A Matter of Wrong

Our innate response to sin is telling; we understand the concept of right and wrong, and we understand justice — that wrongdoing must be punished appropriately. (Ac 18:14) This instinct reveals the gospel through deductive reasoning.

If someone has wronged us:

  1. Then we acknowledge a moral standard. This standard is revealed in our instinct to find fault with others whether they agree with us or not; we impose an expectation of right behavior which is independent of human opinion.
  2. Then there must be a moral law Giver Who created this moral standard. Nature can’t create such a standard (since it’s metaphysical, spiritual), and Man can’t create it (since it’s independent of Man’s opinion). Therefore God created it (there are no other options).
  3. Then God will hold us accountable for violating this moral standard. A moral standard presumes a divine evaluation of human behavior, as well as a divine reaction for our obeying or violating this standard: a moral standard is meaningless otherwise.
  4. Then God has openly revealed this moral standard to Man. It is unjust for God to hold us accountable for violating His moral standard if we have no way of knowing what His standard is. We may think we know it apart from divine revelation, but this is effectively indistinguishable from making it up as we go, since our sense of goodness is impaired and compromised by selfishness. (De 4:6)
  5. Then this standard is Mosaic Law. Torah is credibly claimed to be revealed by God to Man through Israel, His chosen people; there is no other remotely credible claim here. (Is 8:20) One may argue that Israel could conceivably have created Torah on their own, but once we deduce that God has openly revealed His Law to Man, Torah is our only viable option.
  6. Then we have all violated this standard. We have not loved God with all our heart, soul and might (De 6:5), nor have we loved our neighbors as ourselves. (Le 19:18) We are all guilty of breaking God’s Law (Ro 3:19), and we’re without excuse. (Ro 1:20)
  7. So, in the same way we require just punishment for those who wrong us, God must justly punish our sin against Himself. Our instinct for justice generates anger instinctively; we’re created in His image, so we should expect this in God (Ro 2:8-9), but in a perfect way: there will be ultimate justice for God. (Ro 2:2)
  8. Yet the punishment we deserve is infinite: we can never pay it in full. Since our sin against God is entirely unjustified, offending One Who is perfectly holy, infinitely worthy of obedience and worship (Re 14:11) we’re all in a desperate case, with no alibi or escape, and there’s nothing we can do about this unless God mercifully intervenes on our behalf.
  9. So, we need a Savior to deliver us, not only from the punishment we deserve, but also from our very nature which deserves it. Seeing our need, God has kindly provided us just such a Savior (Mt 1:21), offering to deliver us not only from the punishment we deserve, but also from our very nature which deserves it. (Tit 2:14)

We can know all this by carefully observing ourselves and others. So, how shall we escape the wrath of God if we neglect so great salvation? (He 2:3) If we think this through as we should, we will see our need, repent and run to God for deliverance. (Ac 16:29-30)

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Repent and Believe

John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ by preaching repentance (Mk 1:4); Christ Himself preached the same (Mk 1:14-15) and so did His disciples. (Mk 6:12) Repent: this is Christ’s first call.

To repent is to change your mind, to start thinking differently, and the context here is sin (Mk 2:17), which is breaking God’s Law. (1Jn 3:4) God is introducing Himself by saying, Change your mind about breaking My Law.

This isn’t quite the same as, stop sinning; no one can totally stop sinning and live perfectly. (1Jn 1:8) It’s more like … stop sinning on purpose, deliberately, intentionally; stop thinking it’s OK to sin, that God doesn’t mind.

