God’s Goodness Is Challenged By Unbelievers

On a Friday in February, a very profane atheist threw a lot of Bible verses at me to challenge the goodness of God. He brought up verses from the Old Testament questioning why a good God would support His prophets and David who declared and carried out death on people (including children) in the name of the Lord. This is often a question from even Christians. (And this atheist claimed to have once been a Christian for 29 years.)

God’s goodness is often misinterpreted when there is an examination of scripture without yielding to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. In St. John chapter 14-16, Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit, referring to Him as the Comforter. Reading God’s Word will continue to tune a Spirit-filled believer in with the Holy Spirit’s voice and direction. One verse proving this is John 14:26 where Jesus said in the latter part of the verse that the Holy Spirit would bring back to our remembrance what Jesus said.

Before I write an explanation on God’s Law under the old Covenant compared to His Law being fulfilled through Jesus Christ under the new Covenant, I would like to point out why an unbeliever will never be able to comprehend God’s Word:

You Must Be Born Again

St. John 3:3-7

(3) Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (4) Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? (5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

In order for a person to be born again, that person must first die to self. He or she must face a grave reality that his or her current life of sin, resulting in complete separation from God, will lead to eternal damnation. A person must be willing to bury his or her old self, never to be resurrected in any way. There is no admirable or commendable trait, that ever received honor, worth holding on to from the past person who was separated from God.

This burial is symbolic. But it is also so relevant to the person’s life that this person no longer lives for the self that has been buried.

As the old person is buried, the new person is “risen” into a life abiding in Jesus Christ through faith in Him as Savior and Lord – Whose body was the Ultimate Sacrifice that paid the penalty of our sins. By His love and grace, the Father gave Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to finish the penalty of our sins at the cross. Only those who believe by faith on Jesus Christ (Who is God the Son, being God’s Word Himself) have salvation through this grace given to us.

Any rejection of God’s Word is indication that a person has not believed by faith on Jesus because, again, Jesus is the Word of God (St. John 1:1, 14). According to St. John 1:12, God gave us power to become His children when we receive Jesus Christ  for Who He is (being the Word of God Himself, being the only begotten Son of the Father Who gave Him as the Ultimate Sacrifice that pays the penalty for sin which separates man from God, being Savior of those who believe by faith, and being our Lord Who sanctifies his believers by His cleansing Word – St. John 15:3, St. John 17:17 and Ephesians 5:26). This is what it means to be born again.

And a born again person has become a new creature (II Corinthians 5:17). But just because the born-again person is a new creature does not mean that the transformation stops there. There is ongoing growth. (For no moment can I figure out why so many Christian bloggers out there rebuttal the preaching of obedience to God’s Word and change when Paul hammered on it in his epistles as follow-up to the lovingly firm teachings of Christ Himself.)

Yes, when you are born again, you do genuinely desire and care about changing continuously to reflect His Word in your very life – from your secret places in fear of Him to your public places for His glory. Sometimes you change joyously – fully motivated. Other times you change by the rebuke of God’s Word directly or indirectly through fellow believers. Sometimes you struggle and battle your flesh down until there is subjection of that flesh to an obedient spirit, which is willing to submit to God. This is the life of a born-again believer.

A person who is not willing to deny himself in the manner of becoming born again (St. Luke 9:24) will not comprehend the Word. Even if this person decides to go through the motions of believing, he or she will not be a born again believer without the true faith as defined by God’s Word. That’s why Jesus said that you cannot place new wine into old wineskins. That old wineskin will burst because it cannot contain the new wine. Translated to our lives, a new lifestyle in Jesus Christ cannot be contained in the heart of a person who has not been born again. This is a problem among many atheists who believe that they were once Christians. This is the problem with the atheist who challenged me in February. He thought he actually was a Christian because he went through the motions for twenty-nine years. And he’d probably challenge me head-on that he was sincere. A person can definitely sincerely go through the motions – and show a number of fruits pointing to still being the old creature:

Patting himself or herself on the back for his or her good deeds done in the name of Jesus;

Becoming more knowledgeable in God’s Word for the purpose of proudness and boastfulness as opposed to knowing it for the pure desire to know and obey the Lord;

Going to church to pacify God as opposed to going for the totality of why He called His believers to assemble;

And doing other fruitless gestures from a heart that’s not actually converted.

If the new lifestyle is in the old heart that was never buried, the person can certainly go before the Lord and ask for that change by believing on His Word by faith. Be willing to give up yourself. Give up what you personally think about overall life. Give up what you think God ought to do or allow. Give up what you desire that opposes God’s Word. Give up what would glorify you. Give up your personal thrones – regardless of what position you may hold in life. (If you’re great in position like a prince, become like a servant and see yourself as deserving of the same punishment as any sinful penniless mugger on the streets.) Give up your personal methods of obeying God in exchange for His Word alone. Give up yourself running your own life for His Lordship. And bury that old person you’re giving up in order to raise up as a new person in Jesus Christ.

