Thursday, June 7, 2018

Is God's Love Reckless?

Is God’s Love Reckless?

There’s a new song out written by Cory Asbury and produced by Bethel music it’s called “Reckless Love.” This song has won many awards this year and has been number one on the Christian and Gospel Billboard chart and even high on the

secular charts. Many have thrown their hat in the ring with critique of its message including John Piper, Relevant Magazine, etc. This song is so popular in fact, we could say that it is the “How He Loves” of 2018 (which was written by John Mark McMillan and covered by David Crowder).

The lyrics of the chorus of “Reckless Love” are...

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

So I want to throw my hat in the ring also to ask the question if God’s love is indeed Reckless? Or if He is reckless or if maybe the expression of His love is reckless? I was brought to this topic because we sang this song on Sunday at church. I thought immediately to myself that, “God’s love is NOT reckless!” I became quickly distracted and could not sing the rest of the song because I was so disturbed in my spirit that we might think or sing that God’s love was reckless. 

To avoid any confusion of terms we need to define the word reckless. I will define it like the artist Cory Asbury defined it so that I am consistent with his intentions and meaning. He defines reckless as “He (God) is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions in regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being.” He has defined it in this way, but what does the first language English speaker think when they hear the term reckless. My thoughts went to a more precise definition like that given by the Oxford dictionary. Oxford defines reckless as, “Heedless of danger or the consequences of one's actions; rash or impetuous.” All you need is a good thesaurus to gain a broader understanding of the word. Some synonyms are without caution, rash, careless, thoughtless, inattentive, hasty, impetuous, or impulsive, 

First of all we need to be fair to artists. Artistic license should be granted to those who are writing music, poems, and or otherwise using art to describe a seemingly indescribably awesome God. I want to grant Asbury grace in that, however that does not let him and other artists off the hook for not describing the nature, character, and works of God in precise, and accurate ways. I know also that artists choose words and ideas sometimes, as Asbury said he has here, to shock us on purpose. I also want to give leeway for those instances. But the more I thought about this the more I cannot get over the usage of this word in description of what God’s love is like. 

Asbury clearly states that he is not saying that God is reckless. However, that is a reckless thing to say...that God does reckless stuff, but His character is not reckless. That is like saying that as a father I am not reckless but I do reckless stuff with my kids. Doing reckless things with or for my kids would make me a reckless father. Asbury cannot have it both ways. Put a different way, maybe we say God sometimes acts without wisdom, but his character is wise. It doesn't compute. God only acts as defined by his character and he cannot change his character to act in an unwise way. For instance, it would be correct to say, God is wise and thus all his actions are wise. In the same way God is not reckless in his character, thus he cannot act recklessly or do seemingly reckless things. They may seem reckless to us but they are not reckless and should not be characterized as such. He cannot act recklessly either in the the doing or carrying out of his loving actions.

Looking at the definition again, we cannot say any part of God’s nature is rash, careless, thoughtless, inattentive, hasty, impetuous, or impulsive but that is the definition of reckless. He is none of those things, thus He cannot act in that way. He is rather the exact opposite of all those things. God is thoughtful, attentive, long suffering, patient, calm, circumspect, considerate, thoughtful, and wise. And those things of his character do not change, “I the Lord change not, therefore you oh sons of Jacob are not destroyed.” (Malachi 3:6) The triune God has eternally exercised his love, even before we were created. The triune God has exercised love from before time because He is love (1 John 4:8). God’s love is expressed in several dimensions, benevolence, grace, mercy, and persistence. Persistence may be what Asbury is really trying to get at. God is often described in the New Testament as withholding judgement and continuing to extend his love and grace over long periods of time. His persistence, patience and long suffering is also on display over and over again with Israel in the Old Testament. One of the most popular verses that display Gods persistence and patience is found in 1 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬). He is persistent in that He is persistently giving man chances over and over again to respond in repentance to His offer of love and grace. 

Furthermore, God’s love is not reckless but meticulously, precisely planned, and carefully coordinated within the eternal Trinity. We see this clearly in the first chapters of the Bible, that His plan was actually an eternal plan. Right after Adam fell God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."”‭‭(Genesis‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭ESV). This verse has long been understood at a prophetic statement referring to what Jesus would do on the cross. Is the cross an ultimate statement of God’s love? Yes it is the ultimate statement of every part of His character. The cross makes it possible for man to receive God’s love and grace. It is the expression and propitiation of his justice, righteousness, perfection, holiness and every other part of His character. The cross was planned by the Trinity from long before the fall, the fall was no surprise to God. He didn’t react and say, “well then I better come up with a pretty reckless plan to win them back!” In a video of the song “Reckless Love” (seen below) Asbury explains some thoughts that led to the song... “He (God) doesn’t wonder what he will gain or loose by putting himself on the line. He simply puts himself out there in the off chance that you and I might look back at him and give him that love in return.” The extension of the love of God is not a mishap or an “off chance.” This paints God as a being that just hopes against hope that we will love Him too. According to this God risks giving love for the “off chance” that you will return love.

God is not leaving his love to chance, or bending the laws of nature like the reckless superhero Ironman blowing everything up in his way to save the love interest of that particular Ironman sequel film. His love is not extended so that He could possibly have the chance to be with us like we are the center of the universe. He is extending his love and grace continually because He is love and grace (1 John 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13:11), and we would only find true love and grace in Him. He isn’t bending over backwards so that He can be with us, but rather He has made it possible that we can be with Him! Peter confirms this idea in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬).

