Adventurous, fun, high energy, independent, risk taking, friends, rebellion, I know it all and exploring, would be some words that people will use when they describe adolescence. I for one enjoy hanging around with this group and love the enthusiasm they have but many do not. Often parents, churches, schools, and colleges are fed up with this age group. According to the United Nations, “’youth’ are those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years” (Youth 2019). This group is important for India as the median age in 2015 was 26.8 years that means we are a young country. Yet youths are often neglected in the community and in our churches. In this article I will be looking at how we as a community should understand, engage, and encourage youths to be who they are, to be found in the Lord, for eternity.
The Who and What of Adolescence
Dr. Collins defines adolescence as the “period of growth to maturity” (235). A time of physical, sexual, emotional, intellectual, and social change when there is a shift from being under the protection and dependence on parents to a relative independence and social productivity. A teenager’s world is changing rapidly that these immature young people are confused, not able to keep up and do not adjust efficiently. This stage can be divided into three overlapping periods: pre-, middle- and post-adolescence ranging from the age group of eleven to early twenties. This is the time when there is a significant swing towards friends, hobbies, music, sports, out of the box thinking and reasoning, interest in sexual activities, and stress. Adolescence is considered as a disruptive period of rebellion, being disturbed, irresponsible, impulsive, and “a pain in the neck.” A group that has grown up with postmodern influences, impacted with the internet and the most informationoverloaded generation. Combine all of this, and we have a mosaic of ideas, lifestyles, choices, spiritualities, possibilities and creative alternatives all seen in a “mosaic” group of young people (Collins 239). If they do not get it right during this stage of life then it becomes an ongoing struggle for them to know who they are, to understand and accept what the family, church or the society expects from them.
The Most Important Aspect of Adolescence
Considering all the facets that contribute to an adolescent, the most important one is their IDENTITY. Who they are? What defines a person? As a community we must help them establish their independent personality. This is a key aspect for a youth as this will decide who they will become. In Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial stages an adolescent goes through a stage of Identity vs. Identity confusion. To define who they are as an individual, they explore and seek to establish a healthy resolution to be both true to themselves and to others. If they can achieve this, then they will find their identity, or they will be in a confused state. Parents, teachers, church, and the community can play an active role for them to establish this.
This concept can be seen in several portions of the Bible. The best example is from the famous story of David and Goliath. When no one was willing to go against Goliath, David was and when he was presented in front of King Saul, “Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (1 Sam 17:33). David was a youth willing to face Goliath and one thing that motivated him to do that was the confidence he had in God. Couple of statements that are repeated in that same chapter, uttered by David are, “…For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam 17:26, 36) and “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand” (1 Sam 17:37, 46). These verses show how he was established and found his identity in the LORD, Jehovah. This confidence in God carried him through life and even though he fell many times he was called “a man after my [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22). King Solomon’s exhortation to youth is to, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come” (Ecc. 12:1). If you can find yourself in Christ now, then as you grow old and continue in your faith, you will find strength to carry on. Paul’s encouragement to Timothy was, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). It seems to be such a difficult task for a youth, but it is not impossible.
During this stage, questions will arise about their faith as it becomes more literal, real, and formative. Our role here is to be patient to answer them and not chase them away. We should not panic, be judgmental or ignore it–this is their testing phase. Encourage them to find answers, help them answer those question and share your own life examples. They are looking for a God who knows, accepts, and confirms their self. As they go through turmoil and decision making in life, if they can find their identity in Christ, they will be satisfied, and they will find solutions to a lot of their experiences. We as a community should find opportunities to train their formative years in this direction. Instead of expecting them to follow the laws and traditions of what we believe we should help them find who they are in Christ. We should not exert authority on them, rather we should INFLUENCE them. Influence is the willingness of your child to place himself under authority because he trusts you. Do we really have an influence on them? Are we coming alongside to mentor them and treat them as an adult? Help them find their identity in Christ.
Age of Change and Exploration
Adolescence is the age of change. Every child will go through physical changes that can be puzzling. Emotionally they want to be independent, have privacy and spend time on their own. Parents are often replaced by friends as their source of advice. They want to take risks, challenges and push their boundaries. Parts of the brain which are responsible for impulse control do not fully mature until the age of 25, which means they can make impulsive, emotional decisions without reasoning about the consequences.
