God’s Wrath And Mercy

Some years ago at a Christian writers’ conference a fairly well known Christian novelist spoke. One of the things he camped on was that truth in fiction was like a diamond—it shown brightest and best when displayed on a black background.

That analogy has been repeated many times as a rationale for writers to include the details of life in fiction, and not just the way we wish things were.

To put it in terms of Biblical visual art, Jesus ought not always be wearing a white robe and there shouldn’t always be a halo over His head. He shouldn’t have perfectly straight, white teeth, and his features ought to be a little less clean cut.

Same with our stories, contemporary or otherwise.

I understand the point, and I mostly agree. Not everyone does. I had a friend who said he wouldn’t read any more of a certain author because there was a near rape scene in one of that writer’s books.

In writing, this whole subject has become a lot more sticky as political correctness sweeps through our culture, taking books like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with it.

But the analogy stands: diamonds do show their brilliance best against a black backdrop.

And what does that have to do with God?

First, God is holy. We imperfect, sinful humans don’t really understand what holiness is all about, but the other day I started thinking of it in terms A. W. Tozier used. He explained that all of God’s attributes are interlinked with His other attributes. Well, he didn’t say it in exactly that way.

But take God’s quality as an infinite being. That idea doesn’t just mean that He has no beginning or end, but rather also that there is no end to His goodness, to His mercy, and, yes, to His holiness.

So what connection can infinite goodness, infinite holiness have with the very thing that would bring an end to those qualities—evil? There simply is no place for the two residing together. Either holiness is apart from evil and infinite, or it is in contact with evil and limited.

Hence God’s wrath.

Yes, Scripture teaches that wrath is also a quality of God, one that identifies how He feels toward that which would spoil His holiness and the goodness He created.

Thinking in visual terms again, imagine God’s wrath as the backdrop for His mercy. Without His wrath, we actually have a lesser view of God’s mercy. We don’t see it as well without the stark contrast. We don’t know how radically different our lives would be if we experienced His wrath instead of His mercy.

I picture the veil of God’s wrath separating humankind from God’s holiness, but His mercy ripped that veil in two.

Romans 5 explains it this way: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (vv 8–9).

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea that God saves us from Himself.

Of course that isn’t the whole picture because in Colossians He tells us we are “rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (1:13). In other scriptures we learn that God frees us from the slavery of sin, breaks the chains of the Law, takes away our guilt.

But it kind of all starts with His wrath and the brilliance of His mercy that His wrath showcases. Well, maybe it really starts with His holiness. Or it could start with His infinitude. Regardless, by understanding God’s wrath better, and the rightness of it, the necessity of it, I understand His mercy more.

Published in: on August 3, 2018 at 5:28 pm  Comments Off on God’s Wrath And Mercy  
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Freedom And Authority

America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Freedom is what the US is all about, and freedom is what attracts so many immigrants to leave their homes and come here. And yet, A. W. Tozer says people aren’t actually free, not completely. Not even Americans.

From The Knowledge of the Holy:

There cannot be two absolutely free beings in the universe, for sooner or later two free wills must collide. (pp 15-16)

His point is that God alone possesses certain attributes, those scholars refer to as incommunicable. These are not qualities that Man has even though made in God’s likeness. We are not, for example, omnipresent or unchanging. We are not infinite, nor are we sovereign. And there’s the rub.

If God alone is sovereign, then we are not free in the ultimate sense. Rather, His rule must supersede our liberty or He is not sovereign.

The incredible truth is, however, that God seems to give us free rein. We can choose Him or reject Him, we can bow to His authority or trumpet ourselves as the only one we trust. We can accept His revelation of Himself, or we can deny His desire to do so or His power or even His very existence.

It seems to me that true Sovereignty is the only One not threatened by another’s freedom.

Christians in America, both cultural Christians and those following Jesus, feel threatened because certain laws suggested by our current administration would certainly reduce the rights of some to hold to their religious beliefs, hence jeopardizing the religious rights of all.

Feminists in America who believe in abortion feel threatened because a Presidential candidate talks openly about his pro-life stance, thus potentially jeopardizing their “right to choose” should that person win and end up appointing another conservative justice to the Supreme Court.

Gays feel threatened and those advocating for heterogeneous, monogamous marriage feel threatened. Homeowners feel threatened and the rich feel threatened. Small businesses feel threatened and college students feel threatened.

At every turn, though living in a country not torn by war, not suffering from famine, not oppressed by a dictator, we still feel threatened. If anyone ought to feel safe and free, it is the American.

But we don’t because we aren’t actually free. Not even Bill Gates or the President himself. We all — every person on earth — live under God’s authority. He alone is free in the ultimate sense. He answers to no one and has no laws to abide by except those originating from His nature. He goes where He wants, does what He chooses, is how He wishes.

Man is not free in that way. And surprise, surprise, Man is constantly dissatisfied. We want to change our hair color or lose ten pounds or buy a new car or change jobs or churches or computers or friends or houses or habits.

Our wills are always colliding with other people’s wills because we are not in control. Some of us try to be. We work hard to create an environment we can order, but that’s a figment of our imagination — a sandcastle about to wash out to sea with the rising tide.

I liken God’s sovereignty to that of a teacher supervising a playground of children. She’s in charge, but they are free to do as they please under her watchful authority. If they obey her, they really can do whatever they wish — unless she asks them to help a new child or run an errand or stay away from where the big kids are playing.

A good teacher exercises her authority for the benefit of the children she is caring for. The obedient child submits, even giving up his ephemeral freedom because he is subject to the one in charge.

How good of the One True Sovereign to give us freedom under His watch care, to ask us to trust Him rather than forcing us to do so. How secure to know that His eye is on the sparrow and He’s watching me.

    Why should I feel discouraged,
    Why should the shadows come,
    Why should my heart feel lonely
    And long for Heav’n and home,
    When Jesus is my portion?
    A constant Friend is He:
    His eye is on the sparrow,
    And I know He watches over me;
    His eye is on the sparrow,
    And I know He watches me.
    I sing because I’m happy,
    I sing because I’m free,
    His eye is on the sparrow,
    And I know He watches me
    His eye is on the sparrow
    And I know he watches me

(Written in 1905, the words by Civilla Martin and music by Charles H. Gabriel)

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