(My husband wrote this today and gave me permission to share it here. I love his thoughts on the amazing love of God!)
Here at the Roasterie this morning, spending some time with the Lord, my mind keeps going back to the message last night at the Boiler Room about Psalm 22. Before I go on, I thought it was a great message about painful prayer. I love hearing Michael talk because he is a very good teacher. This note is not a critique of his message, just a response to the statements about the wrath of God.
The statements he made about the wrath of God bothered me a bit. He made the statement that the church kind of reads into the text that the Father turned His face away from the Son during His time on the cross, and that it wasn’t true. It is true that it isn’t found in scripture, and it probably is inferred from the text, however, I don’t know if anyone can really say whether or not it’s true. Since scripture doesn’t give anything beyond the simple narrative of the death of Jesus, I don’t believe we can for sure say whether Jesus was speaking out of what truly happened or that He was “mistaken” to believe that God had forsaken Him. Could it simply be Him expressing emotion to the Father even though it wasn’t true? Yes, because I believe that it is not sin to express emotion even if it is not based upon truth. Emotion based on a lie is still emotion, and therefore is valid and not sinful to have or express. However, there was something very unique in Jesus’ death on the cross: He was literally bearing the weight of the sins of the entire human race. Could it be that Jesus really did have the Father “turn his face away” that we would never experience that? I don’t know if any can really say. Personally, to be completely honest, I believe the Father didn’t turn His face away, now that I really think about it, because of the Father’s great love.
I think it is a problem when we use this argument and where we stand on it to minimize the wrath of God against sin. The key to being fully OK with the wrath of a God who is love is all wrapped up in the OBJECT of His wrath. It is never people. It is always sin. It is the enemy who tries to blur the lines between sin and sinner. If he can twist our hatred of sin (which is an attribute of our Father) just far enough, he can get us to hate the person living in sin, and that is the problem. The wrath of God, on the contrary, is actually one of the most important aspects of His character to seeing the true greatness of His love. It is precisely God’s absolute hatred of sin that makes Jesus’ death so horrendous and so shockingly beautiful. Without the potency of God’s wrath, His love loses it’s power. They are two sides of the same coin. Without God’s wrath, the humiliating death on the cross makes no sense whatsoever. Jesus’ death on the cross was not some mere symbol or exciting story to tell, it was literally the wrath of God against sin borne upon a single man, all so you and I could be reconciled to God.
We have no way of coming to God on our own; our sin prevents it, primarily because of our agreement with sin, not because it is too ugly or abhorrent for God to reach into (He did this through Jesus of course). But this is the beauty of God’s love, it’s why His grace is amazing: in spite of our agreement with sin, He PURSUES us and He LOVES us; it is this kindness RIGHT IN THE FACE OF WHAT HE HATES MOST that leads us to repentance. His kindness when we are “living rightly” isn’t what leads us to repentance; it’s how while we were yet sinners, agreeing with and living out our lives in the sin that He hates, He treats us with kindness when we know we deserve wrath! This totally disarms us. But if we lose the sense of God’s wrath against sin, His love loses it’s true depth and meaning to us. We have to live in the tension between His love and His wrath, not losing our grip on the reality of either one.
One last word on the wrath of God: in addition to the fact that His wrath makes His extravagant, crazy love so much more beautiful, it will also be released on the earth again somewhere in the future. To negate the wrath of God leads down a very slippery slope to denying the severity of sin and the reality of hell, as well as the coming judgments of God in Revelation. When the Lord was speaking to Abram about his descendants in a dream (Gen. 15), He said that they would be in bondage and then return to possess the land he was currently in, in their fourth generation, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” There was an appointed time that the Amorites went on in their sin before the Lord brought His judgment on them.
Similarly, I believe the prophetic words in Revelation show that there is an appointed time when the whole earth, now in a time of “the year of the favor of the Lord” as Jesus declared in Luke 4, will see the “day of the vengeance of our God” that Jesus very intentionally left out of His reading that day. This is the time of the favor of God, when He sits on His mercy seat, showing His extravagant love in spite of the rampant sin on the earth. But one day, He will return to make all things right, and in order to do that, He will exact vengeance on His enemy Satan, the father of lies and peddler of sin. And the truth of it is that those who have chosen to agree with God’s enemy really will be dragged by Satan into the lake of fire. God’s wrath is real, it is just as alive as it was in the OT, but because we are in the year of His favor, we don’t see it yet; we see His patience, His longsuffering with the human race. I really like IHOP’s teachings on this topic, that we must preach both the Jesus in white (the intimate bridegroom God who loves us unconditionally and rescues us from the dragon) and the Jesus in red (the warrior God who crushes the dragon and his empire securing peace and life for His bride).
When we embrace the God of Wrath who is also the God of Love, we will gain a new and awesome picture of His love for us and the extent to which He pursues us, even in our weakness. This is AMAZING GRACE!