Sin is offensive to God, and willful, intentional sin angers Him. (He 10:26-27) Choosing sin is choosing darkness (Jn 3:19), choosing the lie; and God is light (1Jn 1:5); God is Truth. (Jn 14:6) Walk in the light. Pursue the truth. Do your best to obey God’s Law, all of it, as well as you can, and keep asking Him for help where you’re still failing to keep it perfectly. It’s the only way to be in relationship with God. (1Jn 1:6-7)

Christ follows this call to repentance with a call to believe the gospel, the good news that the kingdom of God is open to us. He doesn’t start with this message; that would be like the King giving us directions to His home while we’re still defying Him and running away; it doesn’t even make sense. Before giving us directions to help us find the Way, we must be seeking Him. (He 11:6)

Those who aren’t trying to obey God don’t know Him (1Jn 3:6); those who intend to continue offending Him have alienated themselves from salvation itself. (Ps 119:155)

Salvation isn’t so much about deliverance from Hell as it is the offer of a new nature that’s inclined to obey God’s Law (He 8:10), freeing us from the power and dominion of sin so we can fellowship with Him. (Ro 6:22) Repentance is God’s gift (1Ti 2:25), opening the door to salvation, enabling us to turn from death to life. (Ac 11:18)

This may explain why Christ replied to the rich young ruler the way He did (Mk 10:17-19); it was an invitation to take God’s Law seriously. The Law is our teacher to bring us to Christ (Ga 3:24); until we earnestly submit to this divine teacher and learn from Him we won’t find Christ.

To profess Christ yet not do what He says (Lk 6:46) is to deceive ourselves (Ja 1:22), miss Heaven altogether (Mt 7:21), and store up eternal wrath for ourselves. (Ro 2:8-9)

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Dead Unto Sin

God says, “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Ro 6:11) What does He mean?

When we’re dead we’re unresponsive; we don’t interact with the world or function within it any longer.

To be dead unto sin then is to be beyond its reach, no longer subject to its appeal, disinterested in its enticements, to say as Christ did, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (Jn 14:30) It’s natural to ask then, How might we attain to such a state?

Yet this is evidently the wrong question for the believer: God’s telling us we already have attained to this state; we’re to reckon this to be true, acknowledge it, and live accordingly. The right question to ask is then, How do I identify that part of me that’s dead to sin? How does that part of me live my life, and not the rest of me?

Paul identifies part of himself, the flesh, offering nothing good; it doesn’t equip him to do anything good he wants to do. (Ro 7:18) So, there’s a part of him which wants to obey God, which knows what’s right, an inward man which delights in God’s Law (22), which he calls his mind, and a different part (the flesh) which wars against the good part. (23)

So, we might think of ourselves as having a sort of dual personality, two different versions of us which behave very differently under the same conditions. (Ro 7:19) We might also think of a set of beliefs as a personality which embodies these beliefs; it’s a perfectly reasonable way to describe it. (Pr 1:20-23)

So, we might think of our flesh, the carnal mind (Ro 6:7-8), or the old man (Ep 4:22), as that body of lies to which we’re still clinging, either intellectually or perhaps emotionally or subconsciously, due to wrong teaching, being emotionally biased because of a wound or carnal desire harbored within us, etc. Whatever the root symptom, the underlying substance is the lie.

Putting off the old man, and being renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ep 4:22-23), is then to rid ourselves of these lies and to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Ro 12:2), such that we’re progressively walking more and more fully in the Way, the Truth and the Life – Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

Reckoning then is noting that all the lies we believe are terminal; each one has a unique death sentence pronounced over it. (Ps 1:6) We’ve no allegiance to it, no obligation to follow after it.

It’s also remembering there’s a part of us which already believes the truth, a part of us which is alive unto God (Ro 6:11): this is the life of Christ in us.

When we look for this part of us, asking God to enable us to recognize it, to realize that we believe the truth and experience our faith in Him, He does so. (He 4:16) We’re free to walk in the light with Christ, if we will. (Ro 6:22)

When we engage our will to walk in this new man (Ro 6:19), the spiritual man, the mind of Christ (1Co 2:16), Christ delivers us from the body of sin (Ro 7:24-25) so we can walk in newness of life. (Ro 6:4) We overcome, because greater is He that’s in us than whatever’s in the world. (1Jn 4:4)

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Make Friends

The parable of the Unjust Steward is challenging, putting it mildly. When Christ says, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” (Lk 16:9), is He saying befriend the wealthy so when we fall on hard times they’ll be there to rescue us?

