We started a series this week that aims to answer one of life’s most daunting questions. This is a kind of theodicy– an effort to give an answer to the problem of evil in our world. I named the series “Why do bad things happen to good people” because that’s the way the question is typically asked (even though I don’t agree with the implications inherent in the question).
Each post is a point that builds upon the previous point. So if you’re just starting today, go back and read the introduction and parts one and two. It will put this point in context and clarify what I’m saying. Here’s the previous posts:
Monday: Where We’re Going
The highest good, which is God’s self-exaltation, is also God’s greatest act of love.
As I mentioned in the last post, God is heaven-bent on garnering glory to his name. It is inherent in everything he does. And he unabashedly declares it throughout Scripture.
Believers and unbelievers alike struggle with this. And the reason we struggle with this is because we think that it’s impossible for God to be loving and self-exalting at every turn.
How can God say, “Glorify me! Magnify my name! Worship me!” and be loving? Like I said yesterday, if I were to make such statements I would be called a megalomaniac. I would be self-absorbed and vain. How come God says these things, and it’s okay?
We must understand SOME things to reconcile these truths about God.
1. The modern understanding of love is not biblical.
We tend to think that love is something that someone does to us to make us feel good. With today’s understanding of love, spanking your child is unloving because it hurts the child. Confronting harmful behavior is unloving and intolerant because it reveals the failure of another person. According to this system of thought, love always sweeps the issue under the rug. But that’s not the biblical version of love.
If a husband is addicted to alcohol and the habit is ruining his family and his kids are in danger of being abused, would it be loving of his friend to let him enjoy his scotch until he squanders his money, wallows in guilt for the remainder of his life and dies? No. The true friend would slap him around so he realizes the seriousness of his problem. And when we start talking about an almighty, omnipotent God we have to really be careful. What is the best way that God loves us? Is God’s love simply making us feel good about ourselves?
Obviously it’s not. The whole point of the gospel is to make us feel so bad about ourselves that we look to God for salvation.
What, then, is love?
What does the love of God look like?
Love can be defined something like this: Love is doing whatever it takes to do what will make someone happy forever.
If we’re talking about the biblical love, we have to think in terms of eternity. What will be eternally loving? In the short term, sweeping an issue under the carpet may seem loving, but from eternity’s perspective, it may actually be harmful. Wouldn’t it be more eternally loving to confront sin so that it gets dealt with, rather than leaving it to fester or hinder?
So when God loves, he’s working from an eternal perspective. He wants to make us happy forever. Not for a day. Not for 72 years. He wants you happy forever.
What will make us happy forever?
2. God garners glory by self-revelation.
Yesterday’s point was that God is radically dedicated to his own glory. The way God goes about garnering this glory is by revealing himself so that people will see him and worship. God revealed himself by acting in history in the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 10:1-11). He revealed himself by taking the form and likeness of a man and living among us (Hebrews 1:2-3). He reveals himself through his Word (2 Peter 1:21). He reveals himself through the church (Ephesians 3:10).
Human beings are worship factories, built to worship something. Sadly, most of our worship is monopolized by petty hobbies and self-gratification. But we were made to worship God. Fully worshiping God is the most satisfying and fulfilling experience a human being can have. Worship is enjoying God. Here’s the key: we can only enjoy God to the extent that he reveals himself to us. The more we see the character of God in all its fullness– the holiness of God, the greatness of God, the majesty of God,etc, we will be drawn to worship. There is no deeper joy than worship. Nothing so satisfies the human soul as intimacy with God.
If God was not relentlessly seeking to exalt himself, he would be holding from us the only thing that could make us happy forever. The most loving act God does toward the world is self-exaltation. When God reveals himself to the world, he unveils the most glorious and attractive and satisfying object in the universe.
And that is loving.
“In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
God’s pursuit of glory is inherently loving because what God is seeking to put on display is the most beautiful and fulfilling thing in the world; namely, himself. Thus, our deepest longings are satisfied when the highest good is accomplished. God gets the glory and we get the joy.
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Tomorrow might be the most controversial post I’ve ever written. Hope you don’t tune out.
Point Four: The highest good (God’s exaltation) and our highest joy (worship) could not have been accomplished if evil had not entered the world.