Have you ever been broken by God?

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

I don’t know for sure about you, but I resist being broken.

I’ve never broken a bone that I know of except for maybe a rib, but one of the most painful experiences I had as a child was a time when astonishingly I did not break a bone.

I was in a park on a playground, and I’d guess I was about 8 or so.  I was fascinated by the teeter-totter, and I wondered how the mechanism worked that tilted it up and down.

I don’t remember how exactly it happened, but I went over to the teeter-totter to check out the axis.  While I was sticking my hand in to see how the mechanism worked, two kids got on either side of the teeter-totter and started using it.

It was one of the most extreme pains I’ve had.  The weight of the teeter-totter bearing down on my arm was so agonizing I could not even find my voice to tell the children to stop.  I’m sure it all took place in a matter of a few seconds, but I found my voice and in what seemed to me to be a dazed murmur asked them to get off the ride.

They got off, in surprise, and I pulled my arm out.  I was in shock about what had happened as I held my throbbing arm out.

Since then, I’ve rarely put my hand in any kind of mechanism again without seriously thinking about it first (I’m reluctant to get something out of the garbage disposal).

The idea of God breaking us is not one I think any of us can honestly say we are comfortable with.  For one thing, many believers still don’t fully trust that God is love, and so when they (and most of the time I am included here) think of Him breaking them in their lives, they think secretly of some ill-purpose or ill-will.

I would assert that we try very hard not to be broken by God.  Have you ever been listening to a sermon that was convicting, and found a way to distract yourself?  Have you ever been reading a book that was too uncomfortable about radical devotion to God, and found something else to do?  Have you ever felt God convicting you of a sin and been too fearful to face the consequences?

We are masters at resisting God’s breaking.  At 3:00 in the morning, if God is working on your heart, you can not only read a book, but you can turn on the TV, surf the internet, play a video game, or chat on Facebook.  Some people are even able to work from home and answer emails or write new proposals during the uncomfortable time.

The goal for us seems in whatever way possible to resist God’s breaking of us.

And for reasons that seem very valid to us.  God’s breaking of our hearts can be far more painful than the time my arm was caught in a seesaw.

But why would God want us to break?  If He doesn’t desire to be mean to us–He doesn’t enjoy kicking us around the way a criminal might kick a dog around–and He doesn’t seek as an end result for our sorrow, then why would He cause something so terrible to happen to us such as breaking?

Here are a few reasons I can think of.  You might add your own.

  • Salvation.  The most obvious reason is salvation.  Many people feel broken before salvation, though some (because they were a small child or because they had already gone through a breaking time previously, or for another reason) may not experience this breaking pre-salvation, but post.  After months of feeling broken, God in His grace brought me to His salvation in a time of healing.  God knows how each of us work.  Many come to Him in broken-hearted repentance.  (For me, much of this repentance came after inviting Christ into my life.  I was on a journey to confessing [and admitting] all of my sin before God, a journey I’m still working on, fearful that He wouldn’t forgive me if He really knew me.  But I did come with the mindset of already knowing I was a sinner, and having known that for years.)
  • Confession to evaporate guilt.  There are two ways to look at this: God is cruel or God wants you to be free of entanglements and burdens.  The entanglement and burden of unconfessed sin is huge.  If you are too afraid to give God a sin because you think if you “acknowledge” it He’ll stop loving you (personal experience here), then you carry a weight that God doesn’t intend you to carry as His child.  And He will increase the pressure and pain of that weight until you give it to Him, so you can walk free.
  • Confession to evaporate denial.  Sometimes, it’s easy to not give certain sins to God, mainly if we want to keep doing them (again, spoken from experience).  Rather than looking at God as someone who is all to overjoyed to punish you for your sin, realize that He wants you to walk a life that is a witness to others, and that He is working to bring about your sanctification (the purity of your walk before Him).
  • Eternal perspective.  It is so, so easy to hear the message of Christ drowned out by the so-called ‘goodies’ of this world.  I find myself struggling to resist looking at magazine covers as I walk through the grocery store aisles; distracted by bulletin boards that idolatrize materialism and physical beauty; and overwhelmed at times by the plethora of possessions one can own in their lifetime–each with the personal, very intimate, and totally deceitful promise of a and then I lived happily ever after claim.  Other times we feel inundated by work or relationship demands, sexual cravings, physical needs, retirement concerns, etc.  The list is nearly endless.  And in all this, the eternal perspective we should have is forgotten or put on a back burner.  When God breaks us from these things, what happens?  We are able to focus on the delight of Him, and to truly draw others into His Presence.
  • Passion.  Becoming dull for God can begin to happen in a single moment.  One choice can cause us to stumble and fall out of fellowship with Him.  In this time, we are not only on a self-destructive path for ourselves, but we do warfare against the precious testimony we have toward the world.  God wants to create in us a zealous, earnest passion for the lost, for His Truth, and for His everlasting love.
  • HumilityWe can get to where we think we are the coolest Christians on the block.  God breaking us reminds us to have an eye out for the broken.  When we are standing proud with our chest puffed out, showcasing the ‘metals’ we think we’ve earned in our Christian walk, we nearly always ignore the needs of the lost around us.  God wants us to remember the lost, including the ‘undesirable’ lost.  And not just to throw money at them or pity them, but to reach out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them!
  • Dependence on God.  It’s hard to believe, but sometimes in our Christian walk, we can think we are soo special that God could scarcely do without us, rather than that we cannot do without Him!  Ever been there?  I have.  When God breaks us, it isn’t an act of trying to force us to see Him as boss, but a gracious kindness to remind us that He is our Life.  When we stray from dependence on God, we become dependent on things that serve as ‘mini-idols’ in our lives, like our relationships, our career, our plans, etc.
  • Bravery.  When we have an area in our life that we feel we can’t achieve victory over, God can give us the courage to have victory by breaking us of our love for that wrong thing or or the fear holding us back from doing the right thing.  God can break us of our fear of sharing our testimony, witnessing to people on the street, etc., or our love of materialism, forgiving those who have hurt us most, etc.–by destroying the false hope we have in doing something wrong and destroying the false fear we have in doing something right.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

