But let us look at some more types which we will spend time on:

3. Suffering from Satan and the evil wicked persons have done to you personally: This category includes your and my suffering as victims of all the criminal acts in the world, and from all the sins we commit against each other. It also includes suffering from all the evil social and political situations which exist because Satan succeeded in getting Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden so that sin entered the world. Racism, cruel political tyranny, and schoolyard bullies taking lunch money from innocent victims would all fit here. Murder, adultery, theft, and assault and battery fit here. All pain, suffered by victims of every wicked act, fits here.

Many people feel that all evil comes from the devil. They don’t blame God for any evil. They see Satan as very powerful. Others feel that it is more complicated than that. They feel that the Lord, for whatever reason, lets the devil do evil to us. Some people put all sickness in this category.

4. Suffering from random chance or accidental circumstances: This category includes little children run over accidentally by cars, people getting AIDS from blood transfus­ions, and stubbing our toe on the furniture going to the bathroom at night. All the accidental cuts and nicks we ever got come under this category. Some people put sickness here, instead of under the category of Satanic acts.

Some people feel that all accidental suffering comes from God. If a tornado strikes or if lightning strikes, they call that an “act of God,” implying that God is capricious   He allows accidental evil to enter our lives without caring what happens to us, or if it happens to us. These people don’t see God as very loving at all. They don’t understand why God sends sun and rain on the good ones as well as the evil ones. Before Jesus came, the Jewish theology of the Sadducees taught that the good people are blessed, and the wicked people are cursed, in this life alone – they didn’t believe in an afterlife. They got this from Deuteronomy, chapters 28-30, which says God will bless those who obey Him and curse those who disobey. Then along came Job. Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar argued that God was punishing Job for some hidden wickedness. Job argued, “NO!” But Job did say that God sends evil as well as good (Job 2:10, “Shall we accept good from God and not accept evil?” Finally, concerning Job, there is an interesting passage in Job 19:25-27, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know,  That in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself,  and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job’s sufferings, along with his awareness of the justice of God, caused him to have a clear understanding of the existence of heaven, where all our tears shall be wiped away.

5. Suffering from undeserved punishment: Parents sometimes punish a child mistakenly, and find out later that the child was innocent. Some people feel that God has done this to them, assuming that God is no more wise than an earthly parent. They feel that God owes them an apology.

People suffer when others commit suicide. A suicide punishes all those who loved them. When people are in deep despair, and confusion about the meaning of life, and kill themselves, this can rub off on those they love. The pain can be extremely severe.

When tragedy strikes, either because of wicked persons or because of accidental circumstances, we all tend to ask “Why me, Lord?” or, “Why them, Lord?” We tend to view God as being the cause of our suffering. (And we might be right in some sense.) Then we either blame ourselves unfairly, or we blame God unfairly, thinking He is unjust. That is why I am writing this essay to help you sort through your pain. You will find in the bibliography at the end of this essay some books. Their titles aptly describe the way we often feel; for example, “Where Is God When It Hurts?” and “When Will I Stop Hurting?”

6. Suffering from close hand experience with what evil people have done to others: Perhaps you have never met an evil person or known one of their victims. They exist. The Bible is clear that evil people do exist – their hearts are full of hatred of others, enmity, rejection of God, a satanic desire to rule over or hurt others, self-centeredness, and often a complete disregard for the suffering they cause others. Evil people usually do not suffer remorse, but instead have total contempt for their victims. You may know a victim slightly, or they may be someone you love very much. Evil was done to them so hideous that it has caused you to suffer. God Himself suffers with what evil people have done to others – and it makes Him angry. One of the reasons war is so terrible is that it unleashes evil in people, to do evil to others. Soldiers come home suffering from something we have named Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but civilians often have no comprehension of what it is like – the questioning about the very meaning of life that can be brought on by close contact with real evil. The deep upset. The stress that makes a person brittle and fragile, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

The Problem We Are Dealing With In This Essay

Our question, or problem, is this:

If God is totally good, and loves us perfectly, and if God is totally powerful, then why does God let evil people hurt us? And why does God let evil things happen to us?