Through all this uncertainty family support is needed. Though they rebel and act as though they do not need your help, they still need all the love, support, security, and acceptance. Parents should choose their battles, being wise in what to pick and avoid. Some battles to pick up are issues contrary to the scripture, incidents of disrespect and concerns of danger. Do not be very hard on their personal interests. Parents should give opportunities for children to make decisions, to fall, and consider their opinions. Indian parents often want to rule over their children even after their marriage. Allow them to be responsible about their choices and experience the consequences but also be there to pick them up and forgive them for what they have done. The Psalmist prays this, “Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions . . . (Ps. 25:7). If God is patient and forgiving, how much more should we be?
The story of the Lost son in Luke 15 shows how the father reacted to a rebellious son who sinned against God and the father. The son decided to take the money and leave probably with his friends. But the father did not give up on him but waited for his son. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Lk. 15:20). He did not stop there but had a party for his son. This is how our Heavenly Father’s heart is when a sinner comes back from his wrong ways. Instead of being compassionate and forgiving we are guilty of nagging, teasing, and provoking our children especially the teenagers (Eph. 6:4). We irritate them to the extent that they do not take us seriously resulting in poor parent-child relationship.
Age of Confusion
Here they are neither a child nor an adult. Often, we find them acting like children yet expecting to be treated as an adult. This is when having a strong relationship will impact their life. It is crucial to develop a relationship considering them as an adult and exploring ways to pursue that relationship. Wait for the right time to address an issue. Being sensitive to their feelings by taking them seriously because what is important for them might not be the same for us.
To avoid a lot of confusion parents must talk about the changes in their body. Fathers should speak to their sons and mothers to daughters. This talk must happen before they hit puberty or at least at the onset of puberty. If parents do not educate them then they will eventually get the needed information through friends or online sources. If parents share such intimate personal things, they will be comfortable to approach them later for other important matters in life.
Age of Autonomy
Adolescence want to be autonomous so allow them to be independent individuals under the Lord. Encourage them to develop nurturing and constructive friendships and relationships among their peers. They will have non-believing friends so watch how they are being influenced. Invite their friends’ home and build strong connections with them. Often the problem of teenagers is bad company and once they build a strong bond with these friends, it is very difficult to cut those relationships. It is proven that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33). Help them choose a career by understanding their potential, pointing out the pros and cons of that profession and how being there will honor or dishonor God. Do not push them to be what you could not because they will not be happy allowing for a blame game to go on forever.
To be autonomous will require them to start thinking in a Biblical perspective for all aspects of their life. Teaching them to have a heavenly goal (Col. 3:2) and doing all for the glory of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 10:31). Help them seek out for a godly group of adults who can guide them. For them to have spiritual influence, parents may have to be in a church or community where there are lot of mature mentors and peer groups. We must allow them to be involved in ministry, depending on their gifting and not according to our desires.
Entrusting Your Children to God
Lastly, we can take a lot of measure to safeguard our children, bringing them up in the fear and knowledge of Jesus Christ and doing all it takes for their best interests. Sometimes they may fall, and we would believe it was our mistake. Let us not punish ourselves instead kneel before the Lord for our children like Job. God can bring the ultimate change they need. It is like the seed that is sown and sower sleeps and “the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how” (Mk. 4:27). In the same way let us sow well and give all that is needed for the seed to grow and then sleep, allowing God to do what He should in His time. Ultimately, children belong to God and we are merely His custodians and stewards of the children that He has loaned to us.
By Godly Koshy Raju
The Bible has all the essentials for making one wise unto salvation and for life and godliness. A major part of its contents are narratives of lives of many people. Some of them were good and others were evil. These provide the readers examples to follow or warnings to avoid pitfalls. Out of all those people whose lives were exemplary, Joseph and Daniel stand out. This doesn’t mean that they were perfect. But we only mean that their lives are worth emulating. In the present issue of HT, the first among these two, Joseph, is in focus.
