Here are my thoughts in response to additional questions that were submitted during my sermon on Sunday. My message Sunday was related to the topic of evil and suffering in our world.
You mentioned pre-destined…so what is the thought on pre-destination and how does that fit with “free will” if we are all pre-destined.
I mentioned the word “predestined” in my message from Sunday when I read Romans 8:29, which says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” It seems the word “predestined” or “predestination” is a hot button that automatically evokes a fixed definition in our minds. For most people, predestination means that God picks some people to be saved and some people to be lost before He even created the world. To those who subscribe to this belief, it means that people do not have free will or the ability to choose whether or not they want to be a Christian. The word “predestined” simply means “something that was predetermined.” You have to look carefully at this verse to determine what was predetermined. According to Romans 8:29, God predetermined ahead of time that Christians would be conformed to the image of His Son. This does not say that God restricts our free will but rather that God wants us to be like Jesus.
Does God hurt when we hurt (suffer)?
Yes. I believe He does. If you remember in John 11, Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus knowing He was about to raise him from the dead. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Isaiah 63 also speaks of God suffering with Israel. I think he hurts when he sees our struggle and knows our pain.
Why does God give us free will/choice when ultimately we have to choose Him/Jesus or be punished?
What God wants most is a relationship and a relationship (love) requires choice. If we are forced to choose Jesus, then its not love to begin with. It is true that we either choose Jesus or go to Hell, but people choose Hell every day (by virtue of denying Christ). God’s nature is love (1 John 4:8) and therefore requires an object (us). If He forced us to choose Christ, it would be contrary to His nature.
Why did God create Earth when he knew it’d become corrupt? Why not just keep everyone in Heaven with him to begin with?
See my reply to the question above. I’m not sure that I can thoroughly answer this question because in some ways it is circular. Obviously God could have not created mankind at all…It goes back to God’s nature. He is creative and He is love (among other things). If you think about it, the Garden of Eden may have very well been like what Heaven will be like for us. The world at that time was the best of all possible worlds. Because God is love, however, Adam and Eve had a choice. Choice led to sin causing the earth (and the people on it) to become corrupt.
What crime deserves an eternity of punishment? If someone lives a good life but never knows Jesus or trusts him, how is this a crime worthy of eternal damnation?
We view sins in categories. God does not. I think it is impossible for us to see sin as God does because we are sinners looking at something that is not necessarily an affront to us. Though sin is the “crime,” the real crime is rejecting God. The fact is, no one lives a good life. Romans 3:10-12 says it clearly: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” A relationship with God and an eternity in Heaven is available to anyone who repents of their sin and trusts Christ.
If God is the ultimate, superior being, why does he need and create humans to worship him? Is He bored?
To start with, God wanted to create the world. Why do you do certain things? Sometimes we do things because of our need, but sometimes we just do it because we want to. I said above that God is love and God is creative thus resulting in the existence of our world. No, God does not need our worship. God is perfect and complete in Himself and needs nothing. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us that God needs to be worshipped. Since God does not need our worship, one writer suggested a better question would be “Why does God request or command our worship?” God does know that if we are going to find joy and meaning in life, we must be right with our Creator. Being right means we recognize who God is and we stand rightly before Him. Being right with God means that we recognize His nature and being and that requires worship. Also, we are the beneficiaries of worship. Being right with God and worshipping Him brings us joy and fulfillment. If one does not worship God, he or she is not finding the abundance for which he or she was made.
If my troubles are the results of my own sin, is God going to still be with me?
Yes. If you are a Christian, the Bible says God never leaves you or forsakes you (Heb 13:5). While Old Testament illustration are different because the role of the Holy Spirit changed at Pentecost (Acts 2), we can see that while Israel was rebelling, God did not leave them. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers from the point of their salvation. Acts 2:38 says, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 8:9 says that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ. I know our sin must break God’s heart (not that God literally has a heart, I don’t think) as it is a constant reminder of Christ’s death.
What about 2 Kings 17:25 that says since the people didn’t fear God, He sent lions in to kill some of them.
Whenever a person or a people choose to go their own way instead of Gods, there will always be consequences. Sometimes it comes in the form of results from their sin (someone dies from a drug overdose). Other times it comes as a result of moving out from under God’s protection. It is almost as if God is saying, “If you will live according to my plans, you live under the umbrella of my protection. If you step out from under the umbrella, the rain will fall on you.” For an example, God admonishes us not to practice immorality. As long as sex is confined to marriage, as God commanded, sex is beautiful, safe, and fulfilling (safe sex is married sex). If someone chooses to be immoral, the consequence might be a sexually transmitted disease. Sometimes troubles come as a result of God’s discipline. Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Sometimes it not a case of God bringing discipline on one of His children, but rather it is judgment on one who refuses God. In the case of the story in 2 Kings 17, the lions came as a result of God’s judgment on a people who rebelled against Him.
How can God allow others to misuse the Bible and misrepresent His Name and identity to oppress and abuse others?
Partly because, once again, God has made us as beings with free will. Free will either brings great blessing as a result of someone freely choosing Christ or great sorrow as a result of one choosing to reject Christ. When one refuses Christ, others are also affected by that choice (for example, a husband gets drunk and beats his wife). This does underscore how important it is that we know the Bible and are able to present the truth in our world. This is why 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Why does God allow families to fall apart?
Free will and consequence of sin. God clearly instructs us in the Bible how to live as a family. For example, Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” How many marriages can be described as a relationship where the husband really loves his wife selflessly and sacrificially (as he loves himself)? How many can be described as a relationship with the wife truly respects her husband and shows that respect in every area of life? The husband is commanded to love his wife this way and the wife is commanded to respect her husband this way, yet many Christians ignore these commands. God commands the wife to do this because the husband needs respect. God commanded the husband to love his wife because the wife needs love. God told us what to do to have strong families yet we disobey God. There are consequences for sin. We tell our children not to do certain things because they will get hurt. When our child disobeys and gets hurt, the pain came as a result of the child’s disobedience.
If God cares about his people why does he let us have wars?
Wars are horrible things and are simply a reality because of sin. Wars always start because of greed or some sort of injustice. This is a result of sin. The fact is, the world is not the way it is supposed to be because of the presence of sin. Like anything else, God can stop whatever he chooses to stop, but the world is spinning out of control because of sin. God would have to stop evil in order to stop war thereby removing mankind’s privilege to choose. If mankind has free will, then wars will be a natural consequence. I think all the evil and wars in our world should give us a longing for the return of Christ.