I am so afraid of being broken.  I am so afraid of suffering.  If you’re like me, you probably are, too.  But there are times in my Christian walk when I’ve prayed for God to break me.  In fact, one Christian song we sing, Hosanna (Hillsong United), invites God to do just this with the line,

Break my heart for what breaks Yours.

We may artificially request for God to break us and be shocked by the very real answer He gives us.  True brokenness is terribly painful and we struggle to accept it, even from the hand of our Rescuer.  But think about the verse from the Psalm, and these other Scriptures, and you and I will see a bright torch of Hope in our brokenness.

“Son of man, groan before the people! Groan before them with bitter anguish and a broken heart.” (God, Ezekiel 21:6, NLT)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (David, Psalm 34:18, NLT)

My days are over. My hopes have disappeared. My heart’s desires are broken. (Job, Job 17:11, NLT)

“I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD.” (Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:15b, HCSB)

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. (David, Psalm 147:3, NLT)

I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. (David, Psalm 38:8, NIV)

Ezekiel (whom God commanded to groan), David, Job, and Hannah all followed God.  They had hearts that sought Him.  Job is a man whom God said about him,

“There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8b, NIV)

Surely Job had a life that we should look carefully at to learn what a follower of Jesus might expect to experience in this world.  (By the way, “blameless” does not mean “sinless” but that he followed God exceptionally and was forgiven of his sin.  In Job, he refers to sin he has had in the past, and indeed he sins against God in his anger/doubt towards Him.)

What do we find?  Job had a time of intense grief, questioning, doubt, struggling, and terror.  God broke him.  And in this, Job discovered the wonder of God.

What about Hannah?  She wanted children, probably more than just about anything.  Maybe even more than she wanted a relationship with God.  But she came to God in great brokenness, laying her grief at His feet, and she rested in whatever answer He would give her.  Then, when God did give her a child, she did something that seems almost unthinkably hard–she gave her first child to Him, to live in the temple.  She got to see her child, the boy she’d so longed for, once a year.  And how did God honor her for giving over what she most wanted to Him?  He gave her sons and daughters to raise, and the baby she dedicated became perhaps the greatest Old Testament judge during the time before the kings.

And David?  David lived a life of soaring highs and terrible lows before God.  After he became trapped in sexual sin, he killed men, including the husband of the woman he had violated.  He became terribly broken (see Psalm 51).  God forgave him, and in his beautiful, broken Psalm about his sin (Psalm 51), we find these words:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

so that sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,

you who are God my Savior,

and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

Open my lips, Lord,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart

you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:12-18, NIV)

David knew something that many kings who came after him didn’t: only the Messiah could truly take away sin.  No matter how wealthy David was, or however mighty a warrior he was, or however talented with musical instruments, nothing and no one but God could take away his sin.