The devil is actually the reckless character in the spiritual realm. He comes to “steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10)." And he, “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8)." We could say that God didn’t care about the “consequences of the actions of his love.” But that is also misleading. Did Jesus know of the consequences of His looming death on the cross? And the separation and sin-bearing that He would experience? Of course, and He even asked for God to remove the cup of wrath! And His soul was agonizing to the point of death! He knew and embraced the consequences, and cared deeply about them. But Jesus went through it because it was the will of the Father. And He loves the Father that’s why He follows through on His Father's will. Jesus said, “But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” John 14:31) 

I would like to gently lead us, and maybe even Asbury and the whole Bethel worship team, that has often put man in the center of the worship universe, to a fuller more accurate picture of the character of the love of God. I hope this post at least gets us thinking of the Bethel leanings toward Pelagianism (see video below), and a God that only sent his Son to the cross because He thought we were that valuable. Pelagianism is the teaching that people are not born into sin, and that "people are good and mean to do good even if they are not saved." (Quote from Eric Johnson Pastor at Bethel)

Of course this is flat out wrong and condemned in Pelagianism at the Councils of Carthage and Ephesus! I beg you to consider the source of your worship songs and the theology that stands behind certain worship movements. Because theology affects and influences liturgy and vice versa. That is why I wrote “Divergent Theology” to expose these terribly unorthodox theological leanings. I have spent much time in that book dealing with the theology, teaching, and practice of Bethel and the New Apostolic Reformation. 

In closing, I would like to say that using this verbiage in reference to the love of God most likely will mislead people as to the true character of God. I fear it could confuse people, make man more important than he is and make God less worthy than He is. When I believe that God is in reckless pursuit of me, then I elevate my worth over and against God’s infinite worth. When He is Reckless in pursuit of me, He actually becomes Feckless and the concept of his Recklessness backfires. This concept, I fear, turns God into hopeless romantic with no backbone, and the result is a Feckless God. The truth is, that God extends His love because He is love, not because we are so desirous to Him. We sinners are utterly undesirable to a holy God. But because He is the center of the universe, and it would be a terribly unloving thing to keep himself to himself, He extends His love to us because He is love. And it is all “to the praise of His glory.” So let’s be thoughtful as we sing “Reckless Love” and all other worship songs because liturgy affects, forms, and informs our theology. And we definitely want to believe the right stuff about God. Right?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Thoughts for Reflection on Good Friday

Most Kings when it is time for them to die come to some sort of process where they talk to their successor, son, or one taking over power to give them the crown. Sometimes Kings died on the battlefield, but if not they usually have a noble death, where they are surrounded by family and the King that will be coronated at his death. Jesus death was nothing like a kingly death.

Read John 19 it describes the events of Jesus death on a cross

On the cross...

1. Jesus Experienced Physical Suffering

1. Before Jesus had to even go through his day of torture and crucifixion he stayed up all through the night praying and the Bible says he sweat drops of blood. Bleeding through your sweat glands is A real physical condition called Hematidrosis.
2. He was struck with 40 lashes (minus 1) with a cat of nine tails. With balls wrapped up in leather, and glass, and metal, and small bones to do the most damage to people’s flesh.
3. The Roman soldiers pulled His beard, spit on Him, beat Him with rods, punched Him (While Blindfolded) in the face and asked to prophecy who hit Him.
4. They wrapped together a crown of thorns and pressed it into his head to mock him.
5. He was made to carry his own cross.
6. He was crucified at Golgotha. The details of crucifixion are...He was nailed and probably bound so that you had to press upward with your legs and pull with your arms to even breathe. People usually died of asphyxiation when crucified. We get our English word excruciating (someone who has “excruciating pain”) from the word crucifixion. Crucifixion only existed as corporal Roman punishment for the few years preceding and following Jesus life. It is known to this day as one of the most cruel forms of capital punishment known in human history.

2. Jesus Also Experienced Emotional Suffering

Look at the passage where Jesus was in the garden of gethsemane He was so troubled that his emotional state affected his physical state when he sweat drops of blood. We can see clearly emotional torment from the things that he said on the cross. He had to make arrangements for John to take care of Mary his mother, and His Father in heaven turned His back on His son when he "became sin." Jesus said, "Father why have you forsaken me."

3. Jesus aAlso Experienced Spiritual Suffering

Read Isaiah 53:3-12 which is a prophetic explanation of what Jesus would go through in the future. It is AWESOME!!! The cup of God’s wrath was poured out on Christ. That was the suffering for the sins of the whole world. Think about if Jesus had to spiritually suffer for only our worst sins. He not only suffered spiritually for our worst sins, but ALL our sins.

One of the eyewitnesses a Roman Centurion saw the “way in which he died”, and proclaimed “truly this was the son of God.” This would have been an incredible proclamation for a Roman, because a Roman would have believed that Caesar was the son of God. This is not only a proclamation of Jesus as God, but that Caesar was NOT! Here are a few questions for you this Good Friday for your reflection.

1. When you read about the details of the Crucifixion what do you feel? Love, Mercy, Grace, Hope, Sadness, Fear, Wonder, Thankfulness?