He Shall Add’
His mother, Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel was barren. God heard her cry and granted her desire. When she got her first born child she said, “The Lord shall add to me another son” and called his name Joseph, which means ‘he shall add’ (Gen.30.24). As far as Rachel was concerned, the birth of Joseph gave her an assurance that God took away her barrenness. It gave her the surety that she would get another child. Thus, Joseph’s birth gave her a hope of Benoni.
Looking at Joseph’s life we may say that he lived true to the meaning of his name. He added virtues and values to life. This made his life fruitful and successful in manifold ways.
Joseph’s life of hundred and ten years might be divided into three sections. The first section, about seventeen years, he grew up with his father. This was followed up with his years of wanderings and sufferings. Third period of his life was the time of glory. These remind us of the life and various stages of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pt.1.11). Yeah, ‘Joseph reminds us of Jesus’.
We may say that none suffered as Joseph suffered, as far as the Bible characters are concerned. Yet, in all the trying situations, his character stood out magnificently. Rather than giving up on his virtues and values he kept on adding to these. His life is an all time challenge for all.
If his mother’s words were prospective, his father’s words were retrospective. His father Jacob stated, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall” (Gen.49.22).
These words, Jacob told on his death bed, from his firsthand experience by living with his son Joseph. The first seventeen years of Joseph, he lived with his father Jacob in Canaan, and the last seventeen years of Jacob, he was with his son Joseph in Egypt. Thus, they lived together for about thirty four years. Added to these were the updates he received about the years of separation. Based on these, Jacob said that Joseph was a ‘fruitful bough’. This utterance of Jacob also indicates the fact that Joseph lived according to the meaning of his name. He kept the essentials for a fruitful life and bore fruit. He was like a tree ‘by a well’. In describing the blessed man psalmist says that such trees planted by the rivers of water “brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he does shall prosper” (Ps.1.3). Prophet Jeremiah also testifies to this (Jer. 17.8). For a believer the rivers of water is the Lord Himself. One should abide in Him to be fruitful (Ps.36.9; Jn.15.4,5). Branches of tree ‘running over the wall’ indicates the growth of the tree. Without growth no tree can bear fruit. Personally and spiritually Joseph kept growing. And, mind you, these he did against all odds.
‘Neither Barren Nor Unfruitful’
Following through the life of Joseph, we see this character of ‘adding’ seen throughout. He increased in his love to his father and siblings. His presence was a blessing to his master’s house. He grew in integrity even in the prison. He became the Savior to the Egyptians and other nationals during the time of famine. He added the wealth of Pharaoh. He added comfort of his brethren in their stay in Egypt. He caused their confidence in him to increase. What his mother said about Joseph at his birth and what his father said on his death bed were very true of Joseph.
Peter says, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pt.1.5-8). Peter instructs believers to ‘add’, that is, to be ‘Josephs’ – ‘he shall add’. Then we shall not be barren or unfruitful but shall be abounding in fruit bearing, for the glory of God!
By Thomson B Thomas
Father! … Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22: 7) – the classical question Isaac asked his father Abraham as they were going to offer a special sacrifice which God had asked for. I do not know how long it had taken Abraham to answer this, but being a father I can understand to a certain extent the emotional strain he was possibly going through when his only son, whom he loved asked him this question as he was being taken to be sacrificed. I believe Abraham’s intimacy with God and his acquaintance with God’s ways led him to give an apt answer, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22: 8). As Abraham believed, God provided him with an animal for the sacrifice moments before his knife landed on his beloved son’s neck.
Was the question that Isaac asked his father only his? Is it not the heart-cry of every person who seeks a substitute for himself, to pay the penalty for his sins? “Where is that lamb which can truly take away my sins?” God sent His only begotten Son to be that lamb in His own predetermined and appropriate time. The Heavenly Father (God) did not leave this question unanswered. He answered it in the New Testament when John the Baptist introduced Jesus Christ, the Messiah to the waiting Nation (Israel), in John 1: 29 -“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus Christ was that Lamb who alone could take way sins of mankind. . Christ’s uniqueness which qualified Him to be that Lamb include, His sinless birth, life, and works; His willingness to die bearing the penalty and guilt of sins of the entire mankind ever since they existed; and His certification by God as the One who pleased Him. Who else could satisfy God’s high demand of justice and propitiation?
