ďThinking About GodĒ
††††††††††† Who is God that we should be drawn into the work of reverent repentance?† That is a question worth pondering this Ash Wednesday. For it is written: Exo 20:2† "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Exo 20:3† "You shall have no other gods before Me.
††††††††††† Letís start with this: God is absolutely, perfectly and uncompromisingly holy.† That is what the living creatures and angels about His throne cry out eternally.† And it is the offense against His holiness, the rebellion of man signified in the fall, in the decided and deliberate transgressions of Eve and Adam that precipitated the redemptive mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.† God didnít mess up, we did.† Further, if the truth be known, Eve didnít mess up; she sinned.† Because God is holy, He is entirely qualified to judge the world, to demand the vindication of His character.† In this vein we may speak of His passionate hatred of and opposition to all things unholy.† That includes unredeemed mankind, mankind that is unrepentant and continuing in sin.† This is unpleasant.† But it does not help that we rush to remedy the situation all too soon.† All too soon we rush to talk about grace.† All too soon we downgrade God from our holy God to the paternal one, to a kindly Father who may be strict, but is certainly not justifiably outraged.† Godís hatred of sin is violent. In Exodus 32::9-10 we read: Exo 32:9† And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people:† Exo 32:10† Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.† Waxing hot and consumption communicate violent displeasure to me. And in Job 20:5 and 23-29: Job 20:5† That the triumphing of the wicked is short, And the joy of the godless momentary? Then it follows: Job 20:23† "When he fills his belly, God will send His fierce anger on him And will rain it on him while he is eating. Job 20:24† "He may flee from the iron weapon, But the bronze bow will pierce him. Job 20:25† "It is drawn forth and comes out of his back, Even the glittering point from his gall. Terrors come upon him, Job 20:26† Complete darkness is held in reserve for his treasures, And unfanned fire will devour him; It will consume the survivor in his tent. Job 20:27† "The heavens will reveal his iniquity, And the earth will rise up against him. Job 20:28† "The increase of his house will depart; His possessions will flow away in the day of His anger. Job 20:29† "This is the wicked man's portion from God, Even the heritage decreed to him by God."† †Therefore we do dishonor Him to pacify, to water down His wrath against sin.† Not only that but we put others in jeopardy not to warn them.† Proverbs 6:16-18 detail for us detail for us six things even seven that God hates and are an abomination to Him.† That hell is in the future for the wicked, for unrepentant sinners, is maintained in the New Testament without missing a heartbeat: Paul describes the wicked in Phil 3:18-19 as For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.† May we not be numbered amongst such careless souls, unholy, unbelieving and workers of iniquity.
††††††††††† Strange as it may be to have to say this, sin may be a given of human existence; but it is not therefore to be tolerated.† We mustnít just sigh and say, with deep sadness, people are just sinners as if there is no remedy, as if God had not sent His Son to bear that holy wrath in our stead.† I want to suggest further that it is sinful to presume upon His grace, to presume upon His forgiveness as an excuse for our continuance in sin!† God means for us to obey His rules and we donít.† Indeed, we excuse ourselves from even trying and we comfort ourselves by saying, itís okay.† He understands us, our weakness.† Today, tonight of all nights we must repent of this cheapened grace and solemnly acknowledge that it is certainly not okay and it is we who understand that!† Thatís what God wants to hear from us.
††††††††††† I wish I could say that our degradation of Godís holiness stops at this point.† It is bad enough that we, as the church in America, have reduced the Holy One from righteous Judge to a Father with nettlesome house rules.† But we donít even like the idea of rules very much--we think them needlessly legalistic, narrow and restrictive.† Any rules at all infringe on our sense of liberty and so the ten commandments become the ten suggestions and, subsequently, we feel free to delete any that create a sense of restriction or conviction.† We are under grace, we say, not the law.† Now I can not claim to have heard directly from the Lord on this work of spiritual liberation in our day--but I do have a fairly clear sense that in the days of Israel and even in the days of our Lord Himself, these dilutions of our Godís law were highly displeasing.† Indeed, wrath provoking.
††††††††††† Freedom in turn becomes our God.† We want to find ourselves.† We want to become whole persons by listening to the wise counsel of God--that, along with our inner voice, will lead us into full, meaningful and happy lives.† All, interesting to note, without the heavy negativity of a wrathful, Holy God--indeed, without God at all.† This is the same sin as that of Eve--weíve reduced God to a spiritual option so that we can give Him a nod alright, but still do what is right in our own sight!† May I point out that it is on account of these things that a day has been appointed, a day of judgment and a day of wrath.† We may think that God has given us lots of ideas about how to live, that His way is one of laxity and latitude--but those conditions actually describe the wide way which leads down to perdition.† What we grasp as guidance to health, wealth and prosperity. . . what we think will lead us to feel good about ourselves and how our lives are turning out is a recipe for eternal condemnation.† Now that is something worth repenting from!
††††††††††† If, by some twist of theological truth, you have unintentionally begun to see the Holy One of Israel, the Judge of the living and the dead as ďthe helpful and kind Provider of optional and useful principles,Ē I invite you to repent.† There may be other declensions, other degradations of the awesomeness of God than what I have presented here, but the principle is the same--and they are to be refuted and abandoned as dishonoring to God.† The God we worship must be retained as worthy of our worship!† We need a God worthy of being bowed to and adored.† We need the real God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ--thatís the One, just as He is Whom we seek.† Let us come to terms with Him tonight and reverence and honor Him anew.† That which pleases Him is also that which blesses us.