The mammon of unrighteousness would be material things this unrighteous world values, tools for good and evil. They aren’t ours (Ps 24:1), so we’re all stewards, and like the steward in the parable (Lk 16:1-2) we’ll all be accused of mismanagement (Jn 5:45) and held accountable. (Ro 14:11-12)

So, we all find ourselves in a similar crisis: we’re flawed in fundamental ways, our record shows this and judgment is coming; we should prepare to make the best of it using every means at our disposal. Pass or fail, the consequences will be eternal. (Ro 2:6-11) In this predicament, Christ is telling us, “make friends.” In other words, live such that when Judgment Day comes those testifying in the heavenly court will be on our side, welcoming us into Paradise.

Consider that everyone who has ever lived will be present at this final Day of Judgment, and those we’ve impacted through our lives will be testifying about us (Ja 5:4), agreeing with God in how they view us, being for or against us. (Mt 12:41-42) Our own works will also bear witness (Ja 5:3), our every act testifying in heavenly court. (Mt 12:36) There will be no deception or partiality; if we’ve walked in holiness before God even the wicked will be forced to agree. (1Pe 2:12)

So, the kinds of friends we should be thinking about here aren’t those who’d pay our bills when we’re unemployed, but those who’ll be receiving us into everlasting habitations, standing between us and our eternal home, inviting us in or barring our way. We must keep short accounts (Mt 5:25-26) and manage our affairs with an eternal perspective. (Col 4:5) As the unjust steward wisely navigated his crisis to secure his earthly comfort for a season (Lk 16:8), Christ is calling us to holy intensity (Mt 5:29-30), striving to secure our eternal welfare. (2Pe 1:10-11)

As we steward earthly resources we’re laying an eternal foundation (1Ti 6:17-19), so let’s make it solid, grounded firmly in the Rock of our salvation (Ps 95:1), to withstand the blasts of God’s penetrating inspection. (Mt 7:24-25)

This isn’t salvation by works; we’re saved by faith (Ep 2:8-9), but our works do reveal our faith. (Ja 2:18) We show what we believe by what we do, so when our actions don’t align with faith in Christ it’s a faith issue (Lk 6:46), a peril of sobering consequences. (Ro 8:13)

To find healing we examine ourselves (2Co 13:5), confess our faults to those who are praying for us (Ja 5:16), and root out the lies which bind us. (Jn 8:32) Living this way doesn’t produce salvation – it’s the life salvation produces. (Ep 2:10)

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What Manner of Love

The Apostle John encourages us to behold the love of God, to study His love and contemplate it, to recognize what kind of love this is, to try to comprehend how immense and immeasurable it is. How profound and unfathomable is it to be called a child of God? (1Jn 3:1)

The key to perceiving God’s immense love lies in recognizing what God does, how He demonstrates His love and acts it out: He lays down His own life for us. (1Jn 3:16) He does this for us while we’re still His enemies. (Ro 5:10) This is amazing love indeed!

The Passion of the Christ

If we dare to dig a bit deeper, we contemplate the kind of death He chooses to die for us: it is perhaps the most painful and humiliating kind of death – Roman crucifixion. (Php 2:8) It’s brutal beyond comprehension, yet in itself a hideous metaphor, a window into something utterly profound.

The fierce agony in God’s physical death is symbolic of His spiritual suffering: the reality of its depth and breadth lurks in the separation imposed by our sin within the very Trinity itself. As He voluntarily accepts the penalty of our sin and fully identifies with us as sinners, as He becomes our sin, the Son is forsaken by His Father. (2Co 5:21) This causes a deep separation, an annulment of the infinite, loving communion between Father and Son. (Mt 27:46)

This may very well be the most intense kind of suffering possible: separation from God within God himself. It is certainly well beyond any possible form of physical or emotional suffering, and it’s endured by the infinitely precious Holy One, Who deserves it the least.