In contrast, when God searched for righteous people on earth, He found none. He says, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” (Romans 3: 10-12) How did humans become so devoid of good in the first place? The Bible makes it clear that we did not become sinners after we did something bad, but we were born with an inherent nature of sin, which hinders us from being and doing good and enforces us to be and do evil. As for every violation, even sin deserves a penalty, which involves eternal separation from God, the holy Being, in a place of ruin -hell. However, God is also love, and it hurts Him to see His creation eternally separated from Him without any hope of returning to Him. Therefore, He came as a human (Jesus Christ) to bear the penalty of the sins of the entire mankind and become a perfect propitiatory Sacrifice.
He offered up Himself to the cross taking the place of every human, died, and was buried. Nevertheless, He being God did not end with death, He arose from the dead on the third day, as He had foretold. Now, He is alive and invites everyone to accept and own up His Sacrifice personally, and thus escape eternal damnation. He assures forgiveness of sins and eternal security in His kingdom—Heaven, to everyone who truly believes Him to be their personal Savior and Lord. He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” He makes no distinction, but presents an open invitation to all who are willing to accept His gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal security.
Now, all that a person has to do to receive this gift of forgiveness of sins and pardon from the penalty of their sins is: to admit their helplessness to deliver themselves from sin, and accept the fact that Christ bore the penalty of their sins when He died. God says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10: 9). If you accept God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, you understand that your question regarding the atonement for your sins has been answered. May God lead you also to do so.
By Tobais James
An erstwhile bitter enemy of the cross of Christ, Paul the apostle makes a bewildering statement regarding the ‘great divide’ the cross of Christ made among human beings-the one perishing to whom the preaching of the cross is foolishness and to the saved the power of God. God the Almighty pronounces a stern warning to the entire horde of the intellectuals, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise’ (1 Cor.1:19; Isa.29:14) We really praise God for giving great scientists, like Galileo, Einstein, John Isaac Newton, Thomas Alva Edison, Samuel Hahnemann, etc., who sacrificed their lives in making human life a comfortable one with their inventions and discoveries. A true scientist is the one who not only marvels at the manner the creation came into existence but also will be immensely curious to know its Creator.
A few scientists who believed in the existence of God (from Evidence of God site) A Polish astronomer Copernicus propounded the solar centric theory. Copernicus referred sometimes to God in his works and did not see his system as in conflict with the Bible.
1.Nicholas.Copernicus(1473- 1543) A Polish astronomer Copernicus propounded the solar centric theory. Copernicus referred sometimes to God in his works and did not see his system as in conflict with the Bible.
2.Johannes.Kepler(1571-1630). A brilliant mathematician and astronomer he worked on light and established the laws of planetary motion about the sun. Well before Newton was born he proposed the concept of universal gravity. He was a very sincere and pious Lutheran believer.
His solar-centered theory has invited the wrath of the then Roman Catholic church. He staunchly believed the Biblical view of the creation and said that the Bible cannot err.
Called the father of modern philosophy he made valuable contributions to mathematics and philosophy. He was devout Roman Catholic with strong passion to discover truth. His famous “I think therefore I am” is the proof that God exists. Rene Descartes and Francis Bacon had systems in which God was important and both seem very devout in their period.
A French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and theologian Pascal established the foundation for probability theory, invented a mechanical calculator and established the principles of vacuum and the pressure of air. In his most popular religious writing ‘Pascal’s Wager’ he writes about the search of God in the section Pensees (Thoughts) which he means ‘the quest for meaning in life, not least of all because God provides the hope that we can be redeemed from misery and death’ Pascal’s last words were, “May God never abandon me.”
An undisputed genius and innovation with his contributions to mathematics, mechanics and optics Newton ‘was devoutly religious’ and saw numbers as involved in understanding God’s plan for history from the Bible’ and did a considerable work on biblical numerology. He emphasized the essentiality of God to the nature and absoluteness of space. In Principia he stated, “The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
He is popular for “Boyle’s Law” for gases. It is said he took special interest in the propagation of Christian faith abroad by providing finances for the translation of the New Testament in Irish and Turkish. In his writing The Christian Virtuoso, he emphasized that the study of nature was a central religious duty.” He wrote against atheism and was devout Christian of his day.
the greatest scientists of the 19th century worked on electricity and magnetism which not only revolutionized physics but led to the invention of computers and telephone lines and web sites. He was a devout Christian member of the Sandemanians, who rejected the idea of state churches and tried to implement the New Testament pattern principles.
