Sunday, October 28, 2007

When God's Children Ask for the Spirit

When I heard that several of the California Wildfires were started by arsonists, I wondered how could anyone do such a horrible thing! How could anyone be so evil!!

I listened to several psychiatrists who appeared on Fox News. They listed three psychiatric reasons why someone would do such a horrible act. On top of these reasons shared, it is common for such people to not even be remorseful at all.

The three reasons are just a blur of excuses to me. I noticed that not one person evaluating the mindset of such people could bring themselves to say, "they are evil."

Why is that?

Why is there such an aversion to calling what is blatantly evil...evil?

Is it because it's not a "politically correct" term these days?

Is it because the buzzword of "tolerance" should be applied to even the worst of the worst offenders of humankind?

Is it because the word is a biblical one?

Perhaps a combination of all three?

While I was thinking about the term "evil" today, the Bible verse in Luke 11:13 was brought back to my mind. Jesus is speaking:


Luk 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Matthew Henry's commentary on Luke 11:1-13 is quite thorough and I encourage you to read it all. Here is the portion of the commentary that discusses Luke 11:13 -


2. An application of this to the blessings of our heavenly Father (v. 13): If ye then, being evil, give, and know how to give, good gifts to your children, much more shall God give you the Spirit. He shall give good things; so it is in Matthew. Observe,

(1.) The direction he gives us what to pray for. We must ask for the Holy Spirit, not only a necessary in order to our praying well, but as inclusive of all the good things we are to pray for; we need no more to make us happy, for the Spirit is the worker of spiritual life, and the earnest of eternal life. Note, The gift of the Holy Ghost is a gift we are every one of us concerned earnestly and constantly to pray for.

(2.) The encouragement he gives us to hope that we shall speed in this prayer: Your heavenly Father will give. It is in his power to give the Spirit; he has all good things to bestow, wrapped up in that one; but that is not all, it is in his promise, the gift of the Holy Ghost is in the covenant, Acts 1:33, 38, and it is here inferred from parents’ readiness to supply their children’s needs, and gratify their desires, when they are natural and proper. If the child ask for a serpent, or a scorpion, the father, in kindness, will deny him, but not if he ask for what is needful, and will be nourishing. When God’s children ask for the Spirit, they do, in effect, ask for bread; for the Spirit is the staff of life; nay, he is the Author of the soul’s life. If our earthly parents, though evil, be yet so kind, if they, though weak, be yet so knowing, that they not only give, but give with discretion, give what is best, in the best manner and time, much more will our heavenly Father, who infinitely excels the fathers of our flesh both in wisdom and goodness, give us his Holy Spirit. If earthly parents be willing to lay out for the education of their children, to whom they design to leave their estates, much more will our heavenly Father give the spirit of sons to all those whom he has predestinated to the inheritance of sons.
(bold mine)

Notice of whom Jesus is speaking when he states, "If ye then, being evil..."

Who was his audience?

He was speaking to his disciples!

We all are guilty of "being evil."

Why?

Because when Adam and Eve sinned, they brought evil into their fleshly nature and thus, passed it on to every living soul since. Holy and Righteous God cannot reside in the hearts of sinful, evil people. So, since we are all guilty of being evil, how can we be reconciled back unto God?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ achieves this. Jesus said, "you must be born again."

We are born again in Christ when we die to sin as he died for our sins on the cross and are resurrected from the death (caused by sin) to life, just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead to life (while taking our punishment on the cross for our sins.)

How did he accomplish this?

Through the power of the Holy Spirit! This is why Jesus' death at the cross was necessary...for our salvation. There was no other way.

If you clicked on through to the other links in my last blogpost (Pays to be a Squeaky Wheel), you would have read an excellent commentary written by Christian Apologist Greg Koukl in 2005. I think that his commentary explains the correlation between why God allows evil in the world, for now, and why removal of all evil would mean the removal of each and every one of us with no hope for salvation!!

It may sound like an unsolvable paradox to some, but the truth is that God's mercy and love for us makes it necessary to allow us to reside within this fallen world filled with sin and evil for a time. It is called the age of forgiveness, mercy and grace. But, it won't last forever.

Read Greg Koukl's article and see if you find yourselves understanding much more clearly why it is God's mercy, grace and love for us that allows evil to exist for a time and how forgiveness, for our sakes, could only be accomplished through Christ's death at the cross. Then, read this verse again:

Jhn 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

And this one:

1Jo 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Greg Koukl's article:



People Asked, "Where was God?"
Where was God when the recent hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast? Did He “evacuate?”


