Saturday, August 29, 2015

Jonathan Edwards, God's Wrath & Love, and the Extremity of the Gospel

Recently I had the opportunity to read several people's responses to Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." The 18th century preacher's sermon gives example after example of God's impending wrath toward sinners, yet in each instance His wrath is withheld for the time being. The time is coming, though, Edwards warns his audience, when mercy will no longer be available and all those outside of Christ will suffer eternally. Yet now, the door of mercy is open and Christ stands, beckoning sinners to come to Him.

Many of these people's reactions to Edwards' sermon showed annoyance, disagreement, and offense. They argued, "A loving God wouldn't send people to Hell," "Everyone makes mistakes but that doesn't make people evil," "If you live a good life and help others God will let you into Heaven," or "God is loving and therefore He will let people into Heaven who deserve it."

I've been sitting on their words for a couple of days. I imagine their responses are probably quite representative of the American opinion at large. Oh America, but what a cheap view of God's love is this! If I am nice to you because you are nice to me how am I showing anything beyond simple civility? But if you rob from me and insult me and I still extend kindness to you, is that not more meaningful? If God's love is demonstrated in that He admits 'good people' into Heaven because they deserve it, how is that love? Is that not simply fairness or obligation?  But if "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" how great indeed is His love (Romans 5:8)!

So often we avoid the topic of God's wrath like an elephant in the room. But it is only when we comprehend the severity--and justness--of His wrath, and our complete and utter depravity, that we can truly appreciate and adore His love. Only when we behold our own unworthiness can we perceive the generosity of the gift! Oh that we would have eyes to see the beauty of the gospel!

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13-14).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Looking for Home

Thirteen days ago I was on a plane that touched down on the runways of the Orlando airport. I had spent the past 46 days overseas. In some ways, that seems like a short time span. In other ways, it was a lifetime.

Coming back from a summer in Africa, touching down in Orlando, entering through U.S. customs, and riding the tram over the sunny palm tree dotted Florida, I quietly walked ahead. It felt less like a homecoming than I expected. A piece of me remained in that exotic continent. I cannot say I call Africa home. Still, America felt less like home to me than when I had left it a month and a half before. In a way, I felt a loss of place. I had changed. In my time gone, America had changed. My residency here felt a little more temporary. Riding in an AC-furnished vehicle on the interstate away from the airport, I saw America through different eyes. Not bad eyes. I still loved the country of my birth. But I had also experienced love for another continent.

How do you pick up the pieces of life in a place that was once all you knew? I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I think the answer lies in knowing that America—this country that I still ache and pray for—is not my home. Nor is that beautiful, black, vibrant country where I saw God in a new way. I fell in love with Jesus this summer. This loss of a place I feel has an answer. It is found in Him. My home is in Him. 

This verse has been speaking to me:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches
us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14

The age in which we now live is called the “present age.” It is present, it is now, but it is not forever. The verse says, “while we wait”; we are waiting. We are not complete. Not yet. It is common to humans to feel most at home with people they connect with, click with, the group they identify with. We use possessive pronouns—“my friends,” “my family,” “my country.” This is what Jesus has done for us. He gave Himself to redeem us…to purify us for Himself…that He would have a people that are His very own. Bought with His precious blood, we are His. Our hearts will never be at home until they are home with Him.

My parents have always said that homesickness is a good thing because it testifies to the bonds you have with those you miss. I want to be homesick for Jesus. I want to hasten His coming by spreading His gospel to the nations, including this nation in which I now find myself. I want to remember my true home. But I want to make the waiting count. This is not our forever home. But we are here on earth nonetheless. We are here for a reason. And we have work to do.

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