Most of the world has little concern for the Nazi Holocaust with its 6 million victims, or for the earlier Muslim holocaust of far more millions from France to China, or the more recent Islamic outrages of 9/11, and the ongoing slaughter in southern Sudan, which almost daily adds to the 2 million already slain there by Muslims practicing sharia imposed by Khartoum. Some, however, cannot forget the sacrifice of innocent lives and are tormented by the question, "How could a good God allow such untold suffering?" At a "Candlelight vigil...for a peaceful world" at Harvard Divinity School,
The...words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were rehearsed [and] those of Mohandas Gandhi. A song about the Rwandan massacre was recited, with the wrenching appeal to a silent God--"Where were you?"1
God was right where He's been for thousands of years: eager to bless mankind but restrained by His wisdom and integrity from rewarding unrepentant rebellion. The Creator loves mankind too much to surrender the world to proud fools. If He does not fulfill His warnings of judgment, who could believe His promises of blessing?
But is God really silent? Or is the world deaf to His voice? How is it possible to overlook Christ's loving plea from the Cross, "Father, forgive them..." (Lk 23:34)? Yet, how can we bring together that prayer with Christ's solemn declaration that "the Father...hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (Jn:5:22)? Can love, justice, and judgment coexist?
How can we reconcile the idea of Christ willingly suffering for the sins of the world with "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather...them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Mt 13:41,42)? Why would Christ, whom "the Father sent...to be the Saviour of the world" (1 Jn:4:14), send people to hell for whom, with infinite and sacrificial love, He died in payment of the penalty for their sins?
How can we fit "God is love" (1 Jn:4:8,16) into the fact that God "hath appointed a day, in...which he will judge the world in righteousness [by Jesus Christ]..." (Acts:17:31)? Judgment that will sentence perhaps billions to eternal torment doesn't seem to agree with David's grateful praise: "The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works" (Ps:145:9). How could the "tender mercies" of a God who is "good to all" consign anyone to eternal doom?
Can we really wrap in one package "For God so loved the world" (Jn:3:16) with "whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rv 20:15)? How about, "not willing that any should perish" (2 Pt 3:9) and the "great white throne" judgment (Rv 20:11,12)? Surely multitudes will perish, being taken directly from that final verdict to the Lake of Fire. Is God contradicting Himself?
If God is really "good to all" and is sincerely "not willing that any should perish," why doesn't He welcome everyone to heaven? Why must so many spend eternity in the Lake of Fire? Couldn't there be another way? Has man's choice brought a just doom upon his head? Shall we blame God--or His creatures--for eternal punishment? Where is God's love?
Unquestionably, the Bible teaches love, justice, and judgment. But must God's justice and judgment trample on His love? How can "the gift of God is eternal life" (Rom:6:23) agree with "he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (Jn:3:36)?
These are vital questions, which we must contemplate prayerfully if we are to understand and know God as He desires: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD" (Jer:9:23,24). What do lovingkindness, judgment, and eternal doom have to do with one another?
The Cross of Christ is the only answer to such questions. Does God really love us? "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom:5:8); "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him" (1 Jn:4:9). Christ said, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son..." (Jn:3:16). How great God's love for all mankind must be to give His son "into the hands of sinners" (Mt 26:45) to be rejected, falsely accused, mocked, despised, spat upon, and nailed to a cross--yet to make that cross the means of man's salvation!
Consider the awesome and incomprehensible statement, "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him [to] make his soul an offering for sin..." (Is 53:10). God the Father was pleased to punish Christ for the sins of the world, even for the sins of those who would curse God and mock and reject His Son? Yes! We must ponder such questions if we are to understand God.
No greater proof could be given of the evil that lurks in every human heart than what man did to Christ. And at the same time, the Cross is the greatest possible proof of God's love and desire to bless all mankind. No wonder Paul rejoiced, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal:6:14)! In life's trials, defeats, and losses, those in whom Christ is truly Lord can take refuge in Paul's logic: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom:8:32).
Solomon declared, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding" (Prv 4:7). We have the promise, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God...and it shall be given him" (Jas 1:5). God wants us to understand His character and will, to meditate deeply upon the means and the price of our redemption--and in the Cross "to behold the beauty of the LORD" (Ps:27:4) as we otherwise could not.
Is there anything more wonderful in the history of the universe than God's gift of His only begotten Son to the world? How can we be content with only a shallow understanding of the Cross? No wonder we lack the depth of gratitude Christ's sacrifice deserves. And how tragic that we could ever allow an entire day or even more to pass without expressing our deep heartfelt thanks to our God for mercifully and graciously saving our souls!
I think often of the words, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble...!" Yes, we were there--it was our sins he "bare...in his own body on the tree" (1 Pt 2:24). The earth shook, rocks were ripped asunder by God's hand, and angels must have trembled with rage to see such despicable creatures treating their Lord with hatred and contempt! Time and eternity were split in two. Heaven and earth would never be the same. The universe and course of history were forever drenched in the shed blood of Christ!
And today, the world could not care less about that all-defining event. How grievous it is that mankind in general never thinks of, never honors, and never acknowledges the God who gives life to all. Governments imagine they can do whatever they please. Political and religious leaders, thinking they are in charge of this world, meet in their international conclaves to make peace on earth--and God is left out of the entire process. All man wants is a religious "blessing" upon his plans, and any god will do.
Incredibly, many who claim to believe on Christ are foremost in mocking Him. He promised to send the "Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive" (Jn:14:17), to lead us "into all truth" (Jn:16:13). In flagrant contempt and unbelief, declaring that the world has another source outside God's Word of "the truth [that] shall make you free" (Jn:8:32), the evangelical church has turned aside to psychology, the "wisdom of this world," which God "hath...made foolish" (1 Cor:1:20). And those who preach this foolishness are looked up to by evangelicals worldwide as the most insightful authors and conference speakers.
Christ said, "because I live, ye shall live also" (Jn:14:19). What did He mean? This was Christ's thrilling assurance that He would live His resurrection life in those who put their trust in Him. Paul rejoiced, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me..." (Gal:2:20). He referred to "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col:1:27), declaring that "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col:3:4).
Imagine, then, the contemptuous insult and brazen slap in the face to Christ when those in whom He dwells as their very life complain that the life He desires to live in them doesn't suit them. Adding unbelief to insult, they claim that His Word is not true, that His promises don't work for them! Who can fathom the unthinkable tragedy that those purchased by His blood, to whom Christ wants to impart "life...more abundantly" (Jn:10:10), turn to Freud, Jung, Rogers, Maslow, Adler, et al. (atheistic anti-Christians to a man), for help in living the Christian life! Could there be a more hurtful rejection of our Lord by His own, whom He has redeemed with His blood?
That arch heretic, Norman Vincent Peale (who said on national TV that there are many other ways to God besides Jesus Christ) was praised by Billy Graham and other church leaders. It was Peale who brought psychology/psychiatry into the church some 70 years ago. For decades, the entire evangelical community rejected this enemy intrusion as heresy destructive of the faith before succumbing to its siren song. Today, secular psychology and psychiatry, the most atheistic of all professions, are the darlings of the evangelical church.
How could this happen? It happened through baptizing psychology by attaching the word "Christian" to it. That deceit convinced Christians of the outrageous fiction that God's Word does not provide sufficient guidance for today's living but that we need additional help from rank unbelievers and Christ haters in order to live for Christ. As Newsweek reported long ago:
Christians are realizing that being born again is no vaccine against mental and emotional illness. One result: Christian psychotherapy, a for-profit movement aimed at mining new markets by offering evangelicals a Bible-based approach to problems from anxiety and depression to sexual abuse and schizophrenia.
"We use the same teachings and principles as other psychiatrists," says psychiatrist Steven Schultz, medical director at LifeCare's Ft. Worth center. "But we do it in the context that we're Christians."2
What a damning confession; and what delusion! There is no "Christian context" for psychotherapy, which didn't exist until 1,800 years after Christ paid the penalty for our sins and the gospel began to be preached (Mk 1:1; Phil:4:15). Schultz could not have said more clearly that, for Christian psychotherapists, Paul's "Christ in you, the hope of glory" is an empty slogan without meaning for today's Christians! Besides, if everyone believed on Christ, found "peace through the blood of his cross" (Col:1:20), and obeyed His Word, the truth would make them free (Jn:8:31,32)--and psychiatrists and psychologists, "Christian" or not, would be unable to earn a living for lack of clients. That "for-profit" growth industry is jealously protected and promoted by its adherents at the eternal cost of souls!
Under the leadership of some "crept in unawares" (Jude 4), the steady decline in respect for and defense of "the faith once delivered to the saints," though foretold, is utterly staggering! Hundreds of examples could be given. The YMCA and YWCA, begun as Christian organizations, are now strongholds of yoga and godlessness and as far from the gospel of Jesus Christ as possible this side of hell. The Reformation's gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone has been betrayed and wed to Roman Catholic works and rituals by Lutherans, Calvinists, and others who practice infant baptism for salvation and boast of the "real presence" of Christ in the bread and wine of remembrance. "Protestant evangelical biblical scholars" quoted in the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible openly reject the inspiration, authorship, and prophecies of Scripture--yet are highly praised by evangelical leaders. (See TBC, Aug. 2005.)
All of America's first Universities (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, et al.) were founded by Christians as centers for spreading the gospel of Christ to the glory of God. Instead, these schools today proclaim atheism and false religions. As only one example, Harvard was founded in 1636 to train evangelical ministers. Today, its Divinity School prides itself on being open to any religion. Recently headed by a Roman Catholic priest, its current dean is a scholar of Islamic history highly regarded by Muslims. The director of its Center for the Study of World Religions, a scholar of Buddhism, has rewritten the Sunday school chorus to say, "Buddha loves me! This I know, for the Dharma tells me so." With its multi-billion dollar income and endowments and backing by Christians, Harvard and its Divinity School are bastions of liberalism, ecumenism, pro-abortionism, radical feminism, relativism, and anti-Christian rhetoric. And this is progress toward a greater truth?
Man thinks he is in charge of the universe. He believes that the God who made it is supposed to honor the serpent's promise of Godhood to Adam and Eve, step back, and let man run the show. God has been letting man do just that for 6,000 years, except for answering righteous prayer, intervening appropriately on behalf of His own, and executing judgment when absolutely necessary, as in the case of Israel, to maintain His integrity.
How can we wrap love, justice, and judgment in the same package? Jesus said, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rv 3:19). If God were not absolutely faithful in fulfilling His warnings of judgment, who could believe His promises of forgiveness and blessing? Love, justice, and judgment do go together. There is no justice without judgment and no love without justice.
It would no more be love for God not to punish evil than to fail to rescue those caught in Satan's net. But salvation can come only on the righteous basis of the penalty being fully paid--and then only for those who accept that payment by Christ on their behalf. And that saving faith in Christ can only come in the confession that He was justly punished in our place.
May the love of Christ constrain us to weep for the lost and present the gospel to all who will hear. And in accepting the life He gives, let us live no longer unto ourselves but "unto him which died for [us], and rose again" (2 Cor:5:15). TBC