In summary, there are many reasons why God might break a person.  For a lost person, the reason is always for the purpose of salvation.  For the saved person, God sanctifies us through times of brokenness.  Resisting His brokenness as a lost person is to resist Eternal Life.  And resisting His brokenness as a believer is to resist His work to purify your life and testimony here on earth.

In a time of brokenness, however deep and fearful and even hopeless it may seem, remember that God’s ultimate desire is not for you to remain in this brokenness, but for you to be saved by it (if you are lost) or for you to experience His delight more deeply and draw the lost to Him (if you are already saved).

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Solomon, Proverbs 17:22)

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. (Solomon, Proverbs 15:13, ESV)

Although this blog might seem like a detached commentary on the pain of brokenness, it is far from it.  I write this during a time of very personal and painful brokenness in my life.  I am not fully out of the feeling of having my arm caught in a seesaw yet.  I still feel the new wound of brokenness and I still have an unsettling, restless angst of, What if it does not go away?  I don’t know who said this first, nor is that really important, but I hold to the line, God does not waste our pain.  Whether you are a believer or not, God isn’t bringing suffering on you because He enjoys tormenting you.  Rather, He longs for you to be saved, or, if you are saved, to know Him better.

Although much of my heart still wants to resist the experience of breaking in my life, and though I still at times feel like a wild animal struggling to be tamed, I believe in, I hold to, and I desire to cling with white-knuckled grasp to the love of Christ.  I know that times of breaking are not senseless, needless, or for the purpose of my destruction, but rather to bring my heart closer to God, to bring my will in dearer alignment to His, and so that I may “rest on His unchanging grace” (Edward Mote, hymn On Christ the Solid Rock).

And one more Scripture each for unbelievers and for believers going through a time of brokenness.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9, NIV)

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” (Hebrews 13:5, NASB)

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If there is any good in existence, why does it have to have originated from God?

Good can’t originate with humanity because we were either created with good, in which case it didn’t originate with us, or we were evolved from ‘nothing’, in which case we can’t even be good, it’s all totally relative.

But we know there is good in the world, as even Sam from Middle-Earth knows :), and so we could not have evolved from ‘nothing’.  That means we must have been created with good.

(We could not have been created without good, because if we had been created without good, we could never do anything good.  Have you ever asked a plush dog to wake you up if there’s a robber?  We know it isn’t in a plush dog’s capabilities to wake us up.  In the same way, it wouldn’t be in our capabilities to be good if God didn’t create us with the ability.)

But then why are we able to do evil?  Did God create us with that ability too?  No.  God created us with the ability to do good and the ability to choose.  That ability to choose is not responsible for what we chose, anymore than a pile of cash is responsible for murdering someone.  If I choose to use a pile of cash to buy a gun and murder someone, I am responsible, not the cash.  I could just as easily have used that cash to fund meals for a starving child.

Satan used his ability to choose to turn from God and become evil.  Satan was created as Lucifer, an angel of light.  Now he is a devil of darkness.

We were created without shame or desire for evil.  But we used our choice to turn from God and become evil, too.  Now we are the children of the devil of darkness.  It’s a devastating picture.

But there is hope.  Because God is good.

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Earthworms in the Rain

I went out to get the mail one night.  It was sprinkling rain and dark, but I only planned to stay out for a minute.

It started with one earthworm.

It was struggling to get across the wet landscape of the pavement.  I knew my mom was going to drive her car in, feared even if it wasn’t crushed by her tire, it would hopelessly wander across the pavement until it dried out.

So I tried to pick it up.

I found that earthworms are hard to pick up.  They do not want to be picked up, and they curl up tight, as if you are wounding them by your touch.

I walked back, careful of my step, earthworms squirming across the pavement.  A glance at the garage bench showed a Q’Doba’s coupon flier, one of those stiff kind.  I went back outside and slid the flier under the earthworm, using my fingers to help.

But then there was another earthworm in my path on my way.  So I picked it up.

And I saw another.  And another.

