James Meehan - It's Not Supposed To Be This Way
- Get involved
So question for you. Have you ever wondered how if God is real, that evil and suffering can exist? Have you ever wondered why good things or sorry, bad things happen to good people? Have you ever wondered why won't God do something about all of the pain and suffering in the world? You see the thing, for many of us this last year was a really, really painful wake up call to the horror sometimes that is reality. Maybe for some of you, you found yourself in a place where you are wondering why would God allow your grandma to pass away from the Coronavirus? Maybe you saw all of the horrible things happening in the news and you're wondering, "God, how could you allow so much senseless violence and hatred to go on in our world today"? Or maybe for you you're in a situation right now where your parents have just filed for divorce and you're asking the question, "God, why won't you keep my family together"?
You see, I think that most of us at this point in our lives would recognize that we live in a world that is fallen and broken, a world that is full of disease and death and pain and suffering and racism and violence and hatred and division and all those things that when we see them there's something inside of us that thinks, "This shouldn't be". And so we were forced into this really difficult position of having to reconcile what we believe about this God we worship who is so good and so loving. And the experiences we face day to day that sometimes just feel miserable. If God is real, then why do evil and suffering exist? How could a loving God allow us so many bad things to happen to seemingly good people? Why won't God do something about all of the pain and injustice in our world today?
If you've ever found yourself wrestling with questions like this, I just want you to know that you are not alone. I think that those are really fair and really honest questions. And for those of you who might be new to Switch, I need you to know that this is a place where you are welcome with your questions and all. Because this is a place where we really believe that one of the best things that we can do is bring ourselves to this place so that we can be open and honest with one another because the reality is is that real life doesn't happen through fake relationships and real growth and transformation comes from us being willing to be honest. So whatever questions you're wrestling with, know that you are welcome here.
And that you're also not alone because those questions of how could a good and loving God allow so many terrible things to happen? How if God is real could evil and suffering exist are not new questions. Those are the very same questions that the Jewish people were wrestling with 2000 years ago. You see the Jewish people was a nation that was meant to have a special relationship with God. They believe that they were created in the image of a loving creator God who chose them to be his representatives to a fallen world. But around 2000 years ago, they were under the rule of an oppressive empire. An empire whose motto was might makes right. If you've got the power, then you are the man of the hour.
And previous to that, the nation of Israel had gone from one oppressive ruler and tyrant after another for like 700 years. And so they found themselves into this place where they were trying to reconcile what they believed about God, the promises that he had made and the pain of their experience. And yet they never lost hope. They never gave up on God. And I think that unfortunately, for so many of us when we are confronted with the pain and suffering of our world today, we can allow that to drive us away from God rather than allow it to bring us back to God. Because the thing that the Jewish people understood is something that I think we so often forget, and that is at the problem of evil and suffering is not contrary to the biblical story. It's actually central to it.
The problems of evil and suffering do not contradict the Bible. Actually, the entire Bible is about that very problem. Because the Bible is the story of a loving God who created everything and he called it good. And then he created human beings in his image. Man and woman in the image of God, with the spark of the divine inside of them. And God chose human beings to be his partners. He said, "Hey, I wanna partner with you in ruling over all of this. I want a relationship with you". God didn't create human beings to be his slaves. He created us to be his partners. But the problem is is that wasn't good enough for us.
You see God wanted to partner with us but we wanted to rule over him. God has asked us to serve on his behalf, but we wanted to rule in his place. And there was a moment where humanity chose to rebel against God. We said, "Hey God, I don't wanna listen to you. I wanna do things my way. I wanna redefine what good is and what bad is, not based off of what you say but based off of what I like". And the biblical story calls that moment the fall. It is the moment when sin entered God's good creation. And the thing about sin is is that it's so much more than the mistakes that we make. Sin is a disease that distorts and corrupts everything it touches. Sin has fractured us as human beings. It has corrupted God's creation to the point that all of the wrong things that we see in our world today are now here. Because God's original intention was ordered and it was good, but the effects of sin went so much further than us just making a mistake and having to be sorry about it.
No, no, it literally threw God's creation out of order and ever since then, God has been relentlessly pursuing us. Because the story didn't end in sin. The story didn't end in humanity's rebellion. The story has been moving forward to the day when God would do something to undo the mistakes of the past to bring healing to his creation and to bring restoration to all the world. It's a story that acknowledges the pain of suffering and the horrors of evil. But the beauty of the biblical story is that not only does it acknowledge the existence of evil and suffering, it actually provides a solution and that solution comes in the form of a cross. It comes in the form of God in human flesh, choosing to take on suffering for us, to die in our place.
And so to say that the idea of suffering and evil is contrary to the biblical story, just totally misses the biblical story because it is literally through the suffering of Jesus that God works his plan out to bring us back to him. So if you've ever wondered how a good and loving God could exist while evil and suffering do as well, what I need you to understand is that the problems of evil and suffering are not contrary to the biblical story, they're actually central to it. Not only that, but the reality is is that Christianity offers a better explanation for the problem of evil than any other worldview. Not only that, but Christianity actually gives a better explanation for why we have such a problem with evil.
There's three primary ways that people view the world. There's karma, the universe or there's some spiritual force. It's not God, it's not Christianity but there's something out there. And the problem with that view when it comes to evil and suffering is that karma is built around this idea that you get what you deserve. If you do good, you will get good. If you do bad, you will get bad. And the problem there though is that when evil and suffering takes place, it's not unjust, it's not wrong, it's actually deserved. Whether because you did something to somebody else or maybe it was you in a past life, the idea of karma basically says what goes around, comes around. So evil and suffering is never unjust, it's actually deserved. And yet there's something in us that says, "No, no, no. When evil and suffering are present there's something wrong with that. It's not just unpleasant, it is literally wrong. It's not the way things are supposed to be".
So you've got karma, you've also got chaos. Everything is the result of random chance. There is no God, there is no supernatural being, all that there is is what we can see, what we can feel, what we can touch, just the natural material world. But again, if that is the explanation, if that is what defines our universe and our existence, then why do we have such a problem with pain and suffering? Because chaos would say, "That's just the way it is". Evil and suffering can't be wrong because there is no moral standard that defines what's right and what's wrong. So if there's no standard of goodness and it's not really wrong, it might be unpleasant, but it's not wrong. It's not against the way things are supposed to be because there is no way things are supposed to be.
But if you were to go up to somebody and be like, "Hey, racism isn't really wrong. It's just unpleasant". Are you kidding me? Can you imagine actually believing that? No, no. When we see somebody treating somebody else poorly because of the color of their skin, nobody thinks that that's just unpleasant or not nice, we think that it is wrong. That there is something about that that should not be. Why is that? Because karma and chaos do not explain the world we live in. We need a creator because it is only with a creator God that we can actually understand why we have such a problem with evil and suffering. Because with the creator God, what we get is an objective standard of goodness, a standard of right and wrong that when things don't meet that standard we can actually say that's wrong. It's not just something that's unpleasant, it's actually something that should not be.
And so in our world today, when we see evil and suffering, we don't think it's unpleasant, we think that it is a violation of the standard of goodness. It is a departure from the way things ought to be. And the only way you can get there is through understanding that at the bottom of everything is not karma or chaos but a creator, God. You see the problem evil and suffering is not contrary to the biblical story, it's actually central to it. Like I said, the beauty of Christianity is not just that it acknowledges the problem of evil and suffering, but that it provides a solution to it. And somehow, some way that solution showed up in the form of a middle eastern Jewish rabbi who lived 2000 years ago who went by the name of Jesus.
See we're in the middle of a series titled "Who is Jesus"? Where we're exploring what I believe is the most important question anybody can answer, the question of who is Jesus? Because if Jesus is who he said he was then that changes everything. But if he wasn't, then the reality is following him and believing in him changes nothing. And what's interesting is that's not just a question that we wrestle with in our world today. That's actually a question that Jesus's followers were forced to answer. So what we're gonna do is we're going to listen in on a conversation that Jesus had with his disciples, his closest followers, it takes place in Matthew 16. And in this conversation we're going to get an answer to the question, the question of who is Jesus.
