The Christ Church Wednesday Bible Study Group is going through the book The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel. A Christian Atheist is someone who believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist. If you are courageous enough to admit that sometimes you act like a Christian Atheist along with us we can shed some of our hypocrisy and live a life that truly brings glory to Christ.
A Christian Atheist might sound like someone who’s got a faith problem or perhaps at least a spiritual confusion issue. But the core problem for the Christian Atheist Isn't belief; it’s intimacy. The Christian Atheist doesn’t really know God very well.
These are the notes to Session 4
God is not fair, but he is good. And unlike fairness, there is no wrong side to the goodness equation when it comes to God. When you don’t deserve it, God is good. When you've messed up and need forgiveness, God is good.
To get your copy of the book click this LINK or the image of the book at the end of my notes for the study
Who is this God?
And what do we do when He isn’t the God we’ve expected Him to be? Life doesn’t turn out as we expect. God doesn’t turn out as we expect. So we think He’s crazy. Maybe the Messiah has lost His mind. We need to set Him straight. We need to explain to Him the type of God He’s supposed to be. Sounds silly when we say it that way. But when our expectations are broken, we often look at God as if something’s wrong with Him. We lose faith because He hasn’t lived up to our expectations, He hasn’t conformed to our image of Him, He hasn’t acted according to our ideas of what’s right and good.
So what do we do when life as we experience it clashes with our expectation of what life should look like, how God should act on our behalf?
We glimpse God’s dream for us, we surrender our own dreams, and then our expectations paint a glorious picture of everything wondrous that life will be. But it isn’t.
Wait a minute! We believed. We surrendered. We know what is true. Yet life looks nothing like we thought it would. And God looks nothing like we thought He would! What then? What do we do when experience and expectation conflict?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that God explodes expectations.
He does not conform to our view, but instead He conforms us to His.
He is the God who breaks all expectations, who shatters preconceptions, who wants nothing more than to blow apart my ideas of who He is and replace them with a true vision of who He really is.
He is the God who calls us to leave our expectations at the door and come in to sit at His feet.
Excerpted from Wrestling with Wonder by Marlo Schalesky
Have you ever asked God, “Why do you let so many bad things happen?”
FAIR - free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice
DESERVING - worthy to receive something because of need, merit, or justice
SUFFERING - physical or psychological pain and distress
COMFORT - to provide consolation; relief from distress or anxiety
GOOD - having an upright and virtuous character; worthy of honor or high esteem
JUST - righteous; guided by truth, reason, and justice
Three things to remember when you don’t understand something about God:
1. We don’t deserve good things.
Here is the common logic that leads people to think God is unfair: Bad things should happen to bad people and good things should happen to good people.
I am a good person so I deserve good things. Scripture counters this logic. In fact, the Bible states it is our inherent lack of goodness that made it necessary for Jesus to die for our sins:
Romans 6:23 (NKJV)23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you think you’re good, Jesus didn’t come for you
Mark 2:13-17 (NKJV)13 Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them.14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him.15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi's house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, "How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?"17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."
We are not good in the eyes of God
Romans 3:10-12 (NKJV)10 As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."
Romans 6:23 (NKJV)23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2. Good things happen to bad people.
It’s a good thing God is not fair because then he would give us what we deserve Instead, he gives us grace. God does not treat us as our sins deserve
Psalm 103:10-12 (NKJV)10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
3. God is present in your pain.
When you hurt, your heavenly Father hurts with you and longs to comfort you
Isaiah 49:13 (NKJV)13 Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted.
God isn’t fair. He doesn’t give us what our sins deserve. He is higher. He is working in all things to bring about good.
Scripture affirms that God’s goodness is unchanging, that he is present with us when we are hurting, and that he is always working to redeem our suffering:
The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him
Nahum 1:7 (NKJV)7 The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.
But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction
Job 36:1-15 (NKJV)1 Elihu also proceeded and said:2 "Bear with me a little, and I will show you That there are yet words to speak on God's behalf.3 I will fetch my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.4 For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you.5 "Behold, God is mighty, but despises no one; He is mighty in strength of understanding.6 He does not preserve the life of the wicked, But gives justice to the oppressed.
7 He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous; But they are on the throne with kings, For He has seated them forever, And they are exalted.8 And if they are bound in fetters, Held in the cords of affliction,9 Then He tells them their work and their transgressions-- That they have acted defiantly.10 He also opens their ear to instruction, And commands that they turn from iniquity.11 If they obey and serve Him, They shall spend their days in prosperity, And their years in pleasures.12 But if they do not obey, They shall perish by the sword, And they shall die without knowledge.13 "But the hypocrites in heart store up wrath; They do not cry for help when He binds them.14 They die in youth, And their life ends among the perverted persons.15 He delivers the poor in their affliction, And opens their ears in oppression.
[God] works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will
Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV)11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
GOD IS GOOD — ALL THE TIME
Fairness is an excellent principle when we’re good, but an unfortunate principle when we're not so good. And when it comes to God, we are pretty much always going to be on the not-so-good side of the fairness equation. But we can be glad that God is not fair; we don’t get what we deserve. Instead of punishment we get death-defying grace.
And we get God with us, especially in the midst of life’s most difficult and painful experiences.
I’m usually quick to ask why something bad happens. Rarely do I stop to ask why God might bless me with something good. The truth is, good things happen to people like you and me, people who are sinful and deserve death. The Christian Atheist, page 105
The Bible is full of stories of suffering and how God miraculously snatches good from the jaws of evil. Perhaps one of the most powerful is the story of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39 – 50). After being betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt,
Joseph was just beginning to prosper when he was falsely accused of sexual assault and imprisoned. People who promised to help him forgot their promises and he remained behind bars — for years. Eventually he came to the attention of the Pharaoh, who was so impressed with Joseph’s honesty and wisdom that he put this former slave in charge of his entire country.
God didn’t prevent the years of betrayal and pain Joseph experienced, but he was actively at work in Joseph’s suffering.
Genesis 39:2-3 (NKJV)2 The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand.
Genesis 39:21 (NKJV)21 But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
Genesis 39:23 (NKJV)23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.
After Joseph was reconciled with the brothers who long ago betrayed him, they asked his forgiveness and offered themselves to be his slaves. Joseph was deeply moved and reassured his brothers:
Genesis 50:19-20 (NKJV)19 Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Joseph didn’t deny the reality of the harm he experienced, but he affirmed how God Transformed intentional evil into exponential good. Have you had an experience in which God transformed something painful or bad in your life into something good? Ifso, how does that experience impact your ability to trust that God is at work in the things you struggle with now? If not, how do you feel about the idea of looking for signs of God’s activity and goodness in the painful experience you struggle with most?
Although there are some things we may never understand this side of heaven, the Bible teaches that, like Joseph, we do experience God’s goodness here on earth, but sometimes we have to wait.
Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.14 Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Lamentations 3:25-28 (NKJV)25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear The yoke in his youth.28 Let him sit alone and keep silent, Because God has laid it on him;
According to these verses, there are times when seeing God’s goodness requires waiting. The sense of the word used for “wait” in Hebrew is not a passive waiting but a hopeful, expectant waiting.
God is not fair, but he is good. And unlike fairness, there is no wrong side to the goodness equation when it comes to God. When you don’t deserve it, God is good. When you've messed up and need forgiveness, God is good. When you’re afraid and lonely,
God is good. When you’re hurting and life makes no sense, God is still good. God is good — all the time. All the time … (wait for it) … God is good!