Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Beauty of God's Wrath

When sharing the salvation message, we tend to use several methods: The ABC—Accept, Believe, and Confess, or the Romans Road or even the Four Spiritual Laws. While there is nothing wrong with these methods, I wonder if we neglect an important factor and that is what we really are saved from. So what are we saved from?

Is the gospel just about escaping hell, gaining heaven where everlasting life is realized? I offer that the gospel message is really about the wrath of God and how God’s agape love made provisions to prevent us from his impending wrath.

I love the way Mark Buchanan described God’s agape love in his book Hidden in Plain Sight. He said, “Agape is unprovoked love: it seeks those who never saw it coming, who never had it coming, who never sought it out. It shows up unannounced, unexpected, undeserved . . .. It doesn’t depend upon our worthiness”(italics mine). God’s love is unconditional. His love encompasses his grace and mercy.

The beauty in understanding the wrath of God is the knowing that God—who is just—refused to leave mankind with a permanent death sentence. His “unprovoked” love provided a path for reconciliation (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

Where did God’s wrath originate? In my humble opinion, God’s wrath originated when Adam and Eve choose to disobey God’s command not to eat from the tree of knowledge. With this disobedience, Adam passed his sin DNA to every generation. Everyone is born with this predisposed inclination for disobedience and rebellion against their Creator, the Holy and Just God.

The need for salvation is not just the sins we’ve committed today or yesterday, but the natural sin embedded into our nature—rebellion and unbelief toward God (Romans 5:17-19).

The Word says, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him," (John 3:36 NKJV). The message is simple; in believing in God’s Son there is life. Not to believe is to remain under God’s wrath.

Further the Word says, “He [God] is patient . . . not wanting anyone to perish; but everyone to come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9; brackets mine for clarification). God even made provisions for Adam and Eve and that is where we see God’s compassion and abounding love. God:

  1. Hand crafted clothing from an animal to cover their nakedness (This was the first blood sacrifice)
  2. Banished them from the garden least they get into more trouble

 “And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever,” (Read Genesis 3:20-24).

Otherwise, if Adam and his wife remained in the garden and ate of the tree of life, they would forever live in their rebellion—there would be no provisions to reconcile them to their Creator. They would live out their eternity under God’s wrath.

Everyone has a choice to believe or not believe. The United States’, in 2005, had a nine percent population of acclaimed Atheists and Agnostics, according to the Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics (Zuckerman, 2005). To them, the gospel is craziness. God never was. Only weak people need religion, is their estimation. Nonetheless, it is unprovoked love, like Mr. Buchanan said which, “Shows up unannounced, unexpected,” and “undeserved.”

Adam’s sin cast a wide and deep chasm between man and God. A chasm so broad that only one person could reconcile and close the gap and that would be God himself. He came in the flesh, another difficult concept for some to receive. God came because we cannot as human beings:

  • Save our self
  • Become a god
  • Work our way to heaven by being good
  • Hope the religious road we’ve chosen, leads us to God’s kingdom
  • Our be led by our feelings into heaven

One could pray a thousand times a day, spend endless hours at church but unless they believe and confess Christ Jesus as the Son of the Living God, they continue to miss the mark. Even the best of the best’s goodness pales in comparison to God’s righteousness. And if we could feel our way, work our way, or believe our religion could save us; there would be no need for God’s agape love. Jesus’ death would have been in vain.

Oprah, in 2008, interviewed an author; here is how she summarized his book. “What you’re saying is God and the essence of all consciousness, isn’t something to believe. God is. God is. God is a feeling experience not a believing experience. And if your religion is a believing experience, if God for you is still about believing, then it’s not truly God.” The author agreed and so did some of the audience.

Wow! But I guess our reaction to this is the same reaction people have when Christians say there is only way one to God. I recently read a quote, 
“Every path you take will lead you to God, but only one path will lead to eternal life with Him.”
 Jesus remarked about the road to eternal life, he said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it [the gate to destruction]. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” (Matthew 7:13-14; brackets mine for clarification).

Another statement Jesus made, which the Christian faith propagates, is what Jesus told Thomas, his disciple, when Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6). If this statement is not true, then Jesus is either a lair or he is delusional—or both, a delusional lair.

People are triune beings, meaning we are body, soul, and spirit. I like to explain it this way. Our soul is our emotions and will, or spirit is what we connect with God, and our body is how we touch the tangible world we live in. When Adam and Eve walked with God, they had all three in tack. But they fell for Satan’s deception and sinned. When they did this they were no longer pure innocent beings. Their sin brought separation and death. Thus we live in a fallen world.

As Jesus told Nicodemus, a Pharisee, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit,” (John 3:5-8). 

The provision God made for all mankind, is to come to the knowledge that:
  1. We are under the Wrath of God because sin entered earth by Adam’s disobedience; therefore, sin also is in us.
  2. Sin is punishable, unless one repents (turns from sin and walks toward Christ)
  3. He provided covering of our sin by the death of his son, Jesus Christ, who knew no sin (and who was born of a virgin, another hard concept for some).
  4. This atonement (compensation) comes through the confession that Jesus is the Son of God, who died and rose again (on the third day) and will one day return to gather his church.

The argument, in which all roads lead to heaven, will go on until Christ comes. But the truth remains that without Christ, without the “believing” and placing faith in him, people are under God’s wrath. There is no way around it. Peace with God is only found through Christ Jesus. Jesus’ gives us right standing before God.

“Whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son,” (John 3:18; brackets mine for clarification).

Sorry Oprah, God IS a believing encounter, NOT a feeling experience. There is nowhere if the Bible that says, “just feel and you will be saved.”

What are your thoughts? Are you firm in your faith? How would you answer Oprah’s declaration?

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