Being finite and confined to our own, physical bodies, it is very often difficult for us – especially self-centered westerners – to consider powers outside of ourselves, and greater than ourselves, greatly impacting our lives. I vividly remember my high school freshman AP English class entering the discussion of destiny: is there such a thing? Are we in control of it? And that conversation quickly turned to the issue of morality: would we know right and wrong if it weren’t for laws and rules? We were essentially discussing the existence and power of God without bringing His name into it.
Interestingly enough, however, those who believed in destiny were the more free-thinking artistic type, while those who did not were more of the scientific, right-brained persuasion. However one such guy, who is now a pharmacist, made the statement: “I think if I killed my friend and there was no law against it, I would at the very least feel sad that he was gone, and recognize that I had done something bad”. This conversation has remained in my mind as I have grown Spiritually through the years. I am a bit more right brained, and without the direction of Scripture, I would naturally like to believe that I am in control and make my own destiny. But when we truly consider our limited nature, it is the greatest blessing to have Scripture teach and guide us.
The book of Romans beautifully teaches us that we are given the Law of God so that we may know sin (Rom 7.7). When Adam and Eve were first placed in the Garden of Eden, they had not yet sinned and therefore had no experiential knowledge of it. They were still innocent and thus could walk in the presence of God. God did, however, give them a commandment and consequence for breaking that commandment – thus they had an intellectual knowledge of sin. They knew disobedience was an option, and its result if they did it. The law gave them knowledge of sin.
Romans also teaches us that God has written His Law on our hearts to the extent that we have consciences and feel guilty when we do something that is morally wrong.
“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
– Rom 2.14-16
So my non-believing, scientifically minded friend recognized this God-given attribute of a conscience, which is founded on God’s perfect law.
We also see beautifully in Scripture that God is the beginning and the end. He wrote the entire story of history before He even created the world, prophesying Jesus at the very moment Adam and Eve sinned. Because of this sovereignty we can believe promises like Rom 8.28 which states that “all things work together for good for those that love God”. If God were not sovereign and in control of the universe, then He cannot guarantee that everything will work together for good. He is just a piece of the puzzle watching and waiting to see what happens next.
What, then, when someone puts us in an impossible situation? Will we ever be tempted or able to turn back and blame God for our actions and sin?
While God is sovereign over every situation, and while He uses sin as a part of His plan and will, we still make that decision to sin in our minds and will still give an account. It was God’s sovereign plan from the beginning to offer Jesus as our atoning sacrifice, and yet those who actually murdered Jesus will be held responsible for their actions and sin. It was prophesied and God’s perfect plan that Jesus would be betrayed by one of His close friends, and Judas is still responsible and guilty for that sin. As Joseph said, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good” (Gen 50.20).
God does promise, however, that with every temptation there will be provided an escape.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
– 1 Cor 10.13
I once was in a situation where the local police were looking for some Christians because they had been talking about Jesus and seeing people saved (this was illegal in that country), so I and some friends were helping to hide them until they could leave the region. Their car was in my back yard, but they kept moving from friends’ house to friends’ house. The police came and asked if we knew where they were. We were honestly able to answer, “no”. They did not ask any probing questions, they did not ask if we had seen them, God oversaw the situation such that they asked the only question we could answer without lying and without endangering the lives of our friends.
Whatever temptation comes your way, enticing you to sin, God has promised a way of escape.
Not only that, we also see a beautiful example of God protecting a king from unknowingly sinning:
“Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.” Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.”
– Gen 20.2-6
Abimelech was the king, so it is not only possible but likely that he had multiple wives. But even so, consider taking a wife and not being with her intimately that same day! He was exercising his rights as king, he considered Sarah beautiful and so he took her to be his wife without the knowledge that she was married, but believing the lie that she was not! Therefore, God kept him from sinning.
I am not promising that there will never be a time when you sin based on incorrect knowledge or the sin of someone else. But we do see that God is concerned about our holiness so much so that He promises to always provide an alternative to sinning, and there are times when He will intervene and keep us from sinning when we are unaware.
We do all have a God-given conscience by which we recognize sin, and there is a destiny. God has written the story of our lives, and He will cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him. He will intervene in our lives and provide us ways to escape temptation and sin, and He will intervene in our lives in ways that we may never know – to direct us down a path, to keep us from sinning, or to bring glory to Him in any number of ways. So let us trust Him today. Let us praise Him for our salvation and the provisions thus far, and let us continue to trust in Him and follow Him diligently until we get to meet Him face to face.