The Six Most Terrifying Words In Scripture
Dr. Michael Blunk
I am inclined to think well of my parents. I think well of them for the excellent care given to me during my infancy. As a baby, I slept as I willed with little regard to hour or duty or obligation. The A.M. or the P.M. of any given o’clock was of no personal concern whatsoever; I slept as I pleased and when sleep no longer pleased me, a quick burst of tears brought without fail a concerned parent to the side of my crib. When my tiny stomach felt the pangs of hunger, another quick burst of tears brought forth a warm and nourishing bottle. On those occasions when my infantile stomach could not hold down the nourishment, the sticky mess on my face and blanket was wiped clean without so much as a lift of a tiny finger on my tiny hand. Likewise, the daily bath was dutifully prepared at the just-right temperature by loving parents who soaped me and sponged me with the utmost diligence and care. And when my diaper was soiled for the thirteenth time that day, another quick burst of tears brought a clean replacement be the hour noon or midnight.
If my mother and father’s sleep was interrupted, their troubles did not concern me. My sole motive was in having my needs immediately met. If from my frequent late night outbursts bags formed beneath their bloodshot eyes, I gave this no notice. My baby conscience was never troubled. Their difficulties never kept me awake. I slept soundly even if they did not. Or could not.
Nor did I, as a wee little baby, trouble my wee little self with such matters as laundry or rent or household expenses. In truth, the fact that my mother and father worked impossibly hard maintaining our small but comfortable home never crossed my wee little mind.
Owing to the excellent care of my mother and father, it is fair to say that my early days were days of ease and comfort. From morning to night, my life revolved around a happy series of warm blankets, warm bottles and warm baths. I ate. I slept. I soiled diapers. My mother and father did all the work. As anyone can plainly see, they were very good to me.
But as I grew older, there was a marked change in the measure of their care and devotion. Suddenly and without warning, it was clear that my days of ease and idleness were coming to an abrupt end. The mother and father who had once done everything for me began expecting—no—demanding me to do all manner of things for myself! The expertly guided spoon that had once greeted my opened mouth was now placed in my own clumsy little hand. Those outbursts of tears that had long served me well were now being met with raised eyebrows. When I hungered, it was required that I feed myself. And those soft, clean diapers? Training pants. Training pants and a cold porcelain toilet.
The situation steadily worsened. The clock began ruling my life. I was sent to bed and subsequently aroused from sleep at appointed times with no regard to my own personal preferences. And it was quite apparent that Mom and Dad had freed themselves from the shackles and fetters of my every beck and call. I was no longer the center of the household. Life could no longer be described by such words as carefree or idyllic. Where had their love gone? What had become of paradise?
One fine September morning, I was scrubbed and combed and sent off to school where all manner of detestable miseries awaited me. Against my will and better judgment, a strange woman who was not my mother and a couple of dozen strange children who were not my brothers and sisters suddenly crowded and jostled their way into my life. There were words to spell and numbers to add and rules to follow. And even if the rules remained pretty much the same year after year, the words became progressively harder and the numbers grew increasingly longer. These words and numbers and rules proved to be a lot of bother. What had happened to those untroubled days when my outbursts from the crib were answered with warm baths and nourishing bottles and comforting blankets? Might those who had brought me into this world turned their backs on me?
And in no time at all, I was expected to tidy my room. In the good old days, Mom had made my bed and picked up my toys. She was quite good at making beds and picking up toys. In my early years, I had never found so much as the slightest reason for faulting her abilities in these domestic matters, yet now I told to make my own bed and pick up my own toys. My father was no better. From time to time, he would conjure up some perfectly disagreeable chores for me, too. It made no difference to him if I had better things to do. On more than one occasion, he told me as much. Yes, it was painfully obvious to me that my mother and father’s affections had at last waxed cold.
Of course, there are those who will find fault with my complaints. What kind of parents would keep a growing boy or girl wrapped in blankets and, for that matter, diapers? What kind of mother and father would keep a child in a playpen rather then sending him or her into a classroom? And what kind of mother and father would ignore the teaching of duties and responsibilities and values to their sons and daughters? It would be a poor parent indeed who failed to prepare a child for the approaching inevitabilities of adulthood.
