Friday, March 13, 2009
A Beautiful Stumbling & The Wrath of God
Have you heard the news?
God is about to pour judgment upon us. A God-wrought calamity is drawing near. God’s patience has worn out, and He is about to smite the earth and all its inhabitants.
I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve heard this sort of chorus in my lifetime. There was the general agreement that because the 60’s and 70’s were so bad, God would bring harsh judgment and then return and be angry. There was the God-caused earthquake that was supposed to strike during the L.A. Olympics, and there was the presumed failure of all things computer as the clock changed from 1999 to 2000, throwing the world into darkened chaos. If we were to throw in various actual disasters, there are those that think tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, snowstorms and plane crashes are the judgmental actions of angry God. Wrath in hindsight.
Judgment. We deserve it. God is mad, so get ready, people, ’cause here it comes.
But I have always stumbled over scripture when it comes to running with the incoming judgment or hindsight wrath crowd. Like this one:
“. . .God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:19)
What is our message to the world, to Christian and non-Christian alike? You have been put in good order with God; you’ve been reconciled to Him. Look what He has done! He’s not counting your sins, but calling you to believe Him and embrace Him through Christ. In this day even the enemies of God escape punishment because of Christ since they, too, have been reconciled. (Rom 5:9-11) It’s crazy, but that’s the gospel.
Here’s another stumbler on the road to judgment and wrath:
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
Well, I, for one, believe Him, though it is challenging at times. I mean, don’t the evil-doers deserve a whack? At least some sort of punishing wake up call? I think they deserve it. In a way, God does too. So He gave it to them two thousand years ago. He put their whack on Jesus. Think of it: murderers, idolators, molestors, pornographers and God-haters, all are reconciled to God, all go free today. It’s so unfair.
It has to be God.
There is a day when those who do not believe God’s message of reconciliation, who defiantly resist Him and are unrepentant, will be judged and incur the results presently held by Christ. (Rom 2:5) But this day is not that day. Today, God’s righteous judgment against sin has been carried out—those who believe will always be free and secure in Christ. Their account is forever reconciled. Those who do not yet believe are presently free from any accounting, free to believe in God’s grace at the cross and resurrection, free to receive Christ, then to be secure. When anyone believes in God’s stunning accomplishments in Christ, reconciliation is consummated—the deal is sealed! More accurately, the two are sealed; God and newly born son in union forever. And that’s our message. We ought to be yelling it from the rooftops, let alone proclaiming it from the pulpit.
Besides, God’s anger is primarily directed at sin, not at the sinner (Romans 1:18). His wrath has always been more cleansing than it is punishing.
Now, if the church is taken off the earth in the next few months, then it will be time for judgment. That will usher in a period known as The Tribulation. But if you and I are going to be around for a while yet, then in this day judgment is on Christ. God does not now base the withholding of His wrath, nor the giving of His grace and mercy depending upon how we’re doing, but on Christ and how He did. It’s past tense, it already happened, and now we’re living loved and free—that’s the gospel!
In this day when so much seems to be shaking and insecure, it’s not God in His wrath doing the shaking. What is happening in our day is that the systems of this world are failing—of course. They’ve never actually worked, though they may have appeared to for a season. God has never blessed the systems of this world, and He is not now. Depending on how much we’re losing in the marketplace, we may be tempted to believe that God is withholding His blessing, but it’s not true. In my opinion, God is working to give us the blessing we already have, yet aren’t really enjoying—Himself. Do you ever get lost in the presumed blessings of this world? Me, too. So He is working to give us back what we love most. The Blessing!
Look, we have long been deceived into estimating ourselves based on how we’re doing, how much we’ve got, how we’re progressing, how little we’re suffering, and how much we’re on the right side of pleasing God. That always morphs God into The Ever Watching Pharisee—imagine how He must like that. And who loves a Pharisee? More specifically, who draws close enough to be loved and liked and reconciled by a Pharisee?
And that’s my point. To the extent we believe that God has not reconciled us because He has not yet exacted the due punishment for the sins and sinners of this world through Christ, is the extent we’ll live in fear that He’ll be doing it tomorrow if not today. We’ll think most any worldly trembling is God stomping His feet. We’ll be tempted to run around and get people to stop making God mad, because we’re in for it if they don’t.
I know this has turned into something of a rant. Sorry. Sort of. But the last thing you need to worry about is God, not because you’re wonderful (though you are), but because He is. You can count on it. In fact, you’re supposed to. Can you say, “Consummate”?