Why Does God Allow the Devil to Live? (and a Couple Other Good Questions)

A friend of mine posted these questions, which her children had asked her, on Facebook today.  They were such good questions, and they struck me as the kind of questions people are asking at every age–certainly not just in childhood. I humbly submitted my response (which were written for kids, mind you), and I share that now with you.

The questions:

  • Why did God just not send Satan to death?
  • Why didn’t God just restart the world?
  • God knew that Satan was going to keep doing bad stuff so why didn’t He just put him in a cage or something?
  • Why did God create Satan if He knew he’d do bad things?

My response:

The Bible answers these questions, but not always exactly in the way we would like! There are three perspectives the Bible offers to the question.

First, God is God, and His ways are not our ways. We know He is good, but He is also WAY smarter than we are (obviously! He’s GOD!). Romans 9:20 says “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God?” In other words, at some point we just have to trust Him, that He knows what He’s doing!

Second, God is so GOOD, that He has a plan to make everything work out for good. He has already planned it out ahead of time. He has even planned it so that, when bad people or spirits (like the devil) choose to do evil things, God makes those bad things work out for good in the end. That’s pretty amazing, right? Romans 8:28 says that, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers (who had been super evil to him), “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good!” The worst thing that ever happened was when the Son of God, who had NEVER done ANYTHING wrong, was killed. Satan probably thought he had won–that he had beaten God! But God used that terrible sin to save all His people! The joke’s on the devil, because Jesus wins every time!

Third, we can have peace about these questions, the more we get to know Jesus. In Philippians 4:7, God tells us that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The more we live with God, trusting in Jesus, following the Holy Spirit who lives inside God’s children, the better we feel about life, and God’s control over the world. The Bible says (in Romans 1:17) that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel (the good news about Jesus) “from faith for faith.” In other words, when we trust in Jesus, God gives us His Holy Spirit who helps us trust in Jesus more and more and more.

So to summarize it…

  1. God knows what He’s doing… even though we don’t!
  2. God’s plan is not just to make a good world, but to bring about a good world in which good completely wins the victory over evil. God will bring every bad thing that the evil devil does around for good. Take that, Devil!
  3. God will help you understand and trust Him more and more–even when you don’t totally get it, because He’s always with you!

Sermon Notes – Psalm 19

This Sunday I had the honor of preaching at Park Community Church, Edgebrook, on the 19th Psalm. In case you missed it or are curious to see what a pastor’s preaching notes might look like, here are the notes I used (very slightly edited–N. B. these are the notes I wrote before I preached and not a transcript of the actual sermon, which means what I actually preached may have been slightly (though not substantially) different than what you read here).

Further reading & watching recommendations can be found at the bottom.

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Psalm 19 – God has revealed Himself.

  1. INTRO
    1. Intro–scuba diving man and drowing man.*
    2. One day a diver was enjoying the aquatic world 20 feet below sea level. He noticed a guy at the same depth he was, but he had on no scuba gear whatsoever.
      This made the diver, who was proud of his skills, a little annoyed.

      The diver went below another 20 ft, but the guy joined him a few moments later. The diver, now downright aggravated, went down another 25 feet more, but soon , the same guy joined him.

      Alright, at this point the diver was straight-up confused, so he took out a waterproof chalkboard set, and wrote, “How on earth are you able to stay under this deep without equipment?”

      The guy took the board and chalk, erased what the diver had written, and wrote, “I’m DROWNING, YOU GOOBER!!!”

      See, that diver missed something the truth that was right in front of him.
      Today we’re going to talk about those times in life when it seems like God is silent. Like he’s not speaking. Like he’s nowhere to be found. And we’re going to see from our text this morning that, during those times, we have to realize that God has already

      1. You can miss something that is right in front of your face.
      2. You can even miss God.
      3. Although God is everywhere, it is possible to be out of sync with Him, and out of line for His declared will for your life.
      4. This Psalm is crucial because it teaches us what it takes for us to get back in line with God. And it turns out it’s nothign like what we would expect.
    3. Pray
    4. Read Psalm 19.
    5. The Big Idea this morning is this: God Has Revealed Himself
      1. We’re going to look at the ways in which God reveals Himself
      2. And we’re going to look at our proper response to that revelation.
  • Explain: in this Psalm, David describes reality in terms of three perspectives.
    1. These are
      1. The natural world
      2. The written Scriptures
      3. The human self.
    2. Two of these are in perfect harmony with one another. They declare the glory of God, and they reveal Who He is. He has spoken through these media, and He has done it clearly.
    3. One of these things is not like the other. The Self.
  1. God’s revelation
    1. God has revealed Himself in the world (especially the heavens and the skies), for my awareness
      1. The heavens are telling.” He is looking on the freshness fate morning, and all he sees is telling of God, bringing God before him. –Ellicott
    2. (2-3) The progression of the days reveal information
      1. Day to day “pours out speech” –is a blabbermouth! Think of walking through a forest during the day, and everything you discover there–it all SHOUTS unendingly–all the noise of the forest is incessantly repeating, “The glory of God!”
        • SLIDE: RAINFOREST LIFE
        • The idea is, that the successive days thus impart instruction, or convey lessons about God. The day does this by the returning light, and by the steady and sublime movement of the sun in the heavens, and by all the disclosures which are made by the light of the sun in his journeyings. –Barnes

      2. Night to night reveals knowledge. Nights are quieter. It’s harder to learn. And yet, have you ever walked outside on a clear night and looked up at the stars? They reveal knowledge about who God is. SLIDE: MILKY WAY

        • The heavens and the sky are like our instructors. They never stop lecturing. There is a certain glory in the day, and another one in the night, when the stars come out.

        • Picture two choirs, alternating their verses.

        • no wonder, Paul’s condemnation in Roman 1. we have evidence enough!

      3. The information is not in human language, but it is discernible.
        • “The communication of the sky is “eloquent, but mute; its voice is for the heart and emotion, not the ear.”
        • What is science, but the discovery and translation of what the world reveals about God into human language? QUOTE a SCIENTIST HERE.
      4. (4b-6) The sun displays God’s love
        1. (5a) God’s committed love shown in that the sun is like a bridegroom–triumphant and full of love for his beloved.
          • Tent – “chupah,” originally the bridal suite (chambers).
          • Eventually held over the couple during the vows (as in our wedding). represents the heavens, as well as the protection of the groom for his bride.
          • The sun even becomes a metaphor for Christ, the Bridegroom of the church. Mark 2:19 – Jesus calls himself the bridegroom
        2. (5b) God’s joyful love shown in that the sun is like an athlete who loves the joy of competition
        3. (6) God’s providing love shown in that the sun warms all the earth
          • Like Christ illuminating men (John 1)
        4. God has revealed Himself in His Word, for my good
          1. (7-9) Types of Scripture and their effect
            1. (7a) Law
              • Perfect
              • Revives the soul
                • Henry: The word translated law, may be rendered doctrine, and be understood as meaning all that teaches us true religion.
                • “Converts” the soul. Brings it to life.
                • “The one who does this things shall live by them.” was the mission statement of the Old Testament Law. LEv. 18:5; Romans 10:5
  1. (7b) Testimony
    • Sure
    • Makes wise the simple
      • Those who are ignorant of God, upon hearing the Gospel, become wise.
      • but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Cor. 1:24.
  1. (8a) Precepts
    • Right
    • Rejoice the heart
  2. (8b) Commandment
    • Pure
    • Enlightening the eyes
      • Show us our sin. if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
        • (i) Romans 7:7
      • Things are starting to turn here.
  1. (9a) Fear (right religion described in Scripture)
    • Clean
    • Enduring forever
      • Right religion, when carried out, will cleanse a sinner. Yet… who completes this? This sets up David’s plea later.
      • PErfection!
      • God’s standard of true worship hasn’t changed. It will endure forever. So there’s no getting around it.
      • So even Jesus says God must be worshiped in Spirit and in truth. John 4:24.
  1. (9b) Rules
    • True
    • Righteous altogether
      • More properly, “judgments.” Benson – “declarations of his righteous will; and, as it were, his judicial sentence, by which he expects that men should govern themselves, and by which he will judge them at the last day….”
      • The Bible says that God, “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness…” by what standard? The answer is in Acts 17:31, “by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Jesus is the perfect standard, and it’s by Him we’ll be judged.
  1. (10-11) Desirability and usefulness of all of Scripture
    1. (10) Objective and subjective value
      • These are all more precious than gold
        • Gold=the most valuable commodity in the ancient world
      • These are more enjoyable than honey
        • honey=the sweetest substance imaginable in the ancient world.
  1. (11) Sanctions
    • They warn God’s servants against disobedience.
    • They promise reward to God’s servants for obedience.
      • The perspective changes. God becomes the One being addressed after this point.
      • They warn and they promise blessing. So now–the Psalmist pauses, and he examines himself. And it is as though he invites you to examine yourself as well. As you consider God’s righteous decrees, do you deserve blessing or curse?
    • My response

      1. I’m out of step with the God who has revealed Himself.
        1. I see myself sinking down.
        2. The more I see of God’s glorious standard, the more I realize the truth of Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the GLORY of GOD.
          1. Alexander MacLaren envisions, “going down into the abyss, a ladder with three rungs on it.”
        3. (12) Forgiveness for unknown sins
          1. “The contemplation of the ‘perfect law, enlightening the eyes,’ sends the Psalmist to his knees. He is appalled by his own shortcomings, and feels that, beside all those of which he is aware, there is a region, as yet unilluminated by that law, where evil things nestle and breed.”
        4. (13a) Protection from known sins
          1. Help me avoid them
            • MacLaren: “The Psalmist is like a man standing on the edge of some precipice, and peeping over the brink to the profound beneath, and feeling his head beginning to swim. He clutches at the strong, steady hand of his guide, knowing that unless he is restrained, over he will go. ‘Keep thou back Thy servant from presumptuous sins.'”
            • The Hebrew tradition maintained a division between unintentional sins and flagrant (“high-handed” in Numbers 15) sins. Flagrant sins could not be atoned for.
            • There was no sacrifice in the OT law for high handed sins. David in asking for forgiveness is asking for a greater sacrifice than anything the law has to offer.
          2. Keep me from becoming enslaved to them
            • Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, who himself has said, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” John 8:34.
          3. I want to be in step with God the God who has revealed Himself.
            1. (13b) Desire to be blameless, innocent of great sin
              1. The third and bottom rung of the ladder: “the great transgression.” Falling away. David knows the progression of sin.
            2. (14a) Desire for acceptability to God
              1. Outward (words)
                • Mt. 12:37- For by your words will you be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
              2. Inward (thoughts)
                • 5:22 – “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment….”
              3. BOOTSTRAPS! The lie we tell ourselves here is that, all this is going to take is learning some principles and starting to live by them.

              4. But we have to see what’s happening here.
                1. DAVID IS EXAMINING THE LAW AND WHAT’S HE REALIZING?
                2. HE’s realizing his own inadequacy.
                3. He’s realizing that there is no way for him to get himself in line with who God is and what God wants. He’s a sinner.
              5. David longs to trust in the God who reveals Himself.
                1. (14b) God is my rock of shelter
                2. (14b) God redeems me (buys me back)
                  1. Henry: “No prayer can be acceptable before God which is not offered in the strength of our Redeemer or Divine Kinsman, through Him who took our nature upon him, that he might redeem us unto God, and restore the long-lost inheritance.”

 

  1. There is only one way to realign your self with what God has revealed.
    1. That is to run to Christ Jesus
    2. The Rock of your shelter
    3. The redeemer who purchases you out of your slavery to sin.
  2. Conclusion
    1. God has revealed Himself, and we are accountable to know him.
    2. Because of our sin and rebellion, we are out of sync with God’s will
    3. The more we focus on God’s law, the more we realize how short we fall of His glorious standard.
      1. As a matter of fact, the Bible says in Romans 1 that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the wickedness and ungodliness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
      2. Go on a little further in the book of Romans and we see that
        1. ALL KNOW GOD
        2. no one seeks God. No one is righteous, not even one.
      3. Our situation is hopeless, until we realize that Jesus Christ is the answer.
      4. Jesus is the perfect unification of the three perspectives.
        1. He is the creator of the natural world
          1. John 1:3 says that, “Through Him all things were made, and without him nothing was made that has been made.”
          2. Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
          3. Jesus is the one who imprinted the creation with the glory of God.
        2. He (Jesus) is the Word of God.
          1. He is the ultimate revelation from God (Hebrews 1:2)
          2. He is the one the Scriptures are about (Luke 24)
        3. He (Jesus) is the perfect representation of the human perspective
          1. He is the one man whose existence and experience are perfectly aligned with the will of God the Father. John 8:28 says “I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught me.”
          2. He is the representative of all God’s people.
            • All people are either in Adam or in Christ Jesus.
            • For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift overflowed to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:15
          3. As our representative,
            • He perfectly fulfilled the Law and the testimonies and the judgments of God–everything David is talking about in this Psalm.
            • He alone was qualified to serve as the atoning sacrifice to wipe away our sins
              • The greater sacrifice David was asking for.
            • God made Him, who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf, in order that we might become the righteousness of God (1 Cor. 5:21)
          4. Jesus died, and was buried.
            • He DIED–He was completely cut off from the land of the living.
            • But He CAME BACK. He rose from teh grave So now we can cry out with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57: “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
          5. Jesus unites the physical world–the heavens–with the word of God, with the human self.
            1. When we want to hear from God–we Have to Go to HIM!
          6. So, if you’re waiting to hear from God, understand that He has spoken.
            1. He has revealed Himself in creation, which pours forth endless praise of His glory
            2. He has given His word
            3. And best of all, He has manifested His nature, character, love and grace in the person of Jesus Christ.
            4. The only way for us to have full communion with God–full mindfulness of the three perspectives in perfect harmony–is to focus on Christ. To live with Christ. To follow Christ.
  • Do you know JEsus Christ here this morning?
    1. Is He your ROCK and your REDEEMER?
    2. Do you turn to him when your life is out of whack?
    3. Has He forgiven you of your hidden faults and your presumptuous sins?
    4. Real understanding in life–hearing from GOd–comes when we fix our eyes on the things above, where our life is hidden with God in Christ Jesus.
  1. NEXT STEPS:
    1. Jesus is revealed in Scripture.
    2. I cannot stress this enough. You need to be in this book. [HOLD UP THE BIBLE]
    3. You not only don’t have to figure this life out on your own. You cannot do it.
    4. Get into the BIble and get into community of people who will help you understand it, whom you can lean on, to minister GOd’s grace to you.
    5. This is where we hear from God.
    6. This is where we learn of Jesus and how to follow Him more closely.
    7. May God’s word be the first–and last–place we go to hear from God. The God who has revealed Himself.

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Further reading & watching: