February 27, 2014
Dear Eastridge Family,
Recently I read James Bryan Smith’s chapter “God is Holy” in his book The Good and Beautiful God. As I read this chapter, I found myself wishing that I could have every single Christian read it. The piece is excellent, not because it is new or edgy, but because it states basic Christian truth with profound clarity.
Smith addresses a misunderstanding of the truth that God is love, and loves sinners with reckless extravagance: “God does not care about our sin” (116). Smith writes, “In our day you are just as likely to hear a person tell you that their god is a cosmic, benevolent spirit who never judges, does not punish sin and sends no one to hell. This ‘teddy bear’ god has become a very fashionable alternative to the wrathful god of days gone by” (116). The problem is that “the cushy, fuzzy god is neither biblical nor truly loving.” Here, Smith cites H. Richard Niebuhr’s well-worn phrase from The Kingdom of God in America, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”
Smith repeatedly emphasizes in the chapter that God is both “kind and severe. We cannot have one without the other” and that this is “very good news” (118). It is good news because God loves us so much that he is completely opposed to anything that harms God’s beloved people. God loves us without condition, but hates sin because sin threatens and eventually brings our destruction.
He makes an important distinction between God’s love and wrath. “Wrath is not something that God is but something that God does. While it is correct to say that God is holy, it is not correct to say that God is wrathful… Holiness is God’s essence… Wrath is what humans experience when they reject God. And it is a necessary part of God’s love” (123).
Smith suggests that we should not want a god who says, “‘It’s cool. Don’t sweat it. Everybody sins, just do it without the guilt, dude. Guilt stinks. Just have a good time!’ This god does not love me. Being soft on sin is not loving, because sin destroys. I want a God who hates anything that hurts me. Hate is a strong word, but a good one. Because the true God not only hates what destroys me (sin and alienation) but also has taken steps to destroy my destroyer, I love him” (125).
1 John in one example from Scripture that only makes sense when we hold both God’s inclusive love together with God’s complete rejection of sin:
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. - 1 John 1:5-2:2
God’s love towards each one of us is unconditional. Have you allowed that truth to sink into every corner or your life, or are you still trying to clean yourself up for God, to earn your acceptance? Are you willing to be desperately dependent on God’s grace and not your own goodness?
God hates sin because God loves us. Are you allowing God’s grace to free you from everything that keeps you from the life for which you were created? Will you allow the amazing grace of God to forgive you of the ways you have sinned and are sinful? Will you allow God to break the power of those canceled sins?
God is holy. God refuses to make compromises with sin and death. And God is able to make us holy. The offer of holiness is not a threat. It is a precious promise.
· Communion This Sunday
Sunday we will celebrate communion during the Sunday morning worship service.
· Human Trafficking and Slavery
My hand today had two marks or two “x” marks. One was from Ashley’s basketball game and the other, the big red “x” was to bring awareness to the 27 million people who are enslaved in the world as sex slaves, or laborers. It is estimated that human trafficking alone generates annual profits of around $32 billion. The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age. Every minute two children are sold into slavery.
Nazarene Compassionate Ministries has invited churches around the world to participate in Freedom Sunday, a day set aside to focus on the issue of modern slavery, also known as human trafficking, on March 9, 2014.
· Wesleyan Theological Society Meeting
Next week I will be traveling to Nampa, Idaho to attend the Wesley Theological Society 2014 Meeting where they will discuss “Atonement in the Wesleyan Tradition.” The Sunday following the meetings I will be preaching at Andrew Williams’ Methodist Church in Vale, Oregon. He came to that small community and small church and has seen several people baptized and the attendance double in just two short years.
· Notable Quotes of the Week
“Spiritual revival, or renewal, is a work of God in which the church is beautified and empowered because the normal operations of the Holy Spirit are intensified. The normal operations of the Spirit include conviction of sin, enjoyment and assurance of grace and of the Father’s love, access to the presence of God, and creation of deep community and loving relationships.” - Tim Keller
"God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity that we plan only things we can do by ourselves." – A. W. Tozer
"Nobody drifts into the kingdom of God. Sooner or later there must be a dying and rising." – N. T. Wright
“The One who knows you best, loves you most.” - Max Lucado
“Those who truly find forgiveness at the hands of Jesus hate sin as the unforgiven never do." - E. Stanley Jones