The photographs alone told the story. Boats jackstrawed like bathtub toys. Buildings ripped from their foundations. Corpses mingled with debris, bobbing in the tide. A little boy, head pulled low in sorrow, teddy bear at his feet. Katrina. “Our tsunami,” as one person put it.

Time will pass on this tragedy, as it has since 9/11, and since the events of April 20, 1999, when the lives of fourteen teenagers were extinguished at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. But in one sense these things will never be old news. The question on the lips of so many is an age old query:

“Where was God?”

ONE WRONG ANSWER

One answer is not going to work: The picture of a broken-hearted God, victimized, agonizing over events out of His control.

This “finite God” view is Rabbi Harold Kushner’s answer in Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? Evil is bigger than God whose hands are tied by the laws of nature and the will of man. Limited in power and perfection, He weeps with us at a world out of control.

According to Kushner, this should bring us comfort. “God, who neither causes nor prevents tragedies, helps by inspiring people to help,” he writes.1

Clearly, the God Kushner has in mind is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the One who brought the universe into existence with a single thought. This is not the God of the Exodus and the empty tomb. A God equally victimized by the march of evil may commiserate with other victims, but He cannot inspire or rescue. He is not worthy of praise, prayer, or trust. Nor is there any real comfort to be gained from one so impotent.

ANOTHER WRONG ANSWER

But what alternative is there? How can anyone believe in God in the wake of the kind of devastation and suffering wrought by Katrina and Rita? The great 20th Century British philosopher and atheist Bertrand Russell wondered how anyone could talk of God while kneeling at the bed of a dying child. It is a powerful image. Like the three-word sound byte “Where was God?” it strikes many Christians dumb. How can anyone cling to the hope of a benevolent, powerful sovereign in the face of such tragedy?

They might consider Christian philosopher William Lane Craig’s response:

What is the atheist Bertrand Russell going to say to that dying child – or to thousands of dead or homeless in Katrina’s wake, or to the parents of 14 murdered highschoolers in Colorado, for that matter? Too bad? Tough luck? That’s the way it goes? No happy ending, no silver lining, nothing but devastating, tragic, senseless evil?

No, that also won’t work for a very important reason. In a world bereft of God, there are many ways to characterize hurricane Katrina, the devastation of 9/11, or the killings at Columbine High: unpleasant, sad, painful, even ghastly.

Yet if God doesn’t exist, the one thing we can never do is call such human destruction tragic, or wanton murder wicked. If in virtue of these tragedies one concludes God doesn’t exist, then the carnage ceases to be tragic at all, if by that word we mean a genuine breach of goodness.

Judgments like these require some transcendent reference point, some way of keeping score. Words like “evil” or “tragic” are parasitic on a standard of moral perfection. C.S. Lewis pointed out that a portrait is a good or bad likeness depending on how it compares with the “perfect” original. But if there is no standard, then there is no “good” or “bad.”

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust,” Lewis reasoned. “But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call something crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?....”2

Evil is spoiled goodness. That’s Lewis’s point. We already know this. Note the words we use to describe it: unrighteousness, immorality, impurity. Evil depends on the good. Where does such goodness come from, though?

This point was explored in the movie, “The Quarrel.”3 The main characters, Hersh and Chiam, were boyhood friends who separated in a dispute over God and evil. Then came the Holocaust; each thought the other had perished. After the war, they reunite by chance and immediately become embroiled once again in their boyhood quarrel.

Hersh, now a rabbi, offers this challenge to the secularist Chiam:

If there's nothing in the universe that's higher than human beings, then what's morality? Well, it’s a matter of opinion. I like milk; you like meat. Hitler likes to kill people; I like to save them. Who’s to say which is better?

Do you begin to see the horror of this? If there is no Master of the universe, then who’s to say that Hitler did anything wrong? If there is no God, then the people that murdered your wife and kids did nothing wrong.

If there is no God, it’s hard to even begin making sense of the notions of evil or moral tragedy. The events that trouble us are reduced to mere “stuff ” that happens. There are different kinds of “stuff,” to be sure, some we like (Mother Teresa), and some we don’t (Katrina & Rita), but in a universe bereft of God it’s all reduced to “stuff ” in the end.

But we know better. Words like “wicked,” “tragic,” and “evil” are on the lips of everyone constantly. We cannot describe the events in New Orleans in August, 2005 without them.

But the questions remain: Why didn’t God intervene? Why is He inactive – apparently impotent – when He could restrain both the winds and the wicked? This protest rings hollow, though, because we don’t really want God to end evil, not all of it.

PICKING AND CHOOSING
OUR MORAL TRAGEDIES

Why does this question come up only with magnum tragedies – like hurricane Katrina or the Littleton massacre – or when we are personally stunned by deadly disease or financial ruin? What about the enormous mass of evil that slips by us every day unnoticed and unlamented because we are the perpetrators of the evil, not its victims?

On August 30, 2005 – the same day that the failure of the first two levees submerged some New Orleans neighborhoods under 20 feet water – I wonder how many Americans were committing adultery around the country? What of the cumulative effect of the personal pain and destruction that resulted from all those individual acts of sin?

What of the unplanned pregnancies (and subsequent abortions), the sexually transmitted diseases, the shame and embarrassment?

On August 30, a day that left so many homeless in the Gulf states, what of the children whose homes were broken through marriages destroyed by infidelity? What of the severed trust, the emotional wounding, the sting of betrayal, the shattered families? What of the traumatized children cast emotionally adrift, destined as adults to act out the anguish of this disloyalty?

One careless act of unfaithfulness leaves in its wake decades of pain and destruction and often generations of brokenness. And – to be sure – this evil was multiplied thousands of times over on the same day the levees broke in Louisiana.

I saw no outcry, though, no moral indignation in the local papers or national news because God permitted this evil. Why not? Because we don’t complain when evil makes us feel better, only when it makes us feel bad.

If the truth were known, we do not judge disasters based on unprejudiced moral assessment, but rather on what is painful, awkward, or inconvenient to us. We don’t ask, “Where is God?” when another’s pain brings us profit instead of loss.

We don’t want God sniffing around the dark recesses of our own evil conduct. Instead, we fight intervention. We don’t really want Him stopping us from hurting others. We only cry “foul” when He doesn’t stop others from hurting us.

The problem of evil is much bigger than hundreds of drowned people or thousands of homeless. It includes all the ordinary corruptions that please us, the hundreds of small vices you and I approve of every day. It entails not only what offends us, but what offends God.

The answer to the question “Why doesn’t God stop the evil?” is the same answer to the question, “Why doesn’t God stop me every time I do wrong?” There is a virtuous quality to human moral choice that both dignifies us and makes serious evil possible.

The rules God applies to a serial killer are the same rules He applies to you. If you want God to clean up evil, He might just say, “Okay, let’s start with you.” If you want Him to stop murderers, then you have to be just as willing to let Him stop you every time you do what is evil by His standards. And that covers a lot of ground. Most people won’t sit still for that.

Sometimes the consequences of our evil actions are longlived. It’s hard to know how much has been spoiled by man’s initial rebellion. However, the prophecy that Adam would now encounter thorns and thistles is suggestive (Genesis 3:18). Ever since man has ventured forth from Eden, the world has been a dangerous place. All the forces of nature are wonderful things in their right place, but ominous foes in a world twisted by sin.

WHAT SHOULD GOD DO?

When people ask “Where was God?” I ask “What precisely do you expect God to do? If you were in His place, what would you do?” If you would use your power to stop evil, would you punish it or prevent it? Either choice presents you with problems.

One reason God doesn’t wipe out all evil immediately is that the alternative would be worse for us. This becomes evident by asking a simple question: If God heard your prayer to eliminate evil and destroyed it all at midnight tonight, where would you be at 12:01?

The discomfiting reality is that evil deeds can never be isolated from the evil doer. Our prints are on the smoking gun. Each one of us is guilty in some capacity, and we know it. That’s the problem.

While reading on the Littleton shooting several years ago, I stumbled upon a refreshing bit of honesty and moral clarity by John Hewitt in a piece entitled “Seeking to Make Sense Where There Is None.” Hewitt wrote:

"We would rather think of bad acts as the unfortunate consequences of discoverable and remedial social and personal conditions. Yet it is precisely the account we do not wish to believe that may best capture what happened in Littleton. The two dead members of the “Trenchcoat Mafia,” together with their fellows, may simply have chosen evil in circumstances where others choose to play football or to crave membership in the National Honor Society."4 [emphasis added]

Any judicial action God would take today would pin us all under the gavel. When God wipes out evil, He’s going to do a complete job. C. S. Lewis soberly observed, “I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does....When the author walks on the stage the play is over.”5

No, God hasn’t banished evil from His kingdom – yet. The Bible describes a time when God will wipe away every tear and repair the effects of evil on the world. Men will no longer endure the ravages of wickedness or be victimized by bouts with nature. And no one will ever ask the question, “Where was God?”

Until then, God has chosen a different strategy, a better plan, one that’s moral on a higher level. It’s a plan that ultimately deals with evil, but allows room for mercy as well. It’s called forgiveness.

THE PATIENCE OF GOD

God is waiting. Patience, not lack of goodness or lack of ability, stays God’s hand from writing the last chapter of human history. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness,” Peter reminds us, “but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God is patiently waiting for us to turn to Him.

