Weekly Wisdoms for the week of September 2, 2013
In an effort to make the Gospel more seeker-friendly, some Christians avoid talking about God's wrath, anger, and hatred toward those who have sinned against him. By watering down the wrath of God such people cheapen and diminish the love of God.
Such a faith void of God's wrath was characterized in the early 1900s by a movement called Protestant Liberalism. In 1937, H. Richard Niebuhr, professor at Yale Divinity School, gave this description of Protestant Liberalism's theology: "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross."
As Niebuhr pungently demonstrated, eliminating God's wrath minimizes the cross, which is the ultimate manifestation of God's love (see Romans 5:6-8).
Because God is holy, perfect, and sinless, he deserves all glory, honor, fame, praise, and exaltation. However, when we sin—and every one of us sins—we insult God's holiness. Sin is fundamentally an offense against God, and so he hates sin and punishes all who sin against him (see Psalm 78:19-21, John 3:36, Psalm 5:5, Isaiah 13:11, Psalm 7:11).
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 1:18-19, describes the ubiquity of God's wrath: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them" (see also Romans 1:18-31).
So, if we all are godless and wicked, deserving of God's wrath, how can he accept us? Does God say, "Well, at least you're making progress"? Does he grade on the curve: "You're better than average, so I guess I'll give you a passing grade"? No. God can't forgive like that because his holiness and justice demand that perfect satisfaction for sin be made.
Instead, what God does is this: He sends his son, Jesus Christ, to bear all our sins so that our sin is paid for by Christ. What an amazing act that the very one who you hated, scorned, reviled, and scoffed at is the same one who took upon himself the death penalty you deserved, and because all your sins are placed on him God declares you righteous. That's good news!
If you don't realize that the bad news is that you, because of your sin, are an enemy of God who deserves the death penalty, then you won't realize the full magnificence of God's love for you expressed through Christ suffering the death you deserved. Because the bad news is worse than you think it is, the good news is better than you think it is.
In Matthew 13:44-46, Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
Jesus tells about two men, both of whom sold everything for the kingdom of heaven. To those men, God's eternal kingdom was so valuable that they were willing to give up everything they had in order to invest in it.
That's exactly the same attitude God wants us to have toward wealth. Money is an excellent servant but a terrible master. Unfortunately, many people in society are mastered by their money, unable to control their greed.
Yet God is more important than all these things in the world. He requires that we be willing to sell all for Him.
Mark 10:17-22 tells the story of a rich man's encounter with Jesus: As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good -- except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
He owned great wealth, but really his wealth owned him. Remember that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).
This man's heart was so attached to his money that his money owned him. His attitude is very different than that of the two men, who sold everything for the kingdom of heaven.
If, like this man, you become so hungry to own more money, be aware that really your money will own you.
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