The stark reality is this: The more a parent loves a child, the greater the burden and bother—at least in the mind of the child—that love seems to bring. Children who are truly loved are never ignored, yet there are times when even the very best boys and girls would surely prefer a moment or two of parental neglect to all those bothersome rules and lessons and baths and chores and vegetables and doctor visits and church sermons…
I do not mind saying that, as a boy, it seemed as though my mother and father put me through a great deal of trouble. Rousted from my warm bed at the break of dawn, I was expected to gobble down a hasty breakfast, throw on clean clothes, brush my teeth, grab my books, and trudge off to school—all very disagreeable, of course. And each Sunday morning, rain or shine, I was stuffed into starchy clothes and made to sit on a hard wooden pew. Not that I begrudged giving God my Sunday mornings, for He seemed to have a legitimate claim on this part of the week, but my mother thought Sunday and Wednesday evenings belonged to God, too. My father and mother lectured me on the virtues of hard work, ambition, punctuality, civility, honesty, education and morality. I was warned against the dangers of drugs, alcohol, reckless living and idleness. I was advised against keeping bad company. A proper education, I was told, would open doors of opportunity and spare me from the trappings of want and poverty. Devotion to God would steer me from the dangers of the world, the flesh, and the devil. If I mistreated my younger brother or sister, they were quick in faulting me. Slothful habits were met with parental resistance. Bad conduct was handled with extreme prejudice. All in all, I was put through a great deal of trouble by the very ones who had ushered me into this world.
But with boyish immaturity behind me, I can easily understand that the troubles of childhood prepared me for the rigors of adulthood. Thanks to years of schooling, I can earn a living. I can manage money. I can read worthwhile books. I can appreciate good music and art. I can better understand the affairs of this world. And because of my spiritual upbringing, I can serve God in ministry. I can experience the joys of helping others. I can know the mind and the heart of our Creator. I can see the folly of superstition and false religion. I can defend my faith against the vain arguments of humanism and atheism. I can rest in the assurance of salvation that comes by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. I do not boast, for all that I have or have accomplished must be credited to the goodness of God, but owing His grace and to my parents’ solid upbringing, I have been spared the pain and misery of drug and alcohol addiction. I have lived a productive life. And even when youthful lusts led me to occasional straying, the built-in moral compass implanted by Mom and Dad helped bring me home.
And so, without apology or reservation, I am ready to admit that the seemingly endless series of spelling quizzes and arithmetic books and household chores and soapy baths and Sunday school lessons and clean underwear and bristly lectures and starchy clothes paid some mighty handsome dividends. Furthermore, I thank God in Heaven that my mother and father loved me enough to put me through all this trouble while having the resolve to ignore my whiny childish protests.
While working for a technical college, I met with a student—a single mother of three small children—who had made a habit of missing classes. As a result of her poor attendance, her grades were falling and she was in danger of expulsion. This young woman had a host of problems that extended well beyond college. None of the three men who had fathered her children paid so much as a dime in child support. Between rent subsidy and food stamps, the state gave her adequate financial assistance, but I was made aware that a portion of her monthly allotment was spent on marijuana. She was facing truancy charges initiated by the county attorney for the woeful irregularity of her oldest child’s school attendance. With casual frankness, the young mother admitted to routinely oversleeping through the din of the alarm clock as her child’s school bus passed on by. This was not all; a caseworker from a protective agency had initiated an official investigation after neighbors reported other incidents of neglect and child abuse. Later, the state would temporarily remove the three children from her custody. On the day I met with the young mother, she had two of her three children in tow. They were filthy. Their clothes were grimy and their sweet little faces were caked with dirt and dried food. I could think of nothing other than the miserable little street urchins common to a Dickens’ novel. Without a blush or a quiver, I recall her saying, “I always put my babies first,” but the mounting evidence spoke otherwise.
We may assume these three children were seldom bothered by routine baths or clean underwear or Sunday school lessons or bedside talks about good and bad or right and wrong. And if any among us would dare consider this negligent woman a fit and suitable mother, my sincerest prayer is that God will remove the opaque scales blinding your unseeing eyes!
And yet, is this not the kind of god to whom many of us would gladly bow? A god of negligence? A god of laxity? A distant god most known for his continuing slackness? A god without rules? A god without lessons? A god who seldom meddles? A god who knows his place? A god who has little stomach for strict discipline? A god who respects every individual’s right to privacy? A god of benign neglect? In other words, would not many of us prefer a god who is perfectly content with people just as they are?
If this is your notion of perfect deity, I am afraid you will be gravely disappointment in the God of Heaven, for He cannot be both the God of limitless love and the god of laissez-faire. A god who keeps a respectful distance and knows to leave well enough alone is, in fact, a god of less love.
The One who longs to be our Heavenly Father will never be our Heavenly Uncle. Please do not mistake Him for some jolly deity who laughs at our mischief and gives us nice presents on holidays—His love runs deeper and wider and stronger than mere kindly affection.
In a very real sense, the words For God so loved the world may be the most terrifying phrase in Scripture, for we may be assured that His love will certainly put us through a great deal of painful, agonizing, cumbersome bother.
It is impossible for Him to truly and whole-heartedly love you and yet leave you just as you are. You may as well ask that He love you less—and that is a prayer He will never honor.
For God so loved the world…let’s make this personal—you are a citizen of this planet. You are a member of humanity. And with this truth in mind, the verse may as well read For God so loved Jonathan and Emily and Javier and DeMarcus and Lindsey and Isaac and Miguel and Morgan and Ashton and Rebecca…
For God so loved you!
And as He loves you more than you will ever know, He is fully prepared to put you through the holy grind of your life! You have been warned and no amount of kicking and screaming will change this fact. God loves you. Individually. By name. Without hesitation. Without a disclaimer. And with no regard to your past. For like it or not, you are the apple of His eye and He has big plans for you.
Do not misunderstand me; you are a free moral agent and, in the end, He will leave you alone if you utterly and stubbornly insist, but He will not give up on winning you without a fight. And once you have been won, He will keep you in His firm but loving grip until the day you leave this world to be face to face with Him (Philippians 1: 6).
I fear most for the man or woman who does not realize the true nature of his or her fallen state and the terrible fate that awaits all those who ignore so great a salvation. In truth, there are legions of men and women who, through their own spiritual blindness, esteem themselves with false conceit and unjustifiable pride. In ignorance, they considered themselves worthy. In fact, such are but a heartbeat from damnation.
Scripture says all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3: 23). And who is all? All is you and me! And because of the sinful contamination that has stained our very beings, we have missed the mark. We have failed the test. We have lost the battle.
Please note this verse does not rate any given sin on a one to ten basis. An ungrateful heart or a quick temper will damn an individual as quickly and as thoroughly as torture and genocide. Mass murderers are not the only ones facing God’s wrath. The particular brand of sin you may happen to consider insignificant and inconsequential has created a great yawning chasm between you and God—and at the bottom of that chasm lies a pit of unspeakable misery from which there is no escape.
Would you dare face God clothed in your own righteousness? Do you frustrate the grace of God by thinking you are, by your own merit, worthy of His favor? What does Scripture say? The prophet Isaiah said our good works and deeds are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64: 6)! Are you honest in business? Do you pay your bills on time? Do you give of your time and money to charitable causes? Do you file your income taxes no later than April 15? Does your dog wag its tale when you walk through the front door? Do you have twice the friends on Facebook as the coworker in the next cubicle? Do not be deceived—being good is never good enough! Your good works and your charitable deeds are as filthy rags! You may think you will face God in formal attire, but those clothed in their own self-righteousness are not properly dressed for entry into God’s throne room! Any man or woman garbed in rags will never pass through the gate!
You may deny the reality of eternal destruction and consider all talk of damnation as mere relics from the Dark Ages, but God knows better and is unwilling that anyone perish, so He sent His Son Jesus who, through His sacrificial death on a cruel Roman cross, took away our sins! And by His resurrection from the tomb, He conquered death meaning that we, too, can live eternally—eternally with Him (I Corinthians 15: 1-3)! This is the Gospel—God’s good news to those who have fallen short and have missed the mark!
How shall anyone hope to escape the wretched gloom of endless night who blatantly ignores so great a salvation? And the never ending night surely approaches! Again, I fear for those whose minds are muddled by empty hope or lulled by a false sense of security. Let no one be deceived, for some of us have already witnessed its lengthening shadows!
Thankfully, our merciful God offers a way of escape. And what does He ask of us in return? A tenth of our earnings? The memorizing of a new Bible verse each week? Tending the church nursery once a month? Shall we send a wad of cash to the flashy televangelist dressed in an Armani suit? You and I can do nothing—absolutely nothing to earn God’s favor, for salvation is a free gift to those of us who simply open our hands in faith to receive! It is by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved—and this great salvation gives no one among us a right to boast of our gains, for all that we receive is a free gift than cannot be earned (Ephesians 2: 8, 9).
Only the blood of Jesus can clean the dirty-faced beggar. Through Him, we are made presentable—worthy of an honored place at His banquet table! And clothed, not in our own righteousness, but in the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are adopted into His family and let me remind you that the sons and daughters of the King are princes and princesses! Let us not miss this point, for in Him, you and I are royalty and the royal children are not to grovel about as poor peasants bent under the weight of their own spiritual poverty!
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that those who believe in Him will never perish but enjoy abundant, everlasting life (John 3: 16). In Jesus, God has given you His best. He can offer nothing better. If you reject Jesus, you reject His best and He has nothing else to offer.
Motivated by boundless love and indescribable compassion, God has gone through a great deal of trouble for you. What is your story? Perhaps you are plagued by substance addiction. God is willing to accept you just as you are. Maybe you are caught up in sexual sin. God is willing to accept you just as you are. You may feel as though you have hit rock bottom. God is willing to accept you just as you are. No matter what you have done in your life or with your life, there is no sin so great that will cause Him to recoil in contempt at the moment you open your hands in faith to receive. God is willing to accept you just as you are. God is willing to accept you just as you are—but He loves you too much to leave you just as you are!
Like a gifted artist approaching a roughly hewn stone, God’s hammer and chisel fashion us into grand masterpieces. In the truest sense, we are stunning works of art—the breath-taking results of the Master’s loving touch! Of course, a slab of granite has no feelings—we do! Sculpting is not a gentle pursuit. Hammers and chisels hurt a lot. The process is painful. But once the dust has settled and the debris is finally swept away, we become the men and women God intended us to be.
“I have a plan for you,” declares your Heavenly Father (Jeremiah 29: 11).
Are you a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ? Have you placed your faith in Him alone? If so, you are a work in process. Bit by bit, there is real transformation taking place in your life. Others may look down upon you or draw away from you in hostile contempt, but your Heavenly Father sees you, not as you are now, but as you will one day be. In other words, God sees you as a finished product. Theologians call this practical sanctification. With a bit less pomp, you and I may choose to call this yet another expression of a Loving God’s unwavering faithfulness. True, we all face set-backs, stumble clumsily over hurdles and suffer from momentary defeats, but if we will hear the Apostle Paul, God never leaves a project unfinished (Philippians 1: 6).
You are free to live your life as you will, but have you ever considered how much better His plan for your life will be?
I recently read of a trained monkey so highly skilled that he can perform all manner of useful chores for the benefit of his quadriplegic owner. In a very real sense, this clever little primate has become the hands and feet of his helpless master. With almost human proficiency, he can handily operate a television and other electronic devices. If a stranger approaches, he becomes quite protective of his master. Besides his usefulness in fetching those things required by his owner, the little fellow is extremely affectionate and showers his master with an abundance of love and attention. He even knows where to scratch when his master has an itch! Amazing? I should say so!
According to the article, it takes a number of years to train monkeys to this level of usefulness and efficiency. One can only imagine the seemingly endless repetitive tedium experienced by both animals and their trainers over the long course of the program. Every single task must be tackled again and again until, at long last, each particular skill is instinctively and flawlessly performed as though second nature. Would you think these monkeys have an easy time in all this? The answer, of course, is a resounding No! If monkeys can feel frustration, and perhaps they can, then it is reasonable to assume the many years of vigorous training are overwhelmingly difficult—even to the point of exasperation!
You err if you believe the man in the wheelchair is the only beneficiary in all this. The monkey wins, too. In his service to his master, the clever little monkey has become almost human. Unlike his chattering, flea-bitten cousins who dwell among the tree tops, this little fellow is richly rewarded with an identity of his own. He has a purpose in life. A unique personality. A reason for being. He lives, not for himself alone, but for one greater. And unlike his wild cousins, this little monkey is rightly revered as a highly noble creature of inestimable worth and value to the one he serves.
God’s training academy offers no easy courses. Its graduates are known, not by their flowing gowns or elegant diplomas or lavishly printed awards, but by their blood and bruises. No one passes through these hallowed portals unscathed. Our Lord Jesus said, “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.” Discipline is an integral part of the Christian walk. But, say, who among us enjoys the lash and sting of discipline? Not me! But we walk away from God’s boot camp with benefits and privileges unknown to our chattering, sin-stricken cousins who dwell among the tree tops. God takes us, molds us, shapes us, and then makes a gift of us to ourselves. We are uniquely His and yet uniquely our own. We have a purpose for living—a purpose far beyond ourselves. And in serving the One divinely greater than ourselves, we become more and more like Him.
Is all this worth the bother? Yes, it is.
You may contact the writer at Dr.MichaelBlunk@gmail.com.