The Practicality of the Good News

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First of all, what is the good news? What exactly is the Gospel? Is it that Jesus paid my sin debt so now I can go to Heaven? Well, Heaven is part of the Gospel trip, but there’s a lot more to what Christ accomplished. The Word of God says I died with Christ, the old me. It says I rose again as Jesus rose, as a new me. It says Christ lives in me, and the life I now live, I’m to live by the faith of the Son of God in me. These and many other identity truths form the beating heart of the Gospel of power, not merely forgiveness.

That all sounds good, but how does it work out practically?

It starts by agreeing with God, recognizing our identity as he states it. That’s the background. We have to know who we are; we have to ask God to show us the difference between soul and spirit, between how I feel and who I am. Relationship with God and deriving our sense of identity from who he is and what he says about us – these things are always primary. We’re to practice faithing in our identity, practice recognizing the continual presence of God.

But let’s get down to brass tacks with a specific example.

Let’s say someone hurts us; they say or do something that causes us inner anguish. We feel an inner reaction. Incidentally, anger is often just self-protection for the hurt we feel.

We’ve got to accept our reaction, our feelings; in short, we’ve got to accept that we are human. Cut my hand and I bleed. Cut my soul, and anguish in some form gushes from the wound. Some people think Christians are supposed to live in this cherubic place where nothing ever bothers or tempts them. As nice as that would be, that’s not the case. We live in a fallen world. Our human minds are subject to temptation, to believing lies, to fear, and a host of other ills.

An unkind word or action slices us. Sometimes in the initial soul-bloodletting it is optimal to get away fast. This depends largely on the size of the cut versus the size of our faith.

The relevant question is always, “Who am I?”

If we have been raised with Christ, died to sin, died to self-effort, and are now indwelt by the Creator of the Universe, is that Being more powerful than any hurt?

What it comes down to is choosing the truth even when we don’t feel like doing it, or even when our feelings seem more valid and real than the Facts in the Word of God.

Some questions to ask ourselves when hurt by another:

Precisely just what am I hurt about? What about this hurts me?

For instance, if some friends snub you, what precisely is the sting in that? For me it would be the sting of not-belonging, of feeling on the outside. For an analytical mind like mine there would be the extra added bonus feature of spending a lot of time wondering what exactly one had done to merit such treatment, coming up with a list of possibilities, mentally voting on which scenario is the most plausible, and then going over it all again and again, always coming up with different answers, spinning wheels in the mud, which is mostly just a fixer trying to figure out a way to fix a situation. Isaiah 50:10-11 says, “Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God. Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled—This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.” Ever spend the night there, in torment from a flame created by the sparks kindled by your own effort because you’re not trusting the Lord in the darkness, instead trying to see, trying to fix, trying to walk by the light of your own fire?

But let’s move on and deal specifically with the feeling of being left out, of feeling on the outside.

It is a feeling, not a Fact. I am not my feelings. I am much more than how I feel. I am on the inside, on the inner ring, with the Creator of the universe. He died for me, and caused me to die in him, and rise in him, as a new creation, so that I could take part as a co-operator in his kingdom. He has given me everything I need for life and godliness. He claims he is one spirit with me, that I live by the faith of Christ in me.

In other words, my feelings come and go. But the Fact of me remains, the Fact of who I am, who God has made me, how his Spirit lives in me, making me into who I am meant to be. I am Spirit, clothed in a soul and body. Sometimes clothes get dirty and need to be washed.

I think we need to treat ourselves like we would treat a little child, to hear our feelings and recognize them for what they are – feelings. Feel them. But then look underneath the feelings to see the “Why?” And then deal with the “Why?”

So back to the snubbing. I feel shoved outside. I feel rejected. Am I outside? With so-and-so, maybe. With God? No way. I am in Christ. I’m on the inside with the most powerful King in the universe. How much more inside can I get?

Am I rejected? By so-and-so, maybe. But not with God. God has accepted me in Christ, totally, completely, forever. Satan is attempting to trick me into getting my identity from people. Maybe he even tricked me for a little while. But I am going back to trusting God, right now.

Once I basically re-cognize my identity in Christ I’m freed to recognize an essential fact in dealing with people: Since God is love, and God lives in me and claims he is one spirit with me, I am love for the other person by virtue of Christ living in me. In fact, in reality, I am not here for myself; I am here for them.

Was Jesus rejected by men? Yes. Yet because he knew his oneness with the Father who is love, he despised the shame of it, and because of the joy set before him – you and I – he endured being tortured and executed, faithing that he would rise again. With that same Spirit in us, we can take it.

In fact, to go even further, Jesus called Judas, “Friend.” He said that the coming torture and execution were “My Father’s cup.” It was an opportunity to manifest the life of the Father to the world, and by that life redeem the world.

These situations of temptation are our opportunities to manifest the life of God to others. God is actually using that other person in our situation to fix us more firmly in the truth of our identity. “The devil is God’s devil,” said Martin Luther. Maybe that snubbing is just one more of God’s chess moves to get me off of thinking I need to be liked or esteemed. Maybe, also, he is giving me something valuable to say which will benefit someone else.

That’s our model. That is how we take up our Cross and follow him. That’s how we “fill up the measure of his sufferings.” We’re to live by faith and not by the appearances of things. We’ve got a God who is working “all things after the counsel of his own will” and working “everything together for good to them that love God…”

I used to think I had to wrestle my false self to the ground and “get victory.” But I am beginning to see that all I need to do is turn my attention to my real self in Christ. Turn on the lights, and darkness disappears. Where does it go? The darkness is still there potentially, waiting, if the lights go out. But it has to disappear if the lights are turned on; darkness has no choice in the matter.

Which of course is why so comparatively few of us know our real identity in Christ; it’s the dark side’s game of hiding the light switch.

 

Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he’s not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin’ on audiences around the world, he’s taking care of his donkey named “Trash” and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


29 Comments

  1. Fellow Traveler

    “For an analytical mind like mine there would be the extra added bonus feature of spending a lot of time wondering what exactly one had done to merit such treatment, coming up with a list of possibilities, mentally voting on which scenario is the most plausible, and then going over it all again and again, always coming up with different answers, spinning wheels in the mud, which is mostly just a fixer trying to figure out a way to fix a situation.”

    Ron, were we separated at birth? Or something?

  2. paulineanstruther

    This post reminds me a lot of Lewis’s character Mark in That Hideous Strength. Mark had spent his whole life trying to fit “in” with other groups, and that desire almost led to his destruction at the N.I.C.E. But when he joins the opposing forces of good at Belbury, he realizes that all along he has been part of the closest inner circle, without even trying– and that he had given it all up to chase after acceptance in other groups.
    Good article, Ron, thanks for posting!

  3. Becca

    Ron, you are uniquely gifted. No matter how many different ways you explain this, I always need to hear it. Thank you.

    One of my goals for the summer is to print off everything I can find that you have written on this subject, take it to Office Depot, and bind it.

  4. Missy K

    Ron, I really needed to read this today. Especially, “. . . the feeling of being left out, of feeling on the outside.

    It is a feeling, not a Fact. I am not my feelings. I am much more than how I feel. I am on the inside, on the inner ring, with the Creator of the universe. ”

    Your example is the particular hurt I feel most often, so the truth you articulate is the specific truth I need to hear, over and over.

    Thank you, and bless you.

  5. Ben G.

    Thanks for this post. I’m a seminary student, and I have been trying to keep coming back to this question as I think about what I learn in each class. What is the Gospel? What does it mean here and now for how I respond to, well, life?

