Authors: Paul Ellis
Tags: #Chistian Grace
would stumble. He knew in advance when you would run like a coward and act like a dullard.
He even knows about all the mistakes you haven’t made yet. And knowing this he still loves
you! Isn’t he wonderful?
Under law it’s natural to think of our shortcomings and project them as disappointments
onto our heavenly Father. But grace opens our eyes to a good God who loves us with an
unfailing love and who, knowing all our faults, chooses to remember them no more (Hebrews
8:12). The next time you do something dumb, don’t listen to the lie that says you’ve
disappointed him. Instead, rest in his shadowless love and rejoice!
A reader called Michael queried the second sign (“You think we must do everything Jesus
said”). “Aren’t we supposed to obey the commands of Jesus?” asked Michael. “Isn’t that a sign
that we love him?” Indeed it is. Obedience is a fruit of trust. It’s the offspring of a loving
relationship. It is because we know and enjoy the love of Christ that we can love others, preach
the good news, heal the sick, cast out demons, and so forth.
Yet a law-minded person rarely does any of these things—when did you last hear good
news from a legalist?—because they are operating from fear instead of love. They interpret
Jesus’ words as
commands that must be obeyed!
They fear the consequences of disobedience. They worry they will lose their reward or their salvation if they don’t do what they are told. And
since they aren’t operating in faith they miss grace and curse all that they do. The only
“reward” for performance-oriented religion is anxiety and stress.
When the Galatians fell from grace, Paul asked, “Where is the sense of blessing that you
had?” (Galatians 4:15). A grace-filled life is a blessed life. A law-based life is a cursed one
(Galatians 3:10). Which do you prefer?
Jesus spoke words that the whole world needs to hear, but what you hear in his words will
reflect your heart. If you are confident of your own righteousness, you will hear condemning
law. If you are in need of grace, you will hear grace.
Read Jesus’ words as
commands that must be obeyed
, and you are setting yourself up for
failure. You cannot succeed. But come to Jesus poor in spirit, hungry and thirsty for his
righteousness, and you will be blessed (Matthew 5:3,6).
4. Is God Sovereign?
A friend of mine lost several million dollars in a bad investment. He is well into his seventies
and this was his retirement money, so this is a big blow. How did he lose it? He took some bad
financial advice from a dodgy analyst and put his money where he shouldn’t have. But my
friend doesn’t see it like that. He told me, “God is in control. I guess he didn’t want me to have
all that money.” In other words, God is to blame for his loss.
When I heard this I was too stunned to speak, but my friend was just getting warmed up.
“I’m like Job who suffered at God’s hand. At least I can say, ‘God gives and God takes away,
blessed be the name of the Lord.’”
Well, isn’t that just swell?
As I have explained elsewhere, Job was wrong about God being a thief and a killer.2 Judging
by the reaction
article stirred you’d think I was a heretic, but I was merely repeating
something that Jesus and Paul said (see John 10:10 and Romans 11:29).
Today I want to go a little further and address three lies or half-truths that may need to be
rooted out of your belief-set.
Lie #1: “God is in control of everything”
There is perhaps no more damaging lie than the belief that God is in control of everything and
that he is the reason everything happens. You hear stuff like this all time.
“I got cancer but God is sovereign. He permitted this to happen to teach me something.”
“God took my baby. I guess he needed another angel in heaven.”
“I lost my job. God took it because I was enjoying it too much.”
Statements like these are ignorant. How many people did Jesus give cancer to? How many
people did he rob or kill? Jesus did none of these things yet some think his Father does them on
a regular basis.
Jesus went around healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching good news to the poor.
If God were making people poor, sick, or dead, then the Father and the Son are a house divided.
But he isn’t and they’re not.
If God was in control of everything, then he would be responsible for all the evil in our
world—all the wars, killings, disease and destruction. But God is not the author of evil. In him
there is no shadow at all.
The Bible never says God is in control. Instead, it says “the whole world is under the control
of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Much of the world is under the influence of evil. It remains captive
2 See chapter 6, “Does God give and take away?” of
Grace Classics: Escape to Reality
Greatest Hits, Vol. 2
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to what the New Testament writers called the power of darkness. Although Satan was defeated
and disarmed at the cross, his influence persists wherever the light of the gospel does not shine.
The problem with thinking God is in control is that it makes us passive spectators in the ride
of life. We’ll just sit and take whatever life hands us saying, “
C’est la vie
. God is in control. Life will take care of it.”
Can you imagine how short the New Testament would be if Jesus and the apostles believed
The truth is that God is not in control of everything. The good news is that his sphere of
influence increases as we, his children, shine in a dark world. He has given us his authority to
resist the devil and his evil influence. We have been empowered to heal the sick, raise the dead,
drive out demons, and reveal the light of his gospel in dark places.
Lie #2: “God is sovereign”
My bankrupt friend wrote off his loss saying, “God is sovereign.” In other words, it was God’s
divine and mysterious will for him to lose all his money. He was not saying “God is king”—no
argument there. He was saying, “Everything that happens is the Lord’s will.” This is simply not
true. It was not God’s will for Adam to eat from the forbidden tree (Genesis 2:17), yet Adam ate.
God is not willing that any perish (2 Peter 3:9), yet people perish. God commands all people
everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30), yet many don’t.
