Impossible Things (2)
In “Impossible Things (1)” I postulated that since it’s impossible for God to lie, we can trust Him wholly.
In that discussion we saw 3 impossibilities. 1). It is impossible for God to break His promises. He is truth, and truth (by definition) can’t be or tell a lie.
Also, we saw that the trust (which God has earned and deserves) won’t ever spring naturally from our depraved hearts. That’s the second impossibility. 2). It is impossible to trust Him unless He uses His truth to produce faith in us. It takes the work of the Spirit through the Word (or the promises) of God to plant faith in our hearts.
And, the other impossibility we saw was 3). It is impossible to please God without faith.
Today we will look at a few more impossibilities. Overall, the point we want to explore here is the fact that since it’s impossible for God to be evil, we should love Him.
Jesus’ half brother James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13 NKJV). His message is clear: it is impossible for God to tempt us with evil. And, it is impossible for God to be tempted with evil. God cannot and will not be connected with evil either going or coming.
Why? Well, because He is holy, good, just, & right. His holiness, goodness, justice, and righteousness are intrinsic in His nature. It’s who He is. He can no more produce evil than a stone can produce lemon juice or the craters on the moon can fill themselves with honey.
That does give us a few things to explain, of course. Such absolutes always do.
Isaiah the prophet wrote that God said, “There is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Isaiah 45:6–7, KJV 1900). So, what do we make of that? Is this a contradiction in the Bible?
Of course not. The only contradiction is due to our lack of information. The word evil usually points to immoral things, but in this case it points to the consequences of immoral things. Things that are harmful, calamitous, adversarial, afflicting, or disastrous are properly called evil (adapted quote from GotQuestions). It’s like the word temptation in the same context. God does not desire your destruction; He is not pleased with the damnation of any man, so He is never trying to get us to sin. However, in the sense of trouble and testing (which affords us a choice to either sin or trust in Him), yes, You could say that He tempts us. Temptation CAN be the attractiveness of an immoral thing, but it can also simply be difficulty.
So, I stand my ground in saying that it is impossible for God to be attracted by moral evil, and it is impossible for Him to woo us toward moral evil. He does not entice us into the dangers of unrighteousness. That is the work of the Tempter, Satan. In contrast, our God warns us about the dangers of unrighteousness so we can avoid the temptations.
But we’re not done considering apparent anomalies.
Jesus is and always has been divine, yet He was tempted in the wilderness. And surely nobody would imagine that those temptations were not to commit moral evils. On top of that, Jesus even said to Lucifer in that setting, “It is written that one should never tempt the Lord God” (Luke 4:12). Still, in both of those cases (concerning the temptation of the Father and of the Son) the fault was entirely in the attempt to tempt, never in the tempted One. The point in all this is that God can’t possibly be attracted to (or by) anything that is unholy. That doesn’t mean we can’t offer Him things that are unholy. It only means that He will not ever accept it, nor will He ever consider evil to be appealing.
The testing of Job is also justifiably presented as a supposed exception. At first blush it sure looks as if God is the one pushing Job to the edge of his faith. But no, that was the Devil’s purpose. All along God’s purpose was to demonstrate Job’s fidelity to Him, and (along the way) we discover that God had other holy objectives as well. God was setting Job up to discover truths about Him that Job couldn’t have learned any other way. Plus, what God was truly doing for Job amounted to purifying him, not polluting him.
Adam and Eve’s story is yet another fitting test for our claim. In that story we find that God gave them both all they needed, but he also put the tree of knowledge of good and evil there in the garden with them. But again, this only amounts to the creation of freedom. For freedom to be real, there must be real options available. I am not free to leave my home if my home is the only thing that exists. And so, even in that story we find God giving the first people the best chance and the most help toward obedience that He could possibly give, short of depriving them of free choice. It was Satan who came along and tempted Eve, not God.
So, there are evil things God allows and even uses, yet all along He is opposed to them. If you pause for even a few moments to contemplate this claim, you should realize that every evil is like this. No evil can exist without God’s knowledge or permissive patience. Yet He is never to blame. Satan can be blamed. Our ancestors can be blamed. We can justly blame ourselves. But God is truly good. Moral evil is impossible for Him. Not only could He not be bad even if He wanted to be bad, He can’t even want to be bad.
But, what does that mean for us?
It means that God is truly lovable. He is absolutely lovable. He deserves our love. Because He is absolutely good, for us to fail to love Him would be the most incongruent and egregious response imaginable.
Yet, just like with the necessity of faith, when it comes to love, we’re stuck on empty. God steps in with His promises (and His fulfilled promises) to cultivate faith in us. AND, He steps in with the goodness of His sacrificial love to cultivate love in us.
Let’s talk about God’s love.
God loves us, yes. But get this. The Bible teaches us that it is impossible for us to be separated from the love of God. Romans 8:35, 39, "Who can separate us from the love of Christ? will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” No. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. “Not height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That’s wonderful, of course. But it is imperative for us to clarify that this kind of love is uniquely addressed to the children of God; to saints; believers. Most people are indeed separated from the love of God. Or, at least, they will be. He certainly doesn’t relegate His enemies to hell and then to the Lake of Fire while all the while “loving them in Christ.”
It would be impossible for Him to love us in the best sense of the word if it weren’t for the person and work of His perfect Son on our behalf. And, it would have been impossible for us to love Him in return if He hadn’t loved us first.
But, He DID love us (John 3:16). He loved us when we did not love Him. He loved us while we were unlovely. He loved us while we were still sinners. That’s why the apostle John could write boldly, “We love Him because He loved us first” (1st John 4:19). In that sense it is proper to say that He loved us before He redeemed us. He loved us enough to change us into something worth loving. He loved us until His love made us attractive to Him (see Ezekiel 16).
Through His foreknowledge, election, predestination, foreordination, redemption, calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification of His saints, He has brought us into a state of being loved that even goes beyond the glory of His general goodness and generosity to all of humanity.
In Lamentations 3:22-23 (RSV) we read these words, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” His mercies do come to an end for those who remain in their sin. That’s what happened with Noah’s flood. God set a deadline. His mercy and patience were cut off. But not for His chosen ones. His mercies toward us are ever and always as fresh as the sunrise. Why? Because He loves us.
This is why we are told in Matthew 7:7 that we have but to ask, seek, and knock and we will have, find, and be admitted. Why is that? It should be obvious. It is true because our God is good and He loves us. He knows how to give good gifts. And in this way He both proves His love for us and He produces His love in us. We love Him and we love what He loves, all because His love is reflected on our visage.
God’s unfailing love for His people is seen also in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” The nation of Israel had failed God over and over again, yet His covenant love for the remnant among them was as pure and as sure as ever. Even our great failures do not prevent God from loving us. Of course, it should also be pointed out that our accomplishments do not make Him love us more either. His love is dependent on His character, His grace, His nature, His promises, His plans, and is applicable to us only by the redeeming work of Christ.
If you are looking for an exceedingly clear and practical demonstration of the rightful connection between God’s goodness and our love for Him, look no further than the love chapter, 1st Corinthians 13. There (in verse 6) we find that love does not rejoice in iniquity. This is perhaps the closest and most obvious application for us. Paul was saying that love can only promote good. He was writing that about us and about our love for each other. But our love extends from God’s love. He is love. Everyone who loves, loves because they are born of God and know Him (1st John 4).
The opposite is also true. Those who do not love, it is because they have no connection to the goodness of God. They are attracted to darkness and evil because there is no love in them. God’s goodness merits love, and God’s love produces goodness. You won’t get one without the other, and if either is lacking, you can be sure that the other will also be absent.
Still, God’s goodness and love march on, unaffected by all opposition and doubt.
Jonah, with all of his faults, foibles, and failures could not thwart God’s good plan to rescue the Assyrians from judgment.
The prodigal son, with all of his errors, ignorance, and iniquity could not thwart his father’s love for him, nor could it hinder the goodness that was in his father’s heart. Even the paltry rationale behind the son’s return (to be a servant and eat with the servants) couldn’t hamper the extravagant demonstration of love that the parabolic father had pent up in his heart. And we know that Jesus’ parable only reflected the reality of God’s love for His lost and wayward children.
When we see the goodness of God displayed in how much God has loved us (by sending His Son to reconcile us to Himself), how can we help but love Him in return. That’s Romans 5:8 (NKJV), “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
How can you? How could I? How could any of us not love Someone who loves us this much and who always has our best interest in His heart. There is nobody else like this; no one more lovable; no one more worthy of our love.
It has been said, “When you ask God how much He loves you, He says, ‘I LOVE YOU THIS MUCH…’ as He spreads out His arms on the cross and dies for your forgiveness.”
Sadly, despite the great truths we have exposed in this meditation, many among us are still constantly working to try to earn God’s love and approval. It’s natural, I suppose. We often try to earn the love of the people around us (whether for good or bad reasons). But God is ready to love any and all who come to Him for love. He doesn’t use and abuse people and then walk away. That’s the way fallen people act. PLUS, you don’t have to work to get what He has to offer. If you listen to His word, trust His promises, and accept His goodness, then you will find yourself lead to His love. The faith we examined in “Impossible Things (1)” unlocks the door, but behind that door is the magnificent love of God. Once you have entered through that doorway, you find that God’s goodness is the source of both the reasons and your ability to love Him in return.
Since it’s impossible for God to be evil, it is also impossible for anything to separate us from His love. Therefore, we love Him.