    Just to piggyback a couple of thoughts on what you’ve written…

    I think one of the good directions a lot of contemporary theology has taken is in its attention to the fact that the Gospel is both “Jesus died for my sins and rose for my justification” AND “Jesus died for OUR sins and rose for OUR justification” – recognizing that the Bible strongly supports the notion that “who I am” and “who we are” are intimately connected, that neither makes sense without the other. I think that helps to reinforce a couple of your points: first, part of the Fact of my identity with God in Christ is the reality that I am in an inner circle, not composed only of “me and Jesus,” but of a large family of brethren. Not that the rejection we experience from people isn’t a reality in the Church – if anything, our brothers and sisters are typically the major source of that rejection in our lives – but I think as we grow in Christ, we do discover that the Church shows us both the limits of human acceptance and fellowship AND the surprising depths of that fellowship as the real, concrete expression of the Fact of our standing with God. It certainly reinforces the notion that God is using the other person as you describe.

    Moving beyond the notion of having to “get victory” by our own (internal, mental) exertions is something I’ve been thinking about as well, especially since I tend so much toward introspection myself. I might adjust the alternative a little: it’s not so much that I need to “turn my attention to my real self in Christ” as that I should turn my attention to Christ himself, fix my eyes on Jesus, what he has done, and what God promises me for his sake. I think we tend to neglect prayer as the on-the-ground, practical means of doing so, but it seems to me that Paul’s run-down of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 all comes back to prayer – it’s the means to the end of equipping ourselves with all of these things, precisely, I think, because in the very act of praying we forbid ourselves from thinking of ourselves as alone in the fight. It’s also the way we learn how to overcome evil with good, by pulling away from self-interest and calling those “friend” who betray us.

    Anyway, thanks so much for the thoughts. I look forward to hearing more.

  6. Jim Lenn

    Hello Ron,, what a great piece of writing. Isn’t that the great truth everyone is seeking ” who am I?”

    Blessings !!

  7. Alyssa

    Ron, I was so disappointed when I heard you won’t be at Hutchmoot this year. I would love to hear you talk about this “faithing” thing in person. Alas, maybe another year. I just keep thinking that if I took this concept in through my ears in addition to the multiple times I’ve read it with my eyes, it would penetrate into my thick skull and take root. Nevertheless, your words have already had a profound effect on my walk of faith. Thanks so much.

  8. Becca

    Alyssa, have you seen Ron’s video talk on this subject? It is the one translated into Portugese? It was posted on the RR recently…

  9. Jaclyn

    Ron, your post corrected a horrible attitude I’ve been having, especially at work. Thank you so much. I’ve been meditating on these truths all day, to the tune of Jason Gray’s “I Am New.” I’ve sung it so many times, but I can finally, truly apply them to myself:

    “Forgiven. Beloved. Hidden in Christ.
    Made in the image of the Giver of life.
    Righteous and Holy. Reborn and Remade.
    Accepted and Worthy– This is our new name.

    This is who we are now.”

  10. Alyssa

    Ooh, Becca, thanks for the reminder. I had meant to go back and watch that, but it slipped my mind.

  11. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Ben, yes to everything you said. To clarify further:

    The individual’s relationship with the Godhead is the only foundation for relationship with others. Sometimes we have to get that straight first, which is the focus of the article. I’m not at all espousing a “me and Jesus” theology; the thing we have to get straight is that there is not a “me” who must “do.” There is a vessel that must receive, and then faithe in what it has received. Thus, to love others isn’t to become “more loving” or to ask God to give us more love for others. It is that the God who is the only source of other-centered love in the universe now lives inside us, and he is our Source.

    So when I speak of turning to our real identity, I don’t make a distinction between that real identity and Christ himself, because Christ is the real Identity at the root of the little human container. Now, before anyone quotes me as saying “We are God,” I’m not. We forever remain the vessel. He forever remains God. But for whatever reasons, the God of the universe has decided to live in these little human cups, to unite himself to us in a love-union whereby we become manifestations of his love. Jesus was the pattern, the prototype, and the first among many brethren.

    Regarding prayer, I’m seeing that much of it has to do with thanking and praising God for what we’ve already been given. “Lord, give me patience” is a sure bet to being shoved into situations where we are made impatient. Why? Because he is forcing us to see the source of patience is not some THING we can have; patience is a Person. Likewise, Love is a Person. God is the source of all Good, and if we have him, we contain all virtue, and have access to that virtue by relying/faithing/abiding.

