Monday, April 19, 2010

Paradox

As I sat in church yesterday, I could feel the Lord start turning those wheels in my mind and spirit. I was very contemplative and struck by the sermon. I was awed by God's way, as once again, in perfect form, He put things in place, placed words on my spirit, roused words from my study, words from my life, and words from the pulpit - tying them all together in perfect revelation.

Marty discussed oxymorons and paradoxes in his sermon yesterday. Besides finding this humorous as an English teacher who recently covered these concepts in class, I also found joy once again in a truth I have always believed in. It's the first thing that comes to mind when my students ask that age old question, "Ugh! Ms. McCoun, why do we have to know this?" I believe whole-heartedly that we have literature and use it as a means for discovering the use of figurative language and literary devices as a means for understanding those concepts when they are used in the Word of God. The Lord speaks to us in oxymorons, paradoxes, similes, metaphors, symbols, and images. We must analyze tone and diction, details and syntax. All of it adds such a depth and breadth to the Word of God. It's all His way of expressing to us concepts that are so far beyond our capacity for understanding. He gives us these tools! What a glorious God we have! However, it's also a very dangerous thing in that it is a place where the devil finds many advocates. As with most literature, the use of such devices leaves the work up for much "interpretation." Satan loves to distort the Word of God to a point of unrecognizability and lack of understanding ("When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart." -Matthew 13:19). Praise God for the Holy Spirit and the sword of our Savior that helps guide us in this understanding and battle against the devil's confusion.

Confusion...oxymorons and paradoxes. How interesting and beautiful that it was these devices Marty chose to utilize in his teaching. Two devices used to develop and express a relationship between two things that are seemingly contradictory. Marty revealed to us a paradox that he stated has plagued society as a burning question for decades: If God seeks to bring and be good to the world, why then does He allow evil to exist? Well, beloveds, probably the most glorious portion of the definition of a paradox that cannot be ignored is the word "seemingly" - the tiny word that makes all the difference. Paradoxes are only "seemingly" contradictory! Their beauty and effect lies in the fact that while their is little sense to be made in the initial statement - the contradiction is always reconciled in the end by everything else within the work - sometimes even by a single other line. In keeping with that definition, even the paradox Marty presented has a reconciliation - our Savior.

Why does God allow evil to exist? Let me begin by saying (at the risk of much backlash) that I am actually of the opinion that evil does not exist as something that was "created" - as something we could attribute with a God-breathed existence. I believe that much like darkness is only the absence of light and cold the absence of heat that evil is merely the absence of God. Evil is the nothingness that exists outside of the goodness of the Lord. Satan is described in scripture as the "Evil One." Refer even to my reference above from Matthew. He does evil in removing the word from the hearts of men. Look to Ezekiel at the very description of the Evil One's fall: "Through your widespread trade, you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings" (Ezekiel 28:16-17). God cast him away. Satan is evil, because Satan exists away from the Lord. Satan is the only thing that is the essence of true evil, because he is the only thing that can no longer be in the presence of God. God did not "create" evil. Evil is simply that which God is not. That is why I daily thank God for who He is. I believe wholheartedly that He created us for good, to be close to Him, to love Him, to allow Him to love us. We are all good who are reconciled to Christ, but as we seek to do good, Satan tempts our sinful natures to turn away from Him. Paul presents perfectly an explanation of this in Romans 7:

"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.


(Romans 7:14-20)

Satan is the "the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:2). Satan steals His words from us, because in the presence of His living word, evil cannot exist. Satan tempts us away from obedience, because in His commandments, evil cannot exist. Satan lies to us, because in His truth, evil cannot exist. Satan blinds us, because to see God is to see that his evil DOES NOT EXIST!

Believe me, we are blind who believe that God does not ALWAYS have our best interest in mind. Even when He has allowed us to be touched by evil, it was always under His control. For, Satan must receive permission from Him to even touch you. Many are turned off and bothered by the idea that God would allow that. Well, I say to you, as you have seen from Paul's words: evil is always right there. In the very essence of free will, there is always the possibility that we turn away and find ourselves "away" from Him, stumbling into evil. As Marty pointed out, though, Ephesians 1:11-12 tells us that we all have a purpose - we were chosen by him, "having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory." He only asks that we obey Him. Keep our eyes fixed on Him. Do not let ourselves turn toward evil. For "when we live under the authority of Him and seek to obey, the enemy may oppose us and even oppress us, but he cannot thwart the fulfillment of God's plans for our lives. Any permission he receives to oppose us will only be issued for the greater victory of God" (Moore). When our will is tied to that of our Father, we remain in Him, sheltered by the shadow of His wings, kept safe from evil. Think of it: when He gives permission, He says to the Evil one, "Bring it on! Do your Worst!" Darlings, find joy!!! For, when we remain in Him, never straying, never absent, always with Him, any evil that comes against us has to go through Him first!!

So, it may be a paradox, a confusing, nonsensical idea that God would despise evil and yet allow us to coexist with it. Ahhhhh, but Praise Him for the blessed reconciliation of that paradox: Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here is how Paul concludes his thoughts from Romans 7: "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:21-25)." He that knew no sin, became sin. In his death, Christ became separated from God because of our sins. After his burial and three days in the grave he rose from the dead and now is seated at the right hand of the father. Making intercession for us. Reconciling to us all that there is no evil in the world strong enough to separate us from the Love of God.

"For, I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

"For though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

"In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:11-14).

"For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16).

"Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Amen and be blessed, beloveds!!

2 comments:

  1. Wow - keep the commentaries coming !!
    I love this. What a brain !!

    ReplyDelete