Is God On Trial?

Have you ever doubted God? Who hasn’t? It’s in our nature to question what all this means and evaluate how our lives will seem to be a random set of events that amount to nothing. We agree with Solomon’s wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes that “all is vanity” and “striving after the wind.”

But do we realize what we’re doing when we entertain those doubts? Essentially, we’re listening to the flesh, which veers quickly to the words of Satan, “Did God really say?”

Worse, we begin listening to worldly wisdom that tells us we are the architects of our future, or we make our own luck.

Some Christians will say, “God doesn’t drive parked cars!”

Is this true? Does God need us to get moving before He can use us?

Others say we need to follow the rules of Karma, and that if we are one with the positive forces in the cosmos, then things will turn around to our favor.

Maybe you’re wondering, is God even real, or is it just “the Universe” like so many like to say.

There’s a movie out, The Case For Christ, following Lee Stroble’s research that convinces him of the ‘proof’ that Jesus was a real man, and thus, Christianity is true. The title suggests a trial of sorts, and it is a compelling story. It captivates us because we like trials and arguments. A large number of TV shows involve lawyers and trials. We enjoy parsing through the evidence to see what really happened.

This is also the topic of Isaiah chapter 40 and 41. God puts himself on trial against the idols. Actually, the idols, and the world corridors of power are on trial against God, just as Pilate was standing before the judgment bar of Christ, not the other way around.

In chapter 41, in particular, God challenges the people and their idols to tell the future, explain the events of the past … do good, do evil, show power.

Of course, the idols and the rulers cannot do any of this. Through Isaiah, God has already declared what will happen, despite people’s attempts to secure themselves against the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians. None of these great nations can do anything to God. They actually serve His purpose.

We often think that our lives are filled with meaningless suffering or unjust turns of events. Yet, God is sovereign in every aspect of what happens. When we doubt this, we’re actually being tempted to trust in our idols. Granted, we don’t have little statues made of wood and metal or shrunken heads of our ancestors, or bones plastered into the walls of our house (I’m assuming most of us don’t!) But, our idols are just as much “less than emptiness.”

We trust in the politics of today. Many trust that Donald Trump will protect Christian morality through Supreme Court nominations. Many trust in a job with the right company to provide for their needs.

It’s not immediately wrong to read the paper and make evaluations on a Presidential nomination, or seek to be gainfully employed. But, it is wrong if we start assigning God’s hand to things that we think are fitting into some plan or design of our own making. In other words, some people have determined that one way is God’s Will, and then begin constructing a path of likely scenarios that will accomplish it.

That’s worldly wisdom. That’s actually sooth-saying. We want to know the future, and we attempt to read the tea leaves or look into the crystal ball to declare the outcome. Some use the Bible to do this. They assign numbers to the letters and try to unlock secrets about the future (this is called Numerology).

God tells us not to do this. It’s witchcraft. It’s attempting to do what only God can do.

Only God directs events. Only God can tell the future. Only God can explain events that happened and what they mean.

Sometimes, God reveals the good reason for some tragedy to us in our personal lives. We come to realize the good that God was working. But other times, God simply asks us, as He did to Job, “Where were you when I created the universe?” God repeatedly says through His writers in Scripture, “Who counseled me with wisdom and taught me justice?”

The answer is obvious. No one  did.

God may leave us waiting for an answer, showing us enough light for one step at a time. And we should respond in thanksgiving for that light, and that step.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Why We Shouldn’t Fear

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Isaiah 40:21-31

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.

You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.

Isaiah 41:8-13

A Useless Message?

Isaiah wouldn’t be considered a successful minister. Despite his prophecies, kings did what they wanted, repented only when it seemed they had to, then returned to their selfish, prideful ways.

Isaiah is remarkable because his prophecies pointed down the vast corridors of time to Jesus Christ, our Lord. He reminds us of God’s sovereignty over all matters of life. He reminds us that we don’t even have a frame of reference to interpret God’s ways.