    Further, I’m finally coming to the wire lately realizing that I can’t even make a faith-choice in certain situations. I can’t choose to believe in my identity, or choose to faithe in Christ within me. The only thing I can do is say, “Jesus, you are the Abiding One. Cause me to abide today, no matter how I feel, no matter what happens.”

  12. Ben G.

    Thanks for your reply, Ron. I hope I didn’t come off as critical – I really appreciated the post, and I did assume the clarification that you made just now about our real identity being Christ (with the nuance you give it, which of course has a long and illustrious heritage in our theology).

    Amen to what you say about union with Christ; really, we are vessels who have to “faithe” in whom we have received, and insofar as we do, to put what you say another way, out of us flow streams of living water; the life of the Vine flows through us and lets us bear fruit as branches – and the water or the life is itself a Person.

    On prayer, do you have Newton’s hymn “I Asked the Lord” in mind? It certainly comes to mine. I suppose that a maturing prayer life means coming to an increasing realization that when we ask for patience, we are telling God, “I want to give you thanks in the midst of the tests of patience You will send me, the tests I know I won’t pass.”

    As for your last paragraph: “I believe; help my unbelief!” It seems like a strange thing to say, but it does resonate in those times.

  13. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Ben, no, you weren’t critical. When I reply in a public forum I always have in mind other people who are reading, as well as the one to whom I’m replying.

    I didn’t have the Newton hymn in mind. I’m just coming to the place of prayer as praise, thanksgiving, for what we’ve already received. Of course there are requests, expressions of love, etc. But primarily we thank God and are grateful, and it’s important to speak out in prayer the things he has given us.

    I think at bottom what I’ve come to see is that the human vessel has absolutely no power or vision to direct its own life. We can’t see the future; God is already in the future. We can’t know what another person is thinking; God is inside the other person (being omnipresent and all). We can’t even fully know our psyche, or who we really are in spirit, unless God reveals it. “I can do nothing of myself” and “The Father in me does the works” need to be our daily attitudes – “I can do all things through Christ, who is my strength.”

    I don’t think that acknowledging this total inability brings paralysis, of course; it is the prerequisite to real strength, real vision. In my life I am just coming to continual abiding in a couple of key areas, releasing control, recognizing that God works all things (not some) after the counsel of his own will.

  14. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jaclyn, yes, we are new creations, right now. I have long struggled in certain areas to believe in my total sufficiency in Christ, and trust God to squash my fingers as I hold to the cliff edge.

    Alyssa, I am sorely disappointed not to make Hutchmoot this year; I wish I were in charge of the universe, but to my temporary dismay God is the boss and it was a no go. Hutchmoot last year was one of the best things I’ve ever taken part in. But that isn’t surprising because I say the same thing about AP’s Christmas show every year. There is a real sense of the Spirit, a bond. You will love it.

    Pauline: I love Lewis’s essay, “The Inner Ring,” which echoes Mark in That Hideous Strength. It should be mandatory reading for every high school student (along with The Abolition of Man).

    Jim, good to hear from you!

    Missy – we all need to hear the full Gospel every day – our inheritance of power, right now, as well as forgiveness.

    Traveler: I think there are a lot of us out there.

  15. Mike

    “It starts by agreeing with God, recognizing our identity as he states it.”
    Ron, do you believe the gospel applies to every person who ever lived and they just don’t know it or that something in the Spirit world changes when we say a prayer of (for) salvation? In other words did what Jesus do save us or give us an opportunity to be saved?

  16. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Mike,

    There is an essential change of spirits that takes place, the spirit of Eph 2:2 for the Spirit of Gal 2:20. The four soils of Matthew 13 apply here as well. As much as I wish salvation was merely a matter of ignorance vs enlightenment (which it is, in part), it is also a matter of the spirit of the world vs the “Spirit that works in you.” There must be an exchange; we faithe in Christ our redeemer, and God puts us in Christ on the Cross 2000 years ago. The old spirit goes out as we die on that Cross with Christ; the Holy Spirit comes in, reanimates the dead, and we rise to walk in newness of life as new creations.

