July 2019   
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 THE PROBLEM OF EVIL               
    Psalm 37:1-9      Romans 12:9, 17-18, 21

You probably know at least two other verses about evil that are more familiar than these we read (Psalm 23:4; Matthew 6:13).

Scripture doesn’t define evil, just describes it.
•    The second reading this morning uses opposites love good and hate evil, so evil must be bad if we are to hate it.
•    John 3:19 describes good as light and evil as darkness.
•    In the Ten Commandments, God forbids evil actions. He reminded the people who He was and what He had done for them, then listed evils to avoid: those related to Him (Exodus 20:1-11) and evils between humans (Exodus 20:13-17).

God consistently makes His commandments clear so people will have no doubt about evil.
•    He gives examples of evils and sometimes the punishment He would administer. Worshiping gods other than Jehovah is an example of evil against God (Judges 2:11-13).
•    He warns His people about evil practices (1 Corinthians 5:11; (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; James 1:13-15; Revelation 21:8). 1 Thessalonians 5:22 in the King James Version is more specific:
    Abstain from all appearance of evil.
In fact, in Isaiah 45:5-7 God Himself claims to be the Source of Evil.

We can do little about evil in the form of disease, natural disaster, or crime. However, we have control over the evil that confronts us personally: external temptations to all varieties of immorality and internal evil inherited because of Adam’s free will choice (Mark 7:21-23).

The Bible is clear that the heart is a source of evil (Job 15:5; Proverbs 6:18a; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Jeremiah 18:12; Luke 6:45). Human history is full of examples of evil hearts and the unthinkable consequences these evil hearts brought upon mankind. It is one thing to err from time to time, another thing to have an evil heart!  Albert Einstein stated that
            Evil is the real problem in the hearts and minds of men. It is not a problem of physics but of ethics. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man. An evil heart rarely develops overnight. Almost no one says, "I think I will be an evil person." It is a process of hardening that goes on over years, with tragic results! It can be astonishing to see just how cold the human heart can become when it yields itself to evil designs.

The Word of God teaches that evil is real, that God hates an evil heart because it destroys the one who has it and the pain and suffering it brings to many others as well. The message of Psalm 10 is that the evil heart grows from an obsession with self (Psalm 10:3). The tongue is also a source of evil (James 3:5-9).

Truly evil people in history were obsessed with self importance and self love to the extent that they lifted themselves up above all others. Some felt that they were God's gift to humanity.  Considering themselves almost "god-like," they were going to save mankind and build great kingdoms! A person with this attitude is narcissistic, allowing evil to feed on arrogance and unhealthy pride. It always starts from lack of challenge or correction and grows until it is out of control and often beyond repair in the latter stages! Failure to correct things before they pile up can make the job so much more difficult later or even impossible!

The Bible uses other words for evil: corruption, degrading passions, disobedience, faults, guilt, impurity, iniquity, lawlessness, lust of the heart, trespass, ungodliness, unrighteousness, wickedness, wrongdoing, rebellion, transgression.

But understanding evil is more complex than saying “Evil is the opposite of good.”  The problem of evil is a serious challenge to the defense of Christianity. Unbelievers–and believers–ask: Can an absolutely good God be compatible with evil, the opposite of good? If God is absolutely good, why is there evil? God asked the question Himself in Habakkuk 1:13.

It takes a lot of faith and trust in God to really understand evil. First of all, we need to trust God’s Word as truth when He says He is Good (Psalm 25:8; Psalm 34:8; Luke 18:19).

Historical theologians Thomas Aquinas and Augustine have tried to reason this dilemma logically.
•    If God is all-powerful, He could destroy evil
•    If God is all-loving, He should destroy evil.
•    If God is all-knowing and created this world fully aware of what would happen, He could have done otherwise.

Let’s look deeper.
•    God is good and absolutely perfect.
•    Everything God created was good and perfect. Remember that at the end of each day of Creation the Bible says
            And it was good.            
•    God made a perfect man and a perfect woman and placed them in a perfect environment. God gave the man and woman perfect freedom of will or choice, the freedom to choose good or evil. Adam and Eve chose to follow their desires and disobey God’s command, which was evil in God’s sight.
•    Humans freely chose to do evil, so we can say,
                A perfect creation caused evil, using the good power of free choice to bring evil into the universe by rebelling against their Creator.
When Adam sinned, he took creation down with him. The entire creation has now the curse of sin on it.
•    on the animal kingdom (Genesis 3:14). Not only was the serpent cursed but also the entire animal kingdom.  What some call “survival of the fittest” is really just creation groaning under the curse. When God put the animals in the Garden of Eden, it was not with the law of tooth and claw. That’s the result of the curse of sin.
•    on the mineral kingdom, the earth itself (Genesis 3:17).
        At Creation, earth flourished as a garden. With the fall of Adam, we have  ecological problems, drought, deserts, and barren land.
•    on the vegetable kingdom—plants and vegetation (Genesis 3:18)
        God intended that all the world would be like the Garden of Eden, but it has become a garden of weeds. But–have you ever noticed how much easier it is to grow weeds than vegetables?
•    on the human kingdom, mankind (Genesis 3:26).
        Man is morally depraved. His mind, like the earth, has become a garden of weeds. His imagination is evil (Genesis 6:5).