Yet God suffers this willingly for us — for anyone, for all who come to Him. (2Pe 3:9) The totality of God’s personal suffering is thus multiplied by His suffering personally, in person, for the multitudes. His suffering surpasses that of every other living thing, in both degree and scope, in both depth and breadth; it’s infinitely more than anyone could ever suffer, even for eternity, even if God only experienced this vast suffering for a few dreadful hours, many years ago.

We might presume this was indeed merely a one-time occurrence, buried in the distant past, such that God has now put this atrocity behind Himself and moved on, seeing it as only a distant memory.

The problem with such sentiment is that it presumes God is bound by time when He is not; He is ever present in every moment of time. Duration means nothing to Him; past, present and future are meaningless in His timeless experience. (Jn 8:58)

Anything God experiences, He experiences infinitely and forever. God never stops experiencing anything which He ever experiences. So the unthinkably painful separation between the Father and the Son is something they live with even now, to this present day; they will live with this anguish continually, and forever.

God has voluntarily entered into an eternal suffering from which they will never escape, and which they have always known. (Re 3:18) Father, Son and Holy Spirit have chosen to suffer for us like this from eternity past. It is almost like God is forever going to Hell for us Himself, giving up His eternal safety and welfare for us, taking your place, suffering in my place.

Who would you give up your eternal welfare for? Who would you burn in the flames of Hell forever for? If you would do it for anyone, would you do it for an enemy?

Doesn’t this change everything?

What has God done, my dear friend? Do I really think I have any clue how much He loves us? and whom He loves? Is it even for the worst of us?

What does my mistrust of Him look like now? In the presence of such love? What is my complaint now, my uncertainty, my selfishness, my fear … it is all a lie, darkness fleeing the Light. (Jn 1:9)

If I could keep the taste of this wonder in my spirit, let the fragrance of it dwell within and permeate all that I am, the very first glimpse of this immense, divine passion, truly, would it not begin to fill me with all the fullness of God? (Ep 3:19)

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Born Again

When Christ explains how to obtain eternal life, He compares it with how we obtain physical life; as we’re conceived and born physically, so we must be conceived and born spiritually. (Jn 3:6-7) Apart from being born of the Spirit we can’t enter into God’s kingdom (5); we can’t even see the kingdom. (3)

To most of us, this sounds like a New Testament concept, something new Christ introduced as part of the current dispensation, unique to Christianity in this Age of Grace. The problem with this idea is that Christ expected Nicodemus, a Jew living in the Old Testament era (before Christ’s atoning sacrifice) to already understand this. (10) Christ was telling Nicodemus and all his colleagues they were missing the boat since they weren’t born again. (7) So, being born again isn’t a New Testament principle: it’s timeless. (Re 13:8)

The seed which brings this spiritual life into us is the Word of God (1Pe 1:23), the eternal Word of Truth. (Ja 1:18) We’re born of God Himself as we receive and believe on Christ the Word (Jn 1:12-13), and become new creations in God. (2Co 5:17)

This new creation concept isn’t new at all; it’s woven all through the Old Testament (2Ti 3:15), the idea of having a new heart, a new inner being created by God. (Eze 36:26)

Abraham believes in God and is justified by faith (Ro 4:3), a faith that rests in God’s future provision of a divine sacrifice to atone for his sin. (Jn 8:56) We’re saved the same way. (Ro 4:23-25)

David prays for this clean, new heart (Ps 51:10), the kind of heart that hears, perceives and obeys God (De 29:4), and ultimately receives this gift of God. (Ps 21:1-2) We’re no different, believing God is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. (He 11:6)

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Faith Comes by Hearing

Faith is required to please God (He 11:6), so, what is faith, and how do we get it?

It’s easy to mistake presumption for faith, blocking other possibilities out of our minds and hearts, willfully determining for ourselves what must be, refusing to consider contradictory evidence. This is darkness, the flesh, lacking the deep assurance of the revealed Word and Will of God, and will eventually be exposed as willful blindness and arrogance.

Faith is supernatural assurance, the divine impartation of knowing with absolute confidence and certainty, a knowing which doesn’t require further proof or evidence. It’s the gift of God (Ep 2:8), which comes by hearing God with a trusting, believing heart (Ro 10:17a), and this kind of hearing with this kind of heart comes by the decree of God. (17b)

Faith doesn’t come by hearing the Word of God. It’s necessary to hear the truth to grow in faith, but this in itself is insufficient. What the text says is: “hearing (comes) by the word of God.” (Ro 10:17)

We tend to hear what we want to hear, not what’s actually said. (Jn 8:43) So, God must not only send us the message of truth, He must also give us hearts to perceive, eyes to recognize and ears to receive and accept the truth. (De 29:4)

Submitting to God is a prerequisite for understanding and knowing Him (Mt 13:15), and this requires a new nature; our old nature is incapable of submitting to God. (Ro 8:6) God chooses the poor in spirit rich in faith, electing us to be heirs of His kingdom. (Ja 2:5)

This may seem unreasonable, that faith in God comes only by the decree of God, as if we have no choice or chance in faith, at pleasing God without His aid. It’s as if we think God’s choosing who will have faith is the same as Him choosing who won’t have it, and accuse God of being unrighteous (Ro 9:14), wondering why He finds fault when no one resists His will. (19)

God does choose who has faith (2Th 2:13), but He does not cause anyone to not have faith: rather He commands all men everywhere to repent and believe. (Ac 17:30)

God makes no one distrust Him; in fact, anything other than trusting God and taking Him at His Word is insane wickedness. How can God lie, or be unfaithful, or malicious? Not trusting God is accusing Him of being evil, and God never promotes or encourages this: we do this all on our own, when He leaves us to ourselves. And, of course, no one can please God while accusing Him of malevolence.

The election of God isn’t the arbitrary choice among good, ignorant but well-meaning people, but among the wicked, those who hate Him. (Jn 15:18-19) It’s an election of pure mercy and compassion (Ro 9:15) in which God transforms some wicked souls into saints – vessels of mercy. (23) God quickens the disobedient, those dead to Him in trespasses and sins, children of wrath. (Ep 2:1-3) God’s intervention in our headlong dash away from Him is entirely undeserved, total mercy. (4)

The mercy God shows us in salvation is remarkable indeed, infinite in every respect. He doesn’t need to save anyone; He doesn’t owe us anything: none of us deserve it in the least. Let us glory in the salvation of God and be thankful for His mercy. (Ro 15:9)

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Grace for Grace

Being saved by grace through faith (Ep 2:8), we might think salvation‘s all there is to grace. What else could we possibly need once we’re eternally safe?

Well, there’s so much more to salvation than being saved from Hell. Justification occurs the instant we trust Christ (Ep 1:13), believing on Him, fully persuaded that He’s paid our sin debt in full (Ro 4:21), and it’s certainly a key step in the salvation process. Yet there’s much more; we’re on an eternal journey into oneness with God Himself. (Jn 17:21)

The Way is one of sanctification, being set apart as holy in God, by God and for God. (1Co 1:30) This is why Christ set Himself apart to die for us (19), that we also might sanctified, holy, set apart, transformed into His likeness through the Word of truth. (17) There’s no other way to God. (He 12:14)

So, as we’re saved by grace, we’re also sanctified — equipped to live in God and for God, by grace, which is the enabling, the ability or power to seek God and live for Him. The divine life is impossible for us all on our own, yet abundant, inexhaustible grace (power and ability) is given — made available — to each and every believer (Ep 4:7), gifts enabling us to be more like Christ (8) in as many ways as we desire. (1Co 12:31a)

The power to live for God is truly at our disposal; it’s phenomenal, resurrection-level power (Ep 1:19-20a), and it’s ours for the taking. Just as we’re saved by faith, we access this sanctifying grace by faith. (Col 2:6-7)

Believing Christ lives in us and through us, by His power (grace) we expect Him to deliver us from sin, lies and our old man, and so He does as He promises. (1Co 1:9)

This grace to continuously reach out in Christ to access the grace we need from Christ to walk with Christ … is also from Christ (Ro 5:2): we need ability (grace) from God to appropriate the power (grace) to live for God.