So in Matthew 16, here's what we have, we have Jesus. He has just come to the region of Caesarea, Philippi. And he asks his disciples this question. He says, "Who do people say the Son of Man is"? And so they replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets". And then Jesus looks at them and says, "But what about you? Who do you say I am"? And so Simon Peter answers, "You are the Messiah, the son of the living God". You are the Messiah, the son of the living God. So who is Jesus? Jesus is the Messiah. Now what does that mean? Messiah is a Hebrew word that means anointed one. What we've gotta understand is that in the Old Testament, in the Jewish tradition, whenever they would have a new leader of their nation a prophet or a priest would anoint them with oil, they would pour oil on them and that oil would symbolize them being covered and filled by God's spirit.
So Messiah, meaning anointed one means the person who is filled by God's spirit. And then you've got Christos, which is the Greek word for Messiah. Jesus Christ, Christ isn't actually his last name, that's his title, the Messiah. And some of you literally probably thought that was his last name, you're welcome, it means Messiah. Because Jesus is the Messiah. He is the anointed one of God, covered and filled by his spirit. And he came here with a mission. And in Luke 4:18 he tells us a little bit about what that mission is. Here's what he says, and this is him quoting from the prophet of Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet who was delivering a message of hope to the people of Israel while there were ruled by another nation in another day, when they were being oppressed and living in exile.
And here was the message that Isaiah the prophet gave to the people of Israel from God that now Jesus is quoting and declaring that this is the mission he is here to accomplish. In verse 18, Jesus says, "The spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor".
You see when we understand Jesus as the Messiah, we begin to understand that the Messiah the biblical version of the chosen one. You know in all those great movies where there's the chosen one who has this prophecy to fulfill, to put a broken world back together. But Jesus didn't just come to put a fictional world back together. He came to put our world back together because he is the chosen one of God, the Messiah. And what's interesting is that so many of the Jewish people they had these expectations for who the Messiah would be and what he would do. They believe that the Messiah would be a son of David. David, the greatest king of Israel had ever known who conquered the enemies of Israel. They were expecting this Messiah to show up and defeat the Romans and free the nation of Israel from their oppression. But Jesus had something so much better planned.
You see Jesus, didn't just show up to kick out the Romans. Jesus showed up to rescue humanity from sin and restore us to our rightful place as partners with God. Jesus wasn't just the son of David. He was exactly who Peter said he was. When Peter said, "You are the Messiah, the son of the living God". That is who Jesus is and what's so beautiful is right after Peter makes that declaration of Jesus's identity as the Messiah, the son of the living God, the one anointed and filled by God's spirit. Then Jesus looks at Peter and he says, "Hey, you're right". And the conversation continues in Matthew 16, picking up in verse 17 where you've got Jesus. He replies to Simon Peter. And he looks at him and says, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my father in heaven".
And then what Jesus does next is pretty incredible. He changes Simon's name to Peter. He says, "I tell you that you are Peter". Peter is a word that means rock. And then Jesus says, "And on this rock, I will build my church. And the Gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you lose on earth will be losed in heaven". Here's what Jesus is doing, he's saying, "Hey Peter, you're right. I am the Messiah, the son of the living God, and you, you're gonna be my rock. And what you've got to understand Peter is that I'm going to build my church in the gates of Hades, the gates of the underworld, the gates of darkness, the gates of hell will never overcome it. I'm gonna give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be loosed in heaven. Whatever you bind in heaven will be loosed on earth".
What Jesus is doing is he's saying, "Hey Peter. I want you to lead a movement. a movement that I'm gonna start but I want you to be a part of. And in movement, what I'm telling you is that nothing will stop it". And what Jesus is doing here is he's connecting the church to the kingdom of heaven. He is saying, "Hey, they are one in the same because my mission will be accomplished through my church. And the gates of hell will never overcome it". So the question becomes for us, "Okay, what is the church? What does that mean? Is that just the building we show up to"? And the important thing for us to understand is that the church is not a building or a place. The church is a people. The church the people of God living out the will of God. It's not an institution, it is a family. A family defined by love by grace, by forgiveness and redemption.
You see, when Jesus showed up in history 2000 years ago, he didn't go around telling people to sign up to his newsletter. He said, "Hey, I wanna invite you into God's family because it is through a relationship with God that you can experience the forgiveness and redemption that you are desperate for". At our church, we say it this way. We say that the church does not exist for us but we are the church, and we exist for the world. Jesus says, "I will build my church". And he goes on to say, "And the gates of Hades will not overcome it". My favorite part about that is understanding that gates don't advance. Gates don't attack, gates are made for defense. So what Jesus is saying is that "I'm gonna build my church and I'm gonna to build my church and burry hell".
What Jesus is saying is that the church that I am building, that you are invited into is going to bring the war to them. As a follower of Jesus, listen to me, if you are afraid of the dark, you're doing it wrong because the dark is afraid of us. If you are towering in your room, waiting for the enemy to attack then you're missing the point. He should be cowering in fear because we are filled by the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead. You have been called to be a part of God's church, his plan and his mission to take all the wrong things in the world and make them right and Jesus is building this church and he's inviting you to be a part of it.
This is why the gospel is such good news, because the gospel is the announcement that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God is doing something about the evil and suffering that has plagued his creation for far too long because the gospel it's the announcement that through Jesus, God has once again become king. His kingdom is coming on earth as it is in heaven and every single one of us are invited to be a part of it. The church is an outpost of heaven laying seed on the powers of hell and it's something you are invited into.
Now, I know all that sounds really good. But when I look around at the world, there are still so many things that seem wrong. And as much as I wanna do something about it, the reality is is I've tried and it seemed to not work. Maybe you find yourself in a place where you just feel helpless or worse maybe you feel hopeless. I just wanna remind you that 2000 years ago there was a man named Jesus who changed the course of history. Not because he started a religion, but because he started a new family, a family where everybody everywhere is welcomed in, regardless of what they've done, regardless of who they've been, regardless of what others have said about them or to them, they are welcomed in and you are invited into that family. And once you become a part of this family, you're invited into his mission. His mission of building the church and burying hell. You have a part to play in this good news message. You have a part to play in God's redemptive plan to rescue humanity from sin and restore creation.
So the question becomes what part do you play? How do I play my part? For those of us who are followers of Christ, I just wanna make it really quick and really simple for you. The first thing you've gotta do is you've gotta follow Jesus. You have to follow Jesus. And I think there are so many times where we settle for, "Look, I like Jesus. I might even love Jesus. I believe in Jesus. I call myself a Christian," but are you actually following him? Because following is more than just saying the right words. Following is doing the things that are asked of you by him. It's actually following the example he set of looking for the things that are wrong and making them right. If you wanna be a part of God's plan to redeem humanity, to restore creation, the first step is to follow Jesus. Don't just talk about it, actually be about it. The second thing you've gotta do is build the church.
Now the thing about building a church is it's really hard to build it if you're not a part of it. And so for you, maybe you're not connected to a family of believers, to a community of people who say that, "Yes. Jesus, I wanna follow you". Get connected. Stop wasting time, sign up, get involved in a small group. Find people that you can do life with. And then to build the church, invite others into this family because it is a family that is available to everyone everywhere. Building the church doesn't require you to be on staff at a church or a pastor. You can build the church by just telling people that God has changed your life and inviting them to some place where you've experienced that transformation.
And then finally, after we follow Jesus and build the church, we're gonna bury hell. We're going to burry hell. What does that mean? That literally just means what's right and undoing what's wrong. It doesn't have to be big giant campaign or moment that has thousands of people involved. No, literally bearing hell means finding one thing that's wrong and making it right. It means finding one person who's hurting and offering help. It means looking for those tiny daily moments where you can do something for the good of somebody else to offer them the hope that is found in Jesus. Listen, I'm not asking you to go out and change the world, but Jesus is calling you to look for opportunities where there is darkness and to be a light. Because the church, it's not just a building, it's not a place, it's a people. The people of God living out the will of God here on earth, as it is in heaven.
You see with Jesus as the Messiah, what people expected, what they wanted was a conquering king. But what they got was a crucified criminal. They found a suffering servant on a cross. And it's crazy because this Messiah that people were putting their hope in, who they believed was God's chosen one was literally killed on a cross by the Romans that they were hoping to be freed from. And to what seemed to everybody else like a massive failure was actually God's decisive victory. You see in the book of second Corinthians 5:21, here's what we read tells us that God made him Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us. So that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.
This is the beauty of the cross in that through the suffering of Jesus, God made a way for all of us to be forgiven of our sins, to be healed from that disease that has infected us for far too long, through Jesus's death, through the God in human form that is Jesus, his death on a cross God robbed sin of its power and he made a way for you to be reunited with him. Please do not miss this, that Jesus, the Messiah, the chosen one of God has chosen you. The chosen one has chosen you to be a part of his plans to rescue others from sin and restore creation. In his life, he launched the church. In his death, he conquered sin. And through his resurrection, he made a way for all of us to be filled with his spirit.
You see, in 1 John 4:4 what we read is that greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. The chosen one of God through his life, death and resurrection has made a way for all of us who put our trust in him to be filled by his spirit, to be empowered by him. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead is living in you, empowering you to go out and build the church and burry hell. There's way too many times where we find ourselves asking the question, "God, why won't you do something about this"? And I just imagine God looking at us and saying, "Are you kidding me? I already did, I sent my son for you. I put my spirit in you. Stop sitting around and waiting for me to do something. I've chosen you to partner with me in building the church and burying hell".
What would be different if we realized that the God of heaven and earth who became a man and died in our place has invited us into his mission to redeem his creation. Because the gospel I'm telling you, it is so much bigger than just our personal salvation. That's part of it. But the gospel is an invitation to participate in God's renewal of creation. And the beautiful thing is that Jesus is building his church. He's invited you to be a part of his family. And there will come a day when our Messiah Jesus returns and he finishes what he started. When every tear is wiped away. When every hurt is healed, when suffering is no more. But until that day, we have a job to do. We have been chosen by the chosen one to build the church and burry hell.
Heavenly Father we come to you right now, just so thankful that you've chosen us to be part of your plans to undo the damage of sin to bring hope and healing to a hurting world.
Who knows that there are some of you that are watching this message and what you recognize is that you have taken your role as a partner with God for granted. Maybe you've made the decision to become a Christian at some point in your past, but you haven't actually been doing the work of following Jesus of building the church and burring hell. And you realize that there is something in you that you have to give that you haven't given yet. But today you want that to change and you want God's help to give you the courage and wisdom to do that. If that's you raise your hand, type it in the chat, let us know so we can pray for you.
God, I thank you for those students who are saying they wanna be used by you, who wanna take what you've given them and use it for the good of others. God, I pray that you would give them wisdom, you would give them courage, you would give them discipline to do what you've asked them to, to be who you've called them to, to bring hope and light into all the dark places of our world. And God that you would comfort them and remind them knowing that you ultimately are building your church and you ultimately will return and finish what you started.
Still in an attitude of prayer with heads, bowed and eyes closed. There are others of you that are here today and this idea of a God who loves you enough to die for you is something that for some reason you've never really understood before, but there's something that is stirring inside of you and you're not even sure what that is and that is God's spirit working in, drawing you to him because you were created to live in a relationship with God. But the problem is is that all of us, we have sinned. We've done things to hurt ourselves, others and the heart of God. And that sin has created a separation between us and him but that is not the way things are supposed to be. And so to undo the damage of sin, God became a person. He lived on earth. He died on a cross and he rose from the dead so that anybody who puts their trust in him would be saved. They would be made new. They would be healed.
And that is exactly why you are here today to put your trust in Jesus, to turn to him and to be made new. If that's you all over the place, raise your hand right now, all over the place if that's you saying yes to Jesus, type it in the chat saying, "Jesus, I give you my life". Click on the link to let us know you are making that decision. There's no better choice that you could make than to say yes to Jesus today. And as you're making that choice, all across the world, I want you to know that you are not alone. And that as your Switch family, we want to pray with you. We want to walk alongside you as you begin this journey of following Jesus. Let's all pray together out loud:
Heavenly Father, I'm turning from my sins. I'm turning towards you. I need your love. I need your grace. I need your mercy. Today, I give you my life. In Jesus name, amen and amen and amen.