blind

The events of the past week have left our nation hurting, skeptical of one another and even more polarized on the topics of police brutality and social injustice.  As in the wake of all tragedies and disasters, the question is being asked “Where is God in all of this?” and “If there is a [good] God, why is there suffering in the world?”  The Old Testament Law painted a picture of cause and effect for sin.  We learn much about the character and purposes of God in the Old Covenant, but we gloriously have records of the person of Jesus and His explanation for many misunderstandings and misconceptions of God developed by looking at that Law (and from basic human logic).

One such misunderstanding that the Jews carried throughout the generations was that all suffering and misfortune was a direct consequence of sin.  This worldview and belief is still prevalent in many religious and basic worldviews today.  It is exemplified in concepts like karma and “balance” in the universe.  We also expect our social and political systems to respond to evil and sin with punishment to enforce the balance of good and evil where the supernatural fails.

We see brief examples of God’s sovereignty over suffering and troubles throughout the Old Testament with people like Job and the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt, but by in large people prefer to be autonomous and attribute their blessings and successes to their own efforts and character, and thus are left asking “why me” when inexplicable suffering occurs.  Thankfully, Jesus explains suffering clearly.

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.'”

– John 9.1-3

Jesus had been teaching in the temple about His identity, the bread of life, and made the Jews angry by claiming to be God.  Thus, Jesus hid himself from them and slipped out of the crowd because they were trying to stone Him to death.  On His way out the door, He saw this man who had been born blind, begging.  His disciples noticed Jesus taking notice of the man, and they piped up to ask Jesus whose fault it was that this man had been born with such a terrible disability.

The prevailing worldview of the day was so dominant that the disciples were unashamed to boldly speak out in the presence of this poor man and ask Jesus if he had somehow sinned in the womb or if his parents had sinned so terribly that he was doomed to an entire lifetime of blindness.  Can you imagine?  There are occasions that we cry out to God or doubt Him because of our current situations, but would you ever dare to approach someone with a handicapped child and speak to him about his sin or the possible sin of his child in utero which led to this situation?  If you can, or ever have, you need to repent.

The disciples were clearly asking the cause.  Whose fault was the blindness?  And Jesus responded simply and profoundly: the cause was not sin.  The cause was God setting up this very situation in which His works could be mightily displayed.

One of the most beautiful promises that Christians (and non Christians alike) claim is that God knitted us together and formed us while we were still in our mothers’ wombs.

“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.”

– Ps 139.13

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

– Jer 1.5

God pieced each one of us together in exactly the manner He wanted us.  This promise is true for all people.  God has created us each for a specific purpose, for a specific life, and with an abundance of unique traits and characteristics.  Even the handicapped.  Even the blind.  Even the broken.  And God utilizes the ways He forms us for His own glory and honor.

Sometimes that glory and honor is exceptional service:  vast wisdom, bold preaching, faithful obedience.  And sometimes that glory and honor is through God’s dynamic intervention:  healing of blindness, dramatic conversion testimonies, undeniable miracles.  And sometimes that glory and honor is through God’s sustaining power and faithfulness when we are not healed or changed.

This blind man whom Jesus encountered was created without the ability of sight, in his mother’s womb, so that Jesus could heal him and so that Jesus could teach both the disciples and us an invaluable lesson.  Not every bit of suffering is the direct consequence of our personal sin.  We do understand from Genesis 3 and Romans 1-3 that all of creation is indeed under the curse because of sin and all of suffering is the result of the reality of sin in our world.  But we must also understand that all who are in Christ have been forgiven for their sins and pardoned from the wrath of God as retribution for their sin – therefore while some suffering might be a consequence of their sin, no suffering of the believer is punishment for sin (Rom 8.1).

Some suffering is governed by God for the purification of our faith.  We read throughout the New Testament that God utilizes suffering and trials to teach us perseverance and to refine our faith as through fire (1 Peter 1.6ff).  We also see examples of suffering which God does not relieve for the sake of growing faith, like Paul:

“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

– 2 Cor 12.7-10

Paul had some sort of physical ailment which caused him great distress.  So much so that He begged God three times to heal him from it, and God refused.  God used Paul to preform many miracles as a missionary and apostle, including bringing back a person from the dead.  But yet, when Paul felt a need in his own body God refused to heal him for the sake of exemplifying His own strength through Paul’s weakness.  Thus we learn that there are times that God will knit together a person in his mother’s womb with blindness and never heal him so as to glorify Himself in this specific weakness.  God will allow us all to suffer a variety of weaknesses and trials without delivering us from them so that we will be forced to rely on Him and His strength and He receive the glory for His power through our weaknesses and trials.

As we continue to process the difficulties in our nation today, let us remember that God is not shocked or surprised by our situations.  In fact, He is orchestrating our circumstances and situations for His glory.  It might be through a radical transformation of our society as a whole, through a mighty miraculous work of God, or it might be to test and grow our faith as individuals.  The greater problem might remain, but we as Christians in a weak and sinful society will need to rely on the strength and guidance of God to live loving, purely and rightly before God.  This will strengthen and refine our faith.

