September 21, 2011

Has God changed? Or do we need to Change?

Most of the general population and a large segment of church goers think that God always wants them comfortable and feeling good. Some call this “God wants you rich” theology, but it is subtler than that. It is rooted in a false concept of God’s very nature.

In this thinking, human understanding of God was flawed in the Old Testament. God was not really behind all the bloodshed and conflict between His people and the godless and evil pagans around them. This was a human evil. This ‘theology’ also believes that the full revelation of God is in Jesus Christ (true), but because Jesus was mild and talked about peace, this is how God has always been. They dismiss passages such as this one . . . 

I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them” (Jeremiah 32:41–42).
In their minds, God cannot be the author of disaster. They say the writer did not have a full understanding of God. Again, since Jesus called for peace, and since Jesus is the express image of God, then God could not desire war or be behind any negative and painful events.

However, when I step back and look at the full picture of the advent of Christ, I see quite a few negatives. First, Jesus came because we are sinful and resist the will of God. We don’t even understand it, never mind agree with it. Jesus came to deal with sin. It affects not only our actions but even our power to think properly. This is why He calls for a renewed mind.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Without renewed minds, no one can discern the will of God. We have our own idea what is good (usually associated with comfort) and acceptable (to whom?) and perfect (by whose standards?) To make this renewal possible, He went beyond offering information or logical explanations. Instead, He offers new life through faith and repentance, and that includes a new mind. In speaking to Christians about this, Paul wrote . . . 
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
Our first need is the life of Christ and a renewed way of thinking, but supplying this for us required a great act of violence, an act that God planned from “before the foundation of the world.” 
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22–23)
Yes, men did the deed, but it was God who made the plan. He knew they would kill His Son, yet He sent the Son for that very thing. Without His death, without His shedding of blood, there is no remission for sin, no regeneration for sinners, no possibility of peace on earth.

I’m puzzled that anyone can say God is not behind the disasters of the Old Testament without also denying that He was behind the greatest act of violence in the New Testament. We may have an abhorrence of violence ourselves, yet the Word of God says we are, at the root, sinful and selfish creatures. In our flesh, we do whatever we do for our own ends. We do it so we can be powerful and in control. Or we do it so we can protect ourselves from someone having power over us.

Maybe we need to better understand the motivations of God. Does He cause disaster to be in control? Does He advocate peace so He doesn’t have to suffer the pain of our disobedience? If that is why God does things, then we have made God in our image.

Instead, God’s motives go far beyond ours. He asks that we glorify Him (it would be blasphemy to ask for anything less) and He asks that we strive for peace and good will, but His reasons for doing anything good (or negative) are not selfish like ours.

For (our fathers) disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10–11)
Even when the negatives in life are at the hands of others, God still is in it and uses it for our good. James tells us to rejoice in our trials for God uses them to produce patience. Peter said, 
After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
Blessed in our North American comfort, some decide that God’s priority for His people is comfort. In this thinking, they miss out on His amazing power of God to use pain.

I’ve imagined what this world would be like if God took away all pain and suffering, all conflict and trouble. We would be awful people, without discipline and fully filled with the importance of our own ease and comfort. Our sin would go unchecked and instead of creating peace on earth, we would be in ruins.

God, You have not changed. You are the same today, yesterday and forever. While I also tend to shrink from pain, may I always be aware that You ordain all that happens to me. You have purpose for it, even for the bad things. I know I’m supposed to be a person of peace, but I also know that You hate sin, and if You wanted, You could ask me to braid a whip and drive moneychangers (and false theologians) out of Your temple.

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