Some Shallow Answers to the Problem

1. It is shallow to say evil is not so bad and doesn’t last. Evil can indeed be bad. It can completely demoralize and even destroy persons. Denying that evil can be evil is to deny the truth: evil people randomly picking on us, and evil accidents, can be crushing! Just think of burglaries, street crime, war, cancer, murder, rape, torture, snakebite, and airplane crashes killing children. Evil is really evil, and it really hurts. Evil does hit innocent people. There are evil people in the world who do evil to others. And sometimes people do not ever get over it. Sometimes people die at the hands of evil people. Knowing it hit them randomly doesn’t make it less painful, but rather it increases the pain. People turn to God and ask, “Why me?” Or, “Why the one I love?” Many people live in pain, dread, and anxiety as the direct result of evil deeds by others. You could never convince them that life is just a bowl of cherries. In fact they can feel overwhelmed by evil. I hope you are not one of these people, but if you are, this was written especially for you.

2. It is also shallow to think God is partly evil; the truth is that God is totally good. To say that God is just a little sadistic and doesn’t mind seeing us suffer is to slander God and deny the truth about Him. Job 34:12 says “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” King David says in Psalm 5:4, “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil.” James 1:13 says God cannot be tempted to do evil, nor does He tempt anyone to do evil. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God is love. We will be developing this theme throughout the essay, raising questions about God’s righteousness and innocence. We will then affirm that God is indeed loving, innocent of evil doing, righteous, faithful, and in fact worthy of all praise.

 3. It is shallow to think evil is stronger than God; it is not. Some would say that God means well, sure; but He doesn’t have the power to conquer evil, or else He would do so immediately. They think the devil is close to whipping God all the time. This is not so. In fact God is Almighty Sovereign of the universe and upholds it by His power; absolutely everything in reality exists, moves, and has being because of God. In fact God does have total power and total control over the devil and over evil. God is no wimp. He is firmly in control of His creation. The Bible firmly faces the paradoxical and controversial nature of the situation.

4. It is shallow to think that God doesn’t care. Evil deeds grieve and anger Him. He made Hell for evildoers. Evil people killed His Son, Jesus, causing God great suffering. God suffers from the evil that evil people do to those He loves – and He loves us all. Having said all the above, now let us see the issue as the Bible states it.

TALKING TO GOD – Part Two of Two

My Own Experiences of Talking to God

Directly hearing God’s voice. When I was 14, my Mom divorced my Dad. Dad tearfully said goodbye to me and my brother, and drove off in his car to join the Air Force and live far away. I was crying and walking across the back lawn to the little apartment where our mother had taken us to live. I said, “Well, I guess I don’t have a daddy any more,” and I heard God speak to me in my head, “I’ll be your Father.” I knew God had spoken to me, there was absolutely no possibility of it being anyone or anything else. It was God. He came back to me just as strongly at bedtime. I was crying myself to sleep and God did not touch me, yet somehow I felt that He tucked me into bed. I went straight to sleep.

Another time years later, when I was an associate pastor, again crying myself to sleep worrying about our youth leader leading our youth astray, I heard God speak to me lying in the bed. He just said my name, “Wally!” and I felt His emotions – wry humor at my worrying so, frustration that I wouldn’t let go and let Him handle it, and a loving, calming Fatherly command to relax and stop worrying. Again, I immediately relaxed and fell asleep.

Miraculous signs along with hearing God’s voice. In college, I was rejected by a young woman I had spent two years courting. I wanted to kill myself because she was dating other young men. I had begged God to let me have this girl and told God, foolishly, that I was willing to give up whatever future He had for me if only He would give her back to me. I sat on a park bench, utterly forlorn and miserable and broken because the harder I had tried to get her back, the further from me she got. I said to God, “Well, if You want me to believe in You any more, You’d better show me some kind of sign.” The wind blew in my face. I said, “If that’s You, make the wind blow hard.” It blew hard and trees were swaying every which way, trash was blowing across the ground all around me. I said, “If that’s You, make it stop.” There was this immediate, intense calm in all directions. Everything stopped.

