Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Why does God keep punishing me?

I recently finished a book, Encounters with Jesus, by Timothy Keller.  He wrote about things I knew [sort of] but he articulated them in such a way that it gave me much greater understanding and hope.  One of the topics Keller touched on was God’s justice and our fear of continual punishment.

Keller easily deflated our perception that God continues to punish us.  He pointed out that all our sins, past present, future, great and small, were laid on Jesus on the cross.  There is not a single sin, anywhere in all time and/or creation, that was not dealt with – punished on the cross.  Not a single one!  The big question is, have you acknowledged this and received God’s incredible gift of salvation?  

Therefore, because of God’s perfect justice, it is impossible for God to continue to punish those of us who have acknowledged Christ’s sacrifice.  It would be unjust for God to punish us for something (sin, mistake, error, etc., deliberate or otherwise) that God has already punished Jesus for (including all our sins from this moment forward).  That would be to punish the same sin twice.  If God were to continue to punish us for a previously atoned for sin it would completely negate all of Christ’s sufferings. This is not possible!

We read the following in Colossians 1:22-23 NLT, "Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you [insert your name here] are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.  But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News."

But this truth does not necessarily answer your question, “Why does it feel like God is punishing me?”  Jesus himself answers this question, naming satan, the great accuser.  In Revelation 12:10 NIV we read, "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”  In fact, Isaiah 50:8 NIV makes the following statement in this Messianic prophecy, "He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me!”  Not only does God not repeatedly punish us for our sins over and over, our Saviour stands before God’s throne vindicating us!  How awesome is that!?

The original Hebrew term satan is a noun from a verb meaning primarily "to obstruct or oppose", as it is found in Numbers 22:22, 1 Samuel 29:4, Psalms 109:6. Ha-Satan is traditionally translated as "the accuser" or "the adversary”.

If the above is true, and the Accuser shows up, as he will from time-to-time, and when we are at our lowest points, perhaps in a valley (he likes to try and kick us while we’re down), we have the perfect example of how to respond: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” You can also simply say, “In Jesus name, go away!”  “Then the devil left him” (Matthew 4:11). 

If God is not punishing us, what about discipline?  God does discipline the ones He loves. In thinking on this we should consider: a. It is pointless to ‘discipline’ someone if they don’t know why they’re being disciplined. b. Discipline is a ‘corrective action’, it is there to provide a positive and beneficial outcome. c. God disciplines those He loves.  Whatever discipline God metes out - it will/must always be done in His divine and limitless love for us.

All this potentially leads to another question, “Why do bad things happen to me?”  This is a question for another time but meditate of this thought: What would life be like if ‘bad things’ never happened?  How would it affect your relationship with God?