Spiritual Ambulance Chasers

ambulance

It has been said by some that our salvation experiences are the result of a crisis.  Some even say [heretically] that there are two crises required to achieve a higher, second experience with God.  What does that mean, however?  If by crisis we mean a turning point, then yes.  Absolutely.  Our salvation is the moment of Spiritual birth, when we begin walking in obedience to the Lord and abiding in the Holy Spirit.  A major change happens the moment that we are saved.

If, however, by crisis we mean that something major or tragic must happen in order to turn us to God, then I fear we gravely misunderstand salvation, God and the nature of man, and we turn well meaning evangelists into Spiritual ambulance chasers.

Jesus is not a Spiritual band-aid or medicine to fix our problems.

When Jesus came to the Earth and began His ministry, He met the people’s physical needs.  In fact, we are told regularly that He healed all who came to Him (Matt 4.24).  He gave sight to blind people, He healed sick people and He even raised people from the dead.  He was concerned about people’s situational maladies.  He also preached to the crowds who came to Him for healing!  And while He promised to meet all of our needs to the end of our Spiritual maturity and God’s glory, He never promised that the Christian life would be easy, or would relieve us from worldly suffering.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  He promised that in the same way people hated Him, they will hate us (John 15.18-20), and we should consider ourselves blessed when we are persecuted for His name’s sake (Matt 5.12).  Jesus never intended to remove believers from the world, but to empower them to live righteously in  the world:

“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”

 – John 17.15

Jesus is also not a supplement, He demands our entire life.  If we wish to find our lives in Him, we must lose them to ourselves (Matt 16.25).  He is not a Spiritual genie that we call upon when the going gets tough, He is our Lord, our boss, our authority as we wade through the trials and temptations of this life.  Life will get more complicated and hairy for those who turn their lives to Jesus, not easier.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

 – Matt 10.34-36

Mankind is Spiritually dead apart from Jesus.

People regularly say that “there is a God-sized hole in each of us”, and that “we are all searching for something”.  Now, considering the fact that God is infinite and everywhere, to have a void of that size would mean we are, in fact, infinite black holes.  If we understood the magnitude of God we would never make such a claim.  We are not beings which God must complete, we are nothing which God must create.  We are Spiritually dead, needing God’s life-breath.

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”

 – Eph 2.1-2

Nothing can help dead people.  Only a supernatural miracle can give life to the dust.  Salvation is not Jesus coming in and healing a disease, or filling in a hole, salvation is Jesus giving us life, breathing air into dry, dead bones.  Making something out of nothing.  He takes our hearts of stone away and gives us a heart of flesh, completely making us new, Spiritual, God-inclined creatures:

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

 – Ez 36.26

Such a worldview implies that we are fundamentally good and we just need a boost to get us through this crisis and into eternity.  It implies that we are all on a Spiritual journey and we just need direction, we are searching for the light and Jesus is that light.  We are doing it.  However Scripture teaches us that not only are we Spiritually dead, there are none who seek after God, there are none who are righteous, and we are all naturally born enemies of God.

“There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”

 – Rom 3.10-12

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

 – Rom 5.10

Spiritual Ambulance Chasers

People have observed that it is often in a moment of crisis that people come to faith.  A child is terminally ill and the parents are desperate to find an answer and a cure.  A man has lost his job and is unable to provide for his wife and family.  A woman is so overwhelmed by depression that she cannot even get herself out of bed in the mornings.  These weak and hurting people are prime for the picking, because they need an answer.

Unfortunately, it is often the reality that this type of conversion is not genuine.  Why?  Because us ambulance chasers are looking for the quick fix.  We promise that God has the answer – a perfect plan for their lives – and once the crisis is over, there is no longer a need for God.  Sure, they might continue to go to Church, they might fix up their behavior so they can call out on God during the next crisis, but they have not understood the promise of salvation.

If we are all born without Spiritual life, if we are all separated from God, and if we all deserve an eternity of damnation because of our sin (Rom 3.23, 6.23,) then our greatest need is not someone to walk us through trials:  heal a sick child, provide a job, or cure depression.  Our greatest need is a savior who can intervene and change the entire course of our lives.  We need Spiritual life.  And when we find Spiritual life, we find our joy and pleasure in Jesus Christ.

Yes, when we are walking with and abiding in Jesus Christ, He will give us the wisdom and strength to walk through unimaginable trials, but if all we want out of Jesus is to get through trials, then we are not saved.  Do you want Jesus?  Or do you just want His benefits and help?

The irony of being a Spiritual ambulance chaser is that we have come to believe that people need to be searching for help because of a trial in order to come to faith.  But then, when we encounter someone walking through great difficulty, we are afraid to tell them about Jesus because we might sound insensitive, or we think that they may be hurting too badly.  This is an ingenious tactic of the enemy to keep us silent.

There are no Biblical examples of people being called to salvation in the midst of or because of a great tragedy in their lives.  Yes, countless people came to Jesus for help, but they turned on Him continually throughout His ministry.  They received help and got through their tragedy, but then could not handle the requirement of His calling.  All of the apostles were busy about their jobs and Jesus simply called them.  Paul was zealously persecuting the Church and Jesus knocked him off his feet.  Literally.  Peter was sent to Cornelius – the first non-Jewish believer – because the Holy Spirit was already working in His life and He was ready to hear the Truth of the Gospel.  God calls people when He is ready.  God breathes Spiritual life into dead bones at His perfect timing.  We cannot generate or predict a conversion based on someone’s life circumstances.

So what?  What does this all mean?  Jesus promised us that the harvest is plentiful.  There are many people out there in whom He is already working (like Cornelius), and they need only to hear the Gospel.  Some of them might be in the midst of suffering.  Most of them are simply going about their daily lives like the apostles were.  And there may even be some who are out trying to kill us – like Paul.  Our fundamental need, and their fundamental need is not a crutch to get through life, it is a savior to redeem us from our sins.  Salvation has to start with a recognition of our sins.  The wrath of God is and will be poured out from Heaven against all ungodliness and sin, and if we have not settled our repentance with God, we have no hope.

We must make sure that our Spirituality is not crisis-based, that we do not only turn to God in our moment of need, and that we do not only desire God’s benefits, but that we desire God.  When we preach the Gospel, we must make sure that we do not promise God’s benefits without explaining God’s expectations.  We must explain new, Spiritual life – not just an answer to a felt need.

And the beauty of all of this is that it is only our responsibility to share.  God breathes the life.  God causes the growth.  If you have shared the true Gospel, then you have done your part!  And we can leave the rest up to God.  If the hearer rejects this salvation, they are rejecting God and not us!

“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

 – 1 Cor 3.7

God wills that sin occur without sinning.

sovereignty

One of the most debated theological topics within our congregations these days is the sovereignty of God.  It is a topic about which people get upset, feelings get hurt, and honest conversations are rarely had for the sake of “not wanting to offend one another”.  There are obnoxious people on both sides of the argument which make it even more difficult to honestly address.  But today I want to look at one event honestly, and observe God’s sovereign hand in and through the sin which was essential in it.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

I am confident that we can agree in the foundational teachings of the Old Testament that murder is a sin.

“You shall not murder.”

 – Ex 20.13, Deut 5.17

And while one might argue that the Mosaic Law called for the death of anyone who would blaspheme, and the Pharisees believed that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy and therefore acting out of right conviction, we know that Jesus was indeed God and therefore did not blaspheme in proclaiming that He was God.  We also know that the Pharisees were seeking to kill Jesus for sinful motives, not out of a love for the holiness of God.

“Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”

 – Lev 24.16

“But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”

 – Matt 12.14

In short, it was a sin for the Pharisees, for the crowd, and for the Romans to kill Jesus.

But Scripture is painfully clear from the very beginning that Jesus’ murder and resurrection were God’s plan.  When God created the world, He placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and gave them only one rule which they broke.  When God came and pronounced the curse over humanity because of this one sin, He also foretold a savior who would suffer:

The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

 – Gen 3.14-15

The son of man will bruise Satan on the head, while Satan will only bruise Him on the heel.  This is the first promise of a Savior.  And throughout the history of Israel – as documented in the Old Testament – there are promises and prophecies of the coming Messiah who would redeem the Hebrew people.  The prophecies are so specific and clear that it has been counted to 353 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled by His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection.  The entirety of the prophecy is that Jesus would suffer an unjust death so that we could experience an unjust forgiveness.  This is so clear, in fact, that Revelation teaches us that Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world.  Before God created man, He had redemption’s story written, and it included the murder of His Son:

“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

 – Rev 13.8

So the simple fact of God’s plan to redeem a sinful people through the crucifixion of His son exemplifies His sovereignty and will through the sin of the Sanhedrin, the crowd and the Romans.

But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”

 – Is 53.10

We also see specific elements prophesied and willed by God within the crucifixion event, for instance the betrayal of Christ by Judas.  We see a foreshadowing of the betrayal by David:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.

 – Ps 41.9

And we see the detailed prophecy of the events in Zechariah (written some 600 years before it occurred):

“I said to them, ‘If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!’  So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages.  Then the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.’  So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord.”

 – Zech 11.12-13

This is why the Gospel writers bemoaned Judas and the event of his betrayal thus:

“The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

 – Matt 26.24

“For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

 – Luke 22.22

“For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!  It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

 – Mark 14.21

In short, it was God’s plan and will that Jesus would be betrayed by one of His closest friends and a disciple, at the cost of thirty shekels of silver (the price of a common slave), and the friend would then feel guilt and throw the money back at the Sanhedrin.  It was God’s plan, but yet three of the four Gospel writers pronounce woe for Judas; saying it would have been better for him if he had never been born.

God’s ultimate plan of redemption and salvation included this act of sin, and God is not guilty of sin for willing it, and Judas is guilty of sin for preforming it.

We know that God is perfect and that in Him there is no sin, He cannot sin by His very nature (1 John 3.9, James 1.13).  But yet He wills for sin to take place in order for His perfect plan of redemption and sanctification of believers to occur.  If we reject this truth, then we reject the very Gospel in which we find our hope.

Is this a unique situation because it is the story of Jesus?  Or is this true in our lives as well?  To answer that question, let’s look at 1 Peter 1.

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

 – 1 Peter 1.6-9

Peter, the apostle who was prophesied to deny Jesus, and who did deny Jesus, but yet was restored, wrote to the scattered church that their faith would be purified as gold through various trials.  He gave them hope that their trials were going to work out to their good – and that is the salvation of their souls by perseverance.  But not only that, he says that it is necessary.  God found it necessary to put these believers through various trials in order that their faith might be placed in a fire, so that the impurities of the faith could rise to the top and be scraped off, leaving it more valuable and more strong.  We understand from Rom 5 and James 1 that God intentionally uses trials to produce in us perseverance which produces character which ultimately results in hope.  Our faith grows and is proven by trials.  But what is the nature of these trials about which Peter spoke?

For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

 – 1 Peter 2.19-24

Peter says that it finds favor with God when we are suffering unjustly.  That means when people sin against us.  God intentionally wills trials for us that are people sinning against us when we do not deserve it.  And it finds favor with God when we suffer with the character of Christ, who also suffered by people sinning against Him unjustly.  Jesus was our example, and we will be put through trials of the same nature – though for most of us, not to the same extent.  Some of our trials will be because of our own personal sin, and it is of no credit to us if we suffer those consequences.  It proves our faith when we persevere while being sinned against.  And God finds is necessary (1 Peter 1.6) to put us through such trials.

How can this be?  How can God be sovereign over my actions and other people’s actions, and yet I still be held accountable for them?  This is a great mystery, and a tension that Scripture does not seek resolve for us.  It simply states the truth that God is sovereign and we are responsible.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 – Rom 6.23

The just punishment for sin is death and eternal separation from God in Hell.  Judas is paying for in eternity what God planned before the foundation of the world.  Judas did choose to deny Jesus, and to go through those steps of betrayal, but it was also God’s plan.  And Judas is suffering the consequences while it was necessary for God to bring about the Gospel and plan of salvation.

Thus we see that God uses the sin to bring good.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

 – Rom 8.28

God causes all things to work together for good, and to His glory.  Without sin, there is no distinction of holiness.  Without evil we cannot grasp the weight and fullness of good.  God wills sin in order to exemplify His perfection and glory.

But how can this be fair?  Paul asked and answered that very question in the book of Romans:

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!  For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.”  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

 – Rom 9.14-16

Ok, then if God gets to choose, and if He is sovereign over sin, how can He hold us accountable for that sin?  How can Judas be guilty if it was God’s plan all along?  Paul also asks and answers that question:

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”  On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?  The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?  Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?  What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?  And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

 – Rom 9.19-24

Paul essentially says that our perspective is off.  We are looking at it from our perspective, from man’s worldview.  We consider man to be the highest value and the author of our destinies.  But Paul says that God is actually the one with highest value and the author of our destinies.  If He is the potter, He gets to make beautiful vases for honor and He also gets to make chamber pots.  And seeing the full picture, He can create sinful people who will be utilized for the purpose of testing and purifying the children of God – bringing about those “necessary trials”.

Judas played an essential role in the Gospel story.  He was a vessel of wrath, prepared beforehand for destruction.  And because of the spirit and nature that He was given, He willfully chose to follow Jesus for the wrong motives and then turn Him over for money.  He had a wicked spirit and He acted out that wicked spirit of His own volition.  And He will eternally pay the punishment for it.  But it is not sin for God because He was created as a vessel of wrath and the sin was essential to bring about the good and to glorify the greatness of God.

So how does this apply to us?  I understand that this is a theological and difficult reality to grasp and make peace with in our Spirits – because it goes against the worldview we have been taught since childhood.  There are a variety of ways in which it applies, however.  Firstly, it helps us to understand the nature and person of God.  The more we know Him, the more we can love him.  It is like any relationship – you have to know someone to care about them, and the more intimately you know someone, the more deeply you can love them.  God has revealed these truths about Himself so that we can know Him, enjoy Him, and worship Him.  If you are in relationship with God, you are a vessel of mercy which He is refining and purifying for an eternity with Him.  If that doesn’t make you feel loved, nothing will!

Secondly, it helps us gain perspective over our situations.  Has someone sinned against you?  Are you in the midst of a tragedy or trial?  We have two very distinct encouragements in these times.  Firstly, Jesus suffered at the hands of sinners unjustly, and He is our example.  Secondly, God sees this situation as necessary to bring about the purification and maturation of our faith.  He is allowing this for our good.  He has given us an example to follow and He wants us to rely on Him, and trust Him and glorify Him through the process of obedience, growth and purification.  God is not up in Heaven calling an emergency meeting because our situations have caught Him off guard and He now has to scramble to figure out how to bring good out of it.  He orchestrated it.  Purposefully.  For our good.

Thirdly, it helps keep us humble.  Here in the good ol’ USofA, we like to think of God as our father, our buddy, our “homeboy” as the T-shirt said a few years ago, and while it is true that God is indeed our father and we can approach Him boldly and tell Him our fears, thoughts, concerns and passions – He is also God.  He is King.  He is sovereign, and He is the juge over sin and righteousness.  We are not the most important beings in existence.  God is.  God does not exist for us, we exist for Him.  So when we enter into these difficult situations, we should remember that the king deserves honor, reverence and respect.  We can verbalize our confusion, but we should not presume upon God that we know better about our situations.