  17. Jim Lenn

    I can’t get this whole concept out of my mind.. Had a bit of a “missunderstanding” with the misses the evening before I read this.. Really taking a look at why “things” bother me when it comes to relationships and my responses when those feelings pop up… Taking a much different look at those feelings that come up… Coming to grips with the fact that we are “being fixed” by these situations that arise that are not comfortable !!!

    Thanks Ron !!!

  18. Kala

    This is actually my first comment at The Rabbit Room but I’ve been reading it for a while now. I just wanted to say thank you for this post. I’ve struggled a lot with feeling on the outside or feeling rejected. But agreeing with who God says I am and recognizing my identity in Christ brings light and truth. I have learned that it’s not the false self or the flesh that has to be overcome – because my flesh is dead, and I am in Christ (the basic idea of Romans 6-8). I died with Christ – my sinful nature has died and has been replaced with Christ’s nature. I don’t think it’s simply a matter of turning on the lights – in this case, there is resistance from the darkness. I am just wondering why you said that the darkness is a threat when the lights are out, but you don’t seem to think that darkness will put up a fight when we do turn the lights on. (I’m not trying to be critical, just trying to propose a different view: I mean, if there IS resistance when we do “turn the lights on” and recognize our identity in Christ, where does it come from – our old, sinful nature (which has died), or the powers of darkness?)

    On another topic – what is the good news? I agree with everything you said but what about the kingdom of God? The Gospel that Jesus preached was the gospel of the kingdom of God (see Mark 1:15 and Matthew 4:17). He talked about the kingdom of God more than any other topic. If we’re looking for a good idea of what the good news is, don’t you think we should take a look at what Jesus actually said the good news is? 🙂 This is something I have studied in the last year or so and I just think sometimes we neglect Jesus’ actual message by emphasizing other things, even though those things are completely true too!

  19. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Kala,

    I was recently at the beach in SC with my family. I was swimming in the waves with my children and decided to stand in the spot where the waves were breaking. They were about 4 foot waves, strong. The first one hit me and knocked me over and down I went into chaos. When I stood up again, I knew I had to stand firm in an attitude of solidity. The next big wave smacked into me hard, but I stood with my feet planted wide and leaned into it. It was exhilarating, a sense of power. But then an odd thing happened. As the wave went up the beach and then came back, it began to suck the sand from beneath my heels, undermining the firm footing. I had to reset my stance each time.

    But of course, imagine how it would be if I was standing on a rock. No erosion is possible. The waves would still come but would have no power to knock me down or undermine me.

    That’s God.

    Yes, Satan is real. The powers of darkness are willful. They hate the Redeemed to the very core of our being, because to hate us is to hate Christ. But darkness is nothing as we learn to turn on the lights. The devil is going to do everything he can to turn off the lights; he will assail us with thoughts, false hopes, wrong expectations, anxieties, etc. That’s his job; that is his purpose in God’s economy. That’s what I mean when I said that the game of the dark side is to hide the light switch. He doesn’t want God’s people operating in their real identity, living Christ as their Source of love, forgiveness, etc.

    But our job is to put on the full armor of God, which is really recognition of what we’ve been given in Christ, and then, having done all that recognizing, to stand. We take that stance against the wave, and know we are standing on Rock.

    It is good to recognize the wiles of the devil, but it is not good to think he has any real power over us. His only real power is deception, which is countered by actively faith-ing in Christ as present, indwelling us, available, and operative.

  20. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Kala: On the Good News and the Kingdom of God –

    These things are all interrelated. Our new identity, throwing the switch of faith – these things are all part of the Kingdom, and are possible only because the Kingdom of God is at hand, present, here, now. The good news is that we are in the Kingdom of God. Through Christ God has brought us into the kingdom of light. We have a new identity as sons. We are dead to sin. We are no longer under the Law (attempting to be good by our own human effort).

