Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When We Reject the God of Judgment, We Also Reject the God of Grace

The idea of a God-of-judgment has slipped out of favor among the educated. The idea of eternal judgment is thought to be barbaric, and even the notion of an exclusive salvation through Christ alone is no longer acceptable. A friend asked me how he might present harsh-sounding Psalm 97:3 to his students in an inoffensive way:

• “Fire goes before Him and consumes His foes on every side.”

Indeed, such a verse is widely deemed offensive and inhumane. According to atheist Steven Pinker, the God of the Bible is a repugnant being...“Who delights in genocide, rape, slavery, and the execution of nonconformists” (THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE, 676).

This has become a predictable charge against the faith of the Bible, so much so, that Christians have been hesitant - even ashamed - of their own Scriptures. How then can we defend the idea that God “consumes His foes on every side?”

For one thing, we should not back away from the vengeance-of-God. To do so would be to back away from the Bible, even the Gospel.

Instead, the message of salvation depends upon the understanding of what we have been saved from – God's utter wrath and His hatred of all sin. In truth, there is only one thing we deserve from Him – death and condemnation (Romans 6:23). We have all sinned grievously and have fallen far short of His righteous standards (Rom. 3:23), standards of which we are all aware (Rom. 1:18-32; 2:15).

Psalm 97:3 gives us a blessed reminder of what we truly deserve from an all-good and righteous God, a just God who demands the punishment of sin. It is this reminder that causes us to love Him and to esteem His grace by which we have passed from death into life. We are no longer objects of destruction and wrath, but instead objects of the most intense love and protection (Eph. 3:17-19). He therefore hovers over us, insuring that everything that happens is for our betterment (Rom. 8:28; Phil. 1:6).

We cannot receive and properly fathom grace without an understanding of the judgment we rightfully deserve. If you have any doubts about this, just look at the liberal mainline churches, which have embraced a god of “grace” without the God of judgment. They are confused. Faith is no longer real to them. They no longer know what to believe.

One Episcopal woman lamented to me that she is so confused that she no longer knew what is right or wrong. Consequently, she no longer knows what to say or how to answer or even to make the tiniest of decisions.

She had chosen, along with her church, a god of “grace” and had rejected the God of judgment. Consequently, nothing made any sense to her. She was trying to fly a plane with only one wing and was unable to get off the ground. It is therefore not accidental that these “gracious” churches continue to rupture members.

For grace to be real, so must judgment. We cannot believe only one set of messages from Scripture and reject the rest. This would be hypocritical. We know this deep within our being, and we silently rebel against our own hypocrisy and our contrived faith. After all, if we know that we've contrived it, picking-and-choosing among the verses, how then can we believe that it's the faith that God has given us? We can't!

Besides this, the Spirit refuses to validate any faith which we have commandeered for our own use and comfort. It’s a faith that’s ours, not His! Instead, Jesus requires that we come to Him as little children (Matthew 18:2-4), not insisting on our own preferences but seeking His!

My friend goes to a mainline Presbyterian church. He loves the Lord. However, the teaching and the preaching has become so insipid and monotoned, so disconnected from Scripture, that he responded that these words were a “breath of fresh air,” dissipating the confusion as sunlight evaporates the mist.

No comments:

Post a Comment