Good Morning, Church! Happy Sabbath! Welcome visitors and those who are joining online! Thank God we got through another week and today we have another chance to listen and follow God as He speaks to our hearts. Let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, please enable us to be lead by Your Holy Spirit this morning. Soften our hearts. Make Your will plain. And give us a burning desire to follow You. Please use me today as Your instrument and may I not distract from Your message to each person here today. Bless each of us with discernment and wisdom. We pray these things in Jesus’s Name. Amen.
Many people have asked, why would a God of love allow sin and suffering? There is a lot to unpack in that question isn’t there? First off, the questions is saying that God is a God of love. Our understanding of love has a lot to do with how we interpret God and how we would answer the question about allowing sin to exist. Then there’s the question of allowing sin. That assumes He has the ability to stop it if He wanted to which begs the question why wouldn’t He want to? What is He waiting for? How we answer these questions makes a difference. If we believe that God is unable to stop sin and suffering, then we are saying that God has limited power. If we say He is able to stop sin and hasn’t, then it may sound like God is cruel. I think this question is a trap. And I think we need to be able to speak to the real issue. God and His love has been misrepresented by Satan. And those who misunderstand God and His intentions, will either run from Him or accept these misconception of God. Those who have misconceptions and claim to be on God’s side and take His name as His children are then used by Satan to spread misconceptions of God to the world in the name of God. It is the perfect deception to corrupt those who claim to be God’s people and alienate the rest of the world from God. That way, they will all be lost.
There have always been people who misrepresent God in our world, and they’re just as prominent today. We are told that it will continue as we get closer to the end. We have been warned about them in Matthew 24:24 because we are at risk of being persuaded into following them and joining with them in deceiving the world.
Jesus said, “For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.” These are people who claim to be on God’s side, even claiming to be sent from Him, but are misrepresenting God and His love.
The apostle Paul warns us in II Timothy 3:1-5:
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”
Did you catch that at the end? They have a form of godliness, but deny its power. They seem to be godly on the outside, but really their hearts are full of sinful, ungodly traits. They are not filled with God’s love. Yet, they claim to be on His side, while misrepresenting Him and his love.
Let’s take a closer look at who God really is and what godliness looks like. Because in order to spot a counterfeit, you must know what the true genuine article looks like. People who are trained to spot counterfeit money don’t have to know all the various forms of fake money to identify a counterfeit. All they need to know is what the real money looks like. And they spend all their time studying the real thing. This is how we need to be with knowing who God is. We don’t need to spend all our time studying all the various forms of deception out there. All we need to do is know God, and know Him intimately. To know Him so well, that no one can con us into believing a lie about Him. So, if the fake is having a form of godliness, but denying its power, then the true form of godliness is full of power. What is the power here? Where do we get power to be godly?
The apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:3-4, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”
It may seem obvious, but we get our power to be Godly from God. But how do we receive His power? By coming to know Him it says. And He’s the one who calls us. It’s not our idea. It’s God’s. Our desire to seek to know Him is because He puts it there. I love how it says that we are able to escape the world’s corruption, (even the deceptions of false godliness) by believing and experiencing Him through His promises. Through His promises He enable us to share in His divine nature—His godliness.
Paul confirms this in Philippians 2:13 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
How do we receive His power again? By getting to know Him. By learning about what how He thinks and feels about us. What He plans for us in the future. What He wants us to do now and why. Is He dependable, trustworthy? Can we share our needs and wants with Him and trust that His will for us is what is best? What will make us truly happy and fulfilled? He asks us to find out the answers for ourselves in His call to the last day church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:20,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
God is calling us to get to know Him. So if God is calling us to get to know Him, let’s see what His word says He is like. The simplest explanation of who God is is what the apostle John says in I John 4:16,
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”
Who is God? God is love. It’s a math equation. God equals love. If we know God we know what love is and if we know His love, then we know God. And the perfect illustration of God’s love is this:
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”
1 John 4:9-10
God’s love is true love. He loved us before we loved Him. He rescued us by sacrificing Himself while we were still His enemies it says in Romans 5:10. That’s the most intense, selfless love that you can imagine. No one on earth would ever do such a thing—to give up our lives for hateful, ungrateful, evil people out of love? No one will ever love as much as God does. So let’s put this together. Godliness is powered by God who is love which was shown by Jesus. In other words, Godliness is powered by Jesus’ love.