2. What is your response to the fact that, “He bore your sins in his body on the cross?”

3. What is your response that the Romans wrote above his cross, “The King of the Jews?”

Pray and thank God that he has sent His Son for us in our place.

“Dear Lord Jesus, Thanks you so much for your sacrifice in my place. Thank you that you suffered in my place that I could be free, forgiven, and be called a child of God. Jesus, you are so wonderful. I thank you so much for your cross. I fall down before your cross so that you would give me forgiveness and freedom from all my sins past, present, and future. Thank you for your grace, and that you died for me, even though I did not deserve it or earn it. You died for me while I was still a sinner. THANK YOU!!!”

Here is a wonderful song by Matt Papa to illustrate the Wondrous Mystery that happened for you and for me on the cross.

Monday, January 22, 2018


The Immutability of God: 
Why God’s Unchanging Nature Matters

By: Richard P Moore

Kandern, Germany January, 2018

Maybe it is because I have been feeling the onset of a midlife crisis, and that things are so rapidly changing around me and I cannot keep up with stuff like I used to anymore, that I want to address the never changing nature of God. Maybe it is because so many artists lately have covered the subject of the immutability of God (see videos below). Maybe it is because I feel myself changing so much. Even since beginning of this writing this I have changed. That is the nature of being human. We change! From the moment we are born, we are changing. Sometimes for better sometimes for worse. I have been intrigued by the immutability of God probably mostly because I sense the change and tumultuous upheaval in my life and even soul and spirit. Recently I have felt my spiritual life changing for the worse. I sense my heart being drawn to the lusts of the flesh more and more. Comfort breeds complacency and complacency breeds comfort. I am feeling spiritually complacent. That is why I would like to address the immutability of God. I want to break my heart of this spiritual upheaval in my life, and whenever I have focused on the character, essence, and person of God I have shaken myself of the trappings and the sin that so easily entangle. That is my hope in contemplating with fresh eyes on the nature of a good and immutable God.

God is immutable. That means that he is unchanging. Put another way God’s nature, essence, and character are all constant. His nature is unchanging. Nothing about Him has ever changed. From eternity past to eternity future He will never change. The Westminster confession describes the immutability of God in this way:

"There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withall most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”[1]

This makes the nature of God quite clear but let us unpack that a little. He is infinite; never beginning and never ending in that perfect state. He is uncaused therefore, he needs no one. This is seen in his own descriptions of himself like that instance when Moses asks God what his name is. He said, “I am that I am.” This is often referred to in theological terms as “Aseity” which is a term derived from Latin “As” which means "from" and “se” which means “self.” Aseity is the property by which a being exists in and of itself, from itself, or exists as of and from itself. The bottom line here is that God is self-sufficient. However it is not like we define self-sufficiency. A baby is not self-sufficient and an adult is. We are not talking about the self-sufficiency of adulthood, but rather God is of himself and exists outside the necessity or dependence on anything or anyone. This word also means that God contains within Himself the cause of Himself, is the first cause, or rather is simply uncaused. He is the uncaused cause. God is absolutely independent and self-existent. 

            The Westminster confession also describes an immutable God that is “working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will.” This is so comforting to me right now. I am in such upheaval spiritually with change and insecurity, but the Lord, the unchanging God in heaven, is working all these things according to the counsel of His own righteous will. Sometimes, I have to keep that truth right in front of me so that I do not become discouraged and lose heart. The pain, hurt, disease, suffering that we see so often around us He is working and turning to his righteous will! What a hope! What a relief in those most trying of times. God is most at work in the most difficult of times, and even turning your situation of suffering to His righteous immutable purposes (Romans 8:28). Moreover, overwhelming evidence of God’s immutability or unchanging nature are described in the following verses:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
James 1:17 ESV

We live in a world of shifting shadows. Not just personally, but in our whole existence there is so much that changes and the shadows of this world are deceptive. We many times are confused by all that changes in our lives and worlds. But this verse explains that there is not any variation due to change with God. Not one shifting shadow has been cast by Him because of the setting sun in the afternoon sky. It does not matter where the sun hangs in the sky, he changes not! Not just that he does not change due to circumstance, but more than that His giving nature is tied in this verse to his immutability! He gives good gifts and thus is the most unchanging benevolent being in all the universe!

“"For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
Malachi 3:6 ESV

The prophet Malachi also describes God’s immutability. His thus saith the Lord is “I do not change” but He goes on to describe the outcome of His own immutability. Which is that the children of Jacob are not consumed. Herein, God ties his immutability to his eternal justice. He is a long-suffering and gracious God, thus He has shown kindness to a thousand generations of those that fear him. He will also display His justice to those who do not fear Him, and that justice has been exhibited throughout biblical history.

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
Numbers 23:19 ESV

God’s immutability is seen here as contrary to the attributes of man. His immutability is not Anthropomorphic. He is not a man. Thus, He cannot lie or change His mind. His promises are then also immutable. They stand like an immovable rock. Like Martin Luther once said, “The mercy of God is like the immovable Heavens that firmly stay above us. Under this roof, we are safe wherever we are.” The mercy of God is one promise to those who have placed faith in Him, but His mercy is also an attribute of His immutable nature that is not conditional. He is merciful in all His dealings because He is merciful. It is not the action and extension of mercy that makes Him merciful, but because He is merciful, He thus extends mercy.

