Ok, first of all I am sorry to everyone bugging me because I still haven’t written. Secondly, I don’t know how many of you listen to my sermons but I will include the player at the bottom of this post. The topic from Sunday night (1 Peter 4)goes along well with what I am about to write about.Third, although I have been thinking about all of this for a while, writing this down is still me working through some of it so don’t criticize if you think I am wrong, we can discuss it in the comments section below.
So, I have been thinking a lot about the fact that we love to quote the verse that says, “…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” (Romans 8:28, NASB). The problem is that too many of us just try to use it to justify our own selfishness. Random example, let’s say that I have been engaged in online gambling because I want a new car. Perhaps I find a way to manipulate the system to win more often than not, so I am quickly getting the money I need for the car. Then, someone finds out that I am cheating the system and I lose all the money and now am facing criminal charges. BUT, I am a Christian and I know that “all things work together for good to those who love God…”
Now, yes, that was a spur of the moment example, and no, I don’t think that most of us would cheat at internet gambling (unless we knew how…), but I think the attitude is the same: I am thinking only about me, then when it doesn’t work out my way I can always trust that it is God’s plan and there will not be consequences for my self-loving actions.
Simple response: God forgives sins, but until He returns there will be consequences in this life for our actions.
Extended response: Before we use this verse as a comfort to our selfishness-gone-wrong, we need to understand what the qualifier is in the statement. It says that God will work all things for the good of who? Not just everyone who calls themselves Christian. God will work it out for “those who love God.”
I think that this little qualifying statement has much to say to many Christians who are disillusioned with their faith and angry at God because He didn’t do what they supposed, or were told He would do. An example of this would be the many people who put money in the ministries of televangelists like they were slot machines in Vegas. Now, do I think that God will bless our financial giving, especially when it is sacrificial. Yes, when done with right intentions. But we must remember that God is continually examining the heart of people and if the heart of the person is saying, “I am going to give this money because then God will give me more money in return,” this is revealing a person who does not love the Lord, but is filled with greed. This just sounds more reliable than the lottery, so they put their money here instead.
At the root of it all, I am convince that the dividing line in humanity is this: there are those who love God, and there are those who love themselves as god. Throughout the Bible we see men obeying God to the best of their sinful ability, but in the end there is no blessing for them because they are doing it out of pride and selfishness (for examples see Christ’s condemnation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23). And on the other hand we see men in the Bible who continually fail miserably at living in obedience to God, but because of their love for Him there is forgiveness for them (for examples of this read about the life of King David).
I think that the problem that continually arises within Christianity is that we don’t advertise this on our signs or even preach it in our sermons. We confuse people by telling them that if they will simply recite a prayer then there is forgiveness and then send them on their way.
The message of the Gospel is that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The goal of sanctification is that we learn to love ourselves less and to love Jesus more. And the essence of discipleship is that we teach people how to do that. Then, the message of hope that we can hold to is that no matter what suffering and persecution comes in this life (John 15:18-20) I know that it is only because of my love/love relationship with the Lord and He is going to work it all out for my good in the end.
I know of no better example in the Bible than the life of Joseph beginning in Genesis 37. Joseph knows that God has placed a blessing on his life and so he never gives up hope. When he tells his brothers what God has told him they throw him into a pit plotting murder, then decided to sell him into slavery (but Joseph loves the Lord and knows he is in God’s hands). While in slavery to Potiphar, Joseph is blessed by God to the place of power in his master’s household. Then as we see Potiphar’s wife propositioning Joseph we hear of Joseph’s relationship with God as he asks, “How could I sin against God like that?” (Gen. 39:9). As the story goes on, Joseph is cast into prison, where God still gives him a ministry, and then uses the time in jail to raise Joseph to second in command over all of Egypt. At the end of the story, as we see Joseph showing mercy to his brothers, he makes this statement: “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Gen. 50:19-20).
Joseph loved God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, and because of that relationship he knew that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.”
So what about you? Do you love God above all, or do you still buy into the lie that you are the god of your life (Gen. 3:5)? If you are your own god, then don’t expect the blessing of the One, True God on your life (or death).
I want your comment and thoughts. Also, for another study into this idea, I suggest reading about the life of King Asa found in 2 Chronicles 14-16, paying special attention to 16:9 (thanks Micah).
And here is the sermon audio. Sunday night is #7.