Today we look at how God has no contradictions in His nature. We ask:
- How do we reconcile texts where God seems good, then in another text He seems raging, vengeful or punishing?
- Did Jesus ever demonstrate rage, vengefulness and punishment to the crowds he healed and delivered? Shouldn't there be at least one example of Jesus telling a person they were sick/suffering because of God's will?
- How do we interpret stories of God's seeming abandonment, like Job, Paul's thorn in the flesh, Timothy's stomach ills, etc.?
- How does God's goodness create for us an instinct for intimacy and secure attachment to Him?
SESSION 5 - GROUP VIDEO
Watch 10-20 minutes of a GROUP video teaching, that correlates with the full Workshop semester topics.
GROUP CONVERSATION GUIDE
Redemption reveals the clear “will” of God, His predisposition, and His passion to us, in every situation of life.
God is GOOD...
ALL the time!
Questions to Answer:
- Who is God?
- Who are you?
- Who are the people around you?
- How do you fit in the social construct?
- How do you interpret life?
How you interpret the above questions will have a lot to do with the quality of life you are going to have.
What most people do
is interpret life
through their experiences.
EXPERIENCES SKEW OUR PERCEPTION OF GOD
When our EXPERIENCE of unanswered prayer dictates our interpretation of God, we will create a false belief such as:
- God abandoned me (distance, ambivalence, rejection, betrayal).
- God has a transcendent plan, that while violating a working definition of “His goodness,” however in the end is mysteriously a better path for me.
These two ways of interpreting God’s relationship to me, His commitment and security in my life, unfortunately elevate my experiences (which are either emotional or physical) to my highest revelation of God. It elevates experiences as my greatest authority, the governance of my life. It assumes that God’s perfection is equal to the perfection of my experiences. That then assumes that if my experiences are imperfect then my view of God becomes imperfect. If my experiences are flawed, or my human ability to interpret those experiences are flawed, then God’s will in my life is equally flawed. There is NO WAY to establish a secure attachment to God with these flawed possibilities.
REDEMPTION: A SECURE INTERPRETATION
Redemption takes the God’s will out of subjective-experiential-interpretations and puts God's will into an objective-unchanging-interpretation. My experience and my human flaws have no ability to even adjust Redemption. Redemption is the only way to gain a secure attachment to God.
God’s passion to send His son, Jesus Christ, to earth and the cross, is equal to His will to Redeem ALL mankind. God’s will, revealed in Redemption, is never passive, but wholly passionate.
- God is wholly passionate about the forgiveness of your sin!
- God is wholly passionate about the healing of your body!
- God is wholly passionate about the provision of your need!
- God is wholly passionate about the protection of your person, family and assets!
- God is wholly passionate about His favor on your life!
- God is wholly passionate about His wisdom, understanding and counsel being integrated into your life!
These issues in God’s will are core and central to His heart; not ancillary, marginal or passive. God is as passionate for these things in every person’s life as He is to forgive and save.
SIN AND DEATH
In Scripture, where you see sin, open sin, or unatoned/unredeemed sin, you see the presence of separation and death. There are three kinds of death listed in Scripture:
- Spiritual Death – The separation of the spirit from God, who is Life
- Physical Death – The separation of the spirit of man (the real you) from the body
- Eternal Death – The eternal separation from God
Since the “wages of sin is death” - which means a person encounters a separation from God (the first death), which accentuates the reality of physical death (the second death), and finally will end in eternal death (the third death) – then anything that a person encounters leading towards any of these “deaths” is also a by-product of the original sin of Adam. In sequence then, the original sin of Adam is the source of all sickness, disease, oppression, lack, poverty, victimization, isolation and ignorance. These are as much the enemy of God as sin itself is. God hates them in our lives with the same passion He hates sin, because Adam’s sin catalyzed them into the human experience.
THE TWO MOST COMMON ILLUSTRATIONS
There are two primary illustrations God uses over and over to show the system of sin, human suffering and finally death. God chose to illustrate the system of sin with these two predominate experiences: physical SICKNESS and material POVERTY. This isn’t because these two suffering experiences are more important than others, but because these two can be understood by all generations, whether educated or uneducated, whether from the developed world or underdeveloped.
