Monday, February 02, 2009

Suffering and the Gospel - Part 5

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

Unless you repent...

Emerging from Genesis 3 is the reality that being alive on a cursed earth is still a lot better than any one of us deserves, and that pain and suffering are actually extensions of God's grace that summon us to repent before it's too late.

Jesus taught this clearly:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5)

Jesus tells us that extraordinary suffering does not imply extraordinary sin. Fair enough; most people today would agree with that.

And yet the conclusion we tend to reach is this: since those who suffer are no different from those who don't, their suffering is either unexplainable, or just unfair. Buried just below the surface here is the assumption that we are all basically pretty good people, who all deserve something along the lines of a comfortable, pain-free, happy existence.

But that is not the conclusion Jesus leads us to. His answer is shocking: "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Extraordinary suffering does not mean extraordinary sin- and that's because we are all extraordinary sinners, and we all deserve suffering and death. We all deserve the worst this world can give us. Jesus points to these horrible deaths, and says: you deserve that too. So repent of your sin.

When a haughty world asks the question, "How can a good God allow suffering?", do we have the courage to respond with the answer of Jesus? "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." That is not the kind of answer that sounds nice on Larry King Live, or makes the front page of a New York Times Bestseller. No, the words of truth spoken by our Lord are far more angular and hard to take than any of us expected.

You are a sinner who has done the unthinkable, rebelling against the glorious Creator of the universe. And you are asking why He allows suffering? You deserve instant, eternal punishment. The fact that you are breathing is unfathomable grace you do not deserve. Let the reality of suffering and death shake you and drive you to your knees in repentance before the King of all.

Suffering speaks of sin and our need to repent of it. Suffering tells us that God is patient- warning us and waking us and giving us time before His final judgment comes. Suffering tells us that we need a Saviour.

When you turn on the TV and see war victims or people suffering from poverty or crisis, your second thought should be, "We need to help relieve their suffering." But your first thought should be, "They need a Saviour to rescue them from their sin and the coming judgment." The God-ordained point of suffering is to shout this to us in the loudest voice possible.

Don't miss the point.

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