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;”
Titus 1:1-3 ESV

This passage shows us the unchanging nature of the truthfulness of God. Again, He does not become truthful because He told the truth a few times. It is His character thus He must tell the truth for He is truth. Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” He speaks the truth in His word, because He is truth. He is not like man who has a “eureka!” moment when we finally find the answer or the truth. He needs no eureka moment to find the answer. He is tho one constantly giving the eureka moments to us, because He is the eureka we are looking for.

“For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 6:16-20 ESV

His immutability also makes Him the greatest being of the universe. This is seen in the covenants that he made with man. A covenant is made against a power or being greater than the one making the covenant so that the promise can be held out against the one making the covenant. This idea can be found in a court of law. A person giving testimony will swear to, “tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.“ After agreeing to tell the truth that person is “under oath.” What do we swear against when we are “under oath?” We promise against something greater than us, namely God. Since there is nothing greater than Himself and His immutability He cannot swear to anything greater, so He swears against the “unchangeable character of His purpose.” The writer of Hebrews then points out that God has sworn in a covenant to us against the two unchanging things, He Himself, and the unchanging character of His purpose. Accordingly, Jesus has gone into the Holy place to effectuate the terms of the covenant. In so doing Jesus also confirmed His immutability as a priest forever in the order of the eternal line of priesthood seen in the archetype of Melchizedek.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8 ESV

            Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews confirms Jesus as that eternal priest that He had previously mentioned. Jesus is proven here and throughout Hebrews to be God, and the same immutable God that has been described throughout Scripture. He is the second person of the Triune Godhead and so He must also have the same qualities and characteristics of the immutable God. Thus, we can throw ourselves onto his great mercy and grace because He is the immutable God that we have come to know and trust who has made a way to Himself through His effectual sacrifice. This verse is a direct claim to deity, for only God is immutable and so this points to Christ as that same immutable God revealed in the scriptures. The immutability of God means that God will follow through with judgment. It also means God will follow through with His promise of salvation. We can know and be sure that God’s certain judgment fell on His Son, Jesus Christ, and thus by faith in Him, men are saved from their sins and from God’s unchanging wrath.

What about the passages of scripture where it appears that God "changes his mind" or “repents?” I would offer a few arguments as to why God does not change His mind or ways as we understand change or repentance.

1. The evidence is overwhelming that God is immutable and does not “change His mind“ or “repent” according to our understanding. There are only a few instances where God appears to be described as changing His mind or described as repenting. I tend to think that those instances are where the writers of scripture are trying to put into the best language that they have to describe what is happening in God’s dealings with man. 
2. The second explanation that I can give is that God is being described in those passages of scripture in Anthropomorphisms. That means that the writers are describing God in terms of what man would do or using the language of man to describe God. I would argue that those passages do not mean that God repents as in what we understand repent to mean in turning from an evil action, or something that we believed to be wrong, but only that the writers are using anthropomorphic language to describe God. 
3. And thirdly, some of these “changes of mind” like Adam’s relationship to God, Ninevah, or Moses “changing God’s mind” in relation to destroying Israel are changes in the orientation or that standing between God and man. God never changes, but we do and so these apparent “changes of mind” occur when man changes or His relationship and repentance toward God change, and that can appear to be God changing His ways or mind.  

I would like to address some of the characteristics of God’s immutability.

1. He is eternal. Time does not apply to Him. He was before time began. We might ask how old is God? That question is not adequate. He is not older than aeons ago, and no younger than yesterday. He simply is not restricted by the confines of time as we calculate it. He was, He is, and He will be. also God is timeless he does not grow or develop. There are no variations in His character due to change. As James writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17) Shadows change due to the position of the sun in relation to the thing casting the shadow during the day. If the sun is high in the noon sky the shadows are not very long. in the late evening right before the setting of the sun the shadows are long. Shadows are shifty and changing. James uses that analogy as a contrast to the character of God. God does not shift like shadows! There is no variation in his character, being, essence, nature, or work according to the shifting sands of time, or the shadows of the day. He is simply outside time. Although he is outside time and not bound by its constraints, he is conscious and aware of our time and is sovereign within human history. He not only knows what is happening in human history, but orchestrates it as a conductor of a symphony that stands outside the symphony. The conductor instructs the symphony while not playing a single note of an instrument. He conducts the whole thing without being constrained by playing a single instrument. God is not only aware that certain events occur, but is sovereignly working those events of all of human history to His glorious plan. He does not get taken by surprise. He has no contingency plan when something does not go His way. 

2. He never changes and this remains the same as he has eternally existed

3. He is not like us. We are fickle and change consistently 

4. His character, will, nature, and essence stay the same

5. Christ’s character also stays the same although he was not man before, He was always the eternal son. When He took on flesh that did not change His character or his personhood in any way as the second person of the trinity the eternal son was, always is, and will always be the eternal son. 

6. The Holy Spirit also has eternally existed and His character never changes. He works as the Ruhach (Hebrew for Spirit or life force) of God from eternity past into eternity future.

7. God the father has also eternally existed and his character stays consistent throughout all eternity.

8. He exhibits certain traits simultaneously with the same fervor and zeal unchangeably, eternally, and equally. He exhibits sovereignty, pureness and holiness, love and grace, wrath and mercy, glory, supremacy, magnificence, transcendence, authority, excellence and faithfulness.
He is all seeing: He sees all movements and activity of the universe and He controls it all at the same time, never losing sight of one single activity of man or one microscopic detail of the movements that take place in the universe at any given time. It is all under his all seeing caring, and all powerful eye. 
He is all knowing (omniscient): Jesus said that not a sparrow can fall to the ground without the Father’s will (Matt 10:29), and even the hairs of the disciples heads are numbered (verse 30), and before Him no creature is hidden (Hebrews 4:13).Everything is completely transparent before God. He knows all truth completely even those things we have not yet discovered, because He built them into all creation as the great architect. He knows all the possibilities even when they are infinite; for He is infinitely possible. His knowledge is never taxed by our infinite list of impossibilities.  
He is all powerful (omnipotent): This means that God is able to do all things which are proper. He is known as El Shaddai. God almighty as He was know to Abraham. God overcomes insurmountable problems with ease as Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” And in Matthew 19:26 “but with God all things are possible.” His power is expressed in scripture over nature, as creator, as controller of the course of history, and the omnipotence to change man’s nature through salvation. God’s power is also never frustrated. The psalmist writes, “Our God is in the heavens, He does whatever he pleases.” (115:3) There are limits to His power however. He cannot do anything that we as humans can imagine. He shall only do things that are in line with the objects of his power. He cannot do absurd, illogical, or contradictory things. Like things against His creative order, against His own holiness, or undoing history, etc.
He is all present (omnipresent): He is present everywhere all at the same time. However that does not mean that He is like some sort of divine superman darting here and there in creation to give us access to himself across all of his creation, he simply is present and accessible across the whole of creation at all times. 

9. God‘s extension of grace then must also be immutable. Charles Spurgeon said it this way,

"I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called."

In Conclusion, it seems rather apparent from insurmountable scriptural evidence that God is immutable. Why does that matter? I would like to give a few reasons in conclusion why the immutability of God matters. First, the immutability of God means that fellowship with God, how man is made right with God, being able to trust in His word, living by faith as a Christian, are fundamentally the same realities and truths for us today as they were for Old and New Testament believers. Since God has not changed, how man is made right with Him also remains the same throughout the ages. We do not have to guess or uncover some mystic secrets, we are made right with God by faith as Hebrews 11 and the great men and women of the faith have showed us for generations. Amidst all the uncertainties of our current day and age. Political, cultural, social, and economic unrest, we can know and worship the eternal God by faith, as the saints have done for all time. Amongst all the tumult in this world God has stayed the same, and how we approach Him has stayed constant throughout the ages.

            Second, God’s immutability means that the things He says must also be true. This means that His word must have the same qualities of His immutable character. What does that mean? We can trust that His word is true, it is accurate, and we can take it as the eternal message that He wanted to deliver to man. A common trend in preaching and teaching is to sort of soften the word of God to make it more palatable for the everyday person. While that is all good, it overlooks the fact that God’s word is never out of date, never old-fashioned, or irrelevant. What is written is what we can know that God wanted said to man through the writers of the Old and New Testaments. Thus, we do not need to make it more palatable or relevant. We need to strive to make it understandable, but we don’t need to make it more relevant. It is already relevant, as it has been for ages.

            Third, I appreciate the immutability of God as an assurance to me as a Christian that God will do what He says He will do. In regards to salvation He says He will save me and “remember my sins no more.” That is of utmost importance to the Christian. He is constant in uncertain times. His promises of His presence and help are of highest importance in the life of the everyday Christian. We are called children of God, a priesthood forever, co-heirs with Christ, and the unchanging Jesus calls us friends. These positions of our salvation cannot change. What a comfort. The God of the universe calls us sons and daughters and that cannot change because He cannot change!

            Fourth, God’s immutability is a great comfort to the Christian in our deepest times of trouble. We can be assured that He hears us and at any time that we call on Him He is there to comfort us. One of my favorite psalms is 34:17-18 which says, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” What a promise! I am particularly glad for this promise that God is near to me in the valley of the shadow of death! It is there that the good shepherd's rod and staff protect me. That is what is so unique to Christianity. We grow more toward maturity in the hardship than we do in times of success and prosperity. I have learned more in the valley of the shadow of death about deepened faith and spiritual maturity than I have ever learned in the green pastures (Psalm 23). God is most true in our most trying times of life. These truths altogether about the unchanging nature of God can carry us in our deepest and darkest times. I am so glad for an immutable God aren’t you? 

The following is a spoken word piece that is a powerful declaration of God’s immutability.

The Damsel and the Villain from Desiring God on Vimeo.

In the beginning there was the Hero,And the Hero was the Father,And the Hero was the Spirit,And the Hero was the Son,And if this hurts your head already,Welcome to the kingdom. 
Immutable, inscrutable, infinitelyGlad-hearted, triune perfectionHis ancient love reverberated off each Member with no hint of dissension,Perfect in unity,Perfect in diversity,Holy Trinity.

[1] Williamson, G. I. 2004. The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub. Page 23

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Does Satan Cause Illness, Disease, &, Disability?

Is Satan the cause, the initiator, the deliverer, the source of illness, disease, sickness, and disability? Short answer NO! Long answer, complicated theology. Lately, I have been surrounded by this theological perspective that Satan is the cause of illness, disease, and disability. Our daughter Ana has Down syndrome. Recently, Simone (my wife) had someone tell her that our daughter’s Down syndrome was from Satan. This perspective is incredibly inaccurate, not to mention how pastorally insensitive and hurtful it is to say. But I’m not going to let anyone say it to me anymore because it is terribly biblically mistaken. 

