Friday, May 28, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Does God care more about Christians than non-Christians? This is an excellent question worthy of our attention for many reasons. It is also a bit of a dangerous one. What I mean is that the way we answer it will have a direct impact on how we treat people. That is to say, what we believe about who God loves and doesn’t love will inevitably have an effect on how we think about people and how we treat people. So, what’s the answer to this challenging question? This is something many people struggle with for years, so a clear and simple answer simply can’t be given in one brief reflection on the subject. That being said, I do believe we can come to see some very important truths about ourselves and about God by looking at three truths from God’s Word.
First, the truth that God gives “Common Grace” to all people. “What is common grace” you ask? Common grace is the term we use to describe how kind, loving, patient, and generous God is towards all people. This is a vital truth for us to see. God is gracious to everyone. How so? Well, if we believe the Bible’s testimony that all men are absolutely incapable of rescuing themselves from sin, and are far worse than we ever dare admit, we might come to see how great God’s common grace is. If you and I were to receive “fair” treatment from God, that is to say if you and I were to receive the fair punishment for our treasonous, rebellious sin against the King of the universe (and that is what every sin is), we would have been killed immediately and given an eternal punishment. That is how serious sin is, and that is the “fair” treatment of sin. However, while God does decree that the consequence (or wage, from Romans 3) of sin is death, he does not give this sentence to us immediately. That means that everything that we see as good in the world – sleeping, eating, joy, laughter, the beauty of nature, the satisfaction in a game or recreation, and so on – is God’s common grace to all mankind. So, we see here already that God does love all people are does “care” for all people.
Second, we have to remember that the Gospel tells us that God went an infinite distance in rescuing us from our sin. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ claims that God came to us, instead of us needing to do all kinds of things to get approved by God. God covered the infinite gap between Heaven and earth because of his great love for us, and paid the price himself for our sin against him. He died in our place so we could become “children of God” (I John 3:1). But, here’s an important question: what exactly IS a Christian? The question at hand is about whether God cares more about Christians… so, what or who is a Christian? A Christian is someone who was once deserving of eternal punishment for rejecting God, yet God came for them, died for them, and rose for them and gives them eternal life. A Christian is someone who, when God looks at them, God sees Jesus and his perfection rather than their sin. So, if you’re a Christian, you’re not one because God thought you were so special, or because you went to church or came from a certain family – none of that either qualifies you or disqualifies you – you’re a Christian because God has loved you and you responded in faith to receive his free gift of grace.
Lastly, God calls all Christians to love others in the same manner in which God loved us in Christ. Philippians 2:1-11 describes Christ letting go of all his Heavenly rights in order to humble himself in his humanity all the way to death on a cross. We are implored by God to see Christ’s sacrifice and example and be so changed because God is living in us that we in turn love others sacrificially, genuinely, and humbly.
So, does God care for the Christian more than the non-Christian? In many ways, the answer is no. None of us deserves God’s love yet he pours out his love on all mankind every day. None of us has sought after God on our own – rather, God has loved us so deeply that he seeks after us and rescues us from our sin and rebellion against him. Christians do have a special, unique relationship with God because of their faith in Christ. There are important differences in the way God responds to his child and the way God responds to someone who is still in their sin without hope. God knows us as a perfect Heavenly Father knows his children. But these things are not meant to boost our ego or make us think we matter more, therefore treating others with contempt. Let us follow in the example of our Savior, filled with His Spirit to love people the way God has loved us.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
For the last couple of weeks, and up until Noelle and I move, we will be discussing big questions people are interested in talking about from our youth group. This is the question and my response to it from May 5th. I'll be posting these on this blog rather than printing them each week for anyone interested
Why does evil live on yet good people die? This is an important question, but also one that might be slightly misguided. In order to see things more clearly, we need a correct understanding of what is “good”, what is “evil”, and what God has done about it and what he promises to do in the future.
For starters, we need to remember that “good” is not based on what we think is good but on God, who defines all that is good and is perfectly good. And we all fall short of the standard when we realize that’s where the bar is at! No one is good like God… in fact, no one is truly “good”. We can do good things, say nice things, and so on – but we are not good. Without God’s grace crashing into our lives and changing us, we are broken, rejecting God’s will and intention for our lives.
Second, what is “evil”? While there are many good definitions, one good definition of evil is this: evil is anything that goes against God’s nature and his will. That means, anything that opposes God’s perfect creation, his character (love, grace, kindness, fairness, justice, etc.), or his will for humanity is evil. When we see it this way, we see that all of us are in fact “evil” – once again, we can do good things but we cannot be called “good” at the core. But we can be called “evil” because we all live contrary to God’s design and character.
Third, what has God done about evil? Has he done anything? Hear we need to see that God has responded to evil. God became a man (Jesus Christ) and experienced evil – he was betrayed, beaten, and killed on a cross. God doesn’t avoid evil and suffering, he enters into it! He experienced far greater evil than any other human ever could – not because no one suffers like that, but because Jesus didn’t just die… he took all the punishment we deserve as people who oppose God and sin against him. He took my place, your place, the place of the world and offers forgiveness because the debt has been paid for. All who come to him in faith, knowing they should have died instead of him but trust him as Savior, experience a newness of life given to them by God – the Bible calls this being born again, being a new creation, and other things all describing what happens when we become Christians.
Lastly, what has God promised to do in the future about evil and suffering? This gets at the heart of tonight’s question. Why doesn’t God just end it now if he could? Is he not all powerful, or (and this would be worse) is he not all good? No, he is all powerful and perfectly good. Read 2 Peter 3:8-13. We see that God is not slow or weak; he is patient and is in control of history in such a perfect way that he is bringing many people to himself rather than ending history now. He is not pacing back and forth in Heaven like he doesn’t know what to do… he is perfectly carrying along the plan to make a new heavens and new earth – one without death, evil, suffering, tears, pain, or anything that is not in perfect harmony with himself. What starts with human beings through faith in Christ – making us new creations who know, love, and worship him – will eventually be seen in a perfect world forever.
God knows the pain you’ve been through. He went through great pain to be with you. Trust him and know that He loves you, and even when we can’t see it He is working for our good and his perfect plan, showing off his greatness and the great love with which he loves us.
For further reading: Romans 1, 3, 8. Ephesians 2. I Peter 2:18-22. 2 Peter 3:8-13. Revelation 21 & 22