As Christians, are we to shy away from the “fine” print?
People find it easier and more palatable to believe in a god or believe in God’s love than to consider that they may be objects of God’s dissatisfaction and wrath. And why not? Most of us are not murderers, rapists, habitual liars, child molesters or people of this sort. I’m okay, you’re okay. Okay? Let’s face it, we are “good news” people and there can be a lot of angst connected with the delivery of “bad” news no matter how true it may be. The problem is, the bible and the gospel within it is a combination of “good” and “bad” news, “bad” and “good” news. It depends on what you want to say or hear first, doesn’t it? Just take a look at Romans 6:23 for example: “The wages of sin is death.” (Ouch!) “But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Thank you, Jesus!)
As Christians, we are assigned the responsibility to communicate “the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19)God is relying upon you and me to get his message, his entire message across to a dying world. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor. 5:20). Ephesians 4:15 tells us how to communicate: “Speaking the truth in love.” I find it hard, even embarrassing to hear street corner “preachers” when they are blasting away at bystanders about God’s hatred of sin and His impending judgment, but what they say about God is true. But not the whole truth.
Where is the balance? Maybe because sometime in the history of the church Christians have placed more emphasis on God’s wrath or His sovereignty or holiness - - - all themes that are biblical in some degree or another, God’s love did not receive the attention it merits. God was portrayed as hard and angry towards mankind, not soft or approachable. But today, if people believe in God at all, by and large they find it easier to believe in God’s love and a God of love. That’s understandable. That’s an easier, more digestible perspective. It’s less personally threatening. It’s safer? But is it safe? Who wants to know that there is judgment or eternal punishment hanging over them? And who besides some street preacher is enthusiastic about relaying this news?
Jesus did not come to “neutral” people and arbitrarily condemn a few here and save a few there. Rather, he came to a people who by God’s standard were already condemned whether they knew it or not or chose to believe it. This side of Genesis 3 we are all under God’s judgment. Judgment of you and me and the man on the street is not what God is wringing His hands in anticipation for. God is Life!
The first verse many Christians commit to memory is the “gospel in a nutshell,” John 3:16. Almost complete, but not the whole story. It speaks of God’s passionate love for his creation (you and me) and that he was willing to die to redeem us, to purchase us back from the prince of this world through Jesus’ blood. Our response of trusting in that transaction is our entrance to eternal life. What made the event in John 3:16 necessary was what is described in John 3:17-18. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn (pass judgment on the world - - - we were already condemned) but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” This is the truth that completes the picture and explains the “why” of 3:16.
The purpose of God’s love for us is that we might have life. Jesus did not die on the cross simply to prove he loves us. It was to save people from the condemnation that was already hanging over them. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36) I underlined “remains” to emphasize that the wrath already exists. Read Romans 1:18+ to get a more complete picture of why this is true.
Notice also how God methodically pairs scripture to complete his message of redemption following his appraisal of man’s condition: “For everyone has sinned. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Rom.3:23 (NLT). Man’s condition. “Yet God, in his grace, freely made us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of our sins.” (Rom. 3:24 NLT) God’s provision.
God wants us to have a right perspective on who we are apart from him. Though it makes us uncomfortable, we need to see our incompleteness, our weaknesses, our brokenness, our propensity to be our own god. He does this so that he can try to awaken us to the reality of our need for him and the consequences of our independence and indifference to him, the very things God views as rebellion. God sets the standards, he makes the rules whether we chafe at them or not. We don’t always see God’s standards as protection for us, as guidance to a better and purer way of life. But our good God is always working for our ultimate good, for our welfare. (Rom. 8:28) So too is the “fine” print in his word that in our timidity and fear before others we are tempted to soften or ignore completely.
God, in his love, communicates truth to us through his word. Often we bristle as it can be hard to welcome or embrace. Our old nature, the flesh, wars against that. But if we are going to speak for God as we are commanded to, we are not commissioned to edit how he wants his message of “life” presented. What may sound at first like “bad” news is truth we need to hear and speak so that we can more appreciatively embrace the “good” news of the satisfying life in him. Think About It.