Paul in Ephesians 3:16-20 backs this up:
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
The love of Christ gives us the fullness of life and power to be godly. There is a description of Christ’s love, about who God is, about what it means to be godly in I Corinthians chapter 13:4-7. If God equals love, then this is also a description of God. We can interchange the word love with the word God in these verses:
“Love (God) is patient and kind. Love (God) is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It (He) does not demand its (His) own way. It (He) is not irritable, and it (He) keeps no record of being wronged. It (He) does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love (God) never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Love never demands its own way. Another version of this passage says, “it does not seek its own interests.” In other words, love is not selfish. God is not selfish. God has always looked to benefit us, to help us. He never forces us, but always gives us a choice. He hopes, but never demands. He warns, but never threatens. He loves the sinner, but He is willing to wait and never loses faith that people can be redeemed if they will just turn to Him when He calls. And He never stops calling. There is no sinner so bad that God’s power cannot redeem them if they are willing.
While love is full of mercy and grace, it also does not rejoice about injustice. In fact, Psalms 45:7 says that God loves justice and hates evil. And sin is evil. We can substitute any form of sin in place of that word evil. Sin is evil because it wrongs God and others. It is the opposite of love. “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” Romans 13:10. And Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”” God’s law is based on the principle of love—to do no wrong. He calls us to allow His love to change our hearts so that we will want to follow His law of love. And then as we choose to allow Him, He works in us to be able to follow Him completely. As we read earlier He has promised to do this. This is true godliness. And even though God is willing to wait and is patient with us, He warns there is a time when He will have to end sin, to end injustice and evil for the sake of everyone. Because those who hang on to sin are truly miserable. It is a mercy when God will end their suffering. So, in answer to the question of whether of not God will end sin and suffering, we know that He has promised that He will. But what is He waiting for? He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He is saving as many as will choose Him. His love is what is holding Him back from ending it now, but ultimately His love will be the reason that He does. But while we’re waiting, sin is wreaking havoc on our world. There is true evil making headlines every day. We see injustice everywhere. It is truly hard to watch. Then just think. If we have a hard time watching the world go to hell, imagine how God feels who loves the world infinitely more that we do. The reason God is allowing sin to show its ugly head is so that everyone will know and understand why love hates it. Why God hates it. Why we should hate it, too. In the end, after God wipes away sin from the universe, no one will ever want to sin again because they have seen how truly evil it is. This is the reason He is allowing sin to exist now so that it will never rise again.
But for love to be love, it had to give a choice. That is why God allowed Adam and Eve to sin. This question of why would a God of love allow sin and suffering is addressed by Ellen White in the book Patriarchs and Prophets Chapter 29 page 331. She says,
“To stir up rebellion in the fallen race, he (Satan) now represented God as unjust in having permitted man to transgress His law. “Why,” said the artful tempter, “when God knew what would be the result, did He permit man to be placed on trial, to sin, and bring in misery and death?” And the children of Adam, forgetful of the long-suffering mercy that had granted man another trial, regardless of the amazing, the awful sacrifice which his rebellion had cost the King of heaven, gave ear to the tempter, and murmured against the only Being who could save them from the destructive power of Satan.
There are thousands today echoing the same rebellious complaint against God. They do not see that to deprive man of the freedom of choice would be to rob him of his prerogative as an intelligent being, and make him a mere automaton. It is not God's purpose to coerce the will. Man was created a free moral agent. Like the inhabitants of all other worlds, he must be subjected to the test of obedience; but he is never brought into such a position that yielding to evil becomes a matter of necessity. No temptation or trial is permitted to come to him which he is unable to resist. God made such ample provision that man need never have been defeated in the conflict with Satan.”
It is not God’s purpose, she said, to coerce the will. And to deprive man of the freedom of choice would be to rob him of his prerogative as an intelligent being, and make him a mere automaton. Love had to give a choice to truly be love. Because to love in return is a choice. God does not want us to be robots.
It is important for us to understand this fight over God’s character. This controversy of whether or not God is love is the reason sin exists in the first place. If Eve had not listened to Satan’s lie that God was withholding something good from her (perhaps out of selfishness), then we would not have sin in our world. But people are still distrustful of God. And God is allowing us time to get to know Him while Satan is distracting us as much as possible. We have to fight against these distractions. We have to listen to God calling us. We must never take any opportunity to follow God for granted because Satan is doing his best to block us by either limiting our exposure to the truth or bombard us with misleading information so that we won’t recognize the truth. He would love for us to misunderstand God and either run from Him or end up as a disseminator of a false gospel--one that either makes God appear arbitrary and exacting or to appear malleable and wishy washy on sin. Either way we will lead people astray from God. Our best defense against being mislead and misleading others is to humbly pray with all our hearts for God to move us by His love and a desire to follow Him so that we will want to have discernment and wisdom as we search God’s word for truth. We must be willing not only to search for truth, but be willing to change. That is what God’s power of love enables us to do—to be willing. We just have to receive His love, not deny it. We have to allow Him in love to show us our deficiencies and believe that His solutions are best and will make us infinitely happier because He loves us.
