“For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols. When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mankind, and delivered his power to captivity, his glory to the hand of the foe. He gave his people over to the sword and vented his wrath on his heritage” (Psalms 78:58-62 ESV).
We hear abundant messages about the love, mercy, and grace of God. We seldom hear about the anger, judgment and wrath of God. Sure, we hear about His wrath on those who reject Christ, but nothing but “blue skies” for those who claim faith in Him. I think that is a grave mistake.
I wonder if we are afraid that our presentation of the Gospel will fail if we include verses like those above or the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). Perhaps the church has been poisoned by the “I’m okay; you’re okay” philosophy. Perhaps we are afraid of the truth.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (ESV). The vengeful God of the Old Testament, who couldn’t and wouldn’t tolerate disobedience, is the same God we serve today.
Yes, we are not under the law, but under grace. Yes, we have been forgiven and washed clean through the blood of Jesus. Yes, through faith His righteousness has been imputed to us. But none of that means anything if we live our own lives by our own rules.
I recently spoke with a young man who had been raised in the church. He had fallen away and become involved in the drug trade, both using and selling. Having spent some time in jail, part of his probation involved involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous. He’s thrived in the program. And he remains clean and sober now, nearly three years since getting out of jail. I asked him about his faith and was devastated when I heard his reply.
He said that he still believed all of “that stuff”, but he doesn’t believe in the God that his pastor preached. His god accepts him as he is, not requiring any change on his part. He doesn’t need to be bothered with reforming his individual lifestyle; he does as he pleases.
I fear that we do a disservice to the Gospel when we neglect to inform believers that becoming a Christian involves surrendering control of our lives to Christ. The sacrament of baptism represents our death with Christ and resurrection to new life in Him. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 ESV). Taking up one’s cross is nothing short of death to self!
We are raising a generation of believers who know nothing of the vengeance of God. We skim over verses like Hebrews 10:26, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (ESV).
In truth, we are often serving what I call the AA god, the “higher power of our own understanding”. Wikipedia says that higher power “can be anything at all that the member believes is adequate”. Like my friend, we fashion a god however we choose, one who gives us everything without requiring anything.
But Psalm 78 says that God, “gave his people over to the sword and vented his wrath on his heritage” (vs. 62 ESV) because they worshiped idols. Isn’t that exactly what we do when we make God out to be anything other than who He is?
Are we seriously not trembling at the thought that we might hear those dreaded words at the judgment seat of God, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41 ESV)?
When God speaks, and we ignore Him, what else do we think would happen?
Blessings on your very mindful Thursday!
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash!