Tag Archives: attributes of God

The Terror of the Lord

Isaiah 2:19 “And people shall enter the caves of the rocks And the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, And from the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to terrify the earth.”

 We often hear the fear of God taught as “reverential awe,” and for Christians I think I understand why. The redeemed no longer fear judgement because we abide in God and His perfect love has cast out all fear of punishment (1John 4:16-18). But the same cannot be said of all those who are without Christ, for all who have not called on His name have the wrath of God abiding on them (John 3:36). To tell an unbeliever that the definition of fearing God is to stand in awe is a weakened and partial truth.

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God Is Glorified In Justice

The Bible teaches that God will be glorified in His saints the day of His return, but Psalm 76:10 also says that “Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.”  Proverbs 16:4 states that “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”  What good purpose could come from the terrible day of judgement that will fall upon wicked people?  What type of praise will God receive for having executed his wrath upon men? Continue reading

The Wrath of God Impersonalized

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A great disservice we have done for the hearts of men is to impersonalize the attributes of God.  God is no longer angry at people, just angry at sin.  His fury is aimed at Satan for deceiving you and placing “strongholds” on your life, more than His fury is headed for you.  It is almost as if sin (if talked about at all) has become an entity of itself, divided from the human heart.  It is talked about more as something unfortunate that happens to us, rather than something that we nurture and cherish and willingly act upon.  Uncomfortable as it may be, we need to stop impersonalizing sin and the wrath of God.

Romans 2:5 “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.”

God will not pour out wrath on some abstract embodiment of “sin” but on sinners.  If we don’t recognize this, we will not “foul… to the fountain fly” saying “wash me Saviour or I die.”  If we don’t personalize sin as the overflow of our own hearts, and the wrath of God as headed directly at us, we will also impersonalize the cross.  We need to understand wrath, to understand the purpose of Jesus’ death, which leads us to the next point to follow in this article: We need to understand God’s wrath in order to understand His love.

Is God’s Anger Warranted?

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Is the creation of Hell a cosmic overreaction?  Is God simply temperamental?  Or as some portray Him, does God have multiple personality disorder, deciding one day to deal retribution and the next day changing His mind and giving forgiveness instead? 

Everywhere today people are saying:

“Didn’t God make us this way?  If so, what gives Him the right to Judge us?” 

 “I thought that God loved everyone no matter what they’ve done, and that He would forgive every person.” 

 “How can a good God send people to Hell just because they don’t believe in Jesus?”

 “God loves the sinner, He just hates the sin.”

This is the result of today’s “Christians” grossly misrepresenting the God of the Bible, and frightfully often creating a God in our own image.  In addition to this the sinfulness of man has been so downplayed in modern preaching that God’s judgement on mankind seems to be completely unwarranted.  Charles Spurgeon had it right in his day and preached a message that we need to hear more of, that: 

“…Sin intrinsically and in itself demands and deserves the just anger of God, and that that anger should be displayed in the form of a punishment… It is impossible, absolutely, that sin can be forgiven without a sacrifice. God must be just, if heaven falls. If earth should pass away and every creature should be lost, the justice of God must stand, it cannot by any possibility be suffered to be impugned. Let this, then, be fully established in our minds.”

So we must ask: Does the sin of man deserve the anger of God?  So much of this question is tied up in other questions: What rights can man claim from God?  And what right does God have over man?

Had God not chosen to create man, man would never have come into existence.  We owe our life, our bodies, our breath, and every human function that we have to God.  Without Him, we could not see, feel, think, move, smell or hear.  Without Him, we would never know what it meant to enjoy a created thing, such as the sun setting over the mountain, an eagle soaring, a fish jumping on a serene lake, or the embrace of a loved one.

Mankind alone was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26).  He has bestowed upon man unique abilities to think- for example the gifts of reasoning, growing in knowledge, and using our imagination.  He has given us a conscience, a moral compass that reflects back to us the character of God.  We were created with eternity in our hearts (Eccl 3:11), and with a soul that endures after the death of our mortal bodies. 

God was not obligated to create us, or to make us eternal beings.  He graciously chose to include us in His great story, and to teach us truths about His glorious nature through creation, His Word, and ultimately through the life of Jesus Christ, God coming in the flesh.  He did not have to reveal Himself to us, and He did not have to come here to be mocked, scorned, and crucified.  He chose to.

When we really understand who He is, and what He has freely done for us, the question should not be “How can God be so heartless, and unfair, so as to send people to Hell?” but rather “How could, and why would God let any of us fallen creatures enter in to His heaven?”

We are God’s creation.  That means that He is in control, He is our Lord and Sovereign, and He has the right to do with this earth as He pleases.  Thank God, that He has been active in this world as a patient, righteous, loving, merciful Father, as we will discuss further in later sections.  But I want you to see that man has no right to complain and strive against the very God who gave him life, provides for his every need, and gives an abundance of pleasures we take for granted.  “If He should set His heart to it and gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to the dust (Job 34:14-15).”  Shall man complain against the God who keeps him breathing?

Isaiah 45:9-12 “Woe to him who strives with Him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots!  Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?  Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labour?’”  Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: ‘Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?  I made the earth and created man on it, it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.”

What does God think about man’s complaints that He should not have “made us this way” or that He deals with us “unfairly”?  He thinks it is absurdity.  God owes nothing to sinful man, other than retribution for our sins, while man owes to God what he cannot and will not give: His life.

Now that we’ve established this, we can address the question of whether or not man has given God just reason to be angry. 

How should we respond to a God who would not only create us, but surround us with beauty, give us companions, reveal Himself to us, and ultimately die for us?  We should love Him with all of our whole hearts, minds, soul and strength.  We should consider that nothing on earth is as valuable or desirous as pleasing such an awesome God.  Our entire lives should be consumed by seeking to know Him more, and anticipating the day we could meet Him more than any other day on earth.   

But what does the average person’s life look like?  He goes “astray from birth, speaking lies (Psalm 58:3).”  Man is filled with longings for self, and spends all of his energy finding ways to promote self, indulge self, and honour self.  As he gets older he gives credit to self for his accomplishments and deals blame to others for his failures.  God is far from his mind.  “None is righteous, no, not one, no one understands; no one seeks for God (Romans 3:11).”  His delights are in the things of the world and the lusts of the flesh, and his mind is so set on attaining this that God has been shoved out of it. 

Should I be more frank?  Look around.  Turn on your television.  Open a magazine.  Walk down the hallway of a high school.  Is the common person rich in good works, kind to others, and living in heartfelt devotion to the God who made him?  Or are you more likely to see shameless sensuality, adultery, drugs, homosexuality, cursing, abortion, and the more subtle sins of gratuitous living?  Walk into the science class.  Are they giving glory to God for His majestic works, or rather puffing themselves up in vain imaginations about a collision of nothing that conveniently created everything?

Man has not responded to God with loving commitment to Him, but rather has compartmentalized God into a little box that you only need if life gets really bad.  We would rather have God dead, buried, or silent, than have to conform to His standards or give our lives to Him. 

That’s not fair!” you say.  “There are lots of unreligious people who do plenty of good things.”  Well, that might be true, but why are they doing it?  If they have not submitted their lives to Jesus Christ that means they are rejecting Him as their Lord, and all their good works are in vain.  Everything that is not done in faith, or done for His honour and glory is sin (Romans 14:23), because it fails to acknowledge God as the one worthy of our works and as the only one that could contribute any goodness in to hearts or to this world.

Some may look nice on the outside, but what lies within?  The Bible says that the unbelieving heart is “evil (Hebrews 3:12).”  It says that “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:18).”

You think it is an overreaction and unfair for God to send good people to Hell just for not believing in Jesus.  What you haven’t understood is that there is no such thing as good people.  In Mark 10:18 Jesus said “No one is good except God alone.”  How can any person who refuses to live for His creator, and the one who died for Him, be called “good”?  How can you say “just for not believing in Jesus?”  Rejecting God’s Son, and ignoring His life, His death, His word, and His call for you, is the greatest offence a man can give to God.

Hebrews 12:25 “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.  For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.”

Hebrews 10:29 “How much worse punishment, do you think will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God?”

God has every right to be angry at all who refuse Him.  A spurned husband or wife will be outraged, as well as broken hearted and deeply grieved by the spouse who left them for another lover.  Would you say “Who does that man think he is?  His wife is her own person, free to make the choices she wants.  He has no right to be angry with her.” 

Well God has created us, loved us, and provided for us, and yet we pay Him no heed and say: “He has no right to be angry with us.”

I hope dear friends that I have helped you to see that God has every right.  Not only does He have the right, but by the necessity of His nature He must punish all sinners for their rejection of Him and their crimes against Him.  What He is under no obligation to do is show mercy.  I need to end with some scriptures that give a glimpse into the heart of God, and the hope that is His loving kindness.

Jesus: “Go and learn what this mean, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:13).”

Ezekiel 33:11 “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked would turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?

The Love and Just Anger Of God

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Introduction

“The love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable.  The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized…” – D.A Carson in “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.”

In our culture the love of God is often exalted above the Holiness, Justice, and Righteousness of God.  Most Christians are comfortable enough to tell unbelievers that God loves them, but not to tell them that He hates sin.  The love of God has been so emphasized, and diminished to human standards and imaginations, that even many Christians cannot answer questions such as: “How can a loving God send anyone to Hell? “ or “If God is loving why is there so much suffering in the world?”

As much as the “love of God” is preached from pulpits, we lack foundational understanding about what the Biblical love of God truly is.  Not only this, but the lack of preaching God’s equally as great and worthy attributes, gives us an imbalanced view of God’s character and frequently causes men to distort the gospel.  The “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, so simply accept Him into your heart,” gospel, is directly related to men’s feelings that telling people about sin and Hell is unloving.  In his book “If God is Good” Randy Alcorn accurately states “If we imagine it unloving to speak of Hell, we imagine Jesus to be unloving.”

The cross is about love and justice.  When justice is left out of the message, the gospel is incomplete and powerless to save anyone. 

On the other side, there are many Christians who embrace “Reformed” theology, who like me are concerned and at times agitated by the misrepresentation of God as a God of love only, and man as a creature deserving of that love.  When a Christian discovers that popular teachings are erroneous, it is so common and natural to swing as far away from that way of thought as possible, until you end up at the total opposite extreme.  For example, a person irritated by the “sentimentalized” gospel might de-personalize God, making Him seem like a God far-off and hesitant to draw near to sinful people.  Where one man overemphasizes the love of God, he will preach almost exclusively that God is “angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11).”  While one preacher makes it so easy to come to Christ that a sinner needs no sorrow over sin nor willingness to commit their life to Him at all, another preacher overly stresses that the way is so hard and so narrow, you cannot come ‘till you have unceasingly agonized over sin and made certain that this reluctant God is actually letting you into Heaven.

It has been my experience, reading the Bible, that every attribute of God is way beyond human capacity.  He is extreme in every way.  What I mean is this: He is not extremely just and angry, but only a little bit loving and merciful.  Nor does His love overcome Him so much that He lays aside or forgets that He is also extremely just and righteous.  So here is my attempt to think Biblically and preach accurately about the love of God.  To truly do this requires a foundational understanding about the anger and justice of God.

What Is So Valuable That Christ Would Die?

Part 2- To Be Glorified On The Cross By Magnifying God’s Attributes

Colossians 2:9 “For in Him (Jesus) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”

Hebrews 1:3 “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of His power.”

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, exact in nature like God, and one in perfect unity with God.   The trinity is impossible for us to fully comprehend, but we can accept the vast testimony of scripture that God is one being, existing in three persons. 

When Jesus came, in all that He did, He pointed constantly to the Father.  He validated His own teaching by pointing to the Word of God and by constantly pointing to His being sent from the Father and speaking only that which the Father told Him to speak.  There are several examples of this in the book of John, which show us that Jesus lived His life with His eyes constantly fixed on His Father, God.  Here are only a few of the many scriptures found in the John chapter 8 alone.

John 8:14,16,18,28,42,& 54: “Jesus answered ‘Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going… Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me…I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me…When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me…If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.  I came not of my own accord but He sent me… If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing.  It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’  But you have not known him.  I know Him.”  (See the whole chapter for the entire context).

So when we see Jesus Christ through the testimony of scripture, we can be sure that we are seeing God Himself.  Therefore in this life there is no experience outside of scripture and no greater vision of God the Father than that which has been displayed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.  Let us not be like Philip was when he said “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us (John 14:8),” but let us fully embrace what Jesus said of himself in response to Philip’s question: “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me (John 14:9-10)?”

So then in Jesus we can see God manifested in flesh.  We can hear His words, and see his emotions, and watch how he responds to the needy, the proud, the religious, to his enemies, and to his friends.  Jesus came to manifest God’s name and to glorify Him, and God through the cross upholds and glorifies His Son for the world to behold.  Father and Son share and work together in mutual glory, each exalting the other.  As Jesus prayed “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.”  Then the Holy Spirit comes and reveals these things to human hearts as stated in John 16:14 “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Apart from us, and apart from the cross, Father, Son and Holy Spirit would possess all fullness of glory.  It is not as if Jesus needed to die in order to become glorious.  To be fully God is to be possessing fullness of glory through all of eternity.  Jesus, fully God and fully man, for his time on earth laid aside his glory.  That is, though he still possessed glory as being fully God, he did not receive recognition of it, nor demand his rights as God, but rather became a slave (see again Philippians 2:6-8).

Before Christ’s death he prayed for His own glory:  “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”  In John 12:27-28 He prayed that His Father would be glorified through His death:  “Now is my soul troubled.  And what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”

Now we have, in Jesus Christ upon the cross, the pinnacle of God’s glory on display.  Now we who have had “the eyes of our hearts enlightened (Ephesians 1:18),” can look upon the cross and see the glorious attributes of God, contradicting everything that is in the darkened heart of man, valiantly opposing the captor of our souls and pouring out love to a world of God haters.  In the cross, the Lord God is magnified beyond what we could possibly conceive, though for eternity we will seek to grasp this cataclysmic event.

In Randy Alcorn’s book “If God is Good, Why is There Suffering and Evil?” he states:  “Grace and forgiveness, both expressions of God’s eternal character, are moral goods, but without evil they wouldn’t have become clearly evident.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit don’t need compassion, mercy, grace, or forgiveness.  These qualities could only be fully expressed to finite and fallen creatures…Some of God’s virtues will forever capture the spotlight that, without evil and suffering’s temporary hold on us, never would have taken the stage.”    I would echo that, and add that at the cross, where Christ drank wrath on the behalf of criminals guilty of the highest treason, you will find the deepest act of mercy history will ever know.  Having set a foundation for this truth, I will go on to try and express the mighty attributes of God that Jesus Christ has magnified by having died in the place of sinners.

(check back to read what i am working on writing- about the love, mercy, and justice of God… and maybe some more attributes too.  I tend to be a bit long winded but there is so much foundational stuff that in my opinion needs to be said).