Satan is hard at work now in our world using people to spread false gospels. There are movements who claim to be following God who are looking to put an end to sin now through their own efforts. They believe that we should be a Christian nation under God. And that worship of God should be enforced. That morality needs to be legislated in order to be restored. But this is against God’s purpose. Not only does He not want forced worship and morality because this is against His principle of love, but the laws that would be enforced are tainted with falsehood and vengeful intentions. They use evil for good because they believe they are preventing a greater evil. They magnify the sins of other people and minimize their own. They feel justified in their sins because they feel others sins are greater. The people they target are seen as alien and do not see or treat them as fellow children of God. They are not loving their neighbor as themselves. Instead of using the love of God to draw the people they see as ungodly, they are seeking to subvert them to the will of God by force. Yet, at the same time they are unwilling to see where they are also sinful and unwilling to change. I myself have spoken with people who believe these things and they have no tolerance for any ideas that contradict their beliefs, even if shown truth from God’s word. These movements have been hard at work from the beginning of our nation’s founding, but somehow kept at bay. Even though the first part of the First Amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, there are people who believe otherwise and would love to do away with the separation of church and state. Long ago laws were put into place in many places around the country which seek to enforce Sunday as a sacred holiday. In fact, when I was going to college at Southern Adventist University, I remember police out in front of Wal-mart every Sunday morning blocking people from entering due to a Sunday observance law. These laws haven’t yet become universal and no one has passed laws against worshiping on Saturdays yet as far as I know, but we know that near the end the mark of the beast which is forced false worship will be universal as we learned last week in Joe Sober’s sermon based on Revelation 13:16. It seems like it would be an obvious infringement of our constitutional rights for such laws of forced worship to be upheld. But there are laws being upheld now that many question their constitutionality. If enough people in the right places in government agree to push through such legislation, there will be little now to obstruct them. All they will need to do is make a Sunday law that will not be enforced by state officials, but by its citizens, modeled after other recent laws that have been upheld by the supreme court which purposefully circumvent previous courts decisions. Such laws enable citizens to take the law into their own hands. Putting an end to sin by legislation is a false gospel. Coercing people to follow God’s laws by force does not change their heart, it is only an outward show of godliness. It is without the power of God’s love. It is not love at all. It is godliness without the power. Not only that, the people seeking to enforce God’s laws on others are also unwilling to see their own sinfulness which is also godliness without the power. They are not willing to change.
There is another false gospel also being spread about God’s love. It says that God’s love saves us from the consequences of sin, but doesn’t seek to change us. God loves us just the way we are. He made us this way. There is a a subtle error here. The truth is God does love us, even while we are sinners, but His love knows that sin is evil and sin makes us miserable and causes us to hurt others. He sees that we need to change and seeks to help us to see that too so that we will choose to allow Him to help us. We cannot think that God will willingly leave us in our sin and be o.k. with it. He loves us and others we hurt too much to not want us to change and reach our full potential. Any false gospel that claims that God’s love will never seek to change us is a godliness of our own interpretation. We decide what we think is godly. We do not seek to actually know God. We make up our own version of Him to suit our own desires and lifestyle. It is godliness without the power. It is an unwillingness to change.
The thing that both of these false gospels have in common is that they distort God’s character of love. And both are born out of an unwillingness to change. To allow God’s love to empower godliness.
What the world needs is the true gospel—that godliness can only be powered by God’s love demonstrated through Jesus and that only God’s love can conquer sin. People need to know God loves them and wants something so much better for their lives. God can make them so much happier than they can imagine. That sin hurts and that God is the only One that can heal. Jesus Is the solution. And we need to share this now. Because time is running out. It’s getting harder and harder for people to be reached and we need to reach them before it’s too late, before they are completely won over and deceived by these false gospels. And if we are to reach people with the true gospel, we must not be seen as siding or even sympathizing with the false gospels. Right now it seems as though there are two sides at war in our society. One side is preaching the false gospel of godliness by force, and the other that godliness is our own interpretation. We may be tempted to take a side in the apparent war when we hear one side preaching Christian values that we think are important and the other side seems to be against those particular Christian values. There seems to be people sympathizing with one side or the other within our own denomination, even our own congregation. And it is causing strife and division. We need to be careful that we are not taking sides in the present conflict because both sides are preaching a false gospel. If we do take a side, we will be alienating the other. Not only that, but we will be participating in disseminating a false gospel and leading others astray. So we will be completely ineffective in our spread of the true gospel. This is exactly what Satan is hoping for. How will anyone know the true gospel if we (claiming to be God’s remnant) are misrepresenting it by taking a side with those preaching a false gospel? What we need to understand in addition to all this, is that in the end both sides of this war of false gospels will unite. This is how Revelation 13:16 will happen when false worship will be forced. And we will find ourselves either on the side of God and his true gospel, or on the side of Satan and a false gospel.