In other words, we’ve already received all of Christ we’ll ever need, yet we also need from Christ grace for grace (Jn 1:16): God must enable us to appropriate the power He’s already given us to live for Him. So, this is what He provides; He gives us everything we need to live for Him, if we’re willing to seek Him out and receive Him. (2Co 6:1)

The opportunity before each of us is unfathomable — what shall we do with it? Shall the gift of the grace of God, given unto us by the effectual working of His power (Ep 3:7), be in vain? (1Co 15:10a) Only if we neglect to seek out the grace we need to walk in the power we already have to live for God; only if we’re content having divine power at our disposal, but never actually laying hold of it. How shall it go for those who neglect so great salvation? (He 2:3)

Let’s seek from Christ the grace we need to live for God, believing His life in us equips us in every way to actually live in victory for Him.

And as we find this grace in Christ and do actually overcome for Him, we know it isn’t merely us walking worthy of God, but the grace of God which is with us. (1Co 15:10b) By grace let’s live out the mystery and the miracle: Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

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Vessels of Mercy

Predestination and election are difficult to understand until we diligently consider the context — the dreadfully sinful human condition: Man’s Depravity. Apart from carefully integrating this concept throughout our theology, many fundamental precepts of Scripture appear hopelessly irreconcilable.

For example, how can God choose who will be saved while respecting Man’s Free Will? Similarly, How can a loving God be in total control when there’s so much evil and suffering? These are perhaps the hardest questions, and they aren’t peripheral; they’re fundamental spiritual bedrock. We can’t afford to dismiss them, yet resolving such mysteries seems impossible. Many stumble here, and go no further.

Yet God Himself gives us the key by addressing the problem directly, asking these same questions, and then answering them. God’s purpose in election will be realized (Ro 9:11) yet God will be totally righteous in it all (14), because God’s not obligated to be merciful (15) — by definition: mercy is undeserved, never justly required.

The reality is, if God didn’t elect anyone, choose anyone to be saved, and He let us all go our own way — we would: every last one of us would walk away from Him; we would not come to Him. (Mt 22:3) This would be fair, certainly, but then Heaven would be desolate (Lk 14:16-18a), and the world filled with even more evil and suffering than it already is. (Ge 6:5) This is what Depravity teaches us (11), if we listen. (Je 17:9)

So, if God chooses to intervene in a few of us, choosing us out from the masses and giving us new hearts and new wills that don’t run away, He’s showing mercy in election, not being unjust.

God never actually turns anyone away who seeks Him, or causes anyone to do evil; He controls by mercifully restraining us from acting out our full evil nature according to His sovereign purposes. (2Th 2:7) There’s nothing at all inappropriate about restraining evil; so, God’s in absolute control of all that happens (Ep 1:11), yet He’s also perfectly good, just and merciful; He’s righteous and holy in all He does. (Ps 145:17)

In giving us new hearts God doesn’t force us against our will; what He does in His elect is heal our will, displacing our love of lies, which moved us to distrust and despise Him, with a love for truth; He works in us to will according to His good pleasure (Php 2:13), such that we begin to want to do good. He works all this in us for our good and for His glory. (Ro 8:28)

The only remaining challenge here is: Why doesn’t God save everyone if He has this ability? The answer lies in God’s glory: He’s most glorified in fully revealing His nature, His wrath and power as well as His love and mercy. (Ro 9:22-23) If God didn’t let most all of His enemies act like enemies, and treat them as He does, we’d know much less about Him, so that’s exactly what He’s doing; God is perfectly revealing and glorifying Himself by only saving a few. (Re 15:3)

