Monday, 16 November 2015

A Rough Guide To God's Plan

I would never suggest that I know the mind of God, and I'm wary that there could be mistakes in what I'm putting here, but I find that when discussing various issues, as a Christian I'm coming from a certain understanding that someone else might not have. I might be taking for granted some thing or another that they haven't even thought about. So while I think I'm talking about something obvious, the other person might not have a clue how I can square what I'm saying with anything. Like, I might be talking about the way Jesus suffered for us, while their image of God is the benevolent comfort blanket who makes sure everyone is happy all of the time. The two things don't make sense.

Things like the 'Problem of Evil' and 'Divine Hiddenness' are massive issues for sceptics, but for Christians, they are nothing. They are expected! Somehow, even though these things are necessary in Christianity, some people think they are reasons that Christianity isn't true. It's clearly a lack of understanding about who God is, what we wants, and his ultimate plan.

So, here I want to attempt an outline of what God is trying to do according to Christianity.
It will be an attempt, and I don't for one second pretend to know every detail. The old phrase "God works in mysterious ways" is not helpful to anyone, but he has revealed to us what we need to know on a need-to-know basis. We don't have all of the information but that should be enough.

Anyway Lesson 1: God is not a comfort blanket who answers every prayer with the goal of making everyone on Earth as happy as possible.

Also, this doesn't touch on God's plan for individual people. He might have certain specific things in store for you or me, but this summary is about the whole overall goal. Unfortunately, seeing as God's plan involves intricately planned details (many of which mere humans aren't aware of) and spans the entirety of time and space, it's not particularly straight forward.

An Approximation of God's Plan

  1. God is the source of all existence. He is the prime mover and the uncaused cause. Without him, nothing else could exist or be sustained. He exists beyond time and space because he created those things. He is the source of all life.
    "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." -- Revelation 4:11
    "you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." -- Isaiah 46:3-4
    "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. " -- John 1:4
  2. God has existed eternally as a trinity - three persons in one being: The Father, The Son (or The Word/Logos), and The Holy Spirit.
    "The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable." -- Isaiah 40:28
    "For I the Lord do not change" -- Malachi 3:6
    "Let us make man in our own image." -- Genesis 1:26
    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." -- John 1:1
    "I and the Father are one." -- John 10:30
  3. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," -- Matt. 28:19
  4. God exists as the spiritual embodiment of a perfect balance of love, goodness, truth, logic, justice, and mercy. None of these traits outweigh any other and everything God does reflects each one equally.
    "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." -- 1 John 4:8
    "There is only One who is good." -- Matthew 19:16-17
    "You are God, and Your words are truth" -- 2 Samuel 7:28
    "since it is impossible for God to lie." -- Hebrews 6:18
    "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace" -- 1 Corinthians 14:33
    "the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." -- Colossians 2:2-3
    "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made." -- Psalm 145:9
    "You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you." -- Psalm 86:5
  5. God does not need anyone else. He was never lonely. He does not need other beings to make or do things for him. He is completely self-sufficient.
    ""I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." " -- Revelation 1:8
  6. As a timeless being, he is able to see all of time. This is why from our perspective, it's as though he can read the future.
    "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come." -- Isaiah 46:10
  7. As a being of infinite love, God wanted to create a race of beings that would share a perfect loving relationship with him. He wanted spiritual creatures like him that he could share eternity with in Heaven.
    "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." -- Genesis 1:27
    "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all" -- John 6:63
    "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." -- Matthew 5:48
  8. Heaven is a perfect paradise. There is no room there for anything less than perfect. Anything less than perfect would have to be destroyed or kept out of Heaven.
    "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful" -- Revelation 21:27
  9. God couldn't create other equal god beings, because it's impossible to create an uncaused cause. He would also be sustaining those other beings. Anything he creates is necessarily lesser than he is, because it all relies on him existing.
    "I am God, and there is none like me." -- Isaiah 46:9
  10. He could have created beings that automatically loved him and were good, but that would be an empty exercise. It would be the same as making a robot that obeys your every command and says it loves you because you programmed it to. It's not real love, and that's not good enough for a perfect God. God needs real love that is given freely. 
    "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." -- 2 Corinthians 9:7
  11. God created mankind and gave them free will. Free will meant that there was potential for real love, but also potential to deny God and do evil. 
    "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" -- Joshua 24:15
  12. Free will is an important gift from God. It is necessary for the loving relationship. God will not take free will from anyone and he will allow humans to make their own choices and live out the consequences. Although he might want everyone to be a part of his perfect heaven, he puts human free will and choice before his own desire.
    "since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." -- 1 Timothy 2:4
  13. God also gave mankind the freedom to run the planet.
    "And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."" -- Genesis 1:28
  14. Although God will never deny free will, he uses the negative consequences to bring about a greater good. We can be reassured that any pain or suffering we experience in this lifetime has a bigger purpose in the long run.
    "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. " -- Genesis 50:20
    "As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him."" -- John 9:1-3
    "“Your suffering is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering”" -- 2 Thessalonians 1:5
    "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." -- Romans 5:3-5
    "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." -- James 1:2-4
    "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" -- 2 Corinthians 4:17
  15. Mankind misused free will. There isn't a single one who hasn't fallen short of perfection.
    "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" -- Romans 3:23
  16. Because no human being is perfect, no human being is worthy of Heaven.
  17. God knew the future before he created mankind. He knew that mankind left to their own devices would not be worthy of Heaven. 
  18. If mankind would never be worthy of Heaven, they would either have to be destroyed or kept out of it. If that was the case, then creating mankind would be pointless.
    "For the wages of sin is death" -- Romans 6:23
  19. For God to have a race of freely loving creatures that were also perfect, he needed a plan that could bring mankind to Heaven. This meant that mankind needed to have their imperfections removed without affecting their free will. It also meant that any sins committed would need to be forgiven. 
    "‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.'" -- Ezekiel 33:11
  20. God's perfect justice means that he can't simply ignore mankind's sins. Forgiveness has to be earned after a person is truly sorry and admits doing wrong.
  21. God chose a specific group of people to be his chosen race - The Hebrews. They weren't chosen to be extra special or more important that any other race. They were chosen to be God's representatives on Earth. He gave them instructions to follow that would make them stand out and be an example for other races to copy. The instructions demanded that the people strive for perfection, and even though God knew that they would not completely manage it, the point was that faith in God was more important than personal works and deeds.
    "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." -- Hebrews 11:1-2
    "The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple" -- Psalm 19:7
  22. God tells us that trust in him is the most important thing. He responds to people who trust him and want his help to be better. He doesn't respond to people who want to test him and do things on their terms. Merely knowing that he exists is not enough to base a loving relationship on. As such he gives us enough evidence to convince those who truly seek him, while not so much that it would completely overwhelm those who don't want to find him.
    "Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Saviour!"-- Isaiah 45:15
    "The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side" -- Mark 8:11–13
  23. God's justice sometimes required wrath. His end goal was to have a Heaven filled with perfect loving beings. Many of mankind's tribes gave themselves over to evil and had gone too far to be saved. Noah's flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah were some of the times that God's hand was forced to act in order to save the righteous people in the world. God also used these examples of sinners who would never redeem themselves as analogies to the final Judgement Day.
    "Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil." -- Jeremiah 13:23
    "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." -- Matthew 24: 37-39
  24. God divinely inspired the Bible so that his story, his lessons, and the history of his people would be preserved and could be shared. It was written over the course of several centuries, which meant that a lot of details were revealed to mankind later as understanding grew.
    "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." -- Deuteronomy 29:29
    "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." -- 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  25. Not everything that could possibly be known is revealed in scripture. Some of it is irrelevant to the message, and some is also too complicated. On the other hand, some scripture became clearer when things were revealed later e.g Messianic prophecies and hidden science.
    "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." -- Psalm 139:6
  26. God offered various rewards to his chosen people for being faithful, the most important was that God would come and be one of them in person as their Messiah.
    "As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, seemingly insignificant among the clans of Judah – from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf, one whose origins are in the distant past." -- Micah 5:2
  27. God the Son/Word/Logos became the human known as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was fully human, and also fully God. He was the only human who has ever successfully lived the perfect life. He was now to be the one role model for all people. There was no one chosen race any more.
    "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." -- John 1:14
    "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" -- 2 Corinthians 5: 18-19
  28. Jesus was crucified to pay for the sins of the world. This did not mean that sin would no longer exist. It meant that anyone who realised what Jesus had done for them would realise the sacrifice made by a perfect man on their behalf. Realising that they should have faced that punishment instead and trying to change their ways for the better, means that they could be properly forgiven. By Jesus' grace, we have been given the freedom to choose Heaven.
    "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us." -- Ephesians 1: 4-8
    "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" -- Ephesians 2:8-9
    "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" -- Titus 3:5-7
  29. Jesus was resurrected to prove once and for all who he was and that he could overcome death. If he could do it for himself, he could do it for anyone.
    "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. “And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power" -- Acts 2:22-24
  30. Jesus sent out his followers to spread his good news and help people understand what he had done. They were to let everyone know that they would be saved by his grace, through their own faith, and that their faith would lead them to do good works.
  31. Doing good deeds and being a good person is not what will save an individual. But if you know that something is bad and you do it anyway, that is wilful rebellion against God's way. If you don't know something is wrong, God will forgive you for it. God responds to free choices.
    "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." -- Galatians 2:21
    "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." -- 1 Timothy 1:13
    "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, " -- Hebrews 10:26
  32. Jesus' act of salvation was not just for the people who lived after it happened. It was for all time. 
    "the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit." -- 1 Peter 4:6
  33. After death, when judgement comes, each individual will earn a place in Heaven if they lived their life the way that Jesus would have wanted them to. It doesn't matter how much good they did for the world, just as long as their hearts are in the right place.
    "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
    "God called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." -- 2 Timothy 1:9
  34. After freely accepting to follow Jesus and live his way, God will renew the body, and wash away any sinful nature that is left behind. For the person who has followed Jesus and tried to perfect themselves, this cleansing will be something that they freely want. It's likely that there will be many who value their sinful human nature and want to keep it. These people will not make it into Heaven, and it will be their choice.
    "But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" -- 2 Peter 3:13
    "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." -- Philippians 3:20-21
    "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”" -- Revelation 21:1-7