Bill was a big kid, especially to be only in seventh grade. My friends and I would ride the bus home every day after school and we would all sit in the very back. We sat in the back for a very good reason. We sat in the back because Bill sat in the front. No one so much as looked in Bill’s direction for fear of possibly making eye contact. You see because of how big of a boy Bill was, He had a reputation. Depending on who you would ask, stories about the countless kids Bill had beat to a pulp would vary. Some said he lived all alone in an apartment in the bad part of town. Others said he was a street fighter who beat up kids for money. Regardless of what the story was regarding Bill, it was never good. And the legend of Bill the bully grew in our school. Everyone had their opinions on who Bill was. The only problem was that no one ever asked Bill. All that anyone knew about Bill was based on what someone else had said that had been based on their opinion. No one ever let Bill set the record straight.
I began to watch Bill (when I knew he wouldn’t make eye contact with me) on our bus rides home. As I sat in the back of the bus with my friends laughing and joking around, I occasionally looked at Bill. But I began to realize that it wasn’t rage I saw in his eyes, but sadness. Bill sat alone in class, at lunch, and on our bus rides home. And it dawned on me that of all these horror stories I had heard of him beating someone up, I had never seen this for myself. In fact, Id never seen Bill interact with anyone.
I never will forget the day I first spoke to Bill. I was getting on the bus and walking to my usual spot in the back. As I was about to pass by Bill sitting in his usual seat, he accidentally dropped his notebook and papers spilled out all over the aisle. I had a choice to make. I could step over his paper and continue on to my safe place. Or I could take comfort in the fact that Id lived a good life up to now, take a risk, and actually touch Bill’s papers in an attempt to help him. I chose to help. And as I bent down to pick up his papers, our eyes met for the first time….and he smiled a sad, pitiful smile at me.
I ended up sitting beside Bill that day on our ride home. And it was the beginning of a great friendship. It turned out Bill was no bully. In fact he didnt have a mean bone in his oversized body. He had never beaten anyone up much less been in a fight of any kind. We ended up being great friends. He would come over to my house and play sometimes, and I would go to his house. To my utter shock, he actually lived in a normal house with normal parents! I told my friends to stop fabricating who they thought Bill was based on their opinions and to actually talk to him. I told them to get to know him. By the end of that school year, Bill was sitting in the back of the bus with the rest of us.
We stopped letting our opinions speak for who Bill was.
And we began letting Bill speak for himself.
Our thought process was so twisted regarding Bill. We thought because Bill was big, that must mean that he was mean. And this is no different than what many professing Christians do with Jesus. They think because God is love that he must be tolerant of our sin. And so the world has many different opinions of who Jesus is. I love talking about Jesus. I love talking about the character of God. But the most dangerous conversation a person can have about Jesus is one that involves little to no scripture. Its those conversations that sound something like this;
“Well I THINK God is Love and He would NEVER judge.”
“I dont BELIEVE God would operate like that.”
“I KNOW God would never ask someone to change who they are.”
Do you see the problem here? All of these statements are based on opinion. There is no scripture reference listed! In essence, much as was the case with Bill, we are more interested in a God that is built on personal opinion and speculation rather than seeking to know what God actually says about Himself.
Bill was big, but that didnt mean he was a bully.
God is love, but that doesn’t mean that He cannot be wrathful.
Think of it this way. I love babies. And since I love babies, I hate abortion. If God is righteous He must oppose that which is unrighteous.
“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” Psalm 5:4-6.
The wicked shall not stand before the Lord. Read the verse again. God can have nothing to do with evil. Our righteous and Holy God cannot have fellowship with anything wicked! One of the most terrifying characteristics of God is that He is righteous and good. Some would say, “Why is a good God terrifying to you?” My answer to them is;
It is a terrifying thing that God is good, because we are not.
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips.Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:10-18.
This is just one of many verses depicting our depraved human state. Paul writes no one is good. He describes us perfectly. He says, “The venom of asps is under their lips.” Speaking of our gossip and slander towards one another. And “…their feet are quick to shed blood”, regarding how quick tempered we are to lash out against someone. This is the given state of humanity. The Psalm says it like this;
“The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” Psalm 58:3.
Because of the fall and sin entering the world, all are born into sin. Sin is not something that is learned. It is a condition we are born with. It is a condition we need saving from.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” Romans 5:12.
I once heard a pastor put it like this describing how we are wicked from birth. He said to imagine that you had a little baby in your arms. The baby reaches for your watch, and you gently move his hand away from the watch. Agitated , the baby reaches again for the watch and you move his hand again. The baby, then frustrated and enraged that you will not let him have the watch, begins to kick and swing his arms at you in a fit of rage. Consider this; if that enraged little baby swinging at you had the strength and size of a twenty year old man he would beat you to a pulp, rip the watch off of your wrist, and step over your body with his new toy as if you were not even there.
Every time someone wants to argue that we were not born evil, I ask them to explain who taught my babies that biting was the solution to getting what they wanted.
Sin is not learn, it is ingrained from birth as a result of the fall. If you begin to compare this aspect of our wickedness to God, you begin to see how very unworthy we are. Again look at this verse.
“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.” Psalm 5:4.
“The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.” Psalm 11:5-7.
If we believe the Bible to be true, and given we do not attempt to “twist” the scriptures, let the implications of this sink in.
We are the wicked. God doesn’t delight nor can He have fellowship with evil. If this is true, the reality that God is perfect and righteous so much so that He can have no part of the wicked is bad news for humanity.
We cannot save ourselves. We are a hopeless people. We need a savior.
Once you begin to understand our hopeless state and God’s hatred towards sin….its only then can you truly understand the love of God. Its only then that you can merely begin to comprehend the Gospel.