Suffering, tragedy, and profligate evil now function as warning signals. Like the ache of a limb out of joint, the pain of living in a broken world tells us that something is amiss. If God took away the pain, we’d never deal with the disease. And the disease will kill us, sooner or later.


Why doesn’t God do something about evil? God has done something, the most profound thing imaginable. He has sent His Son to die for evil men. Because we are ultimately the source of evil, God would be entirely justified in punishing us. Yet He chose instead to exercise mercy. He took the punishment due you and I and poured it out on His Son, Jesus, so He could offer forgiveness to anyone who asks.

God is not the author of evil. Neither is He incapable of responding nor unwilling to act. But His remedy for evil is not impulsive. He doesn’t obliterate us, the offenders, with one angry blow. Instead He waits.

Bertrand Russell had nothing to say while kneeling at the bed of a dying child. He could have spoken of the patience and mercy of God. He ought to have mentioned the future perfection that awaits all who trust in Christ.

He might have remembered that a redemptive God “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). He should have considered the Gospel, the only source of hope for a broken world.

But Russell could not. As an atheist he had surrendered those resources. We can do better.

Our dilemma should not be why God allows evil. Instead, our wonder should be why He would pay such an incredible price to rescue us at all when we have rebelled so completely against Him.

When this reality grabs our hearts, we will get down on our knees and ask forgiveness instead of criticizing God for not doing enough.

Your partner for the truth,

Gregory Koukl
President, Stand to Reason


1 Rabbi Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York: Schocken, 1981), 140, quoted in Norman Geisler and William
Watkins, Worlds Apart (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 203.

2 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 31.

3 “The Quarrel,” directed by Eli Cohen, released 1992.

4 John P. Hewitt, “Seeking to Make Sense Where There Is None,”
Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1999, sec. B, 7.

5 Lewis, 66.


Solid Ground © Gregory Koukl Stand to Reason 1438 East 33rd St. Signal Hill, CA 90755 1-800-2-REASON www.str.org standtoreason@str.org
solid ground solid ground from Stand to Reason
November/December 2005


This letter may be reproduced or forwarded via e-mail without change and in its entirety for non-commercial purposes without prior permission from Stand to Reason. ©2005 Gregory Koukl




14 comments:

Christinewjc said...

On a more political note, this article on The Media Dishonesty in New Orleans tells us that our Federal Government strategically placed the National Guard there and as a result, the crime rate has dropped significantly. Did you know this? I didn't...until I read this article today.

mike rucker said...

christine -

thanks for your comment on my blog.

and remember, your cuteness doesn't equal your corectness...

and in terms of comments on blogs, remember that, uh, size doesn't mattter... :)

mr

Christinewjc said...

Mike,

Just by reading cipher's profile leads me to know where he (and you, because you agreed with him)genuinely stand regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ciper's profile:

cipher
Age: 50
Gender: Male
Astrological Sign: Capricorn
Zodiac Year: Monkey
Industry: Technology
Location: Boston : MA : United States
About Me
I utterly despise Christian fundamentalism. I may be the only Jew in America who feels himself to have been wounded personally by it. The doctrine of salvific exclusivism is the vilest belief ever concocted in the history of our civilization. Some of my earliest memories are of televangelists threatening me with eternal damnation for not believing something that I seem to be inherently incapable of believing. I reject absolutely the notion that someone can be willing to abandon for all of eternity billions of his human brothers and sisters, yet somehow still be considered a "good" person. It is the conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, far more than the terrorists, serial killers and pedophiles, who have convinced me that humanity is a terminal species, that we cannot solve our problems and that we probably haven't got much time left. Which, frankly, suits me fine at this point - I don't want to go on living in the same world with them any longer. They have literally ruined reality for me.

Interests
Complaining (the only thing I'm really good at!)

*******
I see that he doesn't even have a blog! Just that profile diatribe and description of his "interests" as complaining

That's his only interest?

Sad. Very sad.

What's even more disturbing is that he claims that:

"It is the conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, far more than the terrorists, serial killers and pedophiles, who have convinced me that humanity is a terminal species, that we cannot solve our problems and that we probably haven't got much time left."

What a sad way to live...

If cipher would only look more closely at God's Word and do the investigating to find the answer for himself to Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" - then he would have reason for hope; as well as the chance to realize the cure for his complaining, his sin problem, and thus change his eternal destination.

Jesus' destiny when he walked this earth over 2,000 years ago...was to change ours.

Each person must come to their own conclusion regarding Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" The answer determines our final destination.

Christinewjc said...