Rather than faulting God for being absolutely sovereign, and for choosing only a remnant to be saved, we ought to let all the blame for evil lie where it truly belongs: with sinful Man, and glorify God for His mercy. (Ro 15:9) Rather than complaining and running away, we seek God until we find Him (He 11:6), and discover that we’re indeed elect, vessels of divine mercy. (Ro 9:23)

And in being vessels of infinite mercy (Ps 103:11), undeserving recipients of God’s kindness, love and favor, we also ought to be merciful (Lk 6:36), to be compassionate toward those who are out of the way (He 5:2), esteeming others better than ourselves. (Php 2:3)

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Thy Judgments Are Right

The goodness of God ensures His judgements are right (Ps 119:75); the righteous understand that any affliction or punishment He prescribes is perfectly appropriate, faithful and just, more than deserved. (67,71) To resist or complain when God afflicts us is to defiantly reject His goodness and claim He’s inherently malevolent and evil; it’s exalting ourselves above God, arrogant presumption of the highest order (Ps 19:13), insisting we know better. (Ge 3:22)

This includes all those suffering everlasting punishment (Mt 25:46); to believe in God and receive Him from there, from Hell itself, which the wicked should certainly still do (Re 22:17), is to acknowledge that all divine punishments are appropriate in response to offenses and crimes committed against God; the wicked shouldn’t complain against or resist the wrath of God, even from Hell. (Re 15:4) They should exclaim with all Heaven that God’s judgments are true and right. (Re 16:7)

However, the wicked will not do this (Ge 4:13), because the very wellspring of wickedness is the belief that God is not good, that He is unjust. (Ge 3:5) Even to escape the fires of Hell itself, the wicked won’t repent of this sin against God; they’ll stubbornly persist in it. (Re 6:16)

Consider the story Christ tells of a rich man in Hell, lifting up his eyes in torment, pleading with Abraham to relieve him in his misery. (Lk 16:23-24) He plays on mercy to tempt the righteous to do what God will not do, and thereby admit God’s justice is too severe. Yet Abraham aligns with God and refuses, reminding the rich man of his sins against God and Man, having profoundly neglected the helpless in their earthly suffering (21), and of the righteous consequences. (25)

The rich man’s next move is to again beg Abraham to do something else God will not do: send someone back from the dead just to warn his family to flee the wrath to come. (27-28) This is a second attack upon God, directed at His self-revelation, claiming it’s insufficient, again implying His punishments are unjust. Abraham again refuses, pointing out that his family has perfectly sufficient proof of God’s character and expectation: God has plainly revealed Himself in Torah and the Prophets. (29)

The rich man persists in his denial of the sufficiency of God’s provision, insisting that his family would repent and be saved if they witnessed such a spectacular miracle. (30) This is a third arrogant attack upon God, directed at His knowledge of Man: his presumption is that God is misinformed, that we’re mostly reasonable people, his family in particular, undeserving of eternal punishment; we simply lack sufficient warning to live in light of eternity. Yet Abraham remains faithful: God knows Man’s depraved heart and is revealing Himself to mankind accordingly.  (31)

What would God do if the wicked softened their hearts in Hell and acknowledged His goodness? If we know God well we know how He’d respond: His mercy is infinite toward those who fear Him. (Ps 103:11)

Why won’t the wicked honor God then, even from Hell? Why would anyone ever deliberately sin against God? This is indeed the true mystery, the mystery of iniquity (2Th 2:7): the desperate wickedness of Man; the godly are horrified by it; we may never fully understand it. (Je 17:9)

In repentance, regardless of our suffering at God’s hands (La 3:9), we admit to receiving the due reward of our deeds (Lk 23:41) and heed God’s warning to flee the wrath to come. (Lk 3:7) This is God’s gift to all who are willing to acknowledge that He is, and that He faithfully rewards all who diligently seek Him. (He 11:6)

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