That could be frightening. Imagining God looking down on humanity, regarding the lofty princes and powerful nations as “less than nothing,” and the people as grasshoppers, dust on the scales. We make no impact at all to God.

We don’t like that idea. We like to think that we have a purpose and make our mark on history. We want to be somebody. We want to make a name for ourselves. We believe we can reach the stars or build a tower to heaven. We prefer to think that we can know the deep things of knowledge both of good and evil, and that in that pursuit, we’ll become like God.

It’s all absurd. It would be like the comedy sketch Jim Gaffigan did about the toddlers who try to run away. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Only, with God, it’s even more absurd.

Who Is Like God?

There is nothing to which we can compare God. He is intimately involved in his creation, including all the stars in the galaxy, which he calls by name, not missing a single one.

Think about that when you think you’ve been forgotten by God. He doesn’t regard people the way we do. Pomp and status in our society means nothing to Him. When Jesus stood before Pilate, it was actually Pilate who stood before Jesus, his soul on trial.

With all our striving, we grow tired. Even when we are young, we do not possess the strength to go on forever. There comes a time when we are exhausted, hemmed in on every side.

True Hope of Deliverance

But if we look to the Lord, He renews our strength. He gives power to the faint. Though we be as lame, weak people, we’ll be more than conquerors by His might.

The promise that continues in chapter 41 is to God’s people, not to people in general. It is only the repentant who have put their faith in the absolute justice and holiness of God’s nature, have renounced all claim of control on their life that can then rest in the declarations that follow.

Our enemies will be as nothing at all. We’ll look for them and not find them.

The Lord holds us in His right hand. We need not fear. He is our Lord.

Does God Do Bad Things?

A lot of people like to separate God from the horrible things we see in this world. We reject that God would ever do anything hurtful. In fact, one of the arguments against God is to say, if there’s a God, how could He allow all the horrors in the world?

We struggle with the pain of this world and the idea of a completely loving, good, just God. That struggle leads some to atheism. Some, who cannot reject God outright flee to some form of human free will, which elevates humanity to a point that can nearly thwart God’s plans. Some claim that God doesn’t have a plan. He set the universe in motion and then sat back. Of course, those folks would have a hard time with Jesus and the plan for redemption, wouldn’t they?

Actually, all the scenarios above would have a problem with the Bible.

The fact is, God does the things we consider bad. Take a look at this verse from Isaiah:

Isa 45:7  I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Some will quibble with this and try to explain it. But, it speaks for itself. And, it goes on in verse 9:

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?

Paul references this argument in Romans 9:20:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

The context of this chapter Paul is writing relates to God’s sovereignty in redemption.

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:18

The context is how God raised up Pharaoh to show His power. Think about that. He raised up Pharaoh, and then hardened his heart so that he’d reject God and be destroyed. You read that right. It’s in the Bible.

Also in this chapter in Romans Paul notes that God loved Jacob, but hated Esau. Before they were born. Before either of them had done anything.

though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— Romans 9:11

Again,

For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Romans 9:15

Of course, this is a really hard thing for us to grasp and understand. It’s hard for us to admit we’re clay and we will submit to the will of the “potter.” We’re generally arrogant lumps of clay that believe the lie that we are meant for so much more than to glorify our Creator God.

This talk of God’s sovereignty has caused some to split the will of God into parts. They call it the “permissive will” or the “ordaining will.” God may permit evil things to happen, he may even ordain that they should take place, but He doesn’t cause them.

Isa 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

I was talking to someone about this and they mentioned Job. Satan did the things to Job, right? Well, yes. But, he actually asked God to do them, and God gave Satan the ability to inflict the suffering, with limits. This suggests that Satan could not have inflicted the boils and suffering on Job without getting permission.

In other words, God did to Job what happened to Job. Someone might say that God permitted it, but how is that different than God doing it? Just for quick reference, look up at that verse from Isaiah that I’ve quoted twice.

