Return to 3rd Quarter 2018 articles.
Why do we exist? In Genesis, the Bible explains how we were created, but it does not explain why. God was and is fully capable of being happy on his own. He is complete without us. There are many scriptures where God seems to be very troubled by our actions — individually and collectively. So why go through the headache of creating humankind?
The clue is in how God has chosen to reveal himself. There are many names for God, but the one we are most familiar with is Elohim (plural) which refers to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is not a hierarchy within the Godhead. We serve one God who exists in three persons who operate in perfect unity. God could reveal himself in many ways, but he chooses a Father-Son revelation. It is fair to say that “family” is God's choice for revealing himself.
LOVE AND FAMILY
We know from the Scriptures that God is love (1 John 4:16). He does not try to love or work at loving — he IS love. In pulling these realities together, it seems that we exist because God's love propels him toward family relationships. We see even more evidence of this in Revelation 21:7 which tells us “those who are victorious will inherit all of this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” God has designed a final place for us to dwell with him — face to face, a father with his children.
He also makes known what will NOT be there. Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” The season of evil is over. We will not even need faith anymore because God will be visible and we will be able to talk to him face-to-face. We will no longer be exposed to or tempted by evil, have our faith tested, or have a need for hope (Hebrews 11:1). The ultimate plan of God will be complete, and we will be one family.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
God had an excellent plan for his children from the beginning, so what went wrong? The life we are living now does not look anything like the life described in Revelation 21 or Genesis 1-3. Genesis tells us that God created a wonderful place for the first family members, and he commanded them to be fruitful and multiply to grow God's family. Their home was a beautiful garden called Eden. God shared with them many things he wanted them to do, and one thing he did not want them to do. He told them not to eat from a specific tree called “the knowledge of good and evil.” It was literally the only thing in the entire garden that could kill them.
The family got along well until they met a neighbor. This neighbor seemed friendly enough and acted as if he had their best interest in mind. But his message seemed to contradict their Father's message. The neighbor had a message that seemed more appealing, so they followed his instructions and ate from the tree that the Father had forbidden. The effect of this decision was immediate, and it changed every aspect of their lives for the worst. As it turned out, their neighbor, the serpent, lied. So the question becomes, “Why would the Father allow the serpent to be there knowing he had the potential to ruin everything?” We know that this serpent is Satan whose very name means adversary because he is eternally against us. John 8:44 tells us that Satan has no truth and that he is the father of lies.
What we know about Satan is very limited. It is clear that angels could rebel against God and that Satan and his followers did. Ezekiel 28 and Luke 10:18 suggest that Satan was cast away from God's family. Revelation 12:9 indicates that Satan had angels who were cast away as well. Job 1 and 2 show us the war between Satan and God. Revelation 20:10 tells us that there will be an end to Satan's influence and that he will be eternally cast away from God's family.
So Satan is here for a season. He opposes God and desires to fight and even destroy God's children. When Satan rebelled, why did God not “zap” him out of existence or at least banish him from the Earth? Why give Satan the opportunity to deceive God's very first children? There has to be a reason for his existence, his proximity to Adam and Eve, and his predicted end. God was the source of the only information that Adam and Eve had, so they received one point of view. When Satan entered the picture, he offered an alternate point of view. This was the first time Adam and Eve had “choice,” an alternate view opposed to the words of their Father. When the opportunity became available, they made a choice which ruined everything. Why would God allow this to happen? Is it not counterproductive?
WHY WOULD GOD ALLOW IT?
We find part of the answer in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Love is not self-seeking, it does not control other people's choices. God's love would be tainted or incomplete if we did not have other options. Satan is an alternative choice. God said, “Do not eat from this tree or you will die (Genesis 2:17). Satan said, “You will not die” (Genesis 3:4). Satan deliberately misleads Adam and Eve with a very creative and crafty presentation. After all, he convinced two people who lived in a total paradise to feel as though they had been short-changed. You would think that Satan would not stand a chance against God who created everything and is the giver of life and all good things. That is not the case. Satan is very capable of legitimizing the choice by offering a point of view that seems attractive. How does he have so much leverage?
We find a clue to this phenomenon in Matthew 16:23 where Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Satan can appeal to desires that are already in us by pressing a pleasure button. How does Satan compete with God? By offering pleasure. God told Adam and Eve, “Do not eat from this tree or you will die.” Satan told them “Actually you will be like God.” He offered them pleasure. After all, who would not want to be like God? His selling point is that you get to be the ruler of all you want to do. Jesus followed verse 23 by saying in verse 24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The competition for your allegiance is to be your own god and do whatever makes you happy.
The idea of having a loving, caring God to turn to is very appealing. Having to adapt to living within God's family structure is the disconnect. In today's world of people who claim to be Christians, we find those who talk about God and pray to God for personal needs; but do not go to church, do not promote the gospel by serving or by financial support, and explain away sin. They excuse themselves by saying, “I am a work in progress.” There are many blessings in this life, but the Christian's ultimate reward is eternity with our Father, together as family experiencing joy without interruptions.
BEHAVIOR HAS CONSEQUENCES
From Genesis to Revelation, one truth stands out — behavior has consequences. The choices we make dictate our behavior. We know that God's love propels him towards family. His love leads him to offer choices because controlling people is not love. Although tragic consequences resulted from Adam and Eve's decision to listen to a serpent rather than respecting their Father's desires, the Father loved and cared for them anyway. It is evident that God is willing to love his children despite their poor choices. So why does behavior matter so much to him? Books have been written to answer this question, but you can find the answer in John 14:21 where Jesus said, “Whosoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Behavior is important within God's family structure. He makes it clear that he does not accept just anything as love. We cannot love God in a way that is based on making us “happy.” Self-centered relationships are always strained. It is important to remember that we are all family. Our love towards God means following his commands, but our love for others has a different dynamic. God is Father, and we are brothers and sisters. In our physical families parents are engaged differently than a brother or sister. God has commands regarding how we are to love people and following them is an expression of love toward the Father. 1 John 3:10 tells us, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God's child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”Just like we cannot love the Father any way we want, we cannot love each other any way we want. God has commands to navigate our earthly family structure as well as navigating our love for him.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Two Scriptures represent the Father's desire for behavior between brothers and sisters. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered.” Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” The phrase “against such things there is no law” means that there is no scenario to which these behaviors do not apply. If we apply them to our friendships, our family, and to church relationships, all of those relationships would be healthy. If others returned these behaviors, we would have the beautiful thing called harmony. People who behave poorly in those areas tend to repel others or experience a lot of friction in their relationships.
Churches that behave poorly in these areas tend to repel people from attending and in some cases may keep people out of heaven (Matthew 23:1-3). Healthy church relationships were intended by God to be the trademark of the church family. Jesus proclaimed this in John 13:35 by saying, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Loving one another is no easy task. People who demonstrate healthy relationships still have the challenge of interacting with those who do not. There are misunderstandings and differences of opinion as to what the church should be doing. Hundreds of dynamics are at play at any given time, so these two scriptures are more focused on interaction within relationships, whereas other scriptures may be more focused on morality. Both are important. Being a loving, caring, kind person who is addicted to a substance is still a problem. Just before “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Galatians, there is a list of acts of a sinful nature, or “acts of the flesh.” Any of those behaviors can cause trouble in family relationships and friendships, and discord that can damage God's church family. Discord is a clashing or sharp disagreement. Discord causes people to take sides. Discord can divide friendships, families, marriages, and congregations. Discord is a tool Satan uses to divide and conquer. He wants our sinful nature and desires because he knows they will destroy us. Satan makes the alternative point of view to God's Word seem attractive. James 1:14-15 tells us, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.”
Behavior is important. It can build up or destroy. It has the potential to put to death unhealthy relationships with others and build a positive relationship with God. An unhealthy church family paints a poor picture of God's goodness to the world. Good behavior brings harmony and peace, and it opens the door for others to desire to be part of God's family. The word “discord” is also a musical term meaning “lack of harmony in tones.” When our behavior falls in line with the Father's, it is almost as if WE become beautiful music.
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Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.