There are many quotes from the book The Great Controversy authored by Ellen White that shows how everyone will become united under one false gospel—that says that godliness of man’s interpretation needs to be enforced for the good of all. She says on page 572.2:
“The line of distinction between professed Christians and the ungodly is now hardly distinguishable. Church members love what the world loves and are ready to join with them, and Satan determines to unite them in one body and thus strengthen his cause by sweeping all into the ranks of spiritualism. Papists, who boast of miracles as a certain sign of the true church, will be readily deceived by this wonder-working power; and Protestants, having cast away the shield of truth, will also be deluded. Papists, Protestants, and worldlings will alike accept the form of godliness without the power, and they will see in this union a grand movement for the conversion of the world and the ushering in of the long-expected millennium.”
Then she goes on to say what they will unite to do to usher in this so called millennium on page 592.3:
“The dignitaries of church and state will unite to bribe, persuade, or compel all classes to honor the Sunday. The lack of divine authority will be supplied by oppressive enactments. Political corruption is destroying love of justice and regard for truth; and even in free America, rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance. Liberty of conscience, which has cost so great a sacrifice, will no longer be respected. In the soon-coming conflict we shall see exemplified the prophet's words: “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 12:17.”
I would like to close with this quote from the Testimonies to the Church Volume 5 page 452:
“God has revealed what is to take place in the last days, that His people may be prepared to stand against the tempest of opposition and wrath. Those who have been warned of the events before them are not to sit in calm expectation of the coming storm, comforting themselves that the Lord will shelter His faithful ones in the day of trouble. We are to be as men waiting for their Lord, not in idle expectancy, but in earnest work, with unwavering faith. It is no time now to allow our minds to be engrossed with things of minor importance. While men are sleeping, Satan is actively arranging matters so that the Lord's people may not have mercy or justice. The Sunday movement is now making its way in darkness. The leaders are concealing the true issue, and many who unite in the movement do not themselves see whither the undercurrent is tending. Its professions are mild and apparently Christian, but when it shall speak it will reveal the spirit of the dragon. It is our duty to do all in our power to avert the threatened danger. We should endeavor to disarm prejudice by placing ourselves in a proper light before the people. We should bring before them the real question at issue, thus interposing the most effectual protest against measures to restrict liberty of conscience. We should search the Scriptures and be able to give the reason for our faith. Says the prophet: “The wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”
Those who have access to God through Christ have important work before them. Now is the time to lay hold of the arm of our strength. The prayer of David should be the prayer of pastors and laymen: “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law.” Let the servants of the Lord weep between the porch and the altar, crying: “Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach.” God has always wrought for His people in their greatest extremity, when there seemed the least hope that ruin could be averted. The designs of wicked men, the enemies of the church, are subject to His power and overruling providence. He can move upon the hearts of statesmen; the wrath of the turbulent and disaffected, the haters of God, His truth, and His people can be turned aside, even as the rivers of water are turned, if He orders it thus. Prayer moves the arm of Omnipotence. He who marshals the stars in order in the heavens, whose word controls the waves of the great deep, the same infinite Creator will work in behalf of His people if they call upon Him in faith. He will restrain the forces of darkness until the warning is given to the world and all who will heed it are prepared for the conflict.”
In order to be prepared for the coming conflict, we must not get distracted by any false gospel or movement that appears to be godly but without the power of God’s love. We must not allow Satan to divide us by tempting us to side with any waring faction that appears to be fighting for God but is really seeking to enforce their own interpretation of God on others. We need to unite together under God’s true gospel. We need to be saved from sin and suffering and God is the one that saves us by His love, not by force. Let’s focus on the truth, not the counterfeit. Let’s come to really know God intimately. He needs to be in our hearts and in our actions. And when we truly love God, His love will empower us to love others. We will earnestly want them to be saved as well. Let’s not be lukewarm in our love. We need to feel the urgency for ourselves and others. Time is short. God is calling us now to go and show the world the truth about His love so they will know when they see the counterfeit and not be deceived. Let’s pray.
Dear Father in Heaven, We need You now more than ever. You have been working so long to save us. You have been waiting to end sin and suffering so that we will be saved, and so that we can share the truth about Your love before it is too late. Help us to feel the urgency. To see the signs. To know the danger. And to pray for Your power. Let us be your instruments of love to others today. Give us Your earnest desire for their good, for their salvation from sin and suffering. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.