When I walked into Margaret’s hospital room, I could see the deep lines on her face telegraphing she was not only sick but also despondent. We exchanged normal pleasantries. However, she quickly explained that the cause for the pain in her abdomen had eluded the doctors so far. By her expression, I could tell there was something troubling her even more.
Her grandson was one floor below her clinging to life after a vicious motorcycle accident. She teared up as she looked intently into my eyes and asked, “What have I done for God to do all of this to me?”
Margaret’s question is one that most Christians ask when they experience bad circumstances. It’s a very common belief that at some point, God is going to punish us because of some type of sin we committed. We hear it almost every day from those in our discipleship counseling and our Advanced Discipleship Training.
My heart goes out to each one of them. I was once there myself and it produces the anti-abundant Christian life. However, the misunderstanding behind it is larger than just that one question.
What we are actually believing is an accusation against the goodness of God. We are convinced if we obey God, He blesses us with good circumstances. However, if we sin, He punishes us with bad ones. Based on many Christians sharing with us that they believe this, we need to ask the question, “Why?”
Unfortunately, a lot of teaching/preaching promotes this but it’s not what the New Covenant teaches. The New Covenant is crystal clear that we are blessed because of what Jesus did, not because of what we do. Ephesians 1:3 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Do you see the good news? If you are in Christ, you are already blessed. Obedience is still important. Yet, we can obey because we are blessed, not to get blessed. Circumstances do not determine whether we are blessed.
The New Covenant is also clear that Jesus was punished for all of our sins, even the ones we haven’t committed yet. The Holy Spirit wrote through John, He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. Propitiation is probably not a word you have used in your prayers lately, but it’s rich in meaning. It lets us know that the punishment of God, because of our sins, was completely satisfied when Jesus died on the cross in our place. God doesn’t punish who we are in Christ when we sin. He already punished Jesus instead.
This kind of thinking is not only taught/preached, it is also the way the Old Covenant worked. For example, in Deuteronomy 28, we see it plainly. You can read it on your own but one of the things you will notice is there are four times as many punishments (curses) as there are blessings.
Yet, this stinking thinking started even before the Old Covenant. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This knowledge, which entered into Adam and Eve when they ate from it, was the genesis of believing when we obey, God blesses us; when we sin, He punishes us.
God never intended us to live this way. He intended for us to live from the Tree of Life which is the full, Abundant Life of Christ in us. This Life is ours because of what He did for us when He died on the cross and what He did to us when He rose from the grave.
We also have an enemy who whispers in our minds that bad circumstances are a result of our sins. That is why we are to put on the helmet of salvation that we read about in Ephesians 6:17. Do you know what the helmet of salvation is? It’s being convinced in our mind that our salvation birthed us into God’s family, Because we are in this family, we don’t have to work for His love and blessings or avoid punishment.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to our actions. Margaret’s grandson was in the hospital because he was speeding and couldn’t control his motorcycle on a sharp curve. God wasn’t punishing him or Margaret – there are consequences.
Twenty-seven years ago, my wife and I had a child whom we named, Bekah. She was born into the world with Down syndrome. My wife and I have never thought this happened because we are being punished by God. In both cases, Margaret and Bekah were this way because we live in a fallen, messed up world, where our bodies don’t work properly.
If you’d like to experience a greater understanding of your amazing freedom from this debilitating thinking, I invite you to attend our upcoming Advanced Discipleship Training classes, beginning April 25. There are 34 classes you can take in our office or online. These classes unfold how to live each day from the life-giving power of God’s grace. The good news? You can take the first four classes to decide if you want to dive into all of them. *Seating is limited. Click Here for Details