Theology- why I do what I do and say what I say.

Why does God allow evil?
Its a question I hear often. One that I never was able to truly answer. But recently I have been studying my bible truly harder than I have in the past, and I believe that he has revealed an answer. This is directly from my notes during my studying this morning.
"If God is real, how can he allow all this evil to exist?"
What is evil? Isn't it sin? Sin is falling short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 says "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." So this means we are all evil. So if God eliminated evil, we would be eliminated. Romans.6:23 says "for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life." If this is true then we should be destroyed. But thank God that he sent Jesus to die in our place, so that all who call on him shall not perish but have eternal life.
He loved us enough to die in our place so we don't have to be separate from him for eternity.
Since all this is true, how can we still live for ourselves? Our own glory and pleasure? I know I still fail and I still fall, but I am saved anyway, which is through the love of Christ. So in response to his love, I wish to be a Romans 12 Christian, and offer myself a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. To follow Luke 9:23 and deny myself daily and take up my cross and follow him. (24>) for whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (This is referring to the things of your life, family, friends, money, stuff, more than your literal life. Though that too.)
If this life has anything to gain at all, I count it all as loss to experience Christ and his love. I pray I will not be ashamed of the gospel, and I will not be, as for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21& 3:8. 
(end notes from that morning)
But then what? How do you live out that which I just said? This is where many people run into difficulty. Life as a Christian shouldn't be easy. As Romans 12:2 says: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you can uncover what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” If you blend in with everyone around you as a Christian, then something is wrong. But it is easy, at least in Alabama, to do the church thing and blend in perfectly with everyone else. Church on Sunday is culturally expected here, but its a Sunday social more than a body of totally surrendered Christ followers. You can still be following the things of this world and be called a Christian. Even if your life is totally devoted to the pursuit of money, as most people's are, you can still be called a Christian by the culture. If you are hoping a better job, house, car, etc. is going to bring you joy, then you will be disappointed. Most people in church are worshiping themselves. I often find myself worshiping myself, as humility is a hard thing for me, and most people I think. Focusing our lives on our happiness and achieving the American dream; making money and having relationships. But you can see this even in the leadership of the churches, focusing on making money more than anything else. It's easy to get into that as a church, or in your personal life. It's important to remember that Jesus was unmarried, broke, and homeless. The early church met in homes, and focused on growing in Christ and helping others grow in him. Things like jobs, education, relationships, etc. should come second to Christ in your life. In my life. That's what surrender means. Back in Luke 9:24 and Philippians 1:21 when it talks about being willing to lose your life, these things are some of what it is talking about. The Bible doesn't say these are bad things, or that you will lose them, but it does say you shouldn't put them before Christ. In fact these things exist so we can bring glory to God through them. But if you are more worried about grades or romance or paychecks then your relationship with Christ, something is likely wrong. So how do we grow, how do we know what God wants for us and from us, and how do we live holy and acceptable to him? Believers need to spend time with God outside of church as well as inside. This usually comes from what is called a “quiet time,” which consists of a time alone in prayer and study of the bible. Prayer, I have learned this last summer, is so much more than I ever really thought. It's speaking to God. That's amazing, that the God of the universe can be spoken to, and, more so, that he listens. I can say for sure my faith has grown a lot through the power of prayer. I have seen God do amazing things when we ask. But it's important to remember that he is not our servant; we are his. He answers all our prayers, he just doesn't always answer how we wish. Or how we think is best. We do not know best. James 4:3 says: “You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” So we shouldn't pray for our will. When we pray at the ministry, we will ask things like: “God please don't let it rain on us, but if it does we know it is according to your will and is therefore for the best.” Well, it hasn't. The rain will literally part around where we are working. But the reason for that is to give glory to God. I am convinced that it will eventually rain us out of working, but only to glorify God in another way. Maybe a way we don't know of. But if I pray for a Ferrari, I don’t think I will get one. Not to say God cannot give me a Ferrari, but rather that it would not benefit the kingdom, or help in discipleship, so he wouldn't. Discipleship is another “church word,” meaning in this context to help someone grow spiritually. A disciple is someone who follows the teachings of something, in this case the Bible. Romans 13:8-9 says that love fulfills all of the commandments, so to say that the ultimate focus of our lives here is to love. To love God first, and each other second. It's out of love that we go and share the gospel with people. This would mean to disciple people, to teach them what we know of the word, so that in turn they can teach us what they know of the word. As iron sharpens iron, so do believers sharpen one another. But it is out of love that we do this. The two greatest commandments, according to Jesus, are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 25:36-40) If you know the gospel, that we as people are utterly sinful, dead in our trespasses and fallen short of the glory of God, and that Christ came down from his heavenly throne and lived a perfect life among us and died for us, taking on the full wrath of God for our sins, so that whoever accepts him and believes in him will be saved, then how could we not tell people about it? How much would we have to hate someone to not tell them that Christ saved us if we just accept him? Romans 10:13-15 says: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14. How then will they call on him whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15. And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" So by love for people which we have instilled in us through Christ's love for us, we share our faith with them, so that they too may experience the life changing salvation of Christ. So loving God and people is an important part of being a Christ follower.