Because of sin, our bodies wear out (Romans 5:12). We are all dying of a terminal disease--death caused by sin--and none of us is immune. Even though our bodies are wearing out, Romans 8:22-24 reminds us that, because of our salvation, there is hope for our souls. Paul says, “My spirit is saved, but my body is not yet saved. It is not yet redeemed. Neither is yours. We’re waiting for that. I have the firstfruit of the Spirit in my heart. When I received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit came into me. And so do you, if you have received Jesus Christ. But I live in a body that groans, and so do you.”

Looking around, we see something desperately wrong in our world. Paul is saying that everything God made, His entire creation, became subject to senselessness and futility because of the evil we call sin. All the confusion, disease, war, strife and suffering is here because of sin. You can’t give it any other word than that one three-letter word, sin. God made a perfect world, but sin entered into that world. When Adam sinned, he dragged all of creation down with him.

Dr. M.R. DeHaan was a radio Bible teacher. He tells of watching television in 1985 and a disastrous earthquake hit Mexico City. Cameras were there with live coverage showing the devastation. At the bottom of the screen was a small graphic that read: “Courtesy S-I-N.” It was the Spanish International Network transmitting the coverage, but the irony struck Dr. DeHaan: This earthquake is brought to you, courtesy of sin. That’s what has happened and is happening in our world. We live in a sin-sick world, and sin is like a virus. The curse on the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the mineral kingdom, and the human kingdom is the result of the evil called sin that happened in the Garden of Eden. We are reaping the bitter fruit of it today.

•    When tragedy hits
•    when things don’t work out the way you think they should
•    when that person who is dearest to you is being consumed by disease
you may lift a clenched fist in the face of God and accuse Him of unfairness or lack of love.  
Or you may be filled with doubt and say,
•    “Where is God? If He cares, doesn’t He have any power to do anything about it?
•    Or could it be that He has the power and He really doesn’t care?
•    Or could it be that there is no God at all?”

To answer these, let’s remember again that we believe that God is good. Now we need to take a further step of faith and trust. We need to believe that
            God has a good purpose for everything He does, but some good purposes have evil byproducts.
Let me repeat that.
            God has a good purpose for everything He does, but some good purposes have evil byproducts.

Some physical evil may be a necessary byproduct of a good natural process.
•    Rain, heated air, and cooled air are all necessary for food and life, but a byproduct of these forces is a tornado.
•    Lake or river water is good to swim and boat in, but we can also drown in it.
•    It is good to have food to eat, but this also makes danger of obesity or food poisoning possible.
•    Plants and animals die so that man may have food to live. Thus, evil (animal death) results indirectly from good because it is the consequence of a good purpose.
•    Families enjoy a fire in the fireplace or on a campout. However, some sparks may ignite unintended fires.
Some suffering can be explained by human free choice.
•    The choice to abuse my body can result in sickness.
•    The choice to be lazy can result in poverty.
•    Physical evil to others can result from our free choice, as in spouse or child abuse.
•    Others suffer indirectly because of our free choice. Alcoholism can lead to poverty of one's children.

God knows the good purpose for all evil, even if we do not. Simply because our finite minds cannot conceive of a good purpose for some evil does not mean that there is none. God does not explain His purposes to us humans, His creations. The fact that we don't see the purpose for some evil does not mean there is none. This inability to see the purpose for evil does not disprove God's benevolence.

We started with these questions,
•    Can an absolutely good God be compatible with evil, the opposite of good?
•    If God is absolutely good, why is there evil?  
We looked at God’s Word to recall these facts:
•    God is good.
•    God created everything.
•    Everything He created was good.
•    God hates evil.
•    Evil entered the world when Adam and Eve used their free will to choose evil.

Now the follow-up question is,
        “If God is a good God, why doesn’t He do something now? Why doesn’t He step in, kill the Devil, and destroy evil?  After all, if He’s God, He could.”

