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November 3, 2019, 7:00 PM

The Balancing Act: Balancing God's Wrath and His Love


The circus is in town. You love the circus, so you go. So many acts capture your attention, but one stands above them all. High above the center stage is the tightrope. One after another the tightrope walker makes their way across the razor thin wire. Carrying this, riding that, one at a time or multiple walkers at once. Each carefully completes their task.

 

The secret to the success of the tightrope walker is balance. Incredible balance. Lean too far this way…down you go. Shift too much weight the other way and it’s the end of the rope (pun intended).

 

I challenge my readers today to walk the balancing tightrope with me as we dive into the theological realm between God’s wrath and God’s love. Err by leaning into God’s wrath and you become legalistic with a God waiting to give his children a hard whack. Lean into God’s love to the neglect of wrath and you end with a distorted doctrine saying things such as “God would never punish anyone.” You end up with a universalist theology that says everyone will get to heaven one day.

 

FIRST, WRESTLE WITH GOD’S WRATH

Speaking of God’s wrath immediately causes the hackles to come up on the neck of some Christians. This dimension of His character is so neglected because it is misunderstood.

 

Sin always leads to ruin. Because God is love, he cannot sit idly by and watch it happen. Without God’s wrath, His goodness would not be good. Because God is holy, he must have wrath.

 

The problem with accepting God’s wrath comes because we confuse man’s anger with God’s wrath. Man’s anger can be vindictive, filled with hatred, a desire to get even, or even to harm. His wrath is nothing like our wrath.

 

The Biblical words used to describe God’s wrath shed some insight into this distinction. Two words are used to describe anger. first word is thumos which describes sudden, boiling anger. It is used often in Scripture.

The second word is Orge. This word speaks of a consistent, abiding state. This word, while similar is different in nature. It is God’s consistent action against all that is less than God.  

 

Allow me to make a short diversion. Some who read this section will find it very difficult, even painful to comprehend of any kind of wrath as being positive. Your experience with discipline was only negative. Your parent or parents only expression of wrath left real wounds, scars that lay just beyond the surface. I say to you, I am sorry for the pain you have felt. May you learn to distinguish the loving discipline of God from the pain in your past.

 

We struggle to accept the image of God’s wrath because we have seen at as contrary to God’s love. Far from contradicting His love, the presence of wrath is a necessary corollary to that love. We simply cannot have a good God who is not able to show His anger.

 

Finally, some struggle with the image of God’s wrath because they segment the Old Testament image of God and the New Testament picture. This erroneous rendering of God sees wrath in the Old Testament and love in the New Testament. This could not be further from the truth God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Both Testaments tell of a God who is both angry and loving.

 

God’s word makes it clear that wrath is a consistent part of His nature. Note the following passages:

  • Psalms 7:11 “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.”
  • John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him”
  • Romans 1:18-21 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
  • Ephesians 5:6 “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

 

Some object to the picture of God’s wrath saying, “I don’t want a God who is prone to wrath.” Let me ask you a question. Do you really want a God who does not get angry at sin? Do you want a God who is not offended by horrific wrong?

 

As I prepared this message, I read in the Missouri Baptist paper two stories that I couldn’t help noting. First, a story about a Baptist worker in Nigeria who was one of ten people kidnapped and imprisoned. She was brutally murdered for no other reason than her belief in Jesus. Down the page in the next column was a brief article outlining a new law enacted in California REQUIRING the state schools to provide abortions for their students. Yes, taxpayer dollars mandated to pay to stop preborn lives.

 

Do we want a God who is passive in the face of such ugly, immoral stories? Because God is holy and fair, He must judge sin. His purity demands that he deal with impurity. Those who spurn his love suffer His wrath.

 

SECOND, LIVE IN GOD’S LOVE

God created people with a hole in our hearts. We need love. One can easily find proof of that. Young people who grow up without the godly affection often stumble into inappropriate relationships with less than uplifting people because they desperately seek the love that has been missing.

 

The three most important words in the New Testament relative to our discussion are, “GOD IS LOVE.” This truth of God’s nature is found in so many passages throughout the Bible. While not challenging to understand it is difficult to grasp how much He loves us.

 

John lays it out in his record of Jesus’ ministry and in his writing. He records Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3:16. Go ahead and finish the verse in your head. “For God so loved…”

 

This concept comes through in his letter. 1 John 4:8-10 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

 

God’s love is expressed in giving Jesus. He sent Jesus because love comes out of His nature. He loves without condition. Like wrath, love is found throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Consider the following:

  • Deuteronomy 7:7-8 “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
  • Psalms 103:17 “But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children.”
  • Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
  • Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.”

 

The language used to describe God’s love is very insightful. One of the Old Testament words is GHIB and means to pant, desire, and long for. The image of the deer panting for the water brooks is used to describe God’s yearning for us. He longs for you, every day!

 

The New Testament uses the word agapao. It speaks of God’s indiscriminate love. His love is a love that pours out with no expectation of return. It is a selfless, sacrificial love. It seeks only the benefit and well being of the one loved. It is ultimately displayed in God’s reaching out to broken, sinful humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus.

 

BALANCE THE TWO:

Our struggle is to find the right balance between God’s wrath and His love. Scripture combines the two, helping us see that for His children God’s love is demonstrated in His consistent discipline.

  • Hebrews 12:6 “Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
  • Revelation 3:19 “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent

 

RESPONDING TO GOD’S WRATH AND LOVE

  • Because God is a God of wrath, I will FEAR Him.
  • Because God is a God of wrath, I will obey Him
  • Because God is a God of love and wrath, I will accept His offer of salvation. God has extended a once and for all offer. Jesus died for our salvation. He reaches to all mankind with the offer, “Whoever…” Receive His offer of salvation. Say a prayer like this:

 

“Dear Jesus, I know that I need you. I have sinned and cannot fix that in my own power. I believe, Jesus, that you died for me and rose from the dead. I receive your gift of life and ask you to forgive me. Come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. Thank you, God, for saving me!”

 

  • Because God is a God of love, I will love others (1 John 4:11-12) God so overwhelms us with His love. He does this so we can overwhelm someone else with His love expressed through us. He calls us to be His kiss, His touch, and His embrace to those around us.

 


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