Making Sense of Atrocities and Calamities

Luke 13:1-5

2 tragedies are mentioned in Luke 13:1-5 – one massacre atrocity of Galilean worshippers by Pontius Pilate and an accident calamity of the collapse of a tower killing 18 people – which would be similar to the ISIS atrocities and the natural calamities of tsunamis, earthquakes and plane crashes today. It was natural for the people to ask Jesus our Lord to make some sense of such tragedies.

How do we usually react to such news of atrocity or calamity ?

Most will call for prayer mostly to comfort the loved ones of the deceased. But over time as I have noticed now, fatigue and familiarity set in and even call for prayer and assistance has lessened much. To be frank, sometimes I suspect it is merely a knee-jerk Christian response to show some concern and religious piety.

What should be our appropriate response as advocated by our Lord in Luke 13:1-5 ?

In my opinion, firstly our Lord seemed to emphasize that we should be more concerned with eternal life and death than physical life and death. Secondly, it was a warning that we should repent quickly without hesitation before similar calamity befall us suddenly and we are robbed of the last chance to repent. The Jews living then would face their own tragedy in AD 70.

We are now living in the beginning of the birth pangs and we should expect an exponential increase of disasters as told by our Lord. Luke 21: 10-11.  Though calamities such as major earthquakes will have heavy death toll and is likely to be flashed on TV and bringing home the agony of suffering, we often do not realize that there is daily tragedy of a bigger magnitude.

For example, the 2008 Sichuan earthquake might have killed 70,000,  but 110,000 died on the roads of China, 70,000 committed suicides and another few hundred thousand die of preventable illnesses yearly in China. Shouldn’t the church in China or everywhere be more concerned with the vagaries of life and lost souls every day instead of allowing our emotions to be stirred up by the media disproportionately ?

I do grieve over such senseless tragedy but it galvanizes me to witness and share about spiritual preparation with even more urgency, since more hardship should be anticipated in greater intensity as the birth pains intensify in these last days.

Many will encounter the plague of mourning or hopelessness, famine and death in this last period of the last days. We are already seeing a tragic sizable number of suicides in churches today. Like what Mother Teresa said, the poor man died of starvation not because God did not help him but because we as the church did not help. Likewise for many who are suffering emotional oppression, it is our duty to share the gospel as well as relieving the oppressed and setting the captives free.

Let’s start praying for the less fortunate, the emotionally oppressed and the physically challenged in our midst with more urgency today and take action to help which will be more practical.

Postscript : However, do not get me wrong.  It is good that we pray for the sufferers suffering at the time of disaster and ask God to use us as vessels of hope as well.  (In the Sichuan and Tacloban disasters, we have prayed for relief in sending basic necessities and solar lamps directly to the disaster area which God provided so promptly.  All glory to His amazing grace forever !)   But not miss out the bigger picture of sharing the gospel with the unsaved in our midst with greater urgency and compassion.

The Do-Not-Be-Sin-Conscious Fallacy in Hyper Grace Gospel

I met a guy who boasted that he never have to worry about obeying the traffic rules for his father will readily pay up the summons should he violate any rule. Don’t you think it smacks of extreme self pride with scant regard for affecting others should his traffic offence cause any inconvenience to others at best or disaster at worst ? Any father with good sense will not want to spoil his child in such a way as to cause him or her to be so self centred just because he will readily pay for his or her traffic offence. How much worse is that “self righteous” attitude of the hyper grace believers towards God ? When they sin, all they need to do is to convince themselves in front of the mirror that they are righteous in God’s sight because Christ has paid for their sins. Is that the kind of attitude when we sin against God ? Where is the concern for the consequence of their sin in affecting the lives of others or straining relationship with God and men ? Where is the love for others ?

It is like when I do something wrong against my wife and I only have to tell myself I have absolutely nothing to worry as she has made a vow to be with me forever through all circumstances. She must continue to accept me because of her vow and see me as her perfect mate forever. Who in the right mind will believe the relationship will not be strained ? When I ask for her forgiveness to restore our relationship, it is not because I want my laundry done or my dinner cooked, but because I realized I have hurt her and I want to restore the relationship soonest possible. We know even from Scripture that if the husband has strained the relationship with his wife, God will not listen to his prayer. 1 Pet 3:7. Yet when we do not deal with our sin and confess to God, do you think He will listen to our prayers ? How terribly warped is this teaching !

If God’s redemptive plan of making Christ His Beloved Son suffer on the Cross to appease His own wrath and justice for sin is only for believers to be so indifferent to sin after they have believed, it just does not make any good common sense. The common retort is that the hyper grace false teachers never teach their believers to sin. Never ? Are you sure ? What they meant is that they never teach anyone to lie, cheat, steal or murder. But is not teaching one to be self centred and covetous of greater harm ?

