Summary: The world's narrative about God is that God is an "Angry God" seeking to destroy us if we get out of line. But Jesus tells us that God is good and just. When we see the final picture, we will be amazed at how good and just God is.

“The Good & Beautiful God:

God Is Good”

John 9:1-6

January 23rd, 2011

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

John 9:3-5 (NIV)


> Last week we began a sermon series based on the book, “The Good and Beautiful God” by James Bryan Smith (I recommend you purchase a copy and read it as we examine it together). We began by discussing the false narratives about God that are prevalent in our society.

> We stated that we must examine our narratives about God and compare them to the narratives Jesus taught us about God. This began a little game at our house of identifying false narratives that are prevalent in our home or that surround us in our culture.

> We have become more and more aware of the numerous false narratives that exist. We are training ourselves how to identify them and be aware of them.

> How about you this week? Are you becoming adept at identifying false narratives? Keep practicing. Keep learning. Keep growing.

> This week we will deal with one of the most common false narratives in Christianity—the “Angry God” narrative.

> In his book, James Bryan Smith tells a powerful story that illustrates this false narrative.

> As young parents, he and his wife were informed that the baby his wife was carrying had a chromosomal disorder that would likely cause her to die at birth. He wrote…

“The doctors were so matter-of-fact in announcing this bad news that I wanted to grab and shake them and say, “This is our daughter you’re talking about, not some medical malfunction!” (pg. 38)”

> Of course, this news turned their world upside down. They went from painting the nursery to planning a funeral.

> The doctors were wrong, however. The baby survived the birth, but weighed only a few pounds, had a heart defect, was deaf, and could not keep food down. All of the specialists told them that the baby would not live more than one or two years. They were right, the baby died after two years.

> Smith writes…

“One day a pastor I had known for years took me to lunch in an effort to comfort me. While I was in the middle of eating my salad he asked, “who sinned, Jim, you or your wife?” I said, “Excuse me… what do you mean?” He said, “Well, one or both of you must have sinned at some point to have caused this to happen. (pg. 38-39).”

> This is the classic expression of the “Angry God” narrative. It is the narrative that says, “God is angry with all of us because of sin. He is watching us to see if we mess up. If we behave, He will bless us. But if we sin, He will punish us severely.”

> The pastor friend believed that James Bryan Smith’s baby was born with a chromosomal disorder because of sin.

> Of course, any of us would be able to find enough sin in our lives to warrant horrible punishments from God. If we look at our life in light of God’s perfect Holiness, we all have sinned and fall far, far short of the perfection and glory of God.

> But, for God to strike a child with a horrible disorder—I join with all of us in saying, “If that is God, I want nothing to do with Him.”

> People have pointed to the existence of evil in the world for centuries in order to discredit the existence of God.

> The argument goes something like this, “How could a morally righteous and just God allow such atrocities to take place? If there is a God and He is good, then evil would not be allowed to reign and terrorize the world.”

> And, to be honest, that is a very compelling argument against the existence of a good and beautiful God.

> But, before we give in to that line of thinking lets look at the Jesus Narrative and see what He has to teach us about the evil in this world and the existence of a God who is good.


I. There Is No Justice In This World

> Jesus came into a world where it was very easy to question the goodness of God. Israel was a country under siege from every direction…

Rome, the dominant power in the world exercised their dominance over Israel as well.

Disease and illness lurked around every corner—leprosy was one of the worst.


Poverty was the primary economic class of people.

> Jesus knew what it meant to face hardship. He was born into poverty, His earthly father died sometime during His lifetime, and He was rejected by most of His friends and family during His ministry.

> Let’s face it, if earthly blessings were a sign of a sinless life, then King Herod was God’s son and Jesus was the worst sinner of all. But this just isn’t the case!

> The Prophet Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah 12:1…

You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?

Jeremiah12:1 (NIV)

Jeremiah was struggling to make reasonable sense out of his current circumstances. To Him, it seemed that the wicked and faithless people in the world were the ones being blessed.

> Job said…

Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not upon them.

Job 21:7-9 (NIV)

Job, too, saw the injustice of the world. Nothing seemed right and just to Him. Everything seemed out of balance.

> But, King David wrote in the Psalms…

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

Psalms 37:7-11 (NIV)

> Jesus, also, proclaimed that “the meek shall inherit the earth.”

> The point is, this world will never be a just world until all things are made new. Jeremiah knew it, Job knew it, King David knew it, and Jesus knew it!

> Jesus’ narrative was simply, “[God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matt 5:45 (NIV)”

> The first narrative of Jesus is that this world in it’s current state, is a cruel world where everyone suffers hardship and pain.

> When my mom called me to tell me that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I cried out to God, “Why me God? Why my family?” God responded, “Look around you, Scott, every neighbor & every home will face the same trials and tribulations. No one is exempt from pain and suffering.”

