Sunday, as I led our congregation in worship, something struck me. We were singing the song, "Friend of God", and I realized that the vast majority of people in our churches have a hard time singing that song. I think there is a vast array of reasons, but for the most part, it is due to our distorted theology of God. I have noticed that people seem to worship with gusto then we sing songs like "Holy, Holy, Holy". But when we sing songs like "I Am a Friend of God" or "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" there seems to be a slight disconnect. Don't get me wrong, I believe in a holy God, a God that hates sin. I'm not advocating that we sing songs like "Jesus Is Just Alright With Me". Whenever I preach on the grace or love of God, without fail I will get confronted by someone in the lobby after the service who will be quick to remind me of God's wrath and judgment. Many in the church today have a sick fascination with judgment. I believe that God is screaming at His people to get our attention and understand that He wants us to become fascinated with His love for us. As a father, I have discovered that a relationship based on punishment with my children is taking the lazy route in parenting. It's easy to be the enforcer, the one who keeps everyone on the straight and narrow. In contrast, it takes a lot of work and investment to develop a relationship of mutual love and commitment with your kids, but that is what keeps them from making bad choices because they don't want to do anything to jeopardize our relationship. The same is true for God.
When God sent Moses back up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments the second time something incredible happened. Remember the first time? While God was giving them to Moses, the nation of Israel was having an orgy around a golden calf idol. They were breaking every one of them as they were being written on the stone tablets. In light of that, have you ever noticed what was the first thing out of God's mouth as He rewrote the those commandments? In Exodus 34:6-7 it says, "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished." WOW! Now I know you fire and brimstone types immediately focused on the last phrase and totally missed everything else. Yes, God punishes sin, but He wants us to live in the reality of His grace and mercy so we won't have to deal with His judgment.
After everything the Israelites did, it blows my mind that God tells Moses, "Make sure you tell them who I really am!" Are you convinced? The God that you profess is a God of love and mercy and He loves you with an everlasting love, a love that sees beyond your sinfulness if you will walk in His forgiveness and grace. That's the whole point of the cross. If we accept His sacrifice for our sins and know that the price of judgment and wrath have been taken care of, we can enjoy His love and mercy. I know some of you, those who are addicted to judgment, really struggle with this and may be screaming at the screen right now. No, God doesn't look the other way when we sin and this doesn't give us permission to do what we want just because He forgives us. The point is the more I am convinced that He truly loves me, the more I will naturally live a life of holiness. It is so much more rewarding to live like that rather than live in fear of His wrath.
If you struggle with this concept I challenge you to begin to ask God to reveal His true character to you, maybe for the first time in your life. My prayer for you is that you will know how wide, how high and how deep is His love for you!
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