Monday, December 22, 2008

Suffering and the Gospel- Part 2

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

Laying the foundations.

Here's a footnote before we begin exploring some of the Biblical teaching on human suffering: much of our discussion will center around the concept of sin. We will be seeing the word sin a whole lot. And that's because the Bible talks about it. We're not allowed to dodge the stuff we don't like.

Beyond the bare fact of its biblical profusion, however, there are many strong encouragements for why we should not shy away from thinking deeply and seriously about our own sin. One of those comes from Ephesians 1:6, which says that the goal of our salvation is "the praise of the glory of His grace."

God's grace is glorious. It should want to make us praise Him with joy. And His grace is glorious precisely because of the seriousness and sheer massiveness of the sin to which is responds. It's inescapable: we can only understand how glorious His grace is when we realize how serious our sin is. The more you understand the horror of your sin, the more you will be left speechless at the magnificent glory of God's grace.

In other words, if you do not think seriously and deeply about sin, you are a killjoy.

Serious thinking about sin leads to serious wonder and joy at the glorious grace of God. So don't be afraid to face up to the reality about sin. It will only help you to worship Christ in a new and deeper way.

There is one more foundation stone that needs to be laid in order to understand suffering biblically. It comes from the very first words in the Bible: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Stop and think about that for a second. This is a profound metaphysical statement.

Spiritual God created a material heavens and earth. The invisible Creator made a visible, physical world of sight and smell and sound and taste and touch. The eternal Trinity formed a temporal universe. The self-sufficient, self-sustaining One created that which was outside of Himself, that which was not Himself, and yet which depended on Him for it's moment-by-moment existence.

Why? What was His reason for doing this? That answer to that question is crucial to understanding all that will come next.

At least two passages in Scripture help us understand the eternal Creator's purpose in creating the physical heavens and earth. The first comes in the familiar words of Psalms 19:1-4: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their measuring line goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."

The second is found in Romans 1:19-20: " For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made."

God created the heavens and the earth to communicate truth about Himself. From the distant galaxies to the wonder of ten million species of life on earth to the complexities of the smallest cell, the creation shouts to us in ten billion different voices about the creativity and knowledge and wisdom and power and glory of God.

The universe is a megaphone proclaiming truth about God. That's why it was created. "From Him and through Him and to Him are all things" (Rom. 11:36). The physical, visible world is ultimately all about communicating spiritual, invisible truth. That's absolutely crucial to have in the forefront of your thinking as we move from the glory of Genesis 1 into the horror of Genesis 3.

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