I told God, “If You want to say yes to my questions, blow on the right cheek of my face; if no, the left.” I sensed God’s agreement, and I began to question Him with yes or no questions. My first question was a callous one – are You as mean and hateful as I have been thinking You are?” Noooo, the wind blew on my left cheek. “Do You really love me?” Yessss, the wind blew on my right cheek. I got up off the park bench and began to walk. I walked for nearly 15 minutes, talking to God in this fashion, until I began to get anxious from such close proximity to God. I asked Him to quit and go away because I couldn’t take it any more, and He went away.

Next day, I went at it again with Him, and the next, all week long. Finally, I was talking to Him directly. I said at the end, “You say You love me, but I am too emotionally drained to love You back. But when I get the energy, I will love You back; only all I ask is that You love me anyway until I can love You back.” Immediately it was as if I had a daydream, in which in my imagination I could imagine a giant hand and arm coming from the sky to shake on it, and I felt God’s mind thinking, “It’s a deal.”

Another time I….well, there have been many other times over the years, but only three or four as vivid as the park bench thing. All completely different. All related to me really needing to talk to God and get His response.

Regular communication is important. If you only talk to God when you have a need, that warps your relationship with Him. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount to some people who used His name, “I never knew you.” The way to prevent Him never knowing you is to talk to Him a lot! Let Him in on your life! He can’t say He didn’t know you if you spend your life talking to Him all the time. Letting Him into your heart includes letting Him look over your shoulder, and certainly includes talking to Him about everything. To start talking to Him, just start thanking Him for stuff. If you want Him for your Friend, then treat Him like a friend before you start asking him for stuff.

Interfering Voices

Satan. Satan’s voice is easy to distinguish from God’s. God’s words always give you the feeling of no hurry, a calmness, and there is no sense when God speaks that He is being pushy and demanding or threatening. Satan’s stuff is imitation, very rigidly holy sounding, and it usually requires you to act immediately, demanding immediate obedience, or else. God always gives you the choice; you are free to obey or disobey. Satan can’t pull that off – he has to threaten. After Satan talks, you invariably feel anxious. After God talks, you may feel convicted or reassured, but you can sense even when it is really important that you still can say no and God will accept that no without getting angry with you. If God is angry with you, you will know it; but He still lets you run your own life if that is what you choose. If you have given yourself over to Him, He just quietly reminds you of it, or you are aware, but it is still your decision to follow Him or not.

Your own voice. Just ask yourself when you “hear” or “feel” what you think is God’s answer, “Did I just make that up?” Usually if it is God, you realize after a little thought that you just simply would not have said that to yourself. Sometimes, reading the scriptures, we can misapply a verse to ourselves. But if you will just check with yourself, you will be able to tell – maybe with more practice – whether God is really the one saying it, or if you are just saying it to yourself.

You Can Do This

The more you need to talk to God, the easier it should be. When you really have something important to say to Him, it’s easiest of all. Meanwhile, chatter to Him all you want. Some find it easier talking to Jesus; some, to God. I have learned to talk to both. Jesus likes me to just call Him Jesus, oddly enough; He gets tired of me calling Him Lord, but not doing all He told me to. It is more comfortable for Jesus to just be my friend, and He wants me to call Him Jesus. He wants to know me personally and not professionally, so to speak. Same with me and God. I know He’s the Almighty on the throne, with all power; but He would rather me crawl up in His lap and just be His little boy. I can say anything I want to God, because He knows I love Him and we’re that comfortable talking to each other. Even though sometimes I am bad and don’t listen, He still is patient with me. Only rarely has He warned me that I have gone too far.

Conclusion

Jesus said, John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me….” Try it yourself. Keep trying till you succeed. Don’t go all religious on God or on Jesus. Pour it all out. Then just listen. One of these days, you are going to realize that you really are in touch with God. You shouldn’t expect long speeches from God. Just expect to “read His mind.” He will open His mind to you and you will feel His emotions in reaction to what you are saying to Him. Lots of times now, I just say to Jesus, “Jesus, it’s Wally,” and He instantly knows the whole deal without me saying another word. Then I feel for His mind and know His thoughts directly, with no need to wait for some long drawn out speech from Him. It’s instantaneous. If I missed something, I just feel for His mind again, and there it is.

Talk to Him! Then listen for Him! That really is Him you have been hearing in your heart/conscience! Now start asking better questions! The better your questions, the more helpful His answers will be. He is waiting for you to begin the conversation.