Best known for the equation E=mc2 , Einstein is a highly revered scientist of the twentieth century. ‘He recognized the impossibility of a non-created universe’. Denying atheism, he expressed a belief in “Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of what exists.” He once remarked to a young physicist: “I want to know how God created this world…I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.” Einstein’s famous epithet on the “uncertainty principle” was “God does not play dice” – and to him this was a real statement about a God in whom he believed. A famous saying of his was “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
The deception of the devil:
The devil is misleading the wise who deceive themselves by making them to think that they are wise enough and there is no need to know things which are incomprehensible to their minds, by that concluding the non-existence of a Supernatural Being. Instead of thanking and praising God for the wisdom He has liberally granted to them in their pursuit of scientific development, some have totally ignored and ridiculed the very existence of God because their minds eyes are blinded by the ‘god of this age'(2Cor.4:4). The three wise men from the East reached up to Jerusalem sincerely following the star, which showed them way for about two years of journey. As long as they were dependent upon the star they had no problem. The star came and stood on the house where young child Jesus was. After reaching Jerusalem the wise men seem to have used their own wisdom instead of simply following the star. They might have reasoned among themselves that a king has to be born in the royal palace. At this juncture, the star was not in their sight. Yes, when we ignore divine wisdom and guidance, God will leave us to confusion. After speaking with Herod when they came out the star appeared to them again, to show how foolish they were in seeking the child in the palace. Their unwise behavior wrought havoc and resulted in the death of young boys under the age of two years. It is wise that the wise of this world as well as the believers depend totally on the wisdom of God than trying to reason out with own worldly wisdom.
Stephen Hawking, who spent his lifetime to search the secrets of the universe and explore the marvelous stellar bodies could not accept the eternal power and (Godhead) Deity of God (Rom.1:19-20), who created all that he was dealing with. Like so many atheist scientists, Hawking’s eyes could not comprehend the glory of God while he was gazing at the heavens and the firmament (Ps.19:1). He neither could hear the silent speech and language nor line and the words of day and night (v.2). Though Hawking made invaluable contributions to the field of science his comprehension of God was dismal and his destination could most probably be awfully abysmal, as till his end he did not seem to have realized his folly and hence need to recognize the Creator of the universe and lay his head into the hands of Jesus while in his wheel chair, like what the second dying thief did on the cross. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise that they are vain(1Cor.3:19,20).
The Sovereign Choice of God:
Whereas, the world knew not God by wisdom, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe(1Cor.1:21). He has chosen the foolish, weak, base things, things which are despised and things which are not, in order to confound the wise, the mighty, and to bring to naught the things that are(vv.26-28). In His fury God is bent upon to destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent(1Cor.1:19). At the cross the worldly wisdom was blasted off and the citadel of the devil and his hosts was pounded to the ground(Col.2:15). The understanding of the world was put to nothing by the preaching of cross. In the resurrection the last weapon of Satan was completely destroyed when the risen Jesus Christ made a triumphant cry, ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?'(1Cor.15:55). God’s grace is manifested in choosing the unwise men and women like us and Christ is made our wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption (1Cor.1:30)
The wise thing to do:
Solomon, the wise who got more wisdom than all that have been before him in Jerusalem, had great experience of wisdom and knowledge, gave his heart to know wisdom, lamented at the end that it is vexation of spirit and in much wisdom is much grief(Eccl.1:16,17). True wisdom according to the Bible is, knowing the Creator and His purpose for every human being and appreciating His work of salvation on the cross of Calvary where He offered His own begotten Son, Lord Jesus Christ as propitiation for our sins. In Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Col.2:3). To become truly wise, one must become a fool and trust the gospel while wisdom is crying outside in the streets (Prov.1:20- 22). Christ gave us the knowledge about God(Jn.1:18,1Jn.5:20). Let us proclaim this wisdom.
By Phelix Edward
The Disciples of Christ have always been marked by certain peculiar attitudes to life which differ from what is commonly found in the society around. Because of these differences people called the followers of Christ ‘Christians.’ The Jewish authorities recognized it and the people of the first century understood it. But living among non-disciples and constantly interacting with them can tempt one to follow their ways. So, the Lord Jesus and the Apostles warned the disciples against following the Gentile ways. But, if we still live like the Gentiles, what should we call ourselves? Christian Gentiles!! There are three areas of life where Christian thoughts and the Gentile ways conflict: Life focus, Lifestyle and Religious life.
GENTILE’S LIFE FOCUS
The whole universe was created through Christ and for Christ [Col. 1:16]. That makes it mandatory for all creations to follow His instructions. But for a Gentile who neither understands nor acknowledges this fact, the material world is all that matters. So, he focuses his attention on the physical world. Disciples, on the other hand, acknowledge Christ as their Creator and also the Redeemer who has purchased them by His blood. That doubly motivates them to please Christ through their life and actions.
Once Adam and Eve were debarred from Eden, they had to spend a lot of their time on their basic physical necessities. Food and clothing became the primary concern of their life. As time went on, improving the means of sensual pleasures through cuisine, clothing and culture took prominence in their social and personal lives. Christ came to overturn this trend and make things as it was originally intended.
Adam and Eve had to just stretch out their hands and pluck the fruits that God had provided them. Their effort was limited to gathering what God had supplied. They were totally dependent on God for all their needs. Referring to the basic needs of life, the Lord Jesus told His disciples: “the Gentiles seek after all these things” [Matt. 6:32]. By contrast we disciples receive the necessities of life from God as our first parents did in Eden. God is our Provider. He gives us the means of livelihood as He is concerned about us. Meanwhile we are called on to give first priority to live by the principles of the Kingdom of God and manifesting His character in all our dealings.
A person’s lifestyle is determined by his priorities in life. Paul gives clear instructions concerning the disciples’ lifestyle, contrasting it with that of the Gentiles: “walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind” [Eph. 4:17]. The Gentiles glory in the temporary glitter and physical and mental pleasure of the world. Show and pomp takes the centre stage in their life. But from God’s perspective all that they do are unprofitable. Paul elaborates this point further: “each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” [1Thess. 4:4-5]. Their lifestyle turns around the “lust of the body, lust of the eyes and the pride of life” unlike the disciples whose primary concern is to live a holy life that pleases their Lord.
The social life of the Gentiles are meant to keep their status intact. They would move around only among the people of their own social status. They think that they would lose their social respect if they associated with the economically and socially ‘lower’ people. For that purpose, elaborate social structures have been made. Apostle John calls it ‘the pride of life.’ The Lord Jesus warned His disciples against this: “if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” [Matt. 5:47]. Christ made no distinction between the different social strata. He ate with the tax collectors and sinners, the social outcasts and also the religious leaders. For a disciple of Christ, social functions are to be occasions of uplifting the poor and lowly people of the society and not a means of showing off one’s status and dignity [Luke 14:13- 14].
Another characteristic of the Gentile lifestyle is powermongering. When God created Adam and Eve, they were to have dominion over the animal world and not each other. Adam named all the creatures, establishing his authority over them. His wife was to be a suitable companion of equal status, though man was the head of the family. But the situation changed after they sinned. The man’s dominion was extended to the woman as a punishment to her [Gen. 3:16]. Man set his seal on that by naming his wife afresh as he had done to the animals earlier. As time passed, the human society was categorized into races, castes and classes based often on their economic and political power. That is why Christ told His disciples: “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” [Matt. 20:25-26]. This is an indication of the reestablishment of the pre-fall social structure among the disciples.
Talking about the false teachers who are in reality wolves in sheep’s clothing, Apostle Paul says about them, “their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” [Philip. 3:19]. For them, religion was a means of enhancing their wealth, social status and power. This is true about the Gentiles as well. Their primary concern in prayer is their physical needs. Apostle Paul’s prayers for the disciples show the difference. Although he was thoughtful about their physical welfare, His overwhelming concern was their spiritual condition and development.
The Gentiles’ prayer show their attitude to God. Talking about that, the Lord suggests that they think they can force God to act in their favour by the beauty and forcefulness of their language or repeating the same prayer over and over again. The Lord warns the disciples against such an approach: “when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” [Matt. 6:7]. For them, God exists to do their bidding. This is in total contrast to the attitude of a disciple, who lives to do all that the Master tells him to do whatever be the cost he may have to bear for it. Do our prayers also degenerate into the level of the Gentiles sometimes?
POINTS TO PONDER
As Christ’s disciples, our attitudes, goals, life style and approach to God are expected to reflect our special relationship with Him. As in the first century, do the general public perceive that we are different? Or, are we also just doing religion like the Gentiles? Do we really give God the place of honour in all areas of life? If not, the name of God and our Lord Jesus Christ will be blasphemed among the Gentiles [Rom. 2:24]. Let’s make sure that we are Godpleasers.
By Sam N Jacob
[The author explains how evil can be reconciled with the existence of God]
Charles Templeton, a well-known evangelist and friend of Billy Graham, renounced his faith. While interviewing him for his book The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel asked him if there was any particular thing that caused him to lose his faith in God. “It was a photo of a woman in Northern Africa (which was then experiencing a drought)”, said Templeton. “She was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking to heaven with a most forlorn expression. I thought, ‘Is it possible to believe that there is a loving and caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?’” The existence of evil and suffering in the world is a prime reason that atheists give for refusing to believe in the existence of God. In this article, we shall attempt to give a Biblical response to the problem of evil.
The knowledge or experience of any single human is a mere speck compared to the entire spectrum of human experience, and also minuscule compared to God (even those who question God’s existence will agree that if He exists, He must be big!). Therefore, it must not surprise us if we find it difficult to reconcile everything, we observe with our core beliefs. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). In Job chapters 38 and 39, we are reminded that we did not create this universe and we don’t sustain it. As Creator and Sustainer, God knows what He is doing or allowing, even if it stretches our mind. At the same time, God reveals what He does to His prophets (Amos 3:7) and through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we can understand something of God’s ways, including why He has permitted evil.
The Origin of Evil We learn from Genesis 1-3 that when God created the first man and woman, He gave them a commandment. However, they chose to disobey God. They became alienated from God and acquired a tendency to do wrong, which they passed to all their descendants. God judged Adam and Eve just as He had warned them. They would now experience toil, disease, and death. The whole of nature was also cursed when man fell.
Why did God make humans at all?
(So much suffering would be avoided if He didn’t make us) Answer: Because He had a redemption plan that will make the goodness in eternity outweigh the evil.
Why did God give a test to the first humans (and thus allow the possibility of evil)?
There are at least two reasons: One: Without a test, the obedience of our first parents would be “by default”. They would love God only because there was no other alternative. But such love is not true! A truly meaningful, loving relationship is possible only when it is voluntary, that is, the option of rejection is available. God wanted a meaningful relationship with intelligent beings because it brings joy – robots and puppets do not. The same principle also answers the question as to why God does not prevent human evil. If God struck Hitler and Mao dead or manipulated their minds when they were planning the murders, they would be puppets.
Two: The depth of a relationship depends on the extent to which the parties know each other. God’s wonderful attributes such as His grace and transforming power would be completely unknown if there was no evil.
If we accept that God did not deliberately bring evil on earth (Adam and Eve did so) but He only allowed it, we still have to deal with present evil. Perhaps three of the most troubling features of present evil are: 2. The creation seems evil and seems to point to an evil creator – the cancer-causing sun that God has made, the earth’s crust that quakes and erupts, and the cruel animals that God made. 3. People seem to be suffering more than they deserve – the person who gets burnt alive in a car accident, the good doctor who dies in a plane crash, etc.
Let us address each of these concerns:
- An automated factory is more sophisticated than a factory where everything is done manually on an ad hoc basis. To display His greatness, God has made the universe “automated”. It runs according to fixed laws that He has decreed. The law of gravity will not change when a good person steps on a banana peel, nor will the weather change because there is a sudden need. The processes that make the sun send warm rays to the earth also produce harmful radiation. This constancy of the laws of nature points to God’s consistency and unchanging nature.