Lastly, it helps us in evangelism.  Jesus left us with a single command:  to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matt 28.28-20).  There will be many people who reject the Gospel.  There will be many people who push back against Jesus.  There might even be times that we suffer at the hands of those who oppose the Gospel and Jesus.  And we can take great comfort and peace in the fact that this is all part of God’s plan.  He has people from every tribe, tongue and nation who will believe (Rev 7.9), and it is not our job to convince them or sweet talk them into salvation – it is only our job to proclaim the Gospel and let God bring about the growth.  We as believers should be telling everyone, and God will bring in the harvest.

“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

 – 1 Cor 3.7

So let us consider God in our situations today.  Whatever situation you have encountered today, God considers it necessary for your maturity and growth.  Let us look to Him, ask Him what it is that we need to learn in it and through it.  Let us consider Jesus as our example of suffering unjustly, and ask for strength to persevere and for your faith to be refined as gold.  Let us share the Gospel boldly and trust God to bring about the growth that He has promised for people around the world.

Life is but a vapor

This week my small group was studying the end of James 4,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”  But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.  Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

– James 4.13-17

And while the instruction is a reprimand towards the arrogant who seek to make their success and livelihood here on Earth without considering God and eternity, there is a very real application to all of us in our daily lifestyles and choices.  Less than twenty four hours later an accident was reported of a couple with whom I went to seminary.  They were on furlough and preparing to go back to Rome for their third term, and a semi truck hit them and killed the wife and mother of three.  She was thirty one years old.

Our life is but a vapor.  

Whenever someone passes away, it is natural for the community to consider the realities of life and death.  And when someone so young is taken, many are left asking the question that we all need to ask before we die:  “Why”?  What is the meaning of life?   What happens next?

Kyra knew the Lord.  She understood her sin, she confessed her sin and asked Jesus for forgiveness and found refuge in His righteousness that He provided by living a perfect life on Earth, dying in our place and raising again to conquer death.  She and her husband gave their lives in order to go and share this Gospel with the people of Italy.  And now she is resting in the presence of Jesus Christ, having begun the rest of eternity which we all aim to find.

While this feels like a tragedy, having been taken at such a young age and leaving her husband and three young children behind, we can take comfort and peace in the fact that she is now with the Lord and that she gave her life to things that will matter in eternity.  She invested in the treasures that moth and rust will not destroy.

James teaches us that God is in sovereign control over our lives.  He teaches us that every plan we make should be established with the mindset,

“If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

If the Lord wills, we will live.  Jesus reprimanded the Hebrew people for the same attitude and used this statement to declare the brevity of life:

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’”

– Luke 12.20

He was using the illustration of a wealthy man who was building barns and storing up treasures for himself.  Yet God says, “This very night your soul is required of you”.  God allows us to live and takes us when it is His sovereign plan for us to enter into eternity.  Some will go when they are four, some when they are twenty four and some when they are ninety four.  God is in control of it all.

Therefore, we should be diligent to live unto God and prepare for eternity.  Jesus says,

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

– Luke 12.22-23

He also instructs us,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Matt 6.19-21

The meaning of life, the “chief end of man” as catechisms phrase it, is to know God and to enjoy Him forever.  Kyra was a beautiful example of this.  She knew God, she enjoyed Him, and now she is enjoying Him face to face.  She invested in the treasures of eternity and is receiving her reward as we speak.  And Jesus taught His disciples,

“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!  And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?  If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!  And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying.  For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

– Luke 12.25-31

We will probably never know why Kyra’s life was so short here on Earth, but we can be confident that God will take care of Reid, her husband and her children.  He has promised to.  And He is grieving with them.  God is our comforter, and he takes every tear and keeps them.

“You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?”

– Ps 56.8

Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one, and are considering the meaning of life.  Perhaps you are exhausted of living for the world and are looking for an eternal purpose.  Perhaps you simply are considering what happens after death.  God has offered us a hope and a provision for our eternity.  Because all of us have sinned, we all deserve an eternity separated from God in Hell.  The punishment for any and all sin is eternal death.  But God loved us so much that He offered His son as the perfect sacrifice to take our place.  Jesus died so that we might be forgiven.  He took our punishment, and after three days in the grave He rose to conquer death.  If we confess our sins, and proclaim Jesus as Lord over our lives, we can be forgiven and spend eternity with Him.

Meet Jesus today.  Live for the things that will matter in eternity.  Store up treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy.  Because life is a vapor, and we might not be here tomorrow.

kyra

How do you know that you were born?

baby

Yesterday I wrote on eternal life and how it begins at the moment of Spiritual birth, and not at the moment of physical death.  Jesus taught Nicodemus clearly that in order to be a child of God, one must be born Spiritually.  No one is a believer in Christ if he has not been born again, born Spiritually.  We cannot go to Heaven when we die unless we are born Spiritually.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’.”

– John 3.3-7

So that begs the question, “How do you know that you were born again?”  As your mind starts running to answer the question, stop and consider your physical existence.  How do you know that you were born physically?  It is because you are alive!  No one would go and pull out his birth certificate as proof that he was born.  No one would go search out a video of the birth or a witness who knew his mother when she was pregnant.  No.  We simply understand that all who are alive now were born.  That is how human life and existence begins!  The actions of a man and a woman led to conception which resulted in a new life that was physically born nine months later.

Now, consider again the question, “How do you know that you were born again?”  Is your knee jerk answer to say, “I asked Jesus into my heart”?  Jesus very intentionally chose the imagery of birth to describe what happens spiritually when we are saved.  No one has any control over when he is born, physically.  It was not your choice to be conceived, to grow for nine months inside of the womb and then to come out into the world.  You were not a Spirit that chose and said, “Now is my time!”  This truth is the same Spiritually.  Paul teaches us that before we were born again, we were dead Spiritually.  There was no life in us:

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”

– Eph 2.1-2

We were dead and walking in Spiritual darkness.  When we fumble around in the dark we cannot find our way, but God chooses to reveal His light:

“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

– 2 Cor 4.6

As a dead creature that resides in the darkness, we cannot and will not ever choose to come to God on our own.  It is an impossibility.  It is like someone choosing to be born physically.  And Jesus said that,

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

– John 6.44

God gives faith (Eph 2.8-9), and God grants repentance (2 Tim 2.25).  We cannot have faith or repent in our own strength, that is of the Spirit.

And after the seed of the Gospel was planted in our lives, only God causes Spiritual growth:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

– 1 Cor 3.6-7

God grants it to some to believe:

“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…”

– Phil 1.29

After God gives us this Spiritual life, He makes us a new creation.  We were one type of creation before having Spiritual life, and then He recreated us into a Spiritual child of God.  We did not create or form ourselves physically or Spiritually.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

– 2 Cor 5.17

Jesus Himself said that no knows God or can see God except those to whom He chooses to reveal Himself and God:

“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

– Matt 11.27

And ultimately, Jesus teaches us that it is of the will of God alone that we are born Spiritually:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

– John 1.12-13

Now, understanding that Scripture teaches us clearly that the new birth, our Spiritual birth, is not anything that we do or of ourselves, but of God and His will, how do we know that we were born Spiritually?  Asking Jesus into our hearts is not the proof.  Spiritual life is the proof.  In the very same way that we know we were born physically by the fact that we are alive, we can know that we were born Spiritually because are alive Spiritually!  The moment of birth comes at the moment of faith.  The moment that God reveals Himself to us, draws us to Himself, causes us to be aware of our sin and the righteousness of Christ that is made available to us by repentance, we have life.  Then God begins the work of sanctification:  causing us to die to our flesh and be transformed into the image of Christ.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

– Phil 1.6

God began the work of salvation in our lives and He will complete it.  He is the one who is causing our Spiritual growth and maturity, by transforming us.

Does that mean that we are off the hook of responsibility?  Most certainly not!  We know that people go to Hell as punishment for their sins, and we know that we prove ourselves to be of God by our submission to the Spirit.  If we refuse to obey then we ultimately prove ourselves to have never been saved, to have never been of God.  Therefore if we continue in sin we know that the just reward is an eternity separated from God in Hell.  But we also must understand that it is by the power of the Holy Spirit alone that we can obey.  Thus we must seek Him daily, we must rely on His strength and pursue His will.  We must die to our flesh, put away the deeds of sin that we enjoy, and put on righteousness – by the strength and power that He provides.

Are you alive Spiritually?  Do you hear the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin and righteousness (John 16.8)?  When you approach a decision and entertain a sinful path, does the Spirit convict you?  When you choose to sin, do you experience the grief of the Spirit and desire to make right what was wronged?  Do you understand the voice of the Spirit guiding you to make decisions that honor God, that proclaim the Gospel, that obey His word?  Do you enjoy worshiping Him and making much of Him?  Do you have hope?  Do you have peace?  Do you have faith?

These are the markers of Spiritual life.  Not an action that you preformed, a prayer that you prayed or a card that you signed.  Do you know that you were born?

Falling from grace.

falling

One of the most dynamic and terrifying stories in Scripture is that of Saul, the first King of Israel.  God had established His own reign as king over Israel, but after living in Canaan (present day Israel), the people saw the nations around them and desired to have a king as they did.  Therefore they sinned and asked God for a king (1 Sam 8).  This began the downfall of Israel into exile and slavery in foreign lands.  But God chose to allow them to have a king, and the first one was Saul.  Samuel was a prophet in the land and the one through whom God chose to speak regarding the throne.

When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him, “Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall rule over My people.”

– 1 Sam 9.17

God spoke to Samuel and told him about Saul, and when Saul came to Samuel seeking his lost donkeys, God revealed that he was the one who had been chosen to be king.  Saul was confused, as he was from the smallest of the clans and not of great name, but Samuel encouraged him that this was indeed God’s plan.  He prophesied about the events of the day to come and promised the anointing of the Spirit of God:

“Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.”

– 1 Sam 10.6

As Saul left Samuel to go home, God did a mighty work in his heart:

Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day.

– 1 Sam 10.9

Then the Hebrew people were attacked by the Ammonites.  By the prompting of the Spirit Saul became angry and recruited the Israelites to come out with him and fight.  Many people scoffed and said, “Who does Saul think he is that he will reign over us?”.  But the people came out and Saul led them to victory.  At the end of the battle, Saul’s supporters made a bold claim:

Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is he that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.”  But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has accomplished deliverance in Israel.”

– 1 Sam 11.12-13

The people wanted to kill those who had spoken out against Saul, but Saul had great humility and mercy and united the Hebrew people by giving glory to God for the victory.  Saul’s supporters sought to glorify Saul for the victory, but Saul knew that it was not him – that it was God alone who defeated the Ammonites.  And he wanted the people to remember the same.  Then Saul was declared king and he began his rule.

Almost immediately another battle broke out with the Philistines.  Samuel delayed in coming to make an offering to the Lord over the battle so Saul stepped in and did it himself, even though he was not a priest and was not to do so.  This was a great sin.

Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

– 1 Sam 13.13-14

One of the first things that Saul did as king was to disobey and remove himself from God’s favor.  Samuel confronted Saul, and Saul repented, but only to the extent that he did not want to lose his position as king – not on the heart level.  And because of that, God regretted having made Saul king and removed His spirit from Saul.

“I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night.

– 1 Sam 15.11

Then [Saul] said, “I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.”

– 1 Sam 15.30

“Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.”

– 1 Sam 16.14

God chose David to take Saul’s place, and even though Saul reigned for years after the Spirit left him, it was a reign of chaos and sin.  Saul spent years of his life hunting David to kill him, and trying to hold on to the kingdom by his own power.  And he was terrorized by an evil spirit from the Lord.

So what is the take home from this story?  

In short it is the fact that we can start out so strong, with the anointing of the Spirit, with a humble attitude and godly focus, and then fail miserably, under the curse of God.  Saul knew his position as a Benjamanite (the smallest of the twelve tribes of Israel).  He was the low man on the totem pole and he knew it.  He was humble and he was timid.  So much so that when God chose him and set him apart, he doubted it and did not see how this was possible.  Then, after God worked only one victory through him and appointed him as king, he got cocky and power hungry.  He thought he could do things his own way, and he failed miserably.

Has God ever asked something of you that you thought you were incapable of doing?  Has He ever provided the strength and ability that you thought was not in you?  Have you ever become comfortable in a position of leadership or authority and taken the credit within yourself?

Jesus came as our great example, and he profoundly changed the Christian concept of leadership and love by being a servant.  He washed the disciples feet – the job of a servant – and he taught that in order to become great in the kingdom of God we must become servants of all.

“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

– Matt 20.26-28

We also learn that the responsibility and expectation of the Christian is to fight against the desires of the flesh and seek to be humble, living godly lifestyles.  We see terrifying examples of New Testament Sauls like Demas.

Demas was a partner missionary of Paul.  Not much is said about him, but we know that he was working alongside Luke (the author of Luke and Acts), and Paul, but at some point he proved himself to not be a believer by falling in love with the world and abandoning the work:

“…for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica…”

– 2 Tim 4.10

We learn by revelation of the Spirit that this can only happen because these people were never truly saved.  They never had a heart transformation by which they fell in love with God and were made into a new creature:

“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

– 1 John 2.19

God is sovereign over every event.  He is sovereign over appointing a man who would be self-righteous and a wicked leader, just as He was sovereign over appointing David – “a man after His own heart” as the next king.  He had His own reasons for doing just that.  God was also sovereign over utilizing Demas who was never a true believer in the ministry and then in abandoning the ministry.  Saul and Demas are warnings for us.  We know that all that God has given to Christ will be saved – not one will be lost (John 6.37).  Nothing can separate us from the love of God, if we are children of God (Rom 8.35).  But let us take warning of these examples of people who appeared to be of God and ultimately proved themselves to not be of God.  Those who persevere to the end are those who will be saved (Matt 24.13), and that not by their persevering, but their perseverance to the end proves them to have been saved at the beginning.

Therefore, let us be intentional to die to ourselves and to remain humble.  Let us follow the example of Jesus to be a servant and establish ourselves at the seat with least honor at the table.  Let us remain in the Spirit and allow God to do mighty works through us without taking the credit ourselves.  Let us always give glory to God and be ready and willing to serve God in whatever capacity He calls.  And let us fight the temptation to glory in any position or role with which He would bless us, and let us be quick to surrender that role should He ask.  Everything is a gift, and we should not boast as though it were our own strength.

“For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

– 1 Cor 4.7

Did God Create Evil?

good_evil

This is a sensitive topic for light-weight American Christianity.  We often subconsciously believe that God is good and Satan is His equal and opposite force of evil.  We push back against His sovereignty and we believe that God only redeems the bad for good, He certainly would not ordain the bad.  Right?

“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the Lord who does all these.”

– Is 45.5-7

Verse 7 is a difficult verse for many.  The word calamity, in Hebrew, is ra’ ( רָעַ) and it means evil.  It is found 663 times in the Old Testament, and 442 of those times it is translated as evil.  59 times it is translated as wickedness and 25 times as wicked, the rest of the translations are marginal and along the same lines.  So here we have a direct quote from God, declaring who He is and what He does.  He declares that He is God, the only God, and His intention is to make that known to mankind.  He formed the light and the darkness, and he creates good and evil.

How can that be?  How can a good God, who is love, who is righteous and holy, create evil?

Before we delve too deeply into the topic, we need to step back and understand that we are not God, but He is, and Scripture – as His spoken and authoritative word – gets to define reality.  We do not have the luxury of picking out parts that we like and parts that we do not like to establish our belief systems.  The moment we discredit one part of Scripture, the entire book loses its validity – because if one part may not be true than any part may not be true.

We also need to be careful to keep texts in their appropriate context.  If we cherry pick a verse here and there, we can make the Bible say almost anything we want it to say.  That’s why theologians suggest that we need to let the Bible interpret the Bible.  It will not contradict itself, and thus we must be intentional to study the logic and reason exemplified within the Scriptures and humbly submit ourselves to God.

That being said, we have this extremely difficult passage of Scripture:  “I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating evil; I am the Lord who does all these”  (Is 45.7).  Now, we all know well the reality that God created everything:

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

– John 1.3

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.  By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

– Gen 2.1-2

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

– Col 1.16-17

Scripture clearly teaches us that God created everything:  both the physical and the invisible.  We also know that God created the moral and holy laws:  morality.  Part of the creation of man was his conscience.  Now, lest we fall into fatalism and basic deism, let us also remember that God is intimately involved in and sovereign over everthing that happens:

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

– Col 1.16-17

“…in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”

– Heb 1.2-3a

Jesus is continually speaking all things into existence, and he holds everything together.  God directs our daily steps, He has an established plan for our lives, He is sovereign.

So God created everything:  everything that exists, everything that is invisible, He also wrote the laws of morality and gave us consciences to convict us of evil.  Is it possible, then, that God created natural disasters, or evil things, even evil people?

“He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.”

– Ps 135.7

“Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.”

– Gen 6.17

“The Lord has made everything for its own purpose,
Even the wicked for the day of evil.”

– Prov 16.4

“Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?  What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”

– Rom 9.21-22

Scripture clearly and regularly teaches that God is sovereign over and causes natural disasters, and has created everything for it’s purpose:  even wicked people.  But what purpose could wicked people and evil possible have?

“Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?  What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?  And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.”

– Rom 9.21-24

God has ordained and sovereignly created evil and wickedness in order to display the riches of His glory upon those who are being saved.  Without wickedness to contrast God’s goodness, there is a limited grasp and pleasure in that goodness.  We recognize this reality in our daily lives:  if you never suffer failure, you will not have the fullest pleasure of success.  If you never lose, winning is not a joyful accomplishment.  If something is left untested, it is not worthy of praise.  In the same manner, when Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, they had fellowship with God, but they did not know the forgiving love of God.  This is why the angels marvel and long to look into our salvation.  They have fellowship with God, but they have not personally experienced the greatest measure of it:  forgiveness.

“It was revealed to [the prophets] that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.”

– 1 Peter 1.12

We also know that God predestined and ordained the life and death of Jesus Christ from before He even created the world:

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

– Rev 13.8

But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

– Is 53.10

“[Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.  But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”

– Acts 2.23-24

So we have seen that God created evil, He created evil things like natural disasters and wicked people, all for the sake of making His goodness and mercy known to those who are being saved, and the most wicked of evils – murdering the son of God – was predestined before the World began, for just that purpose:  to glorify God by offering salvation to the lost.  Thus, we can see and understand clearly that:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

– Rom 8.28-30

All things will work together for God’s glory and to our good.  One might oppose on human logic, however, “If God uses evil then He must be evil”.  Scripture completely refutes that logic, however:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”

– James 1.13

God’s usage of evil, calamity and wickedness is always for our good and His glory.  He is sovereign over it, but does not commit wicked acts.  Humanity is and always will be responsible for our actions.  Thus, even though the murder of Jesus was God’s plan for redemption all along, those who physically murdered Him will suffer the consequences.  This is what theologians call “mutual responsibility”.

“For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

– Luke 22.22

God is the sovereign creator and can create things to preform their function, even if their function is wickedness.  This does not cause Him to be wicked, it causes Him to be sovereign.  And God is not tempted to evil because His plan is set and He is good.  He will not change, and His plan will not change.  God does not tempt us with evil, but He does test us by it.  And He is glorified by our obedience through it, or our forgiveness after repentance for falling into it.

In summary, yes.  God created evil.  And it is all part of His glorious plan to glorify Himself, to teach us His greatness and to help us find our greatest joy and pleasure in Him.  He is sovereign, He has a perfect plan that will work to our ultimate and eternal best, and we are responsible for how we obey, follow and love that plan.  God is good.  His plan is good.  And He is so awesomely in control of everything that He even orchestrates the evil to be a good part of His plan.  Satan is not an equal and opposite force of God, and actually has to report to God for what he is allowed to do, and what he is not allowed to do.

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.

– Job 1.12