There were so many.  Every time I picked one up and tossed it into the grass or mulch, another seemed to walk in the path.  The flier got wet, tore, and I used both sides to scoop them up and carry them back.

I began to get frustrated.  I couldn’t get the path clear.  Each time, another ventured onto the pavement, struggling through.  I scooped one and left him on the stones by the mailbox.  Hopeless.  Every time an earthworm was dropped into the grass, at least one more made its way to the pavement.

Why?  Why?

Why can’t the earthworms understand?  Why can’t they stay in the grass?  Why do they have to dry out and be run over by cars?  Why?

The problem I faced is so much less the difficulty God faces every day.  Because He chooses to be involved with us, He watches us walk across the earth on our destination to Hell.

Because He is good, He warns us to turn.

Because of His grace, He saves us over and over from the eternal consequence we keep heading for.  He gives us time and more time, placing us on the grass of another year, another day, another moment.

Because He is love, He lets us make our own decision in the end.  He does not trap us so we will be “free”.  He is not like that.  Though He rescue us from danger again and again, at last He leaves us to our own choice of Hell, if we are really sure that is what we want.

But until that last time we crawl back out from the safety of another minute where He has deposited us, until we breathe our last, He is scooping us up, dropping us back on the grass . . waiting, waiting for us to want His way forever.

He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9b, NIV)

Could God be both good and evil?

We know from the Bible and our experiences that there are two forces in this world: good and evil.   The question is, Do both originate with God?

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You. (Psalm 89:14, NASB)

For both good and evil to have originated with God, they would have to live in harmony.  Otherwise, God wouldn’t be able to make any decisions until one or the other was destroyed.

But could God have good and evil living in harmony in Himself, something like the yen and the yang?

Let me look at this personally first. Do good and evil live in harmony in me?

Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. (Romans 2:14-15)

(God could never have had this conflict to begin with because, if God had ever had this conflict, He would not be able to judge between good and evil without condemning Himself for one or the other.)

People who see no distinction between good and bad are called pathological or, more truthfully, totally evil.

Yet we all begin our lives with a knowledge of good and evil and even a desire to do good.  The vast majority end our lives holding onto this ability, though a few totally suppress it and desire only total evil.

We all, to a degree, suppress the knowledge of good and evil in our lives.  We do this whenever we do something we know is wrong or we don’t do something we know would have been the right thing to do.  For example,

“Yes, I used the money I was planning on giving to the homeless mission this month.  But they probably don’t need the money anyway.  Probably a lot of people will give this month.  Probably there’s a lot of mismanagement of funds anyway.  Probably those homeless people are hucksters.  And I really needed that new outfit.  It will probably be encouraging to other people to see me wearing this new outfit.  In fact, they’ll probably feel better about themselves when they see my new outfit, and that really outweighs any benefit the homeless shelter would have gotten from my money anyway, what with the lack of need and all the people giving and the corruption and charlatans and everything.  Really now, I did the right thing.”

Yes, we have a very clear battle raging inside us.  We can smother it sometimes, but does it not very often come back to our minds?  Something like this:

Oh, what was I thinking?  I feel so bad wearing this outfit it’s not even worth it.  I keep thinking about that homeless shelter.  I saw that commercial for the shelter again, and I just felt so bad . .

Good and evil aren’t in harmony in us.  Either good wins out, or evil.  They are less at peace with each other than a lion and a bear in the same cage.

So good and evil can’t be in harmony in God, either.  We know God wouldn’t be able to make a decision if good and evil were equal within Him.  And if He was at war with Himself, not only would everything be in catastrophe, such as the earth would vanish and appear every split second (because He might want it to one minute, and then not want it to the next), but values would be in catastrophe, like helping the poor might be good one minute and bad the next.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Jesus, quoted in Mark 3:35)

If everything we had in our power to do we could do, wouldn’t this world be in a mess?  One minute we’d create a huge house for our family and the next minute we’d kill them.  It’s the harsh reality of our thought life.

But the God of the Bible doesn’t have any internal conflict.  There is never an argument, because God is perfectly good.  He never acts selfishly; He never enjoys cruelty; He never rules unjustly.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4, NIV)

The evil in us, then, has to come from another source.  And it does: Satan.

God reigns from the Kingdom of Heaven.  Satan is the ruler of our earth, meaning that he tries to ruin everyone’s lives by the power of sin.  Why does he do it?  Surely because he hates God!