Spiritual health, emotional health and relational health are much more complex to dissect, or to deeply show the impact of the system. Perhaps this is the reason God chose to emphasize physical sickness and the antithesis of healing, as well as material poverty and the antithesis of provision and prosperity. To deny these are commonly used in Scripture to illustrate the system of sin's impact is not only a show of incompetence and illiteracy of Scripture, but also it is also irresponsible.
THE CAUSE OF SICKNESS AND POVERTY
So throughout Scripture God shows sin, open sin, unatoned/unredeemed sin as the cause of physical sickness and material poverty. God also restores humanity by the alternate function of forgiveness of sin, physical healing and material prosperity. However, the system continues to show the synonymous nature of this forgiveness providing emotional health, relational health, wisdom, understanding, favor and ultimately, anything that is capable of being defined as a “blessing.” In parallel, God HATES sin, physical sickness, material poverty, emotional dysfunction, relational disconnection, ignorance, folly, isolation and separation. God is passionate about forgiveness of sin, physical healing, material prosperity, emotional health, wisdom, understanding, favor and all things “blessing.” And, this isn’t a mood inside of God’s emotional expression; this is the very nature of God expressed to humankind.
The will of God is revealed in Redemption! Redemption is the greatest light and revelation of God we have. Redemption is the ONLY way to discover the final, authoritative and passionate will of God for you.
DISENTANGLING CONFLICTS IN SCRIPTURE
Redemption requires that we discover the nature of God, the character of God, who God really is. Once we establish what we believe about the nature and character of God we will begin to see conflicts; conflicts in various text describing human suffering of Biblical characters and God’s relationship to their suffering. We also see conflicts in our own experiences of suffering, as we process God’s relationship to both us an the suffering. This is where, for many Christians, God becomes Jekyll and Hyde; in one moment He is expressing one part of His nature (goodness) and in then in the next moment He is expressing the exact opposite (distance, ambivalence, raging vengeance). This conflict is problematic to our attachment to God. Many Christians, rather than differentiate, try to make these opposites co-exist inside God’s nature.
WHO IS GOD?
Who is God? What is His character?
- GOD IS SELF-EXISTENT - The name “Jehovah” is a Hebrew word that describes God as being self-existent. Jehovah means, “I am that I am.” God is non-contingent. He doesn’t require any support or influence outside of Himself. All of God’s contentment, existence and choice is derived from within Himself.
- GOD IS SOVEREIGN - God can do whatever He chooses without having to give an account of His actions to anyone. God is ultimate. He is the Head above all beings and things. He is above all. God’s sovereignty does not mean God has latitude to be random, unmeasured or unpredictable. God has revealed Himself as systematic, measured and predictable. This is His nature.
- GOD IS OMNISCIENT - God knows everything. He has perfect knowledge of all things past, present and in the future. Nothing is hidden from God. God’s knowledge encompasses every dimension, both in spiritual and physical spaces. God’s knowledge includes complete accuracy of demons and angels, plans and strategies. His knowledge includes the complexity of people's motives, desires and a lifetime of trauma-based hyper-reactions. God’s knowledge of the future is perfect, including events, motives and causes.
HOW GOD'S NATURE SECURES GOD'S WILL
God, having a full knowledge of all things (His omniscience), chose (His sovereignty) to execute Redemption. God’s sovereign will is revealed in Redemption. Many people interpret the Sovereignty of God through their human suffering experiences; if good happens, or if bad happens, it all was a play of God’s sovereign nature. This puts God’s nature in conflict with His Redemptive work. It also assumes that God’s sovereignty only expresses in the moment, diminishing His omniscience. It also assumes that God’s will is always perfectly performed. We know that later isn’t true by virtue of each of our own lives being lived outside of God’s will; many of us have noted season's of hardened hearts, we fail to connect with believers in community, we turns away from demonstrating generosity, we ignore injustice and so much more. If God’s will was always perfectly accomplished we would not be seeing such disparity in our own lives. God’s sovereignty does not make Him contingent (issue of self-existence), nor does it reduce Him to limited knowledge of the moment (omniscience).
cannot be in conflict
with any other part of who He is.
Redemption, or the truth of the New Testament work of Christ, is the greatest revelation of God’s will we have. It is secure. It is constant. It is unmovable. God gave His best to establish our attachment to Him. Questions concerning God’s commitment to our relationship, insecurely attaching us to Him, is a manmade and religious concoction that undermines the power of Christ's Redemption.
