The Good News about Wrath

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It is no mistake to say that the love of God and the wrath of God amount to the same thing, described from different points of view. Both constitute an emphatic “No!” to that which endangers His creation. God’s evil-eradicating, death-destroying wrath is indispensable to the well-being of the universe. It is not a counterpoint to His love but a vital expression of it.

Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf comments: “Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.”

“To be truly good one has to be
outraged by evil and implacably
hostile to injustice.”
–Rebecca M. Pippert

The wrath of God is His firm opposition to all that is crooked, broken, oppressive, unjust, and evil. He loves people too much to allow them to be destroyed by sin. His deep hatred of sin is a reflection of the greatness of His love. He will go to any length, pay any price, and make any sacrifice to free people from this toxic poison of the soul.

This is the unmistakable message of the cross. The horrific death of Christ at Calvary reveals the intensity of God’s purpose to annihilate sin and rescue sinners. The Biblical record says that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).

In his article “Prayer: Rebellion against the Status Quo,” David Wells contends that we have sadly lost our anger, but fortunately God has not lost His. “The wrath of God is His opposition to what is wrong … [it] seeks the triumph of truth and the banishment of Evil.” It is God declaring: “No, not in my universe!”

It would be appalling if the Divine Lord flew into a rage without warning. But it would be equally appalling if He never got angry. The evil of this world is damnable, sickening, horrendous. Someone needs to put a stop to it.

Someone will.

The wrath of God turns out to be very good news. This love-inspired hostility to all things hateful and harmful gives hope to a world afflicted by the curse of sin.

“It is not evil that will have the last word,
but good; not sorrow, but joy;
not hate, but love.”
–R. J. Campbell

This is cause indeed for celebration.

–Jurgen O. Schulz
What Jesus Wished People Knew About God

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Absolute Ideals and Absolute Grace

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The Sermon on the Mount proves that before God we all stand on level ground: murders and temper-throwers, adulterers and lusters, thieves and coveters. We are all desperate, and that is in fact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God. Having fallen from the absolute Ideal, we have nowhere to land but in the safety net of absolute grace.

–Philip Yancey,
The Jesus I Never Knew

Sin and the Love of God

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When we believe
that God is something
other than a lover,
it is inevitable that
we will sin.

–Peter Kreeft

Published in: on 05/09/2016 at 10:08  Leave a Comment  
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A time to kill

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“For everything there is a season, and a time
for every purpose under heaven
. . . a time to kill” (Ec. 3:1,3).

“Thou shalt not kill” clearly puts murder out of bounds for everyone. It’s Command #6 of the Big Ten.

End of discussion.

However, there is one important exception, and it comes straight from the apostle Paul. “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13 NIV).

There’s a death warrant out for the “misdeeds of the body,” and we are authorized—yea, commanded—to kill. Every last one of them is to be put to the sword. We are to listen to no pleas for mercy. Not one is to be spared.

Why such drastic action? Is this not an extreme measure?

The apostle pulls no punches. His argument is simple and strong—if you don’t put them to death, they will put you to death. Somebody is going to die, it’s either you or them. There’s a battle going on. Your life is on the line.

We are to soften the sentence for none of these fiends.

To “live according to the flesh” looks most attractive. Its forbidden pleasures are tantalizing—but make no mistake. They’re out to kill. Your soul is at stake.

Death and life are before you. The Spirit is willing.

You choose.

–Jurgen O. Schulz

Liberating acceptance

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I believe we must know
that we are unconditionally
loved and accepted by God
before we can deal with
the issue of our sins.

–James Bryan Smith

Did the Lamb succeed?

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Try this one on for size..read all of it. Under the old covenant when a man sinned he could have his sins taken care of by taking a lamb to the temple to be sacrificed. The priest representing God would inspect the lamb to make sure it was spotless and without fault. HE WOULD NEVER EXAMINE OR SCRUTINIZE THE SINNER ONLY THE LAMB.

If the lamb was perfect it would be sacrificed in place of the sinner to pay for the sin of the man who was guilty. The man would go away from God with a clear conscience….In the book of John, JESUS IS CALLED THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD. I guess the only question that remains is: did the Lamb do what He was sent to do or did He fail?

–Don Keathley

Frequent failings

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You are surprised at your imperfections, — why? I should infer from that, that your self-knowledge is small. Surely you might rather be astonished that you do not fall into more frequent and more grievous faults, and thank God for His upholding grace.