[There are many preachers right now who are persecuted for preaching Lordship messages because bloggers think Lordship messages like this take away from grace. But don’t define grace just by reading a few isolated verses. If you read it all (Matthew 4:4), you will learn even greater grace and grace encompassing a deeper encounter than someone’s surface explanation of it, keying in only on isolated passages.]

In St. Matthew below, you will notice that Jesus spoke to crowds in parables. He explained to His disciples why He spoke in parables. There are seeing eyes, hearing ears, and perceiving hearts that just are not going to comprehend God’s Word. The gospel is hidden to those whose hearts are “waxed gross” (v. 15) This means they are closed-minded to His Word. In fact, in that verse, Jesus said that these people have closed their eyes. Closing our eyes is a deliberate action.

It is human nature to see what we want to see, to hear what we want to hear, and to shut our hearts to anything that we do not really want. This is what happens to those who do not truly want the gospel. This is what happened to atheists who read the Word and then got upset. They are unable to perceive It as It is.

Am I saying that a believer understands all of the Word? No. A believer is willing to shut his or her own understanding up and remain open to the Holy Spirit’s teaching of God’s Word – primarily through quality time in the Word alone with God and secondarily through messages by teachers who are truly teaching God’s Word without twisting It.

[There will be times of disagreeing with the delivery of the Word. But a person abiding in Christ will discern who is truly submitted to the Lord as a teacher or preacher. As a non-Calvinist, I can receive the teachings by Brother Paul Washer and Dr. Voddie Baucham. And as a non-Arminianist, I can receive teachings by Leonard Ravenhill, who was labeled as one and was well-received by Brothers Washer and Baucham. (Neither John Calvin nor Jacob Arminius were crucified for us. I Corinthians 1:11-13)]

Receiving God’s Word in private and from one God’s true ministers means not receiving it with private interpretation of the Word to suit our own agendas but studying and meditating on It as we seek out the Spirit’s revelation of It. And believers with the attitude of little children, in their humility and lacking self-reliance, are able to seek Him this way and find through Him the meaning of His Word.

St. Matthew 12:3-23

(3) And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; (4) And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: (5)  Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: (6) And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. (7) And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: (8) But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. (9) Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (10) And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? (11) He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (12) For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. (13) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (14) And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: (15) For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (16) But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. (17) For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (18) Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. (19) When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. (20) But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; (21) Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. (22) He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. (23) But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Notice that the disciples went to Jesus apart from the crowds to ask questions. You can see this throughout the gospels. They listened to the messages and the parables and later went to Him inquiring of the meanings. Jesus will allow you to read or hear His Word. But do you have within your heart such desire for Him that you will seek out the meaning, without applying your own meaning? Are we willing to say, “I know nothing. But He knows everything.” Most people who are intellectual and highly acclaimed can’t make that statement. They just don’t believe that each individual, including themselves, know nothing. And for some, it would be easier to conclude that than to say that an invisible God knows everything.

I Corinthians 1:18

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

For anyone who has ever doubted, pondered, or even been confronted by a believer the way I was by the atheist, I hope my above explanation can help shed light on salvation and the cleansing of God’s Word.

The Law Under The Old Covenant

The atheist who challenged God told me that God is evil because of the many circumstances where His prophets and kings (such as David) were allowed to declare and carry out the deaths of people, including children.

Before I answer his accusation, let me say this up front in fear of Almighty God: I’m not about to excuse or pamper anybody who wants to challenge God in any way. About to feel like an insensitive heel (which I often feel like) I once had to meditate on the Lord’s Word about empathizing with anybody who was angry with Him and I received no check in my spirit to empathize, though I am to lovingly minister to anyone feeling that way. So, for anybody who would blatantly curses God and call Him evil, I offer no empathy whatsoever. But I offer His Word. I don’t even agree with hogwash popular statements that say, “You must forgive God.” He is not a man that should be seen as ever needing our forgiveness. That is grave presumptuousness that should not be taught by us who believe. Here’s my reason why: His Word in Isaiah 45:9 says, “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?”

So, having pointed that out…

Those who lived under the old Covenant were living under the Law before it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. They were also living under the Law before grace was given through Jesus Christ. Certainly, Israel and many people who lived for God received a foretaste of His grace. But the penalty of sin was accomplished in the blood Sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. Then, came the new Covenant, through which we can go to the Father through Jesus Christ alone by grace on His part and by faith on ours. His grace encompasses forgiveness and a close walk with Him by baptism in the Holy Spirit for Gentile believers along with Jewish believers.

