DIY Theologian — “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him”


Greg Barber

Today we are continuing with the series DIY THEOLOGY.

While we NEED each other. We NEED to take in good teaching. We NEED to be invested in from others: kept accountable, encouraged, refined, cared for. We need community. We were built to be the body of Christ.

Paul puts it this way:

Romans 12:4–8
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

But catch this as you think about this body picture, this picture that Paul really liked. Each body part has to remain active, engaged, healthy, connected, selfless, focused, committed, pull its own weight, be a contributor. To do this we need to be our own greatest advocates for spiritual health. Apiece of this advocacy is feeding yourself from scripture.

I believe as a pentecostal, that can be a scary word — No snake handling here, but I believe as a pentecostal that the Holy Spirit empowers us in interpretation, personal refinement, decision making, life… I believe the Holy Spirit guides and enables us to do this theology thing.

We need to use context as we build theology through scripture. The problem with context is that it takes time, engird, effort.

Last week we looked at the entire book of Philippians. Why? Because as I see Paul’s excitement, anticipation and joy while being in prison I can internalize his invitation to find strength in the midst of struggle. All of Paul’s life was pointing towards this climax in Rome and now he is in chains.

But it was OK, because Paul saw that he could do all things, even this moment through Christ, who gave him strength. Paul was inviting the church of Philippi and US to join in that perspective.

So last week we looked at context. In real estate it is said that there are three fundamental principles one must follow when buying a house: location, location, and location. In interpreting scripture, there are also three fundamental principles: context, context, and context. Without context you may misunderstand, you may misinterpret.

This week we take context a little deeper as we address twisting meaning to match what we want or need.

I’m angry, where is there a verse that makes me feel ok about being angry…

I’m sad, where is there a verse that makes me not sad anymore…

I’m confused, where is there a verse that answers everything for me right now…

I’m in love, where is there a verse that tells me that we are going to live happily ever after…

I just screwed up, where is there a verse that tells me that it is no big deal…

I’m doubting, where is there a verse that makes it all clear…

Perfect, that one is close enough, I can rationalize this one into meaning what I want it to mean for me…

Maybe that sounds a little malicious, and you and I would never do something like that intentionally. But most of the time twisting is subtle and even unintentional. Today I want us to build our awareness so that we will do the work of not twisting scripture to fit our means.

Before we dive into this I think we need to set a baseline. Communication is hard. All the moving pieces make it a miracle when it is done well:

  • There is what a person wants to say
  • Something actually comes out of their mouth
  • The person hearing physically hears
  • That person interprets what they physically heard
  • Then the person that heard that interpretation wants to say something
  • They form a thought in their minds
  • Something comes out of their mouth
  • Leading to what the person physically hears — they interpret….

The cycle continues. There are lots of moving pieces. At any moment, at any step of the process there can be a breakdown. On top of all of that complexity, there can be a breakdown in what is actually said.

Have you ever messed up one of these statements?

Prostrate cancer

It’s an easy misspelling to make — just add an extra r and “prostate cancer” becomes “prostrate cancer,” which suggests “a cancer of lying face-down on the ground.” Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Mayo Clinic websites include this misspelling.

First-come, first-serve

This suggests that the first person to arrive has to serve all who follow. The actual phrase is “first-come, first-served,” to indicate that the participants will be served in the order in which they arrive. Both Harvard and Yale got this one wrong.

Deep-seeded

This should be “deep-seated,” to indicate that something is firmly established. Though “deep-seeded” might seem to make sense, indicating that something is planted deep in the ground, this is not the correct expression. Correctica found this error on the Washington Post and the White House websites.

I could care less

“I couldn’t care less” is what you would say to express maximum apathy toward a situation. Basically you’re saying, “It’s impossible for me to care less about this because I have no more care to give. I’ve run out of care.” Using the incorrect “I could care less” indicates that “I still have care left to give — would you like some?”

Talking is hard, and then there is hearing. There can be a breakdown at any moment on the hearing end of communication. Have you ever realized that you were bad a kareoke because you thought the lyrics were different than they really are?

Hearing is hard. So with this baseline.

TALKING HARD

HEARING HARD

Let me ask you a dialogue question:

Which of these do you find the hardest to communicate about and why? Affection, disappointment, political views, finances, personal strengths or weaknesses.

With communication being difficult, this being set as a reality, today we are looking at the twisting of meaning to match what we want it to mean.

What does twist look like?