Redemption IS the sovereign will of God!
GOD'S IMMUTABILITY (HE IS UNCHANGING)
Because God’s nature is self-existent and omniscient, He is never going to change. We call this “God's immutability.” He is unchangeable. Because He is self-existent, and because He already knows about any future circumstance in perfect knowledge, He will never have a need to change. God’s sovereignty then is His unchanging choice. Redemption settles, cements and solidifies His general will for all people for all eternity. NOTHING can change it!
God’s Redemptive will is incapable of being adjusted. To assume God’s will can be adjusted, through prayer, difficult circumstances or even human rebellion is to assume God is either "not self-existent," "not omniscient" or "not sovereign." His immutability reaffirms His self-existence, omniscience and sovereignty.
MALACHI 3:6 NKJV For I am the LORD, I DO NOT CHANGE;
JAMES 1:17 NKJV Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is NO VARIATION OR SHADOW OF TURNING.
GOD IS GOOD!
God is good all the time and every time! God doesn’t just “act” good; He is good in His nature. A foundational attribute of God is He does good because He is good! The goodness of God seems to be the sum total of all the attributes in God’s nature. We cannot separate what is good from God. In other words, you cannot have goodness without God, just as you cannot have God without goodness.
When you have attachment to GOD
you have attachment to GOODNESS.
Here are some Scriptures of God’s good nature:
MATTHEW 19:17 NKJV So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me GOOD? NO ONE IS GOOD BUT ONE, THAT IS, GOD.
EXODUS 33:19; 34:5-7 NKJV Then He said, "I will make all MY GOODNESS pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." … 34:5 Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and ABOUNDING IN GOODNESS and truth, 7 "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…
PSALM 84:11 NKJV For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No GOOD thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.
PSALM 16:2 NKJV O my soul, you have said to the LORD, "You are my Lord, MY GOODNESS is nothing apart from You."
GOD IS NEVER DRAINED OR WEARIED
God is never drained of goodness. Stress, chaos, human rebellion nor any other circumstance can wear God out. Because His strength is non-contingent, even crazy people and actions do not drain Him. God’s goodness abounds to us because He is fundamentally good, and His strength to express it is all-powerful (omnipotent). There is never a moment of weakness in God. There is a constancy in all things that are of the nature of God.
JESUS EXPRESSES GOD'S PERFECT GOODNESS
You can always see more clearly who God is by looking at the flow of energy and information from Jesus. Jesus always brought healing, deliverance, freedom, hope, joy, peace and blessing to people. In contrast, you don’t ever see Jesus vetting the crowds, separating some into groups of rationed blessings. Jesus never expresses goodness to people by telling them they must stay sick, bound, oppressed, hopeless, depressed, broken and deprived. This is the perfect definition of goodness. If you want to know what it means for God to be good then look at what it meant for Jesus to be good. It was, and still is, good to be completely made whole and victorious; it was never an expression of goodness to leave people in their pain.
Modern day twisting of theology has presented that God will deny blessing because He wants to teach us some transcendent wisdom, or that God wants to work out our tendencies towards rebellion. This is the antithesis of what Jesus exemplified. Good always, ALWAYS, means freedom and victory!
CONTRADICTIONS OF GOD'S CHARACTER AND WHAT TO DO WITH THEM
When we encounter conflicts in our biblical narratives we have to first look through the lens of Redemption and God’s attributes (His goodness) to interpret the text. Our final interpretation can never rob God of His goodness to people. If it does, we have a flawed/false interpretation. God will not get stuck in nuances. God is passionately desiring all people to be blessed by His absolute goodness. When people, even godly people, don’t experience God’s goodness (defined with freedom and victory), the experience is never to be interpreted as a change to God’s passionate will.
THE “WHAT ABOUT” SCRIPTURES?
A GUY NAMED JOB
The book of Job is about a man that lived as a contemporary of the legendary character, Abraham. Job is the first book ever written, though chronologically the book of Genesis comes first in history. Job had no Bible, a very limited revelation of God, with a very simple covenant with God. The entire chapter covers merely 9-12 months of Job’s entire life span. While Job is estimated to have lived for a total of somewhere between 200-250 years of age, at age 50-75 he had a period of 9-12 months of extreme suffering.