―Jean Nicolas Grou
(1731–1803)

Both love and truth are vital

A man dressed as a city gentleman walks across a tightrope in London's financial district

Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.

God’s saving love in Christ, however,
is marked by both radical truthfulness
about who we are and yet also radical,
unconditional commitment to us.

The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

–Timothy Keller

Ham, eggs and lust

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He that but looketh
on a plate of ham and eggs
to lust after it hath already
committed breakfast with it
in his heart.

–C. S. Lewis

Published in: on 12/05/2014 at 2:11  Leave a Comment  
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Hearts made for God

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Pride struggles to push us to the top of the heap. But the top of the heap is not vacant. God is there, high above all. Ambition drives us to seek power and glory—but the glory and power are Yours, Lord. The promiscuous man or woman is looking desperately for some kind of love in return, but fails to see the love of God, offered freely and without condition . . .

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Others search restlessly for satisfaction in this or that sensual experience, but only “at his right hand” are there “pleasures forevermore.” Truly our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You, O Lord . . .

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In other words, sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.

–St. Augustine
The Confessions of Augustine
In Modern English

Sin is Relational

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Divine goodness is not just perfect, it is more than perfect. It spills out beyond itself like sunlight. It is agape, generosity, altruism, self-giving, self-sacrificial love. God seeks intimacy with Man . . . “Your creator shall become your Husband,” says Isaiah (54:5). To that end, He makes covenants, to prepare for the fundamental covenant, marriage.

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No pagan ever suspected the possibility of such intimacy, even with their finite, anthropomorphic gods: that is, the relationship scripture calls “faith,” or fidelity. And therefore no pagan ever understood the deeper meaning and terror of “sin” either, for sin is the breaking of that relationship. Sin is to faith what infidelity is to marriage. Only one who knows the wonder of marriage can know the horror of infidelity.

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That is why Jesus . . . took sin much more seriously than any pagan possibly could, and why He paid the ultimate price—His own life—to save us from it.

–Peter Kreeft
The Philosophy of Jesus

Art: Benjamin West

Set free

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The gospel is God’s declaration
that all the prisoners taken
in his war against human sin
may leave their cell and return
to their true home. 

–Karl Barth

Published in: on 11/14/2014 at 13:39  Leave a Comment  
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Sanctification

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In “Beauty and the Beast,” it is only when the Beast discovers that Beauty really loves him in all his ugliness that he himself becomes beautiful.

In the experience of Saint Paul,
it is only when we discover
that God really loves us
in all our unloveliness
that we ourselves start
to become godlike.

Paul’s word for this gradual transformation of a sow’s ear into a silk purse is sanctification, and he sees it as the second stage in the process of salvation.

Being sanctified is a long and painful stage because with part of themselves sinners prefer their sin, just as with part of himself the Beast prefers his glistening snout and curved tusks. Many drop out with the job hardly more than begun, and among those who stay with it there are few if any who don’t drag their feet most of the way.

But little by little—less by taking pains than by taking it easy— the forgiven person starts to become a forgiving person, the healed person to become a healing person, the loved person to become a loving person. God does most of it. The end of the process, Paul says, is eternal life.

  –Frederick Buechner
Beyond Words

Artwork: Scott Gustafson

Transformation

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The sinful heart
is never transformed
by conformity to
the imperatives
but only by relationship
with the One who
cleanses hearts.

— Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

Sin is centrifugal

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“We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way…”
(Isa. 53:6 NIV)

The power of sin is centrifugal. When at work in a human life, it tends to push everything out toward the periphery. Bits and pieces go flying off until only the core is left. Eventually bits and pieces of the core itself go flying off until in the end nothing at all is left. “The wages of sin is death” is Saint Paul’s way of saying the same thing.

Other people and (if you happen to believe in God) God or (if you happen not to) the world, society, nature—whatever you call the greater whole of which you’re part—sin is whatever you do, or fail to do, that pushes them away, that widens the gap between you and them and also the gaps within your self…

Sin pushes others away and
widens the gap between you and them
and also the gaps within your self.

Sex is sinful to the degree that, instead of drawing you closer to other human beings in their humanness, it unites bodies but leaves the lives inside them hungrier and more alone than before.

Religion and unreligion are both sinful to the degree that they widen the gap between you and the people who don’t share your views…

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Original sin means we all originate out of a sinful world, which taints us from the word go. We all tend to make ourselves the center of the universe, pushing away centrifugally from that center everything that seems to impede its freewheeling. More even than hunger, poverty, or disease, it is what Jesus said he came to save the world from.

–Frederick Buechner

No trivial decisions

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Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

–C. S. Lewis

Published in: on 05/31/2014 at 17:14  Leave a Comment  
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Love must triumph

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Christ, the gift of God’s present forgiving love to every man and woman, is the door through which alone we can enter into our provision of hope.

Until we know the love of our Father’s heart to us, 
as manifested in Christ, the future must always be 
to us at best a dark and doubtful wilderness.

But when we know that all that we have conceived of our Father’s love, is as nothing to the reality—that he is indeed love itself—a love passing knowledge—a shoreless, boundless, bottomless ocean-fountain of love, of holy, sin-hating, sin-destroying love, which longs over us that we should be filled with itself—and be by it delivered from the power of evil—then, indeed, we are saved by hope, for we know that love must triumph and fulfill all its counsel.

–Thomas Erskine
(1788 – 1870)

Image: Robert Pejman

The yoke is on you

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And to try to be happy by being admired by men, or loved by women, or warm with liquor, full of lust, or getting possessions and treasures, that turns you away, soon, from the love of God; then men, women, and drink and lust and greed take precedence over God; and they darken His light. . . . And then we are unhappy and afraid and angry and fierce, and impatient, and cannot pray, and cannot sit still. That is the bitter yoke of sin; and for this we leave the mild and easy yoke of Christ.

–Thomas Merton
(1915 – 1968)

Drawn not driven

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The Gospel
is more powerful
in wooing us from our sin
than the Law is
in frightening us
from it.

–Frederick Dale Bruner

He calls your name

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The devil knows
your name but calls you
by your sin.
God knows your sin
but calls you
by your name.

–Ricardo Sanchez

Published in: on 01/28/2014 at 7:24  Leave a Comment  
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Only God is good

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There is but one good;
that is God.
Everything else is good
when it looks to Him
and bad when it turns
from Him.

–C. S. Lewis

More than sin management

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Being a Christian is less
about cautiously avoiding sin
than about courageously
and actively doing
God’s will.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(1906 – 1945)

Little decisions are big

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Good and evil increase
at compound interest.
That’s why the little decisions
we make every day are
of infinite importance.

–C. S. Lewis

Published in: on 11/21/2013 at 6:17  Leave a Comment  
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Running from God

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You can run from God
either by breaking His rules
or by keeping them.
The former says:
God doesn’t own me.
The latter says:
God owes me.

–Tim Keller

Image: Tor Håkon

Where it starts

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The beginning
of man’s rebellion
against God was,
and is, the lack of
a thankful heart.

–Francis Schaeffer
(1912 – 1984)

No matter how far out to sea

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Why do we swim away from Him in our times of need? I believe it is because of the fact that we may not think He will forgive us. Maybe you believe that you have done to much. Maybe ran your bill up more than you can pay. But I’m here to tell you that no matter how far you have gone out to sea the Lord will not leave you. No matter how much you hurt the Him, He still loves you.

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If you are thinking right now that you can’t go to the Lord with something, think again. He went to the cross for us so He could be there when we need Him the most. Go to Him with what you need. Jesus is the life guard that will brave the currents and will go after you no matter how deep or how cold the water is.

–Tony Rhoda

No such corner

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They [human beings] wanted, as we say, to “call their souls their own.” But that means to live a lie, for our souls are not, in fact, our own. They wanted some corner in the universe of which they could say to God, “This is our business, not yours.” But there is no such corner.

–C. S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain

Published in: on 09/12/2013 at 4:21  Leave a Comment  
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Longing to be loved

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As soon as we become
spiritually deaf to the voice
that calls us the beloved,
we are going to look someplace else
to make us the beloved.

–Henri J. M. Nouwen

Image: Nelleke Pieters

Overcoming sin

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He who does not give up prayer
cannot possibly continue
to offend God habitually.
Either he will give up prayer,
or he will stop sinning.

-St. Alphonsus Ligouri
(1696 – 1787)

Retreating from Love

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All sin is rooted in the failure of love.
All sin is a withdrawal of love from God,
in order to love something else.
Sin sets boundaries to our hope,
and locks our love in prison.

–Thomas Merton
No Man Is An Island

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