It is easiest to see this twisting in negative examples

  • Could you help — TWIST — Why are you such a lazy piece of trash
  • Do you need some help — TWIST — I see that you are incompetent
  • When are you going to be home — TWIST — Why have you chosen to make other things in your life more important than me
  • How much did that cost — TWIST — That was the biggest waste of money
  • I don’t understand — TWIST — Why in the world would you think that

What makes twisting meaning easy or natural for people? What are the effects of twisting meaning?

I twist because

  • I come with emotion
  • I come with prior assumptions
  • I want it to fit into my current situation
  • I don’t have the energy to not twist
  • Because it was twisted to me

The effects are a self perpetuating process of:

  • Confusion
  • Hurt feelings
  • Misunderstanding
  • Alienation

Today we are looking at the twisting of scripture to fit what we want it to say, and unfortunately, just as in communication with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, twisting of scripture can be natural or even normal.

I twist scripture because

  • I come with emotion
  • I come with prior assumptions
  • I want it to fit into my current situation
  • I don’t have the energy to not twist
  • Because it was twisted to me

The effects are:

  • Confusion
  • Hurt feelings
  • Misunderstanding
  • Alienation

Even before we dive into this, let me ask you a question:

Why do you think scripture’s meaning can easily be twisted?

A single jumping off point in order to build principle on not twisting scripture is:

Romans 8:28
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
  • Someone is in PAIN
  • Someone is experiencing HARDSHIP
  • Someone is crushed by LOSS
  • This is a moment that I CAN’T UNDERSTAND
  • This is a moment that I CAN’T EXPLAIN
  • This is a moment I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY…

So, um… We don’t know what to say

We blurt out… God works all things together for good

  • I am sorry your dog got hit by a car — God works all things together for good
  • You lost your job — God works all things together for good
  • You have cancer — God works all things together for good
  • You have a door ding on your new car — God works all things together for good
  • I am sorry they are laying you off — God works all things together for good
  • Your relationship ended — God works all things together for good
  • You lost your house — God works all things together for good
  • Your mail order bride stole from you — God works all things together for good
  • Your dreams have been crushed — God works all things together for good
  • You’re struggling with mental illness — God works all things together for good

We know of countless tragedies and needless suffering, yet we repeat the myth to our children without blinking an eye: “Don’t worry; everything will work out just fine.”

Essentially saying:

  • God is cool with it
  • God is in control
  • God made it happen
  • God is steering the ship
  • It will all be GOOD

In the end — everyone will live happily ever after. No matter the situation there is a silver lining. Everyone will be ok. It will be for the better. Give it time, you will see that this was a good thing. God will make it all work our for good…

I am not sure if this is an expectation that full length animation movies invented or not, but pick the DISNEY or PIXAR story:

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Little Mermaid
  • Lion King
  • Incredibles
  • UP
  • Aladdin
  • Tangled
  • Toy Story
  • Monsters INC
  • Brave
  • Finding Nemo

There is a character that you connect with. They experience an incredible hardship or injustice. There is an epic battle, but in the end they all live happily ever after. It — the pain — the injustice — the struggle — the issue — the bad guy — it is defeted and everyting returns to normal, maybe even better than normal. Everything is ok and it all works out for the better. More specifically the happily ever after is nearly immediate — complete — with little or no residual effects from the pain or injustice of the past.

So, when we hear Paul say:

Romans 8:28
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

It is easy to see this as a happily ever after promise. You’ve heard it thousands of times: “Don’t worry; everything will work out just fine.” It’s the eternal optimism that is born not in reality but in the wishful thinking of the American dream, of Hollywood make-believe. All of us know it isn’t completely true — we know of children who were cut down by cancer or drunk drivers, drug addicts who came from good homes, family men who lost their jobs, soldiers who returned from battle with one less limb.

We know of countless tragedies and needless suffering, yet we repeat the myth to our children without blinking an eye: “Don’t worry; everything will work out just fine.” If we define the good as only what we can see in this life, then we have missed the whole point of this text.

Maybe context can help us in understanding…

30 years before Paul writes this letter to the people in Rome, history was split in half by Jesus. The issue was that it happened in this remote part of the Roman kingdom, Palestine. In the big picture of the all important picture of the Roman Empire, what happened in Jerusalem was nothing, just a blip on the map of Roman history. So as Paul writes this letter, that initially just a few read, and most likely, no one of great importance read it. There was so much to read in Rome: Great Philosophy, Poetry, Imperial decrees, but in the long run Paul, an unimportant Roman citizen, writes this obscure letter in the midst of the white noise of the Roman world and it grew into being world changing and theology shaping. Paul took the understood reality of Jesus’ life death and resurrection and works through the implications.

Jesus SAVES

Jesus TRANSFORMS

Jesus is to be LIVED FOR

Paul brings logic, argument, poetry, imagination, scripture, prayer, creation, history and his own personal experiences; and weaves this inspired letter that is viewed by many as the premier document on Christian theology.

As we pick it up in Romans 8, Paul is exuding eternal perspective of present suffering and future glory. Paul is saying:

This pain I know, this pain you know, it is nothing, barely worthy of a mention compared to what is going to come for us. I can’t wait, I can’t believe, I can barely express the greatness that is going come in presense of God after this life we now know. this world, this creation it is all waiting in the greatest anticipation for what is to come when God is revealed. We, us, all of God’s creation will be liberated from the decay, pain, frustrations of this life and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We wait, the waiting is building, like a mother’s labor pains, the anticipation is building, the tension is building, the pain is building; but just like a mother immediatly forgets the pain of birth, we to will forget the pain we now know. When we receive what we can’t see, what we can’t comprehend. Redemption of our bodies. Redemption of this world. Then, all pain will be forgotton. We wait for it patiently. The Holy Spirit helps us along the way, interceding for us because I/we can’t even express our anticipation, our hurt, our longing, our needs. The Holy Spirit praying with and for us.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

If God is for us nothing can stop us. We are going to arrive at the promised redemption. We are going to make it. On the way nothing can seperate us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In present suffering, in spite of them, through them, consider it pure joy. All of creation is groaning, anticipating the age to come. It’s not about the now, it is about the not yet. The Holy Spirit is fighting for you, while you are in your fight. Jesus Himself is interceding. Don’t worry, God will work it out for good. He knows what is and knows what will be. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

NOTHING because God is in control.

Paul does not think that pain, suffering, bad things will be twisted into good. He is so focused on the life after this life that the pain of now seems to fade. The not yet is going to be amazing. While the pain, like labor pains, will build they will immediately fade when the labor is complete. The happily ever after is not a simple return to normal. It is beyond the now. It is the not yet.

It is easy to twist:

God will give you a happily ever after moment.

It will all work out for good.

If good is not constrained to this life, what does that mean?

The twist: God works things for good

If you are in a bad spot, God will work it out for good.

If you are in pain, God will work it out for good.

If you feel like there is no hope, don’t worry, happy ending is around the corner

They are hurting

I don’t know what to say

I want to encourage them

I want them to be hopeful

I want to give them life

So I blurt out something like: Don’t worry, there is a happy ending because God is in control.

  • I am sorry about your loss
  • I am sorry about your disaster
  • I am sorry about your frustration
  • I am sorry about your brokenness
  • I am sorry about your shame
  • I am sorry about your dread

But God is going to make it into something good.

Maybe He will:

  • Teach someone else something
  • Teach you something
  • Build you, build someone else
  • Do something great

That is a twist from the true meaning of this verse. The good is beyond the now. The promise is not redeeming value or redeeming the hurt. The promise is that the kingdom beyond the now will be so great and even this pain, this hardship, not even it can seperate us from the love of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. This verse in not about bad and evil being redeemed for good, It is a promise of everlasting relationship with the creator of this world.

Bad things happen. There is a real evil in the world. Suffering a reality. All things are not good. It would be mockery to say that they are. The death of a child is not good. Cancer is not good, drug addiction is not good, war is not good. Life is good because of relationship with God, it is not circumstantial.

How should we respond to the suffering of this world?

What personal comfort can you find in Romans 8:28? (the good is beyond this world)

Take It Deeper Questions

  • Read Romans 8:18–39
  • As a child, if you were asked to describe heaven, what would have you said?
  • As an adult, if you were asked to describe heaven now, what would you say?
  • Why was Paul so motivated by his eternal perspective?
  • Is it easy or difficult for you to be motivated by eternal perspective? Why or why not?
  • What are some things that people allow to separate themselves from God?
  • How can we live life like Paul where we walk confidently knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God? How can we help/encourage others to do the same?
Messages DIY Theologian, Romans, Body of Christ, Church, Theology, Personal Theology, Misunderstood, Twisting, Messages