In the Old Testament, sins and opposition from pagan nations were confronted with serious penalties – many times to the point of death as consequence on people of all ages. Even if there were exceptions to death, consequences were grave as in the case of David’s sin with Bathsheba (which did result in death of three sons and rape of a daughter), plagues in Egypt that eventually led up to the drowning of soldiers in pursuit of the released Hebrew slaves, and the captivity of Israel’s children in Babylon. Sins committed at all ages, regardless of how minor the human heart can perceive the sin, had to be answered because of the serious offense that sin is in God’s sight.

God hates sin. This is misunderstood by the atheist who pointed out that Elisha spoke death in the name of the LORD on the children making fun of his baldness. From that point, two female bears devoured those children. From what we see as smallest to greatest sins, the wages of sin (all sin) is death, while the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23). That gift, the life of Jesus Christ, was born to a virgin years upon years after Adam had brought sin (and the penalty of it) upon human beings.

Sin, which the Lord so hates, must be answered. It cannot just float undealt with. God just did not accept that as something that He would allow. (He gave His only begotten Son for this reason.) So, to see sin answered in the Old Testament appears incredibly harsh to the natural mind. In II Samuel 6:5-12, even David was upset when the Lord smote Uzzah for touching the ark of God in order to stable it as it was being carried. But God had already instructed Israel on how the ark of the LORD was to be handled. To handle it outside the parameters that the LORD had set required the penalty of disobedience explained as “error” in the King James Version of the Bible.

When the atheist brought up Elisha’s encounter with the children, speaking death on them in the name of the LORD for mocking him, all I could tell him was that Elisha did not qualify to die for us on the cross. We can certainly look at the acts of righteous people in the Old Testament and become disturbed. We could also become disturbed by God sending punishment –even to the point of death – on all who those righteous people opposed. Again, one of God’s reasons for this is because the wages of sin is death.

Why the psalmists, prophets, and kings declared death and destruction on their enemies is because, for only one reason that I can see, the grace to come was not experienced fully by them as we experience grace under the new Covenant. Grace received can be grace given. If the people of God did not experience full grace, they were unable to distribute it fully. This is what I see in the Word.

The Law Fulfilled Through Jesus Christ Under The New Covenant

The disciples James and John tried that harsh-type of retaliation which had been carried out by those in the Old Testament and got nowhere with Jesus. In fact, Jesus rebuked them.

St. Luke 9:51-56

(51) And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, (52) And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. (53) And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. (54)  And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? (55) But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. (56) For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

These disciples were aware of the penalties of sins demonstrated in the history with which they were familiar. So were the Pharisees familiar with the penalties of sins. And they tried carrying out death on sins, too. Remember they tried to stone an adulteress until Jesus calmly told them that whoever was without sin could cast the first stone. Jesus taught us grace through His Word, demonstrated it, and mandated it once His time had come to teach and do miracles. Then,  He crossed us over into that grace at the cross.

Kermeshea Evans’ Going To Church To Catch Hell. Y’all, Some Things Have To Be Said

In fear of the Lord, I am reluctant about publicly exposing anybody. That’s not to say that there is no place for exposure of other people’s sins. But I believe that a person must be undoubtedly compelled by the Lord to expose a sin for a purpose that is completely untied to  selfish gain, malice, revenge, or any other questionable motive. I can’t say that I personally am able to fall into the category of exposing anyone with a clear conscience. My role, as a writer of the gospel, is to spread the gospel.

Again, I do realize that exposure of evil that could impact others should be called out on the carpet. In III John 9-10 addressing another saint, the apostle John made a reproachful reference to Diotrephes, a leader who loved status among people. Addressing Timothy, the apostle Paul made a brief reference to Alexander the coppersmith, who had wronged him with evil, according to II Timothy 4:14. But addressing churches (plural) in Galatia, he shared a mistake that Peter had made slighting his Gentile brothers, according to Galatians 2:11-21.

More recently, since the first apostles, there have been other men of God who have boldly addressed ungodly issues that plague today’s churches with distrust from unbelievers, scars upon believers, and most of all, judgment from the living God. If you don’t believe it, read the first three chapters of Revelation. It’s New Testament, written even under grace, not in alignment with our watered-down teachings of today. But It is His Word.

Leonard Ravenhill has rebuked believers of all positions and was not received as well as any Word-loving saint should have received him. Oh, some did. But most could not receive his messages because he cramped their self-serving, narcissistic styles. He passed away in 1994 at the age of 87. But his son, David, continues to preach today. Like those of his father, his messages – though soft-spoken in my opinion – present omitted parts of the Bible that challenge me to get past the offense I could take identifying my sins in the message and move toward repentance.

With the careful way we distribute the gospel today without trying to step on the toes that matter to us, is this as good as it gets? We’re afraid to challenge any evil practiced in the sight of the Lord because we, as mere believers, feel we have no right to. I’m not saying we should bang on the surface of a counter and shout our points about the Bible. I’m not saying approach authority with a pointing finger any more than I believe a child should do so toward an evil father. But as in the times when  saints opened their mouths in opposition to the world’s popular beliefs and risked their very lives, we’ve reduced our voices to non-effectiveness. Understand that the kind of persecution earlier saints received due to their vocal spreading of the true gospel was seen as occurring outside the church. Today, so many churches are operating with ungodly practices to such an intense degree for the sake of human throne preservation. As a result, persecution and mass black-balling occurs among believers if anyone questions or challenges actions in comparison to God’s Word.

Certainly, an imbalance of constant rebukes should not be imposed on believers. We need the full message of the gospel (Matthew 4:4) And the full gospel is not widespread like propaganda and fame. This brings me to my long-existing burden that motivated me to read an eye-opening and concern-validating book.

Kermeshea Evans wrote the book entitled Going To Church To Catch Hell. It is her therapeutic account of her life with her family, who has excommunicated her from their high-profile, highly celebrated ministry and even from their entire family unit. The book kept my attention throughout an entire day. I read with laughter and with tears.

She explains her childhood with heartfelt memories of rejection, her parents’ misuse of her credit before she had reached her teen years, and distrust in church that was rooted in past malicious strife, directed at her family from evil church-goers with no regard for God’s Word. She explains her young adulthood with humor and heart-breaking revelations as she recounts the years she worked closely under her parents at their church. The final chapters in her book can bring tears to anyone who had never experienced any part of what she went through. It’s that disturbing. Rejection from family to cover up sinful secrets for the sake of high-profile appearances is how this book ended from an author who appears to be, among all the titles she had once held in the ministry, a fall guy.

This book is not like reading one from a Leonard Ravenhill or like hearing a Paul Washer. Kermeshea does not extend Biblical teaching in this book. It’s more of a journal from a woman setting the record straight to clear her name among fellow believers, Y’all. It’s clear that she’s also working through her feelings with what really seems to be a successful effort to forgive a family from whom she felt no forgiveness in return. But the account of events in the book reflect the warnings and rebukes of such prophets as the Ravenhills, Washer, Voddie Baucham, Zac Poonen, Sandeep Poonen, and Walter August.

The debate about Word of Faith movement may live on until God brings everything to a halt. But the experience of someone who lived in the center of this movement in Houston TX should motivate a reader to dig deeper in God’s Word and make a soul-searching evaluation – laying aside all pre-positioned beliefs that were not initially instilled by God. He is against being misrepresented. I believe this as a charismatic (in the sense of believing that the nine gifts of the Spirit are indeed still in operation among us believers today) and as a charismatic who is non-Word of Faith, still knowing God abundantly blesses a believer who abides in Him. (If we define “abundantly blessed” according to the Word, we will see that Paul as a prisoner was abundantly blessed as was Cornelius, the centurion.)

I do recommend that a mature Christian reads this book with the urgent perception of what many unbelievers are seeing from outside looking in and of what many angered churchgoers complain about as they refuse to ever attend church again. Read this book with the understanding that accountability omitted on earth is not escaping God’s attention. What is bypassed during preliminary, corrective discussions as Kermeshea recalls herself issuing, will lead to final judgment that can fume grave regret within the heart of a stubborn individual, positioned to believe he answers to no one but God. In a high position, it is easy to believe that a seemingly insignificant voice of plea to do God’s will should not have to be recognized with self-brokenness.

Because final judgment seems so far away, we tend to feel untouchable. This grave mindset exists among believers of all positions actually. God help us. May we be broken and repentant, seeking the face of our Lord. May we regard everyone with enough humility that we would cast down any urges to lift ourselves up in narcissism.

I have one reservation about this book that I’ve got to mention in fear of the Lord. In about two places, I think, Kermeshea quoted herself and her sister using a profane word. So, I caution all believers who could understandably become distracted.

My prayers are extended for Kermeshea and her entire family. My prayers are that she continually grows from this experience and present the gospel as one ready for persecution to a group whose ministry priorities reached the attention of skeptical unbelievers shamefully and remorselessly. I believe the Lord allowed every bit of what happened for the purpose of Kermeshea being called out from the darkness of that world. I believe when saints experience such hardships, it is opportunity to draw closer to the Lord, which she testifies of doing. But also, it could possibly be meant to prepare to meet those offenders in a different way – with a different outlook and attitude – spreading the gospel to them as if they were like unbelievers, completely unaware of salvation, according to Matthew 18:15-17. (If a person who offended us won’t take heed after being approached the way Jesus instructed, we are to treat that person like an unbeliever. That means lovingly minister salvation to them as if they were lost.)

Lanette Zavala, Author and Blogger