Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The Power of Underestimating
"Or do you think lightly the riches
of His kindness and tolerance and patience,
not knowing that the kindness of God
leads you to repentance?"
John MacArthur in his commentary on Romans says that self-righteous people make two mistakes - they underestimate the heights of God's standards and the depths of their sin. In other words, they think too highly of themselves and too little of God.
This past lesson in Romans we were confronted with a question about God's all-powerfulness, His love and His goodness. The question was posed to one of our women at Harvest in regards to a horrific crime forced upon an 8 year old girl, how can God be all-powerful or even good if something like this happens?
Really bad things happen every day, and there are definitely bad things that are worse than others. A dishonest "I'm fine" pales in comparison to rape and murder, right? All of these bad things fall on the sin scale - it comes in all shapes and sizes. Lies, murder, gossip, envy, arrogance, untrustworthy, unloving - it's a long list (Romans 1:28-32) but we've got to own it. So, yeah, bad things happen every day - some because of us and some to us - all of it sin.
In addition to sin, there are also bad things on the "Life is Hard" scale - accidents, droughts, illnesses, starvation, down-sizing, suffering and storms - things that make life broken but are not necessarily directly connected to a sinful act. We have to accept the fact that these things are results of our sin, however. In God's perfect created world, car accidents and cancers weren't in the design. But sin has affected all of life - Romans 8:22 tells us that all creation groans in the pains of sin and longs to be restored to its original state. All life suffers under the weight of man's sin.
But when bad things happen our first question tends to be, Where was God? Ding, ding, ding! The Underestimation Machine just went off. Or when we are cornered by that old high-school-friend-turned-atheist with a really hard question, we begin to wonder, Why did God let that happen? Ding, ding, ding! Or when ISIS beheads another kidnapped reporter, we cry out, God, why? Ding, ding...ding.
Friends, God is not the author of sin…we are. He has also placed the care of this world in our hands. As image bearers of God, we have been not only given the task of stewarding the physical world and cleaning up the messes our sin has caused, but also the task of bringing the evil we brought into this world to justice. When we point our finger at God and blame Him for "bad things", we are underestimating the depths of our sin and the heights of His holiness.
Does God answer to us? The world would say yes (ding) and they have already arrested, tried and convicted Him. But when we demand answers of God, we are humanizing the Almighty (ding). We are bringing Him down to our level (ding) and demanding performance and explanation of Him (ding) which can readily be found if we turn our gaze inward. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked - this is the same heart that accuses God and denies responsibility.
Oh, friends, let us not take for granted the kindness, tolerance and patience of our holy God! When we mourn over sin, I get it - we want justice! The scriptures guarantee that justice is coming but in our haste to see it, we are neglecting to see God's kindness in salvation towards man. He is working in and through the brokenness of life to draw men to Himself. Do we forget that had justice been immediately poured out on our own sin that salvation would not have occurred? Had Adam and Eve dropped dead in the garden, all life would have ended. But God, being rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us, when we were dead in our sin made us alive Christ - let us not forget His drawing, His patience and His tolerance of our sin that brought us to repentance, let alone the price He paid for that sin.
The world underestimates God and sin - it is a powerful tool of Satan, for if the world would look realistically at both, the results would be devastating to the enemy. Let us not live self-righteous lives who judge others, as well as God - but let us humbly and graciously live in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and let us immerse ourselves in the Word of God so that we may be able to answer the questions of those who are lost, pointing them to the truth of Jesus.