You don’t have to read more than three chapters into the Bible to realize that Almighty God,
the Supreme Ruler of all, does not always get what he wants. How is this possible? This verse
The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind. (Psalm
God is Lord of the universe but we are little lords of our own little worlds. This is God’s gift to
us—the freedom to choose how we live. The cost of this gift is that we can make choices
contrary to God’s will.
The “God is sovereign” mantra is trotted out every time something bad happens but it’s just
not true. The word sovereign is not even in the Bible!
The truth is that God is
sovereign in the sense that he always gets what he wants. His
always done. Why do you think Jesus taught us to pray, “Let your will be done on
earth as it is in heaven”?
But the good news is that God will write the final chapter of human history and for those
who trust him all things will work out for good.
Lie #3: “God could’ve stopped this from happening but didn’t”
A boy takes a loaded gun to school and God doesn’t stop him. An earthquake flattens a city and
God does nothing. What kind of God is this?!
The “God could’ve stopped this but didn’t” chestnut is another way of saying, “This bad
thing is God’s fault. He
it to happen.”
Like the other two lies we’ve looked at, there’s a measure of truth behind this. Everything
that happens happens because God gave us the freedom to do what we like, even the freedom
to hate and kill each other and then blame him for what we did. Of course, we look like fools
when we do this. We look like Adam who blamed God for giving him a woman who led him
into sin (Genesis 3:12).
We are masters at playing the blame game. When something bad happens we blame our
genes, our parents, our spouses, our kids. We blame the government, the system, immigrants,
terrorists, so we might as well go the whole way and blame God. “I got sick. God allowed this
to happen. God is at fault.”
Jesus, on the other hand, never blamed anyone. He just took responsibility for other
people’s messes and fixed them.
Believe the lie that God is behind everything that happens and you’ll end up in the ash heap
of life licking your wounds and examining your navel like a perplexed Job. You’ll bend over
whenever the devil wants to kick you. Who wants to live like that?
The truth is God doesn’t always stop bad things from happening. The good news is that
sometimes you can. You can bring the weight of his purposes to bear on your circumstances by
trusting him. You can walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear knowing
that he is with you.
Which of the following Jesuses is found the Bible?
Jesus #1 sat around powerless, making excuses and doing nothing to help those who had
been made sick by God
Jesus #2 went around in the power of the Spirit doing good and healing all who were
oppressed by the devil
Hopefully you know the second Jesus is true (see Acts 10:38). Yet sometimes we who claim to
follow Christ look more like the first Jesus. We’re not walking in the power of the spirit and
we’re not healing the sick. Instead we’re making excuses like, “God is in control. It’s his fault,
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I don’t write this to condemn you but to make you angry at Satan’s lies. James said “resist
the devil and he will flee from you.” It’s that simple. We resist, he flees. But we won’t resist if
we think God is doing the devil’s work and making us sick, killing our kids, and robbing us
God is not making you sick and poor! He is not the reason you lost your money, your job,
your marriage, or your kids. These are the tragedies of a world cursed by Adam’s sin. But the
good news is that one greater than Adam has come and given you authority to proclaim the
good news of his kingship to all creation. Are you sick? Talk to your sickness about Jesus by
whose stripes you are healed (1 Peter 2:24). Are you poor? Talk to your bank account about
your rich King who became poor so that through his poverty you might become rich (2
Corinthians 8:9). Have you been robbed, discouraged, and beaten by life? Then be like David
and strengthen yourself in the Lord your mighty God (1 Samuel 30:6).
Did Jesus come to help us understand why God never lifts a finger to help? No. Jesus came
to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). In his name go and do likewise.
This article made people angry for two reasons. Some were angry because I said God isn’t
responsible for all the bad stuff that happens, and others were angry because they had been led
to believe that he is.
I shouldn’t be surprised that this article made people angry. I was angry when I wrote it. I
was angry when I heard the awful stuff coming from my friend’s mouth. Of course, I wasn’t
angry at him. I was angry at the devil who dares to keeps God’s children bound with such
awful lies. I guess that’s the right sort of anger to have—anger at those things that hurt people.
If so, then I was pleased to hear from a reader called Gigi:
This article made me angry! I am angry at Satan’s lies which sadly are still being propagated
by a number of churches. I am angry that from time to time I still catch myself believing
these lies. Jesus wants us to have life and that’s the absolute truth!
I couldn’t have said it better.
In the article I said that the word sovereign is not in the Bible. However, it does appear in
the New International Version almost 300 times since the NIV translators use “sovereign Lord”
where others have “Lord God.” However, this interpretation of sovereign, meaning “God as
supreme ruler,” differs from the modern usage which means “God is in control and therefore
responsible for all the bad stuff that happens.” As we have seen, this interpretation is unbiblical
and very bad news.
God is not responsible for all that happens to you, but he is redemptive. He takes the messes
of our lives and works them into something good. This is especially true for those who respond
to his love and call (Romans 8:28).
Incidentally, one of the worst words in the Christian vernacular must surely be the word
allowed, as in God allowed this bad thing to happen. That makes it sound like God gave tacit
permission to the thief, the rapist, and the murderer. But if God allowed thieves to steal, they
wouldn’t be thieves, would they?
5. What about Hebrews 10:26?
I get asked more questions on Hebrews 10:26 than any other verse in the Bible. Evidently, this is
a verse that troubles many people: