Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"How do Christians respond to evil?"

"This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).

Here we are again ...  witnessing a horrific tragedy where an evil act, planned and carried out by an evil person(s), causes millions to pause for a moment, to consider the unpredictable nature of life in this world, to grieve with those who grieve, to ask, "Why?" and then eventually to go back to the routine of life, craving the "normality" of everyday life where we can ignore what we have seen over and over and pretend that somehow all of this will end up "all right."

But if we are to offer true hope today, we need to speak truth and stop pretending, as we watch the course of evil in the world around us.   The hope that God offers is not like the world's hope.  It is sure and certain, based on God's promises to those who know Him and who have come to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  If you and those around you want hope today there is only one place to find it and that is the Sovereign God who rules over all things and who has promised an END to evil.

I want to share two verses from John's Revelation.  These verses are in Chapters 13 and 14, where John is describing visions of the Antichrist and the False Prophet who will lead people away from the true God, deceiving them into taking the "mark of the beast."  As he describes the horrible things that will take place during these last days before Jesus returns, John writes, "This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints" (Revelation 13:10).  And he writes, "This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).

Many today claim to be Christians, but know very little of the God who created the heavens and the earth and who reveals Himself in the Bible.  They take the name "Christian" because they believe in a "God" they have been told about who loves everybody and who promises those who believe in Jesus a wonderful life in this world, and then eternal life in a place called heaven, where everybody is happy because they are doing what they want to do.  This counterfeit "God" is content to stay in the background because he exists to make life easy and people happy.  So where is THIS "God" when tragedy strikes?

The true God is in the midst of the pain and suffering, offering true hope to those who come to Him through His Son Jesus Christ.  Our hope is not found in some fairy-tale ending, but in the midst of the reality of evil in this world.  Jesus said to His disciples shortly before His crucifixion, "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

In the midst of persecution and suffering God inspired the Apostle Paul to write, "Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good ... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:9, 21).  God has instituted government to punish evildoers and our desire for justice mirrors God's promise that ultimately justice will take place when every person stands before His judgment seat.  "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things does while in the body, whether good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10).  For those who have confessed their sin and believed in Jesus, there will be forgiveness and life; but for all who do not know the love of God in Jesus, there will be perfect justice and eternal judgment.

Our hope, then, comes from knowing that in the midst of tragedy our God, the one true God who sovereignly rules over all things, is somehow at work in the lives of those who turn to Him.  What about those who do not know God and who do not turn to Him?  They are "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).  There are true believers in Boston today who have an opportunity to point people to God and to offer them His love and comfort in the name of Jesus.  We need to be praying for them and for all who will hear.  There is no way to explain evil.  It is irrational, beyond comprehension.  But it is real; we dare not pretend that it does not exist.

God's promise to those who know Him is peace in the midst of the storm.  As I heard about the deaths and injuries and all of the attention being given to these events, my mind went to all of the thousands of troops who have died and lost limbs and faced untold mental and emotional anguish in the midst of our fight against evil all over the world.  Every day, in one way or another, in one place or another, evil people cause the pain and horror that we witnessed yesterday ... it just doesn't always strike those who are innocent bystanders or make the headlines on our evening news; it is just not always so obvious.  This is the world we live in ... BUT the God who is "Abba, Father" to those who come to Him through faith in Jesus is at work through His people and by His Spirit and Word, drawing people to Himself and offering a sure and certain hope that nothing in this world can take away.

The writer of Hebrews defines faith this way:  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).  God has promised to be with those who know Him and love Him and who live to serve Him.  At times like this and every day we are sent into the world to offer hope through faith in Jesus Christ.  It does no good to pretend that everything will turn out all right in this world.  It doesn't help to offer people a false assurance built on the idea of a counterfeit "God" who doesn't exist.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13).

THERE is our hope!  Apart from the return of Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom there is no sure and certain hope to offer people.  The governments of this world will never solve the problem of evil in the hearts of men, women, boys and girls.  Through the truth of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, the Spirit of God is changing hearts and lives today.  The true Church exists in every people, nation, tribe and tongue, wherever the name of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and He is acknowledged as the only Savior and Lord.  What can YOU do?  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, live to serve Him and tell others about Him.  Believers are the "salt and light" that keep this world going.  Evil is strong ... but our God, the one true God, is stronger.  His kingdom WILL come, and His will WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven - when Jesus returns.

Until then, what do you say to your children and to others?  "This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).

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