God owed us nothing. But in love, God chose to sacrifice His one and only son. God sent Christ to earth to live the perfect life that we couldnt live. In the old testament people would sacrifice animals to God in order to be the payment for their sins. In living this perfect life, Jesus then died on the cross, becoming the final sacrifice for sin.
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:11-13.
On the cross, the full cup of God’s wrath towards sinners was poured out onto Jesus.
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4.
This verse always strikes me. That God sent His son “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Meaning when God looked down on Christ upon the cross, He saw not His perfect son, but the likeness of our sins upon Christ. Christ had to die. Why? As Romans says, “..in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled.” You see God’s standards are higher than ours. To have fellowship with God, the scriptures say God demands perfection.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.
Dont twist the scriptures or mold God into a God you are comfortable with. The text above states that God demands perfection. Something we could never do on our own. So Jesus came to die for us. Why? Again look back to the verse above in Romans 3; “…so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled.” Where was this to be fulfilled? IN US!
Who is the “us” in that verse. Is it everyone including those who chose sin over God? Look back at Romans 3 again; “…in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
The atonement is not for those who continue to seek after their fleshly desires, but those who begin to walk in accordance with His spirit. Jesus chose to save His children! And those that are the children of God are distinguished like this;
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:4-10.
Notice John writes that no one born of God makes a practice of sinning as a regular part of their life. Why? Because they cannot. For God’s seed now abides in them. How can we distinguish the children of God from those who are not? The verse says whomever doesn’t practice a life of righteousness is not of God.
God is love. And God does love the world. But not as many people portray it.
Jesus said, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9.
Whom is Jesus talking about when He says, “God so loved the world”? (John 3:16). Read the verse above again. Jesus is speaking of those the Father has given him who are in the world, not the unrighteous and wicked of the world.
“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” John 17:11.
Much of the world paints God in their image so that they might continue living in sin. They say that it would be hateful for God to be wrathful against sinners. Therefore to them, for God to be loving He must be accepting of everyone, even those who chose to not walk according to His commands.
The opposite of love is not hate.
The opposite of love is indifference.
I am wrathful against anyone who would try to hurt my children. God has told us through scripture that sin, any kind of sin that we continue to practice without repentance, leads to death (Proverbs 14:12.). God’s wrath against sin displays His amazing grace. In order for God to be love then He must have wrath against sin. Because it was sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. And now those who are covered in the blood of Christ no longer walk in the ways of sin but in righteousness. And God no longer sees the sins of a believer in His son, but instead sees the perfection of Christ imputed to them.
Again, we are not perfect. No one is. But here is the picture of what it means to seek righteousness in Christ. When a baby begins to walk, it stumbles alot. And eventually when it falls it gets upset. Because it so desperately wants to walk. As the child gets older, it stumbles less and less. And when it becomes an adult it stumbles less and less. Adults will occasionally fall down. But when they do, they are embarrassed. And an adult who stumbles will look at the object he stumbled over and remove it from their path so not to fall again.
Thats the picture of sanctification. The more we grow in Christ, the less we want to stumble. Will we sin. Absolutely. But we cannot continue on in it as 1 John said. Christians will begin to take on the nature of their savior and be repulsed by the sins the one loved and begin to love the righteousness they once hated!
Why should we not draw our own conclusions of who God is without seeking scriptures? Because anything that is not ground in scripture regarding the character of God is a lie from man.
“Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written; “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” Romans 3:4.
We as Christians are not to judge. But we are to stand on the word of God. The most unloving thing we as believers could do is to not share the good news of Christ with a person whom is living outside of His grace. Grace is not indifference to sin. Grace is an undeserved gift. And again, due to our depravity none of us are deserving. Thats what makes God’s grace so unbelievable and so wonderful! And mercy is to not receive a punishment that was deserved. We like to talk about mercy, but not really think about what it means. We don’t want to even think of our God as one who holds back much less harbors wrath. But that mere fact that God would extend such an extraordinary gift, which is the undeserved righteousness of His son, and remove the death sentence that we earned due to our rebellion is beyond words.
When we understand the meaning of grace and mercy, the love of God takes on a whole new meaning.
Do you see the gospel? We deserve eternal separation from God. We deserve death. Because of sin, the wrath of God abides on fallen mankind. But God, in His great love, executed the great exchange. In order that we might be saved from ourselves, God took the wrath that was due us, and placed it all on His perfect son. And then God took the righteousness of His one and only son Jesus, and placed it upon those whom He has called for Himself. God gave undeserved grace and mercy. God saved those who could not have saved themselves.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
It was truly the greatest exchange! Praise Christ! And those whom He calls His children will begin to walk in His ways. They will begin to repent of the sins in their lives and seek to be more like their Heavenly Father. And this will not be a burden to them. Why? Because they’ve experienced a supernatural love. His commands become to them as King David said in the Psalms, “…honey on my lips” (Psalm 119:103.). His children don’t run towards sin. The run from it towards their savior. God’s children are marked by their lifestyle of obedience to His commands.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:2-3.
Our opinions about who we think Jesus is are not important. Because we cannot mold a God into our own image. Never attempt to define God by what you think He would do according to what the world says. If we attempt to describe God by our own opinion with no scripture basis, then we speak not of Jesus, but rather a God made in an image that we are comfortable with. Always look to the scriptures. Who does God say that He is? We exist for the glory of His great name. We exist to make HIS name great, not so that our name might be great! And this is not a burden to the children of God, because we have truly been saved by His grace. Bill turned out to be much different than I thought when I finally let him tell me who he was. In the same way, you may find that God is a much bigger God than you ever imagined when you begin to let the creator of the universe speak for Himself! Don’t tell God who He is. Let God tell you who He is.