Why is God so Demanding?

We want a God who will accomplish our will, not His. We want a God who will deliver us from misfortune to fortune. We want a God who will let us alone. But the real God loves us too much for that.  

How many people would describe God as a “cosmic kill joy”, the purveyor of “hellfire and brimstone”, and the Angry One who is “too judgmental”? Why have Christians sometimes taught that the wrathful, vengeful God of the Old Testament is not the same God as the loving, forgiving One of the New Testament? How many of my patients, especially those from Catholic traditions, endure a guilty, joyless relationship with their Creator? Why does it seem that no one is ever good enough to please Him?

The God described in the Bible possesses non-moral attributes such as His power, His knowledge, and His eternal existence. He also possesses moral attributes such as holiness and moral perfection. Ultimately God is the Holy Other, absolutely unlike anything else in the universe (Isaiah 46:9, Jeremiah 10:6). The angels in Isaiah 6:3 proclaimed “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory.” The Hebrew word “holy” (קדוש qadowsh) describes something completely set apart from anything else, and the use of the word three times provides the greatest possible emphasis. The term also connotes absolute moral purity and freedom from defilement. There is not the slightest hint of wickedness, or even selfishness, in God.

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The Love and Immutability of God

God loves us more and differently than we can imagine. He will never change, and He will never rest until we are what He has created us to be. 

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

If there is one verse, or at least part of a verse, that is better known than Psalm 23:1 or John 3:16, it is the phrase “God is love”. In modern America, no other statement about God would meet with more agreement, and yet what does that statement mean? Further, if God loves us, can He change? Is there a possibility that He will stop loving us?

A good place to begin is to consider the meanings of the word “love” in the original Greek that John used when he wrote. “Love” (ἀγάπη agapē) in the passage mentioned above refers to good will or benevolence. The Apostle Paul describes the word with great clarity in 1 Corinthians 13, revealing that such love, in its perfect form, is unlike any other love known to man. Agape is rarely used in secular ancient Greek literature, and can be considered a love of the unlovable. Brotherly love (φιλέω phileō) refers to the natural love for friends (John 20:2), family members (Matthew 10:37), one’s reputation (Matthew 6:5), and even one’s own life (John 12:25). Eros is another common Greek word for love, is not found in the Bible, and in ancient literature commonly refers to erotic, sexual, or romantic love, as personified in Eros, the Greek god of love. Plato defined eros as “the desire for something that I do not have or the desire never to lose what I now have.” It is a love of the loveable.

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The Sovereignty of God, the Responsibility of Man, and the Suffering of Life

God is totally sovereign, responsible for everything that happens in the universe. Man has the freedom to do what he wants, and is responsible for his actions. These truths are incompatible. What are we to do? 

We have all had days that we will never forget; the day that you graduated, married your lifelong sweetheart, and heard the first cry of your child. We have all had days that we would rather forget; the day that your biopsy report shows cancer, the midnight call that announces that your loved one is dead, or the email that says your job has been terminated. Much as we might wish to have only the first, the second will come. Our usual response is to ask why.

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The Fundamental Problem of Human Existence

What are the greatest problems facing the world today? Suffering? Death? Injustice? No, the greatest problem is the wickedness in the heart of every one of us. As we each become more like God, our world improves and our eternity is secure.

Open the newspaper, turn on television news, tune in to talk shows on satellite radio, or read internet news or text feeds, and you will be overwhelmed by a flood of information, mostly negative, about what is going on in the world. It would be easy to despair at the chorus of doomsday prophets describing how the world will end in dozens of different ways.

Get out of bed, get ready for work, work as best you can at the job you have, spend the evening with family and friends, and go to sleep. Throughout the day you will experience a mix of pleasure and pain, a combination of successes and failures, and if you reflect on the day you will wonder why things turned out as they did.

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