Also, you could read Job and find that God challenges Job (though he never sinned in cursing God) by reminding him that he knows nothing of God’s workings and he has no understanding of God’s ways.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

That is the phrase that saints throughout time come back to. It’s in Job, in fact. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

What does that really mean? Are we referring to His name? I like how F.B. Meyer would put it, “When you read ‘name,’ think ‘nature.'” And no, that doesn’t mean some Wiccan, ‘Mother Earth’ thing. Think the Nature of God. Blessed be the Nature of God. Who He is.

When someone travels to another country as an ambassador, they arrive at the embassy to represent the name of their country of origin. They represent the nature of, perhaps, the administration in charge of that country’s government. If they act horribly, they malign the ‘good name’ of that country.

When we say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” we’re declaring that God’s nature is perfect. He may hurl a storm at us. He may cause an earthquake that kills thousands. He may direct a foreign country to overrun another, causing disaster. He may direct a serial killer to slaughter people. Yet, we say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Why would we do that? All of those things I listed sound sadistic and terrible. Would God actually ordain that a small child should be tortured and killed?

The cold, hard answer is yes.

That’s actually hard to write. It’s hard to think.

But, do we have another option? Do we know better? Is our justice, love and righteousness better than God’s? Our justice system is filled with bribes and favoritism. Even in the best of places. We’re actually relieved when a somewhat good verdict happens. If our justice system was perfect, we’d have no suspense about its outcome.

And why is that? Because we don’t know everything. We have limited knowledge. The person who is up on charges may actually be innocent. Or they may be guilty and we think they’re innocent. We don’t know.

But God knows. God can direct the evil in this world because He knows what is ultimately good. We don’t.

So, when I confess that God causes the calamity and ordains the evil deeds of dictators and wicked men (and women), I can also say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord, for His ways are not my ways and His wisdom is higher than mine.”

Some revolt from this idea because they claim love would demand God stop all the pain, prevent all the hurt. The same person should revolt at the whole book of Job. And then move on to being disgusted with the whole Bible. There are people like that. They’re called Universalists. Or Atheists.

Let’s take a look at our demonstration of love. Popular culture boils love down to a physical activity, or physical feeling. We ‘fall in’ and ‘fall out’ of love regularly. Human love is only remarkable when it looks more like God’s love–when it is sacrificial and altruistic. Unfortunately, we don’t see that too often. It’s rare.

Because our ability to love is hemmed in by hurt and self-interest. We remember the hurtful things people do and we find it impossible to love our enemies, much less die for them.

But God so loved the world that He …. what? He gave His only Son. This is the infamous John 3:16. It depicts the love that Abraham had for Isaac, his only son, whom he took to Mount Moriah to sacrifice before God–which was an inexplicable request, one that should have had the patriarch turning from God.

But Abraham said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” didn’t he? No need to look it up, I’m putting those words in because they depict Abraham’s attitude of faith. By faith he took Isaac up for a sacrifice, trusting the nature of God who could bring Isaac back from the dead.

I don’t need to talk about our righteousness compared to God. Our justice reflects that we don’t have any righteousness. Our lack of true, consistent love shows that we don’t carry any claim to righteousness.

So, if we are so bad at justice and love, how can we then turn and be judge to God when He says that He causes calamity, He is the Lord?

Rather, we should be humble and admit we don’t know everything. We must submit to the Almighty, trusting in His nature of Justice, Love and Righteousness. He will ensure all things will work out for Good.

I’ll leave with this last thought. The whole reason there is evil in this world is because of our rebellion against Him. He would have no evil to direct for His purpose but for our sinful rebellious hearts inherited from our father Adam.

In fact, that’s why He sent His Son.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8

God loved us enough to pay the price to defeat the works of the devil and purchase us out of our slavery to sin. And yes, He directed the evil that killed His Son. He drove those nails. He caused that greatest of evil in all of history. He did this, He is the Lord. And we can respond in thanksgiving, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Do You Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness?

