11/24/12 Nick 42
Is the wrath of God a bad thing? What would God be like if He wasn’t angered by sin and its consequences? That’s a question that a man named Nick hadn’t bothered to ask himself when he described himself as “spiritual”. He has come to believe in his own version of God, but rejects the Bible and, along with it, any form of organized religion. His god doesn’t judge or hold people accountable, leaving us to judge ourselves instead. Nick had grown up in a very legalistic Pentecostal family and church in Texas. As he described it, everything not related to church activities was sinful, and guilt and the threat of damnation were used to control its members. Nick rebelled against it all at the age of 14, joining a heavy metal clique and flirting with Satanism and the occult. He would judge God for His acts of wrath in the Old Testament and remembers flipping his middle finger every time he would go by a church. However, when he was 24 his first son was born, and his anger began to soften. Now, at 42, he feels comfortable with his ideas of a benevolent god who never angers or judges anyone. I had stopped him on a street corner, asking about his beliefs, and after hearing his story I wondered how I could help him gain a biblical understanding of God. I described three basic misunderstandings about God, two of which he has experienced and the third he was in danger of slipping into. First was his church’s extreme of an overemphasis on God’s justice at the expense of a loving relationship, resulting in legalism and guilt. Second was Nick’s current “spirituality”, with its emphasis on God’s love at the expense of His justice, resulting in a god who ignores sin and ultimately allows us to judge ourselves and be our own gods. The third misunderstanding of God would be one in which both his love and justice are compromised, resulting in a good works religion where his justice can be paid for by our bribes of good deeds or religious acts. “What about Jesus?” I asked. “When you were growing up, what was your understanding of the cross?” Nick said that to him it was just further proof of God’s cruelty and unreasonable anger, taken out on his own Son. Wow. I was shocked at how much a misguided understanding of God can distort the truths of the Gospel. I went on to explain how only in Jesus can God’s love and justice be fully demonstrated, as neither are compromised. We can only understand God’s love to the extent that we realize the depth of His anger toward sin. Please pray with me that Nick can understand that.