But how do we know what to say? Paul starts out 1st Corinthians chapter 2 by saying: (verse 1) “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ crucified. 3. And I was with you in weakness and much fear and trembling, 4. and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power, 5. so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” So he is saying that he did not have eloquent speeches, catchy phrases, and whatnot. He knew nothing but Jesus Christ crucified and through that Jesus using Paul did great works among us humans. The rest of 1st Corinthians chapter 2 elaborates on wisdom and its uses, but chapter one has a section which is important for us to remember as we try to preach to the lost, people separate from God, gentiles as they are. 1st Corinthians 1:18 says: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Many people find this obstacle, that the word of God is folly to those who are perishing. To us, the saved, who are being sanctified, it seems so clear, but we have to be prepared for people to think us foolish. Many people will think we are fools. We have run into this often through Renovation Ministries, as many people have tried to hold us back because they think us fools to be evangelistic, or to go into “bad neighborhoods,” or to want Christ more than money. Some of these people are those you would expect, atheists and whatnot, but many, if not most, have been “church people.” Most don't purposefully try to hamper us from doing Gods work, but they don't want a direct part in it. No one wants to get out of their comfort zone. I know this because that was me, a few years back. A genetic Christian, born into the Church, saved at four or five, the whole nine yards. I wanted the same things as everyone else, a good job, a wife, white picket fence, middle class. I was one of those weird fourteen year olds who actually thought about that sort of thing. But I realized through the grace of God, and the amazing people he put in my life, that that is not at all what the bible teaches our life to be like. I say all that to get to the point that people in most Churches do not have faith built up by trial and by studying the word of God. Most people never study the word independently. That's where most of the problems stem from, I feel convicted to say. In my studies, I have realized how wrong I was about God, and what I thought of him from growing up in church. My whole worldview changed when I began actually studying the Word. Psalm 119:9-16 supports this by saying: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments! 11. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! 13. With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.”
The rest of this passage continues on this point, where the psalmist says that the word of the Lord is the way to keep your way pure. 2 Timothy 3:16 says: “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17. that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” This states fairly clearly the importance of studying the word, so that we can be trained in the righteousness of God. If everyone studied the Word, then we would quarrel much less over minor theological issues, I believe. People would recognize that the hate is as unbiblical. Such as the hate of someone of another religion, or the hate of homosexuals, or hate of an enemy, or a race of people, or any person. Not to say that homosexuality is not sinful, or that people of another religion aren't lost, but none of these people will be shown the love of Christ or the joy and peace that comes with his salvation if they see Christians hating on them, or anyone else. As Christ followers, we are commanded to love our neighbors as Christ loved them. If we hate, we are told to hate injustice, and sin, and the ways of this world, not sinners or those lost in this world. But I digress.
If people studied the word, they would know that Romans 14 talks about how the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, and so not to pass judgment on one another because of small matters like days and foods. It would be profitable I believe for the reader to look this chapter up and read it. So I challenge you, reader, pick up your word, study it, hide it in your heart; it will change your life.
One day at Bible club this last summer, at a place called Cooper Homes, I met a person who studies the word frequently. I was standing there fixing a water hose, and this teenager walks up to me and says, “Can I ask you a question?” I was at this point expecting something like, “Where is the bathroom?” or “Why are y'all out here?” I said sure, and he asked, “Do you believe the second coming of Christ will occur before, during, or after the time of tribulation?” I was taken a bit off guard, both by the in depth nature of the question, and by the fact that I had no answer. I answered truthfully that I didn't know, nor did anyone. That was the answer he was looking for, as no one knows the hour of the coming of the Lord, and we talked for some time after that about a smattering of theological topics. At that, and many other occasions, he and I have talked theology, and I have learned things from him, and I believe he has learned from me as well, as it is written iron sharpens iron. This guy, at thirteen, knows far more scripture than I do. By this he has inspired me to study more, so to carry out conversations with him, and others. Because many people have questions. Most people have many questions. I believe that the answers to these questions are in his Word that we have today. Ephesians 6 compares the Word to a sword, an offensive weapon. Faith as a shield to deflect the fiery darts of the opponents. I fear many Christians today are attempting to go into spiritual battle without their swords and shields. We have been telling people to whom we give Bibles to begin in John and read back from there. I suggest that now to those who read this, as a suggestion. I have found that I feel myself being led to a book to read now, during my times of prayer. But I suggest reading a book at a time, rather than somewhat random verses. It's difficult to take the verses out of context if you read chapters at a time. So by study of the word and an unshakable faith in Christ as our savior, we can fight these spiritual battles, knowing that we will be victorious, because we follow a sovereign, all powerful God who is victorious over sin and death. 

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