Job didn’t know how to interpret these overwhelming events of suffering. His ignorance of God's nature and covenants make most of what Job said to be baseless of facts. In the last chapters of the book, Job repents for all the crazy allegations he made. This is because of his faulty assumptions and skewed interpretation of his suffering.
JOB 42:1-6 NKJV Then Job answered the LORD and said: 2 "I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. 3 You asked, 'Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, 'I will question you, and you shall answer Me.' 5 "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. 6 Therefore I abhor myself, AND REPENT in dust and ashes."
Later in the book of James (New Testament), looking back at Job's story, James shares the take-away of why the book of Job is of importance.
JAMES 5:10-11 KJV Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the PATIENCE OF JOB, and have seen THE END OF THE LORD; that THE LORD IS VERY PITIFUL, AND OF TENDER MERCY.
James clearly says it is the constancy of Job, to never turn his back on God, even though he didn’t understand the “why” of his suffering. Even Job's wife told him to curse God and die. While Job accused God of things that aren't accurate, even defaming God in his ignorance, Job never abandoned God.
The message of Job’s book is that if you stay faithful to God, even when you don’t understand why the suffering is happening, the end will be blessed of the Lord. In Job’s case, he experienced twice the blessing at the end of the suffering than he had had prior. The mercy of the Lord is again connected to God’s delivering and blessing work.
CONSIDERATIONS OF JOB
A few considerations of the book of Job are:
God didn’t “sell-out” Job to the devil. At first glance it looks very strange and confusing. The narrative appears to be something of a cosmic wager between God and the devil, one in which God is using Job and his family as pawns to win some sort of bet. Did God wager with the devil? Did God facetiously open Job’s life to the devil? Did God call Satan’s attention to the devil…kind of bait him in and said “How bad can we mess with Job before he breaks?”
JOB 1:6-12 NKJV Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." 8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 "Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 "But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" 12 And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
In Job 1:8, “Hast thou considered my servant Job?”, the indices (the center reference column describing a better rendering of the text) says, “Hast thou sat thine heart on my servant Job?” Remember, God is omniscient (all-knowing). He already knows who Satan has set his heart on. God isn’t baiting Satan with Job, He is simply acknowledging that Satan has Job in his sights and has a strategic plan to destroy him. God is acting in an intercessor’s role. Apparently, Satan’s has some legal access to Job via “the hedge being down.” While we don’t know what that cause was, we are shown that God wants to make sure the devil knows where his boundaries are.
SCRIPTURE INTERPRETATION: IS IT LITERAL, OR IS IT INSPIRED?
When interpreting Scripture, we don’t take everything literally, however we do believe the Bible is true. When Scripture says, “God is my rock, my salvation and my fortress (Ps 62:2) no one begins to believe God is an actual inanimate object, a rock. Metaphorically speaking, He is our rock.
Scripture is to be assessed in the context, and with the assumed intent of the author. It should be interpreted literally when it is obvious that the author is speaking of literal things. It should be interpreted metaphorically where it is obvious the author is speaking of metaphoric things. Figures of speech must be accounted for. Also, when interpreting Scripture, be aware that there can be an accurate transcription of character’s statements without affirming the truth of those statements. As an example, the Pharisees (Jesus’ religious opponents) called Jesus a blasphemer. It is accurately recorded for what they said, however, it is not an accurate statement, or affirmation of truth.
NO CONTRADICTIONS ALLOWED
In Scripture interpretation, there cannot be a contradiction. There is no contradiction in God. When Scripture “appears” to present a contradiction, from the books of Genesis to Revelation, there must be a solution that disentangles the contradiction.
The book of Job is one of those perceived and assumed contradictions. In an attempt to keep to a literal text, many read Job’s statements as statements of truth, when the narrative should simply be viewed as accurately recorded statements of things, at the time of Job’s suffering, he believed. We have the incredible privilege today to read things about Job, and about Redemption, that disentangle the contradictions. These contradictions cannot be disentangled by taking Job’s limited understanding of God as the baseline to interpret God’s character, or the full work of Redemption.
As an example, Job says this at the end of his first cycle of suffering, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21)." This is a common “doctrinal” accolade we hear at funerals, and at anytime someone is encountering suffering. BUT, is it a statement of truth? All you have to do is read Job chapter 1, which incidentally, Job didn’t have access to read at the time of his suffering.
