For those of you who depend on my weekly ruminations, I’m sorry for not posting last week. For those of you who don’t, well, you probably didn’t miss me. I was cramming last week, preparing to preach this past Sunday. Usually I’m aware of any preaching dates well ahead of time, affording me profuse preparation. Last week’s was a last-minute change. Last-minute for me, anyway—I had but a week to get ready.
Here I’m going to touch on a few things I shared Sunday. (By the way, we’re re-working our website here at ECOB to include sermon audio and podcasting. If you’d like to access audio in the meantime, go to our channel on Sermon Network.) Kicking off our three-week series called “Rescue,” we thought it important to discuss what Jesus has rescued us from in coming to earth and dying on the cross for us. There are certainly more, and you can go into much greater depth than I did, but four things Jesus rescued us from are sin, death, Satan, and God Himself.
Sin encompasses our words, deeds, thoughts, and motives—the reasoning behind what we do (or don’t do). A. W. Tozer (a 20th century theologian) said, “The essence of sin is rebellion against authority.” It’s a rejection of God and His authority. In choosing to sin, I put myself in the place of God, which is dangerously prideful.
Throughout Scripture, our relationship with God is likened to a marriage, where God is a spurned husband whose wife repeatedly cheats on Him. He is distraught and angry. The prophetic books, like Ezekiel and Hosea, exemplify this metaphor. What have we cheated on God with?
… have set up idols in their hearts. They have embraced things that will make them fall into sin. —Ezekiel 14:3
Scripture tells us we chase after idols, which are more than just graven images of stone or metal. An idol is anything we devote ourselves to. It is a counterfeit god. (A fantastic book I just finished, by the way, is Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods.) God views all these other idols, these false gods, in a sense as the other woman. We’ve slept with them, defiling ourselves and destroying our intimacy with God—separating ourselves from Him.
We were created to live forever. Death was never a part of God’s plan for us. But Adam and Eve’s sin ushered in physical mortality, and though many try to delay it, death is inescapable.
No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. —Ecclesiastes 8:8
Though we were meant to live forever, our lives will end in physical death as a result of sin. Not only this, but our sin led to alienation from God.
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. —Ephesians 4:18
Far from God, we were taken captive by Satan. (At ECOB, we spoke in “Supernatural” about Satan and the reality of the spirit realm. Again, for audio see our sermon channel.) Though we were created in the image of God, we began to resemble more our captor—a liar and a murder—doing what he desires.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. —John 8:44
Jesus came to rescue us from the dominion of darkness and transfer us to God’s Kingdom (Colossians 1:13). But He also came to rescue us from Himself.
Because God is holy and just, He cannot tolerate sin. You can see the problem: if we are sinful, then He cannot tolerate us. Because God hates sin, He hides His face from sinful people. He cannot stand to look at us. A relationship doesn’t have much hope when one cannot stomach the company of the other.
Sin grieves God’s Spirit. The reason for the Flood was because God had become so grieved by the sin of those He created to the point He was sorry He ever made them (Genesis 6:5-6). It breaks my heart to read how God had felt. But God is just as grieved today as He was before He decided to flood the earth, destroying everyone He made—all but one family. It’s just that He promised He wouldn’t send such judgment again.
Could you imagine being so distressed by your child that you wish he hadn’t been born? That you could erase her memory?
Last night, Cindy went to her Bible study. Lindsay went along, while Jacque stayed with Micah and me. We took a walk, a short jog to Dari Twist for some ice cream, Micah in his stroller drinking in the sun—his pale skin could use some color—and Jacque alongside me. I was thinking how much I enjoy Jacque’s—and Lindsay’s—stage of life and Micah’s. They’re so different. Micah is so much fun right now. He loves to laugh. I particularly enjoy his “da-da” mutterings. (I think he’s starting to associate me with my name.) With Lindsay and Jacque we can actually discuss life and God. I reminisce on their earlier years, though at times God gives me little glimpses of what they’ll be like when they’re older. The same with Micah. Last night after his bath, I tried brushing what hair he has—someday it’ll be thick like his daddy’s—and he looked like such a little boy, not a baby. For a moment, I saw him when he was five.
A few days ago, I held Micah and said to him, “I can’t believe we get to have you in our family. A couple years ago we never knew you’d be here.” We were fine and content with our family. But now that we have him—and the girls—I couldn’t imagine wishing they’d never been born.
God has become angry with sin. His anger is not like ours. His is perfect, always merited, aroused slowly, sometimes turned away, often delayed, and even restrained. What I’ve seen in Scripture is that God’s anger at sinners is so severe that He hates them.
… There I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more.
Some say that a loving God could not get angry. But a loving God, one whose love is pure and unadulterated, is by definition required to be angry at sinners who destroy what He loves: themselves and others. It’s only because of His great love for me that my sin aroused such anger. It’s only because of His great love for me that He hated me. If He hadn’t loved me, He’d have no reason to hate me. He’d feel nothing toward me.
The worst result of God’s wrath is when He allows us to live out of our sin nature without stopping us. Romans 1 shows that God “gave them up”—He abandoned them. I don’t want that. I want to serve and love a God who loved me enough to be angry at my sin and hate me for it. Not one who couldn’t care less.
I’m not certain we could ever fully appreciate God’s grace, but we begin to realize the power of the cross when we understand God’s anger and His choice to offer mercy. His kindness and forbearance lead to repentance. In repenting we decide to turn from our sin, to leave the other woman, and return to the only source of life and happiness. Jesus made this all possible through His sacrifice on the cross. Like Noah, I’ve been rescued from God by God.