But what do we have to do with Satan’s hate for God?  Why target us?

Because Satan knows he can’t destroy God directly and he knows God loves us.

That we would even ask the question, Can God be both good and evil? reflects the handiwork of Satan.  Satan is like Golum, luring us into Shelob’s lair.  Since he cannot win against God, Satan wants nothing more than to see you and I in Hell.  But how could he possibly convince anyone to run from the Creator and Redeemer of Eden to run into the mouth of Hell?

By questioning the goodness of God.

Over and over, all of your life, Satan will try to cause you to question God’s goodness.  Satan has only two ways to destroy your soul: doubting God’s goodness and longing for evil.  In Eden, Satan tricked Eve into abandoning God’s goodness and longing for the forbidden fruit.  Ever since then, Satan plays the same trick over and over.  Question the goodness of God.  Long for the pandemic of evil.  Question the goodness of God.  Long for the pandemic of evil.  Over and over.

Logic (created by God) will tell you God is only good.  God’s Word will tell you God is only good.  The life of Jesus will tell you God is only good.  The only one who will call God’s goodness into question is Satan.  And he is not someone we should be listening to.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15b, NIV)

 

 

Why did God allow Satan to tempt Eve?

The first man and woman chose evil over good, but only when Satan approached Eve (and Eve offered the sin to Adam, which he took on for himself).  But why did God let Satan approach them?  Why didn’t He strike Satan dead?  He could have.

Have you ever seen a parent whose goal in life seems to be to keep their child away from all dangers?  Don’t use a knife, because you might cut yourself.  Don’t use the stove, because you might burn yourself.  Don’t use the car, because you might get in a wreck.  But there comes an age when a child needs to use a knife, stove, and car.  It would be pretty hard for a twenty-year-old to get around without these skills.

The knife, stove, and car aren’t bad.  Bad choices can be made with them, but good choices can be made, too.

God doesn’t keep Adam and Eve away from all possibility of danger.  He gives them choice.  Isn’t that interesting?  The same God we sometimes worry about not giving us choice actually gives choice to Adam and Eve right away–and to us.

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:24-25a, NLT)

Did God the Father really turn His back on His Son on the cross? Is God cold-hearted?

At three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34, GW)

I read a true story once long ago that was both disturbing and showed the reality of how far a parent’s love can go for a child.  A mother and daughter were in a severe car wreck.  Their car was thrown from the road and no one knew where they were.  In the days that followed, the young daughter woke up and began crying out, “I’m thirsty!  I’m thirsty!” over and over again.

The mother, who was paralyzed by her injuries, became frantic to help her daughter.  She asked herself, What can I do?

She decided to do something that is so extreme it is almost hard to understand, but in another sense, it is easy to understand, because of the extreme love a parent can have for a child.  She picked up a broken glass shard from the shattered car windows and cut her arm open.  She let her daughter drink the blood from her arm.

Over the next few days, every time her daughter cried out that she was thirsty, she cut herself, over and over.  When the paramedics found and rescued the woman and her daughter, the mother had multiple cuts from the many times she had given her own blood for her daughter’s thirst.

When we look at stories like this, and we think about our own instinct to love each other, it seems almost inconceivable that God, who identifies Himself as the deepest, best love in the universe, and the source of love, would turn His back on His own Child on the cross.  It seems nearly unimaginable that God would allow His Son to be spit on, accused of lying when He said God was His Father, mocked, given vinegar to drink to quench His thirst, flogged, and everything else that happened on that long night that turn into dawn and into day.  The sun did not rise on a new day, but on a continuation of the darkest night in history.  As Jesus struggled with His last breaths, the sky turned black.  There was no day on this day.

Atheists sometimes give Christ’s crucifixion as one of the reasons they could never believe in God.  How could a Father ever, under any circumstances, permit His Son to go through such torture?  And because God knows all things, did He arrange for all this to happen?

In a sense, these are hard questions to answer, when you look at the extreme death of Christ on the cross.  But in another sense, it is easy to understand, because of the extreme love a parent can have for a child. 

You see, we were created to be God’s children.  Not biologically, and not in the sense that we are “gods” or share God’s essence.  But in an “inter-species” adoption, if you will, God adopted Adam as His son when He made him.  Jesus, on the other hand, has always been with God, is one of the three Persons of God, and was not created.