Mike -

P.S. I see much more hope for you. Anyone who lists links on their blog like "The Skeptics Annotated Bible" as well as "The Skeptics Annotated Bible - Refuted" is most likely still searching for truth and open to the gospel.

mike rucker said...

christine -

i am no longer "searching for the truth". i have been where you are, and i have moved on. please don't take this as being "better than you" - i think everyone finds their own truth, and you have found yours. you think there is only one - i choose to differ. cipher too, probably.

but thanks anyway.

mr

Christinewjc said...

So....how is it that you happened upon this blog? And, since we disagree, there must be a reason why you are posting here.

Could your reason be to refute what I write?

Or, could your reason be to change my mind (and readers here) to your way of thinking?

When you wrote:

"i think everyone finds their own truth, and you have found yours. you think there is only one - i choose to differ."

You, also, my friend, "think there is only one" because you have made your own personal choice. You may not want to "think" or "project to others" the concept that "yours isn't better," but since you believe that you are right and I am wrong, then you have found "only one truth" in your own eyes, as well. Right?

Let me ask you this. Do you believe there is such a thing as absolute truth?

Or, is truth, therefore, only relative?

mike rucker said...

maybe i just come back here to look at your cute picture. mine on my blog isn't that cute to look at...

you are very literate and i like reading your take on things. you are actually one of the blogs i like reading because you articulate the evangelical view very well - and that's both a compliment and a criticism.

but... (there's always a 'but', right?...)

how funny that you asked about an "absolute truth" - one guy i debate with a alot - i asked him to give me an 'absolute truth' and do you know what he gave me?

"moderation in all things".

of course, when i picked my jaw off the floor from laughing, i had to tell him that this is essentially "there are no absolute truths"...

christine, what's the point in your blog if you and everyone who comments is preaching the same tune? i don't know that my point is to "convert you", but i just want you to think of other sides - because christine - and here i'm going to caps again - PEOPLE IN CHURCH DON'T NORMALLY DO THAT.

ahem. again. :)

what would you give me as an 'absolute truth'?

mr

Christinewjc said...

Umm...Mike...in case you didn't know, I'm the one on the left side of the picture. The pretty young one on the right is my daughter. Besides, you were still in diapers when I was a teen. heh heh

Thanks for the compliment...and the criticism...I think.

I have seen things from many different sides, Mike. My history is recorded here on this blog. I have read countless books on every religion that there is. I have read skeptic, agnostic, and atheist positions, too.

Biblical Christianity is a faith that has historical, archaeological, and astoundingly accurate prophetic evidence that was all fulfilled by the Savior -Jesus Christ. It is a good and reasonable faith.

What would I give as "an absolute truth?"

Jesus' words during his prayer to the Father in John 17:

Jhn 17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (bold mine)

P.S. See more truth verses here.

Neil said...

Hi Christine - good post and point about evil. Isn't it odd how the talking heads can't see the obvious?

Love the article by Greg Koukl. He is always the voice of reason.

mike rucker said...

ahh.. she takes after her mother... :)

the scripture you quoted me is nebeulous - it's like jesus saying he's god.

to be honest, i think he was.

but (and here's another but...)

i don't think he had all the rules that evangelicals say he had.

and that's MY absolute truth.

mr

Christinewjc said...

Hi Neil,

I love when you stop by and comment!

I agree...it's amazing that some refuse to see the obvious.

Greg Koukl is a masterful Christian apologist. I have learned so much from him over the years!

Any skeptic who reads his work usually ends up speechless against his voice of reason!

Christinewjc said...

Oh Mike...you're trying to be such a flirt! May I suggest EHarmony.com? No wait...probably too many Christian women.

It isn't that Jesus was God; He IS God! He's alive today and forevermore!

So...what kind of "rules" being shared by evangelicals do you think Jesus would not agree with?

mike rucker said...

"trying" to be a flirt? isn't it obvious i *am* one? :)

here's the thing: i asked you for an absolute truth, and you essentially gave me "jesus is god".

that may be a truth, but it's hardly an absolute truth that relates to life. maybe that's too much of an overstatement - obviouly it relates to life - but you know what i mean.

mr

Christinewjc said...

Mike wrote: "that may be a truth, but it's hardly an absolute truth that relates to life. maybe that's too much of an overstatement - obviouly it relates to life - but you know what i mean."

Yes. I do know what you mean. It means that you are rejecting Jesus as being "the way, the truth and the life."

Jhn 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Since faith in Jesus Christ is the only way back to God, your refusal to believe in him is to your detriment.

You didn't answer my last question:

"So...what kind of "rules" being shared by evangelicals do you think Jesus would not agree with?"