My little man Easter Morning:
I want to introduce you to my friend Paul. I am so honored to share with you, the wisdom and encouragement that I have gotten from his guest post on my blog today!
"Why are there so many problems in the world?"
This last week, I decided to do a little research project. I picked a random day out of the week to clip articles from the newspaper and check out the headlines. I decided on Tuesday because Tuesday is kind of the forgotten day in the week. I thought it needed a little recognition. Anyway, here are some of the headlines from Tuesday’s edition of the Review Journal.
· Unprecedented Warning: S&P tells nation to fix deficit.
· Weak real estate market hurts revenues
· Tornados leave wide path of damage
· More hard times ahead for county
· Health care costs escalate with each specialist added
· Food prices rise as biofuels gain popularity
· L.A. Times wins Pulitzer Prize for city salary scandal
o This is what you call finding the silver lining. The bad news is—there was a city salary scandal; the good new is—there was some great reporting.
· Woman in hoax rape case indicted on murder charge
· 16 year old boy accused in slayings of two British tourists
· Syrian activists begin sit-in, calling for president’s ouster
· Military mutiny spreads as protesters burn buildings
· Nigerian leader wins presidential poll amid riots
We have financial problems, natural disasters, scandal, military upheaval, riots, murder, political unrest, higher health care costs, higher food costs, a weaker real estate market. And that’s just what I found in 5 minutes of skimming 1 newspaper on 1 day. It would be bad enough if Tuesday was an exceptionally bad day. But it’s not. That’s a typical day in our world.
I don’t know about you all, but there are days when it feels like you need a therapist on speed dial just to read the newspaper. Good people are getting hurt, greed is destroying lives, natural disasters are common occurrences. Our world is filled with problems. So I’ve got a question for you.
In a world where so much is wrong—how is God making things right? If you believe in an all knowing, all powerful, benevolent God—where is He when all of this is going on? Why doesn’t God step in and help? Where is He when a child dies of an incurable disease? Where is God when the bank forecloses on your house? Why doesn’t God swoop in and save the day?
When so many headlines are bad, our God is still sovereignly ruling over the affairs of this world and there is a bigger story that’s happening.
A Siberian Elder once said, “If you don't know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don't know the stories you may be lost in life.”
Today, I’m going to share the story of God and humanity that explains so much of what we see in the world around us. My prayer is that we understand the big story, see ourselves in that story, and join with God in making things right.
I’m going to read 3 verses out of the Gospel of Mark and then we will settle into our primary text in Mark 10:32-34. In each of these texts Jesus gives a reason He came.
· Mark 1:38, Jesus told the disciples, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what Icame for.”
· In response to a comment made by the religious crowd, Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
· Jesus told the disciples in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.”
We have 3 quotes from Jesus. All 3 quotes speak of his coming. The wording is unique because it shows forethought and purpose. He wasn’t just born—He came. He didn’t just haphazardly appear in the historical timeline; He arrived with purpose. The 3 verses give 3 reasons.
· He came to preach.
· He came to call sinners.
· And He came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
Hold that thought, and let’s look at another passage. Look with me at Mark 10:32-34.
They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, saying, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. "They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again."
At this point, Jesus is at the end of His earthly ministry. This scene happened less than a week before His crucifixion. Jesus and the disciples are on the road to Jerusalem, and He tells them what’s waiting on the other end of the road.
When they get to Jerusalem, He’s going to be delivered to the chief priests and scribes; they will condemn him to death; they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, spit on him, scourge him, and kill him. But three days later, he will rise again.
This dialogue brings up some important questions.
· How did Jesus know what was waiting for Him in Jerusalem? At this point in His ministry, He was riding a wave of popularity. People loved Him. But Jesus knows that within a week’s time, the accolades will turn to shouts of crucifixion. How did Jesus know what was waiting for Him in Jerusalem?
· If He knew what was waiting on the other side—why didn’t He avoid the city altogether?
· Why didn’t He go the other way?
· Why would anyone willingly and knowingly walk towards their own execution?