Discussions are happening almost consistently around me lately about sickness, disability, and illness, and I hear often this perspective that people believe that Satan is the source of sickness. I cannot think of one single biblical instance where Satan was the sole cause and initiator of some kind of illness, sickness, or disability outside of God's sovereign plan. As a matter of fact, I can only think of three separate instances where Satan was even the one who "gave" an illness in Job’s case, Paul’s thorn in the flesh (messenger of Satan), and Luke 13 a woman who had been crippled for 18 years by Satan.  However, in these cases God allowed those situations to test both Job and Paul, and in Luke 13 the devil was obviously subject to Jesus authority. From these instances we see that God actually is the initiator. God says, “have you considered my servant Job” when Satan had not even mentioned Job. In Paul’s case God had also expressed complete control and sovereignty over Paul’s thorn to prove to Paul that, “my grace is sufficient for you.” and the keep him from "becoming conceited." However, to say or believe that Satan is the source or initiator of sickness is just not true. Satan is very real and active no doubt, but he is NOT sovereign in or over illness, disease, and disability. God clearly holds complete sovereignty over all things including sickness, and even those rare occasions where he allows the devil to torment people through possession, which is different than sickness, He is still in complete control. As we see in Jesus, he comes to earth to show that the kingdom of God is coming, and Satan is losing his grip on this world. 

     The roots of this view are undoubtedly from the Word of Faith movement that says that Christ took our sickness and illness on himself on the cross. This view that Satan is the cause of sickness is just a natural out working of the Word of Faith Theology. The Word of Faith view is profoundly flawed and so no wonder this view developed into such a troubling theology. I would like to propose a few perspectives on sickness, illness, and disability.
  •  It is incredibly inaccurate to say that God never causes sickness, illness, and disability
  • It is also incredibly inaccurate to say that He only allows sickness, illness, and disability 
  • It is also unbiblical to say that Jesus paid for your health on the cross. If he had then Christians would not get sick, or die.
  • It is rather biblical to say that, God in his infinite sovereign wisdom sometimes allows, causes, and even plans sickness, illness, and disability for our good and his ultimate glory. 
  • God in his infinite sovereign wisdom also works many and varied difficulties to his holy and perfect ends. He often works evil for good (Romans 8:28).
  • His ultimate goals for us are salvation and holiness. Health, if given are only secondary blessings.

These theologies furthermore are part of a new movement called the New Apostolic Reformation I have written a book recently on the subject called “Divergent Theology” I would like to add a section of that book that speaks to this issue here...

In my time in California, (as a youth pastor) I was reintroduced to what is now being called the “Third Wave Movement” or the “New Apostolic Reformation.” From my previous study of the WOF, it became apparent how these newer movements are a development of that same deeply flawed teaching. During our time in California, my wife shared her testimony in a women’s Bible study. She shared about our journey with our daughter who has Down Syndrome, and during that particular time, a seizure disorder. My wife during her testimony shared our struggle with Ana during the time of her devastating seizures. She had something called Infantile Spasms, which is a seizure disorder that only occurs in infancy, and can be very devastating. After sharing her heart in this testimony, a woman approached her and gave her a CD of teaching by Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, California. The sermon went something like this: “God is good; cancer is bad; Satan is bad; thus, Satan is the source of cancer.” While I cannot find that particular sermon in their sermon archives, this is how I remember what he said. He equated cancer with the work of the devil and never a work of, or allowed by God.[1] This would be no surprise if you have any knowledge of the Word of Faith Movement. Bill Johnson was quoted in an interview as saying, “You can only give away what you have. Can God give away sickness? No, He’s not sick. You can’t give cancer if you don’t have it.”[2]

            This is extraordinarily inaccurate. Of course, God can give away sickness, plague, pestilence, disability, or any other ailment He wishes. He gave leprosy, killed 14,700 people in Korah’s rebellion by a plague (Numbers 16), killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1–11), He sent instantaneous blindness to Saul (Acts 9:1–9), Elymas the magician (Acts 13:9–12), and the Syrian army that came against Elisha (2 Kings 6:16-22). He struck Zechariah the priest dumb until his son John the Baptist was born for his unbelief (Luke 1:20). He struck the firstborn dead when the Angel of the Lord passed over Egypt (Exodus 12). He allowed Job, who was a righteous man, to be struck by boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet (Job 2). God smote the evil kings of Israel, and even on occasion freed them of their terrible judgements.  The Lord struck Jeroboam King of Israel and he died (2 Chronicles 13:20). God struck King Jehoram with an incurable bowel disease. After two years, he became disemboweled because of the disease and he died in agony (2 Chronicles 21:18- 19). God did that to Him! God likewise afflicted king Azariah with leprosy until the day he died (2 Chronicles 26:20–21).  These are just a few Old and New Testament instances of how God allowed or even pronounced illnesses and occasionally even death. When Johnson says, God can’t give away sickness, he is woefully incorrect. One may say that this is the age of grace and God would never behave like this anymore. However, judgement of illness and even death are parsed out like this in the New Testament often. As the word of God says, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O Children of Jacob, are not consumed.”[3] And elsewhere it is written, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”[4] Johnson also taught in that same interview:

No. Two thousand years ago, Jesus made a purchase. He does not decide not to heal people today.  The decision two thousand years ago was to heal. Either the payment was sufficient for all sin or no sin. Either the payment was sufficient for all sickness or no sickness ...  The brushstroke of God’s redemption was to wipe out the root of sin, the root of illness and the root of poverty.[5]

This did not surprise me, but it did once again bring back into my purview how widespread the Word of Faith Movement had become. Johnson is correct that Jesus sacrifice was truly sufficient for all sins.  That must be true; if there was one sin not atoned for, then no sins are atoned for. If there is even one sin for which Jesus did not die, there would be no salvation for anyone.  The second cannot be true. Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient for all sickness, because if one sickness is not healed, then He did not die for all sickness. All men die, many from illnesses of one sort or another. Christians still get sick and still die.  The Bible nowhere says unambiguously that Jesus died to heal all sickness, it is just not there. If even one single person is not healed, in this line of reasoning, then the atonement is lacking.

            People could certainly become discouraged in the Christian life if they don’t experience healing for some illness or disability if people held to this teaching. It can cause needless depression and despair. But there is something more at stake than discouragement here. When healing doesn’t happen, people might stop seeing themselves as the problem.  They might stop thinking that the lack is with them. What I have witnessed happen with individuals involved in these movements, is that they will begin to think that the lack is with the Word of God.  That it isn’t real or true, and even worse, that Christ’s atonement is also insufficient.

If this was not erroneous and implausible enough, it gets worse.  The deficiency of God not healing is not on God’s end but rather on our end. Bill Johnson writes on his blog:

How can God choose not to heal someone when He already purchased their healing? Was His blood enough for all sin, or just certain sins? Were the stripes He bore only for certain illnesses, or certain seasons of time? When He bore stripes in His body, He made a payment for our miracle. He already decided to heal. You can’t decide not to buy something after you’ve already bought it.  There are no deficiencies on His end — neither the covenant is deficient, nor His compassion or promises. All lack is on our end of the equation.[6]

Healing is up to God, not up to us. Healing is the sovereign prerogative of God. Many healings that we would have thought should have taken place in the Bible do not. 2nd Corinthians 12:1-10 describes Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Most commentators believe it was some problem with his eyes. Job was physically afflicted by the devil at God’s permission. Timothy had “frequent illness.” Jesus did not heal everyone (Mark 6:1-6). One thing Jesus never did was to produce a miracle without faith (Mark 6:2-3), and He did not produce a “sign from heaven” upon request (Mark 8:11-13), or a miracle that contradicted God’s plan (Mark 15:29-32).

Other examples of God’s sovereignty are the Apostles. They were killed ruthlessly. In other words, God did not deliver them from suffering and death, but rather at his sovereign command, He permitted their suffering under His gracious hand. Jesus gave us a command to invite those suffering under the weight of disease and disability into our homes for feasts, but doesn’t command us in that same passage to heal those we invite. His hope in the command is rather that we show kindness, and hospitality to those who are suffering (Luke 14:12-14). God, speaking to Moses, displays his ultimate sovereignty over illness and disability when the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?””[7]

Another example, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, in the Old Testament was injured in an accident and crippled. David took it upon himself after Jonathan’s death to show kindness to the house of Jonathan and invited Mephibosheth into his home to eat at his table for the rest of his life (2 Samuel 4 & 9). Leviticus displays to us that taking care of the disabled, and those who are suffering, has something to do with our reverence for God, “You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.”[8] In other words, if there is no reverence for God then one might not care for those suffering under disabilities. If, on the other hand, there is a fear and reverence for the Lord, then there will be a care for people who are suffering under these disabilities. Healing, suffering, and diseases are more about God and his sovereign plan than about our hope for immediate healing.

God, in the Old Testament, often wielded sickness, ailments, disease, disability, even plagues to His sovereign ends. The rebellion of Korah in the Old Testament, as previously mentioned, is a prime example. God killed with a plague 14,700 people in one day as a judgement on rebellion (Numbers 16). God often used these circumstances as judgement on people for wickedness. However, He also allowed these situations for His glory, for instance, Naaman in the Old Testament. It says that the Lord had given victory to Syria because of Naaman and he was a mighty man of valor. He had the favor of God, but he also had leprosy. Naaman sought healing from Elisha, and God gave healing, inasmuch as He had allowed the leprosy to begin with. John 9 is the most stunning instance of God’s sovereignty over disability and illness.  The Disciples see a man born blind and ask Jesus “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responds to them, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”[9] God had allowed the blindness in this man that he would one day encounter Jesus, and the works of God would be put on display in and through him.

Additionally, those born with disabilities are woven together in their mother’s womb by the all-powerful hand of a good and loving God. Psalm 139 describes a God who “knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Everyone, everywhere from Adam to the present who has ever been born have been God’s wonderful needlework. He has formed each and every person uniquely in our own individual ways. In the same vein Paul describes that the body of Christ needs weaker members. 1st Corinthians 12:12–27 says, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indespensable,”[10] which shows us that we need those who are frail to make the body of Christ whole. Without the weaker parts of the body of Christ the church is not complete. Healing, health, birth, life, death, suffering, sickness, and disease are all given or permitted according to the prerogative of an almighty supreme God, not according to our sufficiency or deficiency.
When and if God chose to heal people it happened, and continues to happen in response to an effectual faith, in accordance with His great mercy and kindness. Johnson would have us believe if people are not healed that the, “lack is on our end of the equation.” If Christ purchased our atonement on the cross and our sins past, present, and future are forgiven then our healing ought to have also been accomplished immediately. Just as our full atonement is consummated upon repentance and faith, so also should our healing according to this logic. If we were to apply Johnson’s teaching fully, Christians who have placed their faith in Christ, should never get sick. In actuality, our full and complete healing will not be achieved until we receive our incorruptible bodies at the resurrection of the righteous.