God created us to share in His love and joy.  Creating us was the first gift He gave us.  He could have created us to be no more than dogs or cats, and certainly that would have been wonderful in and of itself in the perfect world He made, but He gave us a priceless gift: He made us in His image.  We have an awareness of love and morality and choice that a dog or cat never can.

We did not want to be God’s children, though.  We rebelled and, in effect, handed our birth certificates over to Satan to claim.  And he did.  The cross is God’s act of buying us back from Hell.

The cross is not a manifestation of God the Father’s abandonment of His Son, but a manifestation of the love all three Persons of God have for His “ex-children”: us. 

Even through everything we have done against Him, God wants to be our Father again.  And He made that way through one Person of God coming to earth and dying.  All three Persons of God fully agreed on this plan, because that is the greatness of the love God has for us.

Jesus is not a victim.  He is like the mother who willingly cut herself to give her child a drink.  Jesus gave us His flesh and blood to bring us back to God.  It was the most costly adoption of all time.

We need to stop accusing God of doing something wrong because He suffered for us.  It is like accusing the mother in the story I told of cruelty and insanity for cutting herself so her child could live.  But it is worse than that.  It is the daughter herself accusing the mother of cruelty and insanity.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB)

Does God create people for destruction?

Jesus warns us there are three things Satan wishes to do:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy

(John 10:10a, NIV)

In this passage, Jesus calls Satan “the thief” and those Satan works through are “thieves and robbers”.  But why?  What is Satan trying to steal?

“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

(John 10:7b-10, NIV)

What would a thief entering the sheep pen try to steal?  A sheep.

That would mean that Satan is trying to rob God of His followers.  Does Satan succeed?

the sheep did not listen to them (from v. 8)

The quality of being a sheep in this passage seems to be listening to the voice of the Shepherd, and not listening to the voices of others.

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:1-5, NIV)

He calls his own sheep by name (from v. 3)

The words “his own” would seem to suggest that there are sheep who are not “his own”.  These sheep who do not belong to Jesus do not follow His voice because they do not know Him.

Here are surely the worst words a soul can hear on the Day of Judgment:

‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ (Luke 13:27b)

Jesus’ people hear His voice and follow Him.  This is exactly what happens when someone comes to salvation.  The person hears the voice of Christ in God’s Word or a pastor’s message or a friend’s testimony or a website or article or book or tract or television program or radio show, etc.

When we hear Christ’s voice through God’s Word, we are hearing His perfect voice.  Many people first hear His voice through an imperfect voice, like a pastor or website.  How is that possible?  God’s Spirit is using that source to convict the person of their sin and call them to repentance.

Door-to-door evangelism is rarely done anymore and highly scoffed.  However, one day in the 70’s a man knocked on my dad’s door, talked with him, and gave him a tract.  My father read the tract and became a Christian.  From that point forward, the Word of God was the treasure of my father’s life.

God gives us His perfect Word to hear His voice, and that alone would have been above and beyond what we deserve.  But God did not wait for people to go to a library or bookstore to read His Word.  He has given His people as witnesses of His Word to spread the Message of salvation throughout the world.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20, NIV)

Are God’s jealousy, anger, and expectation for worship & obedience clues that He is a bad God?

Imagine you see a child you care very much about standing far away from you, but very close to the car of a mean-looking stranger holding out candy in his hand.  What would you do?

I might say something like, “Come over here now! That is a bad man!”

If an onlooker who really didn’t like me wanted to tell others what I did, what could (s)he say?

1)     I was jealous for the child’s attention.

2)     I was extremely angry with the child.

3)     I expected the child to obey me.

4)     The child felt pressure to obey me.

All of these things are true.  But this doesn’t nearly tell the whole story.

1)     I was jealous for the child’s attention because the child was giving attention to a wicked man.

2)     I was extremely angry with the child for being so foolish—we’ve talked about not going up to strangers for candy!

3)     I expected the child to obey me to save the child’s life.

4)    The child felt pressure to obey me.  I wanted the child returned safely and not kidnapped by a murderer.

When we look at God’s anger, jealousy, and expectation for obedience & worship, we need to remember that Satan wants to distort God’s Truth and give us only half of the story.  (Listening to Satan is a lot like going up to the mean-looking stranger with the candy and asking for his side of the story.)  What is really going on in God’s interactions with humanity since the time of Adam and Eve?

