This sermon (watch here) is the third in our series Step Into the Light and attempts to tackle the problem of evil in the world.
This sermon answers the basic question: What does it mean to be saved?
The Bible claims that God is all-loving and all-powerful. But how can you explain the Bible’s description of God given the existence of evil? Or, let me state the argument this way: given the reality of evil and suffering in the world, God may be all-powerful but not all-loving. That is, God has the power to stop evil but chooses not to. This turns God into a distant, removed, deistic god unconcerned with the affairs of the world.
Or, God may be all-loving but not all-powerful. That is, God loves us enough to stop the suffering in the world but doesn’t have the power to do so. This retains the compassion we so long for in God, but it robs Him of His sovereignty and divinity. So according to this argument, given the reality of evil in the world, God can be all-powerful or all-loving, but not both. If He was both, he surely would have stopped evil and suffering long ago. And yet it not only lingers, it flourishes, rampaging across our globe leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake. What kind of God would allow that? Surely not an all-powerful and all-loving God!
And yet the Bible makes the claim that God is both all-powerful and all-loving. He spoke the universe into existence. He is all-powerful. 1 John 4:8 explicitly says “God is love.” He is the very definition of love. So how can you reconcile the claims that God is all-loving and all-powerful with the reality of evil and suffering in the world?
I’m going to be talking about this perplexing question Sunday in week three of our series Step Into the Light. But I would love to get your take. How do you answer this question?
Why do we use different terms to describe the same experience? Depending on your background or denomination, you’ll use terms like:
- Get saved
- Pray the sinner’s prayer
- Walk the aisle
- Believe in Jesus
- Ask Jesus in your heart
- Get baptized
- Be filled with the Holy Spirit
- Fall under conviction
- Be born again
Why so many terms? I believe it’s because salvation is such a transcendent experience that human words will never be able to fully capture it. Have you ever had an experience so transcendent that human words couldn’t fully capture it?
Maybe it’s a sunset that takes your breath away. In that moment, calling it “picturesque” can’t do it justice. Guys, it’s that moment when you see your bride walking down the aisle at your wedding. In that moment, describing your bride as “beautiful” can’t do her justice. Moms, it’s that moment you hold your child for the first time after you give birth, and saying you “love” your child can’t contain the depth of emotion you feel.
Salvation is one of those transcendent experiences, when you’re forgiven of your sins, when you become right with your Creator, when the Spirit of the Living God comes to live in you, when your eternal destiny changes forever. Human words can never fully capture the power of that moment. That’s why we use so many terms to describe salvation. We’re just trying to get our arms around it.
QUESTION: What other terms have you heard/used to describe salvation?
Does God speak through dreams today? That’s the unexpected topic of conversation I had yesterday with two separate people. One was recounting a family member who had a very clear dream that she interpreted as a sign from God. The second was a note from a church member saying she had a vivid dream Saturday night that mirrored with detail the sermon I preached to her the next morning (she of course had no knowledge about what I was going to speak on).
So, does God speak through dreams to people today? I believe He does. That might make evangelicals uncomfortable. We like to preach that God can speaks exclusively the Bible. Well, if you read the Bible, guess how God often spoke to people (like Mary and Joseph)? Through dreams. If God did it then, why wouldn’t He do it today?
Some would make a good point that God doesn’t need to speak through dreams today because we have the Bible. My main argument for God still speaking through dreams is the fact that I don’t feel I have the right to limit what God can or cannot sovereignly do. If He can speak through a donkey (see Numbers 22), if He can sovereignly use a worm (Jonah 4), He can speak through a dream.
Now, that doesn’t mean that dreams will be the primary way God communicates or even that God will even use a dream to communicate. I believe that God has the right to sovereignly communicate through a dream if He so chooses. God has never spoken to me through a dream. That’s fine with me. I don’t seek it out. God speaks to me through the Bible regularly.
Important caveat: One of the biggest dangers of dreams is that they can be confusing or misleading. If you have a vivid dream, it may be your own imagination, it may be a bad bowl of chili, or it may even be an agent of darkness sent to mislead you. Relying on dreams to communicate is an easy way to be misled, since dreams can come from a variety of sources. The Bible is the safest bet, since we can rest assured that all of its words come from God.
But at the end of the day, if someone asked me whether or not I believed that God can still speak through dreams today, I would say ‘yes.’
QUESTION: Do you believe God still speaks through dreams today? Has God ever spoken to you through a dream?
Here is the final week of my sermon series The Jesus You Never Knew.
It’s a conspiracy theory a thousand years in the making. When you think of a ‘church,’ you probably think of an address, a building, a worship service. But that was never Jesus’ intention. If you’re familiar with the Bible, then you know the climactic story when Jesus launched the ‘church.’ He was with his disciples and asked them who they thought he was. Here was Peter’s incredible response:
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:16-18
There it is. Black and white (or red letters if you’ve got that kind of Bible). Jesus inaugurated the ‘church.’ The only problem is, the word ‘church’ shouldn’t be in the Bible. The original Greek word is ekklesia, which literally means “assembly” or “gathering.” It was an abrupt departure from the Old Testament model where religion was centered on a place (the temple). Jesus said that his assembly, his gathering, would be centered not on a place of worship, but on a person.
So why don’t our English Bibles have the word “assembly” or “gathering”? Where does the word “church” come from? “Church” derives not from a biblical Greek word, but from the medieval German word “kirche,” which literally means “house of the Lord.” What’s the significance? Jesus came to abolish the old temple model where religion was centered around a place. But by the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church had reintroduced the temple model with religion centering around holy places and towering cathedrals. ‘Church’ was literally a place you went to.
When William Tyndale (who was the first to translate the Bible into the English language in 1526) came to this Greek word ekklesia, he had the audacity to translate it “congregation,” honoring the truth that Jesus came to institute something centered not around a location, but around a group of people called to a specific purpose. For this audacity, William Tyndale was burned at the stake but the ‘Church’.
Unfortunately, the concept of ‘church’ had already been ingrained in popular culture and further translations (most notably the King James Version created by a king who controlled the houses of worship in England) reverted to the word ‘church’. And hence came the popular idea that the church is a location, a place you go to. But simply put, that was never the intent. Jesus did not come to institute a religion centered around a location. He came to institute a movement, an assembly, a gathering of people centered around Him. Buildings, cathedrals, steeples, sanctuaries, church buildings, are all inconsequential.
The church has never been the building. It’s always been the people. Don’t fall for the conspiracy.
Here is week two in our series The Jesus You Never Knew.
Here is the first installment in our series The Jesus You Never Knew.