· If Jesus was God as He claimed to be—why would He ever allow His own creation to torture and kill Him?
All of these questions point back to those statements about His coming, and they all fit into the bigger story. The reason Jesus continued to walk the path is because that’s what He came to do! He came to preach the good news. He came to call sinners. He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Here’s the point! We need to know the big story to make sense of what happened in the past and what’s happening today. Otherwise, it’s like walking into a movie theater 30 minutes after the movie started. You watch scenes, you may recognize characters, the action may be great, but you don’t really know how it fits into the story.
I’m going to share the story we find ourselves in. All of history (with its ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs) is a part of this bigger story.
The story we find ourselves in has several key chapters.
Ø Chapter 1: God Creates Everything
Genesis tells us that in the beginning God already existed. There’s no attempt to explain God’s whereabouts or origin. There’s just a clear, in your face, take it or leave it proposition. In the beginning God… Before the worlds were formed, before the planets were hurled into space, before humanity breathed its first breath, the Bible teaches that God was already here. And according to the story of Genesis, God spoke everything into existence by the power of His word.
The creative verses follow the same pattern. “Then God said…and so it was.”
- Genesis 1:9 “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered in one place…and so it was.”
- Genesis 1:11 “Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation…and it was so.”
Our story begins with a God who is so powerful, so unparalleled in ability, so brimming with creative potential that He speaks His desire and His desire becomes reality.
For five days, God is creating the beauty and splendor of the universe as we know it. For five days, God is speaking and things are happening. Mountains and trees, oceans and fish, atmospheres and birds, pond scum and porcupines are appearing everywhere. But God’s not finished. On day six—He creates humanity.
Ø Chapter 2: Humanity Rebels Against God!
In the beginning, the setting was perfect. Adam and Eve were in a perfect setting, living a perfect life, and enjoying a perfect relationship with their Creator. God gave them one command.
Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That’s it! It’s not hard. It’s not overlying complicated. They could eat anything else they wanted. They could do whatever they wanted. They could go naked to work and God was cool with that. They could sleep in until the crack of noon—no problem! All they had to do was follow one rule. “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
God even told them the consequences of disobedience. He said, “In the day that you eat of it—you will surely die.”
You’ve probably heard the story. The serpent deceives Eve, she involves Adam, they both eat of the tree, and they were suddenly aware of good and evil. As their eyes were opened, Scripture says that they were aware of their nakedness and felt shame. About that time, God shows up.
But something is drastically different. They hide from God! They’re not comfortable around Him. Something has changed relationally.
They discovered that their disobedience didn’t bring physical death; it brought relational/spiritual death. Death in its basic form is separation. When we die physically, our spirit is separated from our body. When Adam and Eve sinned—they died spiritually. They were separated from the relationship with God that they once enjoyed.
At that moment, God taught them a lesson they would never forget. The penalty of sin is death!
Ø Chapter 3: Sin Affected All of Creation!
Adam and Eve’s disobedience had a ripple effect on everyone and everything.
- They were removed from the garden.
- Pain is greatly increased in childbirth.
- The ground became cursed, and the earth no longer (willingly) yielded its bounty.
- One son murders another son.
- Sickness and disease are introduced.
- Pride and arrogance define their ancestors.
- The corruption of the world is so bad that God sends a flood, wipes everyone out, and starts over with Noah and his immediate family.
- But while the world gets another start—it’s not a new start. Noah was a sinner when he went on the ark and he was a sinner when he came off.
- So it’s not long after the floodwaters subside that scandal hits Noah’s family.
- Drunkenness and sexual misconduct mar his legacy.
- His descendants chase after other gods.
- In pride and through independence, humanity tries to build a tower to heaven.
- Wars happen.
- Idolatry happens.
- Deception happens.
- Disputes happen.
All of creation is reeling under the weight of rebellion. When someone asks, “Why is our world filled with so many problems?”—the simple answer is sin. Sin not only affected humanity; sin affected all of creation.
So let’s back up for a moment and ask a crucial question. What was original sin all about? God said, “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The day you eat of it, you will surely die.” What is at the heart of this sin?
The serpent deceived Eve by telling her that God doesn’t want you to eat of the tree because your eyes will be open and you will be like God. In other words, if you obey the command, you will stay under God’s authority; if you disobey the command, you will be like God; you can become your own authority.
At the heart of the original sin is the desire to live life apart from God. It is the mentality of, “I don’t need God telling me what to do, or how to live, or how to act. It’s my life. It’s my decisions. If I mess it up—it’s my problem.” At the heart of the original sin is the desire to live life apart from God.
Adam and Eve chose that option and the world has seen the effects.
Ø Chapter 4: Humanity’s Attempt to Live Apart from God
From the Garden scene through today—we can see the results of people attempting to live apart from God. Just as the serpent deceived Eve with rebellion disguised as freedom—Satan is doing the same thing today. People think that freedom is the ability to do whatever they want; that’s not freedom. Freedom is the ability to do what’s right.
For example, the drug addict may say, “I’m free to do drugs. No one has the right to tell me what to do.” In the moment, they might think they are living in freedom. But when they try to stop—they find out, “I’m not free.” In an attempt to live in freedom, they have actually put themselves in bondage.
Doing whatever you want and thinking its freedom is not a new phenomenon. This mentality described the world just before the flood. This philosophy reigned in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. This mindset described the people in the book of Judges. It says that everyone was, “Doing what was right in their own eyes.”
In order to avoid God’s standard, people created their own standard of right and wrong. If that meant being selfish to get what we want, or lying to achieve what we want, or hurting others to obtain what we want—so be it.
As you might imagine—it’s impossible for everyone to live this way and society to function. So laws were instituted to govern behavior. Religions have been established to change behavior. Individual morality and societal standards try to curb behavior.
Here’s the crazy thing. In an attempt to live apart from God and His one rule—we had to establish thousands of other rules to keep society functioning. And here’s the sad part. It still doesn’t work! The piece we need to live as we were created is relationship with God. No matter how many rules we add—we will never find contentment and completion apart from Him.
Ø Chapter 5: God’s Pursuit of Humanity.
So where is God while all of this is going on? When Adam and Eve sinned—their sin became a barrier between them and God. It didn’t mean that God stopped loving Adam and Eve—it meant that the holiness of God required His separation from sin. We can still see God interacting with humanity, but it’s from a distance.
In the Old Testament, God established the nation of Israel as His chosen people through which He would bless the world. In order for the world to see what He was like—He revealed Himself through His interactions with the Hebrew people. He led them to freedom. He protected them. He gave them the commandments on how to live. He gave them His Word. He sent His prophets to call them back to Him. He established the priesthood, the covenants, the festivals, and the temple to help people understand what it looks like to be in relationship with God.
For 4000 years, God patiently pursued humanity. But with the birth of Christ—there was a huge transition in the relational story.
In the garden, God was with Adam and Eve. There was a closeness that defined this relationship. It was personal. When sin entered the equation—separation defined the relationship. Instead of God being with His people in a personal way—God was among His people in a corporate way. Only certain people could come near (i.e. leaders like Moses and Joshua or the high priests). They could only come at certain times. He limited how close people could get. God is best described as being among them.
However, when Christ was born, the angel told Joseph, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins…They shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us.”
Do you remember those statements Jesus gave about coming? He came to preach, to call sinners, to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. All of that is a part of this big story. Even prior to His birth—the angel told Joseph, “This is his destiny. He will save his people from their sins, and people will recognize Him as Immanuel (God with us).”
Let’s put some pieces together. We were created for relationship, but sin separated that relationship. The result was, God went from being with them to among them. Now, Jesus is born and the angel declares that He will save us from our sins. The very thing that separated the relationship (sin) is the very thing He came to fix. By living a sinless life and dying on the cross—Jesus paid the price for our sins. By rising from the dead on the 3rd day, He made life and relationship possible.
Now, let’s go back to that scene that happened 1 week before His death. Jesus is standing on the road leading to Jerusalem and he says, “The Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
Why did Jesus not turn and run so as to avoid the pain and suffering on the other side? Answer: He was doing what He came to do. All of this is a part of the story we find ourselves in.
When Jesus rose from the dead—it was the definitive moment when the world could see that God was making things right (and nothing could stop Him). A trial could not stop Him. Angry crowds did not deter Him. Immense pain would not divert Him. Death itself could not defeat Him. And the grave could not hold Him. The story that we find ourselves in is one where a God created us for relationship with Him, sin separated us from that relationship, and God has not given up on us.
You may have given up on God, but God has not given up on you. It may seem like the world is filled with problems and God is nowhere to be found; but the truth of the matter is that sin has filled our world with problems and God is waiting for us to realize we need Him. That brings us to the final chapter.
· Chapter 6: Have You Been Reconciled to God?
A lot of people get to this point and say, “That may be true, but I’m not Adam or Eve. How could their sin ruin things for me?”
Romans 5:12 tells us, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”
Adam’s sin affected everyone born after him. Here’s what I mean.
- Had your dad died before you were conceived, would you have had an opportunity at life? No!
- Had your granddad died before your dad was conceived, would you or your dad have had the opportunity at life? No!
- On a biological level—we understand that death is not only the end of one life; death also cuts off the life of those yet to be born.
This same concept is used by Scripture with spiritual life. When Adam died spiritually in the garden—every person born of the seed of man (after him) never had the opportunity at life. We were all born spiritually dead (separated from God). Who is the only individual not born of the seed of man? Jesus! The virgin birth is not just a cool aspect of Christ’s life; it is the solution to a problem generated in the Garden of Eden. It’s all a part of this bigger story.
Every person (apart from Christ) has been born spiritually separated from God. Instead of being born with a desire to obey God—our default position to do things our way. That’s why you don’t have to teach a kid to be selfish, or pitch a fit, or cry to get what they want. We enter this world set on doing things our way (which is the heart of original sin).
The offer of Christ is to restore us to the life for which we were created. Instead of doing things our way (apart from God), He wants us to turn from that life and turn to Him. If we turn from a life lived apart from God in sin and to Him, He will forgive our sin and give us relationship with God.
My question to you is simple. Has there ever been a time in your life when turned away from your way, and your rules and your sin and placed your faith in Jesus Christ? Are you sure that you have a relationship with God today? If not, I want to help you know that.
- Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Everyone has sinned. It’s not an issue of the amount of sin or the type of sin. It’s an issue of the nature of sin. We are born into sin; and our sin has separated us from a relationship with Him.
· Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Wages are what we earn for what we did. According to the Bible, we earned death because of our sins. Just as Adam and Eve in the Garden, we earned a life of being separated from God. But God loved us so much that He made another outcome possible. The passage says, “…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
John 17:3 defines eternal life. It says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you.” You and I were created for relationship and Jesus is offering to give us that relationship. How do we enter this relationship?
· Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead—you will be saved.”
Confess means we come to the place that what we believe we are now willing to declare. If you believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, died on the cross, rose again the third day, and offers eternal life to those who turn to Him—a relationship is just a moment away.
If you would like to enter relationship with Christ today, I’m going to lead in a very simple prayer. The prayer does not save you. I cannot save you. A church cannot save you. But if you place your faith in Christ that He and He alone can forgive you of your sins and give you eternal life in Him—He will save you.
I encourage you to pray this prayer in your heart to God. “God, I know that I’ve sinned. I know that my sin has separated me from you. I believe that you died on the cross for my sins and rose again the 3rdday. I ask you to forgive me of my sins and give me eternal life. Thank you for caring enough about me to pursue me. In Jesus name, Amen!”
If you meant what you just prayed, you have a relationship with God.
In a world where so much is wrong, how is God making things right? God begins in the heart of people. Sin began in the heart and sin is solved in the heart. Next week, we answer the next question, “Now, that I’m in relationship with Christ, what does God want me to do?”