Community Bible Chapel Podcast
3/24/19 Engaging the Questions
I recently had a discussion with someone who was doubting that God could exist.
Their reasoning was that if God was good, then He would squash out evil and life would be good.
-But since evil and suffering exist, then God either can’t exist, can’t be good, or can’t be sovereign.
-It’s the classic “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people” question.
Now, we have been considering our culture and the necessity for us to engage with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
-We started by learning from the heart of God – to love people
-We are God’s ambassadors
Message, method, character of the one we represent.
Today and next week, I want to take some time to help us to answer some of the questions that people have about God we have to be able to answer.
Let’s start with the question of evil.
Philosophy and religious systems have worked for centuries to answer this question.
Eastern Mysticism answers it by saying it is not real or an illusion.
-You eliminate it through mind over matter.
Taoism says that evil is just good in disguise.
-That all things are good even though they may seem bad.Dualism: God vs. Satan (Star Wars, Ying & Yang)
-There are two ultimate and opposing forces which are equal in power.
-They would say there is no such thing as good or evil; only how you feel about it matters.
These all fall short of answering the question of evil.
-As we begin to formulate an answer that God has revealed to us, here are the difficulties that exist.
1. The Bible doesn’t answer them in a single verse, so we have to put our thinking caps on and see the whole picture.
2. As we speak with non-believers it’s not just a lack of understanding, but a hard heart toward God that blocks their understanding.
-Many times they have gone through hardship and are blaming God.
-And they don’t have the HS to help them see God’s perspective.
-It’s not a single sentence answer.
4. The answer doesn’t necessarily take their suffering away.
All that to say – when we are speaking with people, we have to be patient and gentle as we speak the truth in love.
-It’s very easy to get in an argument and we have to be wise and compassionate with someone who may be hurting in ways we don’t know about.
-It also means we have to rely upon the HS as we pray for Him to soften and open their heart to the truth of God’s Word.
Now, with all that in mind, lets me just mention a couple quick philosophical problems with our thinking.
-A pre-supposition is a general belief before we even consider the issue.
-We need to make sure our pre-suppositions are right.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
1. People are basically good
-Who is to say anyone is good?
-We could just as easily question:
Why does anything good ever happen?
-Good things happen because we have a good God.
-Somehow sinners think of themselves as saints and saints think of themselves as sinners.
-Jesus said “No one is good but God alone.”
-Who is to say that all suffering is bad?-Our culture does all it can to avoid suffering, but that might not always be wise.
-Life without suffering would produce spoiled rotten tyrants who always get their way.
-Suffering can produce good in us as it grows us in Godly character.
-Romans 8:28-29 tells us that.
-In this discussion, as most do, we have to begin at the beginning and build our answer.
-So we go back to Genesis and the original creation – in Eden.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him.”
-God has made us in His image and it’s not something we do, it’s who we are.
-We are God’s imager on the earth.
-A stillborn baby doesn’t image God and have value because is does anything, but because it is created as God’s imager.
-And as an imager, God instructs Adam in verse 28 to “be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.”
-Adam was to make more imagers and to spread out over the earth and make it like Eden by bearing God’s image throughout it all.
-Now, the part of being God’s imager that enters into our discussion today is the ability to make decisions – free will.
-God could have made us as robots – every decision we would ever make to be programmed by Him and every outcome secure.
-But if God created us to be robots, we would not be His imagers on the earth since bearing His image necessitates being able to make decisions with the same freedom that He has.
-So, disobedience is possible by definition – that was the risk that God took by making us in His image.
-And God is grieved by human sin and suffering, but the risk of allowing them comes in God’s willingness to make us in His image.
-Could trouble come to paradise?
-Enter Genesis 3
Genesis 3:5 – the serpent says to Eve
“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
-Notice that it doesn’t say that Eve will now be “capable” of good and evil.
-As imagers of God, they were already capable of evil, but had never experienced it – or never knew it.
-Nor the suffering that comes with it.
-But all that was about to change as they disobeyed God and ate the fruit.
-God had always been the source of their life and joy – their ability to discern what was good.
-The choice to eat from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was a decision to discern what was good and evil outside of God.
-So, when Adam disobeyed God he lost the life and joy God provided and descended into death and pain.
-Where they had only ever experienced good since the day they were created, now they would also experience (know) evil and it’s suffering as well.
-The risk God took in giving them “free will” dives into the depth of human depravity being manifest in every area of life as they try to create a reality outside of God’s goodness and truth.
We can conclude that sin and suffering was inevitable in the risk of God to create humanity in His image.
-But it is clear that sin and evil is not the work of God, but a perversion of God’s good gift of “free will” as humanity applied it in making decisions.
-Sin and suffering comes as the result of imperfect image bearers making their own reality that is against the truth of God’s moral being.
-We might extend this discussion from worldly suffering to eternal suffering.
-Since suffering is the consequence of our free choice to sin, hell is also the consequence of that choice to sin and chose a reality outside of God’s truth.
-God doesn’t send anyone there, we chose it for ourselves.
-Free will was created out of God’s love, and when we reject God’s love manifest in Christ’s death for us, then we chose and eternity of evil – hell.
For God to do away with evil and suffering, he would have to do away with all humankind.
-All his image bearers would have to be eliminated.
-God knew the risk of human failure, but He decided that the existence of humanity was preferable to our eternal absence.
-God has a plan that is revealed in the rest of redemptive history, culminating at the cross and resurrection.
God Eliminating Evil – Redemption
-Some might say that blaming evil on our choices lets God off the hook to easily.
-God isn’t off the hook for suffering because He made the moral choice to put himself on the cross and suffer for our sin.
-The Gospel is God eliminating evil.
-Jesus died and rose again for sinners.
-The Father’s love for us sent his Son to die for us to defeat the power of evil.
-We don’t do away with evil by being better people, because it’s in our nature and because we will never be perfect in this lifetime.
-But God has done away with evil on the cross.
-At the end of God’s plan is the fulfillment of His promise to bring us to heaven and live with Him once again.
-Our part in that is not to be perfect in our own strength, but to trust in Jesus who is our righteousness.
-In Him we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus’ death as the payment for our sin.
-Does that change our lives and suffering?
-Belief in Jesus’ death as the payment for our sin, we chose to exist in the reality of God’s goodness.
-The result of that is clearly stated at the end of God’s redemptive history.
“Now the dwelling of God is with men, nada he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
That is the “not yet” reality of our salvation.
-In the meantime we are being transformed back into the image bearer God intended.
-Part of that is growing Christ-like character and part is pointing others to the our hope in Jesus.
As we grow to understand all this, the bigger question we need to ask our friends and neighbors is this:
Can we trust in a God who has taken a risk in our ability to chose and allow evil to exist?
Ephesians 1:11 – “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”
2. God even orchestrates our sin to glorify himself (yet is not tainted by them)
Exodus 4:21 – “The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.”
James 1:13-14 – “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”
Habakkuk 1:13 – “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”
-And we have spoken to that today.
Romans 9:19-21— “One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”
6. God will use evil for His good purpose (which we may not now fully understand). Genesis 50:20 – “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
-But this injustice is also the most glorious event of human history – God’s sacrifice of his Son to redeem a people unto himself.
-I urge you to be reconciled to God through belief in Jesus.