    There is a usurper present but God is way ahead of him; God uses Satan’s schemes as a means to further His own love-purposes. The Kingdom of God is at hand. The usurper is disarmed, a toothless lion who has no power against the sons of God. All he has left, like Saruman, is deception. What he wants to do is turn the light switch off. But what is darkness to the light? The light is a Reality – darkness is only the absence of light. The light is a Thing; the darkness just the absence of the Thing. So if we are to compare God’s power to Satan’s power, there is no comparison. Christ has put all things under His feet, though we do not yet see it.

    This world is our schooling to learn our real identity and to operate from it. If Christ lives in me, there is no power of darkness that can stand against that true Power unless I forget to stand on the Rock as the waves come. Even then, the ensuing chaos is temporary; I get back up and stand. In Christ we are filled full of the Godhead. When we recognize that as Fact, and trust God to be God in us, through us, as us, the devil can’t stand against us.

  21. Kala

    Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my comments. I totally agree! Thanks for clarifying these points. 🙂

  22. JoeB

    It is unfortunate so many Christians miss exactly how practical the gospel is in so many applications of day to day life. This question “Who am I?” needs to be asked and answered in my life, several times each day.

    I didn’t actually understand this until I was unemployed for the second time, and a new job wasn’t even imaginable. “Who am I? I am a person Jesus promised would never leave me and is able to care for all of my needs.” If I truly believe that, it is cause for joy – in my unemployment and imminent financial doom for any external onlooker. Worry and fear calls God a liar, or worse, incompetent to deliver on his promise.

    Who am I, when I feel a need to click on an inappropriate link… Who am I, when I wish I had more money or things… Who am I, when I believe the world economies are about to collapse. The good news is incredibly practical (and powerful!) but only when I let it shape my very thoughts and reactions.

  23. Africa S

    Mr. Block, I am experiencing some confusion with some of the concepts that you present. Having expirienced some situations in my life, where I would pray for “strength” or “patience” only to be faced with a situation that requires a lot of strength and patience, I always focused on the battle, saying that God didn’t love me, or even exist because He didn’t answer my prayer, as opposed to focusing on the victory of making it through whatever tough situation I was put in and therefore realizing what strength or patience I already possessed. Until my conversion I never credited the possession of said “skills” to the Holy Spirit and God working in my life. It made the idea of God causing this pain seem more feasible.

    However, it is still a bit hard to understand the idea that God intentionally gives us pain and suffering to be used as a means of pulling us closer to Him, to help us see what we already have that has been bestowed upon us through His Spirit living within us. You see what I mean? A loving Father that deliberately causes His children pain to draw them in…what is that? Tough Love? ( At least this is my understanding of the concept that I have attained from my readings of your blogs and posts).

    What I am seeing is one view that God uses the devil’s works, or attempts to bring us down or away from God, and basically reverses the situation to bring us closer to Him.
    Which would be different than God actually using the Devil (as you have said) as an “errand boy” and is the orchestrating hand that causes the pain and suffering to bring us closer to Him.

    From my readings my understanding is that God does not cause the pain, but uses that which the devil has done for the betterment of His children.

    It is all very confusing to me and without opening the “Why do we suffer” can of worms, could you perhaps explain slightly more the perception that you are presenting?

    Thank You!

  24. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Africa, a couple of things to think about:

    In Acts 2:23, Peter speaks to the Jews of the Messiah: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain…”

    God delivered Christ according to his predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of what would happen. God knew Jesus was going to be crucified, and yet handed him over to Jews and Romans (who were being led, really, by Satan). God not only allowed this suffering of his only begotten Son; he meant it, purposed it, planned it. Why would he do that?

    Well, in the case of Jesus, we have the sum worked out. Jesus “for the joy set before him” (you and I, redeemed) “endured the Cross, despising the shame.” Jesus knew what was coming. He knew through faith that God is good, and that God works all things according to his own will. Jesus knew beyond doubt that whatever happened to him, God would work it out for maximum benefit to others, even though Jesus himself had to go through the intense agony and suffering.

    Now, if I think of my own children, I put them through suffering too. Suffering really means whatever we find unpleasant, or painful. My children are regularly put through suffering. They are told to do things when they don’t want to do them, like “time for bed” when they just started doing something else, or “Wait for supper” when they’re hungry, or “Wash the car.” They occasionally have things taken away, like computer time. I intentionally inflict suffering on them. But this suffering is not inflicted for no reason, or to please my cruel heart. I do it for a purpose, a good one. I want them to know that actions have consequences, and also that life is not merely about their wants and wishes all the time. They must learn to take others into account, to live in community, and sometimes suffer for others, to endure unpleasant or even painful things on behalf of others.

    They can’t learn this if every day is filled with continually doing what they like. If I allow that, I will be giving an unreal picture of life here in the world, and an unreal picture of God.

    So to sum up, while God does not inflict evil happenings on us, he does allow or permit them, and even means them to be what they are, in order that we can “comfort others with the comfort we have received from God.” How can I help anyone if I have never suffered, if my life is always one of comfort and ease?

    In an overarching way, God is the orchestrator of Good. He has purposed, for whatever reasons, to use evil beings and evil people as pawns in this chess game he is going to win. George MacDonald said, “What we call evil is the only and best shape, which, for the person and his condition at the time, could be assumed by the greatest good.” And Joseph told his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” To say God meant is very different than saying he allowed it, or permitted it. Through the evil done to him, sold into slavery, accused of rape, thrown into prison, Joseph became the savior of his people. God formed the character of Joseph through suffering.

    God of course is not the direct cause of the evil. He installed a very limited free will in his creatures, without which we would be robots. But a free will is by its very nature opens up the possibility for evil – so in that sense, God has created evil. As Isaiah 45 says, “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” Some versions substitute “calamity” for evil, but the word is the same as the word for “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God doesn’t perform evil, but by creating a limited amount of free will, he created the potential for his creatures to choose evil. But he’s purposed to use even the evil choices to “work all things after the counsel of his own will” and to “work all things for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose.”

    God is looking to grow us up, in an eternal way, to get us to see his sovereignty, his power, his love, no matter what the circumstance. He wants us to trust the life of the Godhead within us, to consider myself whole, complete in Christ, full of divine power and energy to be and do everything we are meant to be and do. He accomplishes this education by allowing hard places.

    Luther said “The devil is God’s devil.” He is under the sovereignty of God, though he does not seem to believe it. The devil wants to turn everything to ashes; God takes everything the devil touches and spins it into eternal Kingdom gold.

    A great devotional: Streams in the Desert, by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman.

  25. Africa S

    Thank you Mr. Block for replying to my question and in such a detailed and easy to understand way. While in bible study the other day I raised the point that God allowed us to expirence pain and/or suffering, but never gives us a load that is too heavy to carry and uses that which the devil has done for the good and betterment of the people who serve Him. I was met by ferousious opposition to the statement and I wanted to make sure I had it right. I did study the Word some, but considering how I was originally introduced to the concept by you, the further explaination and clarification certainly did help. God forbid that in my ministering to others I communicate the wrong thing other than His full truth to them.

    Do you have any advice that I could pass on to a person who seems to use the “life is too hard and tempting to be a “good” Christian” reason for not being able to live a Christ-lead existance. What I tried to convey to them was that with the entrance of the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives, we become equiped with all that we need to live a Chrisitan life. That even in the toughest situations of tempation, if we call on His spirit to shine through and be our strength or patience or whatever we need as we profess our weakness and praise Him for the Love and patience he has gifted to us, we can be able to resist the tempation to engage in whatever activity we are being tempted with, whether it be anger and the urge to explode on someone or something else.

    Aside from further prayer for this person, and for God to use me in whatever way nessesary to help bring this person closer to Him. I am wondering if there is anything else I could say or do, if you have anything in mind it would also be very much appreciated.

    Thanks again.

    P.S. I just purchased tickets to AKUS’s Detroit show. It took half of my first ever paycheck, but I know it will be well worth it.

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