Think carefully.
•    God could not destroy evil without destroying sin. With no sin, there would be no need for
         - repentance,
         - salvation,
         - the cross,
         - the tomb,
         - the resurrection–
         - even for Christ’s birth and life.
•    God could not destroy evil without destroying freedom of choice. God would be destroying the capability for His creatures to choose  to Come to Him. Love Him.  Serve Him.

God is not going to destroy evil, He’s going to defeat it. You see, there were two gardens: the Garden of Eden housed the first Adam, then the second Adam went to the Garden of Gethsemane. The Lord Jesus, the Son of God, took sin upon Himself and carried sin to a cross, and on that cross died–and was resurrected. Triumph over evil through Christ and amazing grace.

There is a better day coming. All creation is moaning and groaning, sighing, pressed down with grief and distress. To try to save this old world with ecology and politics would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. But when Jesus comes, He is going to change it. Creation is waiting with outstretched arms. When Jesus comes, every curse upon the animal, vegetable, mineral and human kingdoms will be broken during the Millenium.
•    The animal kingdom will be set free from the curse (Isaiah 11:6-9). Snakes will not hurt people. Babies will be able to play near a cobra’s hole and put their hands into the nest of that  poisonous snake. Animals will no longer be prey for other animals.
•    The mineral kingdom will be changed (Isaiah 55:12a).
•    The vegetable kingdom will be changed (Isaiah 55:12b-13) when the curse of thorns and thistles in Genesis 3:18 is broken.
•    The human kingdom will be changed. Our bodies will be redeemed. When we die—or if Jesus returns first—we’re going to be like Him. Evangelist Dr. Vance Havner said, “You’re not going be towed into Heaven by a wrecking crew. You are going to have a body like unto His glorious body.”
The groans we endure are temporary
The glory we expect is eternal.

Our scripture from Romans 12 shows how to overcome evil. Paul turns to a practical treatment of evil in the life of the individual and tells us to love like overcomers.

LOVE LIKE JESUS DID. Love must be sincere (Romans 12:9a).
        The perfect goodness of Jesus overcame the perfect evil of the Devil at Calvary. Love enabled Him to overcome evil and its greatest weapon of death. Love is the first and most indispensable principle of victorious, overcoming living.  
         - Jesus is God.
         - God is love (1 John 4:8).
         - Therefore Jesus is love (Matthew 22:37-39).
•    Hate evil with intensity.
•    Embrace good with tenacity.
•    Approach responsibilities with enthusiasm (Romans 12:11).
•    Fulfill them with spiritual delight

Once we understand the relationship between our good God and evil, where do we go with this knowledge? We can “Keep on keeping on!”
Trust the Lord. Just because things do not make sense to you doesn’t mean they don’t make sense. And just because they don’t make sense to you now doesn’t mean they will not make sense to you someday.
Keep trusting and keep obeying. If you have been obedient, keep doing it.
Even if you think God doesn’t hear you, be assured that, if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, if you are praying in Jesus’ name and desiring God’s will in your life, God hears and answers. When you come to the Lord in prayer but you don’t feel like praying, pray anyway.
If you’ve been praising God, singing “No One Ever Cared for Me like Jesus,” and the bottom falls out and life caves in, keep praising. When you don’t feel like praising, praise God anyhow. Look to the Lord.
Remember you are only a steward of material goods God has entrusted you with. Trust God with your finances. Keep giving.
If you’re in a valley, your heart is broken, and there’s darkness all about you, just keep on witnessing, telling people about Jesus. Even if no one seems to respond and nobody gets saved, keep witnessing. If you have an unsaved spouse, and you have witnessed and prayed, just keep witnessing.

Our scripture from Psalm 37 is a timeless warning that evil-doers may be  flourishing and living in ease, but their outward prosperity is fading. When we look forward, with an eye of faith, we see no reason to envy the wicked. Their weeping and wailing will be everlasting. Believers trust in the Lord and serve Him according to His will and need to be satisfied that God will make all to work for good. A fretful, discontented spirit is open to many temptations.

Romans 8:37-39 also assures us of God’s care for us. Paul made a complete list—nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even in our pain, our questions, and our disappointment. God doesn’t say you will not suffer. He says you are predestined for glory, you are preserved for glory, and the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.
•    God never asks us to reach for anything impossible (2 Corinthians 12:9).
•    So when His Word challenges us to not be overcome by the evil but to be an overcomer, it is possible.
•    The proof is found on Calvary's old rugged cross where perfect goodness faced perfect evil.
•    Evil took its best shot and lost.

★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
              Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
              I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
              Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
                     In Your name I pray, Amen.

Rev. Dr. Nicholas Gray, Pastor         Broadway Baptist Church        Sedalia, Missouri          2015