- After Adam and Eve procreated and the population increased rapidly, people refused to follow their conscience and treat each other well. The whole earth was filled with violence. To prevent the rest of human history from becoming violent anarchy, God had to bring a worldwide flood and start afresh. The earth’s crust cracked open to release water that had been stored beneath it. The cracked crust is now prone to earthquakes and volcanoes. The flood also affected the atmosphere and magnetic field of the earth. Some of the shielding mechanisms that the earth had against harmful sun rays are gone now, and the earth is now more prone to drought. It was not God’s original plan for lions to have brutal fights over territory. Adam and Eve were made the head of the creation. When they fell, creation fell too. On the cursed, post-Flood (and less luxuriant) earth, survival would be more difficult and nature would become cruel. Thus, evil in creation is a distortion due to man’s rebellion, and not God’s original work.
- How much do people deserve to suffer? The Bible says that the redemption of a soul is infinitely costly (Psalm 49:7-8). Why? God is infinitely great, holy and good. Therefore, sin against Him is infinitely serious, and thus calls for infinite punishment. This is shocking and frightening, and we are tempted to protest that it is not so. But think about it: how bad would it be to insult an ordinary person? Wouldn’t it be worse to insult the king? Wouldn’t it be worse to insult a good king than a bad king? Now extrapolate this to God! Thus, while our suffering seems great, it is less than what we deserve. When God metes out punishment after we die, He will take into account the suffering we had during our earthly life (Luke 16:25). Thus, the intense suffering on earth does not violate God’s justice.
Mercy in suffering
Here are some more observations we make about some of our sufferings:
- Childbirth is painful. Although human life is beautiful, it begins with great anguish. Strategically placed suffering like this suggests to the thoughtful person that although life is wonderful, something has gone wrong and needs to be rectified.
Earning one’s living is often hard and painful: In a world where people have a propensity to do evil, work keeps people occupied and thus reduces evil.
We hurt when we touch something hot or sharp: In a world where things go wrong, this kind of pain is a helpful warning signal. Our bodies would be permanently damaged if we couldn’t sense this type of pain. · The quality of life is generally better in countries that have had a deep and lasting influence of the Bible in their heritage. Again, this shows, for those willing to accept it, that the God of the Bible is true, and thus helps them approach Him for their good.
In all the above examples, we see that God’s mercy and grace shine even amid our suffering. He intends to use suffering for our good, drawing us to Him.
According to SOS-USA, a relief organization, 226 million Africans are starving. Among the causes for the situation are unfair trading practices, corruption and mismanagement of resources, and armed conflict. According to the Drinks Business magazine, in 2018, Americans spent $254 billion on alcohol, and in 2016, $117 billion on tobacco (according to a Wall Street Journal article dated April 23rd, 2017). This means if Americans would give to Africans instead of smoking and drinking, each poor African would get more than $1500 a year – more than enough to come out of starvation. “If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” – Proverbs 24:12. So dear friend, God wants to help the starving children– through you.
According to Patent Pilot, Israel filed 155 (USA: 129) patent applications per million citizens in 2015, which was more than five times the world average.
The Nazis killed six million Jews in World War 2 and Americans aborted more than 46 million babies from 1970 to 2017 (Centers for Disease Control, counting only voluntary reporting). Thus, humans have chosen to kill the most innovative members of their race. So, is God to be blamed because the world has so many unsolved problems? Examples like these can be multiplied. They prove that when we want to blame someone for the evil around us, we should look around, not up.
God has not just sat back and watched humans do evil. He has sent Jesus Christ to the world as a Savior. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, bearing the punishment that was due for us. If anyone turns around from their rebellion against God and believes in Christ, God will forgive him, and transform him so that he can become part of new heaven and earth in which there will be no evil!
If a person openly preaches Jesus Christ in an Asian village, he will probably be driven away, assaulted or lynched. In the light of such hatred towards God, we should not be surprised that God allows evil, but that He allows good!
To summarize, God created a universe running according to fixed laws and gave man the freedom of choice. Man has brought evil into the world and continues to do evil. Although God has allowed evil, He will judge it. Evildoers will get what they deserve according to His strict standards. The existence of evil does not preclude the existence of a good and powerful God.
By Johnny Varghese