1)     God is jealous for us.

“Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (from God’s direct talk to Moses in Exodus 34:14, NIV)

Parents don’t take kindly to other people luring their children away to come live with them in an unknown or dangerous place.  They have intense jealousy–yet we don’t hold that against them!  We expect it of them!  How much more does God have a right to become jealous when the people He made in His image are lured away from Him!!!!!!!!

2)     God is angry with us when we sin.

But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5, NLT)

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15, NIV)

Most parents get pretty angry if their child wanders away in the middle of a crowded street or sneaks away in the middle of the night or runs away from home.  They aren’t just angry–they are grieved, too.  But anger is definitely part of the equation, because of the danger to the child and the disrespect of the parent’s protection.

Sin is wandering away, sneaking away, or running away from God.  God becomes angry.  He isn’t only angry.  The Bible communicates that He feels grief and longing, too.  And from Adam’s first sin, He also felt love and mercy, because He sent His Son to pay for our wickedness.  Sin is very costly.  A runaway teen who got caught after vandalizing stores, stealing electronics to sell for liquor, hot-wiring a car and wrecking a car, and assaulting a police officer isn’t going to be able to simply come home.

But God sent His Son to pay for our sin so that, when we repent of our wickedness and turn back to Him, so that we can come straight home.

God is angry with us when we sin—and He’s right to be.  But there is much more to the story, for those who care to look.

3)     God expects us to obey Him.

Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live. (Psalm 119:144, NLT)

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'” (Jesus, quoting from Deuteronomy, Mark 12:30, NIV)

God does not want our lives to be destroyed by Satan or for us to live in everlasting separation from Him, since sin and God cannot live together.  God is jealous because He loves us and wants to save us from Satan’s hellish parenting practices, which quickly come to have far more in common with slavery than parenting.  Satan wants to take us down to Hell with him; God wants to lift us up to Heaven with Him.

Like the parent of a teenage daughter who is choosing to live with a cruel and abusive boyfriend rather than the love and safety of her parents, God is jealous for us.  Would we want Him to be otherwise?

4)    Believers feel pressure to obey God.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (Jesus, quoted in John 5:25, NIV)

Then they [the crowd] asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29, NIV)

Obedience has been undermined in our culture.  But we all have to obey to an extent, unless we want to end up in a maximum security cell–or worse.

I don’t know anyone who goes 90 mph in neighborhoods or brings a hammer to jewelry shops to bust the cases open.  Nobody gets away with this kind of thing for very long, nor is it, in actuality, a happy life.  Criminals have to fear every knock at the door and hide or risk getting caught.

Jail isn’t a good place to be, but it is a good thing to have jail.  It deters many people from committing crimes.  God allowing us to feel the pressure of the consequences of our disobedience is a mercy to us.  God is kind to warn us about Hell, a little like how we would be kind to warn a rebellious teenager that jail is a real possibility.

It comes down to this: Christians serve a Father, a Lord, a Master, and a King.  Obedience isn’t an option, like a side dish to an entree.  God chooses to use our obedience to open our hearts to Him.  We are obedience when we have faith that Jesus paid for our sins and we receive His payment.  That obedience does not merit the eternal life, but it does make us able to receive it.

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7b, NLT)

Are some people locked out of eternal life before they are even born?

Jesus made this sobering injunction of the Pharisees,

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52, NIV)

It wouldn’t make sense for Jesus to say this if He didn’t care about the people who were being persuaded not to enter His Kingdom.  If these people were simply made by God not to enter Heaven, why would He care if the Pharisees hindered them?  In fact, how could the Pharisees hinder them?

I can’t block you from entering a locked door.  If the door is locked, you won’t go inside whether I’m standing in front of it or not.  So we know from Luke 11:52 that Jesus wants people to go through the entrance to Heaven.  Otherwise, He would be accusing the law experts of something He did Himself!  Yet Jesus was so perfectly honest during His life time, that He had no fear when He asked His accusers this question:

Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? (John 8:46, NIV)

We can trust Jesus.  His worst enemies couldn’t find any sin within Him.  Peter the close follower of Jesus says about Him,

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22, NIV)

There are more passages we could look at, but I hope this is a starting point for you to realize that God does not lock people out of eternal life before they are born.  God is good–we should never ascribe to Him characteristics He calls evil.

‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.’ (from Ezekiel 33:11, NIV)