            The previous quotation from Johnson is to me a crass reminder of my own experiences of the control, the hurt, the pain, the guilt, and shame that this cult-like message from Bethel and Bill Johnson produces.  The covenant is not deficient; all lack is on our end of the equation. If we took Johnson’s teaching at face value, our daughter is infused with a disease from Satan, and our faith is too weak to secure her healing.  The lack is on our end of the equation, and that is why she is not healed.  It was so offensive and hurtful to us as a family so many years ago, but our feelings are not the crux of the matter, the truth is. If this were true, as previously stated, then all believers, as soon as they put their trust in Christ, would immediately be free from illness, poverty, and death, because Christ bore our illness and poverty on the cross, just as He did our sins. If our sins are forgiven and are gone, so also should all our sickness, disease, torment, and poverty. In actuality, they are not done away with. The truth is, even the Christian will struggle under these until we receive our glorified bodies and death is finally done away with.[11]
            The reality is that we die and death is the ultimate illness. About one-third of people who die daily die of some sort of illness. About two thirds of daily deaths are people who die naturally of old age (that number is almost 90% in industrialized countries).  The only way that Johnson can get away with this disconcerting view is that he qualifies it with the phrase “all lack is on our end of the equation.” If we die of cancer as a Christian, the lack must have been on the cancer victim’s end. But that is precisely where the perspective breaks down. We all die at some point. Death is the ultimate disease, which takes this perplexing theology out of the realm of the logical and moves it into the realm of the absurd. This view certainly pours on the guilt, shame, and hurt when God does not heal despite deep faith and hopeful prayers. Surely God can and does heal us when we pray in faith,[12]  but does God do it as a rule? Or is it connected to the forgiveness of our sin? Is healing bound up into the atonement of Christ?  The other possibility is that of the historic orthodox view of Christianity. In Genesis 3, when sin entered the world, it affected everything. Death entered the world through one man’s disobedience as Romans 5:12, 19-21 shows us:

 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned ... For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.[13]

We can see here that the obvious judgment on Adam’s race was death and decay, but on the other hand, by the one man’s obedience, many will be made righteous. No mention of the restoration of health, wealth, or prosperity, but rather in verse 21 a righteousness leading to eternal life. So yes, one day He will restore our lowly bodies at the resurrection of the righteous,[14] but until that day, the earth is “groaning with the birth pangs.”[15]

In conclusion, this view is perilous because it creates an inclusion to the cross of Christ that has not been historically accepted in any of the manifold views of the atonement.  The only verse that could be used, as a proof text, is found in Isaiah 53:5, which says, “ ... and by His wounds we are healed.”  The danger here is to build a whole theology from one isolated text. Take, for example, the passage in Mark 16:18 that says we will pick up serpents and drink deadly poison and not be hurt. We cannot build a whole theology and practice off of one proof text. Unfortunately, many churches do practice snake handling and drinking poison. Did Mark and Isaiah mean that we ought to practice these things? We should rather address the “whole counsel of God” when addressing puzzling passages of Scripture so as to clarify their meanings.  The WOF, TWM, and NAR add the element of health, wealth, and prosperity into the atonement that has never before been hypothesized, and in so doing, expand the atonement to unbiblical boundaries.

A very good article on this subject is found at Desiring God called Ten Aspects of God's Sovereignty Over Suffering and Satan's Hand in it

I always like to close my blogs with a moment for worship. We can know God has our good in mind when we go through various trials because he is good. Be blessed by this song and sing with Shane and Shane "Though you slay me yet I will rejoice." 

[1] “Bill Johnson – God is good, ALL the time,” YouTube video, 07:31, April 6, 2010, posted by “Whizzpopping,”, accessed April 10, 2016
[2] “Bill Johnson: God Does Not Cause Illness and Never Chooses Not to Heal,” Do Not Be Surprised, accessed April 10, 2016, johnson-god-does-not-cause-illness.html
[3] Malachi 3:6 (ESV)
[4] Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)
[5] “Bill Johnson: God Does Not Cause Illness and Never Chooses Not to Heal,” Do Not
Be Surprised, accessed April 10, 2016, johnson-god-does-not-cause-
[6] “Q&A,” Bill Johnson Bethel Sites, accessed April 20, 2016,
[7] Exodus 4:11 (ESV)
[8] Leviticus 19:14 (ESV)
[9] John 9:1-3 (ESV)
[10] 1 Corinthians 12:22 (ESV)
[11] 1 Corinthians 15:12-58 (ESV)
[12] James 5:13-16 (ESV)
[13] Rom. 5:12, 19-21 (ESV)
[14] 1 Cor. 15:12-49 (ESV)
[15] Matt 24:8; Mark 13:8 (ESV)