Job chapter 1 clearly states it was Satan trying to destroy Job, rather than God "taking away" from him. God was actually intercepting the plan of the devil to limit the damage that free will and spiritual law “allowed” for. Job had a vulnerability, though we aren’t told what it is. Jesus, and the fulfillment of Redemption, clarifies for us God’s provision, protection and intervention. However, our choices can limit the extent of God’s effectual work; things like unbelief, unforgiveness, wrong motives, disobedience, inactive spiritual authority, etc.
FOR READING ABOUT THE OTHER "WHAT ABOUTS":
- PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH (2 CORINTHIANS 12:1-10)
- MAN BORN BLIND (JOHN 9:1-11)
- TIMOTHY’S STOMACH (1 TIMOTHY 5:23)
- EPAPHRODITUS (PHILIPPIANS 2:25-30)
GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Take a few moments to discuss your answers to these questions with the Group.
Do you have a secret ambition? Name something from a "bucket list" or "dream list" that you would like to accomplish before you die. Share why this is important to you?
MY MEMOIR STORIES
IMPORTANT: If the Group would like to continue telling one Memoir Story per week until they are completed, that might allow for a more congruent transition. Please be sensitive to the Science of Freedom content and discussion. It is important that our people are exposed to the possibilities in their potential that this content will provide. Please take no more than 20-25 minutes for the Memoir to leave time for the rest of the content below.
MEMOIR: PREPARING TO TELL MY STORY (Scope Timeline) worksheet to help you think through your story. You can download the SCOPE TIMELINE WORKSHEET at the link. There is a longer version of the worksheet, that gives an extra step to dig deeper into your story, which can be downloaded at LONG VERSION WORKSHEET (RECOMMENDED). You can also watch the WRAP UP video from last week that explains how to use the worksheet. Each person's Memoir should be 10-15 minutes long.
- Since our EXPERIENCE of unanswered prayer, and awareness of our own suffering, often dictates our interpretation of God’s connection to us, share of a time that you questioned whether God had abandoned you? How is this study of Redemption reframing your understanding?
- Describe your reactive emotions to know that God is ALWAYS good. Share how God’s goodness - His nature that hates evil like sickness, poverty, emotional oppression and victimization – attracts you towards intimacy with God. If you reflect on negative life experiences, those that include suffering, how does God's goodness lead you back to Him? If you have a life experience of being drawn back to God because of His goodness, after having framed God as the author of your pain, feel free to share it here.
- You can clearly see God’s goodness defined in Jesus’ life and ministry. Have you ever thought God might have vetted you to give a mere “incremental” favor and blessing, all while providing unlimited amounts of favor and blessing to others? Describe how looking at Jesus’ life and ministry shows that God equally wants ALL people blessed with unlimited blessings. What does this do to your sense of identity as you face issues in everyday life?
- Are you familiar with the story of Job? How does the Redemption-based interpretation of the book of Job impact your thinking and emotions?
- After watching Session 5’s Video, what is your biggest takeaway, “ah ha” moment, or challenging thought? Why?
SESSION 5 - WRAP UP
This is a 5-10 minute section for MOVING FORWARD, GOING DEEPER, use of worksheets and periodic church-wide announcements.
Receive the challenge to “move forward” by applying what was learned this week.
- PRAY FOR GROUP MEMBER - Pray for at least one person in the Group. Try to identify someone who hasn't been prayed for, or given an encouraging Scripture. Don't worry about feeling inadequate as a prayer. No one feels like they are professional prayers, at least not when they look into eyes of the Almighty God. Praying the Scriptures over people is the best way to learn how to pray effectively. Simply find a Scripture, put the person's name in the text, and pray those words out loud. Then ask the Lord to help you think of things to say to Him about them that would help their lives.
- ASK FOR A SCRIPTURE WORD - Ask God to give you a Scripture to give them to encourage, comfort and edify them. You can Google search "God's Promises" and find a plethora of appropriate texts. Look for one that seems to give you a spark of energy as you think about the person you have been praying for.
- DELIVER THE WORD TO THEM - Then send them an email, text or phone call to encourage them. This is how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. As you practice these movements you will expand your own capacity with God, all while giving people much needed hope and strength.
Encouragement to engage the FULL WORKSHOP SEMESTER experience. While this is not required, nor is the Group discussions connected to the full workshop, it is an option for everyone.
PRAYER / DISMISS GROUP
Prayer time with the Group.