> We live in a world where there is no true justice. No matter how many times you put the murderer to death by lethal injection, it still will not bring back the child they killed.


Jesus’ narrative also tells us that God’s blessings are poured out on the just and the unjust as well.

The sun comes up and everyone has the privilege to bask in it’s glorious warmth.

The bird’s song finds it’s way to everyone’s ears.

Air is free for everyone to breath and food nourishes everyone the same.

> Once again, there is not justice in this world.

> If this was God’s doing, then we would declare God as a tyrant and reject Him.

> But, God did not choose evil. Man chose evil. God offered blessing to everyone equally, but humanity chose the curse of sin.


II. Still, God Is Just

> However, even though there is no justice in this world, the Jesus narrative about God tells us that God is just.

> Our scripture today introduces us to a man who was born blind. When the disciples come upon Him, they ask Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" John 9:2 (NIV)

> Jesus did not confirm that the man was born blind because of sin. Quite the contrary. Jesus refutes that assumption.

> Jesus said to His disciples…

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

John 9:3-5 (NIV)

> First of all, Jesus makes an unbelievable claim about the man and his parents. He declares, “Neither this man, nor his parents sinned.”

> We know that both the man and his parents had sinned, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What Jesus was saying was that the blindness was not a result of sin. It was a result of the fact that there is no justice in this world. This man got rained on, figuratively speaking.

> But, there is a deeper narrative at work in this story. Jesus goes on to say, “but, this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

> Once again, this is an unbelievable claim. Is it possible that God would make a man endure blindness throughout his childhood and into adulthood in order that He would be able to work a miracle in the man some time down the road when Jesus comes walking by?

> No, this is not what Jesus is saying, Jesus is saying that God’s choice to work in the man and God’s choice to work in this world is based on His just and good and loving nature. James wrote…

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.

James 1:13-18 (NIV)

> Evil happens because we make a choice to give into temptation. But good happens because God has made a choice to work on our behalf to bring about good.

> St. Augustine explains it best in City of God when he wrote…

When we come to Judgment Day not only will the judgments passed there seem to be most just, but all the judgments of God from the beginning [of time] will be likewise clearly fair. Then too it will also become clear how just the judgment of God is in causing so many—in fact, almost all—of his judgments to evade men’s grasp of understanding. Those who have faith will not fail to realize that such hidden judgments are just. (quoted in J.B. Smith, The Good and Beautiful God, pg. 47-48)

> In other words, Jesus, James, and St. Augustine are all making the same point. God’s good work done in the man that was blind, done in every person’s life, even the good works that are unknown and unseen to humankind, when they are revealed on that final day will prove God to be abundantly just and good.

> Jesus narrative is that, even though there is no justice in this world, still, God is just and when all is revealed, everyone will agree!

> I wrote, in the margin of my book, “Because Jesus knows the Father so intimately—if Jesus tells me the Father is good, then I will live by faith and believe—even when it is difficult to do so.


III. A Future Hope

> We began this message pointing out the false narrative that God is an “Angry God” seeking to punish. Jesus’ response is that God is patiently waiting, not wanting that anyone should perish. Peter writes…

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)

> Anger responds quickly and irrationally. But notice what this scripture says—with the Lord a thousand years are like a day. He is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish.

> The true narrative about God is that God has given us time to come to Him. He has given us the age of mercy and grace. He has looked past our sin and embraces us as His children. — John 3:16

> The world is filled with injustice, but God remains just and is patient with us to come to Him. He waits patiently as we struggle in on our own to deal with the injustice of this world. All the while, we could call out to Him and He would minister to us.

> It is true we will face tribulation. But we do not have to face it alone. We have one who has been there—Jesus suffered in every way as we suffer—and He can bring us through.


> I love the way James Bryan Smith concludes this chapter.

He writes…

A few years after Madeline died I was in the middle of a day of solitude. My mind [thought] over the last few years… I turned to God and said, without thinking, “Maybe it would have been better if she had never been born.”

That was when I received one of the clearest experiences of God responding to me that I’ve ever had in my life. On this day, at that moment, a little voice penetrated my mind, the voice of a little girl, a voice I had never heard but immediately recognized as Madeline’s. “Daddy, you should never say that. If I had never been born, I would not be here now. I am so happy here in heaven, and one day you and Mom and Jacob will come and see me, and we will live forever together. And there is more good that has happened because of me that you can’t see right now but will one day understand.”

I immediately repented of my despicable thoughts and crumpled to the ground in tears… Another narrative had entered my mind—the story about a promise of heaven (The Good and Beautiful God, pgs. 49-50).

> Jesus, in Revelation 21:5 says…

He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End...

Rev 21:5-6 (NIV)

> You see, the final picture has yet to be painted. We see only the here and now. But in the end, when the full picture is painted, we will all stand back and say, “Wow, what a good and beautiful God!”

Closing Song:

Closing Prayer: