From the Pastor’s Pen:
“God is Terrible with His Judgements...” (Hebrews 10:31)
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
Human nature very much swings back and forth as a pendulum, swinging from one extreme to another. In my early years, church sermons were of the “hellfire and brimstone” variety. To use the imagery of Jonathan Edwards, we were spiders hanging by a thread over the raging fire below. Many tell stories of those days with dread and terror, for the pendulum has now swung into the opposite extreme. Our churches are filled with “feel good” messages. Let’s hear about grace and mercy, love and acceptance, and sing five verses of “Just As I Am,” and go home.
But let me ask a question - are either of these a balanced picture of God? The answer is not somewhere in the middle, as if we dumbed down His judgment and dialed back His mercy. The answer is to grab both of those extremes and to hold them together at the same time. God is equally abundant in His mercy and terrible in His judgments.
Do we not see this in the cross of Jesus Christ? Do we not see the love of God? The cross was the pulpit where Jesus preached love to the world. The Father so loved the world that He gave His Son. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep because He loved us. What greater love is there than this, that He would die for us when we were ungodly? There is an abundance of love!
But do we not also see God’s hatred for sin? The whips, the nails, the hammer, the spear, the being forsaken by God - is this not a picture of God’s wrath? The cute cross jewelry which adorns the necks and keychains of many whitewashes the severity and shame of the cross. The cross was an emblem of wrath and a reminder of the wrath which we deserve. When we sin, when we entertain sinful thoughts and affections, when we act on sinful inclinations of any size, we deserve wrath ten out of ten times.
We cheapen God’s grace when we do not tremble at God’s wrath. We squander the blood of the Lamb when we do not fear the wrath of the Lamb. As the jeweler places the diamond on a black velvet cloth to highlight its beauty, so God’s grace shines the brightest when placed against the wrath from which we deserve. Our churches will remain empty and our worship grow silent until we grasp in both hands the abundance of God’s mercy and the terror of God’s wrath.