"Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?"
Portions like this one are why ignorance of the Old Testament is almost a sign of superiority amongst American Evangelicals. Consider that popular song: "At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!" Charismatics, especially the Prosperity Gospel peddlars, are well-known for claiming that illnesses are "lies from Satan!" But is it biblical to expect to be "happy all the day" or free from illness, simply because one knows Jesus?
Consider another verse, Isaiah 45:7, "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things." Speaking of Himself, God certainly makes no claims of being the bringer of only sweetness and light.
Or what of the testimony of Job? In 2:10, he says, "But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips." And the text even makes explicit that it was no sin for him to say this!
God does indeed bring suffering into the lives of even the strongest Christians. the reasons are many. It may be to expose hidden sin or overblown pride (consider Paul's thorn in the flesh, (II Corinthians 12:7-10). Suffering also helps us to loosen our grasp on material things in this life and to focus on the life to come. But the issue is his sovereignty: He does, because He can. It is our place to receive His purposes in our lives. To put it simply: we must learn more and more that He is God and we are not!
The reason American evangelicals avoid passages such as these is that evangelism and worship in most churches have changed God from our sovereign king to Santa Claus, lifestyle guru, or the candyman. Do you remember the Candyman in "Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang"? He was a wicked man who enslaved children with promises of sweets from a pretty wagon. However, when the children responded to his charms, the candy wagon was suddenly revealed as a cage, as the children were carted away to enslavement. I think that provides an excellent analogy for Satan in the deceptions of American popular evangelicalism!
"[They] say to the seers, 'Do not see,' and to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions...'"
- Isaiah 30:10
The hypocritical believer continues his attachment to the Covenant of Works, believing that his own righteousness will carry him to heaven. Yet, such persons clamor for a lowering of God's standards. Picture the pole-vaulter in the Olympics, assuring everyone that he can overleap the bar at its competitive height, yet still begging to have it lowered.
I think this is part of what Paul talks about in Romans 2:15. From the rankest unbeliever to the purest hypocritical professor, a man's conscience knows that he has not lived without sin. But the fallen man seeks that righteousness which was forfeited by Adam in the Garden. Finding that he cannot live that righteousness, he seeks to have the standard lowered to his own level. And he rebels against that true believer who testifies against his unrighteousness, whether by word or just by contrasting lifestyle. We have all heard the codewords: "puritanical," "intolerant." He is inventive in exalting himself over the believer, because the truths that he hears from the believer prick his conscience and trip up his self-righteousness.
The Covenant of Grace holds forth God's way of salvation by free grace alone: "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1) How hard it is for fallen man to receive what is free, because he has deceived himself into believing that he has wealth. It is as Jesus said to the Church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:17, "You say, 'I am rich. I have everything I want. I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked."
According to astronomers, the Big Bang happened 15 billion years ago. However, the matter of the universe stretches 156 billion light years across. In order for the matter at the edge to have reached its current position, i.e., a radius of 78 billion light years, it would have had to travel at five times the speed of light. According to the accepted physical laws, as explained by Einstein, it is impossible for anything to exceed the speed of light. So, how did that happen?
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
I have a number of reviews of Reformed books on Amazon. There is a link to them in the Reformed links below.
"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43