Back to the traffic rules illustration. When we respect the lives of others and ourselves while driving, we naturally obey the traffic rules. Are the traffic rules so inhibitive that make driving so stressful akin to bondage ? Do most of the drivers worry themselves sick over the traffic rules ? Of course not. Because we know if everyone obeys the traffic rules, driving is less stressful. Look at driving on roads in major Chinese cities. Near accidents are so common, because of the lack of respect for traffic rules, which are even more stressful for all drivers. Due to selfish desire to get ahead of others, instead of going faster on the roads if they have obeyed the simple traffic rules and be considerate, conversely traffic is slowed down even more at junctions, slip roads, and even trunk roads. Doing away with the Law is like doing away with traffic rules. Does Right Belief doing away with the traffic rules imply Right Driving ? Nobody in his or her right mind will believe the roads are safe.

Believers Do Not Confess Their Sins According to Hyper Grace Doctrine

John 13: 6-11. ESV.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, …“Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is COMPLETELY clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

One of the most dangerous false teaching of the hyper grace doctrine is teaching believers never to confess their sins whenever they do sin. The warped argument is that if one confess his or her sins and seek forgiveness daily is to render the death of Christ on the cross an imperfect atonement for our sin.

In the above passage, the cleansing mentioned clearly refers to spiritual cleansing. Though Peter was clean, not every one of the disciples was clean and Jesus knew who would betray Him.

So when we have taken a spiritual bath in Christ, we are COMPLETELY clean. But we will still get our feet dirty as we walk through life and we have to allow Jesus to wash our feet. That is, if we do not confess our sins and obtain His forgiveness and cleansing of all our unrighteousness in our daily walk (1 John 1:9), we will have no part with Jesus.

John MacArthur elaborated this in his book “Twelve Ordinary Men” :
…Peter, as a believer, was already fully justified. The forgiveness and cleansing he needed was not the kind of summary pardon one would seek from the Judge of the Universe – as if Peter were seeking to have his eternal destiny settled. He had already received that kind of cleansing and forgiveness. But now Peter was coming to God as any child would approach a parent, seeking fatherly grace and forgiveness for his wrongdoings. That was the kind of cleansing Peter needed. It is the same kind of forgiveness Jesus taught all believers to pray for daily (Luke 11:4). Here, Jesus likens such daily forgiveness to a foot-washing…

Cheap Grace Theology Actually Deny Jesus

Mark 8: 34-38

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

On the night before Jesus was betrayed, Peter told Jesus so confidently that he would lay down his life for Jesus. But right after the arrest of Jesus, Peter denied Jesus 3 times. Luke 22:54-62.
1. The first time, he denied knowing Jesus.
2. The second time, he denied being one of His disciples.
3. The third time being cornered, he cursed, swear and dismissed summarily the allegations by saying, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about !”

1. In all these years that I have been warning about the extreme danger of the cheap grace theology, I tried to show the believers of this false theology that they actually deny knowing Jesus by denying His words such as His caution against the lure of wealth and living in dissipation in life, and that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions and we may even be persecuted and hated for His name sake. By denying or dismissing His words is akin to being ashamed of His words.
2. And that they also deny being the disciples of Jesus if they do not take His demands of discipleship of giving up the hold of family, self and possessions seriously to heart. Luke 14:25-35.
3. To complete the denials, if I press too hard about the above two denials in my argument, these believers will simply dismiss me off by saying, “You have got it wrong” without telling me where I have got it wrong.
If these professing believers want to make the best of this life on earth just like the unsaved, they will lose it. They may gain the whole world but they will forfeit their souls. The tenet of this whole false theology is effectively being ashamed of identifying with a Suffering Saviour and Lord, refusing to be content with just food and clothing, and ashamed of His words of caution against the lure of the world.

To the chagrin of some, my regular writing to contend for the faith against the cheap grace theology is done in the hope that I can win some brothers back by the grace of God. James 5:19-20. At the very least, I hope to do my little part in fighting off the spiritual deception through exposing the flaws in this false theology. In fact, I will be so uncharitable and it will weigh on my conscience if I am indifferent to the terrible destiny of those who are misled by this false theology.

The Real Ulterior Motive of False Teachers

2 Pet 2: 1-3 NLT

But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. 3 In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.

If we believe in the inerrancy and the authority of the Bible, then we have to believe that the stated real motive of the false teachers in proliferating false teaching is all about personal greed. Note the words “clever lies” in the above verses. The false teaching will be cleverly devised to sound so appealing and authoritative with the ulterior motive of getting your money.

(In other passages in the Scripture,  such motive is referred to as Balaam’s error. Balaam, who for the sake of gain, would still consciously go against the will of God despite nearly being judged by the angel of the Lord and saved by his donkey. He was ultimately judged. Num 22-24; Num 31:8; 2 Pet 2:15; Jude 1:11; Rev 2:14.)

Just as the enemy masquerades as an angel of light, his servants – the false teachers – will also masquerade as servants of righteousness. 2 Cor 11:13-15. They will always speak politically correct words pandering to the itching ears of their followers. They will avoid the bluntness of the truth and speak only feel good messages. Why will they do the opposite of pronouncing hard truths and risk losing these income generators in their congregation ? John 6:60-66.