I’m reading through Isaiah, a favorite book for many Christian leaders, pop stars, conspiracy theorists and would-be prophets. I’ve heard how Isaiah predicts the Trump Presidency, how it has “harbingers” for America as the new Israel, etc. I’ve heard people quote passages in Isaiah 41 about how we’ll look for our enemies, but will not find them and how we should not fear.

Words of comfort, for sure. Isaiah has a lot going on throughout its 66 chapters. But one part strikes me as being overlooked by those who reach a wide audience:

“For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the LORD, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink.” Isa. 32:6. 

This applies in the context of the leaders of Israel (God’s people) fearing the political climate and looking for help in Egypt. Isaiah has warned God’s people’s leaders to put their trust in the unseen God rather than the flesh and blood of the untrustworthy political alliances.

And yet, the leaders brush aside this advice in favor of going down to Egypt and forming an alliance with Assyria, etc. In other words, looking at politics for their comfort and peace.

The truth is, there is no peace without righteousness. There is no righteousness without justice. And justice does not reside where sin runs rampant.

The Christian leaders in America have largely backed President Trump. While that’s certainly fine in the context of “he’s better than Hillary,” that’s not what has happened. That statement is, afer all, debatable. I like to say, time will tell.

What I find astounding is that Christians have gone so far as to claim that Trump is a redeemed Christian, and have advanced the idea that he will create a reprieve for God’s people from persecution and danger. This idea stems from the idea that Christians are protected by the U.S. Supreme Court. It finds its source in the idea that we can legislate Biblical morality, creating a land of abundant prosperity.

And there’s the word: Prosperity. Christians in America need to remember that God is not concerned with our houses, cars, careers or comfort in this world. Jesus promised that we were not greater than our master. If the world hated him, it will hate us.

So-called Christian leaders who teach otherwise may appear to be noble and honorable, but they’re actually fools and scoundrels who leave God’s people hungry and parched.

What is the danger of the “Church System?”

The “church” creates the idea that if you don’t attend their services, you’re outside of the fellowship. That’s what they did to the Anabaptists. They accused them of forsaking the assembly. They accused them of heresy and blasphemy. All the while, they murdered them and exchanged actual criminals for a chance to catch and kill an Anabaptist.

These are the words of Christ in Matthew 23:1-15:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

This is the word of our Lord. To those who see, this is what happens in churches. Maybe not everywhere. There are home churches and other congregations that heed the word of the Lord. But it’s the exception.

God wants His people to be separate from the world. That’s you. That’s me. If we have ears to hear.

Watch “There are Many Deceived Church Goers – Paul Washer” on YouTube

I’d note that all “church goers” are deceived. The true church, the ekklesia of Christ, is not deceived. They hear His voice and follow. 

I’d like to point out, too that any so-called pastor who doesn’t obey the Lord in declaring the gospel is to be accursed (Paul’s words in Galatians, not mine). In other words, they are wolves, not undershepherds. 

What is the Unpardonable Sin?

There’s a debate among evangelicals known as the Armenian vs. Calvinist debate. For those who don’t know Christianese, it relates to Free Will vs. Election. If I’m still getting the head-tilts of confusion I’ll explain this way: Free Will holds that Christ died for everyone’s sin, paid the debt for each person. It is each person’s responsibility to accept that gift of their own Free Will to be saved. Election refers to the divine plan for the elect, those who were chosen by God’s sovereign Will before Creation itself.

Both sides point to many of the same passages. They just interpret them differently.

Rather than parse out the two sides, I’m going to keep this short and address something that is at the center, the real question, IMO: Did Christ die for someone’s sin of not believing in Him as Lord?

I’ve heard John MacArthur, among others, claim that if Jesus bore the wrath of God for the sin of every human on earth and across time, but every human didn’t receive Him through faith, then those people would have to pay the penalty of God’s wrath for their sin. This would be, according to MacArthur, double-jeopardy. Two punishments for the same sin.

I’ll note that MacArthur is attempting to apply our understanding of legal justice to a God who is outside of our Created realm, time, and concepts of justice. I suspect our ideas of justice–when compared to God’s understanding–are about as accurate as a young child’s understanding of what his or her parent does for a living.

When I was studying the book of John, however, I came across this passage:

Joh 16:8  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

Joh 16:9  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

Now, some will say that their sin remains because they didn’t pick up the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf (the Free Will argument). Or, that Jesus didn’t pay for their sin because they were not of the elect (the Election argument).

Before I move on, I’ll quote another passage:

Mar 3:28  “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,

Mar 3:29  but whoever blasphemies against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

This is the famous “unpardonable sin” passage. Jesus clearly states that “all sins will be forgiven the children of man…”

I’m sure there are various interpretations of this, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t delve into them. The plain meaning, to me, is that Jesus’ sacrifice will provide the basis for forgiveness of all sin, all blasphemy, except blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

What does that mean? That’s the clincher, really. What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Remember, God is One, so we shouldn’t fall into modalism, or defining each member of the Trinity like a separate God.

The Holy Spirit is the work of God in the world. The Pharisees were trying to say that Jesus miracles–specifically casting out a demon–was the work of Satan. They denied the nature of Christ as the Son of God, and His work as the work of the Holy Spirit.

My reading of this is that the unpardonable sin is unbelief. They rejected Christ and all His work as the work of the devil and for such a sin, there is no sacrifice.

Here’s another applicable passage:

Heb 6:4  For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,

Heb 6:5  and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,

Heb 6:6  and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Many find this to support the Free Will position, which holds that people can lose their salvation. Instead, I feel this supports the basic premise that our judgment will be based on the sin of unbelief, not the underlying sinfulness of our race.

To understand how this works with the other two passages, I look at a few key phrases: heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.

The heavenly gift is Christ, the bread of heaven that is true food to us. Those who have “tasted” of Christ would be like those who hear the gospel and respond (like in the parable of the sower).

The Holy Spirit would refer to the work of God among His people, not the indwelling of the Spirit in the life of these people. This would refer to those who say “Lord, Lord, we did all these things in your name!” and yet be told to depart from Him as workers of lawlessness. They share in the work of the Holy Spirit without being truly sealed by His indwelling.

The goodness of the word of God refers to understanding the scriptures. Many false Christians affirm that the Bible is good, but ultimately will not sacrifice their own comfort or advancement in its defense.

Similarly, the powers of the age to come means they understand God’s promise of the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.

These are those who ultimately “fall away” as the seeds that start to sprout, but are choked out, burned and do not prove to be true converts. They fail because they do not believe God.

Our salvation ultimately depends on one thing: Believing God. This was the basis for Abraham’s righteousness, and it is the basis of ours, as well. We, of course, have far more information about God than our spiritual ancestor.

When someone holds to earthly applause instead of becoming an outcast for the testimony of Christ, it says what they believe about God. If someone is loath to surrender a popular ritual or even some religious ordinance because there is too much sentimentality or tradition attached to it, it says something about their belief in God.

Essentially, when we become the judge of what is right and wrong, rather than humbly submitting to the words of Christ, we join Satan in saying, “Did God really say?” We refuse to enter the Promised Land because we reject the idea that God will deliver the giants and warriors into our hands and allow us to occupy the land. We leave Ur, but settle in Haran.

We need to ensure we listen to the voice of the Lord when He calls us out of Haran to the wilderness. We need to travel forth into a land of godless warriors, pitching our tent and laying claim to a promise that is entirely absurd by earthly standards.

If we fail to do so, if we defame God’s character by rejecting His promise and His way, we reveal that we don’t believe Jesus is Lord. We reveal we don’t believe God’s power.

Can someone who has passed through the Red Sea, eaten of the heavenly bread, drank of the water from the rock, followed the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, then reject God’s nature of goodness, holiness, faithfulness, mercy and grace?

If they do, they have likely committed the unpardonable sin and there is no additional sacrifice to cover that.